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Occupation magazine - Commentary

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"The Peace Process"
By: Victoria Buch
Occupation Magazine
24 February 2005

Most Israelis around here believe that positive developments towards peace are now taking place.

During the Oslo years, the optimistic Israeli public also thought so. The Israeli government was therefore at leisure to cover a large fraction of the West Bank with settlements and settler roads. Now we have the ensuing stages of this policy in progress: obliteration of the Green Line (`67 border), demolition of Palestinian agriculture and economy, increasingly hermetic locking of Palestinians in reservations behind walls and military checkpoints. A huge scale human Zoo is brought into existence, fed by the international charity. Very few people actively oppose this policy. Why? Because we have a Peace Process in progress, and we are optimistic! The Gaza Disengagement is pursued in exchange for an expected nod from the US to annex chunks (or the whole) of the West Bank. The Israeli government actually said so a few months ago. But people have an overpowering need to believe in positive developments, and do not look very closely at what actually takes place on the ground.

(I personally shall believe in that disengagement from the Gaza Strip only when I see it. An Average Israeli Citizen - an avid aficionado of the Good Intentions of the Government, has never been very eager to press for the Real Thing. And something always happened to prevent that Real Thing from taking place, and always - its the Palestinians` Fault)

On Saturday, a MachsomWatch delegation had an opportunity to observe this Peace Process in Progress in the West Bank. We visited At-Tuwani village in the South Hebron Hills. Palestinian shepherds who live there had to endure years of horrific harassment by nearby Maon settlers, and by the army. Faces of people bear traces of hardship; they reminded me of old photographs of poor Jews in Eastern European ghettos. On that morning, settler women set dogs on the Arab schoolchildren walking to the village elementary school. Luckily, the soldiers present there were of a better kind - they packed the kids into a jeep and drove off under a barrage of settler curses.

But do not think that the Israeli Army is in the habit of protecting Palestinians from settlers` violence. Generally, quite the contrary. The aim of the army in the Occupied Territories is to provide military cover for the settlement enterprise - this Israeli version of the Manifest Destiny. But in At-Tuwani, pressure of the international and Israeli anti-occupation activists, with ensuing publicity, produced a military cover for the schoolchildren.

Also, do not think that attacks of settlers on schoolchildren constitute isolated cases - very much the contrary. The State of Israel built pretty villas and good roads for those settlers, and provided them with electricity and other services. The task of the settlers is to drive out the Palestinians, and the settlers pursue it diligently. The State of Israel pretends helplessness - so beaters of schoolchildren are never apprehended. Moreover the State issued a demolition order on the village school, and put a stop to the road-improvement project of the pot-holed village road. And the State of Israel sent its army to carry out military exercises on the neighboring hills and to otherwise harass the villagers. So that the Palestinians know Who Is The Boss. And that They Are Not Wanted There.

And do not think that it is just Sharon`s policy. Barak`s government pursued exactly the same policy in the South Hebron hills. The Israeli and foreign publics are not aware of the fact that Barak was a large scale settlement builder. People think that he was an Almost-Peace-Maker. And now they think that Sharon is a Peace Maker.

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