In would-be Palestinian state, a dose of reality
While leaders mount UN bid, Palestinian independence seems like fantasy, what with the struggle to survive on West Bank and a cash crisis posing a risk to Palestinian Authority.
September 21, 2011 11:45 by Reuters
In another world, the tented village at al Hadidiya might mark the farthest reaches of a future Palestine. Instead, the herding community living here talk about the limits of that dream.
Nestled in the northeast corner of the West Bank, al Hadidiya amounts to a cluster of sprawling sackcloth encampments which shelter families and goats from the fierce desert elements.
Even if Palestinian leaders win U.N. recognition of statehood this month, the people of al Hadidiya say it will not improve their lives, squeezed by the rules of Israeli occupation.
Although part of the West Bank, al Hadidiya is inside a border zone deemed a vital strategic area by Israel, whose security forces have repeatedly demolished the encampments since 1997, typically on the grounds they were put up without permission.
The community now numbers 100 people — a quarter of the population 14 years ago.
“Remaining on the land is our first and last goal,” said Abdul Rahim Bisharat, the community’s official representative, his head covered by the black-and-white scarf long a symbol of the Palestinian struggle.
“WEAK-SPIRITED PEOPLE LEFT”
“The weak-spirited people left, the last of them in 2008. Those who remain have taken a decision: no more forced expulsion.”
Signs of the most recent demolitions, carried out in June, lay scattered around the site. A fridge and a pile of furniture stand exposed to the desert sun. U.N. agency OCHA, which documents such incidents, says the most recent demolitions left 37 people without homes. They stayed put regardless.
Demolitions are just one of the problems that Palestinians living under Israeli control in the West Bank have to deal with.
There are also restrictions that prevent construction and free movement. The expansion of Jewish settlements has eaten up land and Palestinians, along with their property, are increasingly the target of settler violence.
In al Hadidiya, which neighbours a settlement, access to water — a resource mainly controlled by Israel — is also a major problem.
His life controlled by a foreign force, Bisharat has little faith that things will improve, even with the backing of the majority of U.N. members for statehood.
“A state without borders cannot be,” he said.
PEACE PROCESS FAILURE
The Palestinian leaders behind the U.N. move argue it will buttress their claims to the West Bank along the border with Jordan, the separate Gaza Strip on the coast and East Jerusalem, which Palestinians want as their capital.
They say the step is a result of the failure of the U.S.-backed peace process to deliver Palestinian independence on land occupied by Israel since the 1967 war.
At least 120 countries have already recognised Palestine, including Russia and emerging powers such as Brazil. But Israel and the United States, its closest ally, both oppose the move, arguing that only direct negotiations can lead to statehood.
That means that even if the Palestinians enjoy the support of a majority in UN states, Washington will block their bid for full membership of the world body in the Security Council.
In any case, Palestinian leaders admit the vote will have little impact on the ground.
While Israel has removed some of the West Bank checkpoints put up during the last Palestinian Intifada, or uprising, which erupted in 2000 and had mostly fizzled out by 2005, its overall control of the territory appears as firm as ever.
Israel has created walls, fences, earth barriers, checkpoints, military firing zones, and army bases, all necessary, it says, for the…
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