Tel Aviv University/University of
1. On the eve of the Iraq war, fears were expressed in different circles
that under the cover of war, Israel may attempt a transfer of Palestinians
in the "seam line" area of the northern West Bank (Kalkilya,
Tulkarem). Last week, the army produced a scene from this scenario.
On April 2 at three a.m., a large force raided the refugee camp of
Tulkarem, blocked all the roads and paths with barbed wires and announced
on loudspeakers that all males aged 15 to 40 must go to a certain
compound at the center of the camp. At nine in the morning, the army
began to transport the gathered males to a nearby refugee camp. This
time it was only a staged scene, and the residents were allowed to
return after a few days. But the producers of this show made sure
that its significance would not escape the participants and the audience.
They took special care that evacuation be done with trucks - an exact
re-enactment of the 1948 trauma. As one of the residents described
his feelings when he got on the truck, "all the memories and
childhood stories of my father and grandfather about the Nakba
came back (Regular, Ha'aretz, March 4, 2003).
2. Many interpret this show as a "general rehearsal" for
the possibility of a future transfer. There is no doubt that the current
government is mentally prepared for transfer, but it is not certain
that the "international conditions" are ripe for executing
this in the way that was staged. The war against Iraq has become too
entangled for the U.S. to to risk opening another flashpoint.
3. But transfer need not involve just trucks. In the Israeli history
of "land redemption" there is also another model, more hidden
and sophisticated. In the framework of the "Judaization of the
Galilee" project, which began in the 1950s, the Palestinians
that remained in Israel were robbed of half their lands, isolated
in small enclaves, surrounded by Israeli settlements, and gradually
lost the bonds that held them together as a nation. Such an internal
transfer is occurring now in the occupied territories, and it has
been escalated during the war.
4. On March 24, the bulldozers moved onto the lands of the village
of Mas'ha, which is near the settlement of Elkana, and began to mark
there the new route of the separation wall, which will disconnect
the village from all of its lands, as well as thousands of dunams
belonging to Bidia and other villages in the area. Elkana is about
7 kilometers away from the green line, but the route of the fence
was changed on June 2002 so that it will include Elkana as well in
the Israeli side. Still, even in this plan, it is not necessary to
take these lands from the villages.
5. It wasn't only land greed that sent the bulldozers to the lands
of Bidia and Mas'ha. These lands are on the western part of the Mountain
groundwater basin - the large water reservoir originating in the West
Bank, whose water flow under the ground also to the center of Israel.
Out of six hundred million CM (cubic-meter) of water that the Mountain
reservoir provides in a year, Israel withdraws in different areas
about five hundred million . Control over the water sources has
always been a central Israeli motivation for maintaining the occupation.
6. The Labor governments of the seventies located the first settlements
that they approved in areas defined as "critical locations"
for drilling. Elkana was one of these settlements, founded within
a plan that was given the (misleading) name "preservation of
the sources of the Yarkon" . Since the occupation in 1967,
Israel prohibited Palestinians from digging new wells, but in the
lands of Mas'ha and Bidia, as well as in lands that were already cut
off from Kalkilia and Tul Karem, there are still many operating wells
from before 1967. Their continued use may reduce a little the amount
that Israel can withdraw.
7. The residents of Mas'ha and Bidia, who are struggling to save their
lands and livelihoods, set up protest tents along the bulldozer path.
"Peace tents", they called them in an outburst of hope.
Palestinians, Israelis and Internationals have been staying in these
tents day and night to watch and stand in front of the bulldozers.
I was there on Saturday. Around, in all directions, hills and hills
of olive trees - huge areas of a green and pastoral landscape that
one can find only where people live on their land for generations
and generations, aware of its preciousness and beauty. And all this
land is now being grabbed by the land redemptionists, who would dry
its wells and sell it to real-estate investors.
Tanya Reinhart is Professor of Linguistics and Cultural Studies
at Tel Aviv University and the University of Utrecht. She is the author
of Israel/Palestine: How to End the War of 1948 (Seven Stories
Press 2002; Allen and Unwin 2003). Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
This article was originally published in Yediot Aharonot, April
10, 2003, translated from the Hebrew by Irit Katriel.
(1) These are the pre-Oslo figures for 1993, as quoted in Haim Gvirzman
"Two in the same basin", Ha'aretz, May 16, 1993.
According to the Palestinian Hydrology group, at the present, out
of the annual recharge of the western part of the Mountain Groundwater
Basin, which is 362 million CM/year, the total Palestinian withdrawal
is only 22 million CM/year (www.pengon.org, Report #1. <http://www.pengon.org,
report /#1> )
(2) Gvirzman, ibid.
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