Back to basics

The sense of 1948 revisited is overwhelming. Early in his premiership Ariel Sharon told the Israeli daily, Haaretz, in a comprehensive interview, that he was still fighting Israel’s “war of independence.” It was an interesting take on his war on the Intifada, even then, and it blatantly gave the lie to one of Israel’s founding myths: that the so-called war of independence was an anti-colonial struggle against the British mandate. The 1947-8 “War of Independence” was always about “independence” from the original inhabitants of the land: the Palestinians.

The ethnic cleansing of over 70 per cent of the land of historic Palestine was an absolute prerequisite for the founding and perpetuation of “The Jewish State.” This is indisputable: the historical evidence (to which Israel’s “New Historians” have contributed massively) is overwhelming. The fierce protestations of even the most dovish of Zionists regarding the Palestinians’ right of return — “It would mean the destruction of Israel,” they wail in protest — is simply the icing on the proof.

One of the more interesting aspects of the predominant Zionist myths is what we might call “the waiving of rights” argument. The Palestinians and Arabs did not accept the 1948 UN partition plan, which gave a then minority of newly arrived armed Jewish settlers the best part of their land, and for this alleged mistake they are to be punished in perpetuity. What is right or fair was thrown out the window — the Zionist armed forces could now grab over 70 per cent of historic Palestine, drive its population out, take over their lands and homes, destroy thousands of their villages, hold those who remain as a captive population, whose land and homes are forever easy pickings for “the organic growth” of their Jewish neighbours — and keep it all, forever. Any concept of justice and law is made to disappear. And it goes on, and on and on, with every new blood-drenched grab justified by the “Arab failure” to concede the previous one, every new massacre explained by the anger at the one that preceded it.

So pervasive has been this “waiving of rights” argument that for many years many “realistic” Arabs came to swallow it, hook, line and sinker. ‘If only we had accepted the partition plan,’ ‘If only we had recognized Israel after 1948’; ‘If only we had gone along with Sadat in 78’. And there are those among us who are waiting for Sharon’s bloody carnage to come to a halt so they can leap up to berate us: ‘if only Arafat had accepted the shrunken and besieged bantustan so “generously” offered by Barak and Clinton in Camp David II.’

Stuff and nonsense. It is as it’s always been: Israel’s perpetual “war of independence”. Whether it is fought by force of arms or over a negotiating table; by massacres or “historic handshakes”; by Peres or Sharon, or by the two “nationally united”, the aim is the same: a final solution to the Palestinian problem. It is simply a demographic problem — the mere existence of the Palestinians is “a threat to the existence of the ‘Jewish State'”. Any final solution of a “demographic problem” is genocide. One step down the ladder you get ‘transfer’, which by necessity involves some genocide, since people (especially Palestinians whose attachment to what remains of their land has grown exponentially in proportion to their dispossession of ever greater parts of it) will not simply pack up and leave. Then, of course, there is the binding and gagging — in a word, Apartheid. To keep the Palestinians enslaved; locked up in their cantons and townships, overseen, preferably, by quislings of their own number, charged with keeping them in line. This is called “security guarantees”; this was what Oslo was all about; it is what Camp David II was designed to carve in treaty-bound stone.

It all goes back to 1948; “the original sin” of Israel’s founding is a sin in perpetuity. It is not a question of Palestinians and Arabs recognising the Jews’ right to national existence in the region, but Israeli Jews’ recognition that Jewish nationhood cannot and will not be realised as a negation of the Palestinians’ very existence as human beings with dignity and rights. Zionism, fully realised, is not merely racism; it’s Nazism.

Meanwhile, the war goes on.

And amid the horror, we listen closely for a note of hope.

Earlier this week, my ten-year-old son, Hossam, sat on the computer, loaded “powerpoint” and wrote the following, in English:


“There are many people that are hated and killed because of their color, religion and country. For example, the Palestinians have been occupied 54 years they’ve been hurt and left to bleed to death without any medical attention, killed and tortured. Also black people in America are accused of crimes they didn’t commit just because of their color. Well… I think that stinks. [a sad face]! BUT Palestinians & blacks standup to their oppressors and that’s what matters.”

Mr. Hani Shukrallah is Managing Editor of Al-Ahram Weekly.

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