Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Israel's "Master Plan" for Judaization of Palestine Continues Apace

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Israel's "Master Plan" for Judaization of Palestine Continues Apace

Article excerpt

"Right to life" has taken on a whole new meaning since participating in CODEPINK's first Olive Harvest delegation to Palestine in early November. It began in Ramallah, with Stop the Wall coordinator Jamal Jum'a providing context for what is happening today. From the beginning Zionism has viewed Palestinian demographics as the main threat to Israel as a Jewish state. Jum'a paraphrased a statement by Gen. Ariel Sharon [see London Times, 8/24/88]: "You don't simply bundle people onto trucks and drive them away [as was done in the 1948 Nakba]. I prefer to create positive conditions that will induce people to leave"-in reality, making it impossible for them to live where they are.

To implement this, the "Israel 2020 Master Plan," proposed as early as 1992, seeks to Judaize the Galilee, Judaize the Negev by concentrating Bedouin in American Indian-style reservations, and Judaize greater Jerusalem by walling offPalestinian neighborhoods in the "Holy Basin" outside the Old City and renaming others. For example, Israeli maps now label the Silwan neighborhood "the City of David."

Jum'a led the delegation on a walking tour of Bir Nabala, a once prosperous residential suburb of East Jerusalem. In 2006 Israel's separation barrier reached Bir Nabala, leaving it in the seam zone between the wall and the Green Line, detaching it completely from East Jerusalem. Today it is a ghost town. Bir Nabala lost two-thirds of its businesses and half its population, all of them East Jerusalemites. The main road is lined with empty shops and multistory buildings, dead wedding halls and vegetable markets, even the abandoned villa of the Archbishop of Jerusalem. The road ends at the wall. On the other side is an Israeli industrial park. The wall made life impossible in Bir Nabala in order to improve Israel's demographic balance.

A fourth element of "Israel 2020" is disengagement from Gaza and the West Bank. In 2005, Israel withdrew its settlers and soldiers from Gaza and blockaded the Strip. In the West Bank, however, Jum'a explained that disengagement is within the territory, between Palestinians and Israeli settlers, via the wall, separate road systems, and checkpoints. The Israeli vision for Palestinians, he added, is "sustainable ghettos." To that end, industrial zones have been established so that Palestinians can become independent of aid. Jum'a calls this "Do-it-yourself apartheid."

The delegation visited Sebastia, a history-laden village northwest of Nablus and an example of Israel's not-so-benign neglect. Our guide was Abu Yasser, proprietor of the Sebastia Guest House in the recently renovated Ottoman al-Kayed palace. Adjacent to the village is an archeological site dating back to the early Bronze Age with impressive Roman ruins. In addition, early Christians believed Sebastia to be the burial place of John the Baptist and where Salome performed the dance of seven veils. Because of these two attractions, according to Abu Yasser, Sebastia was the number one tourist site in the region until Israel began its occupation in 1967.

Since then, he explained, John the Baptist has been relocated elsewhere.

Attesting to its former popularity, a large parking lot stands outside the archeological site. Ours was the only van there. The lot is ringed with empty restaurants and tourist shops, only one of which was open. …

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