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There is nothing artificial about the crisis of occupation

January 24, 2014 at 3:42 am

interview with Al Jazeera to answer inquiries about recent developments in the peace talks, specifically regarding the meeting between Secretary of State John Kerry and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

When asked if the latest announcement of illegal Israeli settlements is the main source of the current deadlock, Regev argued that Israel has been both cooperative and loyal to the agreements set out in the original guidelines of the peace process.

He went on to accuse Palestinians of creating an “artificial crisis” in order to downplay the latest round of talks commencing in August 2013. When asked what he meant by this term – which was also used by PM Netanyahu – Regev refrained from answering the question, instead suggesting that Palestinians must “give the talks a chance”.

After more than 60 years of Israeli occupation, “artificial crisis” is an interesting choice of words. The English dictionary defines artificial as something that is “manmade rather than natural“ or a “fabrication“ of the sort. While Regev is quite right to suggest that the occupation is a man-made tragedy, he is at fault to suggest that the settler colonial occupation of Palestine is a fabrication. Rather, it is a deliberate policy to ensure that there is a permanent crisis in Palestinian socio-political life.

Indeed, the settlement numbers speak for themselves.

According to a report by Peace Now, the construction of Jewish settlements in the West Bank was up 70% from January to June of 2013. To date, more than 340,000 Israeli settlers live in the West Bank, which is more than triple the number 20 years ago when the peace process began. An increase in settlements often entails an increase in housing evictions for Palestinians. For example, in Jerusalem alone, since 1967 more than 14,000 Palestinians have had their Jerusalem residencies revoked.

When Palestinians are not getting evicted, they must witness their homes being demolished. The Israeli Committee against House Demolitions (ICAHD) reports that this year alone, 550 Palestinians homes have been demolished and ICAHD predicts that this number will likely increase before the end of the year. According to Amnesty International, “Israeli authorities demolished more than 620 structures during 2011 alone. Almost 1,100 Palestinians were displaced as a result, an 80 per cent increase over 2010; more than 4,200 others were affected by demolitions of 170 animal shelters and 46 cisterns.” For those who are not sure what home evictions involve, it means being thrown out of your house by Israeli authorities with sometimes less than 15 minutes’ notice. There is nothing artificial about the exercise.

Yet, if you are not being evicted from your home or witnessing your house being demolished, as a Palestinian you are likely to be arrested and locked up in Israeli prisons. According to Addameer, since 1967, 650,000 Palestinians have been detained by Israel. This represents approximately 20 per cent of the total population in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT), and 40 per cent of all males. Despite being prohibited by international law, Israel detains Palestinians under administrative detention throughout Israel, far from their families, who almost never obtain the necessary permits to leave the Occupied Palestinian Territories to visit them. That’s not an artificial crisis.

Children are also subject to administrative detention. According to data from UNICEF and the Israeli rights group B’tselem, there are an estimated 7,000 children aged from 12 to 17 years, but sometimes as young as nine, who have been arrested, interrogated and detained since 2002 – an average of two per day. In April 2013, 236 children were in military detention centers, with dozens aged between 12 and 15. Children in prisons is perhaps unjust and inhuman, but not indicative of an artificial crisis.

Meanwhile, Israel continues its military blockade of Gaza, initially imposed in 2007. The blockade has prolonged the humanitarian crisis faced by Gaza’s 1.6 million residents, more than 70 per cent of whom are dependent on humanitarian aid. A near-complete ban on exports has continued, stifling the economy, and severe restrictions on imports fuel shortages and high prices. In fact, by 2014 Gaza will undergo a water shortage. The blockade constitutes collective punishment, not to mention a breach of international law. There is nothing artificial about collective punishment.

In the West Bank, the Palestinian Authority has been politically and economically bankrupt for the past five years, but continues to pay lip service to the occupying power and, despite the ongoing funding cuts, it always succumbs to Washington and Tel Aviv.

In fact, while Regev suggests that the “Palestinians need to accept their responsibility in ensuring the protection and legitimate security concerns of Israel”, he neglects to acknowledge that the Palestinian Authority continues to play the role of managing the crisis. Putting aside that the very idea that those who are oppressed should be obliged to protect the apparatus of their oppressor is unreasonable and ridiculous and consists of the usual colonial discourse towards its subject, the reality remains that these efforts have been undertaken by the PA.

Indeed, today, ten years after the Oslo Accords, the Palestinian security sector receives between 28 and 42 per cent of the PA’s total yearly budget. Currently, approximately 41 per cent of the total Palestinian public sector works in the security sector. Palestinian police are training in coordination with their Israeli counterparts, which means taking orders from the Israeli forces (this point will be discussed in a future article). The establishment of a robust Palestinian police force has always been aimed to ensure that Palestinians become their own self managers of the occupation. In the words of Israeli Defence Minister Moshe Dayan, the idea was “Don’t rule them [Palestinians]; let them rule their own lives.”

These realities reflect a permanent crisis for the Palestinian people caused by the Israeli occupation of their lives and lands. But this is no coincidence. The Israeli occupation of Palestine is constructed in such a way as to ensure a perpetual state of crisis. The peace process, just as all other components of the Israeli occupation, is merely meant to maintain a permanent state of crisis management for a permanent occupation.

Indeed, everything from international aid programmes to international diplomacy is under the guise of crisis management as opposed to crisis dissolution. The idea has been, as the famous historian Illan Pape suggests, for Israel to buy time in order to ensure a successful policy of the fait accompli (facts on the ground), settlements being the primary component to ensure an effective grab of Palestinian lands and livelihoods by the colonial power.

With these considerations, it is as clear as the 690 kilometres (429 miles) long apartheid wall crisscrossing like a snake over the Occupied West Bank that there is absolutely nothing artificial about a permanent crisis.

The author is a Research Assistant, Levant Politics, Foreign Policy Division Foundation for Political, Economic and Social Research (SETA) in Ankara, Turkey.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.