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Turning Palestine into Earth

Contributed by This Week In Palestine on 29.05.2012:

By Ibrahim Matar

This Week in Palestine

May 2012

“I plowed Palestine into earth by ordering the demolition of 300 abandoned Palestinian villages from the Negev to the Galilee.” This is a statement made by Ra’anan Weitz, the director of the Jewish Agency’s Settlement Department in 1948 in an interview in the Jerusalem Post dated March 7, 1997. Over the ruins of these villages 500 Jewish moshavim and kibbutzim were established. Weitz further acknowledges that he “levelled them joyfully.”

On the occasion of the commemoration of the Palestinian Nakba, it is time to call on the Jews to acknowledge and request forgiveness from the Palestinian people for the complete eradication of the Palestinian communities in the areas occupied by the Jews in 1948. This destruction committed by the Jewish State in 1948-1950 is one of the major crimes of the twentieth century and should not pass without acknowledgement and repentance. Not only was the Palestinian nation liquidated, but Palestinian cultural heritage and historical presence in the land of Palestine were obliterated. The antiquities of many civilisations – Jebusite, Canaanite, Greek, Roman, Byzantine, Crusader, and Muslim – were also destroyed forever.

In fact, the Jewish state is built over destroyed Palestine. The Palestinian people have paid the price of the holocaust through the destruction of their country and their replacement by exclusively Jewish foreign immigrants. In this context, the Palestinians are the last victims of Hitler.

The irony is that Netanyahu is conditioning the resumption of peace negotiations on the recognition of Israel as a Jewish state. Before he asks the victims for recognition, however, Netanyahu and all the Jews should acknowledge and request forgiveness from the Palestinian people for the destruction of their homeland.

In his address to the Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa (quoted in Ha’aretz on April 4, 1969), Moshe Dayan noted, “There is not one single place built in this country that did not have a former Arab population.”

It is time to recall the historical facts of the pre-1948 period that led to the evacuation of the Palestinians from their homes and country. The Jews in 1947, despite unlimited immigration to Palestine, constituted one-third of the population. The Palestinian Christians and Muslims constituted two-thirds. Total Jewish ownership of property did not exceed 6 percent of the total area of Palestine, as Palestinians owned the majority of the land. In 1947, the Jewish minority called for the partition of Palestine and the establishment of Israel, against the wishes of the majority who pleaded for a democratic, secular state for Jews, Christians, and Muslims. Unfortunately, the tide of history was against the Palestinian people and the Jews’ claim was realised. In this respect, the creation of Israel was undemocratic. During the period of January to May 1948, the Jewish forces and terrorist groups embarked on their calculated depopulation scheme with the expulsion of 700,000 Palestinians to “make room” for the Jews.

Here are some examples.

On the night of January 5, 1948, the Haganah forces under Ben-Gurion bombed the Semiramis Hotel located in the Palestinian Katamon quarter of Jerusalem. The explosion killed 24 Palestinian civilians, including seven members of the Abussuan family (a Christian family), and Hubert Lorenzo, the 23-year-old son of the proprietor. In addition, the Spanish vice consul, Manuel Allende Salazar, was also killed. The British colonial authorities who were still in Palestine and responsible for the security of civilians denounced the attack as the “wholesale murder of innocent civilians.”

The most infamous terrorist act was the massacre of civilians in the village of Deir Yassin on the outskirts of Jerusalem on the morning of Friday, April 9, 1948. The attack was headed by Menachem Begin of the terrorist organisation, Irgun. To commemorate this evil act, Begin recounts in his memoirs that without Deir Yassin, there would not have been a “Jewish state.”

In September 1948, despite UN Resolution 194 calling for the return of the Palestinian refugees to their homes and property, the Jewish state declared the refugees “absentees,” and their property was handed over to the so-called “custodian of absentee property.” In 1950, the Israeli Minister of Finance passed the “Absentee Law,” which allowed the custodian to sell or lease this property only to Jews, thus carrying out one of the greatest property thefts of the twentieth century.

Noted author Moshe Smilanski wrote in Ha’aretz on July 26, 1949, “Towns, villages, and agricultural property (over 3 million dunums of agricultural land) were robbed without shame and lawless individuals from the masses as well as the intelligentsia enriched themselves from occupied property.”

No wonder that nowadays it is unthinkable for Jews – either from the left or from the right – to accept that Palestinians return to their land and property. This would undermine their illegitimate ownership of stolen property.

It is worth noting here that the Knesset building in Jerusalem is built over the property owned by Sheikh Ali Khalaf, one of the 1,100 inhabitants evicted in 1948 from the village of Lifta and the Sheikh Bader neighbourhood on the outskirts of Jerusalem. In 1969, the newspaper Yediot Ahronot conducted an interview with Ali Khalaf, who then lived in Jerusalem’s French Hill neighbourhood. He showed them the title deeds to his land on which the Knesset now stands.

One of the ironies of history is that the Yad Vashem memorial for the Jewish holocaust is built over the property of 4,000 Christian and Muslim Palestinians (the last victims of Hitler) who were evicted from the village of Ein Karem in July 1948. The homes of these evicted Palestinians are presently inhabited by Jews. The village churches, which commemorate the birthplace of John the Baptist, are today without congregations.

Unfortunately for the Palestinians, the liquidation of the Palestinian presence in historical Palestine did not cease in 1948. In 1967, after the June war, the Israeli government ordered the eviction of some 6,000 inhabitants of three villages, Imwas, Yalu, and Beit Nuba in the Latrun salient. These three villages were destroyed, bulldozed into the earth. Their property, consisting of over 20,000 dunums of agricultural land, is today being farmed by the Jewish colony of Mevo Horon.

On the ruins of the village of Imwas, the Jewish Agency established what is called Canada Park, built with funds from the Jews of Canada. The Israelis today hold their picnics on the ruins of the Palestinian inhabitants who find themselves refugees and landless.

The sad story and drama of displacement and destruction still continues in 2012.

Despite the fact that after the June war, the Palestinians came under Israeli occupation, they are still considered “absentees” and cannot claim their property in West Jerusalem or other areas of Israel. More land is being seized every day for the construction of more Jewish colonies. In East Jerusalem, since 1967, more than 30,000 dunums of prime real estate were confiscated for “public purposes,” meaning for exclusive Jewish residential fortresses surrounding the Palestinian neighbourhoods in the annexed areas of occupied Arab Jerusalem.

In the West Bank, Palestinian private property was initially seized on the pretext of security reasons. After losing the famous land case of the Jewish colony of Elon Moreh, the Israeli occupation authorities changed their land-grabbing tactics by seizing what is called “State Land.” As occupation authorities, the Israelis cannot legitimately claim to be the legal state that rules the West Bank.

The bottom line to the tragedy of the Palestinians is that the Catastrophe of 1948 is still going on, as Jewish colonisation of the West Bank continues to expand. The objectives of the Jews have not changed since the early part of the twentieth century. Their motto continues to be “dunum after dunum of land” for the exclusive use of Jews.

The Jews claim that the Palestinians wish to destroy Israel. The fact is that the Jews have already literally destroyed Palestine, and in front of the watchful eyes of the world community represented by the Quartet, they continue with their policies and practices to complete the liquidation of the Palestinian presence in historical Palestine.

Ibrahim Matar is an economist from Jerusalem.


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