By Mazin Qumsiyeh
Today is the day we actually commemorate Nakba Day, 14 May 1948, the date the state of Israel was declared. However, it is not the beginning of our Nakba (catastrophe) nor its end. Over 200 villages were ethnically cleansed in the six months before 14 May 1948. This simple fact illustrate that it is not the founding of the militarized state of Israel that began the Nakba but that it was a pivotal moment in it. After that date, the wave of ethnic cleansing was being done in a name of a nation-state established by and for Jews from Europe and not just the terrorist underground Jewish militias. The ethnic cleansing accompanying the foundation of this apartheid Jewish state and its maintenance meant the destruction of 530 villages and towns and meant that in the past 9 years alone over 10,000 homes were destroyed in the West Bank (including occupied Jerusalem), Gaza, and the Negev.
Today 7 million of the 11 million Palestinians around the world are refugees or displaced people. The Israeli population according to the Israeli central bureau of statistics is 7,510,000 of which 5,984,500 are “Jews and others” (presumably the others are Druze, Russian non-Jews, and similar categories) and 1,525,500 Palestinian Arabs (1). The population of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza is 4 million allowed to live on areas A & B, small parts of the 22% of Palestine occupied since 1967 (2). The total area allowed for Palestinian use is 2.5% of the area of pre-1967 Israel (3) plus areas A & B of the West Bank . In total this comes to 2.5% of 78% and 29% of the 22% that is the West Bank and Gaza (4). The total geographic access to all remaining Palestinians (5.525 million) is thus 1.95%+6.38%=8.33% while the Jewish and other population (Zionist preferred) consists of 5.5 million with access to the remaining lands comprising 91.67% of historic Palestine.
What this means is that the Jewish population (most of it new immigrants) has access to about 9 times more land per person than the remaining native Palestinians. If we add the Palestinian refugees outside the country (total Palestinian population per PCBS is 10.9 million), the disparity only gets more pronounced. When you consider that before the foundation of the state of Israel in 1948, 93% of the land was used by Palestinian natives and now only 8.3%, you can see the colossal level of land theft.
Endless negotiations are ongoing between increasingly fascist Israeli governments and a gutted Palestinian political echelon. While different factions have agreed to reconstitute the Palestine Liberation Organization weakened and fractured for the past two decades, this has yet to happen. IOt is no wonder that in these two decades of negotiations, Israel (supported by an occupied Washington) has dictated terms and they include focus on security to the colonizers (in other words accepting the theft of the land) and shredding of International law. It is clear that International law supports the right of refugees and their descendents to return to their homes and lands. Israel had to accept UN General Assembly Resolution 194 in order to be allowed entry into the UN. But most of its key provisions remain violated by this rogue state:
Resolves that the Holy Places – including Nazareth – religious buildings and sites in Palestine should be protected and free access to them assured, in accordance with existing rights and historical practice..
Resolves that the refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbours should be permitted to do so at the earliest practicable date, and that compensation should be paid for the property of those choosing not to return and for loss of or damage to property which, under principles of international law or in equity, should be made good by the Governments or authorities responsible;
Video: Palestine/Israel History since 1878, A short documentary that shows how Israel was made over Palestinian bodies and the occupation’s early days massacres.
In many events of popular resistance today around Palestine, Palestinians and their supporters recognized the historical continuity between land theft, racism, and ethnic cleansing that happened in 1948 and that happening today. In Sheikh Jarrah today, hundreds of protesters including Israelis with Rabbis for human rights congregated and protested the evictions of Palestinians from occupied Jerusalem. The occupation forces dragged many away and arrested others.
The popular committee reported from Bil’in that “Representatives from the Fatah, Hamas, and PFLP movements, along with members of the Popular Committee Against the Wall, marched carrying a giant key to represent the rightful return of the refugees. The demonstration was visited by Handala, the Palestinian symbol who was created to represent the children who left their homelands and were forced to settle in refugee camps. Demonstrators processed to the site of the Wall and endured large amounts of tear gas as Israeli soldiers tried to force them to retreat. A Palestinian TV journalist was arrested when the soldiers crossed the fence. The fields around the Wall quickly caught fire due to the high afternoon heat and the tear gas canisters, and demonstrators tried to extinguish the flames with olive branches.
In Al-Ma’sara, we gathered and heard speeches from the minister of culture, listened to music from Palestinian artist Reem Al-Banna, heard poets, and enjoyed dabka. In the background three tents representing three villages from over 530 destroyed towns and villages were depicted. In the distance, the Mediterranean was visible (but off-limits to us). The local popular committee had a brilliant event in support of the right of return even though the Israeli army had invaded the village the night before and threatened organizers Mohammed and Hasan Breijiya and others. We did a video also includes last week in Al-Ma’sara and interview with Daoud Nassar of the Tent of Nations. The video is posted here:
What had happened here in the past 62 years was not what was originally planned by the Zionists, a relatively pure Jewish state with few or no natives left. What is the case today is that despite all the Zionist migrations and colonial activity, we remain here. It is a scrambled egg to be sure: Jewish colonies dominate with 5.5 million Palestinians remaining in ghettos totaling 8.3% of the land. But this egg cannot be unscrambled into a “two-state solution.” The more people realize this, the more will join us in the same kind of struggle carried for nearly 120 years in South Africa. It is a struggle for justice and for human rights supported by International law. It is a struggle against racism. It is long past time for refugees to return.
Mazin Qumsiyeh, PhD
A Bedouin in Cyberspace, a villager at home
- see http://www.indypendent.org/2007/12/09/israeli-democracy-arabs-need-not-apply
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