FROM BEHIND THE SCENES No 8 April/May 2002 THE MIDDLE EAST CONFLICT
PALESTINIAN PERSPECTIVE Weve all seen the latest horrors of the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians suicide bombings in Israel and Israeli armed forces indiscriminately smashing their way into Palestinian towns and villages. This issue of FBS includes a look at history - something rarely mentioned in the west but well understood in the Arab world. History is vitally important if one is to understand the Palestinian point of view, which has never been fairly presented in the west. Here its quite normal to talk about Arab and Palestinian terrorists and Islamic extremism - Muslim bashing has become almost normal especially since Sept 11th. Terrorism from any source is to be condemned, but history and current events show there is also Jewish terrorism and Jewish extremism which receive rather less attention and which it is rather less acceptable to mention. Lets start with some all important history .
"The Promised Land" - The origin of the conflict is the belief still held by many Jews that they are "Gods chosen people" and that Palestine is "the promised land". This piece of misguided religious indoctrination that one group of people is somehow special, favoured or chosen above everyone else, has set the Jews apart and has led to great conflict, suffering and persecution over the years. It goes back 3000 years or more and is contained in the Book of Deuteronomy, which is in the Jewish "Torah" and also the Christian Bible. This "god" is tyrannical and vengeful - he tells his "chosen people" to drive all other tribes out of the "promised land" and to destroy them (Deuteronomy Chapters 7 & 20)
The Myth of Ancient Israel - Ancient Israel upon which modern Israel attaches considerable importance, was largely a myth archaeological evidence does not support biblical accounts of large scale Jewish immigration or conquest, nor the existence of a nation state in any modern sense, or empire, ruled by Kings David and Solomon. This was essentially a city-state in the central highlands which lasted about 75 years around 1000 BC. Along with the Philistines, the Cannaanites and others, the ancient Israelites were one of many peoples and tribes who inhabited Palestine over the years. (ref. Prof. Keith Whitelam - The Invention of Ancient Israel the silencing of Palestinian history)
No Jewish State for 1,900 years By the time of Jesus Christ, Palestine was part of the Roman empire. Around 63 AD, the Romans crushed a Jewish uprising, causing an exodus of much of the Jewish population often referred to as the "Diaspora" or dispersal. >From then until 1948, no independent Jewish state existed there. A succession of rulers, Roman, Byzantine, Arab, Turkish and ultimately British, governed the area including Jerusalem.
Jews who converted to Islam with the spread of Islam from the 7th century some remaining Jews in Palestine adopted the Muslim religion. (Abraham and Moses revered as prophets by Judaism, are also revered by Islam.) They did not leave, but stayed in their villages and their descendants have remained in Palestine ever since as Palestinian Muslims. (ref: Israeli writer Israel Shamir Galilee Flowers www.israelshamir.net )
Jews with no ancestral links to Palestine - Many Jews now living in modern Israel and elsewhere do not really have any ancestral connection with the area. They are the "Ashkenazim", who are descended from the Khazars - an ancient race of Turkish origin. As a result of their contact with and absorption of some of the Jews who had left Palestine, the Khazars converted en masse to Judaism in the 8th. century. Subsequently conquered by Russia, many remained in Russia, but they also migrated to many parts of eastern Europe. (ref. Arthur Koestler "The Thirteenth Tribe" and see www.khazaria.com )
The Birth of Zionism - Jewish immigration to Palestine began in the late 19th century. This was triggered by rising anti Jewish sentiment in parts of Europe. It became known in Jewish circles as "the return". At the same time the political movement known as Zionism was founded. It was based on the establishment of a Jewish racial and national identity as opposed to Judaism being merely a religion embraced by a number of different groups of peoples. In 1906, Zionist leaders declared their intention to re-establish a Jewish homeland in Palestine.
The Balfour Declaration & Jewish Immigration Jewish immigration increased in the 20th. century especially after the British, assisted by the Arabs, ended Turkish rule of Palestine in 1917. Seen by many Arabs as an act of treachery, the British government then adopted the Balfour Declaration in which it pledged support for the establishment of a Jewish homeland in Palestine, although this was subject to "nothing being done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities".
Riots and Conflict the Arabs in Palestine were generally very unhappy about this continuing influx of newcomers they feared a Jewish take-over eventually. 1929 saw the first attack by Arabs on Jews with deaths on both sides. It became clear the two communities would not coexist peacefully.
Nazi Persecution of Jews - It is a dark irony that Nazi persecution of German Jews in the 1930s in fact served the Zionist cause well its leaders were in direct contact with the German leadership to facilitate the passage of Jews to Palestine. The horrors of what ultimately happened to Jews in Europe and which has understandably come to be relied upon so heavily to justify a Jewish homeland, was compounded by the little known fact that well known Jewish names were amongst the international bankers who covertly helped fund Hitlers Germany.(ref. Antony Sutton Wall Street and the Rise of Hitler).
THE BIRTH OF THE STATE OF ISRAEL terrorism and ethnic cleansing
In 1947, the United Nations General Assembly passed a resolution that Palestine should be divided into Jewish and Arab states. Being a holy site for Christians, Jews and Muslims, Jerusalem was to have been administered internationally. In 1948 the Jewish "Provisional State Council" proclaimed the establishment of a fully independent Jewish state in Palestine called Israel - something it now denies to Palestinians. In the war against the Arabs that followed, the new state of Israel annexed more of Palestine, including the western half of Jerusalem. Fighting had actually begun in Palestine at the end of 1947 before Britain withdrew its troops from the area in May 1948. By the time forces from Egypt, Jordan, Syria and Iraq entered Palestine to help their fellow Arabs, some 750,000 Palestinians had already been driven out of their homes at gun-point or fled in terror in a process that is now described as "ethnic cleansing". The perpetrators of these atrocities were Jewish terrorist organisations - Haganah, Irgun and the Stern Gang. These organisations are honoured in Israel today as "freedom fighters". Many of Israels future leaders came from their ranks for example former Prime Minister Menachem Begin and current Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. In spite of refugees rights to return to their homes being guaranteed by the Geneva Convention and the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, Palestinians have never been allowed to return nor have they been compensated for their loss.
After the 1948 war, the remaining parts of Palestine were divided between Jordan, Syria and Egypt but no formal peace agreement was concluded with Israel Arab states insisted the refugees be allowed to return home Israel should make territorial concessions and Jerusalem should be internationalised. Subsequently there were attacks on Israeli settlements by displaced Palestinians who were now in "camps" in neighbouring states, against which Israel retaliated with cross border incursions.
The 1967 War - as neighbouring Arab states became more united in their opposition to Israel, they massed large concentrations of troops close to Israels borders. On 5/6/67, Israel simultaneously attacked Egypt, Jordan and Syria. Israel took east Jerusalem and the so called "West Bank" from Jordan, and the Golan Heights from Syria. The whole Sinai Peninsula was taken from Egypt but subsequently in 1973 following the "Yom Kippur" war, Israel was forced to hand it back to Egypt, but it retained the "Gaza strip". As a result, Palestine was effectively re-united, but under Israeli control..
Illegal Settlements Since the 1967 war, every Israeli government has set up Jewish settlements in these captured territories especially the West Bank. This has continued at an increasing rate with the massive emigration of Russian Jews since 1989, who were largely looking for a better life outside the economic shambles in Russia following the collapse of the Soviet Union, (ref: Russian Influx Splits Israel Independent 23/9/00). Today east Jerusalem, the third holiest city in Islam, containing the Dome of the Rock and the El Aksa Mosque, is almost encircled. Palestinians continue to be displaced from their homes and to have their land confiscated.. All Israeli settlements in these areas are illegal under international law. Palestinians have seen successive rounds of so called peace negotiations as an attempt by Israel backed by the United States to get them to agree to Israeli demands and to legitimise what has already been taken from them. Israel seeks the whole of Jerusalem to be its capital, and regards this as non negotiable. The media refers to the inhabitants of these illegal settlements as "innocent civilians" when they have come under fire from Palestinians. They could more accurately be described as the "shock troops" of the occupation, being used (in some cases unwittingly) to create a new reality on the ground, expanding Jewish colonisation in the West Bank and making a viable Palestinian state impossible. Many of them are armed and there have been regular instances of fields being set on fire, olive groves uprooted, homes attacked and Palestinians being shot.
United Nations Resolutions - Since 1967 the additional territories, taken over and occupied by Israel have been governed by military force not the rule of law. For the Palestinians in these territories, it has been harsh, brutal, humiliating and basically racist. There have been 11 U.N. Security Council resolutions condemning and censuring Israel's activities and attempts to change the status of Jerusalem, and no less than 24 affirming the application of the Geneva Convention to the territories occupied since 1967. With population growth, according to the UN, persons displaced since 1948 now total 3.5 million. Most of them are still crammed into large "refugee camps" in the West Bank, the Gaza strip and also in Lebanon and Jordan.
The Oslo Accords of 1993 - These negotiations held in Oslo between Israel and the Palestinians did in fact result in the withdrawal of Israeli troops from much of the West Bank and Gaza strip, and the setting up of a Palestinian Authority under Yasser Arafat. However the area was fragmented with Israel retaining control of key areas including east Jerusalem, and all borders with neighbouring Arab states. At this time, acts of terror by extremists were almost non-existent. Crucially the Oslo Accords were supposed to put an end to further Israeli settlements in the occupied territories. This didnt happen and since then many new settlements have been set up and existing ones enlarged.
Suicide Attacks - The first suicide attack after the Oslo Accords was carried on 25th January 1994 by Israeli terrorist Baruch Goldstein who entered a mosque in Hebron killing himself and 50 Muslim worshippers. Goldstein was a member of Kach, a little known Zionist terror organisation, with suspected links with Ariel Sharon. The attack inevitably led to suicide bombings in Israel by extremist Palestinian groups Hamas and Islamic Jihad. Yasser Arafats Palestinian Authority made a determined effort to crack down on these terror groups who threatened the peace process which it was still hoped would lead to the setting up of a Palestinian state. The fragile alliance between Arafat and then Israeli Prime Minister Rabin was only finally broken when Rabin was assassinated by an Israeli in November 1995 (Ref: On Target Magazine 12- 26 Jan 2002, 26 Meadow Lane Sudbury Suffolk C010 2TD.)
SHARONS REAL OBJECTIVES?
Israeli Prime Minister Sharon and his right wing colleagues in Israel will not tolerate a Palestinian state adjoining Israel. They would see the mass expulsion of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza, to Jordan and other Arab states, and the annexation of these territories to Israel. His real enemies are moderate Palestinians you have to talk to moderates which can be very tricky. Terrorists you can fight a much simpler way of getting what you want especially when you have massive military superiority with the latest equipment provided by the US and to a lesser extent Britain. In other words you need acts of terrorism directed at innocent civilians in Israel in order to provide the excuse for military intervention in the West Bank and Gaza.
To that end Sharon provocatively marched into the holy site of Islam in East Jerusalem with an armed guard in September 2000 triggering mass Palestinian protests. Subsequently Israeli assassination squads entered the West Bank and killed prominent Palestinians, alleged to be terrorists. This triggered the latest round of horrific suicide bombings in Israel prior to which Hamas had agreed not to carry out any attacks in Israel itself. Sharon now had his excuse to reoccupy all of the West Bank which he is now in the process of doing. Before that he had targeted Arafats police and security forces then Arafat was demonised and blamed for not doing enough to curb terrorism.
Sharon is still carrying most Israeli public opinion with him, but some Israelis are bitterly opposed to what is going on and the same applies to many Jews throughout the world who do not see Israel as representing or acting in the name of world Jewry as a whole
MY JEWISH & HUMAN DUTY TO REFUSE TO SERVE - a letter (slightly shortened) from Israeli citizen Sergio Yahni to the Minister of Defence Ben Eliezer,. 19th March 2002 (From Fraser Clark Newsletter UP 107 www.parallel-youniversity.com )
An officer for whom you are responsible has sentenced me today to 28 days in military
prison for my refusal to serve in reserve duty. I did not refuse only to serve in the
Occupied Palestinian Territories, I refused to serve in the Israeli army in any capacity.
Since 29th September 2000, the Israeli army has waged a 'dirty war' against the Palestinian Authority. This dirty war includes extra-judicial killings, the murder of women and children, the destruction of the economic and social infrastructure of the Palestinian population. You have sowed fear and despair but failed to achieve your ultimate objective; the Palestinian people have not given up their dream of sovereignty and independence. Neither have you provided security for your own people despite all the destructive violence of the army. In the light of your great failure, we are now witness to an intellectual debate amongst Israelis of the worst kind: a discussion about the possible deportation and the mass killing of Palestinians.
Israelis are also the victims of this war. They are the victims of the irresponsible and failed aggression of the army over which you are responsible. Even when you waged the most deadly attacks on the Palestinian people, you did not fulfil your duty: giving security to the citizens of Israel. Tanks in Ramallah cannot stop your most monstrous creation: the desperation which explodes in coffee shops. You, and the military officers under your command, have created human beings whose humanity disappears out of desperation and humiliation. You have created this despair and you cannot stop it.
It is clear to me that you have risked all of our lives only in order to continue building illegal and immoral settlements. For the past 35 years, the settlements have turned Israeli society into a danger zone.
Therefore I will not serve in your army. Your army that calls itself the 'Israeli Defence Force' is nothing more than the armed wing of the settlement movement. This army does not exist to bring security to the citizens of Israel, it exists to guarantee the continuation of the theft of Palestinian land. As a Jew, I am repelled by the crimes this militia commits against the Palestinian people.
It is both my Jewish and human duty to resolutely refuse to take any part in this army. As the son of a people victim to pogroms and destruction, I cannot be a part of your insane policies. As a human being, it is my duty to refuse to participate in any institution which commits crimes against humanity.
Whatever the rights and wrongs of the past, the fact is that Israel is now home to six million Jews they are in fact a very varied community from many parts of the world - some strictly religious, some entirely secular. They have nowhere else to go and most of them basically just want to live their lives peacefully. They have had enough of feeling that they are under siege, surrounded by hostile neighbours and being in a perpetual state of military call up. Whilst most Palestinians now accept Israels existence, what they cannot accept is any more humiliation at the hands of one of the most powerfully armed and aggressive regimes in the world. Nevertheless peace is impossible whilst Islamic extremists talk of uniting in a holy war in the name of Allah, to destroy Israel, preaching martyrhood and coaxing desperate young men and women to become suicide bombers. Nor will there be peace if Israel remains an ethnic state where only Jews can own land and have full rights of citizenship, with Palestinians relegated to the Gaza strip and fragmented areas in the West Bank. The traditional solution to the problem has been that Israel should withdraw to its 1967 borders, and a Palestinian state comprising the West Bank and Gaza strip should be set up, in return for which Israels security would be guaranteed. However in "A Tale of Two States" (www.israelshamir.net ) Israel Shamir explains why he sees the only way for Palestinians to escape serfdom is to join Israel -. i.e. Israel, the West Bank and Gaza strip becomes a single democratic state, one person one vote and full rights throughout for Jews and Palestinians. Jews and Arabs could then settle anywhere in the new state which would naturally have Jerusalem as its capital. He says talk of a Palestinian state by the Israeli elite is a fraud, because they will never relinquish any part of historical Palestine a Palestinian mini state would be the result - fragmented like reservations and geared to serve the economic interests of Jewish masters in Israel. "A just peace will not be signed by Israel they will always find an exit strategy out of the "peace process". His vision is that there must be "one law for both the native sons of the land and the newcomers". The blessings of the Holy Land should be shared by all, for "within the Jewish people there were always spiritual descendants of the prophets who wished to bring peace and blessing to all the children of Adam " Just a handful of people see this as a possible solution. (See Red Pepper Magazine Feb 2002 "Why I wont fight in Gaza" by Yair Khilou www.redpepper.org.uk ) The idea that a person belongs to a nation by virtue of blood is an outdated notion in our modern world as outdated in Israel/Palestine as anywhere else.
Richard Greaves "The Old Stables" Cusop, Herefordshire HR3 5RQ E-mail email@example.com
For fuller details of the history of the region , see www.palestinehistory.com For information on recent events in Palestine see Media Workers against War www.mwaw.org