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From the Blog
Palestine: 60 years of massacres and ethnic cleaning
Â On September 1, Wedad Yassin, a young Palestinian American woman from suburban Chicago, was denied entry to Palestine. This is certainly not an uncommon occurrence. But what makes it especially painful for Wedad is that she moved to the occupied West Bank after graduating from college last year to live with her family. Now after a one-day trip to Jordan, she found herself with two large, red âDeniedâ stamps on her passport. Stranded on the Allenby Bridge, Wedad was suspended between Jordan and Palestine, separated from her parents, siblings, grandparents and the life she was creating for herself in her homeland.
Denying entry to Palestinians or prohibiting them from traveling to Palestine and Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem is not new. It has been going on since 1948, when militant Zionist Jews ethnically cleansed the first round of 750,000 Palestinians from their homes and villages. Today, because Israeli authorities still refuse to comply with international law and allow the refugees to return home, their numbers have grown to more than 7 million. Forty percent of the worldâs refugees are Palestinians, who hold the unfortunate distinction of being the largest and longest-lasting refugee group in the world.
Palestinians are not just being kept out of Palestine, but are being displaced within their country as well. In fact, 2011 was a banner year for Israeli displacement of Palestinians, according to the human rights group Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD). Israeli authorities demolished 622 Palestinian homes in 2011, displacing nearly 1,100 people, double the number in 2010.1 In addition, Jerusalem mayor Nir Barakat announced in 2012 that 70,000 Palestinians in East Jerusalem would have their residency rights revoked2, thereby prohibiting them from entering Jerusalem. Haaretz newspaper reported in June that Israeli authorities admitted that between 1967 and 1994, they banned 250,000 Palestinians from returning to Palestine.3 Home demolitions and preventing Palestinians from entering Palestine are just two of the many outcomes of Israelâs occupation of Palestine. On a daily basis, Palestinians endure random arrests and detentions, as well as the loss of freedom of movement because of the Apartheid Wall, checkpoints, closed militarized zones, and bypass roads available only for Jews. They endure violent attacks from extremist Jewish settlers, who are living illegally on stolen Palestinian land.
Despite living under the longest-lasting military occupation in the world, Palestinians have one of the highest literacy rates in the Middle East.4 They produce phenomena such as Iqbal El Assaad, the worldâs youngest medical student, who entered Weill Cornell Medical College in Qatar when she was 14; iconic poet Mahmoud Darwish, whose many writing awards include the French Knight of the Order of Arts and Letters; and famed intellectual, the late Edward Said. Palestinians pride education above all else and they are astute and successful businessmen, physicians, scientists and engineers around the world.
But the full story of Palestinians is absent in the American media as well as in the national dialogue about the Middle East. The media still depicts them one-dimensionally, as violence-thirsty thugs.
Just in the current election cycle alone, mainstream presidential primary candidates have said Palestinians are an âinvented people,â5 and are inferior to the Jewish Israeli culture.6 Elsewhere, a noted Islamophobe put up bus advertisements calling Palestinians savages.7Â Â
The advertisements, cribbed from an Ayn Rand quote, state: "In Any War Between the Civilized Man and the Savage, Support the Civilized Man. Support Israel, Defeat Jihad."
The resulting backlash focused on Islamophobia and largely ignored the Palestinians. In fact, the adâs sponsor, Pamela Geller and her hate-group American Freedom Defense Initiative, used Islamophobia as the vehicle to demonize Palestinians and garner continued U.S. support for Israelâs occupation of Palestine. Gellerâs attack on unnamed Palestinians allows Israel to continue to expropriate more Palestinian land and deprive Palestinians of their basic human rights.
It is true that since their occupation, Palestinians have resorted to armed resistance and Israelis have died as a result. This does not mean, however, that Palestinians are inherently violent. Nor are they savages. They are a people resisting their occupation by any means necessary, a right guaranteed under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Whatever forms of violence Palestinians have perpetrated in response to their occupation pale in comparison to the barrage of attacks and massacres they have endured since before 1948, when the first massacres began as part of the Zionist plan to rid Palestine of its indigenous population.
In 1947, military commanders distributed a guidebook to members of the paramilitary group the Haganah, the forerunner of todayâs Israeli Occupation Forces. This guidebook was called Plan Dalet or Plan âD.â It included the blueprint for ethnically cleansing Palestine of its indigenous population.8 "We must expel Arabs and take their place . . . and, if we have to use force Â-- not to dispossess the Arabs of the Negev and Transjordan, but to guarantee our own right to settle in those places -- then we have force at our disposal,â Moshe Dayan, a military commander in 1948 was quoted in the April 4, 1969 issue of Haaretz, according to the Veritas Papers.9
Former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon showed that this goal of âdispossessingâ the Palestinians from Palestine was implemented by each leader since 1948. âYou donât simply bundle people onto trucks and drive them away âŚ I prefer to advocate a more positive policy, to create, in effect, a condition that in a positive way will induce the people to leave,â he told the London Times on Aug. 24, 1988.10
From a variety of mass shootings and bombings in 1947, through the Deir Yassin massacre on April 9, 1948, to Operation Cast Lead in the winter of 2008-09, Palestinians have been living under the constant threat of military attacks. The following is a list, though not an exhaustive one, of some of the major massacres of the Palestinian people.
1. Depopulation: From the United Nations partition of Palestine in November 1947 until the armistice was signed on Jan. 1, 1949, militant Jewish Zionists that included the Haganah, the Palmuch, and terrorist groups called the Stern Gang and Irgun, depopulated and/or destroyed 531 Palestinians villages, killed 13,000 Palestinians and forced 750,000 Palestinians into exile.11
2. Deir Yassin, April 9, 1948: Though not the first massacre, it was one of the most gruesome. The Irgun and Stern Gang, lead by Menachem Begin and Yitzhak Rabin, respectively, crept into Deir Yassin in the middle of the night and killed upwards of 200 people. The remaining people fled or were rounded up on trucks and driven away, never to be heard from again. Zionist forces used the massacre as a means to frighten other villages into leaving.12
3. Al-Dawaymia, Oct. 29, 1948: Members of the 89th Battalion, carrying out orders to cleanse Lydda, killed at least 100 men, women and children in the village of Dawayma. âThe children they killed by breaking their heads with sticks. Not a house was spared. One commander ordered a soldier to put two elderly women in a house and blow up the house with them. The soldier refused. The commander then ordered other men to do it, and it was done. One soldier had boasted he had raped a woman then shot her, quoted in the Israeli paper Al ha-Mishmar on the massacre at Al-Dawaymia, according to the Veritas Papers.13
4. Gaza City, April 5, 1956, Israeli military forces fired artillery shells into the center of Gaza Center, killing civilians who were simply going about their lives. Ultimately 60 people, including 31 children, were killed and 103 were injured, according to author Husayn Abu al-Naml in his book, âThe Gaza Strip, 1948-1967: Economic, Political, Social and Military Development.â
5. Kafr Qassem, Oct. 29, 1956. Israeli soldiers shot and killed 47 Palestinians who were returning home from work, unaware that earlier that day, the Israeli military had imposed a new curfew. âAsked about the fate of women or children returning late, [Major Shmuel] Malinki replied, âWithout sentiment, the curfew applies to everyone.â Pressed on the point, he responded in Arabic: âAllah yarahmum [God have mercy on them],â adding that this was the order from the brigade commander, Colonel Issachar Shadmi.â Journalist Jonathan Cook wrote in Counterpunch, on Oct. 20, 2008.14
6. Khan Yunis, Nov. 3, 1956, Israeli forces killed at least 275 Palestinians in Khan Yunis. A mass grave was uncovered in 1957. Also uncovered was the fact that 40 men with bound hands had been shot point blank in the backs of their heads, according to Michael Palumbo in his book, âImperial Israel.â
7. Sabra and Shatila, Sept. 16-18, 1982. Under the watchful and approving eye of Ariel Sharon, then Israeli defense minister, Christian phalangists entered the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps in Lebanon. After sealing off all exits, they unleashed massive violence. Officials have never been able to determine the exact number of victims. The International Committee of the Red Cross buried at least 1,000 in a mass grave. But untold numbers were buried under the rubble of buildings demolished on top of them. Hundreds of survivors were carted off and never heard from again.15
8. Al-Aqsa Mosque, Oct. 8, 1990. In response to plans by the militant group the âTemple Trustees,â Israeli military forces erected barriers barring Palestinians from entering Jerusalem. They also shut the doors of Al-Aqsa mosque, despite the fact that hundreds of Palestinians already were inside. The Temple Trustees mobilized a group of tens of thousands of extremist Jews to march on the Al-Aqsa mosque compound, Islamâs third holiest site, to lay the cornerstone for the so-called âThird Temple,â which Jews say must be erected on the site of Al-Aqsa. 16
When the Palestinians refused to allow the Temple Trustees to lay their âfoundation stoneâ, Israeli Occupation Forces opened fire with machine guns, killing 23 Palestinians and wounding 850, according to author Dr. Hamdan Badr in âThe Role of the Haganah Organization in theÂ Establishment of Israel.â
9. Al-Ibrahim Mosque, Feb. 25, 1994. American Jewish physician Baruch Goldstein, who was living in a kibbutz at the time, walked into Al-Ibrahimi mosque during dawn prayer and opened fire, killing 29 Palestinian men. Israeli forces killed an additional 11 men during the subsequent demonstrations.17
10. Gaza, Operation Cast Lead, Dec. 27 2008-Jan. 17 2009.18 During a three-week period, Israeli forces unleashed the worst attack on the Palestinian people since the 1967 Six Day War that resulted in the final occupation of Palestine. The population of 1.6 million people was already reeling from the total blockade Israeli authorities had imposed on the Gaza Strip. With all borders closed, Palestinians had nowhere to run when fighter jets began the barrage at 11:30 a.m., just when schools let out and the police academy conducted its graduation ceremony.
Over the 22-day period, Israeli forces killed 1,409 Palestinians, including at least 355 children, and wounded more than 5,300.
The United Nations-commissioned Goldstone Report found Israel guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity, for using disproportionate force against a civilian population. The report also found the Israeli military used Palestinian children as human shields and used the chemical weapon white phosphorus in civilian areas.
Operation Cast Lead was not unique, unfortunately. It was perhaps the culmination of several smaller raids in previous years, beginning with Israelâs disengagement from Gaza in 2005. The operations, After the Disengagement, Operation Summer Rains, Operation Autumn Clouds and Operation Warm Winter, killed nearly 350 people. From Jan. 1 to Dec. 26, 2008, Israeli forces killed 3,160 Palestinians.19
The above list, though tragic, is not inclusive of all the actions perpetrated upon the Palestinian population. The list does not take into account any Jewish settler attacks against people, livestock and crops in Palestine.
Despite the level of violence Palestinians are forced to endure, they still manage to remain hopeful that one day they will achieve self-determination. They are increasingly seeking non-violent forms of resistance such as non-violent demonstrations against the Apartheid Wall and the 2005 Palestinian civil society call for boycott, divestments and sanctions against Israel.20
1. âInfographic: Palestinian homes demolished,â Al Jazeera English, Aug. 30, 2012. http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/interactive/2012/08/2012830754014332.html
2. â70,000 Palestinian Jerusalemites to be re-classified as West Bank citizens,â Wadi Hilweh Information Center â Silwan, Dec. 26, 2011.
3. âIsrael admits it revoked residency rights of a quarter million Palestinians,â Haaretz, June 12, 2012
4. âMaking the Grade: The State of Education in Palestine,â American Muslims for Palestine, 2009. http://www.ampalestine.org/Resources/educationBooklet_web.pdf
5. âPalestinians are an invented people, says Newt Gingrich,â The Guardian, Dec. 9, 2011. http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/dec/10/palestinians-invented-people-newt-gingrich
6. âRomney, economic realities and one Palestinianâs story,â Aug. 4, 2012. http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2012/08/201282131216216554.html
7. âSan Francisco Bus Ad Calls Palestinians 'Savage,ââ Yahoo Finance, Aug. 12, 2012.
8. âThe Nakba: Preserving our narrative,â American Muslims for Palestine, 2010.
9. âThe Occupation from scratch,â The Veritas Papers.
10. âThe Nakba: Preserving our narrativeâ.
13. âThe Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine,â The Veritas Papers.
14. âThe executions at Kafr Qassem,â Counterpunch, Oct. 30, 2008.
15. âSabra and Shatila: 28 years after the massacre, justice is yet to prevail,â American Muslims for Palestine, 2010.
17. â1994: Jewish settler kills 30 at holy site,â BBC, Feb. 25, 2010.
18. âRising from the ashes: Gazaâs indestructible spirit,â American Muslims for Palestine 2009 and 2010.
20. Palestinian call for BDS, www.bdsmovement.net.
Hatem Bazian is a Palestinian-American academic at the University of California, Berkeley. He is a Senior Lecturer in the Departments of Near Eastern and Ethnic Studie, and an adjunct professor of law at Boalt Hall School of Law. He teaches courses on Islamic law and society, Islam in America, religious studies, and Middle Eastern studies. In addition to Berkeley, Bazian is a visiting professor in Religious Studies at Saint Mary's College of California and adviser to the Religion, Politics and Globalization Center at UC Berkeley and Zaytuna Institute.Â