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The History and “Morals” of Ethnic Cleansing

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The Real Estate War in Gaza
The History and “Morals” of Ethnic Cleansing

By VICTORIA BUCH

I arrived in Israel 40 years ago. It took me many years to understand that the very existence of my country, as it is today, is based on an ongoing ethnic cleansing of Palestinians. The project started many years ago. Its seed can be traced to the basic fallacy of the Zionist movement, which set out to establish a Jewish-national state in a location already inhabited by another nation. Under these conditions, one has, at most, a moral right to strive for a bi-national state; establishing a national state implies, more or less by definition, ethnic cleansing of the previous inhabitants.

Albert Einstein grasped this fallacy a long time ago. A short time after WWI “Einstein complained that the Zionists were not doing enough to reach agreement with the Palestinian Arabs…He favored a binational solution in Palestine and warned Chaim Weizmann against `Prussian style` nationalism”[1]

But such warnings passed un-heeded by the Zionist movement. So here we are, nearly a century later, with a Jewish national state dominated by militaristic and militant nationalists, who diligently pursue colonization and “judaization” of the land under Israeli control, on both sides of the Green Line (1967 border). The project has been pursued continuously and relentlessly under the different Israeli governments, recently under the cover of bogus “negotiations” with President Abbas. Most of the Israeli institutions participate in it. Young Israelis, generation after generation, join the army to provide the military cover. The young folks have been brain-washed to honestly believe that the army pursues Israel’s “fight for existence”. However it seems evident to the author of this article, as to many others, that the survival of the Jewish community in this country depends on establishing viable mechanisms of coexistence with the Palestinians. Thus, under the slogan of “fight for existence”, the State of Israel is pursuing an essentially suicidal project.

This long-standing outlook of the Israeli governing classes was summarized succinctly in a recent book `Palestine Inside Out` by Saree Makdisi, an American academic. His book “suggests that occupation is merely a feature of an ongoing Israeli policy of slow transfer of the native Palestinian population from their lands. This policy predates the founding of the state, and all of the various practices of the occupier: illegal settlement, land confiscation, home demolition and so on, serve this ultimate purpose.”[2]

If you do not believe the above assessment, consider several statements by David Ben Gurion himself, from the time before the establishment of the State of Israel (Ben Gurion was the leader of the Zionist movement before 1948 and the first Israeli Prime Minister after 1948):

“The compulsory transfer of the [Palestinian] Arabs from the valleys of the proposed Jewish state could give us something which we never had, even when we stood on our own during the days of the first and second Temples…We are given an opportunity which we never dared to dream of in our wildest imaginings. This is more than a state, government and sovereignty, this is national consolidation in a free homeland.” [3]

“With compulsory transfer we [would] have a vast area [for settlement]…I support compulsory transfer. I don’t see anything immoral in it.”[3]

During the 1948 war, about two-thirds of the Palestinians who would become refugees were in fact expelled from their homes by the nascent Israeli army, and one-third became refugees while escaping the dangers of war. All these people, 0.75-1 million of them, were prevented from returning to Israel after the armistice agreement, while their homes and property were demolished or appropriated by the State of Israel.

Among the common mantras provided to the Israelis to justify the above is the following: “Israel accepted the UN partition plan, and Arabs did not, so what happened afterwards is their own fault”. What is conveniently overlooked is that Palestinian Arabs constituted between one third and one half of the population of that designated Jewish homeland (according to various UN reports). Why should these people, whose ancestors lived there for generations, accept living in somebody else’s designated homeland? Imagine, for example, the reaction of French Belgians if their country were designated as a “Flemish homeland” by the UN.

But the main mantra drummed into the conscience of an Israeli citizen from kindergarten, is that in 1948 “it was either them or us”, “Arabs would have thrown us into the sea if we did not establish a Jewish majority state with a strong army”, etc. I have my doubts about that line, too, but let us suppose for the moment that in fact, it was so. And then came the year 1967, and the Six Day War. Another chapter in the Israeli “fight for existence” against recalcitrant Arabs who just keep trying to throw us into the sea. On the face of it, that is how it seemed. I together with most of my compatriots believed for years that 1967 was in fact a moment of existential danger for Israel. Until I stumbled upon some telling quotes, uttered by our very own leaders [4]:

“(a) The New York Times quoted Prime Minister Menachem Begin`s (1977 – 83) August, 1982 speech saying: `In June, 1967, we had a choice. The Egyptian Army concentrations in the Sinai approaches do not prove that (President Gamal Abdel) Nasser (1956 – 70) was really about to attack us. We must be honest with ourselves. We decided to attack him.`

(b) Two-time Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin (1974 – 77 and 1992 – 95) told French newspaper Le Monde in February, 1968: `I do not believe Nasser wanted war. The two divisions which he sent into Sinai on May 14 would not have been enough to unleash an offensive against Israel. He knew it and we knew it.`

(c) General Mordechai Hod, Commander of the Israeli Air Force during the Six-Day War said in 1978: `Sixteen years of planning had gone into those initial eighty minutes. We lived with the plan, we slept on the plan, we ate the plan. Constantly we perfected it.`

(d) General Haim Barlev, Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) Chief told Ma`ariv in April 1972: `We were not threatened with genocide on the eve of the six-day war, and we had never thought of such a possibility.`”

So: instead of “thwarting an existential danger”, in 1967 the State of Israel carried out an effective military operation to acquire some real estate. There is nothing new about that “existential danger” propaganda. Acquisition of real estate by conquest has been already called pleasing names by various other conquerors and occupiers, throughout the old and new history: such as “manifest destiny”, “white man’s burden”, “spreading true religion / culture / democracy”, whatnot.


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