To refresh and re-focus my mind in respect of the Israeli and Palestinian story, I did what almost any U.K. citizen can do. I walked into a public library and booked a couple of free 2-hour Internet sessions at the end of my working day. On these days I punched 'right to exist' and 'right to return' into the library's default search engine. The thoughts which follow are what emerged from exploring the material that it happened to find.
By Kelvin Yearwood *
The state of Israel's "right to exist" is clearly a diplomatic ploy, as any state's "right to exist" is unsupported by international law: To cite this alleged "right" in the case of Israel serves to deflect attention away from the status of Israel as an occupying and expansionist state. Israel's current Prime Minister is not even required to confirm where Israel's movable borders begin or end by the U.S., the E.U., Canada and Norway, all of which are currently inflicting an economic embargo on the Palestinian people — a serious breach of Palestinian human rights. It is an embargo which accepts and magnifies the appalling suffering in all areas of Palestinian life. This criminal penalty is being imposed on Palestinians because, in elections held in January 2006, the Palestinian electorate failed to vote for leaders acceptable to U.S.-backed Israel. There can be little doubt that action of the U.S., the E.U., Canada and Norway constitutes a terrorist act in that it has been undertaken with the intention of forcibly undermining a democratic decision taken by an independent electorate, a terrorist act designed to protect Israel. So what are the U.S., the E.U., Canada and Norway protecting?
Years before becoming Israel's first Prime Minister, David Ben-Gurion intimated in a letter to his son in 1937 that:
"We must expel the Arabs and take their places and if we have to use force – not to dispossess the Arabs of the Negev and Transjordan, but to guarantee our own right to settle in these places – then we have force at our disposal."
It would be fair to call the belief that from time immemorial, the right to possess a particular geographic land mass located at the eastern end of the Mediterranean Sea happens to have been awarded by God to the Jewish people, to the exclusion of all other peoples, Zionism. –
Other expressions of Ben-Gurion's Zionist intent included:
"The compulsory transfer of Arabs from the valleys of the proposed Jewish state could give us something which we never had, even when we stood on our own feet during the days of the First and Second Temple [a Galilee free of Arab population]." – (Zichronot ["Memoirs"] Vol. 4, pp.297-99, 12 July 1937.)
"What Arab cannot do his math and understand that the immigration at the rate of 60,000 a year means a Jewish state in all of Palestine"- (Letter to Moshe Shertok, known as Moshe Sharett, Israel's first Foreign Minister, Ben-Gurion and the Palestinian Arabs, pp.167-8, 24 July 1937.)
And, finally, Ben-Gurion one last time:
"…we [the Haganah] adopt the system of aggressive defence; during the assault we must respond with a decisive blow: the destruction of the [Arab] place or the expulsion of the residents along with the seizure of the place." – (Ben-Gurion's advice on December 19, 1947, on the eve of the 1948 war. Cited in Simha Flapan, The Birth of Isarel: Myths and Reality, p.90.)
Note the phrase "aggressive defence." – A pre-1948 institution known as the Transfer Committee belonged to the Jewish Agency in Palestine. Its purpose was to assess the "quality" of between 500 and 600 Arab villages, that is, to make the link between fertile, arable land and the Palestinian villages connected with the same, and thereby identify initial targets for Israel's possession. Following the 1948 war, which Jewish forces generally dominated due to superior strength — counter to the David and Goliath myth which persists in Israel — the new state of Israel was prepared to divide its calculated spoils between kibbutzim and the various Jewish agencies that dealt with Jewish settlement.
(Other common Israeli myths held that, prior to Jewish immigrations, the land was all but empty; and that the Palestinians fled the arrival of the Jewish immigrants, rather than were deliberately driven away. This last myth is particularly repulsive in that it also would deny to Palestinians recognition of their legal right of return.)
Subsequently, Israeli Prime Minsisters have laundered the history of this brutal, pre-planned land-grab with fundamentalist rhetoric. Hence, Golda Meir:
"This country exists as the accomplishment of a promise made by God himself. It would be absurd to call its legitimacy into account."
"We are granted the right to exist by the God of our fathers… Hence, the Jewish people have an historic, eternal and inalienable right to exist in the land, Eretz Israel, the land of our forefathers."
And of course the current Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert, speaking as recently as last May before a joint session of the Congress of the United States:
"I believe, and to this day still believe, in our people's eternal and historic right to this entire land."
Nothing less than international law, enshrined in the United Nations, the very law that the U.S., the E.U., Canada and Norway profess to uphold, would beg to differ. In recognition of the rights of the Palestinians, the United Nations General Assembly adopted Resolution 194 on December 11, 1948. (See "194 (III)," Resolutions Adopted by the General Assembly During Its Third Session, 1948 – 1949.)
As Resolution 194's Paragraph 11 stated:
"[The General Assembly]…Resolves that the refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbours should be permitted to do so at the earliest practicable date, and that compensation should be paid for the property of those choosing not to return and for loss of, or damage to, property which, under principles of international law or in equity, should be made good by the governments or authorities responsible."
This position is also supported by the Geneva Convention — if we are talking international law, that is.
Further, in the foreign and domestic policy laundrette of convenience that is the 'war on terror', Israel has used the cover of U.S. and U.K. state-terrorist actions in Iraq not only to murder more than a thousand Lebanese citizens (most of them civilians), but murder and kidnap Palestinians (adding to thousands already kidnapped, i.e. taken by force and imprisoned indefinitely without trial) and take yet more land from the Palestinians through the building of the "Security Wall" and further settlements in the West Bank. Facts are continually being manufactured on the ground, through military, opportunistic-legal, and built-environment
interventions, entailing theft, intimidation and repression. Behind the bogus diplomacy supported by the U.S., E.U., Canada and Norway, behind the calls for Palestinians to recognise the state of Israel and renounce violence, Israel is proceeding apace to reduce Palestinian land possession from 22% to about 10%, and effectively to create a series of surrounded, open prisons for the Palestinians on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Israel has control of facilities as basic as the water supply to the Gaza Strip, and is prepared to use that power, once again in contravention of human rights.
Because of U.S.-backed Israel's power to create a radically one-sided agenda, ignoring such basic human rights, and because of Israel's power to define the spectrum of "reasonable" debate, those who posit a two-state solution to the Arab-Israeli question (even as a temporary measure) are faced with a problem. The Israeli journalist Amira Hass lists the typical and oppressive privileges of Israeli power over the Palestinians: "control over water supplies, control over land, determining demographic processes, containing the pace of development of the Other in order to secure Jewish hegemony." It can be safely posited that Sharon would have agreed with a two-state outcome in principle with such accompanying privileges (privileges invisible to many socialized Israeli Jews), as would Olmert, in that a crippled, purely symbolic Palestinian state behind apartheid walls and electric fences, with Palestinian land cleared and used as a killing zone and with Israeli security fully installed, would be very satisfactory indeed. Further, those who do not accept that de-Zionization of Israel/Palestine is a prerequisite of a genuine peace process in respect of Israeli and Palestinian relations have a serious problem justifying a state based on the kind of exclusionist ideology cited at the beginning of this piece. Palestinians reasonably see Zionism as a colonial and racist system of belief, the character of which extends well beyond the region. Instead, here in the U.K. (and no doubt in the United States as well) we are bombarded with decontextualized images of internecine Palestinian struggles and opportunistic calls for yet more Palestinian elections, while the source of Palestinian social and political implosion — U.S., E.U., Canadian, Norwegian and Israeli economic terrorism, added to all other forms of Israeli oppression — is allowed to operate silently. We are thus encouraged to come to racist, imperialist conclusions in ignorance, in respect of the ability of Arab people to govern themselves and to enjoy political independence.
In short, the Palestinians have become the world's leading symbol of everything that the United Nations was created to ensure would never happen again — victims of an expansionist, militaristic and ethnically cleansing state overriding critical thought with fundamentalist goals and rhetoric. The U.S., the E.U., Canada and Norway are thus in breach of the UN Convention on Human Rights and non-discriminatory action in their support for the state of Israel.
Thus the Palestinian people are the victims of the victims of the Holocaust. This painful fact was encapsulated in the actions of a Holocaust survivor (and Israeli citizen) who went on hunger strike in opposition to his state, its treatment of the Palestinians, the dehumanizing rhetoric that accompanies and justifies the violent and calculated repression of one people by another. (See the chapter titled "The Last Taboo," in John Pilger's book, Freedom Next Time (Bantam Press, 2006).)
Nothing I state here is particularly original, startling or contentious. I have simply used a record of evidence to which almost anybody has access to place the actions of Israel in the kind of critical and intelligible context that is desperately lacking in most news accounts. It is my hope that anyone who believes that the Palestinian issue is a marginal one will take my point — that in fact it ranks among the most central issues of the entire post-World War II era, and that the failure to resolve it equitably, with equal parts of justice and recognition for all sides, exemplifies the failings of modern international institutions, treaties and conventions.
As the UN-sponsored Alliance of Civilizations reported in November, the Palestinian issue is the "key symbol of the rift between Western and Muslim societies," and "one of the gravest threats to international stability" in the contemporary world.
[ * This contribution to the ZNet Blogs was written by Kelvin Yearwood, a longtime contributor to the comments section of my blog as well as to many others. Kelvin resides in Bristol, England, where he works for the Bristol City Council Social Services Department. A libertarian leftist, he tell me that his activism has grown along with his awareness of the empire of corporate globalization. (David Peterson) ]
—- Sources —-
"Israeli Jewish myths and the prospect of American war: Ilan Pappe interviewed by Greg Dropkin," News from Nowhere, September 11, 2002. (Haifa lecturer Ilan Pappe on
Zionist ideology, Palestinian right to return, etc. Interview given at the University of Manchester, U.K.)
"The Palestinian Right of Return: The Unfulfilled Human Right," Salman H. Abu-Sitta, Ph.D., President, Palestine Land Society, London
"Israel's Ethnic Cleansing and Racists Discourse," Ramzy Baroud, ZNet, November 30, 2006
"Confronting Myths and Deadly Power: The Deafening Noise in the Occupied Territories," Amira Hass, CounterPunch, June 28, 2004
"States are People Too? Self-Determination and Israel’s 'Right to Exist'," Tim Wise, Dissident Voice, February 14, 2003
"Making (Non) Sense of the Funding Cut-Off: Hamas and Israel's 'Right to Exist'," Virginia Tilley, CounterPunch, May 12, 2006
"On Israel's Right to Exist," Raja Halwani, Cognitive Dissidents, September, 2006
"Why the Refugees Left," Dr. Salman Abu Sitta, PalestineRemembered.com, August 7, 2001. (Good source of village-by-village detail of expulsion of Palestinians, etc.)
"Statements by Key Zionist Leaders on Palestinian Transfer and Expulsion: 1895-1948," as compiled by and posted to the website of the PLO Negotiations Affairs Department, April, 2000. (Great source of Zionist ideological statements.)
Al-Awda – The Palestine Right to Return Coalition (Homepage)
The Bridge (Homepage): (Good site on up-to-date figures garnered by UNRWA, and on the conditions of Palestinians re. effects of 'Security' Wall, etc.)
General Recommendation No. 22: Article 5 and refugees and displaced persons, Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, August 24, 1996. (The bit of the UN Charter on human rights for refugee right of return.)
"The Continuing Bid for Palestinian Territory — Without the Palestinians," Kelvin Yearwood, ZNet, December 21, 2006