There’s Occupation and then there is Occupation. One is the 99 percent demanding equity and dignity, holding out new hope and possibilities for a more just, fair and compasionate society.
The other is the Israeli occupation of Palestine, 45 years this week. 1967 changed everything. Israel defied UN Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338 which called for withdrawing from the West Bank, Gaza (and the Golan) on the basis of the “inadmissibility of land taken by force.” Israel did not withdraw and simply ignored the Geneva Conventions regarding the treatment of people and lands being occupied. Some critics see this as the continuation of the 1940s pattern of dispossession and suppression of the indigenous Palestinian people, the Nakba (catastrophe), extended to the Occupied West Bank and Gaza.
To understand the full scope of the brutality of occupation is to get a glance at the human face of “Occupation.” Israeli occupation of Palestinians has impacted every aspect of their lives — what Jeff Halper (Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions) calls a “matrix of control.” Using a prison model, the area of the prison may be immense, but the space needed for the prisoners’ cells and the prison officials in control of inmates is relatively miniscule. Following that analogy, Israel has through 45 years used a series of mechanisms of control over the Palestinian people. Some target individuals, others form collective punishment. Closure of universities for a year; month-long, 23-hour curfews on entire villages; thousands of Palestinians killed and wounded (B’Tselem); deportations; indefinite detention without charges: attempts at creating alternative leadership have made up the history of these 45 years. Checkpoints, road blocks, permit systems for practically every kind of movement and, of course now the Wall, are among the more visible.
True, soon after June 1967, one could move more freely. A friend and I rented a car to take her soon-to-be sister-in law on a last fling before her wedding. We traveled from Kalandia refugee camp, West Bank, to Nazareth and Galilee where we enjoyed a picnic and a swim. A few checkpoints, but it was a decent human experience overall. My point: as the decades of occupation move on, the measures of control are a) harsher and b) multiplied and c) intensified, with 24,813 Palestinian homes demolished from 1967 to 2010. The Wall has effectively closed the circle of Jeff Halper’s analogy with a prison.
Bethlehem town is de facto, not virtual, a prison as is Qalqiya as is Bil’in, as is ... as will soon be Al Walajeh, Beit Jala and other Palestinian villages.
More disturbing is the 1995 “Center of Life” policy applied to Palestinians living in Jerusalem. Its aim is to revoke Jerusalem residency for Palesinians who can not prove they continuously lived and worked in Jerusalem for the past seven years. An Israeli member of HaMoked (Center for the Defence of the Individual) took me to the home of a family under scrutiny. The Palestinian mother described the unannounced visit of a Municpal worker. He went through their modest home, bedroom, checked the bed, closet and drawers for clothing and other articles that would substantiate her claim that her husband indeed lived there. I was shocked, embarrassed, and felt her humiliation at such intrusive treatment.
We must not forget that the Occupation of Palestine is the longest in modern history. In the face of statements by high Israeli officials such as “making their lives so miserable that they will leave voluntarily”or, “creating conditions which would attract voluntary migration” or, “mass expulsions among Arabs in the territories,” can there be any doubt that Israel intends to make Occupation permanent? The Silent Transfer continues. Enough!
Sister Miriam Ward lives in Burlington.MORE IN Letters
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