Thursday, June 07, 2007

40 years in an Israeli jail

Forty years ago this week, Israel launched an unprovoked attack on Egypt and Syria. By 10 June, Israeli forces captured the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza, along with the Sinai and the Golan Heights. At the end of the war Israel had succeeded in almost doubling the amount of territory it controlled. Today, the misery of the Palestinians continues as they live in what is effectively a prison camp with Israeli guards. The Israeli state knew full well that their war was illegal (much the same as Bush and Blair did over Iraq). About one million Palestinians remained in those parts of Palestine occupied by Israel in 1967 while tens of thousands were forced into other countries. It was the second tragedy to befall the Palestinians at the hands of the Israelis. In 1947, Palestine was partitioned between the Jews and Arabs. But the Zionist strategy was to roll-out a systematic reign of terror, massacres, dispossession and expulsion. This drove out the Palestinian population in a horrific episode of ethnic cleansing that saw over 750,000 or two-thirds of the indigenous people at that time becoming penniless refugees. By the 1949 armistice, the Israeli state had expanded to 78% of the territory. In 1967, it captured the remaining 22%.

After 1967, the military government prevented the return of refugees who had been displaced during the war and also enabled Israel to take control of large amounts of land without granting citizenship and civil and political rights to the Palestinians living in these areas. A year after Israel occupied the remaining part of Palestine it began to establish settlements in these areas. Following the 1967 war, the UN Security Council passed Resolution 242 calling for the end of the occupation. In 1979 the UN Security Council in Resolution 446 condemned the policy and practices of establishing settlements. To this day, these resolutions remain a dead letter. Under the Fourth Geneva Convention, to which Israel is a signatory, the Palestinians in the occupied territories are considered a protected population with the right to freedom from indiscriminate use of force against civilians, wanton destruction of property, torture, collective punishment, the annexation of occupied territory, and the establishment of colonies. Violation of certain of these rights is considered a war crime. The United Nations as well as numerous Israeli, Palestinian and international human rights organisations, have documented extensive war crimes by Israel.

Earlier this year, an independent report commissioned by the United Nations compared Israel’s actions in the occupied territories to apartheid in South Africa. In the report, John Dugard, a South African lawyer who campaigned against his country’s white minority rule, said: “Israel’s laws and practices in the (Palestinian territories) certainly resemble aspects of apartheid.” The Israeli state raises the flag of anti-Semitism to fend off any criticism of its policies like Dugard’s. Its supporters claim that attacking Zionism – a right-wing, nationalist political creed – is synonymous with aggression towards Jews in general. This is about as truthful as the reasons given for the Six Day War in 1967 and is a puerile argument. It is the equivalent of saying that being against the Republicans or Democrats in the United States is the same as hating all Americans! In many ways, Israel itself is actually an anti-Jewish state. Its Zionist rulers manipulated the legitimate desire of the Jews for a homeland free from persecution and then turned the country into an exclusively Jewish state at the expense of other ethnic groups. Like the apartheid South African regime before it, the Israeli state has no long-term future, as increasing numbers of Jews are beginning to recognise. A secular Palestine where Jews and Arabs will live together as citizens is the only vision worth fighting for.

Paul Feldman, communications editor

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