A few days ago the US finally had the courage to let us all in on the truth: it supports the continued annexation of the West Bank by Israeli settlers. All of its protestations to the contrary have been erased by a simple veto—a monumentally cowardly act.
When we read about the settlements, and too often when we write about them, we tend to slip into geopolitical abstractions, familiar rhetoric, entrenched positions. What all of us need to do is to grasp the cost in human terms.
Annexation is a zero-sum game. Where Israeli settlers assisted by the occupation forces take, Palestinians lose. The people most affected tell their stories in simple, unvarnished, non-ideological terms. And very often those stories are about water.
The settler population in the West Bank, 10% of the whole, consumes 80% of the available water, leaving Palestinian farmers unable to maintain their livestock and their fields. Their Israeli overlords refuse to allow them to dig wells, making them dependent upon expensive trucked-in bottled water.
At the link, some of the farmers explain the effects of this deliberately imposed privation. But that was nine years ago. Here’s a story in the here and now.
Meet Abu Taha. He just had 250 olive trees chewed up so that a water line could be laid to supply a nearby settlement. When he was finally able to prove that the land was his, the Israelis simply moved on to his neighbour, and tore up 150 more olive trees.
The reason for this act of violence against Palestinian property can only be assumed to be for the aid of settlement expansion. Close to the violated fields, caravan outposts loom ominously on the hillside.
Within reach of the settlement of Beit Ein, these caravans are used when the residents of settlements wish to expand their land grab. They are placed away from the settlement, but within a few kilometres, so that the land between them is effectively annexed. Once the settlement has been expanded the surrounding areas, usually right up to the built up area of local Palestinian towns, are confiscated to the settlement under the auspices of providing a safe buffer zone from the Palestinian communities nearby, robbing Palestinians of their property, their livelihood and their home land.
It all eventually comes down to individuals—ordinary workers trying to scratch a living out of the soil, and having that living taken from them, drop by precious drop of water, tree by tree, so the beautiful people from across the wall can move into gated communities and enjoy the good life.
That’s what annexation means; these are the facts on the ground. And it is precisely this slow, steady, metastasizing presence that Barack Obama has now endorsed. With that veto, he sealed the fate of the Palestinian people. There is no peace process now that anyone can seriously believe in, no diplomatic resolution, no two-state solution on the horizon.
That was always talk in faraway places, where hope springs eternal among the optimistic and the naive. The farmers know better. The truth of the occupation is written on their bodies, their minds and their lands. There is nothing left for them but resistance. And there is nothing left for us—already celebrating the democratic, leaderless uprisings in Tunisia, in Egypt, in Libya—but to support Palestinians in their struggle against a tyranny no less brutal than the ones that are currently crumbling. Surely now is the time to choose sides.