Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine
This presentation is based on a talk given at a meeting of Exeter Rotarians in July 2009. The talk focussed first on acts of terrorism committed on behalf of the state by the Israeli military in the occupied Palestinian territories -- the West Bank, Jerusalem, and Gaza, then on the meaning and the effects of Zionism, and finally on what we can do concerning the situation in Israel-Palestine.
I first met Rasim Abu Hilal in 2007. He lives three miles from the centre of Jerusalem but separated from it by 'the wall,' aka security fence, separation barrier, racial segregation barrier, apartheid wall . Here it is a 7 metre high wall, although along much of its length the barrier is a fence with barbed wire, electronic sensors, a road for Israeli army vehicles, a strip of sand to show foot prints, and trenches . Since 2006 the wall has isolated Rasim and less than quarter of an acre round his house from the 75 acres of grazing and olive groves which he owns and which used to provide his livelihood. In 2007 Rasim still had 6 of his flock of 100 sheep, but because he cannot graze them, all have now gone.
Rasim's olive trees were all cut down by soldiers with chain saws.
An army base associated with the Israeli settlement of Ma'ale Adumim has been built on Rasim's grazing land. In 2005 Ma'ale Adumim had a population of 33,000 and this is expected to increase to 45,000 . Since 1967, Israel has built 120 settlements in the West Bank and 12 in East (Palestinian) Jerusalem . They are in fact towns (or suburbs in Jerusalem) and they are all illegal under international law. Although the Israeli government say they have agreed to a 10-month freeze of settlement building, actually building is continuing apace .
The building of settlements not only involves stealing Palestinian land, but also the theft of water from the aquifers under that land . Settlements are strategically placed to control the water sources. Israeli water consumption per person is more than five times that of the Palestinians, and Israel sells the water it takes from the Palestinian areas charging Palestinians five times the rate it charges Israelis .
Zionist settlers started colonizing Palestine in 1882. The left panel shows, in white, the small proportion of land they had taken for their settlements by 1946. In 1947 (second panel) the UN Partition Plan allocated 54% (white) of mandate Palestine to the Jews, although they formed only one third of the population, and 45% (green) to the Palestinians. By the end of 1948 (third panel) the Jews had seized half of the area allocated to the Palestinians, leaving them with only 22% (green) of mandate Palestine. Much of this ethnic cleansing of Palestinian land occurred in the months before the British military withdrew and the state of Israel was declared in 1948. Since 1967 when the Israeli army occupied the West Bank, which it has never vacated, ethnic cleansing has continued day by day, so that now the Palestinians are left with only about a quarter (right panel) of what they were allocated by the UN.
of the occupied Palestinian territories started with the formation of the
French Hill settlement in East Jerusalem. There are now about 280,000
Israelis living in settlements in the West Bank and 190,000 Israelis
living in East Jerusalem .
Here are Jewish settlers who are living in houses in Sheikh Jarrah in
Palestinian East Jerusalem
after eviction of the Palestinian owners (more).
after eviction of the Palestinian owners (more).
These children live in Hebron Old City. Israeli settlers are wanting their house and are pressuring the family to leave. In December 2008 armed settlers supported by Israeli soldiers broke into the house and set fire to the contents of a room, leaving the wall charred. Settlers and soldiers entered the house again in April 2009, vandalizing the water tanks and a chicken coop on the roof and stole the birds (more).
Dispossession is also occurring in many West Bank villages. For example, the Israeli settlement of Carmel has been built on land belonging to the Bedouin village, Umm Al-Khair, near Hebron. The photo not only shows the red-roofed houses of the settlement, but also encroachment on more village land by caravans occupied by more settlers (backgound left of photo). Settlers frequently harass and attack villagers when they are grazing their sheep, particularly when only women and children are looking after the animals (more).
The state terrorism directed towards the Palestinian population is widespread and never lets up. The above sickening list of some of the crimes perpetrated in a 48 hour period is typical and is no worse than on any other days .
But life goes on and one hopes that the guests at this wedding will forget about the horrors of the occupation for a time.
Before we leave the West Bank and go to Gaza I must mention Bil'in. There are non-violent campaigns in many West Bank villages against the barrier which prevents farmers from going to their land at all or limiting access so that normal farming is impossible. This photo is from Bil'in where there have been demonstrations every week for four years attended by Palestinians, Jewish Israelis and internationals. The barrier, here a fence, prevents the villagers farming 60% of their land . Recently the Israeli army has been using using high velocity teargas projectiles against the demonstrators. As a result, some have been injured and a few killed (more).
From news about Operation Cast Lead, the vicious attack on the people of Gaza from 27 December 2008 to 18 January 2009, I expect you know that the Gaza Strip -- 30 miles long and 5 miles wide at its narrowest part -- is one of the most densely populated places on earth, its 1.5 million people trapped there by barriers between it and Israel and Egypt and by the sea. During Cast Lead, 1400 people were killed, the majority of whom were unarmed civilians including 300 children, and 5000 were injured .
I met the mother of a large family at Al Wafa Hospital in Gaza City in 2003. She was sitting behind her house in the south of the Gaza Strip when a tank approached. Then, she said, a soldier manning a machine gun on the tank started firing at everyone he could see. A bullet passed through her spine causing her to lose the power and feeling in her legs. Another bullet passed through her left breast, a third went through her liver, and a fourth lodged in the muscles of her back (more).
In another ward I saw Awad, a school master. He was sitting in his his house in Jabaliya refugee camp near Gaza City in April 2002 when he was shot by an Israeli sniper. The bullet fragmented in his brain with the result that he lost the ability to move his limbs and became doubly incontinent (more).
When children living in the West Bank or Gaza draw, most of their pictures show the horrors which dominate their lives. This picture was done by a 14-year-old boy who lived in Khan Younis in the south of the Gaza Strip to commemorate the death of a friend on his way home from school, shot by a sniper. It is a copy of a well-known photograph which reminds me of the photo of the Chinese student standing in front of a tank in Tiananmen Square in 1989 where hundreds of pro-democracy demonstrators were massacred. Four days after finishing the drawing, the Palestinian schoolboy met the same fate as his classmate (more).
These are photos of some of the 49 children who were killed, many deliberately, by the Israeli military or by settlers, in Rafah in 2001 and 2002.
In February 2008, Israel's Deputy Defence Minister Vilnai threatened Gaza with a shoah -- the Hebrew word for the holocaust. This turned out to be Operation Cast Lead. What you have not been told is that Cast Lead was but an exacerbation of the regular attacks on people and property in Gaza by air, land and sea which have been going on for at least a decade. The above moonscape was created not by Cast Lead but by the destruction of 560 homes in Rafah in 2003 .
The heightened blockade which Israel has enforced on Gaza for the last two years has caused severe shortages of food and most commodities. The many tunnels under the Egyptian border from Rafah in the Strip have provided a life line to the besieged inhabitants of Gaza .
Palestinians in Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem are certainly suffering ethnic cleansing, but are they being subjected to genocide? Between September 2000 and February 2009, the reported number of Israelis killed by Palestinians was 1072, and of Palestinians killed by Israelis was 6348 . This figure does not include some hundreds of Palestinian who died because of denial by the Israeli military of access to health care outside the occupied territories. Neither does it include the much larger number (estimated at many thousands) of mainly infants and young children suffering from malnutrition and other conditions occurring because the occupying power ignores its responsibilities as laid down in the Fourth Geneva Convention which Israel has signed and ratified . Although the scale of killing of Palestinians bears no comparison to the genocides of Hitler, Stalin, Mao Ze-Dong, or Pol Pot, nevertheless what is being done to the Palestinians is genocide as defined by the UN Genocide Convention.
On a bright note: when I visited a family in Gaza City in 2008, the father showed me onions, okra, tomatoes and mint he was growing on the roof of his house. (In Khan Younis I saw a sheep in a pen on a roof, and pigeons were being reared in a shed up there.) For four years the father had been running an organization called Life Makers. It helps the development of life skills, including growing vegetables. It is a very positive initiative, encouraging young people to consider their aims in life, and stressing helping others and cooperation. With factionalism a divisive reality in Gaza, it is a strength of the organization that it refuses to have any political affiliation.
After we had taken part, in West (Jewish) Jerusalem, in one of the weekly Women in Black demonstrations against the occupation, this man showed me a restaurant where his best friend had been killed by a Palestinian suicide bomber. There is still a small risk of Jewish Israelis being killed by Palestinians, but the risk is very much less than of Palestinians being killed by the Israeli forces and settlers.
This photo was taken in Abu Dis at a demonstration by Jews and Palestinians against the wall. There are many groups of Jewish Israelis for whom the barbarism of political Zionism is the antithesis of their understanding of the Jewish religion and their culture. Unfortunately they are as yet a small minority. There are also many groups of Jews outside Israel who also campaign courageously against the occupation and the oppression of the Palestinians.