Most of the West Bank is under rule which amounts to apartheid by paper
Saturday, 30 January 2010
"Palestine" is no more. Call it a "peace process" or a "road
map"; blame it on Barack Obama’s weakness, his pathetic, childish
admission – like an optimistic doctor returning a sick child to its parents
without hope of recovery – that a Middle East peace was "more
difficult" to reach than he imagined.
But the dream of a "two-state" Israeli-Palestinian solution, a
security-drenched but noble settlement to decades of warfare between
Israelis and Palestinians is as good as dead.
Both the United States and Europe now stand idly by while the Israeli
government effectively destroys any hope of a Palestinian state; even as you
read these words, Israel’s bulldozers and demolition orders are destroying
the last chance of peace; not only in the symbolic centre of Jerusalem
itself but – strategically, far more important – in 60 per cent of the vast,
biblical lands of the occupied West Bank, in that largest sector in which
Jews now outnumber Muslims two to one.
This majority of the West Bank – known under the defunct Oslo Agreement’s
sinister sobriquet as "Area C" – has already fallen under an
Israeli rule which amounts to apartheid by paper: a set of Israeli laws
which prohibit almost all Palestinian building or village improvements,
which shamelessly smash down Palestinian homes for which permits are
impossible to obtain, ordering the destruction of even restored Palestinian
sewage systems. Israeli colonists have no such problems; which is why
300,000 Israelis now live – in 220 settlements which are all internationally
illegal – in the richest and most fertile of the Palestinian occupied lands.
When Obama’s elderly envoy George Mitchell headed home in humiliation this
week, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu celebrated his departure by
planting trees in two of the three largest Israeli colonies around
Jerusalem. With these trees at Gush Etzion and Ma’aleh Adumim, he said, he
was sending "a clear message that we are here. We will stay here. We
are planning and we are building." These two huge settlements, along
with that of Ariel to the north of Jerusalem, were an "indisputable
part of Israel forever."
It was Netanyahu’s victory celebration over the upstart American President who
had dared to challenge Israel’s power not only in the Middle East but in
America itself. And while the world this week listened to Netanyahu in the
Holocaust memorial commemoration for the genocide of six million Jews,
abusing Iran as the new Nazi Germany – Iran’s loony president supposedly as
evil as Hitler – the hopes of a future "Palestine" continued
to dribble away. President Ahmadinejad of Iran is no more Adolf Hitler than
the Israelis are Nazis. But the "threat" of Iran is distracting
the world. So is Tony Blair yesterday, trying to wriggle out of his bloody
responsibility for the Iraq disaster. The real catastrophe, however,
continues just outside Jerusalem, amid the fields, stony hills and ancient
caves of most of the West Bank.