Saree Makdisi, a professor of English at UCLA, writes a misleading one-sided screed in today’s Los Angeles Times, titled, “Israel leaves but Gaza is hardly free” about the poor Arabs left in Gaza after the Israelis leave.
PALESTINIANS CELEBRATED as Israel redeployed its soldiers and settlers from the Gaza Strip last week. The move offers some relief to the people of Gaza after 38 years of brutal military occupation.
But, given its unilateral disconnection from any framework for a genuine peace, the withdrawal does nothing to address Palestinian aspirations. Palestinians will gain greater freedom of movement within Gaza’s borders, but it seems inevitable that the territory will remain as isolated from the outside world (not to mention the West Bank and Jerusalem) and as subject to Israeli domination as before.
Quite apart from the question of Palestinian self-determination — which hinges on ties between Gaza, the West Bank and Jerusalem — the withdrawal also will do nothing to alleviate the social and economic crisis produced by the Israeli occupation.
A 2004 World Bank study revealed that, since the intensification of the occupation in 2000, average Palestinian incomes have declined by more than one-third. Nearly half of all Palestinians live below the poverty line of $2 a day. The World Bank’s assessment of the cause of this dramatic deterioration in Palestinian living standards is unequivocal. “The precipitator of this economic crisis has been ‘closure,’ a multifaceted system of restrictions on the movement of Palestinian people and goods, which the government of Israel argues is essential to protect Israelis in Israel and the settlements. Closures, including the Separation Barrier, prevent the free flow of Palestinian economic transactions; they raise the cost of doing business and disrupt the predictability needed for orderly economic life.”
You notice that she starts out by referring to a “brutal occupation.” First of all, it technically isn’t an occupation. Israel was attacked in 1967 by Egypt. Israel won that war, and therefore technically won the Gaza Strip as well as the Sinai from Egypt. It handed the Sinai back when Egypt signed a peace agreement with Israel. Egypt did not want the return of the Gaza Strip because they didn’t want to govern all those Palestinian Arabs.
Just as the United States won the war against Britain and kept the British colonies, and just as the United States won the war against Mexico, and kept Texas, Israel won the war against Egypt and kept Gaza. The Gaza Strip was never owned by the group who now calls themselves Palestinian Arabs, it was always Egyptian.
Second, as to a “brutal” occupation, who is it that has been brutal? Israel has only tried to prevent its citizens from being killed by brutal Arabs who blow up Israeli citizens in coffee shops, pizza parlors, night clubs, universities and other places where ordinary citizens hang out. Talk about brutality.
She talks about Palestinian Arabs being isolated from Jerusalem. First of all, they have no expectation or right to Jerusalem. West Jerusalem was Israeli since the State was formed. East Jerusalem was Jordanian. The Jordanians built a wall across Jerusalem and did not permit Jews to enter that part of Jerusalem. Israel won the 1967 war against Jordan, and unified Jerusalem. Whenever in history has a country that was attacked, and won a war, given back land that it conquered? Besides the war was won against Jordan, not against the Palestinian Arabs.
There are millions of Arabs who are citizens of Israel who have access to Jerusalem whenever they want. Even Palestinian Arabs from the West Bank or Gaza can come into Jerusalem whenever they want. The one thing that the world has to keep in mind is that as Israel declared in 1967, Jerusalem will never be divided again. There is One Jerusalem.
She also talks about the “…the social and economic crisis produced by the Israeli occupation.” The fact is that the social and economic crisis was not produced by the Israeli occupation. It was a direct result of the radical Palestinians not being able to live peacefully with the Israelis. Israeli companies, prior to the intifada, employed thousands of Palestinian Arabs. I was even involved in a joint Israeli-American organization that was prepared to set up factories in the Palestinian areas to employ Palestinians about 8 or 9 years ago. All of that went by the wayside when the Palestinians decided they would rather have a war with Israel (the Intifada of the past five years) than have economic cooperation. The economic crisis is the fault of the Palestinian Arabs, not the Israelis. When the Intifada was started by Arafat I said that the Palestinians have foolishly discarded their economic future for some unrealistic and unattainable goal.
Makdisi says that a World Bank study finds that Palestinian Arabs income has declined by one-third since “…the intensification of the occupation in 2000” by Israel. Wait a minute. Did Israel just decide to intensify its occupation? What about the start of the intifada and the so-called “suicide bombings” in Israel. Isn’t that why the “occupation” was intensified. How come all the blame for the problems of the Palestinians belongs to Israel? Don’t the Palestinians have any responsibility for their plight?
I could go on paragraph by paragraph pointing out the lies in her essay, but I think the point has been made. Her argument that Israel is responsible for the condition of the Palestinian Arabs doesn’t hold any water.