Gaza Disengagement: Whither Palestinian Sovereignty

Gaza is a 40 km long and 10 km wide strip situated near the Mediterranean coast, i.e., with a total 370 sq km area which constitute less than 5% of the total Palestinian territories occupied by Israel in 1967. With over 1.3 million population (99% Muslims), it has over 90% literacy, 81% people below the poverty line and over 60% unemployed. Gaza has 11-km long border with Egypt (Rafah crossing) and 51 long border with Israel (Karni crossing) and it is economically dependable on Egypt, Israel and the West Bank. At present, the Egyptian border is closed due to Israeli negation with continuing hardships on the side with the Israeli border.

Gaza is generally identified with bombs, armed men in masks, caterpillar bulldozers, air strikes, and demolition of Palestinian houses. In reality, it has been a place under the Israeli occupation for over 38 years where Palestinians suffered from massive damages ranging from extra-judicial killings to economic sanctions, destruction of properties and humiliations. It is a place where those made no international intervention who attacked and occupied other places on the pretext of humanitarian cause. Yasser Arafat had made several such requests to the US and others, also endorsed by the Arab League on 19 May 2001, but it continued to support Israel within and outside the US. It is also important to point out that the US has used 29 veto in the United Nations so far in the interest of Israel, which, as of now, has violated over 150 resolutions of the UN. Israel has been occupying the territories belonging to the Palestinians, Shiba Farms of Lebanon and the Golan Heights of Syria. It also possesses over 200 thermonuclear weapons. However, it is sad to note that neither the UN, nor the US and its allies–”European Union have followed such measures which were taken against Iraq. On the other hand, they are weaving conspiracies against Iran and few Arab countries.

It is also important to recall that the Gaza disengagement should not be misunderstood as the transfer of sovereignty or independence. Israeli premier Ariel Sharon who had announced disengagement in December 2003, said that it is neither ‘withdrawal’ nor ‘pull-out’. Israel claimed to resort to military means if attacked by the Palestinians. Sadly, the EU and the World Bank also used the term–”disengagement in their sympathetic notes to the Palestinians. Sharon had said that this disengagement was unilateral, in other words excluded any scope for negotiations with the Palestinian government. In fact, such a claim was experimented soon after all the Israeli forces withdrew from Gaza. Israel killed more than 20 Palestinians and made two-week long bombings after all the illegal Jewish settlers left Gaza on 23 August 2005. So far there is no face-to-face meeting between the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Sharon to promote peace talks despite the fact that the Palestinians have been pleading for entering into the final stage of settlement.

On the next day of departure of 9000 settlers, the then deputy prime minister Yehud Olmert reached US on August 24 to demand $ 2 billion for the rehabilitation of the 9000 Jews who are being paid $ 200,000 to 400,000 each family. According to one estimate, Israel is receiving $10 to 12 billion aid every year from the US whose share is also contributing to the construction of more than 500 kms long dangerous war/fence in the Palestinian territory. The International Court of Justice has called it illegal. Israel has been using the US money in expanding illegal settlements in various parts of the occupied territories. Moreover, is using US-supplied weapons against the civilians.

The Western media and ours too screened the transfer of 9000 illegal settlers in cinematic style. It created ocean sympathy for them as they were observed most oppressed people. Zionist Jews accused Sharon of defying the order of God. His own party-man and former premier Benjamin Netanyahu denounced him. Israel also established communication with ten Muslim countries including Pakistan and Indonesia. On the other hand, the same media and the people ignored the fact that in comparison to 9000 Jews who were compensated richly for leaving their homes, more than 28000 Palestinians were made homeless due to Israeli war crimes since September 2000. Israel killed about 1800 Palestinians in Gaza only with the injuries of over 5000. Israel destroyed over 2704 Palestinian houses completely and over 2187 houses partially. Israeli anti-civilian actions resulted in the unemployment of 100,000 out of 125,000 Palestinians of Gaza working in Israel. They also suffered in their natural rights of free movement within Gaza and bread-earning activities. There is no compensation for all of Palestinians who suffered heavy losses of their kin, jobs, lands, houses, business establishments, health, honour and dignity. Nor there is any court of law to try those criminals who killed and tortured the innocents.

Gaza disengagement is certainly no transfer of sovereignty. It has transformed only internal situation–”from dividing people in Gaza into three-four enclaves, to one ‘open air prison’. Israel has full encroachment over the Palestinian sovereign rights over air-space, territorial waters, ports, Gaza international airports, trade and international borders of Gaza. On the other hand, Israel beat the drum of liberating the Palestinians, which was also received blindly by many of us. As a result, Sharon became one of 21 Vice-President of the 60th Session of the UN General Assembly. In his speech on 15 September 2005 at the UN, he asked the Palestinians to shun violence and terror for which he and the Israeli Establishment should have been blamed.

After disengagement, he has been propagating against Hamas to prevent it from the parliamentary elections due in January 2006. Occupation is the cause of the existence of Hamas, which is the most popular resistance organization with widespread network of socio-cultural and armed wings. Hamas and other armed groups in Occupied Palestinian Territories have declared cease-fire since last February agreement with Abbas, which has been violated by Israel time and again. This was violated recently, when it engineered explosions killing over 15 in the victory rally of Hamas on September 23. When Hamas retaliated with their rockets next day, Israel continued with two-week air-strikes.

After disengagement, Israeli court allowed the construction of illegal wall near Eastern Jerusalem. Israel okeyed the massive expansion of the Maale Adumim settlement from 31000 to 50000. It also declared to build a police headquarters near Eastern Jerusalem. Last year, it settled 12000 illegal Jews in the West Bank. Last March, it declared the construction of 3500new houses. During the disengagement, it also said to take over 400 acres of Palestinian land for the illegal security wall.

It is quite clear that Israel has not made any real disengagement from its activities, which violate human rights, Charter of the UN and its resolutions to be complied by Israel, Geneva Conventions on the use of war machines, and the Road-map made by the Quatret in 2003. The Gaza disengagement is mere an eye-wash to consolidate its position in the West Bank. Israel has already said to maintain its larger settlements in the West Bank which is against all the agreements, principles and understanding developed between Israel and the Palestinian Liberation Organization since 1991. As the Palestinians have been responding to the obligations underlined by the Road-map since 2003, Israelis have a lot to do. It is required by international law to vacate from the territories occupied on and after 4 June 1967. It is to accept the Palestinian refugees. It is legally required to dismantle its all settlements in the occupied territories and to stop further settlements. Moreover, it has to dismantle its security walls, free the Palestinians as prisoners in Israeli jails, withdraw forces from West Bank, allow civil rights of free movements in West Bank and to restore sovereignty to Gaza. It is through these judicious measures, demanded by international law, a viable Palestinian State can come into existence.