This week Israel will celebrate 75 years since its declaration of independence in 1948 while Palestinians will remember the Nakba (“catastrophe” in Arabic) in which over 700,000 Palestinians were driven off their land by Israeli militias in 1947-49.
There are not contradictory anniversaries. They are complementary; one leading directly to the other.
Those who have been paying attention will know Palestinians have suffered the colonisation of their country with the theft of their land and denial of their fundamental human rights just as Māori, Aboriginal, black South Africans and “first nations” people across the world suffered similarly under European colonisation.
Israel’s master plan for the clearing out of Palestinians, Plan D, which had been prepared alongside the high command of the Haganah, the main Jewish military wing, includes a description of the methods to be used by Israeli militias:
“Destruction of villages (setting fire to, blowing up, and planting mines in the debris), especially those population centers which are difficult to control continuously. Mounting search and control operations according to the following guidelines: encirclement of the village and conducting a search inside it. In the event of resistance, the armed force must be destroyed and the population must be expelled outside the borders of the state.”
Israeli propagandists say Palestinians left of their own accord – yeah right!
Similar orders were given to colonial soldiers as they invaded the Waikato and the Māori settlement of Parihaka in the 19th century and Maungapōhatu in the 20th. The problem here for the colonial forces was there was nowhere to expel Māori “outside the borders of the state”! In Palestine it meant murder and mayhem for the local population and forcibly moving Palestinians, many on “death marches” to Gaza and Jordan.
Meanwhile people who haven’t been paying attention will blame Palestinian “militants” and “terrorists” for the never-ending violence in the Middle East. They will believe this because that’s how Palestinian resistance to colonisation and occupation is portrayed in our media, many instances of which can be found in just the last week.
The reality for Palestinians is that the Nakba has never stopped. Not a day goes by without evictions, house demolitions and forced displacement of Palestinians to make way for Jewish settlers. The Israeli leadership has 19th century European attitudes to the indigenous people of Palestine.
Colonial oppression has resulted in what Israel’s largest and most respected human rights group, B’Tselem, describes as “A regime of Jewish supremacy from the Jordan river to the Mediterranean Sea: This is apartheid”.
For Israel’s side it says the land of Palestine is the traditional homeland of the Jewish people as declared in holy scriptures and that Jews and only Jews have a right to self-determination there. In 2018 Israel’s Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan declared: “We are telling the world that it doesn’t matter what the nations of the world say. The time has come to express our biblical right to the land”; or as Israeli Professor Ilan Pappe puts it bluntly “most Jews are atheists but they believe God promised them Palestine”.
The “faith history” declared by Gilad Erdan is deeply rooted in mythology which in recent decades historians have comprehensively debunked.
Israel also says its military occupation of all historic Palestine is “temporary” until a final settlement is negotiated. But recent Israeli leaders have repeatedly said they have no intention of negotiating peace with Palestinians. But for Palestinians in any case, negotiations are a dead end. The power imbalance between Israel and the US on one side of the table and Palestinians on the other is a recipe for some token “concessions” from Israel but many more decades of Israeli oppression and Palestinian resistance.
So how will governments respond to the complementary commemorations next week?
Most Western governments will write polite press releases congratulating Israel on its achievements, but none will write messages congratulating Palestinians for their heroic resistance to military occupation and Israel’s attempts to undermine and delegitimise their struggle for self-determination.
No western governments will demand Israel allow Palestinian refugees to return to their land and homes in Palestine despite annual UN General Assembly resolutions (UNGA 194) demanding this every year, dating back to 1948.
And none will demand Israel abide by international law and United Nations resolutions – a demand which is the key to resolving the situation for a Middle East peace based on justice – the only peace possible.
But Palestinians have the tide of history on their side. Opinion around the world is overwhelmingly on their side and is increasing – the Israeli narrative has run out of steam. People are no longer buying the idea of Israel as a valiant little state facing hostile hordes of Arabs which my generation did growing up the 1960s.
People are seeing that for the myth it always was. Israel has always been a colonial aggressor which uses false smears of anti-Semitism as its main defence against its critics.
As was the case with South Africa, international solidarity with Palestine and demanding accountability from Israel are the way forward. Leaving the issue to western politicians in a recipe for never-ending violence.