Well, I didn’t quite manage to stay away from Pappe’s book yesterday, so, so much for my little “holiday”! What the book is doing is it is helping me to understand that, although there is a pre-history, which stretches from the 1st Zionist Congress in 1897, through the Balfour Declaration of 1917 and the Arab Revolt of 1936-39, it is the UN Resolution 181 and the ethnic cleansing, “Al Nakba”, that followed that signals not only the beginning of the Palestinian diaspora but also the all too very real roots of the injustices and wrongs of today. Moreover, while the events of 1936 to 39 also have an importance, I am, in a sense, confirmed in my original belief that everything else is incidental to what happened in 1947/48. Nevertheless, that point of view is also indicative of someone whose interest in the Middle East remains at best academic, who has no real personal attachment to Palestine and who has the luxury of writing from a lovely big flat, in a nice little town, on the outskirts of one of Europe’s most pleasant cities. Having said that however, the more I get bogged down in the “nitty gritty” of the Palestinian catastrophe, the more I am inclined to feel, not only for the Palestinians but also for mankind as a whole and part of that “nitty gritty” is what is really happening in the area today. In 2006 I got a taste it when I was teaching Palestinian refugees in the Lebanon, it was a taste that confirmed where my sympathies lie and left me realising that those sympathies were not based on any contrived prejudices. Indeed, that I was, in a sense, free from prejudices. On returning home yesterday evening I was exposed to someone else’s “nitty gritty” and, while hardly a substitute for being in Palestine myself, I couldn’t help but empathise. In doing so I was made all too aware that, while, like everything else, this injustice has its historical roots, it is also a very real tragedy that is being lived out on a daily basis and that is largely being ignored.
Jonathan Cook is a British journalist who is based in Nazareth, in what is now Israel. He is married to an Arab Israeli and has first hand experience of the racist and arpatheid policies of the Jewish state. Before going to bed last night, I read two of his recently written articles. The first one, “Israeli Palestinians: The Unwanted who Stayed” was interesting not only because there was a direct link to the ethnic cleansing that not only preceeded the birth of Israel but has accompanied it since. However, more interesting was how the Israeli state views and solves its problem of the Arabs, who didn’t leave in 1948 and who have Israeli passports. Cook writes, “Ariel Sharon once explained this distinction during a speech in the Knesset. Palestinian citizens—“Israeli Arabs,” as he called them—had “rights in the land” whereas “all rights over the Land of Israel are Jewish rights.” (1) In other words, Palestinian citizens are merely tenants, temporary or otherwise, while the Jewish people are the landlords of Israel. He (Jonathan Cook) then goes on to explain at length how this distinction is reflected in property rights, access to jobs, education and other facilities, including water and electricity …. oh, and getting an internet connection. The obstacles are, sometimes, legal but also established through practice. For instance, the guy who connects your internet will just not come into an Arab area. However, he finishes the article by saying that, with 20% of its population Arab and that figure more likely to go up than down, this apartheid state might not be enough for the zionists and there are many within the Israel who are advocating “transfer”, in other words, further ethnic cleansing. The newspeak that the Israelis come up with really is mind boggling! Effectively, what this would mean is that Palestinian Arabs would be resettled in any future Palestinian state that might result out of a final peace settlement; a state, which, at best, will be a slightly larger patchwork of ghettoes than it is now. The evidence would appear to suggest that exchanging some of the Jewish stettlement blocs in the West Bank for Palestinian areas inside Israel is the next proposal Israel is going to bring to the “negotiating” table. The second article I read was,”Paramilitary Police Attack Al-Nakba March” and article, which only, further underlined the fascist and racist nature of a state that is not even mature enough to let some of its citizens remember their own personal tragedies.(2)
Finally, Cook is on the ground, he is in Nazareth and he has a personal stake in the tragedy. Indeed, if certain people get their way, he and his family might have to move home. In the meantime every Jew on the planet has the right to make “aliyah”, the right of return to their biblical homeland. If this weren’t such a tragedy, I would be tempted to laugh my head off considering its absurdity. That it is tolerated is not only an indictment of all of us but indicative of the fact that all too many people are able to look the other way, providing it is not their door that is being kicked in, their son who is being shot or they who are being dispossessed. Palestine is one example of this. Looking away though is a normal moral aberration and, indeed, Nietzsche once said, “there are no morals, there is only the law.” While, I am not sure I agree with that completely, it does appear as if he was not totally wrong and in the global village it is time we enforced a set of laws that can facilitate a global civil society and already I am beginning to sense how detached I am from Jonathan Cook’s reality, how I am drifting towards a world of books and platitudes and next door my neighbour is being robbed and assaulted but if I call the police, they will probably come and rob me too. Better for me to go down to the Cafe al Ponte and have a little cup of coffee. Mind my own business!
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