Wednesday, December 8, 2004


Sixteen Tunnels and Whaddaya Get?

Israel asks World Bank to finance Apartheid Infrastructures
The unequalled Amira Hass wrote in Haaretz that there was a very evident particularity to the maps submitted by Israel to the World Bank for upgrading and construction in the West Bank. These vias of communication that are proportedly supposed to be financed by the international community as part of a plan to enhance living standards in the West Bank are nothing more than the enlargement of an apparent apartheid structure of institutionalised discrimination. The plans are to divert Palestinian vehicles in a series of 16 underground tunnels, while the Jews will travel on a well-maintained highway system.

As Hass writes: "The Jewish settler logic of ethnic separation based on blatant discrimination in rights, living conditions, laws and the official attitude toward Jews and Palestinians has deepened over the years until it has become second nature for Israeli society. Who, if not the various consuls and World Bank representatives, who often travel around the West Bank and Gaza Strip, are well aware of the logic that has developed here and finds expression in the map they received?

It is also not surprising that Israel expects the donor countries to finance these alternative roads and passages, which are aimed at ensuring the well-being of the settlements and their ability to develop and expand. After all, Israel has become accustomed to this luxury: It occupies the Palestinian territories, and the taxpayers of the Western countries bear the burden of the occupation's damages."

Yet, the novelty here is that the Palestinian Ministry of Planning Analysis has decided to reject the proposal completely. Hass writes: " signaled to the donor countries not to agree to finance the passages nor any other road without the approval of a special Palestinian inter-ministerial committee. That is, the cabinet did not only protest verbally, but also adopted a practical measure.

This is surprising because since 1994, the PA has acted as if it is incapable of doing a thing to counter the Israeli policy of creating Palestinian enclaves in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. One aspect of this policy was the accelerated construction in the settlements and the roads servicing them under all governments, both Labor-Meretz and Likud. A second aspect was the pass system for Palestinians and travel restrictions Israel imposed within the occupied territories since 1991. The travel restrictions were ultimately aimed at ensuring the unfettered expansion of the settlements - that is, the creation of Jewish territorial contiguity.

The Palestinian Authority, under the leadership of Yasser Arafat, acted as if it were a matter of force majeure, a deterministic process that no diplomatic or popular struggle could counter. It generally left efforts to oppose land expropriations for settlement construction in the hands of NGOs and private individuals. It was busy with the big show of "state building." Its leaders cooperated and are continuing to cooperate with the closure regime - that is, with the pass system. As VIPs, they enjoyed and continue to enjoy Israel easing their own travel. They were not behind the decision of some villages to refuse to accept the special travel passes issued by the Civil Administration for residents of "the closed military area" between the separation fence and the Green Line.

The question is how the decision of the Palestinian cabinet, which even obligates the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), might serve as leverage for a popular struggle - Palestinian, Israeli and international - against the Israeli policy of carving the Palestinian territory into enclaves and mutilating the two-state solution." to read the entire article


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