Monday, August 15, 2011

Israel, protest and the Occupation

Israel's population within the Green Line included 6.7 million residents in 2009. An additional 440,000 residents lived in east Jerusalem, 290,000 in West Bank settlements, and 41,000 in the Golan Heights. From 1997 to 2009, the east Jerusalem population grew by 40% and the settlement population rose by almost 100% - at a pace of 8% a year. The Israeli population within the Green Line grew at a pace of only 2.2% a year during that period. The inclusion of the settlements and east Jerusalem adds about 4% to Israel's gross domestic product, but reduces the GDP per capita by a significant rate of 6.5% a year. "Without east Jerusalem, the Golan Heights and the settlement, the GDP per capita within the Green Line would have been 6.5% higher. The post-1967 territories pushed Israel's GDP per capita down," the OECD rules. In the budget year of 2007, the Israeli government spent some NIS 12.5 billion (NIS 14.5 billion in 2011 prices) on the West Bank settlements, Golan Heights and the annexed part of east Jerusalem – a 10% addition to the State Budget. In addition, NIS 5.5 billion were invested that year in the settlements and east Jerusalem, NIS 2.4 billion of them on housing construction.

The Israeli social protest movement ban the word "occupation" because using that word would dramatically reduce the number of protesters; it would stir disagreement and splinter the movement. Such factionalism would turn the protest into a "political" entity and expunge its populist character. If it is forbidden to say "occupation" to avoid dividing the public into factions and disuniting the protest movement, it follows that the occupation's role is to divide the public and eliminate all possibility of protest against it. The occupation is the means by which division and factionalism gain strength and preserve political power. It lets the heads of one of the two camps perpetuate their power with relative ease. After one faction gains the ability to forge a government, it gathers together sectors with narrow partisan interests and sends its leader to serve as prime minister. Benjamin Netanyahu uses phrases that exposed his tendency to divide parts of the population to bolster his authority. ("Leftists have forgotten what it means to be Jews," "They are afraid," and so on ). Since then, he has learned an important Machiavellian lesson: Do what you think, but say whatever the public wants to hear. He has, with the help of people such as MKs David Rotem and Zeev Elkin, devoted himself to acts that divide the population.

The occupation enables the government to have its way with matters that have nothing to do with events in the territories; any complaint about socioeconomic matters that might turn into a popular protest, as in the current case, threatens to fade away when it confronts the word that can't be said. The use of appropriate ideological and biblical trappings conjure up a historical-ideological ambience; this transforms the occupation into a political asset that can never be forfeited, even if conceding it would improve the lives of the people who suffer under it. A built-in conflict of interests has been created between the government's interest in perpetuating it and the humanitarian arguments seeking its end.

Anyone who travels around the West Bank and the Jordan Valley can witness capitalism's geographic manifestations. Cantonization, the proliferation of checkpoints and the bureaucratic control of traffic are all components of separation designed to make survival difficult and perpetuate control by the central authority. Also, the "free market," one of the main topics addressed by the protest movement, is linked to the process of division and splintering. Alongside the chaos inherent in the concept "market," there is the ironic use of the word "free" - the worker is forced to compete against his peers at any given moment knowing that the victory of one means the defeat of the other. Can the term "free" really be applied to principles that advocate constant competition and struggle for survival between individuals? It's no accident that, based on the continual splintering of society due to competition among people, is inherent within the occupation.

Adapted from here

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