Source: Washington Report on Middle East Affairs
In the Middle Ages, they burned books on science and astronomy. In the 19th century, colonial powers promoted the super-race theory. In 1948, the Zionist narrative of the destruction of Palestine and the building of Israel on its ruins was hailed as the fulfillment of Divine Will and a victory of civilization. In all these cases the truth was not allowed to emerge, with devastating results for humanity. Now with the age of the Internet, satellites and computers, there is no excuse for anyone to say: I did not know. We do not need an innocent boy to exclaim, “But the emperor has no clothes!”.
The indisputable fact is that Palestine and Palestinians experienced the largest, longest planned and still continuous ethnic cleansing operation in modern history. With British collusion during the Mandate period, European Jews were allowed to immigrate to Palestine. Their number increased from 9 percent of the population to 30 percent when the British ended the Mandate on May 15, 1948. But their land holdings never exceeded 5 percent to 6 percent of the Palestine area.
Six weeks before the British departure, Zionists expelled half of the total Palestinian refugees and declared the state of Israel on 11 percent of Palestine on May 14, 1948. On that date, Arab regular forces came to defend the Palestinians, but they failed and the Zionists (now Israelis) conquered 78 percent of Palestine. They depopulated 675 towns, villages and hamlets by expulsion, massacres, harassment and fear [Map-1]. Contrary to the case in all other war situations, the refugees were not allowed to return to their homes when hostilities ceased.
Today, two-thirds of the Palestinian people do not live in their homes. If we add those displaced in the 1967 Israel occupation of the West Bank, three-quarters of the Palestinians–the largest percentage of any people–are denied the basic human right to live in their homes. The number of refugees as of mid-2008 was 6,600,000. Of these only 4,618,000 were registered with UNRWA.
In spite of this calamity, 88 percent of Palestinians live in Palestine (under Israeli rule) and in exile in countries neighboring Palestine. [Map-2]. Only 12 percent now reside in faraway Arab and foreign countries. The obvious conclusion is that Palestinians are here to stay.
The Israeli policy, from its date of establishment, has been to get rid of them. All the plans devised in the last 62 years by Israel and its supporters have been aimed at getting rid of Palestinians–by attacking and bombing their refugee camps (Jenin, Rafah, Sabra, Shatila and others) and by devising plans to relocate them as far as possible from Palestine.
United Nations Resolution-194, calling for the return of refugees, has been affirmed by the UN more than 110 times since its passage on Dec. 11, 1948. Neither it nor all the other international covenants of human rights have been implemented with regard to the Palestinians. On the other hand, none of the Israeli and Western plans to bring “peace” to the region comply with international law. Instead all aim to complete the unfinished ethnic cleansing (itself a war crime) by coercion, siege, starvation and financial promises and political pressure on Arab leaders.
Two weeks after the Declaration of the State of Israel on May 14, 1948, Israel commissioned Dr. Joseph Schechtman, a Jewish expert in population movement and an associate of the extremist Vladimir Jabotinsky, to devise a plan for getting rid of the Palestinians. His plan essentially has served as the blueprint for Israeli policy since then. It was adopted by the Transfer Committee of 1948, repackaged by Gen. Shlomo Gazit of Israeli intelligence in 1994, and re-floated in President Bill Clinton’s 2002 plan, and all those in between.
In brief, Schechtman’s plan calls for:
- the denial of refugees’ right to return (done);
- destruction of their villages (done);
- settlement of Jews in Palestinian villages (largely failed);
- dividing Palestinian war spoils–land and property–among Jews (done, but with no legal ownership deed);
- extrication of Arab Jews to Israel (done);
- launching of a propaganda campaign that it is “impossible” for the refugees to return (successful in the West); and
- creating plans for the absorption of Palestinians in neighboring countries (relentlessly tried, but failed).
So here we have a stalemate: the Palestinian refugees are not allowed to return, but they do not give up and they will not disappear. The Israelis continue until today, quite openly, the ethnic cleansing in Galilee, Beer Sheba and the West Bank. Their new leaders, like the Russian Avigdor Lieberman, declare plans to oust the remainder of Palestinians, including Israeli citizens, from Palestine altogether. The Nakba is still going on.
Palestinians believe that the right of return is sacred, legal and–as I will show–feasible. It is sacred because no force or miracle will convince the Palestinians that the land they and their ancestors lived on for centuries is not theirs. The right to live in your home in freedom is the most fundamental right which cannot be bartered for anything. It is of a higher order than the sovereignty over a territory which creates a state.
It is legal because of the myriad of international resolutions and covenants which support the right of return. It is an “inalienable right” which cannot be bargained away by any leader. In fact, Israel’s admission to the UN was “conditional” upon its acceptance of Resolution-194.
Why must we prove it is feasible? If an armed robber attacks your house and throws out your family, why do you have to prove that the robber is not using all the house and there are two rooms in your house which you can use? The mentality in the West is such that it does not want to see “Jewish refugees” return to their homelands in Europe, but does not mind Palestinian refugees remaining in exile. On this immoral (and impractical) premise are Western plans based. Once again, however, facts do not validate this premise.
The first question to ask is: what did Israelis do with the Palestinian land, 93 percent of Israel’s area (20,500 sq. km.)? As [Map-3] clearly shows, 63 percent of Israeli Jews live in 7 percent of Israel and 84 percent live in 17 percent of Israel. The 17 percent is even a bit generous: Israeli figures cite 12 percent. In fact, the urban area is only 2.5 percent of the area. Israeli Jews congregate in urban areas in and around the territory they acquired during the Mandate.
Who then uses the remainder–which is essentially the land of the expelled Palestinians? Israeli figures, as computed by 250 Israeli experts who prepared the plan for Israel in 2020, show that the remainder (88 percent) is used as follows:
27 percent for the military, 24 percent open space and 37 percent vacant. The latter includes the agricultural area (around 4,000 sq. km.) cultivated by the kibbutzim. The kibbutz movement is dying ideologically and economically. Israeli Jews today are not much impressed by the old Zionist slogan, “The Jew returns to cultivating the land with a rifle slung over his shoulder”. Instead they reverted back to urban life and traditional occupations in trade and finance.
Not only is there little renewal of the kibbutz older generation, but its contribution to Israel’s GDP is a mere 1.5 percent. Thus the symbolic welfare of some 200,000 kibbutzniks is pitted against the lives and livelihood of 6.5 million Palestinian refugees yearning to return home.
The vast Israeli military structure–including 55 airports, 3 dozen depots of WMD, military fields and factories, which gobbles up one-quarter of the country and has the authority to expand over half of it–would not be needed if peace prevails. In fact, the removal of this time-bomb, which can and did ignite wars in Palestine, Lebanon, Jordan, Syria and Egypt, and could conceivably extend east to Iran and Pakistan and west to Austria and Germany, is a great gift to world peace.
Thus the return of the Palestinian refugees will not bring major displacement to Jews in Israel who wish to live in harmony with their erstwhile hosts when they landed on Palestine shores from a smuggler’s ship.
The return is easily manageable. We have a huge database and we know who the refugees are, by name, by family, by village of origin, what they own, the limit of their land and where they are exiled today, in which camp or country Their return is much less awkward and expensive than bringing Jewish immigrants to Palestine. Many can walk to their homes, literally within sight. Most can take a one or two-hour bus ride. They can rebuild their homes at the exact spot of their destroyed village. Ninety percent of the village sites are still vacant. There are enough Palestinian engineers and skilled workers to build the needed one million dwelling units.
Our studies have shown that the total return of refugees can be achieved in phases which would take at most 6 to 8 years to complete. An added advantage is that the cost of return is much cheaper than the compensation for stolen land and property, which could reach $500 billion. It is definitely cheaper than the subsidy paid by the US for Israel’s economy and military which runs into $110 billion and counting.
So what is the problem? Is it the Palestinian “demographic bomb”? How could any civilized person consider the natural growth of a people in their country a menace to be removed? Were this racist notion applied to other people it would rightly raise a hell of a protest and condemnation.
If this racist notion is applied to Palestinians, it means that Israel has the license to expel, destroy and annihilate Palestinians whenever it sees fit. Who will stand for this? Besides, this racist notion is bound to be futile, for the Palestinians will grow to about 60 million in 50 years, and no force on earth will eliminate them (alone).
The cure is not here. The permanent cure to the ills which inflicted this holy land, and which lasted for 100 years, is to remove all vestiges of racism, apartheid, occupation and oppression, just as the world community and international law constantly call for. Feeding the machine of destruction will turn it ultimately against the feeder. There is only one road to peace: The road of justice.