WeeklyWorker

17.05.2018
Yet another Palestinian victim of the Israeli terror-state

Seventy years of colonial terror

The state of Israel is based on war, colonial expansion and dispossession, writes Yassamine Mather

Over the last few weeks a number of the more obnoxious Labour MPs have appeared on UK media telling us how the cynically manufactured ‘anti-Semitism’ storm in the Labour Party has caused them such distress. Some complain in front of the camera that they have received ‘threatening’ texts, while others are upset because they have been ridiculed on social media.

While, of course, insults and threatening behaviour can help make these apologists for Zionist crimes appear ‘victims’, what is at stake here is their political support for an indefensible system, for a great historic injustice and for the continued crimes of the state of Israel against the Palestinian population.

This week on the 70th anniversary of the establishment of the state of Israel, we have witnessed once again the horrific massacre of peaceful demonstrators, as Donald Trump’s daughter and son-in-law blessed Trump’s move of the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. According to Michelle Goldberg, writing in the New York Times, this event itself was “grotesque”:

It was a consummation of the cynical alliance between hawkish Jews and Zionist evangelicals, who believe that the return of Jews to Israel will usher in the apocalypse and the return of Christ, after which Jews who don’t convert will burn forever ... John Hagee, one of America’s most prominent end-times preachers, once said that Hitler was sent by God to drive the Jews to their ancestral homeland. He gave the closing benediction.1

If all this was not bad enough, less than 40 miles away, 61 Palestinians were being slaughtered by the Israeli army, while no less than 2,700 protestors were injured. Imagine what would have happened if any country critical of the United Sates had behaved in this way. The demonstrations, which started on March 30, have been mostly peaceful - although occasionally mainly kids have thrown stones at the ‘wall’ built by the Zionist state to keep almost two million Gazans imprisoned in an area rather smaller than Washington DC.

A Ha’aretz article entitled ‘Stop the bloodbath’ summed it up:

The black smoke that rose above Gaza yesterday and the number of casualties that climbed by the hour did not interfere with the celebratory opening of the American embassy in Jerusalem, highlighting the wanton Israeli treatment of Palestinians in general and Gazans in particular.

Another piece in Ha’aretz was headlined: “Ashamed to be Jewish: as Trump base celebrates embassy move, horrified US Jews mourn Gaza deaths”.

Labour Zionists

Of course, all the fuss about Labour’s ‘anti-Semitism’ is really about Israel - a country which Labour Friends of Israel is committed to promote. Labour Party members dare not criticise Israel too strongly out of fear. They might be accused of anti-Semitism. But history will judge all of us and I can assure you that Zionists and apologists for Zionism will not come out of it well.

Right now pragmatism and opportunism is driving the Labour leadership (people who should know better): Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell have effectively supported the witch-hunt against mainly illusory anti-Semites - there are very few examples of the genuine article within Labour, compared to the Conservative Party. However, those in the higher echelons of the Labour Party, from Corbyn and McDonnell to Shami Chakrabarti, have caught the bug. They are singing from the same hymn sheet - either pointing to alleged anti-Semites or burying their heads in the sand, and ignoring the political implications of going along with this nonsense.

So let me remind those pro-Zionist, Blairite MPs that they face criticism and anger not because of their religion, their race or their gender, but because they defend the indefensible, because they turn a blind eye to the terror that is unleashed against the Palestinian people - not just in May 2018, but time and again over the last 70 years. Those who complain on television because someone has sent them a nasty text are indifferent to events such as the nakba (‘catastrophe’) - they do not want to know about the 1948 massacre of civilians in Deir Yassin, in Ramallah, in Jaffa ...

These PLP members are not to the liking of the majority of new members - the hundreds of thousands who have joined because they thought Jeremy Corbyn was different to other Labour leaders, and that he would remain anti-war and pro-Palestinian. These new members, with their contempt for those Blairite MPs who support the bloody oppression of the occupier, are on the right side of history. After all, they are opposing those who have systematically driven Palestinians from their homes over the last 70 years. On May 13 2018 - seven decades after the horrible events of Deir Yassin - the state of Israel was asking the High Court of Justice to approve the demolition of two villages in the northern Jordan Valley. Nothing has changed and nothing will change unless all of us take responsibility for what is happening in the occupied territories.

So, next time pro-Israeli Labour MPs are upset by an email or a tweet on social media, I suggest they have a look at the film Creation and catastrophe, which reveals the shocking events of 1948 and the establishment of the state of Israel, as seen through the eyes of the people who lived through it. Both Israelis and Palestinians give their accounts of the creation of a state and the expulsion of a people. One of the most striking scenes is when a former member of the Israeli Defence Forces, now in her 90s, recalls how, after forcing the inhabitants of a Palestinian village to leave their homes, she thought what the IDF had done was similar to acts of the Nazis.

If our pro-Zionist Blairites were to spend some time watching this film, they would see what it is like to be threatened and driven out of your home, while men in the village are executed and women and children have to take temporary refuge in neighbouring villages and then are forced from their land; what it is like to become refugees in Lebanon, Jordan or Syria - only to be bombed by Israeli planes or massacred by Israel’s allies, as in the case of the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps in Lebanon.

Better still, why don’t they organise a parliamentary trip to Beirut and visit such camps, talking to the old men and women who have spent the last seven decades as refugees. They may still have the deeds of their family home, their olive grove - now destroyed by the occupier and probably the site of yet another settlement. I can assure those MPs from first-hand experience that such a visit would change the way they look at the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Of course, they could also visit Gaza, where two million Palestinians are held prisoner. It is true that incompetence and corruption abounds within Hamas and Fatah, both within the West Bank and in exile (in the case of Hamas in particular, they have committed crimes almost as bad as those of the occupier). However, it is Israel that bears prime responsibility for the whole situation. Many Israelis are truly ashamed of their government. While they cannot do much about it, at least they refuse to support the occupier - some have left Israel in disgust.

Our Labour MPs could do with reading the work of Israeli historians such as Avi Shlaim, who wrote about the nakba a decade ago:

I am an Iraqi Jew who grew up in Israel and lived most of his life in Britain. And I feel doubly guilty towards the Palestinians. As an Englishman, I am ashamed of my adopted country’s astonishing record of duplicity and betrayal, going all the way back to the Balfour declaration of November 2 1917. As an Israeli, I am burdened by a heavy sense of guilt for the injustice and suffering that my people have inflicted on the Palestinians over the last 60 years.

The traditional Zionist rendition of the events of 1948 is well known and widely accepted in the west. It lays all the blame for the war and its consequences on the Arab side. This is a nationalist version of history; as such, it is simplistic, selective and self-serving. It is, essentially, the propaganda of the victors. It presents the victors as victims, and it blames the real victims - the Palestinians - for their own misfortunes.2

We have heard a similar misappropriation of blame over the last few days. According to Trump and Netanyahu, it was the fault of the unarmed protestors that Israeli troops shot them in cold blood!

Israeli version

The official Israeli version of the creation of the state of Israel maintains that the Palestinians left their own country because they were told to do so by their leaders. Apparently they expected neighbouring Arab armies to launch a war against the newly established Zionist state, which would pave the way for a return to their homeland. In this version of history Israel bears no responsibility for the catastrophe, for forcing Palestinians out of their homes.

But reality is different as shown by historic documents and witness statements from both Israelis and Palestinians, including those recorded in Creation and catastrophe: the Palestinians did not leave of their own accord - they were forced out at gunpoint, expelled by the occupier.

Ilan Pappé, in his book Ethnic cleansing of Palestine, argues that between 1947 and 1949 over 400 Palestinian villages were deliberately destroyed, some of the occupants being killed and around a million men, women and children were expelled at gunpoint. In some ways it does not really matter whether individual acts were deliberately planned or derived from a series of random policies - the end result is the same. And the United Kingdom’s historic role in all this is pretty damning. That is why members of the British parliament ought to have a responsibility regarding Palestine.

According to Shlaim, “It’s a sad story of double standards, broken promises and betrayals, from Balfour to May.”3 Shlaim describes how the Zionist movement was Britain’s “junior ally” in the dispossession of the Palestinian people from their homeland. “Zionism was a settler-colonial movement ... and the state of Israel, its principal political progeny, is a colonial-settler state”.

Shlaim and Pappé are among those who have destroyed the myth about Arab culpability for the nakba. However, given the footage of the events of bloody Monday, May 14 2018, we do not need historians to dismiss the claims of Donald Trump, Binyamin Netanyahu and Nikki Haley that Hamas and Iran were responsible! No sane person believes this kind of nonsense, so it is time for those Labour MPs who are so concerned about anti-Semitism to show some sympathy for those other Semites - the Palestinian Arabs.4

Will they condemn unreservedly the Israeli actions of May 14 2018? If they do not, they should be held in the same contempt as Trump and Netanyahu.

yassamine.mather@weeklyworker.co.uk

Notes

1. www.nytimes.com/2018/05/14/opinion/jerusalem-embassy-gaza-protests.html.

2. ‘Israel at 60: the “iron wall” revisited’, May 2008 (www.opendemocracy.net/avi-shlaim/israel%E2%80%99s-%E2%80%9Cnew-history%E2%80%9D-and-palestinians).

3. www.alaraby.co.uk/english/comment/2017/10/16/from-balfour-to-boris-britains-broken-promises-in-palestine.

4. The term ‘Semite’ refers to Arabs of the Middle East as much as it refers to the Hebrew people of the region. According to Encyclopaedia Britannica, a Semite is a “person speaking one of a group of related languages, presumably derived from a common language, Semitic ... The term came to include Arabs, Akkadians, Canaanites, some Ethiopians, and Aramaean tribes including Hebrews. Mesopotamia, the western coast of the Mediterranean, the Arabian Peninsula, and the Horn of Africa have all been proposed as possible sites for the prehistoric origins of Semitic-speaking peoples, but no location has been definitively established.”