No sorrow for settlers

If anything was historic about Israel's well choreographed pull out from the Gaza Strip last week, it was the absence of parallels between what the settlers were going through and what Palestinians have had to experience since the creation of Israel in 1948.

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By  Massoud Derhally Published  August 28, 2005

No sorrow for settlers|~|Massoud200.jpg|~|Massoud A. Derhally|~|If anything was historic about Israel's well choreographed pull out from the Gaza Strip last week, it was the absence of parallels between what the settlers were going through and what Palestinians have had to experience since the creation of Israel in 1948. Without exception, media outlets in the West fell over each other, all too keen to depict the withdrawal as a major concession on the part of Israel. In the process, they not only chose to ignore Israel’s obligations under international law (UN Resolutions 242 and 338) but also failed to address Israel reneging on the Oslo agreement and re-occupying Palestinian land. Even more impertinent is the sympathetic ear they extended to Jewish settlers, and the manner in which their evacuation was portrayed — that theirs was an incomparably traumatic experience, ignored by the world. There is a big difference between what has just happened in Gaza and what Palestinians have gone through since losing their homeland in 1948. Palestinians became refugees. They were rendered stateless as a result of the 1948, 1967 and 1973 wars. They weren’t served with eviction notices when Jews from Europe made their way to Palestine and overnight changed the demographics on the ground. And they have certainly not received any form of compensation. The dynamics today are quite different. Israeli settlers have not only received advance notices to vacate their trailer homes but have also received financial compensation (US$200,000 to US$300,000) from their government and offered relocation to other homes in Israel. So I have no sympathy for settlers. I would even go so far as to equate them with thieves who steal your wallet and then turn around and return it to you, empty. It is an utter disgrace that they have come out of all of this as victims. To say this was a momentous juncture is absurd when one considers the facts on the ground. Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon’s unilateral disengagement plan that evacuated 21 settlements in Gaza and four in the West Bank is nothing but a pre-emptive move on his behalf to undermine and sabotage a peace treaty that includes Palestinian sovereignty. With Israel out of Gaza, which by the way most Israelis wholeheartedly wanted, Sharon and Israel as a whole are in a much stronger position if and when the defunct peace process is revived. What is all too apparent, and this is what the Western media has ignored of its own volition, is the continuation of Israel’s illegal settlement policy. Instead, the media chooses to capitulate whenever Israel takes the moral high ground, citing the security concerns of its citizens and claiming that it is giving countless concessions while claiming Palestinians give nothing in return. But the facts speak for themselves. There still remain no fewer than 283 settlements and while up to 9000 settlers may have left parts of occupied Palestinian land, that is only a fraction of the remaining 395,000 settlers that are in the West Bank and Jerusalem. So there is no underlying paradigm shift in Israel’s mindset here — although that is what it is being made out to be. As a result, Israel will continue to do as it pleases — being uncooperative whenever it is in its interest, secure in the knowledge that it will not be punished. None of this seems to make it into mainstream media in the West. Why, for instance, is the illegal colonisation of Palestinian land and Israel’s continued intransigence and violation of international law overlooked? Notwithstanding UN Resolutions 242 and 338, Israel also has violated the Fourth Geneva Convention, which forbids an occupying power to “transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies.” There are various other UN resolutions where Israel’s existing settlements and the construction of additional ones have been rendered illegal — 446, 452, 465 and 471, for example. One would think that with little international support, the Jewish state might actually consider refraining from colonising further Palestinian land. But that hasn’t been the case — not in the past and not now, in the wake of this so-called disengagement, which has been dubbed a courageous move by the US and supporters of Sharon. If the latest move on Sharon’s behalf is supposed to create a window of opportunity, then why has the Israeli premier promised continued expansion of Israel’s West Bank colonies? “There will be building in the settlement blocks,” Sharon told a daily Israeli paper last week. “Each government since 1967, right, left and national unity, has seen strategic importance in specific areas [in the occupied territories] I will build.” This is hardly the rise of a new dawn for Palestinians. If anything, their negotiating powers are weaker now than ever before, and the fundamental issues of the conflict remain unresolved — the final boundaries of the state of Israel, the compensation of dispossessed Palestinians who lost their homes, and the status of Jerusalem. Hardly a reason to celebrate. ||**||

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