Getting a Piece of the Land

March 1, 2014 § Leave a comment

Human Rights organization Al-Haq has posted a Virtual Field Visit into the E1 Area of the West Bank. It shows, as can only be properly shown with a map, the encroachment of Israeli colonies into the West Bank from East Jerusalem, extended into the Ma’ale Adumim settlement, and following a salient directed east which would eventually bisect the West Bank. The project—although these developments date mostly from the 1990s, when settlement construction was accelerated—has been pursued in one way or another since the creation of the state of Israel, whose early Zionist leaders intended for the population to expand to the Jordan River, as well as possibly into the Sinai. Whatever refugees resulted from the 1948 ethnic cleansing (nakba) would assimilate elsewhere, or “would be crushed,” while most of them “would turn into human dust and the waste of society, and join the most impoverished classes in the Arab countries.” The military occupation resulting from the 1967 war made this realizable, if under less than ideal circumstances, by a military presence enabling Israel to control and partially subdue the population, as well as gaining access to precious water resources in the form of aquifers. A separate entity serving as a Palestinian state has always been rejected by most political leaders, demonstrated by the 1989 peace initiative, in which it is stated clearly that “Israel opposes the establishment of an additional Palestinian state in the Gaza district and in the area between Israel and Jordan” (meaning Jordan is already considered a “Palestinian” state). Despite several peace plans, including in 1971 from Egypt (rejected by the U.S. and Israel) and numerous United Nations resolutions condemning the occupation, the basic strategy of establishing “facts on the ground” while time passes has not changed. The narrator of the video states that “[i]f the plans for construction in E1 continue, Palestine would effectively be divided into three cantons of the upper West Bank, lower West Bank, and Gaza”:

The E1 area stretches across 22,000 dunums of confiscated Palestinian land and also provides a vital passage joining the northern and southern sections of the West Bank, as well as Jerusalem. The closure of this passage would effectively cut the West Bank into two. Construction in the E1 area, combined with restrictions imposed by the Annexation Wall and the Oslo Accords, creates a clear obstacle to a self-sufficient economically viable Palestinian State.

In addition to military, intelligence and economic ties between the U.S. and Israel, ideological affinities exist, possibly because of historical parallels. On 7 September 1783, George Washington addressed a letter to James Duane in which he discussed the fate of the indigenous population inhabiting the land to be gradually taken over by European settlement. Always eloquent, Washington explains how the tribes were to be dispossessed, if the use of force was to be avoided:

As the Country, is large enough to contain us all; and as we are disposed to be kind to them and to partake of their Trade, we will from these considerations and from motives of Compn, draw a veil over what is past and establish a boundary line between them and us beyond which we will endeavor to restrain our People from Hunting or Settling, and within which they shall not come, but for the purposes of Trading, Treating, or other business unexceptionable in its nature. 

In establishing this line, in the first instance, care should be taken neither to yield nor to grasp at too much. But to endeavor to impress the Indians with an idea of the generosity of our disposition to accommodate them, and with the necessity we are under, of providing for our Warriors, our Young People who are growing up, and strangers who are coming from other Countries to live among us. …

At first view, it may seem a little extraneous, when I am called upon to give an opinion upon the terms of a Peace proper to be made with the Indians, that I should go into the formation of New States; but the Settlemt of the Western Country and making a Peace with the Indians are so analogous that there can be no definition of the one without involving considerations of the other. for I repeat it, again, and I am clear in my opinion, that policy and oeconomy point very strongly to the expediency of being upon good terms with the Indians, and the propriety of purchasing their Lands in preference to attempting to drive them by force of arms out of their Country; which as we have already experienced is like driving the Wild Beasts of the Forest which will return us soon as the pursuit is at an end and fall perhaps on those that are left there; when the gradual extension of our Settlements will as certainly cause the Savage as the Wolf to retire; both being beasts of prey tho’ they differ in shape. 

Thomas Jefferson, writing to Henry Dearborn on 28 August 1807, on believing that certain tribes on the western frontier were moving towards hostility against settlers, thought that the Americans “should immediately prepare for war in that quarter, & at the same time redouble our efforts for peace”:

That sufficient stores of arms, ammunition & provision be deposited in convenient places for any expedition which it may be necessary to undertake in that quarter, and for the defence of the posts & settlements there; & that the object of these preparations be openly declared, as well to let the Indians understand the danger they are bringing on themselves, as to lull the suspicion of any other object. …

…that, at the same time, as we have learnt that some tribes are already expressing intentions hostile to the US. we think it proper to apprise them of the ground on which they now stand, & that on which they will stand; for which purpose we make to them this solemn declaration of our unalterable determination; that we wish them to live in peace with all nations as well as with us, and we have no intention ever to strike them or to do them an injury of any sort, unless first attacked or threatened; but that learning that some of them meditate war on us, we too are preparing for war against those, & those only who shall seek it: and that if ever we are constrained to lift the hatchet against any tribe, we will never lay it down till that tribe is exterminated, or driven beyond the Missisipi

Writing to John Adams on 11 June 1812, Jefferson compared and contrasted the characters of various tribes in a discussion on anthropological aspects of the indigenous population:

…that nation, consisting now of about 2000. warriors, & the Creeks of about 3000. are far advanced in civilisation. they have good Cabins, inclosed fields, large herds of cattle & hogs, spin & weave their own clothes of cotton, have smiths & other of the most necessary tradesmen, write & read, are on the increase in numbers, & a branch of the Cherokees is now instituting a regular representative government. some other tribes were advancing in the same line. on those who have made any progress, English seductions will have no effect. but the backward will yeild, & be thrown further back. these will relapse into barbarism & misery, lose numbers by war & want, and we shall be obliged to drive them, with the beasts of the forest into the Stony mountains.


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