File spoon-archives/foucault.archive/foucault_2001/foucault.0108, message 67

Subject: --AMira Hass
Date: Tue, 28 Aug 2001 06:00:59 +0000

Wednesday, December 27, 2000

                      An Intifada in search of a leadership
                                      By Amira Hass

     A late-night urgent phone call from a village in the Salfit region of 
the Palestinian Authority: "My
     nephew has been arrested. It happened a week ago. He is only 15. We do 
not even know where he
     is being held in custody. To whom should we turn?"A phone call from the 
same caller, a few weeks
     earlier, a little after midnight: "Jewish settlers, with the assistance 
of the Israeli army, are in our
     orchards now and are uprooting trees. What can we do? To whom should we 

     Yet another phone call from this caller, a week ago: "The road to our 
village has been obstructed
     since the start of the Intifada. Twice we have cleared away one 
obstruction, so that we could travel
     along this road freely. We got into arguments with the Israeli 
soldiers. We said to them, 'We aren't a
     bunch of animals that you can put in a cage.' 'Yes, you are!' they 
replied. Twice, the Israeli soldiers
     restored the obstruction. The third time we removed the large concrete 
blocks, the mayor of the
     town was with us. 'I'll argue it out with the soldiers,' he said. 
Whether or not he argued with them, a
     week went by and the huge concrete blocks were not brought in again. 
Thank God, now we can
     travel in our cars along this road."

     These three telephone messages indicate a blatant side-effect of the 
second Intifada: The absence
     of the Palestinian Authority as an agency capable of offering support 
to the residents under its
     authority in the face of measures undertaken by the Israel Defense 
Forces (IDF) or as an agency
     capable of initiating activities that could be defined as a civil 

     Palestinians whose loved ones have been arrested are continuing to turn 
to non-government
     organizations (NGOs), Israeli and Palestinian alike, or to seek the 
assistance of lawyers. No
     emergency organization has been set up in the PA to coordinate the 
monitoring of the arrests and
     to offer legal and financial aid to the families of arrested persons.

     The PA has not initiated a thorough investigation of even some of the 
shooting incidents or even
     some of the cases in which Palestinians were killed by IDF personnel. 
Most of the updated and
     more precise information can be obtained from NGOs, especially from the 
Palestinian Center for
     Human Rights, which is based in Gaza.

     The IDF set up hundreds of road obstructions throughout the West Bank 
and the Gaza Strip. Except
     for a small number of cases, the PA's regime, which is the official 
leadership of the Palestinians,
     made no practical attempt to challenge the IDF by sending in 
bulldozers, by filling in ditches that
     Israeli soldiers dug across roads to prevent vehicular traffic from 
using those roadways, or by
     removing obstructions consisting of huge concrete blocks or earth 
ramparts - even in places that
     were not continually patroled by the IDF. Instead, the PA's regime 
focused on issuing press
     releases and publicizing its grievances to world audiences.

     Palestinian experts have sadly stated that only the Palestinian 
ministries of education and health
     acted quickly in order to adapt their operations to the state of 
emergency and in order to serve
     jointly as an agency offering support to the residents of the PA. Local 
resident committees were set
     up in some communities to provide mutual assistance and to provide help 
to needy persons. The
     establishment of these communities was the initiative of either local 
community figures or NGOs.

     During the first few weeks of the present Intifada, veterans of the 
first Intifada and members of
     NGOs, who (and this is no coincidence) belong to the Palestinian left, 
said that this Intifada should
     be an unarmed popular struggle, as was the case with the first 
Intifada. These individuals failed in
     this attempt. There is a need to study the connection between this 
failure and the different nature of
     the Israeli occupation today: Tight, stifling rings of encirclement 
around Palestinian enclaves,
     instead of an occupation army that confronts the populace at every 
corner, on every street and in
     every government agency. There is a need for investigating to what 
extent the failure was due to the
     effectiveness of the splitting up of the PA into separate territories 
and to the effectiveness of the
     severing of the natural ties between various parts of the PA (this 
situation did not exist prior to the
     signing of the Oslo agreement).

     The PA has been so fragmented that the regime cannot function as a 
centralized, unified agency.
     That fact in itself, incidentally, can serve as proof that the PA's 
leadership did not plan this uprising.

     The new character of the Israeli occupation is not the only reason for 
the absence of the PA as a
     supportive agency capable of initiating actions. Another reason is the 
breakdown in interpersonal
     contact between the PA's top leaders and the Palestinian public as a 
whole over the past seven
     years. From the very start of the Oslo process, the Palestinian 
leadership has exhibited a split
     personality. As the leadership of a public still under the control of a 
foreign occupying power, it
     issued declarations left and right in its capacity as the spearhead of 
a national liberation movement.
     However, as a leadership capable of exerting only partial control in 
accordance with permits issued
     by the occupying army operating under the guidance of American, British 
and German espionage
     services, the PA's regime functioned as a body that safeguarded the 
special privileges of its own
     members. In the course of this very brief Intifada, the PA's regime did 
not display sufficient insight -
     or sufficient capacity - for adapting itself to the spirit of rebellion 
that took hold of the Palestinian
     public at large.

     Members of the Fatah movement - the backbone of a regime that, in the 
course of seven years, has
     been unable to improve the living standards of the residents of the PA 
- tried to restore its past
     legitimization as a national liberation movement. However, they 
preferred to do so by focusing on
     the "militarization" of the Intifada - the opening up of safety valves 
and the use of firearms, which
     immediately erased the popular-civic character of this uprising.

     At this point in time, an official leadership, whose presence during 
its nation's most difficult hour was
     simply not felt, must now act decisively: Can it waive its claim to the 
right of return, and, if so, how
     can that decision be implemented practically? Can it agree to the West 
Bank being split down the
     middle by blocs of Jewish settlements, and, if so, how can that 
decision be implemented
     practically? Can it agree to one street in East Jerusalem being 
Palestinian, while the street running
     parallel to it is Israeli, and if so, how can that decision be 
implemented practically?

      © < 
2000 Ha'aretz. All Rights


      It is almost ironic that the Israeli  demand for a renunciation of the 
right  of return comes up at a time
     when a  new flow of Palestinian refugees is  created, and that the 
alleged offer to  evacuate the
     Gaza strip is made while  great efforts are underway to enlarge  the 
existing settlements at the
     expense  of Palestinian homes and lands.

      Irit Katriel Dec 22, 2000

     Another 'peace' production has begun, and again the impression is that 
what is  on the table is an
     end to the occupation, dismantling of "most" settlements,  exchange of 
land for a few settlement
     blocks in the West Bank which will be  annexed to Israel, and a 
peaceful and prosperous
     rest-of-our-life alongside  independent Palestine. We were almost 
there, the story goes. Only
     Temple Mount  was in the way. And now, Barak is reportedly willing to 
give up even that:  "Minister
     Yuli Tamir said Tuesday morning that the Jewish state could give  up 
sovereignty over Al Aqsa
     Mosque compound in occupied Jerusalem in exchange  of the Palestinians 
1948 war refugees
     renouncing their right of return as  stipulated in Resolution 194 of 
the UN General Assembly." (AFP,
     Dec 20).

     Renunciation of the right of return. Meaning: Tamir is selling us that 
if  the Palestinians will
     completely absolve Israel of the robbery of 1948,  Barak will agree to 
return that which was stolen in
     1967. But will he really?  Examining the current course of events makes 
that very hard to believe.

     The Israeli media, forever preoccupied with internal politics, is no 
longer  reporting the crimes
     comitted daily in the West bank and Gaza. But when the  smoke will 
clear, the reality on the ground
     will be very different than it  was three months ago. We will wonder 
how it happened and why we
     didn't know  when it did. Reports from the ground are very scarce, 
since "no Israelis are  allowed in
     [to Gaza] not even Israeli journalists" (NY times, Dec 10). To  the 
West Bank, Israeli journalists can
     go, but they probably don't bother to anymore. Yet, detailed daily 
reports are distrbuted over the
     internet by  Palestinian human rights and observer groups. An 
occasional foreign media  report also
     reveals what is being done by the army. The pattern of events,  even if 
not their full extent, is very
     clear and extremely alarming.

     It is almost ironic that this Israeli demand for a renunciation of the 
right  of return of 1948 refugees
     comes up at a time when a new flow of Palestinian  refugees is created, 
and that the alleged offer to
     evacuate the Gaza strip  (and even enlarge it in the land swap deal) is 
made while great efforts are
     underway to enlarge the existing settlements at the expense of 
Palestinian  homes and lands.

      The most systematic and vicious destruction appears to be taking place 
in the  Gaza strip.
     Residential areas close to settlements and military posts are the  
targets. Khan Yunis refugee camp
     has been shelled and shot at almost every  night for weeks, damaging a 
few houses every time,
     according to the Palestinian  Center for Human Rights (PCHR). The 
residents of the frequently
     shelled  neigborhoods have already evacuated. While this can be sold as 
unproportional  military
     reaction to attacks on the settlers and soldiers, the same cannot be  
said for the bulldozers that daily
     sweep agricultural land, tear down  greenhouses and wells, and demolish 
homes. The general
     pretext for such  measures is the elimination of hiding places for 
stone throwers, shooters or
     bombers. But even this excuse doesn't explain why vegetable fields are  

     The following is from the daily report of PCHR for Dec 12, which I 
selected  at random from the ones
     they have sent:

     Yesterday evening, at about 21:00, the Israeli  occupation forces swept 
more areas of agricultural
     land to the north of a road branching from Salah  El-Din Street (the 
main road between the north and
      south of the Gaza Strip) leading to Gush Qatif  settlement bloc. The 
affected areas are 800 meters
     away from Al-Matahen junction in the middle area of  the Gaza Strip. 
The sweeping lasted until 2:00
     local  time this morning. It included:

     1) A 40-donum area of agricultural land planted with  palms and guavas, 
owned by Salem
     Mohammed Abu Shmas.  In addition, an irrigation network was destroyed.  
2) A 10-donum area of
     agricultural land planted with  vegetables, owned by Jehad Abu Madhi.  
3) A three-donum area of
     agricultural land on which  three greenhouses planted with vegetables 
were  established, owned by
     Mohammed Abu Nahyeh. In  addition, an irrigation network, a well and a 
water  pump were

     A similar paragraph, with different names, appears in each one of their 
dry  and factual lists of
     events. It takes a rare media report to put a human  tragedy behind an 
uprooted olive grove, as in
     this article about the West  Bank village of Hares:

     When Ali Abed Daoud Jaber, 76, awoke the next morning,  he found he was 
ruined. More than 400
     olive trees were  cut down by the Israeli army along the highway 
leading  to three Jewish
     settlements. At least 110 were his. His  entire olive orchard lay 
felled on the stone-strewn ground.

     "Where is God?" the old man screamed, gesturing with his  cane as 
villagers tried to calm him.
     "They cut down trees  my grandfather tended! Trees hundreds of years 
old! I  depend on my trees
     completely.. . . What will I eat now?  What will I drink?"

     "He is become without a brain since he saw this," said  Nasfat Khufash, 
who belongs to a rural
     development committee  in the vicinity. "He was sitting in the middle 
of the road,  crying, this

     (The Atlanta-based "Cox" News Service, Nov 28th).

     Palestinians who have their own land, are relatively independent. In 
times  of strict closure, when the
     wage-working residents of the refugee camps are  unable to work and 
quickly run out of money and
     require food aid, the  villagers can work their land. And if they are 
unable to sell their produce,  they
     can still grow vegetables between the trees, and survive. This is what  
they did during the first
     intifada, and they were generally spared the  starvation suffered in 
the camps. Now, even this is
     denied of them.

     "The olive trees gave us food. Now they are only fit for  the fire," 
said Nawaf Suf. "We believe they
     want to deprive  us of our livelihood, drive us off the land and make 
common  laborers of us, so we
     have to go to the cities and work for  Israelis." (there).

      This is one explanation. Another is that the plan is to take the land 
for the benefit of expansion of the
     nearby settlements. In quiet times,  destruction and expropriation in 
such dimensions would have
     been impossible. But nothing is better than the smoke cloud created by 
the chaos of fighting to
     distract attention from some olive trees and tomato bushes.

     But the evil doesn't end with trees. The following unbelievable story 
was  reported by Phil Reeves in
     The Independent On Dec 7th:

     The residents of El-Kararah, a scattering of Palestinian  smallholdings 
in the Gaza Strip, were
     preparing for bed  when the Israeli armoured bulldozers came to flatten 
their  homes and to drive
     them off the land. [...]

     The bulldozers came at night - three armoured machines crowned with 
machine guns and backed
     by Israeli tanks - and began uprooting their orange and olive orchards, 
transforming them into a
     moonscape of twisted roots, broken tree trunks and rubble.

     The villagers say that, as the bulldozers crashed into their houses, 
they grabbed their children and
     whatever possessions they could carry, and fled on foot, weeping and 
screaming. Several of their
     cattle were crushed to death as the bulldozers flattened the cow sheds.

     The villagers briefly tried to stay on the land by holding a sit-down 
protest, until Israeli soldiers began
     firing bullets at them. They spent the first night, shivering and 
bewildered, huddled in the open. Now
     they live in stark poverty in tents supplied by the Red Cross and the 
Palestinian municipal
     authorities, in a palm grove near their former homes.

      In at least one case, the Palestinians tried to resist, at a heavy 
price in blood. On Dec 13th, PCHR

     PCHR’s field officers reported that this morning, at  approximately 
1:45, a bulldozer, some tanks
     and dozens  of troops of the Israeli occupation forces moved from  
Al-Tuffah roadblock towards the
     refugee camp of Khan  Yunis in order to demolish a number of 
Palestinian  houses, 150 meters
     away from military posts of these  forces. Hundreds of Palestinian 
citizens confronted the  Israeli
     occupation forces, which fired artillery shells  and heavy and medium 
bullets at Palestinian civilians
     and houses. The incident developed into an armed  confrontation in 
which some members of the
     Palestinian  National Security Forces participated. Fighting lasted  
until 8:00 local time this morning.
     The bulldozer of  the Israeli occupation forces was able to reach a 
number  of houses and partially
     demolished them. Artillery shells  also hit other houses.

     Four members of the Palestinian National Security forces were killed 
and 28 Palestinian civilians
     were wounded in this incident, PCHR said.

     But not only Gaza is targetted. Jerusalem area seems to be going 
through similar demographic
     'adjustments'. In Beit Jala and Beit Sahour, Bethlehem and Ramallah, 
which have been under heavy
     fire, thousands are reportedly  displaced. The shelled neighborhoods 
have been evacuated.
     Already on Nov 6th, the Emergency Committee of Beit Sahour reported 
that "An emergency  camp
     has been set up in Beit Sahour in order to provide shelter for families 
  whose homes have been
     destroyed or damaged by the Israeli occupation forces  since the 
beginning of Al-Aqsa Intifada. [...]
     To date, eight homes have  been completely destroyed, over 100 homes 
have been damaged in
     various ways,  and over 130 families have been displaced. Those who 
have not been able to  stay
     with relatives or friends now live in this emergency camp."

     A month later, on Dec 5th, Edward A. Hazboun, President of The 
Bethlehem  Association,
     distributed a letter in which he states "Shepherd's Field and Manger 
Square have become refugee
     quarters for people whose homes have  been destroyed [...] Thousands 
are being made refugees in
     their own towns [...] New refugee camps are sprouting everywhere, from 
shepherd field  near
     Bethlehem to the suburbs of Ramallah and Nablus."


     If Barak is now offering to withdraw from the Gaza strip, why are the  
army's bulldozers working so
     hard to take more land near the settlements?

     This question isn't asked, partly because the mainstream news isn't  
following the events on the
     ground, and mostly because it's elections season, when statements are 
much more important than

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