Haaretz Magazine, May 27, 1994.
Translated by Jeff Green
THE ERA OF YELLOW TERRITORIES
If we look at the
facts, setting aside feelings and hopes,
the Gaza and Jericho
agreements, signed in May 1994,
resemble the beginning
of Apartheid rather than its end.
Welcome to Gazastan.
In the past few weeks, many opponents of the occupation
been tempted to point out the resemblance between the end of the
Apartheid in South Africa and the Gaza and Jericho agreements. However,
if we look at the facts, setting aside feelings and hopes, the
agreements with the PLO resemble the beginning of Apartheid rather
than its end. In 1959, the law promoting self-government of the Bantu
peoples was passed in South Africa, institutionalizing the separation
(Apartheid) between whites and blacks. The reservations, which were
allocated to the blacks, were declared self-governing entities and
known generically as Bantustans.
The power in each of these entities was bestowed
flunkies, and a few Bantustans even had elections, Parliaments, and
quasi-governmental institutions. However, foreign affairs, security,
natural resources and mines were carefully kept in the hands of the
white regime. At first, the reservations had no independent sources
of employment. The Bantustans were separated politically from South
Africa, which controlled the entry of Bantustan residents into its
territory. Officially, a permit was necessary to pass between any
of these territories. Those who managed to acquire exit visas and
work permits made their living working for white people under shameful
conditions of exploitation. The workers returned to their homes at
dusk or squatted in camps on the outskirts of the cities. Over the
years, the cheap labor attracted foreign investors to establish
industries in the Bantustans or near their borders. The Bantustans
were allowed some symbols of sovereignty: a flag, postage stamps,
passports and strong police force. The white regime strove to give
the impression that the Bantustans were real countries, thus achieving
a domestic political goal. All blacks were considered citizens of
Bantustans, making them "foreigners" in South Africa and deprived
of their electoral and social rights.
The situation created by the Gaza and Jericho agreement,
this May (1994) in Cairo, is almost identical. Of course, the Israeli
peace camp is convinced that this is only a temporary agreement, the
harbinger of a new era. However, the possibility that this arrangement
may be frozen for years, or extended similarly to further areas of
the West Bank cannot be ignored. According to Ze'ev Schiff, Arafat
is convinced "There will be no second stage after Gaza and Jericho.
Therefore every kilometer and every small achievement is as important
to him as if it were the last one " (Ha'aretz, 8 May 1995).
Furthermore, those who still believe that Rabin's intentions are
sincere, and that every detail of the exhausting, meticulous
negotiations is intended for the short term only, must remember that
in less than two years, after the next elections, the government may
be replaced. In any case, this agreement is all we have, and the rest
is pure hope. If so, what situation does this agreement create?
It leaves substantial parts of the Gaza strip in
These areas are called "The Yellow Territories" in the maps
accompanying the agreement. According to Mansour a-Shawa, candidate
for head of the Gaza Council, the Palestinians will have autonomy
only over 50% of the Gaza Strip lands (Haaretz, 5 May 1994). The Yellow
Territories include most of the land that is still available for
construction and agriculture in the terribly over populated Gaza Strip.
The Security Annex to the agreement forbids the Palestinians to build
there and leaves planing and building in the Yellow Territories under
Israel's control (Summary of the Annex, Haaretz 5 May 1995). Gush
Katif has, in fact, been excluded from the Gaza Strip, and the IDF
has begun to build a NIS 35 million electric fence in order to seal
off the Gush Katif area. (Haaretz, 24 April 1994). Along with control
over land, Israel has also retained control over water. The agreement
preserves the exact situation that exists today. To solve the water
shortage in Gaza, the Palestinians will be allowed to buy water from
Israel (Annex 2, par. 31). Hence, the starting point for Gaza is worse
than a Bantustan: with neither water nor land.
In twenty-seven years of occupation, Israel had
nor allowed the development of an independent economical infrastructure
in Gaza and the West Bank. The only real economic resource available
today to the people of Gaza is employment in Israel. The economical
agreement speaks eloquently of the "normal passage of workers" between
both sides, "notwithstanding the right of each side to redefine from
time to time the scale and conditions of the entry of workers into
their area" (chapter 7, paragraph 1) - impressive symmetry indeed.
Considering the expected flow of Hebrew workers into the fields of
Gaza, this actually means complete Israeli control over Gaza's work
force. As in a Bantustan, it is possible that entrepreneurs will be
attracted by the cheap labor in the pressure cooker of Gaza, so that
instead of importing the workers into Israel, sweatshops will be built
inside the Gaza strip.
In any case, the interests of Israeli entrepreneurs
protected. In the words of David Brodett, Head of the Israeli
economical delegation to the negotiations with the PLO: "On one issue
our stand was firm: in the Cairo agreements it was clearly stated
that any discrimination against Israeli entrepreneurs, companies and
Israel in general is strictly forbidden (Yediot Aharonot, 6 May 1994).
The economic agreement secures Israel's interests and the continuation
of Gaza's economic dependence on Israel. One of the crises during
the economic negotiations erupted after Abu-'Aleh proposed a free
trade agreement between Gaza, Jericho, and Jordan, allowing the
Palestinians to import cheaper products than available through Israel.
As with all other issues, Israel's objection was the final word
(Brodett, ibid.). Even the meager Palestinian agricultural export
to Israel was restricted with the convenience of Israeli farmers in
mind (Economical Agreements, Chapter 8, Paragraph 10). Thus, Gazastan
can look forward to a future existence mainly as a source of cheap
labor for Israeli and other entrepreneurs.
Nevertheless, Israel rejects any responsibility
for the welfare
of Gaza's citizens. Health care, social conditions, food shortages,
and municipal services - all of the above are "internal affairs" of
the Palestinians, now that they are sovereign. David Brodett explains
frankly: "We are not being petty. When Israel withdraws from Gaza,
the amounts the Local Administration budgeted for the month of May
will remain in the local treasury.... This money should be sufficient
for the day to day running of the Palestinian Authority for the first
two or three weeks. After that, they are the boss" (Yediot Aharonot,
ibid.). At best, Israel is willing to reallocate the responsibility
for the social welfare of residents living on the land it controls
to charity organizations and international donors, who may or may
not allocate billions to the benefit of the territories.
In the Bantustan spirit of "divide and rule," a
complete separation between the different cantons of the future
autonomy is evident. The Agreement already institutionalizes such
a separation between Gaza and the West Bank, allowing movement only
between Jericho and the West Bank and only for the residents of those
two areas. Supervision of this movement and the right to deny it
remains in the hands of Israel (Security Annex, "safe passage"). The
spirit of these agreements is shown by the cancellation of 1,300 travel
permits intended for students from the Gaza strip. An appeal to the
Supreme Court regarding this matter was rejected upon the request
of the Attorney General. It is particularly interesting to note the
rationales offered for this rejection. It was explained, for example,
that these kinds of appeals are no longer relevant, since the
Palestinian Authority is expected to deal with the internal issues
in Gaza, education being one of these issues (Haaretz 6 May 1994).
In other words, this is the logic of the "Peace Era": now that the
Palestinians have an independent government, the responsibility for
their welfare is theirs. Somehow, waiting on line to receive flour
from UNWRA, they should also solve their higher education problems.
Meanwhile, if they are unable to study, that's obviously not our fault.
Ostensibly the legislative and judicial system are
areas in which
the Autonomy should have independent authority. However, even in these
areas the agreement permits Israel's close supervision. All
legislation must be confirmed by a joint "sub-committee for legal
matters", and "within thirty days" of such legislation Israel can
decide if the "legislation exceeds the judicial jurisdiction of the
Palestinian authority" (the agreement part 7.3). Furthermore, the
agreement concludes that: "Army rules and regulations that were valid
before the Gaza and Jericho agreements will remain so unless modified
or canceled in accordance with this agreement (par. 7.9). At this
time, it seems that only seventy out of one thousand military edicts
with which Israel controlled the strip will be canceled. Big Brother's
eye will also watch the education system closely. "In accordance with
the agreements of the civilian committees, Israel will be permitted
to monitor Palestinian educational literature, to exclude any hostile
material regarding Israel." (Attorney Rajah Surani to Amira Hess,
Haaretz 9 May 1994).
Even if all the above sounds like the usual occupation
the danger in the new situation lies in that from now on it will not
be called occupation. Bantustan logic rules that now, after achieving
a local authority, they are also responsible for their own fate in
the area of human rights. Even people with good intentions may be
fooled by this. The Association for Civil Rights, for example, is
currently debating whether it should continue to monitor human rights
violations in the territories. "Where Israel is not sovereign, there
is no place for Association activity," says the head of the
Association, Amos Gil (Haaretz 11 May 1994).
Israel's control over West Bank is entering a new
phase. We have not yet developed tools to deal with this situation.
Indeed, how easy it is to submit to the feeling that the Palestinian
problem is no longer ours, because they have their own postage stamps
and flag, police and travel documents. How easy it is to submit to
the hope that the dynamics of things will work out on its own.
Meanwhile, we shall sit at home and trust the Government, because,
after all, it is a peace government.
But the danger is that the Gaza and Jericho agreements
Israeli occupation legal status, at least in these areas. Since Arafat,
who is thought to be the leader of the Palestinian national movement,
signed this treaty of surrender, those who would like to may claim
that the agreement was made with the approval of the Palestinian
people. If so, the Security Council decisions 242 and 338 would no
longer be valid, since the Palestinian people willingly approve of
Israel's rule in exchange for autonomy. Although the agreement is
called temporary, until a new one is achieved, only these arrangements
will be valid in the eyes of international law. The solution that
may succeed remains the establishment of a true Palestinian state,
and until we achieve that, we must be sure that a similar "temporary
agreement" which institutionalizes Israeli control over the
territories, disguised as self-government similar to a Bantustan,
is not extended to the West Bank.