Israel/West Bank: What Was Said (2 of 3)

General subject:  Land, Settlements, Proposed Solutions

See also: Some Palestinian/Israeli Co-Operative Peace Groups

This post is the second in a series of three posts about things people said to me when I was in Israel and the West Bank. These people were not some kind of sinister “official” people, delegated to pull the wool over my eyes, keep me from seeing things or saying things, etc. Nor was there an avoidance of the situation: on the contrary, people really wanted to talk about it. These people were from many areas, but self-selected, of course. (That is: There are a lot of people from extremes and semi-extremes who would not have talked to me, and certainly not freely). I didn’t feel anyone was lying about his or her feelings, though there was some initial tentativeness about me—where did I stand, did I have preconceptions? Being neither an Israeli, nor Jewish, nor Muslim, nor Christian, nor American, was probably facilitating. As for the cold hard facts, some of them are cold and hard (no argument, everyone agrees), but some are fuzzier in their presentation– you hear different “factual” versions.

The opinions are those of the speakers.

“People” includes:  native-born Israelis; Palestinians living in Israel; West Bank Palestinians; Israelis who originated in other places, such as the U.S.; non-Israeli, non-Jewish, non-Arab people who are in Israel now (e.g. for diplomatic, NGO, or business reasons,); and, via remote means, North Americans not in Israel, Jewish and not, British not in Israel, Jewish and not. To preclude judgment of the comments because of the affiliations of the commentator (“as in, “They always say that, they don’t mean it,”), I’ll wait a week before tagging them by origin. I won’t name individuals, I said I wouldn’t, and it could be dangerous or unpleasant for them. (I.e., they would get attacked, or worse.) Meanwhile, see if you can guess what kind of person said what.

Land issues: West Bank:

“It’s about land.” “The settlements are illegal.” “We were taught they just ran away, but now we’re learning that’s not true. Many were driven out or killed.” “The barriers are to divide up the land, so there can’t be a viable Palestinian state.”  “Before 1948 there were big landowners, many people lived on the land but didn’t formally own it; when the landowners sold, the people continued to live there. So they didn’t have papers. Then those old arrangements stopped being honoured, and the legal apparatus used for kicking people off was that they didn’t have paper ownership…” Me: (thinking): Like The Highland Clearances. (See John Prebble) or Native North American land grabs … no “papers.”

“Papers got forged.” “Some Palestinians own houses and land. But a lot of the land is owned and controlled by the state. So…” “There’s a lot of land deal corruption. Ex-politicians…”

Me: What happens if one of the land cases is lost? “They just kick the families out.”  Me: Out, where? “Out onto the street.”

“East Jerusalem is different. Arabs who live there could never get these building permits, but they had to make their living spaces bigger, because they’re prevented from buying different houses, so the houses get torn down for not having the permits…”  Me: “Like Kafka.” “Yes.”

Protests against expulsions: See Taayush.

Also:Adameer. Accounts of arrests, prisons, prisoner detainment without charges.

Recommended by friend: See new Israeli-director film: about Budrus, Palestinian village where Palestinian inhabitants/Israelis successfully stood off encirclement:

From a Letter from a British Palestinian:

I have read your reasons for accepting it. Although I do not fully agree with you, I respect your cogent arguments for doing so. ..

Whilst you are receiving the Prize, the consequences of Israeli Military order number 1650 recently issued will be felt by thousands of Palestinians being deported from Eastern

Palestine (known currently as the Occupied Palestinian Territories in the West Bank). This Military Order issued by an occupying force is termed ‘Prevention of Infiltration’ entered into effect on the morning of 13 April 2010.

This is only one example of Israel’s repression of Palestinians living in lands occupied by Israel since June 1967 – land regarded as illegally occupied by the international community, including Israel’s staunchest ally, The United States.

As I said above, I fully respect your decision to follow your conscience and accept this Award. As a Palestinian British, I appeal to you to consider the plight of the millions of my fellow Palestinians living under cruel occupation. If you get a chance to do so, it would be an act of humanity to the victims of Israeli Apartheid if you were to use your position of literary authority to alert your Israeli hosts to the need to cease this oppression and give peace a chance.

We must give peace a chance. It is our only chance.

The shape a solution should take:

“Everyone knows what has to be done.” “They know what they have to do, they just don’t want to do it.” “It has to happen soon.” “It should be a two-state solution.”  [Nobody I talked with proposed a one-state solution.]

“There has to be financial compensation for things that have been destroyed, land that’s been stolen.” “They understand that. It’s being talked about.” “There has to be an admission of what was done, and an apology.”

Me: Can anything happen without Hamas having a seat at the table? If Jerry Adams in Northern Ireland, if Nelson Mandela, why not…  “But they want to destroy Israel.” “But yes, maybe Hamas at the table, maybe that’s right…”

“The settlements and outposts have to go. Of course from the settlers there will be riots.” “It will be painful but we’ll have to do it. It’s the only way to save Israel.”

Me: What about the fences? “They’ll go.” Me: After all that work and building? “They’re mostly wire.” Me: You could just turn off the electricity and that would be the end of the sensors. “I hadn’t thought of that.”

“It should be a two-state solution, but with a total-region governing council, like the E.U., to work on common problems.” “We have to get beyond Us and Them and think in terms of We.”

Canadian Government position: Anti-settlement, anti-barrier, more:


Pictures don’t convey the scale of space in relation to the body itself. I was astonished at how close together and intertwined everything in Jerusalem was. Layer upon layer of history/masonry; time and space condensed.  It would be impossible to separate the various religious buildings into districts… Several old synagogues had been destroyed during the Jordanian occupation. The Dome of the Rock was a sign of hope, simply because it was still there: nobody had blown it up.

“Jerusalem should be an international city, open to all religions.”  “With a Palestinian capital building in East Jerusalem.” “It has to be like that.”

Golan Heights (Israel’s continued control of this space impedes a truce with Syria):  “It should be an international or jointly-controlled nature park. The people already there can stay but no new development.” “No military emplacements.” [Note to reader: Military emplacements on the Golan Heights would command a sweeping range of the territory below.]


This was the most contentious issue. Hamas  — though I was told there were three factions, one of them in Damascus – is the elected ruling government there, and because it has not formally declared an acceptance of Israel it is deemed a terrorist organization by many countries. Israel has withdrawn physically, but controls all accesses except one, through Egypt. Truckloads of goods and food move in, but only about a quarter of the amount that used to move. There are tunnels through which more goods move, but Egypt is making an attempt to block them off, and recently gassed some of the workers in one of the tunnels.

“The West Bank had a growth rate of 7% in the past year, but in Gaza things are deteriorating quickly. We call it de-development – the reverse of development.”  “You can get almost anything in Gaza – though things are expensive—it comes in through the tunnels. Weapons too, of course.” “Not many jobs – 79% male unemployment.” “Infrastructure was destroyed in the 2008/9 Gaza invasion.” (“Cast Lead.”) “Fishing is next to useless – the boats aren’t allowed out to where the fish are.” “Not enough health supplies.” ”There’s malnutrition.”  “People are moving away from Hamas, but not towards Fatah — they want something more radical.” “It will tip over into a full-scale humanitarian disaster.” “Gaza [2008/9 invasion] was the turning point.” “Israel is losing the propaganda war because of Gaza.” “Israel was stupid not to participate in the Goldstone Report.” And from Canada: Operation Cast Lead spurs increase in anti-semitic attacks:

Lack of one strong Palestinian leader: Often used as a reason to delay. A friend who is a veteran of these battles writes:

“party beside a whirlpool sounds right. what’s amazing is how they tend to carry on, decade after decade, as if that isn’t the case. hamas, for what it’s worth, seems to me to have a more nuanced or at least contradictory position than outright rejectionism (which is  part of their position). they’ve said they’d accept a two state  solution as an interim measure for, say, 50 years, and then let future generations decide where to go from there.[ ]

there is a palestinian guy in israeli prison named marwan barghouti who brokered  a pa-hamas [pa=Palestinian authority] deal from inside, with a hamas prisoner there, that was  two state and peaceful, and that both sides outside accepted. he has  by far the most cred of any palestinian and the israaelis are keeping  him there probably because, if they ever decide to get serious about  peace, he’s the one who could deliver it. it’s a morass of  contradictory statements (rather than actual contradictions) on all sides. hamas, by the way, got strong support from israel in the late 80s because they thought it would counterbalance the left, secular, plo.  there are really some splendid israelis trying to carry on thru all this.”

More from same friend: “pa- as in palestinian authority which is thegovernment of the west bank- and hamas. so it’s really the old plo and fatah people who still retain control in the west bank while hamas is in control in gaza. barghouti is from the fatah-pa side of  things but worked with hamas people in the prison to sort out the compromise. i find it very interesting that you found no one talking about a one-state solution. one hears about it in political, especially leftwing, circles and among leftish intellectuals like tony judt. it’s become newly fashionable, as it once was long ago, but apparently not on the ground. chomsky, along with avnery and others, opposes it as a kind of talking point for intellectuals and political (including some palestinian) radicals, which really just serves the interest of those who want to sustain the status quo- since it’s not going to get anywhere and gives fodder to those who say the palestinians are hellbent on destroying the jewish state, even if that doesn’t mean killing all its inhabitants. in that way it implies another holocaust without actually saying so.”

Different kinds of boycotts:

BDS is the most sweeping one. (Boycott/Divestment/Sanctions.) There is much talk among various kinds of peace activists and those opposed to Israel’s policies about whether this particular tactic will “work” in Israel, ie. be listened to there, or just cause more defensiveness. Even those who say it may not “work” directly (i.e. be a direct cause of change) say it may nonetheless put pressure on third parties., ie. cause a change of mind. Or at least draw attention to the situation.

J-Street, a US. Jewish org: J-Street takes a position against total BDS, for several reasons but  also because J-street endorses a two-state solution.

See also: Divest This: (Against one-state)

Some advocate more limited kinds of boycotts – endorsing BDS but exempting culture, viz.  Artists for Peace in Québec:  Deceember 22 posting, .

There is also: a long-standing targeted settlement products boycott, from Uri Avnery of Gush Shalom:

Some say one need not sign onto the whole package (i.e. One-State), just do something, anything.

However, there is no doubt that the boycott/protest movement – largely considered, all in all  — is having an effect in the US, and that effect is being felt in Israel: “This has to be taken seriously. It’s gaining ground on American campuses.”

Next, in Post 3: Cultural and environmental.  Plus: Looking forward.


Filed under 1, YOTF Tour Blog

2 responses to “Israel/West Bank: What Was Said (2 of 3)

  1. Pingback: Atwood and Ghosh respond « Sarah Cypher

  2. Thanks for posting the above excerpt. I got hate mail for that post, if you can believe it. I respect and admire you and Mr. Ghosh all the more for how you’ve weathered this particular dust-devil of public opinion(s).

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