Legitimizing Palestinian Bantustans
by Jamal Juma
Z magazine, July/August 2006
Occupation has a "new" scheme
to ensure Palestinian rights continue to be negated and violated:
the "Convergence Plan." Offering the media as much excitement
as the "Disengagement Plan," it aims to legitimize the
annexation of all territories and resources west of the apartheid
wall, including Jerusalem. Palestinians are to be left under siege
in Bantustans, sealed in from the east and dissected by settler
highways. Meanwhile, the refugees are supposed to vanish from
The propaganda is hinged on two key themes:
the relocation of 68 to 74 settlements and the convergence of
Israeli forces and settlers to some 10 percent of the West Bank.
The reality, however, shows that the plan will lead to a 20 percent
increase of settlement capacity and the systematic imprisonment
of Palestinians on their own land. "New" plans for Jerusalem
are based on the ethnic cleansing of the city, isolating even
more Palestinians from their capital, institutions, and historical
and religious centers by building the apartheid wall around them.
Under the plan, the Bantustans will allow
more Palestinian administrative responsibility over the Jordan
Valley. At the same time it ensures that Palestinians will have
no access to the River Jordan, borders, and water and agricultural
resources along the river.
In the western West Bank, the wall is
integral to the plan. Plans to move the wall to ghettoize a dozen
more Palestinian West Bank villages in the Bantustans are under
way. So are discussions over the annexation of Na'ale and Nili
settlements to grab additional Palestinian land and further dissect
the West Bank. These adjustments ensure the wall's path is more
effective in grabbing as much land with as few Palestinians as
possible. The international community dwells on these "modifications"
of the wall's path, instead of denouncing the fact that Zionism
encloses an entire people behind cement blocks and razor wire.
A fundamental ramification of this plan
is the Judaization of Jerusalem and the loss of Palestinian metropolitan
areas which produce 90 percent of national GDP and are the pillars
on which to build a modern national economy. However, Palestinians
will be shut out from Jerusalem, which currently generates 40
percent of all Palestinian economic activity and hosts the most
important and ancient Palestinian institutions. The Occupation
plans to use the apartheid wall to isolate even more of the 230,000
Palestinians living in Jerusalem from their capital. The few Palestinians
within the center of the city will be cut off from the remnants
of their shops, factories, clients, and markets. The tourism industry,
constituting a large part of the area's economic activity, is
to be taken over by new settler constructions and industries in
the new settlement bloc.
Some 15,000 Palestinian homes have been
declared illegal and threatened with demolition under the Occupation's
racist permit system. Those still resisting within the city face
ongoing and systematic revocations of "residency rights."
Since 1967, over 60,000 Palestinians have been expelled from their
In addition to the destruction of the
capital, the districts of Salfit and Qalqiliya will be completely
dissected by walls and settlements, with urban areas unable to
sustain significant economic activity. Remaining Palestinian cities
in the north and south of the West Bank will be barred from expanding
in the metropolitan core of the West Bank.
Meanwhile, water resources and farming
lands that provide livelihoods to 17 percent of the population,
and are central to food sovereignty, will be stolen from the Jenin
district all the way to the south of Hebron. The apartheid wall
will directly affect almost 200 villages, which will lose access
to part or all of their lands. In the northwestern route, 50 wells
have been isolated or destroyed, while 162 wells along the River
Jordan remain unusable.
This is the price Palestinians pay for
the Occupation to "reshape" its crimes. Behind the "relocation"
of settlers from evacuated settlements to others that are expanding,
a net growth of settlement capacity parallels the settler boom
during the Oslo years. Only 8.6 percent (36,322 settlers) of the
total settler population in the West Bank will be relocated while
the Occupation plans to build new industrial zones and housing
units for at least 79,646 settlers in the colonies upon which
it will "converge." The strategy secures an initial
net increase of over 20 percent in settlement capacity.
There is little new in the colonial aspirations
of the plan. In 1969 Yigal Allon proposed a scheme to ensure the
"borders" of the Occupation would reach Jordan while
Palestinian residential areas would be cut out of the calculations
of Zionist demography. The plan was never implemented, but was
further developed by the Occupation in the "negotiations"
at Camp David and Taba in 2000. The Palestinian people and the
Arab World have already rejected these plans, as they are incompatible
with Palestinian rights and international legitimacy.
The revival of Allon's vision is grounded
in the racist paradigm of a Jewish state in Palestine. Jewish
colonizers are to replace the indigenous Palestinian population,
or at least outnumber them by large majorities, in order to dominate
them. The plan goes hand-in-hand with the decade-old vision of
a new Middle East that prioritizes economic over military domination.
A Bantu-state will be in the vice of new economic and financial
mechanisms of control applied by the Occupation and backed by
the international community. Further conquest of Palestine will
be dressed up as a "solution," furthering the path of
normalization with the Occupation. Agreement to the Bantu-state
by Arab and Muslim countries could thus secure for the Israeli
economy new markets and fresh investments.
The international community, for its part,
looks at ever-bleaker economic scenarios of ghettoized Palestinian
life. Even if Israeli and international measures to starve the
Palestinian population were suspended, the poverty rate in the
West Bank and Gaza would reach 51 percent in 3 years. If the current
situation persists, poverty will hit 74 percent. While these prospects
are disastrous for Palestinians, for the world the non-sustainability
of the Bantustans are measured by other criteria.
How much money are we forced to pay to
support the Occupation? When will people realize that Palestinians
are not facing a humanitarian crisis, but a political attack on
their lives? How can we continue to shun our responsibilities
to uphold Palestinian rights and international law?
Prime Mininster Olmert's plan allows all
actors to gain a facade of economic "viability" amid
Israeli "concessions." Brushing aside the ICJ decision
on the illegality of the wall, international law, and dozens of
UN resolutions, the Convergence Plan represents yet another wave
of colonization to be resisted.
The Occupation might want to "converge"
or to "disengage," but it is doing so in pursuance of
racist and colonial interests to ensure all that remains for Palestinians
are enclaves without sovereignty. "Disengagement" from
Gaza resulted in social and economic suffocation, continuous shelling
and killings of "liberated" people within their prison
walls. It shows that redeployment of settlers cannot be equated
with liberation and justice. Border crossings with Egypt are not
under Palestinian control while the population has become an easier
target for military attacks and policies of starvation. Finally,
80 percent of Gaza's population are still left struggling for
the return to their homes destroyed in 1948. These plans not only
target Palestinians within the West Bank and Gaza, they target
the Palestinians in the Diaspora. The establishment of a Palestinian
Bantu-state is to ensure that a liberation movement is turned
into a dispute over borders.
It is important for people across the
world to understand that we have struggled for generations to
live in freedom, dignity, and selfdetermination, to see our refugees
return and our homeland free from colonialism, oppression, and
exploitation. Olmert's plans may be hailed as an "historic"
offer in some quarters, but for Palestinians and their supporters
they signal the need for sustained resistance to Israeli apartheid
Jamal Juma works with the Palestinian
grassroots Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign (www.stopthewall.org).
Drawing is a child's view of the wall.