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February 23, 2015

A look at the reality of the Palestine/Israel dispute

Reuel S. Amdur

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On January 28, anthropologist Dr. Jeff Halper, head of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions, spoke at Ottawa's First Unitarian Congregation on the topic "Where are we headed in Israel/Palestine? Imagining the Future." But perhaps as important as what he had to say was who organized and sponsored his tour.

Along with expected supporters such as the National Council on Canada-Arab Relations, Independent Jewish Voices, Canadian Friends of Sabeel, the Canadian Union of Postal Workers, and the United Jewish People’s Order, there were also the United and Anglican churches of Canada and the Canadian Friends Service Committee.  The addition of these weighty groups indicates an important shift in the political landscape in Canada on the Israel-Palestine issue.

Following is his analysis.  Israel exercises different levels of occupation. 

In addition to soldiers, there are other mechanisms of control.  By all of these it has controlled a whole people for 47 years.

Yet, he noted, “Israel sells itself as the only democracy in the Middle East, and an ally of Canada.”  Other oppressive régimes are jealous of Israel’s ability to pull this off.  Of course, Israel does not talk about the Occupation.  It talks about terrorism.

With the increase in expenditures for the military and security in general, Canada sees its social welfare budgets declining.  Israel is involved in much of Canada’s public safety activities. 

It is involved in prison operations and in social control measures in Canada.  Israel packages programs and exports them to Canada and elsewhere.  These things are not seen and not felt, he said.  Israel is also a major arms exporter.

He observed that the Israel-Palestine conflict disrupts the whole Middle East.  The Middle East turmoil will not be resolved till that conflict is resolved.  The Palestinian struggle against neocolonialism pits them against Israel, with backing for Israel from the United States and Canada.  This brave resistance is “an inspiration all over the world.” 

So what of the two-state solution? 

The Palestinian Authority and the Arab states have given this solution their approval, even if it cannot be seen as just.  It would leave Palestine with only a quarter of the territory even though they make up a majority of the population in Israel/Palestine. 

On the part of the Palestinians, this position is extremely generous.  “No other occupied people in the world would do this.”  Yet, the two-state solution is dead.  Successive Israeli governments have undermined it with insertions of settlers/colonists into Palestinian land.

The West Bank is divided and crisscrossed by 28 major highways, many for Israelis only.  They link settlements to places in Israel proper.  They are part of Israel’s West Bank matrix of control, facts on the ground, making a two-state solution completely impossible.  Palestinian territory in the West Bank is divided into 70 tiny islands.  East Jerusalem has been under total Israeli control since 1967.

The Occupation serves as a laboratory for means of control.  Israel exports its expertise. 

The Wall is two times the height of the Berlin Wall, 26 feet high and five times as long.  In spite of the propaganda, it is not a security wall.  The official name is that it is a separation barrier.  It constitutes a land grab around the settlement block, where it has no security function.  It is called a demographic border.  The Wall is lucrative.  Knock-offs exist in Iraq, along the Mexico-U.S. and Canada-US borders.  They are replicated with drones and other monitoring systems. 

Since 1948, Israel has demolished some 120,000 Palestinian houses, some entire villages.  1 8,000 were destroyed in the last Gaza war.  At the same time, Palestinians cannot get building permits.  They got a grand total of 18 last year, among thousands of requests.  Each application costs $5,000, for a virtually certain refusal.  And so it is left for Palestinians to build without a permit and risk demolition.  Permits are handed out by committees on which settlers sit.

He spoke of one family whose house, on their own land, was demolished six times.  His Committee Against House Demolitions kept rebuilding.  Their volunteers include Israelis, Palestinians, and internationals from Christian Peacemakers.

Aside from the physical loss of a home, there are emotional and psychological damages. 

For the husband, there is the fact of not being able to provide a home for his family, diminishing his status.  The wife, and Palestinian women for the most part do not work outside the home, loses her anchor for acting as the homemaker.  Then there are the children, experiencing insecurity.  A daughter in that family went blind after one demolition.  The blindness was psychological and sight eventually returned.  The demolition of the house is “a demolition of the family.”  The trauma can lead to family tensions and family violence.

In reality, today there is just one state, with Israel lording over a Palestinian Bantustan, supported by the Canadian government.  Palestinians suffer under a régime of permanent institutional dominance. 

Given the de facto single state, a just solution consists in giving equal rights for all.  As well as equal individual rights, there is need for collective rights, as in the case in Canada.  And, as international law dictates, there is a right of return for the refugees. 

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