Hard to believe – it is 2018 and I still get emails from people asserting that there is no such thing as the Palestinian people or Palestine. They say the whole existence of the Palestinian people is made up, fake news, and the reason behind it, as someone just wrote to me this week “is an anti-Israel, anti-Jewish strategy. The way this propaganda works is ‘Palestine’ is an ancient land founded, naturally, by ‘Palestinians.’
Israel, it follows, is a modern European creation imposed on ‘Palestine’ and Jewish history is erased in the process. The Romans renamed ancient Israel ‘Palestine’ in an antisemitic attempt to obliterate the ancient Jewish heritage of the land. You, in effect, are participating in a modern attempt to do the same in legitimizing a ‘Palestinian People’ who are a scam.”
So nearly three million people living in Judea and Samaria, two million in Gaza, one-and-a-half million in Israel and several other millions in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and across the globe who call themselves Palestinians simply don’t exist.
The demand that Jewish Zionists make for legitimacy of their self-determination is not legitimate if made by people who have determined that their national identity is Palestinian. It also makes no difference to these people that Palestine is recognized by more than 100 countries or that just about every country in the world supports the two-state solution – even Israel’s best friends.
On September 15, 2005, prime minister Ariel Sharon, certainly not a leftist or a self-hating Jew or a denier of Jewish national rights and identity, speaking before the world at the United Nations General Assembly, said: “I say these things to you because they are the essence of my Jewish consciousness, and of my belief in the eternal and unimpeachable right of the people of Israel to the Land of Israel. However, I say this here also to emphasize the immensity of the pain I feel deep in my heart at the recognition that we have to make concessions for the sake of peace between us and our Palestinian neighbors.
“The right of the Jewish people to the Land of Israel does not mean disregarding the rights of others in the land. The Palestinians will always be our neighbors. We respect them, and have no aspirations to rule over them. They are also entitled to freedom and to a national, sovereign existence in a state of their own.”
Those words are not from Gershon Baskin the leftist, but from the man who spent most of his life fighting against the Palestinians and other Arabs including the ultimate war of Lebanon in 1982 which he believed would put an end to the Palestinian problem.
The occupation is real – very real. Anyone who would take the time to open their eyes to the reality of life for Palestinians in the West Bank, and yes, in Gaza too, will easily see the impossible reality under which they live. It is a reality that no Jew would accept. It is no wonder that while most of the world clearly supports Israel’s right to exist and to defend itself, is at the same time against Israel’s occupation over the Palestinian people. There is no justice under occupation and as Israel is maybe moving toward annexation of parts of the West Bank, Israel’s entire legitimacy will come into question, not only the occupation of the West Bank and its siege on Gaza.
There are in the West Bank already for 50 years two systems of law, two networks of transportation and development, two very different economies, two separate health and welfare systems – all of these separate systems, despite the existence of a Palestinian Authority, are really under the control of Israel. Every Palestinian knows that the real government in the West Bank is the Israeli army and not the PA. Even the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, needs the permission of the Israeli army to move around the West Bank and of course, to travel in and out of the West Bank.
The legal sovereign in the West Bank and Gaza, under international law, and under Israel’s law, is the Israeli army, an occupation army.
A non-democratic reality exists for Palestinians in the occupied territories under Israel’s control which segregates and discriminates against Palestinians. Even without officially placing the Jewish settlers in the West Bank under Israeli law, they already live under Israeli law. In fact, they basically control the government of Israel and certainly the government’s policies regarding the Palestinians.
The IDF is the implementing arm of Israeli government policy in the West Bank regarding the Palestinians. There is no “civil administration.” The Civil Administration is a euphemism for the Israeli military government in the West Bank. The only thing civil about it is that it controls the Palestinian civilian population.
Almost every aspect of life for Palestinians in the West Bank and to a great extent in Gaza as well is under Israel’s control. Palestine’s economy is controlled by the limitations on movement imposed by Israel’s military control.
Water, electricity, land use, planning – every aspect of public life is controlled by Israel. The settlers and right-wing Israelis have created the fiction of the Palestinians’ agreement that the so-called Areas C in the West Bank, the area which under Oslo (a five-year interim agreement) that was placed under full Israeli control until final borders were supposed to be defined in negotiations, is since then legitimately part of the State of Israel.
Area C is occupied territory where all of the settlements are located, and it’s 62% of the West Bank. But most of the land there is privately owned Palestinian land and there was never an agreement by the Palestinians or by the international community that it would be part of Israel.
Occupation is real, very real, and it will never be accepted by any of our neighbors. Perhaps the most graphic and shocking aspect of this unjust reality is the fact that life expectancy in the West Bank for Palestinians is 10 years less than it is for Israelis. These two peoples are living next to each other in a very small geographic area. The discrepancies between the two societies are so blatantly obvious and so blatantly unjust, and so blatantly un-Jewish.
The author is the founder and co-chairman of IPCRI – Israel Palestine Creative Regional Initiatives (www.ipcri.org). His new book In Pursuit of Peace in Israel and Palestine has been published by Vanderbilt University Press.