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Gaza Disengagement An Act of War

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    The Gaza Disengagement By Ilan Pappe Wednesday, August 31, 2005 Adalah s Newsletter, Volume 16, August 2005 http://www.adalah.org/newsletter/eng/aug05/ar1.pdf
    Message 1 of 1 , Sep 5, 2005
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      The Gaza Disengagement
      By Ilan Pappe
      Wednesday, August 31, 2005
      Adalah's Newsletter, Volume 16, August 2005
      http://www.adalah.org/newsletter/eng/aug05/ar1.pdf


      The Gaza Disengagement and the Prospect of Further Human Rights
      Violations

      By Ilan Pappe*

      There is an amazing gap between the global discourse on the Gaza
      Disengagement Plan of the Sharon government and the local realities
      on the ground. Whereas the Israeli pullout is being portrayed in
      international public fora as an historic decision, which offers a rare
      opportunity for peace in the area, local observers – especially in
      Palestine – warn that the plan is not likely to advance the peace
      process; in fact, it is seen as a deliberate attempt by the Israelis
      to obstruct any future progress towards an acceptable solution.

      This imbalance between representation and reality makes it difficult
      to assess and discuss the significance of the Gaza withdrawal from a
      human-rights perspective. The attempt here will be to weigh the
      potential positive outcomes of the Israeli withdrawal against the
      potential negative repercussions for human rights in Israel and
      Palestine.

      There is a consensus among mainstream Israeli and Palestinian
      literati and pundits that the disengagement from Gaza is no more than
      a redeployment of Israeli forces and is not intended to change the
      status quo or bring an end to the occupation. This article is based on
      the same premise. Theoretically, and in itself, this realization does
      not preclude a potential improvement in the lives and rights of the
      people living in the 1967 Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPTs).
      For instance, the removal of the provocative settlements from the Gaza
      Strip and from a small area in the north of the West Bank could
      improve the quality of life of many Palestinians. The settlers
      violated Palestinian rights directly through their daily violence

      and brutality, and indirectly by inviting heavy and oppressive
      military invasions into the OPTs either to protect them, or to
      retaliate in their name. The withdrawal could thus remove this
      despicable aspect from the lives of some Palestinians in the areas to
      be evacuated.

      Moreover, regardless of its real motives, the move could advance the
      Palestinian right to self-determination. This is a position argued by
      the Islamic forces in the OPTs, which see the pullout as the defeat
      of the occupying army, and there is indeed more than a modicum of
      truth in this representation.

      However, for these two positive aspects to materialize as a new
      reality, the withdrawal must mean a genuine Israeli detachment from
      the lives of the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and northern parts of
      the West Bank. Unfortunately, there is very little evidence to
      suggest that this will in fact be the outcome of the disengagement.
      The first omen is the Israeli insistence that there will be no
      further territorial concessions. While this position is not always
      stated openly, it was spelled out clearly by Dov Weissglas, Ariel
      Sharon's senior aide, in an interview with Ha'aretz on 8 October
      2004, in which he stated, "The disengagement is actually
      formaldehyde. It supplies the amount of formaldehyde that's necessary
      so that there will not be a political process with the Palestinians."
      Other senior Israeli officials, including the Prime Minister himself,
      declared that the disengagement is a national trauma; by which they
      mean that no Israeli government is ever going to attempt such a move
      again. Furthermore,the Israelis have minimized, as far as possible,
      any cooperation with the Palestinian Authority on the withdrawal in
      order to avoid creating any domestic impression that the pullout is
      part of a peace dialogue, and not, as they wish to portray it, the
      redeployment of forces.

      These declarations fit well with the overall strategy of the Sharon
      government – which enjoys broad support among the Israeli Jewish
      electorate. The aim is to create a Greater Israel, which includes
      almost half of the West Bank, but which excludes the Gaza Strip and
      purely Palestinian areas in the West Bank (these latter areas are
      spread intermittently between

      * Dr. Ilan Pappe is Senior Lecturer in the Department of Political
      Science in Haifa University and

      Chairman of the Emil Touma Institute for Palestinian Studies in Haifa.

      Adalah's Newsletter, Volume 16, August 2005

      2

      Jewish settlement blocs and lack territorial contiguity). These
      Palestinian enclaves in the West Bank, together with the Gaza Strip,
      can become autonomous areas and can even, at a later stage, be called
      a state.

      Thus, the wider context for analyzing the impact of the Disengagement
      Plan on human rights is Israel's overall strategic thinking. This
      Israeli vision of the future will affect human rights in the OPTs,
      and inside Israel, in more ways than one. However, before these
      possible influences can be presented here, one has to consider the
      probable Palestinian reaction to such a strategy. What can one expect
      from the Palestinian leadership, different Palestinian groups and the
      Palestinian public in general to do, once it transpires that the
      pullout from Gaza is the end of, rather than a station in, the peace
      process? At the very least, one can expect a similar level of
      resistance to that currently being attempted by the various
      Palestinian forces in their desperate struggle against the status quo
      (although one can even envisage far worse scenarios). Let us assume,
      for the sake of argument, that the frustration in the Palestinian
      areas will not result in actions that exceed the known patterns of
      attacks against the army and settlers from both the Gaza Strip and
      the West Bank. This means that a low-key second Intifada is likely to
      continue, despite the discourse of peace accompanying the withdrawal.
      If we append this probable Palestinian conduct to the overall Israeli
      strategy, we have a more complete picture, which should enable us to
      analyze more closely the possible impact of the disengagement on
      human rights in the OPTs.

      Three senior Israelis – the Prime Minister, the Minister of Defense
      and Eival Giladi, the Director of the Strategic Coordination Staff in
      the Prime Minister's Office – have already explained what the Israeli
      retaliation would be against such a Palestinian reaction. Giladi told
      the printed and electronic press that, "Israel will act in a very
      resolute manner in order to prevent terror attacks and militant fire
      while the disengagement is being implemented … and if pinpoint
      response proves insufficient, we may have to use weaponry that causes
      collateral damage, including helicopters and planes, with mounting
      danger to surrounding people"

      (Ha'aretz, 22 June 2005). A month later, Tawfiq abu Husa,
      spokesperson for the Palestinian Ministry of the Interior, notified
      the Israelis that the Ministry could not secure a peaceful pullout
      (www.walla.co.il, 30 July 2005). Even without this declaration, it
      was clear that shots would be fired during and after the pullout.

      Giladi, who is quite often in the shadow, made several additional and
      rare public appearances for the sake of repeating the same message,
      extending the threat to the period after the evacuation. It seems as
      if he were preparing local public opinion for massive destruction to
      be inflicted by Israel on Gaza during and after the pullout. The
      Israeli army needs such a show of force, which could lead to gross
      violations of human rights, precisely because the Islamic groups
      portray the withdrawal as a defeat for Israel. The same sense of
      defeat in the summer of 2000 in Lebanon, led then-IDF Chief of the
      General Staff Shaul Mofaz to demand a brutal show of force against
      the Palestinians when the second Intifada broke out. In his present
      capacity as Minister of Defense, Mofaz harbors the same ideas.

      This continuity is described well in a new book, Boomerang, written
      by the journalists Ofer Shelah and Raviv Druker. The former served as
      an officer in Mofaz's battalion during his army service and has a
      good personal connection with the Minister. According to the book, in
      order to `rehabilitate' the loss of `Arab respect' for the army, back
      in 2000 and 2001 Mofaz foiled any serious attempt made by the
      Palestinians and moderate Israelis to end the military escalation of
      the second Intifada.

      The book shows that the Disengagement Plan was concocted by Ariel
      Sharon, after learning that then-state prosecutor Edna Arbel was
      about to indict him on corruption charges. The army went along with
      the plan, although most of Mofaz's colleagues rejected it. The army's
      position is quite puzzling. All of its senior officers said openly
      and in internal debates that a unilateral withdrawal would be a
      disaster. Eventually, however, all, to a man, came out in its favor.
      Why did the IDF agree to a plan it thought was disastrous? Indeed,
      the army chiefs continue to argue that after the withdrawal there is
      likely to be more fire directed from the Strip at Jewish towns within
      pre-1967 Israel. The army will have to show after the withdrawal that
      the deterrence capability it believes Israel will have lost by
      unilaterally withdrawing can be restored. In the case of the OPTs,
      this means one thing only: the systematic abuse of human rights
      through the excessive employment of gunships, F-16s and other
      weaponry that will inflict `collateral damage.'

      The likelihood that the disengagement will not end the occupation,
      but rather perpetuate it, is in itself bad news for the future human
      and civil rights of the Palestinians. The possibility of brutal
      Israeli actions leading to massive killing within the Gaza Strip is
      also troubling, to say the least. Moreover, the Israeli insistence on
      disconnecting the Strip from any land contact to the east, north and
      south, and on continuing to blockade it from the sea to the west,
      raises genuine concerns about the economic standard of living and
      social welfare of its more than 1.4 million Palestinian residents.

      It is quite likely, then, that Palestinians will pay for
      the `national trauma,' in order that both the `nation' and the army
      can feel healed after the crisis is over. However, far more important
      is the possible sense of success that will descend on the Israeli
      policy-making apparatus, should the withdrawal be implemented
      relatively smoothly. It would be considered a victory
      for `unilateralism,' which is now the mantra of the consensual
      political center in the country.

      `Unilateralism' means that the Palestinians, wherever they are –
      inside Israel, in the refugee camps, in the Diaspora or in the OPTs –
      have no say in the future of Palestine and Israel.

      Hence, laws can be passed to prevent Palestinian marital partners
      from different sides of the Green Line from living together in
      Israel, with total disregard to the wishes of the Palestinians
      themselves (in July 2005, 59 members of Knesset voted to extend this
      law, with minor amendments, whilst only 13 voted against it, although
      in fact more than 100 out of 120 Israeli members of Knesset support
      this racist legislation). In addition, Israeli security arrangements
      in the form of the wall and other defensive means can be decided upon
      regardless of any concern for what the Israeli Supreme Court
      euphemistically calls "the comfort of the Palestinians." By now it
      has been well documented that these means have caused the transfer of
      people, the loss of their livelihood and their imprisonment between
      huge walls and army lookout towers.

      After the withdrawal, which is portrayed domestically as a national
      trauma not to be repeated, and to the world at large as the bravest
      peace plan ever proposed to the Palestinians, `unilateralism' is in
      danger of becoming sacrosanct. In terms of human rights, this means
      that in the aftermath of the disengagement the Israeli agencies
      dealing with the Palestinians under their control will pursue the
      same callous policies described above with even less regard to
      Palestinian opinion or rights. Against the mood and discourse
      of `significant concessions' – as with the talk of `the most generous
      offer' in the summer of 2000 – the Israeli authorities will have no
      scruples in determining, with brutal force, who the Palestinians
      can marry, where they can live and work, when they can go out or for
      how long they have to stay imprisoned in their homes before curfews
      and closures are lifted. Worse, the army will be able to continue its
      policies of shooting and killing without any inhibitions.

      Within Israel itself, the pullout also raises serious questions about
      the state of human and civil rights. The anti-pullout opposition has
      claimed that the Sharon government is guilty of violating basic human
      and civil rights, both in the way in which it legislated the decision
      to implement the withdrawal and in which it silenced civil
      disobedience against it. On a certain level, some of the principal
      allegations of the settlers and their supporters are correct.

      Several of their basic rights as citizens – such as freedom of speech
      and protest – were curbed. Their eviction, on the other hand, cannot
      be regarded as a violation of human rights, as they are being removed
      from an area in which they settled illegally.

      However, the government and its agencies' overall treatment of the
      protest movement serves to highlight a different aspect of human and
      civil rights in Israel: the wide gap between the ways in which
      Palestinian and Jewish citizens of Israel engaged in protests against
      the government are dealt with. Some of the actions undertaken by the
      protestors were identical to those undertaken during the protest
      demonstrations held by Palestinian citizens of Israel throughout the
      country in October 2000: unauthorized demonstrations, the blockading
      of roads and highways, throwing stones at the security forces, etc.
      Although the settlers and their supporters have been engaging in such
      activities for several months, the police have responded almost
      entirely through non-violent means resulting in almost no injuries.

      Detainees have been held for relatively short periods of time. In
      October 2000, 13 unarmed Palestinian citizens of Israel were shot
      dead in clashes with the Israeli security forces.

      Hundreds of others were wounded and arrested, and dozens were
      criminally indicted and received lengthy prison sentences. The most
      bewildering official statement in this context was that given by
      former Prime Minister, Ehud Barak on the current protests, in which he
      condoned the settlers' blockading of highways. In October 2000 he
      ordered snipers to fire live bullets at Palestinians doing the same
      in Wadi `Ara.

      The discrimination evident in the means of dealing with these two
      cases is a portentous omen for the future. It suggests not only that
      Israel will attempt to evade withdrawal from any further occupied
      land and avoid conducting genuine peace negotiations with the
      Palestinians, but also that it will maintain the current regime of
      segregation and discrimination within Israel, allowing extreme right
      wingers to perpetuate Israeli intransigence and preventing
      Palestinian and non-Zionist political groups in Israel from enjoying
      their basic rights to freedom of expression and political
      participation.

      In short, the Disengagement Plan is a step toward consolidating an
      Israeli regime of discrimination inside the state, as well as the
      policies of occupation, colonization, and, potentially, massive
      killing in the OPTs. The regrettable misconception of the move in the
      international media will allow the Israeli government to continue to
      pursue its plans. As in the past, it remains the duty of the civil
      societies in the West to expose this distorted picture and to exert
      pressure on their governments to demand a total Israeli withdrawal
      from all of the territories it occupied in 1967 and the introduction
      of international peace-keeping forces in their place. These
      developments would bring relief to those living under occupation,
      after enduring almost 40 years of the systematic abuse of their human
      and civil rights.

      International protection should be provided for the Palestinians
      until all the outstanding problems – the refugee issue, the question
      of Jerusalem and the future political structure for both peoples –
      are resolved through peaceful dialogue.

      *********************************************************************

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