If you are thinking of writing your memoirs for future generations, you might just as well tell them that you lived in an era unprecedented in Palestine’s 5,000 years of history. Never before in this long history has been such a major reversal of fortunes, such massive depopulation of a country, such comprehensive looting and robbery of land and property, such persistent and inflicted continuous death and destruction of a people. Today it is 93 years since Balfour declaration, which usured this era of destruction of Palestine. Today it is 22,890 days from the onset of al Nakba.
What happens in Palestine is not merely the incidence of war crimes during wars. The terrible war crimes in Europe in WWII occurred during the heat of war and terminated with its termination. Here in Palestine, we have a consistent system of war crimes: not only 77 massacres in 1948/49 but thereafter in the fifties in Qibya and Bureij, in the sixties in Khan Younis, in the seventies in Beirut, in the eighties in Sabra and Shatila, in the nineties in Rafah, in this century in Jenin and Gaza. These war crimes occur every single day since 1948, every time you open your newspaper.
What happens in Palestine is not merely occupation. It is much more than that. Occupation means military control of a country for a limited period of time. Soldiers come and go. Israeli occupation is brutal, indefinite in duration and is an instrument of robbery, destruction and confiscation.
What happens in Palestine is not merely not South African Apartheid. It is more than that. In South Africa, black people were not removed from the country or ethnically cleansed on a comprehensive scale. In Palestine, all this was done.
What happens in Palestine is not merely racism as found socially in some societies. It is an institutional racism embodied in at least 24 Israeli laws. Without these racist laws, there will be no Israel and no Zionism.
What happens in Palestine in not only a colonial project, although this is the closest description. Colonial projects steal the country’s natural resources and use its people as cheap labour. They do not totally dispossess them or expel them out of their country. In the mid-20th century, while British colonial soldiers were packing their bags and leaving India and Asia to Europe, Zionist soldiers were pouring in the opposite direction to Palestine to conquer it.
I could go on and on. Israeli policies are a lethal combination of all these descriptions, a feat, if such is the word, not achieved by any other evil in history.
Thus Israel constructed itself today as a peculiar combination of: a very backward tribal society, propelled by a racist anachronistic colonial ideology and armed with lethal high-tech armament. It is an extremely dangerous combination.
How did this extraordinary situation arose? Its weapons are 4 Ms: Myths, Money, Media and Military.
Myths were needed to create a virtual world in the absence of legitimate facts. Such myths go from the absurd, such that God gave them Palestine, to the false, that Palestine is a land without people.
Money is the instrument that bought politicians in a brazen and unashamed manner. Consider for a moment the scandalous recent resolution of the Congress to condemn an act of international law which recognized Palestine as an independent state.
Media, and its manipulation to exchange the identification of the murderer and the victim, is another causality of the misuse of money, to twist, distort and conceal facts.
Military is the instrument to openly conquer, kill and rob, having secured the silence, and indeed the cooperation, of western colonial powers.
When we go into the details of this struggle, we are told, “let us not go back into history”, or “the situation is very complicated”.
If a murderer killed yesterday and is killing today and will kill tomorrow, do you not save humanity from his deeds?
If a robber continuously robs houses all the time, do you not stop him and recover the stolen property? Do you not punish the thief?
To allow these crimes is against the elementary principles of justice. It is against the law in any country.
And the conflict is not complicated. Its tools and methods may vary but the basic facts are simple, as I hope this presentation will show.
One simple fact is that al Nakba is not a traffic accident or a causality of a limited war. Al Nakba is going on from 1948 till today. Zionist objectives did not change a bit since the wealthy European Jews met in Basel in 1897 to carve a colony for themselves. The methods have changed but the principles remained the same.
And who is standing against all this major international colonial project? The ordinary family of Palestinians, determined to survive and determined to resist, determined to refuse to die and disappear. If we understand this simple principle, we can answer those who keep telling us the situation is very complicated. No it is not. It is not complicated.
And yes, we have to go to roots, to the original sin, we have to go to 1917, we have to go to 1948, we have to go to 1993. Going back to roots is not anachronistic. So beware of those who tell you, you cannot turn the clock back. The essence of justice is to trace the murderer, to expose the crime and to restore the normal situation. Zionist practices in Palestine destroyed man, stone and memory. But man’s human spirit is very difficult to destroy. This already has been demonstrated by Palestinians. As a Palestinian, you survive, you resist, and you come forth in different places and different fields, still claiming your right in Palestine. The stone could be destroyed. But human spirit will always be there to rebuild it. The memory could be destroyed if it is in the minds of people who die. But it could survive in a massive library of documentation about Palestine.
So contrary to the wishes of those who do not want us to know about the original sin, let’s go back to its origins. Only in this way, we can restore justice.
This is Palestine which Gen. Allenby found when he came to concur it in 1917 [Slide-2]. The rich coastal plain and rich mountain terrace and the rich Jordan valley. It is not a desert. People lived there in about 1000 towns and villages. One thousand towns and villages, can you imagine that? These towns and villages were known and charted in the 19th century by several surveyors including the British Palestine Exploration Fund. So it comes as a master act of deception, when the Zionists submitted to the Versailles conference in Paris 1919, a map, [Slide-3] showing that Palestine is merely a grazing land for nomads. Nobody owns it. They wrote over one thousand towns and villages ‘grazing land for nomads'. Nomads come and go; they have no property rights. So the land is terra nullius.
If the Zionist thought they could deceive others by this major act of deception, why should the colonial powers, at the time Britain and France, believe them? They already have masses of documents about Palestine. But this is of course part of the collusion.
And the collusion did not stop thereafter until today. After 30 years of British domination disguised as a Mandate to bring independence to Palestine, a proposal was made in the United Nations to partition Palestine between those immigrants who just landed at Palestine shores in the middle of the night on a raft and a majority of Arab population of Palestine. [Slide-4 A, B]
It was proposed that those new immigrants to be granted sovereignty and not the property, sovereignty over 55% of Palestine and the rest less than half, for its own people, the Palestinians. [Slide-4C]. Needless to say neither United Nations nor any power has the right to divide the country which belongs to the people. Any resolution like that is meaningless. Unless of course the people of the country, the Palestinians, agree to give away more than half of their country, which they did not. The Zionists, now called Israelis, declared the state on 14th of May 1948. That was on the eve of the unceremonious flight of the British from their duty to bring independence to a democratic Palestine. But before Israel was declared, Ben Gurion, while the British were watching, managed to depopulate 220 Palestinian villages, mostly along the coastal line, whose people were supposed to be citizens of the so called Jewish state. He did not want Arabs in that state although the Partition plan specifically required everybody to stay where they are under the protection of the law. He wanted it Arab rein. That is what we call Ethnic Cleansing and it is ethnic cleansing nonstop from that day till tomorrow until they are stopped. So Ben Gurion, through 31 military operations, took over 78% of Palestine [Slide-4D]. That is, making 85% of the people in the land that became Israel homeless and refugees to this day. This conquest was carried out entirely by military power, far superior to any resistance the Palestinian could afford and far superior to the feeble effort by Arab regular forces to stop it.
So here it is then. Al Nakba 48 can be a represented by this slide [Slide-5]. I repeat al Nakba 48 is not a one year event, it is continuing until today. This expulsion of people was propelled and accelerated by massacres and by arbitrary killing since then. At the time of writing I see the picture of a 65 year old man murdered in his bed in Hebron.
There is a very thin line between this and genocide. If you commit a massacre in a village and the rest of population managed to escape, you intend to kill the people if they do not leave their homes fright. Ilan Pappe said "there is a very thin line between ethnic cleansing and genocide".
Now Israelis have become very professional in this, so they commit genocide slowly, as they do in Gaza. The mechanics of expulsion have been carefully applied most meticulously, without written orders. It was generally understood by the Battalions without the need for written orders. Take the case of Bureir Village in which a massacre was committed and the people were expelled on 13th of May. Remember, 13th of May, two days before the end of the Mandate. The pattern of this expulsion and massacre is the same all over. It is rehearsed and known by everybody without the need for any papers.
Here it is. [Slide-6]. It shows the village surrounded from 3 sides, leaving one side (north) open. Israelis attacked by armoured vehicles from the west and the south, and bombarded the village from the east. They easily overcame unarmed farmers. Then they got into each house where a family was huddled together in one corner and threw grenades at them. Because they were farmers, they had a lot of hay. Their houses were torched and the whole village went up in flames.
We have eye witness accounts of survivors of this particular massacre. We have the names of 133 people killed. Recently, Zochrot, the Israeli group who inform Israelis about al Nakba brought one of the Haganah soldiers who participated in this massacre to speak. He was 19 at that time and he obliquely admitted it.
Therefore, the pattern of expulsion became routine. The village is surrounded from 3 sides leaving the fourth open for expulsion. After conquering the village, farmers were collected in a square, men on one side and women and children on the other side. The women were expelled towards the open route after being stripped off their jewellery and money. Some of the young men were selected to dig open graves for themselves at a little distance from the main group and they were shot and dumped in the pit.
This is a photo [Slide-7] of the notorious Tantura massacre unearthed to the west by Teddy Katz 8 years ago, although a Palestinian survivor reported his experience 60 years ago.
These massacres took place in the wake of Nazi atrocities in WWII. The perpetrators in Palestine were the survivors of the Nazi Holocaust, or could have been. It is therefore not surprising that the pattern of the massacres is not accidental. Daniel Godhagen in his book, “Hitler’s Willing Executioners”, shows how the German Unit 101 was given free orders to catch Jews and detain them. [Slide-8]. Then they were made to dig graves for themselves, killed and dumped them there. [Slide-9]. Some of you may recall that Sharon committed his massacres in the West Bank and Gaza, in the early fifties, commanding a battalion called Unit 101.
The last two slides were taken in Nazi Germany. This slide [Slide-10] is taken in Palestine of the captured civilians in Ramla. A foreboding sense of dejas vu is overwhelming. Those captured farmers begging for a drink of water in July heat in Ramadan 1948.
The Israelis took the captured farmers as prisoners of war. They were the civilian population in all the villages they occupied. They never carried arms and did not participate in fighting; they do not know how to fight.
They were taking to Forced Labour Camps. Yes, Forced Labour Camps? That was only 3 years after the Forced Labour Camps in Nazi Germany were liberated. The commandants of these Forced Labour Camps were German Jews. The Red Cross in their visiting reports gave their names: Shneidmann, Weissbach, Mosedale, Rappoport and Kossovsky.
These were the 5 official POW visited by the Red Cross. [Slide-11]. I have looked at 500 documents of the Red Cross and was amazed at the bland language in which the Red Cross described their condition. They accepted the civilians to be treated as “prisoners of war” although they were not combatants because they thought this was the best way to protect them. Soldiers who are prisoners of war are not required to help the military effort of the enemy. But those captured civilians were made to dig army trenches, bury the dead, make camouflage nets and so on. Red Cross managed to locate and to visit only five camps. In fact we interviewed 2 dozen survivors and found that there were 17 other undeclared Forced Labour Camps in Israel never visited by the Red Cross.
So here then is the origin of the refugee problem, which is with us today. We hear a lot about the life of the refugees in exile but we don’t hear about what happened to their Palestinian homes and property. Now for the first time we show a detailed study about that.
These details I am going to show you today have not been widely known, least of all in Israel, because they do not of course want what happened to be known. There was frenzy of Jewish looting and plunder. The Israeli writer, Moshe Smilansky wrote, “The urge to grab has seized everyone. Individuals, groups and communities, men, women and children, all fell on the spoils. Doors, windows, lintels, bricks, tiles, junk, machine parts, toilets, sinks” were ripped off and taken. The first victim of this major looting was the main cities of Jaffa, Haifa, Lydda, Ramla and Jerusalem. [Slide-12 A, B] The first group of looters of course were the nearby Kibbutz or Jewish neighbourhoods who knew a lot about their Arab neighbours. The second groups of looters were the army officers, who in the case of Lydda filled 1800 trucks. The third group of looters were high level Mapai members who divided Jerusalem fine houses among them. The fourth group of looters were Jewish businessmen who divided Palestinian stores, workshops, stores and factories. But the biggest looter of all was the Jewish agency and the Jewish National Fund who were left with the whole property of the Palestine, namely 93% of the land of Palestine, plus all the public amenities, airports, quarries, and water resources. Then all these villages were destroyed [Slide-12C] to prevent the return of the refugees. But not before Israeli archaeologists looked in the debris to find any artifacts which may be used to create Jewdaized history. Everything else was destroyed. [Slide-12 D, E]
The worst of all was the loss of the record of human heritage. As you know Palestine is a very ancient county. It has a rich history; every layer of its soil speaks of an epoc of civilization. Israel destroyed most of that. Israel destroyed ancient villages.
Here is a photo of the Tiberias [Slide-13]. The whole old city shown in yellow was completely destroyed. Its historical monuments, such as a lion stone relief, 3,500 years old, were destroyed.
One of the early records we have of Palestine is the Gazette of its main towns and villages prepared in the year 313 by the Bishop of Caesarea, Philip Eusebieus. We are fortunate to have his book, written in old Greek, now available in English. We were able to identify 139 villages which were in existence almost 2,000 years ago, and are now destroyed by Israel. Here they are. [Slide-14 A, B, C]
This tragic and irreversible loss to the history of humanity is unforgivable by any standards and by anybody.
So here is the essence of al Nakba [Slide-15 A, B, C]. 675 villages were wiped out and the life was extinguished in them. [Slide-15B]. The survivors of massacres and labour camps found their way in tortuous routes to the unoccupied parts of Palestine and neighbouring countries. Al Nakba is complete, comprehensive and continuous ethnic cleansing.
No where ethnic cleansing is clearer than in Gaza Strip. Southern Palestine, with its 247 towns and villages, had been completely and totally ethnically cleansed. All the people have been huddled in an area which is only 1% of Palestine, that is Gaza Strip. 1.5 million people are concentrated in the most crowded place on earth. Not only that. There were mysterious agreements [Slide-16]. The Armistice Agreement of February 1949 Gaza Strip (red line) with an area of 555 sq. km. Through deception and arm twisting the Israeli created a new line called modus Vivendi (blue line) in which 200 sq. kms have been bitten off from Gaza strip, reducing it to only 362 sq.km. So this area shrank even more and that shaded red area has been annexed to Israel quite illegally. And so we have now Gaza Strip. [Slide-17 A, B]. These are the depopulated villages huddled in Gaza Strip in 8 camps [Slide-17] surrounded by barbed wire and by Israeli control from all directions. [Slide-18] This woman has become the victim of Israeli war crimes twice in her life, if not many more.
Well, of course, you know that land grabbing has not stopped after 1948. It continued around the borders and the Armistice Line. In 1967 Israelis occupied all of Palestine 100% and parts of Syria, Lebanon and Egypt. It occupied what was left of Palestine, (22% in the West Bank). They built their apartheid wall condemned by the world community. The important thing to remember is that this wall was meant to grab all the water resources of West Bank, Particularly the aquifers which contained. The western is the biggest and richest, and that is where the wall is created. The land grabbing is designed to dismember families and cause them to leave. This grabbing continues today in Jerusalem. The Apartheid wall is meant also to separate all Palestinian villages from their capital Jerusalem.
It also continues in Beer Sheba district, which is larger than the West Bank. But here the dispossessed are Israeli citizens–although not Jews. Racist laws chase them too. Araqeeb village was destroyed 6 times on the incredible claim that its people are “invaders” while Russian Jews are the owner of the land.
In spite of the land grabbing, occupation, expulsion and blockade of Palestine, the Israeli Jews in that part of Palestine which became Israel are still located in the same places they were located during the British Mandate. Our study had clearly shown that 84% of Israelis Jews live in only 17% of Israel. Who lives in the other part and who uses it? A tiny portion Israeli Jews, 2% who are the Kibbutz and Moshav. The rest is all taken by the Israeli army, for its formidable structure of factories, bases, airports, WMD depos and so on.
Let us take a closer look, [Slide-19 A, B, C, D, E] at an area which has been subject to vast changes since 1948, that is from Jaffa and Jerusalem in the north to Gaza in the South. This slide shows the number of Palestinian villages and their land area. Almost all of these have been ethnically cleansed and its population were expelled to Gaza in the south or to West Bank in the East. So what did Israelis do with the land? [Slide-15B]. The Israelis enlarged Tel-Aviv and three Palestinian cities in the south: Isdud, al Majdal, and Beer Sheba and a little else. The major looter, JNF, [Slide-15C] took over these lands shown here, where they have few Kibbutzim. But the major use of this area is infact military. If there is peace we don’t need these military bases and then refugees can return to their homes.
So now we come to the obvious conclusion: the ethnic cleansing cannot be allowed go on. We have to think of ways how to reverse the war crime of perpetual ethnic cleansing.
To start with Palestinians today are 11 million people and 88% of them are still in Palestine and a ring around it about 150 miles wide. They did not disappear. Therefore we can ask: how it is possible to get them back to their homes. We know where they are today. We know the original villages of each camp.
Then the question arises who lives in their place now. Take the example of the Northern District. We made a study the existing population in Israel and divided them into 5 categories [Slide-20].
- The Palestinians who remained in Israel,
- The Ashkenazis who helped to establish the state of Israel,
- The Arab Jews who were brought came to fill the void in Palestine after the expulsion of Palestine,
- The European Jews who came in the wake of 1967 war and,
- The Russians who emigrated nineties of the last century.
Then we ask the question, what about those refugees whose homes are in this northern district. Yes we can bring them back. They are mostly in Syria and Lebanon today. They can return back to find that half the population there is their kith and kin. Moreover there is no over-lapping between the old and new. There is no crowdedness whatsoever except in cities like Acre and Haifa which would have more population, but that is manageable.
We can repeat the same exercise in the south, which, in this case, is far simpler than the north.
When this is done, when international law is applied, we have to do lots of essential things but quite manageable. Of course, the Palestinians not only lost their land and property but they also lost public buildings, civil buildings, air fields, camps, railways, roads, religious sites, water resources, all these must be restored. [Slide-21]. We also must do our best to restore of the history of humanity by repairing or retrieving the looted or destroyed archeological sites. We must also heal the environment. In their rush to build, the Zionists destroyed a lot of the natural environment and increased the pollution to a very great extent.
All this must be cleaned up.
We all are duty bound to uphold and defend justice. Your parents or grandparents fought Nazi Germany and Faschist Italy. Some of them may have fought against Stalin concentration camps. Older generation may have fought Franco dictatorship in 1936. It is for this very reason you should fight evil practices. Such legacy is handed down to you by your grandparents.
In this century, in Durban I in 2001, many of you, present here, representing 4,000 NGOs worldwide, stood by Palestinian rights and denounced Israeli racism and apartheid.
Now is the time to act. At the age of internet, satellite TV and newspaper headlines, nobody can claim, “I did not know”. Silence is complicity to the crime.
Justice must prevail in the end. There is nothing more fundamental than the right of a human being to return to his home and live in freedom. Let us make that happen soon.