Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Quiet Transfer

From the time I learned my own name until the day my mother died, any time I faced a problem, she would say, “Just come home.” I used to laugh at her simple solution. At the same time, I felt a sense of peace and security in knowing that no matter what, I had a home to come to.

I can only imagine what it must feel like to wake up in the middle of the night, hear a crash and realize that the Israelis have come to knock your house down. You may have been warned. At least, the authorities sometimes left a demolition notice somewhere on or near your property. Of course, a thousand other Palestinians have received the same notice and since Israel randomly executes the demolition of a house, it means that no one can rest easy. You never know when the Caterpillar D-9 will come rumbling down the road in search of your house.

“My morning routine,” says Neimah Dandi, whose home in Anata was finally demolished in November 2004 after a wait of eight years, “consisted of getting out of bed, going to the window to see if the bulldozers were approaching, then going to the bathroom.”[1]

Palestinian homes may be destroyed even when a neighbor draws the short straw.
Jewish author, Jeff Helper writes:

When homes are demolished in military actions or as acts of deterrence and collective punishment, there is no process. No formal demolition orders, no warning, no time to remove furniture or personal belongings, often barely time to escape the home falling down around your ears. This can happen to your home, or to the home of a neighbor whom the Israeli authorities have targeted. Nuha Maqqdmah Sweidan, a Gazan mother of 10 and nine months pregnant, was killed when the house next to hers was dynamited by Israeli troops. “We were in bed, the children were asleep,” her husband related to Amnesty International. “There was an explosion and walls collapsed on top of us. I started to dig in the rubble with my hands. First I found my two little boys and my three year old girl… My wife remained trapped under the rubble with our youngest daughter. She was holding her when the wall fell on her…”[2]

So far, over 24,145 homes have been destroyed since 1967 in West Bank and over 4,000 in Gaza during last winter’s massacre. Moshe Ya’alon. the Israeli Army Chief of Staff declared, “The Palestinians must be made to understand in the deepest recesses of their consciousness that they are a defeated people.”[3] I am sure that a father who cannot protect his family or provide a home for his children must feel exactly what the Chief wants him to feel, defeated. Any Palestinian, at any age, any where or at anytime, for any reason may find himself harassed, denied water, freedom of movement or homeless to make room for more Jewish only roads or settlements, even in Jerusalem, On the other hand, not one Jewish home has been destroyed to make room for anything Palestinian.

Most of us remember the announcement of 1600 new Jewish only housing units in Arab East Jerusalem. Vice President Joe Biden was in Israel to talk about another “talk about peace” when it was made. Netanyahu apologized for the “timing” of the announcement. At the same time, Elie Wiesel put a full page ad in the New York Times,[4] saying, “Jerusalem is above politics…And, contrary to certain media reports, Jews, Christians and Muslims ARE allowed to build their homes anywhere in the city.” As I read that, I wondered if Wiesel was joking or deliberately lying. At any rate he is out of touch with reality. To say such a thing flies into the teeth of every human rights organization, both Jewish and Gentile, reporting on what is actually happening in his beloved city, Wiesel celebrates the fact that Jews can, “pray at the Wall, the last vestige of Solomon’s temple.” In view of evictions, home demolitions, and laws applied exclusively to Arabs that privilege Jews only, he leaves me wondering what in the world do they pray for and what kind of God do they pray to.

I thank God that my home is protected by a Constitution promising liberty and justice for all, and that I have a choice to NOT live in Jerusalem.

Thomas Are
August 31, 2010

[1] Jeff Helper, Obstacles to Peace, Published by Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions, 2009, p.51.
[2] Ibid., p. 49.
[3] Jeff Helper, Obstacles to Peace, The Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions, p.26
[4] April 18, 2010, p. 11.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Nakba Denial - Now - (Part Two)

The Holocaust is over… has been for 65 years. The Nakba is still going on and has been for 62 years. We often hear of the Holocaust but seldom do we hear of the Nakba. Nakba Now is the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories. Another name for it is ETHNIC CLEANSING.

Uri Avnery, former member of the Israeli Knesset explains:

Ethnic cleansing does not have to take the form of a dramatic expulsion, as in 1948, it can take place quietly, in a creeping process, when more and more Palestinians simply give up. That is the great dream of the settlers and their partners: to make life for the Palestinians so miserable that they take their families and leave.[1]

Israel’s program of occupation carves up the West Bank into small, disconnected and impoverished enclaves. More than 200 settlement communities, filled with 470,000 Jewish occupiers, gobble up more and more land every day. Many settlements built right over homes that used to be owned by Palestinian families. Settler violence against unarmed Palestinians is documented and beyond debate.

Since the Oslo Accords in 1993, there are three times as many settlers and Israel has annexed 42% of Palestinian land for even more settlements. Yet, amazingly, the average Israeli citizen thinks that they are the ones compromising, that, “no concessions they make to the Palestinians will ever be enough… Palestinians will always demand more concessions until there is no Israel.”[2]

Nakba Deniers don’t even see Israel’s SEPERATION WALL.

Israel continues to build a “security fence” that turns towns into open air prisons. Its route, encircling communities and water resources, belies the purpose of security. It not only separates Palestinian families from the rest of Palestine, it isolates 350,000 Palestinians on the Israeli side of the wall, isolating them with 80% of the West Bank settlers. They no longer live in the West Bank, nor are they allowed to live in Israel. Dwelling amid an electronic fence, watchtowers, sniper posts, mine fields, surveillance cameras and patrols with killer dogs, it is hard to feel like anything more than a prisoner in your own land.

Nakba Deniers forget about POLITICAL PRISONERS and their families.

Someone said to me, “What the Palestinians need now is a Gandhi or King.” They have probably had one but he has more than likely been assassinated or is languishing among 8,000 others in an Israeli jail, who have been arrested in the middle of the night, detained without charge or convicted by “secret evidence,” which neither he nor his lawyer (if he ever had one) was allowed to see, answer or challenge. Chances are he has been convicted by confessions made while being tortured.[3]

Nakba Deniers underestimate the misery caused by the DEMOLITION OF HOMES, the epitome of Nakba denial. Human beings cannot live without a home.

The Israeli Committee Against House Demolition (ICAHD) takes, as its main focus, and its vehicle for resistance, Israel’s policy of demolishing Palestinian homes in the occupied Territories – over 24,000 homes destroyed since 1967. The motivation for demolishing these homes is purely political: to either drive the Palestinians out of the country altogether, or to confine the four million residents of the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza to small, crowded, impoverished and disconnected enclaves, thus effectively foreclosing any viable Palestinian entity and ensuring Israeli control. In more than 95% of the cases the homes demolished had nothing to do with security. Their inhabitants did not commit any acts of terror…; Taken against the background of Israel’s systematic destruction of more than 500 Palestinian villages, towns and urban neighborhoods in 1948 and after, and its ongoing policy of demolishing the homes of Israeli (Arab) citizens – some 20-40,000 homes in the so called “unrecognized villages” are slated for demolition – the picture that emerges is one of ethical cleansing.[4]

Nakba Deniers treat the MASSACRE OF GAZA as none of our concern.

To say that 1,387 Palestinians lost their lives is just a statistic. (As opposed to nine Israeli, four by friendly fire.) Even pointing out that most of those killed were noncombatants, including many women and children fails to grip our emotions. But the massacre was more than a statistic to 78 year old Mustapha Al Jamal when F-16s fired missiles into his neighborhood. Jamal, who survived the Nakba of 1948 when he was 11 years old, lost his home, and six sons. Today, a year after the “war,” he is still homeless. “Life is not getting better,” he said. “It’s slowly getting worse for many people.”[5]

It’s true, Hamas, over a period of eight years, fired 12 tons of rocket payloads into Israel in response to the blockade which kept food, medicines, fuel, and electricity from entering Gaza. At the same time, Israel dropped 100 tons of high explosives on Gaza during the first day of the of Operation Cast Lead, targeting schools, chicken farms, health clinics and sanitation facilities. As a result, every day, Gaza, with a population density exceeding that of Hong Kong, dumps 65 million liters of raw sewage into the Mediterranean,[6]

Rachelle Marshall writes:

A year after the invasion Israel’s three year blockade of Gaza is tighter than ever, with the results that Gaza’s crippled infrastructure has not been built and thousands of Gazans remain homeless in the midst of another winter. Because Israeli bombs destroyed the sanitation system, many Gazans are not only cold and hungry, but forced to drink contaminated water. Amnesty International’s British director Kate Allen said of the current situation, “The wretched reality endured by 1.5 million people of Gaza should appall anybody with an ounce of humanity. Sick, traumatized and impoverished people are being collectively punished by a cruel policy imposed by Israeli authorities.”[7]

Nakba Deniers accept as normal or necessary Israel’s MILITARY CHECK POINTS, which often serve as centers of humiliation and even death for those trying to get to their jobs, schools or hospitals. .

Nakba Deniers look the other way instead of calling Israel to accountability for
Nakba Deniers accept the dumping of Israeli

Little by little, with very little attention from the world community, Israel is squeezing Palestinians from their land with checkpoints, earth mounds, Black Hawk helicopters, F16 bombers, sulfur bombs, tear gas, sound grenades, guns and bullets while all the time disallowing the delivery of food, medicine, fuel and electricity to sustain life. .

In 2002, Moshe Ya’alon, the Israeli Army Chief of Staff, declared, “The Palestinians must be made to understand in the deepest recesses of their consciousness that they are a defeated people.”[8] Arnon Sofer, father of Sharon’s separation Plan put it even stronger:

When 2.5 million people have to live in a closed off Gaza, it’s going to be a human catastrophe. Those people will become even bigger animals than they are today, with the aid of an insane fundamentalist Islam. The pressure at the border will be awful. It’s going to be a terrible war. So, if we want to remain alive, we will have to kill and kill and kill. All day and every day. If we don’t kill, we will cease to exist. The only thing that concerns me is how to ensure that the boys and men who are going to have to do the killing will be able to return home to their families and be normal human beings.[9]

My adversary said, “There will never be peace until the Palestinian mothers stop teaching their children to hate Jews.” I responded, “Mothers don’t have to teach their children fear and hatred. Children look around and learn from experience. Israel has its narrative which we hear often. Until we also hear and acknowledge the Palestinian narrative, the Nakba, Israel will show little interest in ending the occupation.

Thomas Are
August 16, 2010

[1] Uri Avnery, Is a Two State Solution still Possible? A Fantasy The Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, July, 2010, p.16
[2] Walter Reich, The Despair of Zion, Published in The Wilson Quarterly, Summer, 2010. p. 50.
[3] According to the Middle East Study Committee Report to the 219th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church, “Some 8,000 Palestinians arrested in 2008 or in previous years were still imprisoned at the end of the year. This included some 300 children and 550 people who were held without charge or trial under military detention orders, including some who have been held for up to six years.” p. 69.
[4] Jeff Helper, Obstacles to Peace, A Re-framing of the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict. (Published by ICAHD, 2009) p. 1.
[5] See Mohammed Omer, Life Upside Down: One Year After Israel’s Winter War on Gaza. Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, March 2010, p.16.
[6] See Delinda Hanley, ANERA’s Bill Corcoran Describes Gaza One Year Later: Picking Up the Pieces, The Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, April 2010, p.9
[7] Rachelle Marshall, U.S. Placates Israel and Opens New War Front While Ignoring Palestinians, Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, March 2010, p. 7
[8] Jeff Helper, Obstacles to Peace, The Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions, p.26
[9] Quoted in The Jerusalem Post weekend supplement Up Front, May 21, 2004. p.4. Cited in Helper above., p.34. “Kill as many Arabs as possible and talk as much as possible about Peace,” became the formula of political strategist Reuven Adler, used to lead Sharon and Olmert to power and repeated in Livni’s successful election campaign of 2009. Cited by Helper, p.24.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Nakba Denial - Then (Part One)

It is beyond me to understand how anyone with average intelligence can deny the Holocaust. The evidence is overwhelming. The testimony of many witnesses and the scars they bare are literally “undeniable.” It is also beyond me to understand how anyone with average intelligence can deny the Nakba. (The word means “catastrophe and refers to the Palestinian narrative of Israel’s treatment of the native inhabitants of Palestine. A better word might be the “atrocity. ) The evidence is overwhelming. The testimony of many witnesses and the scars they bare are literally “undeniable.” Alan Hart, a personal friend of Golda Meir and British journalist writes, “In my view, Nakba Denial – denial of Zionism’s ethnic cleansing of Palestine – is as obscene and as evil as Holocaust denial.”[1]

Hart tells of traveling with a Jewish friend to meet Golda Mier. They visited for five hours. They both loved it. Yet, in spite of the bond of friendship sealed by years of working and socializing together, his Jewish neighbor would not read Hart’s book. “If what I believe about that war (1967) is not true, everything crumbles,” he explains.[2]

To deny the holocaust, one has to swim against the stream and choose ignorance. On the other hand, Nakba Deniers may simply go with the flow and be carried along by the media, the Zionist lobby and the Christian Right Fundamentalists. If we remember the Holocaust to insure “never again,” then awareness of the Nakba, which is still very much alive, becomes the essential ingredient to “peace.” Yet, the Nakba of 1948 lurks unnoticed, like the pink elephant in the room in any discussion of the “troubles in the Middle East.” It taints every celebration of Israel’s right to exist. We often hear of the miracle of making the desert bloom. We seldom hear the rest of the story. It is a painful history. But it must be acknowledged if we are to ever understand the rage of the Palestinians.

At the founding of the State of Israel, acts of violence were designed to frighten Arabs into fleeing for their lives. One of the best documented examples was the village of Deir Yassin. On April 9, 1948, in the struggle to rid the land of Arabs, the Stern gang, headed by Yitzak Shamir, and the Irgun, headed by Menachem Begin, conducted the massacre of the Arab village of Deir Yassin. Jews claim 100 people were killed, Arabs say it was 250. The commander of the Haganah, Zvi Ankori described what he witnessed:

I saw cut-off genitalia and women’s crushed stomachs. It was direct murder. Soldiers shot everyone they saw, including women and children. Parents begged commanders to stop the slaughter, to please stop shooting.[3]

No one denies that most of those slashed to death were women and children. Jewish terrorist shot people on their homes and threw their bodies into the streets as a message to neighboring Arab villages. Survivors of the raid tell stories of Israeli soldiers starting to kill early in the morning and continuing all day. They killed everyone they saw, including old people and children. One pregnant woman had her stomach cut open with a butcher’s knife.[4]

The attack on Dier Yassin dramatically widened the gulf of hatred and fear that separated Palestinians and Jews. Zionists say it was not terror, it was war, even justified by their Scriptures. “We have no alternative...we were just defending our land.”[5] Begin himself wrote:

Out of evil, however, came good. This Arab propaganda spread a legend among Arabs and Arab troops, who were seized with panic at the mention of Irgun soldiers. In the results it helped us. Panic overwhelmed the Arabs of Eretz Israel...Kolonia village...was evacuated overnight. Bethlehem was also evacuated.[6]

Deir Yassin was not alone. Village after village felt the sting of Israeli massacres. Unwanted villages were destroyed., Out of more than 550 villages in the territory occupied by Israel, only 121 survived. The rest were taken over by Jews or bulldozed. In the first wave of immigrants, approximately 200,000 Jews moved into abandoned Arab houses. Jewish children played with toys the Arab children had left behind when expelled from their homes.

By the end of the fleeing, only 165,000 of over 800,000 Arabs remained in Israel. Many were forced to march in blood soaked clothes through the streets of Jerusalem past jeering on-lookers, never to be seen again.[7]

The Nakba of 1948 was as if I interrupted your church service, walked up front and announced, “I am from the United Nations and we, (without your vote,) have decided to give North Georgia back to the Cherokee Indians.
No, you can’t go home to collect your belongings. Your home is no longer yours.
No, there will be no compensation.
No, you do not have time to find your children. You are to load up on the bus we are providing for you. Just follow the young men with the machine guns. Of course, this is all for your own good, you understand. You will spend this night in a barbed wire compound. Tomorrow you will be force marched over the hills. Some of you, especially the elderly will die on the march. Parents may be separated from your children, and some of you will never see your little ones again or even know what happened to them.
You are to be placed in a Refugee Camp and most of you will live behind cement barrels and barbed wire for the rest of your life. You have never committed a crime, nor have you ever been tried in any court. You just happened to live in a land that Israel wanted.

By the way, the U.N. is prepared to take care of you. In fact, the U.N. is going to spend eleven cents a day to provide you with food, shelter, clothing, health care and education for your children.[8]

You will wait every day for the world’s conscience to rise up and come to your defense, but to this day, that has not happened. In fact, most of the power brokers of the world think all this is a good idea and will donate $16 million a day to help the Cherokees break up all this concrete and tear down all these ugly parking lots and restore North Georgia to the “garden” it was before all you white folks moved in and messed it up.
You will be maligned, misrepresented, stereotyped as thieves and terrorist and frankly, the Cherokees and those who feel guilty for your mistreatment wish you would simply go away.”[9]

May 15, 1948, the State of Israel was declared by the United Nations, giving 56 percent of the land to Israel; including all the coast land, the cereal and industrial lands. Palestinians were pushed up into the hills or locked up into refugee camps. Many of those who survived are still there, in some cases looking across the hills at the homes that used to be theirs in which Jews now live. In the early years of confinement, Palestinians would sneak back into their home territory to harvest their own crops or steal food for their families, only to be labeled “thieves” and “lawless scavengers” by their Jewish occupiers.

Arnold J. Toynbee said, -

The treatment of the Palestinian Arabs in 1947 and 1948 was as morally indefensible as the slaughter of six million Jews by the Nazis...though not comparable in quantity to the crimes of the Nazis, it was comparable in quality.[10]

General history, even filled with facts and numbers, can leave us a little detached. It came across more disturbing when told by a guest in my home. When he was nine years old, his father gathered the family together. “A monster named Hitler up in Europe has been killing Jews. He is dead now but he took their money and homes from them. Soon,” father told them, “some who escaped from him will be coming to Palestine. We are going to help them get re-established. In fact, a family will probably move in with us until they can build a home of their own.”
Young Elias Chacour was excited. It was fun moving clothes and belonging out of one side of their house to make room for ‘their cousins.’ After all,” father said, “We all came from Abraham. They are our blood brothers.”
But, they did not come in as guest. Zionist soldiers had no interest in sharing anything. They broke into his house, pulled his mother by her hair and rounded up the villagers of Biram into a barbed-wire compound, leaving their homes, possessions and even loved ones behind. Elias and all the people of Biram were forced to spend days and nights on the wet and rocky ground in a nearby olive orchard. A week later, they walked over the hills to the small cross-road village of Gish. “You will live here,” the Israeli soldiers barked. “Biram is not your home anymore. It is ours. Come back and you will be shot!”
What happened to the people of Gish? No one knew until a few days later, Elias was playing ball with his friends, as nine year old boys would do, when someone knocked the ball down into a dry ravine. He ran to retrieve the ball, reached down and suddenly saw a hand sticking out of the ground. He had just discovered the people of Gish. They had been murdered and buried in a mass grave.”.

Multiply the story of Biram and Gish by thousands of Palestinians who in the coming years of Israel’s new power and every nine year old Elias kid can tell of being frightened, accused of hiding weapons, called terrorists and beaten by Jewish soldiers, all for the State of Israel, while the world looked to other way.

This partial part of the story of Nakba 1948 is disturbing. But it is a part which must be remembered if there is every to be peace and security for Israel and Palestine. The popular, sanitized version only feeds to anger, mistrust and violence.

Thomas Are
August 4, 2010

[1] Alan Hart, Zionism, The Real Enemy of the Jews. Volume Three, Conflict without End. (Clarity Press, Atlanta, 2010) p. 366.
[2] Hart, Ibid., p.370.
[3].Lanni Brenner, The Iron Wall: Zionist Revolutions From Jabotinsky to Shamir, (Zed Books, Ltd. 1984). P. 97. And Ralph Schoenman, The Hidden History of Zionism, (Veritas Press, Santa Barbara, California, 1988) p.33.
[4].Quoted in David Hirst, The Gun and the Olive Branch: The Root of Violance on the Middle East, Faber and Faber, 1977) p. 141. Cited in Clifford Wright, Facts and Fables: The Arab-Isreli Conflict, (London, Kegan Paul International. 1989) p.19
[5].”Rights Group Accuses Israel of Violence Against Children in Palestine Uprising,” The Washington Post, May 17, 1990.
[8] Alan Hart, Arafat, Terrorist or Peace Maker, (Sidewick & Jackson, London, 1984) p. 95.
[9]. Read it for yourself. Read Blood Brothers, by Elias Chacour, The Iron Wall, by Avi Shlaim, and Paul Findley’s Deliberate Deceptions, and Israel’s Sacred Terror, by Livia Rokach, Justice and Only Justice, by Naim Ateek, Healings, by Rabbi Michael Lerner. This history is well documented by reputable historians and scholars.
[10].Na’im Ateek, Justice and Only Justice, Orbis Press, Maryknoll, New York, 1989.) p.32.