Rewriting H.R. 4681 so that it actually produces peace

The Israelis are calling the Kalandia checkpoint, Atarot, after the Jewish settlement north of Jerusalem, on the road to Ramallah. To understand the checkpoint best, you must see it in juxtaposition to everything around it. The Israeli structure is gleaming and carefully planned in every detail, sprawling over quite a bit of real estate it grabbed from the Palestinians. (Photo: Rima Merriman)

Palestinian newspapers are full of the faces of the new Palestinian government, smart men and one woman, who will come in to lead an already impossible task — Palestinian development under occupation in education, health, agriculture, planning, social affairs, tourism, telecommunications, transportation, Jerusalem affairs, etc.

There is not one terrorist among them, but that makes no difference to the US which has already started undermining the new government in the name, outrageously, of promoting “the development of democratic institutions in areas under the administrative control of the Palestinian Authority, and for other purposes”.

This is the language of an anti-Palestinian bill (H.R. 4681) just introduced in the US House of Representatives by a bunch of people among them, literally, a Mr Israel. The biased hearing for this bill included just three witnesses: An Israeli brigadier general, a researcher who claims that the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics overcounts Palestinians by 1.3 million people, and a researcher who claims that the European Union funds a Palestinian Authority war against Israel.

And it’s not only money that the US wants to keep away from the Palestinians’ democratically elected government. It’s also manpower or “human capacity”, something that donors have been trying to develop in the occupied territory for decades. The US government is threatening to strip anyone who is contracted to work with this government of his or her US nationality, or so the word is going around in Ramallah.

Palestinian students coming back after being trained in the US on USAID scholarships also must not offer their services to the Palestinian government. The idea is to let the beleaguered Palestinians flounder in the effort, which has been in progress for some time now, of reforming their governmental institutions, to let whatever development projects in which the donors have been investing for years backslide to square one, to let the Palestinian public be served by NGOs. This all fits in perfectly with Israel’s objective, namely, the continued fragmentation of Palestinian national aspirations.

The West Bank is now well on its way to be divided into three cantons by means of the wall and the “passages” Israel is constructing.

An incongruous attempt is made to offset the maze of bars and turn-styles that herd the Palestinians through by the daubing of color on the steel bars and providing innocuous signs - even one featuring a rose and wishing people a happy new year. The sign above says Mukuthan Mumt”an! (“Have a Pleasant Stay!”). (Photo: Rima Merriman)

“Happy New Year” says the Arabic text on the sign with the rose. (Photo: Rima Merriman)

The good US citizens who introduced the bill in the House of Representatives (Ros-Lehtinen, for herself, Lantos, Cantor, Chabot, Ackerman, Engel, Pence, Weller, Harris, Burton of Indiana, McCarthy, Cardoza, Mack, Bean, Crowley, Lynch, Jo Ann Davis Of Virginia, Chandler, Brown of South Carolina, McCaul of Texas, King of New York, Israel, Berkley, Poe, Royce, Blackburn, Tancredo, Schiff, Sherman, and Nadler) have only Israel’s interests at heart and not one shred of sympathy for the Palestinians’ 57 years of hardship and dispossession in the greedy shadow of Israel. They have no interest in resolving the conflict, in acknowledging Palestinian rights or any Israeli obligations — obligations that Israel has time and time again refused to heed.

What a shame! The good US citizens behind the bill are pulling completely in Israel’s favour, tilting the balance of power between the two sides even further, a balance that is already so far off kilter as to be practically perpendicular.

Witness the terrible and humiliating spectacle of Israeli tanks and air power in Jericho recently muscling themselves easily against people helpless to defend themselves in kind — and I am not talking about the prisoners, but about the Palestinian Authority-less. Witness the spectacle of Gazans going hungry and jobless because Israel, the unilateral withdrawal of settlements notwithstanding, has them imprisoned well and good.

The good US citizens behind the bill are demanding among many other soulless demands that the Palestinian Authority “publicly acknowledge Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state and recommit itself and adhere to all previous agreements and understandings”. But what is Israel? Where are its borders? On the Internet, I’ve noticed that when certain sites republish the columns I write for The Jordan Times, they edit my text by enclosing every mention of the word “Israel” in quotation marks. Palestinians behind walls that have eaten up their lands are forced to make room for Israel and its settlements right in their midst. It is an Israel with huge quotation marks around it.

The Israeli monstrosity has sprawled to the very edge of the Kalandia refugee camp, barely leaving room for the Palestinians to carve out a footpath, let alone for venders to make a living at this formerly key crossroads. Poverty and bleakness are all around the Kalandia checkpoint and its grand design. (Photo: Rima Merriman)

Palestinians who daily cross the Kalandia border, now complete with a waiting room and border protocols, know, helplessly, that Israel has expanded its borders. The wall, which has eaten up so much land already, is a border deep in occupied land forcing people to zigzag and go through mazes of roads to get from one point to another. Only a few days ago (March 19) the Israeli army handed the citizens of Al Walja, Batteer, Houssan, Al Qabu, Wad Foukeen and Soreef villages warrants to seize their lands to build the wall eating up 766 dunums. It will seize an additional 72,000 dunums from the lands of Bethlehem to expand Jerusalem.

I have made a few amendments to a portion of H.R. 4681. These amendments have a much higher chance of producing peace in Palestine than the original:

Declaration of Policy

It shall be the policy of the United States to promote the emergence of a democratic Israeli government that:

  1. denounces and combats state terrorism;
  2. has agreed to and is taking action to disarm its settlers in the occupied territories as well as any terrorist agency, network, or facility;
  3. has agreed to work to eliminate anti-Palestinian incitement and the commemoration of militarism in Israeli society;
  4. has agreed to respect the boundaries and sovereignty of its neighbours by ceasing to make statements that claim that “Jordan is Palestine”;
  5. acknowledges, respects and upholds the human rights of all people, including Israeli Palestinians;
  6. conducts free, fair and transparent election in compliance with international standards; that means not assassinating and kidnapping Palestinians for election propaganda purposes;
  7. ensures institutional and financial transparency and accountability even for people whose second name includes the word Sharon.

Limitation. Assistance may be provided under this act or any other provision of law to Israel only if it promises the United States that it will not use that money for expansion and colonisation, for building walls, or bulldozing houses during a period for which a certification described in subsection (b) is in effect.

Certification. A certification described in this subsection is a certification transmitted by the president to Congress that contains a determination of the president that no ministry, agency or instrumentality of Israel is controlled by a military officer who has committed what the international community defines as crimes against humanity (that includes shooting children on their way to school, bulldozing houses or killing human rights activists who protect children, e.g., Rachel Corrie):

  1. completing the process of purging from its security services individuals with ties to state terrorism; violent settlers who view the Bible as a real estate document and selectively use the Bible for expansion;
  2. dismantling all settlement infrastructure, confiscating unauthorised weapons, arresting and bringing terrorist settlers who have killed to justice, destroying state arms factories, thwarting and preempting settler attacks, and fully cooperating with the Palestinian security services to rein in violent Israeli soldiers in need of psychiatric care as well as settlers who destroy Palestinian olive and grape crops and terrorise children;
  3. halting all anti-Palestinian incitement in Israel-controlled electronic media, especially radio stations and publications of settlers, and right-wing print media and in schools, synagogues and other institutions it controls, and replacing these materials, including textbooks, with materials that promote tolerance, peace and coexistence with Palestinians, and do justice to Arab history, instead of keeping Israelis ignorant of Arab claims to Jerusalem;
  4. recognising the rights of the Palestinians to a viable, independent state with its capital East Jerusalem and with 1967 borders;
  5. recognising Palestinian right of return to their homes;
  6. dismantling the illegal wall Israel continues to build.