Jamal Juma: The Occupation’s “Convergence Plan”
The Occupation’s “Convergence Plan”
Legitimizing Palestinian Bantustans
By Jamal Juma `
The 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.
Olmert sells a plan of illegal and brutal annexation as “withdrawal”. The propaganda is hinged upon 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 on the ground, however, shows that the plan will lead to a 20% increase of settlement capacity and the systematic imprisonment of Palestinians within their own land. “New” plans for Jerusalem are based upon the ethnic cleansing of the city, isolating even more Palestinians from their capital, their institutions, historical and religious centres by building the Apartheid Wall around them.
Under the plan, the Bantustans created by the Apartheid Wall will expand to the East, allowing 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 the water and agricultural resources along the river.
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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 upon 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 holding significant urban potential. Palestinian urban areas already produce 90% of national GDP and are the pillars upon which to build a modern national economy. However, Palestinians will be shut out from Jerusalem, which currently generates 40% 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 centre of the city will be cut off from the remnants of the West Bank, their shops, factories, clients and markets behind the wall-boundaries. 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 E1 settlement bloc.
Some 15,000 Palestinian homes are declared illegal and threatened with demolition under the Occupations racist permit system. Those, still resisting within the city are faced by ongoing and systematic revocations of “residency rights” for Palestinians. Since 1967, over 60 000 Palestinians have been expelled from their capital.
In addition to the destruction of the Palestinian 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, providing livelihoods to 17% of the population here and central to food sovereignty, will be stolen from Jenin district all the way down to the south of Hebron. The Apartheid Wall will directly affect almost 200 villages. They lose access to part or all of their lands isolated by the Wall and are left cut off from the rest of the West Bank. In the north-western route of the Wall, 50 wells have been isolated or destroyed, while 162 wells along the River Jordan will remain unusable.
This is the price Palestinians pay to the Occupation to “reshape” its crimes. Behind the “relocation” of settlers from evacuated settlements to others expanding, is a net growth of settlement capacity that parallels the settler boom during the Oslo years. Only 8.6% (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% 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 further developed by the Occupation in the “negotiations” of Camp David and Taba´ in 2000. The Palestinian people and the Arab World have already rejected all of these plans, as they are incompatible with Palestinian rights and international legitimacy.
The urgent revival of Allon´s vision is firmly grounded in the racist Zionist paradigm of a Jewish state in Palestine. Jewish colonizers are to replace the indigenous Palestinian population, or at least to outnumber them by large majorities, in order to dominate them. After the expulsion waves of 1948 and 1967, Palestinians once again constitute the majority of the population in Mandate Palestine. In the current situation, only the tactical exclusion of lands for Palestinians can guarantee a Jewish majority.
The plan goes hand-in-hand with the decade old vision of a “New Middle East” that prioritises 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 - shaken since the Intifada – new markets and fresh investments.
The international community, for its part, looks at ever-bleaker economic scenarios of ghettoised Palestinian life. Even if Israeli and international measures to starve the Palestinian population for having carried out the democratic election they had been asked for were suspended, the poverty rate in the West Bank and Gaza would reach 51% in three years. If the current situation persists, poverty will hit 74%. 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?
The Olmert plan allows all actors to gain a new facade of economic “viability” and 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 achieving 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% Gaza’s population are still left struggling for the return to their homes destroyed in 1948 for the establishment of the Jewish state.
These plans not only target Palestinians within the West Bank and Gaza, they target foremost the Palestinians in the Diaspora. The establishment of a Palestinian Bantu-state behind ghetto walls is to ensure that our liberation movement is turned into a dispute over borders. The rights and claims of the majority of our people are to be emphatically disregarded and excluded.
It is important for people across the world to understand that we have struggled for generations to live in freedom, dignity and self-determination, to see our refugees return and our homeland free from colonialism, the control of oppressors and exploitation. We never aimed to define the size of our Bantustans. Olmert´s plans may be hailed as a “historic” offer in some quarters, but for Palestinians and their supporters, it signals the need more than ever for sustained resistance to Israeli Apartheid and Occupation.
Palestinian grassroots Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign – www.stopthewall.org