To predict that Zionism will vanish or be totally discredited is probably difficult to imagine now, but in reality it is inevitable. The reasons for the eventual demise of Zionism are several.
Zionism has been based on a huge pile of mythology, fabrication and religious ideology, such as ‘Palestine is a land without a people’ or ‘Palestine is a God-given land for Jews’. This mythology is of course groundless and cannot be the basis of any rights in the modern age.
It is also true that Zionism is a colonial project, conceived and implemented with the support of the old colonial powers, which shed their own colonial projects by the middle of the 20th century. Even if it had taken root in the 19th century, Zionism would have been abolished by the mid-20th century, as was the case with the European colonial projects.
Employing Jabotinsky’s doctrine, Zionism relies solely on brutal military force, without the need for any moral or legal justification. It depends on waging constant wars, all of which must be victorious. This never gives long life to any movement.
The movement’s adherents have implemented the largest comprehensive meticulously-executed ethnic cleansing in modern history in which the Palestinian populations of 675 villages were expelled from their homes. Although Israel managed so far to capture and confiscate their property, the Palestinian population remains largely in Palestine and along its borders, almost equally divided between the two. Therefore, the owners of the land who have never given up their right of return are a physical reality on the land.
Israel not only expelled the Palestinian population, but it denied them the right to return over the last six decades and continued to implement the ethnic cleansing and confiscation of land wherever possible. So here we have a case of on-going ethnic cleansing, not confined to a historical crime of historic proportions which was committed in 1948.
Although the Israeli narrative has dominated the western media for more than five decades concealing or justifying its racism, Israeli practices have now, through better world communications, revealed the true face of Israel and vindicated the Palestinian narrative of 1948. That meant that most of the world, with an increasing number of popular human rights movements in Europe and America, consider Zionism a threat to world peace and Israel a pariah state. History teaches us that such ideologies and practices, as was the case of Apartheid South Africa do not last. When they fall, they do so unexpectedly, without much ceremony and without tears shed over them.
The demise of Zionism however may take a different form, because it has considerable centers of political and financial power and a strong control over the media in the United States and Western Europe.
There are three possible scenarios for the demise of Zionism. The first is the ‘Big Bang Theory’. That could occur when the United States finds that Israel is a major liability, siphoning off its financial resources, driving it to do Israel’s wars, and creating more enemies for the United States than it can handle at one time. This scenario is unlikely at present.
The second scenario is an accumulation of financial and political situations in which Israel supporters have to face the consequences of their actions, which they have never done so far, through reducing their influence and their trade benefits with other countries harmed by their actions. Again, this will lead to the conclusion that Israeli practices are a constant danger to world peace, which cannot be tolerated by an increasing number of countries.
The third scenario is a long attrition of Israel’s position which can come from several directions. One of them is the growing popular boycott of Israel by large sections of the world population, especially in the West. Also, there are changes within Israeli society which caused so far three-quarter million Israelis to leave Israel. These are mostly liberal European and American Jews who have a good education and higher mobility so they can live happier lives in the West. Another factor is the rapid rise of the Israeli right-wing extremists and their ascendency to power through its two wings: the secular rightists and the religious zealots. This process of attrition will take a long time and will be defended by a core of the military-intelligence institutions complex in Israel. This complex will fight tooth-and-nail to keep Israel intact and will in fact enter into wars to save itself from peace, as Israel’s practice was in the last half century. This last ditch effort is not a guarantee that Zionism in Israel will survive.
These are some of the negative elements pointing towards the eventual demise of Zionism. However, there are also positive elements which may accelerate the end of Zionism in Palestine.
The Arab Spring has shown that the individuals under an oppressive regime can change their status from insignificant power to a significant collective force, merely by being able to work together in unison. This has been helped greatly by connecting electronic communications. Their demand of course is to remove occupation and foreign domination, attain freedom, democracy and human rights. The most important movement in the Arab world and the longest struggling, for almost a century now, is the determination of 11 million Palestinians to live free in their country from foreign domination, Palestine, and the return of three-quarters of them, who are homeless, to their homes. They have the following factors on their side: (1) their historical right to live in freedom and dignity in their country which they dearly uphold; (2) the overwhelming support of the international community through UN Resolution-194, affirmed more than 130 times of their right to return, also affirmed by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and other similar regional covenants and international conventions of Elimination on All Forms of Racial Discrimination.
Assuming that Zionism is removed as the only obstacle to prevent the return of the refugees and with the immense support of the international law, what are the geographical and human imperatives needed to implement the Right of Return and in what legal context? This requires the examination of 3 components: The land of Palestine; The people of Palestine; The law of the land.
Palestine is a well-documented country. During the Mandate period, the Jewish and Arab Palestinian land ownership was well-established. The United Nations Conciliation Commission for Palestine (UNCCP) holds 453,000 records of Palestinian property owners. However the Arab Palestinian ownership in Palestine is best defined by subtracting, from the area of Palestine, the land acquired by Jewish immigrants which was recorded reliably by the Mandate authorities, excluding fraud and illegal land transfer claimed over and above government figures. The rest is Palestinian land.
Israel confiscated all Palestinian land and property. A question arises: how is this land used today? How readily available is it to receive its returning owners? After the expulsion of Palestinians, Israel rushed to demolish villages and build colonies on their land. A study of 560 depopulated villages has shown that only 93 village sites were built-over by new Israeli urban expansion. Of these only 15 lie in major urban areas; namely: expanded Jaffa-Tel Aviv (7 localities), West Jerusalem (3 localities), Haifa (1 locality), and the coastal strip (2 localities) and two (including Arab Nazareth) elsewhere. This is in addition to expanding originally Palestinian cities, where the old quarters were fully or partially destroyed. The above mentioned 15 villages were absorbed in a new urban expansion area greater than 5 sq. km each. For smaller expansion areas (1-5 sq. km), 22 village sites were absorbed. But the majority, 56 villages, were located within or near small colonies of less than 1 sq. km in area. Thus the majority of colonies were built away from depopulated villages. The rest of village sites (90%) are removed from the Israeli built up areas. Therefore, reconstruction of the depopulated villages on their original sites will not represent a problem in terms of physical space. Who then uses most Palestinian land? Israel’s war machine is located there, in addition to Kibbutz population (1-2% of Jewish population). These areas holds military bases, factories, training grounds, missile bases, WMD, and other military sites contained in the so-called Closed Zones. The refugees’ land is still sparsely populated leading to the conclusion that refugees can return to their homes without much obstruction.
Of about 11 million Palestinians, two-thirds are refugees since 1948, and, if we include those displaced in 1967, three quarters are not living in their homes. From the records of the registered refugees with UNRWA, we are able to locate the camps of exile for each village. Because we have this information, it is possible to construct the path of return from exile camps to their villages of origin. Take the case of Jabaliya Camp, the largest in Gaza Strip, which was pulverised by F16s and Israeli tanks, killing many women and children in the December 2008-January 2009 Israeli assault. The original villages of those people who took refuge in Jabaliya Camp, their hamulas (extended families), even their individual names are known. As we have no problem in identifying the home-exile locations, we can plan the refugees’ return in 7 phases, each phase about half a million, or about the expelled population of one average district.
What would the returning refugees find in their home district? We classified the present occupants into 5 categories:
- Palestinians who managed to remain at home.
- Ashkenazi Jews who conquered the country in 1948.
- Jews from Arab countries who were brought in the 1950’s to fill the void after the expulsion of Palestinians.
- Russians who immigrated en masse for about 5 years, starting from 1989, after the demise of the Soviet Union.
- Assorted European and American Jews who came intermittently, particularly after the 1967 occupation of the West Bank, Gaza and the Golan.
At the same time, we examined the Palestinian population of 675 ethnically cleansed towns and villages. We traced the refugees’ paths from their home villages to their exile camps using the records of UNRWA. Accordingly, it was possible to estimate the existing and returning population.
At the northern district of Israel, where a sizeable percentage of population is still Palestinian, both the present population and the returning Palestinians can co-exist without overlapping or crowding. About 800,000 refugees can return to live in their homes with their kith and kin, who already comprise half of the existing population. The trip is only a bus ride away from where many of them reside in Lebanon.
The Southern District is actually much less of a problem. With the exception of three originally Palestinian towns, now inhabited and expanded by Jews, and some other small “development” towns, all the rural Jews in this area (73,000) hardly fill one refugee camp in Gaza. The existing population and the returning refugees are almost the same number, 800,000 each. If Gaza refugees return, they can literally walk to their homes within an hour.
The repatriation to cities needs a different treatment. While most villages were destroyed, destruction of cities was variable. The old city in Tiberias was totally destroyed. Sections of the old quarters in Haifa, Jaffa, Lydda and Ramle were also destroyed. The question arises: Can the mutilated cities receive their former inhabitants?
There are three distinct groups of Palestinian cities after al Nakba. (1) Six cities were, before 1948, mixed with an Arab majority and now have Arab minorities. (2) Six cities were completely ethnically cleansed of Arabs and (3) two cities remained Arab. The expelled population from cities were generally well educated, had good social contacts and business connections. They did not register as refugees with UNRWA in 1950 as they did not need food assistance or were too proud to receive it.
Their return of Palestinians to their cities will be easier to accommodate than the absorption of Jewish immigrants, owing mainly to their small number. The Jewish population in urban localities increased ten times from 1948 to 2005 within the depopulated cities under consideration. Proper use of space, high rise buildings and efficient municipal services made the absorption of such large numbers of Jewish immigrants possible. Returning Palestinian home owners to these cities are less in number than one third of the present Jewish occupants and could therefore be similarly accommodated.
So far, it has been assumed that the expelled and remaining Palestinian population and also all the Jewish immigrants, who came to replace them since 1948, will remain in situ. It is a matter of conjecture to forecast how many Jews would wish to remain in a democratic non-racist country. Similarly, it is not certain how many Palestinians would wish to remain where they are. Jews must have the choice and the Palestinians must retain their inalienable Right of Return.
The important point is that many Jews in Israel has or had a passport, citizenship and, likely, a home outside Israel, while the majority of Palestinians do not have that option and do not wish to have it. Also, the Jewish population in Israel is fluctuating, variable and not always predictable. On the other hand, Palestinian population is defined, stable and steadily growing.
The racist policy in Israel calls the presence and growth of Palestinians in their land “a demographic bomb”. Short of a massive campaign to eliminate the Palestinians, it is a futile objective to expect the Palestinians to disappear. Assuming that the Jews in Israel have a natural growth of 1.57%, at some point between 2015 and 2017, the number of Palestinians in all of Palestine will be equal to Israeli Jews. In the year 2050, the Palestinians will be around 17 million in Palestine and a similar number just outside it. The Israeli Jews will be 11 million in that year if the present trend continues without interruption. But this is not the point.
The number of Jews in the world is almost constant at 13 million because of mixed marriages and assimilation. Israeli planning policy always aims to keep around 5 million Jews in the US and Western Europe–their presence there is much more beneficial to Israel. That means a maximum of 8 million Jews are potential residents or immigrants to Israel. Therefore, the Palestinians will undoubtedly be the majority in some year and/or in a certain region of Palestine. That is the reason for the new Israeli demand that Israel is recognized by Palestinians as a “Jewish state”. This is contrary to the Israeli declaration of independence itself which relies for its legitimacy on the UN Partition Plan Resolution-181. This resolution never envisaged a purely ethnic or religious state, nor could it ever do that. The slogan “Jewish state” is therefore meant to deny the right of refugees to return to their homes and to provide a license for Israel to expel its own Palestinian citizens when desired.
For Palestine there is no shortage of legal foundation for establishing a democratic free government, starting from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights up to the Right of Self Determination. Mention should be made of UN Resolution-181 partitioning Palestine, not because it is a desirable option. But this resolution has many useful and necessary provisions to protect the political, civil, religious and educational rights of each group, whether Palestinian or Jewish. This should be a good basis from which an expanded formula can be developed. It is worth noting that the famous UN Resolution-194, has 3 main elements: First, it calls for the refugees to return; second, it provides them with relief until that happens; third, and most importantly, it provides a mechanism for their repatriation and rehabilitation. This mechanism is the UN Conciliation Commission for Palestine (UNCCP).
In the Lausanne negotiations, 1949-1950, Israel managed to obstruct the refugees’ return and rendered UNCCP idle. Only the provision of relief, which is now an UNRWA function, is still in operation. But UNCCP is still legally valid and has its offices in the UN. Its annual routine report is an indication of Israel’s contempt for international law and UN resolutions. The report says every year: “we are unable to facilitate the return of the refugees this year”.
The legal framework for repatriation is available and could be applied, as it was in dozens of similar cases such as Kosovo, Bosnia, Abkhazia, Uruguay, Uganda, South Africa, Iraq and Afghanistan. There are already many examples of positive international action in Kosovo, Bosnia and East Timor. Not only was force used when necessary, measures were also taken to remove or reduce the obstacles preventing return. In the former Yugoslavia, the Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination has recommended changes in domestic laws and regulations concerning naturalization, acquisition of citizenship, determination of refugee status and tenure to bring them in line with international law.
When local authorities refused to reform or repeal discriminatory laws, the international community has, in Kosovo, unilaterally repealed laws that negatively impact the rights of the refugees.
Assuming that certain Western powers would cease to obstruct enforcement of international law, the following action may be taken: The Security Council should act to implement Resolution-194, first passed on 11 December, 1948 and reaffirmed annually ever since, by all possible means at its disposal.
The resolution entitles the refugees to return to their original homes, not to any other location even within Palestine, and in addition, to compensation for material and psychological damages and losses, including loss of revenue, in accordance with international law and legal precedents. Compensation is due for all these items except for land property which must be repossessed. War Crimes shall be dealt with by the International Criminal Court, created by the Statute of Rome of July 1998.
Failing a Security Council resolution, due to US veto, it is possible to convene the General Assembly under the “United for Peace” formula, which has the same weight. After the implementation of the Right of Return, compensation procedures may be established as a separate but a subsequent step. Compensation cannot be a substitute for return; homeland is not for sale.
The mandate for UNCCP should be bolstered to deal with the present situation. UNCCP should be able to implement the Right of Return under the pain of sanctions (similar to the Iraq case), should set up a compensation agency (there are many applicable precedents), should take up the role of protecting the returnees physically and legally during the whole process of rehabilitation. This protection has not been spelled out clearly, as it should. The protection afforded by the UNHCR should be added to the UNCCP mandate after return. UNHCR has excluded the Palestinian refugees from its protection by virtue of clause 1D, due to the unique status of the Palestinian people.
As indicated earlier, the civil, religious and political rights of the returnees have already been clearly delineated in chapters (2) and (3) of Resolution-181 (II) of November 29, 1947. This should be incorporated in the UNCCP mandate to safeguard the returnees’ rights and prevent them from being victims of any kind of discrimination and apartheid practices. With the return of the refugees, they must recover their nationality. According to international law, the people and territory go together. The sovereignty over the territory means the continuity or the restoration of its people’s citizenship.
UNRWA has a lot of work to do. With its 30,000 staff and its tremendous experience of providing uninterrupted service to the refugees, through five wars and innumerable raids and attacks, it has a unique standing. UNRWA should be expected to take care of all operations of rehabilitation. It should turn itself into a sort of UNDP, not only to build the infrastructure but also to create economy-building projects. Its mandate should last for 10 years from the first date of return, then tail off for another 10 years.
When the rights are restored and racism is abolished, there is of course a lot of work to do on the landscape. Sixty years of wars, occupation, war crimes, destruction and suffering cannot be wiped out easily. The first task is to clean up Palestine. Clean Palestine should be restored to normal life; it is now concreted, polluted and ravaged. Private and public property of Palestinians should be recovered. Religious, archaeological and cultural sites should be restored. Also, land, air and water, which have been greatly polluted by the Zionist mad rush to build and destroy, must be cleaned up. In Palestine we must provide a clean environment and a livable county for millions of people.
Can this be done? Considering the success of the international operations of rescue and rehabilitation after the Second World War and considering the enormity of the Palestinian refugees’ plight, it is imperative that the international community takes a firm stand. This should be made practically possible because the Palestinian question has by far the most comprehensive legal groundwork and uniform international consensus. It has been the major occupation of the UN since its inception half a century ago. The UN can now act, with or without the long-denied support of Western powers, to implement international law and bring permanent peace to the Middle East.
To be sure, the implementation of this Return Plan shall encounter many difficulties, but most are solvable. The rewards however far outweigh any cost and sacrifices likely to be made. Indeed the return would discharge the old debt of 64 years of war, strife and suffering and bring an era of permanent peace. The cost of return is definitely cheaper than the cost of military and economic aid to Israel and the cost of war damage. The inalienable right to return home is akin to the right to live, work, get education, speak and worship freely.
Having reviewed legal, geographic, agricultural, demographic and economic aspects of the refugees’ return, we cannot find a logical or practical reason for the denial of the right to return. The only remaining obstacle to permanent peace in the world is Israel’s racist policies. These must be eliminated.