Israel to Intensify Racist Attacks on Palestinians:
Disengagement or Containment?
By Brennan Luchsinger
In mid-August of this year Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s unilateral “disengagement” will be carried out. The plan to withdraw 21 illegal Israeli settlements from the Gaza Strip, and four from the West Bank, is a move by the Israeli government designed to isolate Palestinians and cut them off politically and economically from the world.
The “disengagement” from the Gaza Strip, combined with the construction of the Apartheid wall around the West Bank and Gaza Strip, is a strategy to steal more land from Palestinians while enforcing the racist apartheid occupation of Palestine. While settlers and military forces are to withdraw from Gaza, the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) will remain in military control of the boundaries on land, sea, and air. In the West Bank, the apartheid wall continues to be constructed seizing more Palestinian land and severing access to farms, water, and the livelihood of Palestinian people.
Amid international criticism Israel is trying to maneuver to gain legitimacy while maintaining its ability to continue its expansion of the occupation of Palestinian land. With token gestures like the unilateral withdrawal plan, Israel hopes to divert attention from the continued construction of the apartheid wall and expansion of Israeli settlements in the West Bank. The plan is to create the appearance that Israel is granting “concessions” to Palestinians, while reinforcing its position, and continuing the suppression of Palestinians in Gaza, and the West Bank.
This plan resembles more of a transfer of military might than anything else. Gaza is often referred to as the world’s largest prison, and this new plan is nothing more than a restructuring of that prison. No longer will Israel’s prison guards patrol the corridors of Gaza, but they will keep watch from atop the walls and towers that will surround the prison.
Gaza from World’s Biggest Prison to World’s Largest Penitentiary
The disengagement focuses largely on Israeli settlers leaving the Gaza Strip. Over 9000 settlers will be relocated, given free housing, and compensation ranging from 200,000 to 500,000 Israeli Shekels. But what will there be for Palestinians living in Gaza?
Suffering through almost 50 years of occupation, Palestinians live in some of the worst conditions imaginable. For the 1.3 million Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, daily life is a struggle. Lacking necessities like water and food, being forced to pass through Israeli checkpoints to go to work, Palestinians feel the direct results of the racist attacks of the Zionist Israeli Government. According to a survey conducted by the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics in January 2005, 93.2 % of Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip suffer from a lack of food. The World Bank has also released statistics that unemployment in Gaza is crippling for Palestinians and has inflated by 44%. Of the total population of the Gaza Strip 60% are children under the age of 18 and the life expectancy is continuing to drop.
The actual removal of settlers and military as planned by Israel is a strategy of containment. In removing Israelis and soldiers from Gaza while heavily arming and monitoring its boundaries, Gaza’s reputation as the world’s largest refugee camp is not changing. Instead Gaza is being subjected to tighter Israeli control and military suppression.
On July 28th Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) revealed plans to reinforce the apartheid wall around Gaza with a complex of triple fences equipped with electronic sensors, new military bases, 22 foot high concrete walls, watchtowers, remote controlled machine guns, and hundreds of video and night vision cameras that will surround the Gaza Strip. Strategically, Israel is decreasing the amount of territory that the IDF has to patrol, and can thus concentrate the military power along the boundaries where it can be used with more force to launch attacks on Palestinians.
The disengagement plan laid out by Israel states: “The State of Israel will guard and monitor the external land perimeter of the Gaza Strip, will continue to maintain exclusive authority in Gaza air space, and will continue to exercise security activity off the coast of the Gaza Strip.” What this means is that Israel will maintain military control on all sides of Gaza, even the air above it. Israel has also written a clause into the disengagement plan that they will retain the right to conduct military activity inside the Gaza Strip for reasons of “security”.
What possibilities are Palestinians granted from this withdrawal? According to James Wolfensohn US appointed “envoy to Gaza” and the former president of the World Bank, “Much of the rubble, the cement and bricks, could be used in Gaza…” in reference to the rubble of soon to be destroyed Israeli settlements. Even though Palestinians in Gaza suffer from a severe crisis of housing, Israeli settlements are to be destroyed, leaving nothing behind except rubble. This is the goodwill that the Israeli government is exercising towards Palestinians, ensuring that they are subjected to the most abject poverty possible. Between September 2000 and September 2004 the demolition of Palestinian homes by the IDF has made 24,000 Palestinians homeless. Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, has been a central point of this destruction with an average of 77 homes demolished per month.
Isolation, Containment, and Attacks on the Rights of all Palestinians
Israel has also begun construction of a “Sea-Barrier to control the coasts of Gaza, extending 950 meters into the sea. This barrier is an extension of the apartheid wall and carries with it the same impacts intended by the Israeli government. With justifications of “monitoring terrorism” being given for the construction of this ‘sea-barrier”, Israel intends to block the only access Palestinians may have to the outside world. The possibility of building a seaport to increase trade is entirely unrealistic if it is to be subjected to the same regulations that Israel applies to the land boundaries of Gaza. These walls and barriers will only serve to enforce Israeli control over the region, creating more checkpoints and limiting the access of Palestinians to trade.
The withdrawal, while setting up a prison-like military control of Gaza, also ruthlessly attacks the economic interests of Palestinians. With the new divisions Israel maintains the taxes and tariffs on all import and export goods entering and leaving Gaza. These racist fees and regulations not only limit the development of trade within Gaza, but also limit access to basic necessities, like water and food.
Israel needs to protect their control of the Palestinian economy at all costs. This control is needed to ensure that no economic growth can happen for Palestinians. If growth were possible, it would bring great improvement in the living conditions of Palestinians and allow them to exert their rights more forcefully. In order to keep Palestinians in the poverty that creates for Israel a cheap pool of labour and endless resources to plunder and steal, Israel must maintain this stranglehold on the Palestinian economy.
Disengagement and the Racist Apartheid Wall in the West Bank
In the northern region of the West Bank Israel intends to relocate four Israeli settlements, though the Palestinians in the area will remain under the despicable segregation of the apartheid wall. For Israel the focus on the settlements in Gaza and the northern West Bank serve as a distraction in order to be able to strengthen more important areas and settlements like those in the south of the West Bank.
Just east of Jerusalem, Ariel Sharon has approved expanding Israeli settlements by another 3000 housing units.
For Palestinians living in the West Bank this “disengagement” plan means further theft of land, continued work on the Apartheid wall, and increased Israeli military presence enveloping the West Bank. In preparation for the “disengagement” the IDF has seized 625 acres of Palestinian farmland near Burka. “I live off this land, we are seven in my family, and I’m not willing to give up my land…” said 35-year-old Palestinian farmer Muatassem Ghazal, in response to the delivery of an IDF order of the seizure of his land.
Divisions Within Israeli Strategy
Recently Israel has drawn international criticism for its refusal to remove over 100 Israeli settlements in the West Bank that were built without the approval of the Israeli cabinet. In addition, George Bush criticized Israel for the construction of new settlements in the West Bank. Israel has responded to this with the “disengagement” plan, attempting to divert attention away from the ongoing expansion and to show that they are “willing” to participate in the US-backed road map to peace. (see FTT #5) But Sharon’s “willingness” is transparent, as Israel is preparing the new offensive to take place in conjunction with the heightened imprisonment of Palestinians brought by the “disengagement’ plan.
The US, however critical it may be of the expansion of settlements, is a staunch supporter and close ally of Israel and its occupation of Palestine. The reason there is criticism is due to the huge international and domestic pressure facing the US about its own military intervention in the Middle East.
Palestinians Protest Against Sharon’s “Disengagement” Plan
What is missing from clear view in this strategy is that Israel has the inopportune task of conducting this new aggression in the current overall framework and conditions of the Middle East. The political maneuvers of Israel and the ongoing attacks on Palestinians are carried out in a situation of changing forces. In Iraq, the US and UK are being rapidly devoured by the quagmire brought on by resistance to imperialism. Overall in the Middle East the balance of forces is shifting away from the hands of imperialists. The resistance in Iraq is providing an example politically and physically for other oppressed people in the Middle East, just like the struggle of Palestinians and the first and second intifada’s have been an example for oppressed people around the world.
On July 30th a three-week protest began in Zabuba, west of Jenin, in the West Bank, against the disengagement plan and continued construction of the apartheid wall. On July 30th the people of Zabuba, west of Jenin, began a three-week protest against the disengagement plan and continued construction of the apartheid wall. This demonstration is planned to take place through the build up and execution of the “disengagement” plan. On July 28th from Marda to Qalandia in the West Bank Palestinians also launched protests against the “disengagement” plan by burning tires to symbolize the smokescreen that Israel is trying to build around the theft of land and imprisonment of Palestinians. The Israeli military opened fire on this demonstration in an attempt to dispel resistance to the “disengagement” plan.
On July 31st Ariel Sharon threatened that the IDF will resort to “unprecedented measures” during the “disengagement”. Sharon said, “I explained to the (US) secretary of state that there would be responses of a different kind that will amount to very harsh measures, both during the withdrawal and after the evacuation from Gaza if there are terrorist attacks.” From Sharon’s statement, it is clear that Israel will use this disengagement to elevate it’s violent behavior towards Palestinians to new levels in Gaza and the West Bank, during and after the withdrawal.
Struggle, Struggle Until We Win!
Through the course of this disengagement, history will show that Ariel Sharon and the Israeli government are unwilling and incapable of bringing peace. The creation of high security prison camps like Gaza and the West Bank is not a step towards peace, but a giant leap away from it. Israel must learn a hard lesson: that concentrating Palestinians into Gaza and the West Bank will not dampen resistance and will not crush the will of Palestinians. In the face of a shifting balance of forces in Palestine, the Middle East, and the world, we will see the heroic resistance grow on the streets of Gaza City and all Palestinian land.
In order for the slums of Gaza to be free from daily persecution and oppression, we must listen to the cries of resistance. We must amplify the demands of resistance all over the world until they resonate in the eyes, ears, and minds of the Israeli occupation, and we must join with our Palestinian brothers and sisters to bring and end to the unjust occupation of Palestine!
FREE PALESTINE! END THE RACIST OCCUPATION NOW!
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