Published by Jews for Justice in the Middle East
As the periodic bloodshed continues in the Middle East, the search for an equitable solution must come to grips with the root cause of the conflict. The conventional wisdom is that, even if both sides are at fault, the Palestinians are irrational "terrorists" who have no point of view worth listening to. Our position, however, is that the Palestinians have a real grievance: their homeland for over a thousand years was taken, without their consent and mostly by force, during creation of the state of Israel. And all subsequent crimes—on both sides—inevitably follow from this original injustice.
This paper outlines the history of Palestine to show how this process occurred and what a moral solution to the region's problems should consist of. If you care about the people of the Middle East, Jewish and Arab, you owe it to yourself to read this account of the other side of the historical record.
The standard Zionist position is that they showed up in Palestine in the late 19th century to reclaim their ancestral homeland. Jews bought land and started building up the Jewish community there. They were met with increasingly violent opposition from the Palestinian Arabs, presumably stemming from the Arabs' inherent anti-Semitism. The Zionists were then forced to defend themselves and, in one form or another, this same situation continues up to today.
The problem with this explanation is that it is simply not true, as the documentary evidence in this booklet will show. What really happened was that the Zionist movement, from the beginning, looked forward to a practically complete dispossession of the indigenous Arab population so that Israel could be a wholly Jewish state, or as much as was possible. Land bought by the Jewish National Fund was held in the name of the Jewish people and could never be sold or even leased back to Arabs (a situation which continues to the present).
The Arab community, as it became increasingly aware of the Zionists' intentions, strenuously opposed further Jewish immigration and land buying because it posed a real and imminent danger to the very existence of Arab society in Palestine. Because of this opposition, the entire Zionist project never could have been realized without the military backing of the British. The vast majority of the population of Palestine, by the way, had been Arabic since the seventh century A.D. (Over 1200 years)
In short, Zionism was based on a faulty, colonialist world view that the rights of the indigenous inhabitants didn't matter. The Arabs' opposition to Zionism wasn't based on anti-Semitism but rather on a totally reasonable fear of the dispossession of their people.
One further point: being Jewish ourselves, the position we present here is critical of Zionism but is in no way anti-Semitic. We do not believe that the Jews acted worse than any other group might have acted in their situation. The Zionists (who were a distinct minority of the Jewish people until after WWII) had an understandable desire to establish a place where Jews could be masters of their own fate, given the bleak history of Jewish oppression. Especially as the danger to European Jewry crystalized in the late 1930's and after, the actions of the Zionists were propelled by real desperation.
But so were the actions of the Arabs. The mythic "land without people for a people without land" was already home to 700,000 Palestinians in 1919. This is the root of the problem, as we shall see.
by Paul Craig Roberts
"On October 21 (1948) the Government of Israel took a decision that was to have a lasting and divisive effect on the rights and status of those Arabs who lived within its borders: the official establishment of military government in the areas where most of the inhabitants were Arabs."
- Martin Gilbert, Israel: A History
I had given up on finding an American with a moral conscience and the courage to go with it and was on the verge of retiring my keyboard when I met the Rev. Thomas L. Are.
Rev. Are is a Presbyterian pastor who used to tell his Atlanta, Georgia, congregation: "I am a Zionist." Like most Americans, Rev. Are had been seduced by Israeli propaganda and helped to spread the propaganda among his congregation.
Around 1990 Rev. Are had an awakening for which he credits the Christian Canon of St. George's Cathedral in Jerusalem and author Marc Ellis, co-editor of the book, Beyond Occupation.
Realizing that his ignorance of the situation on the ground had made him complicit in great crimes, Rev. Are wrote a book hoping to save others from his mistake and perhaps in part to make amends, Israeli Peace/Palestinian Justice, published in Canada in 1994.
Rev. Are researched his subject and wrote a brave book. Keep in mind that 1994 was long prior to Walt and Mearsheimer's recent book, which exposed the power of the Israel Lobby and its ability to control the explanation Americans receive about the "Israeli-Palestinian conflict."
Rev. Are begins with an account of Israel's opening attack on the Palestinians, an event which took place before most Americans alive today were born. He quotes the distinguished British historian, Arnold J. Toynbee: "The treatment of the Palestinian Arabs in 1947 (and 1948) was as morally indefensible as the slaughter of six million Jews by the Nazis. Though nor comparable in quantity to the crimes of the Nazis, it was comparable in quality."
Golda Meir, considered by Israelis as a great leader and by others as one of history's great killers, disputed the facts: "It was not as though there was a Palestinian people in Palestine and we came and threw them out and took their country away from them. They did not exist."
Golda Meir's apology for Israel's great crimes is so counter-factual that it blows the mind. Palestinian refugee camps still exist outside Palestine filled with Palestinians and their descendants whose towns, villages, homes and lands were seized by the Israelis in 1948. Rev. Are provides the reader with Na'im Ateek's description of what happened to him, an 11-year old, when the Jews came to take Beisan on May 12, 1948. Entire Palestinian communities simply disappeared.
In 1949 the United Nations counted 711,000 Palestinian refugees.
In 2005 the United Nations Relief and Works Agency estimated 4.25 million Palestinians and their descendants were refugees from their homeland.
The Israeli policy of evicting non-Jews has continued for six decades. On June 19, 2008, the Laity Committee in the Holy Land reported in Window Into Palestine that the Israeli Ministry of Interior is taking away the residency rights of Jerusalem Christians who have been reclassified as "visitors in their own city."
On December 10, 2007, MK Ephraim Sneh boasted in the Jerusalem Post that Israel had achieved "a true Zionist victory" over the UN partition plan "which sought to establish two nations in the land of Israel." The partition plan had assigned Israel 56 percent of Palestine, leaving the inhabitants with only 44 percent. But Israel had altered this over time. Sneh proudly declared: "When we complete the permanent agreement, we will hold 78 percent of the land while the Palestinians will control 22 percent."
Sneb could have added that the 22 percent is essentially a collection of unconnected ghettos cut off from one another and from roads, water, medical care, and jobs.
Rev. Are documents that the abuse of Palestinians' human rights is official Israeli policy. Killings, torture, and beatings are routine. On May 17, 1990, the Washington Post reported that Save the Children "documented indiscriminate beating, tear-gassing and shooting of children at home or just outside the house playing in the street, who were sitting in the classroom or going to the store for groceries."
On January 19, 1988, Israeli Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin, later Prime Minister, announced the policy of "punitive beating" of Palestinians. The Israelis described the purpose of punitive beating: "Our task is to recreate a barrier and once again put the fear of death into the Arabs of the area."
According to Save the Children, beatings of children and women are common. Rev. Are, citing the report in the Washington Post, writes: "Save the Children concluded that one-third of beaten children were under ten years old, and one-fifth under the age of five. Nearly a third of the children beaten suffered broken bones."
On February 8, 1988, Newsweek magazine quoted an Israeli soldier: "We got orders to knock on every door, enter and take out all the males. The younger ones we lined up with their faces against the wall, and soldiers beat them with billy clubs. This was no private initiative, these were orders from our company commander.... After one soldier finished beating a detainee, another soldier called him 'you Nazi,' and the first man shot back: 'You bleeding heart.' When one soldier tried to stop another from beating an Arab for no reason, a fist fight broke out."
These were the old days before conscience was eliminated from the ranks of the Israeli military.
In the London Sunday Times, June 19, 1977, Ralph Schoenman, executive director of the Bertrand Russell Foundation, wrote: "Israeli interrogators routinely ill-treat and torture Arab prisoners. Prisoners are hooded or blindfolded and are hung by their wrists for long periods. Most are struck in the genitals or in other ways sexually abused. Most are sexually assaulted. Others are administered electric shock."
Amnesty International concluded that "there is no country in the world in which the use of official and sustained torture is as well established and documented as in the case of Israel."
Even the pro-Israeli Washington Post reported: "Upon arrest, a detainee undergoes a period of starvation, deprivation of sleep by organized methods and prolonged periods during which the prisoner is made to stand with his hands cuffed and raised, a filthy sack covering the head. Prisoners are dragged on the ground, beaten with objects, kicked, stripped and placed under ice-cold showers."
Sounds like Abu Gharib. There are news reports that Israeli torture experts participated in the torture of the detainees assembled by the American military as part of the Bush Regime's propaganda onslaught to convince Americans that Iraq was overflowing with al-Qaeda terrorists. On July 23, 2008, Antiwar.com posted an Iraqi news report that the Iraqi government had released a total of 109,087 Iraqis that the Americans had "detained." Obviously, these "terrorist detainees" had been used for the needs of Bush Regime propaganda. No one will ever know how many of them were abused by Israeli torturers imported by the CIA.
Rev. Are's book makes sensible suggestions for resolving the conflict that Israel began. However, the problem is that Israeli governments believe only in force. The policy of the Israeli government has always been to beat, kill, and brutalize Palestinians into submission and flight. Anyone who doubts this can read the book of Israel's finest historian Ilan Pappe, The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine (2006).
Americans are a gullible and naive people. They have been complicit for 60 years in crimes that in Arnold Toynbee's words "are comparable in quality" to the crimes of Nazi Germany. As Toynbee was writing decades ago, the accumulated Israeli crimes might now be comparable also in quantity.
The US routinely vetoes United Nations condemnations of Israel for its brutal crimes against the Palestinians. Insouciant American taxpayers have been bled for a half century to provide the Israelis with superior military weapons with which Israelis assault their neighbors, all the while convincing America – essentially a captive nation – that Israel is the victim.
John F. Mahoney wrote: "Thomas Are reminds me of Dietrich Bonhoeffer: an active pastor who comes to the unsettling realization that he and his people have been fed a terrible lie that is killing and torturing thousands of innocent men, women and children. Not without ample research and prayer does such a pastor, in turn, risk unsettling his congregation. The Reverend Are has done his homework and, I suspect, has prayed often and long during the writing of this courageous book."
Bonhoeffer was a Lutheran theologian and pastor who was executed for his active participation in the German Resistance against Nazism.
Professor Benjamin M. Weir, San Francisco Theological Seminary, wrote: "This book will make the reader squirm. It asks you to lend your voice in behalf of the voiceless."
Americans who can no longer think for themselves and who are terrified of disapproval by their peer group are incapable of lending their voices to anyone except those who control the world of propaganda in which they live.
The ignorance and unconcern of Americans is a great frustration to my friends in the Israeli peace movement. Without outside support those Israelis who believe in good will are deprived, by America's support for their government's policy of violence, of any peaceful resolution of a conflict began in 1947 by Israeli aggression against unsuspecting Palestinian villages.
Rev. Are wrote his book with the hope that the pen is mightier than the sword and that facts can crowd out propaganda and create a framework for a just resolution of the Palestinian issue. In his concluding chapter, "What Christians Can Do," Rev. Are writes: "We cannot allow others to dictate our thinking on any subject, especially on anything as important as Christian faithfulness, which is tested by an attitude towards seeking justice for the oppressed. It's a Christian's duty to know."
Duty, of course, has costs. Rev. Are writes: "Speak up for the Palestinians and you will make enemies. Yet, as Christians, we must be willing to raise issues that until now we have chosen to dodge."
More than a decade later, President Jimmy Carter, a true friend of Israel, tried again to awaken Americans' moral conscience with his book, Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid. Carter was instantly demonized by the Israel Lobby.
Sixty years of efforts by good and humane people to hold Israel accountable have so far failed, but they are more important today than ever before. Israel has its captive American nation on the verge of attacking Iran, the consequences of which could be catastrophic for all concerned. The alleged purpose of the attack is to eliminate nonexistent Iranian nuclear weapons. The real reason is to eliminate all support for Hamas and Hezbollah so that Israel can seize the entire West Bank and southern Lebanon. The Bush regime is eager to do Israel's bidding, and the media and evangelical "Christian" churches have been preparing the American people for the event.
It is paradoxical that Israel is demonstrating that veracity lies not in the Christian belief in good will but in Lenin's doctrine that violence is the effective force in history and that the evangelical Christian Zionist churches agree.
No Middle East Peace Without Tough Love
By Henry Siegman
25/04/08 "Al-Hayat" -- - We now have word that Tony Blair, envoy of the Middle East Quartet (the UN, the EU, Russia and the United States), and German Chancellor Angela Merkel intend to organize yet another peace conference, this time in Berlin in June. It is hard to believe that after the long string of failed peace initiatives, stretching back at least to the Madrid conference of 1991, statesmen and stateswomen are recycling these failures without seemingly having a clue as to why the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is even more hopeless today than before these peace exercises first got underway.
The scandal of the international community's impotence in resolving one of history's longest bloodlettings is that it knows what the problem is but does not have the courage to speak the truth, much less deal with it. The next peace conference in Germany (or in Moscow, where the Russians want to hold it) will suffer from the same gutlessness that has marked all previous efforts. It will deal with everything except the problem primarily responsible for this conflict's multi-generational impasse.
That problem is that for all of the sins attributable to the Palestinians - and they are legion, including inept and corrupt leadership, failed institution-building and the murderous violence of the rejectionist groups-there is no prospect for a viable, sovereign Palestinian state primarily because Israel's various governments, from 1967 until today, have never intended allowing such a state to come into being.
It is one thing if Israeli governments had insisted on delaying a Palestinian state until certain Israeli security concerns were dealt with. But no government that is serious about a two-state solution to the conflict would have pursued without let-up the theft and fragmentation of Palestinian lands that even a child understands makes Palestinian statehood impossible.
Given the overwhelming disproportion of power between the occupier and the occupied, it is hardly surprising that Israeli governments and their military and security establishments found it difficult to resist the acquisition of Palestinian land. What is astounding is that the international community, pretending to believe Israel's claim that it is the victim and its occupied subjects the aggressors, has allowed this devastating dispossession to continue and the law of the jungle to prevail.
As long as Israel knows that by delaying the peace process it buys time to create facts on the ground that will prove irreversible, and that the international community will continue to indulge Israel's pretense that its desire for a two-state solution is being frustrated by the Palestinians, no new peace initiative can succeed, and the dispossession of the Palestinian people will indeed become irreversible.
There can be no greater delusion on the part of Western countries weighed down by guilt about the Holocaust than the belief that accommodating such an outcome would be an act of friendship to the Jewish people. The abandonment of the Palestinians now is surely not an atonement for the abandonment of European Jewry seventy years ago, nor will it serve the security of the State of Israel and its people.
John Vinocur of the New York Times recently suggested that the virtually unqualified declarations of support for Israel by Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy are "at a minimum an attempt to seek Israeli moderation by means of public assurances with this tacit subtext: these days, the European Union is not, or is no longer, its reflexive antagonist." But the expectation that uncritical Western support of Israel would lead to greater Israeli moderation and greater willingness to take risks for peace is blatantly contradicted by the conflict's history.
Time and again, this history has shown that the less opposition Israel encounters from its friends in the West for its dispossession of the Palestinians, the more uncompromising its behavior. Indeed, Olmert's reaction to Sarkozy's and Merkel's expressions of eternal solidarity and friendship have had exactly that result: Olmert approved massive new construction in East Jerusalem- authorizing housing projects that were frozen for years by previous governments because of their destructive impact on the possibility of a peace agreement-as well as continued expansion of Israel's settlements. And Olmert's defense minister, Ehud Barak, declared shortly after Merkel's departure that he will remove only a token number of the more than 500 checkpoints and roadblocks that Israel has repeatedly promised, and just as repeatedly failed, to dismantle.
That announcement shattered whatever hope Palestinians may have had for recovery of their economy as a consequence of the seven billion dollars in new aid promised by the international donor community in Paris last December. In these circumstances, the donor countries, not to speak of the private sector, will not pour good money after bad, as they so often have in the past.
So what is required of statesmen is not more peace conferences or clever adjustments to previous peace formulations, but the moral and political courage to end their collaboration with the massive hoax the peace process has been turned into. Of course, Palestinian violence must be condemned and stopped, particularly when it targets civilians. But is it not utterly disingenuous to pretend that Israel's occupation-maintained by IDF-manned checkpoints and barricades, helicopter gunships, jet fighter planes, targeted assassinations and military incursions, not to speak of the massive theft of Palestinian lands-is not itself an exercise in continuous and unrelenting violence against more than 3 million Palestinian civilians? If Israel were to renounce violence, could the occupation last even one day?
Israel's designs on the West Bank are not much different than the designs of the Arab forces that attacked the Jewish state in 1948 - the nullification of the international community's partition resolution of 1947. Short of addressing the problem by its right name-something that is of an entirely different order than hollow statements that "settlements do not advance peace"-and taking effective collective action to end a colonial enterprise that disgraces what began as a noble Jewish national liberation struggle, further peace conferences, no matter how well intentioned, make their participants accessories to one of the longest and cruelest deceptions in the annals of international diplomacy.
Henry Siegman, director of the US/Middle East Project in New York, is research professor at the Sir Joseph Hotung Middle East Program, School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. Siegman is a former national director of the American Jewish Congress and of the Synagogue Council of America.
Zionist Extremism Key Impediment to Peace