The 'Prawer Plan'

The ‘Prawer Plan’ is the innocuous sounding name for the biggest project of ethnic cleansing carried out by Israel since 1967 and so far, it is receiving scant attention by the international community or global mainstream media. The plan, detailed and condemned here by Adalah seeks to forcefully expel (i.e. ethnically cleanse) between 30,000-50,000 Bedouin Palestinian citizens of Israel from 850,000 dunums of their land in the Naqab desert, push them into an area that represents a mere 1% of the land to be confiscated. In the process, 40 ‘unrecognised villages’ will be demolished to fulfilling David Ben Gurion’s racist vision of Judaising the remainder of the Naqab. As Linah Alsaafin writing in the electronic intifada reminds us, much of the Naqab was ethnically cleansed in the initial Nakba of 1947-49. In 1948 (and 1967) however, War was both the pretext and smokescreen for such a large scale expulsion of Palestinians. The question and challenge to the international community (in the widest sense of the term) is this; without such pretexts and smokescreens, what will be your response to such a brazen display of ethnic cleansing, racism and apartheid?

Prawer Plan: Ethnic Cleansing of the Naqab Bedouin

For those answering the Palestinian civil society call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) the response should be two-fold: intensify our efforts to implement BDS and where possible, focus BDS campaigns against companies or institutions directly linked to this latest phase of the ongoing Nakba (HL) in the Naqab desert. The Stop the JNF campaign certainly provides this focus on the Naqab as the JNF/KKL will without doubt be directly linked to this land grab as they have with the entire Zionist project. Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign have also begun looking at the activities of one of Scotland’s biggest companies, The Wood Group with some interest and dismay.

The Wood Group

An Aberdeen-based energy services giant, The Wood Group are currently building Israel’s biggest privately owned power station on what used to be the Palestinian town of Al Madjal (ethnically cleansed in 1948 and now called Askelon) just miles from the area designated for ethnic cleansing under the Prawer Plan. This $875 million project is due for completion sometime this year and is set to provide Israel with 8% of it’s electricity. Behind these figures lies a darker picture, one that won’t be presented to Wood Group shareholders. Just miles from this power plant is the besieged Gaza strip, plagued with chronic and often lethal power shortages due to Israel’s medieval blockade. Gazans will receive no benefits from this power station. Neither will the so-called ‘unrecognised villages’ earmarked for destruction under the Prawer Plan, as unrecognised villages, Israel refuses to connect them to the electricity grid. If Israel is allowed to succeed in this latest wave of ethnic cleansing and newly built Jewish-only communities replace the Palestinian Bedouin ones, we can probably assume they will be powered with electricity from the nearby Wood Group-built plant. If so, not only would this constitute a clear case of energy apartheid it would implicate one of Scotland's most successful companies in what would be the biggest case of ethnic cleansing in the 21st century. The timing of the power plants completion and the implementation of the Prawer Plan may not be mere coincidence. Initial research has revealed that along with Keter Plastic (a BDS target with operations in illegal West Bank settlements) and the notorious Israeli water company Mekorot electricity from the plant will be sold to the Israeli Ministry of Defence. The Israeli Army has already been relocating it’s training bases to the South and at least some of the land to be seized in the Prawer Plan is earmarked for housing Israeli soldiers stationed at these bases. Even if no hard evidence can be found linking the Wood Group to the Prawer Plan can be found, contracts with the Israeli apartheid state alone, and the sheer proximity of the infrastructure they're building to the Naqab present a clear case of guilt by assocciation.

Resistance

On Monday 15th July Palestinians from across historical Palestine rose against the Prawer Plan. Demonstrations were held in the Naqab, Yaffa, Jerusalem, Haifa, Akka, Nazareth, Lod & Ramleh, Nablus, Hebron, Ramallah, Gaza City and many other places to coincide with a general strike by Palestinian citizens of Israel called the ‘Anger Strike’. Palestinian activist Abir Kopty articulates the national significance of resisting the Prawer Plan:

This is not just the struggle of Palestinians 48, its the struggle of all parts of the Palestinian people against the same power that keeps us divided, continues to colonize our land and transfer our people, whether in lands occupied in 1967 or in 1948.

At the time of writing, more protests are taking place across the whole of Palestine, despite many arrests and predictable Israeli violence and Palestinians have vowed that they will continue and continue to grow. Events on the ground can be followed through social media as Palestinian youth use the twitter hashtag #StopPrawerPlan to mobilise and report on the growing resistance.

The divisions amongst the Palestinian people are carefully nurtured and such manifestations of national unity across the whole of historic Palestine are seldom witnessed and as Ben White comments, resistance to the Prawer Plan is uniting Palestinians from all areas and factions. This makes them all the more inspiring and important and they demand cohesive and focused action from the international solidarity activists in response to this mass ethnic cleansing project. Be it Veolia, G4S, Sainsbury’s, The Wood Group or anyone else we must ensure that the BDS movement extracts a price for complicity with Israeli apartheid and ethnic cleansing and that no company, however large, is beyond the reach of BDS.

 


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By Dominique Vidal in Le Monde Diplomatique December 1997

"...250 killed, some of whom were unarmed prisoners. This was followed by a forced evacuation characterised by summary executions and looting...Similar scenarios were enacted, as Morris shows, in central Galilee, Upper Galilee and the northern Negev, as well as in the post-war expulsion of the Palestinians of Al Majdal (Ashkelon). Most of these operations (with the exception of the latter) were marked by atrocities - a fact which led Aharon Zisling, the minister of agriculture, to tell the Israeli cabinet on 17 November 1948: "I couldn't sleep all night. I felt that things that were going on were hurting my soul, the soul of my family and all of us here (...) Now Jews too have behaved like Nazis and my entire being has been shaken 10."

Palestinian refugees on the move in 1948
Fifty years ago the UN decided to partition Palestine into two states, one Arab, one Jewish. The ensuing Arab-Israeli war ended with Israel expanding its share of the land by a third, while what remained to the Arabs was occupied by Egypt and Jordan. Several thousand Palestinians fled their homes, becoming the refugees at the heart of the conflict. Israel has always denied that they were expelled, either forcibly or as a matter of policy. Israel's "new historians" have been re-examining that denial and have put an end to a number of myths.

Between the partition plan for Palestine adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on 29 November 1947 and the 1949 ceasefire that ended the Arab-Israeli war, begun by the invasion of 15 May 1948, several hundred thousand Palestinians abandoned their homes in territory that ended up occupied by Israel 1.

Palestinian and Arab historians have always maintained that this was an expulsion. The vast majority of the refugees (estimated at between 700,000 and 900,000) were, they say, forced to leave, first, as a result of clashes between Israelis and Palestinians, and then by the Arab-Israeli war, in which a political-military strategy of expulsion had been marked by several massacres. This position was stated as far back as 1961, by Walid Khalidi, in his essay "Plan Dalet: Master Plan for the Conquest of Palestine" 2 and has recently been restated by Elias Sanbar in "Palestine 1948. L'Expulsion"3.

Mainstream Israeli historians, on the other hand, have always claimed that the refugees (numbering, in their estimation, 500,000 at most) mostly left voluntarily, responding to calls from their leaders assuring them of a prompt return after victory. They deny that the Jewish Agency (and subsequently the Israeli government) had planned the exodus. Furthermore, they maintain that the few (and regrettable) massacres that occurred - particularly the Deir Yassin massacre of 9 April 1948 - were the work of extremist soldiers associated with Menachem Begin's Irgun and Yitzhak Shamir's Lehi.

However, by the 1950s this version was already beginning to be contested by leading Israeli figures associated with the Communist Party and with elements of the Zionist left (notably Mapam). Later, in the mid-1980s, they were joined in their critique by a number of historians who described themselves as revisionist historians: Simha Flapan, Tom Segev, Avi Schlaim, Ilan Pappe and Benny Morris. It was Morris's book, "The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem", that first prompted public concern4. Leaving aside differences of subject, methodology and viewpoint, what unites these historians is that they are bent on unpicking Israel's national myths5. They have focused particularly on the myths of the first Arab-Israeli war, contributing (albeit partially, as we shall see), to establishing the truth about the Palestinian exodus. And in the process they have incurred the wrath of Israel's orthodox historians 6.

This research activity was originally stimulated by two separate sets of events. First, the opening of Israeli archives, both state and private, covering the period in question. Here it is worth noting that the historians appear to have ignored almost entirely both the archives of the Arab countries (not that these are notable for their accessibility) and oral history potential among Palestinians themselves, where considerable work has been done by other historians. As the Palestinian historian, Nur Masalha, rightly says: "History and historiography ought not necessarily be written, exclusively or mainly, by the victors7".

Second, this delving into Israel's archives would perhaps not have borne such fruit if the following ten years had not been marked by the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982 and by the outbreak of the intifada in 1987. Both these events accentuated the split between the nationalist camp and the peace movement in Israel itself. As it turned out, the "new historians" were uncovering the origins of the Palestinian problem at precisely the moment that the whole question of Palestine was returning to centre stage.

In a recent article in the "Revue d'études palestiniennes" 8, Ilan Pappe, one of the pioneers of this "new historiography", has stressed the importance of the dialogue that was unfolding in that period between Israelis and Palestinians. It developed, he says, "basically among academics. Surprising as it may seem, it was thanks to this dialogue that most Israeli researchers who were working on their country's history and who had no links to the radical political organisations, became aware of the version of history held by their Palestinian counterparts. They became aware of the fundamental contradiction between Zionist national ambitions and their enactment at the expense of the local population in Palestine."

To this we might add that the manipulation of history for political ends is not an exclusively Israeli domain: most often it goes hand in hand with nationalism.

What lessons have the revisionist historians drawn from their diligent working-through of the archives? As regards the broad picture of the balance of power between Jews and Arabs in both 1947 and 1948, their results contradict the generally-held picture of a weak and poorly armed Jewish community in Palestine threatened with extermination by a highly armed and united Arab world - David versus Goliath. Quite the contrary. The revisionists concur in pointing to the many advantages enjoyed by the nascent Jewish state over its enemies: the decomposition of Palestinian society; the divisions in the Arab world and the inferiority of their armed forces (in terms of numbers, training and weaponry, and hence impact); the strategic advantage enjoyed by Israel as a result of its agreement with King Abdullah of Transjordan (in exchange for the West Bank, he undertook not to attack the territory allocated to Israel by the UN); British support for this compromise, together with the joint support of the United States and the Soviet Union; the sympathy of world public opinion and so forth.

This all helps to explain the devastating effectiveness of the Jewish offensives of spring 1948. It also sheds new light on the context in which the mass departure of Palestinians took place. The exodus was divided into two broadly equal waves: one before and one after the decisive turning-point of the declaration of the State of Israel on 14 May 1948 and the intervention of the armies of the neighbouring Arab states on the following day. One can agree that the flight of thousands of well-to-do Palestinians during the first few weeks following the adoption of the UN partition plan - particularly from Haifa and Jaffa - was essentially voluntary. The question is what was the truth of the departures that happened subsequently?

In the opening pages of "The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem", Benny Morris offers the outlines of an overall answer: using a map that shows the 369 Arab towns and villages in Israel (within its 1949 borders), he lists, area by area, the reasons for the departure of the local population 9. In 45 cases he admits that he does not know. The inhabitants of the other 228 localities left under attack by Jewish troops, and in 41 cases they were expelled by military force. In 90 other localities, the Palestinians were in a state of panic following the fall of a neighbouring town or village, or for fear of an enemy attack, or because of rumours circulated by the Jewish army - particularly after the 9 April 1948 massacre of 250 inhabitants of Deir Yassin, where the news of the killings swept the country like wildfire.

By contrast, he found only six cases of departures at the instigation of local Arab authorities. "There is no evidence to show that the Arab states and the AHC wanted a mass exodus or issued blanket orders or appeals to the Palestinians to flee their homes (though in certain areas the inhabitants of specific villages were ordered by Arab commanders or the AHC to leave, mainly for strategic reasons)." ("The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem", p. 129). On the contrary, anyone who fled was actually threatened with "severe punishment". As for the broadcasts by Arab radio stations allegedly calling on people to flee, a detailed listening to recordings of their programmes of that period shows that the claims were invented for pure propaganda.

Military operations marked by atrocities
In "1948 and After" Benny Morris examines the first phase of the exodus and produces a detailed analysis of a source that he considers basically reliable: a report prepared by the intelligence services of the Israeli army, dated 30 June 1948 and entitled "The emigration of Palestinian Arabs in the period 1/12/1947-1/6/1948". This document sets at 391,000 the number of Palestinians who had already left the territory that was by then in the hands of Israel, and evaluates the various factors that had prompted their decisions to leave. "At least 55% of the total of the exodus was caused by our (Haganah/IDF) operations." To this figure, the report's compilers add the operations of the Irgun and Lehi, which "directly (caused) some 15%... of the emigration". A further 2% was attributed to explicit expulsion orders issued by Israeli troops, and 1% to their psychological warfare. This leads to a figure of 73% for departures caused directly by the Israelis. In addition, the report attributes 22% of the departures to "fears" and "a crisis of confidence" affecting the Palestinian population. As for Arab calls for flight, these were reckoned to be significant in only 5% of cases...

In short, as Morris puts it, this report "undermines the traditional official Israeli 'explanation' of a mass flight ordered or 'invited' by the Arab leadership". Neither, as he points out, "does [the report] uphold the traditional Arab explanation of the exodus - that the Jews, with premeditation and in a centralised fashion, had systematically waged a campaign aimed at the wholesale expulsion of the native Palestinian population." However, he says that "the circumstances of the second half of the exodus" - which he estimates as having involved between 300,000 and 400,000 people - "are a different story."

One example of this second phase was the expulsion of Arabs living in Lydda (present-day Lod) and Ramleh. On 12 July 1948, within the framework of Operation Dani, a skirmish with Jordanian armoured forces served as a pretext for a violent backlash, with 250 killed, some of whom were unarmed prisoners. This was followed by a forced evacuation characterised by summary executions and looting and involving upwards of 70,000 Palestinian civilians - almost 10% of the total exodus of 1947- 49. Similar scenarios were enacted, as Morris shows, in central Galilee, Upper Galilee and the northern Negev, as well as in the post-war expulsion of the Palestinians of Al Majdal (Ashkelon). Most of these operations (with the exception of the latter) were marked by atrocities - a fact which led Aharon Zisling, the minister of agriculture, to tell the Israeli cabinet on 17 November 1948: "I couldn't sleep all night. I felt that things that were going on were hurting my soul, the soul of my family and all of us here (...) Now Jews too have behaved like Nazis and my entire being has been shaken 10."

The Israeli government of the time pursued a policy of non- compromise, in order to prevent the return of the refugees "at any price" (as Ben Gurion himself put it), despite the fact that the UN General Assembly had been calling for this since 11 December 1948. Their villages were either destroyed or occupied by Jewish immigrants, and their lands were shared out between the surrounding kibbutzim. The law on "abandoned properties" - which was designed to make possible the seizure of any land belonging to persons who were "absent" - "legalised" this project of general confiscation as of December 1948. Almost 400 Arab villages were thus either wiped off the map or Judaised, as were most of the Arab quarters in mixed towns. According to a report drawn up in 1952, Israel had thus succeeded in expropriating 73,000 rooms in abandoned houses, 7,800 shops, workshops and warehouses, 5 million Palestinian pounds in bank accounts, and - most important of all - 300,000 hectares of land 11.

In "1948 and After" (chapter 4), Benny Morris deals at greater length with the role played by Yosef Weitz, who was at the time director of the Jewish National Fund's Lands Department. This man of noted Zionist convictions confided to his diary on 20 December 1940: "It must be clear that there is no room in the country for both people (...) the only solution is a Land of Israel, at least a western Land of Israel without Arabs. There is no room here for compromise. (...) There is no way but to transfer the Arabs from here to the neighbouring countries(...) Not one village must be left, not one (bedouin) tribe."

Seven years later, Weitz found himself in a position to put this radical programme into effect. Already, in January 1948, he was orchestrating the expulsion of Palestinians from various parts of the country. In April he proposed - and obtained - the creation of "a body which would direct the Yishuv's war with the aim of evicting as many Arabs as possible". This body was unofficial at first, but was formalised at the end of August 1948 into the "Transfer Committee" which supervised the destruction of abandoned Arab villages and/or their repopulation with recent Jewish immigrants, in order to make any return of the refugees impossible. Its role was extended, in July, to take in the creation of Jewish settlements in the border areas.

Israel's battle to bar the return of Palestinian exiles was also pursued on the diplomatic front. Here, as Henry Laurens noted in a review of the revisionist historians 12, "the opening- up, and the use, of the archives made it possible to revise a number of previously-held positions. Contrary to the widely held view, the Arab leaders were prepared for compromise." As soon as the war ended, the Arab leadership was trying, within the context of the Lausanne Conference, to arrive at a general settlement based on Arab acceptance of the UN partition plan (Ilan Pappe gives a detailed account of their efforts13), in exchange for Israeli acceptance of a right of return for the refugees. Despite international pressure -with the United States to the fore - this enterprise was to founder on the intransigence of the Israeli authorities, particularly once the Jewish state had been admitted to the United Nations.

Despite this extraordinary accumulation of evidence, Benny Morris concludes in his first book that "the Palestinian refugee problem was born of war, not by design, Jewish or Arab." ("The Birth...", p. 286) His second book offers a more considered approach, in which he recognises that the Palestinian exodus was "a cumulative process, there were interlocking causes, and there was a main precipitator, a coup de grace, in the form of Haganah, Irgun and IDF assault in each locality". ("1948...", p. 32). This shift of position does not, however, prevent him from continuing to resist any notion of a Jewish expulsion plan, and to exonerate David Ben Gurion, president of the Jewish Agency and subsequently prime minister and defence minister of the newly-created Israeli state.

As Norman G. Finkelstein has highlighted, in a textual study that is as brilliant as it is polemical 14, this twin denial by Benny Morris seems at first sight to contradict what Morris says himself. After all, he himself tells us that "the essence of the [Dalet] plan was the clearing of hostile and potentially hostile forces out of the interior of the prospective territory of the Jewish State, establishing territorial continuity between the major concentrations of Jewish population and securing the Jewish State's future borders before, and in anticipation of, the Arab invasion." ("The Birth...", p. 62) And he also recognises that Plan D, while it did not give carte blanche for an expulsion of civilians, was nevertheless "a strategic-ideological anchor and basis for expulsions by front, district, brigade and battalion commanders" for whom it provided "post facto a formal persuasive covering note to explain their actions" (p. 63). Benny Morris contrives to make two seemingly contradictory statements within two pages of each other, namely that "Plan D was not a political blueprint for the expulsion of Palestine's Arabs" and that "from the beginning of April, there are clear traces of an expulsion policy on both national and local levels". ("The Birth...", pp. 62 and 64)

The same is true as regards the responsibility or otherwise of David Ben Gurion. Morris makes clear that the prime minister was the originator of the Dalet Plan. In July 1948 we find Ben Gurion again, giving the order for the operations in Lydda and Ramleh: "Expel them!" he told Yigal Allon and Yitzhak Rabin - a section censored out of Rabin's memoirs, but published thirty years later in the "New York Times" 15. This order, Morris tells us, had not been debated within the Israeli government. In fact, some days previously the Mapam, partner of the ruling Mapai, had obtained from the prime minister an instruction explicitly forbidding the military to carry out expulsion measures... Ben Gurion later attacked the hypocrisy of this Marxist Zionist party for condemning "activities" in which its own militants, Palmah troops and kibbutzniks alike, had also taken part.

In Nazareth, General Chaim Laskov decided to take the official instruction literally. One story has Ben Gurion arriving there, discovering the local population still in situ, and declaring angrily "What are they doing here?" 16 Also in July, but this time in Haifa, we have Ben Gurion as the man behind the scenes in the operation for the "de-localisation" of the 3,500 Arabs still remaining in the town, followed by the partial destruction of the former Arab quarter.

In short, as Morris himself points out, power at that period of Israel's history resided with Ben Gurion and with him alone. All issues, whether military or civilian, were decided with him, often without the slightest consultation with the government, let alone with the parties that comprised it. In such a situation, the absence from the archives of any formal parliamentary or governmental decision to expel the Palestinians proves nothing. As Morris himself admits, "Ben Gurion always refrained from issuing clear or written expulsion orders; he preferred that his generals 'understand' what he wanted done. He wished to avoid going down in history as the 'great expeller'" ("The Birth...", pp. 292-3).

The fact that the founder of the State of Israel took advantage of the impressive extent of his powers and worked towards the maximum enlargement of the territory allocated to the Jewish state by the United Nations, and towards reducing its Arab population to a minimum, is a matter of historical fact. Morris devoted an important article 17 to Ben Gurion's long-term support for the transfer project. As he writes in his preface to "1948 and After...", "Already from 1937 we find Ben Gurion (and most of the other Zionist leaders) supporting a 'transfer' solution to the 'Arab problem' (...) Come 1948, and the confusions and deplacement of war, and we see Ben Gurion quickly grasp the opportunity for 'Judaising' the emergent Jewish State" ("1948 and After..., p. 33).

Prior to this, he tells us that "the tendency of military commanders to 'nudge' Palestinians' flight increased as the war went on. Jewish atrocities - far more widespread than the old histories have let on (there were massacres of Arabs at Ad Dawayima, Eilaboun, Jish, Safsaf, Majd al Kurum, Hule (in Lebanon), Saliha and Sasa, besides Deir Yassin and Lydda and other places) - also contributed significantly to the exodus" ("1948...", p. 22).

The "original sin"
Ilan Pappe, a professor at the University of Haifa, devotes two chapters of his book "The Making of the Arab- Israeli Conflict, 1947-1951" to these issues. Eschewing the caution of Morris's position, he concludes that "Plan D can be regarded in many respects as a master plan for expulsion. The plan was not conceived out of the blue - expulsion was considered as one of many means for retaliation against Arab attacks on Jewish convoys and settlements; nevertheless, it was also regarded as one of the best means of ensuring the domination of the Jews in the areas captured by the Israeli army" ("The Making...", p. 98).

Furthermore, the actual text of Plan D leaves very little doubt as to the intentions of Ben Gurion and his friends. It spoke of "operations against enemy population centres located inside or near our defensive system in order to prevent them from being used as bases by an active armed force. These operations can be carried out in the following manner: either by destroying villages (by setting fire to them, by blowing them up, and by planting mines in their debris), and especially of those population centres which are difficult to control continuously; or by mounting combing and control operations according to the following guidelines: encirclement of the village, conducting a search inside it. In case of resistance, the armed force must be wiped out and the population expelled outside the borders of the state" ("The Making...", p. 92).

For their achievements, and despite their limitations, we should applaud the courage of Israel's new historians. This is not just any old page of history on which they have worked to shed light. What they have opened to public view is the "original sin" of the state of Israel. Is it acceptable for the survivors of Hitler's genocide to have the right to live in a state of their own, and for this right to exclude the right of the sons and daughters of Palestine to live similarly at peace in their own country? Fifty years after the event, the time is long overdue to bring an end to this logic that has generated so much war, and to find a way for the two peoples to coexist. At the same time, we should not draw a veil over the historical origins of the tragedy.

(1) This article was the basis of a contribution to a colloquium on "The History of Contemporary Palestine" held at the Institut du Monde Arabe on 13 June 1997. It is being developed into a book to be published by Editions de l'Atelier in spring 1998.
(2) In Middle East Forum, November 1961, reprinted with a new commentary in the Journal of Palestine Studies, Beirut, vol. XVIII, no. 69, 1988.
(3) Elias Sanbar, in "Palestine 1948. L'Expulsion", "Revue d'études palestiniennes, Paris, 1984.
(4) Their most important publications are: Simha Flapan, "The Birth of Israel, Myth and Realities", Pantheon Books, New York, 1987; Tom Segev, "1949. The First Israelis", Free Press MacMillan, New York and London, 1986; Avi Schlaim, "Collusion across the Jordan: King Abdullah, the Zionist Movement and the Partition of Palestine", Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1988; Ilan Pappe, "Britain and the Arab-Israeli Conflict, 1948-1951", MacMillan, New York, 1988 and "The Making of the Arab-Israeli Conflict, 1947- 1951", I.B. Tauris, London, 1992; and Benny Morris, "The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem, 1947-1949", Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1987, and "1948 and After. Israel and the Palestinians", Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1990.
(5) The probing is obviously not limited to the first Arab- Israeli war. It also involves the attitude of the Zionist leadership to genocide (see in particular Tom Segev's "The Seventh Million", published in France by Liana Levi, Paris, 1992), and the nature of Jewish settlement during the period of the British mandate. Similarly, Benny Morris has pursued his exploration of the archives in order to shed light on Israeli expansionism during the 1950s (ÒIsrael's Border Wars: Arab Infiltration, Israeli Retaliation and the Countdown to the Suez War", Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1993) It also extends into other disciplines apart from historiography, particularly to sociology, and especially concerning the situation of Oriental Jews in Israeli society, from the early days to the present.
(6) See particularly Shabtai Teveth, "The Palestinian Refugee Problem and its Origins", Middle Eastern Studies, vol. 26, no. 2, 1990, and Ephraim Karsh, "Fabricating Israeli History: The "New Historians"", Frank Cass, London, 1997.
(7) Nur Masalha, "'1948 and After' revisited",Journal of Palestine Studies, no. 96, vol. XXIV, no. 4, summer 1995.
(8) Ilan Pappe, "La critique post-sioniste en Israel", La Revue d'études palestiniennes, no. 12, summer 1997.
(9) "The Birth..." op. cit., pp. 14-18. A careful comparison of the text of the book with the tables showing village by village the principal reasons for the exodus reveals a clear - and surprising - underestimation in the tables of the extent of actual expulsions.
(10) Tom Segev, op. cit., p. 26.
(11) Quoted by Simha Flapan, op. cit., p. 107.
(12) Henry Laurens, "Travaux récents sur l'histoire du premier conflit israélo-arabe",Maghreb-Machrek, Paris, no. 132, April-June 1991.
(13) "The Making...", op. cit., chapters 8-10. See also Jean-Yves Ollier, "1949: la conférence de Lausanne ou les limites du refus arabe", Revue d'études palestiniennes, no. 35, spring 1990.
(14) Norman G. Finkelstein, "Image and Reality of the Israel-Palestine Conflict", Verso, London and New York, 1995, chapter 3.
(15) New York Times, 23 October 1979.
(16) This story was told by Ben Gurion's biographer, Michel Bar-Zohar, and was reproduced in the Israeli dailyHadashot, Tel Aviv, 19 October 1986.
(17) Benny Morris, "Remarques sur l'historiographie sioniste de l'idée d'un transfert de populations en Palestine dans les années 1937-1944", in "Les nouveaux enjeux de l'historiographie israélienne", ed. Florence Heymann, Information paper, Centre de recherche français de Jérusalem, no. 12, December 1995. On the contradictions of Mapam's position, see the first chapter of "1948 and After".

By Dominique Vidal in Le Monde Diplomatique December 1997


As noted by Prof Stephen Graham of Newcastle University Dept of Architecture, the Israeli Army applied Nazi Germany's experience of crushing the Warsaw Ghetto uprising to attack and crush Palestinian resistance in Jenin: "Just as Israeli staff officers had no compunction studying the lessons of the Wehrmacht’s attack on the Warsaw Ghetto, as preparation for the onslaught on Jenin, so their counterparts in the Pentagon will have paid close attention to Defensive Shield."

The Warsaw Ghetto Uprising was resistance by Polish Jews under Nazi occupation in 1943 to the deportations from Warsaw to the Treblinka extermination camp. The revolt began on April 19, 1943, and it took the Wehrmacht weeks later to crush.jenin

The Battle of Jenin took place in the Jenin refugee camp in April 1–11, 2002. The Israeli Army employed infantry, commando forces, and assault helicopters. After an Israeli infantry column was defeated the army pulled back soldiers and used Caterpillar miltary armored bulldozers to destroy and flatten a large area of the camp, what Pwarsawrof. Graham calls urbicide.

Elsewhere he writes that the destruction is part of an overall plan for ethnic cleansing: Israel's main aim was

to destroy the urban, civil and infrastructural foundations of the proto-Palestinian state...to deny the Palestinian people their collective, individual and cultural rights to the city-based modernity long enjoyed by Israelis.

As suggested by the Israeli minister for Labor, Shaloumo Bin Azri, in May 2001, the objective is to ‘convert the life of Palestinians into hell’ through the ongoing destruction of infrastructure, the building of fences and ‘buffer zones’, and the strengthening of curfews and checkpoint controls to the point of ‘closure’.

Sharon’s war is thus a deliberate strategy to compel Palestinians to indefinite poverty. And it is succeeding. The World Bank recently found that 70% of Palestinians live below the poverty line of $2 a day and 30% of Palestinian children are chronically malnourished.

The Israelis made dramatic efforts during the invasion of the West Bank cities of Nablus, Ramallah, Hebron, Bethlehem and Jenin to undermine the already slow modernisation of these cities (which today house the vast majority of the Palestinian people). Water tanks were systematically riddled with bullets. Electronic communications were bombed and jammed. Roads were dug up and ruined. Electricity transformers were destroyed. Computers were smashed, their hard disks stolen. Any cultural or bureaucratic symbol of the proto-Palestinian state was ransacked. Houses were bulldozed – some with their occupants still inside. Financial damage to infrastructure from the first major offensive alone has been estimated by donors at $361 million. (Giacaman, R. and Husseini, A., ‘Life and health during the Israeli invasion of the West Bank: The Town of Jenin’, 29 May 2002.)

In addition, hospitals were bombed and medical equipment looted and wrecked. During the attacks, ambulances were prevented from entering the war zones, condemning many to a slow, avoidable death, as their blood, literally, seeped away. Those medical staff getting through were, in some cases, deliberately attacked and at least five were killed.

Numbers of civilian casualties are difficult to estimate, especially in Jenin. At the time of writing (6 August 2002) most reports estimate that at least 52 Palestinians were directly killed in Israel’s first Jenin attacks – at least 22 of these were civilians, including children and disabled people (see a Human Rights Watch report). In the Jenin operation, Israeli bulldozers levelled a 200 by 250 metre area, burying some civilians alive, and leaving over 4000 people homeless.

Since the demolitions, all attempts at rebuilding and removing unexploded ordinance have been blocked by the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF). As Jonathan Cook reported in the Guardian newspaper on 3 June 2002, ‘keeping the heart of the camp in ruins will make Jenin more accessible next time the tanks rumble in.’ Even since this was written, there have been many instances of such re-invasion.

The Israeli programme of disappearing Palestine and Palestinians has been in force for a long time. But still they resist.

Mick Napier
West Calder
1 August 2017

 



Power and History in the Middle East: A Conversation with Ilan Pappe


"I do not think there is a new anti-Semitism. There is anti-Semitism, rooted in the extreme right in Europe and the United States. It has been silenced to a great extent since 1945 and it is still a marginal phenomenon. There are strong sentiments against Israel and Zionism both on the Left and among the communities of Muslim immigrants. Some of the actions taken are reminiscent in form and tone of the old anti-Semitism, but for the most part, these actions have been taken against Jews who chose to represent Israel in their own countries and thus became targets for legitimate and illegitimate actions against them."

Q: What is your background and how do you see your own development as a historian?

Pappe: I was born in 1954 to a German Jewish family in Haifa where I lived in blissful ignorance about the world beyond the comfortable and safe mount Carmel until I reached the age of 18. At that age I began my military service which introduced me to other groups and to the host of social problems facing Israeli society. But it was only in the 1970s, at Hebrew University, that I was exposed to the plight of the Palestinians in Israel as an undergraduate in the department of Middle Eastern History. It was then and there that I found my love for history and developed my belief that the present cannot be understood and the future changed without first trying to decipher its historical dimensions.

Palestinian refugees on the move in 1948 - many were massacred by Zionist militias
It was clear that this could not be done freely inside Israel-especially if its own history was to be my subject matter. This is how I found myself at Oxford in 1984 as a D. Phil student under the supervision of two great supervisors, the late Albert Hourani and Roger Owen. The thesis was on the 1948 war in Palestine, a subject that has engaged me ever since my career as a professional historian began. This is still a subject that haunts me and I regard the events of that year as the key to understanding the present conflict in Palestine as well as the gate through which peace has to pass on the way to a comprehensive and lasting settlement in Palestine and Israel. Intimate and strong friendships with Palestinians and the newly declassified material in the archives produced my new look at the 1948 war. I challenged many of the foundational Israeli myths associated with the war and I described what happened in Palestine in that year essentially as a Jewish ethnic cleansing operation against the indigenous population. This conviction informed not only my work as a historian but also affected significantly my political views and activity.

I also ventured, in between my forays in the1948 story, into the exciting-but always productive for me-world of historiosophy and hermeneutics. I do think, in retrospect, that much of what I had read and discussed influenced my attitude to historiography in general. I treat history from a much more relativist point of view than many of my colleagues and I was also highly impressed by the need-which informs my work in the last few years-to write more a history of the people and less a history of the politicians, and more a history of the society and less of its ideology and elite politics.

Q: You have often been associated with “revisionist history” and the emergence of a “post-zionist” discourse: what do these terms mean and how have they affected the political climate in Israel?

Pappe: Revisionist history means those books written by Israeli historians about the 1948 war that question the essential foundational Israeli myths about that war. First among them is that it was a war between a Jewish David and an Arab Goliath. The new historians described an advantage for the Jewish military side in most stages of the war. They also pointed to the prior agreement between the Jewish state and the strongest Arab army-the Arab Legion of Transjordan-that neutralized the Palestinian force and limited its activity to the Greater Jerusalem area. This prior understanding divided post-Mandatory Palestine between the Jews and the Hashemites of Jordan at the expense of the Palestinians.

As for post-Zionism, this adjective is usually associated with critical research in Israel on various chapters in the history of Zionism and Israel. It includes sociologists who view Zionism as colonialism, historians who doubt the sincerity of the Zionist effort during the Holocaust, and it also criticizes the manipulation of Holocaust memory within Israel. Among them you can find scholars identifying with the fate of the Mizrachi Jews in Israel and who deconstruct the attitude of the state, especially in the 1950s, toward these groups employing paradigms of research offered by Edward Said and others in postcolonial studies. Palestinian Israelis have done the same in looking at the attitude of the Jewish state toward the Palestinian minority and feminists have critically analyzed the status of women and gender relations as they developed through time in the Jewish State.

In the 1990s, when most the works of the revisionist and post-Zionist historians and scholars appeared, there seemed to be some impact on the general public. You could see it in documentary films on television, in op-eds in the printed press and in some textbooks and curricula in the educational system.
But after the outbreak of the second intifada in October 2000, not much was left of the previous readiness of Israeli society to hear critical voices on the past. The electronic media loyally towed the official line; the printed press silenced critique in general; and revisionist textbooks were taken out of the school system.

One could probably say that it never affected the political system, but it seems to have taken root in Israeli civil society and its impact will, I think, be felt in years to come.

Q: Your last book dealt with 1948 and you suggest that Israel is still living with the consequences of choices made then. Could you elaborate on this?

Pappe: This was not my last book. My last book was A History of Modern Palestine, published by Cambridge University Press. My last book on 1948 is The Making of the Arab-Israeli Conflict, 1947-1951 published by I. B. Tauris.

Indeed, I think that the ethnic cleansing in 1948 will never allow Israel to reconcile with the Palestinians and the rest of the Middle East, nor to live in peace with its own Palestinian minority unless Israel boldly faces the past. The ethnic cleansing included the destruction of more than 400 villages, 11 towns and the expulsion of 750,000 Palestinians.

The Israeli state, as a political entity, has to acknowledge the ethnic cleansing. Until today it had failed to do so and it should be made accountable for its deeds and offer compensation for the people it wronged. This should be done on the basis of UN Resolution 194 that allowed the refugees to choose between compensation and return.

Q: The plight of the Israeli Arabs and those Arabs living in the occupied territories is often underestimated: they are seen as poor and exploited but, if I can put the matter this way, not particularly more than any number of other peoples. Is there something systematic here that is reminiscent of apartheid or even ethnic cleansing?

Pappe: There are of course differences in the way Israel treats the Palestinians living under occupation and those whom it regards as citizens. But there are also common features of that policy. Let us begin by charting the common ground. It is beyond the scope of this interview to present the emergence of Zionist attitudes and perceptions about the indigenous population of Palestine. What suffices in this context is to point to the final formulations of this process: a dehumanization of the Palestinians, their exclusive depiction as a security problem and the wish to have a pure Jewish state, empty of any Arabs or Arabism.

The wish to retain the façade of a democracy complicated the translation of these attitudes into actual policy toward Palestinians inside Israel, those who are officially regarded as citizens. Until 1966, in the name of security, the rights of these Palestinians were removed and they were subjected to cruel military rule. But when, after 1967, the U.S.-Israeli alliance became the central source for the Jewish State’s existence, one of the more democratic features developed among them was the abolition of that military rule. Racism and apartheid-which were official policy under military rule-now became illicit and in a way more dangerous because it was more difficult for human and civil rights organizations to expose them. In the years since 1967, as a Palestinian citizen you could never know where the racism and discrimination would hit you. It meant that at any given minute, without prior knowledge, you were likely to encounter de facto segregation, discrimination, abuse of basic rights and even death. This is still the state of affairs today, and in many ways it has worsened since the outbreak of the second intifada.

On top of all of this, Palestinian citizens in Israel suffer from a de jure discrimination as well. There are three laws in the country that define most of the cultivated land as belonging exclusively to the Jewish people and hence cannot be sold to, or transacted with, non-Jews, namely Arabs. Other qua apartheid laws are the law of citizenship that demands naturalization processes for the indigenous population while the law of return grants it unconditionally to unborn yet Jewish children everywhere in the world.

There are clear policies of discrimination in the welfare system, in the budgeting of public services and in the job opportunities, especially in industry, of which 70 percent is termed “Arab Free” as it is strongly connected to the military and security sector. But I think it is the daily experience-as I described it above-of the license for everyone who represents the state to abuse you at will that is the worst aspect of living as a Palestinian in the Jewish state. To this has lately been added the fear of ethnic cleansing and expulsion.

The situation in the occupied territories is far worse. House demolitions, expulsions, killings, torturing, land confiscation and daily harassment at will of the population has been going on from the first day of occupation in 1967: it did not start because of the suicide bombs which appeared for the first time in 1995 as a very belated Palestinian response for more than 25 years of occupation. The situation has only become worse in the last four years. There are several spheres of brutality that should be mentioned: the collective punishment, the abuse of thousands of detainees and political prisoners, the transfer of people, the economic devastation, the slaying of innocent citizens and the daily harassment at checkpoints. Lately to this was added the fence that is ghettoizing thousands of people, separating them from their land and their kin and/or destroying their source of living and their houses.

Q: This wall is being termed a “wall of separation.” Perhaps you can offer some reflections on this symbol of oppression and its implications.

Pappe: I think the wall fits well into older Zionist notions of how to solve the problem of Palestine while taking into account realpolitik such as the need to maintain Israel’s external image and keep a cordial relationship with the West and the United States in particular. The aim has always been, and it still remains, to have as much of Palestine as possible with as few Palestinians in it as possible. Only very unique historical circumstances, such as those that existed in 1948, allowed for mass expulsions of the Palestinians on the way to realize the vision of a totally de-Arabized Palestine. In the absence of, or while waiting for such circumstances, more gradual means have been employed. The first is an internal Israeli decision on how much of historical Palestine is needed for sustaining the Jewish State. The consensus between Labor and Likkud today is that the Gaza strip is not needed and that half of the West Bank as well can be given up. The half of the West Bank that is left to the Palestinians, however, is not a contiguous territory: it is bisected by areas in the West Bank deemed necessary for Israel’s survival, because they include water resources, historical sites, strategic positions and large post-1967 Jewish settlements. The drawing of this new map can either be done with the consent of a Palestinian leadership or without it.

The second device is a set of operations meant to cleanse the indigenous population of those areas that were annexed to Israel from the West Bank. Today there are about a quarter of a million people inhabiting these regions. As in 1948, the issue is not just expulsion, but also anti-repatriation. So the wall that is being built demarcates the eastern border of Israel (so that the Jewish State will consist of 85 percent of original Palestine) and is meant to draw a clear demographic line between the Jewish and Palestinian populations. People who have already been chased out of their houses while the wall and security zone around it was constructed, and those who are in danger of being evicted in the future, will be blocked from coming back by the wall.

The third step is an Israeli willingness to define the Gaza strip and what would be left of the West Bank as a Palestinian state. Such a state cannot be a viable political entity and would be akin to two huge prison camps-one in the Gaza Strip the other in the West Bank-in which many people would find it difficult to find employment and proper housing. This may lead to immigration and de-population that may raise the appetite of Israel for more land.

Two final points: the wall would leave the Palestinians citizens of Israel, as a “demographic” problem inside the wall. Zionist policies in the past and present Sharonite plans raise severe concerns for the fate of these people, presently still citizens of Israel who number more the one and a quarter million today. The second point is that the wall will also turn Israel into a prison hall-wardens and inmates are quite often both prisoners-which means that the siege mentality that lies behind some of the most cruel and aggressive Israeli policies inside and outside the country will continue.

Q: The Geneva Accords have raised the hopes of many: critics have attacked their advocates, however, and emphasized the need for a bi-national state rather than a “two-state” solution to the current crisis. Where do you stand?

Pappe: First, I do support a bi-national state and find it a far better solution than the two-states solution offered by the Accords. In fact, I will even go further than that and claim that only a secular democratic single state will, at the end of the day, bring peace and reconciliation to Palestine. It is the only political structure that allies with the demographic composition on the ground-the absence of any clear homogenous territorial communities, the need to repatriate the refugees, and the danger of the politics of identity on both sides if they are to become state identities and the need to cater to crucial and urgent agendas such as poverty and ecological problems that cannot be dealt with by a national structure in either Israel or Palestine alone.

The Geneva initiative is, like so many other peace plans in the past, an Israeli dictate that seeks, and quite often finds, Palestinian partners. This present peace plan, like the previous one, has three assumptions that have to be deconstructed. The first is that the ethnic cleansing of Palestine in 1948 is irrelevant to the making of peace. The second is that peace excludes any solution for the refugee question based on the right of return and Israeli accountability for the catastrophe of 1948. The third, is that the Palestinians are not entitled to a state, but a dependency over roughly 15 percent of historical Palestine and for that they should declare the end of the conflict.

My point is that indeed everything possible should be done to end the occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza strip and liberate it from Israeli control and pass it to Palestinian hands. But this can only be a first step, because such a withdrawal does not solve the predicament of most of the Palestinian people, who live in refugee camps or are citizens of Israel. The end of the occupation is not equivalent to the end of the conflict, as is stated in the Geneva document, it is a precondition for peace.

Israel has first to acknowledge the ethnic cleansing of 1948 and make itself accountable by implementing UN resolution 194. In the meantime, given the realities surrounding the return of refugees and the presence of so many Jews in Palestinian areas, there will be a need to look for the appropriate political structure that can carry this reconciliation. For me, the best is the one state structure.

Q: What would you say to those who claim that the current policies of the Sharon regime are in reality necessary in order to assure the security of Israel from terrorist fanatics?

Pappe: There are two answers. The first is that these policies were intact from 1967, long before the first suicide bomber was even born. The second is that we should say to them what we say to those who claim that the neocons in Washington planned the occupation of Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and Iran because of 9/11. I think we all know that 9/11 was a pretext for a strategy born in a certain American school of thought of what America is all about and how it should control the world politically, militarily and economically. The suicide bombers are a pretext for implementing a harsher version of policies of collective punishment meant to enable the territorial enlargement of Israel and the de-population of further parts of Palestine.

Q: Israel is often depicted as the lone outpost of democracy in the Middle East. How legitimate is this claim? Or, further, is a redefinition of democracy taking place in your country?

Pappe: I think that one of the major tests for a democracy is the treatment of minorities. If this is accepted as a principal test case then it is ludicrous to define Israel as a democracy, let alone as an outpost of democracy. There are official and formal characteristics which justify the definition of Israel as a democracy, but it is so flawed in the field of maintaining basic civil and human rights, that notwithstanding these attributes, one can still cast severe doubts about the definition of the state as a democracy.

As I have tried to show in the analysis of the Israeli attitude to Palestinians as citizens or under occupation, the basic Israeli policy is a mixture of apartheid practices and colonialist attitudes. But also the role of religion in the state and the consequent violation of basic rights as a result are additional reasons to look for a different definition for Israel, rather than search a new definition for democracy.

Q: What do you make of what has been termed the “new anti-Semitism”?

Pappe: I do not think there is a new anti-Semitism. There is anti-Semitism, rooted in the extreme right in Europe and the United States. It has been silenced to a great extent since 1945 and it is still a marginal phenomenon. There are strong sentiments against Israel and Zionism both on the Left and among the communities of Muslim immigrants. Some of the actions taken are reminiscent in form and tone of the old anti-Semitism, but for the most part, these actions have been taken against Jews who chose to represent Israel in their own countries and thus became targets for legitimate and illegitimate actions against them. Particularly appalling is the use by the Israeli government and its supporters of the anti-Semitism card in order to silence any criticism on its policies in Palestine.

Q: Do you see any sources of change and hope?

Pappe: Alas, not in the near future, but I am quite hopeful about the long term. I think there are signs that elements of civil society both in Israel and in Palestine are willing to take the issue of resolving the conflict away from the politicians who hijacked it for their own personal and narrow interests. Such actions on the part of civil society, however, will unfortunately not prove effective or assume a mass character unless there is strong external pressure on, and condemnation of, the Israeli state and its policies. A more hopeful scenario cannot materialize unless that occurs and more blood will be shed in another round or two of violence.

Q: Arab critics have described Zionism as a form of racism: how would you deal with that assessment?

Pappe: Zionism is both a national movement and a colonialist project. Most national movements have an inherent racist element in them. They differ in how significant this element in the national discourse and practice actually is. In Zionism, it is a particularly meaningful signifier of self-identity.

Colonialism is also very closely associated with racism and there are many features of Zionism in the past and the present that are purely colonialist in character. The only thing I would object to in identifying Zionism and racism is the tendency to neglect other vital aspects of Zionism such as its importance for creating a Hebrew culture, a new nation state, and a safe haven for some Jews.

Interview taken from Logos Journal

Ilan Pappe's recent books include, The Making of the Arab-Israeli Conflict (1992), The Israel\Palestine Question (1999) and A History of Modern Palestine (2003).

Ben White
Middle East Monitor

A few years ago, Peres described the Palestinians as “self-victimising.” He went on: “They victimise themselves. They are a victim of their own mistakes unnecessarily.” Such cruel condescension was characteristic of a man for whom “peace” always meant colonial pacification.

Shimon PeresPeres was born in modern day Belarus in 1923, and his family moved to Palestine in the 1930s. As a young man, Peres joined the Haganah, the militia primarily responsible for the ethnic cleansing of Palestinian villages in 1947-49, during the Nakba.

Despite the violent displacement of the Palestinians being a matter of historical record, Peres has always insisted that Zionist forces “upheld the purity of arms” during the establishment of the State of Israel. Indeed, he even claimed that before Israel existed, “there was nothing here”.

Over seven decades, Peres served as prime minister (twice) and president, though he never actually won a national election outright. He was a member of 12 cabinets and had stints as defence, foreign and finance minister.

He is perhaps best known in the West for his role in the negotiations that led to the 1993 Oslo Accords which won him, along with Yitzhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat, the Nobel Peace Prize.

Yet for Palestinians and their neighbours in the Middle East, Peres’ track record is very different from his reputation in the West as a tireless “dove”. The following is by no means a comprehensive summary of Peres’ record in the service of colonialism and apartheid.

Nuclear weapons
Between 1953 and 1965, Peres served first as director general of Israel’s defence ministry and then as deputy defence minister. On account of his responsibilities at the time, Peres has been described as “an architect of Israel’s nuclear weapons programme” which, to this day, “remains outside the scrutiny of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).”

In 1975, as secret minutes have since revealed, Peres met with South African Defence Minister PW Botha and “offered to sell nuclear warheads to the apartheid regime.” In 1986, Peres authorised the Mossad operation that saw nuclear whistle-blower Mordechai Vanunu* kidnapped in Rome.

Targetting Palestinian citizens
Peres had a key role in the military regime imposed on Palestinian citizens until 1966, under which authorities carried out mass land theft and displacement.

One such tool was Article 125 which allowed Palestinian land to be declared a closed military zone. Its owners denied access, the land would then be confiscated as “uncultivated”. Peres praised Article 125 as a means to “directly continue the struggle for Jewish settlement and Jewish immigration.”

Another one of Peres’ responsibilities in his capacity as director general of the defence ministry was to “Judaise” the Galilee; that is to say, to pursue policies aimed at reducing the region’s proportion of Palestinian citizens compared to Jewish ones.

In 2005, as Vice Premier in the cabinet of Ariel Sharon, Peres renewed his attack on Palestinian citizens with plans to encourage Jewish Israelis to move to the Galilee. His “development” plan covered 104 communities – 100 of them Jewish.

In secret conversations with US officials that same year, Peres claimed Israel had “lost one million dunams [1,000 square kilometres] of Negev land to the Bedouin”, adding that the “development” of the Negev and Galilee could “relieve what [he] termed a demographic threat.”

Supporting illegal settlements in the West Bank
While Israel’s settlement project in the West Bank has come to be associated primarily with Likud and other right-wing nationalist parties, it was in fact Labor which kick-started the colonisation of the newly-conquered Palestinian territory – and Peres was an enthusiastic participant.

During Peres’ tenure as defence minister, from 1974 to 1977, the Rabin government established a number of key West Bank settlements, including Ofra, large sections of which were built on confiscated privately-owned Palestinian land.

Having played a key role in the early days of the settlement enterprise, in more recent years, Peres has intervened to undermine any sort of measures, no matter how modest, at sanctioning the illegal colonies – always, of course, in the name of protecting “peace negotiations”.

The Qana massacre
As prime minister in 1996, Peres ordered and oversaw “Operation Grapes of Wrath” when Israeli armed forces killed some 154 civilians in Lebanon and injured another 351. The operation, widely believed to have been a pre-election show of strength, saw Lebanese civilians intentionally targeted.

According to the official Israeli Air Force website (in Hebrew, not English), the operation involved “massive bombing of the Shia villages in South Lebanon in order to cause a flow of civilians north, toward Beirut, thus applying pressure on Syria and Lebanon to restrain Hezbollah.”

The campaign’s most notorious incident was the Qana massacre, when Israel shelled a United Nations compound and killed 106 sheltering civilians. A UN report stated that, contrary to Israeli denials, it was “unlikely” that the shelling “was the result of technical and/or procedural errors.”

Later, Israeli gunners told Israeli television that they had no regrets over the massacre, as the dead were “just a bunch of Arabs”. As for Peres, his conscience was also clean: “Everything was done according to clear logic and in a responsible way,” he said. “I am at peace.”

Gaza – defending blockade and brutality
Peres came into his own as one of Israel’s most important global ambassadors in the last ten years, as the Gaza Strip was subjected to a devastating blockade and three major offensives. Despite global outrage at such policies, Peres has consistently backed collective punishment and military brutality.

In January 2009, for example, despite calls by “Israeli human rights organisations…for ‘Operation Cast Lead’ to be halted”, Peres described “national solidarity behind the military operation” as “Israel’s finest hour.” According to Peres, the aim of the assault “was to provide a strong blow to the people of Gaza so that they would lose their appetite for shooting at Israel.”

During “Operation Pillar of Defence” in November 2012, Peres “took on the job of helping the Israeli public relations effort, communicating the Israeli narrative to world leaders,” in the words of Ynetnews. On the eve of Israel’s offensive, “Peres warned Hamas that if it wants normal life for the people of Gaza, then it must stop firing rockets into Israel.”

In 2014, during an unprecedented bombardment of Gaza, Peres stepped up once again to whitewash war crimes. After Israeli forces killed four small children playing on a beach, Peres knew who to blame – the Palestinians: “It was an area that we warned would be bombed,” he said. “And unfortunately they didn’t take out the children.”

The choking blockade, condemned internationally as a form of prohibited collective punishment, has also been defended by Peres – precisely on the grounds that it is a form of collective punishment. As Peres put it in 2014: “If Gaza ceases fire, there will be no need for a blockade.”

Peres’ support for collective punishment also extended to Iran. Commenting in 2012 on reports that six million Iranians suffering from cancer were unable to get treatment due to sanctions, Peres said: “If they want to return to a normal life, let them become normal.”

Unapologetic to the end
Peres was always clear about the goal of a peace deal with the Palestinians. As he said in 2014: “The first priority is preserving Israel as a Jewish state. That is our central goal, that is what we are fighting for.” Last year he reiterated these sentiments in an interview with AP, saying: “Israel should implement the two-state solution for her own sake,” so as not to “lose our [Jewish] majority.”

This, recall, was what shaped Labor’s support for the Oslo Accords. Rabin, speaking to the Knesset not long before his assassination in 1995, was clear that what Israel sought from the Oslo Accords was a Palestinian “entity” that would be “less than a state”. Jerusalem would be Israel’s undivided capital, key settlements would be annexed and Israel would remain in the Jordan Valley.

A few years ago, Peres described the Palestinians as “self-victimising.” He went on: “They victimise themselves. They are a victim of their own mistakes unnecessarily.” Such cruel condescension was characteristic of a man for whom “peace” always meant colonial pacification.

Original article 28 September 2016 by Ben White, Middle East Monitor

*On Vanunu, see
Scottish Government calls for Vanunu's liberty
Scottish clergy support Mordechai Vanunu

Glasgow City Council votes to support Israeli prisoner, Mordechai Vanunu
Majority of Scottish Cabinet & MSPs support Vanunu  "Vanunu’s election sends an important message to the Palestinian people expressing Scotland’s disgust at their treatment at the hands of the Israeli Government". Patrick Harvie's 2005 motion was signed by Nicola Sturgeon among others.

See also
Israel hawked nuclear weapons to apartheid rulers in South Africa

 

 

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