04 August 2009

Jerusalem: signs taken for wonders

There is widespread international revulsion and outrage concerning the eviction by Israeli riot police of 53 Palestinians, including 19 minors, from their homes in East Jerusalem.

For example, French Foreign Ministry spokesperson Romain Nadal told reporters that the expulsions "are illegal with regard to international law and nefarious in terms of the peace process, because they are prejudicial towards the outcome of negotiations on the (territory's) final status".

The EU Presidency released a statement saying: “The Presidency of the European Union reiterates its serious concern about the continued and unacceptable evictions in East Jerusalem, notably the evictions by Israeli authorities of two families from their homes in the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood” and “recalls that house demolitions, evictions and settlement activities in East Jerusalem are illegal under international law.” Yesterday's spectacular expulsions of native residents to make room for Jewish settlers, the statement says, contravene repeated calls by the international community, including the Quartet, to refrain from any provocative actions in East Jerusalem and “confirm a worrying trend that runs counter to the creation of an atmosphere conducive to achieving a viable and credible solution to the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians.”

Much of the tenor of the commentary contains an element of outraged surprise that the Israelis would take such a provocative act, one so inimical to peace. This suggests a view that the action is an anomaly, an outlier, something right out the end of the Bell curve, . In fact the history shows that this action is right in the middle of the Bell curve as far as the behaviour of the State of Israel towards its Palestinian subjects is concerned.

It also suggests a naive view, in the face of all the evidence, that the Israelis want peace. The Israelis do not want peace, they want Palestine. All of it. They are a patient people; they are happy to take it a slice at a time over as long as it takes. All that is required is some land confiscations here, some homes bulldozed there, some olive trees cut down elsewhere, some water diverted in another place, a village razed for security reasons because settlers have moved in nearby, and there is the gradual encroachment that creates new “facts on the ground”.

Meanwhile, keep them all talking, keep them distracted by issues that need to be resolved before progress can be made, anything to stall and avoid a day in which the borders of Israel need to be defined.

So this latest action in Jerusalem is not a “wonder”; it is a sign of what the enduring agenda is.

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