Having just recently begun my first ever text by Edward Said (forgive me — I’ll explain in a later post), I have to pause every few minutes to ruminate about what I’ve just read. The text is so rich and carefully crafted and the message sinks into your mind so sweetly, bringing with it an imagery that feels all to real. Within the first three dozen pages of After the Last Sky: Palestinian Lives, I followed him into the Baddawi refugee camp in 1980s Lebanon and into a lonely home in Haifa not long after. It is a book about Palestinian identity — a topic that stirs my deepest of thoughts — and it is written powerfully and with pain.
On the twentieth page of After the Last Sky, Said introduces a quote that adds weight to the pain and that also quantifiably reaffirms what he calls a Zionist master plan. Quoting ex-deputy mayor of Jerusalem Meron Benvenisti on what dictates Israel’s settlement policy,
“The criteria established to determine priorities of settlement regions are ‘interconnection [havirah] between existing Jewish areas for the creation of [Jewish] settlement continuity’ and ‘separation [hayitz] to restrict uncontrolled Arab settlement and the prevention of Arab settlement blocs’; ‘scarcity [hesech] refers to areas devoid of Jewish settlement.’ In these criteria ‘pure planning and political planning elements are included.'”
(The West Bank Data Project: A Survey of Israeli Policies, 1984)
The quote is pulled from Benvenisti’s published documentation of Israel’s expansionist practices up until the early 1980s.
Said commented on this disturbing reality. “Continuity for them, the dominant population; discontinuity for us, the dispossessed and dispersed.” Palestinians are to be restricted, confined, and controlled. The land is to be considered impure, barren, and even empty so long as a Jewish Israeli settlement hasn’t cleansed the ground of any tangible remnants of the indigenous population. Palestinians are to be forcibly distanced so that after the loss of direct communication, the populations lose one another. Common interests are lost. Out of sight, out of mind. Divide and conquer. In their wake, new settlements are built to thrive.
In essence, the whole purpose of the Zionist project, reality has shown us, is to deliberately displace Palestinians — but only if eliminating them is no longer an option.