Sunday, June 15, 2008

Fulfilling the Vision of Gush Emunim

Officially found as a political movement in 1974 , the Gush Emunim (Block of the faithful) advocated the expansion of Israel into occupied Palestinian lands through the construction of settlements in the West Bank and Gaza strip. Heavily influenced by the Rabbi Abraham Kook, and his son Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda Kook, the movement espoused a belief that Jewish people enjoyed a divine right to all the land between Jordan and the Mediterranean Sea. They believed this land was promised to the Jews by God in the Hebrew bible. This vision of conquest and expansion has been the policy of every Israeli government since the end of the Six-Day war in 1967. The removal of Palestinians and the incorporation of their lands into Israel is seen by many settlers as a religious duty.

In light of the recent siege of the Gaza strip and continuing efforts to carve up the West bank, it appears that the vision of Gush Emunim is approaching its fulfillment. This project of divine inspiration has been carried out by bulldozing Arab homes, confiscating land, diverting precious water resources, and implementing "security measures" which isolate Palestinian towns and restrict the flow of human traffic and commercial goods. The most egregious of these measures are the walls that Israel has constructed to divide the Palestinians and protect illegal settlements in the West Bank. These walls are an integral part of Israel's ongoing colonization policy in the occupied territories. Rather than acting as a legitimate partner for peace, Israel seems intent on continuing a pattern of theft, segregation, and a complete domination of all aspects of Palestinian life.In addition to being a flagrant violation of international law, the ongoing expansion of settlements are one of the greatest obstacles to establishing a just peace in the area.

The UN security council has passed several non-binding resolutions which address the issue of Israeli settlements. One of the most well-known is resolution 446 which, in part, states the following:

"Affirming once more that the Fourth Geneva convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Times of War is applicable to the Arab territories occupies by Israel since 1967, including Jerusalem."

The resolution further states in section 1 that:

"the policy and practices of Israel in establishing settlements in the Palestinian and other Arab territories occupied since 1967 have no legal validity and constitute a serious obstruction to achieving a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the Middle East."

West Bank Settlements

Even while Ehud Olmert claims to be negotiating "peace" with Mahmoud Abbas, his Government is authorizing an expansion in the West Bank settlements of Ariel and Elkana. In addition, Israel is planning new settlements in East Jerusalem which would completely separate the city from the rest of the West bank. Prime Minister Olmert has also vowed to keep many West Bank settlement blocks in any future peace agreement with the Palestinians. These actions and public statements clearly illustrate that Israel has no real interest in a "just and lasting" peace with the Palestinians. It more accurately reflects a statement made by Ariel Sharon in 1998:

"Everybody has to move, run and grab as many hilltops as they can to enlarge the settlements because everything we take now will stay ours...Everything we don't grab will go to them."

Israel and its settlements also continue to divert and gobble up most of the scarce water resources in the West Bank. This is an ongoing source of anger and resentment among Palestinians. An elaborate system roads has also been constructed to connect the settlements. These roads are off limits to most Palestinians. Instead they are forced to traverse substandard roads on which their movements are severely restricted by humiliating "security checkpoints". Some of these checkpoints are equipped with turnstiles which resemble cattle chutes.

The Siege of Gaza

The Israeli strategy in the Gaza strip is clear: destroy it. The siege of the territory, which began shortly after Hamas drove out the military forces of Fatah, has continues to cause unimaginable suffering. Some of the more sadistic components of the siege include:

1. Cutting off fuel supplies. This has made the delivery of food aid almost impossible. It has also deprived much of Gaza of its sources of electricity and refrigeration. One of the more tragic consequences of this move has been the inability of Gazans to run their water treatment plants. Raw sewage has run in the streets and been pumped into the Mediterranean. According to published reports, millions of liters of waste have pumped into the Sea, contaminating the water in the area and killing fish.

2. Withholding tax revenue and the closing of border crossings into the strip. Obviously this eliminates the flow of human traffic and commercial goods, further exacerbating existing problems with poverty, hunger, unemployment, and the delivery of medical care (resulting in avoidable deaths). According to aid agencies, malnutrition has increased at an alarming rate in Gaza and many residents are going hungry.

Israel has stated that it will only consider easing the blockade if there is a complete end to cross-border attacks by Palestinian armed groups. However, in Cairo last month, 12 Palestinian factions ( including Hamas), agreed to implement a six month ceasefire, on condition that Israel end the blockade and stop its cross-border raids. There is no possible justification for continuing this collective punishment. It is not a legitimate military strategy. It is an immoral attempt to cause undue suffering and destroy life in the Gaza strip. The government of Israel is fully aware of the consequences of this siege. Unfortunately, it is a crime of terrifying proportions to which most of the world is either oblivious or shockingly callous in their lack of care and concern. In any case, the situation is threatening to explode into a full blown act of genocide if steps are not taken to lift the blockade. One can only hope that the Israeli leadership will rediscover their conscience and free the people of the Gaza strip. History suggests they may not. The terrible suffering will likely continue and the vision of Gush Emunim may be fully realized.
Spencer Spratley

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