That’s what the Israeli Government wants you to believe. Don’t let the mass media do your thinking for you. Palestinians are no different to you or me. If they had a choice, they would be happy to live in peace, raise their kids, go to work, play music, party, and lead normal lives. What makes them different is that for the past 58 years, Israel has made their lives hell…
More than a century ago, a small group of American and European Jews, who called themselves Zionists, decided to establish a Jewish state in the Middle East. There was only one problem – the land they chose to “call their own” was already home to around half a million Muslim and Christian Palestinians. But the Zionists found a keen sponsor in Great Britain: after seizing Palestine from Turkey in 1917, the British government endorsed their plan for a Jewish state. Over the next three decades, Jewish immigrants streamed into Palestine, and the local people soon learned that they had no place in the Zionists’ dreamland: in the late 1930s, Jewish terrorists launched a campaign of bomb attacks on buses, post offices and markets that killed hundreds of Palestinians. Following the Nazi Holocaust in Europe, the flow of Jews became a flood, and fighting soon broke out between Zionist militias and Palestinians seeking to defend their homeland. That’s when Britain washed its hands of the mess it had created, and turned the Palestinians’ fate over to the United Nations.
Then what happened?
Palestinians call it “al-Nakba” – The Disaster. In November 1947, the UN decided to divide Palestine into two separate states. Under the UN plan, Jews (who made up 30% of the population and owned 6% of the land) were to be given 55% of Palestine, while Muslim and Christian Palestinians – the majority of the population – got 45%. The Palestinians and their Arab neighbors, had no say in the plan. On May 14, 1948, the Zionists declared their new “State of Israel,” provoking a war with the the Palestinians and neighboring Arab countries. In that war, Zionist troops seized 75% of Palestine and expelled 800,000 of its inhabitants – almost all the Arab population – into Gaza, the West Bank and neighboring countries. They also occupied the western half of Jerusalem (which, under the UN plan, was to be an “international city”) and claimed it as their own. What was left of Palestine was taken by Egypt and Jordan. That was the start of Israel’s “bad neighbor” policy towards all Palestinians.
What happened to the Palestinians afterwards?
After 1948, those remaining in Israel were subjected to martial law and land expropriations for 24 years. Today, 20% of Israel’s population is Palestinian – but being non-Jewish, they are treated as second-class citizens in their own land. More than four million Palestinians – the original refugees and their descendents – still live in camps in Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, the West Bank and Gaza. To make sure the Palestinian refugees had no homes to return to, Israel assigned their property to Jewish immigrants and destroyed 500 of what it called “abandoned” Palestinian villages. Today we call that “ethnic cleansing.”
Did the Palestinians lose all their rights?
No, and this is important: the international community recognized that the Palestinians were victims of war. In 1948, the UN Security Council passed a resolution (Number 194) that guaranteed the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes in what had become Israel. The UN created a special agency, UNRWA, to care for Palestinian refugees until their return home. Israel has made laws to keep the Palestinians out, but the refugees’ “Right of return” still stands.
When did Israel occupy the remaining Palestinian land?
In 1967, tensions grew once more between Israel and its Arab neighbors. In June that year, Israeli forces invaded and conquered all of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and imposed military rule on the Palestinian communities and refugee camps there. At that point, the Palestinians were a defeated people – virtually the entire population was living in foreign refugee camps, as second-class citizens in Israel, or under Israeli military occupation.
What did the world community have to say about all this?
Following the 1967 war, the UN Security Council passed resolutions 242 and 338 that require Israel to withdraw from the occupied territories, including East Jerusalem, in return for Arab countries’ recognition of Israel. After initially stalling, Israel accepted those resolutions.
What is the status of the Palestinians in the occupied territories?
Under the Red Cross Fourth Geneva Convention, to which Israel is a party, the Palestinians in the occupied territories are considered a “protected population” with the right to freedom from: indiscriminate use of force against civilians, wanton destruction of property, torture, collective punishment, the annexation of occupied territory, and the establishment of colonies. Violation of these rights is a war crime. Amnesty International says Israel has violated Palestinians’ human rights for decades “through deliberate killing and torture”. [See Amnesty report].
When did the Palestinians start fighting back?
Palestinian resistance to Israel began in the 1960s, with guerrilla attacks carried out particularly by Al-Fatah, a group led by Yassir Arafat [left]. International terrorism, aimed at focusing world attention on the grievances of the Palestinians, appeared after the June 1967 War. In 1969, Arafat was elected president of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). From 1970, Palestinian fighters began shelling Israeli towns from Jordan and Lebanon.
How did Israel react to the Palestinian resistance?
With Israel’s specialty: “collective punishment.” The standard Israeli response to Palestinian attacks was to send its air force to bomb refugee camps, targeting the same people it had dispossessed in 1948. In 1980, in defiance of the UN Security Council, it declared East Jerusalem to be a part of Israel – that was one more piece of the Palestinians’ heritage stolen. No other country has recognized this annexation, and Israel is still obliged to return East Jerusalem to its legal owners. Israel had another weapon in its war on the Palestinians – with military protection, Israeli government funding and US donations, thousands of Jewish “settlers” began establishing colonies in East Jerusalem and throughout Gaza and the West Bank, in open violation of the Geneva Conventions. Colonization gave Israel a perfect excuse for continuing its military occupation – to “protect the settlers.”
Which takes us to Lebanon, 1982…
In that year the Israeli army, led by the then defense minister, Ariel Sharon, invaded Lebanon with the stated aim of “eliminating Palestinian terrorism.” In reality, the aim was to eliminate any prospect of a Palestinian state in the future. First, Sharon’s army stole the PLO’s archive of maps and land titles, the evidence the Palestinians had preserved to prove their ownership of land and property seized by Israel in the 1948 war. (Israeli soldiers left this message on the wall: “Palestinian? What’s that?”) And Sharon wanted to teach the Palestinians a lesson: in September 1982, while his army kept guard, Lebanese death squads entered the Palestinian refugee camps of Sabra and Chatila, in Beirut, and murdered at least 1,000 defenseless men, women and children. The UN condemned the massacre as “an act of genocide”. The massacre horrified many Israelis, and Sharon was forced to resign from the government.
How did the Israel-Palestinian peace process begin?
In November 1988, the Palestinian Liberation Organization accepted the UN resolutions as the basis for a political settlement with Israel. Secret negotiations between Israel and the PLO resulted in an agreement that included mutual recognition, limited self-rule for Palestinians, and provisions for a permanent treaty later. The Israel-Palestinian deal was based on a simple exchange: “land for peace”, which meant the end of Israeli military occupation of the West bank and Gaza, and the creation there of a Palestinian state. Signed in Washington, the agreement was sealed by a historic handshake between Arafat and Israeli leader Yitzhak Rabin.
So why isn’t there peace now?
Because many Israelis refused to abandon their dream of a “Great Israel” that would drive out the Palestinians for good. Israeli extremists bitterly opposed an honest agreement with the Palestinians. In 1995, Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated by an Israeli fanatic. In the years that followed – and even while it was promising the Palestinians “land for peace” – Israel expanded its program of illegal colonization in the occupied territories. Today, about 240,000 Israeli “settlers” live on confiscated land across the West Bank, while another 200,000 have occupied East Jerusalem – all of them protected by the Israeli army, subsidized by the US government, and in blatant defiance of UN resolutions and international law. These “Jewish pioneers” see the Palestinian homeland as part of the “biblical land of Israel”, theirs for the taking. We think they’ve taken more than enough.
But didn’t Israel make Arafat a generous offer that he refused?
Well, Israel says it was “generous” so it must be, right? What it offered was to “give back” 87% of the occupied territories, on condition that Israel would control Palestine’s borders, airspace and water supply. It also offered – generously – to let 0.2% of the 4,500,000 Palestinian refugees return home. But the Palestinians know their rights: under UN resolutions and by international law, they are entitled to 100% of the occupied territories, including East Jerusalem, and all Palestinian refugees have the right to return from exile. Arafat refused to trade his people’s birthright for Israel’s “generous offer.”
Why did the Palestinian rebellion break out in 2000?
Because the Palestinians had lost all faith in Israel’s promises. In September 2000, Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza began demonstrating for an end to Israeli military occupation. Israel responded as it always has: in the first three months of the rebellion, its soldiers shot dead 344 Palestinian protestors, including 80 children. As the rebellion intensified into armed conflict in 2001, the Israelis elected a strong man to solve their “Palestinian problem”: Ariel Sharon, the butcher of Sabra and Chatila. Under his government, the Israeli army imposed a reign of terror on the Palestinian population that continues to this day [see War crimes].
Isn’t Israel fighting terrorism?
The September 11 attacks were a godsend for hawks in Israel and the US. With the new excuse of the “war on terror”, Sharon ruthlessly pursued his objectives: to brand the Palestinian leadership as “terrorists” and create so much suffering among the Palestinian people that they would resort to terrorism as their only defense. In Sharon’s strategy, attacks on Israeli civilians were a convenient means of justifying constant harassment of Palestinian communities and destruction of any civic life they had been able to achieve.
But the TV news says the Israelis are rooting out terrorists…
When the Israeli army invaded Palestinian cities at Easter 2002, it devastated homes and stores, shot Palestinian civilians in cold blood, cut off power and water supplies, and did everything possible to make the civilian population’s life hell [see War crimes]. As usual, Israel reserved “special treatment” for the refugee camps: missiles fired from Apache helicopters, houses bulldozed with families still inside them, wounded people left to die, males between 16 and 50 years arrested and deported to detention camps. The whole bloody operation was whitewashed as “dismantling terrorist infrastructure.” Sharon’s real strategy was to abort a viable Palestinian state before it could be born, by destroying its leadership and anything else that strengthens the Palestinian people.
What is the “Annexation wall”?
Israel is building a barrier up to 25 feet high – complete with electrified fencing, concrete walls, ditches and barbed wire – supposedly to protect Israel from terrorist attacks. In reality, the Wall is the latest Israeli ploy to steal more Palestinian land and force the Palestinians to leave. Most of the wall will cut deep into the occupied territories, incorporating into Israel 80% of its illegal colonies and up to 40% of the Palestinian homeland, including fertile farmland and sources of water for Israeli agriculture. It will trap 237,000 Palestinians inside a virtual prison and cut off a further 160,000 from their land and livelihoods. The “Annexation wall” is Israel’s monument to more than 50 years of tyranny and theft.
But didn’t Israel remove some settlements?
In August 2005, the Israeli government removed all 7,000 of the Jewish colonizers in the Gaza Strip – and moved many of them to join the other 440,000 colonizers in Jerusalem and the West Bank. There, Israel is speeding up construction of its walls around Palestinian cities and towns, and expanding its colonies around Jerusalem. This continued occupation of Palestinian land is outright robbery at gunpoint. It goes against all UN resolutions and international law. But President George Bush has already given a green light to the Israeli land-grab, knowing that it means – in Sharon’s own triumphant words – “the end of the Palestinians’ dreams” of living in peace and security in their own state. Thus, the Zionists’ dream of a Jewish homeland has become an unending nightmare for 9 million Palestinians, whose only “crime” is to call Palestine their home, too.
How does Israel get away with all this?
Because the USA covers Israel’s ass and pays its bills. The US has vetoed more than 30 UN Security Council resolutions that would have helped the Palestinians get out from under Israel’s boot. The US has blocked all attempts to put international observers into the territories to protect the Palestinians. Over the past 50 years years, the US Government has given Israel an estimated $90,000,000,000 in aid – that is roughly one-third of all US foreign aid, even though Israelis make up less than .001% of the world’s population. Israel receives more US military aid than any other country – each year, the US gives more than $2,000,000,000 to Israel’s military machine, most of it for the purchase of US weapons. The helicopters and missiles Israel uses to bombard Palestinian refugee camps are all “made in the USA”.
So why does the US keep supporting Israel?
Because Israel serves US interests. Far from being an “outpost of Western civilization”, Israel is the West’s guard dog: it ensures a perpetual state of tension in the region, stunts the Middle East’s democratic development, and depends for its survival on US handouts. Meanwhile, Zionist organizations in the US and Europe work tirelessly to protect Israel by smothering debate, by accusing critics of anti-semitism, and by “blaming the victims” – the Palestinians – for the violence between the two sides. Part of this propaganda machine is the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), one of the most powerful lobbies in Washington DC, which actively promotes US wars against Israel’s enemies. Israel’s other friend in the US is the Christian Zionist lobby, a bunch of loonies who think the Holy Land is for Jews only – “it’s in the Bible,” they say. But they’ve forgotten something much more important in the Bible: “Blessed are the peacemakers” and “Love thy neighbor…”