So rapid is the pace of systemic change in that indivisible entity known as Palestine/Israel that it almost defies our ability to keep up with it. The deliberate and systematic campaign of driving Palestinians out of the country in 1948 was quickly forgotten, the plight of more than 700,000 refugees becoming an invisible "non-issue." Instead a plucky, European, "socialist" Israel became the darling of even the radical left, and for many years after 1967 Israel’s occupation of the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza also remained a non-issue. Even the mention of the word "occupation," not to mention "Palestinians," would get you labeled an anti-Semite in a wink of the eye, especially given the identity of Palestinians with terrorism in the 1970s and early ’80s. Only with the outbreak of the first Intifada in late 1987 did the situation of the! Palestinians under Israeli rule show upon the radar of public consciousness, in
Still, a growing movement among civil society groups – human rights and political organizations, church and critical Jewish groups, trade unions, intellectuals and even certain political figures, in Israel as well as abroad – succeeded in the past decade or so in raising the Occupation to the status of global issue. A critical mass of descriptions of Israel’s "facts on the ground, combined with the witness of international activists on the ground and a growing body of analyses critical of Israel’s policies and intent, rendered both the term "occupation" and critiques of it valid in public and political discourse, despite the fact that Israel continued to deny the fact of occupation, casting its rule as one of "administration" over a "disputed territory."
The rapid expansion of the facts on the ground, however, continued to overtake language and political analysis. An occupation is defined in international law as "a temporary military situation." While the establishment of more than 200 settlements and outposts in the Occupied Territories, all tied inextricably into Israel proper by a massive network of Israeli-only highways and, ultimately, the Separation Barrier, seemed to indicate that the Occupation was no longer temporary, that it grown into one indivisible system between the Mediterranean and the Jordan River, many Palestinians, Israelis and international observers and decision-makers alike, committed to a two-state solution, were loathe to admit the transformation of the Occupation into a permanent state of apartheid. The implications of so doing were simply too daunting. The transfor! mation of the Occupation into a country-wide system of apartheid meant the end of the Zionist dream of a Jewish state – unless apartheid could somehow be packaged as a two-state solution, a sleight-of-hand to which many liberal Israeli and Jewish peace groups have succumbed. Nevertheless, slowly, painfully (as Jimmy Carter discovered), the realization that we now have a de facto regime of apartheid over all Israel-Palestine – officially sanctioned if the Annapolis Process succeeds – has begun to sink in, although resistance, even among the Israeli peace movement, is still strong.
Yet no sooner have we begun to shift from occupation to apartheid than political realities, defined in large part by an accelerated Israeli campaign of expanding its facts on the ground, have rendered even that conception, radical only a few months ago, completely outmoded. Signs of this came, fittingly enough, from South Africans who knew the apartheid regime there intimately. While experiences of oppression cannot be compared in any objective way and cannot be minimized, a number of prominent South Africans – most of whom were labeled "terrorists," a favorite term employed by colonial regimes to discredit indigenous struggles for freedom – have commented that what is happening to the Palestinians goes beyond even the despicable system they lived under. While black South Africans were deprived of their rights, apartheid’s policy of "separa! te development" did not deny the very existence of black African peoples and nations, as does
Overall, while both peoples suffered extreme economic oppression leading to the impoverishment of their entire populations, the daily repression suffered by Palestinians is on a scale that apparently surpasses that of
Apartheid is nevertheless a useful term. It advances the political discussion in that it helps people to "get it," to understand that we are speaking of a system that has gone beyond occupation in its scale and permanence. Boiled down to its essentials, apartheid comprises two elements: the separation of populations, whether on a racial basis or, in the case of Israel, according to religion or nationality, and the subsequent domination of one privileged people over others, institutionalized into a permanent system, supported by law. Not only do these elements accurately describe the system
Apartheid is linked to occupation in the sense that both are conceived as political situations, as political issues that must be resolved by the parties with the intervention of the international community. Both possess a political dynamic involving grassroots resistance, the mobilizing of public opinion and political forces, appeals to international law, human rights and competing political claims.
is a system,…a network of open holding pens for millions of people who have been categorized as surplus humanity….Palestinians are not the only people in the world who have been so categorized….This discarding of 25 to 60 percent of the population has been the hallmark of the Chicago School [of Economics] crusade….In South Africa, Russia and New Orleans the rich build walls around themselves.
Warehousing is the best, if bleakest, term for what
Not only should the permanent warehousing of an entire people be of concern to the Palestinians and those who support them, it should, as Klein stresses, concern anyone troubled with warehousing as a global phenomenon. In fact, it may constitute an entirely new crime against humanity, one that affects, Klein says, those who have been judged irrevocably superfluous: the urban poor (more than a billion of whom are imprisoned in what Mike David, in his seminal book Planet of Slums, calls global slums), the rural poor, particular minorities, refugees and undocumented immigrants and, most recently, peoples, religions and countries demonized for political purposes as "evil" or "uncivilized." To the extent that what we call
This goes a long way towards explaining why
The disengagement plan is the preservative of the sequence principle. It is the bottle of formaldehyde within which you place the president’s formula [that
Is what you are saying, then, is that you exchanged the strategy of a long-term interim agreement for a strategy of long-term interim situation?
The American term is to park conveniently. The disengagement plan makes it possible for
Warehousing is the most stark of political concepts because it represents the de-politization of repression, the transformation of a political issue of the first degree into a non-issue, a regrettable but unavoidable situation best dealt with through relief, charity and humanitarian programs. It is a dead-end, a "given," for which no remedy is available. This, of course, is not the case. Warehousing is a policy, an economic and political consequence that can be addressed to the degree that a just "structural adjustment" is made to the system, including the possibility of replacing it if it proves recalcitrant. Using the term "warehousing," then, is not meant to name the final stage of repression but, rather, to highlight it so as to better eliminate it. For despite the almost unlimited and unchecked power
The term "warehousing," then, is meant as a warning. We must continue our efforts to end the Israeli Occupation, even if this is meant in a wider sense, of creating a genuine Palestine/Israel, or a wider regional confederation, rather than an apartheid-cum-two-state solution or outright warehousing. Yet looking at Palestine as a microcosm of a broader global reality of warehousing enables us to more effectively identify those elements appearing elsewhere and grasp the model which Israel is developing, all the better to counter it. Regardless, our language and the analysis it generates must not only be honest and unsparing; they must keep pace with political intentions and ever more rapidly developing "facts on the ground."
(Jeff Halper is the head of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD). He can be reached at [email protected].)
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