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Adam Shapiro's Statement at the
IRmep Capitol Hill Forum on
“A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm”
Wednesday, November 26, 2003
Gold Room- Rayburn Congressional House Office Building


Thank you ladies and gentlemen, and thank you to IRmep for inviting me, and also to Congresswoman Holmes-Norton. I actually have, I want to thank her and commend her for hosting this event also issue something of a warning: the last time I was invited to speak on Capitol Hill the staff that invited me received threatening phone calls from other Congressmen, as Ms. Williams alluded to, the cowardice here on Capitol Hill. And one staff member was actually threatened, her job was threatened.

I should also take this moment to say that those of us who support the right for Palestinians to live in freedom and to have their own state, also do support the right of the citizens of the District of Columbia to have their own state and to live in freedom as well.

We’re fighting, we’re struggling for two states actually.

I would just like to address some of the assumptions of the ‘Clean Break’ and talk about some of my own experience and what I’ve seen on the ground over the years, and talk about sort of the larger context of the ‘Clean Break’, specifically with regard to Israelis and Palestinians.

There are two basic assumptions of the ‘Clean Break’ report which are based on complete falsehoods and sort of, almost fabrications in an attempt to create new realities on the ground. And it’s important to note that this ‘Clean Break’ report was prepared for Prime Minister Netanyahu, who, at the helm of the Israeli government and, of course responsible for participating in the peace process during those years, 1996-1999, did more damage to the peace process, which then set the stage, of course, for the current Prime Minister, Sharon, to pretty much bury it.

The first assumption is that the peace process years, under the Labor leadership, the labor Party, and notably Prime Minister Rabin and Prime Minister Barak, that these were years that undermined Zionism and undermined Israel in some way. And one of the reasons, one of the ways, that this report points to, is economic policies, that Israel was suffering economically in this period, this peace process period, and that this was undermining the character of the Jewish state, the character of Zionism, in Israel.

Nothing could be more untrue.

In fact, from the years 1996-1999, Israel was reaping the benefits of a decade, basically, of extreme growth. And just like here in the United States which was highly dependent on the high-tech industry for spurring the economic development of the United States, Israel too developed a very advanced high-tech industry which was connected, of course, to the United States, and of course to the military-industrial complex both in the United States and in Israel, something which we, as taxpayers, continue to support, which is part of the whole….problem.

The “Clean Break’ strategy though is also based on the foundation that it is possible to secure more land and resources, in a very finite area, that being the West Bank and Gaza Strip. And in doing so, Israel will be able to reclaim, and reassert its domination of the land and also of its economic, sort of, status, and also its ideological underpinnings of Zionism.

What this really means on the ground is that Palestinians will lose more and more land, more and more olive trees, more and more homes, more and more water.

And to think that the ‘Clean Break’ is in somehow new in this regard is to miss the point. In fact, the ‘Clean Break’, is an advancement of a policy that was already in place

And it was under the very Labor governments that are criticized by this report that the expansion of settlements, the expansion of occupation, the increased construction of roadblocks, of checkpoints, occurred in the occupied territories.

One example is that in 1996 when I visited to Jerusalem for the very first time, just between Jerusalem and Bethlehem, there was a very beautiful hill called Jebel Abu Ghneim in Arabic, and Har Homa in Hebrew. We know it now as a settlement, but in 1996 it was still mostly a hill covered with trees.

And it was under, it was the desire of the Israeli government and the Israeli settlers to take this hill and establish a settlement for Israeli civilians, but also for the Israeli military, and a means of constructing a military base and a civilian control over the surrounding region, the surrounding region being of course Bethlehem, Beit Jala and Beit Sahour, traditional Palestinian cities and towns which are primarily, or were primarily, Christian.

In 1999 when I went back after my initial visit, I saw the results of three years of these policies. Three years of policies which meant the complete denuding of this hill of all of its trees, and the replacement of this natural environment with steel and concrete homes for Jewish settlers, to come and live in a Jewish only area, on land that had been owned by Palestinians.

This is the heart of the “Clean Break”. This is the heart of Israel’s policies of occupation and dispossession of the Palestinians, something that is certainly discussed in the ‘Clean Break’ report, but something that I have to stress is not new.

This document also assumes that Israel is operating from a position of weakness, and that in some way it needs to re-strengthen itself, it needs to develop a ‘balance of power’ construction in the Middle East in order to assert and maintain its position as a regional hegemon.

However, there is a conflict. If you’re a regional hegemon, and you are seeking power, then ultimately what will happen is that other powers will balance against you. We are finding this in the United States in terms of our policy making. When we tried to promote a policy as the global hegemon of pursuing war in Iraq, other countries which were uncomfortable band-wagoning with the United States, stood to oppose this policy.

France and Germany, of course, are the most notable examples, but if we look at the UN votes, most countries of the world refused to go along with the United States in its policy efforts.

In the same way that Israel is promoting itself as a regional hegemon, as a regional superpower, it is getting to the point where other countries will seek to ally against Israel. And it should be noted that there is no alliance in the current formulation. Egypt, Jordan, if they are aligned with anyone, it is the United States. They are large recipients of American aid money and American military dollars. As such, they pose no threat whatsoever to Israel.

Even Syria, which is seen as Israel’s prime enemy in the region, responded to the recent bombing of an empty camp outside of Damascus, with, as one parliamentarian said, in the Syrian parliament “we must assess whether there are benefits to using military force, because we’ve learned from the past that sometimes when we used military force, there are absolutely no benefits.”

So there is quite a real understanding in Syria today that there is no military response to dealing with Israel. And I think ultimately that we will see, if not in the near future, then soon thereafter, an attempt by the Syrian government to reengage in peace negotiations with Israel.

I would now like to touch now on getting into more this notion of a ‘Clean Break’, and how it is actually happening today.

This policy recommended by Mr. Perle and Mr. Wurmser and Mr. Feith did not conceive of something that was actually conceived by the Labor government, and this is why I want to point it out, ‘A Clean Break’ is not just something for the Likud party, or for the Neocons, it is also for those in the so called ‘peace camp’.

Today there is a wall being constructed in the West Bank, and there is also a wall being constructed in Gaza. This wall is dispossessing Palestinians of their land, of their homes, of their means to survival. It is also dispossessing them of their water resources, the very material that they need to survive on this land. An estimated 200,000 Palestinians will be completely, directly affected by the wall, and who knows how many hundreds of thousands of others will be affected, given that the water resources being confiscated by the Israeli government today provide 50% of the water for the entire West Bank. At least 10% of the land of the West Bank is being annexed to Israel. And already, we have had reports from farmers who have produced documents issued by the Israeli military, telling them that if they wish to get to the land on the other side of the wall, they need to apply for a permit to enter Israel. So already, in just naming the area confiscated by this wall, it is no longer considered Palestinian land by the Israeli government, but rather, Israel.

Basically, this wall will create an untenable situation in the West Bank. 200,000 Palestinians who currently live off of the land, who are farmers, who do not need to rely working in Israel or jobs in the Palestinian economy, who are basically self- sufficient, will now be thrust into the labor market, a labor market which is already seeing 70% unemployment.

Separation, which is the new euphemism used in Israel today, there are lots of calls for separation, and we can replace ‘A Clean Break’ with the word separation today, the two are the same sort of policy, is a policy that was first announced by Prime Minister Barak. This idea that you can separate Israelis and Palestinians completely so as to, the idea is to secure Israel, is such that this has meant the construction of this wall.

However, we have seen on the ground, as walls, as cities are being surrounded by the wall, as villages are being completely cut off from any access to the outside world, and as Palestinians are essentially being made prisoners in their own homes, that separation ‘A Clean Break’ is basically a word for ghettoization, or bantustanization. And this is true for both Christians and Muslims among the Palestinian population.

The ‘Clean Break’ then, is actually an attempt to tame America’s foreign policy to suit Israel’s interests. And we should acknowledge that this report, while to the letter, it may be, some of the assumptions it makes, some of the conclusions it reached are outdated or outmoded, the spirit of the document, the spirit of the policy is still very much alive, and in effect.

Already we have seen the lack of influence of the United States government, of even president Bush, in the wake of September 11 and his renewed popularity. He was at the height of his support here in the United States, and perhaps even internationally, when he called upon Prime Minister Sharon to evacuate from operation ‘Defensive Shield’, as was mentioned, the re-taking over military of the entire West Bank. When president Bush issued the orders to leave, based on the strategic consideration by the United States, Mr. Sharon ignored the order, and waited, and demurred, and waited, until weeks later until hundreds more people were killed, towns villages completely devastated and another cycle of violence unleashed upon the entire region.

Perhaps this is because Mr. Sharon knows that people like the authors of this report, Mr. Perle, Mr. Wurmser, Mr. Feith are in positions of power, are in positions of influence such that the words of Mr. Bush, the words of Secretary of State Powell, and even today with regards to the wall, the words of Condoleeza Rice, are merely friendly suggestions, or just sort of ‘remarks’ and not real strategic imperatives as they are formulated by the Bush administration.

I’d like to conclude by making a few alternatives, posing a few alternatives for policy that and also pointing out one thing that was somewhat alluded to by my colleagues which is that of public opinion in Israel.

Public opinion in Israel has consistently shown that people are willing to give up land for peace. That people are willing to end the occupation in exchange for peace with the Palestinians. This is a result of probably most people being tired, most people being ready to raise their children not with the notion that they have to go serve in their army and fight in a war at some point, but rather looking forward to a time in which peoples of the region can actually live and coexist together. Despite 70% of Israelis polled consistently for the past decade saying that they are willing to give up occupation, to give up settlements for peace, United States policies and Israel’s policies have been to promote the 30% that do not support giving up occupation. This 30% is materialized and realized with over 400,000 settlers in the occupied territories today, a number that continues to expand, despite the ongoing violence, despite the casualties and the injuries, and the reports of terror against Israelis. These numbers continue to increase; the numbers of settlements continue to increase.

Our policies of this country are not finding affinity with the peace makers, or the people who are trying very hard to promote peace in their lives, particularly in Israel. But rather are finding affinity with those who will continue to agitate, continue to aggravate, continue to abuse the rights of Palestinians.

So, what can we do?

One thing as Americans we can do, is stand against occupation and support the Israeli majority.

Again, most Israelis are opposed to the occupation, at least as they are polled. We must find a way to support them and to support ending the occupation that will allow Israelis and Palestinians to coexist in peace. Doing so will join the United States in an international consensus against occupation. It is not that there is disagreement in the international community about occupation. In fact it is only the United States, Israel, and perhaps Micronesia, that continue to support UN resolutions against ending occupation. What we need to do then is stop funding it. US $6 billion of American taxpayer money continues to go towards funding Israel’s occupation of the Palestinians.

I can think of many better things that this money can be used for, including under-funded projects in our country health care, Medicare, and No Child Left Behind.

Another thing we can do through this policy is making Israel safer, and less exposed to violence. As even a Hamas leader said in 1999, when it looked like, perhaps peace might be around the corner, his prediction for the future, if there was a peace agreement made and a Palestinian state established, was that Hamas would be forced, that even Hamas would be forced to be working within the Palestinian community to building and establishing state, and building and establishing a society as independent and free and viable in the world. This is something that most Palestinians would be engaged in, and something that even Hamas recognized, would be the strategic imperative of the Palestinian people.

Finally, our policies must be designed to support the peace makers on the ground. I, as my work with the International Solidarity Movement, have proved, non-violent resistance, is an effective means of working against oppression, of working against occupation. We, however, the non-violent peace makers, are not supported by the United States government. The case of Rachel Corrie of course, is the most egregious, and the most documented case of where the United States government has completely failed its citizens and sent the completely wrong message to those who would choose non-violence over violence. The American government’s failure, including this Congress’s failure to call for an independent investigation into the death of Rachel Corrie, and expose those responsible for her killing have shown weakness, cowardice, and basic blindness to what is an ongoing policy to liquidate not just the terrorist who are running around, supposedly, but more importantly, people who are choosing non-violence, people who are not getting involved as measured by the thousands now, of Palestinian civilians who have been killed sometimes, as Khaled pointed out, just walking outside their homes, breaking curfew to get to the hospital.

The only responsible policy at this point for the United States and the American people is to call out loud and clear, to the American government to our policy makers, to say “bring down the wall, end the occupation, and support the peace makers.”

Thank you.

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