BRIEF HISTORICAL OVERVIEW
IN THE BEGINNING
Palestine is a land with a long and ancient history. Its indigenous people have seen invaders come and go, but the people of the land never left until they were forced to leave.
This happened in the 20th century when foreigners under the banner of Zionism began to see Palestine as a place for Jews from all over the world even though the land already had a people living there – the Palestinian Arabs.
It certainly was never “a land without a people for a people without a land”, as the Zionist story goes – a myth to justify a Jewish homeland and the creation of Israel in another people’s land. Nor did these foreigners make the “desert bloom”. Palestine was well known to be most fertile throughout history with an abundance of wheat fields, citrus orchards, olive trees and other agricultural produce long cultivated by Palestinian farmers from generation to generation.
Palestinian towns and villages were developed communities with farms, factories, stores and schools and a whole social structure of doctors, lawyers, teachers, engineers, merchants, mechanics, industrialists, workers and farmers. The economy was prosperous until Zionist forces occupied Palestine and began carving up the land for Israel’s benefit.
THE NAKBA “CATASTROPHE”
Some 750,000 Palestinians were driven out of their homes and lands and reduced to refugee status, many now living in surrounding countries. Most of the refugees have never been able to go back home and have not even been compensated for their incomprehensible losses, estimated at upwards of US$100 billion today. The Palestinians who remained have seen much of their land confiscated, destroyed and given over to illegal Jewish settlers.
Some 400 Palestinian towns and villages were completely destroyed by Zionist terrorist gangs before Israel was created and then by Israeli forces after the state came into being.
In Israel itself, properties and land that belonged to Palestinians were expropriated and even though today 20 per cent of Israel’s population is Palestinian, only 7% of that land is owned or leased by Palestinians. The remaining 93% is off limits to them
It should be noted that before Israel’s establishment, Zionist Jews and organisations owned less than 7 per cent of the land in historical Palestine. However, this did not stop the passing of the United Nations Partition Plan in November 1947 giving 55 per cent of the land to Zionist Jews for the Jewish State of Israel. There was absolutely no regard for the property rights and wishes of the Palestinians.
The subsequent war that followed saw Israeli forces take over even more land, resulting in 78 per cent being internationally recognised as the state of Israel while the majority of the Palestinian population ended up in exile.
JEWISH NATIONAL FUND (JNF)
The Jewish National Fund (JNF), which holds 13 per cent of the land for the exclusive benefit of Jews worldwide, is a Zionist colonial enterprise that was created specifically to buy land for the Jewish people and even today to “redeem” land in occupied Palestine. The Israel Lands Authority (ILA), a state body, holds another 80 per cent of the land, which the JNF oversees in order to guard the land’s “Jewishness”.
This exclusion of Palestinians in Israel from JNF properties is racist and violates the principle of equality. Moreover, its confiscation of land for the development of illegal Jewish settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories with funds from Jewish donors abroad, severely prejudices the Palestinian right to self-determination in their own land.
Apart from its “redemption of land” slogan, the JNF also promotes its work as “reforestation”, “environmentalism” and “greening the land” in a deliberate effort at green washing its otherwise nefarious activities. Many of the parks and forests being planted are intended to obliterate the remains of destroyed Palestinian villages, although the JNF now says it will provide the historical information on plaques at each of these former villages.
This state policy of dispossession and discrimination is entrenched in complex legislation to ensure that almost all of the land remains in Jewish hands in perpetuity to the catastrophic detriment of the Palestinians. There was never any intention on the part of Zionists to recognise the political and national rights of the Palestinian people.
SUPPORT FOR ISRAEL
None of this could have been done without the assistance of powerful friends. In the beginning, Great Britain played a big part in assisting the Zionist movement achieve its aims and since then the United States has helped to further entrench Zionist policies, despite its self-assigned role as peace broker in the very unequal conflict between Israel and occupied Palestine.
In the United Nations Security Council, the US veto shields Israel from resolutions that condemn Israel’s human rights violations.
The US gives to Israel some $3 billion in direct foreign aid each year as well as military aid. In fact, the US gives more money to Israel than any other country.
WEST BANK, EAST JERUSALEM and GAZA
In the 1967 six-day war, Israel managed to conquer the remaining 22 per cent of historic Palestine – the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem. It resulted in tens of thousands of new Palestinian refugees while others were made refugees for the second time. Israel then proceeded to colonise this newly occupied territory in violation of international law and today we are seeing the result of this systematic policy of colonisation as more than half a million Jews live amongst the Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem.
In order to safeguard this imposed “settler” community from the majority Palestinian population, Israel has built a network of Israeli-only roads that criss-cross the West Bank, many military bases, a massive wall that separates and isolates Palestinian population centres from each other as well as from the outside world and makes sure that the movement of the Palestinian population is severely restricted by several hundred checkpoints dotted all over the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
In Gaza, Israel maintains its occupation by controlling most entry and exit points as well as the coastline and airspace. This tiny enclave of some 1.7 million people has been placed under an Israeli naval blockade that effectively amounts to collective punishment of the entire population.
In effect, Israel is waging “economic warfare” against the people of Gaza. The almost complete restrictions on exports from Gaza have prevented Gazans from growing their economy.
It is this 22 per cent that the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) in 1988 accepted as a significantly reduced Palestinian state after renouncing the 78 per cent held by Israel. It was a major historic and painful compromise for the Palestinians that has never been respected by Israel. Instead, Israel continues to pursue its aggressive colonial venture to take all of the land, whilst herding Palestinians into ever smaller enclosures that has made a sovereign, independent Palestinian state simply impossible.
UNEQUAL WATER DISTRIBUTION
Israel’s control and exploitation of the natural resources has only further added to the extreme hardships faced by the Palestinians. Water is particularly critical because Israel rations Palestinians “to a trickle of water” according to the 2009 Amnesty International report.
Israel has used its illegal occupation of the West Bank to confiscate 90 percent of the water coming from the Palestinian aquifers leaving the Palestinians with a mere 10 per cent of their own water supplies. Some of the largest illegal Israeli settlements have been built over the Western mountain aquifer and the path of Israel’s illegal Wall has been deliberately built to surround and annex this vital water source.
Palestinians area not permitted to drill for new wells and their domestic water use is restricted on a quota basis forcing Palestinians to buy back their own water from the Israeli government-owned Mekorot Water Company at exorbitant prices paying fifteen times more than Israeli consumers.
In the Jordan Valley, which is situated over the Eastern Water Basin and which under international law, mostly belongs to the Palestinians, Israel has isolated and closed to Palestinians 162 agricultural wells while giving access to some 9,000 Israeli settlers.
The Amnesty International report says “In the Gaza Strip, 90 to 95 per cent of the water from its only water resource, the Coastal Aquifer, is contaminated and unfit for human consumption. Yet, Israel does not allow the transfer of water from the Mountain Aquifer in the West Bank to Gaza.
“Stringent restrictions imposed in recent years by Israel on the entry into Gaza of material and equipment necessary for the development and repair of infrastructure have caused further deterioration of the water and sanitation situation in Gaza, which has reached [a] crisis point.”
AGRICULTURAL LANDS LAID WASTE
Israel’s occupation of the West Bank has seen vast amounts of agricultural land destroyed as bulldozers construct the illegal settlements, roads, military bases and the illegal Wall.
Hundreds of thousands of olive trees have been uprooted or burned which has seriously affected the livelihoods of Palestinian families long dependent on olive oil production. Other fruit trees have also been destroyed and even cattle, sheep and poultry have been killed.
Palestinian human rights are being violated every day.
According to a December 2010 Human Rights Watch report entitled Separate and Unequal: Israel’s Discriminatory Treatment of Palestinians in the Occupied Palestinian Territories:
“Palestinians face systematic discrimination merely because of their race, ethnicity, and national origin, depriving them of electricity, water, schools, and access to roads, while nearby Jewish settlers enjoy all of these state-provided benefits… While Israeli settlements flourish, Palestinians under Israeli control live in a time warp — not just separate, not just unequal, but sometimes even pushed off their lands and out of their homes.”
In Israel itself, many remaining Palestinian Bedouin villages are today unrecognised by the Israeli government. As a consequence, they do not receive any essential services such as running water, electricity, sewerage, or access to roads. Israeli forces regularly demolish houses and other structures leaving Palestinians without a roof over their heads. When they rebuild their homes, bulldozers are sent in again to demolish them. This violation of rights to home and safety is repeated on a systematic basis.
Furthermore, Palestinian towns in Israel suffer from severe residential overcrowding and poverty. While the Israeli government allows the establishment of communities for Jews, Palestinians are denied building permits.
As non-Jews, Palestinian citizens of Israel are a marginalised minority. They have no access to state land or any land owned by the Jewish National Fund. Their demand that Israel become a state of all its citizens, threatens the Jewish nature of the state – a fundamental tenet of Zionist ideology.
It is for this reason that Zionist policies continue to subject Palestinians to an institutionalised regime of apartheid and a slow, deliberate ethnic cleansing in their own land.
Australians for Palestine