By Sami Awad
The construction by the Israeli government and military of the isolation wall on Palestinian land is being implemented with full force. While Israel has claimed and has tried to argue that the security threat posed by Palestinians is the reason for this construction, many — Palestinians, Israeli, international peace proponents, and even the International Court of Justice– see such action as an attempt to impose a de-facto political reality in the territories occupied by Israel. They see the construction of the wall as an attempt to separate Palestinian communities from each other and establish the Israeli vision of what the future Palestinian geo-political entity should look like. (Simply put, the deeper the wall goes within Palestine and the more it is squeezed into and around Palestinian residential areas, the less land Palestinians have and the more land Israel has). Many also see this wall fulfilling the Israeli desire to control the underground water resources, to dominate occupied Jerusalem and to continue the expansion of illegal Jewish settlements.
The majority of those who analyze the Israeli government strategy and motive in
Palestine look at the actions through political (geo-political) and economic lenses only. Those who analyze the Palestinian response also present a political / economic analysis. While such important factors are real in presenting an obstacle to the establishment of a Palestinian state, they are not the only threats to the future of Palestine. I believe there is a greater and more detrimental danger to our existence as Palestinians.
The answer to what presents the real danger is not discussed in political circles or in economic forums; it is not found in the resolutions of the United Nations and was never negotiated in the capitals of the world that hosted negotiation after negotiation. The answer is found in the rural areas of Palestine.
In recent years there has been tremendous pressure by the Israeli military on Palestinian villages. This pressure has come in a one-two-three knock-out attempt:
First punch: Politically. Palestinian villages are located outside the Palestinian urban prisons (on the other side of the wall) causing “inconvenience” to the expansion of Jewish settlements and the movement of settlers. Of course we cannot forget the “security threat” that these poor farmers supposedly impose on Israel therefore they must be pressured into moving into urban areas. This has resulted in Israeli soldiers and Jewish settlers attacking, provoking and killing Palestinian villagers, harming their property and stealing their land.
Second punch: Economically. Side roads, “Jewish only” bi-pass roads, “security” forces, fences around the villages, etc. are very costly; land belonging to Palestinian farmers is very fertile. The attempt has been made to harass farmers from going to and farming their land and selling their produce once it is harvested. This creates enough economic pressure to force them to migrate into the cities. Added to this are Israeli discriminatory military orders that deem land as public domain if not used by farmers for three consecutive years. The thing is if farmers can’t get to their land, their land cannot be used.
The first two punches deal with the political and economic pressures imposed by the Israeli government on Palestinian villages. The third punch is the one that targets the heart of being a Palestinian.
Third punch: Culturally. Palestinian villages are the last remaining frontier of everything pure and good about Palestine. Villages are the keepers of our traditions, our heritage, our history, our language, our means of living as a community, our methods of resolving conflicts, our place where we learn to respect the elders, where family values are the norm, not the exception, where everyone shares what little they have in times of crises, where one loves his land more than his own life, where fresh water still flows from the springs, where a guest is respected and treated as the owner of the house, where being Palestinian is more important than political parties, family clans, or social status … Palestinian villages are what being Palestinian is all about.
If the Israeli government succeeds in destroying the Palestinian village it succeeds in destroying Palestinian culture. The true identity of being a Palestinian will be lost. Our history which is the foundation of our future will be lost. Our understanding of religion (both Muslim and Christian) will be lost to political ideology. Our tradition which is the way we deal with each other and with strangers will disappear. Our land, the source of our livelihood and identity will cease to exist.
We will of course continue to call ourselves Palestinians, waving political slogans and demanding our rights to self determination, but being locked up behind cement walls, our society will be transformed into an abused cheap labor force dependent on the West and Israel for our economic sustainability, political future, and even our culture.
The only way to prevent this “New Palestine” – take from the US led “New Middle East” initiative—from becoming a reality is by encouraging Palestinians to return to the land, live on and of the land, raise our families in villages, learn to re-live the simple life, and strengthen the culture of Palestine so as to truly begin liberating ourselves politically and economically.