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Home > News & Analysis > Analysis
The ongoing violent occupation
Sonja Karkar, IMEU, Jul 22, 2007

Palestinians take part in a festival next to Israel's seperation wall at the Aida refugee camp in Bethlehem. (Haytham Othman, Maan Images)
Six years ago almost to the day, the great intellectual Edward Said wrote an article(1) that could almost have been written today. Then he said, "Rarely have I seen such a concentration of Israeli mendacity received with such cringing servility by Palestinians, and all this while millions of Palestinians are suffering the worst possible collective punishment." I have no doubt that he would have been even more scathing about the state of play now because it seems the Palestinian leadership (many of whom are still around) has learned nothing from the endless deception and betrayal carried out by Israel during all the years of peace talks. Only Israel has gained in this illegal occupation, and criminally so, at the devastating expense of the Palestinian people.

Unbelievably, little is being said about the Occupation in the current political drama. Instead, we are getting news reports of what Fatah said, what Hamas said, what Israel is prepared to offer or not offer and the usual farcical allusions to peace talks from the US. This plays right into Israel's hands, particularly when a catatonic world is just beginning to wake up - when influential voices are accusing Israel of apartheid, when the dastardly effects of the Wall are beginning to be noticed and when respectable institutions are contemplating divestment and boycotts. And Israel is encouraging the pathetic play for power amongst some Palestinians all too willing to comply, so that public opinion will be deflected away from its crimes. It is in this political maelstrom, that the Palestinians under occupation are having to struggle just to live from day to day without even the remotest glimmer of hope for a life of freedom and peace, let alone the justice that has long been their due. Theirs is a struggle whose tragically epic proportions deserve much much more than the paltry news items and commentaries that barely get published or mentioned.

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Ever since the Palestinians were catastrophically dispossessed of most of their homeland in 1948, their situation has gone from bad to worse to disastrous. No other conflict has had such intense involvement from a superpower as actor and broker in all that time and no other Occupying Power has had so much financial and political support as it flagrantly violates every aspect of international law and every UN resolution upholding the rights of the Palestinians. If Israel really wanted peace, it would have been easy to get the Palestinians to accept a state on 22 percent of their land after Arafat held out the olive branch and agreed to recognise Israel. It would have been easy after Oslo when the Palestinians agreed to just about everything, leaving only Jerusalem and the right of return for later discussions. But, while Israel was talking "peace", it was still stealing Palestinian land, still building illegal Jewish settlements right in the heart of Palestinian territory, still herding Palestinians through their degrading grid of checkpoints, still arresting and torturing, still thundering into Gaza with its massive military arsenal, only to then begin building the infamous Wall, deep inside the Armistice line. Today, Israel's apartheid policies and practices have taken on new dimensions with denial of entry, the creation of reservations, population transfers and ethnic cleansing a shocking reality.

Israel continues to pursue its unilateral decisions to secure final borders at the expense of a viable Palestinian state. It continues to demand huge increases in funding from the US for weapons and military hardware that wreak such bitter havoc on the people under its occupation. Yet, we are supposed to use the language of diplomacy and democracy instead of calling a spade a spade. The Fatah politicians talk about capacity and institution building, extract promises from Palestinians to forgo resistance and agree with Israel to round up anyone who might just have an association with Hamas. Never mind that Israeli soldiers continue their raids into Palestinian towns and continue their brutish violence against a terrified civilian population. Never mind that Gaza is being hermetically sealed from the outside world and the people are being forced to depend on the most basic aid. As the latest staged scenario plays itself out, it is apparent that the US no longer controls the situation, Europe is floundering, the UN is a lame duck, the Palestinian people are the hapless quarries, caged and almost beaten into submission and Israel takes what it wants. And all the while, the politicians smile, shake hands and talk about a "new future" with nary a word about the ordinary people suffering extraordinary hardships under the yoke of Israel's violent occupation.

Edward Said's words may have been written in 2001, but the thrust of his message is no less resounding: ". . . no matter the occasion, no matter the question, no matter the newspaper or TV or radio journalist, every question must first be answered with a few basic points about the military occupation . . . This is the source of violence, this is the source of the main problems, and it is the reason Israel can never have real peace. Our entire political position must be based on ending the occupation and this must take precedence over any and every other consideration. . ." It is the occupation, the occupation and the occupation over and over again.

(1) Said, Edward - Israel Sharpens its Axe, Counterpunch, 13 July 2001

Sonja Karkar is the founder and president of Women for Palestine and also a founding member of the steering committee of Australians for Palestine in Melbourne, Australia. See and

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