Means Equality for
writer, an Israeli lawyer who represents Palestinians in the West Bank
and Gaza, contributed this comment to The New York Times. It was reprinted
in the Saturday, March 17, 2001 edition of The International Herald Tribune
© 2001 | www.iht.com |
On any given day or night, 200,000
Israeli settlers move freely in and out of the West Bank and Gaza to go
to work, shop, run errands and attend school or university. Israeli trucks
supply their settlements with food, fuel and the necessities to keep these
areas running, their gardens green and their supermarkets well stocked.
For Adel Ibrahim T'nuh from
the village of Teqoa, things don't run so smoothly. A father of four young
children and a day laborer in Israel, he has not worked for five months
because the Israelis have put West Bank and Gaza Palestinians under total
closure. Mr. T'nuh recently tried to enter Israel through the Bethlehem-Gilo
checkpoint in a desperate effort to find work. There, at 6 a.m., he was
chased down by dogs and sent back by Israeli soldiers for trying to enter
Israel. He tried again to enter, but was arrested and beaten. Fortunately,
Israeli and Palestinian human rights workers happened to be at the scene
Since September, 3 million
civilians in the West Bank and Gaza have been living under a siege imposed
by the Israeli military occupation. All movement of people and goods is
completely restricted and controlled by the Israeli army. The army has
dug trenches and moats and built mounds of dirt to close Palestinian towns
Food, fuel and other basic
necessities have become scarce. After announcing that Palestinians have
become among the poorest people in the world, the World Food Program, a
UN agency, is now distributing flour in Gaza. Poverty levels have doubled
in five months. The siege has caused more than $2 billion in losses to
the Palestinian economy, and unemployment levels have soared to 48 percent.
The cause of all this suffering is not an act of nature. It is collective
punishment that the Israelis can reverse at any time. The failure of other
nations to oppose these basic human rights violations has allowed the Israelis
to continue impoverishing a whole civilian population.
The latest siege is an expansion
of a closure policy that has been in effect since 1993. The Oslo peace
agreement further enforced the closure policy by conscripting the Palestinian
Authority to serve as the local intake office for processing travel permit
applications. But the power of final approval still remained in Israeli
Since most Palestinian officials
received special exemptions from closure restrictions, the authority made
only halfhearted demands over the years to end them. Some even profited
from the closure through exclusive permits from the Israelis to import
goods and maintain monopolies over basic goods in Palestinian markets.
However, for Adel T'nuh and
the remaining 99 percent of the Palestinians, closure simply made life
worse and a real peace more elusive.
Israeli officials admit that
the closure in all its forms cannot protect Israel from suicide bombers
or other potential attacks. Yet the desperation and bitterness that this
policy creates among the Palestinian communities makes the situation more
volatile and less safe for all Israelis. When the late Prime Minister Yitzhak
Rabin imposed the closure policy in 1993, he convinced his supporters that
this was part of a "separation" policy that would be the first step toward
the two-state solution. But in reality, Israel's 34 years of
military occupation, the integration of electric and water systems and
the building of Jewish settlements and bypass roads have made it all but
impossible to separate the Palestinian West Bank and Gazan communities
from Israel's control.
Separation leading to Palestinian
statehood is a myth. The closure policy has instead solidified an apartheid-like
system of separate rights and privileges for Jews and Palestinians.
Americans have learned in
their history that separate cannot be equal. Israelis must understand that
the way to end the cycle of violence cannot be through closure and sieges
against entire civilian populations.
Only when Israel dismantles
the closure policy and accepts equality for Jews and Palestinians as a
matter of human rights will peace be attainable.
Copyright © 2001 The
International Herald Tribune
announcing that Palestinians have become among the poorest people in the
world, the World Food Program, a UN agency, is now distributing flour in
Gaza. Poverty levels have doubled in five months.
Go to | Ecumenical
Delegation to Jerusalem |
Jala | Bethlehem