"There are facts, and then there is the truth" John Miller 1
Invaders and predators also have their "version of events," according to the post-modernist relativism. Social domination creates a language, a historical account and a narrative that is appropriate to its "point of view;" that narrative [of the subjugator/oppressor] is a curious read.
In critiquing systems of power and domination, the challenge lies not in taking the inventory of material arsenals, but in decoding and deciphering that narrative which justifies "overthrow of democratic governments to save the free world!" [Sukarno, Salvador Allende, Hugo Chavez, you fill in the gaps] The challenge lies in contesting a thought system that explains and endorses occupation and appropriation of a (Palestinian) people's land, labour, water, history and identity, in order to build Kibbutzim "co-ops!"
Ever since its inception, in its efforts to obtain--or force--acceptance, Israel has oscillated between sword and reason, between threat of force and historical "explanations." And in desperate times the two merge and advanced-war-machine becomes her legitimization factor, its guns her moral sense.
Years before the establishment of the state of Israel, Zionist writers had dreams of a land as an anchor and atonement for a people in Diaspora. In her novel Daniel Deronda the English writer, George Eliot, draws attention to the Zionist designs on the Palestinian land. The ideas come forth through one of the characters, " [we] have wealth enough to redeem the soil from debauched and paupered conquerors, the tongue of the orator to persuade." 2 As a British novelist, Eliot was writing from the colonial mindset of the period, where inhabitants of other lands do not matter; they become invisible. The European colonizer is the protagonist and his/her fulfillment is the issue, nothing else matters, including the displacement or sufferings of others. Colonel Albert Goldsmid, a leading English Zionist, was delighted to meet Theodor Herzl, one of the elders of Zionism; as a greeting to Herzl he remarked, "I am Daniel Deronda." Indeed Colonel Goldsmid was a quintessential colonialist; born in India, he had an impressive career in the British army. 3
The birth of the state of Israel was not such an uneventful and tame affair the conqueror history/narrative and P.R. machine would have us believe. Acts of violence, intimidation and terror had started by organized armed Jewish groups before 1948 and the declaration of statehood. As all imperial policy, the British colonial dictum was "divide et impera." Under the auspices of Sir Ronald Storrs, the first military governor of Jerusalem, many of the Zionist paramilitary groups were integrated and trained by the British intelligence as "Colony Police." Charles Wingate was one of the British officers in charge. This lead to the later establishment of such terror groups as Haganah, Irgun, the Stern gang, Layhi and Etsel. These organizations are considered terrorist because of their use of terror as a means for the political objective of forcing Palestinian natives to flee [for their lives in panic], a sort of population transfer if you will.
O JERUALAME, IF I FORGET THEE
"they that carried us away captive required of us a song; and they that wasted us required of us mirth, saying, Sing us one of the songs of Zion. How shall we sing the LORD's song in a strange land?" Psalms 137, the Old Testament
Between November 29, 1947, when the United Nations partitioned Palestine, and May 15, 1948, when the State was formally proclaimed, the Zionist army and militia had seized 75% of Palestine, forcing 780,000 Palestinians out of the country. In their history, the Palestinians refer to this exodus as the "Nakbah," (the Great Catastrophe). More than 400 villages were demolished and its inhabitants expelled and driven out. Clearly, the slaughter and massacre of innocent civilians, village after village, had a lot to do with this. Initial phases of the strategy were more subdued; they would kill dogs and donkeys, so the corpses would create a health hazard for the communities.4 The Palestinian Arabs living in such towns and villages (with the exception of Jaffa and Haifa) were dwellers, and not armed to be able to defend themselves against orchestrated brutalities. Since the early 1940's, they most likely were unaware of the grand Zionist scheme and the colonial design on their land; they, in turn, were not prepared to deal with this slow systematic invasion; the British Mandate betrayed its mandate as the world watched, just as we watched Bosnia and Rwanda in our time. Massacres took place in such towns and villages as Baldat al-Shaikh, Sa'sa' in Hebron, Abu Kasr, Dair Yasin, Abu Shousha, Dueima, Lid, Kibya, Eilaboun, Ba'na and Dair al-Asad. When General Yigal Allon asked Ben Gurion, "What is to be done with the population of Lydda and Ramle?" - some 50,000 inhabitants - Ben Gurion, according to his biographer, waved his hand and said, "Drive them out!" [Michael Bar Zohar, "Ben Gurion: A Biography," New York: Delacorte, 1978]
Any soldier of occupation becomes an institutional instrument of oppression, metamorphoses into a Nazi soldier; be it the Serbian "militiaman" killing Bosnian refugees, be it the Belgian colonial soldier killing Africans, or be it a prison guard resorting to Islamic law to kill prisoners. Nazis also had political /cultural explanations as a rational for subjugating others, they saw (see) themselves as victims and their deeds as justified. Several philosophers have pondered on the nature of "Bureaucratized large-scale violence." The Jewish scholar Hannah Arendt called it the "Banality of Evil"--how evil committed by the perpetrators seems ordinary to them.
Eradication of the 400 villages is the subject of the encyclopedic work of Professor Walid Khalidi of Harvard. In his book, "All That Remains: The Palestinian Villages Occupied and Depopulated by Israel in 1948," he has provided detailed description of those villages: each village entry comprises statistical data and several narrative sections. Field research by former residents and guides is used to pinpoint the precise location of village sites. A wide variety of Arab and Western sources is used to summarize village history before 1948, and to synthesize information about its topography, architecture, institutions and economic activity (Amazon description).
The central slogan of the Zionist project-- "land without people for a people without land"--was an ideological fabrication. There was no truth to it. That land was home to a vibrant Palestinian Arab community. Contrary to the propaganda efforts, it is clear that Arab life existed in that place before the arrival of the Zionist colonizers; Palestinian villages had been there for hundreds of years. Until recently, the Israeli textbooks and the "official history" treated this issue with denial; even though evidence of "Plan Dalet," a systematic policy of expulsion of Palestinians in 1947-49 has surfaced and could no longer be suppressed. As part of that systematic denial and manipulation of history for political ends, Golda Meir in 1969 said Palestinians did not exist. Yet, in the same year, Moshe Dayan, remarked how "this country was already populated by Arabs..., Jewish villages were built in the place of Arab villages. These geography books no longer exist." [Ha'Aretz, April 4, 1969. As cited by Edward Said]
In the 1980's a curious book appeared on the market authored by a Joan Peters titled, "From Time Immemorial: The Origins of the Arab-Jewish Conflict over Palestine." The book had a curious thesis; it posited that most Palestinian refugees from the first Israeli-Arab war were not really refugees at all, since they had only recently moved into the area, which became the state of Israel in 1948. Once a few academics looked into the author's demographics, the statistics did not check. This was cause for some embarrassment; there were rumors that she was fronting for someone else. Lately, however, taking advantage of the recently opened Israeli archives, an Israeli historian Benny Morris consulting those Israeli archives (Arab archives were not consulted) wrote a book "The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem," acknowledging the historical events, that had precipitated the flight of Arab villagers from Palestine, the nature of the exodus, and the ethnic cleansing. Israel had succeeded in expropriating land, abandoned houses, shops, workshops and warehouses, as well as Palestinian bank accounts. The archives also illustrate that contrary to the widely held view, the Arab leaders were prepared for compromise. As soon as the 1948 war ended, the Arab leadership was trying, within the context of the Lausanne Conference, to arrive at a general settlement based on Arab acceptance of the UN partition plan.5 This line of research has clearly infuriated most Israelis, and has been labeled as "revisionist history."
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Fourth Geneva Convention guarantee the refugees' right of return. Article 13 of the UN Resolution 194, passed on December 11, 1948 following Palestinian expulsion, clearly addresses them. However, not only has Israel prevented their return, but has also confiscated their property.
The fundamental intent of the Zionist movement was to create a wholly Jewish state. And for the realization of that objective, Zionism has drawn a sharp line between Jews and the Palestinian non-Jews, treating the Palestinians as second-class citizens. Through such colonial apparatus as the Jewish National Fund (JNF), land procured-- through purchase or confiscation--by JNF was held in trust in the name of the 'Jews of the world' in absentia, and could never be sold or even leased back to Arabs (a situation which continues to the present). This is the process by which the land becomes "national" land; in Zionist lexicon, the procedure is referred to as "redeeming the land." In urban planning there is a concept of "land banking" where land is set aside for long term planning of housing or transportation; however, it is inclusive and intended for the entire community at large, and cannot systematically discriminate against a class or race of people.
There are other legal mechanisms that have made Israel and the Zionist project an exclusionary construct: Law of Return, which allows any Jew born anywhere to emigrate to Israel and claim immediate citizenship (in perpetuity), whereas no Palestinian, even someone born there, has no such right. One may say, for every Jew that comes to Palestine, an Arab is displaced. Nationality Law: The Zionist state is unlike any other in that it is not the state of its citizens; non-Jews are not entitled to 'nationality' (le'um, in Hebrew); in other words, non-Jews [Palestinians]) do not have the same rights to the "National Land. " As Said observed, this is an extraterritorial concept of land, intent on segregation. Absentees' Property Law: In 1950, Israel declared Arab-owned land in Palestine absentee property, and hence liable to expropriation by the Jewish National Fund; the refugees could not go back to reclaim the land to which they had title. These administrative and strategic vehicles are to accommodate the provision of Jewish settlements and de-Arabization of the territories.
In his book Pity the Nation, the British journalist Robert Fisk explains in some detail the way the land laws operated and to what effect. When interviewed by Fisk, the Custodian of Absentee Property admitted that "about 70 percent" of land in the state of Israel might have two claimants--an Arab and a Jew--holding respectively a British mandate and an Israeli deed to the same property. (P 44) To give a human face to all this, Fisk interviews several Arab refugees in Lebanon who had left their properties and homes behind, and then he interviews those Israelis who are living in those precise dwellings; interestingly enough, the settlers are curious about the identity of the original owners. (pp 20-47)
Anthony Lewis of the New York Times wrote, "The settlement process, carried on for more that three decades, has been sustained by colonial methods: suppressing the local population, seizing land, giving settlers superior legal status."6 Israel under Likud (Begin) had accelerated the illegal construction of Jewish settlements in the Occupied Territories. They were referring to this policy as the process of "creating facts;" that is, creating facts on the ground. The initiative smelled of annexation of the territories. They had intended to place the Palestinians and international bodies in a fait accompli situation in the future. They proclaim that two millennia ago this land--the West Bank--was called "Judea and Samaria;" thus, the justification for appropriation and settlement has been the Biblical right given to Jews by God! One could argue that these Israelites have broken the Covenant, and violated its commandment, "thou shall not covet thy neighbors land." The historical memory of some stubbornly refuses to notice the international conventions and the UN Resolutions of the past 35 years. Most alarming after the Oslo Accord, and despite the Oslo Accord, is the non-stop construction of Jewish colonial settlements in the occupied Palestinian lands under Netanyahu, Barak and Sharon. One has to wonder the meaning and implication of this.
Ultimately, occupation and oppression is doomed because it alienates the humanity of the oppressor. Anne Winkler-Morey of Macalester College writes, "Most Israelis of my middle age are the children of the oppressed, and a significant percentage of them support their government's oppression of a people"7 Nonetheless, some Israeli reservists refuse to serve in the Occupied Territories. Staff Sergeant, Elad Lahav, recalls how embarrassed he was to stop families on the road for searches. Another soldier, Sarah Shartal, says, "One day while in the market in Gaza, my commanding officer wanted a watermelon but he did not want to bargain for it. His hand went down on his Uzi and the price went down."8 These examples may seem sanitized and bland next to the carnages in Jenin, Sabra and Shatila, but they help us delve into the psychological dynamic of oppression, of domination. So, Israel needs to stop the occupation and remove the structures of control from the lives of the Palestinians at once. Minutes before his assassination, while giving mass, Archbishop of San Salvador, Oscar Romero, appealed to the conscience of the military death squad organizers, " Stop it, stop it; in the name of God I order you to stop the repression."
Over the years Palestinian representatives have proposed a few alternatives for negotiations and peace that include both peoples. One scenario favoured by segments of the Palestinian movement, Edward Said and Noam Chomsky, suggests one democratic state--a federation-- inclusive of all its citizens, with the removal of apartheid organizations. The other proposal has been the two-state-solution (1967 borders) which has faced the rejectionist stance of Israel and the US. Discussing the details of Oslo and Camp David-2000, Noam Chomsky remarked several months ago that the US and Israel are blocking the provision of two-states now, and they have been blocking it for the past 25 years.
As many American observers have acknowledged, support for Israel in the US is more of a domestic concern than a foreign policy issue. President Truman played a critical role in arm-twisting and black mailing some of the third world (Latin American) countries into voting for creation of the state of Israel. As a matter of fact, Truman had asked the General Assembly to postpone its meeting so he could buy time to produce the votes. Robert Scheer of the Los Angeles Times wrote, "The traditional absence of acknowledgement in U.S. news reporting of the ongoing victimization of the Palestinians, powerless from the beginning of their displacement half a century ago, is callously immoral."9 This is the way the moral context is set up in the press in discussing the Middle East conflict. At times, third parties such as the United Nations or the European Union are accused of anti-Semitism because their statements reaffirm the Palestinian national right, (by extension) validate Intifadza (and by extension) invalidate Israeli occupation and its colonial machine.
In the past few months Israel supporters have been fixating and faulting the Arab "leadership;" thus, de-contextualizing Intifadza as a grass-roots movement. They see Arafat as the source of the troubles there, and call it "Arafat's war!" This is tantamount to saying the people's struggle in Algeria against French colonization was hatched by a misguided "leadership!" Was it Ho Chi Minh's fault that Buddhist monks in Vietnam would put themselves on fire in protest to the American military onslaught? Earlier, the same lobbyists /propagandists had labeled Mandela and the African National Congress (ANC) as terrorists and dismissed their struggle against Apartheid as "Marxist propaganda." A haphazard analysis of Intifadza may be politically convenient, but it is not helpful in the long run.
Right-wing Israelis and their lobbyists want the Palestinians to disappear, to be accommodated elsewhere, to coalesce and be acquiescent of the slow advances on East Jerusalem. On a television news program (May 1, CNBC's Hardball), the US House Republican Majority Leader Dick Armey explicitly stated that Palestinians should be removed from their homeland, the Occupied Territories [the West Bank and Gaza]. In hindsight, Israel settler-colonialism had all along wanted to keep the story of Palestine in anonymity, since that has failed, they want to continue keeping a whole people in submission. However, the achievements of Intifadza should not be taken for granted; it is the result of years of hard work by Palestinian poets, writers, and historians who have brought the communal vision and national aspiration to life.
Intifadza is the collective politicization of a colonized people under occupation. This communal self-realization is a crucial element of their empowerment, and cannot be rolled back. Hence, we should not be surprised that coalescence, internalization and the acquiescence (that propagandists insist on) comes to a halt with that process of collective self-awareness. To be free in your own land is one the most basic human instincts and fundamental rights. The Israeli-American empiricist and positivist perspective on social movements is not workable; assassination of the leaders of Intifadza will not destroy their beliefs or support of their ideas. It will do the opposite; you cannot break a people's spirit by hitting its leaders. On the day of the Chilean Military Coup in September 1973, before the Presidential Palace was bombed, Salvador Allende in his last radio address, said, "The social process is not going to disappear because a leader disappears. It will be delayed, but in the end they will not be able to stop it."
Successful organizations of resistance need to be vernacular and cannot be the carbon copy of other people's experiences. Accordintgly, the Palestinian movement organizes resistance as best as it can under the circumstances; there are good strategies and not so good strategies, but the important thing is that the Palestinian movement possesses both "cohesion and stamina," those key elements that will help deliver self-determination and freedom. Deep human and philosophical questions emerge out of all this. Was it necessary for the Vietnamese to lose a million people to dislodge the occupying military? Was it necessary for the Algerians to lose a million people to achieve self-determination? Was it necessary to kill five hundred thousand Indonesians in 1967 in the name of fighting communism? Could all this be dismissed as mere Cold War "Context?" Wasn't it easier for the Algerians to submit and live with the French colonial domination? Then again, to be free in your own land is one the most basic human instincts.
As Ehsan Shariati put it so well [ http://www.ehsanshariati.com/Plstn_holl.htm] we cannot be indifferent to the Palestinian cause; it entangles many trans-continental issues on emancipation and unites all third world movements. We ought to educate ourselves and our opponents, so they do not operate at the level of fear and ego. Jorgen Habermas has laid the philosophical grounds for participation in social change. He maintains that through our political act, our utterances (Communicative Action), we can take a stand. So, when we boycott Israeli products we take a stand against oppression anywhere in the world; just as we boycotted South African Apartheid, just as we boycotted Chilean grapes during Pinoche dictatorship. It is through this activist view of the world that we try to reject cynicism and resignation, in an attempt to refuse the "banality of oppression."
1- John Miller, "How free is our so called free press," Toronto Star, April 26, 2002, p A25
2- George Eliot, "Daniel Deronda," (London: Penguin Books, 1967) P 594 as cited by Edward Said, "The Question of Palestine"
3- Milton Kerker, "Daniel Deronda: Harbinger of Zionism" THE JOURNAL OF THE JEWISH THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY, Volume 10 Number 1, Fall 2000
4- Robert Fisk, "Pity the Nation," (Andre Deutsh, London: 1990) P 26
5- Dominique Vidal, "The expulsion of the Palestinians re-examined," Le Monde Diplomatique, December 1997
6- Anthony Lewis, "Is there a Solution?" The New York Review of Books, April 25, 2002
7- Anne Winkler-Morey, "Resist Temptation of Unchecked Nationalism," The Minnesota Daily, Wednesday, April 10th 2002
8- "An Israeli Canadian pleads for an end to occupation," Toronto Star, Wednesday April 10, 2002, p A31
9- Robert Scheer, "The Palestinian Side Must Be Told" The Los Angeles Times, April 23, 2002
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