1987: Farmer Obeidallah from the village of Husan (region Bethlehem) shows the deed to his land, stemming from the Ottoman era to the writer of this blog and his Palestinian collegue Jawdat. An Israeli judge dismissed the deed. It referred to bushes (or a tree) that did not exist anymore. Or something the like. That's the way Israel uses to deal with Palestinian ownership. Since some 20 years already, the settlement of Betar is sitting on Obeidallah's land. I wonder what becam of him and his children, the toddlers on the picture. (Photo Daniel Koning)
(Sorry voor het Engels, maar wellicht kan de aangevallen auteur, Chaim Levinson van Haaretz, er zo kennis van nemen. Ik hoop het. Wie weet)
Among Israeli newspapers Haaretz stands out as a kind of an exception. The Jerusalem Post is genuinly (ultra-)rightist, the Times of Israel is clearly biased, Yedioth Ahronot is well informed but mostly rather one-sided, but Haaretz - although not usually well informed as far as news from the West Bank or the Arab world in general is concerned - from time to time tries to balance this with reportages, background articles or enlightened editorials.
However, there are exceptions to this exception. Today Haaretz' Chaim Levinson wrote under the headline "25 years on: What did Israeli settlers learn from the first Palestinian intifada?" the following:
When the first intifada broke out, in 1987, peace as the settlers in the territories knew it died. Up until then, the settlers had marketed themselves as an important security force, as the spiritual heirs to the Zionist pioneers who came to this land in the Second Aliyah (wave of immigration to Palestine, between 1904 and 1914). The settlers claimed that Israel’s future could be secured with the power of the plowshare. When they spoke about genuine good-neighbor relations with the Palestinians, they were not talking like the leftists who sat in the cafes of Tel Aviv. They spoke about shopping in Palestinian markets and employing Palestinian workers. What they offered was an alternative to the model offered by the Israeli left: Instead of an independent state, argued the settlers, the Palestinians would be given autonomy, and their economy would be dependent on the pockets of rich Israelis.Hebron, Ibrahimi mosque early in the 1960-ties (Photo Palestine Remembered)
I had to rub my eyes when it read that. Good-neighbor relations? Autonomy? Their economy dependent on the pockets of rich Israelis? What the heck is Levinson talking about? Is this 2013? Why on earth these formulations as if he is still the white man who came to rescue the poor natives from backwardness and misery. This is colonialism style 1920 maybe, at the last. But what is no less striking, is that Levinson apparently has no clue whatsoever about what really happened after the occupation started in 1967. Employing Palestinians, shopping in their markets? Maybe, but not before they settlers, from Day One, started to usurp the lands. Fist by creating 'closed military areas' where, apart form military bases, settlements could be erected. Lateron by an elaborate system of classifications of areas according to quasi-juridical criteria so that a maximum of land came for the grabs.
An operation to thoroughly update the cadastre that that Jordanians shortly before the WQEst Bank was taken had started, was annulled. And a lady called Plia Ahlbeck (now dead), who worked with the ministry of Justice, became 'the' Israeli legal expert who designed and operated an extremely opaque system, that was specifically devised to make available as much land as possible for the settlers. I interviewed her once in 1987. Her explanations consisted complicated descriptions of different categories of land and was so technical and complicated that it was impossible to reproduce them in an readable manner in een newspaper article. I got the impression that this was exactly what this motherly looking lady intended to do. She just wanted to let me feel that what was happening was none of my business and for that matter also too complicated for me to understand. While we were talking, suveyors were walking in and out of her office, large maps under their arms. Some days later I met the same kind of people again, when I was walking with a Palestinian farmer on whose land the surveyors without an explanation had driven little poles into the ground. When I tried to ask them what it meant, they came after me and unceremonially chased me off the land.
And what about good neighborliness? Has Levinson never heard about the Jewish underground in Hebron, who carried their efforts to have good so far as to kill a few students in Hebron and to plant bombs in the cars of the mayors of Nablus, El-Bireh and Jericho, leaders of the so called National Guidance Committee, the nationalists of those days who championed for a state of their own? Bombs that one of these mayors, Bassam Shak'a of Nablus, both legs, and another one, Karim Khalaf of Jericho, a leg and a foot? Has he never heard of the fact that these same underground-figures (who belonged to the settler movement Gush Emunim), were caught only a year or so later when they were planting bombs under Palestinian busses? And that they had plans to blow up the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem? And speaking about leadership and good relations, did he never hear how Ariël Sharon, when minister of Defense in the '80-ties (the time that he also started the 1982 War in Lebanon) attempted to create a whole new leadership in the West Bank in order to bypass this National Guidance Committe, by creating a body of collaborators, Quislings, armed and equipped by Sharon's ministry itself, the so-called village Leagues? (An attempt that by the way, failed as miserably as the attempt to get a new 'moderate' (read: Israel-friendly) leadership through the 1976 local elections).
Hebron, Ibrahimi mosque in 2007 (Palestine Remembered)
Levinson and the idea of a peaceful Israeli-Palestinian coexistence. The idea. Speaking of Sharon, he apparently has never heard of Sharon's 'Unit 101' or the havoc that Sharon wrought in the large Shaty-camp in Gaza where he, as commander of the 'Southern Sector, in the 70-ties bulldozed some wide lanes in order to combat 'terrrorism. To refresh 'Levinson's memory:
“‘They came at night and began marking the houses they wanted to demolish with red paint,’ said Ibrahim Ghanim, 70, a retired labourer. ‘In the morning they came back, and ordered everyone to leave. I remember all the soldiers shouting at people, Yalla, yalla, yalla, yalla! They threw everyone’s belongings into the street. Then Sharon brought in bulldozers and started flattening the street. He did the whole lot, almost in one day. And the soldiers would beat people, can you imagine? Soldiers with guns, beating little kids!’ By the time the Israeli army’s work was done, hundreds of homes were destroyed, not only on Wreckage Street but throughout the camp, as Sharon ploughed out a grid of wide security roads. Many of the refugees took shelter in schools, or squeezed into the already badly over-crowded homes of relatives. Other families, usually those with a Palestinian political activist, were loaded into trucks and taken to exile in a town in the heart of the Sinai Desert, then controlled by Israel.”And, oh I almost forgot Hebron. Doesn't Levinson know the story of the settlers in Hebron, who came there already in 1968 and whose leader Moshe Levinger was convicted a few times (which he hardly ever served) for killing and harrassing the people he supposedly was seeking good-neighbor relations with? And did he ever hear that the settlers in Hebron in their attempts to have friedly relatiosn with their neighbors, already in the late 70-ties chased people from their shops and houses in order to start living in them themselves? Places like the Hadassah-hospital and adjacent shops. And isn't he familiar with the story how they disturbed the services in the Ibrahimi mosque as long and as often as they wanted, till they finally got their own synagogue - right in the middle of the mosque which is consideredby Muslims all over the world as one of the holiest places of Islam?
As Reeves reported, the devastation of Beach Camp was far from the exception. “In August 1971 alone, troops under Mr Sharon’s command destroyed some 2,000 homes in the Gaza Strip, uprooting 16,000 people for the second time in their lives. Hundreds of young Palestinian men were arrested and deported to Jordan and Lebanon. Six hundred relatives of suspected guerrillas were exiled to Sinai. In the second half of 1971, 104 guerrillas were assassinated. ‘The policy at that time was not to arrest suspects, but to assassinate them’, said Raji Sourani, director of the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights in Gaza City”.
It seems Levinson did not know all of the facts, because he wrote:
Finally, the first intifada had a major impact on the idea of peaceful Israeli-Palestinian coexistence. Prior to that popular uprising, Jews and Palestinians had managed to live side by side in peace. The presence of Jewish shoppers in the marketplace of Khan Yunis was not simply an orientalist cliche − it was a day-to-day reality for the Jewish settlers of the Gaza Strip. After 1987, however, this idyll of peaceful coexistence came to an end. The family albums containing photos from weddings in the nearby Palestinian village were placed in the attics of Jewish settlers for permanent storage.Peacefull Israeli-Palestinian coexistence, disturbed by the first intifada, oh yeh. Those thankless Palestinians, not grateful for the fact that the white men came to their shops to buy their food, feeling no gratitude for the pass system and the checkpoints, the fact that they had to pay taxes but never saw that roads were repaired or schools built, not thankful that they were forced to buy electricity and water for their own cities and villages from Israel although they were quite able to deliver that themselves and for lower prices, who didn't show gratitude for that fact that they had to apply for licencies to build or take apart things, to move or stay, to leave theur country or to return, to import or export; in fact for every step, as a high placed Israeli (Uri Savir) once commented - those thankless natives did not show gratitude at allm buit started an uprising. And that uprising, of yeh,wrecked the idea of coexistence. Oh yeh, it did
Poor Levinson. He does not seem to know what occupation is and what is was always meant to be. And on top of that he romanticizes the settlers, particularly the ones that saw themselves as pioneers with a vison of coexistence with the Palestinian natives. Those were and are precisely the worsts of thugs.
Levinson ought to be ashamed for writing such a crappy piece, and Haaretz shopuld never have printed it.