BY ZAIN ESSEGHAIER
Mike Fegelman (The Guardian, Jan. 16) blames the victims (the Palestinian people) for resisting the oppression they’ve been enduring for decades at the hand of Israel. Let’s examine some facts.
The Palestinian land was given away, to put it mildly, without the consent of its native people. According to Israeli scholar Ilan Pappé, in 1948 close to 800,000 native Palestinians were uprooted from their homeland. Pappé states that “531 villages were destroyed and 11 urban neighbourhoods emptied […] a clear-cut case of an ethnic cleansing operation, regarded under international law today as a crime against humanity.” Pappé also states, “the mass expulsion [of Palestinians] was accompanied by massacres, rape and the imprisonment of males over the age of ten in labor camps for periods of over a year.”
The status of the remaining 160,000 Palestinians was the topic of much debate within Israel’s first ruling party. For instance, Prime Minister Ben-Gurion urged segregation and the use of force against Arabs living in ghetto-like condition in Israel under a harsh military government. There was even talk of “transferring” the Palestinians (euphemism for “ethnic cleansing”). Ben-Gurion stated, “We view [the Palestinians] like donkeys” (Haaretz, January 13, 2018). Others, like Sharett, then Israel’s Foreign Minister, were in favour of integrating the Palestinians living in Israel. Objection to military government was voiced by Lavon, Israel’s Defense Minister. “The State of Israel cannot solve the question of the Arabs who are in the country by Nazi means, […], adding, Nazism is Nazism, even if carried out by Jews” (Haaretz). Sharett also warned about the “terrible things [that] were being done against Arabs in the country. […] Until a Jew is hanged for murdering an Arab for no reason, in cold blood, the Jews will not understand that Arabs are not dogs but human beings” (Haaretz). Recently, according to Yaakov Lazowick, Israel’s chief archivist, Israel is still concealing embarrassing documents, including war crimes (Haaretz, January 17, 2018).
Today, little has changed. Israel is still committing war crimes. Amnesty International (2016/2017) reports that Israeli forces unlawfully killed Palestinian civilians including children and detained thousands of Palestinians opposed to military occupation. So much for the myth of the “most moral military in the world.” In addition, torture is common as well as the theft of privately owned Palestinian land, the restriction of freedom of movement of the Palestinians, the continuous blockade of the Gaza Strip (subjecting 1.9 million Palestinians to collective punishment), and the demolition of Palestinian homes.
In addition, Human Rights Watch (HRW) and B’tselem (Israeli human rights organization) report the transfer by Israel of hundreds, even thousands, of settlers to East Jerusalem “in the midst of Palestinian neighborhoods, driving Palestinians out of their homes” (B’tselem), which is considered “a war crime under international law, while refusing to approve most zoning plans in Palestinian neighborhoods that would allow [their] expansion” (HRW).
The Palestinians “are confined within increasingly crowded neighborhoods” (B’tselem). While “Palestinians are required to pay taxes like any other inhabitant of the city, they do not receive the same services than others do,” leaving them with poor infrastructure, and inadequate health and education services (HRW). Lately, Israel is planning to destroy the Palestinian community of Khan al-Ahmar, home to 32 families (173 persons including 92 minors), in order to expand the nearby illegal settlement of Ma’ale Adumin (B’tselem).
Despite these facts and context, Mr. Fegelman wants us to believe that the Palestinian people who are living in apartheid-like condition, who lost their land, who’ve been living under a ruthless occupation, treated like animals for decades, humiliated on a daily basis, and are the subject of discrimination and even racism, are the bad guys when they try to resist their oppressor.
International law and UN resolutions do not seem to mean much to Israel and its fanatical supporters. Israel does what Israel has always done and no one seems to dare or cares to stop it. Yet, peace is always possible. However, there could be no peace without justice.
- Zain Esseghaier of Charlottetown is a spokesman for the Muslim Society of P.E.I.