JPRS 2nd Ed: Forceful displacement and expulsion in Israel
The Nakba generally focuses on the plight of Palestinian refugees and Israel’s ongoing annexation of Palestine. Seldom do were hear about the ongoing displacement of Palestinians within Israel. This consideration is crucial to a comprehensive understanding of the Ongoing Nakba.
This article will describe some of the policies that Israel implements towards the Palestinian minority in the on-going Nakba. I think that it is important to see things on the wider scale and holistically. Day to day there is a system of apartheid and colonialism that continues away from the television screens and many times people are only aware of what is happening there when there is a particularly brutal suppression of the Palestinian people on a wide scale. So I think it is important for us to contextualise the kind of things that we have seen in Gaza with the more mundane injustices, the day to day apartheid that Israel implements towards the Palestinians. There are three short parts that I will discuss. Firs I will briefly contextualise the Nakba in history. The second section has three examples of Israeli policies towards the Palestinian minority. Thirdly, I want to share some quotations to see the kind of discourse that is commonplace within Israeli society towards its own Palestinian minority, the kind of discourse that legitimises past, present and potentially future expulsions.Many of you will be familiar with what happened to Palestinian society in 1948, the proportion of villages and towns that were emptied and destroyed, the proportion of Palestinians who were forced outside of their homes. Noting of course that Nakba began before 1948, not just in terms of expulsions, but also for example in terms of the dispossession of farmers and villagers, when absentee landlords were selling their properties to Zionists. This policy continued even after the 1948 conflict. A clear example of this is Majdal where some Palestinians managed to remain and in fact regroup in a manner of speaking until 1950 when they were finally ethnically cleansed. Until 1950 they had been kept in an area which was referred to as the ‘Ghetto’ and then they were expelled and what is today Ashkelon is on top of Majdal.There are other examples of similar expulsion years after 1948, inside the new state, such as Iqrit and KafrBir’im. The Palestinians in these areas managed to stay within the new borders of the Jewish state yet were still prevented from returning home even as they were trying to go through the process of the Israeli legal system, the Israeli military demolished these towns to make sure that it was impossible for them to go back. There is a direct link between the Palestinian catastrophe and the creation of Israel. Between 1947 and 1949 the number of Jewish communities in mandate Palestine increased by 50% and almost all of those communities were being built directly onto cleansed Palestinian land. This is the context that we are aware of already from a historical perspective but Nakba did not just an event in history, it is an ongoing process because this catastrophe continues today and ethnic cleansing, displacement of Palestinians hasn’t stopped.The Palestinian minority inside the state of Israel is a group of Palestinians who have actually been ignored by many groups in the West for a variety of different reasons but also it’s a group of Palestinians that I think increasingly come under the spotlight as the Israeli state’s methods of suppression and brutality towards the Palestinian minority increases and this is certainly the pattern that you can see taking place. After the 1948 Nakba the Bedouin Palestinians in the south, even though they were not expelled outside Israel, became refugees and were forcibly removed and concentrated in an area that was known as the ‘Siyag’ or the enclosure or fence area. Today there are tens of thousands of Israeli citizens, Palestinians who are living in what are called unrecognised villages. These are so called unrecognised villages due to Israeli planning legislation, mainly implemented in the ‘60s, which didn’t include pre-existing Palestinian communities as being officially on the map. Palestinian communities found themselves marked in areas that were not for residential building, so at the stroke of a pen they were removed from official existence. This had tremendous consequences for the Palestinians, especially given that their official non existence meant they were not connected to basic infrastructure. These communities still lack basic telecommunications, sewage systems and electricity, etc.Many of these unrecognised villages are in the South, in the Negev area, which the state of Israel is a planning for Judaisation. The policy sounds offensive, especially to Western audiences and therefore sometimes it is discussed in terms of development, euphemistically called ‘the development of the Negev’ which sounds much more pleasant and neutral. The way that the Negev is Judaized, the way that the Palestinian minority is discriminated against is a complex mix of the exploitation and manipulation of Ottoman land legislation, British mandate legislation, legislation that is more recent in terms of legalising farms that are owned by single Jewish families who is given rights to large amount of land while condemning Palestinian communities as occupiers and in breach of law. Although unrecognised villages are mainly in the south they also exist in other parts of Israel. Damash, for example is near Tel Aviv in-between Lyyda and Ramla, which I visited in July 2010 and I witnessed similar displacement to the ones occurring in other parts of Israel. This community was forcibly relocated to their current location in 1951 by the Israeli government but, to their misfortune, they were relocated to an area zoned for agricultural purposes. This means that the kind of building they are allowed to construct is restricted to barns other non permanent structures. Naturally over the years the people have had children and grandchildren and needed to expand their community but the land all around them has been rezoned for residential building for Jewish communities. As a result, most of their buildings are technically illegal and they are having to fight to defend their houses from being destroyed. Demolition of homes within Israel is not limited to unrecognised villages. This feature of Israeli apartheid is the nitty-gritty and mundane aspects of Israeli apartheid, which isn’t easily recognisable. In many places, home demolition is a phenomenon common to the Palestinian minority inside Israel. This is because one in four of the Palestinian towns inside Israel lack a so-called master plan, which is required in order to get planning permission to build. Without a master plan it is illegal to build.Since 1948, around one thousand new Jewish communities have been created inside Israel and only seven created for the Palestinian minority and in fact, those seven are all communities established in the Negev as part of a desire to concentrate the Bedouin Palestinians in one particular area. The restriction on growth puts Palestinian families under extreme pressure and many are forced to build extra rooms in order to accommodate their growing family. The legal limbo means they can only do this illegally.Contrasts that with what happened last month, December 2010, on a cold, wet and rainy day in Lydda to the family of Abu Eid, where seven homes were demolished in one go. Meanwhile, a piece in the Economist reported on October 2010 that there are exclusive gated communities being established just for “religious Zionists” and according to the chief Rabbi in Lod, “these blocks will ensure that Lod stays Jewish”. Another aspect of Israeli policies towards the Palestinian minority relates to the phenomenon of so called present absentees. One in four Palestinians in Israel are present absentees, also known as internally displaced. They are the Palestinian citizens of Israel who in 1948 left or was expelled from their homes but managed to stay within the newly created borders. Even though they received citizenship they were still barred from going back to their property; their property was confiscated from them. Their situation is that of an internally displaced person, although of course they have the ability to see their homes and land but don’t have the means to actually return to their homes.I remember a family that I know well in Nazareth, the grandmother is still alive, a survivor of the Nakba and someone could drive her in a car for 2-3 minutes and she would be outside her family home that is now occupied by Jewish Israelis. Two recent developments took place last year which are a part of “land reform” that Netanyahu’s government is implementing. A key part of this reform is privatisation. They want to privatise land which to date has been held in ownership by the Israeli state but of course a lot of that land is land taken from Palestinian refugees whether outside of Palestine now or as internally displaced persons. So privatising the land is a step that will make it even harder for the Palestinians to get that land back because once it has passed from hands of the state to private individuals it complicates the matter even further.Another law change that happened last year was a law originated during the British mandate period from 1943. This law gives the state the ability to confiscate the land for public purposes. Of course that is a pretty broad definition and that is a law that has been used repeatedly to take land from the Palestinians. The amendment that was passed last year by the Knesset was to say that, even if the land hasn’t been used for the public purposed that we claimed at the time, it will not return back to the original owner. The examples I’ve highlighted demonstrate clearly the methods Israel is using in securing stolen property. In this third section I want to highlight the type of language that is being used towards the Palestinian minority inside Israel. The kind of racist discourse that is common in a way that would shock most people here in Britain if they could think of an equivalent situation. Here in the UK it would come as a total shock if the average British person heard an elected mayor of a city in the UK, or a mainstream political party, or an elected Prime Minister talking about an ethnic or religious minority in extremely offensive terms that are only heard amongst a fringe minority.Palestinian citizens are described as a “demographic threat”. In other words they are a security threat by their very existence as Palestinians. This is important to note, not just because it’s an example of sickening racism, but because of the linkage between the dehumanisation of Palestinians and the ability to expel them. If you see a person as racially inferior it obviously makes it easier to consider that person’s presence expendable.The current Prime Minister Netanyahu, speaking in 2003 as Finance Minister explicitly described Palestinian citizens as “a demographic problem”Avigdor Lieberman comes out with new gems almost every week. Wwhilst being interviewed in Newsweek,; the interviewer asked him about his idea for changing the border to transfer Palestinian citizens into the so called Palestinian state. The question, “you are talking about drawing a line so that how many Israeli Arabs will no longer be part of Israel. Lieberman answers, “at least half”. This is the Israeli Foreign Minister talking openly to a Newsweek interview on October 2010. Another recent example to get the headlines is the call by many municipal Rabbis, who receive their salaries from the Israeli state, calling on Jewish Israelis not to rent their property to Palestinian citizens.Also the Deputy Mayor of Ashkelon was reported as saying, “I have been saying for years that we must teach girls to beware of Arabs” . So these initiatives are starting to become much more out in the open inside Jewish Israeli society. That quote from the Deputy Mayor of Ashkelon was in the context of campaigning against inter-racial dating.The prejudice, hate and racism fuelling such a discourse should no doubt remind us of situations from other places and times. There is also a statement from the current Mayor of Upper Nazareth, Upper Nazareth which was created on the confiscated property of Palestinian Nazareth. He said that “I’m all for a democratic Upper Nazareth, but first of all a Jewish one”. If anybody wanted the perfect encapsulation of what it means for Israel to continue to exist as a Zionist state, this is the contradiction laid out here by the Mayor of Upper Nazareth. Unabashed racism was also expressed by the chair of a Knesset lobby for housing solutions for young couples, who said “it’s in the national Interest for Jews to move to areas where the Arab population is on the rise”. Think about the outrage one would feel about the kind of politics that discussed an ethnic or religious minority in the UK in that way: there is too many of ‘this’ kind of person in this area and we need to move ‘right’ kind of person into this area.Finally, this is from the Deputy Minister for the task of the “development” of the Negev, “there’s the risk that we will find ourselves with more Arabs than Jews in these areas”. One could go on and on and these aren’t quotations of some random person on the street these are people who are all elected officials at a national and regional level. And that’s the discourse that has been commonplace inside Israel since 1948 until today and it’s that discourse that makes possible and even desirable to demolish homes in Naqab, do prevent Palestinian citizens of Israel returning to their homes and building for their children. It makes it ok to occupy the whole of Palestine and to bomb children in Gaza with phosphorus. This is the ideology that shapes these particular policies.The emphasis in the on-going Nakba is the suggestion that there is no point trying to understand the root of the conflict by only going back to 1967. There are many people who for a number of years now have tried to push the conflict related to the ’67 discourse, related to being primarily a kind of “anti-military occupation” discourse. When in fact the Nakba file is still well and truly open. Related to that, we need to be able to see the patterns and the similarities between the kind of policies that Israel implements towards its Palestinian minority and the kind of policies that we see played out day to day in the Occupied Palestinian Territory because it’s the same pattern, it’s the same mentality. Creating settlements on the hilltops that is what you see in the Galilee in the Misgav area, they created “look-out” communities. Home demolitions, the denial of building permits, fragmenting Palestinian territory. the idea that Palestinians are a threat by their very existence, it’s the same policies, it’s the same practice.Building on that observation, my suggestion at least and also the suggestion of others, is that we need to take on an analysis and the response to the situation that isn’t about two state solutions, that isn’t about “two competing nationalisms”. Remind ourselves that the unfolding tragedy is about basic International Law, it’s about basic human rights, anti-racism, anti-apartheid and anti-colonial. also recognise that until a particular state framework that has existed for over 60 years, which exists for the benefit of one group of people over another, a state that was built on the rubble of Palestinian society in 1948 and continues the Nakba every day until now, until that is changed there will never be justice or peace.
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