By Miko Peled
The Zionist ethnic cleansing of Palestine is not a thing of the past but an ongoing campaign that is executed by three arms of the State of Israel: The education system, a dedicated bureaucracy and the security forces. The education system is dedicated to indoctrinating and producing soldiers and bureaucrats who will execute and enforce the ethnic cleansing. The bureaucracy is charged with making rules that make life unlivable for Palestinians. Rules that restrict Palestinian access to their lands, and restrict their ability to travel freely to work and school. This same bureaucracy then demands that Palestinians pay for permits to be allowed do these very same basic things that they were denied. The security forces, the most obvious of which is the IDF, are charged with enforcing the restrictions, fighting off the resistance, armed or peaceful, and terrorizing the “invented” people of Palestine.
Since my father was a general and I served as a soldier in the IDF terrorist organization, people often ask me how is it that Israeli children who are raised in a Western style democracy become such monsters once they are in uniform? The detailed answer can be found in my book, The General’s Son due out in February 2012, but the short answer is this: Education – Racism requires a mindset that is fashioned by education. In order to rationalize and justify the ethnic cleansing the Israeli education system portrays Palestinians as culturally inferior, violent and bent on the annihilation of the Jews, and at the same time, void of a true national identity. Palestinian national identity is but a figment of some anti-Semitic imagination.
Israeli children are educated to see the Palestinians as a problem that must be solved and as a threat that must be eliminated. They can go through life, as I did growing up in Jerusalem, without ever meeting a Palestinian child. They know nothing of the life or culture of Palestinians who quite often live only several hundred meters from them.
Palestinians are portrayed as an existential threat through absurd comparisons like that of Yasser Arafat to Hitler, the Palestinians to Nazis, and the Palestinian resistance to Al Qaeda. Since Israeli kids never meet Palestinians what they learn in school, particularly in the school textbooks, is all that they know. In fact it is remarkable that even though they live so close to one another, much if not all of what Israelis know about their Palestinian neighbors comes from high school text books and popular racist stereotypes. Israelis don’t know that Palestinians never had an army, that they do not posses a single tank, a single warship or fighter jet, that they don’t have a single artillery battery and do not in fact pose a military threat at all. According to a new book by Dr. Nurit Peled-Elhanan, not a single photo of a person who is a Palestinian exists in Israeli textbooks and there are millions of Palestinians in and around Israel. Israelis don’t learn about Palestinian doctors and teachers, engineers and writers. They don’t learn Palestinian poetry or prose and they don’t read the works of Palestinian historians.
At a recent lecture I mentioned the ethnic cleansing of Palestine and someone called out: “What ethnic cleansing?” People are unaware of the ethnic cleansing taking place in Palestine because Israel hides it well and the mainstream media doesn’t care enough to ask. In mainstream peace groups and dialogue groups that discuss Palestine/Israel, a basic Israeli condition is not to bring up issues like the ethnic cleansing because Israel doesn’t like to talk about it.
But for the past 64 years ethnic cleansing of Palestine is what drives the Zionist policies towards Palestinians. All Zionist governments and all Zionist political parties left right and center support the ethnic cleansing. The Israeli judicial system lets the Israeli authorities get away with abuse, theft and murder as long as they are perpetuated against Palestinians. Had these same crimes been committed against Israeli Jews they would have been prosecuted to the full extent of the law.
Zionist supporters like to bring up the fact that on November 29, 1947 the United Nations voted to partition Palestine into a Jewish sate and an Arab state. What is left out of the Zionist story is that within one year of the vote Israeli forces had managed to capture close to 80% of Palestine, destroy close to 500 Palestinian towns and villages, kill scores of unarmed civilians and force the exile of some 800,000 Palestinians.
Then, when the UN passed resolution194 in December of 1948, calling for the refugees to be allowed to return to their homes, Israel proceeded to build cities and towns, parks and highways for the use of Jewish Israelis on Palestinian land. Then the Knesset began passing laws that prohibit the return of the refugees and allow the new state to confiscate their lands.
After the war was over, the Palestinians who remained within the newly created Jewish state were forced to become citizens of a state that despised them and saw them as a “problem” and a “threat.” They were designated as “The Arabs of Israel” a designation that stripped them of a national identity and denied them any rights to the land and provided them very limited rights as citizens. From being the rightful owners of their lands and their country they now existed at the pleasure of the new owner of the land, the state of Israel. Palestinian refugees were forced into concentration camps, conveniently called refugee camps, and those that tried to return were shot. A military unit was created for the purpose of punishing Palestinian refugee who “infiltrated” back into their homeland, now called Israel. It was called Unit 101, the notorious Ariel Sharon led it and it made a name for itself as a murderous gang with a license to kill Palestinians.
So regardless of the myth, now perpetuated by Newt Gingrich among others, that says there was no forced ethnic cleansing, we know today that the creation of Israel was made possible through a systematic campaign of ethnic cleansing, conducted by the Jewish militia, involving massacres, terrorism, and the wholesale looting of an entire nation.
Newt Gingrich, being the history buff that he is, might be interested in a story I mention in my book The General’s Son, about my mother. She was born and raised in Jerusalem and she remembers the homes of Palestinians families in neighborhoods in West Jerusalem. She told me that when she was a child, on Saturday afternoons she would go for walks through these neighborhoods, admiring the beauty of the homes, watching families sit together in their beautiful gardens. In 1948 when the Palestinian families were forced out of West Jerusalem, my mother was offered one of those beautiful, spacious homes but she refused. At age 22, the wife of a young army officer with little means and with two small children, she refused a beautiful spacious home, offered to her completely free because she could not bear the thought of living in the home of a family that was forced out and now lives in a refugee camp. “The coffee was still warm on the tables as the soldiers came in and began the looting” she told me. “Can you imagine how much those families, those mothers must miss their homes.” She would ask and she continued, “I remember seeing the truckloads of loot, taken by the Israeli soldiers from these homes. How were they not ashamed of themselves?” there are thousands upon thousands of homes in cities all over the country that were taken.
Moving forward now to 1967 and the myth that Israel was fighting for its existence as it was attacked by Arab armies from all directions. Much was written about this but nothing is more revealing than the minutes of the meetings of the IDF general staff from June 1967, just prior to the war. According to the generals, one of whom was my father, Matti Peled, not only was there no existential threat but the generals clearly state that the Egyptian army needed at least a year and a half before it would be ready for war and therefore this was an opportune time to attack and destroy it. The army pressured the cabinet to authorize an attack and indeed the cabinet approved an attack against Egypt. The IDF destroyed the Egyptian army and then went on to attack Jordan and Syria. It took the IDF six days and 700 casualties to kill an estimated 15,000 Arab forces, take the West Bank, the Golan Heights and The Sinai Peninsula. One may like to think this was a miracle but it was a well-planned, well-executed attack against countries that had no viable military force. The Israeli army had thus fulfilled its goal of conquering the entire Land of Israel, and the De-Arabizing of Palestine could now proceed into the West Bank and Gaza.
Since the early days of the State of Israel the IDF made it its mission to be the most brutal bully in the region. Today the IDF has one purpose: to conduct an all out war against Palestinians by terrorizing Palestinian civilians, kidnapping children from their homes and using brutal force against protesters. We are reminded of the intensity of IDF cruelty every so often, the latest major display being the three-week bloodbath in Gaza that began on December 27, 2008. Hundreds of tons of bombs were dropped by Israeli pilots on Gaza, followed by a massive invasion of land forces. All this for the purpose of terrorizing a defenseless civilian population that includes 800,000 children.
Now that Israel has been in control of the West Bank for over four decades it had built and invested there heavily. But all of the investment and construction in the West Bank was made to bring Jews into the West Bank. Palestinian lands are being taken at an alarming pace, their homes are destroyed and thousands are incarcerated, while industry, roads, malls, schools and gated communities with swimming pools are being built for Jews only. Water, which is the scarcest resource of all, is controlled and distributed by the Israeli water authority, as follows: Per capita, Israelis receive 300 cubic meters of water per year. In comparison, per capita Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza receive 35-85 cubic meters per year, while the World Health Organization recommends a minimum of 100 cubic meter of water per person per year. But what is even worse is that per capita, Israeli settlers in the West Bank are allocated 1500 cubic meters of water per year. Jews in the West Bank live with green lawns and swimming pools while Palestinians quite often get no water at all. Perhaps invented people have no need for water.
De-Arabizing the history of Palestine is another crucial element of the ethnic cleansing. 1500 years of Arab and Muslim rule and culture in Palestine are trivialized, evidence of its existence is being destroyed and all this is done to make the absurd connection between the ancient Hebrew civilization and today’s Israel. The most glaring example of this today is in Silwan, (Wadi Hilwe) a town adjacent to the Old City of Jerusalem with some 50,000 residents. Israel is expelling families from Silwan and destroying their homes because it claims that king David built a city there some 3000 years ago. Thousands of families will be made homeless so that Israel can build a park to commemorate a king that may or may not have lived 3000 years ago. Not a shred of historical evidence exists that can prove King David ever lived yet Palestinian men, women, children and the elderly along with their schools and mosques, churches and ancient cemeteries and any evidence of their existence must be destroyed and then denied so that Zionist claims to exclusive rights to the land may be substantiated.
Once we connect the dots it is not hard to see that the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza is only a small part of the Israeli Palestinian issue. The greater issue is the ongoing ethnic cleansing of Palestine by the Zionist state. The way forward for Israelis and Palestinians alike is to oppose the ethnic cleansing by opposing all its manifestations. This means supporting the movement to boycott, divest and place sanctions on Israel, or BDS for short, it means actively participating in the popular non-violent struggle in Palestine and it means challenging the racist laws that govern Israel by defying them. There has to be a clear and unequivocal call to recognize that the IDF is a terrorist organization and its officers are war criminals. Furthermore, the reprehensible discrimination against Palestinians, whether they live in Israel/Palestine or not, practiced by the security officials at Ben Gurion airport and other points of entry to Israel/Palestine must be challenged. The struggle for a democracy in our shared homeland is no different than the struggle at Tahrir square and can in fact be seen as part of the Arab Spring.