The cancer of colonization

By Yousef Munayyer

This past week has been a pivotal one in the future of the conflict in Palestine. What has evolved, in displays of policy from the Israeli and American end, has shed serious doubt on any workable solution to the ongoing conflict.

The West Bank and Gaza, two territories on which a Palestinian state was supposed to be established, are not very large. In fact the land is equivalent to roughly 22 percent of the state of Maryland. When dealing with territory that small to establish a state for a people who have been deprived of their independence for years, every inch counts.

That is why last week’s announcement by the Israeli government to expand the largest illegal colony in the West Bank by thousands of homes is so disappointing. What is just as disappointing is the stance which the United States has taken towards this action in the past and has continued to take after this most recent decision.

Israel, by virtue of being the controlling party, is able to shape the geography of the conflict. Every time an illegal colony is expanded, every time a wall is built to divide Palestinians on their land, every time another military base is established, the facts on the ground change. Many times this can be irreversible.

Politically the situation is a mess. Ariel Sharon, the Israeli Prime Minister, has been facing criticism from the colonists for his stance on disengagement. About two weeks ago, when students at Tel Aviv University were protesting high budget cuts, police entered the university and according to many used excessive force to silence what was for the most part a peaceful demonstration. Earlier that same week when colonists were protesting violently in the streets of Tel Aviv the response was much gentler. Coming down harsh on the colonists would be political suicide for Sharon. Yet, Sharon had agreed to the road map which sought to establish an independent and contiguous Palestinian state. This is at odds with the colonies and expanding them makes the seemingly impossible task of disengagement even more difficult.

So why would Israel choose to expand colonies in the illegally occupied West Bank if they had agreed to the establishment of a contiguous Palestinian state there? The answer is simple: The colonies are there to stay.

After Secretary of State Condoleeza Rica had told the Los Angeles Times that the decision to expand the colony of Ma’ale Adumim was contrary to American policy in the region, Israel’s ambassadors to and from the United States told the Israeli press that the United States supported Israel’s retention of major population centers like the colonies under a final status agreement thereby digging the grave of the contiguous Palestinian state.

The colonies in the West Bank start small and have a large security perimeter around them so that the Arabs will keep their distance. The trend has been to build up colonies to the security perimeter and then expand that outer boundary again. Like a cancer, the colonies which have been established in the West Bank grow continuously eating more and more land which is supposed to be Palestinian under the final status agreement. This is simply unacceptable to even the most moderate of Palestinians.

Is this part of a long term Israeli strategy to acquire all the land? That can not be answered for sure but if it was not one would assume they would be doing more to stop colonial expansion instead of perpetuating it.

Perhaps the saddest part of all of this is that it is nothing new. Ever since the first initiative to create peace based on a two-state solution Israel has only continued to expand the colonies making the solution less reachable.

While all of this is going on, while the two-state solution was being buried under the colonies of Ma’ale Adumim, Ariel and Modi’in the United States, the so-called honest broker, have done nothing to stop it. With every uprooted olive tree, every bulldozed home, every colonial outpost, and every religious zealot, peace gets further and further away.

I have heard so many people say they are hopeful about the current situation. The language sounds the same as that which was heard after Madrid so many deaths ago. Since then the trend has been colonial expansion and because of that there is absolutely nothing to be hopeful for.

With the two-state solution well into the grave and with few honest mourners for it, Israel is pursuing its own One-State solution. The colonies will continue to eat up the West Bank’s land and water supply until almost all of it will come under colonial control. One has to wonder though, what will happen to the millions of Palestinians caught in between?

Yousef Munayyer is a Collegian columnist.