Israel celebrates 60 years of ethnic cleansing

By Kim Bullimore
In Ramallah, Occupied West Bank

On March 12, Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd moved a motion calling on the House of Representatives to “celebrate and commend the achievements of the State of Israel in the 60 years since its inception” and to reconfirm Canberra’s support for “Israel’s right to exist” and a “two-state solution” to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The motion was approved, with bi-partisan support from Labor and Coalition MPs.

What wasn’t mentioned in the motion moved by Rudd, and seconded by Coalition leader Brendan Nelson, was that in order for Israel to gain its “independence”, Zionist militias carried out 24 bloody massacres of hundreds of unarmed Palestinian men, women and children. Through such massacres and the terror they created among Palestinians, the Zionist militias ethnically cleansed more than 400 Palestinian villages and towns.

As a result, at least 700,000 Palestinians were driven from their homes to become destitute refugees in neighbouring Arab countries, never to be allowed to return. Their villages were either wiped off the map or handed over to immigrant Jewish settlers by the new “Jewish” state. In 1978, David Ben Gurion, head of the Jewish Agency for Palestine, who gave the order for the expulsion of the indigenous Arab-speaking population of Palestine and soon after became Israel’s first prime minister, admitted that “there is not a single place built in this country that did not have a former Arab population”.

Zionist colonialism

Zionism is a colonial-settler movement that arose in reaction to the waves of persecution against Jews carried out in the Austro-Hungarian and Russian empires in the late 19th century. Believing Jews could not live among non-Jews without being persecuted, the Zionists began a campaign to establish a “national” homeland for the world’s Jews, despite the fact that they did not constitute a nation, but a religious-cultural group.

The first Zionist conference in Basle in 1897 decided that a “national” homeland for all Jews should be established in Palestine, then part of the Turkish-ruled Ottoman Empire. Initially, the Zionists attempted to buy land from the indigenous Arab owners. However, it soon became clear that the majority of Palestinians had no interest in selling their land to a Jewish immigrant population from Europe. Prior to the 1890s, Jews made up less than 4% of the population of Palestine. The rest were Arabic-speaking Muslims and Christians.

While European Zionist-sponsored immigration between 1905 and 1914 resulted in the Jewish population doubling from 30,000 to 60,000, Jews still only made up 9% of the population of Palestine prior to World War I, after which Palestine came under British rule.

In the 1920s, the first Palestinian riots against Zionist colonisation took place, resulting in more than 200 Zionists and 120 Palestinians being killed. Then, in 1936, the Palestinian population began a three-year rebellion against both Zionist colonisation and British rule over their homeland. The revolt took 20,000 British troops and 14,500 members of the Zionist Haganah militia to put it down, and cost the lives of at least 5000 Palestinians.

In the wake of the 1936-39 Great Uprising, the British rulers established the Peel Commission to examine the situation. The commission’s report, published in 1937, proposed the partition of Palestine between the Zionists and the indigenous Arab population. The proposal was rejected by the Palestinian leadership, but accepted with qualifications by the Zionist leaders. It was revived by the imperialist powers, with the Kremlin’s support, in 1947 and approved by their new United Nations Organisation. By that time, the Zionist colonisation had boosted the Jewish population in Palestine to 650,000. The Palestinian Arab population numbered 1.3 million. The UN partition plan, however, proposed to hand over 55% of Palestine to the minority Jewish immigrant population.

In the months before partition was to take place, the Zionists began preparations for war, launching Plan Dalet, under which the Haganah and the other Zionist militias, the Irgun and Stern Gang, carried out attacks on Palestinian villages and cities, terrorising and killing hundreds, perhaps thousands, of Palestinian civilians between December 1947 and April 1948. By early 1949, the Zionists had control of 75% of Palestine. In June 1967 Israel launched the Six Day War conquering the remaining Palestinian territories — the West Bank, ruled by Jordan since 1948, and the Gaza Strip, ruled by Egypt since 1948 — as well as Syria’s Golan Heights.

In an October 2006 interview with ZNet about his book The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine, Israeli historian Ilan Pappe noted that the Zionist success in ethnically cleansing most of Palestine in 1948 “without any global or regional repercussions” resulted in Israel continuing its ethnic cleansing policy “since 1967 in the remaining 20% of the country”. Pappe noted that “creating a Jewish state in historical Palestine cleansed of Palestinians is still the ideological infrastructure on which the state of Israel is based. How to achieve this goal is a divisive issue between Left Zionists — hoping to negotiate a settlement that would leave a small number of Palestinians in a greater Israel and the Right Zionists willing to implement a more direct cleansing policy from the same area even today.”

Two-state or one-state solution

The “two-state solution” to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict favoured by left Zionists and verbally supported by Washington and its imperialist allies in Europe and Australia has been at the core of the so-called peace process promoted by the US, the European Union, Russia and the UN for the past 15 years. This “solution” calls for two independent states in historic Palestine — the “Jewish” state of Israel and a Palestinian state formally ruling over the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Last year, Pappe, along with Electronic Intifada founder Ali Abunimah and others, issued the One State Declaration correctly noting that not only is a “two-state solution” impracticable as it “ignores the physical and political realities on the ground, and presumes a false parity in power and moral claims between a colonized and occupied people on the one hand and a colonizing state and military occupier on the other. It is predicated on the unjust premise that peace can be achieved by granting limited national rights to Palestinians living in the areas occupied in 1967, while denying the rights of Palestinians inside the 1948 borders and in the Diaspora. Thus, the two-state solution condemns Palestinian citizens of Israel to permanent second-class status within their homeland, in a racist state that denies their rights by enacting laws that privilege Jews constitutionally, legally, politically, socially and culturally. Moreover, the two-state solution denies Palestinian refugees their internationally recognized right of return.”

While Pappe and Abunimah are correct in stating that a two-state “solution” condemns Palestinian citizens of Israel to a permanent second-class status and denies Palestinian refugees the right of return, it would be a mistake to counterpose the real solution of a single, democratic secular state in all of Palestine to the Palestinian people’s present- day demand for an immediate end to the Israeli military occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. To do so would mean acquiescing in Israel’s continuing denial of the Palestinian people’s human rights, including their democratic right to national self-determination.

Palestine solidarity activists, while calling for a secular, democratic state in all of Palestine, should also support the struggle by the Palestinian people for the immediate and unconditional end to the post-1967 Israeli occupation. If this struggle results in the establishment of a Palestinian state on the territories occupied by Israel since 1967, it would bring an end to Israel’s direct colonial rule over Palestinian people in these territories. It would also force Israel and its imperialist allies to deal with a formally equal sovereign Palestinian state.

The creation of an independent Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza, the precondition for a formal peace settlement between the Arab states and Israel, would also work towards undermining the Zionist ideological hegemony over the Israeli Jewish masses, undermining the Zionist myth that any concessions to the Arabs will only encourage them to seek to drive the Israeli Jews “into the sea”.

While the establishment of a Palestinian state on any land liberated from Israeli occupation would be an advance for the Palestinian national liberation movement, the “two-state solution” would not, as the 2007 One State Declaration notes, adequately deal with or end Palestinian national oppression. This is not only because any such Palestinian mini-state would inevitably have a neo-colonial relationship with the Israeli imperialist state, it would not resolve the issue of the Palestinian refugees who were exiled from their national homeland in 1948. These refugees and the descendants number at least 5 million people, according to the UN.

Nor would it solve the issue of the national oppression of the Palestinian citizens of Israel. The only consistent, anti-colonial and anti-imperialist approach to supporting the struggle for Palestinian national self-determination lies with a call for a single, secular democratic state in all of historic Palestine that affords all its citizens — Muslims, Jews, Christians and atheists — equal civil and political rights.

[Kim Bullimore is an Indigenous Australian who has been active in supporting the Palestinian national struggle for many years, both in Australia and in Palestine itself. She is a member of the Revolutionary Socialist Party.]