Last week, the Bush administration made it perfectly clear that it has no intention of promoting a peaceful solution in the Middle East. Once again, the United States has failed to carry through on threats to withhold loans to Israel in an effort to compel the Jewish state to adopt policies more compliant with recent peace initiatives. The Bush administration has promised another $9 billion in loan guaranties to Israel, adding to the total $90 billion in “aid” it has already contributed to the illegal occupation of Palestine. With no mention of penalties for the Zionist state’s continued construction of the Wall and expanding settlements throughout the Occupied Territories, one can only conclude that the much-hyped road map was stillborn to begin with since the United States, its primary backer, has never intended on fostering a realistic and fair peace plan.
During Prime Minister Sharon’s visit to Washington, D.C. in late July, negotiations concerning the freezing of the construction of the Separation Wall within the borders of the West Bank failed miserably due to Bush’s embarrassing soft policy toward blatant Israeli violations of international law. Lately, Israel’s “security” fence, often referred to as the “Apartheid Wall”, has increasingly attracted international media attention largely due to the hard-to-ignore parallel to the Berlin Wall.
Expected to snake through 403 miles of the occupied West Bank, Israel’s “safety” barrier actually puts the 96-mile Berlin Wall to shame. The Wall is one of countless signs that the Israeli military is shifting towards a more permanent occupation status and has decided to illegally pre-set future national borders by building the fence inside the Green Line–the internationally recognized border that existed between Israel and the West Bank until the war of 1967. Interestingly, the Green Line is only 360 km long, while the wall will cover over double that distance.
The Wall will loop deep into Palestinian occupied territory, embracing clusters of illegal settlements and enclosing much fertile land and important subterranean water reservoirs. The Wall construction is obviously being used as an opportunity to confiscate about 10 percent of the West Bank. So what does the Wall mean for Palestinians, besides continued oppression by an occupying army and paramilitary-settlers?
The Palestinian economy, which depends largely on movement of resources and labor between cities and villages, is being completely isolated and crippled; despite the direct impact of invasion and occupation on Palestinians, poverty remains one of the key causes of the Occupied Territories’ health crisis. Families with members on either side of the wall are being cut off from each other; the separation fence in East Jerusalem, which will be some 17 kms long, separates Arabs and Arabs. School and university students are being denied freedom of movement for education; the Separation Wall is being built directly through the Al Quds University campus in Jerusalem. Essential emergency medical services are being severely limited, or in many cases, altogether denied. The devastating effects can already be witnessed firsthand in the Gaza Strip where hundreds of homes have been demolished as the Wall systematically advances further into villages like Rafah. Israel’s effort to cage Palestinians into isolated ghettos also evokes comparisons to apartheid South Africa’s racist “homeland” or Bantustan policy.
This is no surprise. Sharon and other Israeli leaders were long-time allies of Apartheid South Africa. Sharon traveled there himself in 1982 and expressed his admiration for the South African army and its actions in Angola and Namibia.
This weekend marks the three-year anniversary of the second intifada. Since Sept. 28, 2000, more than 1,855 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli ammunition. Among those, 22.5 percent were under the age of 18. In the same time period, there have been almost 600 Israeli casualties, a ratio of over three Palestinians to one Israeli. Under the 1993 Oslo accords, the Palestinians were to receive 22 percent of their homeland — the territories of the West Bank and Gaza. They accepted the terms, but Israel refused to return most of the land. Then Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak “generously” offered the Palestinians 80 percent of the 22 percent of the 100 percent of their original homeland at Camp David in 2000. Yasser Arafat refused to sign and the Al-Aqsa intifada began.
Now, Ariel Sharon has devised an even more derisory deal: the Palestinians can have a state on 42 percent of the 80 percent of the 22 percent of 100 percent of their original homeland. The most tragic part is that this isn’t a joke. Sharon is fatally serious, and the proof can be found in miles of concrete and barbed wire. While imposing unrealistic conditions on a Palestinian government that doesn’t even consider it worthwhile to seek a just solution that could end the 36-month conflict, the Israeli government is subverting its own lace-lined rhetoric and drafting a final status in Palestine that will have no hope of finality in terms of resistance to occupation. The defective logic of Israel’s policy du jour regarding peace negotiations is as transparent as its preposterous security justifications for the Wall vis-a-vis its own blatant strategic interests.
America cannot continue to hide behind its self-righteous title of “Freedom State” before it severs all direct funding of the Zionist apartheid regime in Israel. While America searches for international legitimacy in Iraq as a democratic “liberator,” it is clear that it will never find it if it keeps “aiding” Sharon in the illegal theft of land and the cramming of 3 million Palestinians into Bantustans.
Gabrielle Goodfellow is a senior in Trumbull College.