[2] ICAHD: 48 hour ultimatum

By Jeff Halper <icahd@zahav.net.il> Oct 9, 2000

It doesn't happen often that one stands in a truly historic
moment, a pivotal time in which things as they were will never be
the same again. I felt that watching in 2000 the last act of 1989
-- the Yugoslavian people storm the stronghold of Milosevic, the
Parliament building -- and I feel that tonight, October 8th, as
we wait for Barak's 48 hour ultimatum to expire. Its surrealistic
sitting at home in quiet West Jerusalem; we hear on the news of
street battles raging between the Palestinian neighborhood of
Shuafat and the north Jerusalem settlement of Pisgat Ze'ev, with
the army providing armed support for the Pisgat Ze'ev rioters.
But its Yom Kippur night, so no TV; we have to rely on CNN or BBC
to provide coverage of what is happening a mile or two away. We
are also receiving reports of attacks of mobs of Israeli Jews
from Upper Nazareth on the Palestinian neighborhoods of Nazareth
proper -- with the police intervening in the side of the Jews
(one dead so far), as well as attacks on Arab villages (like Kifl
Harith, Dir Istiya, Salfit, Bidiya and other villages and near
Ariel and al-Azariya near Ma'aleh Adumim) by settlers. What makes
attacks by settlers especially deadly is that they occur in Area
C of the West Bank, where the settlers have been heavily armed by
the army (for their "protection"), where the Palestinians are
completely unarmed and have no recourse to aid from the
Palestinian Authority, and where the army wades in on the side of
the settlers.
I have the feeling that whatever happens tomorrow night
(Wednesday) or the next day -- whether Israel opens an all-out
assault on the Palestinians in the Occupied Territories or
whether international pressure forestalls it --all the old
frameworks, ideologies and relationships have been demolished.
Both the Oslo peace process and the myth of a state that is both
Jewish AND democratic are gone. I don't know what's going to
replace them, and the struggle and bloodshed is far from over,
but the old frameworks are shattered and can never be put
together again.
Although I fear for the loss of life looming before us, I take
hope in that the uprising on both sides of the "Green Line" will
in the end give birth to new possibilities for a just and viable
peace between Israel and the emerging Palestinian State, as well
as a new overall post-Zionist framework -- perhaps the eventual
emergence of a bi-national state in all of Palestine/Israel. Many
forces played a role in the sparking the uprising: religious
sentiments aroused by Sharon's provocation on the Temple
Mount/Haram, the feeling that only a Lebanon-style armed
resistance will lead to true independence, the Johnny-come-lately
entry of the Palestinian Authority, the pressures exerted on
Arafat to accept an imposed settlement before the end of
Clinton's term of office, overwhelming feelings of frustration,
anger, deprivation and humiliation directed at the suffocating
Israeli Occupation. The great underlying force, however, was and
is, in my opinion, the popular rejection by the Palestinian
"Street" of the Oslo process, and in particular the Camp David
"solution" that would have led to a bantustan-type state
truncated with large Israeli settlements, disconnected from
Jerusalem and without meaningful sovereignty.
Some of the same forces prompted the popular uprising of
Palestinian citizens of Israel ("Israeli Arabs," as they are
called, their very Palestinian identity denied them in the
Israeli civil framework). While liberal commentators ascribe the
protests that turned violent after lethal police intervention as
due to "frustrations" generated by long-standing economic and
social "deprivation," the fact is that despite their Israeli
citizenship, Palestinians in Israel live under a kind of
occupation. The vast majority of their lands have been taken for
Jewish kibbutzim, towns, cities, "outposts" and even parks and
forests. Because 92% of the land in Israel is reserved by law
exclusively for Jewish use, Israeli-Palestinians live in crowded
conditions without adequate infrastructures, some in dozens of
"unrecognized villages" receiving no urban services whatsoever.
They constitute the high majority of the unemployed, suffer from
sub-standard education and, as "non-Jews," are excluded from
virtually all work places that offer some kind of upward
mobility. And they have been effectively locked out of Israeli
society. The Israeli flag and national anthem contain only Jewish
symbols; official Israel policy is to "Judaize" parts of the
country with heavy Arab populations; and in a poll taken after
the confrontations of the past week 74% of Jewish Israelis
consider Israeli Arabs as "traitors" -- a figure reaching way
beyond the usual "right-wing" sectors of society.
I fear much greater levels of violence in the coming weeks and
months. Israeli Jews have never allowed themselves to even
consider alternatives to an exclusively Jewish state, including
large West Bank settlement and a Jerusalem under effective
Israeli sovereignty. As Barak's ultimatum indicates, and the
widening pogroms against Palestinians both within Israel and in
the Occupied Territories portend, Israeli Jews are liable to
react like the Serbs when their reality changes abruptly. I fear
a resurgence of an Israeli Jewish tribalism that will lash out
violently at any attempt to tamper with the status quo. This
explains why Israel's response to the uprising been so ferocious.
Why has it employed much greater firepower on a largely unarmed
(or lightly armed) civilian population -- helicopter gunships,
tanks, anti-tank missiles, high-velocity arms, laser projectiles,
snipers, an especially damaging form of tear gas and more -- than
it did during the Intifada?
The fact that the Palestinians had greater firepower themselves
and had clear targets (Netzarim settlement in Gaza, Joseph's Tomb
in Nablus and many others) explains this to a certain degree. But
a deeper answer has to do more with asserting control than
putting down an uprising. The Intifada demonstrated that outright
occupation (or "administration" in Israeli terms) was untenable,
but it did not actually threaten that control. The current
uprising constitutes a much more serious threat. It rejects
control completely and insists on genuine sovereignty and
viability. As such it challenges Israeli domination (or, as Barak
would say, Israeli "security"), and therefore has to be put down
decisively. Already in June the Israeli Chief of Staff, Shaul
Mofaz, was publicly threatening the use of tanks and assault
helicopters against Palestinians if they dared an uprising, or
unilaterally declared a state. Demands that Arafat end the
fighting and "return to the negotiating table" thus have less to
do with putting down the violence (which Israel can do handily)
and more with reasserting the Oslo framework of control
The events of the past ten days have irrevocably altered the
status quo. It falls to Israeli intellectuals to help formulate
alternatives to traditional Zionism, occupation and domination so
as to offer alternatives to the Israeli Jewish public. As an
Israeli I do not fear alternatives such as a bi-national state,
something that will permit everyone to live wherever he or she
wants in the entire Land of Israel/Palestine. Israeli society,
culture and economy are strong enough to survive and even thrive
as an integral part of a larger political entity. One of Israel's
visionaries, Aryeh Lova Eliav, even gave a name to this promising
new entity: ISFALUR (Israel-Syria-Falastin-Arabia-Lebanon-
URdan/Jordan). We have a long way to go in the process of
paradigm-change, political negotiations, the construction of
interim political frameworks and reconciliation. Violence will
only delay this necessary process and make it all that more
difficult. In these harrowing hours before Barak's ultimatum
expires, as Oslo lays in rubble and new negotiating frameworks
have still to emerge, I allow myself to be cautiously optimistic.

(Jeff Halper teaches anthropology at Ben Gurion University in
Israel. He is the Coordinator of the Israeli Committee Against
House Demolitions (ICAHD) and is the editor of the critical