by : Dr. M. Reza Behnam , WASHINGTON REPORT
Palestinians have started the New Year under Israeli military rule with its attendant harassment, humiliation and denial of civil liberties. They have endured Zionist colonization, ethnic cleansing, daily surveillance and violence.
The world has done little to mitigate their suffering.
To legitimize and cement its claim to all of Palestine, Israel has labored to systematically erase every trace of the Palestinian presence and replace it with an exclusive Jewish one. For the millions who remain, Israel’s apartheid system has made Palestinians refugees in their own land. The Israeli regime has officially conferred the inferior ascription of “foreign resident” upon Palestinians living in the occupied territories.
What began as the gradual, covert acquisition of Palestinian land expanded into an historic land grab—the Zionist war of 1947-49. According to Israel’s leaders, the war presented an opportunity to solve what they called their “Arab problem”—how to quickly rid Palestine of its Arab population on a large scale.
Clearly, Israel’s ongoing effort to erase Palestine and Palestinians from time and space is an act of state-sponsored terrorism. Since 1948, Israel has used terrorist tactics to secure hegemony over Palestinians living in the occupied territories, with routine attacks on their lives and rights.
Shared symbols and representations are formidable instruments used by nation-states to construct a national identity, to communicate power and to shape the future. Not only do they tell the story of a nation, they establish who matters and who does not in the public mind.
Israel has inhabited the landscape with the symbols of hate, dominance and exclusion—symbols foundational to the state they have created. To flaunt its hegemony and to humiliate, Israel has attached the names of some of its most ruthless political and military leaders to buildings, schools, parks, streets and public spaces throughout Palestine/Israel. Most notable is Israel’s main point of entry, its first checkpoint, the Ben Gurion Airport, named for the country’s first prime minister and defense minister, Polish-born David Grün, aka Ben-Gurion.
It is unlikely that visitors to Israel will learn that Ben-Gurion guided Plan Dalet—the master plan for the ethnic cleansing of Palestine—and ordered the destruction of Palestinian towns and villages, prevented the return of Palestinians to their homes and repopulated Arab towns with Jewish immigrants.
They will not be informed that it was Ben-Gurion’s warlords and the country’s future leaders, Yigal Allon, Yitzhak Rabin and Moshe Dayan, who upon his orders, carried out massacres in Lydda, Deir Yassin and other Palestinian towns and villages. And that in 1948, over 500 Palestinian villages were destroyed and major cities attacked by Zionist forces to make way for the Ben Gurion Airport and for the establishment of the Jewish state.
Travelers will see no landmarks or signs to mark the Palestinian Nakba or catastrophe that Ben-Gurion orchestrated. They will, instead, see statues and streets immortalizing him and his ruthless generals.
Palestinians have little choice but to live on streets named for symbols of hate and dominance—Herzl, Jabotinsky, Balfour, Weizmann, Shamir and many others. They have to travel on streets that celebrate the Irgun and Lehi terrorist organizations that committed numerous atrocities.
There are countless other examples of Israelis willfully reshaping historical memory. Among the most egregious is the tomb/shrine erected in memory of American-Jewish terrorist Baruch Goldstein, who brutally murdered 29 Muslim worshippers and injured more than 100 in the Ibrahimi Mosque in Al-Khalil (Hebron) in 1994.
Where Goldstein is buried is as significant as the fact that a site which extols a mass murderer as a national hero exists at all. He is interred in a park in Al-Khalil, in the West Bank settlement of Kiryat Arba. The park is named for the late, racist rabbi, Brooklyn-born Meir Kahane, founder of the virulent anti-Arab Kach Party.
ESTABLISHING GREATER ISRAEL
In carrying out its Greater Israel/Greater Jerusalem mission, Israel has been resolute in shaping a Jewish majority reality in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
In October 2021, Israeli Housing Minister Zeev Elkin stated, “Strengthening Jewish presence (in the West Bank) was essential to the Zionist vision.” That vision has included the use of state and settler violence to drive Palestinians out or to isolate them into impoverished and powerless bantustans.
With the full assistance and support of the government, Israeli settlers exercise violence and intimidation against Palestinians on a daily basis. In November 2021, the Israeli human rights group, B’Tselem, detailed how Israel has been using settler violence as a “major informal tool” to drive Palestinians from their lands. And that over the past five years, eleven square miles of land have been stolen.
Palestinians in the West Bank have no civil rights, including the right to privacy.
Under an Israeli surveillance system called White Wolf, Jewish settlers can at will scan a Palestinian’s identification card and check it against military, intelligence and settlement security databases. Israel has expanded the scale and scope of its surveillance with a program dubbed Blue Wolf, which uses sophisticated smartphone facial recognition technology to spy on Palestinians.
Countless rows of identical settlements have altered the landscape and are monuments to what Palestinians have lost. More than 680,000 Israelis currently live in at least 280 illegal settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
Occasionally Israel’s illegal schemes, like the forced eviction of Palestinian families from their homes in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah, make their way into corporate news. Radical settlers, however, have been evicting Palestinians and entering their homes in Sheikh Jarrah for decades.
Evictions are not unique to Sheikh Jarrah. Settlers have encroached into Palestinian neighborhoods all across East Jerusalem, including in the Muslim Quarter of the Old City. An estimated 220,000 Israelis now live in East Jerusalem, pushing the 350,000 Palestinian residents into increasingly crowded, impoverished neighborhoods.
The decision by current Prime Minister Naftali Bennett in October 2021 to approve over 3,000 new settlement houses in the West Bank garnered limited media attention and a perfunctory “deeply concerned” statement from the U.S. State Department.
Palestinians have no recourse as Israel seizes their land for projects that fracture their neighborhoods and serve only the Jewish population. A current plan, for example, is to construct a string of theme parks for a so-called “Biblical Trail” in the south of the Old City. As part of its design, Israel has been willing to raze the dead.
In October 2021, bulldozers began demolishing sections of the six-acre Al-Yusufiya cemetery near the Al-Aqsa Mosque. This centuries-old Muslim cemetery is one of four in occupied Jerusalem. One section being bulldozed includes the Martyrs’ Monument where the remains of Palestinian and Jordanian soldiers, who fought in the 1967 war, are buried and where relatives come to commemorate them.
CREATING ECONOMIC DEPENDENCY
Israel is acutely aware that an independent and functional economy is central to Palestinian sovereignty and statehood. To force Palestinian dependency on its apartheid economy, Israel has stripped Palestinian communities of their natural resources, blocked free access to markets and destroyed agriculture and infrastructure.
Economic survival has forced Palestinians to face the indignity of cooperating with Israel’s ambitions. The many unemployed have little choice but to seek disheartening work in Israel, which often involves constructing settlements that displace fellow Palestinians. According to the International Labor Organization, before the 2020 pandemic, 133,000 Palestinians worked in Israel and in the settlements. Additionally, in their daily commutes, workers can be delayed for hours at any of the 140 military checkpoints that dot the West Bank.
SHAPING A PROPAGANDA NETWORK
Israel has been successful in fashioning a propaganda network in the United States to shape and control how Americans think—or do not think—about Palestine.
In October 2021, for instance, Israeli minister of defense, Benny Gantz, falsely designated six prominently established Palestinian human rights groups as terrorist organizations (see p. 8).
Another target of the Israeli regime is the movement for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS), which advocates for Palestinian freedom and equality. Israel sees this non-violent global movement as a strategic threat because of its efficacy against the apartheid regime in South Africa during the 1980s.
Palestinian statelessness has been at the core of Zionism. Ironically, Jewish statelessness was the locus of the Zionist argument for creation of an exclusive state of their own. In carrying out the goals of its founders, Israel has been totally indifferent to Articles 15 and 17 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which read respectively, “…no one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his nationality...” and that “no one shall be arbitrarily deprived of property.”
Military occupation chips at the soul of the occupied and the occupier alike. It should end. All symbols of hate, dominance, exclusion and occupation need to be eliminated, starting with the Ben Gurion checkpoint. All stolen land must be returned, and the right of Palestinian refugees and their descendants to return to their homes and properties must be guaranteed. Al-Quds to Muslims, Jerusalem to Jews and Christians, must become an ecumenical city, much as it was prior to 1948. And to finally end the Nakba, the morally corrupt Israeli regime must formally acknowledge its abuses and the suffering it has inflicted on the Palestinian people.
With each new year, Palestinians struggle to hold on to their land and to resist the destruction of their national identity. What Israel and its U.S. panderers fail to understand is that Palestinian identity is deeply rooted in the land and that they cannot be separated from it. Palestinians will never renounce their fundamental right to justice, freedom and dignity, and they will never be made invisible.
Evictions are not unique to Sheikh Jarrah. Settlers have encroached into Palestinian neighborhoods all across East Jerusalem, including in the Muslim Quarter of the Old City. In October 2021, bulldozers began demolishing sections of the six-acre Al-Yusufiya cemetery near the Al-Aqsa Mosque. This centuries-old Muslim cemetery is one of four in occupied Jerusalem. One section being bulldozed includes the Martyrs’ Monument where the remains of Palestinian and Jordanian soldiers, who fought in the 1967 war, are buried and where relatives come to commemorate them.