December 27, 2006

Israeli Plan to Remove Some Roadblocks is Not a Concession.

There have been some interesting recent developments in the Israel-Palestine standoff. It is widely seen that one (Israeli commitment to dismantle some roadblocks) is a welcome concession by Israel and the other (Israeli plans to build a new settlement in the West Bank), an unfortunate violation of international law and American-backed roadmap.
The second is indeed a move utterly contemptuous of the international system. Apart from token criticism (even by the US) nothing will transpire to stop Israel. Israel will in all likelihood go ahead and build the settlement further encroaching into Palestine and dealing a blow to totally valid national aspirations of Palestinians.

The first is more interesting. It is hard to see it as a great concession by Israel. They merely promise to scale back a tiny bit the great injustice they are perpetrating. A concession by definition gives away something legitimately held. If I stole 100 dollars from you, and promise to give back 5, it is by no means a concession. It is a sad commentary on the ingrained injustice of the world system, where might always makes right, that scaling back a few injustices by Israel is hailed as a concession for peace.

It is altogether a different story whether Israel will actually implement its plan to dismantle a few roadblocks (out of more than 500). According to this revealing article by Meron Benvenisti, there is every reason to suppose that this promise of Israel will never be fulfilled. That of course will not be reported widely. Quite conveniently Israel did not announce when it plans to actually dismantle. So it can never be concluded that they failed to meet their promise.

The above article
analyzes the great significance of roadblocks to Israeli ambitions to control every aspect of life in the Occupied territories and if possible drive the Palestine population away. It makes for grim reading.
The hundreds of permanent and mobile roadblocks, the constructed and improvised ones, the cement blocks and the revolving gates, the mounds of earth and the ditches, are all designed for one purpose: to show who has the power to control the lives of the Palestinians. Small groups of young, inexperienced and frightened soldiers serve as the agents of the power that forces millions of people to behave according to arbitrary rules that interrupt the most basic routines of their lives. This domination is implemented for the most part without any need for force, by exploiting the fear of the Palestinians.

The disdain for the Palestinians and the arrogant use of a mentality of submissiveness is reflected not only by the roadblocks themselves but by the checking procedures, which are conducted without any sensitivity to the dignity and needs of the Palestinians, who are expected to wait in line in silence or else be "punished."

Moreover, these roadblocks destroy whatever semblance of a coherent social life that Palestinians have.

The geographical division [caused by roadblocks] has fragmented the Palestinian community into weak and impoverished sub-communities, where centers are disconnected from peripheries, urban centers are eroding and rural areas becoming poor, families are separated, and medical treatment is denied along with access to higher education. This division is imposed in the hopes that the political and social siege will result in demographic distress and perhaps to emigration.

Incidentally, this is another great article by Amira Hass explaining how Israeli policy on Palestinian entry into Israel is breaking up families and creating thousands of new refugees.


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