Saturday, October 06, 2007

Abu el-Haj: archaeology, scholarship - colonialism

Following a post on accusations of anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism, this post examines colonialism in Nadia Abu el-Haj's facts on the ground: archaeological practice and territorial self-fashioning in Israeli society and its critiques.

[Finally posted on the 28th of January 2008.]

Solomon and Anonymous A (2nd November 2006a) said that '[s]he vilifies Israel as an illegitimate, "colonial settler" enterprise'. Abu el-Haj never claimed that the Israeli state was illegitimate (or illegal); this claim was induced by the authors and would appear to be one of the kind of 'evidence-less charges... allegations without evidence' later decried by Anonymous A (30th November 2006a).

In the nearest she got to addressing this issue directly, Abu el-Haj (2002: 273) talked of post-Zionism as a
truly postnationalist... fully anticolonial.... vision of a polity and society that would parallel that of the postapartheid South African state, for example, that is, that Jews would live as a minority in a country whose population is mostly Palestinian.
Her critics may have a different vision of the Israeli polity and society and Abu el-Haj would be claiming that the structure of the Israeli state needed to change, but it would be unfair in the extreme to reduce Abu el-Haj's argument to a simple dismissal of the Israeli state as 'illegitimate', or one that, in Maeir's (September 2004) words, 'simply denies the right of Jewish national selfdetermination'.

Abu el-Haj's point, as discussed in the previous post on alleged anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism, was as Charles Glass pointed out: the establishment of Israel in what was then the Palestine Mandate necessitated practices including settlement, the establishment of separate (communal) institutions and opposition to 'representative [shared] government' or 'free [bicommunal] immigration'; moreover, that those practices and Israeli state policies since have created a situation Glass likens to 'apartheid'.

It was the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD, 6th January 2007) that sighed that:
Indeed, the very first act of the Israeli Occupation in 1967 was the demolition of hundreds of homes in the Old City of Jerusalem. On June 11th, as the Six Day War drew to its close, more than 135 Palestinian families were roused from their beds in the dead of night to watch in horror as Israeli bulldozers summarily destroyed their homes and the quarter’s two mosques. Hajja Rasmia Tabaki, an elderly Palestinian woman killed when her home in the Mughrabi Quarter was demolished on top of her, became the Occupation’s first victim.
The United Nations has branded Israel 'colonial', specifically for its 'illegal settlement campaign'. The United Nations Secretary-General (UNSG, 2002) observed that:
The Israeli occupation and the policies and practices executed by the occupying Power have been driven by an overriding and ongoing Israeli goal to actively colonize the Palestinian Territory, including Jerusalem, with a vast and continuously expanding colonial structure manifested in the form of illegal Israeli settlements.... its illegal settlement campaign, which is the only remaining colonial phenomenon in the world.
United Nations Commission on Human Rights Special Rapporteurs(1) - on concerns including, amongst others, health, education, housing, racism and violence against women - John Dugard et al (4th August 2005), held that:
The wall particularly violates freedom of movement, as well as the rights to adequate housing, food, family life, education and health. Furthermore, the wall violates important norms of international humanitarian law prohibiting the annexation of occupied territory, the establishment of settlements, the confiscation of private land and the forcible transfer of people.
The United Nations Security Council has also insisted upon: withdrawal from occupied territories(2); the invalidity of land expropriation(3); the invalidity of settlement(4)(5); and an end to population transfer and/or demographic change(6).

Furthermore, the United Nations Secretary-General(7), the United Nations Human Rights Council(8), Amnesty International(9) and Human Rights Watch(10) have all condemned the Israeli state's occupation and settlement of Palestinian territory, which violates the United Nations (1949) Fourth Geneva Convention(11).
  1. Those were
    • the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967,
    • the Special Rapporteur on adequate housing as a component of the right to an adequate standard of living,
    • the Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences,
    • the Special Rapporteur on the right to education,
    • the Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health,
    • the Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance,
    • the Chairperson, Rapporteur, Working Group on arbitrary detention and
    • the Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially in women and children.
  2. In article 1(i) of Resolution 242, the United Nations Security Council (UNSC, 1967) had required the '[w]ithdrawal of Israel armed forces from territories occupied in the recent conflict'.
  3. In article 2 of Resolution 252 (UNSC, 1968) it deemed 'all legislative and administrative measures and actions taken by Israel, including expropriation of land and properties thereon, which tend to change the legal status of Jerusalem are invalid and cannot change that status'.
  4. In article 1 of Resolution 446, it (UNSC, 1979) had determined that 'the policy and practices of Israel in establishing settlements in the Palestinian and other Arab territories occupied since 1967 have no legal validity'.
  5. In Resolution 465, the UNSC (1980) deplored 'the decision of the Government of Israel to officially support Israeli settlement in the Palestinian and other Arab territories occupied since 1967', in article 5 determined that 'Israel's policy and practices of settling parts of its population and new immigrants in those territories constitute a flagrant violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention' and, in article 7, called upon 'all States not to provide Israel with any assistance to be used specifically in connexion with settlements in the occupied territories'.
  6. In article 3 of Resolution 446, the UNSC (1979) had called upon,
    Israel, as the occupying Power, to abide scrupulously by the 1949 Fourth Geneva Convention, to rescind its previous measures and to desist from taking any action which would result in changing the legal status and geographical nature and materially affecting the demographic composition of the Arab territories occupied since 1967, including Jerusalem, and, in particular, not to transfer parts of its own civilian population into the occupied Arab territories.
  7. In a report on the social and economic consequences of Israeli settlement, the United Nations Secretary-General (UNSG, 1993) judged that,
    The building of settlements began immediately after the Six-Day War in 1967, with the first being established in the Syrian Golan. This policy has been developed more or less intensively since that time, and at an accelerated pace since the beginning of 1990. Massive Jewish immigration to Israel from the Commonwealth of Independent States, the countries of Eastern Europe and Ethiopia (approximately 407,000 during the period 1990-1992),2/ has led the Government to intensify the construction of housing in the territories of the West Bank (including East Jerusalem), the Gaza Strip and the Syrian Golan.
  8. In article 2(a) of a recent resolution on Israeli settlements, the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC, 2006) expressed 'grave concern' at:
    The continuing Israeli settlement and related activities, in violation of international law, including the expansion of settlements, the expropriation of land, the demolition of houses, the confiscation and destruction of property, the expulsion of Palestinians and the construction of bypass roads, which change the physical character and demographic composition of the occupied territories, including East Jerusalem and the Syrian Golan, and constitute a violation of the Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, of 12 August 1949, and in particular article 49 of that Convention.
  9. Amnesty International (AI, 23rd March 2005) identified the Palestinians as 'living under Israeli occupation' and labelled Israeli settlements 'unlawful' and Israel's partition wall 'illegal'. (It also decried the 'unlawful.... mass destruction' of Palestinians' homes and farms.)
  10. The Executive Director of the Middle East/North Africa Division of Human Rights Watch Sarah Lea Whitson (27th December 2005) stated that:
    The Israeli government's policy of encouraging, financing, establishing, and expanding Jewish-only settlements in the OPT [Occupied Palestinian Territories] violates two main principles of IHL [international humanitarian law]: the prohibition on the transfer of civilians from an occupying power's territory to the occupied territory, and the prohibition of creating permanent changes in the occupied territory that are not for the benefit of the occupied population....

    Even the Israeli government has now stated that the wall is not being built just for security purposes but also to establish its territorial claims on OPT land. On December 1, news reports quoted Tzipi Livni, the Israeli Minister of Justice, as saying that the future borders of Israel will roughly follow the route of the wall.
  11. Whitson (27th December 2005) quoted part of the Fourth Geneva Convention, in which the United Nations (UN, 1949) declared that, '[t]he Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies'.

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