Arnove and Ahmed Shawki
People look back on apartheid South Africa with horror and disgust. But you
don’t have to go to the history books to find out what apartheid is like. You
only need to visit Palestine.
the Oslo peace accords were signed between Israel and the Palestine Liberation
Organization in 1993, the United States has acted as if Palestinians all but had
their own state. But try to visit the land that Palestinians supposedly control,
and you realize what a lie that is.
in the small amount of historic Palestine that is now controlled by the
Palestinian Authority is broken into numerous bantustans. The West Bank alone is
divided into 64 sub-regions, with border points controlled by heavily armed
Israeli security guards.
During our visit, one family outside the Palestinian town of Ramallah, had the
second floor of their home seized by the Israeli army for "security" reasons.
politicians talk about peace, Israeli settlements continue to expand rapidly on
Palestinian land. Settlements have nearly doubled during the Oslo period —
under both Labor and Likud governments, but more rapidly under Labor. There are
now around 200,000 settlers in the West Bank and Gaza and another 200,000 in
During our visit, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon visited a settlement in the Golan
Heights and proclaimed, "Only through developing the Golan, expanding the Jewish
population, expanding the settlements and bringing in new residents … will we
be able to turn the settlement of the Golan to a reality that cannot be
settlement that we drove by, Ariel, has a university with 6,500 students, a
modern sports complex, and high-speed Internet access. "The faculty says it is
holding fast to … a master plan that calls for 20,000 students [at Ariel] by
the year 2020," the Jerusalem Post reports.
Ariel’s lush lawns are kept green with water taken from Palestinian lands.
Meanwhile, nearby Palestinians living nearby face terrible poverty.
also face harassment and routine violence from zealots in the settler movement
who seek to drive even more Palestinians from their land. Olive groves, which
are a staple of the Palestinian economy, are routinely burned down by Israelis.
The army also uproots olive trees as one of its many forms of collective
Medar, a village near Ariel and a dense cluster of other settlements, a local
agricultural center helping Palestinian farmers was ransacked by settlers.
settlers also have a license to kill from the Israeli army. Ahmed Hofash lost
his son Amin last year to a settler who deliberately drove his car off the road
and aimed toward Amin, then aged 7, and his 15-year-old brother. No one from the
IDF came to investigate the murder.
"Nobody cared," says his father.
of Israel’s settlements are connected by Israeli-only bypass roads, modern
highways that cut through Palestinian territory. In contrast, every Palestinian
road is a maze of Israeli "security checkpoints," where Israeli soldiers disrupt
and dominate the lives of every Palestinian.
day during our visit, two Palestinians — a woman giving birth and man having a
hear attack — died while being held at Israeli checkpoints.
Palestinian roads have simply been blocked off by the Israeli army with piles of
concrete. "Hundreds of roads were demolished," explains Tayseer Arouri, a
Physics professor at Bir Zeit University and a board member of the Jerusalem
Legal Aid and Human Rights Center, based in Ramallah.
"People living in the western part of Ramallah, they used to have access
directly to Ramallah in twenty minutes. Now they have to follow a road which
goes five, six times longer, with many check posts. They need minimum two hours
to come from Ramallah, sometimes more."
spring, students at Bir Zeit University in Ramallah found that one their way to
school one day, the access roads had been closed. Students, faculty, and staff
had to walk through two security checkpoints to get to the campus.
the beginning of the second Intifada last fall, Israel has sealed its borders to
Palestinians — and replaced its Palestinian workers with indentured slaves
brought in from Thailand, Singapore, and other poor countries.
Occupied Territories are literally under a state of siege. As a result,
unemployment has skyrocketed, families have been separated, and lives have been
torn apart. In Gaza, unemployment is estimated at 50-70 percent.
Israel has also escalated its campaign of demolishing homes of Palestinians. On
one day during our visit, the Israeli army destroyed fourteen homes in the
Shufat refugee camp in East Jerusalem. Residents were given only a day’s notice
that their homes would be torn down because of "permit" violations.
almost impossible for a Palestinian to get a building permit from Israeli
authorities. Israelis, of course, expand their homes with government
came with bulldozers and just tore them down," says Hassan, telling us about the
demolition of his home and 13 others in Shufat. When Hassan, his family,
neighbors, and anti-demolition activists tried to stop the soldiers, they were
beaten. Journalists trying to cover the demolition, and lawyers trying to stop
it, were brutally pushed aside.
Hassan, who walks on crutches because of a childhood case of polio, now has
difficulty making his way through the rubble that remains of his home. Because
of the demolition, Hassan and his brothers, one of whom has scars on his back
from an Israeli soldier’s rifle, are forced to share a small room with their
mother and her grandchildren. One brother was planning to get married, but now
Hassan’s mother fears, "We think she will not come."
same week, Israeli’s tore town 22 Palestinian homes in Rafah, a southern town in
the Gaza Strip near the Egyptian border. "The only thing I have left is the red
shirt I am wearing," said Mohammed Abu Lideh, whose home was destroyed. "I spent
all my savings to build this house."
even larger demolition during our visit, Israel destroyed the homes of hundreds
of Palestinian shepherds in the South Hebron hills. "The destroyers blocked up
the wells — the source of life for these families that have neither running
water nor electricity," Ha’aretz Magazine reported. "Now hundreds of children
have no roof over their heads in the midsummer sun, and nowhere to go."
Palestinians we met consistently said that their living conditions have dropped
steadily since the PLO signed the Oslo accords with Israel. But everywhere we
went in Palestine, people were clear: They won’t give up their struggle for
their freedom and justice.
day people will look back on the United States’ political, military, and
economic backing of Israel the way they look back on its open support for
apartheid in South Africa. We have to work to make sure that day is soon.
extended version of this report will appear at
www.socialistworker.org. To find out about a solidarity rally for
Palestinians planned in Montreal on September 15, visit: