May 9, 2008
Between December 1947 and December 1950, over 530 Palestinian villages and towns were destroyed. Half of the Palestinians were ethnically cleansed by underground Zionist forces even before Israel was unilaterally declared a state. Palestinians call these events of the late 1940s the Nakba (catastrophe).
The Palestinian refugees are the largest remaining refugee population in the world. Seven million of the ten million Palestinians are refugees or displaced people. They are prevented from returning to their homes and lands even though international law and U.N. resolutions demand it.
The Israeli Knesset adopted a set of laws that are contrary to international law that ensured no refugees are allowed to return (as customarily happens at the end of a war) and that their land is confiscated for use by Jews only ("absentee property" laws). The removal of 75-80% of non-Jews from what became Israel by 1950 was a necessary but not sufficient condition for creating and maintaining a Zionist-defined Jewish state. What the nascent state did subsequently was expand its borders and continue to appropriate native Palestinian lands, expel many of the Palestinians and discriminate against those who remained against all odds.
Israel has no constitution but promulgated a set of basic laws that govern it essentially "for the benefit of the Jewish people." These laws recognize members of a particular religion (including converts) as nationals of the state regardless of where they live or their current citizenship. In Israeli law, all Jews are part of Am Yisrael (the people of Israel). To get papers of citizenship all they have to do is show up in the state and claim their automatic citizenship.
Israel is unique among the nations in not being a country of its citizens but of "Jewish people everywhere." No other country defines itself as a country for members of a particular religion (including converts) regardless of where they live. No other country has supranational entities that have authority superseding state authority and native rights. For example, the Jewish National Fund is not a state agency but it has on its own website the amazing statement that "The Jewish National Fund is the custodian of the land of Israel on behalf of its owners, Jewish people everywhere." 91% of the land (most taken from the 530 Palestinian towns and villages depopulated between 1947-1949) is not privately owned but turned over from the custodian of "absentee property" to the JNF for lease by Jews.
Israeli law considers one fourth of the remaining Palestinians (300,000 of the 1.3 million Palestinians with Israeli citizenship) as "present absentees." This means that their land and/or homes were confiscated from them and turned over to the Jewish Agency/JNF. By international law they are considered internally displaced people (refugees).
Israel has maintained an illegal occupation and colonization of the West Bank and Gaza for 40 years. This includes 133 illegal Israeli settlements, 562 military checkpoints, 610 flying checkpoints, Israeli-only roads and settlements built on Palestinian lands, denial of residency rights, 11,500 Palestinian political prisoners in Israeli jails and, just in the past 7 years alone, 35,000 more Palestinians were made homeless by home demolitions and land confiscations. The Gaza Strip has been turned into a large concentration camp where 1.5 million Palestinians (most refugees) are held in a desert strip with what the U.N. Human Rights commissioner has declared as "catastrophic" conditions.
Israel is funded to the tune of $5 billion (3 billion in direct aid, 2 billion other) from U.S. taxes and shielded from international law and basic human rights conventions by our government (e.g. 37 vetoes at the U.N. security Council). We thus hold special responsibility in this situation (and in the atrocities in Iraq that derive from it), which is not the same for example for Darfur, Sudan (where our government is not funding oppression but is actually at least verbally trying to stop it).
Israeli artists declared in 2002: "If the state of Israel aspires to perceive itself as a democracy, it should abandon once and for all, any legal and ideological foundation of religious, ethnic and demographic discrimination. The state of Israel should strive to become the state of all its citizens. We call for the annulment of all laws that make Israel an apartheid state, including the Jewish law of return in its present form."
Albert Einstein said: "My awareness of the essential nature of Judaism resists the idea of a Jewish state with borders, an army, and a measure of temporal power, no matter how modest. I am afraid of the inner damage Judaism will sustain — especially from the development of a narrow nationalism within our own ranks, against which we have already had to fight strongly, even without a Jewish state."
Vladimir Jabotinsky, founder of Herut (later Likud Party of Israel) in "The Iron Wall: We and the Arabs," said: "Every reader has some idea of the early history of other countries which have been settled. I suggest that he recall all known instances. If he should attempt to seek but one instance of a country settled with the consent of those born there he will not succeed. The inhabitants (no matter whether they are civilized or savages) have always put up a stubborn fight." "
Current Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said on December 5, 2003: "The formula for the parameters of unilateral solution are: To maximize the number of Jews; minimize the number of Palestinians; not to withdraw to the 1967 border and not to divide Jerusalem."
Israeli founder David Ben-Gurion said: "it must be clear that there is no room in the country for both peoples . . . If the Arabs leave it, the country will become wide and spacious for us . . . The only solution is a Land of Israel, at least a Western land of Israel, without Arabs. There is no room here for compromises. . . There is no way but to transfer the Arabs from here to the neighboring countries, to transfer all of them, save perhaps for Bethlehem, Nazareth, and the old Jerusalem. Not one village must be left, not one tribe. The transfer must be directed at Iraq, Syria, and even Transjordan. For this goal funds will be found . . . And only after this transfer will the country be able to absorb millions of our brothers and the Jewish problem will cease to exist. There is no other solution."
Israeli psychologist Avigail Abarbanel has said: "If a day comes, and I hope it does, when Israelis decide to stop living in denial, they will have to realize that real peace will only come through justice. Justice in this context means one thing, that the ideal of an exclusively Jewish state at the cost of an entire people might have to be abandoned. Only a bi-national state and a right of return for the Palestinian refugees will come close enough to rectifying some of the injustices committed in 1948 and since. Having been ethnically cleansed, this is also what the Palestinians are entitled to under international law and common human decency."