Tuesday, March 15, 2011

It's the Settlements, Stupid!

How to prevent injury to Israeli life & limb in the West Bank? It's really, really simple. Just pack your bags and go:

"What makes [the option of unilateral Israeli withdrawal from the Occupied Territories] so significant is that it is instantly available to Israel and has been, at any time, for years. It requires no negotiations, no change in Palestinian attitudes, no trust, and no improvement in the effectiveness of the Palestinian Authority. An Israeli major in the Israeli armored corps showed an appreciation of the situation when he said that:

'Make no mistake, Israel has no other reason for remaining in the Occupied Territories than to preserve the existing settlements, even when they are deep within Palestinian centers of population. Maybe the Palestinians are not interested in peace - one of the most commonly heard justifications for our recent invasions - and truly want to push us into the sea. Even then, we would be much better off defending ourselves from the 1967 borders rather than from inside the narrow alleys of Jenin, Ramallah, and Bethlehem. This is why I think that the occupation runs against the most basic interests of the state of Israel, even to the extent of threatening its very existence'.

"The political difficulties involved in getting Israelis to accept the proposal are irrelevant to its viability: they simply mean that Israel may not choose it, and that decision would remain Israel's responsibility. As for the settlers, they pose no problem at all: they can either leave or fend for themselves. Colonial history suggests, moreover, that settlers are not nearly so fierce in their resistance to displacement as they would like themselves and others to believe. This has proven to be the case throughout sub-Saharan Africa and in Algeria. There, despite a large, heavily-armed and well-organized underground movement, settler opposition collapsed when, in 1962, the French government opened fire on a settler demonstration, killing 80 and wounding 200. Presumably, overcoming settler opposition would not require such drastic measures in Israel.

"It is sometimes alleged that complete withdrawal from the Occupied Territories is 'impracticable' because the facts on the ground are too deeply entrenched: Israeli settlements are just too extensive and important to uproot. One can hardly take this seriously. If it was 'practicable' for hundreds of thousands of stateless Palestinians to leave their homes, why is this impracticable for half as many Israeli citizens in far more comfortable and peaceful circumstances? Throughout modern history, from the waves of US immigration to the peaceful post-World War II population transfers, there have been far greater shifts than this movement of a few miles. In many cases, if the settlers prefer, they can simply return to their homes in the United States. 'It's impracticable' seems here a stand-in for 'Aw, gee, these towns are too nice to let the Arabs have them'.

"The significance of the withdrawal alternative is not that it represents a just solution. Arguably, justice would require much more than that - not only the abolition of Jewish sovereignty in Israel but a full right of return, with compensation, for the Palestinians, and the eviction of Jewish inhabitants occupying Palestinian property. But the existence of the withdrawal alternative effectively completes the case against Israel. Its willful and pointless rejection of that alternative places Israel decisively in the wrong.

"In the first place, Israel has a right of self-defense, but it does not apply in the Occupied Territories. If the US invaded Jamaica and dotted it with settlements, neither the settlers nor the armed forces could invoke any right to defend themselves against the Jamaicans, any more than a robber who invaded your house. So it is with Israelis in the Occupied Territories. Their right of self-defense is their right to the least violent defensive alternative. Since withdrawal (perhaps followed by fortifying their own 1948 border) is by far their best and least violent defense, that is all they have a right to do.

"In the second place, since Israel can withdraw at will and close its border, Israel can put an end to virtually all the violence. That violence is occasioned by the settlement policy, which is Israel's sole reson for the occupation. Since that occupation has no defensive or strategic rationale, Israel has no good reason to prolong it. Since Israel is willfully pursuing an unjustifiable strategy that it can end at no cost, it is responsible for all the consequences of that strategy. It follows that all the violence, and all horrors of the occupation, are to be laid at Israel's doorstep." (The Case Against Israel, Michael Neumann, 2005, pp 138-140)

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