Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Wither Palestine?

If I were Jewish, I would disown the state called Israel.  I really dislike the way it treats its own people and its neighbours. In particular, it over-reacts to every slight.  It is like a bouncer high on steroids at the entrance to a low-life night-club. A big, stupid thug who seems to enjoy flexing his muscles and throwing out anyone who so much as glances in his direction.  Those inside are temporarily grateful for his protection, until they come to leave. Suddenly they realize they not only have to pass him safely on the way out, but may also have to run the gauntlet of those revelers whose entrance he prevented.

Just so, Jews living in Israel have to suffer the consequences of the state's over-reaction.  For many years, Israel has stolen land from neighbouring Palestine.  I think the map spells it out:
It was bad enough that Britain walked away from its responsibilities in 1948. The UN had come up with quite a sensible partition in 1947, but Britain refused to accept it.  The result was a rather bloody civil war between Palestinians and Israelis after Britain walked out.  The Arab supporters - Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan and Syria - all signed peace treaties, but the best that could be achieved in Palestine-Israel was a ceasefire agreement. The West Bank was nominally in Jordanian control, and Gaza nominally in Egyptian control.

The peace, such as it was, was uneasy. Finally, in May 1967, Egypt, Syria and Jordan prepared for a co-ordinated attack. A pre-emptive strike by the Israeli airforce gave Israel a decisive victory. Israel gained control of the Sinai Peninsula, the Gaza Strip, the Golan Heights, and the formerly Jordanian-controlled West Bank of the Jordan River (Wikipedia). In November that year, UN Resolution 242 resulted in withdrawal of Israeli forces from all captured territory in return for a "just and lasting" peace and the recognition of the sovereignty of the various states. Palestine was thus reduced to the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.  The West Bank is nominally defined by the Green Line established by UN Resolution 242.  Nominally, because in 2006 Israel started to build a barrier about 700km long isolating itself from the West Bank.  This barrier incorporates considerable territory that is nominally Palestinian.  The map below shows a portion of the barrier:
Completed barrier is shown in red lines, dashed red lines show parts under construction, and black dashed lines show planned construction.  The green line is the Green Line, and the mauve blobs show Israeli settlements in Palestine, some of which are already walled off and all of which are planned to be walled off. The crosses mark agricultural gates open at different times as shown by their colour.  (Source, UN Office for Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs).

Both the West Bank and Gaza are nominally governed by the Palestinian National Authority, which was recognized by Israel in the Oslo Accords of 1993 and 1995.  Since 2007, Gaza has actually been governed by Hamas, which claims to be part of the National Authority.  Gaza is home to nearly 2 million people, which makes its 365 sq. km decidedly crowded.  Israel, however, is in effective control - it controls the borders, the airspace and the coast of Gaza.  The lawyer John Dugard recently argued that this is tantamount to military occupation (Business Day, 4 August).

Now I invite you to consider for a moment what it is like to be a Palestinian.  In the West Bank, some of the best areas of your land are being walled off by foreigners.  In Gaza, you are under military control, jammed into a tiny area insufficient to support its population.  Frustration would certainly be my feeling - how about you?

If I were a young person caught in this trap, I would almost certainly revolt.  I would try to leave - and be frustrated by the border restrictions.  Some of my friends would plan acts of violence; some would carry them out; I might be tempted to join them.  In Gaza, that is just what has happened.  They have been firing rockets into Israel.  Most of the rockets are pretty puny things - the Qassam-3 has a 15kg warhead and a 17km range.  Fired from the north-eastern tip of Gaza, they would barely get a quarter of the way to Jerusalem or Tel Aviv. Certainly, 15kg of high explosive is more than a nuisance, and the lack of accuracy makes life within range of these things decidedly unpleasant.  But does it warrant the unleashing of warplanes with 50 times the firepower?  Can it possibly justify the targeted destruction of schools?  The use of armed drones to kill children playing on the beach? No, no and no again.
It seems to me that this is part of a long term plan, to take the whole of Palestine for Israel.  The siege of Gaza, the invasion of the West Bank, are merely steps along the path of driving the Palestinians to seek refuge elsewhere. Jews everywhere should renounce the government of Israel, and have its leaders brought before the International Court of Justice on charges of crimes against humanity.

Yes, it is "Wither Palestine?" not "Whither Palestine?"

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