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Trump and the ever expanding Israeli occupation of Palestine

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U.S. President Donald Trump’s recent “two-state and one-state” pronouncement effectively signaled the demise of the Oslo Agreement–a significant reversal of the long-established U.S. position, now in contrast with a near-universal international consensus. It also supports the continuation of Israel’s colonization of the territories it has occupied since 1967.

Indeed, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu confirmed the spirit of occupation-as-usual by demanding “security control” over the entire area west of the Jordan River, proclaiming, in the words of Rashid Khalidi, writing in the Nation, “A permanent regime of occupation and colonization, ruling out a sovereign independent Palestinian state, whatever fictions of ‘statehood’ or ‘autonomy’ are dreamed up to conceal this brutal reality. Trump’s subsequent silence amounts to the blessing of the U.S. government for this grotesque vision of enduring subjugation and dispossession for the Palestinians.”

The expansion of Jewish settlement in Palestine has followed a consistent pattern for about 100 years: people replacement – the replacement of Palestinians by Jews. It is crucial to understand the timing of such expansion: whenever the opportunity arises. And, for Israel, Donald J. Trump is a historic opportunity on a grand scale.

Arthur Ruppin. (Photo: the Central Zionist Archives/World Zionist Organization)

In 1907, the leadership of the World Zionist Organization sent Dr. Arthur Ruppin on a fact-finding mission to Ottoman Palestine. Ruppin, a German-Jewish economist and lawyer, subsequently developed a plan with the ultimate goal of establishing Jewish self-rule in Ottoman Palestine, where Jews were a small minority (between 6 and 9 percent).

The plan included establishing new settlements in such a way that over time they would form a mass of settlements – Israel’s first settlement bloc – to be used, much like today, as a geopolitical leveraging tool.

In the following three decades, prior to the Holocaust and before anyone could imagine the horrific fate awaiting European Jews, the foundation of the State of Israel was set in place via the creation of elaborate pre-state institutions, buttressed by small waves of immigrants whose political orientation ranged from Zionist socialists to right-wing ultra-nationalists.

In the big-picture sense, left-wing and right-wing Zionists wanted the same thing – a Jewish state in Palestine. The differences among them were largely semantic: a matter of political style, timing and competing approaches on how to reach that goal.

The elephant-in-the-room facing Zionism was – then, as now – ignored: the land was already populated by Palestinian Arabs, who had been there for centuries. Ignoring the physical reality, from early on Zionist terminology was designed to perpetuate the myth of an empty land awaiting its lost people: “A land without a people for a people without a land.”

A dunam here and a dunam there

Following the original Ruppin Plan, the expansion of Jewish settlement started with land acquisitions from absentee Arab landlords, culminating in a military campaign to drive the native population off its land. As the old Zionist saying goes, “A dunam here and a dunam there” (a dunam is approximately equal to a quarter of an acre), whenever the opportunity arises.

The same opportunistic vigor was used to remove the Palestinian people from what was soon to become Israel.

The best known milestone in the removal of the Arab population was the Deir Yassin massacre of April 9, 1948, conducted by Irgun and Lehi forces, designed to scare Palestinians and cause them to flee their homes, towns and villages.

Israel’s War of Independence consisted of other massacres, too. The war itself followed Plan Dalet (Plan D), carefully developed by the “moderate,” mainstream Haganah leadership, personified by David Ben-Gurion, to expand the territory of the future state beyond the UN Partition Plan and to remove as much of Palestine’s Arab population as possible. Then, as now, the goal of the Jewish state has been to maximize its land area while minimizing the Palestinian-Arab population residing in it.

This was the Nakba, the catastrophe – a term used by the Palestinian people to describe the loss of their homeland: the disappearance of entire communities totaling some 750,000 people, who were forced out of their country. Post-1948 Palestine was a drastically changed land: about 500 Palestinian towns and villages had been emptied of their inhabitants, their homes mostly razed and their lands divided among the Jewish kibbutzim (communal farms) and villages.

The term Nakba, which is central to Palestinian nationhood as much as the Holocaust is for Jews and slavery is for African-Americans, is shunned by most Israeli Jews for obvious reasons: Even the mere implication of responsibility for the Nakba war crimes is unacceptable.

Those Palestinians who managed to remain, now known as “1948 Palestinians,” were placed under military rule, with their basic civil rights – such as the freedom to assemble, travel and claim their properties – removed. In addition, most of their lands were confiscated by the newly created Jewish state and transferred to kibbutzim and villages.

Military rule lasted until 1966 and assured that the dispossession of the Palestinians could be carried out in a well-organized and highly controlled manner – “a dunam here and a dunam there” – with the remnants of the subject population confined to specific territories, in many cases restricted to their villages, homes or jail cells.

The Green Line – the 1949 armistice line separating Israel from the West Bank of Jordan – followed the line of Jewish settlements put in place during the 1920s-’40s, in close adherence to the Ruppin Plan. It is probably the first example of how “facts on the ground” proved to be crucial for the success of the Zionist project, something that Ruppin appreciated possibly before anyone else.

But the old Green Line was irregular and left a great deal of fertile, hilly land on the other side. And then there was Jerusalem, whose eastern parts, including Temple Mount, were also on the other side of that border. The swift military victory of the 1967 war offered an unprecedented opportunity for Israel to expand in all directions. Jerusalem was the nationalist-religious pinnacle; even more importantly, the last remaining parts of old Palestine were now there for the taking – the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, totaling 22 percent of historic Palestine. Ditto the Syrian territory of the Golan Heights, and Sinai (which was subsequently returned to Egypt under a separate “peace agreement” following the 1973 war).

Since 1967, under the so-called “moderate” and “extreme” Israeli governments led by the Labor and Likud parties, some 130 settlements and 100 outposts have been established in the West Bank, with a population of some 400,000 Jewish settlers. Additionally, some 200,000 Israelis live in East Jerusalem.

Any relocation of the occupier’s population into occupied territories, whether into government-established settlements or so-called “rogue” outposts, is considered illegal according to international law and conventions.

Immediately after the 1967 war, the Syrian population of the Golan Heights (some 130,000 people) was forced out by Israel, 1948-style, leaving the territory largely empty for Israeli colonization to take root. Israel’s annexation of the Golan Heights followed in 1981. (Netanyahu is now seeking U.S. recognition from Trump of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights.)

Imwas, one of the Latroun villages, before its destruction in 1967 (Photo: Palestine Remembered)

Erasing the past

And the Nakba continued. The initial period after the 1967 war included a number of known cases where West Bank villagers were expelled from their homes by an Israeli military command attributed to Gen. Yitzhak Rabin. Among them were the villages of Imwas, Yalo and Bayt Nuba in the Latrun area, which were subsequently razed. (I visited the three destroyed villages in August 1967. There was very little left other than broken stones and fruit trees bursting with fruit left unpicked by villagers, now turned refugees.) In an attempt to eradicate the villages from history and erase them from public memory, the victors attempted to conceal their crimes by planting a recreational forest, named Canada Park, on the land formerly owned and cultivated by these villagers–a concealment method that had been used before.

As for the rest of the West Bank, in a slow process that has lasted nearly 50 years – and which continues to this day – the Palestinian population has been stripped of much of its land and pushed into Bantustan-like areas surrounded by Jewish settlements. The territory is now dissected into enclaves designed by Israel to assure a discontinuity of Palestinian land, thereby guaranteeing that a viable Palestinian state cannot be established.

“Facts on the ground” work in both directions: the presence of one population (Jewish) and the absence of another (Palestinian). Now, most of the Jordan Valley has been cleared of the Palestinian population; in hamlets of the poorest population – the Hebron Hills Bedouin – families are routinely uprooted and forced out of their shacks.

And throughout the West Bank, bit by bit, “a dunam here and a dunam there,” Palestinians are forced out by Jews. Houses are demolished, land is taken or its cultivation is prevented; olive groves are uprooted by settler thugs with full impunity, under the watchful gaze of Israel’s occupation army – euphemistically called the Israel Defense Forces. And Israeli government policy greatly restricts Palestinians in the West Bank from using their land and natural resources, especially water required to cultivate crops.

Thus, while Israeli settlements enjoy unrestricted water usage with lawn sprinklers galore, Palestinian farmers who dig out a 10-foot-long (3-meter) trench to collect and divert rainwater into a field or vegetable garden risk punishment and the destruction of their fields and gardens.

And the Nakba continues. A similar crackdown on Israel’s Palestinian citizens takes place with predictable regularity along similar patterns – as witnessed most recently by the destruction of the Bedouin village of Umm al-Hiran, whose population is to be corralled elsewhere in the Negev and its lands designated for a new Jewish settlement. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

This is a very short list of the evils of Israel’s occupation – all of this, and much more, has been widely reported over the past five decades, and documented in great detail by UN agencies, multiple international aid organizations, foreign consulate staff and local civic organizations, both Palestinian and Israeli. (The death and destruction in Gaza, its collapsed infrastructure, economy, essential public health facilities, child nutrition and basic resources of livelihood require separate coverage.)

The Oslo II (“Taba”) Agreement divided the West Bank into Areas A, B and C – a division that is used by Israel to divide and rule, confine and control the local Palestinian population.

The experience of 1948 and the early years of statehood have proven most beneficial to Zionist colonialism. A slow and methodical acquisition of land, this time by means that are entirely illegal, coupled with strategic removal and confinement of the Palestinian population, resulted in settlement blocs – vast land areas that are largely Arab-free and a network of highways, other infrastructure projects and state institutions serving the Jewish-only settlements.

This is nothing short of new-age apartheid, where the indigenous population is not only of no value to its colonial masters – not even as a source of cheap labor – but it is essential for the success of the colonial project that it be removed: the more of “them” that are gone, the better off “we” are. That people-removal process is called ethnic cleansing, which is a crime against humanity under the statute of the International Criminal Court.

All of this has been carried out mostly in plain view, under the world’s watchful eye. It has also been made possible and indirectly funded by the United States, under Democratic and Republican administrations alike – notwithstanding outgoing President Barack Obama’s lame-duck UN Security Council non-veto move, and various U.S. declarations about Israeli settlements being “a threat to peace,” or making it “almost impossible [… ] to create a contiguous, functioning Palestinian state.” Both true, but meaningless.

An ad against the occupation (original Hebrew and English translation, side-by-side) placed in Haaretz on 23 Sept 1967 by several Matzpen members (Photo via Moshe Machover)

Role of the U.S.

Despite the rhetoric, the United States has been the primary enabler of Israel’s occupation: military aid (currently $38 billion over the next 10 years), including the very latest technologies, and close military coordination; tax exemptions for donations to Israel, including to organizations that fund settlements; global diplomatic protection; and the lending of legitimacy to a state whose actions would have otherwise made it a global pariah long ago.

Thus, under the guise of a never-ending “peace process,” the United States has acted as a dishonest broker and purveyor of broken promises, e.g., a “two-state solution” where the territory of the imagined state is eaten up by the other, already existing regional-superpower state while “peace talks” continue. It’s like the pizza analogy where two parties engage in lengthy negotiations over the splitting of a pie, while one of them keeps eating the slices. Over these past 50 years, the United States has facilitated the replacement of the Palestinian people, bit by bit, one dunam and one person at a time, as Israel grabs every opportunity that arises, paid for by Uncle Sam.


For Israel, the election of Trump to the highest office in the land presents a historic opportunity on a grand scale to accelerate both settlement expansion and the process of people replacement.

Never before has a U.S. president expressed such unbridled support for an Israeli government – especially one that is widely seen as the most right-wing, aggressive Israeli government ever.

In light of the new opportunity, the Israeli government has unleashed a wave of settlement construction permits in the West Bank and East Jerusalem – so far totaling about 6,000 homes for Jewish settlers – and announced the creation of a new settlement.

In addition, a new law allowing the confiscation of privately held Palestinian land for the benefit of Jewish settlements was recently passed. As journalist Jonathan Cook explained in the National, “In practice, there has never been a serious limit on theft of Palestinian land. But now Israeli government support for the plunder will be explicit in law.” The Nakba continues, vigorously.

Reality could not be much uglier and the future could not look much bleaker – most especially for Palestinians, but also for Israeli Jews. As Haaretz writer and occupation expert Amira Hass noted in Haaretz, “It’s hard to admit that the Zionist ideology and its product – Israel – have created a thieving, racist, arrogant monster that robs water and land and history, that has blood on its hands under the excuse of security, that for decades has been deliberately planning today’s dangerous Bantustan reality, on both sides of the Green Line.”

Perhaps hard to admit, but crucially important to recognize – in order for this to possibly change.

The writer, a former Israeli, lives in the United States; he wishes to thank Amira Hass, whose quoted text inspired the writing of this commentary. A version of this article appeared on 12 March 2017 in Haaretz as My Parents Founded a Settlement, Now Trump Could Make Their Dream Come True.

Yair Svorai

Yair Svorai is a writer and a former Israeli who lives in the United States.

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15 Responses

  1. eljay on April 25, 2017, 11:33 am

    … Reality could not be much uglier and the future could not look much bleaker …

    But at least we know who is to blame for the evil and ugliness:

    yonah fredman: ” … I still assert the validity of the Zionist movement up until may 8, 1945 and thus accept responsibility for the cause and effect up until today. … “

  2. JosephA on April 25, 2017, 11:56 am

    Yair, thank you for writing this article. I can’t say that I enjoyed reading it because it filled me with sadness, but the truth has to be told.

  3. John D on April 25, 2017, 8:25 pm

    At the recent Cork Conference which I attended, I came away with the word “Elimination”.
    That is what the zionists are doing in Palestine: eliminating the Palestinian people.
    It is not as harsh as the obvious bouts of ethnic cleansing – up till now.
    It is not as harsh as the nazi treatment of Jews in nazi-occupied Europe.
    Nevertheless, it has the same end object as those previous practices.
    Of that, there can be no doubt.
    The time will come when “normal” jews living in Israel will come under the leash and the lash of the zionist extremists. Also, they will have to risk their lives to advance the zionist Eretz Yisrael agenda, which is to create an enlarged zionist state from the Nile to the Euphrates.
    Other countries in the region will eventually awake to the real zionist agenda and then the whole region will explode into all-out war.
    The zionists – we know – will resort to their Samson Option and use their nuclear weapons.
    This will contaminate the whole of present day and enlarged Eretz Yisrael.
    They will eventually succeed in pulling down the pillars of the temple, rendering the land of the entire region unfit for human habitation and ensuring an act of mass murder of all Jews, Muslims and Christians in the region.
    The Apocalypse the zionists will bring down on Eretz Yisrael will ensure that no humans will be able to reside in the so-called “Holy Land” for at least 1,000 years.
    And the USA and all Europe will stand by and let it all happen.

  4. Boomer on April 26, 2017, 7:02 am

    Thanks for a good review of the history. As you say, the U.S. has been Israel’s primary enabler. One aspect of that, which our elites prefer to hide and ignore, relates to Israel’s nuclear arsenal.

  5. Ossinev on April 26, 2017, 8:07 am

    IMO an inevitable consequence of the free hand that Zio lunatics in Israel have been given principally by America and to a lesser extent by Europe is a forced take over of the Al Asqa compound. A full take over of the promised land between the river and the sea is the minimum that these freaks are aiming for and they are in the process of achieving it. What would be completely untenable for them in this new Zioland would be the continued presence of that ungodly golden dome at the heart of their dreamscape and still astride their cherished Temple Mount centrepiece real estate plot.

    When that happens all hell will break loose both within Palestine and around the world.
    1.5 billion Muslims will to put it mildly be more than a little upset and the outcome could be horrendous.

    @John D
    “The time will come when “normal” jews living in Israel will come under the leash and the lash of the zionist extremists. Also, they will have to risk their lives to advance the zionist Eretz Yisrael agenda, which is to create an enlarged zionist state from the Nile to the Euphrates.”

    The creation of this enlarged Zionist State is a Zionist wet dream. It presupposes a very large base population able to sustain and motivate a very large and very well disciplined boots on the ground army. The Jewish Israeli base population is morphing into a Torah interpreting head nodding babble which eschews military service. The existing IDF which is possibly the finest in the world when it comes to taking on and defeating 8 year old putative”terrorists”
    in 3 am house grab raids will be fouling their underwear if asked to take on proper adult combatants. If forced into war it won`t be 1967 or 1973. There will be huge lsraeli losses and no fall back reserve resources ( they will still be reading Torah etc).The few remaining “normal” Israeli Jews are hopefully making plans to leave ship.

    • Rashers2 on April 26, 2017, 4:43 pm

      For several years, each time Yehudah Glick or another Temple-Mounter engages in acts of deliberate provocation at the Haram al-Sharif, I’ve pondered the consequences of some Zio-stremist blowing up the Al Aqsa/Dome of the Rock complex; or even of the Israelis annexing it on “security” grounds and finding some pretext, “legitimately” to destroy the third-holiest place in Islam (preparatory, of course, to erecting on the site the monstrosity the Temple Mount Society proudly depicts – Fascist-Stalinist architecture of the finest, mid-20th Century school).
      Such an act would outrage the whole of Islam and, I suspect, would force Egypt, Jordan and the presently covertly pro-Israel, Sunni autocracies in my area to fall in behind their populations in the interests of self-preservation, thereby bringing about a major re-alignment in the greater Middle East. Sentiment among ordinary Muslims would combust and, short of invoking the “suicide option” (which I would not put beyond the Zionist ideologues, so sick and warped is their world-view and their spurious sense of entitlement to be where they are and behave as they do), the IOF could quickly be brought to its knees by the sheer weight of a bottomless reservoir of angry, spiritually-fired, common men.
      It’s impossible to foresee the event or series of events which will catalyse the collapse of the house of cards but I’m bold enough – or foolish enough – to make one prophecy about Al Quds/Jerusalem: the Third Temple will never be built.

      • wondering jew on April 26, 2017, 7:06 pm

        Rashers- never is a long time. Within the next six thousand years I predict there will be a building on the temple mount devoted to Jewish prayer.

      • Marnie on April 27, 2017, 7:25 am

        Never is a long time but 6000 years is a no brainer for the Great Criswell . I thought you were dead.

      • Mooser on April 27, 2017, 10:26 am

        “(preparatory, of course, to erecting on the site the monstrosity the Temple Mount Society proudly depicts – Fascist-Stalinist architecture of the finest, mid-20th Century school).”

        The Trump Temple.

      • MHughes976 on April 27, 2017, 11:25 am

        There is obvious reason for a proudly proclaimed Jewish state to change the situation whereby its most important monument has a conspicuously non-Jewish feature. However, I think that there are many reasons why Israel is nowhere near ready to make this change, quite apart from the fearsome backlash. They just aren’t ready for white-robed priests sacrificing sheep. The election of a High Priest, absolutely necessary if there is to be a Temple operating in the pre-70 fashion, would be disruptive of religious patterns. And where there is a High Priest a King is not far behind if you refer to Biblical authority, though identifying a Son of David would be hard – not beyond religious ingenuity but a strain on belief.

  6. AddictionMyth on April 26, 2017, 8:50 am

    I’m actually very optimistic. Why? Because Trump is fracturing his own coalition. First of all, he now acknowledges the Holocaust, which will disappoint his many white-supremacist/anti-semitic followers. Secondly he supported then opposed Assad, which humiliated his autocracy loving followers. And then he fumbled healthcare, threatening his own constituency with increased costs – meaning they are less likely to support the healthcare and other expenses of extremists overseas such as in Israel. The Trumpkins despise Israel, even as they point to it as an example of a ‘successful’ nationalist state. This process will only continue, de-funding Israel and forcing it to confront some painful facts. All we need to do is dig our crowbars into the fractures and jiggle, jiggle.

    • catalan on April 26, 2017, 10:36 am

      “I’m actually very optimistic. ” AddictionMyth
      I am too – we have a great economy, tax cuts are on the way, and the Democrats are unable to win either the House or the Senate in the foreseeable future. The US is doing great and we have the strongest army, by far. I am not so optimistic about the Palestinians, or people in the Middle East in general – overpopulation, low oil prices, non-utilizing women, and no scientific/technological innovation guarantee that this region will continue to be one of the worst places to live in the world (with the exception of Israel, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and the Emirates).

      • Keith on April 26, 2017, 11:10 am

        CATALAN- “…we have a great economy, tax cuts are on the way….(with the exception of Israel, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and the Emirates).”

        Teasing your fellow commenters, are you?

      • John O on April 26, 2017, 2:19 pm

        Hello, Donald. I see your punctuation and grammar has improved, if not your ability to write anything that makes sense. Keep up the good work!

    • Mooser on April 26, 2017, 12:44 pm

      “This process will only continue, de-funding Israel and forcing it to confront some painful facts.”

      You can count on Jared and Ivanka to see to that!

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