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Editorial Article

Ben Gurion University - Oren Yiftachel (Dept. of  Geography) makes his bed with the Hamas

By Alon Ben Shaul
6.2.2009

The Jailed Academic

Beer-Sheba was hit by dozens of long range missile during the last military operation in Gaza, but its university is harboring some lectures that fully identify themselves with Hamas. One of them sees nothing wrong in the enemy's behavior and puts it down to a legitimate resistance akin to a mere prison rebellion. Iran can certainly say that it has an ambassador in Ben Gurion University.

Oren Yiftachel, of Ben Gurion University, like many Israeli Leftists, is in love with metaphors. It gives him the opportunity to compare Israel to the Apartheid regime that ruled South Africa until two decades ago. It also provides him with a perfect excuse to equate today's Israel to the old European colonialist powers that "used mass incarceration of indigenous groups…" Additionally, it helps to enhance his imagination, by making parallels between Israel and Chechnya, Kosovo, Kashmir, Darfur and the Tamil area of Sri Lanka. In short, Israel, like the oppressive regimes in these regions is a racist country, trying to get rid of unwanted populations by "applying methods of spatial containment and violent punishment".

And what inspired the geography scholar of Beer-Sheba University to write all this? The IDF's operation in Gaza. Not that he needed the operation to consolidate his views on the conflict, but it was yet another proof of what he sees as a policy of locking up the entire Palestinian population into a small designated strip. And true to tradition, like many of his fellow leftists in his campus he goes back to 1948. "Gaza", he wrote in the poisonous anti-Israeli Australian website newmatilda.com, has turned then "into an open-air jail "when over 150,000 Palestinian refugees were driven by Israel into the small region, joining its 60,000 previous residents. The refugees were never allowed to return to their lands and homes which were confiscated and destroyed". Yiftachel did not miss the irony of the "peace process" of the early 90's during which "the incarceration of Gaza intensified with a sequence of closures, movement restrictions and the construction in 1944 of a massive barrier around the strip".

Terrorism? The writer does trouble himself to admit that the shelling of Israeli civilians and suicide bombing of previous years were clear acts of terror. However, these very acts "gave legitimacy within Israeli society to carry out the incarceration policy". And his conclusion? The violence should also be perceived as a prison uprising, currently suppressed with terror by the Israeli state. In other words, Israel was the one to blame for making the Palestinians violent, but in fact, it is not violence as such, but a justified inevitable way to resist the oppressor. In that he is very much into his elements. It is not that the restrictions were imposed on the Gazans because they were violent. The restrictions made them rebel, as much as the barrier outraged them and pushed them into taking up arms. In his frame of mind the outcome was the reason, and the reason was the outcome.

Yiftachel's argument evolves around his favorite theme - Gaza is a prison and Israel is the jailer. For re-enforcing his thesis he will go to any length which includes fact bending, sins of omission, political prejudice, outright bias, historic inaccuracies and sheer ignorance.

In fact, in his line of thought, Israel would have liked to get rid of the Palestinian population all together, by applying methods of ethnic cleansing. Such an option was not possible because it has become "too embarrassing or unpopular". Instead, "much to the regret of racist regimes", it resorts to the other policy, that is of mass incarceration, "one of the main policy options left for colonial states aiming to dominate indigenous populations".

The author of this article would not refer to the Israeli decision to pull out of Gaza and if he does, he hints that the regimes in question "lost some of its ability to settle and control the land by other, softer, means..." In his twisted mind, he reaches the conclusion that if Israel had the choice, it would have rid itself of the local population in Gaza long ago. Since it can not do it any longer under the watchful eyes of the international community, it minimized its oppressive measures and instead of committing genocide, it turned Gaza into the biggest prison on earth.

Yiftachel made a career out of advancing the idea that Israel is championing a "creeping Apartheid" against the Bedouin population of the Negev district. His article made it clear that he opposes the idea of Israel's existence as a Jewish state, by lamenting the fact that the Palestinian refugees were not allowed back in 1948. "Since its establishment", he keeps writing, "Israel's ethnocratic regime has worked incessantly to Judaise the country by confiscating Palestinian lands…".   Such a policy continued during the "Oslo process". Israel fenced off the Bedouins, the Gazans, the West Bankers and until 1966, the Green Line Arabs. Israel is setting an industry of creating "prisons within prisons".

Abu Mazen? – Just a collaborator

It would be over demanding to expect this professor of Geography to exercise some integrity. No wonder he refrains from stating facts that can turn his arguments ups and downs. He does not, for instance, mention the fact that until Gaza turned into Hamastan, ten of thousands of Arabs were allowed to work inside Israel. Nor does he bother to remind us that until the era of suicide bombings, there were no borders between Israel and the territories and every Palestinian could have come and go as he pleased.

But Yiftachel, without any equivocations, identified himself with Hamas and its endgame aims. He justified Hamas leadership’s rejection of never accepting the "Oslo illusion" or the promise of "two states for two people" enshrined in the "roadmap" or the "Annapolis process". He does not hesitate to put himself in Hamas' shoes and blindly parrot the rants of this Iran's proxy. "They have realized", he argues, "that the promise has become an empty rhetoric which enables the ongoing colonization of their lands". And there is an economic reason behind it all. The Jews are profiting from their incarceration policy since it is part of a system of "protecting economic privileges". To put boldly, the Israelis place the Palestinians behind bars and in the process they are making money.

But the punch line of the professor is yet to come. He points out at the fact that the recent operation in Gaza has been launched and backed by two outgoing Governments in Jerusalem and Washington against a "democratically elected Government". Here Yiftachel excels himself by arguing that Israel and the USA had no legitimacy to attack Hamas because their administrations were at their "dying days", while the regime in Gaza enjoys popular and legal acceptability. And what does the world do, he cried out, "…it imposed sanctions on the Hamas Government", and by doing so it "punished the occupied twice: once by the brutal occupation and a second time for attempting to resist".

The lecturer from Ben-Gurion University does not stop here in throwing himself at Hamas' feet. He denounces Abu Mazen as a collaborator with the Israeli regime against the true Palestinian resisters. In that jail he sees the rebellion erupting, but the colonial prison authorities would always find the ultimate traitors amongst the prisoners in order to quell the rebellion. That is the regime in the West Bank that helps the oppressor to maintain its incarceration, while the true leaders of their people are likely to be "oppressed and often eliminated".

To conclude, Yiftachel advises us to read the poetry of Mahmoud Drawish, but he warns us that jailing of the other side can not give us security, as we live now "on borrowed time".

Yiftachel certainly proves that he is still jailed in his own concepts.

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Op-Ed articles appearing on IsraCampus.Org.il are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the opinion of IsraCampus.Org.il