What Ilan Pappe described as “the ethnic cleaning of Palestine,” Edward Said called its “holocaust,” saying:
“Every human calamity is different, but there is value in seeing analogies and perhaps hidden similarities.” He called Nazi extermination “the lowest point of (Jewish) collective existence.” Occupied Palestinians today “are as powerless as Jews were” under Hitler, devastated by “power used for evil purposes,” not self-defense.
As a result, they hang onto life by a thread, while Israel’s military juggernaut systematically reigns terror against them, no one intervening to help. “Is this the Zionist goal for which hundreds of thousands have died,” Said asked? Isn’t it time for justice advocates to demand for Palestinians what Jews spent decades to achieve.
In his book titled, “The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine,” Pappe documented Israel’s master plan D (Dalet in Hebrew), a war without mercy:
— depopulating villages and cities;
— massacring innocent victims;
— committing rapes and other atrocities;
— burning, bulldozing, blowing up or stealing homes, property and goods; and
— preventing expelled Palestinians from returning.
In all, systematic terror expelled about 800,000 Palestinians, killed many others, and destroyed 531 villages and 11 urban neighbourhoods in cities like Tel-Aviv, Haifa and Jerusalem. It was genocidal ethnic cleansing, what international law today calls a crime of war and against humanity for which convicted Nazis at Nuremberg were hanged.
Under 44 years of occupation this June, Palestinians still experience daily institutionalized persecution with no power over their daily lives in a constant state of fear with good reason. They face:
— economic strangulation;
— collective punishment for any reason;
— loss of basic freedoms, especially in Gaza under siege;
— enclosures by separation walls, electric fences and border closings;
— regular curfews, roadblocks, and checkpoints;
— bulldozing of their homes, crops and orchards; and
— arrest, imprisonment, and torture without cause.
Moreover, they endure:
— assaults and extra-judicial assassinations;
— punitive taxation; and
— denial of basic services essential to life and well-being, including healthcare, education, employment and enough food and water at the whim of Israeli authorities, trying to destroy their will to resist.
With no effective power to resist, they’re denied redress in international tribunals that ignore them, perpetuating their occupation, denial of basic rights and misery.
On May 15, Palestinians will commemorate their Nakba (disaster), a day after Israel’s sixty-third Independence Day. Events, in fact, began on May 9 by lighting beacons at Jerusalem’s Mount Herzl national cemetery, marking the conclusion of Yom Hazikaron, Israel’s Memorial or Remembrance Day. On May 10, Independence Day (ID) was celebrated according to the Jewish calendar, this year days before May 14.
Events around the country were held, including ceremonies, military fly-overs, and a naval demonstration. ID evening, the annual Israel Prize, its highest honor, was awarded.
This year, Israel’s Independence Day theme was “Looking after one another – the year of mutual care,” denied anyone not Jewish, especially Palestinians, but also Israeli Arabs, one-fifth of the population treated more like a fifth column than citizens.
Ahead of ID ceremonies, President Shimon Peres reflected on “the historic miracle of the birth of a nation,” saying Israel’s War of Independence established “one of the best and most moral armies in the world.”
In fact, he and other Israeli officials ignore its decades of slaughter, destruction, and ruthlessness against regional Arabs, belying any notion of morality. Palestinians understand well, by far paying the greatest price, ongoing daily.
Roots of Israel’s 1947 – 48 plan began with:
— Zionism’s 19th century birth; in 1895, founder Theodor Herzl, wrote: “We must expropriate gently the private property on the state assigned to us. We shall try to spirit the penniless population across the border by….denying it employment in our country.”
— establishment of the 1901 Jewish National Fund (JNF) to compile a detailed registry of Arab communities, so later Zionists knew what to colonize and where; it was also to buy and occupy Palestinian land;
— by the late 1930s, it was a detailed topographic blueprint of every Arab village and urban area; its information included husbandry, cultivated land, number of trees, quality of fruits, crops, average amount of land per family, number of cars, shop owners, Palestinian clans, their political affiliation, description of mosques and names of their imams, civil servants and more;
— by 1947, it also included “wanted” persons, by communities, to be targeted for elimination – leaders to be arrested and summarily executed in cold blood to create a power vacuum;
— the process began in December 1947, five months before the British Mandate ended; Britain did nothing to deter it; David Ben-Gurion led it from the 1920s to the 1960s; after ethnically cleansing Palestine he said: “We have come and we have stolen their country….We must do everything to insure they never do return.” Ten years earlier he wrote to his son: “We will expel the Arabs and take their places….with the force at our disposal;”
— other Israeli leaders expressed the same mindset; two were former prime ministers, including Golda Meir saying: “There are no Palestinians” and Nobel Peace laureate Menachem Begin, calling Palestinians “two-legged beasts,” saying Jews were the “Master Race” and “divine gods on this planet;”
— in 1972, Labor Party leader Haim Herzog was more discreet, saying: “I am not prepared to consider (Palestinians) as partners in any respect in a land that has been consecrated in the hands of our nation for thousands of years; for the Jews of this land there cannot be any partner.”
The Palestinian Holocaust
Alnakba.org recounts the toll. It lists the destroyed villages in 14 Palestinian Districts, including Gaza, Jerusalem, Haifa, Jaffa, Nazareth and Hebron. One was Deir Yassin in the Jerusalem District. On April 9, 1948, it was the site of an infamous Nakba massacre. Israeli soldiers entered the village, machine-gunned houses randomly, killing many inside, including women and children.
Remaining villagers were assembled and murdered in cold blood. Included were children, infants, the elderly and women who were first raped. The number killed is uncertain but best estimates place it between 93 and 120. In addition, dozens more were killed in ensuing fighting, and many other villages met the same fate in the systematic cleansing plan – to seize as much Palestinian land as possible, leaving the fewest number of remaining Arabs.
In December 1947, Jews in Palestine numbered 600,000 compared to 1.3 million Palestinians. Ben-Gurion ordered them removed with commands like:
“Every attack has to end with occupation, destruction and expulsion.” He meant:
— homes blown up, burned or bulldozed;
— inhabitants in them slaughtered;
— shooting anything that moved, especially fighting-age men and boys who might pose a combat or resistance threat; and
— leaving behind rubble, a forgotten landscape and proud history erased, but never in the collective Palestinian memory.
Today, Lifta’s ruins can be seen from Jerusalem. What remained of Dayr Aban were piles of rubble, collapsed roofs and part of some standing walls. Only two houses were left in Barqa, one deserted, the other a warehouse.
Jura became the city of Ashqelon. Its Jewish population exceeds 117,000. The only Arab remains in al-Faluja are the village mosque foundations and wall fragments. The Israeli town of Qiryat Gat is situated between al-Faluja and Iraq al-Manshiyya, on al-Faluja land. Hundreds of other Arab villages have similar stories, erased and replaced by Jewish-only development.
Israel’s new Nakba Law bans commemorating it as a way to erase this event from Israeli consciousness.
Enacted as the Budget Foundations Law, it lets the finance minister reduce or eliminate funding for any institution or entity engaging in any activity at variance with Israel’s definition as a “Jewish and democratic” state, or commemorates Israel’s Independence Day as one of mourning. In other words, it violates Arab history, culture, and right to express, teach, or disseminate it freely as another way to exert ruthless persecution against anyone not Jewish.
Nonetheless, this day remains embedded in Palestinian consciousness. A historic fact, it represents an appalling injustice, inspiring resolve to keep struggling for liberation, independence, peace, and just redress, nothing less.