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From kidnapping to collapse: The beginning of the end?

In the end, the unsustainability of warehousing Palestinians will force the hand of the international community. The Israeli government, so strong it does not know when to stop, will lead us to that moment.

By Jeff Halper

The kidnapping and killing of the three Israeli youths in the West Bank has unleashed a military operation marking the end of the Israeli occupation. The term “occupation” designates a temporary military situation resolvable only through negotiations. If that is were case, then it could be argued that Israel’s occupation over the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza (not to mention the Golan Heights) lasted only a decade, during the dithering rule of Labor.

From 1977, when the Begin/Sharon government announced that “Judea and Samaria” would be considered integral parts of the Land/State of Israel, when it formally annexed East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights and began its campaign of systematically eliminating any two-state solution through massive settlement building, “occupation” gave way to something else. In fact, Israel denied it even had an occupation – that “something else” in Israeli parlance was merely the “administration” of a “disputed” territory.

Israeli army soldiers take part in the search operation for three kidnapped Israeli teenagers, on June 17, 2014 in the West Bank town of Hebron. [File photo by Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Israeli army soldiers take part in the search operation for three kidnapped Israeli teenagers, on June 17, 2014 in the West Bank town of Hebron. [File photo by Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Hence the Fourth Geneva Convention did not apply, Israel had not violated any international laws forbidding Occupying Powers from unilaterally changing the status of Occupied Territories and the Palestinians, defined as Protected People for whose well-being Israel is accountable, were left unprotected. Indeed, after the death of Arafat in 2004, if not before, Israel ushered in yet another variation of occupation: joint Israeli-Palestinian occupation rooted in an American-trained Palestinian Authority militia acting as Israel’s policeman.

And so it is with the killing of the three that we are about to enter yet another new and terrible phase of post-occupation, warehousing, a step beyond apartheid. After their land has been expropriated and 96 percent of the Palestinians confined to dozens of tiny islands on less than 40 percent of the Occupied Territories – i.e., 40 percent of 22 percent of their homeland – after 30,000 of their homes have been demolished and an entire population exposed to impoverishment and, in Gaza, conditions bordering on starvation, after negotiations have ended permanently and settlements have reached their critical, irreversible mass, warehousing is about to begin. The good news is: as violent and oppressive as Israel’s campaign of warehousing is likely to be (though strong international pressure may avert the worst measures), it will lead in short order to the complete collapse of Israeli rule and, if we are ready with an inclusive alternative, will open the way to new possibilities of a just peace not available today.

The term “warehousing” comes out of the world of America’s prisons. The U.S. has 4.4 percent of the world’s population and 25 percent of its prisoners. They are inmates, wards of the state, whose status is fixed and who have, for all purposes, disappeared. No one cares what happens to them (prison reform will not get you elected to Congress), and their rights are respected only in the breach. And when they “riot” – for we use non-political language to describe the doings of these less-than people – the prison guards have every right and duty to suppress them. No negotiations. They are not a “side,” just subjects to be managed, to be “warehoused,” forever if they prove to be recalcitrant.
This expresses precisely the way Israel views the Palestinians. It has never recognized the existence of the Palestinian people or their national rights of self-determination, and even in the brightest days of Oslo only recognized the PLO as a negotiating partner. Israel has never officially declared its acceptance of a two-state solution, certainly not one requiring it to withdraw completely from to the Green Line. Not considering them a genuine and equal “side” with whom to negotiate, it has merely made “generous offers” which they could either take or leave. Indeed, since the days of Ehud Barak Israel has claimed that it has no “partner for peace,” meaning that its policy decisions are made unilaterally.

The two-state solution buried forever under the settlement blocs, Israel is mopping up: the prison cells of Areas A and B have been prepared, and now the prison authorities have to convey to the prisoners the reality and hopelessness of their situation. Submit and you will live; resist and you will die. That is precisely the message of Operation Brother’s Keeper, which was only waiting for a pretext provided by the kidnapping.

Read +972’s full coverage of the kidnappings and their aftermath

Yet the powerless have one effective instrument at their disposal. They can say “no.” The Palestinian Authority comes close to being an occupying power in its own right. Israel’s take-over of Ramallah during its latest “operation” was carried out with the active cooperation of Palestinian security forces, and Palestinians often speak of living under two occupations. Whether it resigns or merely collapses under the weight of its own lack of credibility, it is hard to see how the PA can survive both the humiliation and the formal role of collaborator forced upon it by Israel, which it will be if it stays in power with no meaningful political process.

Palestinian security forces in Bethlehem. (Photo by Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Here is where the collapse comes in – and the final resolution of the conflict. With no PA to perpetuate the fiction of “two sides” engaged in negotiations, Israel will unilaterally annex the main settlement blocs, half the West Bank, but will ultimately be forced to reoccupy the Palestinian cities and Gaza. (Avigdor Liberman, Israel’s foreign minister, has been urging the conquest of Gaza since the kidnappings took place.) Or vice versa, it doesn’t matter. What we will be left with, finally, is open-ended warehousing, the raw, naked imprisonment of an entire people. Israel thinks that’s a good thing. It believes it can imprison a people and get away with it. It can “win.” Such is its faith in the protection afforded by the American Congress and its usefulness as one of the world’s major purveyors of arms and security.

But here is where Israel misreads the political map. If left solely to governments, Israel could certainly prevail, for they merely manage conflicts rather than resolve them. But the Palestinian issue has assumed the proportions of the anti-apartheid struggle. And as in that struggle, the international civil society of political and activist groups, human rights organizations, trade unions, churches, students, intellectuals and an ever-more critical public opinion has grown in strength to the point where governments cannot ignore it. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is not merely a spat between two local groups; it has become a global conflict that disrupts and destabilizes the entire international system, the inflammable Middle East in particular. In the end, the unsustainability of warehousing Palestinians will force the hand of the international community.

When that happens in the not-too-distant future, possibilities for a truly just resolution of the conflict will emerge offering alternatives not available today – the possibility of a single democratic, bi-national state being at the fore. The Israeli government, so strong it does not know when to stop, will lead us to that moment. It will not be a partner in achieving a just peace, however. It will be up to us ultimately, the people, to formulate what a just resolution would be, and push it to fruition. The moment is coming. The question is, will we be ready to seize it?

Jeff Halper is the Director of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions. He can be reached at jeff@icahd.org.

Related:
Analysis: The end of the ‘cheap occupation’ era
Our problem with selective sympathy for young victims
When the canons roar, the Israeli Left remains silent

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    COMMENTS

    1. Shaun

      Jeff, you and you comrades have been talking about the “turning point” and “defining moment” for the past 20+ years.
      Every one of these have come and gone with very little change on the ground.

      Reply to Comment
    2. Ginger Eis

      “The term “warehousing” comes out of the world of America’s prisons. The U.S. has 4.4 percent of the world’s population and 25 percent of its prisoners. They are inmates, wards of the state, whose status is fixed and who have, for all purposes, disappeared. NO ONE CARES WHAT HAPPENS TO THEM (…), and THEIR RIGHTS ARE RESPECTE ONLY IN THE BREACH (…)”. (Emphasis mine).

      You see, mad Professor, you are damn right! And it gets even worse. According to NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc., the total number of death row inmates in the US as of October 1, 2013 is 3,088. Most of them are BLACKS (and Mexicans). According to US researchers led by Prof. Samuel Gross about 4.1 % of those on death row are FALSELY convicted. Almost all of the wrongfully convicted are BLACKS! BUT, the question that mesmerizes healthy minds is this: why aren’t you and other Americans who are here ranting daily against Israel doing anything to fix YOUR OWN country FIRST? In places like Chicago, Black American children swim in their own blood as a result of gang-, gun-, drug- etc. violence! Shouldn’t you be in your own country trying to fix your own country first, instead of obsessing with Israel and Jew and trying to fix us?

      Reply to Comment
      • Philos

        Indeed! Shouldn’t you, Ginger, be in your own country protesting with the Tea Party and shooting stuff in your NRA club rather than here building illegal structures and destroying Palestinian (and Israeli) lives?

        Reply to Comment
    3. Bar

      This is great!! Now, not only do good, decent people get to argue against false and malicious accusations by Israel’s opponents of Nazism, apartheid and Jim Crow, they will have the pleasure of having to argue against a new word: “warehousing.”

      Add it to the list.

      The delusional far left – particularly the Jewish far left – will stop at nothing to continue to stigmatize and delegitimize Israel, even as the rest of the Middle East and the Muslim world (Sudan, Yemen, Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Gaza, just to name a few) demonstrates daily with whom the Israelis are entangled and what a bastion of democracy, positive governance and fairness they have built under the most trying of situations.

      Oh, and Halper, your math is all wrong, unsurprisingly. Jordan sits on 78% of Mandatory Palestine and has a Palestinian majority. Israel, if the Palestinians ever agree to peace (which they have been offered, along with a state, a number of times now in the past 15 years), after giving up the 100% of Gaza and 95% of Judea and Samaria which they have offered the Palestinians in exchange for peace, will be sitting on about 16% of Mandatory Palestine. Arabs will be in control of the remainder of it.

      Reply to Comment
      • Craig Vale

        Israel’s own iteration of lebensraum has been gaining steam for the past decade and those on the right won’t be content until the last Palestinian is forced from their lands to make room for themselves. You can go back to Herzl’s Zionist Manifesto ” Der Judenstat” of 1896 to see where the roots of today’s conflict was born. I’m not opposed to the premise of a Jewish State at all. Especially in light of the Dreyfus Affair that was the impetus for Theodor to publish his work in the first place. I believe had he not died so young this process of statehood would have gone in a far more different ( and peaceful ) direction. The Balfor Declaration set in motion the events we witness today and it betrayed the Arabs who had fought to dissolve the Ottoman Empire.They left the Paris Peace Agreement talk with absolutely nothing to show for theur efforts. They have been screwed for the better part of a century and are still being screwed to this day. This horrible kidnapping and murder of these three kids is put out there by Bibi as proof positive that Israel is the victim. Yet within the past 6-8 weeks prior to this event 6 Palestinian youths were murdered or shot to death by the IDF. Unfortunately for them…they don’t get the press.

        Reply to Comment
    4. Average American

      “Warehousing”. How quaint. It’s not prison, it’s warehousing. Perfect. Israel never recognized Palestinians, it only recognized PLO as a negotiating partner. Great. It’s Jewish AND Democratic but only if there’s a Jewish majority. Israel dances on the meanings of words so that it doesn’t really commit to anything at all. Except to fully commit to its core long term objective, set at Israel’s formation by Zionists and Rothschilds: to take over “The Land Of Israel” for The Jews. Does anyone realize the geographic extent of “The Land Of Israel”? Hmm.

      Reply to Comment
      • IlonJ

        Oh dear. How obvious can you guys be?

        Average American = Craig Vale. You two are one and the same person using different aliases to post identical messages of Israel hatred twice.

        You two are sad low lives. Why don’t you crawl back under the rock from which you crawled out of?

        Reply to Comment
        • Craig Vale

          I have never used an alias as I am not a coward when it comes to claiming what I write. Odd how you avoid addressing the issues of my post and just retaliate with the perfunctory insults while avoiding the opportunity to cogently refute my post. I am however a bit surprised you have not accused me of being an anti-semite, or were you saving that for your next post? In your eyes Israel is incapable of doing anything wrong and all the problems in the ME are laid at the feet of those pesky Palistinians who refuse to acquiesce to Israeli demands for them to pack up and leave.

          Reply to Comment
          • M. Davison

            “In your eyes Israel is incapable of doing anything wrong and all the problems in the ME are laid at the feet of those pesky Palistinians who refuse to acquiesce to Israeli demands for them to pack up and leave.”

            According to the Arab League and OIC, all the problems of the world are caused by “the Jews” and there can never be peace until they are eliminated.

            Those same Arab states expelled 850,000 Jews in a fit of pique because they humiliated themselves by losing the war of aggression they initiated in 1948, creating the “Palestinian refugee problem”.

            Israel absorbed more than 600,000 of those Jewish refugees. Population exchanges were the rule of the day at the time, except for the Arabs.

            “I am however a bit surprised you have not accused me of being an anti-Semite…”

            IF you support self-determination for the Palestinian Arabs but reject the same right for “the Jews”, then you would be an anti-Semite (and a hypocrite). Are you?

            Reply to Comment
          • Craig Vale

            How convenient of you to not mention the decades of purging that happened in the years following the Paris Peace Agreement and the out right betrayal of the Arabs re: Sykes-Picot negotiation. Hundreds of Palestinian villages wiped off the map by the returning diaspora. Oops, but I regress here as you have once again reminded me that like the good ole’ polo…Israel too is infallible.

            Reply to Comment
    5. IlonJ

      Crap.

      Reply to Comment
      • IlonJ

        The word “crap” in my previous post was directed at Craig Vale. He knows that, I am sure but given the way posts are arranged on this site, other people may not be aware of it.

        So I am just setting the record straight.

        Reply to Comment
    6. subhuman

      The Palestinians cannot make peace with Israel simply because the Saudis, Qataris and Iranians will not allow them to. They give billions to Hezbollah, Hamas etc. to buy their place in Heaven after cavorting with Eastern European call girls in London, spending their people’s oil wealth.

      Reply to Comment
    7. jean

      No, it is not up to we the people to decide the future of Palestine. It is up to all of us to support that which the people living there demand.

      Reply to Comment
    8. tomer

      Jean, there is NO palestine future. It never had one and never will. It is a fabrication cooked up by an Ugly Egyptian psychopath in the late 1960s.

      The sooner this fake “fakestinianism” dismantles itself the better it will be for its adherents.

      Reply to Comment
    9. Leo

      This article describes the best scenario for Israel.

      At some point I hoped too that scenario would materialize. That “Goyim” (be it the UN, the nations, who knows what) would save us from our own insanity and madness (or more precisely: the insanity and madness of our government). But this is also wishful thinking unless… there is a clear well organized international movement, which, while defending vigourously the Pals’ rights, consistently keeps away from antisemitism and defends the state of Israel as a legitimate state, in the strict framework of international law. But this seems to be such a remote wish. Pals have other immediate concerns, needs and worries to start pondering some grandiose synthesis like that. And we are too afraid to move beyond our preconceived schemes about what our country and this region should look like.

      Sorry Jeff, I am not even that optimistic nowadays. I do hope, but I do not see even one person able to articulate what this movement should look like.

      True, people like Chomsky and Finkelstein do base their analysis on international law and this is obviously the right thing to do. But even their analysis of what to do seems to be flawed for the same reason: according to them, just like Jeff here, they tend to believe that only an international coalition will bring about change. Which means that Israelis and Pals have no power to bring about any change. Or they can only through international channels, the main (and possibly only real) player being the US.

      So all this presupposes that 1) there is a consensus in the whole world that our war against the Pals is the top priority on their agenda and calls for an immediate resolution (two states); 2) that under the international pressure even the US have (at some point) to change their policy towards the state of Israel.

      This moment may indeed come. But when ? How many more victims ?

      Reply to Comment