This article below was published in the Technology section of the San
Francisco Chronicle on July 8, 2002. It was written by Henry Norr whose
column Tech 21 is a regular feature in this section. Aspects of the
Israeli-Palestinian conflict are not likely to come up in the Technology
section, but this article is certainly an exception. Its the first
article I have seen to indicate that the history of the conflict may have
direct political and legal implications for a big American corporation.
In a nutshell, the story according to Norr is this: Intel built a Fab
factory (where silicon wafers are fabricated) in Kiryat-Gat in Israel. The factory went into production in 1999 and just a year after it opened, its output reached $3 million a day (it is Intels second largest facility
outside of the US). Kiryat-Gat is an Israeli town between Tel-Aviv and
Be'er Sheva, well within the green line and considered as much a part of
Israel today as Tel-Aviv is. However, the place has a unique history. When
the 1948 was over, Israel did not have control of the area. Rather, what
today is Kiryat-Gat was then part of a small enclave known as the Faluja
Pocket which the Egyptian army and local Palestinian forces had managed to
hold on to through the end of the war. When Israel and Egypt signed an
armistice agreement in 1949, Egypt agreed to withdraw its soldiers from the
pocket but insisted that the agreement explicitly guarantee the safety and property of the 3,100 Arab civilians in the area. Israel accepted the demand and the agreement was formalized as an annex to the main armistice document. Within weeks after the armistice agreement was signed, however, the entire local Arab population had fled to refugee camps outside of Israel. Benny Morris, the Israeli historian who researched this episode, cites a telling statement by then Israels foreign minister Moshe Sharett (later to become Prime Minister): …[T]here is a calculated action aimed at increasing the number of those (Arab civilians) going to the Hebron Hills ..as if of their own free will, and, if possible, to bring about the evacuation of the whole civilian population of the pocket.
What makes this case unique, says Norr, is the existence of a formal agreement, signed by Israel, not to harm the civilians. The original inhabitants of the Faluja Pocket and their heirs may well be able to take deep-pockets Intel to a U.S. court.