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Natalia Zawidowski: Blame It On The Occupation

Blame It On The Occupation

By Natalia Zawidowski

On news stations worldwide, numerous Palestinian “experts” and spokesmen get keyed up daily about the Middle-East conflict. They talk a lot but in the end everything boils down to the same statement: "If the Palestinians would not have to suffer under this cruel and inhumane occupation, they would not be sending terrorists on suicide missions to kill the innocent Israeli population in supermarkets, restaurants, cinemas etc".

But is the situation really as simple as portrayed by these Arab spokesmen or are they carefully omitting important facts? I decided to find out the facts and found surprising and unmentioned facts about this occupation.

First of all, this Israeli occupation is by no definition but the Palestinian one "illegal", as even the UN decided that land won in a war may be used as seen fit by the victor. Even if these Arab claims were right, why does nobody call the state of Texas, won in a war against Mexico, "illegally occupied territory"?

But let us not split hairs over words said in haste and anger. Let us look at the occupation itself and its effects on the Palestinian population. The facts (all found on pro Palestinian sites) speak for themselves:

During 20 years of Arab rule Palestinian male life expectancy grew from 42 to 44. During the next 20 years of Israeli rule Palestinian male life expectancy grew from 44 to 63.

During 20 years of Arab rule Palestinian female life expectancy grew from 45 to 46. During the next 20 years of Israeli rule Palestinian female life expectancy grew from 46 to 67.

During 20 years of Arab rule Palestinian infant mortality rate decreased from 200 per thousand to 170 per thousand. During the next 20 years of Israeli rule Palestinian infant mortality rate decreased from 170 per thousand to 60 per thousand.

During 20 years of Arab rule Palestinian cruse death rate decreased from 21 per thousand to 19 per thousand. During next 20 years of Israeli rule Palestinian infant mortality rate decreased from 19 per thousand to 6 per thousand.

Before 1967, when Israel's occupation started, only 113 hospitals had been built in the territories". By the time of 1989 Israel had helped establish more than three times that number to 387.

Before 1967 only 23 Mother & Child Centers had been established. After 1989 about six times as many could be found. (135)

Malaria, which had existed in the territories before 1967 was finally eliminated during the Israeli occupation.

Israel also more than tripled the number of Palestinian teachers and boosted the Palestinian educational system by establishing a number of universities. Among those universities were the College of Scientists (Abu Dis) - est. 1982, the College of Social Welfare (El Bira) - est. 1979, the College of Religion (Beit Hanina) - est. 1978 and the Islamic College in Hebron- est.1971.

This was not the only effect Israeli occupation had on the Palestinian education system and the Palestinian people. Before 1967 the percentage of illiterates on average had been 27.8% among men and among women even higher at 65.1%. By 1983 Israel had helped reduce illiteracy to only 13.5% among men and 38.9% among women.

But people might still answer that being healthy and educated doesn't change the fact that these people are prisoners on their own land.

I have learned not to take these statements on face value though, so I tried to discover more about the Palestinians claims and started searching for official, international statistics and facts.

And the fact is that Arab refugees in Israel only began identifying themselves as part of a Palestinian people in 1967, two decades after the establishment of the modern State of Israel.

In fact there had never been a Palestinian state of any kind in the past and when offered 50% of Palestine and a Palestinian state in 1948 the Palestinians refused, saying that there could be no Palestinian state as long as the Jewish state of Israel still existed, meaning they preferred to carry on living under Egyptian and Jordanian occupation (never termed illegal for reasons unknown to all), opposed to having a state of their own. Indeed, the PLO's Charter continues to call for the destruction of the State of Israel thereby violating yet again one of the most important points of the “Oslo Accords”.

But life under occupation is always hard and although Israel not only provided weapons and job opportunities but also, for the first time in Middle-East history, introduced a democratic system to an Arab people, allowing even Palestinian women to vote, it is understandable that Palestinians long for self government. In fact if any country truly understands the concept of fighting for the establishment and preservation of your own country it is Israel which found itself defending the only Jewish state in several wars, all initiated by their Arab neighbors - and in the process winning land and -surprise surprise, giving not only the entire Sinai but also all of Lebanon back.

Israel, having defended herself and her right to exist in several wars, all initiated by her Arab neighbours, understood this longing for self government and an independent Palestinian country and by agreeing to the Oslo Accords not only gave the Palestinians most of the West Bank land, autonomy under the Palestinian Authority, and supplied them with weapons but also relinquished their hold on many Palestinian governing institutions such as the Palestinian health and education system.

But how effectively has the Palestinian authority used its new powers?

International and Palestinian studies show that “since the coming of the Palestinian Authority, which took over responsibility of health services, no major development has been witnessed in this field. On the contrary, the situation has deteriorated.”

Yet it is difficult to understand the deterioration in the health sector if we know that the Ministry of Health has a budget of 165 million shekels (over 30 million dollars) per year. The total revenue from health insurance for the last five years was 501 million shekels ( over 100 million dollars), plus more than 7 million US dollars has been received as assistance from donors plus a sum of 10 million Euros per month by the EU. These amounts of money make the ordinary Palestinian citizen question the credibility of the Palestinian Authority as they don’t see the results of this investment.

Many hospitals in the Palestinian Territories even refuse to receive people who have medical insurance because the Ministry of Health in the PA owes these hospitals large sums of money.

But at least the Palestinian educational system seems to have improved as the literacy rate is higher than that of their fellow Arab neighbours and every Palestinian child is encouraged to go to school and has the possibility to receive a basic education.

But what exactly do Palestinian children learn at school?

I suggest we take a close look at the new textbooks published by the Palestinian Ministry of Education in September 2000. Unfortunately only a limited number of these new text books have been published so far and only for a few grades such as the first and the sixth grade.

And what do these books teach their young impressionable students?

In these textbooks the Palestinian nation is generally defined as a “natural” entity that is based on distinctions from others who are perceived as being different and therefore as not belonging to the majority of the Palestinian people. Much worse, this definition, which is linked to physical features of the face and body, is the kind of definition found in racial theories discarded long ago such as those used by the Nazi party in Germany.

They teach that the geographic extent of the Palestinian nation “includes all the territory west of the Jordan River. Haifa, Jaffa, Acre, and Nazareth are listed as Palestinian cities, disregarding their present location in Israel.

In various illustrations the slogan “Jerusalem Is Ours” appears, ignoring the Jewish/ Israeli pre-1967 portion. The maps of the region indicate only a Palestinian state in the territory formerly under the British Mandate. The textbooks ignore the existence of Israel despite the PLO’s recognition of the state in the Oslo Agreement.

These books do not only skew historical and political facts though. More important seem to be their sentiments about “martyrdom” (suicide bombings)!

“The noble soul has two goals: death and the desire for it.” Our Beautiful Language, Textbook for the Sixth Grade, Part 1, 2000–2001, p. 47.

Martyrdom is clearly a religious concept; the willingness to make sacrifices is described as a national obligation. The appeal to defend the Palestinian nation is a central theme throughout the new textbooks. Even in lessons of Arabic language, numerous texts and exercises call on the students to sacrifice their lives. For example, in a language exercise the students are requested to discuss the case of a martyrdom operation on the soil of Palestine, using the following expressions: ‘they were truthful in what they had committed themselves to’ (Koran); ‘he defended his religion and his country’; and ‘he fell as a martyr and irrigated the land with his pure blood.’

(Information from “Narrating Palestinian Nationalism – A Study of the New Palestinian Textbooks” by Goetz Nordbruch – available in PDF format from )

“There is no Alternative to destroying Israel!” textbook for the sixth grade, published by the Palestinian authority

These lessons are not only taught in school, but also in Palestinian holiday training camps sponsored by – whom else- the Palestinian authority, in which little seven year old boys and girls are taught among other things how to put together and work machine guns blindfolded. These camps are mainly funded with money siphoned off from European Union and US aid donations, as well as taking place on premises owned and run by the United Nations (See it with your own eyes at )

When interviewing Palestinian children it becomes clear very quickly that these lessons have been thoroughly internalized. My heart bleeds for these kids who are unknowingly being brainwashed by their own government and are being deprived of their own future.

This promotion of martyrdom and advertising suicide does not only take place in schools though, not only schoolchildren are subjected to violence-inciting propaganda. Try watching Palestinian TV! ( )

So we see that the Palestinians, having earned the right to prove that they can succeed under self government (as much of the area ‘under occupation’ has been under full Palestinian rule for many years now), have just proven that their leaders are as corrupt and fanatic as any seen in the region for centuries. They have failed to help their people in any way, shape or form and have in fact become a personal form of income for Yasser Arafat and his elite Tunisian mafia.

Most of those ‘ruling’ the Palestinian areas were imported after the Oslo accords, disregarding those who had worked in the territories before the accords for the good of their people. They have brought death and destruction to their own people and blamed it on the classic scapegoat for these situations – the Jews.

But now apparently a new era of reforms has dawned. A constitution has been signed by the father of modern terrorism Yasser Arafat (, in which he has for the first time separated the judicial system from his direct control, supposedly making it a standalone authoritative decision making institution, which cannot be overruled by anyone, even the chairman himself.

Two days after this constitution was signed, Yasser Arafat overruled the decision of the court on the case of Ahmad Saadat, thus proving that his constitution, like his words and his promises are as reliable as his condemnations of the terrorists that he personally commands.


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