Effects of Political Zionism on the Palestinians  

April 2006


This presentation is based on a talk given at Napier University, Edinburgh on 8th March. It demonstrates some of the ways in which political Zionism, as it is being conducted by the Israeli government and military, is deliberately causing great suffering to the Palestinian people. The first slides are from The Olive Cooperative, a fair trade company in Manchester (www.olivecoop.com).





Agriculture forms a major part of the Palestinian economy; 65% of Palestinian families live in rural areas and are connected to agriculture in some form. Olive oil is the backbone of Palestine's agriculture. It is a vital source of income for some 70,000 Palestinian farmers. Since the start of the 2000 intifada, many have had to risk their lives in order to pick their olives.





The Israeli military, aided by settlers, destroy rural livelihoods by taking land or denying access to it, uprooting trees, controlling water resources and obstructing trade, all of which are escalating as the building of the annexation barrier ("The Wall") progresses. The occupation severely impedes the movement of goods and people, resulting in Palestinian farmers facing acute problems with selling their oil.


[Comparison between Palestinian and Israeli economies: In 2003 Israel's  GNP was US$108,581 million (World Bank), or US$16,240 per capita; 19% of the population of Israel are below the poverty line of $2/day.  This is partly due to heavy military spending (10% of Israeli government expenditure, compared with 5% by the US and about 2.5% by the UK). Palestinian GNP: $830 per capita. 75% of people in the Palestinian territories subsist on less than $2/day.]







A number of courageous Israelis and internationals accompany Palestinian farmers to their olive groves, trying non-violently to reduce army and settler violence aimed at dispossessing the farmers of their harvests and their land. 

One of these accompaniers wrote: “These settlers parade around as proud religious Jews, posing themselves as "defenders of the faith." But even a cursory reading of Jewish texts tells us: "When you besiege a city for a long time... you must not destroy its trees, wielding an axe against them" (Deuteronomy 20:19).

“We returned home with the sad feeling that the next day, with no Israeli delegation present, the settlers would continue their bullying of Palestinians with impunity. In this way they would be exposing the nature of their so-called Judaism - foreign to everything I believe as a religious Jew. My Judaism teaches me something quite the opposite of theirs, and apparently of our government's too: "There shall be one law for the citizen and the stranger who dwells amongst you" (Exodus 12:39 ).”







Matrix of Control (left panel)

This is series of mechanisms which allow Israel to control every aspect of Palestinian life.  The matrix relies upon bureaucratic and legal measures backed by overwhelming military force. The measures which can be taken against Palestinian communities and individuals include the extensive use of collaborators and undercover army units, administrative detention, arrest, trial and torture.

Settlement blocs control strategic corridors in the West Bank and interrupt the territorial contiguity of the Palestinians' areas, creating Bantustans . A system of highways and bypass roads links the settlements, forming additional barriers between Palestinian areas and incorporating the West Bank into Israel proper.

The West Bank is permanently "closed," violating freedom of movement of people and goods and impoverishing the Palestinian population, confining Palestinians to small enclaves. Movement between these areas  is limited by 98 checkpoints, 99 roadblocks and 9 iron gates (2003 data from Passia).

To all of this must be added the psychological costs of life under occupation: loss of life, imprisonment, torture, harassment, humiliation, anger and frustration, as well as traumas suffered by tens of thousands of Palestinians (especially children) who see their homes being demolished, their loved ones beaten and humiliated, and who suffer from inadequate housing and lost opportunities to realize their potential in life.

(see Jeff Halper, www.merip.org)


Security barrier (right panel above)

Construction of the annexation barrier started in 2002 and was proceeding fast at 65 locations when I was in Palestine last October. If its main purpose was security, it would have been built on the Green Line, the 1967 boundary between Israel and the West Bank. But it is built on Palestinian land, encroaching up to 35 kilometres into the West Bank. So far its construction has led to annexation of 9.5 per cent of the West Bank. The area expropriated for settlements (i.e. illegal Israeli towns) is an additional 8 per cent. The planned route of the eastern section of the barrier in the Jordan Valley will result in the theft of a further 28.5 per cent of the West Bank. Thus Israel is set to seize a total of 46% of the West Bank.


There are 195 settlements (ie illegal towns or smaller areas in which only Jews are allowed to live) housing more than 400,000 Israelis, roughly half of whom live in the West Bank and half in East Jerusalem .







One night I heard a huge explosion in Rafah in the Gaza Strip. This boy was one of over 100 people living in 5 multi-storey buildings which had been blown up. What will be his thoughts about the Israelis who have destroyed his home and have previously killed members of his family, and made life as difficult as possible for all Palestinians? The explosions damaged another 17 houses, some of them so badly that they also were uninhabitable. 

According to the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions, since 1967 something like 12000 Palestinian homes have been destroyed in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem . In the four years following the start of the second Intifada in September 2000, 4000-5000 Palestinian homes were destroyed in military operations, more than half of them in Gaza. Tens of thousands of other homes have been left uninhabitable. Altogether around 50,000 people were rendered homeless during the four years.


In addition, Palestinians are killed each week but the number is carefully controlled so as not to be large enough to trigger an international outcry.  Many more are wounded and left disabled.


In January 2006, Israelis killed 18 Palestinians, mainly non-combatants and children; no Jewish Israelis were killed by Palestinians (numbers from US Middle East Policy Council). In February the figures were 31 and 1, and in March 19 and 5. Thus in the first quarter of 2006, 68 Palestinians were killed, compared with 6 Israelis. 


Suicide bombings, such as that which killed 9 Israeli in Tel Aviv on 17th April, must be very strongly condemned, but are they surprising in view of the regular intentional killing of Palestinians by the Israeli military? If Israel wants peace it will have to make peace with the Palestinians by ending its brutal oppression and suppression of them.




Charring is still visible houses in which people were massacred in Qibia 53 years ago.



Ariel Sharon is a psychopath for whom the death of Arabs, and indeed of Jews, is of little account provided the Zionist aim of obtaining all the Holy Land for a Jewish state is furthered.




I was in Deir Ballut the day after 4 unarmed farmers had been shot. They were remonstrating with the driver of an army bulldozer who was clearing their grazing land in preparation for building of the Wall. The army had agreed that the Wall would skirt this land but the agreement was not respected. One was shot in the chest, one in the lower abdomen, the third in the arm and the fourth in the leg.

A few weeks previously, a tomato greenhouse was set on fire by soldiers. As well as a crop of tomatoes, there was a quantity of fertilizer in the greenhouse so the fire reached a very high temperature. Thirty people depended on the greenhouse for their livelihood.

Eight months before, a warehouse in the village caught fire. It burned down completely while a fire engine was held at the checkpoint.

Two winters ago, a woman was going to Ramallah in labour with twins. She was held up at the checkpoint just outside the village in the cold and the wet for over 90 minutes The first twin died 20 minutes after being born in the open. The other twin was also born at the checkpoint but died a little while later in hospital.



This 11 yr old boy was shot through the arm pit 17 months ago, leaving his arm paralysed. He was fortunate: a  7 yr old from the next flat was shot dead and a number  of other people were killed when tanks came into their residential area in Gaza  and started firing at people.



This nursery in Gaza City was machine-gunned by the Israeli army.



I met a relative of this baby. An Israeli soldier snatched the newborn from his mother and hurled him on the floor, fracturing his skull. Fortunately the baby has recovered.




At present Israel has 9,400 Palestinians men, women and children in prison. Numerous human rights reports testify that torture is commonplace. Defense for Children International reports that 4,000 Palestinian children have been arrested in the past five years and that arrests are increasing. Currently 400 children are imprisoned. According to DCI: "The process of arrest and detention of Palestinian children is a process of systematic abuse and mistreatment which flouts international legal standards and denies the basic human rights of detainees first as children and secondly as prisoners...[children are] handcuffed and blindfolded, humiliated and threatened and often beaten and kicked from the moment they are arrested up to and often throughout their interrogation and detention. They are deprived of sleep, food and access to the bathroom until so-called confessions are coerced out of them."







Zionism – the movement to establish a Jewish homeland – dates back to the latter part of the 19th Century. Britain has a major responsibility for encouraging and making possible the colonization of Palestine by Jews. Foreign Secretary Arthur Balfour and Prime Minister Lloyd George were brought up in evangelical households where they had been taught that the Jews should be restored to Palestine as a prelude to the second coming of Christ. But there was a second motive: anti-Semitism: the British government was happy to encourage colonization of Palestine by Jews as that would reduce the number wanting to settle in Britain.  Thus we find in the Balfour Declaration of 1917, one nation promising another nation the land of a third nation who were not even consulted. The idea of Palestine being a land without a people was a lie: the Palestinians had inhabited it for hundreds of years. The declaration mentions safeguards for the Palestinians but these provisions have been ignored and are now being completely disregarded.



The left hand panel shows in green the 45% of Palestine allocated to the Palestinians by the United Nations in 1947. The State of Israel was declared in 1948. By the end of the Arab-Israeli war of 1948-9, Israel had expelled 750,000 Palestinian refugees from their homes and had destroyed or seized more than 415 Palestinian villages and urban neighbourhoods, massacring the inhabitants of a number. The second panel from the left shows that by the end of the war Israel had taken half the land allocated to the Palestinians in addition to the 55% allocated to the Jews by the UN. The right hand panel shows that by 2003 Israel had also seized about half of the West Bank, leaving the Palestinians with only a quarter of the land they were allocated by the UN in 1947. The theft of Palestinian land is continuing day by day.




Unfortunately such chilling barbaric racist views are not confined to a handful of egregious rabbis, but are shared by a substantial number of Jewish religious fundamentalists. Fundamentalism -- Jewish, Muslim or Christian -- creates an unbridgeable divisions in society and is incompatible with democracy.


A peace group in New Zealand recently wrote: "The horrific suicide bombing in Tel Aviv, with its resulting death, injury and grief, reminds us that innocent Israelis can also become victims of this tragic conflict. The main cause of the suffering is Israel's criminal occupation of Palestine. The Palestinian people will need the unwavering support of the world community and the movements for peace and justice everywhere as the hard-line Zionist regime in Israel seeks to exploit the event and use it as an excuse to further collectively punish innocent Palestinians.

"Zionism is the one remaining state-sponsored racist ideology to survive from the last century. It has deliberately exploited both Jews and non-Jews and has treated them as expendable in the pursuit of its colonialist nightmare. It is time it was exposed, denounced and consigned to the dustbin of history."





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