Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Nakba - the other side of the coin

For Americans, the story of Israel is presented in only one way, that of a heroic re-possession of ancient lands, a just action for a historically persecuted people.

From the film Exodus, to the many plays, other movies and books on the Jewish experience in America, one can only come away with a sympathetic view toward Israel and a vision of the Israelis as underdogs who deserve unquestioning support against yet another group who oppose the Jews.

But no attention is paid to the indigenous Palestinians who were the great majority of those living in the area that is now Israel. For them the founding of the Jewish state is known as the Nakba, or catastrophe. As they saw more and more people from other countries arriving after 1900, they opposed the moves and were increasingly alarmed by the steady acquisition of lands.

They had no spokesmen to compare with such as Chaim Wiezmann, who had the ears of the British Parliament and of President Truman. For the Arabs, the ascent of Israel was accompanied by loss after loss culminating in the 1948 war that established Israel, resulting in eviction and the establishment of over 50 refugee camps run by the United Nations (UNRWA) now holding 4.7 million people.

But that was not the limit of their losses. After the 1967 war, the Israeli settlement movement pushed into the occupied territories in violation of international law. This movement continues to the present day and a recent report by the Israeli human rights group B'Tselem revealed that 42% of the West Bank is now settler occupied, squeezing the Palestinians into a tiny fraction of the land they knew as home in the past.

They must watch as the land from which they were evicted and to which they cannot return is held within a country that freely offers citizenship to anyone from a foreign country whose sole qualification for residence is that they are Jewish.

If this were not bad enough, the boot of Israel is on the Palestinian neck every day in every aspect of daily life. No one can leave the occupied territories without permission, and everyone fears that even if they do get permission to leave they will not be allowed to return. Permanent and "flying" checkpoints manned by Israeli soldiers demand identification. Routes of travel within the occupied territories are restricted. Military justice is the best that can be hoped for. All this even as Israeli settlers in the occupied territories have full Israeli citizenship rights, are personally armed, protected by military force and rarely are called to account for attacks on Palestinians.

From a people living upon their own land, the Palestinians have become prisoners with that land subject to seizure by the Israeli military or by settlers at any time with no one to appeal to but the Israeli authorities.

How bitter it must be to see such oppression explained by the "right of Israel to defend itself" while any and all Palestinian opposition to the land grab is called terrorism.

Catastrophe indeed, and America has stood by with hands folded throughout. Don't let this continue. Get involved.

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