Saturday, August 25

The Holocaust and the Occupation

Over the last couple of years, especially since the intifada of 2000, there has been a worrying trend amongst Israel’s enemies to compare the Israeli occupation with the holocaust. This trend is based on lies and total ignorance on the part of many Islamist extremists who have formed a strange alliance with the new left, neo-fascists, neo-Nazis, Iran, Hamas and even Al Qaeda. Of course there are also the eternal holocaust deniers who add grist to the mill of anti-Semitism.

Nothing can be compared to the Nazi crime against the Jewish People. Those who sympathize with the Palestinian cause and make these erroneous comparisons with the Israeli occupation have no conception of the attempted genocide of European Jewry which was part of Hitler’s plan to make Europe and the world Judenrein (free of Jews).

The comparing of Israel to Nazi Germany in its treatment of the Palestinians cannot be taken seriously by knowledgeable people. The only way to combat this ridiculous comparison is by education. This could be achieved by including holocaust studies in the school curriculum of schoolchildren all over the world, including the Arab world.

Palestinian children should be granted permits under parochial supervision to visit Yad Vashem (the Holocaust Museum) in Jerusalem, where they should be encouraged to ask questions about the holocaust. There will be Palestinians who are skeptical about the holocaust and may view this as a ploy to digress away from the evils of the Israeli occupation. Despite this problem, documented evidence of survivors of the holocaust as portrayed in Yad Vashem would go a long way in convincing even the hardest lined skeptics amongst the Palestinian community of the authenticity of the holocaust.

There is no doubt that the Palestinian people are suffering under Israeli occupation. The road blocks, security checks, logistic problems of movement within occupied Palestine have resulted in massive unemployment. The Israeli settlers living beyond the green line have done much damage to Palestinian property as well as abused the Palestinians. There is no justification for that under any circumstances. Much Palestinian land has been usurped by these settlers. Despite all these injustices towards the Palestinians committed by Israel, it is a long way from Nazi Germany’s treatment of the Jews.

Palestinians do not wear identification badges on their clothing as the Jews did. Palestinians are not beaten up in the streets by the Israeli Army because they are Palestinians as the Jews were in Nazi Germany. There have been incidents of abuse of the Palestinians by the Israeli Security Forces which was unjustifiable. The Nazis used to burn down shops just because they were owned by Jews. Jews were discriminated against in every sphere of life. Jewish professors and lecturers were fired from German universities, Jewish teachers from schools and Jewish judges and lawyers from law courts. The list of professions forbidden to Jews was unending. Jews were fired from their jobs just because they were Jews. They were strangled economically as all means that they had for earning a livelihood was taken away from them.

Eventually all these restrictions culminated in the “final solution” which was nothing more than genocide as the Jews were taken to concentration camps where many of them were gassed, shot in open pits, starved to death or died as a result of appalling conditions in the concentration camps where they were incarcerated. The crime – they were Jews! Six million Jews perished because of Nazi terror.

While there was tardiness on the part of Israel even before the first and second intifada in carrying out the Oslo Accords, one must bear in mind that Palestinian terrorism had begun just before PM Rabin’s assassination in November 1995. This had resulted in loss of trust between the Palestinians and Israel causing a severe setback in achieving an independent Palestinian state.

Much of Palestinian suffering (although not all) was a result of Israel’s security measures to protect its citizens from suicide bombings which had escalated into an almost daily occurrence during the years from 2000 to 2005. The security fence, with all its convolutions that divided Palestinian agricultural lands, causing much hardship, is serving its purpose. Many lives have been saved. Palestinian terror has dropped significantly but the motivation to carry out suicide attacks against Israelis still exists. The constant firing of Qassam rockets in the south of Israel into Sderot is still occurring regularly.

The Jews, who lived in Europe during Nazi rule, were never a security threat to Germany. The Nazis blamed the Jews for Germany’s economic collapse and hyperinflation. The Palestinian regimes, such as Hamas and their ally, Islamic Jihad, are dead set on “the final solution” – genocide of the Jewish people and the destruction of Israel. If one were to examine the Hamas Charter, there is no doubt as to their intention.

If anything, one can find many similarities in the Hamas Charter and the Nazi Manifesto as regards the Jews and Israel. Both Hamas and the Nazis have a common aim – the destruction of the Jewish People and their homeland.

Friday, August 17

The Hebron Settler Fiasco

After the Six Day War in 1967, Hebron had also fallen into the hands of the Israeli forces. It has also been a centre of religious passions between Arabs and Jews for the last 100 years or so. According to Jewish tradition, Hebron is also the second most important city after Jerusalem.

From 1922 through 1928 the relationship between Jews and Arabs in Palestine was relatively peaceful. However, in late 1928 a new phase of violence began with minor disputes between Jews and Arabs about the right of Jews to pray at the Western Wall (Kotel) in Jerusalem. These arguments led to an outbreak of Arab violence in August 1929 when Haj Amin al-Husseini, Mufti of Jerusalem, fomented Arab hatred by accusing the Jews of endangering the mosques and other sites holy to Islam. Observers heard Husseini issue the call: Itback al-Yahud "Slaughter the Jews!"

An ancient Jewish Community did live in Hebron for centuries. Their relationship with the Arab Communities was peaceful and many had friends amongst the Arab Communities. The Arab violence in Hebron was one of the worst atrocities in the modern history of Israel.

“On the afternoon of Friday, August 23, 1929 Jerusalem Arabs came to Hebron with false reports of Jews murdering Arabs during the rioting there, even saying thousands of Arabs had been killed. Despite the fact that Jews and Arabs in Hebron had been on good terms, a mass of frenzied Arab rioters formed and proceeded to the Hebron Yeshiva where a lone student was murdered. The next day, the Jewish Sabbath, the killing continued as an Arab mob of hundreds surrounded homes where Jews sought refuge, broke in and murdered scores of Jews in a bloody rampage.

The dead Jews that day included Eliezer Dan Slonim, a man highly esteemed by the Arabs. He was the director of the local English-Palestine bank whose many clients were Arabs, and was the sole Jewish member of the Hebron Municipal Council. He had many friends among the Arab elders, who had promised to protect him. Twenty-two people died in Slonim's house that day including his wife and two young children.

By the end of the riot, during which the British police did nothing to protect the Jews or stop the violence, sixty-seven Jews were dead and hundreds wounded. The survivors were isolated in a police station for three days while the Arabs rampaged through their houses, stealing and destroying Jewish property, unmolested by the British authorities. At the end of the three days the Jews were sent to Jerusalem, exiled from their homes for the crime of being a victim of the Arab riot. Hebron's ancient Jewish quarter was empty and destroyed. For the next 39 years no Jew lived in Hebron, not until after it was liberated by the Israeli military during the Six Day War in 1967.

The British Colonial Secretary, Lord Passfield, announced the formation of a Commission of Inquiry, which began its investigation of the riots in September 1929. (See Shaw Commission of Inquiry) A British expert was engaged to study the matter (the Hope-Simpson Report), and a new policy whitepaper was issued by Lord Passfield (the 1930 White Paper)” (From Palestinian Facts)

However, today the situation is very different. Hebron is now a Palestinian city with only about 500 right wing Jewish religious fanatics living amongst 160 000 Palestinians. Many of these people are living in Hebron illegally. They have taken over buildings that belong to the Palestinians and created havoc. They claim to have bought property but the facts prove otherwise. Even Shimon Peres, (now President) the vice prime minister at the time, stated that these settlers have created “an unbearable situation”.

Another problem is that these settlers cannot lay claim to Hebron. Those who could lay claim are those who suffered from the riots of 1929 and who had families that lost property. Many of the settlers there are United States citizens, many of whom are imbued with a right wing, racist anti-Arab ideology and have no claim to ownership of property in Hebron. It is the hardcore neo Kahanists (followers of the late racist, Rabbi Meir Kahane, who himself was a US citizen) who are responsible for the unrest in Hebron today. They take over property that does not belong to them. The excuse, according to them is that Hebron belongs to the Jews by right because of Ephron, the Hittite, from whom Abraham purchased the land for burial of his wife, Sarah.

The settlers in Hebron have been abusing the Palestinians and their behaviour has been shocking. Incidents of verbal and physical abuse of these Palestinians are an almost everyday occurrence. The Israeli Authorities have failed to protect the Palestinians from settler violence. There have been reports of a “quiet transfer” of Palestinians out of the city. The Israeli Army is in Hebron for protecting these hard core fanatics.

According to a report by B’tzelem, “Over the years, settlers in the city have routinely abused the city's Palestinian residents, sometimes using extreme violence. Throughout the second intifada, settlers have committed physical assaults, including beatings, at times with clubs, stone throwing, and hurling of refuse, sand, water, chlorine, and empty bottles. Settlers have destroyed shops and doors, committed thefts, and chopped down fruit trees. Settlers have also been involved in gunfire, attempts to run people over, poisoning of a water well, breaking into homes, spilling of hot liquid on the face of a Palestinian, and the killing of a young Palestinian girl”.

There is no doubt that there is a certain lack of balance when dealing with the problems of Hebron between Jews and Palestinians. The right of religious Jewish fanatics to take over Palestinians homes and making false claims that these homes belong to the Jewish People is immoral, dangerous and does not serve Israel’s interests in making peace with the Palestinians. Here we have an example of unofficial Israeli colonization of the Palestinian people despite Israel’s claims to the contrary.

Those 500 fanatics in the heart of Hebron have no right to be there and the sooner the Israeli Authorities remove them the better for the future of Israel and Palestine.

Saturday, August 4

The Rewriting of History

Nearly sixty years have passed since the establishment of Israel. Surely enough time has passed whereby one can review the history of Israel’s establishment and examine new sources of information in an objective and honest way. This is very important in order to gain a better understanding of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict which is fraught with tragedy and excessive bloodshed on both sides. So many lives have been lost over this conflict. Both Palestinians and Israelis seem no closer to peace despite the numerous attempts by outside parties to bring the two peoples to negotiate a settlement.

Many attempts have been made by various Israeli academics (also known as the “New Historians”) to reexamine the archives and review the history of Israel’s establishment. Some academics who have attempted this are Dr. Ilan Pappe (from Haifa University, presently a lecturer at Exeter University in England), the late Dr Baruch Kimmerling, a sociologist-anthropologist turned historian, Benny Morris, Tom Segev and Avi Shlaim.

The main arguments of the new historians were summarized by Avi Shlaim as follows:

  • The official version said that Britain tried to prevent the establishment of a Jewish state; the New Historians claimed that it tried to prevent the establishment of a Palestinian state
  • The official version said that the Palestinians fled their homes of their own free will; the New Historians said that the refugees were chased out or expelled
  • The official version said that the balance of power was in favor of the Arabs; the New Historians said that Israel had the advantage both in manpower and in arms
  • The official version said that the Arabs had a coordinated plan to destroy Israel; the New Historians said that the Arabs were divided
  • The official version said that Arab intransigence prevented peace; the New Historians said that Israel is primarily to blame for the dead end. [1]

The New Historians' publications present the Zionist movement as aimed in such a way that Jewish statehood could only be possible through the displacement of at least some Palestinian Arabs. This is in line with the prevailing Palestinian view - the traditional Israeli view is that the displacement was neither necessary for Israel's establishment nor desired by those establishing it. In particular, the New Historians claim that a majority of the Palestinian refugees were driven away from their homes during the 1948 war, rather than fleeing of their own free choice, as traditional Israeli histories had claimed. Nevertheless, not all of the New Historians see this process as the result of a pre-determined policy of expulsion.

New Historian Ilan PappĂ© claims [2], in sharp contrast to the recollections and myths of both sides, that the military events of 1948 were not decisive. The victory of the Zionist organization and the fate of the Palestinians were determined by politicians on both sides—in the discussions and decisions of the United Nations in 1947–8 and in the Arab League—long before a shot had been fired. PappĂ© argues that Israel's failure to take advantage of the genuine opportunity for peace with the Arabs at the UN-sponsored Lausanne Conference in 1949 resulted in the prolonged and tragic conflict between Israel and the Arab states still very much alive today.

According to the New Historians, Israel and Arab countries have therefore each their own share of responsibility for the Arab-Israeli conflict and the Palestinian plight, though larger the responsibility for the present impasse lies with Israel. [3] From Wikipedia.

The findings of these academics created great controversy in Israel and are widely unacceptable. Despite the general attitude of the Israeli public towards their revolutionary findings, the truth of what happened in 1948 and prior to that lies somewhere in between the two versions – the official Israeli version, which somehow does overlook and underplay the creation of the Palestinian refugee problem to a large extent in the attempt to justify Israel’s establishment as a homeland for the Jewish People and the Palestinian version of events which are viewed as Al Naqba or catastrophe.

In a way, the new historians are now making some impact on the way history is to be taught in schools. Prof Yuli Tamir the Minister of Education has decided to introduce the Palestinian interpretation of what happened in 1948 to the Arab school curriculum. However she does not go far enough. It should be introduced into the Israeli Jewish school curriculum as well alongside the official version. This means that Israel’s educational policy is showing signs, despite widespread opposition of the right wing, to come to terms with Palestinian sentiments and this is very significant. It is a positive development. This could help to promote understanding of the Palestinian people. Most of what is happening between Israel and the Palestinians is due to ignorance and an inability to come to terms with the Palestinians’ tragic history. Both sides need to meet and discuss each other’s pain and ask forgiveness from each other for the wrongs that both sides have committed towards each other. A parallel to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of South Africa under the auspices of Archbishop Desmond Tutu could perhaps be applied here even though the situation is different.

However, over the years, especially since the victory of Israel in June 1967, there has been an erosion of human values especially towards the Palestinians living in the occupied areas. There was massive encouragement of Jewish settlement in the West Bank, Golan Heights and the Gaza strip. The latter was returned to the Palestinians unilaterally resulting in a total fiasco and the strengthening of Hamas which eventually took over from Fatah in Gaza.

A solution to the situation has become more complex now with the rise of extremist Islamic elements coming from Iran under the notorious Iranian leader, Mahmoud Ahmadinajad, who has expressed his intention of destroying Israel. Iran is developing its nuclear capability, which is a threat not only to Israel, but also to all the moderate Arab states in the region. Al Qaeda remains a threat and nobody knows when and where it is going to strike again. Syria and Sheik Nasralla’s Hezbollah in Lebanon are Iran’s proxies in the region. They are uncompromising in their attitude towards Israel. This could be the reason why the Saudis have expressed their willingness to Condoleezza Rice, the US Secretary of State, to attend a peace conference on the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict. The date for this conference and its venue is still to be decided.

The Palestinian-Israeli conflict is not only a conflict of land but also of religion. The fiery, rabble rousing speeches of imams, expressing hatred for Jews, is further evidence of their uncompromising attitudes towards Israel. These sentiments expressed by religious extremists are so uncompromising and intolerant. It proves the insurmountable difficulties in order to come to terms with Israel’s existence as illustrated by Hamas attitudes. Fundamental Islam views Israel as non-Moslem entity that has occupied Moslem land. This is unacceptable from their point of view and this is one of the reasons for the uncompromising attitudes and stalemates in peace negotiations. An extremist mindset will be hard to overcome.

Despite these obstacles, the path for peace and negotiation must remain open. The ordinary Israeli and Palestinian are concerned with an end to war and bloodshed and the striving for peace. If the Palestinian and Israeli people could find paths of communication between each other and this could be done by making greater use of the internet for communication between each other by discussing each other’s pain in an open and honest way. This could be done by exchanging historical material on the net. On both sides of the conflict there are moderate Palestinians and Israelis who do have an attentive and sympathetic ear for genuine dialogue.

Israeli society has become demoralized and this can be seen in the number of young people who refuse to serve in the IDF. Gush Shalom has put it briefly as follows:

“To Return Pride and motivation

To service in the army!”-

Demand the Chief of Staff

And the Defense Minister.

Pride and motivation-

To guard the settlers?

To steal the land of the villagers?

To run after stone-throwing children?

To harass inhabitants at the checkpoints?

To carry out “targeted killings”?

The IDL must become again

An Israeli Defense Force!

Gush Shalom (Haaretz 3rd August 2007)