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After Arafat's Death, Still the Occupation

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Amira Hass

On the day that Palestinian Authority chairman Yasser Arafat died, five Palestinians were killed by Israel Defense Forces gunfire. Four of them were killed in the Gaza Strip: three in a dawn raid by tanks and helicopters on a section in southern Gaza, and the fourth because he was moving around, unarmed, in an area “forbidden” to Palestinians.

At Beit Omar in the West Bank, a young man was killed by IDF troops who were trying to disperse a procession that was throwing stones and Molotov cocktails. Ten Palestinians were injured in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip by IDF gunfire, among them four children and a woman who was severely wounded.

The IDF carried out eight raids on villages and on the homes of various suspects. Twenty-one people were arrested, of them six under the age of 18. In 18 places in the West Bank they were busy building the separation fence; on one village a curfew was imposed. All this is detailed in the daily summary of the Palestine Liberation Organization negotiations unit.

During the week that preceded Arafat’s death, seven Palestinians were killed, among them one child. Four of them were killed in a “pinpoint execution” in Jenin, without a fight. Only one was killed in a battle with an IDF unit. Six houses were demolished in Rafah, about 120 dunam of agricultural land were razed, and three houses were demolished in the West Bank in punitive actions. All this is detailed in the weekly report of the Palestinian Center for Human Rights.

The Palestinian Applied Research Institute, Jerusalem (ARIJ) issues a monthly summary of all the activities connected to construction in the Jewish settlements in the territories, including annexations and confiscations. The detailed list for October is already on its Internet site. For example, in western Tsurif in the Hebron area, hundreds of olive trees were uprooted for the purpose of the separation fence.

In Beit Sahur, 14 families received orders for the demolishing of their homes on the grounds that they had not received building permits, even though the houses are part of an Orthodox Church housing project.

Seventeen families in Abu Dis, near the separation fence, received orders to evacuate their houses before they were demolished. Arafat’s final days and the funeral - anarchy or not - and afterward the shooting in the mourners’ tent - a fight over the succession or not - made people forget that there is life, that is, occupation and death and destruction, with no connection to the chairman. And the talk about how after Arafat it is possible to renew negotiations helps those who like to ignore Israeli intentions, which are embodied on the ground, to prevent the establishment of a viable Palestinian state in accordance with United Nations resolutions.

Now, without Arafat, will there be a reversal of the policy of the accelerated annexation of extensive parts of the West Bank? Will Israel stop the process of turning the West Bank into a jigsaw puzzle of Palestinian enclaves that are cut off from one another by blocs of Jewish settlements? Will it stop setting up roadblocks that are like border crossings, on roads like in the Third World? And at the same time, will Israel continue building for itself prestigious suburbs and roads of Californian width and quality? Clearly it will not.

During the Oslo years, the illusion was spun that the burning task was to “build a state.” All the efforts of the countries of the world and their financial bolstering, the behavior of the PA and the addiction of its senior people to the symbols of sovereignty reinforced the illusion. There was a leap in the Israeli consciousness: The PA was already considered a state. A state whose territory was virtual, and where Israel with its military might determined its future borders, the control of natural resources, the registration of the population and its freedom of movement - but this has been forgotten.

As a state it was considered the aggressor, because of the outbreak of the uprising. Arafat’s failure since 1993 was not in that he did not become a respected and respectable head of state, of a state that did not exist. His failure was that neither he nor his movement, the Fatah, developed a liberation strategy in the new conditions of Oslo: through diplomacy, through the UN General Assembly regarding the Jewish settlements, through exposing the neo-colonial relations that were enforced by the security and civilian negotiation mechanism, through the million forms of non-violent popular struggle that could have been pursued.

Personal interests and the pursuit of personal wealth by senior people, shortsightedness, objective or subjective weakness, mistaken political calculations, pro-American tendencies - no matter the reasons, the result was that Arafat, contrary to the image that his armed supporters are trying to create today in their scare campaigns, acted before the Camp David summit as someone whose people had already been liberated from occupation and whose state existed.

In the current circumstances of Palestinian weakness, it is hard to see how in the near future a Palestinian leadership will arise that is able to formulate a strategy of popular struggle for liberation and equality in principle, for the rights of the peoples in this land. The demand that it act as a sub-agent of the IDF and the Shin Bet security service will increase the instability.

As long as the individual and collective Israeli interests in the continuation of the occupation are not affected - and it does not look like they are being affected - there is not a chance that a broad popular movement will arise in Israel that will demand a change in the policy of “Bantustanization.”

Therefore the challenge is to the nations of Western Europe, who paid generously for the illusion of the construction of the state, and whose governments are still committed to the two-state solution. For how long will they and their representatives be able to bear - politically, economically and morally - the entrenchment of a regime of discrimination and ethnic separation that is being created by a state that is considered an inalienable part of the democratic West?

Published Wednesday, November 17th, 2004 - 05:47pm GMT
Article courtesy of Haaretz
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