Author A.B. Yehoshua (“Reducing the malignancy of the occupation,” Haaretz, December 31) was right when he attached the word “malignancy” to the occupation. But under cover of innovation, daring and humanitarian considerations, his proposal for a temporary and partial easing of the malignancy conforms to traditional Israeli policy: to split the Palestinian people into various bureaucratic categories, in separate and divorced enclaves, and of course without asking their opinion.
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In order to seem daring, but to propose something that is just what the government of Education Minister Naftali Bennett and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked (both of Habayit Hayehudi) wants, some of the facts Yehoshua cites became distorted. Following are several of the distortions:
* “A binational space.” There is no need to go as far as the poverty-stricken neighborhoods engineered by Israel in East Jerusalem in order to toy with the idea of a “laboratory” for a binational life. It’s true that the Palestinian people have been scattered since being expelled from their homeland in 1948. But they didn’t stop being a nation for that reason, including the 1.5 million Palestinians who are presently Israeli citizens. Israel in its recognized boundaries is a binational space, regardless of its definitions and its discrimination against its Palestinian citizens.
* “The Gaza Strip is completely separated from Israel.” Not true. The two million residents of the Gaza Strip are registered in the Population Registry controlled by Israel. Like the Palestinians in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Like Yehoshua and like me. The identity card issued for every 16-year-old from Gaza requires Israeli approval. It is Israel that decided whether, how many and which of the Palestinians returning from abroad will receive residency status in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. The main currency traded in the Strip is the shekel.
About a quarter of Gazans have family in the West Bank, in occupied East Jerusalem and in Israel itself. All the residents of Gaza have a historical, familial, real estate and emotional connection to the area inside Israel, regardless of what we decide for them.
* “Area A is under Palestinian civil and military rule.” Incorrect. In Area A the Palestinians have civil and policing powers, but not military. When every week our soldiers raid neighborhoods and homes in this area, the Palestinian security forces have to hide on their bases. If they oppose the invading Israel Defense Forces – we will kill them or convict them of terrorism.
* “[It is] the Palestinians living in Area C who confront the Israeli occupation, facing both the army and the settlers.” What are you talking about? The settlers don’t discriminate and they harass everyone, and they’re eager to get their hands on the land in “C,” of Palestinians living everywhere in the West Bank.
* “The number of Palestinians living in Area C is only about 100,000.” Where does this number come from? Bimkom, Planners for Planning Rights, estimated in 2008 that 150,000 Palestinians live in Area C. A mini-census conducted by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in occupied Palestinian territory found that the number is double – 300,000, as of the end of 2013. Some live in communities that are entirely in Area C, others in communities “divided” between C, A and B, which are in any case artificial categories, in contradiction to any planning rationale. What is certain is that about 30,000 Bedouin in Area C would be happy to return to their land in the Negev, from which they were expelled after 1948. Next to the communities of Al-Arakib and Umm al-Hiran, which as we know are prosperous and enjoy the many rights that Israel has bestowed upon them..
* “Residency with basic (social) rights.” The model of course is the residency status of the Palestinians in East Jerusalem, or to be more precise, the Israeli delusions of how good life is for the Palestinians there. If it’s so good, how is it that we have turned about 80 percent of them into poverty-stricken welfare cases? In addition to the inferior socioeconomic situation to which we have brought the Jerusalem Palestinians, their residency status itself is very shaky. It relies on the Entry into Israel regulations, in other words, it relates to such residents as though they chose to move and live in Israel, rather than having been invaded by Israel.
Therefore, it’s a conditional status that Israel can revoke as it pleases, according to criteria that it has determined (proof of “center of life” or “loyalty to the state”). Before 1994 (when the civil authorities were transferred to the Palestinian Authority), Israel could expel residents of the West Bank and Gaza Strip as it desired, and revoke their status. The Oslo Accords abolished that prerogative of the occupier (one of its few positive clauses). In Jerusalem, the Palestinians remained more exposed than ever to the danger of expulsion and revocation of residency. Now Yehoshua wants to add another 100,000 people to them?
* “Such residency would prevent the dispossession of their lands (or make it much more difficult).” What is Yehoshua talking about? Residency – just like citizenship – didn’t protect Palestinians from the theft of their land and expulsion from their homes. Silwan. Isawiyah. Jabal Mukkaber. Sakhnin. Jaffa. Al-Arakib. Are those enough examples?
The distortion makes it easier to create an emotional and intellectual separation from the significance of the facts. The separation is understandable. It’s hard to admit that the Zionist ideology and its product – Israel – have created a thieving, racist, arrogant monster that robs water and land and history, that has blood on its hands under the excuse of security, that for decades has been deliberately planning today’s dangerous Bantustan reality, on both sides of the Green Line. All Yehoshua is doing is toeing the line and suggesting another sub-definition that helps Israeli bureaucracy to subdivide the Palestinian people and separate them from their spaces and their land.