Posts Tagged 'settlements'

Israel evicts Palestinian families in East Jerusalem, Settlers immediate occupy houses

Aljazeera English, August 3, 2009

Israel evicts Palestinian families

Israeli security forces have forcibly evicted two Palestinian families from their homes in East Jerusalem after a court rejected an appeal against their eviction.

The al-Ghawi and al-Hanoun families who were evicted on Sunday have been living in the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood since 1956.

Israel has reportedly set aside the land their houses were built on for a planned hotel project.

The eviction comes amid international calls for Israel to halt settlement activity on occupied Palestinian land.

A large police force was involved in the operation in Sheikh Jarrah, one of the most sensitive and upmarket Arab neighbourhoods closest to the so-called Green Line which separates east and west Jerusalem.

Violent ‘scuffles’

Sherine Tadros, Al Jazeera’s correspondent in East Jerusalem, said: “According to the Hanoun family, the members that I have spoken to, at about 6am as they were sleeping inside the house, Israeli police officers broke in and we can see the shattered glass all over the floor outside.

“They say that the police were armed and they forcibly evicted both the international activists that were staying at the house and members of the family themselves.

“Members of the family say the police officers beat them with batons and children as young as six were man-handled … scuffles were seen and heard between the police and the two families trying to get back into their houses,” she said.

Tadros said the international activists were arrested and personal items belonging to the families such as cameras, laptops and computers have all been confiscated.

‘Blatant violation of law’

Residents of the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood in East Jerusalem, composed of 28 Palestinian families, held a press conference on May 6 in order to raise awareness regarding the Israeli District Court decision to issue an ultimatum to the al-Ghawi and al-Hanoun families giving them 10 days to evacuate their homes or face punitive measures, including forcible expulsion.

Maher Hanoun, one of 53 family members of the two families affected by the court decision said in a statement: “The al-Ghawi and al-Hanoun cases are part of an ongoing attempt by the two Jewish settler organisations to take over 28 housing units built in 1956 to house refugees and to turn it into a Jewish colony.

“Israel’s measures against the two families constitute blatant violations of international law including the 4th Geneva Convention that obligates the occupying authorities, Israel, to maintain the geographic and demographic characteristics of occupied East Jerusalem,” he said.

Hanoun appealed to the “international community, human rights organisations, and the EU to exert pressure on Israel to stop it from pursuing its plan to ethnically cleanse Jerusalem of its Palestinian population”.

In 1982, Israeli settler organisations began demanding rent from the Palestinian families of Sheikh Jarrah, who at that point had been living in the neighbourhood for almost 30 years – and when many of the families refused to pay this rent, the first eviction orders were issued.

The legal proceedings continued over the years, and in 2006 it was ruled by court that the settler organisations did not have rights to the land, and the Israeli land registration department agreed to revoke the settler associations’ ownership.

Settlement expansion

Despite pending appeals and the lack of legal ownership of land in the neighbourhood, the settler organisations sold their property claim in 2008 to an investment company that plans to demolish the 28 Palestinian homes and build 200 settlement units for new Jewish immigrants.

Further reports state that two additional construction plans being currently reviewed by the Jerusalem municipality would create an additional 150 housing units, for a total of 350 new housing units for Israelis, as well as a synagogue in Sheikh Jarrah.

Settlements have emerged as a major sticking point in relations between Israel and the administration of Barack Obama, the US president.

Although Binyamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, recently yielded to US pressure to conditionally endorse the establishment of a Palestinian state, he has consistently resisted US demands for a total freeze on settlement expansion.

Israel annexed East Jerusalem and declared the whole city its capital after the 1967 Six Day War, a move not recognised by the international community

Deportations spark outcry

Earlier on Saturday, thousands of Israeli and migrant workers, including children, formed a human chain in Tel Aviv in protest at Israel’s decision to deport families of illegal aliens, most of them from Africa.

Israel had set an August 1 deadline to expel illegal migrants and their children, even those who grew up in the country, triggering an outcry among human rights groups.

According to the interior ministry, some 300,000 illegal aliens – including 100,000 migrants, tourists who overstayed their visit and Palestinians – live in Israel which is home to seven million inhabitants.

But human rights groups have said that these figures are inflated.

Source: Al Jazeera and agencies

Joel

Joel Beinin, of Jewish Peace News,  adds:

Stand Up for Jerusalem has posted videos <http://bit.ly/xu92J> of Israeli police evicting two Palestinian families from their homes in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of East Jerusalem at 5:00 am on August 2.  One of the families, the Hijazi family, claims to have deeds to the property dating to the 19th century.  The Sephardic Community Committee also claims to have owned the properties before the 1948 War.  Twenty-eight Palestinian refugee families were resettled in Sheikh Jarrah by the UN and the Jordanian government, which occupied East Jerusalem during the war.  After Israel occupied East Jerusalem in 1967 they were granted the status of “protected” tenants (meaning ordinarily they could not be evicted).  The putative Jewish owners claimed the two families were delinquent in their rent and therefore subject to eviction.  With the consent of the Sephardic Community Committee, settlers have already occupied the homes.

This appears to be a further step in the process of “judaizing” Sheikh Jarrah, a project which has been under way for some time.  Nahalat Shimon International, a settler-related real estate group which also claims to have an Ottoman-era deed, has been seeking to build a 200-unit settlement named Shimon Ha-Tzadik in the area. Settlers already occupy several other houses in the neighborhood.

A full report on the legal background to the case is available at the website of ‘Ir ‘Amim, an NGO that seeks an equitable and shared Jerusalem in the framework of an agreed political future. <http://bit.ly/1bu3Fd>

The Sheikh Jarrah evictions have aroused a storm of international protest from the USA, UK, the EU, Sweden, Egypt, and others. Secretary of State Clinton called the eviction “a very regrettable action,” and the Israeli Ambassador to the US, Michael Oren, was called in for a scolding.  Verbal protests seem unlikely to be enough to halt the Netanyahu government’s determination to build more Jewish colonies in East Jerusalem.

Israeli Journalist Amira Hass on the state of relations between Israel and Palestine

Both Israelis and Palestinians needed to exaggerate the Palestinian military threat to Israel for their own reasons. There is no way the Israeli figures about combatants among those killed are correct. And Hamas doesn’t want to break the myth that they could stand up against the Israeli army. …  About 58,800 housing units have been built with government approval in the West Bank over the [past] 40 years. An additional 46,500 have already obtained Defense Ministry approval within the existing master plans. Others say that it’s too late now to dismantle the settlements. So, actually, any solution which is based on the two states is obsolete.

Democracy Now, June 2, 2009

Israeli Journalist Amira Hass on the Start of the UN’s Probe into Possible Israeli War Crimes during Gaza War

The actions of the Israeli army during its twenty-two-day assault on the Gaza Strip earlier this year are back in the spotlight with the arrival of a United Nations delegation in Gaza this Monday. The fifteen-member team will be investigating possible war crimes and other violations of international law during Israel’s military assault. It’s headed by South African judge Richard Goldstone, who was the former chief prosecutor at the International Criminal Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda. Israel opposes the investigation and denied the delegation visas, forcing them to enter Gaza through the Egyptian-controlled Rafah crossing.

This is a conversation between Democracy Now host Amy Goodman and Amira Hass, author of Drinking the Sea at Gaza: Days and Nights in a Land under Siege and Reporting from Ramallah: An Israeli Journalist in an Occupied Land. Her latest book, out later this month from Haymarket Books, is a diary written by her mother, Hanna Levy-Hass, of surviving the notorious Nazi concentration camp, Bergen-Belsen. It’s called Diary of Bergen-Belsen, 1944-1945.

AMY GOODMAN: The actions of the Israeli army during the twenty-two-day assault on the Gaza Strip earlier this year are back in the spotlight with the arrival of the UN delegation in Gaza this Monday. The fifteen-member team will be investigating whether possible war crimes and other violations of international law during Israel’s military assault. It’s headed by South African judge Richard Goldstone, who was the former chief prosecutor at the International Criminal Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda. Israel opposes the investigation, denies the delegation visas, forcing them to enter Gaza through the Egyptian-controlled Rafah crossing.

Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak met with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in New York Monday and said the UN should investigate Hamas’s rockets and not alleged war crimes by Israel. He later told reporters Israel would not cooperate with the investigation, saying “From our experience, we well know that they will never be able to talk to the other side and to penetrate or to interrogate the series of terrorist operations along years, including thousands of rockets and missiles fell upon the heads of Israeli citizens, in order to get a unbiased conclusion. And knowing the procedures by which such operations are taken, I don’t think that Israel has to or will cooperate with this interrogation.

Human rights groups and Palestinian officials say over 1,400 Palestinians, including over 900 civilians, were killed in what Israel calls “Operation Cast Lead.” Israel disputes the figures, claiming less than 300 civilian deaths. The Israeli Defense Forces-led investigation concluded last month there was no evidence of serious misconduct by its troops.

I’m joined now by the renowned Israeli journalist Amira Hass, regular columnist for Israel’s Ha’aretz newspaper. She has spent more than a decade living in and reporting from Gaza and the West Bank, the only Israeli journalist to do this, and returned to Gaza this year a few days after the official end of Israel’s assault. She spent the next four months living in Gaza, documenting accounts of the war and its aftermath.  Welcome to Democracy Now!

AMIRA HASS: Hi.

AMY GOODMAN: It’s great to have you with us. The latest news of the UN delegation, headed by the jurist Richard Goldstone of South Africa, being denied visas, so they’re going through the Rafah border controlled by Egypt.

AMIRA HASS: This is not the first delegation and the first investigation committee that has been denied Israeli cooperation. There was one by the Arab League that came in February and also did not receive any cooperation on the Israeli part. And it’s very strange. If they didn’t have anything to hide, if the Israelis didn’t have anything to hide, they would have gladly cooperated and given information to those very esteemed jurists, who have been—who have done a lot of important work dealing with other investigations all over the world. John Dugard led the other delegation, the first delegation of the Arab League. John Dugard is South African, just as Richard Goldstone is. And Richard Goldstone is also a Jew. And it is quite telling, or it is even incriminating, the Israeli refusal to cooperate with them.

AMY GOODMAN: What do you think they’re hiding?

AMIRA HASS: The truth. The truth that it was not an attack against the military threat, because the military threat that Hamas poses is very minor. Israel, for years, has had the need to exaggerate the Palestinian military threat. It served not only Israeli needs, it very often served also internal Palestinian needs, to exaggerate their own threat to Israel, because that’s how they could maybe get more popularity in the Arab world, outside and inside the Palestinian community. So both—this exaggeration served both parties.

And, of course, Israel wants to hide—Israel built a presentation of the reality, not—it didn’t allow the reality to come out easily, the reality of indiscriminate attacks against civilians, mostly civilians. I was there for four months. I found it hard to find—I mean, the majority of people that I met, bereft families, people whose houses were destroyed, people whose houses were occupied by the army, people who were victims to missiles, attacks either by drones or helicopters, or bombs dropped, or being killed or wounded by bombs dropped by war jets. I found it hard to find Hamas—direct Hamas activists, let alone combatants or people who are known to be combatants. There is no way to hide this—there is no way that the Israeli figures about casualties is correct.

I mean, I asked the Israeli army to give me their list of—which they say about 700 casualties that they claim, or 1,000—I don’t remember now. They refused to give me their list. I wanted the list to check name by name and then to compare with the list that Palestinian human rights organizations compiled and to see where the differences are. And they said they could not give me the list, because this would disclose their sources. In one specific question about two women who were killed in short—by short range from a tank, I asked, “Are these two women included in your list of casualties?” I didn’t get an answer. So, the Israeli refusal to cooperate with information is very telling.

It’s true that also Hamas are not telling much. But by being there, of course, you learn a lot. They don’t tell much, because I think they don’t want to tell that—or they don’t want to break the myth that they could stand up against the Israeli army. They could not the Israeli army. And this is not shame. I mean, the discussion is whether one should—whether if you want to get to liberate the Palestinians from the Israeli occupation, whether the armed struggle or the—I call it the symbolic armed struggle, is indeed the way. This is the discussion. They have not—when you look at their abilities, when you look at their—the weapons that were smuggled in, those who sent them weapons did not send them sophisticated weapons at all. And there is no way they could stand up against the Israeli army. And this is something that the Israelis—both the Israelis and Hamas, I think, want to hide.

AMY GOODMAN: And Ehud Barak, the Israeli defense minister, meeting with Ban Ki-moon Monday, saying the UN should investigate Hamas’s rockets, not the alleged war crimes by Israel?

AMIRA HASS: I think that they have—I mean, everybody was talking about the rockets, and I think that the—let me ask you, you know the city of Sderot, right? You are familiar with this. Do you know Ben-e Have you ever mentioned in your program the village Bani Suhaila? How many people know about Beit Hanoun? How many people knew about Abasan? All these—how many people know—knew about Zeitoun? All these Palestinian neighborhoods and villages which were a victim of Israeli attacks. We only know about Sderot.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, it’s interesting. Journalists could get to Sderot.

AMIRA HASS: Exactly, yes, of course.

AMY GOODMAN: The Israeli military let them get to Sderot, but not to Gaza.

AMIRA HASS: Exactly, and not to Abasan in order to see and not to—yeah. So it’s a chutzpah. I mean, really, it’s even tiring to discuss it. So, everybody knows about the rockets, Hamas rockets, on the country. People had the impression that the whole thing—that history started with the rockets, that the history of Israeli-Palestinian conflict started with the rockets, which is, of course—which doesn’t mean, you know—there is a lot of criticism, internal criticism, within the Palestinian society about the rockets, the use of rockets. It’s obvious that rockets did not liberate Gaza, did not liberate Palestine, and they cause more harm to the Palestinians than they even cause to the Israelis.

I asked once two activists of Izz ad-Din al-Qassam, of the Hamas armed wing, I asked them, “Why do you do that?” I mean, it was back in 2003, 2004. And they told me, “We want to teach the Israelis a lesson. We want them to be afraid, just as we are, just as—not we, but just as our women and children are afraid.” This was very interesting. So it is a competition about who can instill more fear. I asked this time when I was in Gaza, I asked an activist in the Islamic jihad, I said, “So, who is more afraid? You or the Israelis?” And he admitted that in this competition over fear, also the Palestinians are the losers.

AMY GOODMAN: Amira Hass, there’s an article in the New York Times that says, “According to […] newly disclosed data, about 58,800 housing units have been built with government approval in the West Bank […] over the [past] 40 years. An additional 46,500 have already obtained Defense Ministry approval within the existing master plans, awaiting nothing more than a government decision to build.” We’re talking about a doubling almost—

AMIRA HASS: Yeah.

AMY GOODMAN: —of the settlements in the West Bank.

AMIRA HASS: Yeah.

AMY GOODMAN: This as Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu says there will be no new Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank, and illegal outposts there will be dismantled.

AMIRA HASS: Look, all settlement is illegal. So when we use the term “illegal outposts,” it’s misleading. It’s unauthorized illegal settlements, while you have the authorized illegal settlements. This is the real distinction.

And the real problem is not these outposts. They are tiny. Most of them are tiny. And they just distract our attention from the real construction. Yeah, this has been Israeli success. And this is, by the way, one of the things I ask the Palestinians, and that’s a problem. Neither the Palestinian so-called armed struggle—I call it symbolic armed struggle—and suicide—and terrorist attacks, both guerrilla and—guerrilla attacks and terror attacks against civilians, both these and Palestinian negotiation strategy have not stopped the settlements. On the contrary, the settlements grew in parallel, in tandem with the Oslo process and with the process of negotiations.

So, actually, Israel—you know, I asked once a Peace Now activist, and it was in ’95 or so, I asked him, “Why did you drop the slogan that you had before ’91 or before ’93, the slogan of ‘no peace with the settlements’?” And he said, “If the Palestinians accept the settlements, actually, if Abu Mazen accepted some settlements, who are we to oppose him or to say differently?” It’s true that with the Oslo agreement, Palestinians gave the impression that they could live with the settlements. And then you had the Geneva—Geneva talks or whatever, not talks, but the convention of some groups, that accepted the existence of two major settlements: Ma’ale Adumim and Givat Ze’ev. So, indeed, the Palestinians gave an impression that they will tolerate these settlements. And we—no, some Palestinians, not all, of course. Others say that it’s too late now to dismantle the settlements. So, actually, it is—any solution which is based on the two states is obsolete.

AMY GOODMAN: Your evaluation, assessment of President Obama so far on the Israel-Palestine conflict, as he heads now to the Middle East, first to Saudi Arabia, then to Egypt?

AMIRA HASS: It’s—

AMY GOODMAN: And then to the Buchenwald concentration camp.

AMIRA HASS: Yeah. My evaluation, it’s—so far I see more hope invested in him than I see real inclinations to pressure Israel. I mean, all the statements that were said so far are encouraging, in the sense that he understands or his administration understands that there must be a way out of this deadlock. But there must be measures taken, such as freeze of sales of arms to Israel, freeze or stoppage of all support, financial support of Israel as long as it continues to build in the settlements. So these things are yet to be seen.

AMY GOODMAN: Amira Hass, I hope this is part one of our conversation this week, that when you come back to New York City, you’ll be with us later in the week, because I particularly also want to talk about your mother’s book that’s out posthumously, Diary of Bergen-Belsen, as President Obama visits a concentration camp, as well. This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org. Our guest, Amira Hass, columnist for Ha’aretz newspaper, renowned Israeli journalist.

The substance of Obama’s Cairo speech shows little change is likely

For Obama, “Islam” is synonymous with overwhelming popular opposition across many Muslim-majority countries to the increasingly intrusive and violent American military, political and economic interventions, and the resistance this opposition generates.   “The sooner the extremists are isolated and unwelcome in Muslim communities, the sooner we will all be safer.”  He lectured Palestinians that It is a sign of neither courage nor power to shoot rockets at sleeping children, or to blow up old women on a bus, but did Obama really imagine that such words would impress an Arab public that watched in horror as Israel slaughtered 1,400 people in Gaza last winter, including hundreds of sleeping, fleeing or terrified children, with American-supplied weapons?  And how is Palestine to be a viable state if it is dismembered by the existing Israeli settlements, which Obama says nothing about?

On the other hand, Robert Dreyfuss, in the Nation, thinks Obama hit a home run.

Guardian (UK),  June 4, 2009

A Bush in sheep’s clothing

By Ali Abunimah

Obama’s speech shows little real change. In most regards his analysis maintains flawed American policies

Once you strip away the mujamalat – the courtesies exchanged between guest and host – the substance of President Obama’s speech in Cairo indicates there is likely to be little real change in US policy. It is not necessary to divine Obama’s intentions – he may be utterly sincere and I believe he is. It is his analysis and prescriptions that in most regards maintain flawed American policies intact.

Though he pledged to “speak the truth as best I can”, there was much the president left out. He spoke of tension between “America and Islam” – the former a concrete specific place, the latter a vague construct subsuming peoples, practices, histories and countries more varied than similar.

Labelling America’s “other” as a nebulous and all-encompassing “Islam” (even while professing rapprochement and respect) is a way to avoid acknowledging what does in fact unite and mobilise people across many Muslim-majority countries: overwhelming popular opposition to increasingly intrusive and violent American military, political and economic interventions in many of those countries. This opposition – and the resistance it generates – has now become for supporters of those interventions, synonymous with “Islam”.

It was disappointing that Obama recycled his predecessor’s notion that “violent extremism” exists in a vacuum, unrelated to America’s (and its proxies’) exponentially greater use of violence before and after September 11, 2001. He dwelled on the “enormous trauma” done to the US when almost 3,000 people were killed that day, but spoke not one word about the hundreds of thousands of orphans and widows left in Iraq – those whom Muntazer al-Zaidi’s flying shoe forced Americans to remember only for a few seconds last year. He ignored the dozens of civilians who die each week in the “necessary” war in Afghanistan, or the millions of refugees fleeing the US-invoked escalation in Pakistan.

As President George Bush often did, Obama affirmed that it is only a violent minority that besmirches the name of a vast and “peaceful” Muslim majority. But he seemed once again to implicate all Muslims as suspect when he warned, “The sooner the extremists are isolated and unwelcome in Muslim communities, the sooner we will all be safer.”

Nowhere were these blindspots more apparent than his statements about Palestine/Israel. He gave his audience a detailed lesson on the Holocaust and explicitly used it as a justification for the creation of Israel. “It is also undeniable,” the president said, “that the Palestinian people – Muslims and Christians – have suffered in pursuit of a homeland. For more than sixty years they have endured the pain of dislocation.”

Suffered in pursuit of a homeland? The pain of dislocation? They already had a homeland. They suffered from being ethnically cleansed and dispossessed of it and prevented from returning on the grounds that they are from the wrong ethno-national group. Why is that still so hard to say?

He lectured Palestinians that “resistance through violence and killing is wrong and does not succeed”. He warned them that “It is a sign of neither courage nor power to shoot rockets at sleeping children, or to blow up old women on a bus. That is not how moral authority is claimed; that is how it is surrendered.” (Note: the last suicide attack targeting civilians by a Palestinian occurred in 2004)

Fair enough, but did Obama really imagine that such words would impress an Arab public that watched in horror as Israel slaughtered 1,400 people in Gaza last winter, including hundreds of sleeping, fleeing or terrified children, with American-supplied weapons? Did he think his listeners would not remember that the number of Palestinian and Lebanese civilians targeted and killed by Israel has always far exceeded by orders of magnitude the number of Israelis killed by Arabs precisely because of the American arms he has pledged to continue giving Israel with no accountability? Amnesty International recently confirmed what Palestinians long knew: Israel broke the negotiated ceasefire when it attacked Gaza last November 4, prompting retaliatory rockets that killed no Israelis until after Israel launched its much bigger attack on Gaza. That he continues to remain silent about what happened in Gaza, and refuses to hold Israel accountable demonstrates anything but a commitment to full truth-telling.

Some people are prepared to give Obama a pass for all this because he is at last talking tough on Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank. In Cairo, he said: “The United States does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements. This construction violates previous agreements and undermines efforts to achieve peace. It is time for these settlements to stop.”

These carefully chosen words focus only on continued construction, not on the existence of the settlements themselves; they are entirely compatible with the peace process industry consensus that existing settlements will remain where they are for ever. This raises the question of where Obama thinks he is going. He summarised Palestinians’ “legitimate aspirations” as being the establishment of a “state”. This has become a convenient slogan to that is supposed to replace for Palestinians their pursuit of rights and justice that the proposed state actually denies. Obama is already on record opposing Palestinian refugees’ right to return home, and has never supported the right of Palestinian citizens of Israel to live free from racist and religious incitement, persecution and practices fanned by Israel’s highest office holders and written into its laws.

He may have more determination than his predecessor but he remains committed to an unworkable two-state “vision” aimed not at restoring Palestinian rights, but preserving Israel as an enclave of Israeli Jewish privilege. It is a dead end.

There was one sentence in his speech I cheered for and which he should heed: “Given our interdependence, any world order that elevates one nation or group of people over another will inevitably fail.”

Ali Abunimah is co-founder of The Electronic Intifada and author of One Country, A Bold Proposal to end the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse.

Privatising Zionism

Guardian (UK) via Common Dreams, December 14

Privatising Zionism

Increasingly, Israel is handing over its ‘Judaisation’ project to private firms – leading to a corrosion of accountability

by Neve Gordon and Erez Tzfadia

For less than four dollars an hour, the Jewish teenagers removed furniture, clothes, kitchenware and toys from the homes and loaded them on to trucks.   As they worked diligently alongside the many policemen who had come to secure the destruction of 30 houses in two unrecognised Bedouin villages, Bedouin teenagers stood by watching their homes being emptied.

When all the belongings had been removed, the bulldozers rapidly destroyed the homes.   All those present, Jews and Bedouins, were Israeli citizens; together they learned an important lesson in the discrimination characterising civic life in the Jewish state.

The current demolitions are part of a strategy that began with the foundation of the state of Israel.   Its ultimate objective is the Judaisation of space.   In this case, the demolitions were carried out in order to establish two new Jewish villages.   Their establishment, though, is part of a much larger plan that includes the construction of about 30 new Jewish settlements in the Israeli Negev, the seizure of Bedouin land for military needs, and the creation of dozens of single-family farms on land that has been inhabited by Bedouins since they were relocated to the region by the state in the early 1950s.

After witnessing the demolitions, a Bedouin activist asked one of the Jewish teenagers why he had agreed to participate in the eviction.   Without hesitating, the teenager replied: “I am a Zionist and what we are doing here today is Zionism.”

The teenager was not wrong.   And yet he was probably too young to recognise that even though Zionism’s major goals have not changed, the methods deployed to realise them have been undergoing a radical transformation.   While, traditionally, the state itself performed the task of Judiasing space, over the years the government has been outsourcing more and more of its responsibilities to private firms.   The teenager himself was hired by a personnel agency, which was employed by the state to carry out the job of expelling Bedouins from their homes.

The process of privatising Zionism has been slow.   For over five decades the state was the sole agent responsible for all planning of new villages, towns and cities, and only the construction was carried out by private contractors.   Now, land from which the Bedouins are being expelled is sold at rock bottom prices to big real estate moguls, who are then responsible not only for building Jewish villages and towns, but also for planning them.   The private contractors manage to garner larger returns than ever before, since the difference in price between “unplanned” land and land that has undergone “planning” is enormous.

The personnel agencies and contractors are, however, not the only heroes in the crusade to privatise Zionism.   A five-minute drive separates the two unrecognised Bedouin villages whose houses were demolished from a number of single-family Jewish farms established in the last few years.   The state gives these Jewish farmers large plots of land and connects them to basic infrastructure like water and electricity, and, in return, expects them to be part of an apparatus whose role is to contract and restrict Bedouin movement and development and to help the security forces keep an eye on the Negev’s indigenous population.

If one drives a few kilometres further and crosses the Green Line into the occupied Palestinian territories, one may notice that military checkpoints are also being privatised.   In the past year, at least five such checkpoints have been handed over to subcontractors and are currently managed by corporate warriors.   The difference between IDF soldiers and corporate warriors is that the latter operate within the gray areas of the law.   They are Israel’s Blackwater.   Thus, as this privatising trend continues the checkpoints in the West Bank, which have already earned notoriety under the management of the Israeli military, will surely become sites of more misery for Palestinians trying to pass through.

The checkpoints, though, are just a recent development in a process that has been going on for several years in the occupied territories.   In the early 1980s, the Israeli government allowed private contractors to appropriate land within the occupied territories and sell it at great profits, while the military created settler militias to help it police the Palestinian inhabitants.   These civilian militias were given military-issue personnel carriers, weapons, and communications equipment and were asked to patrol around their settlements, which, in practice, often meant policing nearby Palestinian villages.

Zionism’s privatisation does not symbolise a strategic change but rather a tactical one.   The state has been shedding some of its responsibility, while private entities have been taking on the tasks that until recently had been carried out by the government.   The major difference is that the private firms are even less liable than the state.   Hence, the use of teenagers to evict Bedouins from their homes is not only a reflection of this insidious process of privatisation, but also the unrelenting corrosion of moral accountability.

Neve Gordon teaches politics at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Israel.   He is the author of From the Margins of Globalization.   His book Israel’s Occupation will appear in 2008 (University of California Press).   Erez Tzfadia teaches public policy at Sapir College in Israel.


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