A Note on the History of Zionism

Ever present in Europe in certain literary and political circles that were essentially Protestant, on the theme of “neo-Crusades,” the idea of a Jewish colonisation of Palestine developed in the middle of the nineteenth century. Zionism emerged rapidly as a political movement reflecting the nationalist climate of opinion prevalent at that time with theories of the “non-assimilation of races,” the inferiority of the native Arab population, and colonial expansionism. In August 1897, Zionists gathered in Basel under the presidency of Theodor Herzl and adopted the basic programme of the Zionist movement; its central component was the colonisation of Palestine with the aim of creating a Jewish state. Zionism justified itself by the alleged “Jewish right to the ownership of Palestine.” With Zionism, the Palestinian people “were destined to become foreigners in their own country, when admitting that they were permitted to remain where they were.” (Nathan Weinstock)

The Zionist movement’s major political ally was the United Kingdom. The Balfour Declaration of November 1917 was introduced by Balfour with “much pleasure in conveying … our sympathy with Jewish Zionist aspirations which has been submitted to, and approved by, the Cabinet… His Majesty’s Government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine...”. This declaration ignored the fact that the population at that time was more than 90% Arab Palestinian. In addition, the promise, in total contradiction to earlier promises made by the British in 1916 to support an independent Arab state on Arab land, naturally including Palestine, provoked consternation among Palestinians, and indeed Arabs in general.

Between 1949 and 1953, the State of Israel gave judicial substance to Zionism by promulgating the “law of return,” a law which gives the right to every Jew, whatever his origin, to settle in the State of Israel and to acquire Israeli citizenship. In 1975, Zionist ideology was condemned by the Assembly of the United Nations as “a form of racism and racial discrimination” (Resolution 3379, passed on November 10, 1975). However, Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir managed to obtain the annulment of the resolution on December 16, 1991, at the final stage of the Madrid Conference, and to re-establish diplomatic relations with the republics of the former USSR: Zionism emerged victorious and a million Russian Jews immigrated to Israel in the following ten years. In August-September 2001, international human rights organisations attending the International Conference Against Racism and Racial Discrimination in Durban, South Africa, condemned Israel as “a state practising racial discrimination” against its own citizens (the Palestinian citizens of Israel), and against the Palestinians in territories occupied since 1967.

The Zionist Colonisation of Palestine

From the first hours of Zionist colonisation in Palestine in 1880, the appropriation and expropriation of the land was a major objective; the stated aim was: the creation of a Jewish state. Palestine was portrayed as a “land without a people” and Jews everywhere were encouraged to become real pioneers and to settle there.

The Jewish National Fund (JNF), established in 1901 at the time of the Fifth Zionist Congress in Basel (Switzerland), was the principal institution established to acquire land, which then became the “inalienable property of the Jewish people.” Lands bought from the large, Ottoman feudal owners, mostly absentee landlords living in the cities of Lebanon, Turkey or Syria, were systematically cleansed of their Palestinian small-holding peasants, who farmed them only according to customary law.

The British never ceased encouraging immigration and colonisation, sending their troops to help evacuate lands acquired by the JNF. In 1925, the JNF was replaced by a body still functioning today, Keren Kayemet L’Israel BM (National Fund for Israel Ltd.). When, on November 29, 1947, the UN General Assembly voted for its partition plan (Resolution 181), “Jewish”-owned land was only 7% to 8% of the total surface area of Palestine. The UN recommended the creation of a Jewish state on 56.5% of the country, leaving 42.9% for the Palestinian majority, while the region of Jerusalem (including Bethlehem) was to become an international zone.

The Nakba (The Catastrophe)

After a variety of partition plans (even proposals for the transfer of the Palestinian Arab population, issuing from the British Labour Party in 1944 and also from US President Roosevelt), on 29 November, 1947, the UN General Assembly approved a partition plan Resolution 181. Although Jews owned either private or collective property holdings representing only 6.5% of the lands in Palestine, the Jewish state was awarded 56.5% of the territory of Palestine, and the Arab state, 42.9% in that November 1947 UN partition plan. The Zionist policies were victorious, even though that General Assembly vote was sent for ratification to the Security Council, which buried the resolution – public opinion to this day believes that the United Nations’ vote was binding and final.

The second stage of their strategy - a policy of terror and military conquest - would lead to the creation of the State of Israel. In December 1947, the Zionist movement launched a policy of terror, known by the code name “Plan C” (in Hebrew “Tochnit Gimmel,” gimmel being the Hebrew alphabet’s third letter. Attacks against the Palestinian civil population became frequent but were also mounted against British troops; on January 4, 1948, the Lehi (which included the notorious Stern Gang) killed 26 Palestinians in a car bomb attack on the Old Government House in Jaffa. On January 5, 1948, an assault by the Hagana on the Semiramis Hotel in the Jerusalem neighbourhood of Qatamon killed 20 people, mostly Palestinian. The most notorious and murderous attack was committed by the Irgun, with Menachem Begin in command, on July 22, 1946, when it blew up the headquarters of the British army, which had been established at the King David Hotel in Jerusalem: ninety-three British, Arabs and Jews died in the blast. Shortly before cessation of the British Mandate and the effective departure of British troops, a large-scale offensive was launched in April 1948 throughout Palestine under Plan D (in Hebrew: “Tochnit Dalet:” dalet being the fourth letter of the Hebrew alphabet), fully researched by revisionist historians, including Israelis such as Ilan Pappe in “The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine.”

The Zionist “War of Independence” was accompanied by the systematic ethnic cleansing of Palestinian towns and villages. This first war for Palestine (April 4 - May 15, 1948) was fought by 50,000 Hagana soldiers against some 2,500 Palestinian combatants, reinforced by 4,000 Arab volunteers. Massacres of Palestinian civilians increased. On April 9, 1948, between 100 to 254 Palestinians (depending on conflicting reports) in Deir Yassin, a village on the outskirts of Jerusalem strategically sited at the western exit road of Jerusalem to Tel Aviv and Jaffa, but which had a non-aggression pact at the time with the Jewish yishuv, and which therefore was unarmed, were massacred and the survivors deported to the other side of the Demarcation Line. The shock was immense, especially since Abd al-Qader al-Husseini, commander of the Palestinian resistance in the Jerusalem region, had been killed the day before at Qastal, a strategic point on the Jerusalem-Tel Aviv-Jaffa road.

By the time of the declaration of the establishment of the State of Israel (May 14, 1948), some 350,000 Palestinians had become refugees, followed by 500,000 additional refugees in the following months. For Palestinians, 1948 was the year of the Catastrophe (en-Nakba), the year of the destruction of the land and the year of exile.

The Arab coalition states held back from any military commitment until the day after the declaration of the State of Israel. Only then did they intervene and only in the regions not yet under Zionist control, and so the first Israeli-Arab war broke out (May 15, 1948 - January 1949). However, the power balance remained fundamentally unequal in terms of men mobilised (less than 14,000 on the Arab side), equipment and strategy.

The Stern Gang, led by Yitzhak Shamir (leader of the Likud Party in the 1980s and Prime Minister several times between 1983 to 1992), - intending to overcome all obstacles in the path of the Zionist project - claimed responsibility for the assassination of the UN Mediator in Palestine, Count Folke Bernadotte, on September 17, 1948: Bernadotte having voiced strenuous objections to the Zionist policy of ethnocide.

By the time of the Armistice Agreement with Egypt in February 1949, the State of Israel was in control of 78% of historical Palestine, much more than had ever been projected by the 1947 UN partition plan. The remaining part was annexed by King Abdullah of Transjordan and known as the West Bank, while a strip of land south of Gaza (the Gaza Strip) was placed under Egyptian military administration.

The Confiscation of Land in the '48 Territories

The Palestinian population of the '48 Territories (the present State of Israel), while it avoided transfer, has nonetheless incessantly witnessed the systematic confiscation of its lands for more than 50 years. Although Palestinian Israelis represent 20% of the population of the State of Israel today, they own no more than 3% of the land, while 93% of the country’s land has been declared “State Land.” New Profile, an Israeli peace organisation working to demilitarise Israel, reports that 51% of all Israeli land is controlled by the Israeli military. With its Absentee Property Law (1950), the State of Israel has given itself a “legal” framework for the seizure of lands and possessions of refugees, who have not been allowed to return to their property.

Similarly, new “legal” measures, both military and civilian, have been instituted; among these has been the “arrangement of territory” law as one of the most efficient means. Thanks to this law, entire territories previously under Arab municipal administration have been integrated into the new borders of the Jewish municipalities, which limit construction by discriminatory control of building permits required by urban planning, or by reserving those territories for projects of “general interest.” In addition, huge areas have been declared “military zones.” One of the most pernicious methods of confiscation consists of simply not recognising the existence of dozens of Arab villages and thus depriving them of their property and basic services (water, electricity, health services, etc.).

The steady growth of settlements in the Territories of '48 prompted strong protests that culminated in the Seventies (Land Day in 1976), and which have repeated themselves since the Oslo Accords. At Ein Mahil (Nazareth), Umm al-Fahm, and Tarshiha (a village on the Lebanese border), hundreds of hectares are in constant jeopardy. The dispossession of land and bureaucratic measures of restricting housing have, for their part, resulted in a corresponding development of illegal construction.

All these measures are part of the Israeli policy code-named “The Star of David” plan whose goal is to obtain a Jewish majority in regions predominantly Arab (Upper and Lower Galilee, the Triangle and the Negev). The plan also seeks to eliminate territorial contiguity between zones of Arab population. To effect this demographic change, the Trans-Israel Highway Project (Highway No. 6) presently under construction allows for the Jewish population to be more concentrated to the east, reinforcing links between the settlements on the other side of the Green Line - that is, in the West Bank. The cost for the Palestinians of Israel: one third of their lands are being confiscated!

The Palestinian Resistance and the Creation of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO)

During the 1950s, the expulsions and massacres continued: as examples, there was the expulsion of the people of from 13 small villages in Wadi ‘’Ara (to the south of the Galilee) in February 1951, and the people of al-Majdal town (Ashkelon has been constructed on its site) in April 1951.  In October 1953, 53 Palestinians were killed when houses in the village of Qibya (in the district of Qalqilya) were bombarded.  In 1956, Palestinians enthusiastically supported Egyptian president Jamal Abdul Nasser and the nationaliszation of the Suez Canal. The tripartite (Anglo-Franco-Israeli) aggression against Egypt permitted the sState of Israel to occupy the Gaza Strip and part of Sinai for several months.

On November 3, 1956, Israeli forces massacred more than 273 Palestinian civilians in the refugee camp of Khan Younis and on November 12, 1956 over 100 Palestinian civilians were massacred in the Rafah refugee camp.  At this time, there was a bloody repression carried out against Palestinians of 1948 (the massacre of 49 Palestinians in the village of Kufr Qassem, near Tel Aviv, in October 1956), who had rallied to the cause of Arab nationalism. [See Kufr Qassem, p. 358]. 

From 1949 onwards, small groups of resistance fighters carried out military operations against the State of Israel, whose soldiers increased their attacks on border villages and Gaza.  In 1959, a group of fighters formed a project to unite militants in different places into one organiszation which would take up the fight for freedom.  They hoped to push the Arab states into action on their behalf and to stimulate an armed struggle on the model of the Algerian and Vietnamese liberation struggles.  These men, who bore the names Yasser Arafat (Abu Ammar), Khalil al-Wazir (Abu Jihad), Salah Khalaf (Abu Iyad) and Yusef en- Najjar founded the underground Fatah movement.  Its military branch, al-Assifa (the Storm), carried out its first operation on January 1, 1965.  In the same years, the Arab Nationalist Movement (ANM) also embarked on the path of armed struggle.  These military organizsations had such names as “The Heroes of Return,” or “Youth Organisation for Vengeance.”  Key figures in the Palestinian section of the ANM, among them Dr. George Habash (al-Hakim), Dr. Wadi' Haddad, Mustapha Ali Zabri (Abu Ali Mustapha) and Ghassan Kanafani, inaugurated the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) after the Arab defeat of 1967 fell oin Gaza and on the West Bank.

In response to this new occupation, the UN passed Resolution 242 on 29 November, 1967 (20 years after the Partition Plan!), a vague document which neither stated which territories Israel should withdraw from nor gave a time frame for a withdrawal, and which implicitly accepted as borders the armistice lines of the 1948 war (in total contradiction to Resolution 181).  The defeat of the Arab armies led to an unprecedented development: Palestinian resistance groups started to take up the war of liberation.  They rejected en masse Resolution 242 which “ignores the national rights of the Palestinian people.  It does not mention the existence of these people” (Fatah Central Committee). 

On March 21, 1968, the Palestinian resistance movement, at the cost of heavy losses, repulsed an Israeli attack on the Karameh refugee camp (on the eastern bank of the Jordan Valley, north of Shuneh).  This Palestinian victory produced a strong psychological effect.  The myth of Israeli invincibility was shaken.  Shortly after the 1967 occupation, the resistance groups joined went in the same direction as the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) (created by an initiative of Nasser in 1964), and elected Yasser Arafat (Abu Ammar) as president in 1969.  The resistance took root in Jordan, Syria and Lebanon, and took participated in all functions of life of Palestinians in exile: education, health, economy, local police, trade.

The Naksa (The Tragedy)

In June 1967, the State of Israel launched a new war by unleashing a surprise attack against Egypt, Jordan, and Syria, which led to Israel occupying the West Bank, Gaza, the Sinai and the Golan Heights. More than 300,000 Palestinians became exiles, one-third of who were already refugees of 1948. A brutal repression took place of unions and military training for resistance. The fate of the Palestinian people was ignored by the international community; Palestinian organisations brought their struggle to the international scene with three objectives: to remind the world of the Palestinian people’s existence by spectacular actions (hi-jacking of airplanes and hostage taking), to rally progressive forces and to threaten the State of Israel’s interests wherever they existed.

Palestinian militant Leila Khaled insisted: “He [my oppressor] is not in a position to make an impartial judgment […] inasmuch as it is he who stole my house, and drove my people and me out of our land. I feel absolutely no obligation to listen to someone who defines morality and legality on his own terms and who, because he has the power and the means to justify his inhuman conduct, decides to impose his conception of law and ethics […]. On the other hand, if I feel morally obliged to do something, it is to resist and fight to the death against the moral corruption of this enemy.”

The repression of these resistance movements came to a head in Jordan in 1970.

The American “peace” plan, called the Rogers Plan, which called for a cease-fire, also laid the ground for crushing Palestinian resistance, which had become too pre-eminent in Amman. King Hussein of Jordan used it to kill thousands, mainly Palestinians, in September 1970 (Black September), then in 1971 attacked the last Palestinian guerrilla strongholds in the Ajloun mountains. The United States, but also the Israeli army, threatened to retaliate should any progressive Arab government dare to intervene in favour of the Palestinians. Defeated, the resistance movement moved to Lebanon, the last remaining front outside Palestine.

In the Territories Occupied in 1967

Israeli colonisation in the Palestinian Territories occupied in 1967 (the “OPT”) has responded to Israel’s strategic military interests as well as economic and ideological ones (control of the principal roads in the Jordan Valley and elsewhere, control of the aquifers, the Palestinian market, and the Palestinian cheap labour force) and the realisation of the Greater Land of Israel, especially by displacement, demolitions and settlement expansion. These actions are a continuation of policies carried out in the Territories of ’48, (today’s Israel).

From 1967 to 1977, 35,000 Jewish settlers were installed in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Plans to colonise and populate new areas were enacted as a regular phenomenon but were sharply accelerated during the “Peace Process.” There were 75,000 Jewish settlers in the West Bank at the time of the Madrid Conference in 1991, 95,000 at the time of the signature of the Oslo Accords in 1993, 147,000 at the end of the Rabin and Peres governments in 1996, while 29,496 hectares of land were confiscated to bring to fruition the settlement policy. In 2001, 180,000 settlers lived in the West Bank, 190,000 in East Jerusalem, 5,000 in Gaza and 17,000 in the Occupied Syrian Golan Heights. Today, there are well over 600,000, including over 300,000 in East Jerusalem (where Pisgat Ze’ev is the largest, at over 50,000 settlers), 350,150 in the West Bank and some 20,000 in the Occupied Syrian Golan Heights, according to the July 2012 statistics of the Israeli Ministry of the Interior.

OCHA reports in 2013 there were 250 Israeli settlements including in East Jerusalem, representing 150 officially recognised, and some 100 “unauthorised outposts.” Over 74 settlements were established after the signature of the Oslo Accords and 27 more after the Wye Plantation Accord in October 1998. Under the Barak Government, 3,499 housing units in the settlements were approved and 2,270 constructed. State subsidies reached almost $17,000 for buyers and land tax exemptions for land owners was spread over a period of up to 10 years.  In 2002-2005, when Natan Sharansky was Housing Minister. Because he loved the Jordan Valley settlements, he subsidised housing construction there by 95% and even gave away 200 homes free. He also made the water rate free in many settlements or almost free. He achieved lower taxes and scholarships for those settlers, albeit his policies were reversed when he was no longer Housing Minister. 

Having said which, The Sasson Report, of 2005, proved that every single government ministry is complicit in breaking Israeli law by funding and supporting the “illegal outposts” built on privately owned Palestinian land.  That report was commissioned by then Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, who in 2005 “disengaged” from the Gaza Strip;  some 7,000 settlers were evacuated either to other settlements in the West Bank or to temporary homes inside Israel.  By this, Sharon effectively “proved” how almost impossible it is to evacuate settlers, thereby sacrificing the “pawn” of Gaza settlements in order to save the “Queen.”  It is widely believed that the Sasson Report on illegal settlement was his advance guarantee that the “disengagement” would take place, by way of issuing a covert threat against over 100 “illegal outposts.”

Since the beginning of the settlement enterprise, according to Shimon Peres, $80 billion has been spent on settlements by the State of Israel, largely subsidised by the American government, especially through the Defence Budget. Figures are hard to cite, since much has been buried in defence budgets. On May 16, 2013, Bradley Burston wrote  in Haaretz that it is impossible to know how much money has been spent on the settlement enterprise, and cited then-Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz as indicating in 2012 that “there is always more to funding settlements than meets the public eye.  ‘We've doubled the budget for Judea and Samaria,’ Steinitz, referring to the West Bank, told a regional settler-oriented radio station. ‘We did this in a low-profile manner, because we didn't want parties either in Israel or abroad to thwart the move.’"

At a time when one in three Israeli children lives under the poverty line, and the Israeli authorities have worked to make it hard for the middle class to afford apartments in the centre of the country – so that they would move to the Negev, Galilee or West Bank (resulting in them taking to the streets in mass rallies for social justice of almost half a million protesters in the summer of 2011), the settlements are seen by those who oppose them (but not of course by the settlers themselves) to be bleeding the country dry.  Not only that, in August 2013, the EU published guidelines by which it will insist that all contracts with Israeli recipients of EU funding must agree in the contract that no settlement will benefit from that funding. 

Labelling of settlement products, to reflect their origin, is now beginning to be administered by the EU, in accordance with international law, by which settlements are illegal under the Fourth Geneva Convention. These developments are forecast to increase in stringency, as the EU questions its wisdom in funding humanitarian or development infrastructure in Palestine that is regularly demolished by the Israeli army.

From the Lebanese Civil War to the Israeli Invasion

In 1975, the Lebanese civil war broke out, largely stimulated by Israel and the United States. Palestinian refugee camps around Beirut were besieged in 1976 and systematically bombarded; many were entirely destroyed by Phalangist soldiers and Israeli forces under the command of then Israeli Minister of Defence, Shimon Peres (minister from 3rd June 1974 until 20th June 1977).

The Israelis invaded the south of the country on March 15, 1978, hoping to strike a fatal blow to Palestinian and Lebanese resistance in Lebanon; after turning over the positions they had captured to the Phalange militias, they withdrew. At the same time, Egyptian President Sadat, paying no heed to the united Arab front, negotiated and signed the Camp David Agreement with his Israeli and American partners in September 1978, accords which allowed Israel to concentrate all its military forces on the northern border.

In June 1982, with its forces concentrated in the northern front, the State of Israel,  directed by Minister of Defence Ariel Sharon, invaded Lebanon again with the covert objective of “cleansing” Beirut of the PLO and the Lebanese national movement, and to place an ally, Christian Phalangist Bashir Jemayel, as the head of state. Ariel Sharon lied to the Cabinet of the day, headed by Prime Minister Menachem Begin, as exposed by the Kahan Commission of Inquiry, saying that the incursion (“Operation Peace for the Galilee”) intended only to clear a 40 kms (20 mile) security zone on the Israeli-Lebanon border. The siege was horrendous: fragmentation bombs were dropped on the cities and camps; some 70% of the houses in Rashidiya and Ein al-Hilweh refugee camps were entirely destroyed. The war cost, according to estimates, between 10,000 and 30,000 Lebanese and Palestinian lives.

In August 1982, the major powers evacuated a group of PLO fighters led by Chairman Yasser Arafat, from Lebanon; its leaders went to Tunis, where they established their headquarters. At the end of August, UN forces withdrew from the Lebanese capital, Beirut, leaving the field open to a new wave of Israeli aggression. On September 14, Bashir Jemayel, Israel’s proxy leader, was assassinated. On September 15, the Israeli army entered West Beirut “to keep the peace.” From September 16-18, the horror culminated in the Palestinian refugee camps of Sabra and Shatila, where over 3,000 unarmed Palestinian refugees were massacred by the Lebanese Maronite militias, in revenge for the assassination of Jemayel, but under the direction and supervision of the Israeli army, which controlled all entrances to the camps. Leila Shahid, current Palestinian ambassador to the EU and ambassador to France 1993-2006, was a resident of Beirut at the time. Her article in The Journal of Palestine Studies (http://www.palestine-studies.org/files/pdf/jps/4558.pdf) reports “Israeli efforts to place the entire blame on the Phalangists and to deny any responsibility—despite the fact that they had manifestly provided logistical, operational support as well as food, water, ammunition, and supplies throughout the operation—failed. A unanimous Security Council resolution condemned the “criminal” massacre on 19 September.” The camps of South Lebanon remained under the control of the Israelis and the Lebanese militias until 1985, when the Israeli army withdrew farther south.

At the same time, the conflict between the different Arab factions increased, culminating in 1987, when several refugee camps were destroyed. Faced with the Occupation and its components (repression, deportation, collaborators (including puppet “mayors”), land confiscation, ID revocations, settlements, humiliations, etc.), the Palestinians in the Occupied Territories relit the torch of their struggle. On December 9, 1987, the Intifada (in Arabic “shaking off”) erupted. The entire Palestinian society took part in it, responding to the orders of the Unified Command of the Intifada or to the calls of the Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas, which was founded on December 14, 1988). This struggle confronted Israeli soldiers and settlers with actions of civil disobedience (refusal to pay taxes or fines, strikes, boycott of Israeli products, etc.) and a reorganisation of civil society through popular committees of solidarity and mutual assistance, responsible especially for food supplies, education, and health.

The First Intifada

In December 1987, the Palestinian population in the West Bank and Gaza started a mass uprising against the Israeli occupation. This uprising, or intifada (which means “shaking off” in Arabic), was not started or orchestrated by the PLO leadership in Tunis. Rather, it was a popular mobilization that drew on the organizations and institutions that had developed under occupation.

The intifadainvolved hundreds of thousands of people, many with no previous resistance experience, including children, teenagers and women. For the first few years, it involved many forms of civil disobedience, including massive demonstrations, general strikes, refusal to pay taxes, boycotts of Israeli products, political graffiti and the establishment of underground schools (since regular schools were closed by the military as reprisals for the uprising). It also included stone throwing, Molotov cocktails and the erection of barricades to impede the movement of Israeli military forces.
Intifada activism was organized through popular committees under the umbrella of the United National Leadership of the Uprising. The UNLU was a coalition of the four PLO parties active in the

Occupied Territories: Fatah, the PFLP, the DFLP and the PPP. This broad-based resistance drew unprecedented international attention to the situation facing Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza, and challenged the occupation as never before.

Under the leadership of Minister of Defense Yitzhak Rabin, Israel tried to smash the intifada with “force, power and blows.” Army commanders instructed troops to break the bones of demonstrators. From 1987 to 1991 Israeli forces killed over 1,000 Palestinians, including over 200 under the age of 16. By 1990, most of the UNLU leaders had been arrested and the intifada lost its cohesive force, although it continued for several more years. Political divisions and violence within the Palestinian community escalated, especially the growing rivalry between the various PLO factions and Islamist organizations (Hamas and Islamic Jihad). Palestinian militants killed over 250 Palestinians suspected of collaborating with the occupation authorities and about 100 Israelis during this period.

Although the intifada did not bring an end to the occupation, it made clear that the status quo was untenable. The intifada shifted the centre of gravity of Palestinian political initiative from the PLO leadership in Tunis to the Occupied Territories. Palestinian activists in the Occupied Territories demanded that the PLO adopt a clear political program to guide the struggle for independence. In response, the Palestine National Council (a Palestinian government-in-exile), convened in Algeria in November 1988, recognized the state of Israel, proclaimed an independent Palestinian state in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, and renounced terrorism. The Israeli government did not respond to these gestures, claiming that nothing had changed and that the PLO was a terrorist organization with which it would never negotiate. The US did acknowledge that the PLO’s policies had changed, but did little to encourage Israel to abandon its intransigent stand.


In the late Eighties, Yitzhak Rabin as Minister of Defence, then as Prime Minister of the coalition government - Yitzhak Shamir / Ariel Sharon of Likud and Yitzhak Rabin / Shimon Peres of Labour - applied a policy termed “force, power and blows” or the policy of “broken bones” to what they labelled as “subversion.” A state of siege was declared, giving the occupying powers a free hand to apply military law with force in the West Bank and Gaza. Curfews were increased; tens of thousands of Palestinians were beaten, imprisoned and tortured, including children; the houses of militants were demolished under guise of reprisal. Some 1,400 Palestinian civilians were killed, and tens of thousands injured, many handicapped for life.

The repression touched all areas of life: the closure of schools and universities, clinics and hospitals. In 1990-91, most Palestinians condemned the collusion of Kuwait and America in the war against Iraq, and viewed this international intervention as applying a double standard: even when at the same time Israeli repression in the Territories occupied after ’67 was redoubled. One of the longest curfews since the beginning of the Intifada was imposed on Palestinian cities, camps and villages. When many Iraqi Scud missiles hit the Tel-Aviv region, Palestinians reacted enthusiastically; despite their repeated pleas for Arab or international intervention, those pleas had gone unheard.

Israeli-Palestinian Negotiations

The Madrid Conference (October 1991) reaffirmed the primacy of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) as the institutional body representing the Palestinian people. For his part, the Israeli Prime Minister, Yitzhak Shamir, resumed diplomatic relations with Moscow and obtained abrogation, under American pressure, from the General Assembly of the UN, of the UN resolution which had condemned Zionism as a “form of racism and racial discrimination” (Resolution 3379, November 10, 1975).

Secret negotiations which had taken place in Oslo led to a signed agreement in Washington on September 13, 1993. This predicted the constitution of a Palestinian Council to manage the transition to autonomy (for an interim period of five years), the transfer of power in matters of education and health, the creation of a Palestinian police force, and the withdrawal of the Israeli military from the West Bank and Gaza; negotiations over refugees, settlements, Jerusalem and borders were scheduled to begin in the third year of the interim period. Yasser Arafat entered Gaza and Jericho, the first autonomous cities, in July 1994.

On September 28, 1995, the Oslo II Accords divided the West Bank into about a hundred enclaves (Areas A, B, C, H1, H2). The Israeli army withdrew from the eight largest cities in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. However, the Israeli policy of accelerated building of new settlements in the West Bank and Jerusalem rapidly led to a loss of illusion. The massacre of 29 Palestinians in the Tomb of the Patriarchs/Ibrahimi Mosque in Hebron in 1994 reinforced Palestinian opposition to a process which neither ended the Occupation nor the humiliations.

In November 1995, Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated by an Israeli extremist, Yigal Amir. In 1996, Shimon Peres ordered, as an electioneering strategy, even though a truce had been concluded, the assassination of Yahya Ayyash, known as “The Engineer” and commander of Ezz ed-din al-Qassam Brigades (the military wing of the Islamic resistance, Hamas).

The Islamic resistance movement retaliated with a series of attacks described as “the response to fifty years of terror and Zionist crimes perpetrated against the Palestinian civil population.” Criticised for not being able to assure the security of his fellow citizens, Shimon Peres, in the middle of the election campaign, sent troops into southern Lebanon. At Qana, near Tyre, a UN camp was shelled. More than 100 civilians, mostly women and children who had taken refuge in an administrative building of the UN, were killed. The brutality of this short but intense campaign heightened the bitterness of the Palestinians and caused a backlash against Peres, who lost the election of 1996 to Benjamin Netanyahu.

More peace agreements followed: the Wye Plantation Memorandum, Sharm al-Sheikh, Camp David II, etc. All were limited in scope at their inception, and their application was partial, null or indefinitely postponed.

The Al-Aqsa Intifada

On September 27, 2000, Ariel Sharon’s deliberately provocative visit to the Temple Mount (Haram al-Sharif or al-Aqsa), as strategized by his American “spin doctor” with the aim of bringing him back to power as the strongman at the head of Likud – a strategy which was 100% successful) sparked the beginning of a new Palestinian uprising against the Israeli Occupation.

Immediately, Prime Minister Ehud Barak ordered harsh military repression of civilian Palestinian demonstrators, including Palestinians who were Israeli citizens. Within days, dozens of Palestinians of all ages were killed (most often by covert snipers of elite units) or wounded. The wave of repression launched by Barak’s government actually allowed him to extract himself from the impasse of the meeting at Camp David II (July 2000). In fact, at the very moment of the Camp David II talks behind closed doors, the Israeli army was preparing a new plan of intervention. Its code name was to be “Magic Air” if there was “low intensity conflict” or “Distant World” in the case of occupation of all Palestinian towns. This action did indeed take place, but under other names. The plan named “High Tide / Low Tide” was implemented in the first days of the al-Aqsa Intifada by the Barak Government; the total re-invasion of all Palestinian towns in April 2002 by Israeli occupation authorities, after the Park Hotel “Pesach” bombing, bestowed on it the name: “Operation Defensive Shield.” It was named in reference to the “visit” of Sharon to the al-Aqsa and the bloodbath which accompanied it, and similarly the Intifada has become known as the “al-Aqsa Intifada.”

The al-Aqsa Intifada was, well beyond the provocation of Sharon, an expression of Palestinian rejection of the Camp David II Accords of 2000, which had attempted to impose a political solution ignoring all the Palestinians’ basic rights and which imagined a future “state of Palestine” in the form of a mere protectorate. During the talks in closed session, Barak set the same “red lines” already laid down since the signature of the Oslo Accords in preceding negotiations by all his predecessors (Rabin, Peres and Netanyahu): no UN resolution was to be applied, neither the Right of Return of Palestinian refugees to their town or village of origin (Resolution 194) nor the creation of a Palestinian state on the pre-1967 boundaries (Resolution 242); no independent Palestinian state sovereign within its own borders was envisaged; Jerusalem was the main stumbling block: it was to be an open city, undivided, placed under Israeli sovereignty.

The al-Aqsa uprising was also a response to eight years of a “peace process” during which for eight years massive Israeli colonisation, affirming de facto Israeli sovereignty on Palestinian land occupied since 1967, was established on the ground. Israeli government policy in the eight years after Oslo concentrated not only on developing settlements in East Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, but also on carving up Palestinian land into isolated enclaves, curtailing freedom of movement for Palestinians, the isolation of Jerusalem, the imposition of economic dependence on Palestinians, daily humiliations and other abuses of basic human rights.

Given the reality of the Oslo Peace Process, members of the PA who had determined the lines to follow in the peace talks were the object of much criticism as to the merits of their strategy, despite their condemnations of the Israeli “acquisitions” during the “Peace Process” years. In addition, the PA was accused by its people of corruption and nepotism as well as disrespect for human rights, particularly the repression of opposition and the absence of freedom of expression.

Palestinians were deeply distressed by the ambivalence of the international community, especially the United Nations, which had not intervened on their behalf on the basis of its own resolutions, neither before nor after the Oslo Accords. Their expectations of justice had been betrayed: the role of international law seemed to boil down to the innocuous statement “to support the peace process in the Middle East,” and impotence in the face of the power of “realpolitik,” not least American preferential treatment of Israel in the negotiations, when the USA proved its inability (confirmed again in 2013) to be a neutral mediator.

Settlements and Bypass Roads

What does a settlement look like?
The characteristic feature of all settlements is their urban planning; their location and construction are subject to the preliminary approval of several ministries (Ministry of Defence, Ministry of the Interior, and Ministry of Housing & Infrastructure, among others). A mixture of civil and military architecture, they fulfill a double function, both aggressive and defensive. Usually built in concentric circles on hilltops, their position guarantees them territorial and military control of the surrounding areas. The uniform aspect of the buildings, built close together in neat rows, answers all these requirements, as well as economic ones.

The By-Pass Road System in the West Bank
Since 1993, the State of Israel has invested over 3 billion US dollars (granted by the US Government to Israel with no strings attached) in the construction of a grid of new roads for settlers in the West Bank. At the end of 1994, the Rabin government launched a programme of construction of 400 kms of those new roads, linking the settlements directly to the Israeli state or connecting them to each other, often using the pre-existing Palestinian road system, but upgrading it and preventing access to those new “settler only by-pass roads” by Palestinians. The project also required the confiscation of 1600 hectares of land, often extremely fertile.

The new road network’s aim is to create infrastructure that facilitates the expansion of settlements, reduces the military presence to these highways only, and leaves partly-autonomous Palestinian enclaves in the entire West Bank under the jurisdiction of the Palestinian Authority. These enclaves are divided up by the grid of settler-only (“apartheid”) roads, with each enclave or ghetto separated each from the other and the single exit road from each ghetto easily monitored by Israeli military checkpoints or other control mechanisms (gates, earth mounds, “flying” checkpoints (roving jeeps), etc.).

Large stretches of roads have therefore been closed to Palestinians, who have been forced to take many time-consuming detours, often taking three times as long as “normal,” sometimes using mountainous dirt roads, and to wait hours at the military checkpoints, whether fixed or temporary, which regularly punctuate the roads. B’Tselem reports:
Forbidden roads

Another restriction is forbidding Palestinians to use certain roads. In February 2013, there were 67 kilometres of roads in the West Bank that Israel classified for the sole, or almost sole, use of Israelis, primarily of settlers. Israel also prohibits Palestinians from even crossing some of these roads with vehicles, thereby restricting their access to nearby roads that they are ostensibly not prohibited from using. In these cases, Palestinians travellers have to get out of the vehicle, cross the road on foot, and find an alternative mode of transportation on the other side.

The forbidden-roads policy is not laid out in the military legislation or in any official document, except for the prohibition on travel on Route 443, a road that connects the Tel Aviv area with North Jerusalem, which was prescribed in a military order five years after the prohibition was instituted and was partially removed following a ruling by the High Court of Justice. Another road, which runs from the Beit ‘Awwa junction to the Negohot settlement, was reopened following a High Court ruling given in October 2009. The IDF Spokesperson's Office informed B'Tselem that the prohibitions on Palestinian travel are based on “verbal orders” given to soldiers. This mode of operation adds a dimension of uncertainty and makes it difficult to critique the policy and test its validity in court.

Restriction on Freedom of Movement

From 1948 to 1966, Palestinians of ’48 living inside Israel lived under military law. All movement outside an official place of residence, no matter what the reason (medical, family or professional, etc.), required a “special permit” provided by the Israeli military authorities. Any Palestinian moving around or sleeping elsewhere and caught outside his or her own house at night without the proper permit was subject to a fine and prison sentence.

In the first years of the creation of the State of Israel, there were frequent house searches and the hunting down of refugees who had returned illegally to their homes. This regime continued for twenty years or so; a year after military law was lifted, the Israeli army occupied East Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, following the Six Day War, and freedom of movement was strictly curtailed there. From 1972 to 1989, a “general permit” authorised Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza Strip to enter Israel and Jerusalem during the day and evening. However, they were forbidden to spend the night there (between 1.00 a.m. and 5.00 a.m.). In June 1989, the Israeli authorities added new restrictions to this “general permit,” refusing it to any individual they considered “a risk.” Then, in January 1991, an “individual travel permit” replaced the “general permit.”

The Oslo Accords perpetuated this system of segregation and restraints which prevented the free circulation of goods and persons. Every infraction brought a fine of between 400 and 15,000 shekels and a prison sentence ranging from a few days to nine months. In the Territories occupied since 1967, the main highways remained under exclusive Israeli control so that Israel maintained the right to allow or forbid access to Palestinians.

After the outbreak of the al-Aqsa Intifada, which began in late September 2000 and ended in 2005, restricted movement was even more enforced with over 600 functions of closure in place: checkpoints, partial checkpoints, “flying” (or temporary) checkpoints, road blocks, gates, earth mounds, trenches, restricted roads, permit system and as of 2002 the Apartheid Wall. OCHA reports that in 2013 that number has reduced to some 532. At present, according to B’Tselem, Israel’s foremost human rights organisation, dealing with human rights issues in the OPT, writing in March 2013:

“Israel's severe restrictions on Palestinians' freedom of movement in the West Bank are enforced by a system of fixed checkpoints, “flying” checkpoints, physical obstructions, roads on which Palestinians are forbidden to travel, and gates along the Separation Barrier. The restrictions enable Israel to control Palestinian movement throughout the West Bank as suits its interests, in a sweeping breach of Palestinians' rights.
Prolonged checks and searches at some of the checkpoints, humiliating treatment by soldiers, and long lines deter Palestinian drivers from using some of the roads still open to their use. As a result, Palestinian movement on some of the main roads in the West Bank has dropped, and these roads are used almost exclusively by settlers.


In February 2013, there were 98 fixed checkpoints in the West Bank. 58 are internal checkpoints, which are situated well within the West Bank. These checkpoints include 17 in Area H2 in Hebron, where Israeli settlement enclaves are found. Thirty-four of the internal checkpoints are regularly staffed.

Forty of the fixed checkpoints are the last inspection point before entering Israel, although most are located a few kilometres east of the Green Line, or just outside the entrance to Jerusalem. All these checkpoints are staffed regularly, and are closed when not staffed. Some have been completely or partially privatised, and several are staffed by armed civilian guards employed by private security companies such as G4S, under supervision of the Crossing Directorate of the Ministry of Defence.

At some of the checkpoints, Israel prohibits crossing for private Palestinian vehicles, apart from those with special permits, and in principle allows crossing only for public transportation and commercial vehicles. In addition, the army erects hundreds of surprise “flying” checkpoints along West Bank roads. During the month of May 2012, the UN Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) counted some 256 “flying” checkpoints compared with c. 340 in March 2012.

Physical obstructions

In addition, Israel has blocked the access roads to some of the main traffic arteries in the West Bank by means of hundreds of physical obstructions, such as dirt piles, concrete blocks, iron gates, and trenches. The number of obstructions fluctuates often, depending on political and security circumstances. During 2012, OCHA counted an average of 445 physical obstructions a month, compared to an average of c. 434 obstructions during the period May through December 2011 and an average of 519 during 2010. 
The obstructions prevent the crossing of vehicles even in emergencies. In addition, they restrict the movement of many pedestrians who have trouble bypassing them: the elderly, sick persons, pregnant women, and small children.

The Separation Barrier

In addition to the above restrictions, the Separation Barrier, which was built mostly inside the West Bank, impairs Palestinian movement. As of February 2012, there were 35 checkpoints (included in the checkpoint data above) along the Barrier. In addition, OCHA counted, through the end of 2011, 60 agricultural gates intended to enable Palestinian farmers who live on one side and have farmland on the other side of the Barrier to get to their land. Crossing at these checkpoints and gates is conditioned on a special permit and by prior co-ordination with the Civil Administration [the IDF – ed.]. In recent years, Israel has reduced the number of permanent permits enabling access to land and communities situated on the western side of the Barrier, and has limited the permits it issued to short, fixed periods.

The severe restrictions on persons wanting to cross the checkpoints and gates varies from one checkpoint and gate to another and from one time to another, but at almost all the regularly staffed checkpoints and gates of the Barrier, a person crossing on foot has to show an identity card or crossing permit and is checked in accordance with the procedures for crossing at the specific crossing. Often, soldiers check vehicles and the passengers' items.
Unlawful policy causes collective punishment

One of the declared objectives of Israel's policy restricting Palestinian movement is to protect the settlers. In light of the illegality of the settlements, the restrictions pile one illegal action on top of another: sweeping, disproportionate impairment of freedom of movement of an entire population to realise and perpetuate a policy that is illegal from the start. However, even if the restrictions were intended to prevent attacks inside Israel, and not in settlements, the policy would be illegal given its sweeping and disproportionate nature, which makes it prohibited collective punishment.
Furthermore, Israel's policy is based on the assumption that every Palestinian is a security threat, thus justifying restrictions on the person's freedom of movement. This racist assumption brings with it the sweeping violation of human rights of an entire population based on national origin. As such, the policy flagrantly breaches international law.”

It should be noted that currently the Apartheid Wall (known by B’Tselem and others as the “Separation Barrier” – in Hebrew “Michshol Hafrada,” with echoes of the Afrikaans word “apartheid” as it translates as “separation”) is currently 700 kms, 85% of which is built inside the West Bank, on Palestinian lands, ostensibly temporarily, land having been requisitioned for two years from Palestinian landowners, as an Israeli security necessity.

The Territories of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip

The Zionist movement was consecrated by the creation of the State of Israel on May 14, 1948. Its borders absorbed 78% of the territory of historical Palestine (26,000 sq. km); the West Bank and Gaza, with respective surface areas of 5,820 sq. km and 365 sq. km, constitute the remaining territories (22%). At its closest point to the West Bank at Tarqumia, the Gaza Strip is 50 km away, while the West Bank city of Qalqilia is less than 20 km from the Mediterranean. The coastal plain of Gaza is composed of sand dunes and fertile sandy sediments. Except for tufa (a porous limestone, kurkar in Arabic) there are no other rocks in this region.

In contrast, the West Bank is dominated by low mountains: Mount Jarzim (881 m), Mount Nabi Samuel (875 m), and Mount Masharif or Mount Scopus (825 m). The rocks are principally composed of marine sediments (limestone and dolomite). The porosity of these rocks permits water to filter down to the non-porous strata, which supply water to the numerous aquifers in the region.

Since 1993, however, the territorial integrity of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip has been increasingly depleted rather than reinforced. Following the Interim Agreement signed in Taba on September 28, 1995, the West Bank and Gaza Strip were divided into three different administrative zones:

Area A: Here the Palestinian Authority (PA) exercises full sovereignty; representing approximately 18% of the West Bank, Area A includes the territory of seven cities (Ramallah, Nablus, Jenin, Tulkarem, Qalqilia, Jericho, Bethlehem) and some other towns, as well as most of the Gaza Strip (where Israel still maintains a large security zone on its shared border, as well as a sea blockade). Hebron is divided into H2 (20% of the city, including the Old City’s Casbah, which used to be the main market commercial area; four settlements there contain some 700 settlers, or 89 families, protected by 2000 soldiers), and H1, under PA control.

Area B: This area, 22% of the West Bank, includes rural zones (most of the villages and towns) where civil affairs are managed by the PA with the Israeli military authorities having security control over the territory.

Area C: This area corresponds to 60.2% of the West Bank. Here, the PA has no authority. It includes sparsely populated areas (except for neighbourhoods on the outskirts of Jerusalem), the peripheries of towns and villages, unpopulated land, industrial zones such as quarries, settlement industrial estates, the Israeli settlement areas and the highway network as well as water sources, the Apartheid Wall, nature reserves, national parks and military bases or military factories. This division has resulted in a “leopard skin” pattern of some 227 Palestinian islets or enclaves, which effectively separates the Gaza Strip from the West Bank and prevents the free circulation of goods or people between the autonomous Area A cities, which are thereby vulnerable to Israeli blockade at any time. Area C has all the water and farmland or open land in it, and the road system, so it represents the breadbasket of Palestine, the land reserve for building for natural expansion and viability of the towns and cities and their water supply.  Area C (which was supposed to be only temporarily in Israeli control until 1999, according to Oslo) is therefore the support system for Areas A and B, so without the resources of Area C (especially water, food and contiguity), Areas A and B are non-viable.
Population estimates range from 50,000 (Minister of Economy, Naftali Bennett, who has a plan to annex all of Area C), to 150,000 (UN OCHA), to over 300,000 according to some planners, who see the Palestinian villages of Area B overflowing already into Area C.

East Jerusalem and its associated territories actually constitute a fourth unofficial zone, although the status of Jerusalem was postponed to a later stage in the Oslo Accords. Jerusalem having been annexed in 1980, the Palestinian population of Jerusalem has been subject to Israeli civil law ever since, although this status does not bestow citizenship or any such rights. The Declaration of Principles of the Oslo Accords on September 13, 1993, affirmed that “the two parties [Palestinians and Israelis] consider that the West Bank and the Gaza Strip constitute one entire territorial entity, which shall be preserved as such during the entire interim period.” (Article IV)  There are now well over 200,000 settlers in East Jerusalem (some estimate almost 300,000), the largest settlement there being Pisgat Ze’ev which has over 50,000 settlers in it.

The Palestinians in Jerusalem - A Right in Danger

In 1993, nine permanent check-points (mahsoum in Hebrew) were set up on the main access roads into Jerusalem, predating the Hamas policy of bus-bombs (which had responded to Baruch Goldstein’s 1994 massacre of 27 Palestinians while they prayed in the Ibrahimi Mosque or Cave of the Patriarchs, in Hebron). From April 1994 on, Jerusalem was permanently closed off: the nine checkpoints were all provided with infrastructure: watch-towers, lighting and strategically-placed cement blocks and increased in number so that today there are over 20 checkpoints at Jerusalem-West Bank interfaces:  Mairav Zonsheine, writing for +972 at http://972mag.com/13-jerusalem-checkpoints/10791/ photographed 13 of them. From 1994 on, only persons with a card showing they were residents of Jerusalem (a blue card) could enter the city. Many Palestinians originally from Jerusalem, but living outside the municipal borders and therefore without a blue card, have been forbidden entrance to their own city.

According to HaMoked, an Israeli human rights organisation, in its report “Ceased Residency,” “between 1967 and 1994 Israel revoked the residency of some quarter million Palestinians from the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.”

In December 1995, a new law was passed by the government of Shimon Peres which put holders of blue cards to a further test: they now had to prove (under threat that they would lose their card and their right to live in Jerusalem) that the centre of their life was within the city boundaries. In addition, this law was declared to be effective retroactively. Children whose names were recorded on the card of an adult whose card was taken back, automatically lost their right to live in Jerusalem, too. However, after a decision by the Israeli Supreme Court in March 2000, this law is no longer in effect; but with the erection of the so-called “Jerusalem Envelope” or Wall, the issue has become, once again, critical.

Indeed, between 1995 and 2000, Israel revoked the residency status of some 3,000 East Jerusalem Palestinians in what UN OCHA called “quiet deportation.” It revoked another 7,000 Palestinian Jerusalemites’ IDs between 2006 and 2011, revealing an upward trend in its battle for judaisation of Jerusalem, and its fixation on demographics. Israel continues this "quiet deportation" policy: in 2012, the Ministry of Interior revoked the residency status of 116 Palestinians from East Jerusalem, but increasing thousands of East Jerusalem Palestinians are now applying for Israeli citizenship as a means of safeguarding their right to remain in their homes: this trend may well prove disastrous if Jerusalem’s status is ever brought to final status negotiations, as Israel may well then be able to deny the Clinton Parameters (stating that what is Palestinian will remain Palestinian, and what is Jewish will remain Jewish) by pointing out a significant Israeli citizenship presence of East Jerusalem Palestinians in strategic places such as Silwan or Sheikh Jarrah, two neighbourhoods currently fast being “judaised.”

In July 2013, HaMoked reported “concerns in East Jerusalem over the issuing of ID cards valid for ten years. This new Ministry of Interior procedure affects all residents and citizens of the country.