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Israel's Approved Ethnic Cleansing, Part â€¦
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Israel's Approved Ethnic Cleansing, Part 1
Making "facts on the ground"
Edward S. Herman
Israel's treatment of the Palestinians has always presented a moral problem to the West, as that treatment has violated every law and moral standard on the books. Some 750,000 Palestinians were driven from their homes in 1948-1949, and since then scores of thousands more have been pushed out by force, their houses demolished or taken over by Israeli Jews (not Israeli Arabs). Under the supposed “peace process” following the signing of the Oslo Agreement in September 1993, a UN Special Report of November 13, 2000, says that “In the past seven years...Israel's confiscation of Palestinian land and construction of settlements and bypass roads for Jewish settlers has accelerated dramatically in breach of Security Council Resolution 242 and of provisions of the Oslo agreements requiring both parties to respect ‘the territorial integrity and unity of the West Bank and Gaza Strip.' Since 1993 the settler population in the West Bank and Gaza has doubled to 200,000 and increased to 170,000 in East Jerusalem.” The report also describes and condemns the demolitions of Palestinian houses, the diversion of water to Israeli cities and settlements, the policy of closures that has damaged Palestinian social and economic life, and the “widespread violation of their [Palestinian] economic, social and cultural rights” both within Israel and in the occupied territories. It also assails Israel's use of excessive force against Palestinians and hundreds of Intifada killings, “most of them unarmed demonstrators.”
The settlements have been made in territory outside of Israel, technically “occupied” by Israel and subject to international law that clearly prohibits dispossession and settlement by the “belligerent occupying power” (the Palestinians are “protected persons” under the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949; violations of that Convention, including dispossession and settlements, are “war crimes”). This systematic violation of international law has been going on for several decades, just as the creation of new “facts on the ground” in brazen violation of Article 31(7) of Oslo has proceeded since 1993, but as the United States does not object, and in fact has supported these law and agreement violations by massive economic and military aid, and by vetoing any hostile UN actions (it has used the veto an estimated 60 times to give Israeli ethnic cleansing and law violations free play), international law is inoperative.
The contrast with Kosovo is dramatic and enlightening. In that case also international law was inoperative, but only because intervention allegedly to protect the Kosovo Albanians would have been excessively constrained by adherence to legal niceties such as the UN Charter. International observers, already agreed to by Yugoslavia, were not enough—a full military occupation by NATO forces was required. In the case of Israel and the Palestinians, however, as Israel naturally does not want foreign observers, let alone UN military forces to protect the Palestinians, the United States defers to Israel (as it did to Indonesia in East Timor) and refuses to support even an observer presence without the ethnic cleanser's acquiescence. We may note also that NATO's forcible occupation of Kosovo took place in Yugoslav territory, whereas the U.S. defers to Israel (and for 25 years to Indonesia) in reference to its performance in illegally occupied territory where the indigenous population has long been subjected to serious abuses condemned by overwhelming UN majorities.
Racist State, Brutal Occupation
The racist discrimination in pushing out Palestinians in favor of Jews is cruel and scandalous. Amnesty International (AI) notes in discussing Israel's policy on demolitions that “The Palestinians are targeted for no other reason than because they are Palestinians” in a system where “the family may only have 15 minutes to take out what belongings they have before the furniture is thrown into the street and their home bulldozed” (AI, Israel: Home Demolitions, December 8, 1999). Israeli author Israel Shamir, writing in the Russian Israeli publication RI in December 2000, says that Israelis “are taught they belong to the Chosen People, who are uber alles. They have been indoctrinated in belief that the Gentiles are not fully human, and therefore can be killed and expropriated at will.” The U.S. Jewish observer Eduardo Cohen says that “traveling through Israel I encountered a deep, widespread and racist contempt for Arabs,” based on the belief that Arabs “didn't share the same faculties of thought and reason that ‘civilized human beings' possess” (OR, October 18, 2000).
Before the Final Solution was decided upon by Hitler during World War II—and in 1940 Himmler was still referring to “the Bolshevik method of physical extermination of a people” as “un-German and impossible”—there was active discussion in Nazi official circles of how alien peoples in occupied lands should be handled to best serve German interests. Partly, it was a matter of space needs—in 1940 Hitler claimed that “the Jewish question really was a space question,” and Jews and others were expelled in Vienna and elsewhere to provide housing for Germans. There was much debate in 1940 about the desirability of forced emigration and resettlement, of bringing some of the racially valuable to Germany for assimilation, but with a remnant population “that would serve as a reservoir for migrant labour to Germany” (quoting Christopher Browning's summary of this debate).
Similar debates have taken place in Israel between the “hardliners” on the one hand, who have favored forcible “transfer” and the “mass deportations of Arabs from the territories” (Netanyahu), and the “moderates” on the other hand, who want to rely on the now traditional methods of slow but steady dispossession and encouraging “voluntary” exit by impoverishment. The moderates also recognize the service of the impoverished alien population in providing a reservoir of migrant labor for Israel.
Israel Shamir compares the Israeli treatment of the Palestinians in Intifada II unfavorably to the anti-Jewish pogroms in Czarist Russia, where the casualties were much smaller and where, after the pogrom, “all writers and intelligentsia condemned the perpetrators. In the Jewish state, a few dozens gathered on the demonstration in Tel Aviv, while the Hebrew Writers Union supported the pogrom of Gentiles.” Shamir goes on to say that Israeli racism is “not less wide-spread and poisonous” than that of the German Nazis, citing a number of genocidal opinions of Russian-Israeli Jews and stating that today: “The Jewish state is the only place in the world possessing legitimate killer squads, embracing a policy of assassinations, and practicing torture on a medieval scale. But do not worry dear Jewish readers, we torture and assassinate Gentiles only.”
In Israeli publications it is repeatedly pointed out that the army does not kill Jews, only Gentiles. Phyllis Bennis notes that in 1982, when Israeli forces killed an Israeli Jewish protester against the war in Lebanon, there was such an enormous outcry that his name—Emil Grunzweig—is remembered even today. But when a Palestinian is killed by Israelis, this is hardly newsworthy and only body counts are given—“we never hear their names, who their parents and children are, what they did for a living” (Max Elbaum, Interview with Bennis, “For Jews Only: Racism Inside Israel,” ColorLines, December 15, 2000). It has also been pointed out by AI that “Israeli security forces repeatedly resorted to excessive use of lethal force in circumstances where neither their lives nor the lives of others were in imminent danger, resulting in unlawful killings.” But AI notes that the Israelis are expert in non-lethal crowd control, citing July-August 1999 riots “policed without resort to firearms.” But they note that here it was ultra-orthodox Jews rioting, so as in the case of settler violence the use of lethal force is ruled out, to be used only on Gentiles.
Israeli dissident Uri Avnery describes how, when the Israeli army several months ago would not allow Palestinians to harvest their olives in an orchard bordering a Jewish settlement, where a 14-year-old Palestinian boy had recently been shot and killed when alone in the orchard with his father, the villagers sent an SOS to Avnery and his group to come so that their presence would preclude shooting (“Olives, Stones and Bullets,” Ha'aretz, November 18, 2000). Many old olive trees had already been cut down, and ancient terraces destroyed, “apparently to enable the army to shoot without hindrance.” But the Avnery group did its job—their Jewish presence enabled some olives to be picked without the threat of shooting. Avnery noted that the settlers were free to move and travel at will, under heavy army protection.
The well-known Israeli journalist Amira Hass recently described in detail the growing racist cruelty “characteristic of every occupation regime...that intensified during the Oslo years because of the gap between the fine talk about a ‘peace process' and a reality.” (“The Mirror Does Not Lie,” Ha'aretz, November 1, 2000). The new Intifada is a popular uprising that “is a final attempt to thrust a mirror in the face of Israelis and to tell them: ‘Take a good look at yourselves and see how racist you have become'.” She focuses on the Israeli occupation of Hebron, writing: “How perfectly natural that 40,000 persons should be subject to local curfew for more than a month in the Old City of Hebron in order to protect the lives and well-being of 500 Jews.... How perfectly natural that 34 schools attended by thousands of Palestinian children should be closed down for more than a month...while the children of their Jewish neighbors...are free to frolic as usual in the street among and with the Israeli soldiers stationed there.... The protracted curfew imposed on Hebron and the way in which their curfew has been accepted in Israeli eyes as such a natural event convey, in a nutshell, both the entire story of Israeli occupation of Palestinian land in general and the essence of the kind of Israeli thinking that has developed in the shadow of obvious military superiority.” Hass also discusses the freedom of settlers to travel, versus severe restrictions on Palestinians; the well-built highways for settler use, constructed on lands expropriated from Palestinian villages; the limitations imposed by the occupying authority on Palestinian development of their own communities, while the Jewish settlers get expedited treatment and subsidies; and the discrimination in water use with days and even weeks “without running water in the faucets of Palestinian homes” while their Jewish neighbors “experience no problems or shortages as far as their water supply is concerned.”
Jeff Halper, Professor of Anthropology at Ben Gurion University, and head of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions, states that, having seized control of West Bank/Gaza water supplies, Israel and the settlers now give themselves 6.7 times the water they allow the Palestinians (870 million cubic meters per annum for themselves, 130 million cubic meters for the Palestinians). He also points out that under the Oslo “peace process” Israel has uprooted some 80,000 Palestinian-owned olive and fruit trees and much farmland “for Israeli construction and ‘security',” with some 10,000 trees removed just since the beginning of the recent uprising. Israel has been constructing some 300 miles of highways and bypass roads to serve the settlements, but which divide the West Bank into tiny islands and prevent the free movement of Palestinian people and goods. With its military control and superior force Israel has imposed lengthy and devastating “closures” on Palestinian movement that has created widespread poverty and hunger. (For further details, Halper, “The ‘Peace Process' As Seen From the Ground,” February 12, 2001.) The per capita GDP of the Palestinians in the occupied territories has fallen drastically under the Oslo “peace process,” surely by more than 25 percent.
Demolitions for Lebensraum
Since 1967 some 8,500 Palestinian homes have been demolished, 1,200 of these since the Oslo agreement of 1993 (with 5,000 people made homeless, including 2,000 children). Israel demolishes Palestinian homes on the slightest provocation—“security,” a youngster in the household throws stones at an Israeli soldier—but it does this mainly as part of a systematic program to provide space for the “chosen people.” In December 1994, Rabbi Shlomo Goren, a former chief rabbi of Israel and the Israeli armed forces, urged the armed forces to refuse to obey orders to remove Jewish settlers from the West Bank, citing the law of Moses and asserting that “The command to settle the land of Israel is greater than all the commandments put together” (Los Angeles Times, January 3, 1994). This is consistent with the focus of Zionist ideology on “redemption of the land” of Palestine, which should be held only by Jews; land held by non-Jews is “unredeemed.” Israeli human rights activist and scholar Israel Shahak claims that this exclusivist ideology, aiming at minimizing the number of non-Jews in the “Land of Israel,” is inculcated in Jewish school children in Israel (Jewish History, Jewish Religion; Pluto, 1994). “A state built upon the principle of the purity of nation and race can only be honored and respected by a Jew who declares his belonging to his own kind.” Thus spoke Dr. Joachim Prinz, a Zionist rabbi, in a book entitled Wir Juden (We Jews), published in 1934 and celebrating the victory of Adolf Hitler and the defeat of liberalism in Germany. Later Prinz became a central figure in the World Zionist Organization, and Shahak shows that the ideology Prinz espoused remains a powerful force in Israel.
Palestinian stone throwing can mean demolition. On the other hand, if a Baruch Goldstein slaughters 29 Palestinians, his home is not demolished. In fact, a memorial to this mass murderer was erected near his home, although destroyed by the army under court order in 1999, and significant numbers within Israel honors him. At his memorial service in 1994, Rabbi Yaacov Perin stated, “One million Arabs are not worth a Jewish fingernail.” As Amira Hass contends, this mindset has grown under the occupation, where the military superiority, abuse of the inferiors, and fear that they might not remain quiet, has made for an increasingly racist perspective that now characterizes the majority of the Jewish population of Israel. Speaking of Israeli attitudes toward the intensified repression in 1996, David Hoffman reported that “few Israelis have objected to going back to the old methods against the Palestinians; many, in fact, have complained that the reaction was too timid” (WP, March 15, 1996). Phyllis Bennis states that “The majority of Israeli Jews are willing to accept the killing of Palestinians and collective punishment of the Palestinian people as justified state policy.”
Within Israel, the Jewish state and Jewish National Fund, which own over 90 percent of the land, for decades have reserved it for Jews. A recent High Court ruling in favor of an Israeli Arab couple wanting to buy a house in Katzir in the Galilee that had been reserved for Jews has called this tradition into question, but the breadth of effect of this decision remains to be seen. In any case, the sizable (18 percent) Arab minority are legally second class citizens, without “nationality rights,” that have included not only land use but also access to public and private employment and credit, and many other privileges that are limited to Jews. Arab citizens may also be killed if they protest, and 14 of them have already died in Intifada II, in contrast with Israeli Jewish citizens, who can protest without fear of the application of lethal force.
Jews living in distant countries can come to Israel and immediately obtain rights denied Arab citizens, and of course the Palestinians expelled from their homes in Israel have no rights to return or compensation. In the Negev, where the indigenous Bedouin have been blocked from grazing their flocks, the state has allowed Jewish farmers to occupy the land, build on it, and then have their seizures recognized retrospectively in a process of “Judaization” of the land (Orit Shohat, Ha'aretz, March 27, 1998). This is structured racism, and a set of policies, which if applied against Jews in Italy or France would justifiably cause a furious outcry.
Torture, Aggression, and the Intifadas
Israel has used torture on a systematic basis against Palestinians for decades, the New York Times noting matter-of-factly in 1993 that Israel's torture victims were running to 400-500 per month, but that Israel was “rethinking” the merits of its “interrogation” practices (Joel Greenberg, “Israel Rethinks Interrogation of Arabs,” August 14, 1993). Again, if this was being done to Jews on a systematic basis in some country, the outcry would be deafening, but here also an Israeli practice condemned everywhere as barbaric is treated in very low key ways and brings about no negative policy responses from the United States or international community. This has permitted Israel to thrive, to command massive international aid, and to be given regular accolades as a model democracy, despite its long record of being “the only state in the world to effectively legalize the use of methods which constitute torture or ill-treatment” (AI, “The Israeli government should implement the High Court decision making torture illegal,” September 6, 1999).
Similarly, Israel can invade other countries freely, bomb them at will, and kill civilians there with a free hand without penalty. Each time it has invaded Lebanon, killing many thousands of civilians and deliberately creating large refugee populations, this has led to no substantive responses whatever on the part of the United States and its allies, and the mainstream media have reported these de facto aggressions with great understanding of Israel's position and alleged “security” needs. Even mass slaughters of civilians are permissible for Israel, as in the case of Ariel Sharon's admitting the Christian Phalange to the Sabra-Shatila camp in 1982 where 2,000 or more Palestinian women, children, and old men were butchered in cold blood. We may recall the official and media outrage at the alleged massacre of some 40 Kosovo Albanians by the Serbs at Racak in January 1999—a massacre which may never have occurred, as shown in a belatedly released analysis of the forensic findings on the bodies in Forensic Science International [116: 171-185, 2001]—and recall also that the figure 2,000 has been widely accepted as the total of killings on all sides in Kosovo in the year preceding the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia. But in the case of the 2,000 purely civilian victims of Israel, the international outcry was modest and resulted in no penalty or constraint on Israel's ability to kill. Israel was also free to organize and maintain a proxy army in South Lebanon to serve its post-invasion “iron fist” cross-border policies. If done by Libya such an arrangement would be condemned as sponsorship of international terrorism, but again, both the sponsorship of a terrorist army and the numerous “iron fist” killings were not condemned by the United States or its allies and this approved international terrorism could proceed at the terrorist's discretion.
Israel's occupation has produced two “Intifadas,” both rooted in the severity of Israel's abuse of Palestinians in the occupied territories. In the first, which lasted some five years, over a thousand Palestinians were killed and many thousands were injured. The West did not intervene at all in this process even though Israel's abuses were in violation of UN resolutions and international law; U.S. economic and military aid to the ethnic cleanser did not shrink, and Israel was therefore free to kill and repress with no apparent limit. The same has been true in the case of the second Intifada, which began in September 2000. Israel has so far killed about 400 Palestinians, injured thousands, and escalated the brutality of its army's repression in the occupied territories in a genuine anti-civilian war, preventing Palestinians from working, harvesting crops, and obtaining medical care. But again the United States supports Israel without limit and the international community in general does nothing substantive for the victims.
Yasar Arafat has asked for UN intervention to protect the Palestinians who have been under harsh military attack and Amnesty International has called for international observers. But Israel is against this, the United States supports Israel, so no protection is forthcoming. As noted earlier, the contrast with Kosovo, and the consistency with U.S. (and British) deference to Indonesia's rights to ethnically cleanse East Timor in 1999 and earlier, are enlightening. It was also noted that Israel's and Indonesia's violence and ethnic cleansing have taken place in illegally occupied territory, whereas Yugoslavia's occurred within its own borders and in territory where international observers had already been admitted.
But all of this is of no account as Israel and Indonesia are prized U.S. client states, Yugoslavia is not. In the former cases, therefore, “ethical foreign policy” and the new dedication of the international community to the protection of defenseless people against ethnic cleansing are suspended. Daniel Jonah Goldhagen has claimed that not only Germans but also the Serbs had cultural qualities giving their countries a bent toward ethnic cleansing and genocide. But he has had nothing to say about any Israeli cultural penchant that causes them to treat Palestinian Gentiles harshly, although Eduardo Cohen, Israel Shamir and Israel Shahak, and the words of Netanyahu and Rabbis Shlomo Goren and Yaacov Perrin, suggest that this should be rich Goldhagen terrain. No outcries over this case of real and sustained ethnic cleansing have been heard from Susan Sontag, David Rieff, Geoffrey Robertson, Bernard Kouchner, Vaclav Havel, Michael Ignatieff, and the rest. This is officially approved ethnic cleansing, the Palestinians are “unpeople” (John Pilger's word) or “unworthy victims,” and Israel's longstanding and savage operations can proceed at their expense without impediment.
The Coming Bloodbath
Israel has had a free ride as an ethnic cleanser in part because Jews, as victims of the Holocaust, have been treated gently and claimed special security rights as erstwhile victims. But as noted, like the Germans, the Jews, or rather an important segment of Jews, have claimed to be a chosen people with superior rights to contested land. Add to this the protection given by the United States to their implementation of these rights by force, and a dangerous amalgam is put into play that has in fact led to increasingly abusive behavior that feeds on itself. With Ariel Sharon, a terrorist, war criminal, and longtime advocate of “transfer” and policies of force, now head of the Israeli state, and with his accession warmly greeted and “rock solid” U.S. support of this terrorist assured by President Bush, there is every reason to fear a shift from mere brutal ethnic cleansing and a “moderate” bloodbath under the moderate Barak to a more massive bloodbath and war under the “tough warrior” Sharon. Z
Part 2: “Israel's Approved Ethnic Cleansing: U.S. Official and Media Protection.”