Text size
related tags

About eight of the 40 families from Dhaher al-Maleh have left their tiny village and have gone to live on the eastern side of the separation fence. They could no longer bear the Israeli ban on building houses.

Neither could they bear the other restrictions and prohibitions that the fence and its planners have imposed on them: They were forbidden to have relatives and friends visit; forbidden to get ill or have babies at night, when the gate is closed; forbidden to bring large quantities of food home, as big families require; forbidden to link their homes up with the electricity grid; and they were forbidden to build a clinic - restrictions and prohibitions to the point of suffocation.

Dhaher al-Maleh does not appear on Israeli maps. The maps are crowded with the settlements that have been positioned and expanded on and between the northwestern West Bank villages of Barta'a and Umm Reihan. The "Barta'a enclave" is one of the largest pockets created by the fence as it winds its way east of Umm al-Fahm. It contains 18,000 dunams that by any standards of justice, ethics and logic should have provided space for developing Palestinian society. But instead these lands were plundered under cover of security pretexts.

The fence was built some five kilometers from the Green Line, which now anyway exists only for the 5,000 or so Palestinians living in seven communities who are trapped between the line and the fence. As far as the maps and the authorities are concerned, this is all already Israel. The occupation authorities have taken land that was not theirs for the 1,500 settlers already there and the many more they hope will come to live there. An industrial zone is for Israelis only, as is the beautiful scenery. As for the indigenous Palestinians, if they want to stay there, let them suffer.

The Barta'a enclave reflects the entire Palestinian condition, or more correctly, Israeli policy toward the Palestinians and its repercussions. It is a matter of regional planning policy that expropriates vacant lands and restricts Palestinian development, and of the denial of the indigenous people's natural rights: the right of inheritance and cultivation, the right to freedom of movement, the right to work, the right to family life, and the right to housing and education by choice.

This pernicious combination sums up the history of the occupation from 1967 to today. It is the government's guiding policy in East Jerusalem and lies at the foundation of the treatment of Palestinian citizens of Israel. The hands that do the work are different: In one area it's the army, its civil administration and the defense ministry, in the other it's the municipality and the government ministries. Different hands, the same head.

It is from this combination that we deduce Israeli intentions that are usually not pronounced out loud. Instead we hear the old mantra: Preserve the country's Jewish majority. One way of doing this, especially now that the reservoirs of mass Jewish migration have dried up, is to thin out the Palestinian population.

A popular Palestinian response to the Israeli intentions is a high birth rate. This does prevent a thinning out, but in the absence of space for development the result is intolerable overcrowding, poverty, dependence on social welfare and a lack of sources of livelihood.

Guided by an innate impulse and inbuilt knowledge, Israel constantly creates intolerable conditions that drive the Palestinians to leave against their inclinations and plans. They migrate from the forbidden Area C to Area A, and from Qalqilyah, Jenin and Jerusalem to Ramallah. Meanwhile, people from Ramallah and Jerusalem - especially the young, educated and propertied - go abroad.

Expulsion, drop by drop, is happening all the time, even though there are no trucks.