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Palestine & The Demise Of Conscience
Terrell E. Arnold
For nearly a century the Palestinian people have felt the pressures of outsiders scheming to take over their homeland. For the past sixty years the invaders have systematically undertaken the ethnic cleansing of Palestine to make way for new Israelis. For this purpose the invaders have constructed a narrative the central theme of which is "God gave this land to us five or six thousand years ago, and the fact that we have seldom lived here in that period is immaterial. No matter who has lived on the land for the past several thousand years, it is ours and we intend to take it. We do not intend to pay for the land or the property on it that we may destroy, and we do not intend to tolerate the future presence of any historic owner on this land. We, the ringleaders of this scheme, the Ashkenazim, do not have ancestors who were ever a part of this land, but we will take this land anyway and found a Jewish state."
In line with this story, since 1947-48 the true believers in this Ashkenazim scheme have driven hundreds of thousands of Palestinians from their farms, homes and businesses; they have killed and imprisoned thousands more; and they currently keep 3.5 million survivors and their offspring in two open air prisons--the Gaza Strip and shrinking portions of the region known as the West Bank of the Jordan River. The followers of this Ashkenazim scheme barely tolerate the presence of 1.25 million descendents of the original Palestinian inhabitants of the land in Israel. Meanwhile, the subscribers to a scheme called *Eretz Yisrael, *or Greater Israel, work toward the eventual expulsion of all non-Jews from the territory that the Old Testament of Christendom, also known as the Torah of Judaism, says God promised to Abraham and his descendents.
Meanwhile, in a seemingly perverse treatment of the Zionist scheme that the Ashkenazim and their followers pursue, God and nature take care of their own. The reality is that the nominally Jewish (at least by religious affiliation) and the nominally Arab (meaning non-Jewish) peoples of the region are about equal in number. In the nature of things, however, the Arabs, threatened on all sides by poverty, confinement, expulsion or extinction, have a relatively high birthrate. The Ashkenazim and their followers, nominally including the indigenous Palestinian Jews, are more comfortable, less threatened and less fertile. In fairly short order, barring a catastrophe, the Palestinians will outnumber the Jews. That is the nearby reality facing the Zionists. A Jewish state with a majority of Palestinians is simply not thinkable.
But a Jewish state that ignores the rights of the Palestinians should also be unthinkable. The Goldstone Report just released by the UN Commission on Human Rights rightly and clearly condemns Israeli excesses in the war on Gaza. However, in a strained effort to be even-handed, the Commission also condemns Palestinian lobbing of rockets into Israeli territory while it was being bombed daily by Israeli aircraft. The report does not question Israel's right to attack Gaza, only its excesses in doing so, but it does not concede any Hamas right to attack adjacent areas of Israel. The report also bemoans the continued imprisonment of one Israeli soldier, Gilad Shalit, while failing to mention the 11,000 or so Palestinians in Israeli prisons. A fair weighting of Israeli actions in Gaza would put Israel's cast lead on one side and a few Palestinian pebbles on the other, but Goldstone himself, a highly respected South African Jew, would know better than most how difficult it is to achieve real balance in this situation. Meanwhile, the President of the United States, in a message to world Jews on the occasion of Rosh Hashanah, has rededicated himself to the security of Israel without ever mentioning Palestine.
All of that is by way of answering a question: Just what do Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu and his hard right collaborators have in mind? They are proceeding rapidly on two fronts. No matter what they say, one is to expand both the number of settlements and the Jewish population of the West Bank as rapidly as possible. In the face of US pressure to cease and desist, the goal is as rapidly as possible to create new facts on the ground that will be difficult to ignore. The other is to erase or, at the very least, enlittle the Arab presence in old Jerusalem. As they have done in many other areas of ancient Palestine, the Israeli scheme is to obliterate the signs of Palestinian history, including some truly historic sites in old Jerusalem, and create on the landscape whatever will serve a Jewish history.
The underlying tragedy of it all is that ancient communities, the physical evidences of their past, and their traditional populations are all being erased in a Zionist effort to create the narrative of a Jewish state. These are not mere acts of ethnic cleansing-a war crime anywhere else on earth; they are systematic efforts to erase a culture and the evidence of its history-which is a crime against all of human society.
Is the rest of the world truly asleep to this travesty? International media seem locked on providing an Israel-centered and trivial display of these events. One that is only slightly less trivial than the apparent efforts of the Obama team to achieve some visible political success by stopping settlement expansion, even for a few months. The problem is not really about interrupting the spread of Israelis into Palestinian territory. That would be simple if the Israeli extremists were prepared to accept defined boundaries for Israel and leave the rest of the land to its rightful owners. Settlements are the most visible manifest of the Greater Israel dream. They have been its mode of achievement since the first day, and they proceed on the clear appreciation of Israelis on the move that there are no intervening boundaries. Israel simply has not agreed to any permanent boundary around its already illegally acquired part of Palestine, because that would bring the whole show to a defined halt. A temporary halt in building or expanding settlements is simply no substitute for Israeli acceptance that their state is bounded like any other and they must get used to living on the land within those bounds. That alone would be a major legal concession by the Palestinians, because the Israelis stole the land in the first place.
The rest of the world for decades has remained largely silent on this situation. To be sure, the situation is freakish. The lands in question have belonged to Palestinian families for centuries. However, in a meeting with George W. Bush in 2004, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon received a letter from Bush that says the Israelis can keep the Palestinian lands they have expanded into illegally. Treatment of that letter in comments of politicians and media stories have suggested that with its creation the ownership of lands in Palestine was simply unhooked from traditional rules of land title. Nobody, so far, has raised the obvious fact that George W. Bush had no legal right to convey a single square inch of Palestinian land to an Israeli, unless, of course, he was acting, by consent, as the agent of a Palestinian landowner and the owner received appropriate compensation. The tragedy of this situation is that nobody seems prepared to stand up for the rights of the Palestinians. Virtually any place on earth other than Palestine, taking a piece of land in the Israeli manner would be cause for immediate and clear-cut legal rebuttal, if not a gunfight.
It has become easy, it seems, to deal with the Palestinians as non-people. Bush and Sharon didn't consult the Palestinians about transferring their lands to Israelis; they just did it. Netanyahu and his team don't ask the Palestinians in East Jerusalem about whether they want to leave their ancestral homes; they just shove them out. The rest of the world, where land ownership is bounded by rigorous rules, does not object or raise issues of law and fairness. This means basically that the world will tolerate Zionist empire building and will allow deliberate violation of the rights of the Palestinian people to achieve it.
There is an ironic side to this scenario. Virtually all of the Palestinians being mistreated by these processes are Semites. They are the sons of Shem just as the Jews who are referred to as the "people of the book". The leading Jews who are pressing the case are the Ashkenazim, who are not Semites. There are about ten million people in the ancient Palestine territory, and they are about equally divided between Israelis and Palestinians. In simple human terms, are the rights of the Jewish side of this population greater and more important than the rights of the Palestinian side of it? Israeli words and actions often say so, but should the rest of the world agree? These are issues that cannot be resolved by tinkering with settlement building, expansion or maintenance. The real questions are: Do the Palestinian people have equal rights in this situation? Do the Palestinians whose ancestors were born and bred on this land have true rights in it? Any answer other than yes would violate basic human rights and the principles of international law. One cannot in good conscience fail to recognize this reality and respond to it without being anti-Semitic.
Meanwhile, how can the situation be fixed? The first rule has to be that in any discussion that seeks to fix the terms of their future, their rights, or the disposition of their property, responsible Palestinian representatives will always be present and will speak for the Palestinian people. The Bush-Sharon type of letter-writing agreement is a travesty of international law and procedure. The second rule is that Bush-Sharon type agreements that did not include the willing participation of Palestinian representatives are scrubbed herewith and cease to be treated as if they have legal standing. The third rule is that any disputes between the Palestinians and the Israelis over property ownership should be mediated by detached third parties, preferably from the UN or the International Court of Justice. The fourth rule, of course, is that Israel actually undertakes to control its people, to curb their long established habit of taking what does not belong to them. That means, even at some risk, that invasive settlements of all kinds must stop. The fifth rule is that if Israel refuses to abide by such conditions it should be treated internationally as a rogue state and sanctioned as rigorously as any other state that refuses to behave. None of that would be simple, but it would be about time.
The writer is the author of the recently published work, A World Less Safe, now available on Amazon, and he is a regular columnist on rense.com. He is a retired Senior Foreign Service Officer of the US Department of State whose overseas service included tours in Egypt, India, Sri Lanka, the Philippines, and Brazil. His immediate pre-retirement positions were as Chairman of the Department of International Studies of the National War College and as Deputy Director of the State Office of Counter Terrorism and Emergency Planning. He will welcome comment at
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