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October 15, 2011

Israel an apartheid regime says Amira Hass

The Canadian Charger

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(Toronto) Amira Hass - the daughter of Holocaust survivors - a reporter and columnist for the Israeli daily newspaper Haaretz says she is the only Israeli Jewish journalist living and working in the occupied Palestinian territories. Now based in the city of Ramallah, she has lived in the West Bank since 1997 and in Gaza for four years before that.

Speaking at the University of Toronto recently and after citing the website, which lists all the companies that profit from the Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands Hass explained that in our global world, the flow of capital, security know-how and arms know no borders and thus the resistance to this illegal occupation shouldn't know any borders either.

She said that although the occupation is immoral and unsustainable, over the last 20 years more Israelis are showing intransigence toward the issue, refusing to listen to others' reasoning, as the Israeli government's position and thus that of its citizenry becomes more entrenched.

Ms. Hass said this is why Palestinians need words from outside. “The world needs to intervene. The Israeli occupation is wrong and dangerous. Only Israeli soldiers demolish water systems like the one in Hebron in the southern West Bank. They claim the system is illegal. Israelis say Palestinians' use of water should be limited. What does this have to do with security?”

This is but a small part of a larger problem of a double standard for Jews and Palestinians, which manifests itself in Jews having superior infrastructure and social services and living under a civilian legal system, while Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza are governed by military decree.

“They've been dispossessed from their land and concentrated in smaller and smaller areas. Land that they've lived on for 40 and 50 years is being declared illegal so they can't be connected to the infrastructure.”

The Palestinians are also denied freedom of movement under the Israeli closure policy. Ms. Hass said they can't leave the area they live in without permits, and permits are seldom granted. The Israeli government says this policy is necessary to combat suicide attacks, but Ms. Hass said the Israeli government implemented this policy in 1991, long before suicide attacks. She said oppressing Palestinians is the true purpose of this policy.

“From 1967 to 1991, Israeli acknowledged the right of Palestinians' freedom of movement because they hoped it would make them forget their national aspirations; and they were cheap labour, which helped the Israeli economy prosper after the recession of the 1960's. Palestinians opened businesses and their lives improved. It was the first time since 1948 that they had relations with other Palestinians and Israeli society...In 1991, Israel realized it was a mistake to have an open border and revoked it. Now, Palestinians have no freedom of movement.”

She added that the Israeli government made exceptions to its restriction of movement in order to entrench its closure policy more solidly into Palestinian life.

“Palestinian VIP's and most of the people who came from Tunisia are given permits so they have freedom of movement. Because Palestinian leaders didn't feel the effects of the policy of closure, it's one of the main reasons why it hasn't been challenged in the last 20 years... Now it's almost too late to reverse it.”

She compared the acquiescence of the Palestinians to their living conditions, to the psychology experiment which shows that a frog thrown into boiling water can jump out and save itself, but if the pot is slowly brought to a boil, the frog doesn't know enough to escape and save itself.

The right to Israeli citizenship was among her numerous examples of a double standard, which she said does in fact make Israel an apartheid regime.

“Being descended from Abraham is good enough credentials to come and live in Israel as citizens with full rights, but somebody born in the area 65 years ago has no right to go back there (and live).”

The Israeli government's treatment of those accused of wrongdoing in the armed struggle between the two peoples is another example of what Ms. Hass calls a double standard.

“Marwan Barghouti has been in jail for 31 years. He's been convicted of killing an Israeli soldier. But the Oslo Agreement of 1993 says that all those who were convicted in the armed struggle against Israel should be released. It was in the agreement, the same as in Northern Ireland... But Israeli right-wingers who killed Palestinian civilians are either released or they can get married and have children (in custody) and they usually get early release. How can this double standard bring us forward to a peace agreement?”

In order to achieve peace, Israelis have to see through their government's colonialist mentality, exemplified by making small concessions to the Palestinians and then telling the west that they're making improvements.

“This is a common struggle of Palestinians and Jews. The only way to break the Israeli policy and separation of the last 20 years is to accept the fact that there are two peoples in this land and without the guiding principle of equality there is no chance for life in this land because the future is the future of one people.”

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M. Elmasry

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