Occupying Christmas

Photobucket Okay, so yesterday was Christmas and much merriment was had by all. Except, as the media were determined to remind us, by Palestinian Christians suffering persecution by Muslim extremists. While the persecution certainly exists, it is plainly a sideshow to the Israeli occupation, which not only persecutes but kills Palestinians of all religious persuasions. It’s perfectly egalitarian in that sense: men, women, children, Muslims, Christians – no Palestinian is safe. But that story doesn’t fit with the “evil Muslims taking away Christmas” or the “war on terra” memes, and has therefore been marginalised.

In any event, ’tis the season to be jolly, so let’s look at the bright side: this will all be over within a year, as agreed upon at Annapolis. Both sides will work tirelessly and sincerely to achieve a final settlement. The Palestinian Authority will make real attempts to crack down on militant groups while Israel will freeze all settlement construction and dismantle all outposts, and will in no way attempt to use the structure of the roadmap to delay and obfuscate progress, as it has done in the past. Good, now that’s sorte – huh?:

“Israel has expanded plans to build new homes in a disputed East Jerusalem neighborhood as well as in a nearby settlement, according to the Housing Ministry’s proposed budget for 2008.

Israel angered Palestinians and drew criticism from the United States earlier this month when it announced plans to build 307 new apartments in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Har Homa.

However, the proposed budget includes funding for the construction of 500 apartments in Har Homa as well as 240 apartments in the nearby settlement of Ma’aleh Adumim.”

Fucksake! This latest Israeli effort to unilaterally prejudice any future peace settlement by stealing (“annexing”) Palestinian land is so flagrant in its contempt for the “peace process” that even the U.S. was forced to voice its ‘concern’, although it appears to have subsequently changed its mind. More recently, the Israeli Housing Minister announced plans for the construction of a whole new settlement in the Atarot area of East Jerusalem, before withdrawing them hastily in the face of international criticism. Olmert and Abbas are due to meet Thursday to resolve what Ha’aretz mystifyingly calls the “Har Homa spat” (is it a “spat” when a thief openly steals your property and refuses to return it, or is it just plain robbery?), but even if the move is ultimately suspended in the face of U.S. pressure, it has served to make Israeli intentions clear: we’re not going to withdraw from the occupied territories, so you’d better stop holding out for a just settlement and give in to our demands.

In Gaza, Hamas offered a truce that would involve the cessation of hostilities against Israel by all Palestinian factions in Gaza in exchange for an end to Israeli hostilities, including the blockade. History has shown that Hamas can generally be trusted to keep to a ceasefire, far more than can Israel, as when it self-imposed a unilateral truce to which it largely kept, in the face of numerous Israeli provocations, for well over a year. The Israeli government has flatly rejected the offer, opting instead for a “true war” against the defenceless population of Gaza. Naturally, it was careful to stress that this “war” would avoid any humanitarian impact on Gazan civilians – for an evaluation of this absurd claim, consider that the Israeli siege has already led to conditions (.pdf) in which Gaza’s “vital services are in danger of complete collapse” and in which supplies of 91 out of 416 essential drugs and about a third of essential medical supplies (including most children’s antibiotics) have run out.

Check out the UN OCHA’s most recent update (.pdf) on the humanitarian situation in the Occupied Territories. Among other things, it confirms that the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians continues apace:

“Numerous small communities located in Area C throughout the West Bank have received multiple eviction and demolition orders and, therefore, are at risk of forced displacement. In Southern Hebron, residents of the Am Al Kher community have received a number of eviction orders. These orders affect two groups within the community from the Hethaleen family, numbering 16 families (some 150 people). They have been residing for over 45 years in their current location, immediately adjacent the fence surrounding Karmel settlement (established in 1981). They are 1948 refugees from the Eastern Negev area and state that they have no alternative land. Five new eviction orders were issued on 26 November with a one week appeal period. Six houses were demolished on 14 February 2007…

The Southern Hebron communities of Zanuta and Susiya are similarly at risk. Together with the Hethaleen, these three communities have a combined population of some 600 Palestinians, who depend on sheepherding for their livelihoods and own some 5,500 sheep. Eviction from their homes and land would prevent herding and, therefore, destroy their livelihood practices.”

Meanwhile, the victims of previous expulsions continue to suffer. In November, Israeli soldiers forcibly evicted 37 Palestinian families numbering 272 people by, quite simply, demolishing their village. (Imagine Hamas demolishing an entire Israeli village – the very idea brings the whole concept of Israel’s “war against terrorism” into absurd relief). The displaced families are now completely dependent upon friends, family and the Red Cross for shelter, water and food. “Since 1948 we never asked for anything from the [UN and aid] agencies,” said one shepherd. “Now we need help”. One of the victims describes how the expulsion affected his family:

“My daughter, she is nine, all of sudden now she wakes up in the middle of the night. My other children started to wet their bed,” said a concerned father. His wife, three months pregnant at the time of the eviction, miscarried the next day, he said.”

Such is Christmas in occupied Palestinian territory.

Cross-posted at the The Heathlander


  1. “This land belongs to God. It must not be for some a land of life and for others a land of occupation and a political prison.”

    Latin Patriarch Michel Sabbah at the Christmas mass, held in Bethlehem’s Church of the Nativity.

Comments have been disabled.