Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, January/February 2016, pp. 30-31
Israel’s “Master Plan” for Judaization of Palestine Continues Apace
By Jane Adas
“Right to life” has taken on a whole new meaning since participating in CODEPINK’s first Olive Harvest delegation to Palestine in early November. It began in Ramallah, with Stop the Wall coordinator Jamal Jum’a providing context for what is happening today. From the beginning Zionism has viewed Palestinian demographics as the main threat to Israel as a Jewish state. Jum’a paraphrased a statement by Gen. Ariel Sharon [see London Times, 8/24/88]: “You don’t simply bundle people onto trucks and drive them away [as was done in the 1948 Nakba]. I prefer to create positive conditions that will induce people to leave”—in reality, making it impossible for them to live where they are.
To implement this, the “Israel 2020 Master Plan,” proposed as early as 1992, seeks to Judaize the Galilee, Judaize the Negev by concentrating Bedouin in American Indian-style reservations, and Judaize greater Jerusalem by walling off Palestinian neighborhoods in the “Holy Basin” outside the Old City and renaming others. For example, Israeli maps now label the Silwan neighborhood “the City of David.”
Jum’a led the delegation on a walking tour of Bir Nabala, a once prosperous residential suburb of East Jerusalem. In 2006 Israel’s separation barrier reached Bir Nabala, leaving it in the seam zone between the wall and the Green Line, detaching it completely from East Jerusalem. Today it is a ghost town. Bir Nabala lost two-thirds of its businesses and half its population, all of them East Jerusalemites. The main road is lined with empty shops and multistory buildings, dead wedding halls and vegetable markets, even the abandoned villa of the Archbishop of Jerusalem. The road ends at the wall. On the other side is an Israeli industrial park. The wall made life impossible in Bir Nabala in order to improve Israel’s demographic balance.
A fourth element of “Israel 2020” is disengagement from Gaza and the West Bank. In 2005, Israel withdrew its settlers and soldiers from Gaza and blockaded the Strip. In the West Bank, however, Jum’a explained that disengagement is within the territory, between Palestinians and Israeli settlers, via the wall, separate road systems, and checkpoints. The Israeli vision for Palestinians, he added, is “sustainable ghettos.” To that end, industrial zones have been established so that Palestinians can become independent of aid. Jum’a calls this “Do-it-yourself apartheid.”
The delegation visited Sebastia, a history-laden village northwest of Nablus and an example of Israel’s not-so-benign neglect. Our guide was Abu Yasser, proprietor of the Sebastia Guest House in the recently renovated Ottoman al-Kayed palace. Adjacent to the village is an archeological site dating back to the early Bronze Age with impressive Roman ruins. In addition, early Christians believed Sebastia to be the burial place of John the Baptist and where Salome performed the dance of seven veils. Because of these two attractions, according to Abu Yasser, Sebastia was the number one tourist site in the region until Israel began its occupation in 1967.
Since then, he explained, John the Baptist has been relocated elsewhere.
Attesting to its former popularity, a large parking lot stands outside the archeological site. Ours was the only van there. The lot is ringed with empty restaurants and tourist shops, only one of which was open. This is Area B, under joint Palestinian and Israeli control. A few steps away is the archeological site, under full Israeli control in Area C. Israel is doing nothing to protect the ruins. Nothing is labeled, no security guards, nothing roped off. Yet Israel will not allow Palestinian personnel even to clean the area. In 2014, Israel’s Nature and Parks Authority came to work on the site…with bulldozers. Letters and appeals to UNESCO stopped what seemed to be a demolition project, but Sebastianites fear the Israelis will come back. It’s as though they’re thinking, if there are no Jewish artifacts and if Palestinians might benefit from tourists drawn to the site, who cares if it’s vandalized? Abu Yasser hopes UNESCO will designate the area a protected World Heritage site because, as he said, “the Roman ruins belong to all the world.”
Our delegation’s host in Palestine was Canaan Fair Trade, the processing and marketing arm of the Palestine Fair Trade Association (PFTA), which today comprises more than 1,700 Palestinian small farmers joined in 52 cooperatives. Dr. Nasser Abufarha, who describes himself as a “social entrepreneur,” established both in 2004. He also has a Ph.D. in cultural anthropology and international development from the University of Wisconsin.
When Abufarha returned to Palestine to conduct research for his dissertation on war and violence, he found a community under siege. Prices for olives were low because local markets were saturated and, with limited access to global markets, Palestinian farmers were abandoning their olive trees. Because olive trees cannot survive without people nurturing them, Abufarha found this a threat to something very dear: “our cultural inheritance; our identity that connects us with our ancestors.” To help farmers stay on their land, he had the idea to aggregate small-scale farmers in order to compete in the international market.
Beginning with 25 farmers in two collectives, PFTA was able to guarantee a market, double the price of olive oil, and reach fair trade standards. It now exports 700 metric tons of olive oil annually, and is looking to increase almond production. In 2008 Canaan Fair Trade built a state-of-the-art olive processing facility with the capacity for 1,000 tons of olive oil, something Abufarha calls “our bank.” He is proud that PFTA is the only large organization in Palestine that receives no grants and is self-supporting. Mohammed, the manager of PFTA’s House for Fair Trade in Jenin, said, “Exporting Palestinian olive oil is a kind of nonviolent resistance. The political message of each bottle is ‘Palestinians deserve life.’”
Other PFTA programs include women’s cooperatives that produce soap, sun-dried tomatoes, za’atar and maftoul, and Trees for Life, a charitable program that distributes olive and almond trees to farmers who have lost some of their land to the wall or who live near settlements. You can read all about this Palestinian success story at <www.canaanfairtrade.com>, and purchase olive oil and other products as well from AET’s Middle East Books and More.
Jane Adas is a free-lance writer based in the New York City metropolitan area.