Legitimizing Palestinian Bantustans




T

he Occupation has a “new” scheme
to ensure Palestinian rights continue to be negated and violated:
the “Convergence Plan.” Offering the media as much excitement
as the “Disengagement Plan,” it aims to legitimize the
annexation of all territories and resources west of the apartheid
wall, including Jerusalem. Palestinians are to be left under siege
in Bantustans, sealed in from the east and dissected by settler
highways. Meanwhile, the refugees are supposed to vanish from political
discourse. 


The propaganda is hinged on two key themes: the relocation of 68
to 74 settlements and the convergence of Israeli forces and settlers
to some 10 percent of the West Bank. The reality, however, shows
that the plan will lead to a 20 percent increase of settlement capacity
and the systematic imprisonment of Palestinians on their own land.
“New” plans for Jerusalem are based on the ethnic cleansing
of the city, isolating even more Palestinians from their capital,
institutions, and historical and religious centers by building the
apartheid wall around them. 


Under the plan, the Bantustans will allow more Palestinian administrative
responsibility over the Jordan Valley. At the same time it ensures
that Palestinians will have no access to the River Jordan, borders,
and water and agricultural resources along the river. 


In the western West Bank, the wall is integral to the plan. Plans
to move the wall to ghettoize a dozen more Palestinian West Bank
villages in the Bantustans are under way. So are discussions over
the annexation of Na’ale and Nili settlements to grab additional
Palestinian land and further dissect the West Bank. These adjustments
ensure the wall’s path is more effective in grabbing as much
land with as few Palestinians as possible. The international community
dwells on these “modifications” of the wall’s path,
instead of denouncing the fact that Zionism encloses an entire people
behind cement blocks and razor wire. 


A fundamental ramification of this plan is the Judaization of Jerusalem
and the loss of Palestinian metropolitan areas which produce 90
percent of national GDP and are the pillars on which to build a
modern national economy. However, Palestinians will be shut out
from Jerusalem, which currently generates 40 percent of all Palestinian
economic activity and hosts the most important and ancient Palestinian
institutions. The Occupation plans to use the apartheid wall to
isolate even more of the 230,000 Palestinians living in Jerusalem
from their capital. The few Palestinians within the center of the
city will be cut off from the remnants of their shops, factories,
clients, and markets. The tourism industry, constituting a large
part of the area’s economic activity, is to be taken over by
new settler constructions and industries in the new settlement bloc. 


Some 15,000 Palestinian homes have been declared illegal and threatened
with demolition under the Occupation’s racist permit system.
Those still resisting within the city face ongoing and systematic
revocations of “residency rights.” Since 1967, over 60,000
Palestinians have been expelled from their capital. 


In addition to the destruction of the capital, the districts of
Salfit and Qalqiliya will be completely dissected by walls and settlements,
with urban areas unable to sustain significant economic activity.
Remaining Palestinian cities in the north and south of the West
Bank will be barred from expanding in the metropolitan core of the
West Bank. 


Meanwhile, water resources and farming lands that provide livelihoods
to 17 percent of the population, and are central to food sovereignty,
will be stolen from the Jenin district all the way to the south
of Hebron. The apartheid wall will directly affect almost 200 villages,
which will lose access to part or all of their lands. In the northwestern
route, 50 wells have been isolated or destroyed, while 162 wells
along the River Jordan remain unusable. 


This is the price Palestinians pay for the Occupation to “reshape”
its crimes. Behind the “relocation” of settlers from evacuated
settlements to others that are expanding, a net growth of settlement
capacity parallels the settler boom during the Oslo years. Only
8.6 percent (36,322 settlers) of the total settler population in
the West Bank will be relocated while the Occupation plans to build
new industrial zones and housing units for at least 79,646 settlers
in the colonies upon which it will “converge.” The strategy
secures an initial net increase of over 20 percent in settlement
capacity. 








There
is little new in the colonial aspirations of the plan. In 1969 Yigal
Allon proposed a scheme to ensure the “borders” of the
Occupation would reach Jordan while Palestinian residential areas
would be cut out of the calculations of Zionist demography. The
plan was never implemented, but was further developed by the Occupation
in the “negotiations” at Camp David and Taba in 2000.
The Palestinian people and the Arab World have already rejected
these plans, as they are incompatible with Palestinian rights and
international legitimacy. 


The revival of Allon’s vision is grounded in the racist paradigm
of a Jewish state in Palestine. Jewish colonizers are to replace
the indigenous Palestinian population, or at least outnumber them
by large majorities, in order to dominate them. The plan goes hand-in-hand
with the decade-old vision of a new Middle East that prioritizes
economic over military domination. A Bantu-state will be in the
vice of new economic and financial mechanisms of control applied
by the Occupation and backed by the international community. Further
conquest of Palestine will be dressed up as a “solution,”
furthering the path of normalization with the Occupation. Agreement
to the Bantu-state by Arab and Muslim countries could thus secure
for the Israeli economy new markets and fresh investments. 


The international community, for its part, looks at ever-bleaker
economic scenarios of ghettoized Palestinian life. Even if Israeli
and international measures to starve the Palestinian population
were suspended, the poverty rate in the West Bank and Gaza would
reach 51 percent in 3 years. If the current situation persists,
poverty will hit 74 percent. While these prospects are disastrous
for Palestinians, for the world the non-sustainability of the Bantustans
are measured by other criteria. 


How much money are we forced to pay to support the Occupation? When
will people realize that Palestinians are not facing a humanitarian
crisis, but a political attack on their lives? How can we continue
to shun our responsibilities to uphold Palestinian rights and international
law? 


Prime Mininster Olmert’s plan allows all actors to gain a facade
of economic “viability” amid Israeli “concessions.”
Brushing aside the ICJ decision on the illegality of the wall, international
law, and dozens of UN resolutions, the Convergence Plan represents
yet another wave of colonization to be resisted. 


The Occupation might want to “converge” or to “disengage,”
but it is doing so in pursuance of racist and colonial interests
to ensure all that remains for Palestinians are enclaves without
sovereignty. “Disengagement” from Gaza resulted in social
and economic suffocation, continuous shelling and killings of “liberated”
people within their prison walls. It shows that redeployment of
settlers cannot be equated with liberation and justice. Border crossings
with Egypt are not under Palestinian control while the population
has become an easier target for military attacks and policies of
starvation. Finally, 80 percent of Gaza’s population are still
left struggling for the return to their homes destroyed in 1948.
These plans not only target Palestinians within the West Bank and
Gaza, they target the Palestinians in the Diaspora. The establishment
of a Palestinian Bantu-state is to ensure that a liberation movement
is turned into a dispute over borders.  


It is important for people across the world to understand that we
have struggled for generations to live in freedom, dignity, and
selfdetermination, to see our refugees return and our homeland free
from colonialism, oppression, and exploitation. Olmert’s plans
may be hailed as an “historic” offer in some quarters,
but for Palestinians and their supporters they signal the need for
sustained resistance to Israeli apartheid and occupation.


 





Jamal
Juma works with the Palestinian grassroots Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign
(www.stopthewall.org). Drawing is a child’s view of the wall.