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Occupied Arab World

Layers of occupation as Palestinians learn to cope with endless hardships

J A Progler

Since their occupation of Palestine, the Israelis have disrupted the Arabs’ olive and related industries badly. Other businesses have been equally affected but as always, Palestinians are finding ways to survive, though sometimes against seemingly insurmountable odds.

According to reports in the Jerusalem Post, the State-subsidized Israeli dairy company, Tnuva, is worried that Palestinian dairies are cutting into its monopolistic share of the previously captive West Bank and Ghazzah markets. Currently Tnuva claims that Israeli dairy products make up about half of all those sold in the West Bank and Ghazzah, but they are greedy for more.

A major competitor on the West Bank is the Al-Juneidi Dairy and Food Products Company, based in al-Khalil. Al-Juneidi’s market share, according to its own figures includes over half the consumers in the West Bank and Ghazzah. Despite pressure and stacked competition from Tnuva, and complete lack of support from the Palestinian Authority, Al-Juneidi is planning to expand its operations, confident that if given the opportunity, Palestinians would rather buy local goods than Israeli imports.

To many observers, there is more than one form of occupation in Palestine. People on the West Bank are increasingly aware that Arafat’s army is like the Israeli army, an occupying force. In fact, it is quite common to hear people speak of a string of occupations beginning with the Turks and the British, followed by the Zionists and now the Palestinian Authority. Indeed, PA soldiers do at times act like an occupying force.

With little attachment to the land of Palestine (having grown up in Tunisia or Lebanon) many are no more than mercenaries, travelling about in jeeps and cars from one base to another. They are a society within a society, who visit among themselves and avoid daily contact with the people whom they have supposedly come to liberate. The children of some PA officials are more detached than the spoiled and alienated offspring of the American repatriates. Most hang out in cliques at trendy clubs, attend exclusive private schools, drive fancy cars, and generally sponge off their parents’ PA largesse.

At times, the PA forces act in ways more despicable than the Zionist occupiers they replaced. For example, residents of El-Bireh recently observed a jeep load of PA soldiers pull off to the side of the road, and while neighbours looked on two soldiers entered a plot of land and began picking figs from the owner’s tree while a third looked on menacingly with his AK-47 rifle, as if to say, ‘owner beware; we can take whatever we want.’ Few residents here can recall Israeli soldiers displaying such callous disregard for common decency. Perhaps such actions explain why Arafat can boast to the world that he has the ‘full support of the Palestinian people.’

Like the Israelis before them, the Palestinian Authority often makes it difficult to conduct the affairs of daily life, such as getting business, travel or municipal permits especially if one has no ‘connections.’ Even the Hajj, a clear and distinct right and duty for all Muslims as commanded by Allah, the Most-High, is subject to the whims of the PA technocrats. People who have waited out 50 years of Israeli occupation to make Hajj are now finding that they do not have enough money to bribe PA officials for the permits.

Even those lucky enough to pay off the PA for a Hajj permit are still restricted by the Saudi policies - which the PA rigidly enforces - of imposing quotas and prohibiting Hajj visas for young men. Yet despite all these restrictions and difficulties, the adhan sounds regularly and mosques fill for the daily prayers, many overflow for Jumu‘ah. One also finds lots of community support for the ‘aza mourning periods of deceased loved ones. Markets generally are bustling with people, and there are weddings almost daily, especially during summer.

While most Palestinians find ways to cope with the various occupations under which they live, the same cannot easily be said for the IDF soldiers. (It is too early to tell if this will apply to Arafat’s occupying army.) Clearly some Israelis are enthusiastic about their occupation duties, such as manning roadblocks throughout the territories and taking every opportunity to harass Palestinians. But while many IDF soldiers are fueled by a clear hatred of Muslims and Arabs, a significant number appear to be just biding their time in the mandatory military service required of all Jews who come to Palestine. It is well-documented that the IDF has a notoriously high suicide rate, and there are other signs that soldiers find it hard to cope with the occupation.

When roadblocks are set up, such as those following the July bombing, IDF soldiers are assigned in squads of four to block main access roads and check the papers of motorists. The July and August midday sun beats down hard in Palestine, and it is not uncommon to see soldiers lounge under trees and let motorists come and go arbitrarily. Occasionally a captain or other superior will come by and surprise a supine squad, reprimanding its recruits with Hebraic unmentionables. After such a scene, the squad members make a faint effort to carry out their duties, but soon lapse into lethargy once the coast is clear.

Graveyard shift squads do not seem to fare much better. In one instance, a squad on an isolated road got rowdy after midnight, yelling and making loud noises. Neighbours awakened by the din could hear soldiers complaining about being away from their families, insisting that if they cannot sleep, no one should else should either. Perhaps one reason Clinton, Netanyahu and company are so anxious to pacify Palestinians is that the famed Israeli fighting forces are getting soft. The intifadah put the IDF under great stress and practically ruined the Israeli economy. It may be time to rekindle that popular uprising against all illegal occupations.

These are just a few reminders that Palestine is still under occupation. In reality, an occupation by any other name is still an occupation; renaming it or refusing to acknowledge it does not make it go away. Perhaps American pundits ought to leave their comfortable suburban domiciles and try to live for a few months under the supposed ‘non-occupation.’ At the very least these mercenary-scholars will have to brush up their apologetics for the 50 year American-backed Zionist occupation of Palestine.

Their current tirades sound worn-out indeed.

Muslimedia: October 1-15, 1997

Article from

Crescent International Vol. 26, No. 15

Jumada' al-Ula' 29, 14181997-10-01

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