Horrors of the Occupation Go Way Beyond the Settlements

Every decent citizen, both in Israel and around the world, must cry out against the many horrors of the Israeli occupation- which have little to do with any West Bank construction.

Gideon Levy
Gideon Levy
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Palestinians on their way to work in Israel, at the Tarkoumia checkpoint, June 10, 2013.
Palestinians on their way to work in Israel, at the Tarkoumia checkpoint, June 10, 2013.Credit: Emil Salman
Gideon Levy
Gideon Levy

Another Israeli “Price Tag” attack has been launched: An additional 1,500 settlement housing units have been announced in declared retaliation for the creation of a Palestinian unity government.

The mask was ripped off long ago, and Israel is no longer trying to hide that settlements are no more than a punishment. But they aren’t the real punishment. The real punishment is the continued tyranny. The settlements are a measure of Israeli intentions; they were built to eternalize the status quo and destroy any chances for agreements. But the real punishment is the insufferable injustices of the occupation, which are actually less discussed.

We must stop talking about the settlements. The amount of settlers reached critical mass long ago, making the situation irreversible. Another 1,500 housing units won’t change much. Constructing them only proves that Israel intends to continue its colonialist endeavors, but housing units themselves are not the heart of the issue. The real problem is the totalitarian regime in the West Bank. It is the Palestinians’ biggest problem, as well as that of the Israelis, as their nation has become a false democracy.

While it’s true that without the settlements, the occupation would have ended, as the settlement-free occupation of southern Lebanon did. It’s true that if there were far fewer settlers, as there were in the Gaza Strip, Israel perhaps could have also disengaged from the West Bank. But Gaza proved that disengagement is not sufficient to bring about justice: Gaza has become a prison, and no one even discusses the prisoners’ fate anymore.

Ceasing settlement construction, as it is the largest Zionist endeavor since the creation of Israel, would be a gesture of good faith. But without total evacuation of the settlements (which is completely unrealistic) and the creation of a just government in the West Bank, the essence of the situation will remain unchanged.

Thus the international opposition need not focus on the settlements in the West Bank, rather it should deal with the way in which they are ruled. The international community should focus on the fact that there are two peoples here, one with every right and the other with none aside from the right to be occupied. Stop condemning Israel for each new apartment and caravan. Israel should be condemned and punished for creating insufferable life under occupation, for the fact that a country that claims to be among the enlightened nations continues abusing an entire people, day and night.

Talk about the helpless fishermen in Gaza fired upon by gunships; talk about the children brutally arrested in the middle of the night; talk about the countless detentions without trial, about the families torn between Gaza and the West Bank, between Jerusalem and Ramallah. Talk about the light Israeli finger on the trigger; talk about the discriminatory courts, the daily dispossession, house demolition and destruction of villages; talk about the pasturelands turned into firing zones only to dishearten residents and expel them; talk about the soldiers who shoot out of boredom and the police officers who make arrests just because they can.

Talk about the inherent apartheid in the West Bank, and the terrible chances facing any Palestinian child looking to build a life, or even just visit the beach, even if it’s only a short distance from his home. Talk about the Gazans who cannot export their goods, nor go anywhere – not to study, not to go to the hospital, not to visit family members or work outside their prison, the largest in the world. Talk about the thousands of prisoners, some of them political prisoners, who face inhumane discrimination, as opposed to their Jewish counterparts. Talk about the bureaucracy of occupation, another institutionalized method of abuse. Talk about the checkpoints, and the overwhelming injustices. Talk about the horrors of occupation.

All of these things are completely unrelated to a few hundred more settlement housing units. Every decent citizen, both in Israel and around the world, should cry out against these things. These cries aren’t heard enough.

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