The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine

Solidarity with Palestine

Ahead of May 15 Nakba commemorations, massive crowds assembled in Cairo’s Tahrir (Liberation) Square in solidarity. They displayed banners, proclaiming, “The People want the Rafah Crossing opened,” and “Palestine is a Arab state.”

They also waved Palestinian flags, chanting “Solidarity with the Palestinian Intifada” and “National Unity” ahead of a planned weekend march to Gaza. More on that below.

Domestic issues were also addressed, including ending recent sectarian violence and concerns about popular unaddressed issues under military junta rule. After Friday prayers, Sheikh Safwat Hegazy addressed the crowd, saying:

“(Appointed prime minister) Essam Sharaf: this is not your government. This is the revolution’s government. You should kick out the six former (NDP ruling party) ministers from the cabinet. We won’t accept (deputy prime minister) Yehia El-Gamal who’s part of the former regime….”

In response, crowds chanted, “Down, down Yehia El-Gamal.” One participant, identified only as Mohammad, spoke for others, saying:

“Sharaf’s government is taking the same path as the former government. They have the same double standards, secrecy and authoritarian policy-making in internal (and) external affairs.”

Though Egypt’s spring hasn’t bloomed, its spirit pervades Tahrir, suggesting perhaps renewed uprisings ahead. For now, however, Egyptians head for Gaza in solidarity with Palestinian liberation, a goal millions around the world support, as well as a Third Intifada to achieve it.

Surprisingly, however, despite MENA region (Middle East/North Africa) Morocco to Oman to Syria uprisings, Palestinians haven’t yet reacted, except for regular small-scale demonstrations far short of large masses throughout Egypt and neighboring countries, posing challenges for ruling authorities.

Yet nowhere is regional abuse more extreme, including occupation, isolation, land theft, mass arrests, torture, targeted assassinations, daily terror, and at times war, causing thousands of casualties and widespread destruction.

Perhaps Egypt’s solidarity march will inspire what hasn’t yet occurred, under the slogan, “Cairo’s liberation will not be complete without the liberation of Al-Quds (Jerusalem).”

According to Justice and Freedom Youth Movement’s Ahmed Doma:

“We are organizing this event as part of the Arab Internet call for a third Palestinian Intifada, and as part of what has been termed ‘the Arab mass march.’ ”

Facebook was used, urging that regional Arabs march en masse to Egyptian, Lebanese, Syrian, and Jordanian/Israeli borders, demanding what Palestinians have long sought, including liberation, ending occupation, the right of return, and East Jerusalem as its capital.

Participating Egyptians also want:

— Rafah’s border crossing permanently open, permitting free movement of people and goods;

— halting Egypt’s sale of gas to Israel;

— ending all “humiliating agreements with the Zionist state;” and

— immediate release of all Palestinians in Egyptian prisons.

On May 14 at noon Cairo time, marchers headed for Gaza, expecting to arrive that evening ahead of planned May 15 Nakba day rallies. At the same time, protesters demonstrated in front of Israel’s Giza embassy and its ambassador’s Maadi residence.

We are All Resistance member Arwa said “other convoys heading to Palestine are moving from Alexandria, Suez, Damietta and North Sinai. People will also join convoys from Gharbiya, Beni Suef, Assiut, Qena and Sohag” in a mass show of solidarity.

Cairo participating groups include:

— the National Front for Justice and Democracy;

— Cairo University’s Supporters of the Palestinian Revolution;

— the Justice and Freedom Youth Movement,

— Kifaya;

— We are All the Resistance Movement;

— Helwan University’s Resistance Movement;

— Ultras Ahlawy Ahly football club supporters;

— Zamalek club White Knights;

— Activists for Palestine;

— the Palestinian Women’s Coalition;

— the April 6 Movement;

— the Nasserist Party; and

— various independent activists.

In Tel Aviv, Israel’s Zochrot organization also shows support, defying the imposed ban on Nakba commemorations by posting a sign in German saying “we remember.” Other Israelis joined them in solidarity.

On its web site (zochrot.org), it:

“seeks to raise public awareness of the Palestinian Nakba, especially among Jews in Israel, who bear a special responsibility to remember and amend the legacy of 1948.”

Palestinians were victimized, losing “their entire world. But Jews in Israel also pay a price for their conquest,” living with the criminal legacy Palestinians and global supporters won’t forget. Zochrot’s goal is “recognition for injustice and new paths toward change and repair,” including the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homeland, saying:

“Return is fundamental to resolving the conflict and implementation of return need not cause injustice to Jewish people….in Israel.” It doesn’t mean expelling them. In fact, “the very opposite: The mutual existence of Palestinians and Jews in the country,” co-existing together peacefully. Return can thus free two societies from the destructive occupier/occupied relationship, ending a longstanding intolerable blight.

As a result, Zochrot will participate in March of Return activities, its site saying its members will visit Miska village, destroyed and ethnically cleaned by Israelis in 1948. They’ll then join the March of Return in al-Damun and al-Ruways villages, also demolished in 1948.

Ahead of May 15 demonstrations, Haaretz writers Anshel Pfeffer, Jack Khoury and Nir Hasson headlined, “Israeli – Palestinian tensions rise in Jerusalem, West Bank as Nabka Day nears,” explaining that:

Clashes erupted between IDF soldiers and Palestinians throughout the West Bank and East Jerusalem Friday morning, including in Silwan, Isawiya and the Old City. Israeli police arrested 11 protesters. IDF soldiers used rubber bullets, tear gas, and heavy-handed thuggishness, assaulting nonviolent demonstrators.

Several injuries were reported, including an American and 17-year old Milad Said Ayyash, shot in the head Friday at close range with a high-velocity tear gas cannister and killed. At his Saturday funeral, two Palestinians were wounded. Others were arrested.

Further, Haaretz said “(t)ens of thousands of Palestinian refugees will converge in Maroun al-Ras, a village in southern Lebanon that was a major point of fighting between the IDF and Hezbollah during the 2006 Lebanon War. A parallel demonstration will also be held on the Israeli side of the Lebanon border in Avivim….where demonstrations will be staged concurrently with” a planned Maroun al-Ras rally.

The International Middle East Media Center also reported on May 13 IDF – Palestinian clashes, including:

— Israelis blocking roads, impeding weekly Bil’in anti-wall protesters from traveling to established sites;

— arresting 34 West Bank/East Jerusalem protesters; and

— wounding 22 Palestinians in Nabi Saleh near Ramallah, including photo-journalist Hilmi Tamimi.

Moreover, Italian and Malaysian activists arrived in Gaza, including friends of slain activist/journalist Vittorio Arrigoni. They’ll join growing numbers of others in solidarity for Palestinian liberation and justice.

However, according to Press TV on May 14, Egyptian authorities blocked access to Sinai, preventing activists from reaching Rafah. Also, buses to transport other supporters didn’t arrive. Nonetheless, “a convoy left Cairo’s Liberation square on Saturday,” hoping to show Palestinian solidarity on the Gaza/Rafah border.

A Final Comment

On May 12, a Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS) report said Israeli soldiers and settlers killed 7,342 Palestinians from September 29, 2000 (start of the second Intifada) through December 31, 2010.

PCBS also said Israeli security forces “kidnapped” nearly 750,000 Palestinians since June 1967, including 12,000 women and many children, targeted for wanting freedom in their own land.

Occupation harshness continues daily throughout the West Bank, East Jerusalem and besieged Gaza. On May 15, regional solidarity will converge in Gaza, along Egyptian, Lebanese, Jordanian, and Syrian border areas, and perhaps other locations worldwide, commemorating Nakba day for what Palestinians have long sought – liberation on their own land in their own country. Long overdue, it can’t come a moment too soon.

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Commemorating Palestine’s Nakba

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:

— depopulation;

— obliteration;

— 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.

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