Sunday, March 8, 2009



The medical definition of the word cancer is “a class of diseases in which a group of cells display uncontrolled growth (beyond the normal limits), invasion (intrusion on and destruction of adjacent tissues), and sometimes metastasis (spreading to other locations in the body). These are three ways that a cancer changes from being benign—which is self-limited, does not invade, and does not metastasize, and becomes malignant or harmful.
If Israel was a cancer on Palestine, it would definitely be a malignant cancer. Israel has shown uncontrolled growth (beyond the normal limits) in the Israeli settler communities that have been established illegally on Palestinian land. Currently there are 121 Israeli settlements and 102 Israeli outposts built illegally in Palestinian territory—and instead of removing these settlements as required by International Law or at least stopping their growth as agreed upon in the Annapolis framework; the settlers are increasing at a rate of 4-6% per year. Just like cancerous cells cause destruction in the body, these settlements are destructive to the Palestinians and the peace process in many ways.
The Israeli government has little control over the settlers and what they do—and many settlers will use violence against the Israeli military as well as the Palestinians to remain on ‘their’ land. Some settlers terrorize Palestinians living in nearby villages by harassing, beating, and sometimes even killing them.
If a settlement is built next to a village, the settlement will usually take over the main road connecting that village to larger Palestinian cities nearby and establish it as a “Jewish-only” road—forcing the villagers to drive on sometimes impassable roads that can take them hours longer to reach their destination. The settlements essentially act like cancerous cells in the West Bank, they cut off Palestinian communities from each other, isolating them and taking the resources they need in order to survive. Settlements are usually built near important resources such as water and agricultural land—so in addition to taking Palestinian land; they take the means of their livelihoods as well.
Israel invades and causes destruction on Palestinian land in other ways as well. The most obvious and destructive form of Israel’s invasions of Palestinian land are the offensives and wars Israel has waged. Operation Cast Lead was one of the bloodiest assaults Israel has launched on the Palestinians since the beginning of the Occupation in 1967. In addition to causing major physical destruction in terms of the amount of people killed and the almost complete demolition of Gaza’s infrastructure, the invasion also caused severe psychological damage to Palestinians—especially the children.
Another way Israel violently invades and causes destruction on Palestinian life is the raids it conducts inside Palestinian territories. In the West Bank alone, there are raids almost every night by the Israeli military, especially in the refugee camps, in which they arrest many Palestinians. About 20% of the population of the occupied Palestinian Territories has been imprisoned. In addition to the arrests, Israeli soldiers sometimes harass, intimidate, or beat friends and family of wanted people in an attempt to get information. Finally, Israel carries out extra-judiciary assassinations of Palestinians they define as ‘militants’ in Palestinian territories.
Israel invades and intrudes on Palestinian life through their control of movement of people and goods in and out of the territories. In Gaza, Israel has gone beyond simply controlling the borders; they have established a total blockade on the territory. The amount of food and other basic supplies allowed in is completely inadequate for the people’s needs. Because of the blockade, Gaza’s economy and infrastructure have completely collapsed.
In the West Bank, there is no blockade, but Israel still controls all movement of people and goods in and out of the territory. Inside the territory, Israel restricts movement through the use of almost 700 ‘closure obstacles’. These are defined as trenches, partial and full checkpoints, earth walls and mounds, road-blocks and barriers, and road gates. It can take hours for a student living in a village that is really only 15 minutes away from the University to get through the checkpoints to get to class—he then has to get back home.
In addition to this, checkpoints also make access to health care extremely complicated. There are many cases of Palestinian women giving birth at checkpoints because they were not allowed through and there are cases of people dying because they were stopped at the checkpoint and therefore denied access to the health care they needed. These checkpoints and closure obstacles are intrusive on Palestinian lives, they are inside Palestinian territory and they make traveling difficult and humiliating.
Israel also invades and causes destruction through the construction of the wall, illegally inside the internationally recognized borders on the Green Line. The construction of the wall amounts to the theft of Palestinian land, in addition to being environmentally destructive. The wall is built regardless of what may be in its way—it has bisected or completely surrounded Palestinian villages that are built on land Israel wants. The villages that have been completely surrounded by the wall are sometimes left with only one small door with which people and goods can move through. The door is controlled by Israelis who often ‘forget’ to open it. These villages are being isolated and gradually left with no means to survive by this cancerous wall—which consumes and destroys everything in its path.
Israel intrudes and causes environmental destruction by having no restrictions on the settlers living in the West Bank concerning waste, sewage, or industrial pollution. Settlements, usually built near Palestinian villages or cities and many times built above them on the hills, sometimes send their sewage and waste right through the village or into the nearby water supply. They are causing environmental damage in an attempt to coerce the Palestinians into leaving the area. Furthermore, in terms of industrial pollution, Israel actually offers tax incentives to Israeli industries to move to the West Bank where they face fewer restrictions on pollution. Consequently, many of the most environmentally destructive companies move to the West Bank.
The final stage of a malignant cancer is metastasis—spreading to other locations of the body. This growth has been shown in the amount of settlements and outposts built illegally on Palestinian land. As they increase in number, the destruction they cause in the West Bank does as well. They essentially cut off West Bank communities from each other, leaving them isolated and economically stagnant.


Curing cancer depends on the type of cancer it is, malignant or benign—Israel is a malignant cancer because of the many ways it invades, intrudes upon, and destroys Palestinian lives. Success rates also depend on the location and stage of the cancer. As a malignant cancer, Israel could be said to have spread almost completely throughout Palestinian lands, and it has had 40 years to establish itself there.
The most obvious way to treat a malignant cancer is through surgery—to remove it as completely as possible from the body. However, this only works if the cancer has not metastasized—or spread, and this is certainly not the case in the West Bank. Furthermore, surgery suggests a rather Ahmedinejad-style of rhetoric which is neither realistic nor moral in any way.
So, barring surgery, chemotherapy is the next logical option for curing cancer. Chemotherapy works by destroying fast-dividing cancerous cells that have spread through the body, but has many painful side effects. In the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, this treatment could be described as the peace process working to stop the growth of illegal settlements and remove all of the settlers. However, the violence that breaks out between the settlers and anyone who tries to remove them from their settlements can be intense. Just like a mature cancer is less responsive to the treatment, Israel’s government has matured over 40 years, is well-established in Palestinian territory, and is not responsive to the kind of peace process the world has tried so far.
An example of this is the Oslo Accords and the Annapolis peace conference—illegal settlements were supposed to be stopped and a plan for creating an independent Palestinian state was put forth. However, Israel has not honored either agreement in any real way and, worse, has continued to allow settlements to expand in the West Bank.
Radiotherapy is another way to treat cancer. Instead of removing or killing the cancer, its aim is to simply control the growth of the malignant cells. It is used to relieve the symptoms and prolong life living with cancer. This would be the most logical and ultimately successful kind of treatment for the kind of cancer Israel is on Palestine. Instead of destroying the cancer, the growth of the cancer is controlled and the symptoms on the body can begin to be relieved.
It is no longer possible for Palestine to be what it was before Israel was established. However, it is possible for both to exist independently, side by side. A solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict cannot be found in the past—unfortunately much of the land that has been lost to the Palestinians by the wall and settlements will probably never be voluntarily returned by Israel.
The most important and ultimately effective solution is for each side to accept each other’s right to exist and for Israel to stop invading more of Palestinian land. No more settlements can be built and the wall must be removed or at the very least honor the internationally recognized Green Line. Invasion and intrusion by Israeli settlers and military on Palestinian land must stop. In this way, Israel’s growth as a country and as a malignant cancer upon the Palestinian people would be controlled.
If Israel and Palestine can come to an agreement on a two-state solution and recognize each other’s sovereignty, Israel can change from a malignant cancer to a benign one—one that does not invade, metastasize, or cause destruction. Once Palestine is established as a sovereign country and is no longer a territory occupied by the Israel, the symptoms and side-effects of 40 years of invasion and occupation can begin to be relieved and both countries can be healthy, secure, and in peace.