Amira Hass: “Convergence to a border of convenience”

Amira Hass regularly writes brilliant and insightful reports and analysis in the Israeli press. This article is particularly good. A depressing picture, but acurate, I fear.


Convergence to a border of convenience

Ha’aretz, 5th April 2005

By Amira Hass

For the “convergence” plan to be presented to the Western world as a giant concession worthy of praise, the dimensions of Jewish support for the “vision of the Greater Land of Israel” must be inflated. But if the Greater Land of Israel really were the top priority for the Jewish citizenry of Israel, then there wouldn’t be fewer than 10,000 settlers in the Jordan Valley. Tens of thousands would be rushing to expand Ma’aleh Ephraim and the farming settlements, so the lights of the eastern sector of the Greater Land would shine and twinkle like the lights of the western sector of the Jordanian kingdom.

Israel made sure during the years of the Oslo negotiations, as in the preceding years, to leave that enormous area blocked to any Palestinian development and wide open to any Israeli development. The somewhat difficult living conditions (heat, distance to the center of the country) would not have deterred the masses of Israelis. If every clod of the Greater Land of Israel indeed held an impassioned emotional attraction for the Jewish citizens of Israel, they would not have needed economic incentives to live in the areas conquered in 1967. They would have gone to settle the most distant hilltops and not made do with settlements “five minutes from Kfar Sava.” They would not have needed seductive advertising about one-family villas on their own plot of land. On the contrary, they would have encouraged the state and the contractors to build apartment blocs. There wouldn’t be 420,000 Jewish setters (including occupied East Jerusalem) but rather 2 million.

What drew the Jewish Israelis – and turned nearly half a million of them into outlaws under international law – were not the clods of holy land but comfortable lives promised to them by Israeli military supremacy, the spacious inexpensive housing and the improved infrastructure. Those were precisely the subsidies and incentives that they didn’t get inside the sovereign state. The convergence, therefore, is the borders drawn by the average Israeli Jew’s aspirations for comfort and convenience.

These would be natural ambitions if they did not come at the expense of the Palestinians as individuals and as a people. But average Israelis, including those who are not settlers, are not troubled by such trifle matters like international law, basic moral values and the welfare and convenience of the Palestinians. After all it is precisely the settlement blocs and the area between the separation fence and the Green Line that cut into the West Bank, take its water and fertile farming resources, separate Palestinian communities and obstruct all natural and logical geographic and demographic contiguity. These areas, and it doesn’t matter if the convergence is 28 percent of the West Bank or “only” 13.5 percent, have caused and will cause irreversible damage to Palestinian society and to individual Palestinians. But that’s not what bothers average Israelis and their representatives in Kadima, Labor and the Pensioners Party. These facts slip through the consciousness and are buried, like hundreds of Palestinian villages whose names do not appear on the road signs along the settlers’ highways.

Security is an important element in the good life. Lovers of prosperity at the expense of others must believe that the convergence will provide them with personal security. It is very reasonable to assume that the residents of the settlement blocs will continue feeling comfortable and safe behind the various kinds of barbed wire, cement walls and locked gates, ignoring their role in the robbery. But the invisible Palestinians see and feel. In Israel they are counting on Palestinians accepting the robbery and inherent discrimination out of habit, international helplessness or Israel’s military strength.

That is an illusion – like the illusion that reigned at the time of Oslo – that the Palestinians would accept the expansion of the settlements, being shoved off their lands and the draconian limits on their freedom of movement. The explosion that came at the end of September 2000 was caused by the violent clash between the international promise of peace and the reality of occupation and colonization. The convergence plan, which coagulates the violence of occupation in densely populated Palestinian areas, will bring forth and intensify three types of Palestinian rage: national rage due to the sabotage of the Palestinian project for a state, development and independence; economic rage of the hundreds of thousands of Palestinians who lost their land, property and livelihood to the Jews who prosper on the other side of the barbed wire; and religious rage, of those who turn for solace to the Koran and Allah, where they can find explanations stating that’s the way Jews are.

The supporters of convergence and its architects are deceiving themselves by thinking that all these forms of rage won’t burst out, or that it will always be possible to suppress them. Indeed, it is difficult to predict when and how the rage will erupt, but sooner or later, they will be back disrupting the dreams of comfort and convenience at the expense of another nation.

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