WATCH AS ISRAELIS CELEBRATE 49 YEARS OF JERUSALEM’S NAKBA

Tens of thousands of Israelis took hours to stream through the monumental Damascus Gate and weave their way through the alleys of the Muslim Quarter, eventually reaching their final destination, the holy Western Wall plaza, where they were treated to musical performances and a series of speeches by top religious and political officials.

‘Worship God By Nakba’: Jerusalem march celebrates Israeli occupation with messianic fervor

Dan Cohen and David Sheen FOR

The Muslim Quarter of Jerusalem’s Old City was cleared of its Palestinian inhabitants on the eve of the Ramadan holiday, June 5, to make way for a flag procession by Jewish religious nationalists, celebrating Israel conquering the eastern half of the city 49 years earlier.

Store owners, street merchants, and shoppers preparing for that evening’s celebratory feast were driven out of the lanes that fell along the route chosen by march organizers and approved by Israel’s Supreme Court. From a safe distance behind police barricades, Palestinian residents of Jerusalem watched silently as ultra-nationalist Jews paraded through the quarter, singing songs of praise to Yahweh and calling for the ethnic cleansing of non-Jews.

Almost all of the shops along the march route shuttered their doors, while some took the added measure of taping over their door locks, to prevent paraders from sabotaging them, a common occurrence in previous years.

Tens of thousands of Israelis took hours to stream through the monumental Damascus Gate and weave their way through the alleys of the Muslim Quarter, eventually reaching their final destination, the holy Western Wall plaza, where they were treated to musical performances and a series of speeches by top religious and political officials.

A determination to assert Jewish sovereignty in the Muslim-majority areas of Jerusalem’s Old City was not the only cause of concern for some marchers. Opposition to a government plan to partition the Western Wall into gender-segregated and gender-mixed prayer areas also occupied some of the paraders.

In recent weeks, pressure from Netanyahu’s Ultra-Orthodox coalition partners convinced him to renege on his prior commitment to support the construction of a mixed-gender prayer area at the southern stretch of the Western Wall. The flag march was an opportunity for conservative religious forces to reassert their adamant opposition to any concessions to liberal Jews at the holy site.

Some marchers wore stickers and held aloft flags that criticized the proposed plan for an egalitarian prayer space. The traditionalist campaign materials read: “You don’t divide a heart – You don’t compromise on the Kotel [Western Wall]”. At the end of the march, Western Wall Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovitch echoed these sentiments in a celebratory speech, claiming that the current layout of the site – gender-segregated according to Orthodox rules – should not be tampered with:

“May the call go out to all the Jews of the world, whoever and wherever they are: The Western Wall is a place that unifies and consolidates. It is forbidden to allow arguments to rip holes in the beating heart of the Jewish nation. Here we must act according the tradition of the House of Israel, the House of the father, the eternal tradition of Israel. At the Western Wall plaza, with God’s help, people will continue to pray next to one another, religious and non-religious, Jews and non-Jews. Because as it says, ‘My house will be called a house of prayer by all nations’ – because of unity, and because of Jewish tradition. From here we issue a call to leave the Western Wall as a unifier and a consolidator. We earned the kindness of God, in order to return here, for the sake of unity. Don’t ruin it!”

But Rabinovitch’s remarks were measured, bereft of some of the harsh language he has used in the past towards liberal Jews. One enthusiastic young parade participant sporting a gay pride sticker on her backpack was also spotted in the crowd. Her presence would seem to indicate that event organizers had sufficiently camouflaged their reactionary intentions, making the march more palatable to at least some liberal Zionists.

As Orly Noy reported last week in the liberal Israeli news site Local Call, there were concerted efforts to improve the optics of the march in the eyes of onlookers. Police reduced the size of the flagpoles they permitted to be carried into the Old City, confiscating planks that could be used to attack Palestinian people and property. Some Israeli youth sporting stickers calling to ethnically cleanse the country of Palestinians covered them up when they noticed they were being filmed.

But the theme of driving non-Jews out of Israel was not driven out of the march – it was only tamped down by authorities, in order to give the event a thin veneer of respectability. Stickers calling to expel Palestinians from the land reading, “There is no coexistence with them – Transfer Now!”, were freely distributed at the march by far-right activist Baruch Marzel. Jewish youth chanted “May your village burn!” as they marched towards the Old City. Once inside, they called to worship Yahweh by committing more Nakba’s, embracing the Arabic term for the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians that Israel carried out in 1948.

By minimizing the most overt calls to kick Arabs out of the country, event planners managed to rebrand the country’s largest annual “Death to Arabs” rally as a family-friendly show of support for Israeli sovereignty over all of Jerusalem. Those that stand to gain from the mainstreaming of the march, however, are not only advocates of one apartheid state, or advocates of fast-track-ethnic-cleansing. Also hoping to gain from the march’s normalization are advocates of building a Jewish temple on the al-Aqsa compound.

Once considered a marginal movement of messianists, Jewish Temple advocates have made major inroads in recent years. More Israeli Jews than ever before are visiting the compound annually, and increasing numbers of Israeli legislators are voicing support for a change in the status quo of the site. A long list of government officials, both religious and secular, have called to officially sanction Jewish religious rituals on the mount. WithTemple Movement leader Yehudah Glick entering the Knesset late last month as a member of the Likud list, efforts to apply Jewish sovereignty to the mosque compound are only expected to increase.

At the flag march itself, many of the participants wore T-shirts that prominently featured drawings of the Jewish Temple that messianists hope to build and T-shirts portraying the existing Islamic Dome of the Rock with calls for its elimination. At the massive celebration held in the Western Wall Plaza at the end of the march, one high profile Israeli official after another used the opportunity to call for the fulfillment of Jewish prophecies that call for a Jewish temple to be built where a mosque has stood for more than a thousand years.

Shmuel Rabinovitch, the rabbi in charge of the Western Wall site for over two decades, told the crowd: “We ask to be worthy of complete redemption, to return to the Temple Mount, pure and holy.” Rabinovitch added: “We are now living in the prophecy, and praying for it to be complete.”

David Lau, one of Israel’s two chief rabbis, and the son of a former chief rabbi, said: “Already by next week, as we are graced with the Pentecost holiday, grace us with making a pilgrimage, as we were graced by your first steps to stand here, grace us by showing us the construction of the Temple and cheer us with its renovation, returner of priests to their [Temple] worship and Levites to their singing and music-making.”

Moshe Leon, Jerusalem city councillor, said: “Here, facing the site of the Temple, as we set our eyes towards the holy mount, we all pray for a full redemption, to the building of the Temple speedily, in our era.”

Uri Ariel, Israel’s Minister of Agriculture, said: “Between the river and the sea will only be the State of Israel. There are not two states west of the Jordan. And the Temple Mount is ours! And it is not to be divided, not with the waqf (Muslim religious authorities), and not with anyone else! Sovereignty is within the power of the State of Israel, it must use it and implement it all the way. We say to Prime Minister Netanyahu, it is time for sovereignty. It is time for sovereignty on the Temple Mount.”

The underlying ideology of the march was best exemplified by the only event speaker who is not a resident of Israel, but rather its primary patron, the United States: Simon Falic. Chair of a large chain of duty-free stores in the US, Simon “Simcha” Falic was honored with a slot on the program because his family is the top contributor to the Western Wall Heritage Foundation, which manages the Jewish holy site, under the auspices of the prime minister.

Last week, Ha’aretz investigative reporter Uri Blau revealed that the Jerusalem Day flag march is funded by Prime Minister Netanyahu’s office. In years past, Blau has also exposed that the Falic family is the top contributor to Netanyahu’s personal election campaign, and also the top contributor to Lehava, a violent Jewish Supremacist street gang that follows the teachings of far-right Rabbi Meir Kahane and attacks mixed Jewish-Arab couples. Lehava regalia and other Kahanist identifiers were spotted along the parade route and amongst the Western Wall revelers.

At the Western Wall celebration, Falic reassured the crowd that Israel’s 49-year military occupation of territories conquered in 1967 is morally justified. He also urged Israelis to visit Mount Zion in far greater numbers:

“Forty-nine years ago, the Israel Defense Forces conquered Jerusalem and Judea and Samaria. We should be proud of it! There is no shame in it! Better to be conquerer than conquered. They say we have 70,000 participants here today. Next year: 170,000 are waiting for you. There are more devout friends waiting for you. Brothers, come, we need half a million people here.”

The directive to increase the number of Jews who visit the al-Aqsa mosque compound is a declared tactic of the Temple Movement. Vastly expanding the Jewish presence on the site is part of its strategy to create the political pressure necessary to force the Israeli government to alter the status quo of the site and permit augmented Jewish activity there.

Once exclusive control of the mount has been wrested from the hands of the Jordanian waqf, Jewish messianists hope to build a Yahwist temple on the site, replacing prayer with daily animal sacrifices and turning Israel’s somewhat-secular ethnocracy into a full-fledged Orthodox theocracy. Under religious rule, all non-Jews who refuse to sign a contract committing themselves to a special subset of Jewish laws reserved for gentile subjects would be deported or put to death.

By discouraging only the most overt manifestations of base racism while simultaneously infusing the event with ultra-nationalist sentiment and messianic fervor, organizers managed to frame the parade as moderate and mainstream, even though the march route dispossessed Palestinians temporarily and marchers openly voiced unbridled hopes of soon dispossessing them permanently.

IN PHOTOS ~~ NAKBA DAY DEMOS CONTINUE IN NEW YORK AND IN PALESTINE

NAKBA DAY EVENT-NYCITY HALL & MARCH ACROSS THE BROOKLYN BRIDGE

Photos © by Bud Korotzer

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Videos from Palestine VIA

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NAKBA DAY IN TOONS

Images by Carlos Latuff

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In Tel Aviv, zionists ‘celebrate’ The Nakba by denying it …

IN PHOTOS ~~ NAKBA DAY IN NEW YORK

On Israel’s Independence Day, New Yorkers remember who lost theirs

Photos © by Bud Korotzer

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NAKBA DAY MARCH FOR RESISTANCE AND RETURN
Sunday, May 15
1:30 pm
Rally at City Hall Park in Manhattan followed by March on Brooklyn Bridge to Cadman Plaza Park
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/events/1720235081568888/

On the 68th anniversary of the occupation of Palestine, and as the Palestinian people enter the 68th year of dispossession and exile, we call on all Palestinians, friends of Palestine and supporters of justice and liberation to come together to march and rally, commemorate the Nakba, stand against the continuing Nakba, and call for the right of return for Palestinian refugees and freedom for Palestine.

68 years after the Nakba – the war of 1948 in which over 800,000 Palestinians were driven from their homes and land and the state of Israel created on that land – Palestinians continue to struggle for their right to return, for freedom from occupation, for justice, and against the Nakba that continues today.

After a rally at City Hall, we will march over the Brooklyn Bridge for an afternoon of Palestine-focused and family-friendly activities at Cadman Plaza Park.

68 YEARS LATER ~~~ WHAT DO ISRAELIS KNOW ABOUT THE NAKBA?

What do Israelis really know about the Nakba? What do they think about the right of return of the Palestinian refugees?

PHOTO ESSAY ~~ THE TAINTED MEMORY OF ISRAEL’S INDEPENDENCE

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This Wednesday evening at sundown Israel will mark 68 years as an independent state as Palestians mark 68 years since the Nakba which destroyed their nation.

Here are some of the photos …. (Click on link)

Photos of the Nakba (“the catastrophe”): the expulsion and dispossession of hundreds of thousands Palestinians from their homes and land in 1948. 

IN PHOTOS ~~ REMEMBERING THE ‘OTHER’ SIX MILLION

Image by Carlos Latuff

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Umm Akram and Amena are among six million Palestinians not living in Palestine. They are citizens of no country.

VOICES FROM THE NAKBA

Monday, May 2
6:00PM
NYU School of Law

On May 14, 1948, 18-year-old Mariam Fathallah, her family, and the rest of the Palestinian town of Al-Zeeb were forced out of their homes and into Lebanon. By the end of the year, their 4,000 year-old community was leveled and half of all Palestinians in Palestine had been killed or expelled. Palestinians know this event as the Nakba (“the catastrophe”). Mariam, now 86 years old and respectfully known as Umm Akram, has spent the last 68 years in crowded, makeshift refugee camps, where she has raised three generations of children who are waiting to return to their homes in Palestine. She has lived through 5 Israeli invasions of Lebanon and the 1976 Tel Al-Zaatar camp massacre which killed 2,000 refugees.

Amena El-Ashkar, 23, is the granddaughter and great granddaughter of Nakba survivors and has known no home other than a refugee camp.

Umm Akram and Amena are among six million Palestinians not living in Palestine. They are citizens of no country.

Photos © Bud Korotzer

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REMEMBERING THE TERROR THAT LED TO JEWISH STATEHOOD

#DeirYassinMassacre let us remember the innocent lives lost to terror

#DeirYassinMassacre let us remember the innocent lives lost to terror

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Palestinians mark 68th anniversary of Deir Yassin massacre

Palestinians on Saturday marked the 68th anniversary of the massacre of more than 100 Palestinians civilians carried out by Zionist paramilitary groups in the village of Deir Yassin in 1948 prior to the establishment of Israel.

Deir Yassin has long been a symbol of Israeli violence for Palestinians because of the particularly gruesome nature of the slaughter, which targeted men, women, children, and the elderly in the small village west of Jerusalem.

The number of victims is generally believed to be around 107, though figures given at the time reached up to 254, out of a village that numbered around 600 at the time.

The Deir Yassin massacre was led by the Irgun group, whose head was future Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin, with support from other paramilitary groups Haganah and Lehi whose primary aim was to push Palestinians out through force.
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Records of the massacre describe Palestinian homes blown up with residents inside, and families shot down as they attempted to flee.
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The massacre came in spite of Deir Yassin resident’s efforts to maintain positive relations with new Jewish neighbors, including the signing of pact that was approved by Haganah, a main Zionist paramilitary organization during the British Mandate of Palestine.
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An Israeli psychiatric hospital now lies on the ruins of Deir Yassin, the remainder of which was reportedly bulldozed in the 1980s to make way for Jewish housing and incorporated as a neighborhood of Jerusalem. Streets of the neighborhood hold names of Irgun militiamen who carried out the massacre.
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The massacre was one of the first in what would become a long line of attacks on countless Palestinian villages, part of a broader strategy called Plan Dalet by Zionist groups to strike fear into local Palestinians in hopes that the ensuing terror would lead to an Arab exodus, to ensure only Jews were left in the “Jewish state.”
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Thus the attack on Deir Yassin took place a month before the UN Partition Plan was expected to be carried out, and was part of reasons later given by neighboring Arab states for their intervention in Palestine.
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The combination of forced expulsion and flight that the massacres — what would later become known among Palestinians as the Nakba, or catastrophe — precipitated left around 750,000 Palestinians as refugees abroad. Today their descendants number more than five million, and their right to return to Palestine is a central political demand.
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The anniversary of the deadly razing of the village comes as modern day Palestinians in occupied East Jerusalem and the West Bank continue to fight for their livelihood in the face of illegal Israeli settlement expansion, widespread detention campaigns, extrajudicial executions by Israeli forces, and a surge in housing demolitions — most recently leaving 124 Palestinians homeless in a single day.
The 97 known victims of the Deir Yassin Massacre committed by Zionist Terrorist  in Palestine

The 97 known victims of the Deir Yassin Massacre committed by Zionist Terror in Palestine

FROM

MY FAMILY’S JOURNEY FROM BARCELONA TO AUSCHWITZ ~~ AN OPEN LETTER TO THE PARLIAMENT OF SPAIN

News such as the following was on the front pages of  every Israeli newspaper over the weekend … (Click on link to see report)

Spain passes law of return for Sephardic Jews

Applicants to be vetted by local Jewish community, face language and history tests before securing new passport

My response, as one of those descendants follows …

Descendents of Sephardic Jews expelled in 1492 can now apply for Spanish nationality

Descendants of Sephardic Jews expelled in 1492 can now apply for Spanish nationality

Open Letter to the Parliament of Spain

It was of much interest to see that your government has passed legislation granting citizenship to the descendants of the Jews expelled from your country in 1492.

Jews leaving Spain in 1492

Jews leaving Spain in 1492

Allow me to fill you in on the ‘journey’ of my own family after the expulsion; Rather than going to one of the Muslim countries in North Africa, as many others did, they chose to go to Turkey. Those that went to North Africa received a much warmer welcome, which resulted in my family eventually going on to a new situation in Holland.

They found there that in order to succeed economically they would have to assimilate with the Eastern European Jewish Community (Ashkenazim), a fate much less severe than the forced conversions to Catholicism for those who remained in Spain.

Again, after a number of years they once again moved on, this time splitting up, some going to Slovakia, the others to Hungary. Many of those in Hungary pursued their Jewish educations and became prominent members of the rabbinical community, included was Rabbi Shlomo Gantzfried, co-author of The Code of Jewish Law.

Those in Slovakia basically worked the fields to survive. My grandfather, Yisrael Mayer, whose name I bear, was a cobbler.

In both cases, in Hungary and Slovakia, the Jewish community was rounded up and sent to various labour camps. My family wound up in Auschwitz where they were brutally slaughtered by the nazi beast, with the blessings of your Francisco Franco and your Pope, Pius Xll.

My father was spared these horrors as he immigrated to the United States when he was still in his teens. Hence, I am here today to tell this saga.

I have one question of you before I continue, Why was this ‘offer’ not granted to the descendants Of the Muslim community who were also expelled by King Ferdinand?

In 1492, simultaneous to the discovery of the New World was the start of the Spanish Inquisition, a massive expulsion of Jews and Muslims.

In 1492, simultaneous to the discovery of the New World was the start of the Spanish Inquisition, a massive expulsion of Jews and Muslims.

Today, I reside in Israel, a country which in 1948 employed the same tactics against the Palestinian population when the zionist regime stole much of their lands. Close to a million people were forced to leave their homes and country. Over a million of their descendants still languish to this day in refugee camps.

Will they have to wait 500 years for an offer to return to their land as well?

Does this look familiar? See image posted earlier.

Does this look familiar? See image posted earlier.

Fortunately, that will not be the case. A growing number of Jews, both in Israel and in the Diaspora are involved in movements which daily expose the crimes committed by the Israeli government against the Palestinians. Their day to day work in these matters will usher in changes much sooner than your government did.

There are many Jews of conscious throughout the world

There are many Jews of conscious throughout the world

Now, as for your ‘offer’, I will try to be as diplomatic as possible. Simply stated,this gesture is much too little and comes much too late. Therefore, I personally do not accept it.

Yours Sincerely,

Steve Amsel (Yisrael Mayer)

PS …. despite all of the above, or perhaps because of it, ‘my thoughts remain free’ …..

WHAT DO ISRAELIS REALLY KNOW ABOUT THE NAKBA?

What do Israelis really know about the Nakba? What do they think about the right of return of the Palestinian refugees?
De-Colonizer went out to meet and asked them…

Mazin Qumsiyah, PhD adds the following ….

On the eve of the 67th year anniversary of the Nakba (the catastrophic
ethnic cleansing of Palestine), Benjamin Netanyahu finally formed a
“coalition government” a group of ministers who are honest about their
racist and genocidal tendencies (see article by Gideon Levy below). It
includes a “Justice” who called for murdering Palestinian mothers so that
they do not bring out more “snakes”. It includes the head of “civil
administration” who openly supports ethnic cleansing and genocide. A
government more right wing in its composition than Germany was in 1933-1939
or South Africa in the 1970s and 1980s but an honest one indeed without
double talk or hypocrisy. What is disappointing is not the make-up of the
government but the hypocritical response to it. Words from the “Palestinian
Authority” wining about the new government were accompanied by continuing
security coordination with Israel and the PA arrest of dozens of
Palestinians simply for having different political affiliation (e.g.
students who against all odds were voted to student councils at Palestinian
Universities). Geopolitically, there are now two choices: US/Israel that
attempt to dominate the Arab World and Western Asia through a class of
puppet dictators (Saudi Arabia, Qatar, UAE, Egypt) and the axis of Russia,
China, Iran, Yemen, Syria, Lebanon (led by Hizbollah) and large segments of
Iraqi society. It would be nice to have a third axis (like the non-aligned
movement led by Egypt and India in the 1960s) but it does not currently
seem possible.

Yasser Arafat managed to steer the PLO leadership to semi-neutrality or at
least flexibility in building alliances as need arose. But even acting as a
good honest broker to solve some regional disputes many times by asking
people to put the interests of their people ahead of their superpower
sponsors (then it was Soviet Union and the USA/NATO). In the time of Abu
Mazen, we see more a definitive side-taking (e.g. with Saudi Arabia against
Yemen) in a fashion that actually weakened the Palestinian cause
dramatically. The black and white attitude was applied in a way that is
like George Bush “you are either with us (USA right wing government) or
with the terrorists. In this case you are either with us (Fatah) or with
the terrorist Hamas.  There seems no room left for nuances or indeed for
diplomacy. From the agreement with Hamas, there is only the part about
holding elections for the PA that Abbas wants to implement. Other parts of
the agreement (holding elections for the PLO, economic issues etc) were
supposed to happen synchronously but they are now off the table. Meanwhile
Gaza was devastated and is still under siege (civil society is responding
and a flotilla of ships is moving to break the siege). Last time this
happened, there were martyrs and some high level PA officials ridiculed the
Free Gaza movement. Instead, it would have been nice to see PA officials
join Haneen Zoabi and Raed Salah on the boats. Alas wishful thinking for
change.

The old definition of madness still apply: repeating the same (failed)
tasks and expecting different results. And we live in a mad, very mad
world. US/Israel still fund terrorists, support dictators, and support
ethnic cleansing. Those who bet on them to help them achieve “independence”
still do not understand and still hope somehow magically, things will
change. They would be wise to listen to Russian President Putin. He was
speaking at the 70th anniversary of the win over Nazi Germany (26 million
Russian lives were lost) and was flanked by other world leaders including
China (though noticeably absent where key NATO leaders). He said, the
attempt at creating a unipolar world is failing and that we should look
towards a new system. Iran, China, most of Latin America and other
countries which long suffered from Western Colonialism agreed. President
Abbas was there but had no comment. I was reminded of Naji Al-Ali 1964. I
was reminded of Orwell 1984. I was reminded of the book Majanin Beit Lahmem
(the crazy people of Bethlehem) published 2014.

Life goes on in occupied Palestine. A Palestinian community (Susya) is
about to be uprooted. Colonial settlers and soldiers still attack native
Palestinians with impunity. Corruption and heroism happen, poverty and
greed happen, cooperation and collaboration happen, resistance and
normalization happen. Poor people struggle and rich get richer. It is hard
to cope sometimes but we keep going against all odds.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the wall….*

Stop whining. Long live Israel’s new and honest government

Israel’s new government won’t spout hollow slogans about peace, human rights, and justice. The truth will be thrust in the faces of Israelis – and the world.

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The 34th government will deserve Israel; Israel will deserve the 34th government. This is an authentic and representative government, the true manifestation of the spirit of the times and the deepest feelings of most Israelis. It will be a true government, without pretense, without makeup and without self-justification. What we’ll see is what we’ll get. Welcome to the fourth Benjamin Netanyahu government.

They won’t talk haughtily and they won’t spout hollow slogans. Not about peace and not about human rights; not about two states and not about negotiations; not about international law, justice or equality. The truth will be thrust in the faces of Israelis and the world. And the truth is this: The two-state solution is dead (it was never born), the Palestinian state will not arise, international law does not apply to Israel, the occupation will continue to crawl quickly toward annexation, annexation will continue to crawl quickly toward an apartheid state; “Jewish” supersedes “democratic,” nationalism and racism will get the government stamp of approval, but they’re already here and have been for a long time.

Neither Netanyahu, nor Habayit Hayehudi’s chairman MK Naftali Bennett nor that party’s faction members MK Ayelet Shaked and MK Eli Ben-Dahan, started this whole thing. They only expedited things. And there should be no shock or outrage, no bewailing the bitterness of fate. This government is a government of continuation, not a government of change.

True, some of its members are more extreme than their predecessors, but that is mainly about rhetorical differences. Even the most inflammatory appointment, of Shaked as justice minister, which reverberated throughout the world over the weekend, is less revolutionary than it seems. Shaked is blunt and violent, whereas Zionist Union MK Tzipi Livni, her predecessor, was delicate and proper. But Justice Minister Shaked will not have to work hard to break open cracks in our democracy; they opened a long time ago.

The best test of the nature of the regime in Israel is the test of the occupation and the war crimes: the foundations of apartheid are already deep and the war crimes remain uninvestigated. From her office in the heart of occupied Jerusalem, Livni has not made Israel more just in that respect. True, Shaked’s ideas are more nationalistic and her understanding of the essence of democracy is nil. True, many in the world were shocked that a person who identified with one of the most violent articles ever written here against the Palestinian people (by Uri Elitzur), was appointed minister of Israeli justice. But there’s no place for such sanctimoniousness. Elitzur expressed what many people are thinking.

The appointment of another racist, Eli Ben-Dahan, as deputy defense minister, responsible for the Civil Administration, should not be earth-shattering either. True, Ben-Dahan said that “the Palestinians are animals, they are not human, they are not entitled to live” – but don’t these statements reflect the true attitude of many Israelis? Ben-Dahan will speak for them. That is how Israel has been treating the Palestinians for almost 50 years; Ben-Dahan is only saying things overtly. Now he will be responsible for the Civil Administration and the whole system of “humanitarian gestures” will be torn up. Ben-Dahan is the right man in the right place at the right time. An excellent appointment.

A person who proudly says “I killed masses of Arabs” and calls them “shrapnel in the buttocks” will be education minister – and who in Israel doesn’t think that? The general of Operation Cast Lead, with its crimes, the man who contravened building restrictions, Yoav Galant, will be construction minister. Is that not a fine appointment? MK Uri Maklev of United Torah Judaism is to head the Knesset Science Committee? Does that not correctly reflect the attitude of some Israelis to science?

Stop whining. Maybe Israel’s shadow government should be more enlightened, but not its real government. It is what the Israelis chose, it reflects their true stands. And so, long live the new government.

IN PHOTOS ~~ REMEMBERING THE NAKBA AND THE WAR IN IRAQ

Remembering the Nakba

"Facing the Ongoing Nakba” tour schedule

“Facing the Ongoing Nakba” tour schedule

 

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zion wants us to forget about it …

On the eve of an important event to discuss the Nakba* scheduled to take place this evening, the Executive Director of a tony uptown synagogue in New York City where the event was contracted to take place has attempted to cancel the event with no explanation in what can only be perceived as an effort to shut down discussion of the “ongoing Nakba” within the Jewish community.

The event was to feature the Palestinian human rights organization, Badil (whose timely recently released Corporate Complicity in Violations of International Law in Palestine [pdf] is a must read), and Israeli human rights organization Zochrot. It is part of multi-city speaking tour, and was sponsored in New York by four organizations: Jewish Voice for Peace-New York; Nakba Education Project; Jews Say No!; and the National Lawyers Guild Palestine Subcommittee.

*Nakba, means “catastrophe” in Arabic and refers to the forced displacement of Palestinians that began with Israel’s establishment in 1948, and continues to this day.

Read the full report at Mondoweiss

The cancellation results …

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Photos © by Bud Korotzer

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On the other side of town, the 12th anniversary of Bush’s catastrophe was remembered

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#ZionismToday ~~ FECES SANS ODOUR

This will be an essay of photos and quotes, starting with a few from our historical Sages …

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And the reasons they said the above ….

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Now, lets see the responses …. from those whose feces don’t stink …

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And the Pièce de résistance …

 

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ZIO BEX ALERT ~~ NOTHING SPECIAL ABOUT THE NAKBA

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Some Israelis apparently have a problem with recognising the Nakba as the catastrophe that it was. The government itself has outlawed teaching about it in the school system, as if denial will erase the history ….

Denial of the holocaust is illegal in many nations, but denial of the Nakba is OK?

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Despite such obvious facts about its origin, the Palestinian Nakba has become, even in the eyes of certain academics, “the greatest crime of the modern age.” The lie has triumphed. On campuses in the United States, anti-Israel students distribute mock eviction notices in dorms, in order to depict the criminal deportations by Israel.

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A Nakba for every nation

Op-ed: World does not commemorate disasters that have befallen other nations, so why are people so quick to embrace a propagandist narrative about Palestinians?

                                                 Israel Opinion

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The month of May had, with an interval of a few days, two milestones. On May 9, the world celebrated victory over the Germans in World War II, and on May 15, Nakba Day events were also held around the world.

The Allied victory over Germany did not end with outpourings of reconciliation, quite the reverse. Between 12 and 16 million ethnic Germans were expelled from central European states at the end of the war and in its aftermath. Between 600,000 and two million were killed during those expulsions, which included innumerable pogroms and massacres. MV Wilhelm Gustloff, a German ship carrying refugees, was sunk in January 1945 by the Soviet navy, taking with it 9,500 souls, but who remembers? What is more, representatives of the vanquished and of the refugees were not invited to the May 9 celebrations – their narrative did not appear.

And yet those who celebrated this great victory over evil crossed lines less than a week later to remember the great injustice that befell the Palestinians. They never dreamed of honoring the German Nakba, only the Palestinian one.

Now and then there have been proposals to pay compensation to those exiled to Germany. The countries concerned, such as Czechoslovakia and Poland, rejected the idea outright. No one denied the brutal pogroms and expulsions. “If someone were to sue us”, they made very clear, “we would demand the money from Germany as war damages.” Time passed, the wounds festered, but there was no compensation, and certainly no return. The European Court of Human Rights would take up a suit brought by a deportee – and promptly reject it.

The ethnic Germans, most of them innocent, were not the only ones who underwent forced displacement. Tens of millions in Europe and in Asia experienced same trauma in the same decade, both before and after the war’s end. This is what happened to some 700,000 Palestinian Arabs.

And this is what also happened to 850,000 Jews. The Jews had a Nakba, so did the Palestinians, and so did the Germans. There was also a Polish Nakba, and a Hindu Nakba. Nakba was the cruel reality of that time. It was a global Nakba. For every nation, a Nakba.

According to Palestinian historian Aref al-Aref, some 13,000 Palestinian Arabs were killed in the 1948 War of Independence. We should indeed feel remorse for each death, but we should also take into account the fact that – according to impartial reports of the number of casualties, relative to the size of the population, or the number who fled or were expelled – the Palestinian Nakba was smallest of them all.

For the sake of comparison, in contemporaneous population exchanges between Poland and Ukraine, 100,000 people died out of the 1.4 million who were expelled from their homelands. Is anyone organizing a worldwide remembrance in their name? And yet, it is the Palestinian Nakba that is remembered around the world.

The Palestinians suffered. Every expellee suffered, paying the price for the actions of their leaders. The Palestinians had chosen Haj Amin al-Husseini to lead them, and growing evidence has been uncovered in recent years of his involvement in the extermination of the Jews.

Al-Husseini made clear that “the basic condition of our cooperation with the Germans was the freedom to exterminate the Jews of Palestine and the Arab world.” He was one of the originators of the “Farhud” in Iraq, the first Nazi-inspired pogrom against the Jews in an Arab state. He worked against a deal to secure the release of Jewish children. He was the creator of “Operation Atlas” of 1944, which apparently included a plan to poison a quarter of a million Jews living in Palestine. He was not the only Arab leader of the time to identify with the Nazis – Fawzi al-Qawuqji and others did exactly the same.

Here and there one can hear claims that there is no connection between the problem of the Palestinian refugees and that of the Jewish refugees from Arab states. This is a ridiculous claim. A series of pogroms directed against the Jews in 1940s – primarily in 1948 in Aden, Syria, Libya, Iraq and Morocco – were a combination of anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism. Similarly, the Arab League decided in the same year to freeze Jews’ bank accounts and to confiscate their money to fund the war effort against “Zionist aspirations in Palestine.” This was the Arab struggle, managed by the Arab League and the Arab Higher Committee, and headed by al-Husseini.

So there is indeed something absurd about the claim of “no connection”. The Palestinian problem is commemorated because the Arab world has systematically refused any offer of restoration. The Arab states even opposed UN General Assembly resolution 194, which offered the possibility of some kind of Palestinian return to their former homeland under certain conditions, on the grounds that it included recognition of a Jewish state under the Partition Plan.

In recent years, the exact same resolution has become a weapon for the Arab states in seeking to implement a mass Palestinian return, even though there is no historical precedence for a mass return, never mind any right to one.

In any event, resolution 194 was just one in a series. Resolutions 393, 394 and 513, which were subsequently passed and which hold a similar legal status, transfer responsibility for the absorption of the refugees to the Arab states. Who knew? Who remembers?

And thus those who participated in the Nakba commemorations last week are not serving to implement a solution to the problem. They are only serving a propagandist narrative that perpetuates the problem and cultivates the illusion of a return. The Arab world has made it clear time and again – the demand for a right of return has one objective, namely, the destruction of the State of Israel.

Despite such obvious facts about its origin, the Palestinian Nakba has become, even in the eyes of certain academics, “the greatest crime of the modern age.” The lie has triumphed. On campuses in the United States, anti-Israel students distribute mock eviction notices in dorms, in order to depict the criminal deportations by Israel.

Most students do identify with the victims, and here they do not know the basic facts. They don’t know about the Jewish and global Nakbas; they don’t know about the connection between the Arabs and the Nazis. They don’t commemorate the German Nakba, as Germany was the aggressor, but they do commemorate the Palestinian Nakba, despite the fact that the Arab side was also the antagonist.

There has to be reconciliation; there has to be recognition of injustice. Vaclav Havel, during his time as the Czech president, made a noble gesture and apologized for the atrocities conducted by the Czechs against innocent Germans. Israel, like Havel, needs to ask for forgiveness that for the suffering that it too has caused to the innocent. Forgiveness. Not compensation, and not return. And one must hope that the Arab world can ask for forgiveness for chasing out its Jews and for seizing their property, for calling for their destruction and for its cooperation with part of the Nazi leadership.

Recognition of injustice has to be on a human, not political, plain. In London and in Moscow they did not adopt the German narrative for May 9, nor is there any reason to adopt Arab narrative when standing in the Middle East. Reconciliation is not achieved through propagandist lies that turn the birth of the State of Israel into a crime. Reconciliation is only achieved when the truth wins out.

PHOTO ESSAY ~~ THE NAKBA MEMORIAL EVENTS IN NEW YORK

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PHOTO CREDIT: MOHAMMAD BARAKAT

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On Friday, the 16th of May, hundreds of people turned out at Times Square in New York to commemorate 66 years of the Nakba …

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A day earlier, NYU Students for Justice in Palestine held a Memorial ‘Die In’ at the plaza of NYU’s Stern School for Business in Manhattan …

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The United Nations Aid Agency helps us remember the Nakba by documenting photos of the exodus …

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UN photo archive tells story of Palestinian exodus 

 

In bid to preserve documentation of Palestinian ‘Nakba’ refugees, UN aid agency has digitized thousands of photos in organization’s archive.

See the full AP Report HERE

 

THE NAKBA; THEN AND NOW

Image ‘Copyleft’ by Carlos Latuff

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The Ongoing Nakba …

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Related report FROM

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Israelis Slowly Wake up to the Nakba

A Palestinian child holds up a picture of a key, symbolizing the homes Palestinian refugees left behind. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)
A Palestinian child holds up a picture of a key, symbolizing the homes Palestinian refugees left behind. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

By Jonathan Cook

Palestinians are due to stage marches in both the occupied territories and Israel Thursday to commemorate the loss of their homeland 66 years ago – an event they call the Nakba, or “Catastrophe” – a little more than a week after Israeli Jews celebrated the anniversary of the Jewish state’s birth.

But for many Israeli Jews, it is becoming ever harder to mark their Independence Day without confronting the fact that Israel’s establishment created a new set of victims, said Eitan Bronstein, founder of Zochrot, or “Remembering”, an organisation dedicated to teaching Israeli Jews about the Nakba.

“Once, the Nakba was a non-issue for Israeli Jews. Many had never heard of it or didn’t know what the term meant. But now it is unavoidable. Israelis have to face it.”

Long excluded from the Israeli national discourse, the Nakba – and the ensuing destruction of hundreds of Palestinian villages – is slowly forcing itself into the consciousness of ordinary Israelis. And that is creating new sources of tension and potential conflict.

Last week, as Israeli Jews held street parties celebrating Independence Day according to the Hebrew calendar, some 20,000 of their compatriots – Palestinians citizens of Israel – gathered in a forest half way between Nazareth and Tiberias. In the largest Nakba procession ever staged in Israel, they waved Palestinian flags as they marched to Lubya, one of more than 500 Palestinian villages destroyed in the aftermath of Israel’s creation.

As has become typical in recent years, the march produced a counter-demonstration: hardline Jewish nationalists staged noisy celebrations close by, fervently waving Israeli flags and trying to get as close to the march as police would allow.

‘Fifth Column’

Scenes of the Nakba procession – all over social media, as well as the Israeli news – upset the Israeli right. Avigdor Lieberman, the foreign minister, and Israel is Our Home member, called Palestinian citizens who joined the march “a fifth column whose aim is the destruction of Israel”. He added that their rightful place was not in Israel but “Ramallah”, where the Palestinian Authority is headquartered.

Numbering 1.5 million, the Palestinian minority comprises a fifth of Israel’s population. Able to reach the destroyed villages, unlike most Palestinian refugees, they have increasingly shouldered the struggle to keep alive the memory of what was lost in 1948.

Most Israeli Jews, however, regard efforts to revisit 1948 as a threat to Zionism, said Bronstein. A long-standing consensus in Israel is that any concession to Palestinians on the refugee question could open the door to the right of return, destroying Israel’s Jewish character.

Im Tirtzu, a far-right youth movement opposed to what it sees as growing anti-Zionist influences on Israeli society, organised protests at several Israeli universities this week as Palestinian students tried to hold Nakba commemorations.

Matan Peleg, Im Tirtzu’s director, said: “The left is trying to promote these Nakba events to make Israelis feel guilty about our Independence Day. But Israelis aren’t falling for it. We know who started the war.”

Israel has long insisted that the many Palestinians left of their own accord or that their exodus was possibly even coordinated by Arab leaders. Palestinians in turn have always vehemently denied this narrative and insist that the civilian population was forced out.

Peleg said Israel respected the human rights of its Arab population more than any Arab state in the Middle East. “Israelis are made angry by the hypocrisy. When we see the Palestinian flag being raised, we know that they [those on the march] don’t want Israel to exist.”

Sights like those at Lubya are likely to fuel a “harsh” reaction from Israel, said Ilan Pappe, an Israeli historian and expert on the events of 1948. “Unfortunately, we are likely to see more draconian legislation in the future and the possibility of brutal violence,” he said.

The Israeli parliament has already passed a law preventing any publicly-funded institution – such as schools, universities and libraries – from providing a voice to the Palestinian narrative of 1948.

New Assertiveness

Pappe said an announcement last month by Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu of new legislation to define Israel in exclusively Jewish terms indicated further efforts to eradicate discussion of the Nakba and Israel’s responsibility.

Ziad Awaisi, one of the Nakba march organisers, said such moves were only galvanising the resolution of Palestinians on the refugee issue. “A new, young generation is ready to be more assertive about the Nakba and the rights of the refugees. They are willing to confront the Israeli authorities,” he said.

Estimates are that one in four Palestinian citizens of Israel belongs to a family expelled from its home in 1948, making them a potentially powerful force in Israel for a historical re-evaluation.

The “March of Return” has been held annually since 1998, each year to a different destroyed village. In recent years, the number of participants has swelled dramatically, with young families and youths playing an ever greater part.

The erased village of Lubya is covered by a pine forest known to the Jewish population as Lavi Park and nowadays chiefly visited by walkers, cyclists and families out for a barbecue.

Avraham Burg, a former speaker of the Israeli parliament who has emerged in recent years as a stern critic of Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians, asked in a commentary last week: “Can the Nakba and Independence coexist in the same space?”

Calling Israelis ”insensitive”, he wrote: “All around the country, cemeteries were desecrated, holy places were turned into storerooms and animal pens, entire villages were wiped off the face of their tilled earth, and one person’s place of mourning and devastation became another’s place of leisure and holiday-making.”

Representing Refugees

At Lubya, refugees spoke longingly of their desire to return to a village that was once home to nearly 3,000 Palestinians. Many were among the 750,000 Palestinians forced out of the new state of Israel in 1948 and into refugee camps across the region.

Awaisi said the large attendance at this year’s march may have reflected in part the fact that a significant proportion of Lubya’s refugees ended up in Yarmouk, a camp in Damascus that is now caught in the midst of Syria’s civil war.

“It is important that we show the refugees that we are active on their behalf, especially when the Palestinian leaders [based in Ramallah] grow ever quieter on the right of return.”

But, he added, local tensions were also driving a renewed interest in the Nakba. “The recent attacks on our communities, including mosques and churches, and the failure of the police to do anything, are a reminder to people that our presence here is under threat. This march was a way to say: We are here and we are not going anywhere.”

Nakba initiatives inside Israel are taking off on various fronts, adding to the tension with Israeli Jews.

Zochrot, or Remembering in Hebrew, is a small but growing organisation of Israelis – Jews and Palestinians – that says its goal is to be “provocative”, said Raneen Jeries, the group’s media director. “We want to make them [Israeli Jews] angry. That is how we raise awareness. They have to take note of the history they were not taught at school.”

Map of Destroyed Villages

Last week Zochrot launched a phone app called iNakba, the first of its kind. In three languages, English, Arabic and Hebrew, it flags up on an interactive map all the Palestinian villages destroyed in 1948, allowing users to locate them and share information.

Jeries said it had been an instant success, gaining thousands of downloads on its first day.

“Colonial regimes like Israel use maps as a political tool, to erase communities, heritage, even nations. But this app puts Palestine back on the map. With the help of users, it will create the most accurate map ever and reconnect the refugees to their villages.”

For the past decade Zochrot has been running regular visits for Israelis to the ruins of different villages, often buried under pine forests and hidden inside gated communities reserved for the Jewish population.

Zochrot has created a “nakba kit” for teachers, though it is barred from use in the classroom by education officials.

The group has also created an archive of filmed interviews with veteran Israeli fighters from the 1948 war, who admit their role in expelling Palestinians and, in some cases, participating in massacres. Most Israeli Jews are still taught a long-discredited narrative that Palestinians fled under orders from Arab leaders.

Last year Zochrot held the first-ever conference on the practical implementation of a right of return, at a time when most Israeli Jews still reject even the principle.

Holy Places Reclaimed

Groups of refugees inside Israel have been trying to reclaim mosques and churches, usually the only buildings still standing in the destroyed villages, defying Israeli orders that have typically declared the ruins “closed military areas”.

In two destroyed Christian villages in the Galilee, Biram and Iqrit, youths have set up encampments next to the surviving churches, daring Israel to force them out.

Such efforts are leading to confrontations.

Last month a refugee family that tried to hold a baptism in a church at al-Bassa, now the industrial zone of the northern Jewish town of Shlomi, was attacked. A group of Jewish residents reportedly called them “stinking Christians” and smashed the camera of the official photographer.

Shlomi’s mayor, Gabi Naaman, told the Haaretz newspaper that refugee families trying to renovate or use the church were “trespassing”. He added that the building was too dilapidated to be safe. “I will act to close the place down because it’s dangerous, and I will block any entry to it in the future.”

At other sites, such as at the historic mosque of Ghabsiyya, east of Acre, Israeli authorities have been trying to prevent refugees from using the building by sealing it off with razor wire and high walls.

According to Pappe, as Israelis are faced with the realities of 1948, there is likely to be an ideological entrenchment. “Israelis may admit the ethnic cleansing [of 1948] but then they say it was justified, or that the Palestinians were the successors of the Nazis, or that Israel was going to be exterminated.”

But Jeries insists that the work of the Nakba groups is only just beginning. “Israeli society now acknowledges the Nakba. But there is much more to be done,” Jeries said. “Israeli Jews don’t yet want to take responsibility for it: to fix historical injustices and take back the refugees. It is going to be a long process.”

A MOMENT OF SILENCE FOR PALESTINE

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Yesterday, Israel came to a standstill for two minutes in remembrance of its fallen soldiers and victims of terrorist attacks …

It is truly sad for any nation or people to commemorate the memory of those who died before their time by the horrors of war or terrorism.

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Today, Israel celebrates 66 years of independence as Palestinians remember their own victims of terror … and the Nakba

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Just a few of our precious fallen angels ….

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There were more …. many more ….

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A report FROM

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‘Israel killed 1,335 Palestinian kids’

 

A recent UN report confirms that at least 1,300 Palestinian children have been killed by Israeli forces since the outset of the al-Aqsa uprising in 2000.

The United Nations office for the High Commissioner for Human Rights said in a report that 1,335 Palestinian children were shot dead as a result of Israeli air and ground attacks or indiscriminate gun fire by Israeli soldiers, a Press TV correspondent reported on Saturday.

“The international community should offer protection for Palestinian children so that they can have a better social and educational environment,” said Amjad Shawa, Coordinator of Palestinian NGO Network.

According to the Palestinian ministry of health, 15 children have been killed in Gaza alone since the beginning of 2011 — three of them while playing in front of their house.

“The children were just playing out in the street like the way they always did and then all of a sudden rockets were fired towards them. They were killed just because they were playing,” the victims’ uncle Yaser Alhelou said.

In 2006, Israeli artillery fire hit the Athamna family house in northern Gaza, killing 16 family members, including seven children.

Human rights groups have also condemned Israeli policies towards Palestinian children.

According to UNICEF, Israeli policies have put the lives of more than 1.9 million Palestinian children in danger.

They also face the constant threat of death, injury, displacement, detention, psychological distress and low educational attainment.

On Tuesday, three children were injured by a piece of unexploded Israeli ordnance that went off in the besieged Gaza Strip.

Gaza is currently riddled with unexploded ordnance, left over from Israel’s war on the blockaded coastal enclave at the turn of 2009.

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And, what about a moment of silence for those who were forced to flee their villages, many of which were completely erased from the map …. UNTIL NOW;

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Palestinians can NOW find their village … thanks to Zochrot

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Since 2002 Zochrot has been promoting Israeli Jewish society’s acknowledgement of, and accountability for, the ongoing injustices of the Nakba and the reconceptualization of Return as the imperative redress of the Nakba, and a chance for a better life for the entire country’s inhabitants. Zochrot challenges the Israeli Jewish public’s preconceptions, and promotes awareness, political, and cultural change within it to create the conditions for the Return of Palestinian Refugees and a shared life in this country.

iNakba is a trilingual mobile app (Arabic, Hebrew and English) based on GPS Navigation technology. This app allows users to locate and learn about Palestinian localities destroyed during, and as a result of, the Nakba since 1948.

The application provides coordinates and maps of Palestinian localities that were completely ruined, destroyed, obliterated after their capture, partially demolished, or remained standing but were depopulated and their residents expelled. The app also provides historical information and includes video clips and photographs of these localities. The app is interactive; it allows users to add pictures of the destroyed localities, as well as share their comments and follow updates about selected localities.

We Need Your Help!

Not all the destroyed or depopulated localities are represented by video clips or photographs. Some of the coordinates provided may be inaccurate or incomplete. Zochrot is constantly augmenting the information about all the demolished localities, and we invite users to help us by adding photographs, video clips, updates, and/or corrections. Please send comments and audio-visual corrections and additions to: inakba@zochrot.org, or via the app’s “Contact Us” link.

Further Development

The iNakba app is currently only available for iPhones, but we are developing versions for additional devices while updating and expanding the information with the help of iNakba users.

Zochrot is grateful to Netaj company in Nazareth for their professionalism in developing iNakba.

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Palestine WILL rise from the ashes one day soon, but let us stand today to remember the horrors inflicted upon them.

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AS ISRAEL CELEBRATES ITS INDEPENDENCE, MOTHER PALESTINE RELIVES 66 YEARS OF THE NAKBA

During this tragic period of remembrance, just a reminder that NEVER AGAIN means something, TODAY!
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Image ‘Copyleft’ by Carlos Latuff
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Sam Bahour سام بحّور – Refugees Waiting

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Sam Bahour is a Palestinian-American based in Al-Bireh/Ramallah, Palestine. He is a freelance business consultant operating as Applied Information Management (AIM), specializing in business development with a niche focus on the information technology sector and start-ups. Sam was instrumental in the establishment of the Palestine Telecommunications Company and the PLAZA Shopping Center and until recently served as a Board of Trustees member at Birzeit University. He is a Director at the Arab Islamic Bank and serves in various capacities in several community organizations. Sam writes frequently on Palestinian affairs and has been widely published. He is co-editor of HOMELAND: Oral History of Palestine and Palestinians.
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يحمل رجل الأعمال الفلسطيني سام بحور الجنسية الأميركية وهو يسكن في مدينة البيرة في رام الله، فلسطين. ويعمل بشكل مستقل كمستشار ومنسق مشاريع كما يملك شركة لإدارة المعلومات التطبيقية (إيم) وهي تختص في تطوير الأعمال والمشاريع مع تركيز على الشركات الناشئة. ولعب سام دوراً أساسياً في تأسيس شركة الإتصالات الفلسطينية (بالتل)، ومركز بلازا للتسوق. وأصبح مؤخراً عضو فاعل في مجلس الأمناء في جامعة بيرزيت. ويشغل حالياً منصب عضو مجلس إدارة في البنك الإسلامي العربي، كما يشغل عدة مناصب أخرى في منظمات المجتمع المدني. ويركز سام كثيراً في كتاباته على الشؤون الفلسطينية، فتنشر مقالاته على نطاق واسع. ساهم سام في تحرير كتاب “الوطن: التاريخ الشفوي لفلسطين والفلسطينيين” ويمكن معرفة المزيد عنه والاطلاع على مقالاته من خلال تصفح مدونته على الموقع الالكتروني التالي: www.epalestine.com
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How quickly it was forgotten that the Jews were also victims of a Nakba …
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Fiddler on the Nakba

A scene from Fiddler on the Roof

Yesterday I listened to Terry Gross interviewing Sheldon Harnick, the lyricist for “Fiddler on the Roof.” As they talked about Russian villages in which Jews were persecuted, and which they fled to come to America– “forced out,” Gross said repeatedly — Gross and Harnick became emotional. Gross is a private person; but she spoke of her parents openly. She and Harnick were telling an ancestral Jewish story, and a moving one.

I could not help thinking about Palestinian remembrances of their villages that they were forced out of during the creation of Israel. “Their only home,” to use Gross’s phrase. They speak with similar attachment about a lost world. They cherish photos and keys and memories. Just look at the movie “When I Saw You.”

And of course I wondered when American culture will commemorate and honor the Nakba, the Palestinian catastrophe, in which 750,000 Palestinians lost their homes.

Excerpts of the interview:

Gross: And “Fiddler on the Roof” is set in 1905 in a Jewish village in Czarist Russia, where the Jews are under attack and eventually forced out. ..

So in the show “Fiddler on the Roof,” there’s a song called “Anatevka,” which the Jews in this small town sing when they are forced out of their village, Anatevka. And it’s a very – the song that’s used in the show is both about well, it’s just a place, it’s not an important place, but it’s also very nostalgic song for the place that they are being forced to leave, the place that is their only home….

You know, when I hear some of the songs from “Fiddler on the Roof,” I get tears in my eyes, in part because my parents had very few albums when I was growing up but they had “Fiddler on the Roof” and they played it over and over and over and over. And it really started to drive me crazy.

But when I hear it now, you know, my parents passed, you know, like several years ago and when I hear it now I think about my parents and I think not only about how good the songs are but I think what those songs meant to them and what it was like for them in the 1960s to go to Broadway and see a show about Jews on a shtetl in Eastern Europe because their parents had been Jews in shtetls in Eastern Europe.

And I’m sure you know how much this musical meant, you know, has meant to so many people.

HARNICK: Yes. One of the things – when Jerome Robbins became our director he told us this story. He said when he was six his parents took him to that part of Poland where their ancestors came from and even at the age of six he remembers it as being a very emotional experience.

Then during World War II as he read about the extermination of these little village by the Nazis he was certain that the village that he had visited when he was six was one of those villages that had been obliterated. So when we gave him the opportunity to direct “Fiddler” he said I want to put that culture back on stage. I want to give it a theatrical life of another 25 years. He was being modest because now it’s almost 50 years and it’s still going strong.

But he was like a man obsessed with restoring that culture.

Some day Palestinian culture will be similarly honored. But it’s a ways off…

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Palestinians can NOW find their village … thanks to Zochrot

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Since 2002 Zochrot has been promoting Israeli Jewish society’s acknowledgement of, and accountability for, the ongoing injustices of the Nakba and the reconceptualization of Return as the imperative redress of the Nakba, and a chance for a better life for the entire country’s inhabitants. Zochrot challenges the Israeli Jewish public’s preconceptions, and promotes awareness, political, and cultural change within it to create the conditions for the Return of Palestinian Refugees and a shared life in this country.

iNakba is a trilingual mobile app (Arabic, Hebrew and English) based on GPS Navigation technology. This app allows users to locate and learn about Palestinian localities destroyed during, and as a result of, the Nakba since 1948.

The application provides coordinates and maps of Palestinian localities that were completely ruined, destroyed, obliterated after their capture, partially demolished, or remained standing but were depopulated and their residents expelled. The app also provides historical information and includes video clips and photographs of these localities. The app is interactive; it allows users to add pictures of the destroyed localities, as well as share their comments and follow updates about selected localities.

We Need Your Help!

Not all the destroyed or depopulated localities are represented by video clips or photographs. Some of the coordinates provided may be inaccurate or incomplete. Zochrot is constantly augmenting the information about all the demolished localities, and we invite users to help us by adding photographs, video clips, updates, and/or corrections. Please send comments and audio-visual corrections and additions to: inakba@zochrot.org, or via the app’s “Contact Us” link.

Further Development

The iNakba app is currently only available for iPhones, but we are developing versions for additional devices while updating and expanding the information with the help of iNakba users.

Zochrot is grateful to Netaj company in Nazareth for their professionalism in developing iNakba.

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NEW YORK TIMES ACKNOWLEDGES THAT THERE IS A PALESTINE // IN PHOTOS

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Tis the season of celebrating miracles in the Holy Land. Chanukah commemorates one of the best known sagas of the Jewish people …. but still another miracle occurred just this week when the zio New York Times actually admitted to its readers that there is a Palestine.
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Palestinian refugees arriving in east Jordan in 1968.
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Photographs Tell a History of Palestinians Unmoored

By ISABEL KERSHNER

JERUSALEM — There is one picture of Palestinian children studying around a small table by the dim light of gas lamps in the Beach Camp in Gaza, and another of children peeking over a sandy dune, with rows of small, uniform shacks of a desolate refugee camp in the background. In a third, a family walks across the Allenby Bridge, the father carrying two bulging suitcases, a young son clutching a white ball, heading east over the Jordan River.

These are a few of the black and white images, many of them powerful and haunting, that will eventually constitute a digital archive compiled by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, the first part of which was unveiled Thursday at a gallery in the Old City here. Together, they capture the Palestinian refugee experience from the 1948 war onward, giving form to a seminal chapter in Palestinian history, identity and collective memory.

For decades, about half a million negatives, prints, slides and various forms of film footage have been hidden away in the archive of UNRWA, the organization that assists Palestinian refugees. Stored in buildings in Gaza and Amman, Jordan, the materials had begun to grow moldy.

So officials started a preservation mission, digitizing the archive, which also documents the work of the agency. The exhibit that opened Thursday, called “The Long Journey,” will soon go on tour to large cities in the West Bank, Gaza, Jordan, Lebanon and possibly Syria, and will also be shown at cultural and political centers in Europe and North America. The images will also be made accessible to the general public on a special website.

“This is an important piece of work,” Filippo Grandi, the agency’s commissioner-general, told reporters at the opening in the Old City. “It is a contribution to building a national heritage for the Palestinians.”

Palestinians refer to the events of 1948 as al-Nakba, Arabic for “the catastrophe.” About 700,000 Arabs fled or were expelled from their homes during the Arab-Israeli war over the foundation of Israel. Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were later displaced by the Arab-Israeli war of 1967, some becoming refugees twice over. Tens of thousands have recently been displaced again, reliving the trauma, because of the civil war raging in Syria.

But the refugee issue remains one of the most delicate and complex elements of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, at the core of the two sides’ clashing historical narratives. So it was perhaps inevitable that some Israelis would view the new memorialization of the refugee experience through a prism of politics and contention.

“When was the last time that any United Nations agency raised so much money and invested so much effort in organizing and circulating around the world the documentation of a specific plight like that of the Palestinian refugees? Never,” said Yigal Palmor, the spokesman for Israel’s Foreign Ministry.

“This only emphasizes the strident anomaly of the dedication of a disproportionate part of the United Nations budget, staff, time and resources to the Palestinian issue exclusively at the expense of, and to the detriment of, all other similar issues,” he added.

Israel vehemently rejects the Palestinian demand for a right of return for the refugees who, by the agency’s count, now number around five million, including the descendants. It says that any mass influx would spell the end of Israel as a predominantly Jewish state. Israelis often blame the very existence of the agency — which was set up in 1949 to deal with the Palestinian refugees and which provides relief, education and health services — for prolonging their sense of impermanence.

The world’s other refugees are handled by a single agency that was set up later, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

Mr. Palmor said that while the agency mostly did good work on the ground, it was “dedicated to preserving the refugees’ status rather than encouraging their resettlement or integration in their current or alternative locations, contributing to the perpetuation of the Palestinian refugee problem.”

At the exhibit, Mr. Grandi said he was aware that the refugee issue had its political aspects. But, he added, “Remember, this is also about people, about individuals with their own plights and achievements.”

Christopher Gunness, an agency spokesman, said its mandate was to help the refugees and to advocate for their rights until all sides to the conflict negotiated a just and durable solution.

“What is perpetuating the refugee problem,” he said, “is the failure of the political parties to resolve it.”

Mr. Gunness added that the Palestinian refugees would have the same rights and status under any United Nations agency.

“Everyone has a right to understand, to study and feel a part of their history,” he said. “Are we supposed to engage in denial of the events of 1948? The refugee experience is an essential part of Palestinian identity.”

Funding for the project, about $1 million so far, has come from the Danish and French governments and from the Palestinian private sector. It comes as the agency is struggling with a budget deficit and appealing for emergency funds to cover its needs in the West Bank and Gaza and to contend with the crisis in Syria.

Mr. Gunness said that the money raised for the archive project had nothing to do with the budgets for staff salaries or refugee welfare.

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The exhibit captures the Palestinian refugee experience since 1948.

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Children in a camp in east Jordan received vaccinations.

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A medical team examined children near Amman, Jordan.

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Palestinians refer to the events of 1948 as “the catastrophe.”

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Hundreds of thousands were displaced during the 1967 war.

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Children being taught at a refugee camp in east Jordan.

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The exhibition will appear in cities across the Middle East.

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Nahr el Bared camp, near Lebanon, shown in 1952.

Source

PALESTINIAN YOUTH TAKE BACK THE NIGHT

After watching their land being raped for over 65 years, Palestinian youth are attempting to take back the night …
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The new wave of movements which have gained prominence this summer can be traced back partly to a group of third generation, internally displaced youth from the village of Iqrit, who in August 2012 decided that they would take matters into their own hands and return to their ancestral village.
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Palestinian youth assert right of return with direct action

Nadim Nashef*
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Summer camps aim to reconnect Palestinian youth to their ancestral villages. (Photograph courtesy of Baladna)

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During the summer of 2013 a new grassroots movement burst onto the scene and announced itself as a major development in the long struggle for the right of return for Palestinian refugees.

Activities occurring throughout the Galilee region of present-day Israel have been held which reaffirm the connection of the younger generation of internally displaced Palestinians to their ancestral villages. Events and projects simultaneously take practical steps to realize this long-denied, fundamental right.

The right of return is one of the most evocative and central issues for Palestinians ever since the Nakba (catastrophe) of 1948, which saw the destruction of more than 530 Arab villages and the displacement of approximately 800,000 Palestinians. The majority of them ended up as refugees in neighboring Arab states, or in those parts of Palestine which initially remained outside of Israeli control, namely the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Between 30,000 and 40,000 managed to remain inside the new state of Israel, however, finding refuge in nearby towns which had survived the ethnic cleansing of the majority of Palestine’s villages.

Brutal Israel

Attempts by the original inhabitants to return to their villages in the immediate aftermath of the Nakba were fought against by the new state, which used all the means at its disposal, often brutally.

Dispersed villagers attempting to return from outside the borders of the new state were often shot dead on sight by the Israeli army. Meanwhile, villagers attempting to return who had managed to remain within the borders of the new state were routinely rounded up and deported as “infiltrators.” Legislation such as the Absentees Property Law enabled the confiscation of property of those Palestinians who had been made into internally displaced persons, while denying their rights to live there or even to enter the site of their ancestral lands.

Between 1948 and 1955, the majority of these villages were destroyed by the Israeli army and covered either with pine forests or new Jewish-only settlements. In many cases, a cemetery, mosque or church was the only remaining evidence of a village’s existence.

The new wave of movements which have gained prominence this summer can be traced back partly to a group of third generation, internally displaced youth from the village of Iqrit, who in August 2012 decided that they would take matters into their own hands and return to their ancestral village.

Iqrit’s residents were originally ordered out of their village for two weeks shortly after the Nakba for so-called security reasons. Exceptionally, three years later they obtained Israeli high court approval to return, and received information that they would be able to return on Christmas Day, especially symbolic for the Christian community.

On that day in 1951, as the villagers waited to return, the Israeli army razed the village to the ground.

Potent symbol

Now living in two small rooms built as extensions of the still-standing church, Iqrit’s youth activists today sleep in the village in shifts in order to maintain a permanent presence there. This summer a small football stadium was also built, a potent symbol of the will and permanence of their return.

Iqrit’s community has been organizing summer camps for its younger members annually since 1996; this year approximately 200 youth between the ages of 8 and 16 attended. The aim of the camp was to help the youth develop their identity by teaching them about their own history, and connecting this to the wider Palestinian history before 1948.

In addition to the summer camp and the newly permanent presence, villagers hold religious celebrations during Easter and Christmas in the local church. The village’s cemetery is also still in use.

The youth-led, grassroots approach of Iqrit is very much indicative of the movement as a whole. Youth took the lead in 2013’s “Summer of Return,” ensuring that demands for the right of return find a renewed voice among the latest generation of the dispossessed.

One village which has adopted Iqrit’s strategy of youth-based return is Kufr Birim. Located close to the boundary between Israel and Lebanon — not far from Iqrit — for the past few years Kufir Birim has played host to summer camps for children.

This summer, people with family connections to Kufir Birim have also decided to maintain a permanent presence in the village, centered around the old community’s surviving church. However, their initiative has not been without obstacles.

Refusing to leave

In August, the Israel Lands Authority told the camp’s members that they had to leave within a week or they would be removed by force (“Authorities threaten displaced community’s return to village,” +972 Magazine, 22 August 2013).

On 28 August, Iqrit also received a visit by inspectors from the Israel Lands Authority, accompanied by border policemen. They came during the morning and confiscated tents and beds, uprooted the small garden, removed signs and destroyed property, including the new football stadium.

However, as in Kufr Birim, the youth are not willing to leave their ancestral land.

This summer has also witnessed a very successful summer camp in the village of Ghabisiya, while Baladna (the Assocation for Arab Youth) and a number of other groups initiated the Udna (Our Return) project with the participation of five ethnically cleansed villages: Saffuriyya, Miar, Maalul, Lajjun and Iqrit, with one youth group in each village.

The project aims to educate the new generation with family connections to these villages of their history and rights, with film screenings and storytelling featuring residents who survived the expulsion. Practical approaches to the issue of return such as town planning and logistics were also explored, while musical events by local artists added a cultural feature.

Iqrit, Kufr Birim, Ghabisiya, Saffuriyya, Miar, Malul, Lajjun. These are just seven of the Palestinians towns and villages which were destroyed and whose inhabitants were displaced during the Nakba.

Yet the combined activities of these villages during the summer of 2013 represent the most significant movement in the struggle for return since the years following the Nakba. Far from forgetting their roots and historical injustices, the latest generation of Palestinians inside Israel are showing their dedication to their right of return.

This, combined with the youth’s energy, enthusiasm and innovative approaches, has resulted in a grassroots, youth-led movement unprecedented in the history of activism for the right to return. Whatever the immediate reaction of Israeli authorities to the return of villagers in Iqrit and Kufr Birim, these movements have captured the imagination of people across historic Palestine, young and old.

And while the future of the movement is full of uncertainty, the determination and energy of our youth alone is reason for optimism.

*Nadim Nashef is is the director of the Haifa-based Association for Arab Youth-Baladna.

 

 

Written FOR

A LONG BUT MUST READ, ESPECIALLY IF YOU ARE JEWISH

Why no-one asked why the Arabs said No
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The Original “NO’: Why the Arabs rejected zionism, and why it matters
Natasha Gill*

Everybody sees a difficulty in the question of relations between Arabs and Jews. But not everybody sees that there is no solution to this question. No solution! There is a gulf, and nothing can fill that gulf … I do not know what Arab will agree that Palestine should belong to the Jews — even if the Jews learn Arabic … And we must recognize this situation. If we do not acknowledge this and try to come up with “remedies,” then we risk demoralization … We, as a nation, want this country to be ours; the Arabs, as a nation, want this country to be theirs. The decision has been referred to the Peace Conference.

                                         — Ben Gurion, Speech to Vaad Zmani, June 1919
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A viable peace process does not require either party to embrace or even recognize the legitimacy of the other’s narrative. It requires that both have an informed and non-reductionist understanding of what this narrative consists of, come to terms with the fact that it cannot be wished away, and recognize that elements of it will make their way to the negotiating table and have to be addressed.


In his March 2013 Jerusalem speech, President Obama offered the Israelis an astonishing bargain: history for peace. In return for his personal endorsement of each detail of the standard Jewish/Zionist narrative, the Israelis were asked to acknowledge the Palestinians as human beings with some human rights. They were then called upon to reconsider the occupation and do the right thing so as to help renew the peace process.

Obama’s speech was in many ways a reflection of, and a response to, the prevailing view of the conflict in Israel today, a view supported by many of Israel’s friends in the United States of America. The events of the past few years have fuelled Israeli suspicions of the Arabs, and furthered their doubts over whether there is a partner for peace. One concomitant of this has been the reassertion of ideological and narrative-driven policies, including a demand that Israel be recognized as a Jewish state by its Palestinian interlocutors.

It appears the president hoped that by addressing and appeasing these fears, he might gain the trust of the Israelis and create a space within which a genuine peace process could be launched. However, rather than validate one side’s view of history — “the story of Israel,” as the President called it — he might have suggested that if the Israelis hope to achieve any part of their dream of peace and security, they need to accept that their enemies have their own story to tell: one that is not merely about human rights’ abuses in the West Bank, and one that is not going away anytime soon.

The purpose of such a presidential injunction would not have been to encourage the parties to get mired in debates about the past, or “recognize the others’ narrative.” The battle over history is raging more bitterly than ever and will never be settled at the negotiating table. But while it is neither necessary nor possible for parties to accept each other’s version of the causes of the conflict, it is necessary for all parties to have a minimal understanding of how their adversaries’ historical perspective influences their approach to the negotiations in the present: their willingness to come to the table, the kind of peace process they can trust and embrace, the conditions or preconditions they can or cannot accept, and, perhaps most importantly, the deals and trade-offs they can or cannot sell to their people. Without this understanding on the part of both the public and policy makers pushing for a renewed peace process, the president’s hopes, and Secretary Kerry’s tireless effort, will likely go the way of Camp David 2000.

When it comes to the pro-Israel camp, the key issue that needs to be addressed is the blind spot regarding the pre-1948 origins of the Israel/Palestine conflict.

A remarkable number of Israel’s supporters from across the political spectrum share a common and unshakable article of faith: that the Israel/Palestine conflict was avoidable and unnecessary. If the Arabs of Palestine had accepted Zionism 130 years ago, there would never have been, and would not now be, any cause for bloodshed.

Arab rejectionism has thus served as the equivalent of a cosmological argument: “In the Beginning There Was the No.” The pro-Israel camp often traces the history of the conflict to 1947, when the Arabs said No to the UN partition plan, or to 1948, when the Arab countries said No by launching a war against the recently declared Jewish state. The underlying assumption is that the Arabs had no good reason to reject Zionism or the idea of Jewish self-determination in Palestine: rather, their rejection is interpreted as a consequence of their inherent anti-Semitism, natural tendency toward violence, or self-destructive intransigence. Recently this credo was succinctly articulated by Prime Minister Netanyahu: “The Palestinians’ lack of will to recognise the state of Israel as the national state of the Jewish people is the root of the conflict.”1

In one sense, Netanyahu is absolutely correct: the fact that the Palestinians have refused to recognize themoral right of the Jews to a state in Palestine is a source of conflict, even though the Palestinians may be ready to accept Israel’s de facto right to exist today. What is problematic about this view is that it mistakes the response for the cause. Palestinian rejection did not sprout Athena-like, fully formed from the head of Zeus, without reason or basis; and it is not the root cause of the conflict.

For over 70 years this credo has endured in the face of new thinking, new evidence and new circumstances. It has been sustained by a stunning lack of inquisitiveness about what caused the Original Arab No, and thus about the very nature of the conflict itself. It remains a mystery how otherwise critically-minded Jews and influential policymakers have repeated statements like Netanyahu’s for generations without asking why the Arabs refused to recognize the legitimacy of Zionism — engaging in a form of culpable ignorance that diminishes the quality of their arguments, weakens the credibility of their case, and creates a chasm between the public view of the conflict and the understanding needed in order to prepare the ground for a genuine peace process.

Admittedly, for loyal supporters of Israel, this journey into the origins of the origins — the period between the 1880s and late 1930 — is likely to be difficult. Even more than the thorny issue of the 1948 nakba and the refugee crisis, this early period poses elemental questions about the conflict that cannot be sidestepped via pre-prepared talking points on Palestinian rejectionism. These questions are not of merely historical interest; they expose the underlying patterns, mechanisms and impasses that define the conflict today, almost all of which were already in place by the late 1930s.

But while difficult, this kind of exploration into the core issues is unavoidable. Israel’s supporters can debate about the 1947 partition plan and the 1948 war ad nauseam, but without an understanding of the preceding 60 years they are barely talking about the conflict at all. By avoiding the early period they have denied themselves the knowledge and insight that would allow them to properly assess the positions of the Palestinians, effectively pursue their own people’s interests and recognize the opportunities for de-escalating the conflict if or when they arise. They have also ensured that the history and current state of the conflict will be increasingly articulated, and with greater persuasiveness, by Israel’s enemies.

In order to overcome these barriers and begin to build a space where genuine peacemaking might take place, the Jewish community and its allies must begin asking questions about the Original No: Why, in the period between the 1880s and 1948, did the Arabs of Palestine and the surrounding areas say No to Zionism? To what exactly did they say No? And how did they say No?

THE ARABS OF PALESTINE SAID NO TO THE JEWISH RIGHT OF RETURN

What confusion would ensue all the world over if this principle on which the Jews base their “legitimate” claim were carried out in other parts of the world! What migrations of nations must follow! The Spaniards in Spain would have to make room for the Arabs and Moors who conquered and ruled their country for over 700 years…

                                        — Palestine Arab Delegation, Observations on the High Commissioner’s Interim Report on
the Civil Administration of Palestine during the period 1st July 1920 – 30th June 1921

The Palestinian Arabs said No to the idea that in the 20th century a people who last lived in Palestine in large numbers over 2000 years ago could claim, on the basis of a religious text, rights to the land where the current inhabitants had been living for a millennium and a half.

They did not base their rejection on a denial of Jewish historical and religious ties to the Holy Land. Rather, they said No to the idea that highly secularized Jews arriving from Europe, who seemed to abjure religious life, manners and practices, could use the Bible to support a political project of a Jewish state in an already populated and settled land.

Nor did they deny the suffering of the Jews, or the pogroms and persecution they were experiencing in Western and Eastern Europe at the time. On the contrary, many of the most vocal critics of Zionism were extremely aware of Jewish suffering, as they were unsettled by the impact it was having on the British support for the project of the Jewish National Home. What they said no to was the idea that the Jews’humanitarian plight granted them special political and national rights in Palestine, and that those Jewish rights should trump Arab rights. The Arabs said No to the idea that they should pay the price for longstanding Christian persecution of the Jews, and they expressed deep resentment at the hypocrisy of the Europeans, who were promoting a home for the Jews in Palestine as they closed their own doors to the victims of Christian/European anti-Semitism.

There is nothing shocking or strange about Arabs considering Zionist Jews coming from Europe an “alien implant” in Palestine, and resenting that.2 The logic of most national and proto-national movements — with Zionism hardly an exception — is that outsiders are a threat, and the definition of both “outsiders” and “threat” are influenced by the shifting needs and interests of each movement in its defining moments. In response to Zionism, the Arabs pointed out that the laws of territorial possession were accepted worldwide: had they not been, the Arabs could reconquer and reclaim Spain, a country they reigned over for longer and more recently than the Jews did Palestine. In the view of the Palestinian Arabs, regardless of whether Jews were genuinely attached to or had a history in Palestine, the appeal to the Bible was not strong enough to overturn the rules of a modern, secular world order.

The Arabs and Palestinians still today are taken to task for not having shown enough compassion for Jewish suffering and welcomed them to take refuge in Palestine. But while many Jews can make an intuitive connection between the predicament they faced between the turn of the century and the 1940s and their need for a state, there is no reason that for other parties compassion for Jewish suffering would naturally translate this into an acceptance of Zionism, either then or now. This is especially so in the case of the Arabs in the early years of the conflict, who knew that Zionism would negatively affect their lives in the future.

It is also difficult to sustain the view that opposition to Zionism in the early 20th century was by definition a form of anti-Semitism, given that the virtues of the movement were not always self-evident to the Jews themselves: not to Orthodox Jews, who considered it heretical and sacrilegious, arguing that a return toEretz Israel could only be hastened by divine rather than human will; not to many Diaspora Jews, a good number of whom remained “non-Zionists” until the 1940s; not to Marxist Jews, who considered it to be a retrograde move away from internationalism; and not to the local Palestinian Jews, many of whom felt alienated from the incoming Ashkenazim from Europe, and initially pinned their hopes for communal well-being onto the Ottoman government. And while it is true that Hajj Amin al Husayni — the Mufti of Jerusalem — and some of his followers’ anti-Jewish rhetoric and support for the Axis powers before and during World War II are legitimate targets of criticism, this does not change the fact that the Palestinian National Movement itself was not fundamentally driven by anti-Semitism. It was driven by a series of responses to the concept, implementation and long-term implications of the Zionist movement for the lives and identities of Palestinian Arabs.  

This is not to deny that there were Arab anti-Semites in the early period, or that there are many in the Arab world today: there are good reasons for Jews to fear that the line between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism may be dangerously blurred. But it is in the Jews’ own interest to disentangle anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism, and find a way to address rather than circumvent legitimate critiques of Israel. Because so few have grappled with the primary reasons why the Arabs of Palestine opposed Zionism, they only have access to one interpretative framework, applicable to both past and present: the critique of Zionism has no reasonable basis but was then — and still is today — propelled primarily by anti-Semitism. This reductive formula does little to help supporters of Israel understand what truly motivates the Palestinians today, or determine how best to negotiate with them in pursuit of Israel’s interests.

THE PALESTINIAN ARABS SAID NO TO EQUATING NATIONAL CONSCIOUSNESS WITH LAND RIGHTS

There is not a single Arab who has not been hurt by the entry of Jews into Palestine: there is not a single Arab who does not see himself as part of the Arab race… In his eyes, Palestine is an independent unit.

                                        — Moshe Shertok, Speech MAPAI Central Committee, June 9th 1936

Whether there was such a thing as a “Palestinian” is one of the most common yet irrelevant debates regarding the origins of the conflict. It does not matter if the Arabs living in Palestine in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries considered themselves to be a part of Palestine, southern Syria, a greater Arab federation, or Ottomans, Jerusalemites, members of a tribe or clan, or Muslims. Whether they were “a” people or just “people,” they lived in and had profound religious, historical, cultural and sentimental ties to a particular area of land known variously and for centuries as “Palestine” and the Holy Land. The Arabs said No then, and continue to say No today, to being represented as people who were accidentally living on Jewish land, rather than human beings — in their vast majority Arabic speaking and Muslim by faith — who inhabited Palestine and the surrounding areas long before the Zionists arrived.

The reluctance on the part of many Israel supporters to accept that a large majority of Arabs lived and thrived in Palestine before Zionism affects their whole approach to the conflict today. For example, Israeli offers to the Palestinians are often presented as painful but magnanimous concessions in recognition of the fact that there are currently (and rather inconveniently) some people who live nearby and whose needs must be attended to. Witness Prime Minster Netanyahu’s 2009 Bar Ilan speech, carefully crafted to imply that the Palestinian “population” “now” lives on the land, as though they somehow magically appeared recently. [emphasis added]

But, friends, we must state the whole truth here. The truth is that in the area of our homeland, in the heart of our Jewish Homeland, now lives a large population of Palestinians… These two facts — our link to the Land of Israel, and the Palestinian population who live here, have created deep disagreements within Israeli society. But the truth is that we have much more unity than disagreement.3

This view aligns well with the growing tendency on the Israeli side to argue for a pragmatic approach to peacemaking, one that eschews “harping on the past” — a view implied in the bargain that President Obama offered the Israelis: I accept that you can continue to deny that other people lived here in the past, if you take into account the feelings of those who live here in the present.” But a peace process where only one party has had their history acknowledged, and thus has the luxury of “letting go” of the past, is not likely to come to fruition; and demands or conditions wrapped in a package that reduces or denies the dignity of the party sitting at the other end of the table are not likely to bear fruit. Unless elements of the Palestinians’ narrative are present in public perceptions and at the negotiating table, they will have no reason to trust the premise of renewed talks, or risk making concessions. And if the Jewish community continues to insist on seeing all Palestinian assertions of their existence as a manifestation of anti-Semitism, they will be unable to find ways to articulate their needs in a manner that allows for compromise rather than demands submission.

THEY SAID NO TO THE NOTION THAT PALESTINE WAS DESOLATE AND EMPTY

In our lovely country there exists an entire people who have held it for centuries and to whom it would never occur to leave…The time has come to dispel the misconception among Zionists that land in Palestine lies uncultivated for lack of working hands or the laziness of the local residents. There are no deserted fields.

                                        — Yitzhak Epstein, “The Hidden Question,” 1907

The Palestinian Arabs rejected the concept that their land was uncultivated and uncared for, and that rights should be conferred on the Jews based on the latter’s superior technology agricultural methods. They said No to the idea that people do not love their land or have a special intimate connection with it because they do not cultivate it in the most modern ways. And they said No to the idea that newly-arrived Zionist Jews from Europe and elsewhere, for all their zeal and dedication, cared for the land more than the natives did. 

Because of the power, persistence and harmful repercussions of the “desolate Palestine” refrain, the most disturbing (and utterly unnecessary) phrase of President Obama’s speech was his lauding the Israelis for making the “desert bloom.”

President Obama could have found many ways to express his appreciation for Israel’s many impressive achievements without recourse to that toxic phrase, laden with so many connotations. In conflict-speak it means that that the Arabs of Palestine did not exist in this wilderness when the Zionists began to arrive in the 1880s. Even if a small number of Arabs did exist, they lacked any real love for their land and thus did not deserve to keep it. And if either of these propositions were true, then the Jews deserved the land and should feel no remorse about taking it over then, or appropriating more of it now.

But most crucially, the desert-blooming imagery validates the notion that there is a moral link between means of cultivation and rights to ownership. In other words, the reason that the Israelis have a superiorright to the land is that at the time they were, and still are today, more modern and technically advanced than the Palestinians.

This concept has for decades been uncritically embraced by a large number of otherwise liberal, socially and environmentally conscious Jews, people who in most other contexts would contest the idea that advanced technology imported from the West into a colonized land is naturally superior to local, indigenous means of cultivation; or that aggressive agricultural development is always positive as an end in itself. It is perfectly possible for the Israelis to be proud of their achievements while recognizing that these achievements are not relevant as a justification for Zionism from the point of view of those who previously lived in and were attached to this land. And it is long past time for U.S. policy makers to recognize that mindlessly repeating old tropes will only serve to widen the gap between parties, rather than build a foundation upon which a peace process can be launched.

THEY SAID NO TO THE EXCHANGE OF POLITICAL FOR ECONOMIC RIGHTS 

You say my house has been enriched by the strangers who have entered it. But it is my house, and I did not invite the strangers in, or ask them to enrich it, and I do not care how poor or bare it is if only I am master in it.

                                         —1937 Royal Commission Report, paraphrasing the remarks of an Arab witness

The Palestinian Arabs said No to the idea that they should welcome Zionism because of the economic prosperity that the Jews were bringing to Palestine. They argued that economic benefits were not distributed equally among those residing in Palestine, and included policies that threatened the livelihood and undermined the rights of Arab peasants and workers. Even if benefits had been distributed more equally, as far as the Arabs were concerned economic prosperity would not have served as a compelling argument in favor of creating the Jewish National Home, or as the means to buy off their political rights.

It was for this reason also that Netanyahu’s 2009 vision of “Economic Peace” fell on deaf ears, as it was not matched with proposals that address Palestinians’ national and political aspirations. And the current U.S. attempt to pump money into the West Bank will be rebuffed if seen by Palestinians to be part of the Grand Bargain — your narrative for jobs, your political rights for economic prosperity. This bargain is likely to be seen as a re-packaged version of the original rationale for Zionism — that the project would be embraced by the Arabs because it would bring material prosperity to Palestine — which as far back as 1923 Vladimir Jabotinsky recognized as fallacious:

To think that the Arabs will voluntarily consent to the realization of Zionism in return for the cultural and economic benefits we can bestow on them is infantile. This childish fantasy of our “Arabo-philes” comes from some kind of contempt for the Arab people, of some kind of unfounded view of this race as a rabble ready to be bribed in order to sell out their homeland for a railroad network.4

Economic well-being in the West Bank and Gaza is of course desirable, but only widespread ignorance of the Original No can lead Israelis and third parties to repeat the same mistake time and again expecting different results. It would be more productive to learn why the Grand Bargain did not work in the first place, what it meant to the other side, why it is unlikely to work today and which alternative frameworks can be proposed that address the political and national aspirations of all sides, and search for realistic options for peacemaking.

THE ARABS SAID NO TO THE JEWISH SETTLEMENT ENTERPRISE

Land is the most necessary thing for our establishing roots in Palestine. Since there are hardly any more arable unsettled lands in Palestine, we are bound in each case of the purchase of land and its settlements to remove the peasants who cultivated the land so far, both owners of the land and tenants.5

                                         —Arthur Ruppin, 1930

Would the fellahin (Arab peasantry) have embraced Zionism because of the economic benefits the Jews were bringing to Palestine had they not been incited to the contrary by the educated and political classes? One cannot know this for sure, but this often-repeated claim is by and large another avoidance-argument that fails to pass the test of common sense. The fellahin might not have articulated their rejection of Zionism as did the elites, or expressed a clear sense of national consciousness. But they had many good reasons to say No to Zionist policy once it dispossessed tenant farmers of lands they had been cultivating, or after the institution of “Hebrew Labor” policies that refused jobs to local Arabs in difficult economic times.

Long before illegal outposts or settlement expansion in the West Bank, the Arabs said No to the idea that land in Palestine should be transferred from Arabs to Jews, whether by force, partition schemes, or sales by local or absentee landlords. The Arabs’ own complicity in land sales raises important questions that they have yet to address fully. But Arab land sales were only one part of a broader process whereby land and population transfers were implemented or supported by the Zionists and the British. Arabs who recognized the historical and religious links of Jews to Palestine nevertheless said No to the “Judaization” of a land that had been overwhelmingly Arab and Muslim for a millennium and a half.

Today, although so many liberal (and even not-so-liberal) Jews oppose settlements and settlement expansion, few appear to grasp the reasons behind the depth of international rage against settlements. One reason might be that they perceive settlement activities as an unfortunate wrong turn taken after 1967, one that can be remedied through peace talks. But for the Palestinians, modern day settlements represent tendencies that they argue were central to Zionism from its inception — in their experience, Zionism was and is expansionist, encroaching on Palestinian soil against the will of the local population and in contradiction with the partition or two-state compromises that Zionist and Israeli leaders publicly embraced. 

Without knowing how some of the early mechanisms of Zionism manifested themselves on the ground, it is difficult for Israel’s supporters to understand the extent of visceral opposition to settlements. But while they don’t have to buy into the vision put forward by anti-Zionists — that Zionist immigration to and settlement in Palestine was unjustifiable in any form — they must understand why from the Palestinian perspective settlement expansion was always considered to be the driving force of the Zionist movement, and experienced as a form of aggression.

THEY SAID NO TO THE RENEGING ON PROMISESAND THEY SAID NO TO THE INCONGRUITY ENSHRINED IN THE 1917 BALFOUR DECLARATION

There is not one nation in the world that would accept voluntarily and of its own desire that its position should be changed in a manner which will have an effect on its rights and prejudice its interests … We as a nation are human beings with our own culture and civilization and we feel as any other nation would feel. It will have to be imposed on us by force.

                                         — Awni Abd al-Hadi, Testimony to Royal Peel Commission, 1937

After World War I, the Arabs of Palestine argued that they had been offered independence by the British as a reward for rising up against the Turks by dint of the McMahon–Husayn correspondence of 1915-1916 — a position contested by many Zionists then and now.

In the Arab view, these promises of independence were consistent with the spirit of their time, in particular President Woodrow Wilson’s principle of self-determination as later enshrined by the League of Nations. They said No to the idea that, in the wake of World War I, independence and self-determination would be applied around the world and to their neighboring Arab brethren, but that they would be uniquely denied in Palestine because of a conflicting British commitment to a Homeland for the Jews as articulated in the 1917 Balfour Declaration. And they said No to the idea that the fate of Palestine would or could be decided without the majority people who lived in the area being consulted.

Although the Balfour Declaration is seen by many Jews as the magna carta of the Zionist movement, few have actually read it carefully today or reflected on how it would have been perceived by the people who lived on the very land that the British were pledging to the Jews. For the Arabs, it was not only this pledge that was problematic: in 67 short words, the document set the terms by which Jews and Arabs were identified and perceived by third parties and each other, in ways that have remained seared in the public consciousness to this day. The Declaration identified the approximately 58,728 Jews living in Palestine at the time as a “people” and recognized their rights to a National Home, while granting only civil and religious (but not political or national) rights to the majority, the approximately 688,800 Arabs. The latter were referred to almost incidentally in the Declaration, as the “non-Jewish communities” in Palestine. Moreover, in the text of the Mandate itself, which refers to the Jewish people, the Jewish population in Palestine, the Jewish national home and Jewish institutions, the word “Arab” is avoided, replaced with a variety of terms such as “inhabitants of Palestine,” “other sections of the population,” “natives” and “respective communities.”6

The conviction, held by so many of Israel’s supporters, that the Arabs always resisted compromise, must be seen in the light of the terms set in this document and others that followed, and questions about what compromise was offered, by whom, and under which conditions. One of the reasons that the Arabs said No to most British and Zionist “compromise” proposals was that these included the demand that the they should accept the terms of the Balfour Declaration (and the Mandate in which they were incorporated) as a precondition, thus acceding to the idea that their land would be bequeathed to another people, and to the view of themselves as people defined by their negative status as “non-Jews” rather than their positive status as Arabs.

This interpretation of the past is not intended to suggest that the Arab response was determined — that they could under no circumstances have taken a different approach, or that there were not some individuals who, at various times, considered arrangements based on the terms that had been set. But if there is any serious revisionism to be done on this issue, it will be the business of the Palestinians in due course. What it does mean is that from the perspective of the Arabs compromise never appeared to be what it was for the Zionists then, or in the form it has been portrayed in the standard Jewish version of history since the founding of Israel; and there were always multiple and comprehensible reasons for the Palestinian Arabs to reject the underlying preconditions that defined the compromises that had been put forward.

A similar situation is replicated today, where the Palestinians are being asked not merely to accept Israel’s “right to exist in peace and security” — something they have already consented to — but to validate the Jewish character of the land (“Israel as the homeland of the Jewish people”), either as precondition for any renewed negotiations or as a condition for peace. One does not have to deny that the Palestinian approach to peacemaking can be, and often is, uncompromising and obstructive also to recognize that this demand will be perceived as a modern day reiteration of the British approach during the mandate: in order to be considered a partner for peace, the Palestinians must first abdicate their view of history, and also embrace the narrative of their enemies.

Whether intentional or not, this message was embedded in President Obama’s Jerusalem speech. But if his man on the ground, John Kerry, adopts this approach, he will be repeating the failed pattern whereby Palestinians are asked to convert to Zionism before being considered as peace partners — something that is by definition impossible and thus counterproductive. Secretary Kerry would do better to shape a renewed process around proposals that can be perceived as compromises by both parties.

FINALLY, THE PALESTINIAN ARABS SAID NO TO THE “GENEROUS OFFERS” OF PARTITION, MADE BY THE ROYAL PALESTINE (PEEL) COMMISSION IN 1937 AND THE UN IN 1947.

This opposition [to partition] is based upon the unwavering conviction of unshakeable rights and a conviction of the injustice of forcing a long-settled population to accept immigrants without its consent being asked and against its known and expressed will; the injustice of turning a majority into a minority in its own country; the injustice of withholding self-government until the Zionists are in the majority and able to profit by it.

                                         — Albert Hourani, Statement to the Anglo-American Commission of Inquiry, 1946

The most entrenched orthodoxy in the pro-Israel camp is that the Arabs said No to two perfectly legitimate partition plans — plans that could have secured a long lasting peace between two states living side by side. The origins of the conflict are often traced to these Nos, which are interpreted as signs of Arab intransigence, self-destruction, and disregard for international law.

This analysis is in great part based on an ignorance of what the partition plans looked like, an assumption that “compromise” solutions are always fair, desirable, and sustainable, and a retrospective analysis based on the view that the Arabs rejected much more land than they are bargaining for today.  

But the very idea of truncating the land was anathema to the majority of Palestinian Arabs, the partition proposals were devised without their consent, and both had been drawn with little concern for the incongruities in land distribution and demographics. In 1937, the Jews owned no more than 6 percent of the land, but were offered 20 percent of Palestine; and, in 1947, Jews owned approximately 7 percent of the land and were offered 55 percent of the country. In 1937, the new Jewish state was to contain 396,000 Jews and 225,000 Arabs, with a proposition that those Arabs would be transferred, forcibly if necessary, to the new Arab state. In 1947, almost half of the Arab population was to come under Jewish sovereignty, so that 400,000 Palestinian Arabs would be forced to live in a Jewish state with a Jewish population of just over 500,000. And all this was to take place in the absence of any trusted mechanism of implementation, and with some prominent Zionists — who were well organized and had a superior military capacity — verbalizing their intention to move beyond the borders of partition in the future.

It is understandably difficult for anyone who considers Israel to be the homeland of the Jewish people to grasp the Arab rejection of the principle of partition. Given the urgent situation the Jews were facing at the time, their historical and religious ties to the land, the genuine passion with which they pursued their mission, and the relatively small amount of territory that the various partition plans offered them, it appears unreasonable at best, malicious at worst, for the Arabs to have refused the very concept of sharing the land. 

However, it is quite incomprehensible that despite the importance attributed to the partition plans in justifying Israel’s perspective, an examination of both plans is so often neglected in favor of a simple reduction of the Arab response to an irrational No. One does not have to accept the Arab view (that the Zionists did not have the right to self-determination in Palestine) in order to recognize why they believed this at the time, and why the problem cannot be reduced simply to one of cartography — a map that in retrospect and from a purely visual point of view looks like a good deal for the Palestinians. The Israeli party line on this issue is repeated time and again by advocates, diplomats, academics, and policy makers — people who have an influence on how a peace process would be launched and run, and who are directly responsible for helping create parameters for a peace process today.7

Consider a statement from long-time presidential adviser to the Middle East, Dennis Ross, a person who still today is one of the key voices influencing the president’s approach to the conflict. In critiquing some revisionist histories, Ross offers the following understanding of the roots of the conflict:

Drawing from some of the revisionist histories on the origins of the Palestinian refugee problem, (Jerome) Slater basically ascribed full responsibility to Israel for the root of the conflict. That the Arabs and Palestinians simply rejected all possible compromises prior to the establishment of the state of Israel, including the Peel Commission Report of 1937, the Morrison-Grady proposal in 1946, and the UN partition plan in 1947 is basically immaterial to Slater.8

In response to critiques of Israel, Ross beats a swift retreat into the unexamined safety zone: Israelis might have made mistakes, but before these mistakes, there was The No. The idea is so universally absorbed and accepted by his audience that in order to defend this view Ross does not even feel the need offer any explanation beyond the mere mention that the Arabs “simply” said No to “all possible compromises.” One wonders if he knows which compromises were offered, what they included or why they were rejected. As one of the policy makers most devoted to the modern version of partition — the two-state solution — Ross and other influential U.S. advisers might learn more about why the Arabs rejected the plans then, and consider more carefully what conditions might be necessary for them to accept partition today.

Neither Jewish ethics nor Jewish tradition can disqualify terrorism as a means of combat. We are very far from having any moral qualms as far as our national war goes. We have before us the command of the Torah, whose morality surpasses that of any other body of laws in the world: “Ye shall blot them out to the last man.”…But first and foremost, terrorism is for us a part of the political battle being conducted under the present circumstances, and it has a great part to play: speaking in a clear voice to the whole world, as well as to our wretched brethren outside this land, it proclaims our war against the occupier.9

                                         — Yitzak Shamir, 1943

While the first pillar of the pro-Israel view is that the Arab No was the cause of the conflict, the second pillar is that this No was expressed from the beginning through acts of unprovoked and unjustified violence. This is a crucial component sustaining the narrative, for all Israeli acts of violence are excused with recourse to Arab violence as the first action — “we would never have had to do this had they not started it, had we not been defending ourselves.”

That there was periodic brutal Arab violence against Jews in the early decades of the conflict is without doubt. Most took the form of spontaneous resistance to, and attacks on, Jewish settlers. Other more organized riots and assaults — especially the Hebron massacre in 1929 — randomly and ferociously targeted the old Jewish and non-Zionist community, reinforcing Jews’ fear that Arabs were new incarnations of previous oppressors, and shattering their belief that any non-violent solution to the conflict in Palestine was possible.

The Jews’ long experience of brutal and unprovoked persecution had taught them that these kinds of “causeless” acts of aggression against them were not only likely but possibly ubiquitous. This lesson was only reinforced by the betrayal of European nationalism, which rebranded Jews as outsiders at the very moment they believed their status as equal citizens would be validated. Thus, it is not surprising that many Jews in the 1920s and the 1930s, haunted by their experience of violent pogroms in Eastern Europe and escalating persecution in Western Europe, did not feel the need to interpret the behavior of the Arabs in Palestine, perceiving their words and actions to be an extension of the same type of causeless anti-Semitism: they hate us for who we are, not what we do.

But it would be false to claim that the Arabs said No through violent action without cause, in lieu of arguments and persuasion, or that violence was their predominant form of expression. The early Arab response to the Zionist challenge was largely characterized by a futile and repetitive attempt to appeal to Western conscience, law, and values. Between the late 1890s and the mid-1930s, this response was expressed in words rather than deeds: delegations were sent to Britain and Europe and hundreds of memoranda, petitions, articles and speeches attempted to explain the Arab case to the British, Americans and Europeans. Not unlike today, the Arabs believed that if the international powers truly fathomed what was happening on the ground, they would put a stop to it. These documents are often shocking to those who peruse them, as accustomed as they are to their inherited views that the Palestinian Arabs had no case to make, never made it to anyone, and were simply mindlessly and mechanically rejecting anything Jewish in their path.

Whether violence can be justified as a means to achieve a national struggle is a legitimate topic of debate, and one can condemn the Arabs’ response to Zionism then and to Israel after 1948 on many grounds. But understanding the multiplicity of Arab reactions to Zionism in the pre-1947/48 period should not be interpreted — and thus dismissed — simply as an attempt to justify whatever violence they did wage. Without an understanding of the context of both Arab and Jewish violence in Mandatory Palestine, or the other nonviolent means the Palestinian Arabs pursued in an attempt to achieve their aims, there is little in the way of a fruitful discussion that can be had about the origin of the conflict or its possible solution.

Nor is it helpful to place a universal ban on explaining what lies behind Palestinian violence today. Neither the Zionists in the early period, nor Israelis or Jews today, deny violence as a legitimate tool in the service of a national movement. They have used and glorified violence when it has suited their purposes, as in the early period when Jabotinsky’s Betar youth drew inspiration from quasi-fascist tropes of extreme nationalism about the purifying and liberating role of violence; or in the 1940s when terrorism against the British was considered a legitimate means to attain their goal of national self-determination. A puritanical approach to any violence that comes from “the other side” cannot substitute for real engagement with the reasons they pursue violence, the nature of their goals or demands, and a sober analysis of which of these are necessary to address if peace and security is the desired end.

Everybody sees a difficulty in the question of relations between Arabs and Jews. But not everybody sees that there is no solution to this question. No solution! There is a gulf, and nothing can fill that gulf … I do not know what Arab will agree that Palestine should belong to the Jews — even if the Jews learn Arabic … And we must recognize this situation. If we do not acknowledge this and try to come up with “remedies,” then we risk demoralization … We, as a nation, want this country to be ours; the Arabs, as a nation, want this country to be theirs. The decision has been referred to the Peace Conference.

                                         — Ben Gurion, Speech to Vaad Zmani, June 1919

What is missing in the logic of the pro-Israel view of the Palestinian No is the disturbing prospect, articulated by Zionist luminaries such as Vladimir Jabotinsky and David Ben Gurion in the 1920s, that a nonviolent or satisfactory solution to the Arab-Jewish confrontation in Palestine might not have been possible.

This poignant and chillingly lucid appraisal was proposed by many Jews and Arabs in the early years of the conflict and has been acknowledged by many more since, but it is still largely absent from the current mainstream debates about the conflict or peacemaking. And yet accepting the Israel/Palestine conflict as an elemental clash grounded in overlapping and irreconcilable aspirations, rather than a chimera that could have been avoided had one party acceded to the wishes of the other, is necessary for understanding both the limitations of and prospects for peacemaking today. For if the Zionists perceived Jewish self-determination as a natural response to their predicament, the implementation of this mission in Palestine, a land where an Arab majority lived, was almost certain to provoke hostility from the native population.

Given the urgency of their situation, it is understandable that the Jews were not concerned with the response of the Palestinian Arabs to their project. After a tragically failed attempt to identify spiritually, emotionally or intellectually with the cultures and nations within which they resided, the Jews learned the hard way that the modern world was increasingly defining self-determination in exclusionist, not liberal, terms. The pogroms and persecution of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries did even more to shape the tenor and nature of the Zionist movement than the brutality of the Holocaust; it was that predicament which gave birth to what might be called “The Original Never Again” — the determination on the part of the Jews never again to be supplicants, dependent on the kindness of strangers, or feeble bystanders to their own persecution, waiting pitifully for the world to evolve beyond prejudice. Influenced by the character and tenor of nationalism as it evolved in Europe, where blood and soil were the hallmarks of legitimate belonging, the Zionists had concluded that they could only overcome their outsider status by settling in Palestine — a land where their “insider” status could be unearthed, and their physical and spiritual links with the past revealed.

But while Zionism was more multidimensional than the reductive formulas provided by today’s anti-Zionists, it is neither surprising nor strange that the Arabs in the early part of the twentieth century would reject the reasoning and rationale behind Jewish nationalism. They were engaged in their own pursuit of national self-determination, inspired by Woodrow Wilson’s proclamations, their own cultural, linguistic and religious revival, and the trends toward territorial independence taking hold in neighboring countries. Despite the fact that the Arab response is incessantly represented as aberrant, it is unlikely that any people anywhere would have said Yes to the prospect of becoming a minority in their own home, or to their land being offered to those they considered foreigners, even if they recognized that the latter had a historical presence and religious ties to the area, or that they faced mortal danger in their countries of residence. It is even more unlikely that any people would say Yes to the manner in which the policy of the Jewish national home was implemented — without their consent, enforced by foreign powers, and in contradiction to what they believe they deserved and were promised.

Finally, although there is controversy over the extent to which the leaders of the Palestinian national movement represented the views of the masses, or whether the “opposition” parties considered taking another course, even if a minority of Arabs was ready to accept some form of Jewish national rights in Palestine, this should not be reason to impugn the majority Arab feeling that the creation of a Jewish state in Palestine was unjust and unacceptable. Jews should resist the temptation to parade Arab “super-moderates” in triumph as vindication of their cause; the Arabs will not accept this any more than Jews accept Palestinians justifying their own positions by appealing to the views of a minority of Israeli or Jewish anti-Zionists.

Politically speaking it is a national movement…The Arab must not and cannot be a Zionist. He could never wish the Jews to become a majority. This is the true antagonism between us and the Arabs. We both want to be the majority.

                                         — David Ben-Gurion, after the 1929 riots in Palestine

The appraisal of the early years of the conflict, advanced above, clashes fundamentally with the traditional pro-Israel view, which relies on the belief that the Arab opposition to Zionism was both immoral and unnecessary, and that the Jews had an absolute and incontestable right to create a Jewish state in Palestine: in other words, that Zionism was blameless in the creation of the Palestine problem and the Palestinians brought their nakba upon themselves.

To challenge this view is not to condemn the entire Zionist project as inherently sinful, but to recognize that it will always be seen as such from the Arab side, because from their perspective, Jewish Israel could only have come about at the expense of Arab Palestine. This common-sense view was the driving force behind Vladimir Jabotinsky’s rationale for the Iron Wall — a position grounded in the avowal that the Jews aimed to appropriate the land that the Arabs lived on, loved and believed was theirs. Jabotinsky maintained that it was only natural that the Arabs would resist Zionism, for “any native people — it is all the same whether they are civilized or savage — views their country as their national home, of which they will be always the complete masters.”10

Today, those who would be Jabotinsky’s heirs appropriate the Iron Wall as implicit policy, while abjuring Jabotinsky’s own rationale for that policy: his belief that Palestine was not an empty desert but that there were native inhabitants there who were deeply attached to their land, and therefore it was both reasonable and inevitable that they would resist Zionism, and resist violently. In contrast, today’s revisionists rally support for an Iron Wall policy while burying Jabotinsky’s interpretation under a now familiar if still peculiar specter: a people that did not exist on a land they never had and whose loss they resisted for no particular reason.

Despite its notable incoherence, this kind of reasoning still drives the standard pro-Israeli view of the conflict. The result is that those who wish to show their support for Israel have no tools to formulate their own response to Palestinian grievances or demands, or to properly interpret the growing opposition to Israel on the international scene. Thus, they risk marching blindly down a path that only aggravates their own dilemma and puts Israel itself in further jeopardy.

There can be no settlement, no final settlement, until the Zionists realize that they can never hope to obtain in London or Washington what is denied them in Jerusalem.

                                         — Albert Hourani, Testimony to Anglo-American Committee, 1946

The paradox of any potential peacemaking between Israelis and Palestinians is that neither side is likely to be satisfied with the possibility of attaining the tangible dividends of peace, even in the unlikely event that these were attainable. Each side continues to demand ideological conversion from the other, despite the fact that neither can recognize (in the sense of validate or embrace) the other’s narrative without by definition repudiating its own. This is not only the case for the Palestinians, who are being asked to deny their history and experience for the sake of being validated as partners for peace. The Israelis too cannot and will not embrace the anti-Israel camp’s notion that their national movement was born in sin. And notwithstanding the power of the United States of America or President Obama’s recent pronouncements in Jerusalem, no third party can, or has the right to, issue a verdict on history. But while neither side should be asked to recognize the legitimacy of their adversary’s view of the conflict, they will have to find a way to accept that this view cannot simply be wished away, and that it will manifest itself in various ways at the negotiating table and in any peace deal. 

Thus, although supporters of Israel need not embrace the Palestinian view of the causes of the conflict, they should recognize that the Arab’s rejection of Zionism was not irrational and cannot be reduced to anti-Semitism: and they need to move beyond the long-obsolete mantras about the origins of the conflict that prevent them from identifying genuine points of impasse or making the best of opportunities. This does not mean Israel is the sole responsible party — Israelis are justified in questioning whether the Palestinians are able or willing to fulfill their own side of a negotiated bargain, prepare their public for a compromised settlement or recognize that the Jewish narrative cannot be eradicated by an act of will. But the Jewish community should not hide its own rejectionism behind the Palestinians’ No, or behind rabid circular debates that all slam into the STOP sign of 1947.

For while many Palestinians have (in various agreements and public commitments) been saying Yes to Israel’s de facto existence since 1988, they will continue to say No to Zionism itself.  Condoning it would require Palestinians swallow whole the major tenets of the Jewish “narrative” and sign on the dotted line affirming that the creation of a Jewish state on land they considered as their own was a legitimate enterprise; that their own rejection of that enterprise was irrational or morally wrong; and that the Arab’s 1400-year history in Palestine should be seen as a brief and inconsequential interregnum between two more important eras of Jewish sovereignty.

This will never happen. The sooner the pro-Israel camp accepts this and stops trying to change the unchangeable, the sooner they can determine what steps might be taken in the interests of their own peace and security. Schoolyard choruses — “they started it” and “they are worse than us” — cannot serve as an interpretive framework for a 130-year-old conflict, or form the basis of national policy. The Jewish community must breach the blockade that currently stands between moribund talking points and the actual origins of the conflict. An encounter with the Original No might release them from their dependence on the interpretations provided by the salesmen of the Jewish world, who for decades have been pitching an obsolete product to hapless customers in search of certainty — the very opposite of what is required in order to “prepare the public for peace.” And it might provide supporters of Israel with the tools they need to construct their own interpretation of what took place In The Beginning, and formulate their own vision of what, if anything, can be done to address the fallout today.

1 “Netanyahu: Root of Palestinian Conflict Is Not Territory,” Daily Monitor, May 2, 2013.http://www.monitor.co.ug/News/World/Netanyahu–Root-of-Palestinian-conflict-is-not-territory/-/688340/1799320/-/itkl53/-/index.html.

2 Benny Morris, “Israel under Siege,” Daily Beast, July 31, 2012,http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2012/07/31/israel-under-siege.html.

3 ‘Full text of Netanyahu’s foreign policy speech at Bar-Ilan’, Haaretz, June 14, 2009,http://www.haaretz.com/news/full-text-of-netanyahu-s-foreign-policy-speech-at-bar-ilan-1.277922. (emphasis added).

4 Vladimir Jabotinsky, ‘The Iron Wall: We and the Arabs,”http://www.marxists.de/middleast/ironwall/ironwall.htm.

5 Rashid Khalidi, Palestinian Identity: The Construction of Modern National Consciousness (New York, 1997), 102.

6 In Article 22, the word “Arabic” appears in the context of a clause relating to the official languages of Palestine.

7 See, for example, Hillary Clinton’s 2012 statement: “The Palestinians could have had a state as old as I am if they had made the right decision in 1947.” http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/analysis/rubin-reports/driving-in-neutral-hillary-clinton-explains-the-israel-palestinian-conflict/2012/12/05/

8 Dennis Ross and David Makovsky, Myths, Illusions and Peace: Finding a New Direction for America in the Middle East(New York, 2009), 116.

9 Ian S. Lustik, “Terrorism in the Arab-Israeli Conflict: Targets and Audiences,” ed. Martha Crenshaw in Terrorism in Context (Pennsylvania, 1995), 527.

10 Vladimir Jabotinsky, op. cit.

*Dr. Gill is a research associate at Barnard College and a former professor of conflict studies at The New School University. She is the founder and director of TRACK4, which runs negotiation simulations for diplomats, mediators, journalists, policy makers, students and community leaders

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