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Issue #1732      May 25, 2016

In the land of Palestine

A talk given by Leila Yusaf Chung at the screening of 5 Broken Cameras at the CPA offices, organised by the Communist Women’s Collective.

The idea of establishing a Jewish state in Palestine was proposed at the first Zionist Congress held in Basel in 1897. The rabbis of Vienna dispatched two representatives to investigate the suitability of the country for such an enterprise. The men reported the results of their explorations in this cable to Vienna: “The bride is beautiful, but she is married to another man.”

To their disappointment they had found that Palestine was already inhabited and a claimed homeland for the native Palestinians Arab population.

Since the Zionist project aimed and continues to aim for “Maximum land with minimum Palestinians” they propagated a narrative that the majority of Jews continue to believe: “A land without a people for a people without a land.”

The Palestinians mark May 15, 1948 as the Nakba – the catastrophe.

The making of the Nakba started with the Balfour declaration of 1917. A letter from Balfour to [Edmond] Rothschild stating “His Majesty’s government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object.”

This was followed by waves of European Jewish migrations to Palestine.

Aliyah in Hebrew is to move up to Jerusalem to the Promised Land. Aliyah is opposite to migration.

In 1947, The UN General Assembly recommended the creation of a Jewish state in part of Palestine; that recommendation was non-binding and never implemented by the Security Council. The General Assembly passed that recommendation only after Israel’s proponents threatened and bribed numerous countries in order to gain a required two-thirds of votes.

On May 14, 1948, David Ben-Gurion, the head of the Jewish Agency, proclaimed the establishment of the State of Israel.

It was with armed aggression, and the ethnic cleansing of at least three-quarters of a million indigenous Palestinians that created the Jewish state on land that had been 95 percent non-Jewish prior to Zionist immigration and that even after years of immigration remained 70 percent non-Jewish. And despite the shallow patina of legality its partisans extracted from the General Assembly, Israel was born over the opposition of American and of governments around the world, who opposed it on both pragmatic and moral grounds.

On the eve of battle in 1948, Jewish fighting forces were around 50,000 (increased by summer to 80,000). They included a small air force, navy and units of tanks, armoured cars and heavy artillery.

They faced a hopelessly outmanned and outgunned Palestinian irregular force of about 7,000.

The expulsion – or ethnic cleansing – took six months to complete. It expelled about 800,000 people, killed many others, and destroyed 531 villages and 11 urban neighbourhoods in cities like Tel-Aviv, Haifa and Jerusalem. They included cold-blooded mass-murder; destruction of homes, villages and crops; rapes; other atrocities; and massacres of defenceless people given no quarter including women and children.

The crimes were suppressed and censored from official accounts. Israeli historiography cooked up the myth that Palestinians left voluntarily fearing harm from invading Arab armies. It was a lie covering up Israeli crimes.

The victims became the victimisers.

One people were given refuge by uprooting another.

Lies, displacement oppression and killing continue.

Today nearly 90% of historical Palestine is colonised.

Today Israel is called the only democracy in the Middle East. Let’s call it what really is:

  • When a land is controlled by military force it’s not a disputed land it’s occupied
  • When people fight an occupier it’s not terrorism it’s resistance
  • When an occupation bombs cities and people it’s not self defence it’s a crime
  • When a regime separates, segregates and discriminates it’s not democracy, it’s apartheid

We’ve seen it happen before and we fought it.

Let’s change the narrative.

Which brings me to the importance of words and art as acts of resistance that comes in many forms. The novel “Chasing Shadows” talks about what it means to be a refugee and landlessness. It tells the story of a family torn apart and fighting to survive as Palestinians in the refugee camps in Lebanon.

Emad Burnat, a Palestinian farmer resisted occupation through the lens of his cameras.

5 Broken Cameras was shown at film festivals in 2011 and was released in public in 2012. It’s a first-hand account of protests in Blilin a West Bank village affected by Israel west bank barrier. The film won a 2012 Sundance Film festival award and Emmy award. It was nominated for a 2013 Academy Award.


Next article – Dingo

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