Myriad forms of ethnic cleansing

There are rumors that US soldiers have joined the Israelis in terrorizing the people of Jenin. A woman working in Gaza City says, “They think there will be street fighting when they invade Baghdad, so they want to practice on Jenin.”

The woman who is speaking about this tells me, “Always I am worried about my children.” She is worried that her house will be blown up. Her neighbor was killed while fighting invading Israeli soldiers. If precedent holds, this means the Israeli military will come to blow up her neighbor’s house—the house the fighter no longer lives in because he is dead, but rather his mom and dad’s house as a form of collective ‘punishment,’ a frequent practice of the Israeli military government. Generally when the Israeli military blows up someone’s home, the homes next to it explode with the force. I ask the woman, “What will you do?” She grins lipstick and says, “We will run out and go back when it’s over to see if there is anything left.”

Israeli soldiers finished demolishing a mosque today, one they have been destroying slowly in Rafah. They also tore down a family’s home.

At 3am the Israeli military invaded the northern Gaza Strip town of Beit Hanoun with Apache helicopters and tanks. The bulldozers demolished 100s of trees, further desecrating the land. If one were not watching this happen, it might be easy to arrive here next year and truly believe that this was a land without a people. The Israeli military has destroyed thousands of dunams of orange and olive trees, shrubs, grass, and life. The US donated helicopters fired missiles into the Beit Hanoun Palestinian National Security building, killing two men who were at work.

The Palestinian Authority cannot fight back in these situations, one because there are no weapons strong enough to fight the US funded Israeli military machine here, and two, because the PA has been backed into corner. It is required to play along with the colonizing force of the Israeli state, accepting the mandate that the occupied must provide for the protection of the occupier. The PA is pushed and pulled, going so far as to accept a US/Israeli approved Prime Minister, Abu Mazen.

The Palestinian people, whether in the PA or a political party, are not allowed to resist this brutal military occupation, a constant horror since 1967. The Palestinian people are not being allowed to claim their individual legitimate right of return, the right of return to their homes and land that are currently occupied by Israeli citizens, where people were torn from in 1948.

The Right of Return is a clear-cut UN resolution, put forth in 1948. It is an international law that is an individual right. As such it cannot be bartered away.

In Bethlehem there is a great deal of talk about a massive transfer of Aida Camp. The Israelis built the illegal settlement, Gilo, nearby, several years ago. This is how it often works: the Israeli military destroys Palestinian homes and terrorizes the people, kicking them out off their own land to no where. They begin just in the area where they build the settlements. Then the people who are living in the area nearby have to suffer increased repression at the hands of the Israeli military and heavily armed settlers. Next, little by little, using the excuse of the nearby settlement, the Palestinian people are kicked out of their homes and land, and the area for the settlement grows larger and larger. This is part of the process of ethnic cleansing—creating new facts on the ground.

Israeli settlements are illegal under international law, but the Israeli military government has never stopped building them. Under the dissembling Barak, settlement building increased by some 70 percent.

Settlements are military installations. Tanks and bulldozers regularly roll out from settlements throughout the Gaza Strip. The Israeli military built its base inside a settlement near Ramallah. Israeli settlements tower the hills around West Bank towns, hills that used to be forrests or vineyards or people’s homes.

A man calls from Bethlehem, “They [Israeli soldiers] dressed like Arabs and went into Cinema [a crowded area of Bethlehem where people sell plants and find taxis]. They shot the car completely. The guys they killed were from Aida Camp.” His voice is so sad and so finished. “And they killed a little girl, she’s twelve.”

Kristen Ess is a political activist and freelance journalist from New York City, who has lived in the West Bank and Gaza since March 2002, where she does solidarity work and reports for Free Speech Radio news and Left Turn magazine.