2014: Occupation freezes or falls
Jeff Halper and Linda Ramsden at the Bethlehem Unwrapped wall. ICAHD was one of the sponsors of the exhibition
By Jeff Halper, ICAHD newsletter
Let’s begin with the good news: 2014 will likely mark the beginning of the end of the Israeli Occupation – although its final demise and the emergence of something new and just will need our focused and strategic intervention.
The linear process in which we have been trapped these past three and a half decades reached its dead end long ago, certainly by 1999 when Ehud Barak effectively ended the Oslo “peace process,” but it has taken until now for that fact to manifest itself politically. The imminent failure of the Kerry initiative has finally made it clear that the process of systematically eliminating the two-state solution through ever-expanding and more permanent “facts on the ground,” initiated by Begin and Sharon in 1977 but pursued with equal if not more vigor by Labor governments, has achieved its goal. All the more so since the interminable “peace process,” beginning in Madrid in 1991, the dead horse still being pushed by Kerry, has finally rolled over.
At the end of a linear process two things can happen: the status quo is simply frozen in place indefinitely, which is what Israel is hoping for (the status quo, of course, being one of continued Israeli expansion and Palestinian confinement) or the whole process collapses, opening up new, previously unacceptable, possibilities. The first, I believe, is impossible. Not only has civil society resistance to the Occupation turned the Israel-Palestinian conflict into a truly global issue, at the level of the anti-apartheid struggle, but the concurrent shift in public opinion world-wide is beginning to trickle up into the governments and corporate headquarters. Israel faces only increased isolation and sanctions; it cannot normalize its Occupation or make it disappear from political view. Which leaves us with the second: collapse opening up new possibilities.
The failure of the Kerry initiative will trigger two fateful consequences culminating in a collapse of the status quo. First, Israel, arguing that it has “no partner for peace” and must therefore take unilateral acts to protect itself, will likely annex Area C, the 62% of the West Bank under full Israeli control today, and the site of the settlements. (Israel, of course, has already annexed East Jerusalem, and Netanyahu refuses to allow Kerry to even mention Jerusalem in the “framework” agreement he is drafting). With that Israel expands from 78% onto 85% of historic Palestine and locks the Palestinians into impoverished and disconnected enclaves – although, to make its annexation more palatable, Israel could “generously” concede strips of Area C so as to make the Palestinian “cantons” (as Sharon called them) a little more contiguous. With the two-state solution thus irrefutably dead and no further “peace process” in the offing, the Palestinian Authority would likely resign or collapse, an act that could well force Israel to reoccupy the Palestinian cities of the West Bank and, inevitably, Gaza as well.
This chain of events, I would submit, will create an intolerable situation, forcing the international community to act, with or without the US. With the air finally cleared of the two-state solution and faced with raw occupation, the only option for resolving the conflict, a one-state solution, will finally emerge into the light. Here is where Palestinian civil society must assert its agency, its will. Backed by us, critical Israelis and masses of people abroad, it must put forward a plan for an inclusive, democratic and (I would add) bi-national solution to the conflict before Israel and the US attempt to impose something far worse. The struggle for a just, workable and lasting peace does not end with the fall of the Occupation; that merely presents us with an opportunity we cannot miss. The danger is real. How many times have unjust regimes collapsed or been dismantled only to be replaced by a regime equally bad, if not worse. That process of strategizing what follows on the imminent collapse is urgent, but it must be led by our Palestinian partners. ICAHD remains ready to support that effort.
If the good news that the Occupation may finally be collapsing propels us into strategizing over what follows, the bad news is that Israel has already globalized the Occupation – that is, it is successfully marketing the weaponry and modes of control, a Global Matrix of Control, developed and tested on the Palestinians. Our vision and resistance must expand from Palestine on the ground to the “Global Palestine” that is emerging.
This is what Sharon grasped in the last year or so of his conscious life. Always a grand strategist, he did not “disengage” from Gaza because, as some have suggested, he finally understood the limits of military power, but the opposite: he saw that, for the price of Gaza and most of the West Bank, Israel could become a regional power rather than merely the ruler of Judea and Samaria. This, he finally realized (in my view), when reconsidering the Arab Peace Initiative he had so contemptuously ignored when it was offered unanimously by the Arab League in 2002 (in the midst of Operation Defensive Shield), and then rejected outright. Having largely exhausted the Occupied Territory as a laboratory for new weapons and tactics of control – Operation Cast Lead in Gaza would be the last major “experiment” – he understood that Israel had much more to gain as a regional hegemon able to both flex its political muscles and freely export its military and security products. He thus initiated a process, cut short by his stroke, which might well have led to the end of the Occupation, the price he knew Israel has to pay for normalization with the Arab League.
Smaller thinkers like Netanyahu will settle for less: continued control of the Palestinian territory and a lesser role as de facto hegemon in the Middle East. For Netanyahu believes – and he may be correct – that occupation or no, formal acceptance by the conservative Arab regimes or no, Israel can continue to market its “combat proven” wares world-wide; indeed, he likely sees the continued conflict in the Middle East and with the Palestinians as actually giving Israel that market “edge.”
Looking up from the Occupation at Global Palestine brings the conflict home. No longer are the Palestinians the sole victims, but literally “we are all Palestinians,” for it is us who are the end-recipients through our own armies, security agencies and police forces, of the weapons and modes of control tested in the Palestinian laboratory. Even if the Occupation does end and, through Palestinian, Israeli and international agency, a just solution emerges, a militarized Global Palestine will continue to terrorize our lives. We need to multi-task, to grasp and resist the globalization of the Occupation just as we resist and resolve the Occupation itself.
Those are some of my thoughts at this juncture. In the name of the entire ICAHD family, I want to wish you all well in the coming year and assure you that ICAHD will remain a strong and strategic voice in the dramatic months that will follow.
Nigel Kennedy and Mostafa Saad playing at Bethlehem Unwrapped. Mostafa Saad, one of three gifted strings-playing brothers, plays in the Palestine Youth Orchestra which has played with Nigel Kennedy at the Proms, London. See also The unique power of music-making for Palestinians
FROM ICAHD JERUSALEM
By Ruth Edmonds, ICAHD Coordinator
The Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions Jerusalem office is bustling again after the winter holidays with emails and phone calls requesting tours with one of our experienced guides. We receive calls from newly arrived journalists and volunteers, long-term diplomats and politicians from abroad, curious Israeli Jews, and international groups of students, theologians, church groups and peace activists all seeking to deepen their knowledge of the Israel/Palestine conflict.
Having provided thousands of people from around the world with top-quality alternative and critical tours for over 17 years, ICAHD is widely known for its knowledgeable tour guides, its grounded approach to the politics of Occupation and its deep understanding of the difficulties of Palestinian life. Our tours provide an opportunity to see how Israel’s settlement project has created irreversible “facts on the ground.” If people wish, they can meet Palestinian families suffering under Israeli policies of separation and home demolitions. ICAHD believes that first-hand learning is the only way to grasp the social, cultural, political, and historical issues that underlie the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
With the main focus of our tours being housing demolitions and settlement expansion, the Jerusalem tours almost always end at Beit Arabia, which has become the focus of ICAHD’s summer camps. The tour, however, covers a range of subjects from Israel’s policies in Jerusalem to the settlement industry, linking in the boycott, divestment and sanction movement (BDS) at each stop. We try to bring real life stories from the ground so as to give the receiver examples of how apartheid, inequality and injustice manifests in this region. And what you can do about it.
Tours with ICAHD last from three to four hours with stops tailored to suit the interests of the group. The tours are led by young Israeli activists who are deeply involved and knowledgeable about the region, its history, its conflicts and possible solutions. We believe it is important internationals meet with Israelis who oppose government policy and the settlements, demolished homes, Israel-only roads, and segregation. Those of us who are daily trying to create a new reality in this region – especially the up and coming generation who don’t want to live in a militarized and racist society – desperately need the ongoing support of the international community.
This link is to an article written [in Mondoweiss] about an ICAHD tour I led for Alice Rothschild, who travelled to Israel/Palestine with a group of African-American civil rights leaders, theologians, scholars, activists, feminists and fellow travelers, organized by the Dorothy Cotton Institute.
More information about how to join an ICAHD alternative tour.
By Linda Ramsden
The ICAHD table at Bethlehem Unwrapped, London
ICAHD UK was one of nine sponsors of Bethlehem Unwrapped, a festival that celebrated the real “little town of Bethlehem” over the twelve days of Christmas. The focus was an eight-metre high art installation representing the Wall around Bethlehem which spread right across the courtyard of St James’ Piccadilly in one of London’s prime sites, and on it visitors were invited to write their messages.
Special events were put on in the evening with a programme that included music, food, art, poetry, discussion, film and comedy. Included in the discussion “Both sides of the Barrier: Separation or Security?” was Jeff Halper who compellingly challenged the presentation by Alan Johnson of Britain Israel Communications and Research Centre (BICOM). Johnson mentioned the word “terrorism” 21 times but not once did he refer to the Occupation. Also on the panel were Leila Sansour, Open Bethlehem, and John Lyndon, One Voice. We hope to soon post a link to the panel discussion and in the meantime our webmaster Rob Thorburn has written an article about Johnson’s accusation about Jeff made during a BBC Radio 4 interview.
A concert featuring the world-renowned violinist Nigel Kennedy was the highlight of the final evening, with a capacity audience of 600 filling the church. Among the accomplished performers that evening was Mostafa Saad, a sixteen year old Druze citizen of Israel and an up-and-coming violinist. Mostafa, whose brother Omar is currently in an Israeli military prison because he refused to serve in the army, was flown over especially to participate in the event. He and Kennedy played a duet of “The Bridge,” Kennedy’s latest composition.
At the end of the 12-day event, culminating in the concert, the crowd poured out into the courtyard to witness the Wall being taken down to applause, prayers and songs of peace. ICAHD UK played an active role as one of the festival’s key sponsors. We ran a stall throughout which provided information on our work. Many new members joined our organization. Rev. Lucy Winkett, along with the St James’ Piccadilly congregation itself, is now the recipient of an onslaught of malicious accusations from “pro-Israel” supporters. To lend your support for her courageous action in speaking up for the people of Bethlehem living behind the Wall, please write to her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
ICAHD’S 2014 REBUILDING CAMP
3 – 18 August 2014, near Jerusalem
Join with Palestinians and Israelis who refuse to be enemies in a powerful act of non-violent resistance in rebuilding a Palestinian home.
Participate in an extensive educational program including field trips to both sides of the divide.
Strengthen your involvement in the global movement to end home demolitions and for peace with justice for all people groups.
Internationals are invited to participate in the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD) 12th annual camp to rebuild a Palestinian home that was demolished by Israeli authorities. These political acts of resistance, in which Israelis, Palestinians and volunteers from abroad have so far rebuilt 187 homes, constitute one of the most powerful and meaningful ways we can stand in solidarity with Palestinian families.
The fee for the 2014 camp is $1700 or £1130 or €1260 per person. The fee includes:
Three full meals a day and snacks between meals
All field trips and educational program provided by top analysts and key people in the struggle for justice
Not included in the fee are:
Airfare and transfer to and from Jerusalem before the start of the camp and return to the airport at the end of the camp
Meals and beverages during free time away from campsite
Personal spending money
Full details about the camp and application forms are now ready. Please contact the following as appropriate:
For the USA and Canada: Mary Winter: email@example.com
For the UK and other European countries: Fay van Dunk firstname.lastname@example.org
For Norway: Silje Ryvold: email@example.com
For Finland: Bruno Jantti: firstname.lastname@example.org
For Germany: Doris Flack: email@example.com
For Australia: Scott Webster: Scwebster.firstname.lastname@example.org
For the rest of the world: Ruth Edmonds email@example.com
AND A LAST BIT OF XMAS CHEER….FROM SILJE IN TROMSO
There was full activity at ICAHD’s Rebuilding Camp, Christmas Gingerbread Edition, which took place at the Public Library in Tromsø, Northern Norway in December. The gingerbread rebuilding camp was part of the public gingerbread town that is built annually in said place and was seen by lots of people. Along with it was a text with info about the real edition of the camp, planned to happen August 3rd-18th 2014, in Anata.
ICAHD home – rebuilt in gingerbread!