Hardly a day goes by without the Middle East being in the news in one way or another. Usually the news isn't positive. Just today an assassination of a pro-Government Lebanese MP - allegedly by the Syrians. Then, Israel has declared the Gaza Strip a "hostile entity" and will now, at its whim, turn off water or electricity to the entire territory of 1.5 million people. Not collective punishment assert the Israelis. The UN Secretary General disagrees. And what will Condi Rice have to say about it all as she pays a flying 24 hour visit to the region? Most likely nothing - certainly not publicly.
Victoria Buch is an Israeli academic, anti-occupation activist, and a member of the editorial board of the Occupation Magazine. She writes, in concise and compelling terms, of the ethnic cleansing underway by the Israelis of the West Bank, in a piece in CounterPoint:
"The stage for ethnic cleansing of Palestinians has been set in the Occupied Territories, and ethnic cleansing is in progress. At present, this is the major project of the state of Israel. For an impartial person of medium intelligence, a tour of the Occupied Territories may be sufficient to understand this fact."
The prime ethnic cleansing tool is, forever, land grab of Palestinian property in conjunction with expansion of settlements. Various stages of annexation process are in evidence in the originally rural part of the West Bank, constituting 60 per cent of its area. By now, nine per cent of the West Bank land has been transferred to the direct control of the settlements. A recent Peace Now investigation (July 2007) revealed that only twelve per cent of this land is being used at all. "The state earmarks huge tracts for the settlements, out of all proportion to their size, in order to prevent Palestinian construction in those areas. Yet once an area is closed to Palestinians, the settlers begin seizing adjacent Palestinian lands, often privately owned, that lie outside their jurisdiction".
According to B'Tselem, the Israeli human rights organization, already in 2002, 41.9 per cent of the West Bank was assigned to the Israeli regional councils. And for years, the entire rural Area C has been under administrative control of the so called "Civil Administration", which, in close cooperation with other branches of the Israeli army and with the settlers, toils to make the life of its Palestinian residents as miserable as possible; the obvious objective being to make them leave. (Comprehensive information can be found, e.g., in the Occupation Magazine, the website of the Israeli anti-occupation activists.)
In the remaining West Bank, Palestinians became virtual prisoners in their own towns and villages. Every aspect of normal Palestinian life - economy, health, education, is being crushed by a well organized and deliberate military-bureaucratic machine, masquerading as a security establishment. Every now and then, the strangulation noose around Palestinian existence is being tightened. Ethnic cleansing, by means of home and field demolitions, is also pursued diligently by the state of Israel towards its Bedouin citizens residing in the Negev desert."
Interestingly, the usually right-wing Jerusalem Post in an analysis of Israel's decision to decare the Gaza Strip what it calls "hostile territory" says it is wrong and will backfire:
"It's hard to see how the Israeli decision to declare the Gaza Strip "hostile territory" could undermine Hamas. In fact, the move is likely to backfire, rallying more Palestinians around Hamas and other radical groups.
Hamas is not lacking in funds and weapons. Just last Friday, Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh announced that some 40,000 unemployed laborers would each receive $100. And earlier this week, he announced that thousands of students in the Gaza Strip would be exempted from school fees.
Depriving Palestinians of water and electricity will not turn them against Hamas. Instead, they will vent their frustration and despair against Israel and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and his Fatah faction."