VILLAGE LEAGUES
Nizar Sakhnini, Toronto,
28 December 1999

PROLOGUE:

A replication of the mass ethnic cleansing operations that took place in the
areas occupied by Israel in 1948 was not easily attainable in 1967.  One of
the reasons was that the entire world was watching.  Nevertheless, direct
and indirect efforts were made to expel the Palestinians from the West Bank
and Gaza. These efforts displaced more than 250,000 new Palestinian refugees
but most of the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza stayed put and held
firm to their homes and lands.

What to do with the Palestinian Arabs under Israeli occupation represented a
problem for Israel.  Granting them Israeli citizenship will defeat the
Zionist goal of an "Exclusive Jewish state".  Deportations, oppression and
human rights violations will backfire.  Israel had to find a way to control
the Palestinians under occupation in such a way as to avoid international
criticism and keep the image of a democratic state.

A number of plans were introduced by the different Israeli Governments to
keep their control over the newly occupied areas in defiance to the UN
resolutions and in violation of international law and human rights
conventions.

ALLON PLAN:

Israeli Deputy Prime Minister, Yigal Allon, proposed a plan in July 1967,
which formed an outline for a peace settlement.  Any Israeli government did
not officially adopt the plan.  Nevertheless, it formed a guideline for
those Israelis who favored a "land for peace" approach during the first
decade of the occupation.

Allon plan called for annexation of about one third of the territories
occupied during the 1967 war in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip in addition
to Jerusalem as well as the Golan Heights.  The plan also called for an
Israeli security belt of 10 - 15 kilometers wide running the length of the
Jordan Rift.  A corridor would cut through the zone of Israeli control to
connect the remainder of the West Bank with the East Bank.   Allon proposed
that in the portion of the Gaza Strip to be annexed by Israel the sizeable
Palestinian refugee population "should be settled in the West Bank or
al-Arish district" which would be returned to Egypt.  Israel would keep the
lush citrus-growing area of Gaza, which would be settled by Jews.  Only the
urban center of Gaza City and its port might be made available for Arab use.

The area along the River Jordan, which Allon wanted to use as an Israeli
security belt, is one of the most lucrative and productive agricultural
regions in the country.  Most of its inhabitants were forcibly evicted
during the 1967 war.  The Israelis did not allow any of them to return in
their token repatriation program, and they are still careful not to allow
any of the Jordan Valley property owners to return across the Allenby
Bridge, where Israeli customs officers keep checklists of their names.
Allon's plan was the result of premeditated and pre-designed plans prepared
well before the 1967 war.

BEGIN'S AUTONOMY PLAN:

New elections were held for the 9th Knesset in Israel on 17 May 1977. The
victorious Likud leader, Menachem Begin, became Prime Minister. In a press
conference early in the morning of 18 May, Begin announced that he would
invite President Sadat of Egypt, Assad of Syria and King Hussein to "come
and start with us together...face-to-face, direct negotiations to sign peace
treaties between their states and Israel without any prior conditions".
When asked about the OPT, he snapped at a journalist: "What occupied
territories?  If you mean Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip, they are
liberated territories.  They are part, an integral part, of the Land of
Israel".

Following the Sadat visit to Jerusalem, Begin proposed an autonomy plan for
the Palestinians, which was integrated into the Camp David Accords.  The
plan called for the election by the Palestinian population of 'the
territories' of an eleven-member administrative council that would run
departments of education, transportation, construction, health and numerous
other services.  A "reasonable volume" of Palestinians would be allowed to
return to the West Bank and Gaza.  Residents of "the territories" could
obtain Israeli citizenship or keep their Jordanian nationality.  The IDF
would be responsible for "security and public order", and Israelis would be
allowed to purchase land and settle the West Bank and Gaza.  Begin left open
the question of sovereignty, but told the Knesset that: "We do not even
dream of turning the territories over to the PLO", which he described as
"history's meanest murder organization except for the armed Nazi
organization".  Begin added, "Whoever desires an agreement with us should
please accept our announcement that the IDF will be deployed in Judea,
Samaria and Gaza".

No self-respecting Palestinian could accept an autonomy plan designed to
perpetuate occupation.  On 2 Nov. 1978, the Jerusalem Post quoted the
Palestinian journalist Ziyad Abu Ziyad: "The autonomy of Camp David is not
real autonomy because the international definition of autonomy includes
territory as well as population.  Israel claims that it applies only to the
inhabitants and not to the land.  They speak of constructing settlements as
though the land belongs to them".  On 29 October, Arafat told the Guardian:
"What they are now offering the Palestinian people at Camp David is a new
slavery.  The difference between Begin's original plan [of December 1977]
and Camp David is essentially cosmetic".

SHARON'S PLANS:

Ariel Sharon had helped create the Likud block in 1973.  Believing that the
Likud was "too moderate", Sharon left two years later.  In the 1977
elections, he headed the "Shlom Zion" faction, which gained two seats.
Begin included Sharon in his government as Minister of Agriculture to
prevent him from leading an opposition movement.  Sharon's attitude towards
the Palestinians offered little hope for compromise.  He was quoted as
saying that any Palestinian "who [did] not want to live in Israel as it is,
well, he can sell his property and receive its full price and leave the
country".

In September 1977, Sharon outlined his proposal to settle the occupied
territories.  He predicted the settlement of a million Jews in the West Bank
within twenty years. According to this plan, two highways would be built in
order to connect Israel's coastal plain to the "Samarian" settlements and to
the Jordan valley in order to disrupt the continuity between Arab population
centers.

Sharon's conception of a vast Jewish colonization of the West Bank was
embodied in the 1978 "Master Plan for the Development of Settlement in Judea
and Samaria" prepared by Mattiyahu Drobles, co-Chairman of the Settlement
Department of the WZO.  This plan reflected Gush Emunim's intention that
Israel should eventually annex the occupied territories.  Both Sharon and
Drobles believed that Jewish colonization could be used as an instrument of
"demographic transformation" that would change the ethnic character of the
occupied territories.

COLONIZATION:

Efforts to put these Zionist plans into action started from day one of
occupation.  The same laws used in the areas occupied in 1948 were applied
following the 1967 War.  The "Absentees Property Law", the "Land Requisition
Law", and "Emergency Regulations" were used to confiscate Palestinian Arab
lands in the newly conquered territories.

For ten years following the occupation in 1967, the Labor government pursued
a settlement program that was consistent with the "Allon Plan".  It
consisted of an effort to cut Jerusalem off from the rest of the West Bank
by creating Jewish suburbs surrounding Arab East Jerusalem.

Building of Jewish settlements started in 1970 when Gush Emunim built Kiryat
Arba near Hebron. Ever since, they pressured every Israeli Prime Minister to
finance many new settlements in the OPT so as to secure Jewish control of
the newly occupied areas.  Consequently, more settlements and bypass roads
connecting these settlements with Israel proper continued to be built on
expropriated Arab lands ever since in spite of all the illusions of peace.

Allon was entirely supportive of the religious settlers in the occupied
territories.  When they complained about his "peace plan", Allon told them:
"Jews have to be smart.  No Arab will ever accept this plan".  With Allon's
help the settlement of religious Jews at Kiryat Arba near Hebron and other
settlements were established.  Speaking at a Kibbutz meeting on 17 April
1968, Allon, announced: "We must settle wherever possible in accordance with
Israel's defence and security needs and the future of its borders.... The
Jordan valley and the range of mountains are needed for our security.  We
cannot yield on this point even if there is no peace".

The Israeli governments, whether under Labor or the Likud, have made it
plain that no matter what it takes the settlements will never be abandoned.
At the opening of a new settlement on 10 Oct. 1982 the Minister of Energy,
Mordechai Sippori, indicated why the Israeli government supported
colonization of the OPT.  He said, "The continuation of settlement is the
backbone of the Zionist movement in the West Bank and it is the only means
to defeat any peace initiative which is intended to bring foreign rule to
Judea and Samaria".  On another occasion Haim Korfu, Minister of
Transportation, told a gathering: "The settlements are a guarantee against
the Palestinian State of those who hate us".

Israeli policies, especially the establishment of Jewish settlements on
confiscated Palestinian lands was doomed to face strong resistance and
confrontation with the Palestinians.  To suppress this resistance, on the
one hand, and in order to give their policies a pretense of legality, on the
other hand, the Israeli Government planned to create an acquiescent
Palestinian leadership with whom an agreement "legalizing" Israeli control
could be concluded.

In August 1981, Ariel Sharon was appointed as Defence Minister and,
consequently, became the de facto administrator of the occupied territories.
He came to office with a detailed program to exploit the autonomy concept in
such a way as to give the appearance of moderation while securing greater
control for Israel over the occupied territories.  His first step toward
implementing his program was the appointment of Menachem Milson as head of a
new "civilian administration" in the military government, which was designed
to implement the Israeli concept of the autonomy plan contemplated in the
Camp David Accords.  Milson assumed office on 1 November 1981 and believed
that a class of collaborators in the "territories" could be developed who
would participate in the autonomy talks planned at Camp David.

Milson assumed that 70% of the population in the West Bank who did not live
in the main towns but in the small villages were more parochial,
conservative, less politicized and easier to manipulate.  He approached
Mustafa Dudin of Hebron to organize the rural population in "Village
 Leagues" who would, it was hoped, accept de facto annexation of the West
Bank under the cover of civil administration and autonomy.

Dudin served the British rulers of his country as an officer in the
Palestine Police in 1944.  The following year he switched allegiance when he
entered the employ of the Egyptian government where he remained for twenty
years.  In 1965 he left Egypt to serve King Hussein of Jordan whom he served
in various capacities including head of the National Arab Union party and
Ambassador to Kuwait.  When his brother was sentenced in absentia to a
five-year term for theft, Dudin left Jordan and came back to his village in
the West Bank, Dura.  The Israelis recruited him as head of the Hebron
district Village League.

Some of the Village League members had exceedingly shady criminal
backgrounds.  The traditional village notables and the rural intelligentsia
refused to join an organization, which had the declared aim of combating
Palestinian nationalism.  The Palestinians supported the PLO and their
refusal to accept Village Leagues led to its failure.  Sharon decided to use
other measures to counter the influence of the PLO and force the
Palestinians to accept autonomy.  He outlawed the National Guidance Council
Committee (NGCC) which was established in 1978.  The NGCC had led the
campaign against the civilian administration and the Village Leagues. Sharon
also dismissed the mayors of Al-Birah, Nablus, Hebron, Jenin and Ramallah
because they declined to have a meeting with Menachem Milson, head of the
civilian administration, which they refused to recognize.  These mayors had
gained their positions in the Israeli-run elections of 1976.  To justify the
dismissal of democratically elected Palestinian officials, Milson claimed on
26 March that the 1976 elections "were not democratic elections, these were
elections held under terrorism, intimidation, bribery...".

None of the measures used by the Israelis helped to weaken support for the
PLO in the occupied territories or to gain support for the Village League
puppets.  Sharon had been dealt another blow on 9 March 1982 when the
Jordanian government announced that all those who were members of the League
were traitors.

Sharon concluded that the only way to destroy the will of the Palestinians
on the West Bank was to strike at the heart of the PLO in Beirut.  This was
one of the major objectives of the military operation "Peace for Galilee"
against Lebanon in early June 1982.  He believed the destruction of the PLO
in Lebanon would break the resistance of the West Bank Palestinians to the
Village Leagues and Israeli-style autonomy.  He also hoped that if the PLO
was ousted from Lebanon, it could be induced to take over Jordan, which
would become the Palestinian State.

On 24 October 1982, Sharon met with Colonel Yigal Karmon, the new head of
the West Bank civilian administration, and agreed that the Village Leagues
would receive "massive support".  Their efforts to invigorate the Village
League were hopeless.  The Village Leagues began to disintegrate in 1983 and
some of the League leaders announced their opposition to the Jewish
settlements in the West Bank and their support for a Palestinian state.  The
Hebron League lingered on until its head disbanded it in February 1988 after
the outbreak of the Intifada.

(A detailed documented account of the ethnic cleansing efforts made during
the 1967 war is presented in Michael Palumbo's book: "Imperial Israel: The
History of the Occupation of the West Bank and Gaza.  London: Bloomsbury
Publishing Ltd., 1990".  All the above information and quotations were taken
from "Imperial Israel, pp. 61-80, 131-192.  See also Noam Chomsky, The
Fateful Triangle: the United States, Israel and the Palestinians.
Montreal: Black Rose Books, 1984 which highlights the relationship between
the 1982 War and enhancing Israeli control in the Palestinian areas occupied
in 1967)

OSLO AND ITS AFTERMATH:

The Intifada made it clear to the whole world that occupation and oppression
and violation of human rights could not go on forever.  The Israeli tanks
and all its military might was powerless and failed to stop the Palestinian
cry for freedom. The Zionist leadership wanted a tool for silencing the
Intifada, which revealed the ugly face of the oppressive occupation and
gained the support of world wide public opinion for the just Palestinian
struggle to exercise their inalienable human rights.   They were looking to
find a way out without abandoning the Zionist goal of keeping the area under
their control.

Following the disintegration of the USSR and the invasion of Kuwait with all
its tragic consequences, the PLO leadership in Tunis found itself in a
desperate situation and was looking for a way out.

Accordingly, secret negotiations were made and the surprising Oslo agreement
came into being. Oslo was doomed for failure.  It was not meant to offer a
resolution to the Zionist-Arab conflict.

Continued confiscation of Palestinian lands to build new Jewish settlements
in the OPT was inconsistent with the peace negotiations that followed the
Madrid Peace Conference in 1991.  Such policies make it clear that the
Zionists are continuing their plans to implement their strategic Zionist
goal of building an Exclusive Jewish State in an unspecified area in and
around Palestine by stealing more Arab lands, bringing new Jewish
immigrants, and "transferring" the Palestinians outside the Jewish State.
The "peace Process" was used as a cover for such plans.

Would the so-called "Final Status" negotiations lead to a real peace
agreement or to a perpetuation of the present status quo that would lead to
a new explosion?  One does not have to speculate any more.  The following
weeks are decisive in this respect.  Let's keep an open eye on what's going
on.