Essay: It's the occupation, stupid

BY FADI KIBLAWI

Published March 20, 2002

Two weeks ago, after Israeli occupation tanks entered Palestinian refugee camps in the West Bank, their military leaders triumphantly announced to the public that they faced weak opposition. Were they expecting an army? In order for peace to prevail in Palestine, certain false implications must be removed from discourse on the topic at hand. Specifically, the catchy phrase "war in the Middle East" must be examined. This is most certainly not a war in the most conventional sense of the word, between two armies.

What we are seeing is a recurring event in history in which an occupying army faces resistance from the population that it is trying to isolate and control. We saw this with the children's riots in Soweto, South Africa during their apartheid years and with the triumphant freedom fighters of our own nation that defeated the occupying English imperialists. After 18 months of bloodshed, over 1,500 funerals and hundreds of thousands of newspaper headlines, the cycle of violence is at an unprecedented level. Every week, President Bush repeatedly calls for restraint and an end to the cycle. Newsflash: This has not worked and will not work! The only way to stop a broken record from replaying the same line over and over, is to not just repeatedly tell it to stop. The broken record must be removed. In the same sense, the root of the cycle of violence needs to be removed.

The root is the illegal Israeli occupation of Palestinian land and lack of recognition of Palestinian natural rights to self-determination. This 35-year occupation is fully in line with 54 years of Israeli apartheid-like policies of ethnically cleansing and discriminating against the indigenous Christian and Muslim population. The occupation began after an Israeli-initiated war in 1967 which resulted in the dispossession of 400,000 Palestinians from their homes.

Since then, Israeli occupation policies have resulted in oppression in the form of house demolitions, land confiscation, curfews, closures and full control of the livelihood of every Palestinian in the occupied territories. How does Israel justify this?

The catch phrase that Israeli officials use is that all of their occupation policies, despite the vast majority of them being in complete violation of any standards of human rights and international law, are done under the scope of "national security." Palestinian security and natural rights are sacrificed. The flaw in this argument and the true nature of Israel's imperialistic motives, is quickly revealed in Israel's settlement policies. Last week, the Knesset approved an additional $58 million be used for settlement construction in the occupied territories, where the "war" is taking place.

These 121 Jewish-only settlements are built on lands forcibly taken from Muslims and Christians, many of them refugees. I find it quite difficult to understand how transferring over 200,000 citizens into new Jewish-only condominiums built on occupied territories in full site of those that were just forced from that land is going to foster national security. Call me crazy, but common sense would lead me to believe that this will only lead to less security, especially at a time when conflict is raging through these same lands.

Let us keep it very simple. Israel is not fighting a war for its survival or its security. The facts on the ground clearly indicate that Israel is fighting a war armed with F-16s, Apaches and Merkavas, to continue occupying a land which it is transferring its citizens to, and controlling a population unarmed but with rocks and a few archaic rifles. Their most considerate peace offer at Camp David would have created a Palestinian state with lines of Israeli military cutting through it and Israeli control over all of its resources. This falls well short of any realistic Palestinian state, and is nowhere near what Israel is obligated to concede under international law.

If Mexico attacked America and forced all of us into California, we would resist. Furthermore, if Mexico's military then took over California and flexed its muscle daily affecting every aspect of our livelihood, we would resist even more.

This is exactly what the Palestinians are doing. It is not Israel that is fighting for her survival. If she moved the 20,000 soldiers in the West Bank and Gaza to her own borders, she would be much more secure. It is the Palestinians, who are living under military rule of an imperialist power, that are fighting for their existence, to the point where they know they have nothing to lose. It is in our interests to urge our government to stop aid to Israel, the largest recipient of U.S. foreign aid, in order to pressure them to end their illegal occupation, which is the sole primary cause of the conflict and roadblock to peace.

Kiblawi is an LSA junior and a member of Students Allied for Freedom and Equality.