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Support Barak?

To My Friends in the Peace Movement

By Jeff Halper Mon, 10 Jul 2000

I wish the division in Israeli society between those who support the peace process and those who don't was so simple. It isn't. While I certainly support a GENUINE peace process, I cannot in good conscience join the Peace Now "Support Barak" activities. My hesitation in giving Barak an open check during the up-coming Summit was only reinforced when I heard the man on the 9 o'clock news tonight.

Barak said very clearly what his vision of peace is -- and its a vision he has repeated since before the elections. Perhaps the worst is his opening statement: Barak vision is "separation" -- "us here; them there." I don't know if he speaks for Peace Now and others from the center to the left, but I find the notion of "separating" ourselves from the Palestinians as repugnant, racist and, when mixed with the power Israel will have over the Palestinian state, simply the Afrikaan's word for "separation" -- Apartheid. With a million Palestinian living in Israel and 400,000 Israelis living across the Green Line, where the hell is "here" and "there?" Are we really going to have a "peace" based on Barak's proposals of walls, canals, bridges, tunnels and Erez- type checkpoints, such as he is building between Bethlehem and Jerusalem at this moment? Is this what "peace" means to Peace Now?

Barak then went on to demolish his own absurd notion of "here" and "there" when he stated his second negotiating position: Israeli annexation of "settlement blocs" -- a new concept simply linking dozens of settlements through loose "master plans," thus giving them new legitimacy. These blocs will contain by Barak's own admission some 80% of the West Bank settler population (he also stated that he expects the settlers to support the "peace agreement" he will bring home). Israel will control the entire central West Bank from Ariel in the northwest, Shilo in the north-center and the Jordan Valley in the northeast through "Greater Jerusalem" extending from Modi'in through Ma'aleh Adumim until the Jordan River, and including in the south the massive area of Efrat, the Etzion Bloc, Beitar Illit and down to Kiryat Arba. Even if the Palestinians get 85-90% of the West Bank (sounds generous, doesn't it?), they will have nothing but four bantustans separated by Israeli settlements, highways, industrial parks and checkpoints -- the northern West Bank enclave, the souther West Bank enclave, East Jerusalem and Gaza. In short, we are "here" AND we are "there" -- and we control the entirety.

Barak then went on to reiterate that Jerusalem will remain under Israeli sovereignty and will never again be divided. But what's "Jerusalem?" What Israel calls "East Jerusalem" is a complete fiction. Jordanian East Jerusalem -- the Old City, Sheikh Jarrah, Wadi Joz and the Mount of Olives -- was only 6 sq. kms. in size. Israel unilaterally annexed another 64 sq. kms. from the West Bank (92% of "East Jerusalem") and now claims that Wallejeh, Sawarehreh and Kufr Akab are part of our "historic, sacred and indivisible" city. Even we of the "peace camp" have internalized an annexation that no one else in the world (including the U.S.) recognizes. The practicality of dismantling them aside, why don't we insist on viewing Ramat Eshkol, French Hill, Ramot, Rekhes Shuafat, Pisgat Ze'ev, Neveh Ya'akov, East Talpiot and Gilo as settlements -- just as we do Moskovich's Ras el-Amud project and Har Homa? The bottom line is that Barak, Peace Now and many of the rest of us in the "peace camp" accept annexation and settlement no less than do the "anti-peace" camp of the right. Why should we send Barak off with a mandate to "keep" all of Jerusalem under Israeli sovereignty instead of sharing the city and letting the Palestinians partake of its holiness and historicity as well, as their capital as well as ours?

Barak's fourth stated position should be reputiated by any Israeli moved by justice and the desire for peace and reconciliation. Not only will Israel steadfastly refuse to let Palestinian refugees back into the country, but Barak disclaims ANY Israeli "responsibility, accountability or sense of guilt" in creating the refugee situation. This, despite well-documented policies, acts and campaigns to remove Palestinians from their lands and homes in 1948, the willful destruction of more than 400 villages so that their inhabitants (including "present absentees" could not return), and laws ensuring not only that the refugees could not return but that their property would revert to Jewish ownership. Israel's moral position should be the right of return, and then the details worked out in negotiations. How can we, the moral ones, the peace-lovers, send Barak to Washington knowing our responsibility in ending 50+ years of misery for millions of people?

Can we in good conscience join the Peace Now bandwagon knowing that Barak's positions foreclose any possibility of a viable Palestinian state? Can we support a vision of "peace" based on separation, control and in the end even Apartheid? Can we go along with empty and downright WRONG slogans about Jerusalem and the refugee issue? Can we disassociate -- like Barak can -- from our historical responsibilities?

I, for one, cannot participate in Peace Now's uncritical "Support Barak" campaign. I understand the need to support the beseiged "peace camp," but I do not consider Barak's vision of peace to be anything close to the vision of a just, viable and lasting peace that will bring true reconciliation to our region. It is, in my humble opinion, merely a more sophisticated version of Likud's annexation, only the Palestinians are confined to a few impoverished bantustans instead of living under outright occupation. I fear both for the failure of the Summit and for Barak's success in imposing his version of peace.


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