Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Highway Robbery

Here's an interesting piece from the Sydney Morning Herald's Middle East correspondent Jason Koutsoukis: "The Israeli Prime minister's closest adviser and key strategist, Ron Dermer, has admitted that Israel faces a serious public relations problem and needs aggressively to tackle negative perceptions around the world... 'We have to break out of the straitjacket', he said. 'We have to defend our own right to defend ourselves. It's not for other people to do it for us... It is not enough for Israel to say that it wants peace... You must also say that you are not a thief. We did not steal another people's land. That is the core of this conflict'... In pursuing a strategy that will centralise the Government's responses to issues raised by the foreign media into a kind of war room, and make better use of public opinion research, Mr Dermer says Israel has to start shaming countries and organisations that hold Israel to a different standard. '[People] who get together to call for a boycott against Israel, are they calling for a boycott against North Korea, the world's largest concentration camp? When you hold Israel to a standard that you won't hold another country to, what are you doing? You are being anti-Semitic... Within this story [of Israel & the Middle East] is this narrative that has grown much stronger in recent years that is essentially false: people who see us as colonialist invaders. But once the Palestinians accept that we, the Jews, are here by right, that we are not foreign colonialists and we're not invaders, even if they say [the land] it's 1% yours and 99% ours, then we're in real negotiations'. " (Israel draws up road map for image overhaul, 4/7/09)

On the allegation of holding Israel to a different standard to other international terror states, see my 17/5/09 post Sheridan in Love 4. It's Dermer's claim that Israel is not a land-grabbing colonial settler state that I wish to tackle here. True, prior to 1948, the Zionist movement in Palestine wasn't in much of a position to turf the natives off their land. It had to fork out for the territory it acquired. After 1948, however, it was a different story:-

"Having expelled the majority of the native indigenous Palestinian... people from the territories that came under the control of the Israeli army in the course of the 1948-49 war and being congnizant of UN General Assembly Resolution 194(II) of December 1948 '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', the Israeli authorities then pursued the systematic destruction of their homes with the aim that there be no homes for the refugees to return to. Of the 500 or so Palestinian Arab villages and cities, some 400... were destroyed and almost all razed to the ground by the Israeli army during the 1948-49 war and throughout the 1950s.

"As noted above, the State of Israel has consistently denied the right of return to the erstwhile Palestinian Arab inhabitants of the land, and violated UN General Assembly resolutions recognizing their right of return and calling for their repatriation. In fact, all 1948 Palestinian Arab refugees and internally displaced persons are legislated in Israel as 'absentees' through the Absentees' Property Law of 1950. Thus some four million 1948 Palestinian refugees today outside the 'Green Line' have been alienated from all rights to Israeli citizenship, to their lands, and to their properties in Israel. And of the 150,000 of the native indigenous Palestinian Arab people who found themselves in the wake of the 1948-49 armistice agreements inside the 'Green Line', the approximately one million Palestinian Arab citizens of Israel today, some 25%, 250, 000 persons, are internally displaced persons, 'present absentees', likewise denied all rights in their pre-1948 properties inside Israel... The vast number of properties classified under the Absentees' Property Law... as 'absentee property' can be further assessed if one recalls that, until 1947, individual or corporate Jewish land ownership in Palestine did not exceed 7% of the territory of British Mandate Palestine, or 10% of the territories that came under Israeli rule and occupation following the 1948-49 war. According to the Israeli Custodian of Absentee Property, almost 70% of the territory of pre-1967 Israel consists of land classified as 'absentee property'... Jewish National Fund estimates, on the other hand, set the figure as high as 88%... All these massive properties have been vested under the Absentees' Property Law... with the Custodian of Absentee Property... Under the said law, every right an 'absentee' had with regard to any property is vested with the Custodian, and the status of the Custodian was legislated to be the same as that of the owner of the property... By all accounts, the properties invested in the Custodian... following the 1948-49 war constituted the primary rural and urban resources for post-1948 Israeli, exclusively Jewish, settlement projects, cultivation and development.

"As Moshe Dayan noted in his famous speech before students at the Israeli Institute of Technology (Techniyon) in 1969: 'We came here to a country that was populated by Arabs, and we are building here a Hebrew, Jewish state. In a considerable portion of localities we purchased the lands from the Arabs. Instead of Arab villages, Jewish villages were established. You even do not know the names of these villages and I do not blame you, because these geography books no longer exist. Not only the books, but also the villages no longer exist. Nahalal was established in the place of Mahalul, Gevat in the place of Jibta, Sarid in the place of Hanifas and Kefar Yehoshu'a in the place of Tel Shamam. There is not a single settlement that was not established in the place of a former Arab village'." (Apartheid Israel: Possibilities for the Struggle Within, Uri Davis, 2003, pp 31-36)

Pull the other, Ron.

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