Goodbye to Gaza

But it is still Israel that can do most to improve the economic lot of the Palestinians: not only in Gaza, where it will continue to control the flow of people and goods across the border, but also in the West Bank, which despite the ceasefire remains under a harsh regime of closures and roadblocks.

The Economist, Aug 11th, 2005
CUI BONO (who benefits?) is said to be a helpful question to ask when you are trying to unravel a mystery. Yet it does not tell you much about why Ariel Sharon intends next week to start pulling all of Israel’s settlers and soldiers out of the Gaza strip, which it has occupied for more than a generation, since the war of 1967. Some Palestinians say that only Israel will benefit. Some Israelis say that only Palestinians will benefit. The true answer in this case is that who benefits depends almost entirely on what happens next — and nobody has much of a clue about what is going to happen next.
What it isn’t
Mr Sharon’s “disengagement” plan is a mystery because of what it is not. It is not the product of a peace agreement. Instead of land for peace — the principle under which Israel returned Sinai to Egypt in
1982 — Israel is quitting Gaza pretty much unilaterally, after minimal co-ordination with the Palestinians, and with no firm promise that their ferocious intifada will not erupt again the moment the settlers
have gone. Nor is the plan necessarily a step towards an independent Palestinian state, since it includes only a token withdrawal from the much bigger West Bank, which would have to be the heart of any
Palestine worth the name. So just as the Israelis cannot be sure that the intifada won’t resume, the Palestinians cannot be sure that Mr Sharon does not intend after leaving Gaza to sit tight everywhere
else (see article).
Oddly enough, given that this is an Israeli initiative, the only people who in the short run are almost certain to benefit are the Gaza strip’s 1.3m Palestinians. Israel’s 8,000 or so settlers have occupied more than a fifth of the scarce land in the strip. During the intifada, protecting the settlers required Israel to keep military forces in Gaza, who killed plenty of innocent civilians while fighting Palestinian gunmen and suicide bombers. So even if Israel’s departure is not followed — as it should be — by massive economic help, the departure of all Israel’s settlers and soldiers will improve life in the strip.
What does Israel stand to gain? Nothing at all, cry Mr Sharon’s many detractors at home. Binyamin Netanyahu, the former prime minister who resigned this week as Mr Sharon’s finance minister, speaks for most of Israel’s Likud party when he foresees nothing but negatives. Even Israelis who support the principle of land for peace are troubled about giving up land with no peace deal in return. They say that this will embolden the Palestinians’ men of violence, who already boast that it was their attacks that made Israel flee, and who will now use both Gaza and the West Bank as a haven from which to launch more
rockets and suicide bombers into Israel proper.
What may happen next is therefore that the conflict will revert to its previous stalemate. The Palestinians will resume their attacks, asking how else they can throw off the occupier. Israel will say that it cannot give up more land until the Palestinians give up terrorism. It will be back to square one — except that Israel will have surrendered the square called Gaza. But in that event not even the
Palestinians will benefit much, because if the intifada does resume Mr Sharon will send Israel’s tanks and helicopters straight back in — unencumbered this time by the complication of protecting the settlers.
After decades of false dawns, those who expect little from the Gaza disengagement have experience on their side. That may include its architect. For all anyone can tell, Mr Sharon’s true aim is to fight
on from shorter lines, having earned credit with America by sacrificing Israel’s most dispensable settlements, all for the sake of holding tighter to the big ones in the West Bank. Sitting tight will probably lose Mr Sharon the support of his Labour coalition partners, and so bring an early election, but few expect Labour to win it. The likely outcome — after diplomacy has been stalled by months of electioneering — is Likud again, under the tough Mr Sharon or the no less tough Mr Netanyahu, with little change in policy.
What it could be
Must it be like this? If disengagement is to be more than an interlude, the next big job after the settlers leave must be to prevent the war of attrition from resuming. In the “road map” which both Israel and the Palestinians have signed this is the job of the Palestinian Authority. But the PA was a feeble thing even before Yasser Arafat’s death last November, and Mahmoud Abbas, his successor, has neither the willpower nor the firepower to stop the extremists of Hamas from resuming the fight if they so choose. He
needs help — though it has to be help of the economic and political, rather than the military, sort.
Why economic? Mr Abbas may not be able to stop Hamas from resuming the intifada, but the Palestinian people can. And they would have a good reason to do so if the disengagement brought a big improvement
in their lives, which they believed a return to violence would jeopardise. Outsiders can help in this: James Wolfensohn, the former head of the World Bank, is trying to organise a post-disengagement dividend for Gaza. But it is still Israel that can do most to improve the economic lot of the Palestinians: not only in Gaza, where it will continue to control the flow of people and goods across the border, but also in the West Bank, which despite the ceasefire remains under a harsh regime of closures and roadblocks.
Beyond economics, the Palestinians need a “political horizon” — a believable promise that George Bush’s oft-enunciated “vision” of a viable Palestinian state in the West Bank as well as Gaza is achievable without recourse to the gun. That state cannot come instantly: the two sides are farther apart today than they were when Bill Clinton’s peacemaking efforts collapsed in 2000, and trust each other less. But with America pushing, it should at least be possible to start a process, building first on self-government for Gaza and, in the West Bank, a settlement freeze followed by further withdrawals. Israelis and Palestinians are exhausted after five years of violence, and susceptible to pressure. Wary of failing as Mr Clinton did, distracted by Iraq, and reluctant to lean on Israel before it got out of Gaza, Mr Bush has kept his distance. The day after Mr Sharon pulls out must be the day that Mr Bush steps in.


Meanwhile, Israel grabs the rest of Jerusalem

Hind Khoury, The International Herald Tribune, AUGUST 11, 2005

JERUSALEM — After more than 38 years of its oppressive military occupation of the Gaza Strip, Israel will soon begin evacuating the few thousand settlers who have been denying freedom to more than a million Palestinians there. Israel has marketed the Gaza withdrawal as yet another historic opportunity to jump-start the peace process. But Israeli actions in occupied East Jerusalem indicate that Israel’s unilaterally imposed disengagement was never meant to start a peace process, but rather to end one.

As the world’s attention is diverted by scenes of the removal of settlers who had no right to be in Gaza in the first place, the real strategy behind disengagement is revealed by Israel’s aggressive moves to consolidate its occupation of Jerusalem’s eastern Palestinian sector.

At stake is the very basis of peace between Palestinians and Israelis – a negotiated two-state solution. Israel’s plan is to use “concessions” in Gaza to remove Jerusalem from the negotiation table. But without Jerusalem as a shared capital for Palestinians and Israelis, there is no two-state solution.

In violation of President George W. Bush’s May warning not to prejudice the status of Jerusalem, the Israeli cabinet recently approved a decision to complete Israel’s wall in East Jerusalem by the end of August, while the world’s attention is on the Gaza disengagement. The wall, which Israel is using to redefine Jerusalem’s borders, is being routed through occupied territory in such a way as to maximize the number of Palestinian Jerusalemites behind the wall, while maximizing the amount of Palestinian land on the “Israeli” side. About 55,000 Palestinian residents of Jerusalem will be effectively cut off from the their city, forced to access their schools, hospitals and even families through Israeli military gates which, as Palestinians know from experience, can be closed at a soldier’s whim.

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No Peaceful Solution

Despite his innocent appearance, Avi Shlaim knows that he is a sort of enemy of the people, and even enjoys it with refined British enjoyment. And now he has come to Israel, armed with his book, “The Iron Wall: Israel and the Arab World.”

Meron Rapoport, Haaretz, Aug 11, 2005

After reading the 573 pages of the book, one can understand why Sharon and Livnat do not want Shlaim to be taught here: in very readable prose, based on facts, he surveys the history of Israel’s contacts with the Arab world from 1948 to 2000, and states decisively (“The job of the historian is to judge,” he says) that the Israeli story that Israel has always stretched out its hand to peace, but there was nobody to talk to – is groundless. The Arabs have repeatedly outstretched a hand to peace – says Shlaim – and Israel has always rejected it. Each time with a different excuse.

Among the new historians, Avi Shlaim is the most “classical.” Benny Morris began as a journalist with a conscience, served time in a military prison for refusal to serve in Lebanon, and from this starting-point, came to write the “new history” about the creation of the refugee problem. Ilan Pappe was an activist in the non-Zionist left even before he went to complete his doctoral studies at Oxford.

Shlaim did not come from a political background. He studied history at Cambridge so he could serve as a diplomat in the Israeli Foreign Service, a job chosen for him by his mother, who fell in love with the British Foreign Service when her family found refuge in the British Embassy in Baghdad during the anti-Jewish riots there in 1941.

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No Aid for Israel’s Gaza “Disengagement”

August “Washington Wednesday” Action Alert
Start Date: August 10, 2005
End Date: To be determined


Israel is scheduled to begin in mid-August a unilateral “disengagement” from the Palestinian Gaza Strip by evacuating its illegal settlements and military bases there.  Israeli officials announced in July that they will ask the United States to pay $2.2 billion for this disengagement.

1) Contact your Members of Congress and the Administration and tell them to oppose Israel’s aid request.  Contact information for Members of Congress can be found at  To make your communication as effective as possible, please make sure to personalize it and use your own words.
2)  Get your organization to endorse a letter to Members of Congress and the Administration opposing Israel’s aid request.  Send the letter to the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation and it will deliver this letter to Capitol Hill and the State Department after the August Congressional recess.

* In defiance of international law, Israel has militarily occupied the Palestinian Gaza Strip and established illegal settlements there for more than 38 years.  If the United States is serious about promoting the rule of law, it cannot reward Israel with money for the numerous human rights violations it has committed against Palestinians in the Gaza Strip over the past four decades.

* Although Israel plans to dismantle its illegal settlements and military bases in the Gaza Strip, it will still maintain a full-scale sea, air, and land siege of the territory.  Gaza will remain an open-air prison under Israeli control, preventing Palestinians from exercising their right to freedom of movement and from engaging in economic activity.  Under these conditions, Israel will still in effect be occupying the Gaza Strip, according to international law.

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J’accuse: Finkelstein and Dershowitz

It’s a dispute that involves just about every emotive issue you can think of – Israel, Palestine, human rights, freedom of speech. Gary Younge dissects the academic battle that has gripped America

Gary Younge, The Guardian, 10 August 2005

In his landmark book, Democracy in America, the 19th-century French intellectual Alexis de Tocqueville commented on the fever pitch to which American polemics can often ascend. In a chapter entitled Why American Writers and Speakers Are Often Bombastic, he wrote: “I have often noticed that the Americans whose language when talking business is clear and dry … easily turn bombastic when they attempt a poetic style … Writers for their part almost always pander to this propensity … they inflate their imaginations and swell them out beyond bounds, so that they achieve gigantism, missing real grandeur.”

When it comes to a duel between DePaul university political science professor Norman Finkelstein and Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz over Finkelstein’s upcoming book, Beyond Chutzpah: On the Misuse of Anti-Semitism and the Abuse of History, gigantic bombast feels like an understatement. It is a row that has spilled on to the pages of most of the nation’s prominent newspapers and gone all the way to the desk of California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Like the two professors in Irvine Welsh’s The Acid House who abandon their high-minded theoretical clashes for a drunken brawl in a car park, Finkelstein and Dershowitz hover between principle and raw verbal pugilism in which the personal and the political are almost indistinguishable.

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Bigger Than AIPAC

Robert Dreyfuss, MIFTAH, August 09, 2005

Important new details of the U.S.-Israeli espionage case involving Larry Franklin, the alleged Pentagon spy, two officials of the American- Israel Public Affairs Committee, and an intelligence official at the Embassy of Israel emerged last week. Two AIPAC officials-who have left the organization-were indicted along with Franklin on charges of “communicat[ing] national defense information to persons not entitled to receive it.” In plain English, if not legal-speak, that means spying.

But as the full text of the indictment makes clear, the conspiracy involved not just Franklin and the AIPAC officials, Steve Rosen and Keith Weissman, but at least several other Pentagon officials who played intermediary roles, at least two other Israeli officials, and one official at a “Washington, D.C. think tank.” It’s an old-fashioned spy story involving the passing of secret documents, hush-hush meetings and outright espionage, along with good-old-boy networking.

But the network tied to the “Franklin case”-which ought to be called the “AIPAC case,” since it was AIPAC that was really under investigation by the FBI-provides an important window into a shadowy world. It is clear that by probing the details of the case, the FBI has got hold of a dangerous loose end of much larger story. By pulling on that string hard enough, the FBI and the Justice Department might just unravel that larger story, which is beginning to look more and more like it involves the same nexus of Pentagon civilians, White House functionaries, and American Enterprise Institute officials who thumped the drums for war in Iraq in 2001-2003 and who are now trying to whip up an anti-Iranian frenzy as well.

Needless to say, all of this got short shrift from the mainstream media when it was revealed last week.

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No Letup to the Occupation

Will Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza free it from the burden of the occupation? The answer is yes and no.

Aluf Benn, Haaretz, Aug 09, 2005

After it is all over – when the Jewish settlers from Gush Katif are luxuriating in their caravillas, when the Hamasniks have finished their victory parades and the Israel Defense Forces have left the Philadelphi route – will Israel enjoy freedom from its oppressive responsibility for the Gaza Strip and international recognition of “an the end to the occupation?” Yes and no, say senior jurists. It depends on what Israel says and how things look to outside observers. There is no judge who is qualified to determine whether and when the occupation has ended.

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has depicted the shedding of Israel’s responsibility for the Gaza Strip as a major goal of the disengagement plan. But Sharon is not going to ask the United Nations to declare the end of the occupation in Gaza, as former prime minister Ehud Barak did after his withdrawal from Lebanon. The main reason for this is the fear of a precedent that would affect Israel’s control of the West Bank.

It is impossible to request acknowledgment of the southern Green Line (pre-Six Day War border) as a recognized international border and argue that the Green Line to the east is something different. Anyone who wants to hold on to Ariel and Beit El in the West Bank cannot go to the UN for help.

In the absence of a recognized UN ruling after the withdrawal, the parties will present themselves to the judgment of governments and public opinion in the West. Israel will try to make a distinction between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, find reasons to justify the difference in their status and try to blur the precedent of its withdrawal to the last millimeter.

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Amira Hass: What Business Is It of Chirac?

The Jordan Valley, the settlement blocs that continue to merge into each other, the monumental Jews-only roads, the demilitarized zone long since annexed to Israel, the area annexed to Jerusalem in 1967, the de facto annexations of the fence – these already cover most of the West Bank.

Amira Hass, Haaretz, Aug 03, 2005

A European journalist was asked to write about the wall being built around Anata, which will transform it into an enclosed ghetto within Jerusalem. Sorry, she said, the paper’s editors are only interested in the disengagement. It has it all: upbeat news, lots of action, Jews cursing Jews, Jews beating up Jews. We’re fed up with the repetitious details of the wall’s damages.

The other side of that coin is the affection with which Ariel Sharon was welcomed in France last week. And honestly, should Jacques Chirac care that last week the Israeli authorities demolished three homes in the village of al-Khader? And is it his responsibility that a short distance from there, the illegal settlement of Efrat continues to expand at the expense of the biblical landscapes of al-Khader?

What is it to him that the crossings Israel is now building, east of the Green Line, rob hefty square kilometers from West Bank territory and the private property of hundreds of families, with a transparent objective of institutionalize them as “international terminals?” And why should he and other European leaders be shocked by the news that the West Bank’s main roads have nearly no Palestinian traffic, as though a transfer has been implemented there? Israelis are not shocked by this information.

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The Jerusalem Powder Keg

The International Crisis Group, REPORT No. 44 / MIDDLE EAST & NORTH AFRICA, 2 AUGUST 2005

While the world focuses on Gaza, the future of Israeli-Palestinian relations in fact may be playing itself out away from the spotlight, in Jerusalem. With recent steps, Israel is attempting to solidify its hold over a wide area in and around the city, creating a far broader Jerusalem.

Executive Summary

While the world focuses on Gaza, the future of Israeli-Palestinian relations in fact may be playing itself out away from the spotlight, in Jerusalem. With recent steps, Israel is attempting to solidify its hold over a wide area in and around the city, creating a far broader Jerusalem. If the international community and specifically the U.S. are serious about preserving and promoting a viable two-state solution, they need to speak far more clearly and insistently to halt actions that directly and immediately jeopardise that goal. And if that solution is ever to be reached, they will need to be clear that changes that have occurred since Israelis and Palestinians last sat down to negotiate in 2000-2001 will have to be reversed.

Since the onset of the Arab-Israeli conflict, control over Jerusalem has fluctuated, as have the city’s contours. Speaking of the city today, one refers to substantial areas, some Jewish, others Arab, that were part of the West Bank and that no one would have recognised as Jerusalem prior to 1967. Stretching municipal boundaries, annexing Palestinian land and building new Jewish neighbourhoods/settlements, Israel gradually created a municipal area several times its earlier size. It also established new urban settlements outside the municipal boundary to surround the city, break contiguity between East Jerusalem and the West Bank, and strengthen links between these settlements, West Jerusalem and the rest of Israel.

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Amira Hass: Fooling the High Court of Justice and the Hague

The legalistic deception of the Israeli Civil Administration: “It is all Israel”

Amira Hass, Haaretz, 13 July 2005

Listen to the soldier in the field. He says what his commanders were trained to cover up and embellish. Listen to the red-headed soldier, who prevented residents of Qafin from passing through the gate in the separation fence last month to get to their lands. These are 5,000 out of 8,200 dunams of agricultural land in a village in the northwestern West Bank. These are lands belonging to the families of these residents for several generations, and for so-called security reasons they were separated from the village – as has happened, and will happen, with hundreds of other Palestinian villages.

Several residents have Civil Administration permits allowing them to pass through the closed gate. Signed permits serve as written proof – intended for the High Court of Justice, and indirectly for the world court at The Hague – that the security establishment and the state are keeping their promises, whereby the security fence does not keep farmers away from their land, that it is “measured.” This could be used as evidence in a future international court that will clean out the entire system: the commanders, the politicians, the judges. A written document is better evidence than the undocumented long hours during which people waited for nothing outside the gate, under the beating sun.

But the soldier knows better, because he’s in the field, and he doesn’t lie: These permits don’t obligate the army, he said (and the Civil Administration confirmed this, when asked), because this gate is only for the olive harvest season. That is, the autumn – but now it’s summer. Since the gate near their land is closed, there’s no chance that the Qafin farmers can pass through to plant 7,500 olive saplings received as a donation, to replace the 12,000 trees destroyed by the fence. Since the gate near! their l and is closed, when fires break out they can’t get there quickly and save the groves their grandfathers planted. And since the gate is closed, they are unable to plant wheat, okra or corn between the groves to slightly improve the nutrition of their families, which are trapped in a cycle of poverty and unemployment.

But the red-headed soldier didn’t discuss only the gate. He didn’t hide the geopolitical worldview in whose name he is commanded to safeguard the gate’s welfare. “There is no entry to Israel from here,” he said. When he was told that the farmers don’t want to enter Israel, but to walk 200 meters to get to their age-old lands, a few kilometers away from the Green Line, he responded: “To be politically correct, it is all Israel.”

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