Opinion: How to Start an Uprising
by Jeff Halper—April, 2001

Jeff Halper teaches anthropology at Ben Gurion University in Israel.  He is co-ordinator of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD) and is editor of the critical Israeli-Palestinian magazine News From Within, published by the Alternative Information Center. 

First, you create great expectations.  Handshakes on the White House lawn.  A rhetoric of peace ("No more war.  No more bloodshed").  Elections, giving them a flag of their own.  Then secret meetings, summit meetings, dinners, retreats, peace treaties, interim agreements, promises, tantalizing benefits held before hungry eyes.  More handshakes, more "gestures."

Then you create a framework of peace that guarantees you negotiating superiority.  Take out international law, human rights covenants, UN resolutions, and for good measure enlist your strategic ally, the strongest power in the world, the one who supplies you with all your arms, as the "mediator."

Then, as you talk peace in Oslo, Washington, Paris, Cairo, the Wye Plantation, Stockholm, Amman, Camp David, Sharm, you "create facts" on the ground that ensure your continued control and prejudice the negotiations altogether.  You exploit the last seven years since the signing of the Oslo Accords to:

  1. Dismember the West Bank into "Areas A, B and C," giving the Palestinian Authority full control of only 18% of the land while retaining control over 61%; divide tiny Gaza into "yellow, white, blue and green areas," giving 6,000 settlers control of 40% of the territory and confining 1,000,000 Palestinians to the rest; and completely sever East Jerusalem from the wider Palestinian society;

  2. Expropriate 200 square kilometers of farm and pasture land from its Palestinian owners for your own exclusive settlements, highways and infrastructure;

  3. Uproot some 80,000 olive and fruit trees that are in the way of your construction projects, thereby impoverishing their owners and making them casual day workers in your labor market - provided they can get access to your labor market;

  4. Add some 30 new settlements, including whole cities like Kiryat Sefer and Tel Zion, to the dozens of settlements that already exist in the Occupied Territories over which negotiations are taking place, and construct 90,000 new housing units in East Jerusalem and the settlements exclusively for your own population;

  5. Demolish more than 1200 homes of the people with whom you are negotiating peace;

  6. Double your settler population across the 1967 border to 400,000, 90% of which you have already decided will remain under your sovereignty even though you haven't negotiated that with the other side yet;

  7. Begin construction of 480 kms of massive highways and "by-pass" roads serving your settlements while dissecting the future territory of your peace partner into tiny disconnected islands, thereby preventing the emergence of another viable and competing economy next door;

  8. Impose a permanent "closure" to prevent those whose lands you took from finding employment in your own economy, because you have discovered that workers from Rumania and Thailand are cheaper and more docile.  While you're at it, you also exclude them from entering Jerusalem, the site of their holiest places;

  9. Exploit their natural resources, unilaterally and illegally drawing, for example, 25% of your country's water from your neighbors' aquifers while leaving them thirsty for months on end;

  10. Vandalize their countryside and environment, burying its fragile historic landscape under your massive settlements and highways and turning it into a disposal site for your industrial and urban wastes.

Next, you wait until your occupation has become irreversible and all-encompassing, until you've integrated your two economies under your control, the electrical grids, the highway and urban infrastructure, until you've completely absorbed your partner's economy and society into your own.  Then you announce that your concept of peace is "separation," and you lock your neighbors into a few small islands, taking away any hope they have for a better future, for a real country and identity of their own.  You keep tightening your control, restricting their life space, humiliating and harassing them—until the uprising finally explodes.

Then you tell your story to the world: how you tried to negotiate, how "generous" you had been, how you wanted peace, and how disappointed you feel that "they" let you down.  How "they" met your good intentions with stones, how "they" are not partners for peace, how "they" are not yet ready for peace.  And so, until they agree to end their violence against you and return to the same negotiating table that allowed you to construct your matrix of control in the first place, you resort to force—defensive force, of course, since "they" are the aggressors.  The most up-to-date American weapon systems, snipers, closures until starvation, clearing thousands of acres of agricultural land, destruction of hundreds of houses....  Until they get the message.