Ramzy Baroud is an internationally-syndicated columnist, a media consultant, an author.
As Israel celebrates the Palestinian Nakba as its triumphant independence on May 1, it is preparing for a massive celebration for the 50th anniversary of its occupation of East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza.
Two dates are often used to frame the so-called Palestinian-Israeli conflict: Nakba Day on May 15 and Naksa Day on June 5.
Nakba means “catastrophe”, a reference that was commonly used to describe the violence meted out against the Palestinian Arab population during the period of British colonialism in Palestine, which extended from 1917 to 1948.
The term Nakba morphed to define the zenith of British and Zionist colonisation and settlement in Palestine, which ultimately led to the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian population from their historic homeland in 1947 and 1948.
May 15, 1948, was the final act of all previous “catastrophes”.
Naksa, on the other hand, means the “letdown”.
|June 13, 1967: Egyptian prisoners of war hold their hands aloft after being rounded up by Israeli forces in the Sinai desert following the Six-Day War [Getty Images]|
In that period, there were high hopes among ordinary Arabs that Arab armies would manage to defeat Israel, reclaim historic Palestine and pave the road for the Palestinian refugees – dispossessed during the Nakba – to go back to their homes.
By then, the number of refugees had grown rapidly, and refugee camps were bursting at the seams with misery and destitution.
During the Nakba, nearly 500 villages were destroyed, entire Palestinian towns depopulated and approximately 800,000 Palestinians exiled to make room for Jewish immigrants who arrived from all corners of the globe.
The 1967 war, however, was a major letdown.
The Arabs were soundly defeated.
Lack of preparedness and hyped expectations on the Arab side, and massive American-Western military and financial support of Israel, led to a humiliating defeat for the Arabs on all fronts: the West Bank, Jordan’s western border, the Gaza Strip, the Egyptian Sinai and the Syrian Golan Heights.
That defeat settled the military score decisively for Israel, cementing US-Israel relations like never before; and, equally important, led to a fundamental shift in language.
For a long time after the war, the Nakba was largely assigned to the history books and Israel’s new borders – which acquired massive Arab lands, including the entirety of historic Palestine – became the new frame of reference.
The 1967 defeat brought an end to a previous dilemma in which the Palestinian armed struggle was often dictated by Arab countries, mainly Egypt, Jordan and Syria.
The occupation of the remaining 22 percent of the West Bank shifted the focus to East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza, and allowed the Palestinian faction, Fatah, to redefine its role in light of Arab defeat and subsequent division.
|The infamous declaration once made by former Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir that Palestinians ‘didn’t exist’ and that ‘there is no such a thing as a Palestinian people’ was far more dangerous than a mere racist comment.|
That division was highlighted most starkly in the August 1967 Khartoum summit, where Arab leaders clashed over priorities and definitions. Should Israel’s territorial gains redefine the status quo ante? Should Arabs focus on returning to a pre-1967 situation or that of pre-1948?
The Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) insisted that the defeat in the war should not compromise the integrity of the struggle, and that Palestine – all of Palestine – was still the pressing issue. The message of Gamal Abdul Nasser, the Egyptian president, seemed, for once, befuddled, although he continued to advocate for a conventional military confrontation with Israel.
Syria, on the other hand, did not attend the summit.
Nonetheless, the Arabs agreed that there would be no negotiations, no recognition and no peace with Israel, whose behaviour continued to be a source of loss, defeat and hostility throughout the region.
The response to the war was not promising internationally either.
The United Nations Security Council adopted Resolution 242 on November 22, 1967, reflecting the US Lyndon B Johnson administration’s wishes to capitalise on the new status quo ante. The UN resolution demanded Israeli withdrawal “from occupied territories” in exchange for normalisation with Israel.
The new language of the post-1967 period alarmed Palestinians, who realised that any future political settlement was likely to ignore the situation that existed prior to the war, and would only attempt to remedy current grievances.
Empowered by its military triumph, the 1967 victory was another chance for Israel to rewrite history. Israel’s official language reflected that sense of newfound power.
In fact, Israel felt powerful enough that it shifted its discourse from presenting itself as a victimised country defending its border from Arab hordes to a country that had supremacy over ideas, history and common sense. Although it conquered all of Palestine and subjugated millions of its inhabitants, it still declared them non-existent.
Indeed, the infamous declaration once made by former Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir that Palestinians “didn’t exist” and that “there is no such a thing as a Palestinian people” was far more dangerous than a mere racist comment, as justifiably understood by many.
The statement was made two years after the Naksa.
The more land Israel illegally seized by military means and the more Palestinians were ethnically cleansed from their ancestral homeland, the more Israeli leaders felt the pressing need to erase Palestinians from the annals of history as a people with an identity, a culture and an entitlement to a nationhood.
If Palestinians “existed” in Israel’s imagination, there could never be any moral justification for the creation of Israel; no spin could be powerful enough to rejoice at the birth of the Israeli “miracle” that “made the desert bloom”.
Israel’s violent birth callously required the destruction of a whole nation – one with a unique history, language, culture and collective memory. Therefore, the Palestinian people had to be wiped out to quell any possible sense of Israeli guilt, shame and legal and moral responsibility for what had befallen millions of a dispossessed people.
If a problem does not exist, then one is under no obligation to fix it. Thus, the denial of the Palestinian was the only intellectual formulation that would allow Israel to sustain and promote its national myths.
Not surprisingly, the Israeli logic was convincing enough for those – driven by political necessity, religious zeal or simply self-deluded – who felt the need to also celebrate the Israeli “miracle”.
Their new mantra, as repeated by one of the United States’ most opportunistic, and indeed, ignorant politicians, Newt Gingrich a few years ago, was: “Palestinians are an invented people.”
This logic seeped through to every facet of Israeli society.
Despite a fledgling movement in Israel that attempts to challenge the Israeli narrative, in Israeli literature the Palestinian is a “mute shadow”, as poignantly phrased by Elias Khoury.
The shadow is a reflection of something real, but intangible. It is mute so that it can be talked at, but can never talk back.
The “mute shadow” Palestinian exists and doesn’t exist.
But defying common sense and rewriting history is an old Israeli habit. Israel’s official discourse regarding what took place during the Nakba was not finalised until the 1950s and 60s.
In a Haaretz article entitled Catastrophic Thinking: Did Ben-Gurion Try to Rewrite History?, Shay Hazkani revealed the intriguing process of how Israel’s first Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion worked closely with a group of Israeli Jewish scholars to develop a version of events to describe what had taken place in 1947-48.
Ben-Gurion wanted to propagate a version of history that was consistent with Israel’s political position – yet he still lacked “evidence” to support that position. The manufactured “evidence” eventually became “history”, and no other narrative was allowed to challenge Israel’s take on the Nakba.
“Ben-Gurion probably never heard the word ‘Nakba’, but early on, at the end of the 1950s, Israel’s first prime minister grasped the importance of the historical narrative,” Hazkani wrote.
The Israeli leader assigned scholars in the civil service the task of fashioning an alternative history that continues to permeate Israeli thinking until this day.
Distracting from history – or the current reality of the horrific occupation of Palestine – has been in motion for nearly 70 years.
|Palestinians mark the Nakba on May 15 to commemorate the expulsion of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians from their homes in 1948 [Ammar Awad/Reuters]|
The absurdity of the Israeli celebration of the 50th anniversary of its occupation of East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza, is not escaping all Israelis, of course.
“A state that celebrates 50 years of occupation is a state whose sense of direction has been lost, its ability to distinguish good from evil impaired,” Israeli commentator Gideon Levy wrote in Haaretz. “What exactly is there to celebrate, Israelis? Fifty years of bloodshed, abuse, disinheritance and sadism? Only societies that have no conscience celebrate such anniversaries.”
Levy argues that Israel has won the war of 1967 but has “lost nearly everything else”.
Since then, Israel’s arrogance, detestation of international law, “ongoing contempt for the world, the bragging and bullying” have all reached unprecedented heights.
Levy’s article is entitled Our Nakba.
The courageous Levy is right, of course; but if the Israeli “Nakba” is to be judged strictly on moral grounds, then the shaming must start much earlier – at least 20 years before the war of 1967.
More Jewish voices are joining a Palestinian intellectual movement that has long aimed at redefining the roots of the Palestinian struggle.
Writing in the Forward, Donna Nevel refuses to accept that the discussion of the conflict in Palestine starts in the war and occupation of 1967. Nevel is critical of the so-called “progressive Zionists” who insist on positioning the conversation only on the question of occupation, thus limiting any possibility of resolution to the “two-state solution”.
Not only is such a “solution” defunct and practically not possible, but the very discussion precludes the Nakba altogether.
|Israel’s violent birth callously required the destruction of a whole nation – one with a unique history, language, culture and collective memory.|
The “Nakba doesn’t enter these conversations because it is the legacy and clearest manifestation of Zionism,” Nevel wrote. “Those who ignore the Nakba – which Zionist and Israeli institutions have consistently done – are refusing to acknowledge Zionism as illegitimate from the beginning of its implementation.”
This is precisely why Israeli police recently blocked the March of Return, conducted annually by Palestinians in Israel.
For years, Israel has been wary that a growing movement among Palestinians, Israelis and others around the world has been pushing for a paradigm shift in order to understand the roots of the conflict in Palestine.
That new thinking was a rational outcome of the end of the “peace process” and the demise of the “two-state solution”.
Incapable of sustaining its founding myths, yet unable to offer an alternative, the Israeli government is now using coercive measures to respond to the budding movement: punishing those who insist on commemorating the Nakba, fining organisations that participate in such events and even perceiving as traitors any Jewish individuals and groups that deviate from its official thinking.
In these cases, coercion hardly works.
“The March [of Return] has rapidly grown in size over the past few years, in defiance of increasingly repressive measures from the Israeli authorities,” wrote Jonathan Cook in Al Jazeera.
It seems that nearly 70 years after the founding of Israel, the past is still looming large.
Fortunately, the Palestinian voices that have fought against the official Israeli narrative are now joined by a growing number of Jewish voices.
It is through a new common narrative that a true understanding of the past can be attained, all with the hope that the peaceful vision for the future can replace the current one – one which can only be sustained through military domination, inequality and sheer propaganda.
Dr Ramzy Baroud has been writing about the Middle East for more than 20 years. He is an internationally syndicated columnist, a media consultant, an author of several books and the founder of PalestineChronicle.com. His books include Searching Jenin, The Second Palestinian Intifada, and his latest, My Father Was a Freedom Fighter: Gaza’s Untold Story. His website is www.ramzybaroud.net.
Source: Al Jazeera
Zionist Bombing In Jerusalem 1946
This clip is from episode one of a British-made documentary from 2002 titled ‘The Age Of Terror’, and examines the bombing of the King David Hotel in Jerusalem on 22nd July 1946 by Zionist-Jewish terrorists, in which the south wing of the hotel, then occupied by British civil-military authorities, was bombed killing ninety-one people. Twenty-eight of the victims were British, forty-one Arabic, while seventeen were Jewish.
The Zionist terrorists who carried-out the attack were known as the Irgun, and were led by a future prime minister of Israel, Menachem Begin. The King David Hotel bombing was an act of terrorism that is widely-considered to be the first real incidence of 20th century terrorism. It is most significant indeed that the narrator – British actor Sir Ian McKellen – unequivocally states that Jews were the first terrorists of the 20th century. Sir Ian also states that terrorists of the future learned from the example set by Zionist Jews in 1946. He is correct on both points. That Jews invented modern-day terrorism is an indisputable fact. The Zionist state of Israel is the mother of terrorism as we know it.
It is somewhat ironic, although not at all surprising, that an Israeli should also be the architect of the ‘war on terror’. His name? Benjamin Netanyahu, another who has held office as prime minister of Israel. And also it is important to take a note of the dress code of the terrorists? If all failed on the day who would shoulder the blame of the attack on the innocent people? The Muslim Arabs no less, now can we draw comparisons to the same type of attack on civilians over half a century on. You decide!
Secret Soviet Reveals: Wiezmann Outlined the Nakba as Early as 1941 ~ Gilad Atzmon, Whatsupic.
Whatsupic — Forthcoming in G. Gorodetsky (ed.), A Red Ambassador to the Court of St. James’s: The Diaries of Ivan Maisky, 1932-43.
Introduction by Gilad Atzmon
The following is a unique historical document. It is an extract from The Diaries of Ivan Maisky, the Soviet Ambassador to Britain from 1932 to 1943. As far as I am aware this is the debut online appearance of this invaluable document.
Maisky, a former Menshevik of Jewish origin, kept a highly personal diary. He recorded conversations with five British prime ministers, as well as with many other prominent British politicians.
In this extract, written on 3 February 1941, Maisky recounts his brief meeting with the Zionist leader Chaim Weizmann, later the first president of Israel. Maisky provides crucial insights into the history of Zionism including the brutality of the Jewish plan for Palestine and the Middle East. Noticeably, the document reveals that an intention to expel the Palestinians was explored by Zionist leaders as early as 1941.
Weizmann begins the meeting with a business plan. “Weizmann came to discuss the following matter,” says Maisky, “at present Palestine has no market for her oranges – would the USSR take them in exchange for furs? It would be easy to sell the furs through Jewish firms in America.” Establishing a Jewish nation is a cheerful event, but if is even better if one can earn some shekels on the side. Clearly, even in 1941, Zionism saw itself as part of a global financial venture.
Weizmann was clearly troubled by ‘the English’. “The English” Weizmann complains, “don’t like Jews.” While the “Palestinian Arabs are the kind of guinea pigs the (British) administrator is used to,” Says Weizmann. “The Jews reduce him to despair. They are dissatisfied with everything, they ask questions, they demand answers …But the main thing is that the administrator constantly feels that the Jew is looking at him and thinking to himself: “Are you intelligent? But maybe I’m twice as intelligent as you.”
Those who believe that the racially driven expulsion of the Palestinians from their land in 1948 was the result of a series of tragic events, can discover from Maisky’s diary that in 1941 an ethnic cleansing plan had already been outlined. Maisky writes in his diary: “For the only ‘plan’ which Weizmann can think of to save central European Jewry (and in the first place Polish Jewry) is this: to move a million Arabs now living in Palestine to Iraq, and to settle four or five million Jews from Poland and other countries on the land which the Arabs had been occupying.”
“I expressed some surprise about how Weizmann hoped to settle five million Jews on territory occupied by one million Arabs,” Maiky writes.
“’Oh, don’t worry’, Weizmann burst out laughing. ‘The Arab is often called the son of the desert. It would be truer to call him the father of the desert. His laziness and primitivism turn a flourishing garden into a desert. Give me the land occupied by a million Arabs, and I will easily settle five times that number of Jews on it.’”
It is painful that this ethno-centric approach prevailed. Seven years after this intimate meeting in London, the new Israelites expelled the vast majority of the Palestinians. Those Palestinians and their descendants remain dispossessed and many of them are forced to live in refugee camps in the region. Those who managed to evade expulsion were then and continue to be subject to Israeli racial discrimination and daily abuse.
Forthcoming in G. Gorodetsky (ed.), A Red Ambassador to the Court of St. James’s: The Diaries of Ivan Maisky, 1932-43.
3 February 1941
A few days ago I had an unexpected visitor: the well-known Zionist leader Dr. Weizmann. He is a tall, elderly, elegantly dressed gentleman with a pale yellow tinge to his skin and a large bald patch on his head. His face is very wrinkled and marked by dark blotches of some kind. His nose is aquiline and his speech calm and slow. He speaks excellent Russian, although he left Russia forty-five years ago.
Weizmann came to discuss the following matter: at present Palestine has no market for her oranges – would the USSR take them in exchange for furs? It would be easy to sell the furs through Jewish firms in America.
I answered Weizmann by saying that off hand I could not say anything definite, but I promised to make enquiries. However, as a preliminary reply, I said that the Palestinian Jews should not place any great hopes on us: we do not, as a rule, import fruit from abroad. I was proved right. Moscow turned down Weizmann’s proposal, and I sent him a letter to that effect today.
In the course of the conversation about oranges, Weizmann talked about Palestinian affairs in general. Furthermore, he spoke about the present situation and the prospects for world Jewry. Weizmann takes a very pessimistic view. According to his calculations there are about 17 million Jews in the world today. Of these, 10-11 million live in comparatively tolerable conditions: at any rate, they are not threatened with physical extermination. These are the Jews who live in the US, the British Empire and the USSR. Weizmann spoke about Soviet Jews in particular: ‘I’m not worried about them. They are not under any threat. In twenty or thirty years’ time, if the present regime in your country lasts, they will be assimilated.’
‘What do you mean, assimilated?’ I retorted. ‘Surely you know that Jews in the USSR enjoy all the rights of a national minority, like the Armenians, Georgians, and Ukrainians and so on?’
‘Of course I know that’, Weizmann answered, ‘but when I say “assimilated”, all I mean is that Soviet Jews will gradually merge with the general current of Russian life, as an inalienable part of it. I may not like this, but I’m ready to accept it: at least Soviet Jews are on firm ground, and their fate does not make me shudder. But I cannot think without horror about the fate of the 6-7 million Jews who live in central or south-eastern Europe – in Germany, Austria, Czechoslovakia, the Balkans and especially Poland. What’s going to happen to them? Where will they go?’
Weizmann sighed deeply and continued:
‘If Germany wins the war they will all simply perish. However, I don’t believe that the Germans will win. But even if England wins the war, what will happen then?’
Here he began to set out his fears. The English – and especially their colonial administrators – don’t like Jews. This is particularly noticeable in Palestine, which is inhabited by both Jews and Arabs. Here the British ‘high commissioners’ undoubtedly prefer the Arabs to the Jews. Why? For one very simple reason. An English colonial administrator will usually get his training in British colonies like Nigeria, the Sudan, Rhodesia and so on. These places have a well-defined pattern of rule: a few roads, some courts, a little missionary activity, a little medical care for the population. It’s all so simple, so straightforward, so calm. No serious problems, and no complaints on the part of the governed. The English administrator likes this, and gets used to it. But in Palestine?
Growing more animated, Weizmann continued:
‘You won’t get very far with a program like that here. Here there are big and complex problems. It’s true that the Palestinian Arabs are the kind of guinea pigs the administrator is used to, but the Jews reduce him to despair. They are dissatisfied with everything, they ask questions, they demand answers – and sometimes these answers are not easily supplied. The administrator begins to get angry and to see the Jews as anuisance. But the main thing is that the administrator constantly feels that the Jew is looking at him and thinking to himself: “Are you intelligent? But maybe I’m twice as intelligent as you.” This turns the administrator against the Jews for good, and he begins to praise the Arabs. Things are quite different with them: they don’t want anything and don’t bother anyone.’
And then, taking all these circumstances into account, Weizmann anxiously asks himself: ‘What has a British victory to offer the Jews?’ The question leads him to some uncomfortable conclusions. For the only ‘plan’ which Weizmann can think of to save central European Jewry (and in the first place Polish Jewry) is this: to move a million Arabs now living in Palestine to Iraq, and to settle four or five million Jews from Poland and other countries on the land which the Arabs had been occupying. The British are hardly likely to agree to this. And if they don’t agree, what will happen?
I expressed some surprise about how Weizmann hoped to settle five million Jews on territory occupied by one million Arabs.
‘Oh, don’t worry’, Weizmann burst out laughing. ‘The Arab is often called the son of the desert. It would be truer to call him the father of the desert. His laziness and primitivism turn a flourishing garden into a desert. Give me the land occupied by a million Arabs, and I will easily settle five times that number of Jews on it.’
Weizmann shook his head sadly and concluded: ‘The only thing is, how do we obtain this land?’
*Dr Chaim Weizmann, President of the World Zionist Organisation and the Jewish Agency for Palestine, 1921–31 and 1935–46; President of the State of Israel, 1949‑52.
MIDDLE EAST MONITOR