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Rethinking the nature of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, OPINION ARTICLE

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2019-08-01, 12)40Rethinking the nature of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict | Middle East Eye
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Rethinking the nature of the
Palestinian-Israeli conflict
A Palestinian demonstrator (L) argues with an Israeli settler during a
protest against Jewish settlements in Jordan Valley near the West
Bank city of Jericho November 17, 2016 (Reuters)
The results of the recent Israeli election indicate that another far-right
government coalition will be formed under the leadership of Prime
Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who campaigned on a promise to
annex the West Bank.
As with all previous Israeli governments, the expected Netanyahu-led
coalition will continue to suppress the Palestinians, but this time it may do
so without rhetorical and policy reference to the Oslo Peace Process and
"occupation".
2019-08-01, 12)40Rethinking the nature of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict | Middle East Eye
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In so doing, any distinction between the territories that Israel occupied in
1967 and was established on in 1948 will rapidly disappear.
Occupied no more
The US has already paved the way for such a future. Recently, the US
administration stopped referring to the West Bank, Gaza Strip and the
Syrian Golan Heights as "occupied territories" in its annual human rights
report.
This was preceded by President Trumpʼs recognition of Israeli
sovereignty over Jerusalem in December 2017 and then the Golan
Heights, which Saeb Erekat, a senior Palestinian official, considers a
prelude to recognising Israelʼs annexation of the West Bank.
Previous US administrations have already
conceded that parts of the West Bank, the
so-called Jewish "settlement blocs", must
be annexed to Israel
To be s ure , pre vio us U S a dm in ist ra tion s hav e al read y conceded that
parts of the West Bank, the so-called Jewish "settlement blocs", must be
annexed to Israel.
Israel conquered and occupied the West Bank, Gaza, East Jerusalem and
other Arab territories like the Golan Heights in June 1967. Since then, the
international community has labelled those areas "occupied" under
international law.
The Trump administration has though displayed a willingness to forego
international law in its foreign policy, aligning itself fully behind the Israeli
project to colonise the entirety of historic Palestinian.
2019-08-01, 12)40Rethinking the nature of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict | Middle East Eye
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Since conquering the Palestinian territories in 1967, Israel has violated the
rules of occupation stipulated in the 1907 Hague Regulations and the
Fourth Geneva Convention. It has operated as a settler-colonial state,
which wants a conquered land without the original people on it.
This aim can only be achieved through the elimination of the indigenous
presence from most of the land, in violation of international law.
2019-08-01, 12)40Rethinking the nature of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict | Middle East Eye
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Elimination is the settler-colonial stateʼs guiding principal, purposed as "a
sustained institutional tendency to supplant the indigenous population".
The Trump administration aims to end the
Palestinian struggle for self-determination
by discontinuing use of the term
occupation as part of the "deal of the
century"
Israel took this approach from the start of its own "state-building" in
Palestine, when it eliminated much of the Palestinian presence on the
land.
In 1948, it seized 78 percent of Palestine and forcibly expelled over half
of the native population (about 750,000 people) and destroyed more
than 500 of their villages. On that land the settler-colonial state of Israel
emerged.
After an aborted 1956 foray into Gaza during the Suez Crisis, Israel again
expanded in 1967 and took the remaining 22 percent of historic
Palestine: the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem – known as the
Occupied Palestinian Territory, or OPT.
There, Israel followed a 1963 plan to conquer and enforce military rule
over the OPT. This time though it did not succeed at immediately driving
as many Palestinians off their land and has instead taken a different
approach to reducing the Palestinian presence to make space for Israeli
settlers.
Occupation versus colonisation
Starting in the 1970s, fervent settlement construction and a network of
2019-08-01, 12)40Rethinking the nature of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict | Middle East Eye
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settler-only bypass roads began to push Palestinians into specific
"areas" of the OPT. This paved the way for further land expropriation and,
paradoxically, this model of dispossession came to operate in parallel
with the peace process and "state-building" programme in the 1990s.
Palestinians carry placards denouncing the Israeli prime minister's recent decision not to renew the
mendate of The Temporary International Presence in Hebron (TIPH) on 30 January (AFP)
There Palestinians were corralled into ever more shrinking spatial
territories, discursively re-labelled Areas A, B and C within a neo-liberal
paradigm of peace and negotiations.
2019-08-01, 12)40Rethinking the nature of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict | Middle East Eye
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Netanyahu reigns supreme, and the left is
crushed
Read More »
Encircled by ever more settlements, bypass roads and the Separation
Wall, each area (i.e. Palestinian town or city) has been blockaded into a
gated enclave with Israeli-controlled entrances and exits that Israeli
forces close or open at will.
This has allowed Israel to complete a spatial redesign of the entire OPT
into a gigantic matrix of control. There Gaza has been tragically
transformed into the worldʼs largest open-air prison, and the West Bank a
"swiss cheese" of smaller and isolated open-air prisons and enclaves.
So, without resorting to the blatant mass expulsion of Palestinians carried
out in 1948, Israel has effectively been eliminating the Palestinian
presence from the majority of the OPT by restricting their presence to
specific controllable and gated "areas".
Those areas encompass an extremely small percentage of the original
Palestinian land, with Israeli settlers brought in to populate land the
Palestinians are removed from.
Yet, desp ite clea r eviden ce of settle r co lonial pra ct ices i n Palestine, a nd
the use by most of the international community of settler colonial
terminology like "settlements", "land expropriation", "population transfer",
"separation wall", "frontier" and "settlers", most observers – particularly in
2019-08-01, 12)40Rethinking the nature of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict | Middle East Eye
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the West – still tend to discount settler colonialism as a thing of the past.
Legal and political cover
In October 2009, by acceding to an "agreed on outcome" that would
permit ongoing Israeli settlement expansion, the Obama Administration
buried the two-state solution that the peace process is built upon.
At the same time, the narrative of occupation, discursively packaged
alongside the two-state settlement and political process, granted Israel
legal and political cover to continue with its settler colonisation
unabated.
Occupation has been useful as a term
employed conceptually to reinforce the
hollow paradigm of a negotiated settlement
In this way occupation has been useful as a term employed conceptually
to reinforce the hollow paradigm of a negotiated settlement, while the
last bits of the OPT are settled and annexed into Israel.
This narrative also allows the international community to avoid taking the
hard but necessary steps of enforcing international law, supporting
democracy and defending human rights, while providing them with a faux
framework to craft policy for an alternative reality that does not exist.
Further, this framework has fragmented the Palestinians, altered their
political priorities and put their resistance against dispossession into
disarray. Meanwhile, it has provided some Arab and Western states with
an alibi to continue normalising and strengthening their relationship with
Israel, so long as there are "negotiations" to end the occupation.
2019-08-01, 12)40Rethinking the nature of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict | Middle East Eye
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While one Israeli political leader after another declares they will not give
up control over the OPT, the Trump administration aims to end the
Palestinian struggle for self-determination, and the right of return for
Palestinian refugees, by discontinuing use of the term occupation as part
of the "deal of the century".
Yet, this als o exposes how deeply false t he n ar rati ve of occ upat ion, a
two-state solution and a negotiated settlement have become.
Colonial elimination
For generations now, Israel has been engaged in colonial elimination.
Whereas occupation is characterised by temporariness, the process of
settler-colonisation and elimination are permanent.
Senior Israeli officials sign a petition pledging
to settle "2 million" Israelis in the occupied
West Bank
Read More »
So, a deepened cooperation between the Trump administration and
Netanyahu governments over the annexation of Palestinian lands is
inadvertently offering a chance to reframe the OPT as colonised, not
occupied, further doing away with the artificial distinction created
between Palestinian territories conquered in 1967 with those from 1948.
This offers an opportunity to rethink the nature of the Israeli-Palestinian
2019-08-01, 12)40Rethinking the nature of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict | Middle East Eye
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struggle as one of decolonisation for all of the peoples in the entirety of
historic Palestine.
Such decolonisation would be the first step towards building a shared
future based on humanity, justice, equality and democracy for all.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not
necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Eye.
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