Wednesday, 7 June 2017

50 years of Occupation

Yesterday, JVP’s website went dark for 24 hours in commemoration of the fiftieth anniversary of the occupation. We put the following text up instead:

Almost 70 years since over 750,000 Palestinians were expelled from their homes in the Nakba of 1948, the catastrophe of Palestinian displacement and oppression continues. Half a century after Israeli forces illegally occupied Palestinian land, the Palestinian people are still fighting for justice.

The war that was being fought 50 years ago today was one that remade the region. 300,000 people were displaced, over a million found themselves living under a brutal occupation, and the settlement enterprise was born, which in the fifty years since has brought approximately 600,000 Jewish settlers into the West Bank and East Jerusalem through land theft, expropriation and violence. Over the past 12 years, since settlers there were pulled out, Gaza has been under siege, subject to embargoes and repeated bombings, creating an “open-air prison” with some of the most unlivable conditions on the planet.

When JVP began in the early 2000s, many of us knew about the occupation, but nothing about the Nakba, or catastrophe, that was part and parcel of the founding of the state of Israel, and is ongoing until today. As we learned, 1967 was not the beginning of Palestinian oppression and dispossession: The seeds of the occupation were laid in 1948, when 750,000 Palestinians were displaced from their homes-- and in fact the history of displacement, segregation, and violence goes back even further. We are deeply thankful to organizations such as Zochrot, Badil, and the Boycott National Committee that have pushed us, educated us, and provided us with resources for educating others, as part of our commitment to ongoing political education and transformation.

As we reflect this week on the meaning of this anniversary, we also need to remind ourselves of the real reason the occupation has reached the rotten old age of fifty. It is not because the solution is impossible to imagine or to achieve. It’s because the Israeli government is simply not interested in it.

And neither is the primary economic, military, and diplomatic guarantor of that government: the United States. Peace talks have always been a cover for further settlement expansion and entrenchment of the occupation, and have avoided almost entirely the underlying issues that predate the occupation-- among them the rights of refugees to return.

We can’t end the occupation without understanding its basis in the history and logic of supremacy and domination. And there can’t be real “peace talks” while one side is actively oppressing, exploiting and disenfranchising the other.

Matzpen was an Israeli anti-Zionist organization that was founded less than 20 years after the establishment of the state. Just months after the War of 1967, they published an ad in Ha’aretz that was remarkable prophetic, saying (in Hebrew):

“Our right to defend ourselves against annihilation does not grant us the right to oppress others. Conquest brings in its wake foreign rule. Foreign rule brings in its wake resistance. Resistance brings in its wake oppression. Oppression brings in its wake terrorism and counterterrorism. The victims of terrorism are usually innocent people. Holding onto the territories will turn us into a nation of murderers and murder victims. Let us leave the occupied territories now.” 1

Even in 1967, some Israelis were prescient and brave enough to publicly recognize what would result from the occupation.

We are proud to continue in the lineage of that resistance, recognizing that this work is long and hard-- and that it is necessary, and worth it.

During this solemn week of commemoration and reflection, please join me in re-committing to the struggle for justice and for the long-term future of all the people in Israel/Palestine.

Rebecca Vilkomerson, via email

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