Gaza, Bil’in and the West Bank: Who Profits?

{Photos not included.  Photos are in the Photo Album "Bil’in".]

 Gaza, Bil’in and the West Bank:  Obama, Have a Look….


Regina Birchem

June 24, 2009


A prison. 

Air, land and water access blocked. 

A strip of land with the most densely populated communities in the world. 

December 27 – January 18 bombed day and night by Israel with USA-made  F-16s and Apache helicopters.


“…heartbreaking, infuriating, and embarrassing” were the words of former USA President Carter on visiting Gaza June 17.  Five months after the destruction, he writes, “not a sack of cement, not a pane of glass, or a board of lumber has been approved by Israel” for passage to Gaza.


On 7 March 2009 I managed to enter Gaza through the Rafah, Egypt, crossing with the international delegation organized by Code Pink Women for Peace.  I went “to have a look”, to show solidarity, and to protest the cruel isolation of 1.5 million Gazan people. 


One cannot just leave a Gaza and forget.  International delegations to the border, most denied entrance, are on-going.


The week of Obama’s speech in Cairo on June 4, I arrived in Tel Aviv to join a group of about 40 to enter Gaza through the Israeli/Gaza Erez border crossing.  After three attempts to enter at Erez it was clear that entry to Gaza from Israel was not going to happen.


No time was lost.  We went to Jerusalem, Haifa, the West Bank, Galilee.  We witnessed that the West Bank is becoming an open air prison with more than 600 checkpoints and  physical barriers,  with a variety of mechanisms for prohibiting movement, and many military control points. 


The Israeli Coalition of Women for Peace (a feminist organization of Jewish and Palestinian women of which WILPF-Israel is a member) arranged that we would “have a look” at the shockingly unsustainable new settlements on Palestinian land, at the separation Wall and separate roads for Palestinians and settlers, to see the remnants of villages from the 1948 Nakba, the appropriation of water resources, destitute refugee camps, active destruction of Palestinian historic cultural sites, house evictions and demolitions.


We went to Bil’in, a rural Palestinian village of about 1700 population for the 225th weekly non-violent demonstration and protest against the Wall and against settlements appropriating 60% of their land, separating the people from the olive trees, their history and future, their means of livelihood.  The village is seven kilometers west of Ramallah and near what is called the Green Line (1947 Armistice), a desirable place for Israeli settlements, all illegal according to the Geneva Conventions.


The unarmed demonstrators – villagers, Jewish, Palestinian and international activists – confronted the line of soldiers guarding the fence and were met with tear gas, rubber bullets, stun weapons and similar devices. [Official webs site: www.bilin-ffj.org]


Bil’in is not atypical – the struggle to exist is going on throughout Palestine. Villages such as Bil’in are raided at night, arrests and kidnapping are common, and many lives are  lost in demonstrating against the Wall and land confiscation.


Palestinian, Jewish and international activists struggle side by side against the injustices.  The colonialist, unjust, unsustainable, militaristic policies do not bring peace, security and an ecological/environmentally sound future for anyone — Palestinian or Israeli.


Who Profits?

There are now more than 120 settlements on Palestinian land officially recognized by Israel though illegal by international law. Between 80 and 100 more are dubbed ‘illegal’ by Israeli officials.  More than half a million Israelis now live in these settlements heavily subsidized by the Israeli government through funds from the United States, other donor countries and individuals.


There are complex cultural, historical aspects of the occupation and the apartheid Wall.  One aspect is financial.  Who is profiting by the on-going occupation, curtailing of human rights, and expansion of settlements and land confiscation?


The Coalition of Women for Peace has a research project intended to expose companies and corporations involved in the occupation industries. The project “Who Profits” [www.whoprofits.org]  establishes a data base that focuses on three areas:  the settlement industry; economic exploitation of Palestinian resources, markets, and labor; and control of the population involved in the Wall, through checkpoint regimes, supplying equipment, knowhow and services for repression of the occupied population.


Two companies under contract to expand the settlement Mahityahu-East on Bil’in land are Green Mount Inc. and Green Park International based in Canada. At the time of this writing, the companies were taken before the Quebec Superior Court to seek an immediate order from the Canadian court to end actions defined as illegal by the Fourth Geneva Convention.


Have a look, Obama….


President Obama, Hilary Clinton and their advisors should go to Gaza and the many Bil’in villages and see how tenuous the reality of Israeli ‘efforts’ at a peace settlement are.  Maybe they, as many of us who went to listen and ‘to have a look’, will find it  “heartbreaking, infuriating and embarrassing”.













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