Monday, May 16, 2011

Israel's Right to Self-Defense

Israel can kill every Arab in the Middle East, blow up each and every country surrounding it, and I fear the world will still say it had a right to defend itself.

But Palestinians? They don't have a right to anything.

Yesterday, for the first time as far as I know, thousands of Palestinian refugees, some Lebanese, Syrians and Jordanians, marched towards the borders of Israel to mark the 63rd anniversary of the start of Al Nakba. (Before, they would have been stopped by their own regimes, but this is a New Middle East).

It was a symbolic Freedom March for Palestine and a reiteration of Palestinians' right of return to their homeland.

Beautiful in its simplicity in the middle of all the blood that is currently staining the Arab uprisings. Why shouldn't they just enter their homeland?

On the Syrian border, several did. They climbed over the fence, kissed and hugged their neighbors and brothers in the occupied Golan Heights. Imagine.

But of course, Israel had a right to defend itself against this terrible act of... not sure, but marching, I guess. (Kind of like Qaddafi and Assad are defending themselves, too).

And so Israel reportedly killed four on the Syrian border and ten at the Lebanese border, one in Gaza, and not to forget, one in Jerusalem the day before. Scores injured.

I found this picture on Facebook. It's of a young Palestinian man in Lebanon carrying his grandmother towards the border yesterday.

"I will take my grandmother home," he said.

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Saturday, May 14, 2011

Al Nakba Never Really Ended

Tomorrow marks the 63rd anniversary of the beginning of the Catastrophe that the creation of a Jewish state in Palestine entailed.

The Catastrophe, or Al Nakba, hit Palestine with its full force in 1948, although the preparations began much earlier. If you would like to learn exactly how meticulously planned each and every stage of the takeover of Palestine was, I recommend that you read Ilan Pappé's book The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine.

They had plans - written-down, carefully thought-out plans - to ethnically cleanse Palestine of its people so that they could create a Jewish majority state in its place. The Zionist terrorist groups Hagannah and the Irgun and Stern Gang carried them out. These plans.

One of the most cynical strategies which the Jewish terrorist gangs, later turned Israel, used, was to destroy the Palestinian villages they had ethnically cleansed to make sure that none of the hundreds of thousands of refugees would have anything to return to.

It wasn't one of the bloodiest strategies, because that was to massacre Palestinian villagers - to line them up, and execute them one by one. To set an example for inhabitants of neighboring villages - flee now, or else.

Nor was it one of the most thieving strategies, because that was to plunder, steal and appropriate land and assets. (Have I told you before that even bank accounts were stolen? Palestinian refugees who wanted to at least withdraw their money from their bank accounts, even if they weren't allowed back to their homes, their farms, their factories and offices, were met with a steel wall. Everything, everything, was confiscated by the new Israeli state. Can you imagine?).

But it was the most destructive strategy. The Jewish terrorist gangs, and later the newly created Israeli state, destroyed at least 531 villages and towns during and after the war in 1948. They bulldozed them to the ground. Mosques, churches, farms, houses, graves - all of it turned to dust.

Why? Because they noticed that once they had moved on to the next village, those expelled started making their way back to their houses, thinking that the danger had passed and that they could go on with their lives. That didn't fit with the Zionist plan for Palestine to be for Jews only.

To make it worse - if anything can be worse than expelling a people from their land - all those hundreds of thousands of refugees who still have their deeds and their keys to houses that don't exist anymore. All of those who aren't allowed to return to where their villages once were. Do you know why they can't return?

If you imagine it is because Jews live there now, I would forgive you for your naivety. It sounds reasonable that the reason why Israel won't allow Palestinians to come home is because Jewish cities have taken the place of those Palestinian villages, so that there is no space for those who fled over 60 years ago.

And in some cases you would be right, imagining this. But in many, many cases it is simply so that grass can grow.

Over countless old houses and farms, marked only by the sabr - the patient cactus that used to separate one farm from another - and some old stones, there now grows grass. Grass and pine trees. The Jews planted European-looking pine trees where Palestinians used to grow oranges and olives to erase the history of the land. Make it look more like the Europe they had fled or emigrated from.

Sabr, Arabic for patience, and a national symbol for Palestine

Yesterday I watched a film about old women and men who are "internally displaced" within that which is now called Israel. They fled, but were still inside the borders of what would become Israel and were therefore allowed to stay, but not return to their old villages.

The film team came with them as they walked across fields to visit the places where they grew up. Tearing off tufts of grass from where their kitchen floor had once been, uncovering the grave of a loved one, they told stories of Al Nakba to the camera. Stories they still struggle to understand.

Because even 63 years later, Palestinians still can't really understand why anybody would want to come and uproot people from their homes, force them  out of their villages, and in many cases out of their country, and then not let them return even though so much of the land still stands untouched since those days.

Why would anybody think grass is more important than a fellow human being?

As the refugee community keeps growing, and as the occupation of the strips of land still officially promised to the Palestinians tightens, it is increasingly clear that Israel has absolutely no intention of ever granting Palestinians their right of return, nor giving up a single square meter of the land they stole 63 years ago.

And the international community? They also gave up on the refugees and their house keys. They've settled for mild diplomatic pressure on Israel to maybe allow Palestinians to create their own Swiss cheese state between the Israeli settlements sometime in the future. Perhaps.

And so Al Nakba deepens with every year that passes.

List on a wall of towns and villages refugees in 
Aida Refugee Camp in Bethlehem fled from

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