The wall is down, at least in Rafah and for a few days. This week, while aid agencies were issuing statements and the UN was discussing yet another Security Council resolution, only to be vetoed by the United States, people in Gaza have taken control of their own fate.
The people of Gaza were left without electricity and faced a break down in vital infrastructure. Food shortages grew critical; hospitals were shutting down and patients dying due to lack of medicine and care. The destruction of the wall on the border of Egypt by the popular resistance was not just a statement of defiance, it was a humanitarian act.
It was also reaction to the failure of the decision makers throughout the international community to act in support of Palestinian rights, even as they are being violated in the most flagrant manner imaginable. During the last week, the US administration blamed Palestinians for Israeli war crimes; the EU Commissionâs vice president did not hesitate to open a seminar in Jerusalem together with Isaac Herzog, a member of the Occupationâs security council, responsible for declaring Gaza a âhostile entityâ; India launched the Occupationâs spy satellite and held foreign policy talks with Israeli officials in Delhi; South American countries continued the ratification process of a new Free Trade Agreement with the Occupation. Business as usual.
Last weekâs dramatic events showed once again that any trust in the international community to act as an âhonest broker’ is misplaced. Reliance on the United States, as well as those in the West Bank who have sold out the resistance, is inevitably leading to a dead end. This is, however, the very premise on which the Annapolis process is built. All the way through his recent trip to Palestine Bush emphasised that Palestinian resistance had to end if the process was to continue. The attack on Gaza, in fact, is part and parcel of this process.
At each stage of the Annapolis process so far, rounds of negotiations have immediately been followed by the escalation of Israeli attacks, invasions and killings. The siege on Gaza was to be a large-scale manoeuvre aimed at breaking the resilience and steadfastness of 1.5 million people through starvation. In the meantime, the PNA has obediently submitted to the demands to end Palestinian resistance by dismantling armed groups and prohibiting and attacking popular demonstrations.
The Annapolis process has also created an interesting distortion in the presentation of the Israeli expulsion policy that picked up immediately after the conference. Displacing Palestinians and locking those that remain into controlled ghettoes, rather than being considered for what it is â war crimes under international law â tends to be represented as âactions that are endangering the Annapolis processâ. The mainstream discourse sidelines international and human rights law as well as the basic distinctions between the occupation and the occupied. The measurement is now how much either of the sides, considered equal within the discourse, complies with the Annapolis process.
In the two weeks following the Annapolis conference, the Israeli Occupation announced plans to construct 307 housing units in the illegal East Jerusalem settlement of Har Homa, which pushes up against Bethlehem, while demolition orders were issued for Palestinian homes across Bethlehem. Later it unveiled similar plans for 10,000 Israeli homes in occupied East Jerusalem to be built on lands belonging to the Palestinian village of Kafr Aqab in the north of the city and the additional construction of 250 housing units in Ma’ale Adumim settlement. Finally, the Occupationâs Finance Ministry set aside around 100 million shekels for building in Maâale Adumim and Har Homa during 2008.
In the two weeks following the official start of the negotiations between the PNA and Israel and Bushâs visit to the region, the Occupation further escalated work on the annexation of Jerusalem. Construction has begun on 60 units of a settlement block in the Ras al Amud neighborhood in Jerusalem. Occupation authorities are again discussing expulsion plans in the form of the eastern belt settler road that is to extend from Sur Bahir in the south to the neighborhoods of Zaâim and at Tur. It will confiscate around 1250 dunums of land and destroy 6 houses that are on it path. The plans mean that Jerusalem will be completely surrounded by the civil and military infrastructure imposed by the Occupation, an illegal act in itself, but also one which renders any negotiation about the future of the city essentially meaningless as the facts on the ground are being established by the Israeli Occupation regardless.
Bushâs visit gave the tacit green light for these violations. The support for the escalation against Gaza, however, has been absolutely explicit. Bush and Condoleezza Rice have made clear during their trip that they will âunderstandâ any action that Israel takes in response to Palestinian resistance, including the action currently underway in Gaza which by any definition constitutes collective punishment: a war-crime under the IV Geneva Convention.
Indeed, disregard for international law is fundamental to the entire Annapolis process. Bush has been clear that the UN Resolutions affirming Palestinian rights are to be abandoned, stating that he wants to fashion a ânew dealâ, based on the illegal status quo imposed by the Israeli Occupation over the last sixty years. This further includes that Palestinians should abandon the right of return for the refugees, violating their basic human rights, which are explicitly underlined in UN Resolution 194. The Green Line is up for negotiation, as if Palestinians should make concessions on the illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank, settlements which have been built in defiance of the provisions of the IV Geneva Convention that condemns the transfer of civilian populations into occupied territory, and numerous UN Resolutions. In short, Palestinians should negotiate from the starting point of the de facto border created by the Apartheid Wall, which was declared illegal by the International Court of Justice in 2004.
The Occupations attempt to create a totally unsustainable environment appears in its most extreme manifestation in Gaza. This is not an isolated occurrence but rather an aspect of a ghettoization policy that is being carried out all over Palestine, Gaza is just the most horrific tip of the iceberg. In the West Bank it implies the construction of the Wall that delimits ghettoes controlled by checkpoints and subject to regular military incursions. Extreme closure is imposed on 79 villages on the western edge of the West Bank, whose inhabitants are subject to conditions so severe that their villages are being rapidly depopulated. This policy has been ongoing since 1948 when 750,000 Palestinians were driven from their homes and Zionist gangs destroyed 531 villages. The Occupationâs assault on Gaza is clearly not a single attack but part of a deliberate program of expulsion which has been going on for sixty years.
Today, international institutions and leaders have to twist and turn ever more frantically to avoid confronting the truth that is obvious to everyone: the Israeli Occupation is committing war crimes in Palestine with their complicity.
In fact, the current crimes on Gaza have backfired just as the brutal destruction of the south of Lebanon did in summer 2006. Far from destroying the peopleâs determination to resist and struggle for justice, the crimes have eventually been turned into a victory of the oppressed people. They have affirmed their strength and steadfastness and beaten the overwhelming military and economic might of a state superpower. The world has had to witness the inhumanity of US-backed Israeli policies. The popularity and support of those that stood firm in the face of Israeli aggression has grown.
The break of the wall has not only defeated the Occupationâs inhumane policies but pushed the PNA further into a corner. The rubble of the wall in Rafah is a concrete and symbolic alternative to the Annapolis process. People in the streets are cherishing the break down of the wall in Rafah while Mahmoud Abbasâ condemnation both of the âgangs in Gazaâ and politics of resistance are being met with scorn. His refusal to talk to Hamas while keeping up negotiations with those that kill, besiege and ghettoise his own people is openly denounced.
Though the Occupationâs siege is broken, Gaza is neither free nor are living conditions anything close to sustainable. We have to continue to focus our attention on Gaza and fight for the dignity and rights of its population, just as everywhere in Palestine. It is not enough to know the humanitarian catastrophe is eased. Yet, the events of the last week strike one note of hope: while the world sits by in silent complicity, Palestinians will not surrender and allow themselves to be trampled, but will break down the wall with their own hands.