Free Palestine/Free Israel (IV)

The Zionist project could only be realised through the creation in Palestine of a purely Jewish state, both as a safe haven for Jews from persecution and a cradle for a new Jewish nationalism. And such a state had to be exclusively Jewish not only in its socio-political structure but also in its ethnic composition.

… [T]he land of Palestine and its people, Jews and Arabs, will have to face the consequences of the 1948 ethnic cleansing. We end this book as we began: with the bewilderment that this crime was so utterly forgotten and erased from our minds and memories. But we now know the price: the ideology that enabled the depopulation of half of Palestine’s native people in 1948 is still alive and continues to drive the inexorable, sometimes indiscernible, cleansing of those Palestinians who live there today.

It has remained a powerful ideology today, not only because the previous stages in Palestine’s ethnic cleansing went unnoticed, but mainly because, with time, the Zionist whitewash of words proved so successful in inventing a new language to camouflage the devastating impact of its practices. It begins with obvious euphemisms such as ‘pullouts’ and ‘redeployment’ to mask the massive dislocations of Palestinians from the Gaza Strip and the West Bank that have been going on since 2000. It continues with less obvious misnomers such as ‘occupation’ to describe the direct Israeli military rule on areas within historical Palestine, more or less fifteen per cent of it today, while presenting the rest of the land as ‘liberated’, ‘free’ or ‘independent’. True, most of Palestine is not under military occupation – some of it is under much worse conditions. Consider the Gaza Strip after the pullout where even human rights lawyers cannot protect its inhabitants because they are not guarded by the international conventions that relate to military occupation. Many of its people enjoy ostensibly superior conditions within the State of Israel; much better if they are Jewish citizens, somewhat better if they are Palestinian citizens of Israel. So much better for the latter if they do not reside in the Greater Jerusalem area where the Israeli policy has been, for the last six years, aimed at transferring them to the occupied part or to the lawless and authority-less areas in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank created by the disastrous Oslo accord in the 1990s.

So there are many Palestinians who are not under occupation, but none of them, and this includes those in the refugee camps, are free from the potential danger of future ethnic cleansing. It seems more a matter of Israeli priority rather than a hierarchy of ‘fortunate’ and ‘less fortunate’ Palestinians. Those today in the Greater Jerusalem area are undergoing ethnic cleansing as this book goes to print. Those who live in the vicinity of the apartheid wall Israel is constructing, half completed as this book is written, are likely to be next. Those who live under the greatest illusion of safety, the Palestinians of Israel, may also be targeted in the future. Sixty-eight per cent of the Israeli Jews expressed their wish, in a recent poll, to see them ‘transferred’.

Neither Palestinians nor Jews will be saved, from one another or from themselves, if the ideology that still drives the Israeli policy towards the Palestinians is not correctly identified. The problem with Israel was never its Jewishness – Judaism has many faces and many of them provide a solid basis for peace and cohabitation; it is its ethnic Zionist character. Zionism does not have the same margins of pluralism that Judaism offers, especially not for the Palestinians. They can never be part of the Zionist state and space, and will continue to fight-and hopefully their struggle will be peaceful and successful. If not, it will be desperate and vengeful and, like a whirlwind, will suck all up in a huge perpetual sandstorm that will rage not only through the Arab and Muslim worlds, but also within Britain and the United States, the powers which, each in their turn, feed the tempest that threatens to ruin us all.

Ilan Pappe, The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine (One World Publications, 2006)

Alon Schwarz’s documentary film, Tantara, tells the story of the violent cleansing of the Palestinian village of Tantara in he 1948 Israeli “War of Independence”, or what the Palestinians commonly refer to as the “Nakba”, or the catastrophe.

The film however is also a study in the “politics of history” and its role in the creation, constitution and justification of the Israeli state; the kind of “politics of history” that grounds and accompanies all modern, nationalist state-formation.

For further reading on the massacre of Palestinians in Tantura, in 1948, we suggest, as a modest point of departure, the following:

Mustafa al-Wali, “The Tantura Massacre, 22-23 May 1948”, Journal of Palestine Studies Vol.30 No. 3-Spring 2001, of the Institute for Palestinian Studies.

Mitchell Abidor, “The Power and Limits of Israeli Dissident Cinema”, Jewish Currents, November 3, 2022.

Baker Zoubi, “The Tantura massacre’s perpetrators confessed. Its survivors have this to say.”, +972 Magazine, December 13, 2022.

Bethan McKernan, “UK study of 1948 Israeli massacre of Palestinian village reveals mass grave sites”, The Guardian, May 25, 2023.

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