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When Israeli denial of Palestinian existence becomes genocidal

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  • Abe Hayeem
    No one tells it better and straighter than Israeli historian Ilan Pappe, whose knowledge and research from Israeli military and political archives and letters,
    Message 1 of 1 , Apr 21 3:18 PM
      No one tells it better and straighter than Israeli historian Ilan Pappe,
      whose knowledge and research from Israeli military and political archives
      and letters, and eye witness accounts from Palestinians and Israelis is
      superlative. Diaspora Jewry in general still follow the Zionist mythology.
      When Israeli denial of Palestinian existence becomes genocidal
      Ilan Pappe The Electronic Intifada 20 April 2013

      Sixty-five years on, Israeli President Shimon Peres still denies the
      existence of the indigenous population of Palestine. (World Economic Forum /

      In a regal interview he gave the Israeli press on the eve of the state¹s ²
      Independence Day,² Shimon Peres, the current president of Israel, said the

      ³I remember how it all began. The whole state of Israel is a millimeter of
      the whole Middle East. A statistical error, barren and disappointing land,
      swamps in the north, desert in the south, two lakes, one dead and an
      overrated river. No natural resource apart from malaria. There was nothing
      here. And we now have the best agriculture in the world? This is a miracle:
      a land built by people² (Maariv, 14 April 2013).

      This fabricated narrative, voiced by Israel¹s number one citizen and
      spokesman, highlights how much the historical narrative is part of the
      present reality. This presidential impunity sums up the reality on the eve
      of the 65th commemoration of the Nakba, the ethnic cleansing of historic
      Palestine. The disturbing fact of life, 65 years on, is not that the
      figurative head of the so-called Jewish state, and for that matter almost
      everyone in the newly-elected government and parliament, subscribe to such
      views. The worrying and challenging reality is the global immunity given to
      such impunity.

      Peres¹ denial of the native Palestinians and his reselling in 2013 of the
      landless people mythology exposes the cognitive dissonance in which he
      lives: he denies the existence of approximately twelve million people living
      in and near to the country to which they belong. History shows that the
      human consequences are horrific and catastrophic when powerful people,
      heading powerful outfits such as a modern state, denied the existence of a
      people who are very much present.

      This denial was there at the beginning of Zionism and led to the ethnic
      cleansing in 1948. And it is there today, which may lead to similar
      disasters in the future ‹ unless stopped immediately.

      Cognitive dissonance

      The perpetrators of the 1948 ethnic cleansing were the Zionist settlers who
      came to Palestine, like Polish-born Shimon Peres, before the Second World
      War. They denied the existence of the native people they encountered, who
      lived there for hundreds of years, if not more. The Zionists did not possess
      the power at the time to settle the cognitive dissonance they experienced:
      their conviction that the land was people-less despite the presence of so
      many native people there.

      They almost solved the dissonance when they expelled as many Palestinians as
      they could in 1948 ‹ and were left with only a small minority of
      Palestinians within the Jewish state.

      But the Zionist greed for territory and ideological conviction that much
      more of Palestine was needed in order to have a viable Jewish state led to
      constant contemplations and eventually operations to enlarge the state.

      With the creation of ³Greater Israel² following the conquest of the West
      Bank and Gaza in 1967, the dissonance returned. The solution however could
      not easily be resolved this time by the force of ethnic cleansing. The
      number of Palestinians was larger, their assertiveness and liberation
      movement were forcefully present on the ground, and even the most cynical
      and traditionally pro-Israel actors on the international scene recognized
      their existence.

      The dissonance was resolved in a different way. The land without people was
      any part of the greater Israel the state wished to Judaize in the pre-1967
      boundaries or annex from the territories occupied in 1967. The land with
      people was in the Gaza Strip and some enclaves in the West Bank as well as
      inside Israel. The land without people is destined to expand incrementally
      in the future, causing the number of people to shrink as a direct
      consequence of this encroachment.

      Incremental ethnic cleansing

      This incremental ethnic cleansing is hard to notice unless one
      contextualizes it as a historical process. The noble attempt by the more
      conscientious individuals and groups in the West and inside Israel to focus
      on the here and now ‹ when it comes to Israeli policies ‹ is doomed to be
      weakened by the contemporary contextualization, not the historical one.

      Comparing Palestine to other places was always a problem. But with the
      murderous reality in Syria, Iraq and elsewhere, it becomes an even more
      serious challenge. The last closure, the last political arrest, the last
      assault, the last murder of a youth are horrific crimes, but pale in
      comparison to nearby or far-away killing fields and areas of colossal

      Criminal narrative

      The comparison is very different when it is viewed historically and it is in
      this context that we should realize the criminality of Peres¹ narrative
      which is as horrific as the occupation ‹ and potentially far worse. For the
      president of Israel, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, there were never
      Palestinians before he initiated in 1993 the Oslo process ‹ and when he did,
      they were only the ones living a small part of the West Bank and the Gaza

      In his discourse, he already eliminated most of the Palestinians. If you did
      not exist when Peres came to Palestine, you definitely do not exist when he
      is the president in 2013. This elimination is the point where ethnic
      cleansing becomes genocidal. When you are eliminated from the history book
      and the discourse of the top politicians, there is always a danger that the
      next attempt would be your physical elimination.

      It happened before. The early Zionists, including the current president,
      talked about the transfer of the Palestinians long before they actually
      disposed them in 1948. These visions of a de-Arabized Palestine appeared in
      every Zionist diary, journal and inner conversation since the beginning of
      the 20th century. If one talks about nothingness in a place where there is
      plenty it can be willful ignorance. But if one talks about nothingness as a
      vision or undeniable reality, it is only a matter of power and opportunity
      before the vision becomes reality.

      Denial continues

      Peres¹ interview on the eve of the 65th commemoration of the Nakba is
      chilling not because it condones any violent act against the Palestinians,
      but because the Palestinians have entirely disappeared from his
      self-congratulatory admiration for the Zionist achievement in Palestine. It
      is bewildering to learn that the early Zionists denied the existence of
      Palestinians in 1882 when they arrived; it is even more shocking to find out
      that they deny their existence ‹ beyond sporadic ghettoized communities ‹ in

      In the past, the denial preceded the crime ‹ a crime that only partially
      succeeded but for which the perpetrators were never brought to justice. This
      is probably why the denial continues. But this time, it is not the existence
      of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians which is at stake, but that of
      almost six million who live inside historic Palestine and another five and
      half million living outside Palestine.

      One would think only a madman can ignore millions and millions of people,
      many of them under his military or apartheid rule while he actively and
      ruthlessly disallows the return of the rest to their homeland. But when the
      madman receives the best weapons from the US, Nobel Peace Prizes from Oslo
      and preferential treatment from the European Union, one wonders how
      seriously we should take the Western references to the leaders of Iran and
      North Korea as dangerous and lunatic?

      Lunacy is associated these days, it seems, to possession of nuclear arms in
      non-Western hands. Well, even on that score, the local madman in the Middle
      East passes the test. Who knows, maybe in 2014 it would not be the Israeli
      cognitive dissonance that would be solved, but the Western one: how to
      reconcile a universal position of human and civil rights with the favored
      position Israel in general and Shimon Peres in particular receives in the

      The author of numerous books, Ilan Pappe is professor of history and
      director of the European Centre for Palestine Studies at the University of


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