In occupied Palestine, conditions are much worse than within Israel. Tours of Israel, if visiting the West Bank at all, provide a sanitized and typically misrepresented view of the Occupation if conducted by an Israeli tour group. Global Exchange, a San Francisco-based human rights organization, provides an honest look. One of our friends took their 10-day tour in late 2009, keeping detailed notes supplemented by many photographs. Here is the transcription of his notes. Some of his photographs are included below and some on our page discussing the methods and principles of Palestinian non-violent resistance.
Palestinian property is wantonly destroyed by Israel, using massive, armored D9 Caterpillar bulldozers operated and protected by the IDF. Over 24,000 homes and over a million olive and fruit trees have been destroyed to clear the way for Israeli settlers, build the "security wall" and create an elaborate network of Jewish-only roads turning Palestinian communities into isolated mini-Bantustans. All these actions violate the Fourth Geneva Convention that defines the duties and limitations of an occupying power, prohibiting confiscation of the occupied population's property or transfer of the occupier's population into occupied territory.
Free movement: In occupied Palestine, blockades which allow settlers free movement but restrict Palestinians have cost 100,000 workers their jobs. The Israeli government issues identification cards and car number-plates, color coded, which restrict travel for non-Jews. Palestinians in the West Bank are routinely prevented from traveling to the Gaza Strip because they have to travel through Israeli territory. Israel has built a network of Jewish-only roads connecting the settlements, and Palestinians using these roads are subject to vehicle confiscation.
Even on roads open to Palestinians, the "security" wall and an elaborate network of some 650 arbitrary checkpoints causes endless delays and long queues, carves the West Bank into 70 disconnected enclaves and denies free passage between them, thereby disrupting commerce and isolating Palestinian citizens from their relatives, employment, agricultural lands and other sources of independent livelihood, medical facilities and public services.
The infamous Separation Barrier, known by Palestinians as the Apartheid Wall, serves to make formal segregation permanent between Israelis and Palestinians. It rises to a massive concrete height of eight meters (26 feet) when reaching Palestinian population centers – replete with prison-like watch towers, gates, security roads, electronic fences and deadly armaments. When completed the Separation Barrier will be five times longer than the Berlin Wall (some 700 kms versus 155), twice as high in some places, and will unilaterally annex East Jerusalem and some 8% of the West Bank. An installation costing over $3 billion, it is not intended to be dismantled.
Overhead netting protects Palestinian passersby from trash thrown down by Jewish settlers
Settler harrassment is ongoing and ubiquitous. In Hebron, 30,000 Palestinian residents have been subjected to the whims of a few hundred Jewish settlers. Palestinians are barred from the streets during Jewish holidays on any pretext declared and enforced by the IDF, which maintains a large presence in Hebron to protect this handful of settlers. Many Palestinian businesses on formerly bustling streets are now closed and boarded up due to these restrictions that make normal commerce impossible. From the apartments above, settlers throw trash down into the streets, from which Palestinians must protect themselves by spreading nets overhead.
White dove trapped in barbed wire
Palestinian children walking to school are often harrassed and even attacked by Jewish settlers. Since some settlements have been built between a Palestinian community and the nearest school, a long walk around the settlement is often necessary. The children need to be escorted on these walks by international volunteers such as Christian Peacemakers to provide protection and document attacks. The presence of a camera can often deter settler aggression but not always, and adult escorts have also been attacked.
The ironic photo above shows a white dove, a universal symbol of peace, after it flew into barbed wire blocking Palestinian children in Hebron from their playground. The playground was closed because settlers were throwing garbage down upon the children. Rather than controlling or arresting the settlers, the IDF denied children their play area.
Settler racism is virulent and often violent.Claiming Palestinian land as an award to them by God notwithstanding Palestinian deeds of title from earthly authorities the unchosen of humankind must rely upon, settlers routinely harrass Palestinian farmers, destroy their olive groves, fruit orchards and crops, threaten and attack them at will as they tend their livestock, sometimes killing them and their children with impunity.
They are protected and rarely held accountable for their violence by the IDF which adds to settler violence rather than controlling it.
Settler graffitti is consistently evocative of familiar racist imagery from our Jim Crow South and Nazi Germany. The photos on the left display degrading and abusive language matched by equally degrading and abusive behavior, all under the watchful permission and protection of the IDF.
The violent settlers are often armed, while weapons are prohibited to Palestinians. Thus can settler abuse be indulged with fear of neither retaliation nor justice. This shaky amateur video, recorded on a camera provided by the Israeli human rights organization B'Tselem, was shown on the BBC.
It is Mississippi revisited, but the perpetrators need not hide from the police or their civil society since there is no legal protection or recourse, human rights, or recognition of human dignity for the occupied.
One of us personally witnessed the murder of a Palestinian store clerk in a holdup by a settler with no arrest or punishment of the killer, and two of our Palestinian associates are wheelchair-bound from IDF gunshots in the back while non-violently demonstrating.
Economic opportunity: No significant industry has been permitted to develop in the West Bank or Gaza. Since the beginning of the Oslo "peace process," a permanent closure was imposed on the West Bank and Gaza. Consequently, Palestinians have been concentrated in the lowest paying jobs and form an egregiously exploited labor force for Israeli capital. Ninety percent of Palestinian workers must travel to Jewish towns for employment. Palestinian unemployment in 2008 was 40%, and grows worse as Israel imports workers from abroad.
The Paris Economic Protocol, signed in 1995 as an annex to the Oslo II agreement, carefully preserves complete Israeli control over the Palestinian economy. Israel’s insistence on the right to stop all shipments of goods for security reasons and to hold and check those goods for as long as it chooses all but destroyed Palestinian commerce, as did its declared unilateral right to impose closures. The economic closure, deriving its supposed legality from the Paris Protocol, is today virtually total. It prevents Palestinian goods from moving quickly, thus ruining agricultural exports, while undermining the reliability of Palestinian business people to guarantee supply to their customers.
It also gives Israel control over the licensing of both industrial and commercial Palestinian enterprises, plus the authority to issue import/export permits, and stipulate which Israeli import agents, clearing/shipping agents and insurance agents must be used, thus creating high transportation, storage, insurance and clearance costs for Palestinian traders. As a result, manufacturing has been reduced to only 10% of the Palestinian economy.
Nearly 90 percent of industrial enterprises in the Occupied Territories employ less than five workers each, and 70% of Palestinian firms have either closed or have severely reduced production. The occupied territories import 93% of goods but export a mere 7% of what they produce. Palestinian exports to Western Europe are banned to prevent competition with Israeli exports.
As of 2009, the economic situation of the Occupied Territories has reached emergency proportions. Unemployment runs to 67% in Gaza and nearly 50% in the West Bank. Seventy-five percent of Palestinians, including two-thirds of the children, live in poverty on less than $2 a day, defined by the UN as “deep poverty.” More than 100,000 Palestinians out of the 125,000 who once worked in Israel, in Israeli settlements, or in joint industrial zones have lost their jobs.
Half the Palestinian population requires external food assistance to meet their minimal daily food needs, with 30% of Palestinian children under age five suffering from malnutrition. Meanwhile, welfare payments which depend on tax monies illegally withheld by Israel under the Paris Protocol, have fallen by $180 million.
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