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Occupation magazine - Life under occupation

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Relaxing The Grip But Not The Hold
Jerry Levin
Hebron, West Bank

From The Inside Looking Out: Report-60

(Hebron, West Bank, Palestine October 3, 2005) In the wake of the
retreat from Gaza the times are being described by a plethora of
Middle East observers (especially in the West) as propitious for
resolving the conflict in Palestine. They cite the cease fire in
place since February, (sporadic violent interruptions
notwithstanding), and the Sharon inspired Gaza pull out as reasons
for optimism - not just wishful thinking - that peace can be
achieved. Not so.

Those reports and commentaries which tend to be the most optimistic
about a reasonable end to the political struggle I have discovered
hardly ever use the word `occupation` in connection with their
coverage of conditions in the West Bank. Those who regularly do call
the occupation spade a spade, on the other hand, tend to be
pessimistic about any end being achieved either sooner or later that
would involve political parity and personal survival worth
celebrating by either side. They (and I am one of them) instead
gloomily foresee a far from reasonable resolution to the
critical `occupation` issue. Always it seems, the existential as
well as legal unacceptability of Israeli squatters on Palestinian
land is obliged by power brokers in governments and the press in the
West to take a back seat to Israeli security: as if Israeli
insecurity did not stem first last and always from the occupation
instead of from some so-called irrational Palestinian intractable
persistence and desire to be both free and independent. It should be
obvious that it is primarily Palestinian occupation-derived
insecurity stemming from an ever shrinking West Bank an extremely
consequential elephant in the room that is prophetically assuring
a continued degree of insecurity for Israelis. Which came first? The
one hundred plus year scheme of territorial dispossession and social
exclusion or the resistance and reprisal to the process? All the
rest in connection with the previous assertion and the preceding
question is commentary.

The primacy of Israeli security as THE issue makes sense so long as
one does not take into account or selectively ignores the West Bank
occupation elephant in the room which is not being cited or
identified often enough in periodicals that count: an occupation
that now exists subtractively on both sides of the `annexation`
wall. Where the press is concerned, the avoidance of citing this
significant reality as often at least as the citing of Palestinian
terrorism takes place more regularly in the West than elsewhere in
the world. Reporting on murderous attacks on noncombatants, of
course, is reasonable, objective and necessary. But to propound by
omission the notion that the only negative issue worthy of
repetition is attacks on noncombatants is to skew the basis on which
people are led to understand the situation and, of course, take
sides. As a result, it seems to me, when facts like the occupation
elephant in the room are consistently omitted, obscured, and/or
obfuscated, diversionary demonizing is able to more easily thrive in
their place. Cases in point are those less carefully edited
publications that tend to allow attacks on Israeli soldiers and
police to be labeled terrorism, when in fact attacks on armed
occupying components, according to internationally accepted
definition standards, are not terrorism although they may certainly
be terrifying. Guerilla warfare they are; terrorism they are not.

I don`t get to read every piece by the NY Times` Thomas Friedman,
because when I`m in Hebron the International Herald Tribune is not a
paper I can readily find at H1 news stands. But I did catch a tongue-
in-cheek piece that ran recently entitled` Rooting for Bibi.` It was
vintage irony and condescension that avoided the occupation elephant
in the room. The West Bank`s `occupation` context on either side of
the `annexation wall` was never mentioned in a discussion of
conditions needed for a `final settlement with the Palestinians.`
Instead it focused on Gaza`s `ministate` potential.

Get used to the `ministate` concept as an acceptable Israeli
establishment vision for the region: as in `one state ministate
solution` instead of the more familiar concept of a two state
solution: Israel being the state and Gaza being the ministate In
this contextual shell game attempts already are being made to
persuade you that less is more. So get used to it. [See From The
Inside Looking Out report #56, September 2, 2005 for an earlier
discussion of ``Gaza is Palestine.`].The effect of such unilateral
downsizing may well be as consequential in its impact on the
Palestinians` quest for territorial restitution as when President
Bush started calling the largest settlements `population centers`
which changed the issue of whether or not they should be there in
the first place to whether or not they should be expanded. In both
cases, as is well known, a series of Israeli Prime Ministers have
been quite effective in giving the bird to the objections of a
succession of U. S. administrations to both the former and/or latter
settlement infestation practices. They have in fact been by and
large successful in perpetuating the myth that the issue is not the
occupation elephant in the room while the recalcitrant Palestinian
resistance (whether violent or nonviolent) is. As we still say down
home, `You can`t win for losing.`

Also in his column, Timesman Friedman removing his tongue from his
cheek, hoped that Ariel Sharon will become `free` to `form a new
political party with other `center-right and center-left figures
that can [make] a final settlement with the Palestinians.` Note:
Israel`s current unilateral take-it-or-leave-it approach to
finessing issues is no longer spoken of as a `peace process` but
instead as a progression of strategic actions in pursuit of a `final
settlement` or `final status agreement` that will set forth just how
much of the West Bank will be folded into Israel and how much will
remain under occupation for an indeterminate length of time. The
challenge for the U. S. in aiding an abetting this process is how to
do it without looking egregiously one sided.

Those in government and the press who profess to be in favor of
balanced equitable solutions without coming close to using the
word `occupation` as in an `end the.` in their public discourse
will, you can be sure, promote a realpolitic resolution that has
mostly to do with Israel giving back as little as possible of what
they have already taken in the West Bank while actually continuing
to enlarge what they already have. That, of course, is what center-
right Sharon`s consistently articulated occupation policy is all
about. On the center-left Sharon`s `good friend` in the current
national unity coalition is Shimon Peres. He enlisted in Sharon`s
cause because with respect to the dimensions of the occupation
Sharon has been able to achieve what Peres and his party never could
while it was in power. For years and years the main difference
between the Labor Party establishment and the Likud party
establishment has been that Labor has always been willing to get on
with some kind of `piece` process deliberations that would give the
Palestinians precisely what they don`t want, while the Likud
position has always been, `Why bother.`

One evening at just about this time of year when I was obliged to
spend some time as a very unhappy unwilling guest of the Hizballah
in Lebanon, at a time -- doctors determined later - that my caloric
intake was only about 400 calories a day, I heard the clattering
jiggle of the latch in the door to the room in which I was chained.
That was a warning to me to be sure my blindfold was in place. Then
I heard the door which was about 12 feet away being opened; but this
time I didn`t hear the usual footsteps of someone approaching.
Instead I felt myself being pelted several times by some small soft
objects striking against me and heard the plop of others hitting the
floor around my pallet. Then the door slammed shut. Lifting my
blindfold I found about twenty cubes of raw red meat scattered
about. My first reaction was distressed helplessness. `These guys
are treating me like some animal in a cage at feeding time,` I
silently grumbled. But then quite quickly I recollected that I
hadn`t seen so much potentially edible meat in one place for about
six months. So exuberantly chortling to myself, `Steak Tartare!` I
proceeded to gather in the cubes, wipe them off as meticulously as I
could with the tail of my tee shirt and then one-by-one-by-one
happily chew my way very slowly -through the collection. The
elation naturally didn`t last long especially since it never
happened again and the dreary existence of being under occupation
didn`t change.

In the West Bank and in particularly the area that these days I know
best Hebron`s Old City it`s Steak Tartare time. The Israeli
military have given the Palestinian Authority a green light to
continue improvements to Upper Shalaileh street begun the middle of
last month [See From The Inside Looking Out report #59, September
21, 2005 `What Will They Take Away Next?]. Four days in advance of
Ramadan the road blocks that a week earlier had been moved a quarter
of a mile down from Bab iZaweyya to the border between areas H1 and
H2 were moved aside and all kinds of road repairing equipment
rumbled through and began blacktopping the street clear down to the
Beit Romano check point another quarter of a mile further south.
Then they continued resurfacing the plaza between the check point
through to the vaulted entrance to the Old City. (H1 is the area
dominated by Israel but to which security matters were recently
returned to the Palestinian Authority and H2 is the area under
complete Israeli Military Control: the one in which the four small
arch nationalist arch orthodox Jewish settlements are located)

Now many many more people than usual on their way to the Ibrahimi
Mosque -- are passing into the Old City. More shops are now open for
business in the Old City than at any time since before the second
uprising began, certainly since I began coming here regularly in
2001. Whether they can stay open after Ramadan will depend on
whether or not people stop coming. Nevertheless there is a steak
tartar feeling here these days. However, it does not seem to last
much longer than the realization that in reality the Palestinian
Authority has been given a green light by the Israelis to throw
their people not much more than a bone. Just as my euphoria over
having meat to eat for a change did not last long because my
personal `occupation` had not ended, the excitement in connection
with the clean up fix up campaign in connection with the Old City is
bound to wear off. It will happen when it is realized that too many
in the West are still pretending there is no occupation elephant in
the room in and around the Old City, and that black topping Upper
Shalaileh Street for a half mile can hardly be called peace.

(To Be Continued)

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This is the sixtieth in a series of micro-reports,
commentaries, and or analyses that I am sending routinely from the
Occupied Territories and other areas in the Middle East. If the
information or ideas seem helpful, please feel free to forward them
to others. It would be a privilege to add their names to this
mailing list, if so requested. I can be reached at: As always I will be grateful for any feedback.
Also my more recent experiences in the Middle East have been
collected in a new book, `West Bank Diary.` If you are interested in
obtaining a copy, please contact Hope Publishing House, Pasadena, CA
at 1-800-326-2671 or via e-mail at:

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