By *Jomo Sanga Thomas
(“Plain Talk” May 28, 2021)
“There will be no viable, sovereign Palestinian state to which refugees can go. What remains of the case against Palestinian refugee return is a series of historical and legal arguments, peddled by Israeli and American Jewish leaders, about why Palestinians deserved their expulsion and have no right to remedy it now. These arguments are not only unconvincing but deeply ironic since they ask Palestinians to repudiate the very principles of intergenerational memory and historical restitution that Jews hold sacred. If Palestinians have no right to return to their homeland, neither do we.” — Peter Beinart.
“The idea that the land of Palestine is the land of Israel — when you hear it think about someone coming to you in the dead of night and tells you I used to live in your house 2000 years ago and because of that the house belongs to me and the next day they come with the police who says ‘they have a right, you have to give them half of their house.” — Ilan Pappé, Israeli historian.
Every four or five years, the Israeli government, with the help and support of some of the most powerful countries globally, engages in brutal and wanton acts of destruction against Palestinian people. If any other government committed these acts, they would be roundly condemned as crimes against humanity. Rather than blocking UN Security Council resolutions, the United States of America, Israel’s biggest supporter, will be mobilising an international humanitarian force to rescue the beleaguered Palestinian people.
It is an absolute shame and disgrace to look on almost helpless as Israel launches some of the most sophisticated weapons against the defenceless people of Palestine. Israel’s acts of impunity are supported mainly by the taxpayers of the United States. Each year the United States provides Israel with aid to the tune of US$10 million per day.
To understand the Palestine/Israeli conflict, we have to disabuse ourselves of the notion that European Jews have a right to a homeland in the area that is historical Palestine. Also, we have to understand the Zionist argument that Israel fulfils the dream of a “people without land for a land without people”. The recorded history is clear. Palestinians always lived in Palestine and always made up the majority of people who lived there.
When Israel was created in 1948, murderous Israeli nationalist militias chased more than 700,000 Palestinians from their homes. Since then, tens of thousands more have been brutalised, murdered and or made into refugees by foreigners whose only claim to the lands and houses they steal is that they are Jewish.
When the state of Israel was created in 1948, the big powers — England, Soviet Union and the United States — through the newly formed United Nations, improperly allotted 55% of historical Palestine to Israel. The injustice of the partition is reflected in the fact that at that time, less than one-third of the population of Palestine was Jewish.
Despite the unfair deal, most Zionist leaders considered this division unacceptable. David Ben-Gurion, who became Israel’s first prime minister an entire decade before Israel declared independence, said he “wanted as few Arabs as possible in the Jewish State … I support a compulsory transfer. Without some sort of massive displacement of Arabs from the area of the Jewish state to be, there could be no viable Jewish state.”
And that’s the way it has been ever since; one murderous land grab after another. Almost daily, the Israeli government sends armed soldiers with bulldozers to destroy Palestinian homes and villages to further Israeli settlements.
Following the 1967 war, Israel captured the West Bank, Gaza Strip, the Golan Heights, and the Sinai Peninsula. Today, observers describe Gaza as the largest open-air prison in the world. Israel’s blockade of the territory is supported by the US and the criminal Al Sisi regime in Egypt and other reactionary Arab states.
This is the context in which to view the righteous indignation and the tremendous sacrifice and resistance of the Palestinian people. Therefore, it is genuinely perverse to listen to the assertion of the Israeli government and President Biden about Israel’s “right to self-defence”. No one spares a thought for the Palestinians who are denied a right of “self”.
To describe what is happening in Gaza as a “war” requires the suspension of belief in the concept of proportionality. The defenceless attacks on civilian homes and buildings are an escalation of Israel’s regular house clearing, using drones, cruise missiles and sophisticated fighter jets instead of bulldozers.
Western politicians and the media work overtime to convince an uninformed population that what we see in the Middle East is a war. They do this because, in their minds, some lives are worth more than others. In some countries, it’s black lives, while in others, it is the lives of the poor. In Gaza, the solitary rational conclusion is that Palestinian lives are worth nothing at all to them.
Fortunately, the narrative is changing. Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch, said, “While much of the world treats Israel’s half-century occupation as a temporary situation that a decades-long peace process will soon cure, the oppression of Palestinians there has reached a threshold and a permanence that meets the definition of crimes of apartheid and persecution.”
This is a significant shift.
In 2001, Human Rights Watch said, “it was wrong to equate Zionism with racism”.
Some analysts remain convinced that the latest attacks on Gaza prove the need for a “two-state solution”. However, a two-state solution depends on both states’ ability to elect the government they want, secure their citizens, protect their property, homes, businesses and lives. Israel will never tolerate such conditions in a Palestinian state, even in the mangled condition it has currently been reduced to. Co-existence, when one country gets to set the political terms for the other, is impossible. These neo-colonial dictates will always be resisted and should be. Thus the only real solution is one state, composed of Israel, Gaza, and the West Bank, where all citizens are entitled to the same fundamental rights regardless of age, religion, or ethnic identity. The only real solution to an apartheid state is the demolition of the grotesque Israeli apartheid regime.
*Jomo Sanga Thomas is a lawyer, journalist, social commentator and a former Speaker of the House of Assembly in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
The views expressed herein are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the opinions or editorial position of iWitness News. Opinion pieces can be submitted to [email protected].