Briefing Paper April 2002
Palestine’s war of Independence
The regular readers of the Briefing Papers will notice a change in the nature of the content. No attempt has been made to cover in any detail the actions of an Israeli democratic state, turned rogue. The impact of these actions has been well covered in the media. Of concern is the interpretation put on these events, the back- gound given or not given to events, the language used to describe or deny the events, the inevitable web of denial and counter accusation made by the apologists of the Israeli State. This is the focus of this Briefing Paper.
The fact that an army which receives aid to the tune of $5 billion a year cannot crush the uprising of a people who live on less than $2 per day is the most powerful reminder that the conflict here is not only a matter of force but also of will.
Return Review April 2002
In other circumstances it might have been funny – the Nobel Peace laureate, Shimon Peres, conniving to humiliate, if not physically annihilate, his fellow partner in peace, Yasser Arafat (withthe Nobel Prize committee declaring that if it was possible to remove the prize from Peres, they would). And the caged Yasser Arafat, with his structure of government reduced to a mobile phone with a half dead battery, being constantly exhorted to condemn terrorism and reign in the “militants.”
“terror not territory”
Shimon Peres, Israeli Foreign Minister
We must, however, hand it to the apologists for the State of Israel, obviously well groomed in the Benyamin Netanyahu school of lies and story telling, revealed when he recently addressed the Likud faithful at Eilat, advocating that even when they know it is lies, they tell the lies as if they were the truth. Or perhaps the Zionist faithful are now finding it convenient to forget, not only their roots, but the very foundation stone of Zionism.
We have the ever vocal Peres denying the rationale behind Zionism by declaring that the carnage was all about “terror not territory”. He was soon joined by Lord Janner on Radio 4, 8th April , not only trying to justify the traumas and terror inflicted on about 400 000 Palestinian children, but claiming that if Yasser Arafat had accepted the dictats of the Camp David meeting, settlements would have “withered away” eventually. The early Zionists must be turning in their graves at this further denial of Zionist aspirations.
Then we had Gerald Kaufman MP who, at least to his credit, was prepared to denounce Sharon as a right wing thug and bemoan the future of an Israeli Labour movement which can cooperate with the racist, right wing opposition. However, Kaufman, still with his head in the sand, reiterated his belief in the “noble” traditions of the IDF – despite all the evidence pointing to the barbarous nature of the Israeli armed forces, from the actions of the Haganah in 1948 through the many decades to the present day.
But with Sharon intent on his end-game of reducing Palestinian hopes and aspirations to dust, typified by his ground zero strategy with regard to Palestinian homes and the infrastructure of a Palestinian state; with the killing fields of Jenin and the stench of death being revealed through some parts of the media, it is anything but funny.
It has long been the position that the occupier should blame the occupied, that the occupier should adopt the position that the victims be blamed for their situation. The language used, therefore, will always reflect this position.
What, we should be asking, is the media’s excuse? When and how, for example, did the BBC-speak emerge, where it is the occupier, a very brutal occupier at that, which is deemed always to be acting in “retaliation”. By implication it is the occupied who are the aggressors with the occupier the injured party and acting in retaliation. So we find that the Palestinians always seem to resort to “violence” while the occupier uses “force” – a word which has connotations of legitimacy.
And, of course, “Jewish neighbourhoods” built on confiscated Palestinian land sounds so much better than “illegal colonial settlements.”
Then, as the mangled bodies are pulled out of the rubble of Jenin, the media are apparently able to distinguish between the “militants”, “fighters” and others. Considering that the occupation forces concentrated their murderous efforts on all males between about 14 and 50, made unfounded allegations of children being used as “suicide” bombers, virtually all Palestinian males are legitimate targets of the occupation forces.
Are no “patriots” or “resistance fighters” to be found within the Palestinians under occupation? Not according to the media, with some honourable exceptions amongst journalists.
The Glasgow Media Group’s recently published findings highlight the need to address the issue of informing the public.
The adoption of the language of the occupier in news bulletins is bad enough, however in the Media Group’s study of 89 news bulletins, it was found that out of 3 536 lines of news script, only 17 were devoted to the history/background of the conflict. One conclusion was that Israel benefited, with attacks portrayed as being in response to Palestinian attacks.
A classic example is the reporting of many of the recent “suicide” attacks in Haifa and Yehuda market, West Jerusalem. How many media outlets make mention that these areas are no stranger to bombings designed to maim, kill and terrorise?
In 1948 the sloping streets and alleys of Haifa were prey to the Zionist terrorist groups, the Irgun and Stern Gang. Barrel bombs were rolled down through the narrow, sloping Haifa streets, disgorging their flammable materials or eventually exploding. The residents were exposed to the Davidka or Little David, a homemade mortar fired into the built-up areas. It was a deadly, purposely noise creating, missile which helped terrorise those at whom it was aimed.
Yehuda market, and the areas round about, were often the targets of basket bombs (hidden amongst oranges), lorry bombs and car bombs driven by terrorists dressed in British uniform. In fact the whole of West Jerusalem was largely Palestinian Arab owned, and it was actions such as the terrorist bombings and the Haganah demolition squads (which blew up Palestinian owned mansions in the city) which led to the creation of “Jewish” West Jerusalem.
Today, it is the Jewish residents of Israel/Palestine who fear death from an unexpected assailant, 54 years ago it was the Palestinian resident who suffered the same fear. One favoured tactic of the Zionist terrorist was to attack roadside cafes frequented by Palestinians. A car or taxi would pull up at the roadside and a bomb kicked out of the open door. British Palestine Police officers or British soldiers would be stabbed in the back and their weapons stolen. [If the events outlined above come as a surprise to you, or you want to know more about the events which led to the eventual dispossession of the Palestinian people you are asked to consider purchasing a copy of
Countdown to Catastrophe
SfoP’s Countdown to Catastrophe, a 374 page daily chronology of events in 1948 in Palestine. In the words of Afif Safieh, the Palestinian General Delegate to the UK
“This book is a unique publication, drawing upon, and drawing together contemporary reports on events in Palestine in 1948 and subsequent details revealed by Palestinian and Israeli historians. This book has a momentum of its own, unravelling the catastrophe which overtook the Palestinian people in 1948.
For those who have little knowledge of events in 1948, it is an essential read. For those who are aware of events, it is an essential reference book.
It is priced at £9.50 (incl p&p) from Scottish Friends of Palestine 31 Tinto Road Glasgow G43 2AL
(Cheques payable to SfoP.]
Camp David – a comment
Just as important as being aware of the background to the dispossession of the Palestinian people, is the ability to refute the Israeli mantra that Yasser Arafat turned down a “once in a lifetime” peace opportunity, that former Israeli prime minister Ehud Barak, at Camp David, made “concessions” thus giving Arafat a golden opportunity for peace which he rejected.
The following comments may be useful:
Clinton was close to the end of his Presidency. He clearly wanted to end it with “success” in an area of international politics to which he had devoted much time and energy.
Israeli prime minister Ehud Barak was keen to deliver, but deliver against a backdrop of increasing settlement expansion, road building within the Palestinian occupied territories. This backdrop was very real to the Palestinian under occupation, in that they experienced the consolidation of an occupation which the peace negotiations were supposed to be eliminating.
Already the Palestinians had agreed to Israel retaining 78% of historic Palestine, with a Palestinian state being built on the remaining 22%. Since the Oslo Accords were signed in 1993, this 22% was invaded by settlements, settlers and their apartheid road system.
The reason for the breakdown in peace talks are many and various, but they include:
The much repeated accusation that Arafat failed to accept the offer of 98% of what he wanted. Implicit in this act of alleged ingratitude is the accusation that he was obstinate, that he did not want peace. The question is never addressed as to why he rejected this “offer.”
First of all, the occupier would have full sovereignty over the “settlers only” roads which now cris cross the West Bank. Roads which have been built upon confiscated Palestinian land. Such roads, as the residents in Ramallah, Jenin, Bethlehem and elsewhere have experienced, ensure that the military might of the occupier can be at your doorstep within hours. Further, they act as a physical constraint on the development of the Palestinian population centres. They often cut a farmer off from his land.
Most importantly, they act as a “matrix of control”. Every day life of the Palestinian continues to be at the mercy of the occupier. Obviously no viable state can be established in these conditions.
Over and above this, the much vaunted 98% offer excluded land confiscated for settlement purposes. The massive settlement blocs surrounding Jerusalem and elsewhere in the West Bank were not included. Land, such as in the Jordan Valley, deemed necessary for Israel’s concept of her security was to be retained. Effectively the 98% offer was closer to a 50% offer. And that is before we look at Israel’s continuing control over the water reserves in the area.
Then there is Jerusalem which, since the signing of the Oslo Accords, has seen 100 000 settlers or so arrive to help create “Greater Jerusalem” on Palestinian land. Palestinian Jerusalemites live in constant fear of being stripped of their right to live in the city and the Israeli government gives support to settlers to take over Arab homes in the Old City.
Under Camp David, the Palestinians, it would seem, were offered sovereignty over the Muslim and Christian Quarters in the Old City, with Israel having sovereignty over the Jewish and Armenian Quarters. They would have had limited control over Islam’s second most holiest site, the Haram al-Sharif (Noble Sanctuary) which houses the famous al Aqsa Mosque. Muslims wishing to enter the Holy City would have to face screening by Israeli security agencies.
Then there is the right of return of Palestinian refugees to their homes. Israel refuses to accept this right, never mind any compensation or restitution which is due. This right of return, it should be noted, is an individual right enshrined in International Law. The much-quoted General Assembly Res 194 merely emphasises and underlines this right. It is not the source of its legitimacy. Neither Arafat nor any other signatory to a possible peace agreement can sign this right away on behalf of others.
And not forgetting the Gaza Strip – one big ghetto behind a wire fence. The Oslo Accords gave about 1,500 settlers control over 30% of the land, with the remainder allocated to about 1 300 000 Palestinians. There were supposed to be “security” corridors connecting the Gaza Strip to the West Bank. In practice, very few were able to travel this route, with all potential travellers being subject to the whim of the occupier.View all →