- I am very happy to be able to publish this essay by veteran Israeli peace activist Amos Gvirtz of Kibbutz Shefayim. The essay vividly captures the continuity in the conduct of the Zionist settlement movement in Palestine from pre-state days to the present. It also captures, as Amos puts it, “the continuation of the slow and ongoing implementation of all the components of the ‘Nakba.'” Thanks, Amos! ~HC
Another Acre and Another Goat
By Amos Gvirtz
During my childhood in the 1950s I still heard echoes of the argument (from pre-state days) between the Zionist Labor Movement and the Zionist Right. The Labor Movement people criticized the Zionist Right for declaring the intention of the Zionist Movement to inherit the Land of Israel. They argued that these declarations would arouse Arab resistance to the Zionist enterprise. In their view, the state-in-the-making should be built quietly, according to the slogan “another acre and another goat.”
When one sees and hears what’s going on in the occupied territories today, one can only conclude that the same approach characterizes our own times as well, together with the same old argument between quiet action and declared intentions. Except that today, instead of buying land, it is taken by force. Along with the building of settlements, Palestinians are expelled and their houses destroyed. All these things are done on a small scale – after all, our entire existence depends on the international community that supports us. If Israel were to act on a larger scale, that support would decline. Only in the context of a war does Israel allow itself massive action, as was the case in the “Cast Lead” operation in Gaza, where the IDF killed 1400 people and destroyed more than 4000 homes!
Whoever follows these things in the news, hears from time to time about small land confiscations near settlements, for security needs or for paving a road. The very existence of the separation barrier (“the wall”) serves as a means for stealing land. After the separation barrier is built, as the years go by, additional lands are taken from their Palestinian owners on the grounds that they are not cultivated – even if there is no possibility of cultivating them since many landowners are denied permits to cross the barrier and work their lands. And if the IDF doesn’t confiscate the land, then land-greedy settlers attack Palestinian farmers. The IDF protects the attackers and expels the farmers. After three years when Palestinians are unable to or do not dare to enter their lands, the lands are officially declared “state lands” because they have not been cultivated.
It’s the same story with home demolitions. First they confiscated the granting of building permits from Palestinians by disenfranchising the work of the Palestinian building and planning committees. After that the Israeli authorities practically stopped granting building permits to Palestinians. And then, when thousands of Palestinian families had no choice but to build without permits, they were issued demolition orders. The demolitions are carried out little by little over time, so that the media loses interest.
The policy of expulsions works in a similar way. Permanent residency is denied to people who marry local Palestinian residents, even if they live in “Area A” (the Palestinian cities) which are under the full control of the Palestinian Authority. Even after decades of married life, these non-resident spouses are required to go abroad every three months and return to their families as tourists. Sometimes they are not allowed to return at all. It seems that the State of Israel wants these families to leave their homes in the occupied territories in the wake of the spouses who are denied residency.
And so it seems that we have returned to pre-state days. Israel has eradicated its borders with the occupied territories, ignores international law and international norms, and systematically acts to annex the West Bank and the Golan Heights. For this purpose the State steals lands, builds settlements, destroys houses and expels people.
In the 1980s the country was up in arms: The racist Rabbi Meir Kahane succeeded in becoming a Knesset Member! He announced in a loud voice what Israel was doing little by little. The shock was great. Legislation against racist incitement was passed – not, of course, against racist actions – and Kahane’s party was declared illegal. If a law against racist actions had been legislated, we would be in danger of placing Israeli governments outside the law.
On the eve of Holocaust Day, the headline in the Israeli newspaper “Ha’aretz” informed us of a military order issued by the Head of the Army Central Command that would enable the expulsion of tens of thousands of Palestinians from the West Bank. At this point I will take the risk of saying something that is prohibited among us: that’s how it started in Germany. They spoke about the transfer of Jews from Europe. Only when they realized that this was impossible did they decide on the “final solution.”
These days Knesset Members are busy initiating legislation that will prohibit commemorating the “Nakba” (the Palestinian catastrophe) of 1948… The only thing lacking is the initiation of legislation that would prohibit the continuation of the slow and ongoing implementation of all the components of the “Nakba.”