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Zacks '15: Beasts of the southern wild

There is no place like home, and the Dorothies of the West Bank will tell you - there is no raging tornado like the State of Israel. Other tornadoes eventually run their course and allow their victims to heal and rebuild. But this whirlwind of violence and dispossession does not subside and disappear, nor will it, as long as there are still places like home for non-Jews in Area C of the West Bank.

Under the Oslo Accords in the 1990s, the West Bank was divided into three zones, A, B and C. Area A was placed under Palestinian civil and military control,  Area B under Palestinian civil control and Israeli military control and Area C under Israeli civil and military control. In a temporary system grown permanent, Area C - over 60 percent of the West Bank - rapidly became the new land without people for a people who just can't get enough land.

Despite the fact that the settler project in the West Bank came into being nearly two decades after the creation of Israel, it has deep, disconcerting roots in the earlier Zionist tradition, roots that are not lost on the settlers themselves even as they are suppressed and omitted by the more liberal segment of the population.

As we stood on the outskirts of an illegal outpost in the South Hebron Hills, an armed young settler explained to me that his actions are no different from those of our common ancestors, the early Zionists, who during the British Mandate for Palestine established outposts overnight in order to delineate the borders of a future Jewish state. A difference, I suggested, would be that post-1967 settlements stand in gross violation of international law. But eying his weapon, a big gun handed to him by the Israeli military and carrying the Israeli Defense Forces stamp, there can be no doubt that he has the backing of the Israeli government, not I. His gun, cable TV, running water and playground demolish the discursive distinction between Israel proper and Israel improper as surely as the bulldozers of Caterpillar will soon demolish - for the second time - eight villages on the land the Israel Defense Forces now intends to utilize as a firing zone in the South Hebron Hills. Needless to say, the settlements located in that same firing zone will remain intact.

I know I shouldn't use the words "ethnic cleansing." While I sometimes wish my nose were slightly smaller and my Jewfro more manageable, I am not a self-hating Jew and do not wish to be labeled one. Yet no other term describes quite as aptly the systemic uprooting and forced transfer of entire populations based on their ethnic and religious background.

The settlers know their history - a history most Israelis still refuse to acknowledge. Between uprooting olive trees in the village of Nahalin and spray painting "death to the Arabs" in Susya, they must have found the time to read Ilan Pappe's "Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine." And they continue to cleanse with vengeance - 50 attacks in July alone, according to the Israeli newspaper Haaretz. Another 26 incidents documented by Haaretz in August. In one incident, Jewish youths aged 12-13 from the Bat Ayin settlement threw a firebomb into a passing Palestinian car and injured six.

The Israeli Civil Administration helps them in their efforts to transform Area C into a Jewish-only space, happily providing the legal guise needed to demolish villages. It is legal only if one chooses to ignore that which the Civil Administration does not provide to 95 percent of Palestinians in Area C - building permits. Throw in the military, with schemes like the recent Firing Zone 918, and in a few years time, the disinheritance will be complete.

I don't think we are in Kansas anymore. The settlers poison Toto, Auntie Em gets beaten in the olive groves, Glinda's soap bubble is confiscated by the IDF. And still, we let ourselves be fooled into believing in Israel's peaceful intentions and in the inherent anti-Semitism of words like "apartheid." Now, when a settlers' government is planning a new and sinister war, and the foreign ministry accuses South Africa of remaining an apartheid state for its demand that settlements' products be labeled as such, the world needs to act. The United States, as the chief supporter and enabler of Israel, needs to act. It's never easy, it's always too late, but nonetheless it must happen.

 

Mika Zacks '15 is from Israel and is a member of Brown Students for Justice in Palestine. She'd like to ask all pro-Israeli activists already taking notes for their fierce and powerful rebuttals to read the history of the village of Susya.


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