on the economics of occupation

So I’m preparing for an interview on Press TV tonight. They want me to talk about four things:

1. inter-Palestinian talks in Cairo
2. U.S.-Israel sowing seeds of discord
3. Abbas’ strategy as failed
4. results of the Quartet’s work in Palestine

To be honest, I haven’t entirely followed the talks in Cairo because I find them irrelevant in so many ways. I’ve been re-reading a lot of Edward Said’s writings on Oslo over the past month as I theorize and organize a chapter of my book I’m completing. I find that so much of what he said even in the time immediately following Oslo has not changed one bit. If anything it’s gotten worse. As if Said were prophesying. And in some ways he was. In The End of the Peace Process, for instance, Said tells us:

Labor and Likud leaders alike made no secret of the fact that Oslo was designed to segregate the Palestinians in noncontiguous, economically unviable enclaves, surrounded by Israeli-controlled borders, with settlements and settlement roads punctuating and essentially violating the territories’ integrity. Expropriations and house demolitions proceeded inexorably through Rabin, Peres, Netanyahu, and Barak administrations, along with the expansion and multiplication of settlements (200,000 Israeli Jews added to Jerusalem, 200,000 more in Gaza and the West Bank), military occupation continuing and every tiny step taken toward Palestinian sovereignty–including agreements to withdraw in miniscule, agreed-upon phases–stymied, delayed, canceled at Israel’s will” (360-361).

Of course, Said is correct. But it has gotten so much worse in so many ways. Today is the 8th anniversary of the second or Al Aqsa intifada. And in that time period, Ma’an News reports the following disastrous casualties of Israeli terrorism and colonialism:

In the eight years since the start of the Al-Aqsa Intifadah Israel has destroyed Palestine’s infrastructure and killed 5,389 Palestinians in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem….

Of those killed by Israeli forces, [Al Haq] said, 194 were women and 995 children. During the same time 135 Palestinian patients died at one of the 630 military checkpoints throughout the areas.

The group said 32,270 Palestinians were injured over the last eight years, and 3,530 of those injured have suffered permanent handicaps, and at least 220 Palestinians have died waiting for treatment abroad.

General Director of the Health Action committee Shatha Au’da said that Israel had destroyed entire infrastructures in Palestinian lands, from road networks, to health, government and security on account of occupation and siege policies. Palestinian lands and lives have been cut up by road-blocks, concrete walls, settlements and discriminatory policies.

Settlements have expanded 30% since the Annapolis conference alone, and since 2000 7,934 Palestinian homes have been demolished. Israelis have collected 66million Shekels in fines from Palestinians living in East Jerusalem since 2006, and in that city alone 27 homes are currently threatened with demolition.

There have been 450 kilometers of separation fence build across the land, and 45% of West Bank lands are not accessible to Palestinians.

These are stark statistics of reality here over the course of the last 8 years. But there are other issues Said addresses, which have contributed to the worsening conditions here and that highlight the erroneous notion that Oslo, or any other such agreement since it, is about “peace.” One problem that Said addressed, which Salman Abu Sitta also has been speaking out about in important ways, has to do with the Palestinian Authority (PA) itself and who it does or does not represent. For his part Abu Sitta has been working on trying to create a real Palestinian governing body that represents all Palestinians not just those who are allowed to live here. Said made an important distinction between the PA and this much larger body of Palestinian refugees living in exile who comprise 7.2 million people today: “No final-status negotiating team can represent national (as opposed to municipal) Palestinian interests unless there are to be no further compromises on settlements, on sovereignty, water, and other natural resources, on entrances and exits, and on Jerusalem” (25).

It has never mattered what Israeli leader or political party has been in power. Each has been more devastating than the last. One might try to mask its rhetoric and proclaim some sort of “peace” agreement, but in the end what happens on the ground is an entirely different story. Said reminds us of what Oslo has meant for the PA. Here he is talking about ‘Arafat, but the same may be said of Abbas:

Arafat cooperates with the Shin Bet [Israeli internal security (read: terrorist) forces] and the settlers in rounding up “opponents of the peace process,” while the occupation of his people’s land proceeds. Israel holds over six thousand Palestinian political prisoners [2008: 11,000] and still controls unilaterally the water supply (although it has conceded in principle that Palestinians will be given a small additional amount of water), and of course the military occupation continues. Rabin’s plan is to substitute direct control, i.e., Israeli troops in the main West Bank centers, for indirect control, i.e., Israel troops outside the towns” (17).

Direct or indirect: it makes no difference in people’s lives on a daily basis. The control Said speaks of is military, but that military control, regardless of what it looks like, has an effect on people’s social, political, cultural, and economic realities. But partially because the economy is one of the top headlines in the media of late, I want to consider this aspect in relation to Oslo. Naomi Klein argues in The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism that various forms of disaster–environmental and man-made alike–have created a new type of economy that yields profits in a way that makes “instability the new stability” (428) in an economic context. She uses the state of Israel as a model for the U.S. to show how peace is an obstacle to a booming economy. Thus, she argues Oslo emerged, at least in part, from the Israeli point of view accordingly:

Communism had collapsed, the information revolution was beginning, and there was a widespread conviction inside Israel’s business community that the bloody occupation of Gaza and the West Bank, compounded by the boycott of Israel by Arab states, was putting Israel’s economic future in peril. Seeing the explosion of “emerging markets” around the world, Israeli corporations were tired of being held back by war; they wanted to be part of the high-profit borderless world, not penned in by regional strife. If the Israeli government could negotiate some sort of peace agreement with the Palestinians, Israel’s neighbors would have to lift their boycotts, and the country would be perfectly positioned to be the Middle East’s free-trade hub. (429)

Notice that the state of Israel had been affected by the Arab boycott of the Zionist state. This is key for those wanting a re-birth of that movement in spite of reports about the offensive nature of Jordanian complicity in their economic, normalizing relations with the Zionist state. But this economic desire on the part of the state of Israel motivated their so-called “peace” negotiations according to Klein:

That same year [1993], Shimon Peres, then foreign minister, explained to a group of Israeli journalists that peace was now inevitable. it was a very particular kind of peace, however. “We are not seeking a peace of flags,” Peres said, “we are interested in a peace of markets” (429).

Klein reports that as a result of a tremendous influx of Russians into the Zionist state–many of whom are not, in fact, Jewish all reports to the contrary–boosted not only the population of illegal Israeli settlements, but also provided a new cheap labor force, which enabled the Zionist regime to all but cease employing the Palestinian workers who used to perform those same jobs. There are various other factors, but the end result is best described by Shlomo Ben-Ami who “describes the years after the White House handshake as ‘one of the most breathtaking eras of economic growth and opening up of markets in [Israel’s] history'” (433).

The business sectors that the state of Israel profited most from were technology and military. After the dot-com crash in 2000, the U.S. suffered a worse fate than the Zionist state because of its redirection of government spending. Here, in this passage from Klein’s book, we can see once again why it is so crucial to participate in the academic and economic boycott of Israel because of the way that these sectors are always already tied to the military and the state:

The only reason the recession was not even worse, the newspaper [Tel Aviv’s business newspaper Globes] observed, was that the Israeli government quickly intervened with a powerful 10.7 percent increase in military spending, partially financed through cutbacks in social services. The government also encouraged the tech industry to branch out from information and communication technologies and into security and surveillance. In this period, the Israeli Defense Forces [known also as Israeli Terrorist Forces] played a role similar to a business incubator. Young Israeli soldiers experimented with network systems and surveillance devices while they fulfilled their mandatory military service, then turned their findings into business plans when they returned to civilian life” (435).

One of those companies, no doubt, was Motorola, which is responsible for various human rights abuses and the occupation itself, as the Hang Up on Motorola campaign makes clear:

*Producing the 980 Low Altitude Proximity Fuse for the MK-80 series of high-explosive bombs. On July 30, 2006, during its war on Lebanon, the Israeli Air Force dropped an MK-84 high-explosive bomb on an apartment building in Qana, Lebanon. The bomb killed at least 28 civilians, many of whom were children, who had taken shelter in the basement of their apartment building.

*Developing and supplying the Israeli military with the “Mountain Rose” secure cell phone communication system, which is the exclusive communications system in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

*Supplying Israel with the Wide Area Surveillance System (WAAS) to monitor and maintain the illegal wall it has constructed in the Palestinian West Bank. Motorola Israel’s provision of the WAAS to Israel contradicts the International Court of Justice (ICJ) advisory opinion in July 2004.

*Providing radar detection devices and thermal cameras for 47 illegal Israeli settlements on Palestinian land. According to the Fourth Geneva Conventions, Article 49, it is a war crime for an occupying power to transfer its civilian population in to occupied territories.

But I digress. Klein continues in that same paragraph I quoted from above on how this created a new war process (i.e., not “peace” process) economy after September 11th for the Zionist state:

A slew of new start-ups were launched, specializing in everything from “search and nail” data mining, to surveillance cameras, to terrorist profiling. When the market for these services and devices exploded in the years after September 11, the Israeli state openly embraced a new national economic vision: the growth provided by the dot-com bubble would be replaced with a homeland security boom. It was the perfect marriage of the Likud Party’s hawkishness and its radical embrace of Chicago School economics, as embodied by Sharon’s finance minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, and Israel’s new central bank chief, Stanley Fischer, chief architect of the IMF’s [International Monetary Fund] shock therapy adventures in Russia and Asia. (435)

In a nutshell, the state of Israel has tricked the world into believe that it gives generous offers, that it is interested in “peace,” that it is interested in tricking Arab regimes into normalizing, at least economically, in order to create a tremendous economic boom for the state of Israel. Moreover, what Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza have become–and possibly Palestinians living in 1948–are guinea pigs there to enable the ITF to test its various demonic instruments of terror and torture on an innocent civilian population. And Klein makes it clear that the result has been “highly lucrative” for them:

Israel’s exports in counter terrorism-related products and services increased by 15 percent in 2006 and were projected to grow by 20 percent in 2007, totaling $1.2 billion annually. The country’s defense exports in 2006 reached a record $3.4 billion (compared to $1.6 billion in 1992), making Israel the fourth largest arms dealer in the world, larger than the U.K. Israel has more technology stocks listed on the Nasdaq exchange–many of them security related–than any other foreign country, and it has more tech patents registered in the U.S. than China and India combined. (436)

Many of these companies Klein mentions are those that work in cahoots with American contractors (aka mercenaries) who are working in Iraq and New Orleans (after Hurricane Katrina). Many of those are complicit in building the Zionist state’s Apartheid Wall and on top of it exporting that to the U.S.-Mexico border where Americans are building their own Apartheid Wall (Elbit, Magal, Golan Group, Instinctive Shooting International are but a few of these companies). Klein is clear that she doesn’t think this economic argument about disaster capitalism pushing forward the Israeli economy in a profitable way is the only reason why the Zionist state pursues war rather than “peace.” But she does remind us why we must consider this as an issue:

The extraordinary performance of Israel’s homeland security companies is well known to stock watchers, but it is rarely discussed as a factor in the politics of the region. It should be. It is not a coincidence that the Israeli state’s decision to put “counterterrorism” at the center of its export economy has coincided precisely with its abandonment of peace negotiations as well as a clear strategy to reframe its conflict with the Palestinians not as a battle against a nationalist movement with specific goals for land and rights but rather as part of the global War on terror–one against illogical, fanatical forces bent only on destruction. (439)

The U.S. has learned well from this model of taking disasters, war, devastation and making it profitable. And in spite of the bailout plan for corporate American greed, Klein made some of these connections this week on Bill Maher’s Real Time. As with her book, where she shows how in various contexts around the world that disasters have become profitable because they are used to help push through draconian policies to make only very particular sectors or people win tremendous profits. Watch this clip for more on the current U.S. context:

What does all this have to do with where I started? It is, in fact, relevant. The way that the U.S. and Israel have found, through their economic, military, political, and academic collaborations, to be profitable has made them prefer war economies or disaster economies to “peace.” The PA, and Palestinian leadership, it would seem, in general does not seem interested in halting normalization, reinvigorating a boycott campaign, a real intifada. Much of what I’ve read about the talks in Cairo between the various political factions are not worth writing or even thinking about, quite frankly. It’s just more of the same. It is feeding into the U.S. and Israel’s creation of its divide and rule tactics by one bolstering Hamas (Israel) and the other bolstering Fatah (U.S.) in order to get more Palestinians to kill themselves (makes life a bit easier for those Zionist terrorist band). All other political parties seem to be more or less marginalized.

What is needed, I think, is unity to be sure. But unity for the sake of what. Said argued, as most Palestinians who are refugees, who live in exile argue that they must be represented. The PA has not–has never–represented this population of 7.2 million people. And whatever quibbling over issues and power there is within Palestinian leadership circles or between the normalizing-negotiating team and the Zionist colonists occupying Palestinian land it is very clear (read postings of letters from Abed, Al Awda in posts below): if the Right of Return under UN Resolution 194 were made THE ONLY priority, THE ONLY talking point, the only issue to negotiate over or fight to get back what rightfully belongs to Palestinians then all other issues would be solved. The issue of water, of borders, of Al Quds, of land–these issues would become non-issues. They would take care of themselves if we could only bring back those 7.2 million people who want to return–and force the Zionist thefts and bandits to pay reparations for those who choose not to return as well as to those who return.

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