Al-Ahram Weekly Online   2 - 8 June 2005
Issue No. 745
Region
 
Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875

Israeli Apartheid

Jamal Juma* on the World Bank, international aid and the Bantustanisation of Palestine

Click to view caption
Palestinian and Israeli protesters dressed in white sheets simulate a mass hanging

As US President George W Bush had his first White House meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas -- a summit giving Bush a platform for his phony $200 million "aid" package -- devastating new realities are being constructed in Palestine. The Apartheid Wall and accompanying infrastructure of Jewish-only bypass roads, military zones and settlements, are rapidly moving towards the permanent ghettoisation of the Palestinian people. Bush's "aid" package, however, neither stops these crimes nor helps Palestinians: most of it is destined for occupation projects such as new checkpoints. As part of global "aid" efforts outlined and coordinated by the World Bank, it supports not liberation but Bantustanisation of Palestine.

The Bank's latest publication -- Stagnation or Revival? -- leaves no doubt about these aims as it meticulously maps out a vision of economic development "for" Palestine that serves to provide long-term financial support of the Israeli Apartheid system. It begins by repeating the lie that Israeli "disengagement" will provide Palestinians with a "significant amount of land" and an ideal environment for development. In reality, Gaza will be totally imprisoned, surrounded by a second eight- metre high wall, with all borders, coastline and airspace controlled by Israel.

In the West Bank, just four tiny settlements are being disbanded. Simultaneously, 46 per cent of the West Bank is being annexed through the wall and Apartheid infrastructure to further expand colonies such as Maale Adumim and the Gush Etzion bloc. Against international law, the Bank sees the economic boundaries of "Palestine" as dictated by the Apartheid Wall and the "disengagement" plan, which translates into active engagement in the colonisation of the remaining lands of Palestine.

Despite the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruling the wall illegal and instructing all nations "not to render any aid or assistance in maintaining the situation created by it," the Bank steps in with an economic formula to sustain and prop up this system of expropriation, dispossession and permanent occupation.

These plans can be broken down into two key areas: the exploitation of Palestinian labour and achieving total control over Palestinian movement.

Massive industrial zones are to be built on Palestinian land annexed by the wall, where ghettoised Palestinian labour will work in the dirtiest and most toxic industries. The so-called Tulkarm Peace Park, an archetype of this project, is to be built on farmland stolen from the village of Irtah; land that sustained 50 families for generations and formed an integral part of community and family life.

Moreover, the Bank praises the wall for acting as a device by which to control Palestinians, using this as a motivation for Israel to maintain the current permit system so that cheap Palestinian labour can be herded over the Green Line to continue to undertake the most demeaning and worst paid jobs.

In fact, the most fundamental cog, if this high-tech system of Apartheid is to be sustainable, is the cementing of the checkpoint system as a permanent feature of Palestinian life, to facilitate freedom of movement for goods but not people. This will enable the transfer of Palestinians from their ghettos to work places. It will necessitate funding -- which the US has already promised -- for prison gates in the wall, to maintain the humiliating and degrading checkpoint system imposed on the Palestinian people.

Agriculture, traditionally the core sector of the economy, is barely mentioned in the report, presumably because the Bank realises that Palestinians will be left with no land to cultivate. The Bank's vision of "co-existence" involves Palestinian natural water supplies, systematically stolen by the occupation (to the tune of 80 per cent of output every year), being bought back by Palestinians under occupation "at Israeli commercial rates".

That the Bank's co-ordination with the occupation serves to the detriment of Palestinian liberation and international law requires little elaboration.

The World Bank and donor community, however, follow their own laws and logic: they seek to impose, on top of the occupation, neo-liberal economics for "free" markets owned by Israeli and foreign capital and the restriction of Palestinian people into disparate ghettos. The World Bank, alongside the US and significant portions of the international community, are using the Palestinian Authority (PA) as an institution through which these policies can be implemented and an "attractive environment for investors" created.

The PA will be given the role of prison guard, preventing the Palestinian people from defending their lands and rights. The responsibility of the authority towards the Palestinian people necessitates that it stands up against these projects -- not by "modifying" or "only partially backing" them, but by completely refusing and opposing them.

The industrial zones and Bantustans are not new ideas; they represent the same type of economic "development" pursued by racist South Africa. Like black South Africans, Palestinians will not tolerate economic models of subservience. Nor do they struggle for ways to make the wall and the occupation more bearable, but to break them down.

The partnership between Israel and the World Bank highlights the extent to which international support sustains the occupation. Without the $5 billion of annual US aid, the World Bank investment and the contributions of countless governments, corporations and organisations, the Zionist project is simply not sustainable.

Palestinians are not asking for the bogus aid which the USA imposes, but genuine political support by which the massive economic backing to Israel can be cut. Individuals and civil society the world over have enormous leverage and responsibility to strengthen the movement to pressure and isolate Apartheid Israel, in support of the Palestinian struggle for justice and liberation.

* The writer is coordinator of the grassroots Palestinian Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign -- www.stopthewall.org.

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