Posted by: Harold Knight | 01/27/2013

Yield—as in give up all claim to—Right of Way (Hebron and other cities under siege)

roads1All states use favourable interpretations to justify their own behaviour in legal terms, but victorious states are in the enviable position of being able to hold their defeated enemies accountable for violating the rules of just war and to dismiss those allegedly committed by their own citizens (1).

For one week I have been trying to finish this writing.

I cannot.

Usually I have a focus (if not a clear thesis) in mind when I begin. The writing may or may not be logical or coherent, but at least I know how the ideas fit together. Oh, I have a focus, and idea that I want to write about, but I have neither the factual knowledge nor the writing ability to make it happen.

The first morning I was in Jerusalem (after arriving the evening before and being hustled off to the hotel) in the summer of 2004, the group I was with drove to a hill overlooking the city for a view which shook me to the core of my being—and which this morning, nine years later, still causes an acute physical response of revulsion when I think of it. Looking down one direction we saw the devastation of a neighborhood destroyed to make way for Israel’s Apartheid “separation barrier”—the hideous and immoral wall Israel has built to imprison and humiliate Palestinians who live in East Jerusalem and the West Bank.

We were also able to see the initial stages of the Apartheid highway system snaking its way through all of the Israeli Occupied Territories of Palestine. This is a system of highways from city to city—but much more importantly from cities to illegal Israeli “settlements” in the West Bank—which only full citizens of Israel, that is, non-Palestinians, are allowed to use. One must have the proper license plate available only to full citizens of Israel in order to drive on these highways. If one is a Palestinian and needs to travel outside one’s hometown, one must take unimproved side roads, and must usually pass through road blocks and checkpoints.

Israel justifies this two-tier system of travel by declaring it necessary to keep the residents of “settlements” (by international law and, in some cases, by Israeli law, illegal settlements) safe from the indigenous Palestinians who might wish them harm. In actuality, of course, the system is designed to privilege the “settlers” (squatters?) over the people whose land has been confiscated to create the “settlements.”

Because I do not know how to complete this writing, I will simply copy here some rather long quotations that give background for what I would like to say.

Once again from Talai Asad.

The Israeli journalist Amira Hass points out that the peace accompanying an occupation is really dependent on war. Every citizen of an occupying power, she insists, whether military or civilian, who moves or settles in occupied land does so on the basis of privilege arising not only from the initial act of violence but also from its continuous presence. Speaking of Israelis on the West Bank, she writes:

We have the privilege of hiking in Palestinian areas to our heart’s content,
of buying subsidized housing for Jews only on the lands of Bethlehem,
of raising cherries and grapes in the
wadis of Hebron, of quarrying on
the mountain slopes, of driving on roads whose land was expropriated
from the indigenous inhabitants for public use. . . . The regime of travel
permits that has been in place since 1991 deprives all Palestinians of
the right to freedom of movement in Israel while the system of roadblocks
limits their movement in their own territories (2).

Hass thus distinguishes the peace of Israeli settlers from the continuous state of hostilities on which the occupation rests, emphasizing the necessity of the latter for the former. The intermittent acts of open violence, whether performed by Palestinian militants resisting occupation or by the Israeli army protecting the settlers’ way of life, are merely epiphenomena within the structure of peace-war (3).”

usaid.roadI found Asad’s article in a library database search for material to continue my writing about Hebron. I know my experiences there and in other Palestinian cities, but I continually read articles to gain understanding of the issues of the Israeli occupation provided by scholars specializing in the subject.

I was particularly searching for background material on the presence of such groups as the Ecumenical Accompaniers of the World Council of Churches who send highly-trained observers to points of conflict in the Occupied West Bank simply to be with Palestinians. They are particularly useful for walking with Palestinian children from homes to schools in areas where settlers or the IDF might try to intimidate the children.

Through a process of searching databases for articles that I thought might help me to understand the charges and counter-charges of “terrorist” actions in such situations, I found Asad’s article. I will print one more fairly long quotation from the article.

I begin with the point that the law of war that provides the authorization of ‘just war’ does not consist of a clear set of rules but a language for interpreting and arguing about bloody conflict. David Kennedy, who specializes in the law of war, has elaborated on this insightful idea. All states use favourable interpretations to justify their own behaviour in legal terms, but victorious states are in the enviable position of being able to hold their defeated enemies accountable for violating the rules of just war and to dismiss those allegedly committed by their own citizens. Liberal democracies do not do this brazenly because they are states for which ‘respect for the law’ is fundamental. They use the language of law to interpret the rules and their proper application. . . what we call war is ultimately brute force and not authority that is decisive, even if that force is argued for in a legal language. (4).

The Apartheid Wall and the two-tiered highway system in the Occupied West Bank are justified by Israel in legal language to “hold  their defeated enemies [Palestinians] accountable for violating the rules of just war and to dismiss those allegedly committed by their own citizens {the “settlers”].

I do not know how to continue this writing. I will provide links to two articles about the situation and simply stop rather than coming to a conclusion. You may draw your own conclusions.

Link one.
Link two.
One more comment: the second link explains the use of US money to build the road system.

_____________ (1) Asad, Talal. “Thinking About Terrorism and Just War.” Cambridge Review of International Affairs 23.1 (2010): 3-24. (2) Asad quoting: Hass, Amira. “Our violent presence.” Ha’aretz, 19 February 2008. [Ha’aretz is a Jerusalem newspaper with wide circulation.] (3) ibid. (4) ibid.

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