November 6, 2007
Mechanics of “Politicide:” Palestinians since 1967
The Palestine Center
Friday, November 1, 2007
Speaker: Professor Adi Ophir, Cohn Institute for the History & Philosophy of Science & Ideas, Tel Aviv University
Mrs. Tal Arbel, Harvard University, Boston
Professor John ethQuigley, Professor in Law, Ohio State University
Summary by Mary Seekins
The Palestine Center’s annual conference was entitled “the ‘Politicide’ of the Palestinian People.” Baruch Kimmerling’s book Politicide: Ariel Sharon’s War against the Palestinians, and his definition of ‘politicide’ “a process that has, as its ultimate goal, the dissolution of the
Palestinian people’s existence as a legitimate…political…entity,” was the theme of the conference. In the first panel Dr. Adi Ophir focused on control through space, Mrs. Tal Arbel focused on control at the
checkpoints, and Dr. John Quigley focused on manipulation of law in order to keep control.
Dr. Adi Ophir said the two ways Israel maintains control in the occupied territories are submission and separation. Ophir explained that submission and separation are working in opposite directions; submission requires constant contact, best illustrated by the checkpoints, whereas separation requires a lack of contact. This is why, he argued, submission and separation are in constant flux to balance each other out. When new lines of separation are drawn a new form of submission is needed, and visa versa. This is why, Ophir argued, there are two possible outcomes; ethnic cleansing, or a political resolution. Ethnic cleansing would spell the end of the occupation, and the end of the need for both separation and submission. A political resolution, on the other hand, would have to end submission to create two states and eliminated the need for separation.
Tal Arbel followed with her discussion of the Israeli occupation’s rule by checkpoints, which focused on the technology that the Israelis use to control the movement of the Palestinian people. The Israelis do not rely solely on the different types of checkpoints – roadblocks, earth mounds, road gate and trenches – but, Arbel argued, also the placement of the checkpoints. In most cases the checkpoints are set up to surround a village or town, she said, in order to cut off the people from other towns.
International law states that an occupation cannot harm a population and must be temporary. Dr. John Quigley said this makes all the practices the other panelists discussed illegal. However, Quigley explained, the Israelis have also used international law to legitimize the occupation. In the 1967 war the Israelis took the land of the West Bank and Gaza from the Jordanians and the Egyptians, respectively, who were holding this
territory unlawfully, after they took in the 1948 war. Furthermore, he explained, Israel argues the settlements in the West Bank are also legal, because they do not displace people; it is only after their establishment that people are harmed. Based on this, Quigley’s final argument was that the violations are so belligerent that, unfortunately, there are no applicable legal practices to combat the Israeli occupation.