Wake Up And Smell The Occupation
A voice from the wilderness.
Wake Up And Smell The Occupation
Saturday, September 28 2002 @ 02:58 PM GMT
By Sam Bahour
For Palestine Chronicle
As Israel jumps from one self-made crisis to the next, the State of
Israel itself is in an alarming condition.
The peace and security that Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon
promised during his year 2001 election campaign have vanished in the
dust of Israeli tanks rampaging Palestinian cities. Israel's economy
is declining at a record pace. The right-wing Sharon government has
sparked a national debate in Israel that questions the legal right
to citizenship for over 1.1 million of its Palestinian citizens.
Israeli families across the social strata are sending their children
to study abroad and emigrating at a pace that was not thought
possible only a few years ago.
Over 400 Israeli conscripts, soldiers, or reservists are refusing to
serve in the occupied Palestinian areas and some are now imprisoned
in Israeli jails as consciousness objectors. The moral fabric of
Israeli society is tearing apart at the seams as the Israeli
military proudly reverts to a policy of assassination, imprisonment,
demolition of homes, deportation, and collective punishment.
Israel's unrelenting military onslaught against every Palestinian
city, village and refugee camp in the West Bank and Gaza Strip has
put the Israeli economy at serious risk. As Palestinians living (if
you can call it that) under Israeli military occupation for the past
thirty-six years and Israeli military curfew for the last five
months, our first concern is hardly for the welfare of Israel and
its economy. On the other hand, I, as most Palestinians, fear that
the threatening socio-economic collapse of Israel may bring even
more death and destruction upon us.
Only last week the price of flour in Israel rose 6 percent and gas
14 percent. Flagship Israeli companies are reporting cuts in their
workforce by the thousands. One high-tech firm just cut twenty-five
percent of its workforce in one day. Rochard Fox, senior director of
sovereign ratings, from the international ratings agency, Fitch,
told Reuters this week, "There's a greater than 50% chance the
[Israel's] rating will go down based on current trends." Israel's
other credit rating has taken a pounding lately as the Israeli
currency, the New Israeli Shekel (NIS), declined against the US
dollar after Standard and Poor's lowered its rating for two of
Israel's top banks to BBB+ from their previous A- rating.
Additionally, this week the International Monetary Fund (IMF) said
that Israel faces negative growth and rising unemployment, which the
IMF said would hit 10.7 percent this year and 10.9 percent next
year. The IMF report predicted that Israel's gross domestic product
would contract by 1.5 percent this year. The IMF also forecasts for
Israel an inflation rate of 6.2 percent this year and 3.0 percent in
2003. Combined with the bleak global economic scene and the growing
strains of continuing its three-decade old occupation, these numbers
should be ringing many bells within Israel.
Another arena that may further damage the Israeli economy is the
global divesture campaign that was launched by Professor Francis
Boyle, professor of international law at The University of Illinois
College of Law. Already, groups at over fifty US university campuses
have signed on to help organize the campaign and many other campuses
and professors around the world are joining in. This effort recalls
the successful divesture campaign against South African Apartheid
that contributed to Apartheid's abrupt end.
As Israel continues to refuse to implement dozens of United Nations
resolutions, the latest calling for an end to the siege of Arafat's
headquarters in Ramallah, it can only be expected that increasing
numbers of communities will bypass governmental paralysis in taking
action against Israeli and look for other means, such as economic
sanctions, to pressure Israel into ending the occupation.
Alternatively, Israelis do not have to wait while the US forces
Sharon to end the siege of Arafat. Israeli citizens have the power
to step back from yet another embarrassing political scenario on
their own, today.
Israel's occupation of Palestinians is destroying Israel from within
and ultimately only Israeli citizens have the power to reverse the
current trend of self-destruction. After two years of watching
Israel spiral downwards, the world no longer believes that the
current Israeli administration is interested in addressing its sad
state of affairs. As a matter of fact, all efforts, even those by
Israel's strongest allies, are falling on deaf ears. Israeli Prime
Minister Ariel Sharon instead chooses to continue his wildly
irresponsible (many would say criminal) foreign and domestic
policies while being cheered on by the current US administration and
the more powerful elements of American Jewry and Christian
It is no longer sufficient for Israelis to pay lip service to their
intent to end the occupation. It is in Israel's immediate best
interest to set aside the political spin that aims at demonizing the
Palestinian leadership and people and swiftly, even unilaterally if
need be, beg the international community to assume responsibility
for the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem. By doing so,
Israel can finally end the long drain of military occupation. There
will be many years after the end of occupation to discuss the
details of a final status political agreement with the Palestinians.
But holding 3.5 million Palestinians hostage until a final status
agreement can be reached will only destroy Israel from within.
Israeli voters taking back their country from those bent on forever
persecuting Palestinians is the final hope for Israel to save itself
from its own ill-advised, three-decade policy of occupation. The
fact remains that there exists only one policy that Israel, to date,
has refused to even attempt to employ: actually ending the
occupation. This action has the best chance of relieving Israel of
the prisoner's ball and chain that it has been dragging around for
the last fifty-five years.
As many Palestinians are anxiously waiting for the US to gallop
across the Atlantic on a white horse to solve our woes, I prefer to
appeal to my Israeli neighbors to wake up and smell the occupation,
for their sake and for ours.
Sam Bahour is a Palestinian-American businessman living in the
besieged Palestinian City of Al-Bireh in the West Bank and can be
reached at email@example.com. He is co-editor of HOMELAND: Oral
Histories of Palestine and Palestinians (1994).
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