In defiance of international law, Israel has militarily occupied the Palestinian Gaza Strip and established illegal settlements there for more than 38 years. If the United States is serious about promoting the rule of law, it cannot reward Israel with money for the numerous human rights violations it has committed against Palestinians in the Gaza Strip over the past four decades.
Although Israel plans to dismantle its illegal settlements and military bases in the Gaza Strip, it will still maintain a full-scale sea, air, and land siege of the territory. Gaza will remain an open-air prison under Israeli control, preventing Palestinians from exercising their right to freedom of movement and from engaging in economic activity. Under these conditions, Israel will still in effect be occupying the Gaza Strip, according to international law.
Israel’s plan to “disengage” from the Gaza Strip does not meet even the minimum expectations articulated by the United States. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice stated that “when the Israelis withdraw from Gaza it cannot be sealed or [an] isolated area, with the Palestinian people closed in after that withdrawal. We are committed to connectivity between Gaza and the West Bank, and we are committed to openness and freedom of movement for the Palestinian people” (see Ramallah press conference with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Secretary of State Condaleezza Rice, July 23, 2005).
Israel’s plan to “disengage” from the Palestinian Gaza Strip is not meant to advance the peace process, but to put it into “formaldehyde”, according to Dov Weisglass, senior advisor to Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, who stated that “the significance of the disengagement plan is the freezing of the peace process […] Effectively, this whole package called the Palestinian state, with all that it entails, has been removed indefinitely from our agenda […] All with a presidential blessing and the ratification of both houses of Congress.”
According to international law and agreements signed by Israel and the PLO, the Gaza Strip and West Bank (including East Jerusalem) is a single territorial unit, illegally occupied by Israel since 1967. The “disengagement” plan is a smokescreen to further isolate one Palestinian area from the other to create apartheid-like Bantustans. While Israel “disengages” from Gaza, it will continue construction of the illegal Wall in the West Bank, expand illegal settlements there, and confine the Palestinians to ever shrinking parcels of land. This “Bantustanization” of Palestinian land effectively denies the Palestinian people true self-determination and the right to return to their homeland.
Israel is asking for US aid to relocate settlers from the Gaza Strip to areas in the Galilee and the Negev for “development” where Palestinian citizens of Israel constitute a majority and a large minority, respectively. This threatens to dislocate more of these remaining Palestinian citizens of Israel from their homes and lands. Already development” has been used to remove hundreds of Bedouin families in the Negev and to destroy their crops.
Unconditional US military, economic, and diplomatic support for Israel’s 38 year-old military occupation of the Palestinian Gaza Strip has resulted in the de-development of the Palestinian economy and the destruction of its infrastructure. Rather than rewarding Israel for maintaining the Gaza Strip as an open-air prison after the “disengagement”, the United States should provide money for the re-development of the Palestinian economy.
The US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation is a diverse coalition working for freedom from occupation and equal rights for all by challenging US policy towards the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The Campaign is based on human rights and international law, providing a non-sectarian framework for everyone who supports its Call to Action.