Thursday, May 6, 2010


Zionists and official Israel combined forces when Israel was created to frame the Middle East debate on their terms through lies, distortions, and attacks. These maneuvers are designed to win sympathy and support—especially in the United States—and to marginalize the Palestinians and their claims to their own state.

Here are some of their main ploys:

1. The accusation of anti-Semitism. Whoever criticizes the policies and actions of the Israeli government is promptly accused of anti-Semitism—never mind that neither Israel nor Zionism is synonymous with Judaism. What other country is immune from criticism because it played the guilt card?

2. Invoking the Holocaust as justification for what they do, and for the original establishment of Israel. Never mind that the Palestinians, who have been systematically pushed off of their land, had nothing to do with the European Holocaust.

3. Labeling any defensive action that the Palestinians take as ‘terrorist’ activities, even though the majority of Palestinian actions are directed at military targets—an acceptable act of resistance for an occupied territory, under international law. Attacks against civilians, like many of the suicide bombings, are in violation of international law. Most of Israel’s actions are directed at the general Palestinian population and are designed to punish the Palestinian people as a whole; both are clear violations.

4. Constantly claiming that Israel doesn’t have a partner in peace—that Palestinians don’t want peace and therefore reject any attempts at a resolution. In fact, the Palestinian leadership and the Arab League (surrounding Arab countries) have both accepted peace proposals that Israel then delays. Jimmy Carter says, “In order to achieve its goals, Israel has decided to avoid any peace negotiations and to escape even the mild restraints of the United States by taking unilateral action, called ‘convergence’ or ‘realignment,’ to carve out for itself the choice portions of the West Bank.” [Jimmy Carter, ‘Palestine Peace Not Apartheid’, p. 210]

In addition, Israel makes a resolution impossible by a) refusing to discuss where Israel’s permanent borders are going to be, b) refusing to allow Palestinian refugees to return to their homes in spite of the international law called ‘Right of Return’, and c) demanding that before an agreement can be enacted, there must be no single hostile action taken against Israel by any Palestinian anywhere—something that would be impossible for anyone to guarantee. Plus, it ignores the daily siege by the Israeli military of the Palestinian people living in the Gaza Strip.

5. Unilaterally declaring Jerusalem as unified in 1967, proclaiming it as the Israeli capital, in spite of the fact that, when Israel was created by the United Nations, Jerusalem was set aside as an international city due to its importance to all the Abrahamic religions: Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. Tel Aviv is the internationally recognized capital; no country recognizes Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

6. Europeanizing Israel through immigrants, architecture, and vegetation, so that the U.S. can easily identify with the country rather than with the Arab Palestinians, who are automatically identified as ‘the other’ through appearance and customs. These efforts have also wiped out the Arab nature of the cities and the landscape, with places being renamed in Hebrew, and native crops, like olive trees (as well as emptied Palestinian villages) being plowed under and replaced by more European-looking forests. [Ilan Pappe, ‘The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine’, pp.216-227]

7. Claiming divine right to historical Palestine as having been given to them by God—never mind that many Jews do not agree with that religious interpretation. The claim itself is undermined by the fact that a number of locations—including Uganda, Turkey, and Argentina [Phyllis Bennis, ‘Understanding the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict’, pg. 175]—were originally considered as possible locations for the Jewish homeland. Palestine was selected because the Zionists thought a strong emotional attachment to the land would motivate Jews to immigrate there.

8. Portraying themselves as victims when, in reality, the balance of power is in their favor to an extraordinary degree. [Pappe, p. 245] Israel vastly overshadows the Palestinians in military and economic might, mostly due to the financial and technological support of the United States—to say nothing of the massive public relations campaign of Israel and the American Jewish organizations such as AIPAC that relentlessly support whatever Israel does. They have used that might to dispossess and marginalize the virtually powerless Palestinians.

9. Claiming and popularizing the statement that historical Palestine after World War II was ‘a land without people, for a people without a land’—totally ignoring the hundreds of thousands of Palestinians who already lived there.

10. Describing Israel as a democracy, although the country has two tiers of citizenship. Israeli ‘Nationals’ have full rights. Nationals (Jewish Israelis) are Nationals because they serve in the military, but Arab Israelis are not allowed in the military because they ‘can’t be trusted’. [Tom Wallace, International Solidarity Movement]. Arab Israeli citizens have limited voting rights and no real power.

Fortunately, these ploys mostly work just in the United States—and even here, their effect is beginning to weaken. Rabbi Tamara Kolton of Michigan says, “Most Jews have mixed feelings about Israel. They support Israel, but it’s complicated. Until now, you never heard from those people.” [N.Y. Times, 5/6/10, pg. A14] And Jeremy Ben-Ami, the founder of the liberal Jewish lobby, J Street, says, “People are tired of being told that you are either with us or against us. The majority of American Jews…support the two-state solution and do not feel that they have been well represented by organizations that demand obedience to every wish of the Israeli government.” [N.Y. Times, 5/6/10, pg. A18]

Elsewhere in the world, including within Israel, there is much discussion about and disagreement with Israel’s tactics. Up until now, the United States has given unqualified financial support and the latest updated military technology to Israel, as well as vetoing any attempt in the United Nations to censure Israel for its constant, decades-long violations of international law.

Sunday, April 25, 2010


In June of 1967, Israel simultaneously attacked and invaded the West Bank (under Jordanian rule), the Gaza Strip (under Egyptian rule), the Golan Heights (part of Syria), and the Sinai Peninsula (part of Egypt). Its first strike in this Six Day War was on the Egyptian and Jordanian air forces, which completely disabled them and gave Israel free rein to invade.

Israel’s excuse for making a preemptive strike was that Egypt, Syria, and Jordan were supposedly massing troops near their borders with Israel. The Israelis claimed they were going to be attacked by the Arab countries. In 1982, Prime Minister Menachem Begin acknowledged that they didn’t have proof that an attack was imminent; they decided to attack Egypt anyway. This gave Israel the opportunity to push 250,000 more Palestinians into exile. [‘Understanding the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict’ by Phyllis Bennis, pp. 159-160]

The final outcome of the Six Day War, a total victory for Israel, was the occupation of the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, and East Jerusalem (the last portions of historical Palestine that were intended for a Palestinian state), which has lasted for 43 years. Israel denies it is occupying East Jerusalem, having unilaterally annexed it as their capital, even though the United Nations declared it a multi-national city when Israel was created. No nation recognizes Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. At any rate, military occupation of any area is illegal under the Geneva Conventions.

Although the Fourth Geneva Convention “prohibits an occupying power from transferring any part of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies” and “international humanitarian law prohibits any permanent change to an occupied land”, [Bennis, pg. 20], Israel began building Jewish settlements throughout the Palestinian lands immediately following the Six Day War. The goal has been the conquest of Palestinian land through colonization. In 1973, Ariel Sharon told a British journalist, "We'll make a pastrami sandwich of them. We'll insert a strip of Jewish settlement, in between the Palestinians, and then another strip of Jewish settlement, right across the West Bank, so that in 25 years time...nobody will be able to tear it apart."

The control of Palestinian life is absolute. While Israel dismantled its settlements in the Gaza Strip in 2005 and withdrew its troops, the military surrounds Gaza and maintains a total vertical occupation: absolute control of movement on the land, under the land, in the air, and by sea. President Jimmy Carter says of Gaza, “They are being strangled since the Israeli ‘withdrawal’, surrounded by a separation barrier that is penetrated only by Israeli-controlled checkpoints, with just a single opening (for personnel only) into Egypt’s Sinai as their access to the outside world. There have been no moves by Israel to permit transportation by sea or by air. Fishermen are not permitted to leave the harbor, workers are prevented from going to outside jobs, the import or export of food and other goods is severely restricted and often cut off completely, and the police, teachers, nurses, and social workers are deprived of salaries…the poverty rate has reached 70 percent…with more than half of all Palestinian families eating one meal a day.” [‘Peace Not Apartheid’ by Jimmy Carter, pp. 175-176]

This absolute control can only be maintained by violence. “Israeli soldiers, checkpoints, tanks, helicopter gunships, and F-16 fighter jets control every aspect of Palestinian lives, and have recently brought social, family, and economic life to a virtual halt.” [Bennis, pg. 2] Rockets are fired into neighborhoods that border Israel on a daily basis, striking civilians, including children, indiscriminately. Palestinian homes are regularly bulldozed by Israeli troops without provocation and without warning. “Israeli-only” roads in the West Bank cut off Palestinian communities and families from one another. The Apartheid Wall that Israel is building completely encircles Palestinian towns, further cutting off Palestinian from Palestinian. The most fertile of the Palestinian lands and the majority of their water rights are taken over and given to Israeli settlers, who use guns and troops to keep Palestinians from tending their own orchards and crops. Palestinians, including women and children, are arrested at will and held indefinitely without charges. Every one of these actions violates international law.

Israel avoids and postpones the peace process in order to further consolidate their hold on Palestinian lands. Jimmy Carter states, “Israel’s continued control and colonization of Palestinian land have been the primary obstacles to a comprehensive peace agreement in the Holy Land. In order to perpetuate the occupation, Israeli forces have deprived their unwilling subjects of basic human rights. No objective person could personally observe existing conditions in the West Bank and dispute these statements.” [Carter, pp. 208-209]

The rest of the world stands by while Israel, one of the strongest military powers on earth, continues to subjugate the nearly powerless Palestinian people. No other country deserves more blame for this than the United States, whose government finances Israel’s military, gives the country $10,000,000 a day in aid, and blocks every attempt by the United Nations to impose penalties on Israel. George H.W. Bush is the only president who succeeded in stopping the Israelis’ settlements; he did so by threatening to withhold funding. However, as soon as the first President Bush left office, the building resumed. The U.S. still has the power, if we can find the will, to insist on a just and lasting peace.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010


Judaism is a religion that is more than 3,000 years old. Its practitioners are Jewish, but Jews comprise a larger ethno-religious group, meaning that even Jews who are not religious still often identify with the culture/ethnicity.

Zionism is a political movement that was born in the 1880’s as a result of discrimination against and persecution of the Jews. The purpose of Zionism was to establish a safe homeland that was specifically—and exclusively—Jewish, to which Jews from anywhere in the world could immigrate.

Many different regions were originally considered as potential locations for this Jewish homeland, including Uganda, Argentina, and Turkey. ['Understanding the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict', by Phyllis Bennis, pg.175] The Zionists recognized that the place would need to be relatively underdeveloped and that they would need the power of a colonizing country behind them. Ultimately, they decided upon Palestine, which was taken over by Britain at the end of World War I, after the defeat of the Ottoman Empire. The Zionists recognized that they could appeal to more Jews by emphasizing historic, religious links to Palestine.

An oft-quoted, Zionist slogan for Palestine was “a land without a people for a people without a land”—an attitude that totally ignored the fact that hundreds of thousands of indigenous Arabs—Christian and Muslim—already occupied the land. However, the Zionists found sympathizers among the British rulers, who grew tired of the growing conflict between newly arrived Jewish immigrants and native Palestinians and turned the problem over to the United Nations. Out of that action, with the backing of Britain, Israel was born.

Many Jews were not, and are not, Zionists. According to Israeli historian Ilan Pappe, “Jewish tradition and religion clearly instruct Jews to await the coming of the promised Messiah at ‘the end of times’ before they can return to Eretz Israel as a sovereign people in a Jewish theocracy…In other words, Zionism secularized and nationalized Judaism.” ['The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine', pg. 10-11.] Some of the conservative branches of Judaism, in particular, objected to the establishment of Israel by the hand of man rather than by the hand of God.

However, the Zionist founders of Israel were secular and apparently felt that the end goal of an Israeli homeland justified any means needed to obtain it. The diaries of men like David Ben-Gurion, as well as the military archives of the Zionists, hold many details of the 1948 expulsions and massacres of 750,000 Palestinians from their own land. [‘Endnotes’ in 'The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine', pp. 262-281]

These methods continue today in an effort to force as many Palestinians as possible to flee. For example, during Israel’s military attack on the Gaza Strip in December, 2008 to January, 2009, Israeli forces killed over 1400 Palestinians: 926 were civilians, including 313 children and 116 women. [Bennis, pg. 194] Any criticism of Israel’s actions is met by an effective tactic of the Zionists: a charge of anti-Semitism. Norman Finkelstein writes of these highly publicized charges that, “The main purpose behind these periodic, meticulously orchestrated media extravaganzas is not to fight anti-Semitism but rather to exploit the historical suffering of Jews in order to immunize Israel against criticism.” [Norman Finkelstein, 'Beyond Chutzpah', pg. 22]

Many Jews inside and outside of Israel object to the violation of human rights to which the Palestinian occupants of Gaza and the West Bank are subjected every day. Multiple human rights organizations—again, within and outside of Israel—are dedicated to changing the policies of Israel. Jewish writers such as political scientist Norman Finkelstein, professor and philosopher Noam Chomsky, analyst Phyllis Bennis, and historian Ilan Pappe work tirelessly to expose the lies and mischaracterizations of the Zionists, as well as the human suffering of the Palestinians. In this high-tech age, it is becoming more and more difficult for Israel to violate with impunity both international law and the basic tenets of humanity.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010


When Britain took over the Palestinian Territory after World War I, as a result of defeating the Ottoman Empire, Jews made up about 5% of the population of historic Palestine. By the end of World War II, Jews made up about 30% of the population in Palestine. This growth was largely due to European Jewish refugees—people that neither Britain nor the United States was willing to accept in large numbers. Britain, however, was willing to throw open the door to Palestine and allow Jews to settle there.

The inevitable conflict between the indigenous people and the Jewish newcomers meant that Britain was soon ready to transfer responsibility for the area to the United Nations. In 1947,the UN proposed a two-state solution to the problem—a solution that would give the Jews 55% of the land to establish Israel while the larger Palestinian population would get only 45%. Naturally, the Jews were willing to accept this proposal. Also naturally, the surrounding Arab states (no one asked the Palestinians) didn’t see this as fair and refused.

The Zionists didn’t wait for statehood to be declared before taking things into their own hands. They began a process of displacing the Palestinians, forcing 750,000 of them off of the land (see previous blog on The Nakba). By the end of 1948, having defeated the few ill-equipped Arab armies that tried to repel them, Israel had taken possession of 78% of the land, leaving only 22%—the physically unconnected areas of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank—for a future Palestinian state.

Even 78% wasn’t enough. The goal of the Zionists (a minority of Jews in Israel at that time) was to control all of the land. In 1973, Ariel Sharon said, “We’ll make a pastrami sandwich of them. We'll insert a strip of Jewish settlement, in between the Palestinians, and then another strip of Jewish settlement, right across the West Bank, so that in 25 years time...nobody will be able to tear it apart." And that is what Israel has done by creating settlements in the occupied territories of Gaza and the West Bank, even though to do so violates international law. Of course, military occupation and the subsequent control of the Palestinians’ lives also violate international law.

The settlers insinuate themselves throughout the fabric of the land while Palestinians cannot get building permits. If they build, or add onto their homes, they risk eviction, after which Jewish settlers move in, often taking over even the possessions that are left behind. The settlers destroy the orchards, on which the Palestinians rely to make a living, foul the wells from which the Palestinians get their water, and block access to both the orchards and the wells. As the settlers permeate the Palestinian lands, they become more and more difficult to dislodge.

Roads throughout the West Bank are reserved for Jews: no Palestinians allowed. Palestinian towns and villages are cut off from one another due to this system. The infamous (and illegal) Apartheid Wall being built by Israel through the West Bank also cuts off Palestinian villages and families, who are not permitted to move freely enough to visit one another. The Wall is being built on and further usurps Palestinian lands. Orchards are clear-cut to create ‘secure’ zones next to the Wall, thus taking more land out of Palestinian hands. Homes are plowed into rubble by bulldozers (made specifically for this job by the American company, Caterpillar).

These Israeli tactics may well backfire. Indeed, the Jewish settlements are so interwoven with the Palestinians and their land that it is becoming impossible to separate them out. While Israel talks peace on the one hand, on the other, it supplies the settlements and continues to build the Wall. However, the intertwining is making the two-state solution an unlikely one. The only viable avenue is looking more and more like a one-state solution—one state in which Israelis and Palestinians are equal.

While official Israel hoped to force the Palestinians to flee to other countries (notably Lebanon and Jordan) by making their lives unbearable, the technological age makes it impossible for the abuses to continue unobserved. The frightening fact on the ground, from Israel’s perspective, is that if the Palestinians remain, Jews are the minority, and will continue to be the minority. Forcing four million Palestinians to live on 22% of the land cannot change that fact. Evacuating four million Palestinians from the area is untenable (even overlooking the immorality of such an action). Peaceful coexistence and equality constitute the only viable path forward.

[An expansion of this information can be found in the book, 'Understanding the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict', by policy analyst Phyllis Bennis.]

Sunday, March 28, 2010


Under the forests of Israel lie what are officially termed “ancient” ruins. In actuality, they are the remains of Palestinian villages, evacuated by forced migration or massacre, destroyed and bulldozed under in 1948 and then seeded over with trees. The mass expulsion of Arabs from Palestine, by Zionist forces, actually began in 1947, well before there was either an Arab-Israeli war, or even a nation of Israel. The area was still supposedly under British protection, but the Zionists who were planning the establishment of their new country felt the need to eliminate as many Palestinians as possible before the fact—and the British watched as the plan was carried out.

Palestinians and Jews had co-existed peacefully in Palestine since the 1880’s, when a massive immigration of Jews began. Therefore, the Arabs didn’t agree with the British (and consequently, the United Nations) plan to partition historical Palestine into two states once Britain was ready to give up control of the area. Little did the Arabs know or expect that the Zionists planned, almost from their first arrival, to expel the indigenous people and take over the land.

Many of the Jews who settled in Palestine fought with and were trained by the British during World War II, so they had an effective fighting force that they soon equipped with modern weapons. The Palestinians, a mostly agricultural people, possessed few weapons besides antiquated rifles. The only modern army among the surrounding Arab nations belonged to Jordan but Israel was careful to make an agreement with Jordan’s king, well before the outbreak of the Arab-Israeli war, that if he would keep the Jordanian army out of the conflict, Israel would divide up the land with him.

David Ben-Gurion, one of the Zionist founders of Israel, wrote in his diary on October 7, 1947 that there “are no territorial boundaries for the future Jewish State.” [from 'The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine' by Israeli historian Ilan Pappe, pg. 37] Ben-Gurion and a group called “The Consultancy” planned to cleanse Arabs from the territory coveted by the Zionists. Forced expulsions began with attacks on Palestinian villages in December of 1947, five months before Israel was declared a country and before the beginning of the Arab-Israeli war.

The first attacks were preceded by the distribution of threatening leaflets, warning the Palestinians that war was coming to their village. Jewish military forces (particularly the Hagana and Irgun units) would enter the village at night, fire their weapons into homes, blow up the stone and mud houses with the occupants still in them, and generally create panic. As this type of action went on, the brutality increased. Sometimes, as villagers fled their homes, they were fired upon. Some—women and children included--were killed immediately. Others were rounded up, the men separated from the women, a number of the men were accused of being “infiltrators” and then they were shot. The remaining villagers were forced to flee to other villages—or other countries, like Jordan—with only the clothes on their backs.

Some Arab countries sent small units of volunteers to help the Palestinians when the war between the Jews and Arabs actually began in February, 1948. The Jordanians, of course, stayed out of the conflict (with the exception of defending east Jerusalem) because of their collusion with the Zionists. The Communist Party arranged to purchase modern weapons from Eastern Europe for the aspiring Israeli nation. Eventually, Israel also purchased a modern air force and the last months of the Nakba included intimidation of the Palestinian villages by aerial bombardment.

By the time Israel officially declared their independence, on May 15, 1948, between 175,000 and 250,000 Palestinians had already been forced from their homes. The push to cleanse Palestine of the Arabs only increased with operation after operation carried out by the Israeli Defense Force (IDF). These persisted even during times when truces were called.

As just one example, the village of Dawaymeh, whose population was swollen by refugees from other villages, was taken over by Israeli troops on October 28, 1948. Soldiers in armored vehicles surrounded the village on three sides, leaving one side open for the residents to flee. They shot at people indiscriminately, pursuing them as they sought shelter in a mosque and a nearby holy cave. The next day, bodies filled the streets, the mosque, and the entrance to the cave. Ilan Pappe writes that the eyewitness accounts of Jewish soldiers who took part in the massacre reported “babies whose skulls were cracked open, women raped or burned alive in houses, and men stabbed to death.” [Ilan Pappe, pg. 196]

By the end of 1948, over 750,000 Palestinians had been forced to flee or had been massacred, their villages burned, looted, and razed. Official Israel set about creating a fictionalized narrative about what happened during the year of the Nakba, claiming that the Palestinians left their villages voluntarily. They then attempted to obliterate the destroyed villages by bulldozing them under, planting forests over them, and claiming “ancient” ruins as proof of a long Jewish history in Palestine. The effort to cleanse the Arabs from Palestine—which is still going on—became an effort to cleanse the collective memory of the Nakba.

Monday, March 22, 2010


I was born in the same year as Israel, 1948. Like most Americans, I grew up with the Israeli narrative: Israel was created by the United Nations after the Holocaust to provide Jews with a safe homeland; the Arab nations were hostile to Israel and refused to accept its existence; the Palestinians are basically terrorists against whom Israel has a right to protect itself, using any means necessary.

The story that never made it into public consciousness, until very recently, is the Palestinian story. It is coming to light thanks to courageous historians like Israeli Ilan Pappe (author of The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine), political analysts like Phyllis Bennis (author of Understanding the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict), and the oral histories of the Palestinians who survived an event called The Nakba. This narrative has a different beginning.

In the late 1800's, thousands of Jewish immigrants, mainly from Eastern Europe, began to settle in Palestine. Some of these Jews were Zionists, meaning they believed in and eventually called for the establishment of a homeland for all Jewish people in Palestine. Between 1904 and 1914, forty thousand Zionist immigrants settled in Palestine.

Palestine was viewed by the European immigrants as empty land, although Jews made up only 6% of the population by 1914. The other 94% was, of course, Arab people who had lived on the land for centuries. As World War I ended, Palestine was ceded to the British by the defeated Ottoman Empire and the British claimed a mandate over Palestine that was recognized by the League of Nations. The Palestinians, however, demanded independence, which never materialized. In 1919, Winston Churchill wrote, "there are Jews, whom we are pledged to introduce into Palestine, and who take it for granted that the local population will be cleared out to suit their convenience." [pg. 283 of Ilan Pappe's book]

As Jewish immigration and settlements grew, so did conflict between the Zionists and the native Palestinians. The Zionist agenda included a plan to relocate Arabs outside of the state of Israel that they hoped to create. One Zionist leader, Leo Motzkin, wrote in 1917:

"Our thought is that the colonization of Palestine has to go in two directions: Jewish settlement...and the resettlement of the areas outside the country. The transfer of so many Arabs may seem at first unacceptable economically, but is nonetheless practical. It does not require too much money to resettle a Palestinian village on another land." [Ilan Pappe, pg. 7-8]

Unfortunately, by the time Britain was ready to quit Palestine and turn the Israeli-Palestinian problem over to the United Nations, after World War II, Zionist thinking had taken a turn toward forcible expulsions of the Palestinians. The Palestinians, after all, vastly outnumbered the Jews and therefore threatened the establishment of a Jewish state. As the British stood by in 1947, ready to relinquish all control and then support a new state of Israel, the Zionist leaders began to forcibly evict the Palestinian people from the land through intimidation, laying military siege to villages, setting fire to homes, and demolishing entire villages. [Ilan Pappe, pg. xii]

For the most part, the Palestinians owned few arms, and what they had were outdated. They could offer little resistance and 750,000 of them were evacuated or massacred in what is known as The Nakba. In Israel, a law has been proposed to strip the citizenship of any Israeli who mentions The Nakba. However, no narrative about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is complete without it.