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Salman Abu Sitta: Reversing ethnic cleansing

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    Reversing ethnic cleansing: The Right to Return Home Salman Abu Sitta* June 5, 2006 http://www.amin.org/eng/uncat/2006/june/june5-0.html In the
    Message 1 of 1 , Jun 12, 2006
      Reversing ethnic cleansing:
      The Right to Return Home

      Salman Abu Sitta*
      June 5, 2006

      In the spring of 1948, some Jewish mukhtars (headmen) of Jewish
      colonies in Palestinian went over to the Arab Palestinian mukhtars in
      the nearby villages which maintained good neighbourly relations with
      them and whispered in their ears, "we are your good friends and
      neighbours and we must give you our sincere advice. Those vicious
      Palmach soldiers who just landed from Europe have no mercy. They
      intend to `clean out' Arab villages. Take your family and run for
      your life before it is too late". That was no "sincere" advice. This
      `whispering campaign', was ordered by Palmach commander, Yigal Allon
      (Paicovich) and it resulted in the depopulation of at least 12 villages.

      There are many kinds of Israeli soldiers, not all carrying guns. A
      most recently formed regiment is performing what is called `hasbara',
      a public relations campaign, to white wash Israeli brutal policies of
      occupation and racism. Ironically, the term `hasbara' is close to the
      more appropriate term `za'bara' meaning loud meaningless noise.

      Gershon Baskin (Right of Return to Palestine, AMIN, May 25th 2006)
      gives his Palestinian friends a `sincere' advice as "a true friend of
      the Palestinian people': drop your right to return home. Those Safad
      villagers who listened in 1948 to their friendly Jewish neighbour, and
      their children, have now to listen to their new Israeli friends: drop
      the most basic human right, to have, keep and return to your own home.

      Why should this campaign come from any body at all, let alone from
      European Jews who, in the words of Arnold Toynbee, should have been
      the first to learn from history?

      Baskin gives his (and Israeli) reasons for denying the Right of
      Return. Every one of these reasons cannot stand serious scrutiny.
      Every one of them is a standard weapon in the now discredited Israeli
      armoury of myths and misinformation.

      Baskin starts with UN resolution 181 (Partition Plan), which was
      "overwhelmingly accepted by the Jewish people" – meaning the European
      Jewish immigrants to Palestine, but Palestinians did not. Why should they?

      Baskin does not mention that this plan allocates 55.5% of Palestine to
      the Jewish European immigrants, who did not possess, even with the
      collusion of the British Mandate, more than 5.5%. He does not mention
      that 457 Palestinian towns and villages suddenly found themselves,
      according to the Plan, under the sovereignty of those immigrants, many
      of whom have just waded into Palestinian shores under the cover of
      darkness from a smuggler's ship. He also does not mention that 48% of
      the population in the would-be `Jewish state' was Palestinian Arabs.
      He also does not mention that Ben Gurion, in his tactical plan to
      provisionally accept the Partition Plan, proceeded immediately to
      ethnically cleanse the coastal plain from the Palestinian `citizens'
      of his new state.

      Ben Gurion depopulated 250 villages and expelled half the total
      refugees before the state of Israel was declared on 15th May 1948 and
      before any Arab regular soldier came to reverse the ethnic cleansing.

      Baskin does not dwell on the Israeli engineered largest, longest and
      continuous ethnic cleansing operation in modern history in which 774
      Palestinian towns and villages fell under Zionist control in 1948, of
      which 675 were totally depopulated and 99 remained under military rule
      for 16 years, to be replaced by second class status. The refugees from
      these villages are now 6,400,000 (both UN registered and unregistered)
      – not 5 million as Baskin states. In fact, 75% of the Palestinian
      people are refugees or displaced; a whole people fell victim to
      Israel. Their land comprises 93% of Israel's area. Their movable and
      immovable property have been confiscated by Israel in the largest
      robbery since WWII. That was the result of the 1948 Nakba. But the
      Nakba continues till today in occupied Palestine of 1967. Those who
      missed 1948 Nakba can see it today on TV screens, albeit in a
      different form with more slick 'hasbara'

      I suppose it is elementary to say that ethnic cleansing is a war
      crime. The 1998 Statute of Rome and the Sixth Nuremberg Charter
      clearly say that. It is understood that those who condone ethnic
      cleansing or who incite for it by word or deed are also committing a
      war crime. Denying the Right of Return is perpetuating the ethnic
      cleansing and hence participating in it.

      So, once again, why do Israelis deny the Right of Return in spite of
      the fact that the UN confirmed this right over a hundred times and
      that Israel's admission to UN membership was conditional upon it?

      The answer seems to be `realism': you cannot undo what was done 58
      years ago. This is like saying: you will be punished if you intend to
      kill someone, but you will be forgiven if you successfully do it.

      Realism has many faces not mentioned by Baskin. There is the 58-year
      reality of al Nakba. Every day, one page of this tragic book is
      written by Palestinian blood and Israeli brutality. There is a
      reality that the refugees have never given up, nor will they give up,
      their right to return home. There is a reality that 97% of them are
      within 100 km of their homes, 50% within 40 km and many are within
      sight of their homes. The reality is, in spite of wars, raids,
      occupation and Israeli brutal policies, they have not surrendered or
      given up, all three generations of them.

      The Zionist propaganda filled the Western minds with fabrications.
      But the thick fog of `hasbara' is being lifted slowly. More and more
      human rights groups, universities, churches are calling for Israel's
      boycott and disinvestment.

      Yes some, like Baskin, play the old game: `villages are destroyed',
      `no place to return to'… etc. Such stale arguments insult the
      intelligence of the ordinary man, let alone the expert, and reflect
      badly on its author.

      What if this is true? If a robber destroys a home or builds another
      floor on it, is he entitled to it? In that case, under what premise
      did the European Jews recover their homes and property, up to the last
      painting, from their European fellow citizens after half a century?

      In the book of human rights and even in national laws nothing
      supercedes the sanctity of private ownership and the right to return
      to it.

      But these Israeli claims about the impracticality of return are
      patently false. There is room. Most of the confiscated Palestinian
      land (93% of Israel) is utilized by the Israeli army and by the
      bankrupt kibbutz which make up only 1.5% of Israeli Jews. Eighty
      percent of Israeli Jews live in 14% of Israel. The rural Jews in the
      southern half of the country are less in number than a single refugee

      Not only destroyed villages can be constructed (90% of their sites
      are still vacant) but they have to expand 6 times due to natural
      increase. Amman, Beirut, Kuwait have expanded 10-30 times, the
      Palestinian have contributed to their development. Israel itself grew
      eight times, mostly through immigration. Why should it be difficult
      to build 6000 houses in a village whether the original 1000 houses
      were still standing or not?

      But Baskin evades the real reason. Israel wants to maintain its
      racist and Apartheid policies under the rubric of `Jewish state' and
      the threat of the Palestinian demographic bomb.

      What is the meaning of the `Jewish state'? There is no legal meaning
      for a Jewish state, neither in the Partition Plan, which protected its
      50% Arab population and which was "overwhelming accepted" by the
      Jewish immigrants, nor any where in international law which does not
      tolerate ethnic religious racist states.

      To speak of a Palestinian `demographic threat' is pure racism. What
      would British Jews do if London Municipality decides that Jews in
      Golders Green are a demographic threat and they have to be ethnically
      cleansed if their number exceeds that decided by the racist British
      Nationalist Party?

      Then we hear from Baskin about the Israeli `generosity' in allowing a
      `limited number' of Palestinians to recover their stolen property
      under family reunification plan. This limited number is reduced to
      zilch, especially after the Israeli law of nullifying the family
      reunification program.

      But Israel is generous. In Taba, it offered another four choices to
      the refugees: select your favourite country of exile anywhere in the
      world but not to your home.

      When it comes to compensation, Israel is more generous. It wants to
      grab 18.6 million donums of Palestinian land, a huge volume of houses,
      shops, businesses, farms, movable property, at least 1200 million
      cubic meters of water and other natural resources, public and
      historical property, airports, military camps, railways, roads, mines
      – all to be paid by an "international fund" with a modest contribution
      by Israel. In return, Israel would be the legal owner of all this
      stolen property. No mention of compensation for war crimes or crimes
      against humanity. Of course there is no mention that Palestinian are
      entitled to return to their homes AND compensation for their suffering
      and losses.

      Baskin sums the Israeli position well: "Anyone who understands
      anything about Israel and Israelis must realize that there will be no
      return to Israel proper". In simpler words, Israel wants to continue
      its ethnic cleansing, pursue its racist and Apartheid policies and
      does not "really want to live in peace" with the Palestinians but
      instead of them.

      The Palestinians, and most of the world with them, are determined to
      pursue justice, eradicate racism and Apartheid. Just as South Africa
      did. They have no intention of disappearing.

      Baskin true "friendship" should go to the Israelis to help shake them
      off their collective amnesia about what they have done and are doing
      to the Palestinians and to advise them that their salvation lies in
      shedding racism fully and forever. They have to amend their ways,
      reverse ethnic cleansing and make reparations.

      For it is clear that the history of Jews will ultimately be marked
      indelibly, and above all other historical events, by what they have
      done in Palestine.

      * Salman Abu Sitta is a Palestinian author and researcher on refugees.



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