Norman Finkelstein: Judge Israel's deeds, not words
- Judge Israel's deeds, not words
By Norman G. Finkelstein
Monday, October 10, 2005
On the night of August 24, 2005, Israeli troops shot dead three
teenage boys and two adults in a West Bank Palestinian refugee camp.
An army communique claimed the five were terrorists, killed after
opening fire on the soldiers. An investigation by Israel's leading
human rights organization, B'Tselem, and its leading newspaper,
Haaretz, found, however, that the teenagers were unarmed and had no
connection with any terrorist organizations, while neither of the two
adults was armed or wanted by the Israelis.
In Israel, as elsewhere, it's prudent to treat official pronouncements
with skepticism. This is especially so when it comes to the "peace
Israel's announcement that it would withdraw from the Gaza Strip won
high praise in the American media as a major step toward ending the
occupation of Palestinian land. Human rights organizations and
academic specialists were less sanguine, however.
In a recent study entitled One Big Prison, B'Tselem observes that the
crippling economic arrangements Israel has imposed on Gaza will remain
in effect. In addition, Israel will continue to maintain absolute
control over Gaza's land borders, coastline and airspace, and the
Israeli Army will continue to operate in Gaza. "So long as these
methods of control remain in Israeli hands," it concludes, "Israel's
claim of an 'end of the occupation' is questionable."
The respected organization Human Rights Watch (HRW) is yet more
emphatic that evacuating troops and Jewish settlements from inside
Gaza will not end the occupation: "Whether the Israeli Army is inside
Gaza or redeployed around its periphery, and restricting entrance and
exit, it remains in control." The world's leading authority on the
Gaza Strip, Sara Roy of Harvard University, predicts that Gaza will
remain "an imprisoned enclave," while its economy, still totally
dependent on Israel after disengagement and in shambles after decades
of deliberately ruinous policies by Israel, will actually deteriorate.
This conclusion is echoed by the World Bank, which forecasts that, if
Israel seals Gaza's borders or curtails its utilities, the
disengagement plan will "create worse hardship than is seen today."
Matters are scarcely better in the West Bank. Although Israel has
announced its intention to dismantle four of the 120 settlements
there, this decision pales beside its relentless annexation of wide
swathes of the West Bank.
A recent UN report finds that the wall Israel is constructing
encroaches deeply into Palestinian territory, resulting in the
isolation of tens of thousands of Palestinians and the confiscation of
fully 10 percent of West Bank land, "including the most fertile areas
in the West Bank."
According to Roy, Palestinians will have access to only half the West
Bank once the wall is complete, "deepening the dispossession and
isolation of Palestinian communities."
Israel proclaims that it is building the wall for "security" reasons,
but human rights organizations disagree. Its real purpose, they
suggest, is "to make contiguous with Israel illegal civilian
settlements" (HRW) and "to facilitate their future annexation into
In a landmark July 2004 decision on the wall, the International Court
of Justice unanimously agreed that establishment of these Jewish
settlements "violates" (U.S. Judge Buergenthal) the Geneva Convention,
and overwhelmingly ruled that construction of the wall was "contrary
to international law."
Yet, nowhere have official Israeli words about peace been more
dramatically belied by bitter deeds than in Jerusalem.
In a recent report entitled "The Jerusalem Powder Keg," the
authoritative International Crisis Group finds that Prime Minister
Ariel Sharon "risks choking off Arab East Jerusalem by further
fragmenting it and surrounding it with Jewish
neighborhoods/settlements." Hundreds of thousands of Arab
Jerusalemites will be isolated from the West Bank and placed under
stricter Israeli control inside the city's new borders, while tens of
thousands of Arab Jerusalemites will be stranded on the outside and
cut off from their city.
In the meantime Israeli plans, well under way, to incorporate
far-flung illegal Jewish settlements into Jerusalem "would go close to
cutting the West Bank into two."
Israeli annexationist policies in and around Jerusalem, according to
Crisis Group, will have "arguably devastating consequences," not least
because "it remains virtually impossible to conceive of a Palestinian
state without its capital in Jerusalem."
Although Sharon gives lip-service to a two-state settlement, the
actions of the Israeli government, Crisis Group concludes, "are at war
with any viable two-state solution and will not bolster Israel's
security; in fact, they will undermine it, weakening Palestinian
pragmatists, ... and sowing the seeds of growing radicalization."
Those committed to a just and lasting peace in the Israel-Palestine
conflict would do well to pay closer attention to Israeli deeds than
to the official words accompanying them.
Norman G. Finkelstein teaches at DePaul University in Chicago. His
latest book is "Beyond Chutzpah: On the misuse of anti-Semitism and
the abuse of history." This commentary, rejected by several U.S.
newspapers, is reprinted by permission.
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