“You can't have a bunch of little Bantustans or the whole West Bank chopped up into non-coherent, non-contiguous pieces and say this is an acceptable state.”
-- Colin Powell
During the celebrations of the 60th anniversary of D-Day, Colin Powell dropped what many considered a daring bombshell on the Israelis. In an interview with CNN, Powell used the “B” word – Bantustans. Perhaps we should be grateful for small favors. But the “B” word hardly begins to describe the horrible realities of the Israeli project to incarcerate entire Palestinians neighborhoods and villages.
The argument on what to call Sharon’s walls is infuriating. The Likudniks in Israel and America call them “fences”. And we all know that “good fences make good neighbors”. Who could possibly have a problem with that?
On the other side of the ideological fence, Palestinian partisans are outraged by what they call an “Apartheid Wall.” They too seem to be resorting to an unimaginative vocabulary that fails to convey the nature of these outrageous eighteen-foot concrete and barbed wire barriers. For starters, calling them an “Apartheid wall” sends the message that Israel is constructing a single contiguous barrier like the Berlin Wall designed only to separate Israel from the West Bank. In fact, Israel is building a whole series of walls to isolate Palestinian communities and convert them into open-air internment camps with single access gates. To visit the rest of the planet, camp residents will be obliged to pass through Israeli military checkpoints -- provided they have their papers in order.
Apartheid was about a “separate and unequal” division of land resources between racist whites and native Africans. Sharon’s wall is more about annihilation. Israel is constructing these obscene penal colonies to suffocate the indigenous people of the Holy Land and compel them to seek other residential quarters -- away from Palestine. These walled in claustrophobic enclaves can best be compared to the Warsaw ghetto or to concentration camps without the ovens.
Some anti-wall activists describe them as open-air jails. But that doesn’t quite ring true either. Because their population will be made up of entire extended families that include women, children, the elderly and the infirm. The only offence committed by the inmates is the crime of being Palestinians living under a land grabbing foreign occupation. A newborn baby will be handed the same life sentence as her grandmother. The residents are not being locked up for the purpose of rehabilitation but to allow Israelis to enforce the sort of quarantine that was inflicted upon medieval leper colonies.
Labeling these concentration centers Bantustans is also an exaggeration. In square footage, the tiniest Bantustan was infinitely more expansive than the largest of these Palestinian holding cells.
Besides, very few Americans raised a fuss about Bantustans. They were considered perfectly fine solutions by the likes of Jerry Falwell and George the Elder. The government of The United States did not recoil in horror at the prospect of segregating the indigenous Africans into Bantustans. Washington merely wanted to refine the concept through ‘constructive engagement’ with Pretoria. Who can forget the spectacle of CNN talking heads “engaged” in “constructive” debates about the pros and cons of establishing ‘independent’ land locked Zulu homelands.
Even today, the vast majority of Americans don’t have a clue about Bantustans. If Americans only knew that George Bush was financing Bantustans, they would still do nothing about it. Because all the fuss about ‘Bantustans’ is a conversation spoken in a foreign language as alien as Albanian.
The diabolical blue print that Sharon is using to disfigure the West Bank has very few historical precedents. In the process of confiscating native Palestinian land, Ariel “Qibya” Sharon is developing and pioneering the use of a very new and very advanced form of ethnic cleansing.
On “Sharon’s Devil Islands,” the inhabitants will never see a blue ocean and the enormous drab barriers will block the sea breeze. In that respect, even Papillon had a sweeter deal than the Palestinians.
These penal reservations where Israel intends to herd in the Palestinians deserve a special name - a word that reflects the indignity of being condemned by virtue of ethnicity to serve a life sentence in the shadow of vicious gray monuments to human cruelty. May I suggest Palitentiary, a combination of “Palestinian” and “Penitentiary”? Let us start using the “P” word instead of the “B” word to allow Americans to grasp the true dimensions of this war crime in progress.
Tear down the Palitentiary Walls, Mr. Powell. We need a policy of “destructive engagement” to remove every last inch of every single Palitentiary wall. Colin never said a word about Bantustans when it mattered. This is his opportunity to show a little decency and let Sharon and Israel understand in no uncertain terms that the world will not stand for a crime of this magnitude. Start using the ‘P’ word, Mr. Powell. And say it like you mean it, with an angry frown on your face.
Don’t hold your breath until Colin is comfortable enough to use the “P” word. If memory serves me right, this is the same Powell who was perfectly content to go along with “constructively engaging” the Apartheid regime.
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