by K. Flo Razowsky
Originally in The Minneapolis Star Tribune
According to the international media, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s disengagement from the Gaza Strip is an unprecedented move toward peace. The situation on the ground demands further inspection.
Daily, new settlements are under construction in the West Bank, existing ones are being expanded and Israel’s Wall is being built. The village of Bil’in, in the western Ramallah region, is losing more than 52 percent of its land to this type of new construction. This style of settlement growth directly contradicts President Bush’s road map. Similarly, during the Oslo period, Israel expanded settlements and doubled the number of settlers within the West Bank, contradicting that peace agreement.
Despite the evacuation of more than 8,000 settlers from Gaza and from four settlements in the West Bank, about 420,000 settlers will remain in illegal Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem. Israel recently announced its plans to incorporate the largest of these settlements, Maale Adumim, into Israel proper.
Evacuated settlers are being compensated with $300,000 to $500,000 and given free land by the Israeli government and the World Bank. Palestinians also regularly face eviction and home demolitions by the Israeli military. In these cases, however, they receive no compensation, new home or land.
The settlers, who had months’ notice of their evacuations, were assisted by Israeli soldiers in packing their belongings. Palestinians may get a 15-minute eviction notice before their homes are demolished. Workers have been scurrying to collect all the domestic animals left behind before the bulldozers move in.
Another glaring difference is in the behavior of the Israeli soldiers. The largely unarmed soldiers who removed the settlers from Gaza are the same soldiers who regularly open fire with live ammunition on nonviolent Palestinian demonstrations. Some of these unarmed soldiers were attacked by violent settlers.
During the most recent of my three trips to the occupied West Bank, from March to June of this year, I saw with my own eyes the new and expansionist settlement construction. In villages like Bil’in, I witnessed the daily nonviolent resistance by Palestinians and their international and Israeli supporters. Every day I watched these efforts squashed with violence by Israeli soldiers.
So praise Ariel Sharon if you must for these supposed moves toward peace, but do not judge this situation without considering the full picture.
K. flo Razowsky, a Jewish American from is a Minneapolis, Minnesota, has spent 17 months since August 2002 in the Occupied Territories.