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The West Bank & Gaza: the largest open-air prisons constructed in human history

Nicholas Twybrau | 19.04.2007 10:26 | Analysis | Palestine | Repression | London | World

On the 4th April 2007 the Daily Telegraph published an article about the second-class treatment afforded to Israel's Arab citizens. Not normally known for daring to risk incurring the ire of far right Zionist extremists, it is wonderful to see the Daily Telegraph highlighting this important and often much neglected issue. Shocking as the treatment of Israeli Arabs is, it is of course just the tip of the iceberg.

The virulent, venomous and toxic racism experienced by Israeli Arabs in their own country by their non-Arab countrymen, although bad, is nothing compared to what is going on outside the regions that Israel have currently decided, for the moment, is their country's border.

Considerably worse treatment is afforded to Palestinian citizens living in Gaza and the West Bank. Much, much worse.

Residents homes are arbitrarily destroyed in illegal and violent operations. They are even often sent the bill for the destruction of their homes and property. Palestinian land, particularly farm-land continues to be remorselessly sequestered by both Israel and extreme right wing Israeli settlers at gun-point, often acting with some degree of support, if 'only' tacit, of the military and civilian administrative authorities. The economic and humanitarian suffering within both Gaza and the West Bank is difficult for we cosseted westerners to imagine.

Unemployment is at shocking levels. Safe drinking water, and a reliable electricity supply is scarce. Toxic waste produced by manufacturing industries within Israel is often disposed of well outside Israel, within the already meagre, infertile land that Palestinians have been left with. If all this wasn't bad enough, access to farmland to grow food to try and eke out some sort of livelihood has been made nigh on impossible for many following the construction of the apartheid wall.

Free movement and travel of it's citizens is made difficult and practically impossible. Palestinians who manage to travel outside the country, are often refused re-entry, splitting wifes from husbands and parents from their children, adding to the refugee crisis and the considerable and impoverished Palestinian diaspora spread throughout the region. Western human rights observers and volunteers, including even Jewish Israeli citizens who have travelled to the region to help alleviate the suffering, have found themselves maimed and sometimes ruthlessly killed in cold blood by the Israeli military.

What is left of Palestine, has now been reduced to two small, heavily guarded and walled islands - the West Bank and Gaza. These regions have been almost entirely robbed of their own national identity as part of historic Palestine, a region that has existed, prior to Israel's numerous battles this century, in some shape or form for millennia.

The West Bank and Gaza are now little more than prisons. The largest open-air prisons ever constructed in human history; a form of collective punishment against a conquered people that it is difficult to find a parallel for.

Israeli Arabs are indeed undoubtedly second-class citizens in their own country. But let us not forget that most Israeli Arabs today are in fact, ethnically speaking, Palestinian Arabs and have been for hundreds of years. Their Palestinian Arab relatives residing in the West Bank and Gaza could not even, with any degree of objectivity, be described as 'third-class citizens'. They have been made an underclass, created by the remorseless and insatiable military grip Israel wields within these two remaining Palestinian enclaves.

Not to detract from the obvious and appalling plight of Israeli's Arab citizens, let us hope that the more serious plight of the relentlessly oppressed Palestinian Arabs in Gaza and the West Bank gets featured in the next article commissioned by The Telegraph about the region.

Nicholas Twybrau


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