Legitimizing Palestinian Bantustans

by Jamal Juma

Z magazine, July/August 2006


Occupation has a "new" scheme to ensure Palestinian rights continue to be negated and violated: the "Convergence Plan." Offering the media as much excitement as the "Disengagement Plan," it aims to legitimize the annexation of all territories and resources west of the apartheid wall, including Jerusalem. Palestinians are to be left under siege in Bantustans, sealed in from the east and dissected by settler highways. Meanwhile, the refugees are supposed to vanish from political discourse.

The propaganda is hinged on two key themes: the relocation of 68 to 74 settlements and the convergence of Israeli forces and settlers to some 10 percent of the West Bank. The reality, however, shows that the plan will lead to a 20 percent increase of settlement capacity and the systematic imprisonment of Palestinians on their own land. "New" plans for Jerusalem are based on the ethnic cleansing of the city, isolating even more Palestinians from their capital, institutions, and historical and religious centers by building the apartheid wall around them.

Under the plan, the Bantustans will allow more Palestinian administrative responsibility over the Jordan Valley. At the same time it ensures that Palestinians will have no access to the River Jordan, borders, and water and agricultural resources along the river.

In the western West Bank, the wall is integral to the plan. Plans to move the wall to ghettoize a dozen more Palestinian West Bank villages in the Bantustans are under way. So are discussions over the annexation of Na'ale and Nili settlements to grab additional Palestinian land and further dissect the West Bank. These adjustments ensure the wall's path is more effective in grabbing as much land with as few Palestinians as possible. The international community dwells on these "modifications" of the wall's path, instead of denouncing the fact that Zionism encloses an entire people behind cement blocks and razor wire.

A fundamental ramification of this plan is the Judaization of Jerusalem and the loss of Palestinian metropolitan areas which produce 90 percent of national GDP and are the pillars on which to build a modern national economy. However, Palestinians will be shut out from Jerusalem, which currently generates 40 percent of all Palestinian economic activity and hosts the most important and ancient Palestinian institutions. The Occupation plans to use the apartheid wall to isolate even more of the 230,000 Palestinians living in Jerusalem from their capital. The few Palestinians within the center of the city will be cut off from the remnants of their shops, factories, clients, and markets. The tourism industry, constituting a large part of the area's economic activity, is to be taken over by new settler constructions and industries in the new settlement bloc.

Some 15,000 Palestinian homes have been declared illegal and threatened with demolition under the Occupation's racist permit system. Those still resisting within the city face ongoing and systematic revocations of "residency rights." Since 1967, over 60,000 Palestinians have been expelled from their capital.

In addition to the destruction of the capital, the districts of Salfit and Qalqiliya will be completely dissected by walls and settlements, with urban areas unable to sustain significant economic activity. Remaining Palestinian cities in the north and south of the West Bank will be barred from expanding in the metropolitan core of the West Bank.

Meanwhile, water resources and farming lands that provide livelihoods to 17 percent of the population, and are central to food sovereignty, will be stolen from the Jenin district all the way to the south of Hebron. The apartheid wall will directly affect almost 200 villages, which will lose access to part or all of their lands. In the northwestern route, 50 wells have been isolated or destroyed, while 162 wells along the River Jordan remain unusable.

This is the price Palestinians pay for the Occupation to "reshape" its crimes. Behind the "relocation" of settlers from evacuated settlements to others that are expanding, a net growth of settlement capacity parallels the settler boom during the Oslo years. Only 8.6 percent (36,322 settlers) of the total settler population in the West Bank will be relocated while the Occupation plans to build new industrial zones and housing units for at least 79,646 settlers in the colonies upon which it will "converge." The strategy secures an initial net increase of over 20 percent in settlement capacity.

There is little new in the colonial aspirations of the plan. In 1969 Yigal Allon proposed a scheme to ensure the "borders" of the Occupation would reach Jordan while Palestinian residential areas would be cut out of the calculations of Zionist demography. The plan was never implemented, but was further developed by the Occupation in the "negotiations" at Camp David and Taba in 2000. The Palestinian people and the Arab World have already rejected these plans, as they are incompatible with Palestinian rights and international legitimacy.

The revival of Allon's vision is grounded in the racist paradigm of a Jewish state in Palestine. Jewish colonizers are to replace the indigenous Palestinian population, or at least outnumber them by large majorities, in order to dominate them. The plan goes hand-in-hand with the decade-old vision of a new Middle East that prioritizes economic over military domination. A Bantu-state will be in the vice of new economic and financial mechanisms of control applied by the Occupation and backed by the international community. Further conquest of Palestine will be dressed up as a "solution," furthering the path of normalization with the Occupation. Agreement to the Bantu-state by Arab and Muslim countries could thus secure for the Israeli economy new markets and fresh investments.

The international community, for its part, looks at ever-bleaker economic scenarios of ghettoized Palestinian life. Even if Israeli and international measures to starve the Palestinian population were suspended, the poverty rate in the West Bank and Gaza would reach 51 percent in 3 years. If the current situation persists, poverty will hit 74 percent. While these prospects are disastrous for Palestinians, for the world the non-sustainability of the Bantustans are measured by other criteria.

How much money are we forced to pay to support the Occupation? When will people realize that Palestinians are not facing a humanitarian crisis, but a political attack on their lives? How can we continue to shun our responsibilities to uphold Palestinian rights and international law?

Prime Mininster Olmert's plan allows all actors to gain a facade of economic "viability" amid Israeli "concessions." Brushing aside the ICJ decision on the illegality of the wall, international law, and dozens of UN resolutions, the Convergence Plan represents yet another wave of colonization to be resisted.

The Occupation might want to "converge" or to "disengage," but it is doing so in pursuance of racist and colonial interests to ensure all that remains for Palestinians are enclaves without sovereignty. "Disengagement" from Gaza resulted in social and economic suffocation, continuous shelling and killings of "liberated" people within their prison walls. It shows that redeployment of settlers cannot be equated with liberation and justice. Border crossings with Egypt are not under Palestinian control while the population has become an easier target for military attacks and policies of starvation. Finally, 80 percent of Gaza's population are still left struggling for the return to their homes destroyed in 1948. These plans not only target Palestinians within the West Bank and Gaza, they target the Palestinians in the Diaspora. The establishment of a Palestinian Bantu-state is to ensure that a liberation movement is turned into a dispute over borders.

It is important for people across the world to understand that we have struggled for generations to live in freedom, dignity, and selfdetermination, to see our refugees return and our homeland free from colonialism, oppression, and exploitation. Olmert's plans may be hailed as an "historic" offer in some quarters, but for Palestinians and their supporters they signal the need for sustained resistance to Israeli apartheid and occupation.


Jamal Juma works with the Palestinian grassroots Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign (www.stopthewall.org). Drawing is a child's view of the wall.

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