HISTORY: Introduction
Jan
1
10:30 PM22:30

HISTORY: Introduction

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CONTEXT is often missing from conversations about the history of Palestine-Israel. Winston Churchill famously said, "History is written by the victors." 

Thankfully, Israel's "new historians" have begun to dig through recently declassified Israeli records, and they are finding a completely different story. Palestinian historians have also been collecting and piecing together their history for decades.

Today, anyone who wants to find accurate historical information about Palestine-Israel can find it.

Much of the information below (especially Parts 1-6, which are annotated in Works Cited) is from a research paper that I wrote in 2015 for a class on Racial and Ethnic Relations, where I began to learn how to look at the conflict through a sociological lens. This has enabled me to understand the dynamics in a more objective way, as a struggle with recognizable phases and predictable outcomes - and possible solutions.

Kathryn Shihadah


Israel: “It’s Complicated”

What happens to a dream deferred?

Does it dry up like a raisin in the sun?

Or fester like a sore—and then run?

Does it stink like rotten meat?

Or crust and sugar over—like a syrupy sweet?

Maybe it just sags like a heavy load.

Or does it explode?

--Langston Hughes, “Montage of a Dream Deferred” (1959:268)

So much is ancient in the land we call “Holy”: it was Moses’ Promised Land, the place where Jesus walked, and the location of Mohammed’s most sacred miracle. Yet amid the artifacts of centuries long gone stand high-rise buildings, state-of-the-art military defense equipment, and a modern airport. The State of Israel is a study in contrasts: it is ethnically, religiously, and culturally diverse; some of its citizens just arrived and others have had a presence in the land for millenia; most of all, it is a place where hope and dreams of one group clash with those of another. Conflict has been a constant part of this country from even before its beginnings, and has resulted in a unique and persistent ethnic stratification system. The origin, development, and challenges to this system, examined within the framework of Donald Noel’s Contact Theory, make for an intriguing study.

A Note About Labels

The common label for people of Arab Palestinian origin who are now living in Israel is “Arab Israelis.” However, this is the label ascribed by the dominant group—it is not the label preferred by those to whom it has been assigned. In this paper, they will be referred to as “Palestinian Israelis.” When discussing the Palestinians who live in the occupied West Bank and Gaza, the title “Palestinians” will be used. In the historical section of the paper, the simple terms “Jews” and “Palestinians” will refer to the groups before the formation of the state of Israel, and “Israelis” and “Palestinian Israelis” after.

A Sociological Lens

In 1968, sociologist Donald L. Noel published his Contact Theory of the Origin of Ethnic Stratification. He theorized that stratification, or hierarchy, would emerge between ethnic groups that are brought into contact only in the presence of several factors (Noel 158-160). Without these factors, stratification would not emerge. These factors are:

1.     Scarce, common goals, and the competition that would be caused by both groups competing for them;

2.     Ethnocentrism, which causes lines of competition to be drawn between ethnic groups;

3.     Inequality of power, which causes one group to take the place of dominance over the other.

Noel theorized that once dominance is established by one group, the ensuing competition must include a workable set of practices to regulate relations between the groups. Without such a system, the groups will interact in an unhealthy way and the ethnic stratification could turn into full-blown conflict, which may culminate in “annihilation, expulsion, or total subjugation of the less powerful group” (163).

Of course, not all groups that come into contact with each other fall prey to stratification. According to Noel, ethnic groups can get along equitably without a clash. In the absence of one of his identified factors—competition, ethnocentrism, or power imbalance—ethnic stratification will not take place and the two groups will get along without conflict (158). This is where the story of the Palestinians and Jews begins.

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HISTORY: 1800s - 1947
Jan
8
10:30 PM22:30

HISTORY: 1800s - 1947

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History: 1800s - 1947

The land that today is called Israel began to emerge as an important piece of real estate in the late 1800s CE. At this time there were a few Jews living on this land—about 3% of the total population (Khalidi 6). They lived side-by-side with the Palestinians in peace, sharing meals and looking after each other’s children. Noel’s Contact Theory would place the two ethnic groups of Palestine in a stage of non-stratification; this makes sense because there was enough land for everyone to farm, enough supply and demand of goods and services needed to keep everyone busy. Neither the Palestinian majority nor the Jewish minority (who also considered themselves Palestinians) exercised any power: it was a time of peace for the Jews in this region, but not in the rest of the world.

The vast majority of the Jewish ethnic group had been scattered—in Diaspora—for centuries, and had experienced waves of persecution in nearly every place they lived. The persecution became so unbearable that, in the late 1800s, a group began to gather to discuss the possibility of creating a haven state. In 1897, this became the World Zionist Organization. They had their eye on the land of Palestine. But, in the words of Walid Khalidi of the Institute of Palestine Studies, “The dilemma facing the Zionist founding fathers was monumental. How does one establish a national home in a country that is already the national home of another politically conscious people, particularly at a time when the Zionist movement had no military power? The strategy actually adopted after 1897 was to search…for a powerful sponsor who would afford the Zionist venture the political and military protection it needed during its formative phase” (8).

This sponsor they found was no less than the greatest power of the day, Great Britain, which was put in charge of Palestine after World War I. The Balfour Declaration, issued by Britain’s foreign minister in 1917, stated:

His Majesty’s government view with favor the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavors to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country” (Balfour).

Clearly, the division was being drawn along ethnic lines, and the defining characteristic of every resident of the land that mattered was Jewishness or non-Jewishness.

Five years after the Balfour Declaration, the League of Nations reiterated the pledge to help in the creation of a “national home for the Jewish people” within Palestine. This support from the League of Nations and Britain, plus financial backing from Jews worldwide channeled through the World Zionist Organization, created that power imbalance that, according to Noel, is one ingredient for ethnic stratification. Thus, although the Jewish population in Palestine was only 11% at the time the League of Nations declared its support, and 30% by 1940—with land ownership at only 7%--the Jews began to emerge as the dominant group (Khalidi 10).

With this clear power imbalance, the once-peaceful coexistence of Palestinians and Jews quickly deteriorated: pockets of conflict erupted all over as Jews began asserting themselves and Palestinians fought to maintain property and rights. At times one group was the aggressor, at times the other (10). Noel’s “scarce common goal” was possession of the land, and the battle over it was just beginning.

The United Nations, having replaced the League of Nations, offered in 1947 a Partition Plan for the land of Palestine and decreed that a Jewish state would be created within Palestine (10). Noel would consider this to be the part of his Contact Theory in which an attempt is made to regulate relations between the dominant group and the minority. About 43% of the land would go to the Palestinians, while 56% would go to the Jews—although they made up about 1/3 of the population (10). The Holocaust had been a horror, and the Jewish longing for a safe haven was reasonable. But to the Palestinians, the idea that the Jews had a greater need for Palestine than the Palestinians themselves was problematic. While they recognized the historic and spiritual connection the Jews had to the land, they did not accept the idea that the Palestinians’ own rights should be superseded and annulled (7). Consequently, the Palestinians rejected the UN Partition Plan and the option to solidify their position as subordinate.

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HISTORY: early 1900s, a "Jewish Nakba"?
Jan
12
12:30 AM00:30

HISTORY: early 1900s, a "Jewish Nakba"?

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by Gregory DeSylva, reposted from Washington Report on Middle Eastern Affairs (WRMEA)

ISRAEL IS LOUDLY PROCLAIMING a false equivalency between Palestinian expulsions and the expulsion of Jews from Arab countries across the Middle East and North Africa.

While not taking responsibility for the ethnic cleansing of Palestine, Israeli officials nonetheless argue that even more Jewish refugees were expelled or forced to flee from Arab countries, especially following the 1948 war. According to the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs—an Israeli research institution—“Between 1920 and 1970, 900,000 Jews were expelled from Arab and other Muslim countries…600,000 settled in the new state of Israel.”

Another advocacy group, Justice for Jews from Arab Countries, promotes their “cause” to governments and at the U.N. It claims as its most significant accomplishment the 2008 House of Representatives resolution calling on U.S. officials to refer to the “plight of the Arab Jewish refugees” whenever Palestinian refugees are mentioned.    

The implication is that since the Arab countries expelled their Jews and have not compensated them for their property, therefore Israel has no obligation to allow the Palestinian refugees to return or to compensate them for their losses. The argument claims that Arab Jewish losses of land and property exceed Palestinian losses.

Based on a 1951 report by the U.N. Conciliation Commission for Palestine, British land expert John M. Berncastle estimated Palestinian losses at $4.4 billion versus Arab Jewish losses of $6.7 billion, in 2012 dollars. As of 2019 the ante has been upped dramatically: Israel is demanding $250 billion from seven Arab countries and Iran, with the Palestinians demanding $100 billion.

These analyses are predicated upon comparison of what happened to the Arab Jews and what happened to the Palestinians, but the analogy is false. What happened to the two groups was not comparable. Rather, these two events are related, constituting the two phases of the Zionist’s scheme to “…expel Arabs and take their places,” as Zionist leader David Ben-Gurion capsulized it in an Oct. 5, 1937 letter to his son Amos.

Ben-Gurion strove to expel Palestinian Arabs from their homes and properties in the Holy Land and replace them with Jews from everywhere—including Arab countries. The Zionists carried out the expulsion phase under “Plan Dalet” (or Plan D) whereby they ethnically cleansed 750,000 Palestinians from that part of the Holy Land that would become Israel in 1948. According to the International Criminal Court, ethnic cleansing is a crime against humanity. The replacement phase manifested as the immigration to Israel of Jews from Arab countries and elsewhere to fill the vacancies so created.

From the earliest days of modern political Zionism, its advocates grappled with the problem of creating a Jewish majority state in a part of the world where Palestinian Arabs were the overwhelming majority of the population. For many, the solution became known as "transfer," a euphemism for ethnic cleansing.

From the earliest days of modern political Zionism, its advocates grappled with the problem of creating a Jewish majority state in a part of the world where Palestinian Arabs were the overwhelming majority of the population. For many, the solution became known as "transfer," a euphemism for ethnic cleansing.

EXPULSION: THE PALESTINIAN NARRATIVE

Zionism arose in the late 1890s with the aim of making the entire Holy Land a Jewish nation, and trouble has shaken the region ever since. Its intentions were particularly arrogant given that Palestine was part of the Muslim Ottoman Empire and was 81 percent Muslim vs. 8 percent Jewish and 11 percent Christian, all living in relative peace there.

The Zionist nation was to be a “Jewish democracy”—an idea as self-contradictory as “white democracy” or “Christian democracy.” In theory, Jews had to be politically dominant to make it a “safe haven” for the world’s Jews, who had endured much oppression. Thus, Jews had to become a large majority where they long had been a small minority. But they were not expected to become 100 percent of the population. The new country would be Jewish (large majority, politically dominant) yet appear to be a genuine democracy fully enfranchising its minorities. To achieve these goals, the proportion of Jews to Muslims and Christians had to change radically.

From 1892-1947, the Zionists removed Arabs mainly by buying land from “notable” Arab owners of large estates farmed by Arab tenants. These tenants originally had owned much of this land but had entrusted it to the “notables” to avoid conscription into the Ottoman military. After buying the property, the Zionists evicted the tenants and replaced them with Russian and European Jews, more than 550,000 of whom flooded the Holy Land in six waves. So, by 1947 Jews had increased to 32 percent of the population vs. 60 percent Muslim Arabs and 7 percent Christians—still far from a dominant Jewish majority.    

That year, the U.N. partitioned the Holy Land: 56 percent went to the Zionist state, 42 percent for an Arab state and 2 percent for internationally controlled Jerusalem. On March 10, 1948, Zionist political and military leaders, including Ben-Gurion, met in Tel Aviv and formally adopted Plan Dalet, a blueprint for the forcible ethnic cleansing of Arabs to make way for a repopulation with Jews. They drove out 750,000 Palestinian Arabs from the 78 percent of the Holy Land that the new state of Israel would control after the 1948 war. This transformation left 86 percent Jews and only 14 percent Arabs.

The Palestinian exiles were bona-fide refugees, having fled partly out of fear of war, but primarily due to at least 31 massacres of Palestinians. Like most war refugees, they did not want to leave home and strove to return when the war was over. But Israel barred them with lethal force from doing so, declared their property abandoned, and made it state property. This confiscated property was then made available to Jewish immigrants—including Arab Jews. Counting descendants of the 1948 and 1967 refugees, there now are about five million Palestinian refugees, about 1.5 million of whom subsist in wretched camps in the West Bank, Gaza and surrounding Arab countries.  

REPLACEMENT: THE ARAB JEWISH NARRATIVE

In 1945 about a million Jews inhabited the Arab states. They were often considered second-class citizens, but so were other non-Muslims. And while they occasionally experienced more or less harsh oppression, most did not want to leave their homelands. But since the late 19th century Zionism had been increasingly destabilizing not only the Holy Land, but Arab lands as well.

To replace the Palestinians expelled under Plan Dalet, the Zionists first imported Holocaust survivors and other European Jews, followed by some 600,000 Arab Jews. In contrast to Israel’s attitude toward the Palestinians, most Arab governments strongly opposed the departure of their Jews because they might migrate to Israel and thereby benefit the Zionist scheme. The Jews also constituted valuable human resources. Thus, rather than expelling their Jews, Iraq and Syria long prohibited them from leaving.

Iraq only lifted its prohibition in 1950 under American and British pressure, which got so intense that Iraq’s leader relented and even pushed some out. In 1956 Egypt expelled 25,000 of its Jews. Morocco barred its Jews from leaving from 1956-1961 but permitted their emigration the next three years. Lebanon, Yemen, Libya, Tunisia, Algeria and Bahrain all permitted their Jews to leave and did not expel them. Under U.S. pressure, Syria finally let its Jews emigrate in 1991—tellingly, under the condition that they would not go to Israel.

Yemenite Jews walking to Aden, the site of a transit camp, ahead of their emigration to Israel in 1949.  Zoltan Kluger/Government Press Office.

Yemenite Jews walking to Aden, the site of a transit camp, ahead of their emigration to Israel in 1949. Zoltan Kluger/Government Press Office.

With few exceptions, Arab Jews thus were not expelled or ethnically cleansed. Rather, more often they were prohibited from leaving. Most Arab Jews did not want to leave, even when faced with growing violence. As the Jewish Virtual Library explains, “After the Arabs rejected the United Nations decision to partition Palestine to create a Jewish state, however, the Jews of the Arab lands became targets of their own governments’ anti-Zionist fervor.” These anti-Zionist sentiments spread to ordinary Arabs disturbed by Israel’s maltreatment of Palestinians and, it seems likely, by the prospect of Islam losing its standing in the Holy Land.

Even before 1947, Arab Jews had been targets of anti-Zionist sentiment in Arab countries. According to Israeli historian Esther Meir-Glitzenstein, the “Palestine problem” had affected Iraqi society since the late 1920s. The 1936-1939 Arab Revolt against Jewish land purchases and growing Jewish immigration in Palestine precipitated stormy anti-Zionist demonstrations and bomb-throwing against Jewish institutions in Iraq. In the “Farhud” of June 1941, Iraqi Arab nationalists tragically killed 150-180 Iraqi Jews because they supported British rule of Iraq, under which they had thrived. Antagonism to Zionism may also have contributed to this massacre: according to Meir-Glitzenstein, “In the first half of the 1940s, the Iraqi people were incited against Zionism by propaganda in the [Iraqi] press.”

The proposition that attacks on Arab Jews during this period stemmed from anti-Zionism rather than anti-Semitism is supported by the correlation of the dates of these attacks with Zionist historical milestones. The 1945 anniversary of the Nov. 2, 1917 Balfour Declaration granting British support to Zionism precipitated attacks on Jews in several Arab countries. On Nov. 2 and 3, anti-Zionist militants killed five Jews and injured hundreds in Egypt. From November 5–7, 140 Jews were killed in riots in Tripolitania (today’s Libya). On Nov. 6, 14 Jews were killed during riots in Lebanon.

The Nov. 29, 1947 partition of Palestine marked another major Zionist milestone with ominous implications for Arab Jews. The previous day, the Iraqi foreign minister warned the U.N. General Assembly, “Partition imposed against the will of the majority of the people [of Palestine] will jeopardize peace and harmony in the Middle East. Not only the uprising of the Arabs of Palestine is to be expected, but the masses in the Arab world cannot be restrained. The Arab-Jewish relationship in the Arab world will greatly deteriorate.” Three days later, Arab attacks on Jews and Arab-Jewish clashes in Aden, Yemen left 82 Jews and 38 Arabs dead. On Dec. 5, one Jew was killed and much Jewish property was destroyed in Bahrain. Later that month, attacks in Syria killed an estimated 75 Jews.

The May 14, 1948 establishment of Israel was Zionism’s ultimate milestone. On June 7 and 8, attacks in Morocco killed 43 Jews and injured 150. The attackers were angered over young Zionist Jews trying to go fight for Israel in the war that broke out on May 15. A few days later, 13 or 14 Jews and four Arabs were killed in Tripolitania in clashes between young Zionists going to fight for Israel and anti-Zionist Arabs going to fight for Egypt. That summer, bombings left 70 Jews dead and 200 wounded in Cairo. Measures against Arab Jews were not limited to inter-ethnic violence: Iraq made Zionism a capital crime and put several onerous restrictions on its Jews.

An Egyptian naval gunboat patrols the Suez Canal.

An Egyptian naval gunboat patrols the Suez Canal.

The Suez War of Oct. 29 to Nov. 7, 1956—a failed Israeli attempt to reverse Egypt’s nationalization of the Suez Canal, barring Israel from using it—marked a rare Zionist setback, as the U.N. and the United States forced the invaders to withdraw. Yet the Suez Crisis had anti-Zionist repercussions for Egyptian Jews: soon after Israel invaded, Egypt expelled 25,000 and forced them to sign away their property.    

Israel’s victory in the 1967 Six-Day War was another major Zionist milestone. Soon Libyan Jews were again targeted, with 18 killed and many injured. In Qamishli, Syria, 57 Jews were killed in a pogrom. In Egypt, Jewish men between the ages of 17 and 60 were deported or jailed and tortured, more Jewish property was confiscated, and most remaining Egyptian Jews left for Israel. Iraq expropriated Jewish property, froze Jewish bank accounts, fired Jews from public posts, prohibited them from using the phone, kept them under constant surveillance, held many under house arrest, restricted them to the cities, cancelled Jewish trading permits, and closed many Jewish businesses. In Bahrain, riots induced its remaining 500-600 Jews to emigrate.            

Compelling evidence suggests that the attacks and measures against Arab Jews were motivated by anti-Zionism rather than anti-Semitism. Gudrun Kramer, author of The Jews in Modern Egypt, 1914-1952, concludes that the Egyptian Jews were attacked because of their real or alleged links to Zionism.

Regardless of its motivation, this violence worked counter to Arab interests, inducing the Arab Jews to do what the Zionists wanted them to do: migrate to Israel. As too often has been the case, Arabs harmed their own interests by engaging in violence against civilians.

Despite violence and repression, most Arab Jews still clung to their homelands. To further motivate them to leave, Zionist agents operated in several Arab countries, applying such force as necessary to ensure their exodus. To convince less educated Jews in Iraq and elsewhere to migrate, they portrayed Israel as a paradise.

Higher status Iraqi Jews required more convincing: from 1950-1951, a series of bombings in Baghdad killed three or four Jews and wounded dozens. According to Naeim Giladi, a former member of the Iraqi Zionist underground, they carried out bombings in an effort to force more Jews to leave Iraq. Moroccan Jews also required special “persuasion.” Israeli historian Yigal Bin-Nun has documented Zionist crimes committed to convince Jews to migrate to Israel. Some Libyan Jews believed the Jewish Agency was behind the June 1948 riots, since the riots helped it achieve its goals. Zionist agents also urged Algerian and Tunisian Jews to emigrate to Israel.

Anti-Zionist attacks, persuasion, threats and terror finally broke Iraqi Jews’ ties to their country. When Iraq lifted its prohibition in 1950, they hastened to migrate—especially to Israel. Similar forces were dislodging Jews from the other Arab countries.

Jews who exited Iraq, Egypt, Libya and Syria had some or virtually all of their property confiscated for the same reason Jews were often prohibited from leaving: to keep that wealth from benefitting Zionism. Tellingly, in 2010 Libya agreed to compensate only its Jewish emigrants who had not migrated to Israel. Confiscated property also compensated these countries to some degree for their loss of human capital. Jews who exited Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria, and Yemen generally did not lose their property because they sold it and circumvented prohibitions against taking cash out of the country by converting it to jewels. Lebanon and Bahrain did not constrain their Jews from leaving or confiscate their property.

Some Jews from countries that prohibited their emigration crossed into Israel illegally. Where they were permitted to leave, the Zionists flew thousands to Israel in operations like “Magic Carpet” from Yemen, and “Ezra and Nehemiah” from Iraq. Upon arrival in Israel, they were placed in temporary “transit camps,” then re-settled in “development towns” on the sites of demolished Palestinian villages. Others were moved into vacant houses of Palestinian refugees. There, Zionism’s “expel and replace” scheme was on full display.

LIABILITY AND COMPENSATION

What happened to the Arab Jews has only superficial resemblance to what happened to the Palestinians. Their narratives are not comparable. These were closely related but distinct events: the expulsion of one group—the Palestinians—and their replacement by another group, the Arab Jews.

The Arab countries had no comparable scheme to expel Jews and replace them with Palestinians. The Palestinians were the victims of the Zionist crime. The Arab Jews were more or less unwitting pawns in that scheme. There is no logical, moral or legal equivalence between their narrative and that of the Palestinians.

Zionist Israel is responsible for restitution to the Palestinians. If the Arab Jews deserve further compensation, then Israel—whose founders engineered their migration and indirectly incited their Arab countrymen against them—should also be responsible for making them whole.


Gregory DeSylva is a board member of Deir Yassin Remembered and has written and produced six videos related to the Israel-Palestinian conflict.

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HISTORY: The UN Partition Plan, 1947
Jan
15
to Jan 16

HISTORY: The UN Partition Plan, 1947

IDF artillery unit in the Negev, 1948.

IDF artillery unit in the Negev, 1948.

By Jeremy R. Hammond, reposted from Palestine Chronicle

The following is excerpted from The Rejection of Arab Self-Determination: The Struggle for Palestine and the Roots of the Arab-Israeli Crisis, by Jeremy R. Hammond. Click here for info about the book. Headings, photos, and emphasis here added.

In 1947, Great Britain, unable to reconcile its conflicting obligations to both Jews and Arabs, requested that the United Nations take up the question of Palestine. In May, the U.N. Special Committee on Palestine (UNSCOP) was created by a General Assembly resolution. UNSCOP’s purpose was to investigate the situation in Palestine and “submit such proposals as it may consider appropriate for the solution of the problem of Palestine”.

At the time, the U.N. consisted of 55 members, including Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon, and Syria. Palestine by then remained the only one of the formerly Mandated Territories not to become an independent state. No representatives from any Arab nations, however, were included in UNSCOP.[1] Egypt, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and Saudi Arabia requested that “The termination of the Mandate over Palestine and the declaration of its independence” be placed on the agenda, but this motion was rejected. The Arab Higher Committee thus announced it would not collaborate, although individual Arab states did agree to meet with representatives from UNSCOP.[2]

Chaim Weizmann giving his testimony to UNCSOP on July 8, 1947.

Chaim Weizmann giving his testimony to UNCSOP on July 8, 1947.

Little Arab input

UNSCOP’s investigation included a 15-day tour of Palestine, splitting time between visits to Arab and Jewish communities. Seven days—nearly half that same amount of time spent touring Palestine itself—were spent touring Displaced Persons (D.P.) camps in Germany and Austria and witnessing the plight of the Jews there.[3] The proposal to visit the D.P. camps passed by a vote of six to four with one abstention, despite the objection from two members that it would be “improper to connect the displaced persons, and the Jewish problem as a whole, with the problem of Palestine”.[4] More time was spent visiting D.P. camps than the total number of days spent visiting the Arab nations neighboring Palestine and meeting with representatives there.

Public hearings were held in which 37 representatives were heard, 31 of whom were Jews representing 17 Jewish organizations, but with only one representative from each of the six Arab states.[5] Two proposals emerged: a federal State plan and a partition plan. The latter passed by a vote of seven to three with one abstention, the dissenting votes being cast by India, Iran, and Yugoslavia, who all favored the federal state plan.

On September 3, UNSCOP submitted its report to the U.N. General Assembly. The report noted that the population of Palestine at the end of 1946 was estimated to be almost 1,846,000, with 1,203,000 Arabs (65 percent) and 608,000 Jews (33 percent). Again, the growth of the Jewish population was mainly the result of immigration, whereas the Arab growth was “almost entirely” natural increase.

Land ownership

Complicating any notion of partition, UNSCOP observed that there was “no clear territorial separation of Jews and Arabs by large contiguous areas.” In the Jaffa district, for example, which included Tel Aviv, “Jews are more than 40 per cent of the total population”, with an Arab majority.[6]

Land ownership statistics from 1945 showed that Arabs owned more land than Jews in every single district in Palestine. In Jaffa, with the highest percentage of Jewish ownership of any district, 47 percent of the land was owned by Arabs versus 39 percent owned by Jews. At the opposite end of the spectrum, in Ramallah district, Arabs owned 99 percent of the land and Jews less than 1 percent.[7] In the whole of Palestine, Arabs were in possession of 85 percent of the land, while Jews owned less than 7 percent.[8]

A British army officer and troops outside of the King David Hotel, which had been bombed by the underground Zionist group the Irgun, Jerusalem, July 1946

A British army officer and troops outside of the King David Hotel, which had been bombed by the underground Zionist group the Irgun, Jerusalem, July 1946

Jewish terrorism

UNSCOP mentioned in its report that Jewish groups such as the Irgun and the Stern Gang had engaged in terrorism, including the bombing of the King David Hotel. While Jewish leaders had “from time to time condemned terrorist activities, and there have been some signs of active opposition to such methods on the part of the Haganah”, terrorism was a widely enough accepted tactic among the Zionists that the British had “found it necessary to arrest and detain on grounds of public security some 2,600 Jews, including four members of the Jewish Agency Executive.”

UNSCOP also related the characterization from the British Administration in Palestine that “Since the beginning of 1945 the Jews have . . . supported by an organized campaign of lawlessness, murder and sabotage their contention that . . . nothing should be allowed to stand in the way of a Jewish State and free Jewish immigration into Palestine.”

During one of its hearings, the Arab representatives expressed their view with regard to the Zionist “recourse to terrorism”, which was that “This aggressive attitude . . . will not fail to give rise in turn to the creation of similar [terrorist] organizations by the Arabs.” The Arab delegates also declared that “against a [Jewish] State established by violence, the Arab States will be obliged to use violence; that is a legitimate right of self-defense.”

Zionists call the shots

The case of the Zionist Jews, UNSCOP reported, was based on biblical arguments as well as on the Balfour Declaration, which, they contended, recognized their “right” to colonize Palestine. Their case also rested on the false claim that “immigrant Jews displace no Arabs” and upon the assertion that the establishment of a Jewish State would “do no political injustice to the Arabs, since the Arabs have never established a government in Palestine.”

In other words, the Arab right to self-determination could be denied now because that right had never been recognized or exercised in the past (logic which would prove problematic for democracies everywhere, but the delight of kings and tyrants, if the standard were actually applied to other cases).

The Zionists also argued that once a Jewish State is established and the Jews become a majority, the Arab minority “will be fully protected in all its rights on an equal basis with the Jewish citizenry.” This was not accompanied with any explanation as to why this should be acceptable to the then Arab majority, or why the Arabs should accept what the Zionists themselves had rejected.

The entire Zionist case was outrageous. Its arguments were spurious, prejudiced and hypocritical to the extreme. And yet UNSCOP took them quite seriously. It accepted without question the assumption that the British had the right to open Palestine for colonization while it was under occupation, an action that would be expressly forbidden under the Geneva Conventions just two years later.[9]

It accepted the argument that to allow democracy in Palestine “would in fact destroy the Jewish National Home” and on that basis explicitly rejected the right to self-determination of the Arab majority.

No regard for Palestinian aspirations

It mentioned in passing that the Balfour Declaration had a clause stating that nothing should be done to prejudice the rights and positions of the Arab majority, commenting only that the guarantee of “civil and religious” rights excluded “political” rights and thus did not translate into a promise of “political freedom to the Arab population of Palestine”.

UNSCOP also observed that the use of the term “National Home” instead of “State” “had the advantage of not shocking public opinion outside the Jewish world”, which is precisely why it was chosen.

Furthermore, echoing the McDonald White Paper, it also asserted that the use of this term did not preclude the possibility of establishing a Jewish State; a statement that could only be maintained by prejudicing the position and rights of the Arabs.

UNSCOP also effectively accepted the biblical argument, reiterating that the 1922 White Paper had recognized the “ancient historic connection” of the Jews to Palestine and accepting this as giving Jews from Europe and elsewhere the “right” to colonize the occupied territory. (Compare this with the conclusion of the King-Crane Commission that the claim that Jews “have a ‘right’ to Palestine, based on an occupation of 2,000 years ago, can hardly be seriously considered.”)

It recognized the corollary “that all Jews in the world who wish to go to Palestine would have the right to do so.” But its only reservation about this conclusion was that it “would seem to be unrealistic in the sense that a country as small and poor as Palestine could never accommodate all the Jews in the world.” Again, the rights and position of the Arab majority simply did not factor into the equation.

False assumptions

Astonishingly, while UNSCOP observed that “all concerned were aware of the existence of an overwhelming Arab majority”, that “the Zionist program could not be carried out except by force of arms”, and that “the basic assumption” was that the Arabs would acquiesce quietly, the committee’s only comment about any of this was that the assumption of Arab acquiescence “proved to be a false one”.

Other assumptions adopted by UNSCOP were equally astonishing. As yet a further example, it partially accepted the argument that “no political injustice would be done to the Arabs by the creation of a Jewish State in Palestine” because “not since 63 B.C., when Pompey stormed Jerusalem, has Palestine been an independent State.” This logic reflected the committee’s acceptance of the Zionists’ ludicrous argument that since the Arab Palestinians had not exercised self-determination in the past, therefore this right could continue to be denied them into the future.

Or take UNSCOP’s assertion that the solution required “the postponement of independence” until “the Jewish people become a majority” in the part of the country dedicated against the will of the Arab majority to the “Jewish National Home”.

In sum, the U.N. Special Committee on Palestine operated under assumptions that explicitly rejected the rights of the Arabs.

The UNSCOP Committee carrying out its work, YMCA Building, Jerusalem (PHG\1085487)

The UNSCOP Committee carrying out its work, YMCA Building, Jerusalem (PHG\1085487)

Biased word choices

Having already accepted a rejectionist framework, the UNSCOP report then proceeded to examine the Arab position. Its examination is further instructive as to the absolutely prejudicial nature of the committee. It asserted that the Arabs, for instance, only “postulate” that they have majority rights since “they are and have been for many centuries in possession of the land”, uninterrupted since “early historical times”. But, as already noted, the committee denied that Arabs had majority rights with the adoption of the Zionist argument that “they have not been in possession of it as a sovereign nation”.

The Arabs merely “claim” that “general promises and pledges officially made to the Arab people in the course of the First World War” recognized their rights and supported an independent Palestine. But this is just their “view”, not a fact; the committee held that “apparently there is no unequivocal agreement as to whether Palestine was included within the territory pledged” and “Great Britain has consistently denied that Palestine was among the territories to which independence was pledged.” In other words, since the British had rejected the rights of the Arab Palestinians, UNSCOP would also do so.

The Arabs only “allege” that the Mandate violated the Covenant of the League of Nations which prescribed that Mandate territories become independent. Here, UNSCOP actually made a reasonably strong case. The relevant article of the Covenant, they pointed out, merely discussed independence as being “permissible”, not obligatory. Moreover, the Allied Powers had accepted the policy of the Balfour Declaration, making it “clear from the beginning that Palestine would have been treated differently from Syria and Iraq” in that, in Palestine, the right to self-determination of the Arabs would be denied. There would therefore “seem to be no grounds for questioning the validity of the Mandate for the reason advanced by the Arab States.” And UNSCOP came up with none of its own reasons for doing so.

In a particularly remarkable illustration of UNSCOP’s prejudice, it implored people to remember that, as Lord Balfour had explained at the creation of the Mandate, “a mandate is a self-imposed limitation by the conquerors on the sovereignty which they obtained over conquered territories” according not to the will of the inhabitants, but to what the occupiers “conceived to be the general welfare of mankind”.[10] In other words, self-determination was not an inherent right, but a privilege granted to a territory’s inhabitants by their conquerors should the occupying power at its own discretion choose to bestow the gift upon them. An occupied people were not to decide for themselves what is in their best interests; this was to be dictated to them by the foreign power occupying their land.

This framework was accepted matter-of-factly by UNSCOP, despite being in direct contradiction to the principles of the U.N. Charter under which it was commissioned. In fact, just three years later, the International Court of Justice would rule that the creation of a Mandate under the Covenant of the League of Nations “did not involve any cession of territory or transfer of sovereignty”.[11]

Palestinians surrender in al-Ramle in May 1948. (Photo: Eldan David/GPO/AP)

Palestinians surrender in al-Ramle in May 1948. (Photo: Eldan David/GPO/AP)

“Obviously” no self-determination

UNSCOP offered only the slightest pretense that its findings were anything but rejectionist, finding some occasion to pay lip-service to the principles of equal rights and self-determination. It asserted, for instance, that Britain was “not free to dispose of Palestine without regard for the wishes and interests of the inhabitants of Palestine” while itself proposing to do just that (presumably, in their view, it took the higher authority of first the League of Nations and then the U.N. to dispose of Palestine against the will of its inhabitants).

In their report, the committee acknowledged candidly that under the Mandate “the principle of self-determination . . . was not applied to Palestine, obviously because of the intention to make possible the creation of the Jewish National Home there”, which, along with the Mandate itself, was recognized to be “counter to that principle” of democracy (presumably also “obviously” so).

UNSCOP acknowledged that if the right to self-determination of the Arabs was respected, they “would recognize the right of Jews to continue in possession of land legally acquired by them during the Mandate”, as they had offered at the London conference and again proposed to UNSCOP. But the point was moot since their rights “obviously” were not recognized.

Having established this rejectionist framework, UNSCOP proceeded to weigh the proposed solutions, which included partition, a unitary state, or a single state “with a federal, cantonal or binational structure”. Most Jewish organizations consulted wanted a Jewish State, with different views as to whether this state should constitute the whole of Palestine or only a part. But some among those consulted were opposed to the Zionist program, including in the U.S. the American Council for Judaism, which viewed any partition plan as a threat to peace, harmful to Jews, and undemocratic.

What works for Zionists

As noted, the Arab representatives reiterated something similar to what had been proposed at the conference in London a year earlier: a unitary Palestine with a democratic constitution guaranteeing full civil and religious rights for all citizens and an elected legislative assembly that would include Jewish representatives. UNSCOP dismissed this as “an extreme position”. In accordance with their adopted framework, the Arab proposal for a single democratic state was rejected as “extreme” because it didn’t take into account the desires of the Zionists, who rejected the idea. And yet the partition recommendation was not similarly “extreme” despite being “strongly opposed by Arabs”. The federal state solution, moreover, was simply “unworkable”, UNSCOP asserted in its majority recommendation, without discussion.

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India, Iran, and Yugoslavia dissented, arguing that the federal state solution was “in every respect the most democratic solution” and “most in harmony with the basic principles of the Charter of the United Nations”. It was supported by “a substantial number of Jews”, whereas the partition plan was supported by no Arabs, and was the solution that would therefore “best serve the interests of both Arabs and Jews.”

The dissenting view aside, UNSCOP’s final recommendation was that the Mandate be terminated and independence “granted” to Palestine, with the caveat that there was “vigorous disagreement as to the form that independence should take.” Partition was recommended since the “claims to Palestine of the Arabs and Jews, both possessing equal validity, are irreconcilable”, the assumption being that because Jews had “historic roots” there, a Jew from Europe who had never set foot in Palestine had an equal right to the land as an Arab whose family had lived and worked there for generations.

The “demerit of the scheme” was that while there would be “an insignificant minority of Jews” in the proposed Arab State, “in the Jewish State there will be a considerable minority of Arabs.” But this was “inevitable” since the democratic solution was to be rejected.[12]

Partition

On October 11, 1947, a U.S. representative to the United Nations expressed the U.S. policy position of supporting the partition of Palestine to facilitate the creation of a Jewish state.[13]

The U.N. General Assembly on November 29 passed Resolution 181, recommending that UNSCOP’s partition plan be implemented. The resolution called upon “the inhabitants of Palestine to take such steps as may be necessary on their part to put this plan into effect”.[14]

One enduring myth about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is that “Israel was created by the U.N.” under General Assembly Resolution 181.[15] This claim is absolutely false.

While the General Assembly is the more democratic of the two U.N. bodies, only Security Council resolutions are considered legally binding. Resolution 181 was nothing more than a recommendation. Naturally, any such plan would have to be acceptable to both parties, and it was not.

The plan would have awarded a majority of the territory to its minority Jewish population, who were in possession of a mere fraction of the land, and so was naturally rejected by the Arab majority who legally owned most of Palestine.[16]

Regardless, the U.N. was no more “free to dispose of Palestine without regard for the wishes and interests of the inhabitants of Palestine” than Great Britain, and any U.N. resolution from either body that would have sought to do so would have been a violation of the U.N.’s own Charter and therefore null and void.


Jeremy R. Hammond is an independent journalist and editor of Foreign Policy Journal, an online source for news, critical analysis, and opinion commentary on U.S. foreign policy. He was among the recipients of the 2010 Project Censored Awards for outstanding investigative journalism, and is the author of "The Rejection of Palestinian Self-Determination", available from Amazon.com. He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com. Visit: http://www.foreignpolicyjournal.com. (This article was originally published in Foreign Policy Journal: www.foreignpolicyjournal.com.)


Notes:

[1] U.N. General Assembly Resolution 106, May 15, 1947, available online at the U.N. website: http://www.un.org. The Special Committee on Palestine consisted of representatives from Australia, Canada, Czechoslovakia, Guatemala, India, Iran, Netherlands, Peru, Sweden, Uruguay and Yugoslavia. Also see the U.N. website for membership information. Two states were admitted membership in 1947, Pakistan, and Yemen, both admitted in September, bringing the total to 57 members.

[2] UNSCOP Report.

[3] “Background Story on Palestine Report”, U.N. Department of Public Information Press Release, August 31, 1947, available online at the UNISPAL website.

[4] UNSCOP Report.

[5] “Background Story on Palestine Report”.

[6] UNSCOP Report.

[7] From a map entitled “Palestine Land Ownership by Sub-Districts” showing 1945 statistics, United Nations, August 1950, available online at: http://domino.un.org/maps/m0094.jpg. Statistics were as follows (Arab versus Jewish land ownership in percentages): Safad: 68/18; Acre: 87/3; Tiberias: 51/38; Haifa: 42/35; Nazareth: 52/28; Beisan: 44/34; Jenin: 84/1, Tulkarm: 78/17; Nablus: 87/1; Jaffa: 47/39; Ramle: 77/14; Ramallah: 99/less than 1; Jerusalem: 84/2; Gaza: 75/4; Hebron: 96/less than 1; Beersheeba: 15/less than 1

[8] UNSCOP report.

[9] Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention states that “The Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies.” One could argue that the letter of the law does not prohibit the transfer of parts of a civilian population that was not “its own”, but such a legalistic interpretation in clear violation of the spirit of the law would be difficult to take seriously. The obvious intent is that the geo-political status of the territory not be reconstituted in a manner prejudicial to the rights of its inhabitants and that no attempts to colonize the occupied territory should occur.

[10] UNSCOP Report.

[11] International Court of Justice, “Advisory Opinion regarding the Status of South-West Africa”, ICJ Reports. (1950), p. 132, cited in “The Origins and Evolution of the Palestine Problem: 1917-1988”.

[12] UNSCOP Report.

[13] United States Position on Palestine Question, Statement by Herschel V. Johnson, United States Deputy Representative to the United Nations, October 11, 1947, available online at the Yale Avalon Project: http://avalon.law.yale.edu/20th_century/decad164.asp.

[14] U.N. General Assembly Resolution 181, November 29, 1947, available at the U.N. website.

[15] “Israel at the UN: Progress Amid a History of Bias”, Anti-Defamation League, September 2008; Nicholas Hirshon, “Rare footage of UN vote creating Israel to screen at Flushing synagogue”, New York Daily News, November 20, 2007. These are random examples. For another, take the BBC website, which shows a map of the UN partition plan above a heading that reads “Israel founded: UN partition plan”. The text notes that the plan “was never implemented”, which can hardly be reconciled with the assertion that the plan “founded” Israel, and yet there it is. (accessed March 23, 2009). For a final example, take Michael B. Oren, Power, Faith, and Fantasy: America in the Middle East, 1776 to the Present (W. W. Norton & Company, New York, 2007), p. xxii. In his chronology, for the year 1947, Oren writes, “The United States, along with thirty-two other nations, votes in favor of UN Resolution 181, partitioning Palestine into independent Arab and Jewish states” Oren certainly must know better, but makes the false statement anyway.

[16] Richard H. Curtis, “Truman Adviser Recalls May 14, 1948 US Decision to Recognize Israel”, Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, May/June 1991, Page 17.

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HISTORY: Ethnic cleansing was a given, pre-1948
Jan
22
to Jan 23

HISTORY: Ethnic cleansing was a given, pre-1948

Chaim Weizmann is sworn in after being elected as Israel's first president in 1949 (AFP)

Chaim Weizmann is sworn in after being elected as Israel's first president in 1949 (AFP)

by Joseph Massad, reposted from Middle East Eye (emphasis added)

The Israeli elections last spring [2019] were seen in the Western press and among some Western politicians as confirmation that Israel is becoming less democratic, and more racist and chauvinistic. 

This we are told is undermining Israel as a “Jewish and democratic state”. The New York Times reported: “To the left, Israeli democracy is on the defensive. To the ethnonationalist right, which succeeded last year in enshrining Israel’s self-definition as the nation-state of the Jews in a basic law, it is in need of an adjustment.” 

The general celebratory line that Israel has been able to balance its two important ideals and core principles - namely, that it is “a Jewish and a democratic state” - has shifted recently with some now lamenting that this alleged balance has been offset by the country’s “recent” right-wing tilt. 

Commitment to ethnic cleansing

The major fact that such a depiction deliberately ignores is that “democracy” in Israel was established for Israeli Jews after the Zionists expelled 90 percent of the Palestinian population when Israel was founded in 1948, making themselves a majority overnight in the ethnically cleansed country.

They opted for liberal democratic governance for the colonial Jewish majority, while instituting a legal apartheid system for the Palestinians they could not expel, including dozens of racist laws.

This commitment to ethnic cleansing and Jewish supremacist rule has been an ideological cornerstone of the Zionist movement since its inception.  

Theodor Herzl, the father of Zionism, devised plans on what to do with the native Palestinians. In his 1896 foundational pamphlet The State of the Jews, he cautioned against any democratic commitments and advised that “an infiltration [of Jews into Palestine] is bound to end in disaster. It continues till the inevitable moment when the native population feels itself threatened, and forces the [existing] government to stop further influx of Jews. Immigration is consequently futile unless based on an assured supremacy.” 

The Jewish colonists, Herzl wrote in his diary, should “try to spirit the penniless population across the border by procuring employment for it in the transit countries, while denying it any employment in our country …

"The removal of the poor must be carried out discreetly and circumspectly. Let the owners of immovable property believe that they are cheating us, selling us things for more than they are worth. But we are not going to sell them anything back.”

As Jewish colonies multiplied, so did the expulsion of Palestinians. Polish agronomist and colonist Chaim Kalvarisky, a manager of the Jewish Colonization Association, reported in 1920 that as someone who had been dispossessing Palestinians since the 1890s, “the question of the Arabs first appeared to me in all its seriousness immediately after the first purchase of land I made here. I had to dispossess the Arab residents of their land for the purpose of settling our brothers.”

Kalvarisky complained that the “doleful dirge” of those he was forcing out “did not stop ringing in my ears for a long time thereafter”. 

Categorical opposition

Zionists’ fear of universal democracy, and their commitment to ethnic cleansing, was so strong that after the First World War, when the British - concerned with overextending themselves - wanted to ask the US to assume part of the responsibility for Palestine, they opposed it categorically.

The World Zionist Organization (WZO) objected vehemently to US involvement: “Democracy in America too commonly means majority rule without regards to diversity of types or stages of civilization or differences of quality … The numerical majority in Palestine today is Arab, not Jewish. Qualitatively, it is a simple fact that the Jews are now predominant in Palestine, and given proper conditions they will be predominant quantitatively also in a generation or two,” the WZO stated. 

“But if the crude arithmetical conception of democracy were to be applied now or at some early stage in the future to Palestinian conditions, the majority that would rule would be the Arab majority, and the task of establishing and developing a great Jewish Palestine would be infinitely more difficult.”

Palestinians speak with Israeli soldiers by a captured Arab village in 1948 (AFP)

Palestinians speak with Israeli soldiers by a captured Arab village in 1948 (AFP)

Note that the WZO ignored the fact that Native Americans and African Americans, among others, were not included in the US version of “democracy”.

In the same year, Julius Kahn, a Jewish US Congressman, delivered a statement endorsed by around 300 Jewish personalities - both rabbis and laymen - to then-president Woodrow Wilson, whose administration supported Zionists.

The statement denounced Zionists for attempting to segregate Jews and reverse the historical trend towards emancipation, and objected to the creation of a distinctly Jewish state in Palestine as contrary “to the principles of democracy”.

'Compulsory transfer'

Herzl’s foundational fear of democracy was adopted by his Zionist followers. On the right, the founder of Revisionist Zionism, Vladimir Jabotinsky, argued in 1923 against the Zionist Labor “left” who wanted to expel the Palestinian population through trickery, explaining that there was no escape from the violent formula that Jewish colonisation and expulsion of the Palestinians were one and the same process.

“Any native people … will not voluntarily allow, not only a new master, but even a new partner. And so it is for the Arabs,” Jabotinsky noted. “Compromisers in our midst attempt to convince us that the Arabs are some kind of fools who can be tricked … [and] who will abandon their birth right to Palestine for cultural and economic gains. I flatly reject this assessment of the Palestinian Arabs.”

In the 1920s and 1930s, Zionists strategised plans for the ethnic cleansing (what they termed “transfer”) of Palestinians. Concurring with Jabotinsky, David Ben-Gurion, the Labor Zionist leader of the colonial settlers, declared in June 1938: “I support compulsory transfer. I do not see anything immoral in it.” 

His statement followed the policy adopted by the Jewish Agency, which set up its first “Population Transfer Committee” in November 1937 to strategise the forceful expulsion of the Palestinians. Two additional committees were established in 1941 and 1948.

Enemies of Palestinians

Chaim Weizmann, head of the WZO, entertained in 1941 plans to expel one million Palestinians to Iraq and replace them with five million Polish and other European Jewish colonists. He told his plans to the Soviet ambassador in London, Ivan Maisky, in hopes of obtaining Soviet support.

When Maisky expressed surprise, Weizmann replied with a racist argument, not unlike that used by fascists against European Jews in the same period: Palestinians’ “laziness and primitivism turn a flourishing garden into a desert. Give me the land occupied by a million Arabs, and I will easily settle five times that number of Jews on it.” 

The so-called formula of a “Jewish and democratic state”, which so many of Israel’s apologists fear may now be in peril, was always based on an arithmetic of Jewish supremacy and ethnic cleansing - not unlike the white supremacist liberal democracies established after ethnic cleansing in the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. 

But while the other settler colonies were able, after centuries of ethnic cleansing, to institute white demographic supremacy - although the current anti non-white-immigration policies in the US show how delicate this balance has become - Israel’s colonial Jewish population went back to being a minority facing a Palestinian native majority.

That majority continues to resist ethnic cleansing and Jewish supremacist rule, which Israel’s supporters and the enemies of Palestinians celebrate as “a Jewish and democratic state”. 


Joseph Massad is Professor of Modern Arab Politics and Intellectual History at Columbia University in New York. He is the author of many books and academic and journalistic articles. His books include Colonial Effects: The Making of National Identity in Jordan, Desiring Arabs, The Persistence of the Palestinian Question: Essays on Zionism and the Palestinians, and most recently Islam in Liberalism. His books and articles have been translated to a dozen languages.

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HISTORY: 1948 - 1967
Jan
29
5:00 PM17:00

HISTORY: 1948 - 1967

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History: 1948 - 1967

On May 15, 1948—the day after the creation of the State of Israel—the Arab world went to war against the new state. It is no surprise that the rejection of Israel’s dominance would lead to conflict. Israel was backed by Western sympathizers and Stalin, and was able to obtain a huge quantity of weapons for the Israeli army (Gorodetsky 20), which was now fighting for its existence. On the other side were the Arabs, loosely allied and less prepared for the magnitude of the war (Khalidi 9). While the Palestinians viewed this as a fight to keep their land and lifestyle, they were undermined by several terrorist attacks and massacres by Israelis which frightened the population, causing hundreds of thousands to flee their villages rather than fight (Molavi 1).

When the war was over, Israel controlled all of the land that had been promised to them in the Partition Plan, plus almost 60% of the area that had been allocated to the Palestinians (Moughrabi 37). This outcome must be recognized as much more than the gain or loss of land. To use Noel’s language, the conflicted culminated in “annihilation, expulsion, [and] total subjugation of the less powerful group” (Noel 5). The nation of Palestine as it had existed was now annihilated: an unknown number were dead; about 800,000 Palestinian Arabs were expelled or fled from their homes, most never to return; and those who remained inside the borders of the State of Israel have been subjected to varying degrees of subjugation ever since (Molavi 1).

According to Badil (“Alternative”) Resource Center For Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights, “most refugees were displaced by Israeli military forces using tactics violating basic principles of international humanitarian and human rights law: attacks on civilians, massacres and other atrocities; expulsion; and destruction and looting of property” (Ongoing). Palestinians around the world remember May 15th, Israel’s Independence Day, as Nakba (Catastrophe) Day, and consider it a day of deep mourning. The tragedy of the event was not lost on David Ben-Gurion, Israel’s first prime minister:

Why should the Arabs make peace? If I was an Arab leader, I would never make terms with Israel. That is natural: we have taken their country. Sure, God promised it to us, but what does that matter to them? Our God is not theirs. We come from Israel, it’s true, but two thousand years ago, and what is that to them? There has been anti-Semitism, the Nazis, Hitler, Auschwitz, but was that their fault? They only see one thing: we came here and stole their country. Why should they accept that? (Goldmann 99)

Once the war was over, Israel began to develop a new set of laws that would maintain and enhance its dominance. The task: to keep the 150,000 Palestinian Israeli citizens in a position of relative powerlessness. The scarce commodity to control: land—not only the land owned by the State and its Jewish Israeli citizens, but also as much as possible of the land owned by the Palestinian Israelis. This was accomplished through subjugation and expulsion.

To begin with, an aggressive policy of depopulation of Palestinian villages, which had emerged years before the birth of the State, picked up speed. Over time, more than four hundred villages (including my in-laws’ village, Ibdis) were evacuated and either repopulated with Jewish immigrants or bulldozed. On a smaller scale, neighborhoods in larger cities were also emptied of their Palestinian residents and appropriated by Jews. This act served the dual purpose of providing ready-made housing to incoming Jewish immigrants, and preventing Palestinians who had fled during the war from returning (Aruri 50). Palestinian Israelis who remained, and were in the way, were redirected to areas that had been assigned to them. The boundaries of these new towns were predetermined, and no growth was permitted; nor was construction of any new towns permitted (Fields 69). This policy is still in place today: not one new Palestinian town or village has been approved or established since the creation of the State in 1948 (Hesketh 10).

The other method Israel used to maintain power and thereby control over the land was more insidious. It took the form of Land Laws, and they were myriad. Most were not overtly discriminatory, but their underlying purpose was to appropriate land from the Palestinian citizens (Fields 70). A few examples will suffice:

-       Defense Regulation 125: under this law, Israel was permitted to declare any lands necessary for security zones and expel their inhabitants. When the people were gone, the Ministry of Agriculture would declare the land as “wasteland” and take control of it. (Dajani 40)

-       The Absentees Property Law: in this linguistic masterpiece, Palestinians who had fled from their homes and been barred from returning to them—even if they were within sight of their homes, and even if they held the deeds—were considered “absentees” because they were not in their homes on a particular day (that was chosen by the Israeli government). Their literal presence was acknowledged, but not considered sufficient to consider them legally allowed to keep their homes. Hence nearly 50,000 Palestinian Israelis were considered “present absentees.” (41) They number near 100,000 today, and are still internally displaced, residing in “unrecognized villages,” unable to receive services from the State of Israel. In the first five years of Israel’s existence, 350 of the 370 new Jewish settlements were built on land confiscated under this law. (41)

-       The Prescription Law: under this law, Palestinian Israeli farmers were required to prove that they had cultivated their land, uninterrupted, for a period of 15 years. If they were unable to do so, the land reverted to the State. This was problematic for many reasons, not the least of which was the fact that some of the Palestinian farmers’ documents had been lost in the war or during their evacuation. Some tried to use tax records as proof, only to have that form of documentation rejected. (45)

-       Town Planning Ordinance: on the surface this law looks innocent enough. It stipulates that a permit is required in order to build a new structure or add on to an existing structure. Without a permit, the structure is subject to demolition at the owner’s expense. However, it is important to note that Israeli bureaucracy makes it almost impossible for Palestinian Israelis to obtain building permits, and since the population continues to grow, new buildings are essential. It is not uncommon for a family to try unsuccessfully for years to get a permit, and finally to build an addition onto their home anyway, only to have it demolished. This may happen many times to the same family. (45)

The Palestinian Israelis’ position in the ethnic stratification was humiliating and infuriating: the entire Arab world was angered by Israel’s very presence as well as by its treatment of the Palestinians.

In 1967, a war broke out between Israel and its neighbors, Egypt, Jordan, and Syria. Again, Israel was reported to have broken international humanitarian and human rights laws in the war that lasted six days (Israel’s Belligerent 10). The end result was that Israel occupied all of the remaining Palestinian lands—that 22% that had remained from the war in 1948. The Gaza Strip (which had been under Egyptian control) and the West Bank (which had been under Jordanian control) were now fully subject to Israel. Significantly, East Jerusalem, which had been Palestinian, was annexed by Israel as well. (Dajani 124) Palestinians commemorate June 5th, the day the war started, as Naksa (“setback” or “relapse”) Day. Less than two decades into the existence of the State of Israel, its control over the scarce resource of land was categorical and its domination absolute.

It can not be understated that it is unlawful for a state to expand its territory through war, even while acting in self-defense. This is in the charter of the United Nations (UN Charter). After the war, the UN General Assembly characterized Israel’s occupation of Gaza and the West Bank as a denial of self-determination and therefore “a serious and increasing threat to international peace and security” (Quigley 220).

When the dust settled on this short but decisive war, 400,000 Palestinians were displaced—half of which (including my in-laws) had already been displaced by the 1948 war. Nearly half of all Palestinians now lived outside their homeland (From 3).

Immediately after the 1967 war, the United Nations Security Council called on Israel to ensure the safety of the inhabitants of the occupied lands and facilitate the return of those who had fled during the conflict (UNSC), a demand which Israel ignored. More than 200 resolutions have been passed since 1967, calling attention to various human rights violations on the part of the State, nearly all of which have been disregarded (Hammond, un.org). Significantly, the United States has vetoed more than 40 resolutions calling on Israel to subscribe to international law (UNSC US Vetoes). It is important to keep in mind that, according to international law, occupation is intended to be a temporary measure (Occupation); yet Israel has occupied the West Bank and Gaza uninterrupted since 1967.

This neglect of their responsibility as occupiers has very real life (and death) consequences: just one striking example is in the infant and maternal mortality rates, as reported in the CIA World Factbook and other sources. In 2010, Israel saw an infant mortality rate of 4 deaths per 1,000 live births (2.6% for Jewish Israeli infants, 6.4% for Palestinian Israeli infants (Kelner)), while the Occupied Territories saw 14 deaths per 1,000 live births (CIA). The maternal mortality rate in Israel is 7 deaths per 100,000 live births (CIA) (for Palestinian Israeli women—especially Bedouin in unrecognized villages—the number is higher (UNESC)), compared to the OT’s alarming 64 deaths per 100,000 live births. (CIA) Besides the danger to babies and women, young men were being detained, often without charges; older men were unemployed and humiliated (UPDATE). Palestinians have faced an ongoing struggle for survival.

The history of the State of Israel is brief and bloody. It is the story of an oppressed people oppressing another people. The Jewish population that entered the land of Palestine before 1948 had powerful backers and strong ethnic identity, enabling them to quickly become dominant over the indigenous Palestinians. The Palestinians in turn refused to be subjugated or regulated. Because both groups wanted the land (scarce resource), conflict ensued—and continues to this day.

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HISTORY: 1972-2012 assassinations of Palestinian leaders by Israel
Feb
1
10:30 PM22:30

HISTORY: 1972-2012 assassinations of Palestinian leaders by Israel

Palestinian author and intellectual Ghassan Kanafani was killed in Beirut in 1972 by a car bomb that was believed to have been planted by Israeli agents. (PHOTO: Al Akhbar English)

Palestinian author and intellectual Ghassan Kanafani was killed in Beirut in 1972 by a car bomb that was believed to have been planted by Israeli agents. (PHOTO: Al Akhbar English)

Reposted from Institute for Middle East Understanding (IMEU), November 6, 2013

On November 6 [2013], several news outlets reported that the widow of former Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) Chairman Yasser Arafat announced that the results of a Swiss investigation into her late husband's death concluded he was poisoned with polonium, a radioactive substance. In November 2012, Arafat's body was exhumed in order for medical examiners to take samples of his remains to test for polonium, part of a murder investigation launched by French authorities at the request of Suha Arafat following the discovery last summer of traces of the highly toxic substance on some of his personal effects.

Yasser Arafat (Abbas Momani / AFP / Getty Images)

Yasser Arafat (Abbas Momani / AFP / Getty Images)

In October 2004, after enduring a two-year siege by the Israeli military in his West Bank headquarters, Arafat fell seriously ill. Two weeks later he was transported to a French military hospital where he died. Doctors concluded he died from a stroke caused by a mysterious blood disorder. At the time, many Palestinians suspected that Arafat was murdered. Over the years, he had survived numerous assassination attempts by Israel, and just six months before his death then-Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said that an agreement he had made with US President George W. Bush promising that Israel wouldn't kill Arafat was no longer valid, stating: "I released myself from the commitment in regard to Arafat."

Two years prior to that statement, in an interview published in February 2002, Sharon told an Israeli journalist that he regretted not killing Arafat when he had the chance during Israel’s invasion of Lebanon in 1982, stating: “I am sorry that we did not liquidate him.''

In 2002, current Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, then in the opposition following his first term as prime minister (1996-1999), told the Likud party Central Committee: “We must completely and totally eradicate Arafat’s regime and remove him from the vicinity... This one thing must be understood: If we do not remove Arafat and his regime, the terror will return and increase. And only if we do remove them is there any chance of turning a new leaf in our relationship with the Palestinians.” When Arafat died, Netanyahu was serving as Minister of Finance in Sharon's government. 

PARTIAL LIST OF ISRAELI ASSASSINATIONS OF PALESTINIANS

2012 – On November 14, two days after Palestinian factions in Gaza agree to a truce following several days of violence, Israel assassinates the leader of Hamas' military wing, Ahmed Jabari, threatening to escalate the violence once again after a week in which at least six Palestinian civilians are killed and dozens more wounded in Israeli attacks. Although Israeli officials know that Jabari is in the process of finalizing a long-term truce, and that he is one of the few people in Gaza who can enforce it, they kill him anyway, marking the start of a week-long assault on Gaza that kills more than 100 Palestinian civilians, including at least 33 children, and wounds more than 1000 others. 

2012 – On March 9, Israel violates an Egyptian-brokered ceasefire and assassinates the head of the Gaza-based Popular Resistance Committees, Zuhair al-Qaisi, sparking another round of violence in which at least two dozen Palestinians are killed, including at least four civilians, and scores more wounded. As it usually does, Israel claims it is acting in self-defense, against an imminent attack being planned by the PRC, while providing no evidence to substantiate the allegation.

Following the assassination, Israeli journalist Zvi Bar'el writes in the Haaretz newspaper: "It is hard to understand what basis there is for the assertion that Israel is not striving to escalate the situation. One could assume that an armed response by the Popular Resistance Committees or Islamic Jihad to Israel's targeted assassination was taken into account. But did anyone weigh the possibility that the violent reaction could lead to a greater number of Israeli casualties than any terrorist attack that Zuhair al-Qaisi, the secretary-general of the Popular Resistance Committees, could have carried out? "In the absence of a clear answer to that question, one may assume that those who decided to assassinate al-Qaisi once again relied on the 'measured response' strategy, in which an Israeli strike draws a reaction, which draws an Israeli counter-reaction."

2010 – In January, suspected Israeli assassins kill senior Hamas leader Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in a Dubai hotel room. As in the past, the Israeli agents believed to have carried out the killing use forged and stolen foreign passports from western countries, including Britain, France, Ireland and Germany, causing an international uproar.

2009 – On January 15, an Israeli airstrike kills Said Seyam, Hamas’ Interior Minister and member of the Palestinian Legislative Council.

2009 – On January 1, an Israeli airstrike on the home of senior Hamas military commander Nizar Rayan kills him and 15 family members, including 11 of his children.

2006 – On June 8, Israel assassinates Jamal Abu Samhadana, founder of the Popular Resistance Committees and Interior Minister of the Hamas-led Palestinian Authority government, killing three other members of the PRC in the process.

2004 – On April 17, Israel assassinates Abdel Aziz Rantisi, a co-founder of Hamas and its leader since the assassination of Hamas spiritual leader Sheik Ahmed Yassin a month earlier. Rantisi is considered a moderate within Hamas. 

2004 – On March 22, Israel assassinates the 67-year-old wheelchair-bound spiritual leader and co-founder of Hamas, Sheik Ahmed Yassin, as he leaves prayers at a mosque in Gaza, killing nine innocent bystanders in the process. 

2003 – On March 8, Israel assassinates Ibrahim Maqadma, one of the founders of Hamas and one of its top military commanders.

2002 – On July 23, hours before a widely reported ceasefire declared by Hamas and other Palestinian groups is scheduled to come into effect, Israel bombs an apartment building in the middle of the night in the densely populated Gaza Strip in order to assassinate Hamas leader Salah Shehada. Fourteen civilians, including nine children, are also killed in the attack, and 50 others wounded, leading to a scuttling of the ceasefire and a continuation of violence. 

2002 – On January 14, Israel assassinates Raed Karmi, a militant leader in the Fatah party, following a ceasefire agreed to by all Palestinian militant groups the previous month, leading to its cancellation. Later in January, the first suicide bombing by the Fatah linked Al-Aqsa Martyr's Brigade takes place.

2001 – On November 23, Israel assassinates senior Hamas militant, Mahmoud Abu Hanoud. At the time, Hamas was adhering to an agreement made with PLO head Yasser Arafat not to attack targets inside of Israel. Following the killing, Israeli military correspondent of the right-leaning Yediot Ahronot newspaper, Alex Fishman, writes in a front-page story:

"We again find ourselves preparing with dread for a new mass terrorist attack within the Green Line [Israel's pre-1967 border]... Whoever gave a green light to this act of liquidation knew full well that he is thereby shattering in one blow the gentleman's agreement between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority; under that agreement, Hamas was to avoid in the near future suicide bombings inside the Green Line..."

2001 – On August 27, Israel uses US-made Apache helicopter gunships to assassinate Abu Ali Mustafa, secretary general of the leftist Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. In response, PFLP members assassinate Israel’s Tourism Minister and notorious right-wing hardliner, Rehavam Ze'evi, who advocated the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza. 

2001 – On August 15, undercover Israeli soldiers assassinate Emad Abu Sneineh, a member of the Fatah linked Tanzim militia, opening fire on him at close range.

2001 – On August 5, Israeli forces assassinate Hamas member Amer Mansour Habiri in the West Bank city of Tulkarem, firing missiles at his car from helicopter gunships.

2001 – On July 29, Israel assassinates Jamal Mansour, a senior member of Hamas’ political wing. 

2001 – On July 25, as Israeli and Palestinian Authority security officials are scheduled to meet to shore up a six-week-old ceasefire amidst the violence of the Second Intifada, Israel assassinates a senior Islamic Jihad member, Salah Darwazeh in Nablus. 

1997 – In September, the Israeli government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attempts to assassinate Khaled Meshaal, the chairman of Hamas’ political bureau, in Amman, Jordan. Israeli agents using fake Canadian passports attempt to kill Meshaal by injecting poison into his ear. The would-be assassins are quickly captured and in the ensuing diplomatic uproar Jordan’s King Hussein threatens to cut off relations with Israel and publicly try and hang the Israeli agents unless Israel provides the antidote to the poison. The Netanyahu government turns over the antidote, saving Meshaal’s life. As part of the deal, Israel also releases Hamas spiritual leader Ahmed Yassin from prison. 

1996 – On January 5, Israel assassinates Hamas military commander Yahya Ayash, known as “The Engineer,” detonating explosives in a cell phone he is using. Over the next two months, Hamas responds by launching four suicide bombings that kill more than 50 Israelis. Israeli intelligence later concludes: “the attacks were most probably a direct reaction to the assassination of Ayash.” 

1995 – In October, Israeli gunmen assassinate Fathi Shiqaqi, a founder of Islamic Jihad, in Malta, as he leaves his hotel in Valletta. 

1994 – On November 2, Israel assassinates journalist Hani Abed, who has ties to Islamic Jihad, using a bomb rigged to his car.

1988 – On April 16, Israel assassinates senior PLO leader Khalil al-Wazir in Tunisia, even as the Reagan administration is trying to organize an international conference to broker peace between Israelis and Palestinians. The US State Department condemns the murder as an "act of political assassination." In ensuing protests in the occupied territories, a further seven Palestinians are gunned down by Israeli forces.

1986 – On June 9, Khalid Nazzal, Secretary of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, is shot dead by Israeli agents in Athens, Greece.

1983 – On August 21, senior PLO official and top aid to Yasser Arafat, Mamoun Meraish, is shot and killed by Israeli agents in Athens, Greece. According to later Israeli press reports, future Foreign Minister (currently Minister of Justice) Tzipi Livni  is involved in Meraish’s killing.

1978 – On March 28, Wadie Haddad, a senior member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, dies in East Germany from slow-acting poison ingested several months earlier. It is later revealed that Israeli agents were behind his murder. 

1972 – On July 8, Palestinian author and intellectual Ghassan Kanafani and his 17-year-old niece are killed in Beirut by a car bomb, believed to have been planted by Israeli agents. A member of the left-wing Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, Kanafani was considered a major literary figure in the Arab world and beyond. 

1972 – During the 1970s, Israel carries out a series of assassinations against Palestinians they accuse of being involved with the Black September militant organization, which is responsible for the hostage taking of Israeli athletes at the 1972 Olympics in Munich, Germany, resulting in the deaths of 11 Israeli athletes and officials. On October 16, 1972, Wael Zwaiter, a renowned Palestinian intellectual and the PLO representative to Italy, is shot and killed by Israeli agents in Rome. Israel accuses him of being involved with Black September, a charge strenuously denied by PLO officials and those who knew him, who pointed out that Zwaiter was a pacifist.

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HISTORY: c. 1975 the Secret Arms Deal Between Israel and Apartheid South Africa
Feb
2
9:30 PM21:30

HISTORY: c. 1975 the Secret Arms Deal Between Israel and Apartheid South Africa

Israeli President Shimon Peres denied reports he offered to sell nuclear weapons to apartheid South Africa when he was defense minister in the 1970s.  The Unspoken Allianc e exposed in 2010 top-secret South African documents revealing that a secret meeting between then-defense minister Shimon Peres and his South African counterpart, P.W. Botha, ended with an offer by Peres for the sale of warheads “in three sizes.”

Israeli President Shimon Peres denied reports he offered to sell nuclear weapons to apartheid South Africa when he was defense minister in the 1970s. The Unspoken Alliance exposed in 2010 top-secret South African documents revealing that a secret meeting between then-defense minister Shimon Peres and his South African counterpart, P.W. Botha, ended with an offer by Peres for the sale of warheads “in three sizes.”

From Amazon: Sasha Polakow-Suransky reveals the previously classified details of countless arms deals conducted behind the backs of Israel’s own diplomatic corps and in violation of a United Nations arms embargo. Based on extensive archival research and exclusive interviews with former generals and high-level government officials in both countries, The Unspoken Alliance tells a troubling story of Cold War paranoia, moral compromises, and Israel’s estrangement from the left. It is essential reading for anyone interested in Israel’s history and its future.

Book review by Stephen Kinzer, reposted from Daily Beast

The Unspoken Alliance is a provocative book. It has ignited a firestorm in the British press and sparked angry reactions in Israel. Yet the book, which traces Israel's close and largely secret relationship with apartheid South Africa, has drawn relatively little notice in the U.S. Only a few media outlets have focused on its revelations.

6-29 book.jpeg

At the heart of this book is a richly detailed account of how Israel and South Africa cooperated as they worked to develop nuclear weapons in the 1960s and '70s. It is especially relevant today, as nuclear rivalries escalate in the Middle East, because it explains—calmly, methodically, and with full documentation—how Israel and South Africa helped each other build atomic bombs in secret.

According to President Shimon Peres, however, the book slanders Israel. Peres took special umbrage at author Sasha Polakow-Suransky's assertion that when Peres was defense minister in 1975, he was involved in offering to sell South Africa advanced Jericho missiles, which could be equipped to carry nuclear warheads. In a letter to The Guardian, which reported the allegation, Peres said it had "no basis in reality" and was the result of "selective interpretation of South African documents." Replying in Haaretz soon afterward, Polakow-Suransky called Peres' letter evasive.

"The 1975 deal was never consummated," he wrote, "but there is no doubt Peres took part in the discussions and that the South Africans perceived Israel's proposal as a nuclear offer."

Israel has been an exporter of military power for most of its existence. During the Cold War, usually acting with at least tacit approval from Washington, Israel served as unofficial quartermaster to pro-Western regimes around the world. Arms exports became a foundation of the Israeli economy and helped the country win a remarkable array of friends.

During the 1980s, Israel was the chief supplier to the Guatemalan army, trained anti-terror squads in Honduras, and sent hundreds of tons of weaponry to the Nicaraguan Contras. Israelis established private security forces in Colombia that ranchers used to protect themselves and dispatch their enemies, and did the same in the Philippines during the Ferdinand Marcos era. Dictators from Chile to Indonesia equipped their armies with Israeli-made Galil assault rifles and Uzi submachine guns. Israeli advisers trained anti-Marxist rebels in Angola and Libyans fighting Muammar Qaddaffi’s regime.

John Vorster, South Africa's prime minister from 1966 to 1978. (AFP/Getty Images)

John Vorster, South Africa's prime minister from 1966 to 1978.(AFP/Getty Images)

The most intriguing of Israel's far-flung security partnerships was its long and close relationship with the apartheid regime in South Africa.

The book opens with what was surely the most jarring public moment in the history of this odd relationship. In 1976, Prime Minister John Vorster of South Africa, who the British had jailed during World War II for his pro-Nazi activities, was given a red-carpet welcome in Israel, laid a wreath at the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial, and heard Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin praise him at a state banquet for creating a “prosperous atmosphere of cooperation” between their two countries.

Israelis were conflicted about their relationship with the Pretoria regime. Early leaders, notably David Ben-Gurion and Golda Meir, were outspoken critics of apartheid. Gradually, however, as the center of gravity in Israeli politics shifted, Israeli leaders came to see South Africa as a kindred state, besieged by an angry ethnic enemy and unfairly stigmatized by a hypocritical world. Blacks in South Africa “want to gain control over the white minority just like the Arabs here want to gain control over us,” reasoned one Israeli chief of staff, General Raful Eitan. “And we, like the white minority in South Africa, must act to prevent them from taking over.”

According to The Unspoken Alliance, the Israel-South Africa relationship began to blossom in the 1960s and became rich and multi-layered during the 1970s. Israelis trained South Africa’s elite military units, sold tanks and aviation technology to its army, and licensed the production of Galil rifles at a factory in South Africa. What made this relationship unique, though, was that both countries were pursuing nuclear weapons.

They made a simple deal: raw materials for technology. South Africa mined uranium, and sent 500 tons of yellowcake to Israel from the mid-1960s to the mid-1970s. In return, Israel shared its ballistic-missile technology and sent South Africa 30 grams of tritium, which Polakow-Suransky describes as “a radioactive substance that thermonuclear weapons require to increase their explosive power. Thirty grams was enough to boost the yield of several atomic bombs.”

With each other's help, Israel and South Africa succeeded in producing nuclear weapons. The United States was not a party to their conspiracy, and in fact sought at several points to monitor and restrict it. American nonproliferation efforts, however, were not vigorous enough to penetrate an operation that both sides worked assiduously to hide. “Secrecy about the extent of their ties was paramount,” Polakow-Suransky writes. “Disguise and denial became the norm.”

This account of the two countries' parallel nuclear programs has attracted considerable attention for The Unspoken Alliance in the Israeli press. The author has been widely quoted there, and has made the rounds of public-affairs interview appearances in Washington, San Francisco, and elsewhere. Curiously, though, no bookstore or local media outlet in New York, where he lives, has yet given him a forum.

View of the nuclear reactor in Dimona, southern Israel, in 2016 (Moshe Shai/Flash90)

View of the nuclear reactor in Dimona, southern Israel, in 2016 (Moshe Shai/Flash90)

Israel remains a nuclear power, albeit undeclared, and since details of its programs are secret, it is naturally eager to keep them hidden. South Africa dismantled its arsenal in the early 1990s. Prime Minister F.W. de Klerk's announcement in 1993 that the job had been completed was the first official confirmation that South Africa had in fact possessed nuclear weapons. It constituted what Polakow-Suransky calls “the world's first case of voluntary disarmament.” The motivation was compelling: De Klerk and his white caste were not about to bequeath a nuclear arsenal to the African National Congress.

During the 1960s, Israel courted African governments, but its cooperation with apartheid South Africa ultimately poisoned many of those relationships. “The people of South Africa will never forget the support of the state of Israel to the apartheid regime,” Nelson Mandela said soon after being released from prison. And Polakow-Suransky reminds us that in 1981, the 19-year-old Barack Obama centered his first public speech on a demand that his school, Occidental College, divest from South Africa.

Polakow-Suransky concludes his book with two maps, one showing the isolated South African “homelands” into which the apartheid regime herded many blacks, and the other showing Israeli settlements on the West Bank. He quotes former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert as warning that his country could one day “face a South African-style struggle for equal voting rights, and as soon as that happens, the state of Israel is finished.”

Comparison between the bantustans to which black South Africans were confined during that country’s apartheid era and the fragmented communities that Palestinians have now in the West Bank, similarly created by systemic colonialism and racism – a system of apartheid. (From  Palestine Portal )

Comparison between the bantustans to which black South Africans were confined during that country’s apartheid era and the fragmented communities that Palestinians have now in the West Bank, similarly created by systemic colonialism and racism – a system of apartheid. (From Palestine Portal)

In an interview, Polakow-Suransky said the clandestine cooperation that propelled Israel and South Africa into the nuclear club is an instructive model for today's proliferators. “Aspiring nuclear powers like Iran probably study the South African case from the '70s very closely, and also Israel's case from the '60s, in terms of deceptively developing a nuclear capacity,” he said. “Both are models of covert development with denialist rhetoric on the surface. Both countries faced the threat of sanctions, yet both managed to complete their programs.”

Can sanctions slow a country's drive for nuclear weapons? Only at early stages of the program, Polakow-Suransky said. “In the South African case, all of the pressure and total isolation of the late 1970s pushed them further toward full proliferation,” he asserted. “Any aspiring nuclear power close to the finish line will do anything necessary to get across. Israel did that, and so did South Africa. Whether Iran gets there or not, it's probably trying to do that now.”


Author Sasha Polakow-Suransky is a senior editor at Foreign Affairs and holds a doctorate in modern history from Oxford University, where he was a Rhodes Scholar from 2003-2006. His writing has appeared in the American Prospect, The Boston Globe, Foreign Policy, Ha’aretz, The International Herald Tribune, Jerusalem Post, The New Republic, and Newsweek. He lives in Brooklyn.

Stephen Kinzer is an award-winning foreign correspondent. 

See Sasha Polakow-Suransky interviewed on Democracy Now! here.

To read an excerpt of The Unspoken Alliance, go here.


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HISTORY: 1968 - 1993 PLO and 1st Intifada
Feb
5
5:00 PM17:00

HISTORY: 1968 - 1993 PLO and 1st Intifada

Faris Odeh stood alone in front of a tank on October 29, 2000 with a stone in his hand, when a photojournalist from AP took his picture. Ten days later, he was throwing stones again when he was shot in the neck by Israeli troops. The boy and the image subsequently assumed iconic status as a symbol of opposition to the Israeli occupation. Faris died a few days after the shooting.

Faris Odeh stood alone in front of a tank on October 29, 2000 with a stone in his hand, when a photojournalist from AP took his picture. Ten days later, he was throwing stones again when he was shot in the neck by Israeli troops. The boy and the image subsequently assumed iconic status as a symbol of opposition to the Israeli occupation. Faris died a few days after the shooting.

Attempts To Change the Status Quo – the PLO and the First Intifada

The regional map changed dramatically in 1967 with the occupation of every remaining inch of Palestinian land and the annexation of East Jerusalem. It was time for Israel to, in Noel’s words, “take all necessary steps to restrict the now subordinated [group], thereby hampering their effectiveness as competitors” (Noel 163).

Once again, Land Laws enabled Israel to appropriate Palestinian property, only this time, in addition to taking land inside of the State, land was also taken from residents of the newly occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip. Confiscated land turned into Jewish settlements; Palestinians were (and still are) governed by crushing Israeli military law (Settlements); and tragically, these same Palestinians were (and remain) in limbo—they are not citizens of any country (Palestine). It is no wonder then that the Palestinians felt the need to take matters into their own hands.

In 1964, after enduring Israel’s attempts to “restrict” and “hamper” the Palestinian people for 16 years, the Palestine Liberation Organization, or PLO, was founded. Its express purpose was to “liberate Palestine” through armed struggle (Khalidi 11). Indeed, the PLO conducted terrorist activities in its early years to get the world’s attention regarding the plight of the Palestinian people living under brutal occupation. Its stated goal at that time was to bring an end to Israel so that Palestine could reemerge within the boundaries it had enjoyed before 1948. Because Zionism had effectively delegitimized the Palestinians, the PLO delegitimized Israel (11)—in an attempt to regain lost land, dignity, and hope, all of which had been taken from them in 1948. The PLO’s actions were not noble, but the organization was defending an oppressed people against a government that was also not noble, and against an ethnic stratification system that strangled them. Palestinians today equate the early PLO with the African National Congress (ANC): fifty years of nonviolence in South Africa had proven ineffective against white-dominant apartheid, and more aggressive approaches were deemed necessary in order to bring about equality (cfr). The PLO and ANC both had legitimate grievances that were being ignored when expressed through peaceful means (Israel’s Apartheid).

Over time, the position of the Palestine Liberation Organization began to mellow: in 1974 it recognized Israel’s right to exist (or to be precise, recognized the fact that Israel exists) (Session 1,10). In exchange, Israel officially recognized the PLO as the legitimate representative of the Palestinian people. The PLO’s unwillingness to recognize Israel as a Jewish state is not a matter of stubbornness, but the acknowledgement of a fact which Israel itself seems to ignore: 20% of its citizens are not Jewish (CIA). Although Israel accepts the PLO, its interaction with the Palestinian Authority—the governing body of the PLO—is antagonistic at best. Remarkably, even though conditions in the Palestinian Territories have not improved, the PLO is no longer seeking “total liberation” or “the end of Israel,” but has the more modest goal of achieving the pre-1967 borders (in other words, the end of the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, and the return of East Jerusalem) (Session 2, 4).

The Palestinian people recognize this organization as their sole legitimate representative, as do over one hundred countries with which the PLO enjoys diplomatic relations. The organization has been off of the US terrorist list for over ten years. It also has observer status at the United Nations, has been recognized by the UN since 1974, and has been a nonvoting member since its overwhelming acceptance in 2012 (Status). Over 135 countries recognize the State of Palestine (Diplomatic). Interestingly, in spite of this global recognition, the PLO is still considered by Israel to be “one of the most infamous terrorist organizations around the world.” (PLO)

By 1987, tensions between Israel and Palestine were high. After 20 years of occupation, the Palestinian people were demoralized and angry. Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians had been detained without trial; thousands of homes had been demolished. Israel effectively controlled almost every square mile of historic Palestine. The PLO had played its last card by recognizing the existence of the State of Israel, and had gotten nothing in return for this good faith concession. In short, Israel had failed to provide the Palestinians any acceptable framework of coexistence. As Noel’s model predicts, “overt conflict” emerged once again.

Exactly what event started the First Intifada (“uprising”) is unclear, but the outcome was not unlike Ferguson, Missouri in the summer of 2014: decades of discrimination exploded, the “have-nots” rose up against the system that kept the “haves” in power. Perhaps no one carried a “Palestinian Lives Matter” sign, but the sentiment was the same. To view the violence without understanding the Palestinian biography and history of oppression will result in blaming the victim.

In fact, many parallels have been drawn between the Ferguson and Palestine biographies and the rhetoric that swirls around them. For example, there is the argument—put forth by the dominant groups in both cases—that the people who are dying (Palestinians or black Americans) deserve to die: they are deserving of state violence because they are bad people (terrorists or lazy, drug-using criminals). Or they are bringing it on themselves (hiding weapons in civilian areas or perpetuating a culture of poverty and crime). In the words of University of Massachusetts professor, Heike Schotten, “the only thing that matters is…that the victim gets portrayed as the aggressor and the aggressor, the victim” (Schotten).

The rhetoric used by Israel about the Intifada is right out of a Jewish privilege textbook (and with a few word changes, could be a 2014 mainstream news report from Ferguson):

The First Intifada – from The Jewish Virtual Library

False charges of Israeli atrocities and instigation from the mosques played an important role in starting the intifada…Mass rioting broke out…This soon sparked a wave of unrest…Over the next week, rock-throwing, blocked roads and tire burnings were reported throughout the territories. [Within a week] six Palestinians had died and 30 had been injured in the violence. 

The intifada was violent from the start. During the first four years of the uprising, more than 3,600 Molotov cocktail attacks, 100 hand grenade attacks and 600 assaults with guns or explosives were reported by the Israel Defense Forces. The violence was directed at soldiers and civilians alike. Approximately 1,100 Palestinians were killed in clashes with Israeli troops…Jews were not the only victims of the violence (emphasis mine - note that there is no explanation of how 1,100 Palestinians died.) (Israel’s Wars).

It is important to recognize that, with all the talk of guns and explosives, only 13% of deaths in the First Intifada were Israeli (Israel’s Wars).

In response to the Palestinians’ mostly nonviolent uprising (primarily taking the form of strikes, refusal to pay taxes, and demonstrations—although some more aggressive means were used at times) (Peled), Israel deployed around 80,000 soldiers who fired live rounds (Tedla). This would account for the grim statistics: the final death toll of the First Intifada was about 1,200 Palestinians and 179 Israelis. At least 23,000 Palestinian children required medical treatment because of beatings by the Israeli Defense Force in the first two years alone (Fatalities). Several resolutions were drafted by the UN Security Council, condemning Israel for its violence and human rights abuses, but were vetoed by the US (UNSC US Vetoes).

Since the 1967 war and Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and the annexation of East Jerusalem, attempts have been made at reconciliation between the two sides. The Oslo Accords are perhaps the best known.

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HISTORY: 1994+ Did Israeli apartheid wall really stop suicide bombings?
Feb
13
10:30 PM22:30

HISTORY: 1994+ Did Israeli apartheid wall really stop suicide bombings?

Was it Israel’s wall or a Palestinian ceasefire that stopped suicide bombings? Saeed QaqAPA images

Was it Israel’s wall or a Palestinian ceasefire that stopped suicide bombings? Saeed QaqAPA images

by Ben White, reposted from Electronic Intifada January 10, 2014 (emphasis added)

The decision this Christmas [2013] by a prominent London church, St James’s of Piccadilly, to build a replica model of Israel’s apartheid wall as part of the festival “Bethlehem Unwrapped“ provoked a predictable hasbara  — propaganda — offensive by the Israeli government and Zionist lobby groups.

When Israel lobby group BICOM ”fellow” Alan Johnson appeared (from 37’40) on BBC Radio 4’s Sunday show last weekend to discuss the issue, he made two main points.

Firstly, the wall was built purely because of suicide bombings, and secondly, that it “works,” with a 90 percent drop in attacks cited. This line of argument was repeated by, for example, the Board of Deputies of British Jews.

Even if that were all true — that the wall was only built as a response to suicide bombings, and that it was solely responsible for a 90 percent reduction in attacks — criticism of the barrier from a human rights and international law perspective remains valid.

As the Red Cross put it, the wall — and settlements — “are not compatible with Israel’s obligations under international humanitarian law.” In other words, you can’t just do what you like in the name of “security.”

That being said, since these are the same lines repeated by pro-Israel advocates, it is worthwhile explaining how this position is misleading and disingenuous.

8-16 wall3.jpg

“The fence was erected because of suicide bombings”

The idea of a wall pre-dates the second intifada, the Palestinian uprising against Israeli occupation that began in September 2000.

It can be traced back to the early 1990s, when former Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin called for Israel to “take Gaza out of Tel Aviv,” later arguing that “separation as a philosophy” will require a “clear border.”

“Whoever wants to swallow 1.8 million Arabs,” he said, “will just bring greater support for Hamas.” Prior to the Camp David summit of 2000, then-Prime Minister Ehud Barak also vowed to implement “a physical separation” — as his campaign slogan went, “Us here, Them over there.”

The theme of demographics-based “separation” — distinct from “security” as such — has appeared in other justifications for the wall. In 2012, Shaul Arieli, negotiator under three Israeli premiers, wrote that “the need” for the wall stemmed from the fact that “tens of thousands of Palestinians” seek work in Israel, with or without permits, thus “slowly lead[ing] to a Palestinian ‘return’ to Israel.”

Arieli claimed this rationale was “of no less importance” than the security justification. In 2010, Jerusalem municipality official Yakir Segev publicly stated that the wall “was built for political and demographic reasons — not just security concerns.”

There is a further clue for the purpose of the wall from those involved in planning it — specifically, Danny Tirza, an Israeli army colonel. Himself a settler, Tirza has admitted that “the main thing” the Israeli government told him in giving him the job “was to include as many Israelis inside the fence and leave as many Palestinians outside.”

Revealingly, in more recent times Tirza was hired by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “to sketch a future border for Israel to present in negotiations.”

8-16 wall4.jpg

Annexation

The big problem for those claiming that the wall was just built to stop suicide bombings is its route. A reminder: the wall is twice the length of the 1967 ceasefire line (the so-called “Green Line”) that separates the occupied West Bank from present-day Israel.

Eighty five percent of the route runs inside the occupied West Bank. To the west of the wall lies around 10 percent of the West Bank (including East Jerusalem), territory that includes eight industrial zones and 82 settlements with a population of more than 400,000 settlers.

The 2004 advisory opinion by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) at The Hague states that the wall impedes “the exercise by the Palestinian people of its right to self-determination,” its route threatening to create “de facto annexation.”

Despite all of the above, Israeli officials and pro-Israel lobby groups for a while insisted that the wall was a mere temporary security measure, which could be removed or altered at will.

Unsurprisingly, however, the wall has come to be referred to as the route of a future border with a Palestinian “state,” an assumption that informs, for example, how settlement construction is interpreted (i.e. whether building in settlements to the west or east of the wall).

In a June 2013 briefing, Alan Johnson’s Israel lobby group BICOM referred to what it claimed is “an emergent consensus on the rough outlines of a border, which will…fall somewhere between the Green Line and the West Bank security barrier.”

Just this last week, former director of Israel’s Shin Bet secret police Ami Ayalon wrote an op-ed arguing that to preserve “a clear Jewish majority,” the Israeli government “must declare that it has no and will have no sovereignty claims east of the security fence.”

And, back in November, there were even reports that Netanyahu’s negotiating team had suggested the wall would be “a permanent frontier” during the current peace talks.

90 percent reduction?

Rachele Richards, Graphic Designer

Rachele Richards, Graphic Designer

This second myth used by Israel’s apologists with regards to the wall has been critiqued less than the first, but is just as disingenuous.

Construction on the wall began in the summer of 2002, a year which saw a record 55 suicide bombing attacks inside Israel (according to the Israeli government’s own data).

In 2003, this fell to 25 such attacks, with 14 in 2004, seven throughout 2005, four in 2006, and one in 2007. So doesn’t that show that the wall worked?

Not quite. Have a look at the graph above, prepared for this post, using Israeli government and UN data. You can see in mid-2003, the wall was only 20 percent completed, while by mid-2006, it had only reached 50 percent completion. Was a wall whose route was never more than half finished solely responsible for such a drop in attacks?

The answer lies in two events marked on the graph’s timeline: “Operation Defensive Shield” in the spring of 2002, and a unilaterally-declared Hamas ceasefire in the West Bank from 2004/2005 onwards.

Operation Defensive Shield was a large-scale Israeli military assault on West Bank cities resulting in numerous massacres and hundreds of dead, amid massive and systematic human rights abuses. In the words of Haaretz’s security correspondents, “Operation Defensive Shield” “suppressed…suicide bombings” and “restored normalcy.”

Of course the brutal assault did anything but give Palestinians “normalcy.” While there were still some two dozen suicide bombings in the year after the assault, it likely contributed to what happened next: a Hamas ceasefire and the gradual abandonment by Palestinian armed groups of suicide bombing as a tactic and that is what really brought the number of such attacks close to zero.

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Hamas ceasefire

The significance of the second factor, Hamas’ ceasefire, was acknowledged by none other than the Israeli security services. In January 2006, Shin Bet’s annual statistics showed a considerable drop in “terror attacks” for 2005, with “the main reason for the sharp decline,” Shin Bet said, “the [Hamas-called] truce in the [occupied] territories.”

Haaretz commented that “the security fence is no longer mentioned as the major factor in preventing suicide bombings, mainly because the terrorists have found ways to bypass it.” The “main reason for the reduction in terrorist acts,” the report emphasized, was the Hamas truce, and the organization’s “focus on the political arena.”

Even a 2004 paper authored by an Israeli colonel that was intended to show the effectiveness of the “security fence” in reducing suicide bombing attacks referred to the wall as one of three causes for the drop. Avi Dichter, head of Shin Bet from 2000-2005, was clear in 2011 that “the West Bank fence alone did not solve the terror problem.”

How to prevent violence

It is important to note here that the most effective way for Israel to prevent violence is to cease violence, and that the absence of suicide bombing attacks has continued even as the Israeli military has visited extreme violence upon Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Israeli violence – of which, of course, the wall itself is one example – prompts the Palestinian response.

While the Wall was only twenty percent completed in mid-2003, a decade later the wall’s route is still only 62 percent complete.

On Sunday, Yediot Ahronot cited sources within Israel’s “defense establishment” who estimated that around 6,000 Palestinians cross through gaps in the Wall every month. A lower figure of 20-30,000 Palestinians workers a year is cited by Israeli workers’ advocacy group Kav LaOved (which even at its lower end would still mean almost 400 a week).

To cite another example, in 2007 — when the Wall was 50 percent completed and there was one suicide bombing attack the whole year — an estimated average of more than 1,200 Palestinians bypassed the wall to work without permits every week.

8-16 wall last.jpg

Palestinian choice

Even the founder of Israeli campaign group A Fence for Life has admitted that with “tens of thousands of illegal workers” facing “no problem crossing the gaps in the fence,” the lack of attacks is fundamentally due to “the Palestinians’ choice”.

Israel’s apologists, therefore, want you to believe that a partially completed wall, crossed routinely by at least hundreds of Palestinians every week, is the reason for an almost total reduction in suicide bombing attacks.

The additional implication is that the Israeli government, by failing to close the significant gaps in the route, is leaving its citizens at risk of attack due to, in the state’s own words, “budgetary concerns.”

The impact of the Wall

While the two main myths propagated by Israel lobbyists are easily debunked, there are plenty of things we do know for certain about the wall.

We know that from the ICJ to the Red Cross, it has been described as illegal. We know of its disastrous impact on Palestinian farmers, villages, cities, families, schoolchildren, students and many others. We know that from Jenin to Bethlehem, through the concrete-split streets of East Jerusalem, the wall has become another element of Israel’s colonization of Palestine, one more link in the apartheid chain.

The propaganda myths about security are intended to hide this reality but, like the wall itself, they are arguments full of holes.


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HISTORY: 1993 - 2005 Oslo and 2nd Intifada
Mar
1
5:30 PM17:30

HISTORY: 1993 - 2005 Oslo and 2nd Intifada

Attempts at Reconciliation, the Second Intifada

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The Oslo Accords (Oslo I, 1993 and Oslo II, 1995) were an attempt on the part of Israeli and Palestinian leaders to end a long trend of denial. The hope was to create expectations for cooperation, and to build trust over a five-year period, after which more negotiations would result in a lasting peace in the region (Oslo). The photo ops were memorable, but when everyone went home, little happened. In the occupied West Bank it was “business as usual” for Israel: more land was confiscated, more homes were demolished, and settlement population almost doubled. Consequently, on the Palestinians’ side, terrorist attacks continued. Israel blamed the Palestinians for not getting control over terrorism.

Trust was not built: it was eroded—and there had been precious little to begin with. While Israel had promised to gradually return control of the West Bank to the Palestinian Authority, the reality was that at most, the PA was entrusted with governance of only 18%, while 60% remained under full control of Israel; the little that was left was managed jointly. Add to that border control, trade restrictions, nearly 50% unemployment, and unjustified killings of Palestinians (Shah), and it is no wonder the Oslo Accords were considered a failure.

In 2000, the Camp David Summit came and went without an agreement. Yasser Arafat, president of the PA, was blamed by almost every news outlet for walking away from a “generous offer” including “far-reaching concessions” from Israel, without even making a counteroffer (Ackerman). The facts tell the story a little differently.

For years, the PLO had been willing to accept 22% of its original land—the pre-1967 borders—and to leave Israel with 78% of the land that had been Palestine. But Prime Minister Ehud Barak was unwilling to settle for only 78%: his “generous offer” included Israeli annexation of some valuable, fertile parts of the West Bank (coincidentally containing most of the region’s water aquifers) as well as an ongoing military presence in other parts. In exchange, Israel offered a piece of the Negev Desert that included a former toxic waste dump (Ackerman). This is what Yasser Arafat walked away from.

About the same time as Camp David, several interesting developments emerged from the Israeli government: Barak backed out of the promise he’d made at Oslo II to withdraw from a town in the West Bank; Israel announced two new Jewish-only settlements in the West Bank; news came out that settlement building had increased 81%; and residents of two Palestinian towns received notice that their homes were about to be demolished for a new Jewish-only highway (Ackerman). Only one more incident was needed to send Palestinians over the edge.

Interestingly enough, the parties at Oslo had vowed to “abstain from incitement.” But in September 2000, Likud party leader Ariel Sharon made a visit to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, the site of one of Islam’s holiest shrines, as well as Judaism’s. He brought with him over 1,000 armed riot police. The issue of sovereignty over this piece of real estate has never been resolved, so Sharon’s action was provocative, as were his words: “the Temple Mount is in our hands and will remain in our hands…it is the right of every Jew to visit the Temple Mount” (Middle). Palestinian demonstrators threw stones and a riot broke out. Yet again, the region spiraled into an Intifada (Moughrabi).

Casualties were higher on both sides for the Second Intifada than for the First: the Palestinians now had more weapons and began to use suicide bombers; the Israelis used tanks, air attacks, and targeted killings. The death toll for Palestinians was about 4,228; for Israelis it was 1,024 (Israeli).

Another attempt at peace negotiation occurred at Taba in the Sinai Peninsula in 2001. This time, Israel brought real concessions and the Palestinians brought real counteroffers. Peace was close—maybe too close. Prime Minister Barak unilaterally broke off the negotiations. It was reported that “the pressure of Israeli public opinion against the talks could not be resisted” (Ackerman). The dominant group maintained its position unchanged and unchecked.

Yet another attempt to find a solution occurred in 2002, when all 23 countries of the Arab League unanimously approved of a Saudi peace plan that included Israeli withdrawal to the 1967 borders and a resolution to the refugee issue in exchange for full peace and normalized relations. Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon made it clear once and for all that any plan like this would be unacceptable when he declared that “a return to the 1967 borders will destroy Israel” (Ackerman).

Ultimately, a “peace process” must be a process, in which two sides compromise and reach an agreement that may not be exactly what each side wants, but is better than conflict. The Palestinians feel that they have been more than generous, as they have given up asking for 78% of their land back. They are willing (except for a few hardliners) to settle for 22%--but they want the full 22%, without Israeli military presence, without checkpoints, without blockades, and most of all without settlements. Israel, on the other hand, seems unwilling to accept anything less than continued occupation. The sense of entitlement to the land and resources at any cost has trumped any desire for peace.

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HISTORY: 2001+ Gaza rockets in context
Mar
15
10:30 PM22:30

HISTORY: 2001+ Gaza rockets in context

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Israeli Rhetoric and Actions

Having looked at various attempts at reconciliation, as well as Palestinian responses to Israeli status quo, the next logical topic is Israeli responses to Palestinian status quo. For the Palestinians, resistance is standard operating procedure. The population as a whole is peaceful and busy making ends meet under difficult circumstances. But resistance is in their blood. The mindset, according to my husband (who was born in a Gaza refugee camp in 1960), is that if Palestinians stop resisting, Israel will take what little they have left. And so it is common for Gazans especially (who have literally nothing to lose) to shoot off homemade rockets into Israel. This has been going on since 2001.

According to the official blog of the Israeli Defense Forces, idfblog.com, “Since 2001, more than 15,200 rockets and mortars, an average of over 3 rocket attacks every single day, have targeted Israel.” (Rocket Attacks) The subtitle of the article in which this statistic appears is, “Israel Under Fire,” with the tagline, “Here is everything you need to know about the constant threat Hamas poses to Israel’s civilians.”

But is that all we need to know? Actually, there is more to the story—or rather, there is less. The number of fatalities is presumed to be astronomical, especially with the ominous-looking graphics that accompany the article. Actually, the total number of fatalities in seventeen years of rocket and mortar attacks—that’s 17,000+ rockets and mortars, an average of 3 projectiles per day for over 5,000 days—is forty-four (Nguyen How).  That is just over 3 Israeli deaths per year.

Gaza resistance rocket launchers

Gaza resistance rocket launchers

Gaza resistance fire off a rocket

Gaza resistance fire off a rocket

In response to rocket attacks, Israel has gone to war with Gaza: Operations Rainbow, Hot Winter, Summer Rains, Autumn Clouds, Days of Penitence, Cast Lead, and Pillar of Defense, and the 2014 Gaza War were all purportedly responses to rocket fire. The rhetoric of these conflicts was always to “end rocket fire and make Israeli citizens safe.” But the facts tell a different story once again.

There were zero rocket-related deaths in the months before Operation Cast Lead, yet over 1,400 Palestinians were killed in this conflict; after the conflict started, rocket fire killed 4 Israelis in 3 days. As a side note, 13 Israelis were killed in the entire conflict—4 by friendly fire. (Nguyen Dissecting)

The same story is true for Operation Pillar of Defense: for an entire year, there were no rocket-related deaths; but hours after Israel attacked, 3 Israelis were killed by a rocket (Dissecting). The attack on Gaza then became “retroactively justified” in Israeli minds and the media. The final death toll for Operation Pillar of Defense: 174 Palestinians, 6 Israelis. (Btselem’s)

Jewish Virtual Library has catalogued every rocket and mortar since 2009, as well as the responses by Israel. In many cases, “no injuries were reported” after rockets, yet the response took the form of multiple Israeli Air Force jets striking sites in Gaza (Rocket Threat). After one such set of attacks, an Israeli army spokesman declared that Israel would not allow anything to “undermine the security and jeopardize the well being of the civilians of Israel” (Estrin). After another rocket that killed an Israeli, Prime Minister Netanyahu stated, “This is precisely the type of murderous attacks that we are trying to prevent. Israel will take any means necessary in protecting our citizens” (Estrin).

Israeli weaponry

Israeli weaponry

Subsidized by the US

Subsidized by the US

Israel has one of the top ten most powerful militaries in the world.

Israel has one of the top ten most powerful militaries in the world.

In one incident in 2008, after Palestinians had injured one Israeli with rocket fire, Israeli aircraft destroyed an office building and killed at least 24 Palestinians. This is the method Israel uses to “prevent murderous attacks” on a regular basis. The missile defense system, Iron Dome, has been somewhat effective in preventing Israeli casualties by intercepting missiles; the presence of bomb shelters in Israel is also a factor. While these have kept the Israeli death toll low, the Israeli response to rocket fire has little to do with actual fatalities and more to do with the perception of threat.

The total deaths since 2000 are: Palestinians 9,038, Israelis 1193—a 15:2 ratio (B’Teslem, Occupied).

It is instructive to look at the death toll from Hamas rockets over the next few years after Cast Lead:

2009 after Cast Lead, 0 Israeli deaths from rockets

2010, 1 Israeli death from rockets

2011, 2 Israeli deaths from rockets

2012, (Jan 1 - Nov 15) 0 Israeli deaths from rockets

Israel called for another war to pressure Hamas into stopping the rocket fire, although the number of deaths in recent times had been very low.

In 2012, there were 6 Israeli rocket deaths – all during a mini “war,” started by Israel on November 14th because of rockets.

But in spite of the “war,” Israel was a pretty safe place in 2012 because of a new invention: the Iron Dome missile defense system. Iron Dome was designed to intercept and destroy short-range rockets and artillery shells fired from distances of 2.5 - 43 miles away, and whose trajectory would take them to a populated area. Now of course every human life is priceless. But before Iron Dome went online, 30 Israeli civilians had been killed by rockets.

The total cost of $1.4 billion was paid by the US between 2011 and 2016. The United States puts a very high value on Israeli lives.

Palestinians have never received a gift like this from the US to defend themselves, although they have lost thousands of civilian lives.

It’s amazing that the US is providing Israel with over $10 million a DAY for defense against a country that isn’t allowed to have an army or even weapons. 

(Meanwhile, food aid has been cut for Palestinian refugees.)

Total deaths since September 2000

as part of the Gaza “conflict”

Total Israelis killed  229

Total Palestinians killed  7,340+

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HISTORY: 2005 Israel's "disengagement" from Gaza
Apr
5
9:00 PM21:00

HISTORY: 2005 Israel's "disengagement" from Gaza

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Settlements are communities of Israeli Jews that live on Palestinian land. Nearly every country in the world – including the US – considers settlements illegal according to international law: the 4th Geneva Convention states that “The occupying power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies.”

UNSC Resolution 446 in 1979 (adopted by 12 votes to 0, with abstentions from Norway, the UK, and the US) declared

"that the policy and practices of Israel in establishing settlements in the Palestinian and other Arab territories occupied since 1967 have no legal validity and constitute a serious obstruction to achieving a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the Middle East."

If Israeli settlements are illegal and an impediment to peace, why do they exist? It’s a reasonable question that has several different answers, depending on who is talking.

  • The Israeli government insists that the purpose of settlements on Palestinian land is for “security.” Israeli neighborhoods in Palestinian land give Israeli soldiers a place to establish a presence; Israeli citizens supposedly keep an eye on the Palestinians, and settlements divide up the Palestinian population into small pockets and create a barrier between Palestinians and Israel’s large cities.

  • Some settlers believe that God gave Jews the whole of Palestine, and they want to live in the settlements because they believe that land is really theirs.

  • Some are there simply because the settlements are much cheaper to live in than Israeli cities. The government subsidizes their existence.

But most Palestinians and their allies are confident that there is another, unspoken reason for the existence of settlements with their 600,000 residents living on Palestinian land: to create facts on the ground. When it is finally time to negotiate an end to the conflict, Jews will be established on Palestinian land, and Israel will instead either offer a land swap with the Palestinians – forcing them to give up prime land, or insist that a Palestinian state would be impossible.

Photo of a Jewish-only settlement in Gaza. Inset is a photo of Palestinian Gaza, crowded and dry.

Photo of a Jewish-only settlement in Gaza. Inset is a photo of Palestinian Gaza, crowded and dry.

Gaza settlements

Israel began building settlements in Gaza, the West Bank, and East Jerusalem after the 1967 war. By 1987, there were 2,500 settlers in Gaza. According to the account of historian Jean-Pierre Filiu, each settler had at his disposal 400 times as much land as a Palestinian refugee and 20 times as much water as a peasant farmer in the Gaza Strip.

At their height in the early 2000s, Gaza was home to 8,000 settlers in 21 different settlements. The largest ones were built on the southern coastline of Gaza at the border with Egypt, and block several large Palestinian cities form having access to the Mediterranean Sea. Another cluster of settlements was located at the northern border. Others are strategically located in the heart of Gaza, and according to the Jewish Virtual Library,

[create] a framework for Israeli control of the area and its main transportation route, and [facilitate] Israel’s ability to divide the Gaza Strip into separate areas and isolate each area’s inhabitants. In addition, the settlements control prime agricultural land [and] some of the area’s main aquifers.

By 2005, those 8,000 Israeli settlers had expropriated 18% of little Gaza and 1/3 of the Mediterranean coastline, even though they comprised only 0.6% of the total population. That left 82% of the land for 99.4% of the people.

Palestinians resented the settlers’ presence and were angered by the farmland that was confiscated and entire neighborhoods that had been demolished in order to make room for the settlements. Settlers instead of Palestinians grew, exported, and profited from vegetables and fruit on Palestinian land in Gaza. Israeli soldiers were present all the time (as many as 3,000 Israeli troops guarded the 8,000 settlers at a cost of “tens of millions of dollars per year”), making life very difficult for the Palestinians.

Naturally, the Palestinians didn’t take this lying down. They resisted. Keep in mind that this resistance is in the context of an illegal occupation and an illegal transfer of the occupier’s population into the occupied land.

Eventually, the Israeli government realized that Gaza settlements weren’t worth the trouble. The decision was made to dismantle the settlements and use the soldiers to protect settlers in the West Bank instead, where there were hundreds of thousands of settlers – also illegal.

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The Jewish settlements in Gaza were evacuated in 2005 under the Disengagement plan. Israeli soldiers delivered eviction notices to each home, which stated that "The [Israeli military] and the Israeli police share in the sorrow and pain you are feeling and expressing. Nevertheless, we will see this mission to its end, while providing any possible help and assistance."

It was hard for some people to say goodbye to their homes. Anyone who wanted assistance with packing and moving could just ask, and the IDF helped them. Some had to be forcibly removed. 50,000 troops and police were sent to Gaza to make sure everything happened according to plan.

It was a very expensive venture. Israel budgeted $900 million, but later asked the US for $2 billion more. However, one Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs document seems to indicate that the total cost was $2 billion. Most of the settler families received a compensation package of $150 - $400,000, plus moving expenses, 2 years’ free rent, and other payments. Many of them had also gotten subsidies to live on the land to begin with, and had low expenses because they refused to pay their Palestinian workers the lawful minimum wage.

When the evacuation began, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon gave an inspiring speech:

Residents of the Gaza Strip, today marks the end of a glorious chapter in the story of Israel and a major chapter in the story of your lives, as pioneers, as realizers of a dream, and as those who bore the security and settlement burden for all of us…Your pain and your tears are an inseparable part of the history of this country…We tried to reach agreements with the Palestinians that would move both peoples towards a path of peace. These were crushed against a wall of hatred and fanaticism…The world is waiting for the Palestinian response - a hand stretched out to peace or the fire of terror. To an outstretched hand we shall respond with an olive branch, but we shall fight fire with the harshest fire ever.

Israelis and Israel supporters point to the Disengagement as proof that Israel has made great sacrifices in the name of peace. Actually, the removal of Israelis from Gaza was simply compliance with international law that shouldn’t have been broken to begin with. The US paid most of the cost, and the settlers themselves got a great deal.

In addition, the disengagement did not actually end the occupation of Gaza. The Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs quotes the plan, which indicates that the occupation is ongoing:

1) The State of Israel will guard and monitor the external land perimeter of the Gaza Strip, will continue to maintain exclusive authority in Gaza air space, and will continue to exercise security activity in the sea off the coast of the Gaza Strip.

2) The Gaza Strip shall be demilitarized and shall be devoid of weaponry, the presence of which does not accord with the Israeli-Palestinian agreements.

3) The State of Israel reserves its fundamental right of self-defense, both preventive and reactive, including where necessary the use of force, in respect of threats emanating from the Gaza Strip.

The essential ingredient for applicability of the law of occupation is therefore the actual control exercised by the occupying forces. The United Nations considers Gaza to be still under occupation.

It is instructive to compare Israel’s approach to evacuating Jewish settlers to that of removing Palestinians from their homes.

Israel demolished 1,200 settler homes in Gaza in 2005. The UN and other orgs report that Israel has demolished almost 50,000 Palestinian homes, apartment buildings, and other structures.

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They do this for several reasons. Sometimes because Palestinians build without a permit. (Israel is in charge of handing out permits.) 98.5% of the time, Palestinian requests are rejected, but it can take years and costs tens of thousands of dollars to apply and get a response. But if your family or business is growing, you have to do something, so often, Palestinians just build.

If they get caught, they will get an eviction notice, and then the demolition equipment will show up – and Palestinians are often expected to pay for the demolition of their own structures.

There are also punitive home demolitions, in which the home of the family members of an alleged Palestinian criminal is destroyed. Israel explains the practice as a “deterrent,” but in reality it is collective punishment, illegal under international law.

One other type of demolition is the particular experience of Bedouin villages. Read about them here.

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HISTORY: 2008-2009 War "Cast Lead"
Aug
2
to Aug 3

HISTORY: 2008-2009 War "Cast Lead"

Photo taken during the Israeli war on the Gaza Strip on 28 December 2008 [Rahim Khatib/Apaimages]

Photo taken during the Israeli war on the Gaza Strip on 28 December 2008 [Rahim Khatib/Apaimages]

by Rebecca Stead, Middle East Monitor

What: Israel waged a three-week military offensive against the Gaza Strip, killing almost 1,400 Palestinians and wounding thousands more

Where: The Gaza Strip

When: 27 Dec 2008 – 18 Jan 2009

What happened?

On 27 December 2008, Israel launched a massive military offensive against the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. The Strip had been placed under an Israeli-led siege a year earlier, subjecting the 360 square-kilometre enclave to a land, air and sea blockade. Codenamed Operation Cast Lead, this offensive began at 11am on a Saturday morning, with Israeli Air Force jets firing on targets across the territory. Ynet reported at the time that “80 jets, warplanes and helicopters dropped over 100 bombs on dozens of targets [during] the initial strike.” Among the targets were the small fishing port and the main police compound in Gaza City.

Aerial campaign

Throughout the first week of the assault, Israel relied on aerial attacks to pound Gaza. A report by the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights for the week 24–31 December 2008 (cited in the United Nations Fact-Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict, sometimes known as the Goldstone Report) found that Israel “launched at least 300 air and sea strikes against the Gaza Strip. These strikes targeted 37 houses; 67 security and training sites; 20 workshops; 25 public and private institutions; seven mosques; and three educational institutions.”

Operation Cast Lead began with five missiles fired from the air into a group of policemen undergoing inspection at a station in “Arafat City,” a huge government complex located in the center of Gaza City.

Operation Cast Lead began with five missiles fired from the air into a group of policemen undergoing inspection at a station in “Arafat City,” a huge government complex located in the center of Gaza City.

Police stations in particular came under deliberate attack across the Strip. The “Arafat City” police headquarters in Gaza City, as well as three other stations, were attacked within the first few minutes of the assault on 27 December. The UN report states that, over the course of Israel’s military operations, 248 members of the Gaza police force were killed, which means that more than one out of every six fatalities was a police officer.

Israel’s Defence Minister at the time, Ehud Barak, claimed that there were three objectives for launching the offensive: “Dealing Hamas [which, since winning the 2006 Palestinian elections, had governed the Gaza Strip] a forceful blow; fundamentally changing the situation in Gaza; and bringing the rocket attacks against Israeli citizens to a halt.” Barak ordered a “special situation on the home front” for all Israeli communities within a 13-mile radius of the nominal border of the coastal enclave, which was quickly expanded to include the southern Israeli cities of Ashdod and Ashkelon.

Israel also drafted around 6,700 army reservists, in case it decided to widen the operation. Given that the assault was launched during election season, all contenders halted their campaigns in a show of support for then Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who had also launched a war on Lebanon just two years earlier.

Escalation and ground invasion

On the eighth day of the war – 3 January 2009 — Israel launched a ground invasion of Gaza. Israeli infantry entered the enclave from the north, supported by artillery fire and fighter jets. The Palestinians in Gaza, it must be remembered, have no artillery or other heavy weapons, no tanks, no air force and no navy. They faced the full might of one of the world’s strongest and best equipped armed forces.

The UN report details how Israel tried to cut the Strip in two – bisecting the territory from Karni (Al-Muntar) Crossing in the east, through Al-Nuseirat south of Gaza City, to the coast – before focusing troops in the north. For a further five days the northern towns of Al-Atatra and Beit Lahia came under heavy attack, with the UN report detailing “[Israel’s] alleged use of human shields, the alleged widespread mistreatment of civilians, including detentions, and transfers of large numbers to Israeli prisons in unlawful circumstances.”

Israel targets an UNRWA-run school in Beit Lahiya, Gaza, with US-supplied white phosphorous munitions during ‘Operation Cast Lead’, January 17, 2009 (Iyad El-Baba/UNRWA)

Israel targets an UNRWA-run school in Beit Lahiya, Gaza, with US-supplied white phosphorous munitions during ‘Operation Cast Lead’, January 17, 2009 (Iyad El-Baba/UNRWA)

Israel’s use of chemical weapons

In the later stages of the war, reports began to surface claiming that Israel had used white phosphorous — a chemical which creates a smokescreen for offensives but which causes severe burns and organ failure — during its attack on the people of Gaza.

Israel initially denied these reports, but investigations by several human rights organisations documented evidence to the contrary. A 2009 Amnesty International report found that “Israeli forces made extensive use of white phosphorus, often launched from 155mm artillery shells, in residential areas, causing death and injuries to civilians.” Among the targets were the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) headquarters and Al-Quds Hospital in Gaza City; an UNRWA primary school in Beit Lahia, north of Jabalia; and numerous residential areas.

Amnesty explained that:

White phosphorus is extremely dangerous for humans as it causes deep burns through muscle and down to the bone, continuing to burn until deprived of oxygen. It can contaminate other parts of the body, or even people treating the injuries, poisoning and irreparably damaging internal organs.

Although using white phosphorus as an obscurant is not forbidden under international humanitarian law, air-bursting white phosphorus artillery shells over densely populated areas of Gaza violated the requirement to take necessary precautions to protect civilians.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) agreed with Amnesty’s assessment, claiming that the manner in which Israel used the chemical could constitute a war crime. HRW’s “Rain of Fire” report argued that while

white phosphorus munitions did not kill the most civilians in Gaza […] their use in densely populated neighbourhoods […] violated international humanitarian law (the laws of war), which requires taking all feasible precautions to avoid civilian harm and prohibits indiscriminate attacks.

Ceasefire

On 8 January 2009, the UN Security Council approved resolution 1860 calling for a ceasefire in the Strip by a 14-0 margin. The United States abstained in the vote. The resolution called for an “immediate, durable and fully respected ceasefire, leading to the full withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza.” It condemned “all violence and hostilities directed against civilians and all acts of terrorism”, calling for “the unimpeded provision and distribution throughout Gaza of humanitarian assistance, including of food, fuel and medical treatment.”

Both Israel and Hamas declared the resolution invalid. The war continued for another 10 days, only coming to a close after a brutal 22 days. “The ferocity of the attack was unprecedented in the more than six-decade-old conflict between Israelis and Palestinians,” the Institute for Middle East Understanding (IMEU) observed.

According to figures from Israeli human rights organisation B’Tselem, 1,390 Palestinians were killed by Israeli forces in the Gaza Strip during Operation Cast Lead. Among those killed were 344 minors and 110 women. B’Tselem estimates that 759 of those killed in Gaza were Palestinians who did not take part in hostilities, and yet were still killed by Israeli forces.

What happened next?

Donald Macintyre, former Jerusalem bureau chief for the Independent, said in his book Gaza: Preparing for Dawn that following Operation Cast Lead, “It was impossible to ascribe ‘victory’ to either side.” He argued that Israel’s “bellicose pre-war talk of ‘crushing’ or ‘removing’ Hamas” proved to be “little more” than talk, while Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh’s claim of victory was “at least as hollow”.

Gaza, however, has never recovered from the 2008 war. While acknowledging that its economy was already being strangled by the siege, the UN report found that Israel’s military operation “destroyed a substantial part of the Gaza Strip’s economic infrastructure and its capacity to support decent livelihoods for families.” The figures speak for themselves: 700 businesses were damaged or destroyed, with direct losses totaling approximately $140 million; the agricultural sector suffered direct losses worth $170 million; and over 3,354 houses were completely destroyed, with a further 11,112 partially damaged, according to figures from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). A separate UN report estimated the cost of Gaza’s losses and damage at $1.1 billion.

The Gaza Strip is the scene of a humanitarian disaster that has nothing to do with natural causes – it is entirely human-made, a direct result of official Israeli policy.

The Gaza Strip is the scene of a humanitarian disaster that has nothing to do with natural causes – it is entirely human-made, a direct result of official Israeli policy.

In the years since, Israel’s siege of the Strip has prevented the reconstruction of infrastructure destroyed during its 2008 offensive. To add insult to injury, Gaza has also since been the target of two more wars at the hands of Israel: the 2012 war, dubbed Operation Pillar of Defence, and the 2014 war, dubbed Operation Protective Edge. Almost 4,000 Palestinians were killed during these three offensives. Today, 54 per cent of Gaza’s almost 2 million-strong population is unemployed, while 53 per cent live under the poverty line in what has been described as one of the worst humanitarian situations in the world.

A decade later, Israel continues to shirk responsibility for its actions. Earlier this month, an Israeli court ruled against Izzeldin Abuelaish, a Palestinian doctor who lost three of his daughters during an Israeli air strike on his home in Jabalia, in the north of the Strip. Abuelaish’s story was made famous after he discovered that his children — 13-year-old Bessan, 15-year-old Mayar and 20-year-old Aya – had been killed while he was speaking to an Israeli TV channel; his suffering was broadcast live across the country and later shared widely around the world. Despite Abuelaish’s grief and the international attention his story received, the court still ruled that Israel bore no responsibility for the girls’ deaths, instead calling it an “unfortunate side effect” of the war.

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HISTORY: 2014 Holocaust survivors say "end Gaza massacre, support BDS"
Dec
6
10:00 PM22:00

HISTORY: 2014 Holocaust survivors say "end Gaza massacre, support BDS"

9-22 holo.jpg

Reposted from Mondoweiss, August 26, 2014

A group of Holocaust survivors and descendants of those targeted by Nazi Germany have harshly criticized Israeli actions in Gaza and called for boycotts, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel.

Following a letter from survivors of the Holocaust printed in the New York Times on Saturday, the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network, which helped coordinate the letter, organized a press call Monday, where some of those who signed the letter spoke out against the assault on Gaza.

Participants in the press call included Edith Bell, whose parents died in concentration camps and who was taken to four camps herself; Suzanne Weiss, whose mother was murdered in Auschwitz and who was hidden by French peasants; and Liliane Kaczerginski, whose father Schmerke was a Jewish fighter against the Nazis in Lithuania. Also joining the call were Monadel Herzallah and Hani Jamah, two Palestinians with family in Gaza who expressed appreciation at the descendants’ and survivors’ efforts.

40 survivors of the Holocaust signed the letter and 287 descendants of victims also added their names.

“I resent anybody who will use those events as an excuse to exterminate Palestinians,” said Bell, who said she survived concentration camps by “pure luck.”

The letter printed in the New York Times has garnered international media attention from the likes of the BBC and Ha’aretz. “As Jewish survivors and descendants of survivors and victims of the Nazi genocide we unequivocally condemn the massacre of Palestinians in Gaza and the ongoing occupation and colonization of historic Palestine,” the letter says. “We call for an immediate end to the siege against and blockade of Gaza. We call for the full economic, cultural and academic boycott of Israel. ‘Never again’ must mean NEVER AGAIN FOR ANYONE!”

The advertisement cost $18,000. The funds were raised by some of the signatories.

“I applaud your courage for doing such a statement like that, that speaks from the heart,” said Herzallah, a member of the US Palestinian Community Network whose family was expelled from what is now Israel into Gaza. “I’m not surprised when I see these courageous statements by Holocaust survivors and their families…Our children and grandchildren will learn together in Gaza and all over Palestine that never again truly means never again for anyone.

The impetus for the letter came from Holocaust survivors and descendants of victims of the Nazis who were outraged that Israel used their histories to justify assaults on Palestinians. One of the signatories who helped organize the letter was Dr. Hajo Meyer, a German-Dutch physicist who survived Auschwitz and who died the day before the letter was printed in the Times. Meyer was an outspoken critic of Israel, telling the Electronic Intifada that he “had to quit grammar school in Bielefeld after the Kristallnacht…Therefore, I can fully identify with the Palestinian youth that are hampered in their education. And I can in no way identify with the criminals who make it impossible for Palestinian youth to be educated.”

The letter calls out Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel, who was the author of another advertisement that ran in the New York Timcalling on Hamas to reject “child sacrifice” and casting the Israel/Palestine conflict as a “battle of civilization against barbarism.”

“Reading the Elie Wiesel ad made me literally sick to my stomach,” said Maia Ettinger, whose mother and grandmother survived the Holocaust by escaping the Warsaw ghetto. “The ad is an act of towering and transparent projection because what is barbaric is collective punishment, and what is barbaric is indiscriminate bombing.”

The International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network says that much of the response they have received has been positive, though there have been violent messages sent to their e-mail address. +972 Magazine’s Ami Kaufman reported that some Israelis have expressed revulsion at the letter on Facebook.

“It’s a shame Hitler didn’t finish the job,” one Israeli named Asher Solomon said, while another, Katy Morali, added that “Holocaust survivors who think like this are invited to go die in the gas chambers.”

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HISTORY: Works Cited (for select history articles)
Mar
7
12:00 AM00:00

HISTORY: Works Cited (for select history articles)

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