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A model farm template is imagined as the central methodology. A broad range of timely science news and other topics of interest are commented on.
Friday, September 23, 2011
What is now becoming increasingly
clear is that Palestinian intransigence has a price in land lost to Israeli
control that has been steadily accelerating and could well be approaching a
final dénouement over the next decade.By the simple failure of the Palestinians to ever negotiate in good
faith the door has remained wide open allowing Israel
to apply unilateral decisions and methods in the West Bank.
As I have posted in the past, Israel is determined to absorb the West Bank and
Gaza into a
final Greater Israel.This report
informs us that the project has actually been advancing by stealth for the past
two decades as the outcome of the failure of the Palestinians to ever
compromise.Every trip to the
negotiating table has presented them with a worse outcome brought about by
their previous failure to cut a deal.It
is obvious that this is what is happening again.
The Palestinian reality is been
reduced to a series of Palestinian cities while the land in between is been
effectively absorbed by Israel.Transitioning these cities into Jordan will become completely possible if and
when a new JordanianPalestinianState
actually emerges there.
The Israeli enterprise is well in
hand and is effectively unstoppable today.It could have been stopped anytime by the Palestinians simply swallowing
the present facts on the ground and locking down the borders.By not doing just that we wake up to the
reality of a Greater Israel fact on the ground.
Islamic optimists see a plausible
military intervention from Arab armies to change these facts on the
ground.In fact the only plausible force
in place is that of Egypt.The optimists think that they can simply
throw away past treaties and go at it.Of course their supporters need to first win real control in Egypt.I suspect that interpretation is naïve.
The Egyptian military is most
likely unable to launch such a war in fact because of a deep reliance on US weaponry and
support.I can not imagine arming Egypt
over the past twenty years and not making sure that breaking the treaty was
made very difficult.
The Arab spring has actually
neutered Arab armies and made them almost irrelevant because it is all about
the newly emergent political will of the people.Even an emergent popular government must then
arrange a compact with another emergent popular government to organize a
In practice an Egyptian Israeli
war is presently suicidal for Egypt.For that reason it is not going to
happen.When a new stability is
established, the benefits of the present peace treaty will be obvious and it
will be freshly honored.The only
scenario that leads to war here is the rise of a military leader in Egypt
who runs with the dream of war.
So while the Arab spring has
brought uncertainty it has also given Israel a free hand and ended all
credible external threats.The
Palestinians have possession of a series of cities including Gaza and So. Lebanon
and their price for a viable economic future will the formal recognition of Israel and as
time progresses it will be the recognition of Greater Israel.
I’m reminded of how Chinese premier Zhou EnLai supposedly answered a question in 1972 about the
significance of the French Revolution. “Too early to tell,” was his reputed
reply; and though he may never have said it, how true it is that the major
events of our world carom through history in ways that remain unpredictable
even hundreds of years later. How then to arrive at an assessment of the
Arab Spring -- and now far harsher Summer and Fall -- of 2011, other than to say that it has proven
Perhaps all that can or should be said is that history’s surprises have
their joys (as well as horrors), and that the young people who propelled the
Arab Spring, toppling some regional autocrats and tyrants, challenging others,
and leaving still others shaken, offered genuine hope (Yes, We Can!) in a
region where it had been a scarce commodity. Their many and complex
uprisings and serial demonstrations have clearly destabilized significant parts
of the Middle East that had been in a kind of
deadly stasis. Who knows what will shake out from it all? At this
early date, however, one of the losers from these cascading events seems to be
the ever more right-wing government of Israel which -- as its autocratic
allies in the region totter or fall -- has been left in a state of growing isolation and anxiety.
The Arab Spring has evidently even offered a kind of confused and
bedraggled hope to a Palestinian not-exactly-state, the Palestinian Authority, about as
powerless as an entity could be, which is heading this week for the U.N. to do
it’s-not-quite-clear-what. Its decision signals, at least, the utter
bankruptcy of the former “road map” to peace in the region -- there are no
roads, only checkpoints and obstacles, and as for maps, the Israelis control
them. The zombie-style “negotiations” Washington has long been brokering in the
region are now officially dead, no matter how many diplomats rush from one
capital to another.
If it weren't so grim, the uproar over such a non-power essentially
pleading with the U.N. for membership when it controls next to nothing on the
ground, and the scurrying around of everyone from Tony Blair to Secretary of
State Hillary Clinton, not to speak of the threats of the anxious Israelis to withhold money and
tear up the Oslo Accords, of the U.S. Congress to withhold yet more money, and of Republican
presidential candidates accusing the Obama administration of
"appeasement" or worse would be the material for the Middle Eastern
equivalent of a bedroom farce.
Journalist Sandy Tolan, author of a moving book, The Lemon Tree: An Arab, a Jew, and the Heart of the Middle
East, is just back from the West Bank. As he makes clear, by anyone’s
measure the Israelis are winning the war of and on the land. And
yet symbols do matter -- and so, in the end, may the kind
of isolation the Israelis could, one day, find themselves in, especially in a
destabilizing region with potential surprises in store, some predictable, some not faintly so. Tom
It's the Occupation, Stupid
The State to Which the U.N. May Grant Membership Is Disappearing
It's the show that time and the world forgot. It’s called the
Occupation and it’s now in its 45th year. Playing on a landscape about the size
it remains largely hidden from view, while Middle Eastern headlines from
elsewhere seize the day. Diplomats shuttle back
and forth from Washington and Brussels to Middle Eastern capitals; the Israeli-Turkish
alliance ruptures amid bold declarations from the Turkish prime
minister; crowds storm the Israeli Embassy in Cairo, while Israeli
ambassadors flee the Egyptian capital and Amman, the Jordanian one; and of course, there’s the
headliner, the show-stopper of the moment, the Palestinian Authority's campaign for statehood in the United Nations, which
will prompt an Obama administration veto in the Security Council.
But whatever the Turks, Egyptians, or Americans do, whatever symbolic
satisfaction the Palestinian Authority may get at the U.N., there’s always the
Occupation and there -- take it from someone just back from a summer living in
the West Bank -- Israel isn’t losing. It’s winning the battle, at
least the one that means the most to Palestinians and Israelis, the one for
control over every square foot of ground. Inch by inch, meter by meter,
Israel's expansion project in the West Bank and Jerusalem is, in fact, gaining momentum,
ensuring that the “nation” that the U.N. might grant membership will be each
day a little smaller, a little less viable, a little less there.
How to Disappear a Land
On my many drives from West Bank city to West Bank city, from Ramallah
to Jenin, Abu Dis to Jericho, Bethlehem
to Hebron, I'd
play a little game: Could I travel for an entire minute without seeing physical
evidence of the occupation? Occasionally -- say, when riding through a
narrow passage between hills -- it was possible. But not often. Nearly
every panoramic vista, every turn in the highway revealed a Jewish settlement,
an Israeli army checkpoint, a military watchtower, a looming concrete wall, a
barbed-wire fence with signs announcing another restricted area, or a cluster
of army jeeps stopping cars and inspecting young men for their documents.
The ill-fated Oslo
"peace process" that emerged from the Oslo Accords of 1993 not only failed to
prevent such expansion, it effectively sanctioned it. Since then, the
number of Israeli settlers on the West Bank has nearly tripled to more than 300,000 -- and that figure doesn’t include
the more than 200,000 Jewish settlers in East Jerusalem.
The Oslo Accords, ratified by both the
Palestinians and the Israelis, divided the West Bank
into three zones -- A, B, and C. At the time, they were imagined by the
Palestinian Authority as a temporary way station on the road to an independent
state. They are, however, still in effect today. The de
facto Israeli strategy has been and remains to give Palestinians relative
freedom in Area A, around the West Bank’s cities, while locking down "Area C" -- 60% of the West Bank -- for the
use of the Jewish settlements and for what are called "restricted military
areas." (Area B is essentially a kind of grey zone between the
other two.) From this strategy come the thousands of demolitions of
"illegal" housing and the regular arrests of villagers who simply try
to build improvements to their homes. Restrictions are strictly enforced
and violations dealt with harshly.
When I visited the South Hebron Hills in late 2009, for example,
villagers were not even allowed to smooth out a virtually impassable dirt road
so that their children wouldn't have to walk two to three miles to school every
day. Na’im al-Adarah, from the village
of At-Tuwani, paid the
price for transporting those kids to the school "illegally." A few
weeks after my visit, he was arrested and his red Toyota pickup seized and destroyed by Israeli
soldiers. He didn't bother complaining to the Palestinian Authority --
the same people now going to the U.N. to declare a Palestinian state -- because
they have no control over what happens in Area C.
The only time he'd seen a Palestinian official, al-Adarah told me, was
when he and other villagers drove to Ramallah to bring one to the area.
(The man from the Palestinian Authority refused to come on his own.) "He
said this is the first time he knew that this land [in Area C] is ours. A
minister like him is surprised that we have these areas? I told him, 'How
can a minister like you not know this? You're the minister of local
"It was like he didn't know what was happening in his own
country," added al-Adarah. "We're forgotten,
The Israeli strategy of control also explains, strategically speaking,
the “need” for the network of checkpoints; the looming separation
barrier (known to Israelis as the "security fence" and to Palestinians as
wall") that divides Israel from the West Bank (and sometimes West Bankers from each other); the repeated evictions of Palestinians from residential areas like
Sheikh Jarrah in East Jerusalem; the systematic revoking of Jerusalem IDs once held by thousands of
Palestinians who were born in the Holy City; and the labyrinthine travel restrictions which keep so many Palestinians
locked in their West Bank enclaves.
justifies most of these measures in terms of national security, it’s clear
enough that the larger goal behind them is to incrementally take and hold ever
more of the land. The separation barrier, for example, has put 10% of the West Bank’s
land on the Israeli side -- a case of "annexation in the guise of
security," according to the respected Israeli human rights group,
Taken together, these measures amount to the solution that the Israeli
government seeks, one revealed in a series of maps drawn up by Israeli
politicians, cartographers, and military men over recent years that show
Palestine broken into isolated islands (often compared to South African
on only about 40% of the West Bank. At the outset of Oslo,
Palestinians believed they had made a historic compromise, agreeing to a state on 22% of historic Palestine
-- that is, the West Bank and Gaza.
The reality now is a kind of "ten percent solution," a rump statelet
without sovereignty, freedom of movement, or control of its own land, air, or
water. Palestinians cannot even drill a well to tap into the vast aquifer
beneath their feet.
Living Amid Checkpoints, Roadblocks, and Night Raids
Almost always overlooked in assessments of this ruinous "no-state
solution" is the human toll it takes on the occupied. More than on any of
my dozen previous journeys there, I came away from this trip to Palestine with a sense of
the psychic damage the military occupation has inflicted on every
Palestinian. None, no matter how warm-hearted or resilient, escape its
"The soldier pointed to my violin case. He said,
'What's that?'" 13-year-old Alá Shelaldeh, who lives in old Ramallah, told
me. She is a student at Al
Kamandjati(Arabic for “the violinist”), a music school in her neighborhood
(which will be a focus of my next book). She was recalling a time three years earlier
when a van she was in, full of young musicians, was stopped at an Israeli
checkpoint near Nablus.
They were coming back from a concert. "I told him, 'It's a
violin.' He told me to get out of the van and show him." Alá
stepped onto the roadside, unzipped her case, and displayed the instrument for
the soldier. "Play something," he insisted. Alá played
"Hilwadeen” (Beautiful Girl), the song made famous by the Lebanese
It was a typical moment in Palestine,
and one she has yet to, and may never, forget.
It is impossible, of course, to calculate the long-term emotional
damage of such encounters on children and adults alike, including on the Israeli soldiers, who are not immune to their own
Humiliation at checkpoints is a basic fact of West Bank Palestinian
life. Everyone, even children, has his or her story to tell of
helplessness, fear, and rage while waiting for a teenaged soldier to decide
whether or not they can pass. It has become so normal that some kids have
no idea the rest of the world doesn't live like this. "I thought the whole
world was like us -- they are occupied, they have soldiers," remembered
Alá's older brother, Shehade, now 20.
At 15, he was invited to Italy. "It was a shock
for me to see this life. You can go very, very far, and no
checkpoint. You see the land very, very far, and no wall. I was so
happy, and at the same time sad, you know? Because we don't have this
freedom in my country."
At age 12, Shehade had seen his cousin shot dead by soldiers during the
secondintifada, which erupted in late 2001 after Israel's then-opposition
leader Ariel Sharon paid a provocative visit to holy sites in the Old City of
Jerusalem. Clashes erupted as youths hurled stones at soldiers. Israeli
troops responded with live fire, killing some 250 Palestinians (compared to 29
Israeli deaths) in the first two months of the intifada. The next year,
Palestinian factions launched waves of suicide bombings in Israel.
One day in 2002, Shehade recalled, with Ramallah again fully occupied
by the Israeli army, the young cousins broke a military curfew in order to buy
bread. A shot rang out near a corner market; Shehade watched his cousin
fall. This summer Shehada showed me the gruesome pictures -- blood
flowing from a 12-year-old's mouth and ears -- taken moments after the shooting
Nine years later, Ramallah, a supposedly sovereign enclave, is often considered an oasis in a desert
of occupation. Its streets and markets are choked with shoppers, and its
many trendy restaurants rival
fine European eateries. The vibrancy and upscale feel of many parts of
the city give you a sense that -- much as Palestinians are loathe to admit it –
this, and not East Jerusalem, is the emerging Palestinian capital.
Many Ramallah streets are indeed lined with government ministries and
foreign consulates. (Just don't call them embassies!) But much of
this apparent freedom and quasi-sovereignty is illusory. In the West
Bank, travel without hard-to-get permits is often limited to narrow corridors
of land, like the one between Ramallah and Nablus, where the Israeli military has, for
now, abandoned its checkpoints and roadblocks. Even in Ramallah -- part
of the theoretically
sovereign Area A -- night incursions by Israeli soldiers are common.
"It was December 2009, the 16th I think, at 2:15, 2:30 in the
morning," recalled Celine Dagher, a French citizen of Lebanese descent.
Her Palestinian husband, Ramzi Aburedwan, founder of Al Kamandjati, where both
of them work, was then abroad. "I was awakened by a sound," she
told me. She emerged to find the front door of their flat jammed partway
open and kept that way by a small security bar of the sort you find in hotel
Celine thought burglars were trying to break in and so yelled at them
in Arabic to go away. Then she peered through the six-inch opening and
spotted 10 Israeli soldiers in the hallway. They told her to stand back,
and within seconds had blown the door off its hinges. Entering the
apartment, they pointed their automatic rifles at her. A Palestinian
informant stood near them silently, a black woolen mask pulled over his face to
ensure his anonymity.
The commander began to interrogate her. "My name, with whom I
live, starting to ask me about the neighbors." Celine flashed her French
passport and pleaded with them not to wake up her six-month-old, Hussein,
sleeping in the next room. "I was praying that he would just stay
asleep." She told the commander, "I just go from my house to my work,
from work to my house." She didn't really know her neighbors, she
As it happened, the soldiers had blown off the door of the wrong
flat. They would remove four more doors in the building that night,
Celine recalled, before finding their suspect: her 17-year-old next door
neighbor. "They stood questioning him for maybe 20 minutes, and then
they took him. And I think he's still in jail. His father is
already in jail."
According to Israeli Prison Services statistics cited by B'tselem, more
than 5,300 Palestinians were in Israeli prisons in July 2011. Since the
beginning of the occupation in 1967, an estimated 650,000 to 700,000 Palestinians have reportedly been
jailed by Israel.
By one calculation, that represents 40% of the adult-male
Palestinian population. Almost no family has been untouched by the
Israeli prison system.
Celine stared through the blinds at the street below, where some 15
jeeps and other military vehicles were parked. Finally, they left with
their lights out and so quietly that she couldn't even hear their engines.
When the flat was silent again, she couldn't sleep. "I was very
afraid." A neighbor came upstairs to sit with her until the morning.
Stories like these -- and they are legion -- accumulate, creating the
outlines of what could be called a culture of occupation. They give
context to a remark by Saleh Abdel-Jawad, dean of the law school at BirzeitUniversity near Ramallah: "I don't
remember a happy day since 1967," he told me. Stunned, I asked him
why specifically that was so. "Because,” he replied, “you can't go
to Jerusalem to
pray. And it's only 15 kilometers away. And you have your memories
He added, “Since 17 years I was unable to go to the sea. We are not
allowed to go. And my daughter married five years ago and we were unable to do
a marriage ceremony for her." Israel would not grant a visa to Saleh's
Egyptian son-in-law so that he could enter the West Bank. "How to do
a marriage without the groom?"
A Musical Intifada
An old schoolmate of mine and now a Middle East scholar living in Paris
points out that Palestinians are not just victims, but actors in their own
narrative. In other words, he insists, they, too, bear responsibility for
their circumstances -- not all of this rests on the shoulders of the
occupiers. True enough.
As an apt example, consider the morally and strategically bankrupt
tactic of suicide bombings, carried out from 2001 to 2004 by several
Palestinian factions as a response to Israeli attacks during the
second intifada. That disastrous strategy gave cover to all
manner of Israeli retaliation, including the building of the separation
barrier. (The near disappearance of the suicide attacks has been due far
less to the wall -- after all, it isn't even finished yet -- than to a decision
on the part of all the Palestinian factions to reject the tactic itself.)
So, yes, Palestinians are also "actors" in creating their own
circumstances, but Israel
remains the sole regional nuclear power, the state with one of the strongest
armies in the world, and the occupying force -- and that is the determining
fact in the West Bank. Today, for some
Palestinians living under the 44-year occupation simply remaining on the land
is a kind of moral victory. This summer, I started hearing a new slogan: "Existence is resistance." If you
remain on the land, then the game isn't over. And if you can bring
attention to the occupation, while you remain in place, so much the better.
In June, Alá Shelaldeh, the 13-year-old violinist, brought her
instrument to the wall at Qalandia, once a mere checkpoint separating Ramallah
and Jerusalem, and now essentially an international border
crossing with its mass of concrete, steel bars, and gun turrets.
The transformation of Qalandia -- and its long, cage-like corridors and
multiple seven-foot-high turnstiles through which only the lucky few with
permits may cross to Jerusalem -- is perhaps the most powerful symbol of
Israel's determination not to share the Holy City.
Alá and her fellow musicians in the Al Kamandjati Youth Orchestra came
to play Mozart and Bizet in front of the Israeli soldiers, on the other side of
Qalandia’s steel bars. Their purpose was to confront the occupation
through music, essentially to assert: we're here. The children
and their teachers emerged from their bus, quickly set up their music stands,
and began to play. Within moments, the sound of Mozart’s Symphony No. 6
in F Major filled the terminal.
Palestinians stopped and stared. Smiles broke out. People
came closer, pulling out cell phones and snapping photos, or just stood there,
surrounding the youth orchestra, transfixed by this
musical intifada. The musicians and soldiers were separated by a
long row of blue horizontal bars. As the music played on, a grim barrier
of confinement was momentarily transformed into a space of assertive joy.
"It was," Alá would say later, "the greatest concert of my life."
As the Mozart symphony built -- Allegro, Andante, Minuet, and
the Allegro last movement -- some of the soldiers started to take
notice. By the time the orchestra launched into Georges Bizet’s Dance
Boheme from Carmen #2, several soldiers appeared, looking out through the bars.
For the briefest of moments, it was hard to tell who was on the inside, looking
out, and who was on the outside, looking in.
If existence is resistance, if children can confront their occupiers
with a musicalintifada, then there's still space, in the year of the Arab
Spring, for something unexpected and transformative to happen. After all,
South African apartheid collapsed, and without a bloody revolution. The Berlin Wall fell
quickly, completely, unexpectedly. And with China,
India, Turkey and Brazil
on the rise, the United States,
its power waning, will not be able to remain Israel's protector forever.
Eventually, perhaps, the world will assert the obvious: the status
quo is unacceptable.
For the moment, whatever happens in the coming weeks at the U.N., and
in the West Bank in the aftermath, isn’t it
time for the world’s focus to shift to what is actually happening on the
ground? After all, it's the occupation, stupid.