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Friday, April 13, 2012

The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine by Ilan Pappe

The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine by Ilan Pappe

See also:
Bab al Shams Elias Khoury- epic novel about Nakba
Possibly called Gate of the Sun?

This is a fascinating, but not necessarily easy read. Everything Israel has said Palestinians have done or wanted that is evil and immoral, Israel has actually done to the Palestinians. It's kind of an eye opener. I have always heard the counter claims to the Israeli myths or standard line, but I honestly didn't know what was true or not, so I took it with a grain of salt... but this book makes one take a hard look at what many people consider to be Palestinian propaganda--you'd be surprised how much of it is in fact true.

Americans maybe won't believe Pappe, or will call him a self hating Jew or a traitor, but he dispels Israel's founding myths (of victimhood especially) and leaves no doubt that Israel was and is engaged in ethnic cleansing and has even succeeded in cleansing history. The proof of the latter you sill find in talking to Israelis and Americans about the likelihood that ethnic cleansing or war crimes were committed by Israel in it's founding or currently. The proof of the former is apparently readily available in diaries and other historical records, yet everyone seems to ignore these. With operations named Broom and Scissors and your ethnic cleansing operations are referred to like tihur (cleansing), biur (as in get rid of the leavening agents for Passover) and nikkuy (and cleaning), the intent is obvious. Co-existence and peace were never really in the plan.

The first similarity that struck me between Israel's past and present crimes was how the leaders told one story of a second Holocaust and existential threats to the public and another story, one of knowledge of a superior military might and confidence was written in diaries, correspondence between leaders and private meetings. It essentially does the same today with complete success with the "Palestinians want to push Israel into the sea" myth and reference to it's offensive moves as retaliation.

There is apparently a pervasive Israeli history myth that April 1948 was a turning point in the so called "war" where Israeli troops switched from defense to offense after a near annihilation. In reality, Dec 1947- end of March 1948 saw the completion of the first stage of Plan Dalet and the attacks on Palestinians were more widespread than before.

It is commonly said that the Hagana was the regular army and wasn't privy to any ethnic cleansing- that was the splinter groups of the Irgun and Stern Gang who differed with the Hagana. This is to enforce the myth of "most moral army in the world". That's only part true- in the beginning. At the start, the Irgun would go off and do more than requested (attack rather than retaliate for a small offense or get additional villages not on the list) and maybe there would be an apology, but later it would be included in the Hagana's list of victories, so there was approval after the fact. The more extreme methods were even adopted by the Hagana and ethnic cleansing was spoken of openly as they encountered less resistance and the British left and Jordanians neutralized.

The methods haven't changed over the years either. Recently, settlers have been caught poisoning the water supply and there are known issues with the supposedly shared water supply getting mostly diverted to Israel and the settlements. In Acre and Gaza in 1948, they began that method. (p100)

Israel commonly contends that Palestinians left their land on their own. Pappe notes that the Hagana and other groups would blare such things from loudspeakers as "surrender or commit suicide" and "we will destroy you to the last man". With this and rumors of massacres, summary executions and waves of refugees/witnesses passing through various towns, I don't know how one could really call this a voluntary move. One of so many lies.

Another common Israeli myth is that is that Palestinians want to (or can) push Jews into the sea. What is tragic is that Israelis stole this, too. You see, in an effort to escape the massacres and "clearing" operations of the time, Palestinians were actually pushed into the sea and drowned by Hagana and other forces who would close in on 3 flanks and leave only one way open (when they chose to let people live). The population of 50,000 (plus refugees from other cleansed areas) tried to escape by the only route left open under heavy fire in small fishing boats.

One of many reasons Israel charged ahead with ethnic cleansing unchecked was that it decided to subdivide the Palestinian portion of the "spoils" and "share" with Jordan. That reminded me of the peace treaties Israel has made with Jordan and Egypt more recently than 1948. On both occasions they took out the main military force that could possibly match Israel. Then as now they felt free to broadcast inflammatory rhetoric, discuss transfer of Palestinians openly and threaten countries with military action with no adverse consequences whatsoever.

Nasr-al-Din massacre near Tiberias
Tirat Haifa near Haifa
Ayn al-Zaytoun near Safad

Tantura massacre- large city, 230 dead. They simply rounded up Palestinians and shot them dead because a soldier said lost a brother, cousin, etc. That is what we would call terrorism today. That's justice Israeli style- do unto others as is your whim today and others must abide by laws and international standards. The same double standard exists today.

Count Folk Bernadotte stands out as one UN emmisary who stood up for justice. He insisted on the Palestinians right to return under international law and for Palestine to be re-divided more fairly. Israel initially agreed to let him mediate because he helped many Jews under the Nazis; when he tried to do the same for Palestinians, Israel assassinated him. Justice, Israeli style.

p162 Another bit of sad irony is that the peace camp took care of some old Arab houses surviving from ethnically cleansed villages, but instead of allowing Palestinians back or advocating for justice, they made an artists' colony out of them.

p196 Dawaymeh massacre was worse than the famous Deir Yassin and worst one until 1956 Kfar Qassim. Tantura, Safsaf, Sa'sa also had large numbers of atrocities. One observation I had here was that Jordan often gave Palestinians' land to Israel for peace and Israel kept cleansing it of Palestinians. A common Israeli refrain has been that land for peace doesn't work. I wonder if this is how it knows?

p202 The two realities- the same then and now. This really stuck with me:
Yisca Shadin's situation was given as a case in point for two reasons because people indicted for crimes against Palestinians aren't brought to justice and remain in power to afflict them. (Example: In 2000, Israeli police killed 13 Palestinians.)

p221 Several myths were created as Israeli towns were built on freshly removed rubble of Arab homes. This rubble, by the way was cleared by Arabs in labor camps. I was surprised to learn Jews employed this tactic. Again I am reminded that "never again" must not be inclusive... The myth of Israeli concern for the environment was spawned while planting on top of Arab villages and gardens. The popular "making the desert bloom" myth was also born while building on top of destroyed mosques, demolished architectural sites.

Near the end, Pappe tells how peace depends on recognition of 1948 and Israel's block of this and peace. He also offers insight into so-called peace negotiations like Oslo and the infamous Gaza pullout, how these are a way to sidestep the refugee issue, while continuing ethnic cleansing.

The last chapters offered some hope and said what many know, that the problem isn't Judaism, it is Zionism.

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