The Ongoing Erasure of Palestine


            While many still entertain the idea of two sovereign states, Palestine and Israel, between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea, history, politics, and geography have made this solution unattainable for certain people — whatever rhetorical changes in American foreign policy may emerge from the Obama Administration. In fact, if the handling of the Goldstone report by Obama and his UN ambassador Susan Rice is an example, then the difference between Bush and Obama on Palestine/Israel is perhaps imaginary.

          The Zionist movement and the Israeli state are in the last stages of achieving effective sovereignty over all of historic Palestine. Jewish ownership of the entire land of Palestine has been the ideological sine qua non of the state and of its progenitor, Zionism, from the outset. This central goal has been consistently obfuscated by, among many other ploys, issues of "security"; eternal victimization, the Nazi Holocaust and demands of "recognition" both of the right of Israel to exist in general and specifically as a "Jewish State."

          The Israeli nomenclature, "Judaization" of the land, first entered general public discourse in 1976, during the massive land confiscations of the country’s Palestinian citizens of the Galilee. We must acknowledge that we are witnessing the Judaization of what remains to Palestinians of historic Palestine (with the possible exception of the Gaza Strip).

          Failure to understand the process of Judaization, on the one hand, and the concomitant erasure of Palestinian WUJUD (existence), in all its forms, on the other hand, dooms all of us to continue granting Israel and its supporters the power to accomplish the process of negating Palestinian identity and nationhood. Israel continues to dispossess as many Palestinians as possible. Self-governance is a chimera. ‘Legal’ manipulations; confiscation; expulsion and brute force are the reality.

          It is my intention to avoid the old jargon and to underscore the reality we are facing, by: first, Examining and illuminating current Palestinian existence in historic Palestine; second, by candidly pursuing the historical process of the Judaization of the country; and, third, by exploring the roles available to people seeking justice for the Palestinian people.

          Therefore, we are not chasing headlines and trying to be "relevant"; real relevance must be reserved to the essence of Zionist aims and objectives no matter what Netanyahu chooses to say one day about the Palestinian state, or what Obama might say about Israel’s construction of colonies. Almost six months ago, the new US president told Israel’s leaders to put a freeze on building colonies. According to Ha’aretz, by the end of August (2009), the Obama administration agreed to Israel’s request to remove East Jerusalem from negotiations on the "impending" settlement freeze. According to both Israeli officials and Western diplomats, U.S. envoy to the Middle East George Mitchell recognized the fact that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would not announce a settlement freeze in East Jerusalem. The officials said the U.S. would not endorse new construction there, but would not demand that Tel Aviv publicly announce a freeze.

          The term freeze is not in the vocabulary of Netanyahu or that of his cabinet ministers; their program, whose cornerstone is colonial settlement and ethnic cleansing, precludes a territorial compromise. The land extending between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean, they believe, has space for only one state — Israel. Therefore, waiting for Obama to obtain Palestinians independence is an exercise in futility.

          This is indeed what we learn from reviewing contextual Zionist history before and after 1967. Israel’s principal pursuits have been land, water, fertility, strategic locations, and the minimum number of native population in the interest of demographic "security." Again, a territorial compromise is not in the offing.

          Meanwhile, US policy will not be able to reconcile the pronounced ambitions of George Mitchell, seeking a negotiated settlement, and those of General Keith Dayton, who has been exacerbating the civil conflict between Hamas and Fateh and training Fateh militias as anti-resistance forces. The machinations of Elliot Abrams of the Iran Contra days have not been abandoned either with the change of personnel in the White House; General Dayton has seen to it that while Israel keeps expanding and the occupation becomes harsher and harsher, Palestinian resistance is being transformed into a quisling. The target of Dayton’s and Mohammed Dahlan’s militia is not the occupation; it is the resistance, and that is billed as law and order.

          With no inclinations towards a genuine peace settlement, Israel continues the land grab and the Palestinians continue to experience an ongoing Nakba. Some might prefer to call it a second Nakba. What was the first Nakba about after all? Was it not about Loss of land and water, ethnic cleansing, annexation and Judaization? This is exactly what is going on at present…a continuation of 1948. The colonization of Ras al-Amoud and Sheikh Jarrah which began in 2009 is not different from the colonization of Qatamoun, Jaffa Street, Talbiyeh and the rest of what became known as West Jerusalem after 1948. During the last week of August 2009, Israeli authorities approved plans to build hundreds of settler units in the heart of Arab East Jerusalem. The planned new colonies in the heart of the densely populated Arab neighborhood of Ras Al-Amoud are bound to kill the possibility of East Jerusalem becoming the future capital of a prospective Palestinian state. Hence the relevance of 1948 and the need to study Israel’s ongoing expansion in the context of al-Nakba. Nor has there been a serious improvement in the response of the self-appointed Palestinian leaders to this colonial settlement and ethnic cleansing. The present leadership’s strategy is built on waiting for Washington to deliver independence and restrain Israeli territorial expansion. And yet, Israel continues to demand Arab normalization, which is worse than acquiescence and equal to collusion in a second Nakba.

          The two Palestinian meetings held in Bethlehem and Ramallah during the month of August 2009 were held under the watchful eyes of the occupation. Only Fateh members loyal to Mahmoud Abbas were allowed to enter the West Bank and participate in the election of delegates to the Fateh Revolutionary Council and Central Committee. Likewise, only loyalists were allowed to attend the hurriedly assembled Palestine National Council meeting in Ramallah held to fill vacancies with Abbas loyalists.

          With the two top Palestinian bodies secured under Abbas, with the implicit agreement of Netanyahu and Dayton, the transformation of the resistance is complete, and the second Nakba goes on. Today, not unlike 1948, Palestinian leadership is bungling; US imperialism and hegemony are on the rise. Israel is governed by Iron Wall adherents, and thus unrestrained. The Arab states, which were inept in 1948, are now down-right complicit. Egypt and Jordan not only enforce the Israeli siege on Gaza civilians, but they also provide training camps to the Fateh quislings, in order to enable them to do the job of the Israeli army, and camouflage the occupation. Palestinian cities in the Oslo-designated "A" areas convey a façade of normalcy under Dayton’s military engineering, under Prime Minister Salam Fayyad’s bureaucratic "reforms," and under Netanyahu’s economic "peace."

          It is becoming increasingly clear that the long diplomatic paralysis and the impediments to a peaceful solution capable of yielding two independent and contiguous states, living side by side in the Middle East, are embedded in the "peace process" whose gridlock reveals no shortage of resolve, and in the Zionist consensus that pre-1948 Palestine from the River Jordan to the Mediterranean Sea is a single state under exclusive Israeli sovereignty. As long as the termination of the Israeli occupation is not on the active Israeli agenda, and as long as the political forces in Israel are united in their rejection of a contiguous, viable and practicable Palestinian state, living side by side in peace with Israel, the longest occupation in history will continue unabated. Peace, therefore, will not be at hand as long as this ailing peace process fails to incorporate the essentials of the Palestine question: the 1948 Nakba is not recognized for what it is — a form of ethnic cleansing, a colonial enterprise which covets the land without the people. Peace has also remained elusive as long as the 1967 occupation continues to be entrenched as a form of what the late Israeli sociologist Baruch Kimmerling called politicide (political genocide) in a book under that title. He defined it as "a "process that has as its ultimate goal the dissolution of the Palestinian people’s existence as a legitimate national, social, and economic entity, which may also include partial or total ethnic cleansing."

          Politicide, which complements erasure, is a process that covers a wide range of social, political, military and bureaucratic activities whose goal is to destroy the political and national existence of a whole community of people, and thus deny it the possibility of self-determination. This is what Israel has been doing to the Palestinian people, persistently between 1948 and the present — destroying the very fabric of the Palestinian nation and obliterating the Palestinian WUJOUD. Gary Zatzman uncovered a key difference between apartheid and Zionism in Dissident Voice (2005):

"For all its serious and undoubted evils and the numerous crimes against humanity committed in its name, including physical slaughters, South African white-racist apartheid was not premised on committing genocide. Zionism, on the other hand, has been committed to dissolving the social, cultural, political and economic integrity of the Palestinian people, i.e., genocide, from the outset, at least as early as Theodore Herzl’s injunction in his diaries that the ‘transfer’ of the Palestinian ‘penniless population’ elsewhere be conducted ‘discreetly and circumspectly.’"

The process is still ongoing, having included the invasions of 1967, 1976, 1982, 2002 (massacre of Jenin), 2006, and now the recent Gaza Massacre (2008/09). Over the three-week period, it was estimated that a million and a half tons of explosives were dropped on the Gaza Strip, home to 1.5 million people, making it the most densely crowded area in the world, where it is difficult to distinguish civilians from fighters.

          In the 22 days of relentless assault, the Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) put the Palestinian death toll at a total of 1,417 of which 926 were civilians, including 313 children and 116 women. Non-combatant police officers constituted 255, and 236 combatants were killed, representing 16.7% of the total deaths. The number of civilian fatalities included sixteen medics and four journalists. The number of wounded was approximately 5,500, of which two-thirds were civilians. Numerous schools, mosques, hospitals, residential and commercial buildings, and United Nations facilities were obliterated.

          In a major 49-page report on "Gaza’s Unfinished Business," published on 23 April, 2009, the International Crisis Group warned that Gaza could once again reach the boiling point. Gaza, it says, is an explosion waiting to happen. It lists the toll from Israel’s callous 22-day battering in December-January, 2009 as 1,430 Gazans killed, over 5,300 wounded, 90,000 made homeless, Gaza’s seven main textile factories damaged and closed down, 22 of the 29 concrete factories devastated, whole industrial zones flattened, and 60 per cent of agricultural land near the border with Israel harmed, leading to a virtual halt of agribusiness.

          Israel’s deliberately disproportionate response to Hamas’ home-made rockets must be seen as an attempt to destroy the Palestinians’ will to fight. If that was indeed the aim, it has not succeeded, but nor is Palestinian statehood any closer. What happened in Gaza in 2008/09 is nothing short of another Nakba. This time, however, it was granted a license from the biggest super power.

          The United States has long opposed a solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, consistent with the global consensus: total withdrawal to the 1967 borders, the establishment of a sovereign, contiguous, Palestinian state, endorsement of a non-rhetorical two-state solution, and the annulment of the annexation of Arab East Jerusalem. On the contrary, neither any Israeli government since 1967, nor any American Administration has ever pondered the issue of total withdrawal seriously or met the requisites of the global consensus.

          "A culture of impunity in the region has existed for too long," Goldstone told the United Nations Human Rights Commission (UNHRC) when presenting his report. "The lack of accountability for war crimes and possible war crimes against humanity has reached a crisis point," he added. The Obama administration, the US media, and both leaderships of Congress are part of the problem; therefore, America has not been and will not be part of the solution.


Naseer Aruri is Chancellor Professor (Emeritus) University of Massachusetts Dartmouth. He is the author of Dishonest Broker published by South End Press, Cambridge, MA.

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