“The Great Experiment” (by Uri Avnery)

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“”” IS IT possible to force a whole people to submit to foreign occupation by starving it? That is, certainly, an interesting question. So interesting, indeed, that the governments of Israel and the United States, in close cooperation with Europe, are now engaged in a rigorous scientific experiment in order to obtain a definitive answer. The laboratory for the experiment is the Gaza Strip, and the guinea pigs are the million and a quarter Palestinians living there. IN ORDER to meet the required scientific standards, it was necessary first of all to prepare the laboratory. That was done in the following way: First, Ariel Sharon uprooted the Israeli settlements that were stuck there. After all, you can’t conduct a proper experiment with pets roaming around the laboratory. It was done with “determination and sensitivity”, tears flowed like water, the soldiers kissed and embraced the evicted settlers, and again it was shown that the Israeli army is the most-most in the world.With the laboratory cleaned, the next phase could begin: all entrances and exits were hermetically sealed, in order to eliminate disturbing influences from the world outside. That was done without difficulty. Successive Israeli governments have prevented the building of a harbor in Gaza, and the Israeli navy sees to it that no ship approaches the shore. The splendid international airport, built during the Oslo days, was bombed and shut down. The entire Strip was closed off by a highly effective fence, and only a few crossings remained, all but one controlled by the Israeli army. There remained a sole connection with the outside world: the Rafah border crossing to Egypt. It could not just be sealed off, because that would have exposed the Egyptian regime as a collaborator with Israel. A sophisticated solution was found: to all appearances the Israeli army left the crossing and turned it over to an international supervision team. Its members are nice guys, full of good intentions, but in practice they are totally dependent on the Israeli army, which oversees the crossing from a nearby control room. The international supervisors live in an Israeli kibbutz and can reach the crossing only with Israeli consent.So everything was ready for the experiment. THE SIGNAL for its beginning was given after the Palestinians had held spotlessly democratic elections, under the supervision of former President Jimmy Carter. George Bush was enthusiastic: his vision of bringing democracy to the Middle East was coming true. But the Palestinians flunked the test. Instead of electing “good Arabs”, devotees of the United States, they voted for very bad Arabs, devotees of Allah. Bush felt insulted. But the Israeli government was ecstatic: after the Hamas victory, the Americans and Europeans were ready to take part in the experiment. It could start: The United States and the European Union announced the stoppage of all donations to the Palestinian Authority, since it was “controlled by terrorists”. Simultaneously, the Israeli government cut off the flow of money.To understand the significance of this: according to the “Paris Protocol” (the economic annex of the Oslo agreement) the Palestinian economy is part of the Israeli customs system. This means that Israel collects the duties for all the goods that pass through Israel to the Palestinian territories – actually, there is no other route. After deducting a fat commission, Israel is obligated to turn the money over to the Palestinian Authority. When the Israeli government refuses to pass on this money, which belongs to the Palestinians, it is, simply put, robbery in broad daylight. But when one robs “terrorists”, who is going to complain?
The Palestinian Authority – both in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip – needs this money like air for breathing. This fact also requires some explanation: in the 19 years when Jordan occupied the West Bank and Egypt the Gaza Strip, from 1948 to 1967, not a single important factory was built there. The Jordanians wanted all economic activity to take place in Jordan proper, east of the river, and the Egyptians neglected the strip altogether.
Then came the Israeli occupation, and the situation became even worse. The occupied territories became a captive market for Israeli industry, and the military government prevented the establishment of any enterprise that could conceivably compete with an Israeli one.
The Palestinian workers were compelled to work in Israel for hunger wages (by Israeli standards). From these, the Israeli government deducted all the social payments levied on Israeli workers, without the Palestinian workers enjoying any social benefits. This way the government robbed these exploited workers of tens of billions of dollars, which disappeared somehow in the bottomless barrel of the government.
When the intifada broke out, the Israeli captains of industry and agriculture discovered that it was possible to get along without the Palestinian workers. Indeed, it was even more profitable. Workers brought in from Thailand, Romania and other poor countries were ready to work for even lower wages and in conditions bordering on slavery.
The Palestinian workers lost their jobs.
That was the situation at the beginning of the experiment: the Palestinian infrastructure destroyed, practically no means of production, no work for the workers. All in all, an ideal setting for the great “experiment in hunger”.
THE IMPLEMENTATION started, as mentioned, with the stoppage of payments.
The passage between Gaza and Egypt was closed in practice.
Once every few days or weeks it was opened for some hours, for appearances’ sake, so that some of the sick and dead or dying could get home or reach Egyptian hospitals.
The crossings between the Strip and Israel were closed “for urgent security reasons”. Always, at the right moment, “warnings of an imminent terrorist attack” appeared.
Palestinian agricultural products destined for export rot at the crossing. Medicines and foodstuffs cannot get in, except for short periods from time to time, also for appearances, whenever somebody important abroad voices some protest. Then comes another “urgent security warning” and the situation is back to normal.
To round off the picture, the Israeli Air Force bombed the only power station in the Strip, so that for a part of the day there is no electricity, and the water supply (which depends on electric pumps) stops also. Even on the hottest days, with temperatures of over 30 degrees centigrade in the shade, there is no electricity for refrigerators, air conditioning, the water supply or other needs.
In the West Bank, a territory much larger than the Gaza Strip (which makes up only 6% of the occupied Palestinian territories but holds 40% of the inhabitants), the situation is not quite so desperate. But in the Strip, more than half of the population lives beneath the Palestinian “poverty line”, which lies of course very, very far below the Israeli “poverty line”. Many Gaza residents can only dream of being considered poor in the nearby Israeli town of Sderot.
What are the governments of Israel and the US trying to tell the Palestinians? The message is clear: You will reach the brink of hunger, and even beyond, if you do not surrender. You must remove the Hamas government and elect candidates approved by Israel and the US. And, most importantly: you must be satisfied with a Palestinian state consisting of several enclaves, each of which will be utterly dependent on the tender mercies of Israel.
AT THE moment, the directors of the scientific experiment are pondering a puzzling question: how on earth do the Palestinians still hold out, in spite of everything?
According to all the rules, they should have been broken long ago!
Indeed, there are some encouraging signs. The general atmosphere of frustration and desperation creates tension between Hamas and Fatah. Here and there clashes have broken out, people were killed and wounded, but in each case the deterioration was halted before it became a civil war. The thousands of hidden Israeli collaborators are also helping to stir things up. But contrary to all expectations, the resistance did not evaporate. Even the captured Israeli soldier has not been released.
One of the explanations has to do with the structure of Palestinian society. The Hamulah (extended family) plays a central role there. As long as one person in the family is working, the relatives, too, do not die of hunger, even if there is widespread malnutrition. Everyone who has any income shares it with all his brothers and sisters, parents, grandparents, cousins and their children. That is a primitive system, but quite effective in such circumstances. It seems that the planners of the experiment did not take this into account.
In order to quicken the process, the whole might of the Israeli army is now being used again, as from this week.
For three months the army was busy with the Second Lebanon War. It became apparent that the army, which for the last 39 years has been employed mainly as a colonial police force, does not function very well when suddenly confronted with a trained and armed opponent that can fight back.
Hizbullah used deadly anti-tank weapons against the armored forces, and rockets rained down on Northern Israel. The army has long ago forgotten how to deal with such an enemy. And the campaign did not end well.
Now the army returns to the war it knows. The Palestinians in the Strip do not (yet) have effective anti-tank weapons, and the Qassam rockets cause only limited damage. The army can again use tanks against the population without hindrance. The Air Force, which in Lebanon was afraid to send in helicopters to remove the wounded, can now fire missiles at the houses of “wanted persons”, their families and neighbors, at leisure. If in the last three months “only” 100 Palestinians were killed per month, we are now witnessing a dramatic rise in the number of Palestinians killed and wounded.
How can a population that is hit by hunger, lacking medicaments and equipment for its primitive hospitals and exposed to attacks on land, from sea and from the air, hold out? Will it break? Will it go down on its knees and beg for mercy? Or will it find inhuman strength and stand the test?
In short: What and how much is needed to get a population to surrender?

All the scientists taking part in the experiment – Ehud Olmert and Condoleezza Rice, Amir Peretz and Angela Merkel, Dan Halutz and George Bush, not to mention Nobel Peace Price laureate Shimon Peres – are bent over the microscopes and waiting for an answer, which undoubtedly will be an important contribution to political science.

I hope the Nobel Committee is watching. “””

[Uri Avnery is an Israeli author and activist. He is the head of the Israeli peace movement, “Gush Shalom”.]

~~~~~

[RO – traducere adaptata]

“”” Marele experiment din laboratorul Gaza
Uri Avnery
Este posibil ca prin infometare sa obligi un intreg popor sa se supuna unei ocupatii straine? Cu siguranta, o intrebare interesanta. Atat de interesanta incat guvernele Israelului si Statelor Unite, in stransa cooperare cu Europa, sunt angajate acum intr-un experiment stiintific riguros pentru a obtine un raspuns definitiv.
Laboratorul destinat experimentului este Fasia Gaza, iar cobaii – cei 1,4 milioane de palestinieni care traiesc acolo. Pentru a intruni standardele stiintifice necesare, e nevoie, in primul rand, de pregatirea laboratorului. Care s-a facut in modul urmator: mai intai, Ariel Sharon a desfiintat coloniile implantate aici. In fond, nu poti conduce asa cum trebuie un experiment, cu animalele domestice plimbandu-se liber prin laborator. Totul a fost indeplinit cu „fermitate si sensibilitate“: lacrimile au curs siroaie, soldatii i-au sarutat si imbratisat pe colonistii evacuati si din nou s-a dovedit ca armata israeliana este cea mai cea din lume.
Laboratorul odata curatat, a putut incepe etapa urmatoare: toate intrarile si iesirile au fost inchise ermetic, pentru a elimina influentele perturbatoare din lumea exterioara. Aceasta s-a realizat fara dificultate. Guvernele israeliene care s-au succedat la putere au impiedicat construirea unui port in Gaza, iar marina israeliana a vegheat si vegheaza ca niciun vas sa nu se apropie de tarm. Splendidul aeroport international, construit pe vremea acordurilor de la Oslo, a fost bombardat si inchis. Intreaga Fasie Gaza a fost ferecata printr-o imprejmuire extrem de eficienta; n-au mai ramas decat cateva puncte de trecere, toate controlate de armata israeliana, cu exceptia unuia singur.
Exista o unica legatura cu lumea din afara: punctul de trecere de la Rafah, la frontiera cu Egiptul. Acesta n-a putut fi inchis pur si simplu, deoarece s-ar fi inteles ca Egiptul colaboreaza cu Israelul. Si a fost gasita o solutie sofisticata: in aparenta, armata israeliana a parasit punctul de trecere si l-a lasat in grija unei echipe internationale de supraveghere. Membrii acesteia sunt niste baieti draguti, bine intentionati, dar, in fapt, total dependenti de armata israeliana, care supervizeaza trecerea dintr-un punct de control situat in apropiere. Observatorii internationali traiesc intr-un kibutz israelian (termen iudaic referitor la o comunitate ai carei membri impartasesc aceeasi viziune sociala, politica si spirituala, impartind responsabilitatile si resursele) si nu pot ajunge la punctul de trecere decat cu consimtamantul israelienilor.
In felul acesta, totul era gata pregatit pentru experimentul ce urma.
Semnalul de incepere a fost dat de palestinieni, care au organizat alegeri democratice ireprosabile, supravegheate de fostul presedinte american Jimmy Carter. George Bush era entuziasmat: ideea sa de a aduce democratia in Orientul Mijlociu devenea realitate.
Dar palestinienii au ratat testul. In loc sa-i aleaga pe „arabii buni“, devotati Statelor Unite, i-au votat pe arabii foarte rai, devotati lui Allah. Bush s-a simtit insultat, dar guvernul israelian a fost in extaz: dupa victoria Hamas, americanii si europenii erau de-acum gata sa participe la experiment.
Acesta a putut incepe: SUA si UE au anuntat sistarea tuturor ajutoarelor catre Autoritatea Palestiniana, de vreme ce era controlata de „teroristi“. Simultan, guvernul israelian a blocat fluxul de bani. Pentru a intelege semnificatia acestui lucru, trebuie facuta urmatoarea precizare: conform „Protocolului de la Paris“ (anexa economica a acordurilor de la Oslo), economia palestiniana face parte din sistemul vamal israelian. Aceasta inseamna ca Israelul incaseaza taxele vamale pentru toate bunurile ce trec prin Israel catre teritoriile palestiniene – de fapt, nu exista alta cale. Dupa ce deduce un comision gras, Israelul este obligat sa returneze banii Autoritatii Palestiniene. Daca guvernul israelian refuza sa transmita acesti bani ce apartin palestinienilor, nu e altceva – s-o spunem pe fata – decat jaf la lumina zilei. Dar cand cei jefuiti sunt „teroristii“, cine se va plange?
Autoritatea Palestiniana – si in Cisiordania, si in Fasia Gaza – are nevoie de acesti bani ca de aer. Imprejurarea aceasta necesita de asemenea unele explicatii: pe parcursul celor 19 ani cat Iordania a ocupat Cisiordania si Egiptul, Fasia Gaza, din 1948 pana in 1967, aici nu s-a construit nici macar o singura fabrica importanta. Iordanienii au vrut ca toate activitatile economice sa se desfasoare in Iordania insasi, la est de fluviu, iar egiptenii au neglijat cu totul Fasia Gaza.
Apoi a urmat ocupatia israeliana si situatia s-a inrautatit. Teritoriile ocupate au devenit o piata prizoniera a industriei israeliene, iar guvernul militar a impiedicat infiintarea oricarei intreprinderi care ar fi putut intra in competitie cu o intreprindere israeliana. Muncitorii palestinieni au fost obligati sa lucreze in Israel pentru salarii de mizerie (fata de standardul israelian). Din aceste salarii, guvernul israelian a dedus toate platile sociale impuse muncitorilor palestinieni, fara ca acestia sa beneficieze de vreun avantaj social. Astfel, guvernul a furat de la acesti muncitori exploatati zeci de miliarde de dolari, care au disparut in buzunarele sale fara fund.
Cand a izbucnit Intifada, cei ce conduceau industria si agricultura israeliene au descoperit ca se pot descurca si fara muncitorii palestinieni. Intr-adevar, s-a dovedit chiar mai profitabil: muncitori din Thailanda, Romania si alte tari sarace au fost dispusi sa munceasca chiar pe salarii si mai mici si in conditii frizand sclavia. Palestinienii si-au pierdut astfel slujbele.
Asadar, aceasta era situatia la inceputul experimentului: infrastructura palestiniana distrusa, practic niciun mijloc de productie, niciun loc de munca pentru palestinieni. Una peste alta, un cadru ideal pentru marele „experiment prin infometare“.
Si implementarea acestuia a inceput. Punctul de trecere dintre Gaza si Egipt a fost inchis. O data la cateva zile sau la cateva saptamani, acesta a fost deschis doar cateva ore pentru salvarea aparentelor, astfel ca unii bolnavi, morti ori muribunzi sa poata ajunge acasa sau la spitalele egiptene. Trecerile dintre Fasia Gaza si Israel au fost inchise „din ratiuni urgente de securitate“. Intotdeauna la momentul oportun apareau „alerte privind atacuri teroriste iminente“. Produsele agricole palestiniene destinate exportului putrezeau la punctele de trecere. Medicamentele si produsele alimentare nu puteau intra, cu exceptia unor perioade scurte, din cand in cand, tot de dragul aparentelor, in momentul in care vreo persoana importanta din strainatate isi exprima protestul. Apoi venea o alta „alerta urgenta de securitate“ si situatia revenea la normal.
Pentru a desavarsi lucrurile, aviatia israeliana a bombardat singura centrala electrica din Fasia Gaza, astfel ca, o parte din zi, nu exista electricitate, iar furnizarea apei (ce depinde de pompele electrice) se opreste. Chiar si in zilele cele mai calduroase, cu temperaturi de peste 30 de grade Celsius la umbra, nu exista curent electric pentru frigidere, aer conditionat, furnizarea apei sau alte nevoi.
In Cisiordania, un teritoriu mult mai mare decat Fasia Gaza (ce reprezinta doar 6% din teritoriile palestiniene ocupate, dar include 40% din locuitori), situatia nu este chiar asa de disperata. Dar in Gaza, mai mult de jumatate din populatie traieste sub pragul palestinian al saraciei, care este, bineinteles, mult mai scazut decat cel israelian. Multi locuitori din Gaza pot doar sa viseze la eventualitatea de a fi socotiti la fel de saraci ca saracii orasului israelian din apropiere, Sderot.
Ce incearca guvernele Israelului si Statelor Unite sa le spuna palestinienilor? Mesajul este clar: daca nu va predati, veti ajunge in culmea mizeriei si chiar mai rau. Trebuie sa inlaturati guvernul Hamas si sa alegeti candidati acceptati de Israel si SUA. Si cel mai important: trebuie sa va multumiti cu un stat palestinian constand din mai multe enclave, fiecare dependenta in intregime de bunavointa Israelului.
Pentru moment, directorii experimentului stiintific isi pun perplecsi intrebarea: cum se face ca, in ciuda situatiei, palestinienii inca rezista? Dupa toate regulile, trebuia sa fi fost zdrobiti de mult!
Bineinteles, exista cateva semne incurajatoare. Atmosfera generala de frustrare si disperare creeaza tensiuni intre Hamas si Fatah. Ici si colo au izbucnit confruntari, s-au inregistrat morti si raniti, dar de fiecare data deteriorarea situatiei a fost oprita inainte de a degenera in razboi civil. Miile de colaboratori ai Israelului ajuta si ei la inflamarea tensiunilor. Insa, contrar tuturor asteptarilor, rezistenta nu a incetat. Nici macar soldatul israelian capturat nu a fost eliberat.
Una dintre explicatii tine de structura societatii palestiniene. Hamulah (familia largita) joaca aici un rol central. Atata timp cat o persoana dintr-o familie lucreaza, ceilalti membri ai acesteia nu mor de foame decat daca malnutritia e larg raspandita. Oricine are un venit il imparte cu toti fratii si surorile, parintii, bunicii, verii si copiii sai. Un sistem primitiv, dar foarte eficient in astfel de circumstante. Se pare ca cei ce-au pus la cale experimentul nu au tinut cont de acest factor.
Pentru a grabi procesul, acum este utilizata din nou intreaga forta a armatei israeliene. Timp de trei luni, ea a fost angajata in cel de-al doilea razboi din Liban. A devenit clar ca armata, care in ultimii 39 de ani a fost folosita mai ales ca forta de politie coloniala, nu functioneaza prea bine cand e confruntata brusc cu un adversar inarmat si antrenat, care poate riposta. Hezbollah a utilizat rachete antitanc ucigatoare impotriva fortelor armate, iar in nordul Israelului a plouat cu rachete. Armata a uitat de mult cum sa infrunte un astfel de inamic. Iar campania nu s-a incheiat bine.
Acum, armata se intoarce la razboiul pe care-l cunoaste. Palestinienii din Fasia Gaza nu au inca arme eficace impotriva tancurilor, iar rachetele Qassam produc pagube limitate. Armata poate folosi din nou, fara niciun obstacol, tancurile impotriva populatiei. Fortele aeriene – care, in Liban, s-au temut sa trimita elicoptere pentru evacuarea ranitilor – au acum o mare placere sa traga cu rachete in casele „persoanelor cautate“, ale familiilor si vecinilor lor. Daca in ultimele trei luni „doar“ 100 de palestinieni au fost ucisi lunar, suntem acum martorii unei cresteri dramatice a numarului palestinienilor ucisi si raniti.
Cum poate rezista o populatie lovita de foamete, lipsita de medicamente si echipamente pentru spitalele ei primitive, expusa atacurilor venite dinspre uscat, dinspre mare si din aer? Va fi ea zdrobita? Va cadea in genunchi implorand mila? Sau va gasi acea forta inumana de a trece testul? Cu alte cuvinte: ce trebuie facut si cat de mult trebuie actionat pentru a aduce o populatie in situatia de a se preda?
Toti oamenii de stiinta care participa la experiment – Ehud Olmert si Condoleezza Rice, Amir Peretz si Angela Merkel, Dan Halutz si George Bush, fara a-l uita pe laureatul Premiului Nobel pentru pace, Shimon Peres – stau aplecati deasupra microscoapelor si asteapta un raspuns, care, fara indoiala, va constitui o importanta contributie la stiintele politice.
Sper ca e atent si Comitetul Premiului Nobel. “””
[ Uri Avnery este un scriitor si un activist israelian. El este conducatorul miscarii pentru pace “Gush Shalom”]

One Response to ““The Great Experiment” (by Uri Avnery)”

  1. love israel is real…….
    Avnery e cu capul in nori….rupt de realitate, utopic,antiisrael,antideocratic

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