ISRAEL: ANOTHER ACRE AND ANOTHER GOAT

May 3, 2010 at 09:59

Another
Acre and Another Goat

By Amos
Gvirtz*

During my childhood in
the 1950s I still heard echoes of the argument (from pre-state days)
between the Zionist Labor Movement and the Zionist Right. The Labor
Movement people criticized the Zionist Right for declaring the
intention of the Zionist Movement to inherit the Land of Israel. They
argued that these declarations would arouse Arab resistance to the
Zionist enterprise. In their view, the state-in-the-making should be
built quietly, according to the slogan “another acre and another
goat.”

When one sees and hears
what’s going on in the occupied territories today, one can only
conclude that the same approach characterizes our own times as well,
together with the same old argument between quiet action and declared
intentions. Except that today, instead of buying land, it is taken by
force. Along with the building of settlements, Palestinians are
expelled and their houses destroyed. All these things are done on a
small scale – after all, our entire existence depends on the
international community that supports us. If Israel were to act on a
larger scale, that support would decline. Only in the context of a war
does Israel allow itself massive action, as was the case in the “Cast
Lead” operation in Gaza, where the IDF killed 1400 people and destroyed
more than 4000 homes!

Whoever follows these
things in the news, hears from time to time about small land
confiscations near settlements, for security needs or for paving a
road. The very existence of the separation barrier (“the wall”) serves
as a means for stealing land. After the separation barrier is built, as
the years go by, additional lands are taken from their Palestinian
owners on the grounds that they are not cultivated – even if there is no
possibility of cultivating them since many landowners are denied
permits to cross the barrier and work their lands. And if the IDF
doesn’t confiscate the land, then land-greedy settlers attack
Palestinian farmers. The IDF protects the attackers and expels the
farmers. After three years when Palestinians are unable to or do not
dare to enter their lands, the lands are officially declared “state
lands” because they have not been cultivated.

It’s the same story with
home demolitions. First they confiscated the granting of building
permits from Palestinians by disenfranchising the work of the
Palestinian building and planning committees. After that the Israeli
authorities practically stopped granting building permits to
Palestinians. And then, when thousands of Palestinian families had no
choice but to build without permits, they were issued demolition
orders. The demolitions are carried out little by little over time, so
that the media loses interest.

The policy of expulsions works in a similar way. Permanent
residency is denied to people who marry local Palestinian residents,
even if they live in “Area A” (the Palestinian cities) which are under
the full control of the Palestinian Authority. Even after decades of
married life, these non-resident spouses are required to go abroad
every three months and return to their families as tourists. Sometimes
they are not allowed to return at all. It seems that the State of
Israel wants these families to leave their homes in the occupied
territories in the wake of the spouses who are denied residency.

And so it seems that we
have returned to pre-state days. Israel has eradicated its borders with
the occupied territories, ignores international law and international
norms, and systematically acts to annex the West Bank and the Golan
Heights. For this purpose the State steals lands, builds settlements,
destroys houses and expels people.

In the 1980s the country
was up in arms: The racist Rabbi Meir Kahane succeeded in becoming a
Knesset Member! He announced in a loud voice what Israel was doing
little by little. The shock was great. Legislation against racist
incitement was passed – not, of course, against racist actions – and
Kahane’s party was declared illegal. If a law against racist actions
had been legislated, we would be in danger of placing Israeli
governments outside the law.

On the eve of Holocaust
Day, the headline in the Israeli newspaper “Ha’aretz” informed us of a
military order issued by the Head of the Army Central Command that
would enable the expulsion of tens of thousands of Palestinians from
the West Bank. At this point I will take the risk of saying something
that is prohibited among us: that’s how it started in Germany. They
spoke about the transfer of Jews from Europe. Only when they realized
that this was impossible did they decide on the “final solution.”

These days Knesset
Members are busy initiating legislation that will prohibit
commemorating the “Nakba” (the Palestinian catastrophe) of 1948… The
only thing lacking is the initiation of legislation that would prohibit
the continuation of the slow and ongoing implementation of all the
components of the “Nakba.”

*Amos Gvirtz is an
Israeli Peace Activist from Kibbutz
Kibbutz Sheffayim on the Mediterranean, north of
Tel Aviv. He is a founder of
Palestinians
and Israelis for Non-Violence
, a former (2003) member of the
Steering Committee of the
International Fellowship of
Reconciliation

and chairperson of the Committee Against House Demolitions.


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