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Have the Occupied Palestinian Territories Become the Native American Reservation of our Time?

By Ridwan Sheikh

Al-Jazeerah, CCUN, July 23, 2012

Israel’s refusal to stop building illegal settlements in occupied West Bank and Jerusalem is a poignant reminder the Palestinians could share a fate similar to the indigenous American Indian people of the 1800’s.
According to the author, James W. Loewen, the U.S government’s model of wiping out nearly 54 million [1] indigenous people, with the remaining numbers relocated to desolate reservations, inspired Adolf Hitler to do the same against the Jews.
“Hitler admired the American concentration camps set up for Indians in the West and often lauded them to his inner circle for the effectiveness of American aptitude for promoting starvation and unequal combat, which inspired him for his own extermination of Jews and Gypsies.[2] [Romani people],” Loewen wrote.
Noam Chomsky, the political author and professor of linguistics at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, (MIT), believes today’s role reversal of the Palestinians becoming the indigenous American Indian people is merited, but up to a point.
“It’s bad enough, but not that bad. The leading figures of the US conquests were quite explicit about taking over everything, and ‘exterminating’-their word-anyone who stood in the way. What we’d call ‘genocide’ if anyone else were to try it,” Chomsky said.
By mid-2011, 131 illegal settlements were in the region, housing 498,000 Israeli Jews, of which the majority of settlements are on privately owned Palestinian land, not part of Israel.[3]    
Israel occupies 77.5% of expropriated land, it terms, “State land”. This demographic change took more than 50 years of planning by the World Zionist organisation, a Jewish nationalist movement, exploiting Judaism, to advance colonisation in Palestine for a Jewish nation.
Integral to Israel’s land drive is an 8 metre concrete wall enclosure that surrounds illegal settlements. The idea was suggested in 1923, by the Polish Zionist, Vladimir Jabotinsky, founder of the Jewish terrorist group, Irgun, in the Jewish Herald, stating: “This colonization can develop only under the protection of a force independent of the local population – an iron wall which the native population cannot break through.”[4]
Israel’s colonisation depends on exploiting natural resources. The Jordan Valley and the Dead Sea area have 37 illegal settlements of 9,500 settlers and up to 56,000 Palestinians, yet Israel pumps most of the water to its settlements, forcing the Arabs to ration water supplies. When supplies end, families risk contamination from polluted streams or make up the 67% forced to buy water in tanks from the Mekorot Company, which is expensive. [5] 
To Palestinian farmer’s, water shortages limit the variety of crops grown, affecting an already crumbling economy, which Israel controls, to almost $1.83bn in lost annual revenue, [6] with complete losses in the West Bank and Gaza totalling around £4.4bn. [7]   
Nazism rise to power in Germany was an important juncture for Zionism. Although, the persecution of Jews didn’t interest the Zionists, Hitler’s demise in 1945 provided the opportunity to take advantage of Jewish suffering, by sabotaging efforts to relocate Jews to other parts of Europe, instead increased Jewish migration into Palestine.
By 1946 the Jewish population rose to 602,586,[8] which was nearly four times the 1931 British Mandate population figure of 174,610, with 65% (approximately 1,339,763) being Arab as opposed to 759,717 (73.5%) in 1931.[9]
“There are multiple motives behind the settlement enterprise, such as cheap housing, but nationalist and religious ideologies (e.g. the belief the West Bank, or ‘Judea and Samaria,’ is part of the biblical ‘Eretz Israel’ play a very significant role,” said Human Rights Watch spokesman, Bill Van Esveld.
The Judaic significance refers to, ‘chosen people’ and ‘promised land’, prominent among settler motives, and forms the basis of Israeli claims over Palestinian land. Most Rabbis peddle Zionist interpretation in the Jewish Holy book, the Tanakh, focusing on (Genesis 15:18) that, ‘God promised Abraham's descendants the land between the River of Egypt and the Forat (Euphrates)’, and in (Exodus 23:31), where ‘the border was set from the Red Sea to the sea of the Philistines; the inhabitants of the land would be delivered into your hand; and the people shall be driven out’.
According to traditional Jewish scholars it is not for the Jewish people to fulfil this promise but a pact between God and the prophet Elijah, yet to be delivered. Once delivered, it would signal the later arrival of the Messiah, who would redeem the Jews and all of mankind. Until then, God commands the Jews to remain in exile until it is time to be redeemed.[10] The term, ‘exile’, refers to Jews being loyal subjects to their nation of residence, and not establishing rule over the native population, including the land of Palestine. [11]
To gain unconditional public support, exploiting Judaism wasn’t enough. Zionism needed land. In 1901, a proposal was accepted by Zvi Hermann Schapira, a rabbi and professor of mathematics, to establish an institute, the Jewish National Fund (JNF), to aggressively purchase land for Jewish settlement,[12] and form a ‘Jewish territory’ in the process.
By the 1930’s the JNF using its leading influence, persuaded other land agencies to adopt its practices of retaining the legal title of the land, with leases granted to Jewish settlers.[13] 
The first Zionist land purchase was in the Jezreel Valley, bought from the Sursuk family in 1925. The Judaic importance and its nearly 100,000 acres, of which at least 93,000 acres were fertile and arable, made it one of the most fertile lands in Palestine. The Sursuk family bought the land from the Turkish government for 18,000 Palestinian pounds (roughly $50,000). The Zionist movement offered Sursuk an obscene amount of 726,000 Palestinian pounds (approximately $2 million), which was accepted by the Sursuk family. [14] This kind of exploitive dealings was common practice.
Most land purchases were followed by Arab expulsion. A secret memorandum in 1930, written by Dr. A. Rupin, the Jewish Agency agriculture and settlement expert, to his Agency, confirms expulsion is built into Zionism, when he said, “Since there are hardly any more arable unsettled lands in Palestine, we are bound in each case of purchase of land and its settlement to remove the peasants who cultivated the land thus far, both owners of the land and tenants.”
It is believed 1270 Palestinian Arab families were removed from 13 villages. To avoid a public scandal, each family was compensated 24 Palestinian pounds (just above $50), seen as an exception to the rule, as normally Arab families received nothing, for example the land purchase of Hefer Valley, saw about 2000 Arab peasants dispossessed. [15]
The Israeli historian, Ilan Pappe, dismisses the argument of the Palestinians leaving on their own accord. In his research paper, later included in his book, ‘The ethnic cleansing of Palestine’, he reveals the official version of the 1948 Arab expulsion.
“On 10 March 1948, a group of 11 veteran Zionist leaders and Jewish officers put the finishing touches to a large scale military operation for the ethnic cleansing of Palestine.[16] Military orders that evening, were despatched to units, preparing Palestinian expulsion from vast areas of the country. The detailed methods included: large-scale intimidation; laying siege to and bombarding villages and population centers; setting fires to homes, properties, and goods; expelling residents; demolishing homes; and finally planting mines in the rubble to prevent the expelled Arabs from returning. Each unit was issued its own list of villages and neighbourhoods to target in keeping with the master plan, Code-named Plan D (Dalet in Hebrew)”.[17]
Taking six months to complete its mission, more than half of Palestine’s population, over 750,000 people, had been uprooted, 531 villages destroyed, and 11 urban neighbourhoods had been emptied of their inhabitants.[18]
The squeezing of Arab lands, especially during 1948-1959, further expanded Israeli territory. Some of the villages included, the village of Umm Al-Fahm, with a population of 7000 and a land of 140,000 dunam*, by 1959 its population increased to 11,000 but the land was reduced to an astonishing 1500 dunam. The village of Tayyiba inhabited 3,500 people, with 45,000 dunam of land, by 1959 the population climbed to 7,000 but were left with only 13,000 dunam of land. The village of Tira with a population of 3100 people, owned 28,000 dunam, by 1959 the population rose to 5100 but only occupied 7,500 dunam of land. [19]
Deception was also used to expel Arab villagers, as witnessed in the Arab-Christian village of Ikrit in December 1948. The villagers were instructed by the Israeli army to leave their village temporarily, for two weeks, alleging land mines where found in the area and needed to be cleared for their safety. The residents moved to the nearby village of Rama, which became the Rama Refugee Camp, until it was safe to return.
Two weeks has now become 64 years. Instead of being resigned to their fate, in 1952 the villagers filed a lawsuit action, as they were instructed to leave for a limited time, so their property couldn’t be considered ‘absentee property’. The judges deceived the plaintiffs ruling in favour of the plaintiffs’ right of return to their land, but on condition of attaining a permit issued by the military governor. In reality, the Governor would never issue a permit. [20] The case still goes on.  The court’s decision underlines how complicit the legal system is with Zionism’s policies.
Resistance also came from individuals, such as the Syrian, Shaykh Muhammad Izz ad-Din al-Qassam. He was an Imam of a local mosque in Haifa and an educator by night, teaching literacy to labourers. It was his student’s experiences, largely ex-farmers, recalling how they had to leave their lands by the JNF, which had a profound impact on Al-Qassam, who decided armed Jihad, (resistance) was necessary to end Arab dispossession, and in 1930, he formed a small militant group.
By 1935, the group raided Jewish settlements and sabotaged British rail lines, but Al-Qassam wanted a national revolution and wrote to the Arab leadership in Jerusalem, to support an armed struggle, but was rejected, as the leadership felt Arab rights could still be achieved through negotiations. 
When news reached the British of al-Qassam’s vision, military units were deployed around a cave near Ya'bad in Jenin, where he was hiding, with twelve of his followers. Soon afterwards, the British soldiers pounded the area with heavy artillery. Al-Qassam, rather than surrender, took a last stand and was killed.
Al-Qassam’s efforts were not in vain, who instantly became a symbol of resistance, epitomising the Palestinian land struggle. His martyrdom triggered the great Arab Revolt (1936-1939). His legacy lives on with the military wing of Hamas named after him, Ezzedeen al-Din Al-Qassam Brigades.
By the time Britain’s rule expired on 14 May 1948, the newly Zionist-aligned U.S government emerged as the leading global political power, and using its influence, forced the voting U.N nations to accept the two-state resolution, which the Palestinians rejected, giving 56% of the land to the Jews and 42% to the Arabs, the remaining land went to Christian and other small minority groups.[21] 
The pressure for U.N Nations to vote was acknowledged by James Forrestal, the U.S Minister of Defense at the time, in his memoirs, stating, “The methods used to pressure and to constrain the other nations within the U.N. were close to scandalous.” [22]
Since then, political elites have conspired to view the Palestinians as the ‘unseen’ people, which is emphasised with the ‘peace’ broker, the U.S government, forging strong economic and political ties with Israel, while ensuring there are no Palestinian agreements in dismantling illegal settlements and reclaiming civil rights equal to the Israeli citizens.
Palestine’s full admission to UNESCO (the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation), in October 2011 is a historic small step for the Palestinians to address its rights with some authority, and with at least 112 countries endorsing Palestinian statehood, the pressure to be given full U.N membership, is growing and cannot be ignored for much longer.
*One dunam is approximately 1,000 square metres
1 Denevan, William. “The Native Population of the Americas in 1492”. 2nd edition Publication. 1992.

2 Loewen, James W., “Lies My Teacher Told Me:  Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong”. Touchstone, Simon & Schuster. 1995.

3 Peace Now Settlement Watch Team, Report-“Construction of Settlements upon Private Land-Official Data”, March 2007.

4 Jabotinsky, Vladimir. The Jewish Herald (South Africa). “The Iron Wall (We and the Arabs)”. November 26, 1937.

5 Ma’an Development Center, Parallel Realities: Israeli Settlements and Palestinian Communities in the Jordan Valley, 2012.

6 7 The economic cost of the Israeli occupation for the occupied Palestinian territory, A bulletin published by the Palestinian Ministry of National Economy in cooperation with the Applied Research Institute-Jerusalem (ARIJ), September 2011.

8 Palestine 1946: District and District Centers during the Mandate period. Source: Palestine Remembered

9 Census of Palestine 1931, Volume I. British Mandate of Palestine.

10 Leizer Fishberg, Jews Against Zionism group.

11 Rabbi Cohen, Ahron. “Declaration on ‘the Palestine issue’ by Neturei Karta of the UK”. 25 June, 2003. (Accessed 26 June 2012).

12 The composition of the group that met is the product of a mosaic reconstruction of several documents, as demonstrated in my book, The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine (Oxford: Oneworld Publications, 2006). The document summarizing the meeting is found in the Israel Defense Force Archives [IDFA], GHQ/Operations branch, 10 March 1948, File no. 922/75/595, and in the Haganah Archives [HA], File no. 73/94. The description of the meeting is repeated by Israel Galili in the Mapai center meeting, 4 April 1948, found in the HA, File no. 80/50/18. Chapter 4 of my book also documents the messages that went out on 10 March as well as the eleven meetings prior to finalizing of the plan, of which full minutes were recorded only for the January meeting.

13 Lehn and Davis 1988: 24, 86-7.

14, 19 Fouzi el-Asmar, “Zionist land-aggression in Israel/Palestine”, 4th Edition. English translation by Uri Davis, 4th Edition.

15 Arakhim, (Hebrew Newspaper), “The Arab Population in Israel”, No. 3, 1971, p.10

16 The historian Meir Pail claims, in From Haganah to the IDF [in Hebrew] (Tel Aviv: Zemora Bitan Modan, n.d.), p.307, the orders were sent a week later. For the dispatch of the orders, see also Gershon Rivlin and Elhanan Oren, The War of Independence: Ben-Gurion’s Diary, vol. 1 (Tel Aviv: Ministry of Defense, 1982), p.147. The orders dispatched to the Haganah brigades to move to State D—Mazav Dalet—and from the brigades to the battalions can be found in HA, File no.73/94, 16 April 1948.

17 On Plan Dalet, which was approved in its broad lines several weeks before that meeting, see Uri Ben-Eliezer, The Emergence of Israeli Militarism, 1936–1956 (Tel Aviv: Dvir, 1995), p. 253: “Plan Dalet aimed at cleansing of villages, expulsion of Arabs from mixed towns.”
18 Ilan Pappe, white paper, p.7, “The 1948 Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine”.

20 Yediot Aharonot, Hebrew newspaper. 30 June 1972.

21 Pappe, 2006, p. 35 Pappe speech given by the Pakistani representative to the U.N Sir Zafrullah Kahn on 28 November 1947

22 "Forrestal's Memoirs", p.363, N.Y., The Viking Press. 1951.
Author's Short Bio
Ridwan Sheikh, former editor of grassroots U.K activist group, Stop political terror, (Cease to Exist), which focused on U.K terrorism legislation and highlighted cases of prisoners detained without charge. He is currently the editor of and contributor focusing on Muslim issues and American and British policies.
The author holds a post graduate diploma in Journalism from London School of Journalism. He has also visited Israel and the Palestinian occupied territories in his student activism days, in conjunction with Birzeit University, near Ramallah.
Contact e-mail address:




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