Friday, September 02, 2005

Colonialism in the 21st Century: our ally the state of Israel (part 2)

Part 2 – The decolonisation of Gaza: fraud, melodrama and racist double-standards

Many people who watched August 2005's round-the-clock TV coverage of the decolonisation of Gaza might have been forgiven for thinking that Israel hade made what Prime Minister Ariel Sharon described as a "painful sacrifice" for peace. Of course, within the broader narrative of Israel's colonial record (see part 1 of this article), the notion of a painful Israeli concession to the Palestinians would appear incongruous to say the least. In fact one would not only have to ignore Israel's expansionist past in order to maintain this view, one would also have to ignore the explicitly stated goals of the architects and instigators of the withdrawal themselves.

Profit and loss: the fraud of "withdrawal"

Sharon's adviser, Dov Weisglass, one of the principal architects of the plan, set out government's aims in stark terms during a gloating interview with Ha'aretz. Recounting the interview, Le Monde Diplomatique noted that "according to Weisglass, Sharon decided to give up Gaza, which he had never considered as a national interest, to save the settlements in the West Bank and, more important, to prevent any negotiated agreement with the Palestinians". Anyone still labouring under the delusion that the Gaza withdrawal was an onerous hardship that Israel had volunteered to bear for the sake of peace, should carefully read Weisglass' exact words:

"There was a very difficult package of commitments that Israel was expected to accept. That package is called a political process. It included elements we will never agree to accept and elements we cannot accept at this time. But we succeeded in taking that package and sending it beyond the hills. You know, the term `political process' is a bundle of concepts and commitments. The political process is the establishment of a Palestinian state with all the security risks that entails. The political process is the evacuation of settlements, it's the return of refugees, it's the partition of Jerusalem. And all that has now been frozen.

The disengagement plan makes it possible for Israel to park conveniently in an interim situation that distances us as far as possible from political pressure. [It] is actually [suspending the political process in] formaldehyde. It supplies the amount of formaldehyde that's necessary so that there will not be a political process with the Palestinians.

It places the Palestinians under tremendous pressure. There are no more Israeli soldiers spoiling their day. And for the first time they have a slice of land with total continuity on which they can race from one end to the other in their Ferrari. And the whole world is watching them - them, not us. It is making it possible for the Americans to go to the seething and simmering international community and say to them, `What do you want?' It also transfers the initiative to our hands. It compels the world to deal with our idea, with the scenario we wrote.

[Sharon] doesn't see Gaza today as an area of national interest. He does see [the illegal West Bank settlements of] Judea and Samaria as an area of national interest. The withdrawal in Samaria is a token one. We agreed to only so it wouldn't be said that we concluded our obligation in Gaza. In regard to the large settlement blocs, thanks to the disengagement plan, we have in our hands a first-ever American statement that they will be part of Israel. Sharon can tell the leaders of the settlers that he is evacuating 10,000 settlers and in the future he will be compelled to evacuate another 10,000, but he is strengthening the other 200,000, strengthening their hold in the soil. [Sharon] can say honestly that ....out of 240,000 settlers, 190,000 will not be moved from their place. Will not be moved

I found a device, in cooperation with the management of the world [the US government], to ensure that there will be no .... timetable to implement the settlers' nightmare. I have postponed that nightmare indefinitely. Because what I effectively agreed to with the Americans was that part of the settlements would not be dealt with at all, and the rest will not be dealt with until the Palestinians turn into Finns. That is the significance of what we did. The significance is the freezing of the political process. And when you freeze that process you prevent the establishment of a Palestinian state and you prevent a discussion about the refugees, the borders and Jerusalem. Effectively, this whole package that is called the Palestinian state, with all that it entails, has been removed from our agenda indefinitely. And all this with authority and permission. All with a presidential blessing and the ratification of both houses of Congress. What more could have been anticipated? What more could have been given to the settlers? They should have danced around and around the Prime Minister's Office."

There is therefore no reason for the Gaza withdrawal to be portrayed as a great and painful concession that Israel is making for the sake of peace. The withdrawal is, as explicitly stated by one of its principle architects, a manoeuvre for victory. Its intention is to deny the Palestinians a state of their own; to deny any reparation or other form of justice to Palestinians that were subject to systematic ethnic cleansing by the state of Israel; and to continue to colonise, in contravention of international law, land acquired by force.

Weisglass makes a half-hearted attempt to justify these cynical tactics on the grounds that Israel does not have a genuine partner for peace in the terrorist Palestinians. But his statement that the Palestinians must "turn into Finns" before Israel negotiates makes plain the fact that, for Israel, Palestinian terrorism presents a political opportunity for victory, not an obstacle to peace. To say that the Palestinians must "turn into Finns" is to say that good behaviour on their part is not a prerequisite to negotiations; it is an irrelevance (as it must be, since negotiations are to be avoided at all costs – an open admission of moral bankruptcy). So there is no need to make the obvious point that only a just settlement between Palestinians and Israelis stands any chance of ending the conflict, and that therefore the Weisglass scheme will in fact guarantee more violence. This is irrelevant, since victory is the aim - not peace - victory at any cost to the Palestinians. Essential to that victory is what Israeli sociologist Baruch Kimmerling called "the politicide of the Palestinian people, a gradual but systematic attempt to cause their annihilation as an independent political and social entity".

In any event, when discussing the availability of a "serious partner for peace" we should recall that Weisglass' boss, Ariel Sharon, is a man found guilty by an Israeli judicial commission of bearing "personal responsibility" for massacres of civilians in Lebanon, during a brutal war - provoked by Sharon to avoid a Palestinian "peace offensive", including an offer of a two-state solution - that claimed thousands of innocent lives. The commission (where Weisglass acted as Sharon’s defence attorney) concluded that the then Defence Minister should not be allowed to hold public office again. He got off lightly - not least because he is now Prime Minister) – since under Israeli law a 20-year jail sentence for premeditated murder might well have been more appropriate. Lamentations from such people to the effect that they are lacking a "serious partner for peace" therefore do not raise questions with which we need detain ourselves.

So, enquires into the Israeli government's precise intentions in respect of the Gaza withdrawal are not required, since those intentions have been spelled out unambiguously. Avraham Burg, a former speaker of the Israeli parliament, was simply stating the facts when he said of the plan: "It is a vast fraud: sacrifice of the unimportant and insignificant settlements in Gaza and in the Sinai approaches in return for perpetuating the wrongs and perversions of the Israeli soul in the heart of Hebron, at Yitzhar, at Beit El.....". And it ought to come as no surprise, and be seen as no contradiction, that Israel has continued to extend its illegal colonisation of the West Bank, that Israel's Central Bureau of Statistics has reported that 3,981 new "housing units" are under construction there, and that Sharon has announced that the Ariel settlement, in the heart of the West Bank, will be "a part of Israel for ever". Indeed the Palestinians would have good reason to ask, as the land grab continues apace, whether they really have a serious partner for peace; or at least they would, if the answer were not patently obvious.

To effect the imposition of the expansionist design, a massive "security fence" - more accurately a giant wall - is being constructed to unilaterally and permanently annex those parts of the occupied territories that Israel finds desirable. As Noam Chomsky points out "It is a virtual reflex for governments to plead security concerns when they undertake any controversial action, often as a pretext for something else. Few would question Israel's right to protect its citizens from terrorist attacks ...., even to build a security wall if that were an appropriate means. It is also clear where such a wall would be built if security were the guiding concern: inside Israel, within the internationally recognized border, the Green Line established after the 1948-49 war. The wall could then be as forbidding as the authorities chose: patrolled by the army on both sides, heavily mined, impenetrable. Such a wall would maximize security, and there would be no international protest or violation of international law."

But we need waste no more words on the notion that the "fence" is being built in the interest of security, since "when the government of Ariel Sharon finally published its proposed map, it became clear that the wall would cut the West Bank into 16 isolated enclaves, confined to just 42 percent of the West Bank land that Mr. Sharon had previously said could be ceded to a Palestinian state". Thus, once the Israeli wall is constructed, around ten percent of historic Palestine will lie outside of it. Furthermore, "The wall has already claimed some of the most fertile lands of the West Bank. And, crucially, it extends Israel's control of critical water resources, which Israel and its settlers can appropriate as they choose, while the indigenous population often lacks water for drinking.....Israelis now enjoy ample land and fresh water, while.....Palestinians barely survive, their meager water supplies virtually unusable". Generously, "Palestinians in the seam between the wall and the Green Line will be permitted to apply for the right to live in their own homes; Israelis automatically have the right to use these lands".

The International Court of Justice in The Hague concluded that the construction of the wall is illegal, and that it ought to be dismantled. Israel, of course, ignored the court's decision, since, as David Ben Gurion had said, "the boundaries of Zionist aspirations are the concern of the Jewish people and no external factor will be able to limit them". Not the International Court, not the international community, and certainly not the Palestinians.

Continuing with Israeli unilateralism, the land grab will involve, according to Sharon and Weisglass, the permanent annexation of the whole of Jerusalem, including the Arab eastern segment. Renowned Middle East scholar Juan Cole points out that "Over time, various subtle forms of ethnic cleansing have been applied to isolate and reduce the Arab population there, making it an increasingly Jewish city. Israelis understandably invest a lot of emotion in Jerusalem as a religious and national symbol, given the biblical stories of David and Solomon. But they are not the only ones to do so. Jerusalem was not founded by ancient Israel, but rather is an ancient Near Eastern city the common forebears of the Jews and Palestinians, who spoke an ancient Semitic language. Muslims held it from the seventh century to 1918, longer than any other group, and revere it as the third holiest city of their faith. In very early Islam, Muslims prayed toward Jerusalem. The Dome of the Rock is a sacred shrine to 1.3 billion Muslims". One can imagine the reaction from Israel and its western allies if a similarly holy Jewish shrine were unilaterally seized by the Palestinians. Sharon and Weisglass' declarations, by contrast, have been met with near silence.

Uppermost in the mind of Israeli policymakers, as well as the 'politicide' of the Palestinians and the systematic theft of their homeland, has been the question of demography - that is to say, the preservation of the ethnic Jewish character of the state of Israel. Sharon summed up the issue succinctly when he told the nation "Over 1 million Palestinians live [in Gaza], and they double their numbers with every generation". The view of a “demographic problem” is not restricted to the right hand side of the Israeli political spectrum. Shimon Peres, leader of Israel's Labour party, stated bluntly that "we are disengaging from Gaza because of demography". Yossi Alpher, a former adviser to Mr Sharon's predecessor, Labour's Ehud Barak, said: "Demography is the only persuasive rationale for carrying out disengagement unilaterally”.

Daphna Baram, a London based Israeli journalist, explains the rationale, and its considerable penetration into Israeli political culture: "The disengagement from Gaza is considered a step in the right direction because it will cut off about 1.3 million Palestinians from Israel's responsibility [a legal point hotly disputed by the Red Cross], thus improving the demographic balance between Israelis and Palestinians in the territories that remain under Israeli control."

"The nature of the debate on disengagement was highlighted at a conference at Haifa University in April. Its subject was "the demographic problem". Respected sociologists and demographers presented papers addressing the so-called problem. the fact that such a conference theme might in other contexts seem more fit for a fascistic or racist organisation, rather than an academic institute with thousands of Arab students, was ignored."

"The government, for its part, has already started taking "measures" to limit the growth of the Palestinian population in Israel. For many years, Israeli-Palestinians have been prevented....from bringing their spouses (Palestinians from the occupied territories) into Israel, or being able to get them citizenship.....New laws make it practically impossible for non-Israeli spouses of Palestinians to become Israeli citizens. Recently proposed legislation aims to stop all non-Jewish spouses of Israelis from becoming citizens. The idea that people's citizenship can be stripped away if they belong to the "wrong" ethnicity is clearly racist, but it has gained popularity in Israel."

In short, the Israeli government's policies, now being put into effect are, as has been explicitly stated: to destroy the Palestinians ability to function as a political entity, to steal yet more of their homeland in direct and open contravention of the law, and to deny Israeli citizenship to non-Jews in order to preserve a desirable national ethnic character. Since, as Dov Weisglass proudly declares, all this was achieved "in cooperation with the management of the world...with a presidential blessing and the ratification of both houses of Congress" one might expect the colonists and other expansionists to "have danced around and around the Prime Minister's Office". Far from it. For the settlers, the decolonisation of the 1 per cent of historic Palestine that is Gaza, even in this political context, was a monstrous evil beyond all justification.

The melodrama of decolonisation

International 24 hour TV news coverage of the eviction settlers from the illegal Gaza colonies in August 2005 lingered on their wails of anguish and frustration. Their plight was a desperate one indeed. The evicted families were being paid compensation at an average of about £200,000 plus £300 a month housing allowance for two years; a total cost of around $1bn (£550m). Hotel rooms, rental apartments and mobile homes had been made available in the immediate term by a government agency specially set up to deal with the decolonisation. Also, as prominent Israeli peace activist Uri Avnery pointed out, "without exception settlers knew that they were moving to an area that was conquered in war. In contracts for the sale or rental of land in the occupied territories there was a clause that explicitly stated their temporary nature".

The manner of the colonists’ removal by the security forces was no less savage and unfair. As The Guardian reported, "Thousands of soldiers were assigned to deliver letters ordering settlers to leave the 21 Israeli colonies in the Gaza Strip and four in the northern West Bank due to be dismantled, but also to offer "love and assistance" to help them leave. "This is a difficult situation for us all," the letters said. "The [Israeli military] and the Israeli police share in the sorrow and pain you are feeling and expressing. Nevertheless we will see this mission to its end, while providing any possible help and assistance"".

The moral dilemma facing Israeli officers charged with enacting the decolonisation was best summed up by one commander quoted in the Sunday Times: "Normally we would storm a house killing everyone inside, whereas here we have to storm the house and keep everyone alive. It's not an easy job". One sympathises. Quotes of this kind were rare since, as Daphna Baram noted in the case of the debate on demography, "This is an internal Jewish argument. The Palestinians are all excluded". So the contrast between the Jewish and Palestinian experiences of compulsory eviction was rarely drawn; for instance the fact that the Israeli towns of Ashkelon and Ashdod, where many of the Gaza settlers were to be resettled, were just a couple of generations ago the Palestinian towns of Al-Majdal and al-Dalhamiyya.

It is perhaps unsurprising that only a vanishingly small percentage of illegal colonists were to be evacuated, with kid gloves and at massive expense, from the vanishingly small percentage of historic Palestine that forms the Gaza strip. The penetration of the settler movement into Israeli public life is deep and significant, aside from their wider bi-partisan support. According to Le Monde Diplomatique the settlers "are in high places in the ministries of education, justice and housing, and their presence is felt in departments dealing with the West Bank and Gaza. The Civil Administration is the department within the army responsible for civil affairs in the occupied West Bank and Gaza. It is ... controlled almost totally by settlers. In 1998-2005, 2,500 warrants were issued for the destruction of illegal houses in the settlements, but none was put into effect. Meanwhile the body destroys 300 Palestinian houses each year. "The inspection department is very ideological, very rightwing…" says an ex-officer. "They would turn the lives of the Palestinians into hell and ignore unlawful construction in the settlements." A recent judicial report showed that a network of settlers in departments and ministries has facilitated the construction of more than 110 illegal Jewish outposts since 1998". In addition, the movement has a high profile in the armed forces, where "about 15% of the soldiers in fighting units are national-religious, as are 50% of the low- and middle-ranking officers in some regiments.....the army command has found them to be the most loyal and reliable soldiers, especially in assignments in occupied territories."

So it was perhaps with this desperate position in mind that the settlers portrayed themselves as an much-maligned and oppressed minority, with one anti-decolonisation leader comparing the movement to that of Martin Luther King. Sadly, for those with delicate constitutions, this was but the beginning of the settler's hysteria. The Guardian gave a taste of the unfolding melodrama:

"Sarit Cohen knelt down and clawed with her hand into the desert sand surrounding her house. Turning first to the row of policemen on her right and then to those on her left, she let the sand slip through her fingers ….. "You are leaving this sand for the people who are trying to kill us," she wailed to the silent, sombre-faced men who had come to take her away with all the gentleness they could muster.

As the family boarded the bus, a friend of the Cohens and their religious teacher, declared: "This is a beautiful family who has never hurt anybody and had a life project. To give a prize for terror, to show that terror works...."
". The teacher was of course neglecting to recall how the land had been acquired in the first instance.

Protesters adopted slogans such as "Sharon is a dictator", "Soldier, look into your heart" (since the righteousness of the settler cause required but a moment’s reflection to be recognised), and "Jews do not expel Jews", the pure racism of which requires little comment. The settler leadership, known as the Yesha Council, encouraged evictees to spurn the lavish compensation on offer and move to tent camps in order to portray themselves as refugees, in a grotesque parody of the genuine Palestinian refugees displaced by their colonialist project. One family hung a sign on its door that read: "Soldiers of Zion, you are creating a Palestinian country". A heinous crime indeed; as opposed to the creation of illegal Israeli colonies after the savage and murderous ethnic cleansing of the indigenous population.

A great deal of the protesters were young religious zealots, many wrapped in prayer shawls, sobbing and shrieking. "I want to die," one screamed as he was hauled away. According to The Guardian, "A girl in her early teens marched up to a policeman and presented him with a teddy bear "Take that home and show it to your children and tell them what a crime you're committing," she said to the policeman's blank stare. Infuriated at his indifference, she started shouting "kapo, kapo", a reference to Jews forced to serve as orderlies in Nazi camps". Extermination camps, to be exact.

The willingness to minimise the Holocaust, and cynically co-opt its horrors as a political tool in defence of privilege and illegality, was by no means the sole preserve of hysterical teenage girls. At Kerem Atzmona, settlers wore T-shirts with Nazi-era imagery, including stars of David. All over Gaza, Israeli troops were met with shouts of "Nazi" and "Gestapo". One woman, on being reminded that the eviction was the will of the democratically elected government, spat "Even Hitler was elected". Some protesters erected a mock cemetery for "anyone who expels Jews from their homes" containing four graves with names on, including Hitler's, and a fifth grave, as yet unmarked.

"Our feeling is like this is the start of a holocaust," said Ruthie Harush, a mother of seven. "Didn't the Holocaust begin with Hitler saying he was a democratic leader and soldiers saying they only carried out orders?".

Some of the pain caused by the decolonisation was real enough, as many affected Palestinians could readily attest. In June, as the young zealots were gathering in Gaza to begin their protests, a group of these religious ultras attempted to lynch an Arab man. Ha'aretz journalist, Nir Hasson was on hand to describe the scene: "I had never been a witness to attempted murder - and that is exactly what a gang of children and youth, residents of the outpost "Tal Yam" attempted on Hilal Majaida yesterday. The IDF and police hoped the matter would die down on its own. But these `campers` were murderous. "He's Arab - we have to kill him". We were a few journalists who came to his aid and rescue. We tried to distance the youths and scream to them that he is injured, that they should leave him be. They laughed, pushed, lifted and threw one more rock. In the end they struck, with one large stone, the head of the injured man. Only then did we pull ourselves together, and began to drag the injured man from there. The settler youth attacked us from the rear.

Someone alerted a paramedic.... He wavered for twenty seconds on whether or not to treat Hilal, and during that time one of the attackers yelled to him: "If you treat him, we'll kill you." He turned with an embarrassed look and left. The injured man lay, blood covering his face, losing consciousness.

The indecision of the paramedic on whether or not to treat the injured man is the irresolution of the residents of Gush Katif, opposite a gang of rioters that has taken control of the ... agenda..... the residents of Gush Katif also don't really want to deal with them, and certainly not to condemn them. "After all, they are coming to help us, even if their way is a bit different

Readers will recall from part 1 of this article that Gush Katif, the scene of the attempted lynching, was also the subject of an article on MSNBC, lamenting the fate of the surf-loving settler children, in mourning for the loss of their beach paradise. Space was not found by MSNBC to cover the attempted lynching, taken up as it was by the "mourning" surfers.

Anger also led to bloodshed in the West Bank, where a Jewish settler shot four Palestinians labourers and injured a fifth. Two of the victims were employees of the shooter.

In the Arab Israeli town of Shfaram, a soldier opposed to the decolonisation shot dead four Arab Israelis. Israel's defence ministry later ruled that the deceased were not victims of "terror" since their killer was Jewish, and so their families are not entitled to the usual compensation for life. The ministry's view was that Israeli law defines terrorism strictly as committed by "organisations hostile to Israel".

For Uri Avnery, the shooting in Shfaram raised some serious questions: "the murderer was staying in Tapuakh settlement, the snake-pit of the Kach militants, whose murderous character is notorious. The murderer himself was arrested several times in the course of extreme right-wing activities in the past. ....why didn't the army act, in spite of the fact that the commanders of the murderer knew that he had deserted in protest against the disengagement, taking his rifle with him? Indeed, his mother, who foresaw what was coming, bombarded the army with requests to find him and take the weapon away from him.

The Kach group was officially declared a terrorist organization and outlawed some 12 years ago. This means that anyone belonging to it, supporting it or assisting it with money or in any other way, is legally considered a terrorist....[but] for years now, the Kach people have been roving the country without hindrance and have committed numberless outrages against Israeli Arab citizens and inhabitants of the occupied Palestinian territories. [Their slogan is] "Death to the Arabs". [There are] openly Kahanist [Kach] settlements, one of which is Tapuakh [where the murderer had been staying]"

Another important question concerns the connection between the murderer and the opponents of the disengagement, and especially the so-called Yesha Council....the self-appointed leadership of the settlers..[T]he Yesha leaders ...know that if their followers hurt soldiers or police, they will lose whatever public support they have. They preach non-violence in all the media and on every occasion. Their main slogan is "We Love You". .. But anyone watching their [recent]demonstrations on TV saw the Kach people there flying [their] banners. ..... The Yesha leaders seemed to have no objection to their presence.

But this was not the approved narrative. That took the form of a great national Israeli trauma whose histrionics were being played out in front of a global TV audience. As the soldiers' loyalty to Israel was questioned by the young religious zealots reciting long religious tracts, some troops fell weeping into settlers' arms, episodes leapt upon with relish by elements of the Israeli press and government eager to present the spectacle of Israeli suffering to the world. No one was more desperate to show what a "painful [and certainly unrepeatable] sacrifice" this had been that Ariel Sharon; a man personally responsible for massacres of civilians in Lebanon who it seems had suddenly discovered a sensitive side to his personality. "Don't attack the men and women in uniform," he implored the protesters. "Don't accuse them. Don't make it harder for them, don't harm them. Attack me. I am responsible for this." He described the evacuation as "heartbreaking", telling a news conference: "It is impossible to watch this, and that includes myself, without tears in the eyes".

Contrasts between IDF evictions: the Palestinian experience

One doubts that Sharon found it equally impossible to view recent demolitions of Palestinian homes "without tears in the eyes"; despite the fact that those evictions were made without sensitive letters offering "love and assistance" hand-delivered by Israeli troops, buses to relocate the evictees, lavish compensation packages or state-support to find alternative housing. Nevertheless, according to the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions, 2,897 houses have been destroyed in Gaza alone since 2000, many in the Rafah city and refugee camp. In a report on the demolitions, Human Rights Watch said that "Sixteen thousand people - more than ten percent of Rafah's population - have lost their homes, most of them refugees, many of whom were dispossessed for a second or third time". In these cases the Israeli government did not "allow displaced Palestinians to return, pay reparations to victims, pay to repair unlawful damage, [or] address the emergency needs of the displaced".

Demolitions were justified on the basis of "vague 'security considerations'" but "in most of the cases Human Rights Watch found the destruction was carried out in the absence of military necessity". For example, "the IDF has consistently exaggerated and mischaracterized the threat from smuggling tunnels to justify the demolition of homes... In July 2004, residents discovered and reported ... an incomplete shaft in an empty house. A few days later, the IDF destroyed the house and seventeen other houses nearby, leaving 205 people homeless".

The report focused on one IDF "rampage" in Rafah, during May 2004. After Palestinian fighters destroyed an Armoured Personnel Carrier killing five soldiers, the IDF launched a operation in Rafah that resulted in the demolition of 298 homes. According to the human rights group "the extent and intensity of this destruction …. appears intended as retaliation for the killing of [the] soldiers …, as well as a show of strength".

Initially, "[the] IDF launched a two-day incursion to recover the soldiers' remains....reportedly killing fifteen Palestinians, including one fifteen-year-old. The IDF razed eighty-eight homes .... including houses that ..could not have been used to fire at the APC or the recovery teams". There followed "a major assault called "Operation Rainbow" that [left] thirty-two Palestinian civilians dead, including ten people under age eighteen...The IDF also destroyed 166 houses". During this second operation "the IDF destroyed houses, roads, and large fields extensively.... In areas ...where incursions were not expected, most of the residents were inside their homes as armored Caterpillar D9 bulldozers crashed through the walls. Bulldozers allowed residents to flee but proceeded with the destruction before they could remove their belongings".

The destruction continued. According to the Human Rights Watch report: "the IDF employed armored Caterpillar D9 bulldozers in a manner that was indiscriminate and excessive, resulting in widespread destruction of homes, roads, and agriculture..: Caterpillar D9 bulldozers cleared "tank paths" inside the camp by plowing through blocks of houses as a general precaution against possible attacks with RPGs or roadside bombs, irrespective of the specific threats that international law requires. The IDF also used D9s to destroy homes near suspected smuggling tunnels and in other areas on a preventive basis, not in response to specific threats. Other house demolitions had no discernible reason".

Not content with this, "the IDF used Caterpillar D9s to indiscriminately tear up roads, destroying water and sewage networks, and creating a significant public health risk in an already vulnerable community. In some areas, water shortages forced residents to leave their homes in search of water, putting them at risk of being shot by IDF snipers for breaking curfew. In total, the IDF destroyed fifty-one percent of Rafah's roads...". In addition, "The IDF razed two large tracts of agricultural land, .... bulldozers spent more than two days systematically destroying two large fields of greenhouses".

All of this destruction came, without tears from Ariel Sharon, without lingering TV coverage, including interviews with the victims, beamed around the world by the international news stations. Civilians without influence in the government that was evicting them received no compensation, no warning, no slogans were to be heard saying that "human beings do not evict human beings".......but in truth, and as we can see, comparisons between the eviction of the illegal Israeli colonists and the Palestinian inhabitants of the Rafah refugee camp, both at the hands of the IDF, require no commentary; only that the facts be stated.

A point that does need to be underlined however, is that through all the actions described above, of successive Israeli governments, the Israeli political class, the armed forces and the colonist movement, runs a deep and rich seam of pure and unadulterated racism. The Israeli right to dominate, to steal, to brutalise, to murder and to destroy is absolute. Palestinians, by contrast, have no rights at all. Not to self determination, not to an existence even at subsistence level, not to life itself. Any challenge to this system of values is met with shrieks of righteous hysteria, political manoeuvrings of breathtaking cynicism, and yet more savage violence. It is even permissible to co-opt the horrors of the Nazi holocaust as a political tool, and to trample over the memory of the victims of that bloodbath in pursuit of the racist colonial agenda. Israel will grow inexorably; limited by “no external factor”, as Ben Gurion demanded. The Palestinians are a mere obstacle to this grand project; sub-humans that must stand aside or perish. It cannot be said, even in the 21st century, that the bloody excesses of colonialism are a subject purely for the history books.


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