Dr. Hatem Bazian
"When we occupy the land, we shall bring immediate benefits to the state that receives us. We must expropriate gently the private property on the estates assigned to us. We shall try to spirit the penniless population across the border by procuring employment for it in the transit countries, while denying it any employment in our country. The property owners will come over to our side. Both the process of expropriation and the removal of the poor must be carried out discretely and circumspectly." The Complete Diaries of Theodor Herzl, vol. 1 (New York: Herzl Press and Thomas Yoseloff, 1960)
Theodor Herzl’s speaks to the core of the Zionist project and continues, at a deeper ontological and epistemic level, to inform and direct successive Israeli government policies toward the Palestinians. The expropriation of land and the removal of the Palestinian population from historical Palestine are foundational for the success of Zionism in Palestine. Such actions have been utilized from the earliest stages of the Zionist project, a settler colonial program from its inception wanting the land without the existing indigenous population. Herzl’s quote has very important elements that are increasingly relevant to current developments on the ground and if understood within the context of Zionist ‘on-going’ strategy, it can help us comprehend the logic behind various steps taken by successive Israeli governments, including the current one.
At the outset, a distinction must be made between colonialism and settler colonialism. The latter works to claim the colonized land as its own and systematically uproots, forces the removal, dispossesses, transfers or commits genocide against the indigenous population. Settler colonialism seeks the land and the resources, but has no need for the indigenous labor force. Therefore, it seeks the removal of the indigenous from the land either by force as is the case in the 1948 Nekba or by “procuring employment for it in the transit countries” as Herzl proposed even before the emergence of the Zionist state. We do have some differences between various settler colonial examples; however at the core the indigenous population must be dispossessed and forced to the side for the “civilizational” project to move forward.
In Palestine, the denial of employment was a policy adopted by the early Zionist settlements, which had a strict code of not employing Arab labor so as to help facilitate their move to neighboring countries to search for work and to earn a living. In 1940, Joseph Weitz, head of the Jewish Agency's Colonization Department, was far more direct in what was needed to bring about the success of the settler colonial project in Palestine by stating that: "Between ourselves it must be clear that there is no room for both peoples together in this country. We shall not achieve our goal if the Arabs are in this small country. There is no other way than to transfer the Arabs from here to neighboring countries - all of them. Not one village, not one tribe should be left.” For the Zionist to settle an already inhabited land it meant to forcefully remove the indigenous population, take over the lands and properties-a strategy still underway up to this day with on-going confiscations in the West Bank, the continued building of settlements and removal of the Bedouins.
Yet, Herzl’s quote has a more critical idea, the one pertaining to the Palestinian wealthy elite or “property owners” and projecting them early-on coming to the Zionist side and working to protect their economic interests at the expense of the “penniless population” which was to be removed.
As another year of the never ending “peace process” between the Palestinians and their Israeli occupiers is coming to an end, one is reminded of the asymmetrical relationship governing every aspect of the “process” and the unfounded expectation that something different will materialize from the on-going stage managed talks. More importantly, “the international community”, a participant in this process, has acted to bolster Israeli intransigence by extending political, economic, military and cultural support in the hope of, or perhaps the wishful thinking, that a change of behavior will emerge through a continuation of the status quo and unlimited support. The “world community” represented by western countries, victors in WWII controlling the legal, political, economic and social powers, are culprits in the initial dispossession of the Palestinians beginning in 1917, through the continuation of the abuse and occupation by being the global structural enablers for Israeli actions.
Enabling Israel in its crimes against the Palestinians is a full time, never ending endeavor for the “international community” represented by the Global North acting in unison to protect and defend Israeli actions at every opportunity, while pressuring the Palestinians to “understand” and be flexible with their tormentors. The Israeli crimes of Occupation are straight forward and readily documentable, but the enablers and protectors within the “international community” bear greater responsibility for they create the structural support behind this colonial settler project.
We must come into a firm acceptance that Israel’s Occupation over Palestine will not end through the current “peace process”, no matter how extensive the negotiations under way or out of the way, since the contemplated results are based on setting-up an occupation by other means and maintaining for the foreseeable future Israel’s total domination of the Palestinians. In reality, the “peace process” is nothing other than an expansion of the Israeli Occupation foot print by means of endless negotiations and more permanent facts on the ground. The “international community” lead by the US and the European Union have continued to provide the structural support to enable Israel to continue to create facts on the ground while the Palestinian “leadership” are provided frequent flyer miles and bonus hotel points at destinations of choice, Gaza not included.
In place of an actual end of the occupation and reaching a fair and just settlement with the Palestinians, the Americans following Israel’s lead, have opted for “transformative” economic development, an enticement approach to address or, more accurately, to substitute offers of wealth: a golden cage. (1) Indeed the approach is founded upon the notion that economic development and raising the standards of living will result in the transformation of Palestinian society, which in due time according to advocates of this plan, will reduce or remove Palestinian supposed hostility toward Israel.
Could economic development and prosperity alone lead to a change in the basic framing of the Palestinian struggle and produce a Palestinian society more linked to Israel in pure economic terms and less demanding of its political and land rights? As of today, the US administration, Israel, European leaders and major regional Arab states are all on board with this strategy, offering a ‘golden cage’ to the Palestinians guarded by PA security trained by experts from Israel, US and Jordan.
Creating an Occupied Middle Class and Jordan’s Model?
Recently John Chambers, Cisco’s CEO, expressed clearly the purpose of investments in the occupied territories by stating that “the way to end this conflict is to create a very large middle class and be inclusive in how you go after it across all individuals, regardless of age, religion or gender.” (2) We can see in Chambers’ statement an explicit link made between the economic efforts and the attempt to end the conflict through the improvement of standards of living and by expanding the Palestinian middle class.
With this approach, Chambers is reflecting the broader US-Israeli strategy resting on the basic assumption that poverty or lack of economic opportunity is a primary cause of the existing conflict and not the continued colonization and dispossession of the Palestinians. The symptom is intentionally mistaken for the cause. A number of American and European companies have been recruited for this ‘golden cage’ project to purchase Palestinian acquiescence to their continued and systematic colonization. Investments are being facilitated by Israel and the US, on the one hand, and on the other is the direct involvement and internal promotion by the current PA leadership and Herzl’s “property owners” constituted around it. Palestinian acquiescence to their dispossession is being funded by Israel’s venture capitalists with direct and indirect Arab and US resources and involvement, one Technology Company, large housing project and economic plant at a time.
The process directed at the Palestinians has been successfully tested before in both Jordan and Egypt whereby a new “elite” was constituted through economic development and partnership linked to both American and Israeli corporate and financial interests. Jordan is a case study since the nature of the Treaty of Peace Between the State of Israel and the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan was centered on economic opportunities, but at its core it was directed to help expand Israel’s control over Palestine, weakening Palestinian political and economic power inside and outside the Occupied Territories.
Since the 1948 Nekba, and 1967 Nekhsa, Jordan’s welcoming and granting of citizenship to the Palestinians produced a number of outcomes, chief among them is the economic life-line for the Occupied Territories. The large number of Palestinians in Jordan, their economic success in the country and the remittances sent from those working in the Gulf made for constituting a natural and strong bridge for those living under occupation. Palestinians in Jordan provided the economic strategic depth for the Occupied Territories and as long as this was in place the West Bank population maintained a mode of resistance against Israel. In addition, Jordan’s position on Palestine and relations with Israel likewise was influenced by this Palestinian economic and political strength.
One main outcome of the Jordanian-Israeli peace treaty is the targeting of Palestinian economic strength in Jordan by creating new economic elite with its interests connected to Israel. Immediately after the signing of the agreement a host of economic projects, free trade zones and tourist infrastructure was jointly set in motion with key Jordanian stake holders acting as a bridge for Israel’s economic penetration of the Arab and Muslim market on the one hand, while on the other striking a blow against Palestinians strategic economic strength in Jordan.(3) Some narrow and self-defeating elites within the Jordanian body politic saw this as a rare opportunity to “reclaim their country” from the Palestinians and accepted an inferior partnership with Israeli capitalists as a method to assert a new distorted “nationalistic” identity that was indeed rooted in antagonism toward the Palestinians and partnership with Israel.
The economic parts of the peace treaty produced the needed strategic results from Israel’s perspective: 1. It isolated the Palestinians in the Occupied Territories by removing the economic strategic depth present in Jordan; 2. Helped in forming a new Jordanian elite connected in its core economic interests to Israel; 3. Gained a strong foothold in the Jordanian economy and became its biggest real custodian; 4. Built an economic bridge to the Arab and Muslim world (4); 5. Set-up security cooperation that is connected to an economic elite that was ready to defend its interests; 6. Achieved a needed strategic depth on its Eastern front.
From Israel’s side it all went like clockwork, but Jordan had to bear the brunt of the shift in security responsibilities and infrastructure development for the purpose of institutionalizing the peace process and the country borrowed heavily to build roads, hotels and industrial parks in the hope of cashing-in on the promised economic plans for prosperity. More alarming is the heavy dose of corruption and outright bribes utilized to bring about acceptance of the agreement that was struck by a small elite clustered around the royal palace, which at the end ruined the prospect of success assuming that such goal was in the cards.
From land registration deals, privatization of state assets, and proposals for building casinos, Jordan’s economy was saddled with $27 billion dollars over a short period of time and the prospects of coming out of it is dismal at best. The Jordanian government is running on empty and it has embarked on removing state support for basic commodities, reducing investments in healthcare and education and moving even further to cooperate with and extend more security services to Israel considering it the only viable way to help bolster the economy and gain access to US and European aid due to this strengthening alliance. As for the Palestinians in Jordan, the debt and the economic crisis caused further diminishment of their economic strength and had diluting effects on their assets not to mention the increased taxation and inflationary effects due to the weakening of the country’s economy.
For sure the new Jordanian 1% or in this case more like .009% elite has made large amounts of money and will continue to benefit from this process and are looking at further opportunities if the Occupied Territories are brought under a similar economic regime. “The property owners” Herzl predicted almost a 100 years that “will come over to our side” have done so in Jordan, Egypt, the Gulf States and in the West Bank. The 1% elites are all aligning themselves on the wrong side of justice and choosing their narrow interests at the expense of a free Palestine.
John Perkins in Confessions of an Economic Hit Man points to the link between economic policies set in motions in the global north and the intentions to subvert third world sovereignty and create dependency and corruption in the process. I do maintain that the economic destabilization and heavy debt burden inflicted upon Jordan and Egypt were part of the plan all-along so as to curtail the ability of future governments or leaders from changing the nature of the relationship and subverting future Jordanian political decision-making through debt obligations to Israeli and US dictate.
The “peace process” has caused a structural change in the Jordanian economy and made it effectively dependent and connected to Israel on the one hand and subservient to Israeli strategic security concerns on the other, as well as utilizing joint investments, US and European credit facilities and foreign aid to contain Palestinians strength and Jordan’s independent political decision making capacity. While some would argue that Jordan’s independent political decision making has never existed, nevertheless the current arrangement is structurally, qualitatively and quantitatively different than what existed before, as well as, it being connected to the creation of a new elite vested in the success of the project compared to what was in the past a small circle centered at the palace but not beyond.
A similar economic, political and strategic impact was witnessed in Egypt and a comparison between both states pre and post “peace treaties” with Israel to assess the impacts internally and externally is needed, but is beyond this article and one I may write on it in the future. The “peace process” with both countries was sold as an engine for economic development that was to lead to long term political and social stability with the US and some European states providing “foreign aid” to cement the plans. In the long run and the evidence demonstrates that the opposite was the outcome and “foreign aid” and the “peace process” had a corrosive effects indigenous economics, removed any pretense of transparency and accountability with a new elite made to order ready to defend and protect Israel and US interests at the expense of its own population.
Looking back, the plans for economic incentives and building a Palestinian middle class as the road to ending the conflict, is the same selling point made to the Jordanians and the Egyptians which ended up destroying the economy and contributed to rapid growth in debt and corruption.
Palestinians are being offered a ‘golden cage’ centered on promises of economic opportunities and investments, but in return they must relinquish their claims to the land, right of return and challenge to Israel’s Apartheid structures. Indeed, the Palestinian “property owners” are currently empowered to build the golden cage, but its longevity and sustainability is highly doubtful for economic progress under occupation in reality is an oxymoron, but we are living in the theater of the absurd where the peddlers of cages have been given the task to design a new one while we are struggling to break out of the existing one built for Palestinians since Israel’s inception.Last Mod: 08 Nisan 2014, 11:32