On August 3, 2003, the Associated Press reported on the progress of the road map. Some of the ‘wanted men’ of Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades were to be packed off to Jericho from Arafat’s compound in Ramallah. It is not always clear what a Palestinian has to do to make himself a ‘wanted man’.
Jaggi Singh reported on a very typical case of a ‘wanted man’, a 19-year old physical education student, in January of 2003. Singh “tried to get an idea of why he might be a wanted man. Again, just a shrug. His mother, and all the relatives, insisted he basically went to school, played soccer, and stayed at home, and had no associations with political groups.
“Saif, a Palestinian activist with the ISM in Nablus, who’s from Askar, put it to me this way: “Every male between 15 to 55 is wanted; [the IOF] don’t need a reason.”
“There was some argument about whether the targeted males started at 15, or were even as young as 12. But there was no argument that if you’re a male and Palestinian, you’ll be wanted by the IOF some time for some reason.
“Everyone was speculating about why the IOF might want Mohammed. There were two main theories: either a case of mistaken identity, or that the IOF want to use him for information on others through the pressure of family separation and forced detention.” (http://www.zmag.org/sustainers/content/2003-01/07singh.cfm)
While the criterion for what makes a Palestinian ‘wanted’ isn’t clear, what is clear is that Israel has rounded up thousands and killed hundreds in its quest for such men. The AP reported presented the surrender of the ‘wanted men’ in Ramallah as part of a fair exchange:
“Under the U.S.-backed “road map” peace plan, Israel has withdrawn from parts of the Gaza Strip and from the West Bank town of Bethlehem. But it is reluctant to pull out of more towns until the Palestinians dismantle militant groups.”
In this ‘fair exchange’, Israel holds up its end of the bargain and expects Palestinians to do the same. Reciprocity is the only way for a peace deal to go forward, after all. Kristen Ess is in Gaza, and has been reporting on the way Israel has fulfilled its end of the bargain since the ‘ceasefire':
“In just the first week (7 July-13 July) of this bilateral ‘cease-fire,’ the IOF committed at least 23 violations. IOF closed the Tufah checkpoint ensuring that Palestinians could not go home, shot into Rafah wounding a 16 and 17 year old, shelled houses in Khan Younis, snatched four people from Jabaliya Refugee Camp (and many more taken to prisons throughout the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip), shot and wounded two PA police near Deir al Belah, opened fire into Rafah again, committed six closures, built two new ‘watch-towers’ or sniper posts, and sealed off roads to Bethlehem with cement and sandbags (by the way, contrary to one what thinks if they know of Israel’s much lauded Gaza-Bethlehem Agreement, the IOF is still inside Bethlehem, pointing their automatic weapons at the Aida Refugee Camp from their sniper post at ‘Rachel’s Tomb’);.
After the week-long period of the aforementioned study, IOF have killed Palestinians in the northern West Bank, taken many without charge to Israeli prisons, continued its tight closure of Hebron, incurred into Nablus and the Jenin area, have been flying over Bethlehem in F-16s, etc. This is just a sample of what Israel means by ‘cease-fire.’
“Hamas and Jihad agreed to a cease-fire. Okay, but have Israeli Occupation Forces ceased firing? No. Has the IOF ceased humiliating Palestinians in checkpoints or keeping them closed altogether? No. Palestinians still largely cannot move from one of their own towns to the next. Has the IOF ceased home demolitions? No. Have they ceased settlement construction? No. Just from looking out the window settlement activity is visible. Have they ceased building the towering apartheid wall in the West Bank and southern Gaza Strip? No.” http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=22&ItemID=3939
To be fair, Israel has removed three checkpoints from the West Bank. Only about 157 others remain (there are impromptu checkpoints set up frequently, so the figure is imprecise). In another ‘concession’, over a month ago the Israeli army wrestled with some settlers to remove them from a hilltop. But Israel has announced plans to build 22 houses in Gaza.
Israel’s parliament has also just passed a law preventing Palestinians who marry Israelis from getting Israeli citizenship. If they have children, those children will be denied citizenship and forced to live outside of Israel. This is Israel’s ‘solution’ to the ‘demographic problem': the ‘problem’ that with current birth rates, Israel’s Jewish majority is shrinking.
It is Israel’s ‘need’ to maintain a Jewish majority that makes any mention of the right of return of Palestinian refugees taboo. But there is no peace that is compatible with abrogating the right of return, nor with fundamentally racist marriage laws designed to counter a so-called ‘demographic problem’.
The road map demands that the Palestinians renounce ‘violence’, but Ess reports an Israeli official telling a Palestinian nonviolent activist, in a moment of candour: “Look, you can forget about nonviolence. You can tell your friends to forget about violence. Forget about the Road Map and forget about Oslo. What Israel wants is the land and we don’t want you on it.” http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=22&ItemID=3961
Renouncing violence has not made the Israeli military authorities particularly nonviolent. Ha’aretz reported on August 1 of soldiers firing rubber bullets and tear gas against a march of Palestinians and international supporters to the apartheid wall, wounding 11 people. The wall, encircling the West Bank, is stealing thousands of hectares of agricultural land, further restricting Palestinians’ freedom of movement, and destroying towns by cutting them off from the rest of the West Bank. (see www.pengon.org for the campaign against the wall). The wall continues to go up, and up, and up, as the road map theatrics continue.
A favourite rhetorical trick used by opponents of Palestinian rights is to ask, aggressively, ‘well what’s your solution?’ If you reply that you want a two state solution, with the Israeli settlements evacuated, Palestine controlling its own borders and resources, or a one-state solution with the right of return for Palestinian refugees, you are promptly told that ‘Israel will never accept this’, and Israel has all the power. But it is precisely that imbalance of power that has to be changed.
It might seem a long way off, but whether it is through economic collapse, international isolation, the efforts of people of conscience in Israel (like the soldiers who refuse to serve in the Occupied Territories), organizing in the United States, or the combination of all these with the refusal of Palestinians to ‘accept’ their own destruction, the situation can– and has to– change. Walls can be torn down-and pieces of the wall have been, however temporarily. Refugees can be returned, and reconciliation can replace racism as a national ideology. Concessions can be wrung from violent, powerful states that can be made to accept things they currently say they will never accept. But the road map isn’t going to get there.