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Creating the Palestinian Ghetto
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6. Creating the Palestinian Ghetto

Just prior to the first Israeli-Arab war, Zionist leader David Ben Gurion warned against extending citizenship to Palestinians slated to live in the new, UN-designated Jewish state. Citizenship for the new state's Arab community, Ben Gurion believed, would mean that in wartime, "it would only be possible to imprison [the Palestinians]," rather than to expel them.[1] When fighting erupted soon after, the relevance of his comments became clear, as Jewish troops participated in the often forced removal of some 750,000 Palestinians over international borders in a campaign that today would be termed ethnic cleansing. By 1949, only 150,000 Palestinians remained in the fledgling Jewish state.[2]

During the 1967 war, however, Israeli forces chose a different path. Although as many as 300,000 Palestinians left the West Bank or were deported during or immediately after the fighting, most stayed put. Israel did not offer them citizenship, but it did issue official identity cards and register them as wards of the Israeli military. As Ben Gurion had feared in the late 1940s, this inadvertently hardwired Palestinians into the Israeli state and bureaucracy, constraining the country's options for removing them. Israel had never intended to grant Palestinians a protected niche, using the identity cards and other methods of surveillance as techniques of domination and control.[3] By spinning a powerful web of infrastructural power to control Palestinian territory and population, however, Israel unwittingly transformed Palestinians into semi-protected, quasi-members of the polity.



After the 1967 war, Israel's overriding political concern was to balance its desire for more Palestinian land with the unwelcome presence of actual Palestinians Groping for a solution, officials devised plans for a Palestinian "enclave," "self-governing region," "autonomous area," or even "mini-state." The details of each scheme were different, but they shared the goal of gaining as much Palestinian land with as few Palestinians as possible. As Israel searched for a solution, some politicians recognized the risks involved in creating a permanent Palestinian enclave in the West Bank surrounded by Israeli settlers and troops. In 1967, for example, one cabinet minister protested, "We can't say that it [the West Bank] is all ours, and that in the middle we are going to make a ghetto for 1 million Arabs, informing them, ‘do as we tell you.’" Or as another minister warned, international anti-colonial sentiment was such that it was impossible to create "a piece of territory inhabited mostly by Arabs whose security and foreign relations we control." Who, the minister asked incredulously, would tolerate such a colonial anachronism?[4] For the most part, however, Israeli leaders pushed these dilemmas aside, avoiding substantive discussion of the contradiction between land and population. By the late 1970s, observers began to speak of Israel's "creeping annexation" of Palestinian lands and by the mid-1980s, a generation of Jewish-Israelis had grown up assuming that the West Bank and Gaza were integral parts of Israel. A subordinate Palestinian enclave had become reality, although it was never officially acknowledged as such by either Jewish or Palestinian political elites.

From 1967 to 1987, Israel consolidated its infrastructural regime of power over Palestine by sealing the enclave's external borders, crushing internal armed resistance, rationalizing its mechanisms of control, and integrating its economy.

Sealing the Ghetto's Borders

As the Kosovo case made clear, an area's effective transformation into a ghetto-like enclave requires that its borders be effectively controlled by the dominant state. Shortly after the 1967 occupation, Israel realized it could not properly control the West Bank unless it had sealed its boundaries. Palestinian guerrillas, like their Kosova Liberation Army counterparts years later, understood this fact all too well. If the guerrillas could not maintain a physical link to the homeland, their credibility and effectiveness

would be imperiled.[5] Palestinian fighters chose to try to penetrate the West Bank's border with Jordan because of that country's substantial Palestinian refugee population and the length of the boundary. The largest Palestinian guerrilla group, Fatah, was the first to launch cross-border raids, and its (modest) battlefield success near the border town of Karameh provided it with thousands of new recruits, prompting other Palestinian groups to mount their own cross-border infiltration efforts.[6]

To a significant extent, Palestinian guerrillas modeled their cross-border efforts on the experiences of Algerian and Vietnamese guerrillas.[7] Jordan, in this view, was to become a North Vietnam-style rear base, while the West Bank was to be the "South Vietnam" battlefield. In those years, Palestinians often situated their struggle within the larger global anti-colonial and anti-Western movement. The 1969 Fatah mission statement, for example, noted that the "struggle of the Palestinian people, like that of the Vietnamese … and other peoples of Asia, Africa and Latin America, is part of the historic process of the liberation of the oppressed peoples from colonialism and imperialism."[8] The Algerian example was of particular relevance, as Algeria had just won independence from French colonial rule, and cross-border efforts had been integral to the process.[9] Algerian leaders, moreover, played a key role in promoting the creation of the Palestine Liberation Organization in 1964.[10] The Vietnam war was still ongoing during Fatah's early years, and cross-border infiltration was a crucial theme there as well. Drawing on these experiences, Palestinian guerrillas hoped to mount a similar effort along the Jordanian border, slipping across the valley floor, hiking up through Israeli-controlled foothills, and then joining armed supporters in the West Bank highlands.

Israel launched a vigorous border patrol effort, destroying Palestinian border villages, laying minefields, building fences, plowing tracking roads, and laying ambushes.[11] It was aided by the terrain, which was not conducive to guerrilla infiltration. As one British journalist noted, "The West Bank is not Vietnam," since its mountains "are empty and stony. Movement is easy to spot and control. Crossing the river Jordan, infiltrators have to climb out of the deep valley, to labor up rocky slopes carrying heavy arms and equipment."[12] Equally debilitating were political complications. Jordan eventually proved inhospitable, as the monarchy was eager to maintain good relations with the United States, Britain, and even Israel.[13] In 1970–71 Jordanian troops moved against the guerrillas, forcing them flee to Lebanon in a series of events known to Palestinians

as "Black September."[14] Thereafter, Israel and Jordan worked jointly, if unofficially, to patrol their shared boundary, effectively sealing the West Bank off from external guerrillas. Shlomo Gazit, then a senior Israeli military officer in the West Bank, noted that "if not for this [Israeli] success in sealing the borders—i.e., had terrorists been able to infiltrate arms past the borders, or had terrorist bands been able to penetrate and establish themselves inside the territories—then internal security problems would most certainly have been of an entirely different nature."[15] And, he might have added, the Palestinian ghetto would never have emerged.

Suppressing Internal Armed Resistance

At the same time, Israeli forces were vigorously stamping out military challenges within the Palestinian enclave itself. As Serbia discovered in Kosovo during 1998, a state cannot legitimately claim a monopoly over organized violence if it loses empirical sovereignty. After 1967, therefore, Israeli attempts to suppress armed Palestinian resistance from within the West Bank and Gaza became crucial to the Israeli control efforts, as well as becoming a vital way station on the road to Palestinian ghetto formation.

In summer 1967, Fatah leader Yasser Arafat infiltrated the West Bank, hoping to organize an internal armed insurgency. Arafat and his colleagues traveled the West Bank for months, and although they did recruit some willing supporters, their campaign largely failed.[16] Local Palestinian elites feared Israeli and Jordanian reprisals, and the guerrillas' support within the broader Arab world was weak. Israel's counterinsurgency apparatus, led by its internal security services (known then as the Shin Bet, or Sherutei Bitachon), was also tremendously effective. Together, these factors militated against a successful armed insurgency, and by 1971, Israel had effectively eliminated all serious external and internal armed challenges to its rule, wedging the Palestinian enclave firmly within its walls. As Black and Morris explain,

[Israel's] sealing of the border with Jordan meant that the West Bank was almost completely cut off from the outside world; its population—a large part of the Palestinian people—isolated and controlled by their occupier. There were no "no-go" areas for the Israelis, no "liberated zones" where resistance could flourish.… This [Israeli] success prevented the Palestinians from launching a people's war at the very moment that their ideology required it.


As a result, they note, the Palestinian occupied territories "never became Algeria or Vietnam."[17] Although these models had originally inspired the Palestinian guerrilla movement, circumstances militated against their Middle Eastern application. Israel had cut Palestine off from the outside world and Palestinian insurgents were unable to mount an effective armed challenge from within. The West Bank and Gaza were not formally part of Israel; increasingly, however, they were being drawn into the state as subordinate members of the Israeli polity.

Rationalizing Israel's Control Mechanisms

Israeli military and civilian agencies also cast a tightly woven administrative web across the West Bank and Gaza, setting up a centralized hierarchy of commands and responsibilities and incorporating the region into Israel's bureaucracy.[18] This rationalization of control was a key source of Israel's growing levels of infrastructural power in Palestine. As a first step, Israeli forces established a grid of regional jurisdictions, leaving no corner of the West Bank and Gaza without a military commander. In 1981, the army placed the West Bank under the military's Central Command and folded Gaza into the southern equivalent, merging Palestine into the army's administrative framework for Israel proper. More importantly, the government extended the authority of Israel's civilian ministries to Palestine soon after the occupation began. "Once the territories had been occupied," Gazit explains, "there was no point in establishing a separate machinery alongside the regular civilian administration of Israel's government ministries … it was both necessary and desirable that one control center should direct … activity in Israel and the territories … any separation … would have created thorny problems of coordination."[19] Thus, for example, the Israeli ministry of health took responsibility for Palestinian hospitals, while the ministry of internal affairs issued Palestinians identity cards and travel documents. Formally, Israel's civilian bureaucrats worked in Palestine only through the military command, but in practice, Israel was developing a new militarycivilian hybrid tying Palestine to Israel's civilian bureaucracy.

Bureaucratic incorporation was matched by the military government's urge to enumerate, monitor, and survey as many Palestinian objects as possible. In 1970, for example, the military published an exquisitely detailed report on the Palestinian economy and population, listing the precise number of licensed carpenters, printing presses, fire trucks, and water wells.[20] The report even made detailed inventories of

Palestinian workshops for cement, furniture, cigarettes, soap, metals, olive products, and sweets.[21] Nothing was too small to count, and no object was too minor to register. Perhaps most significant in this respect was the state's registration of the Palestinian population itself and its creation of detailed document-verification procedures.[22] Each Palestinian received a numbered card from the state that had to be carried at all times, facilitating the military's ability to track dissidents and rebels.

Israeli administrative control soon became a double-edged sword, however, since by inscribing Palestinian lives and assets into Israel's bureaucratic registries, those entities were transformed into objects of state responsibility. As Israeli leader Ben Gurion had warned in 1947, Israel's decision to issue identity papers to Palestinians eventually served as a constraint on Israeli policy. Identity papers did not entitle Palestinians to political rights within Israel, but they did create a bureaucratic status that would, eventually, be transformed into a diluted form of polity membership. If a Palestinian disappeared, the authorities could not deny his or her existence, since that person was registered with the ministry of interior; villages or property could not be destroyed at will, since they had been given an official bureaucratic niche, and by counting, registering, and controlling them, Israel had assumed a modicum of moral and legal responsibility for their fate.

Israel's imposition of an elaborate "law-and-order" structure in Palestine was another key mechanism for rationalizing state power. Immediately upon seizing the West Bank and Gaza in 1967, for example, the military proclaimed that "the Israel Defense Forces have today entered this area and assumed responsibility for security and maintenance of public order."[23] Soon after, Israeli civilian police were deployed into the area, inserting Israeli officers over local Palestinian personnel.[24] The military's legal division generated comprehensive laws regulating most aspects of Palestinian life, and by 1992, the authorities had issued over 1,300 new laws and regulations.[25] Some of those laws were entirely appropriate to Palestine's status as occupied military territory, but others seem to have been driven by an urge to rationalize, control, and administer. The first category includes Order #329, which defined the term "infiltrator," and Order #1099, which specified the powers of Israeli prison guards. The second, more intrusive category includes Order #306, which determined the number of Palestinian sheep-grazing permits, and Order #1147, which specified the military permits Palestinian vegetable growers were required to obtain.

Legal scholars debated the precise status of the occupied territories

and Israel's rights and obligations as an occupying power.[26] Israeli representatives, for example, rejected the applicability of the Geneva Conventions to the West Bank and Gaza, arguing that sovereignty had been disputed prior to 1967, and that the territories were therefore "administered" lands whose political status was to be determined. Palestinian and international scholars disputed this interpretation, regarding it as justification for colonization and annexation. Another debate focused on the jurisdiction and fairness of the Israeli Supreme Court. Israel's defenders highlighted the court's rulings against Israeli military actions as evidence of Israel's respect for legality, while critics noted that the judges rarely argued with the military on any point of substance, suggesting that the court's main job was to legitimize Israeli rule.

Regardless of their merits, these debates obscured a broader institutional point. Israel had acknowledged its legal responsibility for events in Palestine, informing domestic and international audiences that the region was under its empirical and juridical sovereignty. As the Israeli human rights group B'Tselem pointed out, "Since 1967, the IDF [Israeli military] has borne overall responsibility for maintaining law and order in the [occupied] Territories. International law obligates, therefore, the IDF to protect the life, person, and property of all Palestinians under its control."[27] Had the region been constituted as a frontier, Israeli officials would not have been obliged to accept responsibility for it. Palestinian interests were subordinated to those of Israel, but Jewish domination was enacted through public laws, regulations, and administrative decisions. Palestinian subordination was "lawfully" conducted in full public view, presenting a very different model than that of Bosnia, where non-Serbs were assaulted by clandestine, irregular militias operating through illegal channels.

Integrating the Ghetto Economy

After 1967, Israeli increasingly folded the Palestinian economy into that of Israel, transforming the West Bank and Gaza into dependent, laborexporting enclaves. The first steps were taken soon after the war, primarily at the instigation of the then-Israeli defense minister, Moshe Dayan, who issued permits to Palestinians seeking work in Israel. Dayan's plan was to stabilize the occupation and provide the military with tools to punish Palestinians should they choose to rebel. "If Hebron's electricity grid comes from our [Israeli] central grid and we are able to pull the plug and thus cut them off," Dayan once explained, "this

is clearly better than a thousand curfews and riot-dispersals."[28] In 1983, that vision became reality when Palestinian municipalities were hooked up to the Israeli telephone and electricity systems.[29] When the Intifada began in late 1987, Israeli control over these and other essential services proved crucial.

As former West Bank military officer Shlomo Gazit acknowledged, Israel guided the process of economic integration to maximize benefits for Jewish economic and political interests. "Political considerations" led government ministers "to prefer … the Israeli economy over the needs of the territories," he wrote, and ministers were reluctant to "subordinate, even in the slightest, Israeli (perhaps even Jewish) economic interests for the good of the Arabs living in the territories." The Israeli government did so because it recognized that "its electorate lay entirely" within Israel.[30] Palestinians were drawn into Israel's economy, but only at its bottommost rungs. Some Palestinian enterprises competing with Israelis were denied permits, while others were driven out of business entirely by state-subsidized Jewish industries. As the two economies drew closer together, the effects of unequal competition proved increasingly prejudicial to Palestinian self-sufficiency.[31]

One of the most dramatic consequences was a marked shift in Palestinian employment patterns. In 1982, some 75,000 Palestinians worked for Jewish employers, but by the late 1980s, the number was closer to 100,000, representing almost 30 percent of the Palestinian labor force. "Non-citizen" Arabs, according to two Israeli sociologists, had become the "hewers of wood and the drawers of water" for the Jewish economy, performing the lowest paid, most physically taxing, and least intellectually demanding jobs. Palestinian occupational segregation was "extreme," they said, noting that Palestinians were dramatically "overrepresented at the bottom of the occupational ladder and underrepresented in the higher-status occupations."[32] With few legal rights, Palestinians were non-unionized and open to Jewish exploitation. "Non-citizen Arabs" were "placed at the end of the job queue, … [tended] to hold the least desirable jobs … [and found] work conditions even less negotiable than other subordinate groups," largely due to their "unique legal and political status" as non-citizen wards of Israel.[33] Although some Palestinians initially benefited from Israeli jobs, the economy as a whole developed a long-term and ultimately debilitating dependency.[34] When times turned bad, Palestinian laborers found themselves at the mercy of Israeli employers, border patrols, and economic cycles, while Jewish businessmen found alternative sources of cheap and compliant labor. By 1987, the

West Bank and Gaza had become almost "fully integrated ‘provinces’ of the Israeli economy," according to an Israeli economic team.[35]

Israel's efforts to consolidate its control had locked Palestine securely within the confines of the state. Its borders were sealed, its internal insurgents were crushed, and its bureaucratic, legal, and economic infrastructures were closely tied to those of Israel. Palestine might yet have wrenched itself from ghetto status had it succeeded in convincing Western powers and international institutions to support its cause. If NATO and the UN had behaved with Israel as they had with Serbia, threatening sanctions if Israel did not withdraw, things might have turned out differently. International forces did not pursue this course, however, despite some sympathy for the Palestinian cause and intense Palestinian diplomatic efforts.


Paradoxically, Palestinians registered remarkable international diplomatic successes in the 1970s and early 1980s. By December 1987, when the Intifada began, the PLO was heavily embedded in international media and bureaucracies, gaining observer status at the UN and other international agencies, speaking regularly to representatives of elite global media outlets, and receiving quasi-diplomatic recognition by dozens of countries. This process was capped in November 1988 when the PLO's self-proclaimed "State of Palestine" was recognized by 120 UN memberstates.

These remarkable achievements were blunted, however, by the refusal of major Western powers to exercise the same kind of pressure on Israel that would later be deployed against Serbia. The Security Council did not order Israel to withdraw from occupied lands, NATO did not threaten air strikes, and the great powers did not impose economic sanctions. The most significant Western countries refused to recognize the Palestinian state, calling instead on Israel to respect Palestinian human rights and begin political negotiations. In fact, Western countries seemed most interested in keeping Israel firmly in control of the West Bank and Gaza until a final deal was struck. The PLO had placed its case before international audiences, but it could not win entry to the inner circle of Western-authorized, internationally recognized sovereign states. As such, its diplomatic achievements were far less substantial than those of the ex-Yugoslav republic of Bosnia, which earned full recognition as a sovereign state in April 1992.


Building a Diplomatic Coalition: The PLO and Arab States

In 1947, following vigorous debates between Jews, British colonialists, and Palestinians, a UN commission proposed creating a Palestinian state on 41 percent of mandatory Palestine. Discussions of Palestinian statehood faded after 1947–49, however, as Jewish forces had seized some 70 percent of the region, while Jordan and Egypt had taken the rest. Autonomous Palestinian forces played only a small role in the fighting, and until 1967, Palestinians were treated by all sides as marginal players. This trend dovetailed with the intellectual thrust of pan-Arabism, which emphasized Arab unity over the interests of particular Arab groups. Resolution of the Israeli-Arab imbroglio was supposedly the responsibility of the entire Arab world, not of the Palestinians themselves.

An initial effort to create separate Palestinian organizations was launched in Kuwait in 1959, when a handful of Palestinians formed the Fatah guerrilla group. The faction remained politically marginal, however, as long as Arab states claimed a lead role in dealing with Israel. Other refugees created Palestinian unions in Egypt and the Persian Gulf, but these too remained outside the political mainstream. The PLO was founded in 1964, adding weight to the notion of an autonomous Palestine, but the organization remained heavily constrained by Egypt, its chief supporter. Guerrilla groups such as Fatah were not yet in control of the PLO, and the organization did not become a state-seeking body until 1967, when military defeat discredited the pan-Arabist movement.

Autonomous Palestinian politics began in earnest after the war, starting with a wave of anti-Israeli guerrilla attempts. Their manifest goal was to defeat Israeli military forces, but their more important (latent) goal was to create a distinct Palestinian national identity centered around notions of armed struggle and self-reliance.[36] Although the guerrillas spoke of liberating all of mandatory Palestine (including Israel proper), they mostly used infiltration operations to promote their organizations, raise funds, mobilize Palestinians, and win Arab recognition. Within a short time, the strategy paid off, and in July 1968, Fatah and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) gained half the seats in the PLO's legislative body.

Although the PLO's guerrilla efforts against Israel were largely ineffectual, the organization's diplomatic and political initiatives fared much better. In 1973, the PLO persuaded Arab states to secretly recognize it as the legitimate representative of the Palestinian people, and one year later, that recognition was made public.[37] From then on, the PLO's monopoly

over Palestinian representation was largely uncontested by Arab states, save for the occasional Jordanian challenge.[38] Equally important was the PLO's ability to garner support in the West Bank and Gaza, where it faced stiff Israeli and Jordanian political opposition. In 1976, Israel encouraged municipal elections in the occupied areas, hoping to generate a more accommodating local leadership but was alarmed to discover broad support for pro-PLO candidates. Nine years of occupation, social change, and PLO political mobilization had pulled popular opinion away from Jordan.[39] In years to come Israel, the United States, and Jordan would sporadically seek to replace the PLO with alternative local elites, but the organization remained hegemonic until the rise of Hamas in the late 1980s.[40] Cumulatively, the 1974 Arab recognition and the 1976 municipal elections signaled the PLO's monopolization of Palestinian representation, laying the groundwork for a powerful diplomatic appeal for international recognition.

Gaining International Credibility:
Gradual PLO Support for a Small State

Given international sympathies for Israel and the UN 1947 partition plan, some PLO leaders understood that international support for their cause depended on their willingness to drop their claim to both Israel proper and the newly occupied lands. Before the 1967 war, however, Palestinian politicians had been unwilling to cede the land taken by Israel during 1947–49, calling instead for Israel's complete dismantling.[41] When Israel gained control over still more Palestinian land during the 1967 war, however, Palestinian discourse changed, and after 1973, Fatah and the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP) floated the notion of a West Bank and Gaza "mini-state." The scheme was contested by other PLO factions and some Arab states, however, who saw it as an unacceptable concession.[42]

Fatah continued to moderate its stance, however, beginning with the hazy notion of a "fighting national authority" on any part of Palestine evacuated by Israeli troops, and then moving in 1976 toward a West Bank mini-state as an "interim phase." In 1978, Fatah went even further, saying it would make peace with Israel if granted a West Bank state.[43] Fatah wanted Israel to first recognize Palestinian political rights and withdraw its troops, however, and this Israel would not consider. Both sides were driven by internal debates that made compromise difficult: Israelis willing to cede land were blocked by nationalists seeking permanent

control over the West Bank, while the PLO was similarly split between pragmatists and maximalists. Fatah was the PLO's dominant faction, but it could not compel the loyalty of smaller Palestinian groups.[44]

In the 1970s, the PLO created a large bureaucracy and semi-state apparatus in Lebanon, which helped it develop broader international links.[45] The movement had thousands of paid functionaries and militia as well as quasi-state services such as health and education, even enjoying empirical sovereignty of sorts over some parts of Beirut and south Lebanon. Although the organization could not claim juridical sovereignty over a well-defined piece of territory, it had enough territory to encourage the growth of even more bureaucratic functions. By the time Israel invaded Lebanon in 1982, sympathetic observers often referred to the PLO as a "state in waiting." All that it required was physical access to the West Bank and Gaza, coupled with international recognition of its sovereignty. Although the 1982 war removed the PLO's territorial base from Lebanon, its bureaucracy survived, albeit in reduced form.

The PLO's Global Alliances

The PLO's growing willingness to accept a small West Bank and Gaza state was partly motivated by its growing international connections. During the 1950s and early 1960s, Israel had enjoyed strong ties to Western countries, socialist states, and the decolonizing world. That began to change with the 1956 Arab-Israeli war, however, during which Israel joined with the former colonial powers against Egypt. The 1967 occupation of more Palestinian land definitively changed Israel's international stature as Arab states, working with Palestinian representatives, argued that Israel was a colonial-settler regime akin to South Africa, Rhodesia, and Mozambique. Following Egypt's break with the Soviets in 1972, the Kremlin drew closer to the PLO, seeking an alternative source of Middle Eastern influence.[46] In 1978, the Soviets recognized the PLO as Palestine's sole legitimate representative, advocating a broad Geneva peace conference with the PLO, Soviets, Israelis, and Western powers.

Changes in the UN's composition also enhanced the PLO's diplomatic fortunes. When the UN voted for Palestinian partition in 1947, the body had some fifty members, with pro-Israel views predominating. By the late 1960s, however, the number of members had tripled, and once the PLO and Arab states made inroads with socialist and formerly colonial states, their support in the General Assembly grew, spurred on by the global Southern protest movement, which took on the Palestinian cause

as its own.[47] The PLO, along with Arab support, had successfully framed its struggle as part of the South's broad struggle for global justice.

UNRWA and Palestinian Bureaucratic Embeddedness

Palestinians were also increasingly integrated into the international scene through the specialized UN agency created to manage Palestinian refugees. Although the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) was first created by Western powers to contain Palestinian frustration, it eventually metamorphosed into a far-flung international interest group with strong sympathy for the Palestinian cause.[48]

After the 1947–49 war, UNRWA registered some 914,000 Palestinians as refugees, over half of whom resided in refugee camps. There were 1.3 million registered refugees in 1965, and over 2.25 million in 1988, 65 percent of whom still lived in camps.[49] UNRWA registration cards were cherished documents as they proved their owner's entitlement to repatriation or compensation. Over time, the UN refugee agency developed substantial administrative muscle to support its network of camps, educational institutions, and health facilities, with a 1987 budget of $78 million and a workforce of over 18,000. UNRWA had developed a strong and international bureaucratic presence.

Although the UN agency could not prevent the camps' militarization or protect their residents from attack, it did provide Palestinians with a global and internationally legitimized bureaucratic niche linking Palestinians to the UN, international media, and transnational agencies. It was the PLO's guerrilla operations and diplomatic efforts, however, that transformed that niche into an object of substance. UNRWA and PLO efforts were mutually reinforcing, promoting the Palestinians' international profile and linking them to flows of information, resources, and legitimacy. UNRWA camps could not be attacked without officials taking note and reporting on events; camp residents could not be killed without officials registering and protesting their deaths; and UNRWA staffers often raised Palestinian concerns before UN bodies and commissions, as well the global media.

The PLO's Diplomatic Achievements

In 1974, Arafat told the UN General Assembly he was willing to negotiate with Israel, and in response, it recognized Palestinians as "a principal party in the establishment of a just and durable peace," instructing

the UN Secretary General to "establish contacts with the Palestinian Liberation Organization on all matters concerning the question of Palestine."[50] General Assembly resolution 3236 strengthened the PLO's monopoly over international representation despite opposition by Israel and its closest Western allies. Throughout the 1970s, the PLO sent numerous diplomatic missions abroad, gaining recognition from 130 states, UN observer status, and a state-like identity in international fora. In 1980, the PLO even gained a measure of Western European support, with the European Community recognizing Palestinian rights to self-determination. Repeated contacts between the PLO and European leaders from Austria, Spain, Italy, Greece, and elsewhere added weight to the 1980 resolution. By the decade's end, the PLO had clearly made powerful allies in important places.

These successes should have assured the PLO of international support for its sovereignty over the West Bank and Gaza, especially with the precedent for Palestinian statehood set by the 1947 UN partition plan. That the UN Security Council did not order Israel to withdraw or face punitive sanctions is best explained by the strength of Israel's own alliances. Most importantly, Israel was able to rebuff international criticisms by relying on vigorous U.S. intervention. As such, Israel's campaign for territorial expansion proved more resilient than that of Serbia, which failed to win international backing.

Israel's International Alliances:
Thwarting the PLO's Drive for Recognition

Israel's unwillingness to cede control over the West Bank and Gaza relied heavily on American promises to block international Palestinian advocacy.[51] In 1975, the U.S. administration promised Israel it would not speak to the PLO unless the organization unilaterally recognized Israel's right to exist. Although this vow was momentarily broken during Carter's presidency, it was reactivated soon after following pressure from Israel's American supporters.[52] U.S. ties with Israel, by contrast, grew exponentially during the 1970s and 1980s, transforming Israel into the largest recipient of American assistance. Funds to Israel went from 5 percent of America's total foreign aid bill in 1951–69, to 35 percent in the late 1970s, dropping to 20 percent during the 1980s.[53] Israel's share of foreign military assistance was even higher, reaching 60 percent during the mid-1970s, and then dropping to 30 to 40 percent during the 1980s. By 1991, the U.S. aid bill to Israel since 1948 had reached $77 billion in

1991 dollars. American popular opinion bolstered Israel's alliance with the superpower, outweighing public support for the Arab world by a factor of four. During the 1980s, surveys suggested that 40 to 50 percent of Americans were explicitly pro-Israeli, while the overwhelmingly majority was opposed to the PLO.[54]

Scholars offer different explanations for America's special relations with Israel.[55] One school stresses cultural and political similarities between the two countries, while another highlights Israel's strategic importance. Indeed, U.S. aid to Israel skyrocketed during the Nixon administration, when officials became convinced that Israel was an important Cold War ally.[56] A third school emphasizes pro-Israeli lobbyists in the United States, who have allegedly pushed successive administrations to support Israel at the expense of America's national interests.[57] Israel, in this view, relies on the American Jewish community's devotion to Zionism, superior organizing skills, and substantial resources. The American-Israel Political Action Committee (AIPAC), for example, wielded a $15 million budget and a staff of 150 in the mid-1990s, demonstrating its ability to isolate and even drive from office politicians critical of Israel. Indeed, fully half of Democratic Party "soft money" and presidential campaign funds during the 1980s and 1990s came from Jewish contributors, and Jewish voters play an important electoral role in seven key states.[58] Although Israel is rarely the only or even the major interest of politically active American Jews, it remains substantially important.

Regardless of which explanation one adopts for the phenomenon, it is clear that Israel enjoyed extraordinary levels of support from the United States, and that this dramatically affected Palestine's international opportunities. Unlike Bosnia, which enjoyed rapid access to sovereign status following American and West European support, Palestine was blocked by Washington.

1988: The PLO's Unsuccessful Plea for Statehood

After almost a year of rebellion in the West Bank and Gaza, the PLO proclaimed Palestinian statehood on November 15, 1988, accepted Israel's right to exist, endorsed the 1947 UN partition plan, renounced terrorism, and accepted UN Security Council resolutions 242 and 338. Yasser Arafat repeated the move on December 14, 1988, at the UN General Assembly, earning recognition from 104 states and support from 150 for PLO participation in negotiations with Israel. After additional wrangling, the U.S. government finally agreed to open a political dialogue with the PLO.[59]


These diplomatic achievements, however, were not coupled with serious international pressure on Israel to withdraw its forces. Western powers and the UN Security Council were at best willing to push Israel toward negotiations while applying human rights oversight to Israeli actions. The United States and its West European allies refused, however, to threaten Israel the same way they would threaten Serbia four years later. The PLO's international prominence ensured that Palestinian demands could not be ignored, but Israel's alliance with the United States prevented the PLO from winning recognition of Palestinian sovereignty where it counted, that is, in Washington, NATO headquarters, and in the UN Security Council. Unlike Bosnia, which was saved from a formal Serbian (or Federal Yugoslav) military occupation in 1992, Palestine remained firmly under Israeli control.

To be sure, Palestinian global prominence did translate into international scrutiny of Israeli behavior in the occupied lands. Newspapers, human rights groups, and international politicians all called on Israel to respect Palestinian human rights, with important effect. Israeli actions against Palestinians were intensely debated in the international media and diplomatic arenas. Still, the PLO could not leverage those discussions into effective international pressure on Israel to withdraw. The world applied the international norm of human rights, not sovereignty, to the West Bank and Gaza, with dramatic implications for Israeli repertoires of violence.

By the late 1980s, scholars recognized that Israel and Palestine had developed a hybrid relationship defying easy conceptualization. Portraying Israel as "military occupier" and Palestine as "occupied land" did not capture the nuanced nature of Israel's relations with Palestine, since the latter had become deeply embedded within the fabric of the Israeli state. Analysts describing Jewish-Palestinian relations as an instance of "international conflict," however, were also wrong, since it was unclear where the state of "Israel" ended and "Palestine" began. Scholars developed a range of terms to explain the relations, invoking different intellectual and theoretical traditions. Some, for example, preferred the sense of parity implied by the notion of a Jewish-Palestinian "inter-communal struggle."[60] Others spoke of an Israeli "Herrenvolk" democracy in which Jews ruled over Palestinians in an outright system of national domination. Israeli scholar Meron Benvinisti, for example, wrote that "the Palestinian problem has now been internalized" within Israel, and Palestinians "have become a permanent minority" within Israeli-ruled

territory.[61] This joint Jewish-Arab space had a "rigid, hierarchical social structure based on ethnicity," and Jews "hold total monopoly over governmental resources, control the economy, form the upper social stratum and determine the education and national values and objectives of the republic."[62] Israeli sociologist Baruch Kimmerling concurred, writing in the late 1980s that Jewish domination had been "routinized" in an unequal "control system" that contained an "inferior caste" of Palestinians with few economic, political, or social rights.[63] Some believed Israel's "creeping annexation" of Palestine had progressed so far as to make true separation impossible.[64] Those hoping the West Bank and Gaza might still escape Israeli control, by contrast, used terms borrowed from anti-colonial discourse, suggesting that like other colonial regimes, Israeli rule in Palestine would eventually crumble.[65] A third terminology was employed by sociologists such as Gershon Shafir, who argued the West Bank and Gaza were "settlement frontiers" for Jewish colonizers.[66]

In this book, by contrast, I use the term "ghetto" to describe Palestine's post-1967 status in order to capture the region's ambiguous, neither-in-nor-out position. "Frontier" implies externalization, but "ghetto" implies subordination and incorporation, helping us to better understand Israel's non-use of ethnic cleansing when the Palestinian uprising began. As Baruch Kimmerling and others warned in the late 1980s, "large scale expulsions" of Palestinians by Israel "might become a real option under certain conditions."[67] This prediction was plausible, however, only if Palestine's institutional setting resembled a frontier. If Palestine was a ghetto, by contrast, Israel's non-use of ethnic cleansing is easier to comprehend. Ghettos, after all, are policed, not destroyed.

The next chapter analyzes Israel's repertoire of ethnic policing in some detail. Drawing on interviews with Israeli military veterans, I probe tactics used by Israeli security forces to discipline, disperse, imprison, and monitor Palestinian ghetto rebels.

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Creating the Palestinian Ghetto
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