Bulletin #17

19 April 2002
Grenoble, France

Dear Colleagues,

Again we at the Grenoble Research Center have received an important
testimony from an American reporter who has covered events in Palestine
since the 1970s.

This article by Ellen Cantarow was forwarded to us by Richard Du Boff, an
Associate Director of Research at the Center for the Advanced Study of
American Institutions and Social Movements in Grenoble.


Professor Francis Feeley
Director of Research
Université Stendhal
Grenoble, France

34 years of Israeli policy have laid the groundwork for its unholy war in the West Bank and Gaza
By Ellen Cantarow

I am Jewish. I am a writer. From 1979 to 1989 I reported for The Village
Voice, Mother Jones, Inquiry and other US publications from Israel and the
West Bank. During those years I witnessed on the ground the rapid growth
of Israel's settlements and the seizure of Palestinian land and water for
them: today over half the West Bank's resources now are in Israel's hands.
(About a third of Gaza's resources have suffered the same fate.)

I conducted in-depth interviews with ultra-right-wing settlers and
settler-leaders whose cry was: "Let them bow their heads, or let Israel
expel them." I interviewed Palestinian villagers who had suffered settler
vigilante actions and read accounts of these by Israeli-Jewish reporters
of conscience in HA ARETZ and other Israeli papers. These vigilante
actions ran the whole gamut: wanton destruction of property and crops,
rampages through villages with cries of "Death to the Arabs" and smashing
of car windows, casual in-the-street humiliation of Palestinian civilians,
beatings, murder. Within Israel I witnessed the increasing polarization of
Israeli society by the occupation; the growing, virulent racism of new
generations. Take, for instance, the Moroccan Jews in Kiryat Shemona,
members of Menachem Begin's voting base about whom I wrote for The Village
Voice in 1982 and who most commonly told me, "The only good Arab is a dead

When I first arrived in Israel in 1979, a "Master Plan for the Development
of Settlements in Judea and Samaria, 1979-1983" had just been drafted. In
it Matityahu Drobles, head of the World Zionist Organization's Department
for Rural settlement wrote: "The disposition of the [Israeli] settlements
must be carried out not only around the settlements of the minorities" -
by settlements Drobles referred to towns and villages centuries old like
Bethlehem and Hebron - "but also in between them." Drobles's rationale for
this was that "over the course of time, with or without peace, we will
have to learn to live with the minorities and among them [by "minorities"
Drobles meant the Palestinian people] while fostering good-neighborly
relations." Thus from the start of occupation Israeli policy-makers
projected the permanent colonization of the West Bank and, later, Gaza. To
single Ariel Sharon out as Israel's exceptional evil - if only he were
gone and polite, decent folks like Shimon Peres could guide the nation -
is to be oblivious of history. It wasn't under Ariel Sharon that the
Drobles Plan was drafted, nor under Sharon that Kiryat Arba was
established in 1968, but under Labor. Permanent settlement, retention and
expansion of the settlements: this has driven Israeli policy under every
government since 1967.

To rule the land into which it has made its incursions Israel from the
late 60s has enforced a military legal code completely separate from the
laws governing Israel. The army, the military courts and other elements
enforce military rule. Under it, for the past 34 years, collective
punishment for the alleged acts of individuals has been the order of the
day - for example, 23-hour-a-day curfews lasting for weeks on end; the
bulldozing of homes. During the years I was writing about the situation,
stone-throwing and street demonstrations were what most commonly brought
collective punishment. Suicide bombing is a post-Oslo phenomenon triggered
by the doubling of settlement population after the accords were signed and
by the dawning realization that Oslo consolidated a South African-style
plan for permanent Bantustanization of the West Bank. On all my stays in
the West Bank I witnessed the daily humiliation of Palestinians at Israeli
checkpoints; the casual landscape and social scenery of apartheid (the
most obvious and continual manifestations were the checkpoints with
differing treatment of Palestinians on the one hand; Israeli Jews and
internationals on the other, and the different color of license plates -
blue for Palestinians, yellow for Israelis). I interviewed villagers whose
homes had been blown up and/or bulldozed by Israeli soldiers. I heard
accounts by men and women jailed, abused, and tortured in Israel's prisons
(the practice is an established fact acknowledged by Israel 's B'tselem
and foreign human rights organizations and is ongoing as I write: The
Financial Times April 6 reported, "The Israeli human rights organization
B'tselem yesterday petitioned the High Court after receiving reports of
torture at the Ofer detention center near Ramallah.") About all of the
foregoing the Hebrew press was quite open while the US press was almost
invariably silent.

We now arrive at the current nightmare. As I write, collective punishment
is ratcheted up a thousand fold in full-blown war atrocities committed
throughout the West Bank. Israel's war machine has moved into the northern
West Bank as well as in Gaza, from which I received an American relief
worker's e-mail this morning. For the past week my computer has delivered
to me daily - even hourly - desperate e-mails begging for help from
international human rights organizations. They plead with me and others in
my list serves to call our congress people and senators, protest to the
press. One writer, a university researcher by profession, describes
looting by Israeli soldiers invading his home: "I had a little money
(about 800 NIS) in the upper drawer of my desk which I got from the bank
on Thursday when an invasion was expected . . . I found [the drawer]
broken and the money gone." Another passage, from a different letter,
reads: "Their 'visits' to our houses are no different from [visits by]
gangsters. They went to . . . my very close neighbors' houses, they start
by asking all of them to stay in one room with their faces against the
wall, then they enter all rooms . . . go to the kitchen, collect all the
food . . . and start eating it . . . the rest of the food they take . . .
with them, they also take jewels, money and electronic equipment . . . Two
of my neighbors have heart problems. The first thing they did when they
knew about their sickness was to go and get their medicine and destroy it
in front of their eyes." In London's The Independent Robert Fisk confirms,
"The Israeli army . . . is proving once more - as it did in Lebanon - that
it is not the 'elite' force it's cracked up to be. It is impossible to
dismiss the widespread reports of looting from homes in Ramallah (not
least because that is exactlywhat Israeli soldiers used to do in southern
Lebanon in 1983); and that brave Israeli academic, Avi Schlaim, has
himself charged Israel with extra-judicial killings in Ramallah."

Other e-mails describe ambulances shot at and stopped from arriving at
their destinations; hospitals invaded and medical personnel prevented at
gunpoint from carrying out their responsibilities; people bleeding to
death while soldiers block, at gunpoint and in tanks, their safe passage
to medical relief; corpses rotting in hospital corridors (numerous e-mails
warn of the threat of imminent epidemics); relatives forbidden to carry
out decent burials (one group of the slain had to be buried in a Ramallah
parking lot); civilians shot if they venture out their doors; massive
looting and vandalizing of homes; cultural institutions invaded and files
destroyed; electrical systems for water pumps destroyed so that whole
urban areas have their water supplies cut off; internationals and
Palestinian press members wounded by Israeli gun-fire.

As I write this on April 6, the most urgent e-mail of today is entitled,
"Deliberately Created Humanitarian Crisis Reaches Intolerable Point April
6th, 2001, 11AM," and describes six Nablus field hospitals with scores of
people in serious-to-critical condition, doctors forced to operate with
minimal equipment. In one such improvised center, corpses rot in the
operating room while Israeli snipers fire on anyone trying to enter or
leave. In Jenin 50 houses are reported seriously damaged by Apache
helicopter fire, 20 people injured and bleeding in the street. There is
much, much more.
Like Nero, President Bush has fiddled while Rome burns and has issued too
little too late. What is needed is an immediate order for withdrawal and a
threat of economic sanction (this is what President Eisenhower did in the
Suez Crisis of 1956, resolving it immediately.) What is needed is for
Colin Powell to be on the ground now, not a week from now or this coming
Sunday. Sharon, the Milosevic twin ordering these atrocities, is the
self-same war criminal who commanded the infamous Unit 101 which killed 99
defenseless civilians at Kibyeh in October, 1953; who in August, 1977
ordered the destruction of 2000 Gaza homes and expulsion from them of
16,000 civilians during an Israeli "pacification" onslaught in the strip;
who oversaw the IDF while it enabled the Phalangist massacre of over a
thousand Palestinian civilians in the Beirut refugee camps Sabra and
Shatila in 1982; who triggered the second intifada when, with an escort of
1000 soldiers, he "visited" Al Aksa mosque in September, 2000 - a visit
followed next day by the IDF's shooting of Palestinian demonstrators at
the mosque.

I am old enough to remember a childhood just after World War II. I am
filled with a mix of grief, helplessness, despair and anger as Israel,
pretending to act in my name and using the Nazi holocaust against the Jews
to exonerate its crimes, proceeds with a clear effort to obliterate the
economy, the social, political and cultural institutions, and the entire
infrastructure of the Palestinian people. Those who do not speak out
against these abominations, these horrors are complicit by their silence.
Those who exonerate or apologize for Israel as it commits them are guilty
by association.