Saturday, May 03, 2008
Why Israel at 60 is no cause for celebration
Mazin Qumsiyeh of the excellent Wheels of Justice peace initiative has drafted this list furnishing facts about why good people of conscience everywhere will not be celebrating Israel at its 60th anniversary this month, just as apartheid-era South Africa was not accepted or celebrated. There are many more reasons, and he invites people to add to it.
Israeli psychologist and exile Avigail Abarbanel notes, “If a day comes, and I hope it does, when Israelis decide to stop living in denial, they will have to realise that real peace will only come through justice. Justice in this context means one thing, that the ideal of an exclusively Jewish state at the cost of an entire people might have to be abandoned. Only a bi-national state and a right of return for the Palestinian refugees will come close enough to rectifying some of the injustices committed in 1948 and since. Having been ethnically cleansed, this is also what the Palestinians are entitled to under international law and common human decency.“
* Ethnic cleaning and ongoing genocide: Between December 1947 and December 1950, over 530 Palestinian villages and towns were destroyed. Half of the Palestinians were ethnically cleansed by underground Zionist forces even before Israel was unilaterally declared a state. Palestinians call these events of the late 1940s the Nakba (Catastrophe).
* The Palestinian refugees are the largest remaining refugee population in the world. Seven million of the ten million Palestinians are refugees or displaced people. They are prevented from returning to their homes and lands even though International law and UN resolutions demand it.
* The Israeli “Knesset” adopted a set of laws that are contrary to International law that ensured no refugees are allowed to return (as customarily happens at the end of a war) and that their land is confiscated for use by Jews only (“absentee property” laws). The removal of 75-80% of non-Jews from what became Israel by 1950 was a necessary but not sufficient condition for creating and maintaining a Zionist-defined Jewish state. What the nascent state did subsequently was expand its borders and continue to appropriate native Palestinian lands, expel many of them and discriminate against those who remained at all odds.
* Israel has no constitution but promulgated a set of basic laws that govern it essentially “for the benefit of the Jewish people”. These laws recognize members of a particular religion (including converts) as nationals of the state regardless of where they live or their current citizenship. In Israeli law, all Jews are part of Am Yisrael (the people of Israel). To get papers of citizenship all they have to do is show up in the state and claim their automatic citizenship.
* Israel is unique among the nations in not being a country of its citizens but of “Jewish people everywhere”. No other country defines itself as a country for members of a particular religion (including converts) regardless of where they live. No other country has supranational entities that have authority superseding state authority and native rights. For example, the Jewish National Fund is not a state agency but it has on its own website the amazing statement that “The Jewish National Fund is the custodian of the land of Israel on behalf of its owners, Jewish people everywhere.” 91% of the land (most taken from the 530 Palestinian towns and villages depopulated between 1947-1949) is not privately owned but turned over from the custodian of “absentee property” to the JNF for lease by Jews.
* Israeli law considers one fourth of the remaining Palestinians (300,000 of the 1.3 million Palestinians with Israeli citizenship) as “present absentees”. This means that their land and/or homes were confiscated from them and turned to the Jewish Agency/JNF. By international law they are considered internally displaced people (refugees).
* Israel maintains an illegal occupation and colonization of the West Bank and Gaza for 40 years. This includes: 133 illegal Israeli settlements, 562 military checkpoints, 610 flying checkpoints, Israeli-only roads and settlements built on Palestinian lands, denial of residency rights, 11,500 Palestinian political prisoners in Israeli jails and, just in the past 7 years alone, 35,000 more Palestinians were made homeless by home demolitions and land confiscations. The Gaza Strip was turned into a large concentration camp where 1.5 million Palestinians (most refugees) are held in a desert strip with what the UN Human Rights commissioner declared as “catastrophic” conditions.
* Israel is funded to the tune of $5 billion (3 billion in direct aid, 2 billion other) from our (US) taxes and shielded from International law and basic human rights conventions by our government (e.g. 37 vetoes at the UN security Council). We thus hold special responsibility in this situation (and in the atrocities in Iraq that derive from it), which is not the same for example for Darfur, Sudan (where our government is not funding oppression but is actually at least verbally trying to stop it).