The Palestinian Land is the Main Axis of Conflict
Confronting the Occupation and Colonialism
Muhsin ABU RAMADAN, 2014
This article is part of the book Take Back the Land ! The Social Function of Land and Housing, Resistance and Alternatives, Passerelle, Ritimo/Aitec/Citego, March 2014.
When the United Nations membership of the State of Israel in 1948, it stipulated that Israel implement the Palestine refugees’ right to return, which the UN General Assembly affirmed in its resolution 1941. That followed the UN GA resolution 181 on the partition of Palestine in 19472, which proposed 56% of Palestine as a Jewish state and 44% as an Arab state within an economic union of Palestine. The establishment of the State of Israel undoubtedly has led to dispersal of the Palestinian people, transferring them to the West Bank and Gaza Strip, part of historic Palestine, in addition to refuge and diaspora, whether the Arab countries and elsewhere. Subsequently, in June in 1967, Israel carried out an attack on the Arab countries that led to the occupation of the rest of the Palestinian territories (the West Bank, which was then administered by the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, and the Gaza Strip, which was under Egyptian administration), as well as parts of Egypt, Syria and Lebanon.
In 1994, Israel permitted the establishment of the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) manage an administrative autonomy, in order to reduce the burden of the occupation under the de jure application of the Fourth Geneva Convention. Today, much of that administrative responsibility rests on the PNA and international donors. Israel has taken advantage of negotiations toward “final status” issues with the PNA as a cover to impose facts on the ground, continuing and expanding settler colony activities, confiscating land, judaizing Jerusalem, establishing a system of enclaves and cantons containing Palestinian populations, and building an annexation wall across the West Bank.
In the first decade of the “Oslo Process,” Israel had already doubled the area of land confiscated for the purposes of Jewish settlement in the West Bank, as well doubled the number of Jewish settlers who inhabit these areas3. Today, these settler colonies number at least 268, with over 670,000 settlers4. Meanwhile, Israel has controlled the Jordan Valley, which area forms about 23% of the West Bank and is the breadbasket for the Palestinians to achieve food security. Israel also has controlled the water aquifers, which form about 80% of water in the West Bank and 86% of Golan Heights water5. As a result, the Palestinian West Bank resident consumes 1/15 the share of water that the Israeli settler who lives in one of the illegal settlements built in the West Bank6.
Israel persists at undermining the idea of an independent Palestine state separating Gaza from the West Bank, and in the building of settler colonies. Thus, Israel has incarcerated Palestinian communities in ghettos in areas that do not exceed 58% of the land occupied in 1967, only 22% of historic Palestine. Israel’s blockade of the Gaza Strip has continued even after implementing its redeployment plan in 2005. Israel, also maintains a brutal occupation force to control the so-called “buffer zone,” a restricted-access area of about 500m2 on the northern and eastern borders of the Gaza Strip. Israel prevents Palestinian fishermen from fishing, except for the specific surface area not exceeding three nautical miles. This forms part of a policy of harassment of the Palestinian farmers and fishermen, which affects the people’s food security.
The conflict on Palestinian land and resources reflects people confronting of expansionist colonial settlement that aims to marginalize and impoverish the Palestinian people. This occupation methodology aims to deepen Palestinians’ dependency on the occupation economy and on external aid, and disables the local dynamics of development and deplete economic viability and vitality needed for the establishment of an independent state on the borders of June in 1967, as upheld by annual UN resolutions.
1 « Palestine -- Progress Report of the United Nations Mediator,” A/RES/194 (III), 11 December 1948.
2 « Future government of Palestine” and “Plan of Partition with Economic Union,” A/RES/181(II) (A+B), 29 November 1947.
3 Craig S. Smith, “Israel Says Settlement Population Has Doubled Since ’93,” The New York Times (31 December 2003), at: www.nytimes.com/2003/12/31/international/middleeast/31MIDE.html
4 As of July 2012, the Israeli interior ministry counted 350,150 Jewish settlers living in the 121 officially recognized settlements in the West Bank, 300,000 Israelis live in 15 settlements in East Jerusalem and over 20,000 live in 32 settlements in the Golan Heights and control 80 of the plateau, as well as 80–86% of the water resources. Israel also maintains over 100 unofficial “outposts.” Foundation for Middle East Peace, “Statistics and Tables,” www.fmep.org/settlement_info; B’Tselem, “Settlements are built on 1.7% of West Bank land and control 41.9%,” 13 May 2002, at:electronicintifada.net/content/settlements-are-built-17-west-bank-land-and-control-419/55.
5Marta Fortunato, “Israel’s control of water in the Occupied Palestinian Territories,” EWASH, 25 September 2012, at: www.ewash.org/en/?view=79YOcy0nNs3Du69tjVnyyumIu1jfxPKNuunzXkRpKQN7Iw2MTDTG.
6 Al Haq, Water for One People Only: Discriminatory Access and “Water Apartheid” in the oPt (Ramallah: Al Haq, 2013), at: www.alhaq.org/publications/Water-For-One-People-Only.pdf; Assemblée Nationale, « La géopolitique de l’eau », (13 December 2011), at: www.semide.net/media_server/files/semide/thematicdirs/news/2012/01/french-parliament-report-accuses-israel-water-apartheid-west-bank/c1112025.pdf; World Bank, “Assessment of Restrictions on Palestinian Water Sector Development” (April 2009), at:siteresources.worldbank.org/INTWESTBANKGAZA/Resources/WaterRestrictionsReport18Apr2009.pdf.
This text is based on the presentation at the Land Forum in Tunis, March 2013, organized by HIC-HLRN.