Once again the conflict in Israel/Palestine has reached the pages of our media and the screens of our TV. As usual this is because it is Jewish Israelis that are the victims of the violence. When Jews in Israel get killed or threatened it is world news. When Palestinians suffer the same fate, our media is strangely silent. Yet it is Palestinians who suffer most of the violence. On an almost daily basis some Palestinians are subjected to violent aggression by Israelis, often resulting in deaths. The aggression by Israelis, whether illegal settlers or the army, is so pervasive and so regular, that it has ceased to be regarded as “news”. Violence of one kind or another against Palestinians is the norm. It is only when there is a massive Israeli invasion of Gaza or as now, when Jewish Israelis are the victims that the rest of the world sits up and takes notice.
Violent attacks against Jewish Israelis should not come as a surprise. What is surprising is that there are so few instances of violence against Jews. After all Palestine is under occupation. And people everywhere tend to resent occupation and try to resist in all ways possible, including the use of violence. Israeli journalist, Noam Sheifaz succinctly sums up the predicament of Palestinians: “The Palestinians are always subject to the violence of the occupation, which is daily as it is arbitrary, while Israelis primarily enjoy quiet and prosperity. The “Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” most of the time, exists for one side and one side only. The Palestinians are prisoners in their own land. They cannot move around freely, they cannot enter and exit their country. Receiving visitors is dependent on the goodwill of the Israeli military regime. The same goes for keeping roads open and building new neighbourhoods and even individual homes. They are entirely dependent on the goodwill of Israel for protection against attacks by Jews, and the Israeli army has never viewed protecting the Palestinian population as part of its mission in controlling the Palestinian territories. They are judged in Israeli military courts, they can be imprisoned without charge or trial, and on and on. And of course, they have no political rights like voting or political representation.”
It cannot be emphasise enough that for Jewish Israelis there is no conflict or violence for most of the time. When they do suffer from a violent outbreak they always blame the Palestinians. Very few Jewish Israelis ever stop to think about why Palestinians resort to violence. If they were to stop and reflect for even a moment they would quickly realise that the root cause of Palestinian resistance and violence is the occupation. To quote Noam Sheifaz again: “We have to remind ourselves over and over and over again: the occupation is the ultimate terrorist infrastructure. One must be especially blind to think that extreme inequality and more than half a century of oppression could bring about any other result.” Both quotes are from a recent article by Sheifaz, Israel still holds all the cards, for the online magazine 972.
The power to end the violence remains with Israel. Only Israel can act to halt settlement building and begin the process of ending the occupation. Alas without outside pressure from the BDS movement this is the one thing that most Israelis are unwilling to do. Much easier to just blame and keep on killing Palestinians.
While most of us in Scotland are engrossed in the small matter of our own independence referendum, we must never loose sight of the struggles of others for justice. Today is one of these days. 15th May is the day when Palestinians worldwide remember with sadness the great Catastrophe (al Nakba) that befell their people in 1948. This was the year of the founding of the state of Israel as a state for Jews. To create a state for Jews the nascent Israel had to indulge in a bit of ethnic cleansing. This they did with gusto and ruthless violence. The residents of whole villages were massacred and around 750,000 Palestinians were expelled from their homes. They have never been allowed to return, against every tenet of international law and UN resolutions. The newly established Israeli state was not content to forcibly and violently expel Palestinians, they then destroyed their villages. Over 500 Palestinian villages were flattened and erased. Israel and its Zionist friends in the west have tried for decades to hide this massive ethnic cleansing from not just Israelis, but from the rest of the world. In this at least they are failing.
The brutal and violent reality behind the creation of Israel has become more and more difficult to deny. Palestinians throughout the world use Nakba Day to remind themselves and the rest of us of what really happened in 1948. Even in Israel itself Nakba Day is forcing more and Israelis to confront their culpability for the crisis facing Palestinians. Jonathon Cook has a very good article on this which you can read here. The tragedy of the Catastrophe of that year is still alas all too alive in Palestine today. Ever since then Israel has used every opportunity to fight wars of aggression against its neighbours, all with aim of securing yet more land for Jewish only settlements. With the whole of Palestine, including East Jerusalem, under Israeli occupation, there is nothing to stop the israeli authorities from continuing to expropriate Palestinian land, to demolish Palestinian housed and to expel Palestinians. The Nakba is a continuing tragic reality for most Palestinians, who can only watch with horror and amazement at how the west remains silent in the face of constant Israeli aggression.
Though it is the Americans who are the current bankrollers of Israel, we must never forget the inglorious role played by the UK in the foundation of Israel. The UK has to bear most of the blame for the current tragedy in Palestine. From the infamous Balfour declaration of 1917, in which the UK promised to give away somebody else’s land to Jews. It is almost incredible that less than a century ago, one of the UK’s most distinguished leaders could blithely and arrogantly sign away the birthright of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians. People who had never done any harm to Britain. Yet in 1917 our great leaders could with a stroke of a pen effectively sign their death warrant. It is most appropriate on Nakba Day for us in Scotland to be reminded not only of the tragedy of Palestinians, but also of the iniquity of the UK. Truly there is nothing “great” in Britain. While we cannot absolve ourselves of what was done in our name a hundred years ago, we can make sure that the aggression and arrogance that lies behind the UK and the Balfour declaration will no longer be a part of the future of Scotland. For an independent and peaceful Palestine and Scotland!