These past two weeks I’ve received plenty of email and phone messages about things I’ve written, said and done on the massacre in Gaza.
Many have come from Israel and those who disagree have generally been assertive but polite with some apologising later after an email exchange they began rudely.
The negative comments from New Zealanders have been far more extreme with absurd claims even the most right-wing Israelis would reject.
From more thoughtful people a recurring theme has been along the lines of “why won’t the Palestinians just accept Israel’s right to exist?”
It sounds simple but as Israel is currently constituted that bald question can only be answered with several qualifications. Agreeing outright would mean a denial of Palestinian history, accepting Israeli possession of confiscated land and still no guarantee of a national state for Palestinians. The more important questions are “Why won’t Israel agree to a sovereign, viable, independent state for Palestinians?” and “Why won’t Israel agree to the right of return for Palestinian refugees?” This second question goes to the heart of the conflict with a rock-solid Palestinian case up against an Israeli case based on racism.
As things stand a Palestinian refugee whose family has lived in the middle-east for thousands of years is refused entry or citizenship in Israel while a Jew from the other side of the world whose family has never sighted the middle-east is welcomed and encouraged to immigrate. It’s a racist policy which rankles with Palestinians and the history of the policy is clear.
In 1937 a Zionist leader and the future Israeli Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion wrote to his son saying bluntly “The Arabs (Palestinians) will have to go.”
Ten years later, on 30 December 1947, after the UN had allocated land for a Jewish state Ben-Gurion told the Central Committee of the Histradut: “In the area allocated to the Jewish state there are not more than 520,000 Jews and about 350,000 non-Jews, mostly Arabs… Such a composition does not provide a stable basis for a Jewish state. This fact must be viewed in all its clarity and acuteness…There can be no stable and strong Jewish state so long as it has a Jewish majority of only 60 percent.”
Two days later, on 1 January 1948 he described his plans for dealing with the Palestinians in this diary entry: “There is a need now for strong and brutal reaction. We need to be accurate about timing, place and those we hit. If we accuse a family – we need to harm them without mercy, women and children included. Otherwise, this is not an effective reaction…There is no need to distinguish between guilty and not guilty.”
With this in mind Zionist terror squads adopted and implemented their so-called Plan Dalet to systematically cleanse the new state of most of its Arab (Palestinian) residents and include within Israel a much larger area than that allocated by the UN.
Markets and towns were bombed with the most well-known massacre occurring at a Palestinian town called Deir Yassin which lay outside the area to be assigned by the United Nations. Here in April 1948 commandos of the Irgun (headed by another future Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin) and the Stern Gang systematically murdered over 100 men, women and children.
In the face of this intense terror campaign an estimated 700,000 Palestinians fled their homes and their land.
British and UN officials were appalled such that when Israel was accepted into the United Nations it was on condition the new country allow the return of Palestinians who had fled the Zionist ethnic cleansing. Israel agreed at the time but has steadfastly refused in the 60 years since. Instead, over the past six decades Israel has expanded its territory to progressively take over more Palestinian land. All that remains is the Gaza strip and a large number of small, discrete pieces of land in the West Bank, criss-crossed with Israeli-only roads. Every year more illegal Jewish settlements are established on Palestinian land and thousands more Jewish settlers move in.
With a viable Palestinian state further away than ever it’s small wonder Palestinians voted for a Hamas government in 2006. I’m not holding a candle for Hamas, its tactics or its policies, but it seems their election to power was a desperate move by a desperate people whom the world had turned its back on. In fact the original formation of Hamas was encouraged by the Israeli government as a counter to the strength of the secular Fatah coalition and a chance to divide and rule Palestinians.
Among the many ironies is the long history of Arabs (Palestinians) and Jews living alongside each other for thousands of years before the Zionist movement terrorised their way to an exclusive Jewish state in the middle east.
Despite Israel’s brutal military occupation of Palestinian land, the siege of Gaza and racist apartheid policies towards the Palestinians there are growing numbers of Jews in Israel and around the world who reject Zionism and want to work towards a middle east where Jews and Palestinians can once more live side-by-side in a secular state which respects all religions.
10,000 marched in Israel last week against the massacre in Gaza. It’s the most hopeful sign for peace yet.