Category Archives: Erasing the physical history of Palestine

The quantum mechanics of Israeli totalitarianism

The quantum mechanics of Israeli totalitarianism

To understand how it feels to be a Palestinian, you need to think like a particle physicist, not a social scientist.

Mark LeVine, Al Jazeera, 7 May 2015

With the coalition government formed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu easily the most ultranationalist and conservative government in Israel’s history, even the most cockeyed optimist would shrink from imagining that Oslo can still be revived, if only the right treatment were concocted.

The problem today is not that anyone but the most self-interested Israeli, Palestinian or US officials still pretends that the peace process is functioning. Rather, it’s that hardly anyone in a position of power can explain precisely when, how and especially why it died. To do so requires moving far more deeply into the dynamics of the endlessly troubled peace process than most policy-makers or commentators are willing to delve, into what I term the “quantum mechanics” underlying Oslo’s fatally flawed structures.

Israel has long claimed uniquely democratic credentials in a region besot with authoritarian regimes.

The unending occupation, the sheer chutzpah with which the Israeli government continues to expand its presence in the West Bank while sieging Gaza, the escalating protests by minorities inside the country’s 1967 borders, and the composition of the new government, all put the lie to such claims today.

Matrix of control

What’s still poorly understood by most non-Palestinians is just how deep the level of control has long been. Even if you’ve spent decades travelling through the West Bank and Gaza, the intensity of that control remains hard to grasp.

As I walked through the Jordan Valley last month near the front-line village of Fasayel, I began to understand how one reason why it’s been so difficult to explain the intensity and all-encompassing scope of Israel’s “matrix of control” over the Occupied Territories is that even its critics don’t use strong enough language to describe it.

Israel is not just an “occupier” or a “coloniser”. However democratic it may (or may not) be inside its 1967 borders, in the Occupied Territories Israel’s rule is nothing short of totalitarian.

In calling Israeli rule totalitarian, I am not arguing that the government mimics the worst policies of thought control and ideological purism practised by the 20th century’s Fascist and Communist states such as Nazi Germany, Stalinist Russia or Maoist China (although Israel’s constant harassment and imprisonment of Palestinian activists does reflect a desire to control how Palestinians think and act, at least publicly).

Rather, I’m talking about a much deeper level of control, at what can only be described as the quantum level of Palestinian daily life.

To understand how it feels to live as a Palestinian today you need to think like a particle physicist, not a social scientist. Moving through the space of Israel/Palestine involves negotiating a host of forces that the average Palestinian has about as much control over as the average electron or proton does of the nuclear and quantum forces determining its path. And it’s through this near total control of the space that Israel is able, in George Orwell’s description of totalitarianism, to “control the past as well as the future”.

Israeli geographer Jeff Halper, founder of the Israeli Committee Against Home Demolitions (ICAHD) coined the “matrix of control” to describe these forces. The name evokes numerous overlapping layers of control, including the physical infrastructure of settlements and their security corridors and zones, bypass roads, closed military areas and even “nature reserves”. The matrix also includes the bureaucratic and legal/planning levels, and the use of large-scale violence and imprisonment to control people’s behaviour and movement.

With its matrix of control, Israel has achieved an unparalleled and uniquely successful synergy of “bio” and “necro”-politics, controlling life and death at most every scale of Palestinian existence. The matrix is continuously adjusted with as much care as Israel has adjusted the caloric intake of Gazans during its periodic intensifications of the Gazan siege.

Three, four and five dimensions

A look at the group of detailed maps created by ICAHD reveals upwards of two dozen parameters of control that can intersect at any given coordinate on the map. But the map is only a two dimensional representation of a multidimensional and multi-levelled reality. It’s not just various forces meeting on the ground. When you’re walking through the 97 percent of the West Bank that is in Areas B or C and thus under Israel security control, you realise that the matrix extends both under the ground you’re walking on and above your head.

Below ground, Israel controls all the water resources in the West Bank, and for 50 years has systematically taken most every possible well, stream, aquifer or other water source from Palestinians (in direct violation of international law, it must be remembered).

It also controls the airspace above Palestinians’ heads, as the constant buzz of Israeli fighter jets training overhead in the Jordan Valley, and the ubiquitous presence of drones and helicopters almost everywhere at any time, and the prohibitions on building new floors on existing structures makes clear.

In whatever direction Palestinians look or want to step or reach – left or right, forwards or backwards, above or below them – the land, air and water surrounding them is largely outside their permanent control.

Blink of an eye

But it is not just that most of their territory is out of Palestinian hands. The quantum physics of Israel’s matrix of control also has its own Heisenberg, or uncertainty principle.

In quantum mechanics this principle asserts that it is impossible to know with precision the exact state of a particle because the very act of observing it changes its state. In the same way, merely by changing their location Palestinians change the state of territory upon which they are moving.

On the one hand, despite the rockiness of the landscape, the geography of the West Bank can be among the most liquid on earth. It changes as one moves through it, depending on who you are – Jew or Palestinian, settler or refusnik, soldier or international. Spaces that seems open and free can suddenly be surrounded by military forces and closed off, declared off limits for any length of time for a variety of reasons merely because Palestinians moved into and through it or used it for grazing, water, or other normal activities.

Moreover, their very movement through the geography can change it not just for a moment, but permanently. At the same time, the uncertainty principle can also operate with a time lag. If Palestinians decide to walk through a Jordan Valley village, for example, or to plant trees on their land in the hills around Hebron or Jenin, it’s not at all uncommon for the Israeli military to issue demolition or confiscation orders a few days later.

In particular, the movement of Jews has an even more profound effect than Palestinians especially when establishing an outpost or settlement. Once land is claimed even on the flimsiest of pretexts the military usually moves in and declares a still larger area a security zone, making it impossible for Palestinians to access the land for months, years or even decades.

And so, it seems that land in Palestine can change states from liquid to solid almost instantly, freezing in place whatever Israel decides it wants frozen, from people to legal categories. The quantum physics of Palestinian geography can thus produce permanent changes not just in the three normal dimensions of space, but in the conflict’s “fourth dimension” as well, namely time.

But however many dimensions one considers, the goal remains the same: to achieve, in the words of the Palestinian-Israeli hip-hop group DAM, “Maximum Jews on maximum land; minimum Arabs on minimum land.”

Neoliberal policies

There is even a fifth, economic dimension in which the physics of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict operates. The neoliberal policies imposed on the Occupied Territories under Oslo have ensured that when Palestinians aren’t being displaced by Israeli settlers or bombs, they are fixed in place as objects of development, whose economic life is confined to small spaces that remain largely under Israeli control. The possibility of their becoming subjects able to shape their own destinies is, it seems, outside the laws of physics operating in the Holy Land.

It is the changeling nature of the political, physical and economic geographies of the Israeli-controlled Occupied Territories that has made it so difficult for Palestinians and their supporters internationally (including in Israel) to develop effective strategies of resistance, nevermind transcending the occupation.

With Oslo’s final demise, Palestinians don’t just need new strategies for resisting an occupation without end; what’s needed is an entirely new physics as well.

Indeed, it has long been argued that Palestinians are still waiting for their Ghandi. It might well turn out that to overcome decades of totalitarian Israeli rule, a long-dead peace process, and ineptitude, corruption and authoritarianism internally, Einstein would be a far more useful figure.

Mark LeVine is a professor of Middle Eastern History at University of California, Irvine, and a Distinguished Visiting Professor at Lund University.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial policy.
Source: Al Jazeera

Israel’s road signs policy ‘erases memory of place’
Israel’s road signs policy ‘erases memory of place’

In some areas, street signs only indicate the nearest Israeli settlements.

Rania Zabaneh, Dalia Hatuqa |  Al Jazeera, 04 Feb 2015

Ramallah, West Bank – Just outside of Ramallah, on the edge of the main West Bank north-south artery known as Road 60, a large green road sign is hard to miss. It indicates that the Israeli settlements of Kokhav Yaakov and Geva Binyamin are nine kilometres to the south, while Pesagot is another 13km away.

Just south are the Palestinian villages of Deir Dibwan, Burqa, Mikhmas and Jaba – but they are not mentioned on any of the major signs on the highway. This is a situation replicated across the West Bank, where approximately 150 settlements peppering the higher elevations are connected by a network of roads.

A United Nations report said this network is “primarily for Israeli use that specifically link West Bank settlements to each other and to Israel … Palestinian access on to this network is restricted by a closure regime consisting of … checkpoints, roadblocks and a permit system for Palestinian vehicles.”

Israeli authorities have long banned the Palestinian Authority (PA) from putting up its own road signs that refer to Palestinian towns and villages. This is true mostly for population centres in Area C, the more than 60 percent of the West Bank under Israeli administrative and security control.

The Israeli Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories said: “The matter is being checked and addressed.” COGAT is an Israeli defence ministry unit that encompasses the Civil Administration, the Israeli governing body in the West Bank.

On an intersection on a two-lane highway in the northern West Bank, cars, lorries and taxis whiz by, travelling to various destinations. But it is difficult for Palestinian travellers here to pinpoint where they are; street signs only indicate where the nearest Israeli settlements are.

“We normally know this street as the ‘Yitzhar line’,” said one truck driver, referring to the settlement thrust in the heart of three Palestinian villages; Burin, Madama and Asira al-Qibliyeh. “We are between Qalqiliya and Huwara. There isn’t anything to indicate where Nablus or Qalqiliya are except Yitzhar.”

Not only are the proper names of Palestinian locales – in either Arabic, English or Hebrew – often absent from street signs, but in some cases, even the Arabic spelling of Hebrew names has been painted over or erased.

“We got used to the Hebrew name of the area because there are no other signs,” one taxi driver told Al Jazeera. Another added: “We have a hard time getting to places. We have to ask for directions the whole time.”

In 2009, the PA kick-started a US-funded project to install road signs in Arabic and English script. The $20m project was expected to last four years. However, about half of the signs were not erected because of Israeli opposition, and the project was subsequently shelved.

“Israel does not allow us to erect street signs, especially on main streets and bypass roads in Area C,” Mohammad Jabarin, the deputy minister of local government, told Al Jazeera. “We managed to put up signs inside Palestinian population centres, but not outside.”

That has not made it easier for Palestinians to navigate their way through the West Bank, carved up by a matrix of Israeli infrastructural obstacles, including the separation wall, about 100 fixed checkpoints, concrete blocks, and earth mounds.

Critics contend that the Israeli military occupation has not only effectively changed the landscape, but also affected Palestinian memory “through visual and linguistic manipulation.”

“Perceived as mundane and experienced as mere informative images, innocent and indisputable, road signs can constitute part of a highly invested political strategy for producing a linguistic landscape,” wrote Liora Bigon and Amer Dahamshe, who studied Israeli road-sign policy.

Others say the presence of Israeli military infrastructure has affected Palestinians’ usage. Places like Qalandiya, the name of a West Bank refugee camp, are now synonymous with the checkpoints thrust in their midst.

“The most imminent danger is when the colonial terms are used by individuals under occupation,” said Abaher el-Sakka, a professor of social sciences at Birzeit University.

Another danger, according to Sakka, is “erasing the memory of the place, connected to the original owners of the land, by using names that serve the interests of the colonisers, and this means the ultimate success of the colonial project”.

Sakka’s fears do not seem to be inflated: Many drivers on the “Yitzhar line” could not name the nearby Palestinian villages where the settlement was built. “There’s no Arabic name for this area,” said one taxi driver. “There’s an Arab village here, but I can’t remember its name, because there are only Hebrew signs.”

Source: Al Jazeera

The Taste of Mulberries

The following beautiful texts are taken from the book “Israel, an Apartheid State” by Uri Davis, Zed Books Ltd, 1987.

Prolegomena: The Taste of Mulberries

by Havah ha- Levi

(a) The Female Snake

Someone said something about Tantura…1

Soft hills rolled silently into each other’s embrace [towards the beach] and right on the edge of the hills there was a dense plantation of low palm trees clustered on the beach. A scenery of soft and misty dream. Only the feeling of nausea returns to trouble me.

At a short distance from the cluster of palms there was a group of empty houses.

Some of them were slightly damaged, but generally, the houses were intact and beautiful. Everything [about the houses] was very neglected, empty and filthy. A few ancient shoes exposed their seams along the footpath. There in the deserted village of Tantura the kibbutz set up the summer camp for its children.

The houses were cleaned up. A large long tent was erected to serve as a dining hall. The place was a paradise for children.

I remember the heat of the scorching sun over my tanned skin. The salt taste of the sea water. The swimming competitions. The beautiful and quiet beach. And thirty or forty happy children. Really happy.

And yet I listen to my memories. I try to redraw the lines that chart my memory.

There are things that already had their beginning in another place.

There were these half scornful sentences, such as: if the Arabs come, they will steal you first. You are blonde and the Arabs like blonde girls; if the Arabs come, they will see your golden head in the dark and will steal you first. They will think perhaps that it is a ball of gold; here is an Arab shoe. Such sentences …

Towards the end, two days before the conclusion of the summer camp, they asked who wanted to go on a tour and listen to Motke telling stories about the conquest of Tantura. I went, too.

We went into the cluster of palms, and the leader of the summer camp, a nice jovial kibbutznik who evidently loved children, was already there telling something. I lagged behind as usual. I walked along daydreaming and slightly bored. When I eventually caught up with the group, they were all standing near a large house which had perhaps originally been situated at the edge of the village, and I remember the words: ‘We attacked at both ends. Most of them had already run away. Suddenly a huge Arab came out behind this house and began to run. I shot him, and he jumped in the air like a rabbit, turned a somersault and fell’.

Even today I do not know whether this was a factual description of what had happened. But at our place, they used to say that if you kill a snake, you should throw it away or hide it, because if it is left exposed, all the snakes (the family? the tribe?) will come to the place to look for it and this could be very dangerous. And that if you kill a bee that has stung you, it is likewise necessary to throw it away or hide it, since otherwise all the bees will come there after its smell. And that if you kill a lion, the lioness will always come to search for it.

And then, suddenly, together with the Arab, shot in the air with his white kufiyya and black agal, all the Arabs who had lived there in these houses, who had worn those shoes now discarded on the footpaths, the children who had run about naked on the beach, the fat, erect women who had carried the jars on top of their heads… they all came out suddenly in my imagination to look for him. I recalled the warning not to leave the corpse of the snake in the place where it had been killed because the female snake will come to look for it and I turned to look behind me, terrified. There was nothing there. Only the beautiful houses and the sea. A bit angry and a bit curious, I thought about this bad Arab who had come to attack our soldiers. I thought he had deserved to die like that, yet he did not seem to have been dangerous when he was shot there in the air, like a rabbit. I wanted to know if he was from this village, or from another place.

We returned to the beach and ate a water melon. I wanted to have the ‘heart’ of the water melon, but I never got it because I always arrived late. Everything lost its taste. I told my friend: Mira, I am already fed up with this summer camp. I want to go back home.

She looked at me surprised, beautiful, suntanned: ‘Why?’

(b) The Taste of Mulberries

The name of the villages was Sarkas, which probably refers to the former origin of its inhabitants, Circassians, who came, I would not know how, to the Middle East and settled here.2Anyway, when I came to know the village, all of its inhabitants were Palestinian Arabs. In fact, I never came to know the village properly; I was never there, though this is only half the truth, and I shall return to that later.

In our eyes, the eyes of children four or five years old, the village was represented by two women: Khadija and Hanifa. Maybe they were more courageous than the rest, or maybe they served as something like the ‘Foreign Office’ of the village. They often walked about in the kibbutz, and as far as I can remember they were mainly preoccupied with the picking of khubeiza (mallow) leaves which grew in wild abundance along the roadside. When we asked why they pick the khubeiza, we were told that the Arabs cook the leaves and eat them. And so, the first thing lever knew about Arabs was that they eat khubeiza. I also knew, of course, that they ride on camels, since the camels used to pass through the kibbutz and occasionally camp there; I knew that they ride on donkeys along the white road which probably stretches up to the very end of the world. But at that time there were also in the area British soldiers (the Mandate) and Australian soldiers (World War II), and thus it was imbedded in my consciousness that Eretz Israel3 consists of us, as well as passers by: Arabs, British, Australians …

About that time they all disappeared, and I really did not notice their disappearance all that much. Of course, the departure of the British was accompanied by much talk on the radio and in the yard of the kibbutz. But as to the fact that Khadija and Hanifa ceased to show up – well, there are many events that pass through the universe of any child, and he or she accepts their appearance os well as their disappearance as a matter of fact. Later, I came to know that the village had been destroyed by bulldozers, and I was a little scared. And then I forgot, und many years passed be fore Sarkas again emerged before my eyes as a place where people lived.

The destroyed village was made into the kibbutz garbage dump. I do not know who was the first to discover that in the midst of the ruins and the dust und the stench there remained a mulberry tree. A huge mulberry tree, which, In summer, produced huge mulberries: black and deliciously sweet. The mulberry trees in the kibbutz were grown on much water and their fruit was therefore somewhat watery, and anyway they were much too high to climb. But this mulberry tree was low, spreading wide, and heavily laden with fruit, to the deep delight of a little girl who was rather quiet and clumsy and who loved mulberries. And thus, every Saturday we would go on pilgrimage to the mulberry tree, stand around it for hours and eat of its fruit and return home with hands and faces blackened by the dark dye of mulberry sap. Never, not once, while standing there among the ruins and the dust under the scathing sun did we talk or think of the inhabitants of Sarkas who lived here: where are they? Where did they go? Why?

From the distance of fifteen years of difficult political development, I watch this group of children devouring mulberries in the midst of a destroyed village, and I just cannot comprehend: how? Wherefrom this utter blindness?

For many years I would walk on Saturdays to Sarkas. At times with company. At times alone. Now Sarkas was no longer embodied in Khadija and Hanifa. Now Sarkas was reduced to the stench of the kibbutz garbage dump and the mulberries In summer. On either side of the road to Sarkas there were sabr cacti hedgerows along all roads, but today they have all disappeared, except in books and in Arab villages, where they still remain. In summer the sabr would bring forth their fruit, and raise masses of tiny red and orange flags glued to their rounded green flagpoles in a summer festival. And when the sabr fruit was ripe, the Arab women would appear out of nowhere, fill their big tin containers with the red and orange fruit and walk away. Today I remember these Arab women and I ask myself: where did they come from? Who were they? Were they exiled inhabitants of the of the village? And in the evening, when they eat the fruit that they had gathered or when they sell it at the roadside, do they feel the taste of their lost homes?

But at that time I did not think of them in the least. The Arabs were something whose temporary provisional existence was eternal. They pass along the white mild on a donkey-cart, emerging out of somewhere and going on to somewhere else, Only once, for some reason … There was a big scout night game, a sort of test of courage. I hid behind the sabr hedgerows and waited for my pursuers to pass by. I sat there in the dark for a long time, quietly. I was not afraid. And all of a sudden they were with me. The women of Sarkas. The women who pick khubeiza along the roadside. The women with the long knives who steal wheat from the fields of the kibbutz. The women with the water cans and the bundles of dry wood on their heads. Slowly, slowly, they slipped by on their bare feet, black and silent. Their round outline, like the sabr cacti leaves, merged with the darkness around, silent.

Today there stands on the site a huge plant for the processing of agricultural products. An exemplary cooperative venture. And the hill? The hill of the village of Sarkas, where is it? The entire area was levelled down, and around the huge factory orange groves were planted, and there is not one single cut stone left as testimony. Yet, I remember. I testify.

In 1961, a very young woman from kibbutz Giv’at ha-Sheloshah married an Arab youth who was employed in her kibbutz. The kibbutz refused to allow them to remain there, and they applied to join ‘my’ kibbutz. The debate on whether they are to be admitted or whether they are not to be admitted extended over one and a half years and shook the kibbutz in a way that no other subject ever did, either before or since. The debate cut across families, and brought sons to rebel against their parents, brothers against brothers and husbands against wives. The leadership of the Ha-Shomer ha-Tza’ir kibbutz federation was called to present its position (opposed), and threats of leaving the kibbutz on this matter were voiced in both camps. In the end, the ‘mixed couple’ was not admitted to the kibbutz. Both camps were already tired of endless debates and rows. In a bitter discussion which I (who supported their admission) had with one of the leading opponents he told me: ‘Do you know that Rashid is a son of the village of Sarkas? Do you think he can live here, raise his children here and always see across the street the hill which was his village, and not think anything?’

At that moment, together with the scorching sun and the dust, I felt in my mouth the taste of the mulberries, and I understood what homeland means, and also, for the first time, vaguely and at a distance and a little bit afraid, I understood that this homeland, the homeland of the songs and of school textbooks, is simply just the taste of mulberries, and the smell of dust, and the moist earth in winter, and the colour of the sky, and that it is a homeland not only for me, but also for Rashid Masarwa. At that very moment, in the midst of the heated discussion, the taste of mulberries and the shock, I remembered one fearful memory.

It was towards the end of the 1948 war, after we had won the war and defeated the Arab armies and had a state of our own. We were lying in bed. Eight children in the children’s house. It was night. From the distance we heard the heavy and rumbling noise. It was not very far away, but one could clearly hear that the noise did not come from inside the kibbutz. And the noise went on and on and on. I asked what this protracted and continuous noise was, and one of the children told me that two kibbutz members had gone with bulldozers to Sarkas to destroy the houses of the Arabs. In real fear of Arab revenge I asked: ‘But what will the Arabs do when they come back and see that we have destroyed their homes?’ And he then answered: ‘That is why we destroy their homes, so that they do not come back’.

I then knew that the matter was lost. The home of Rashid was destroyed then so that he would not return. So that he, his mother in the long black robe who walks erect with the bundle of wood magnificently balanced on her head, and all his brothers and sisters who run barefoot on the stones would not return. And also now they will not let him come back.

In December 1972, the entire country was shaken with what was dubbed in the press as the ‘affair of the espionage and sabotage network’. Some thirty Arab youths and six Jewish youths, Israelis, were arrested on charges of forming a ‘sabotage organization’, operated by Syrian intelligence, whose object was ‘to damage the security of the state’. One of the Jewish detainees, a youth aged 26, was a son of my kibbutz. Another detainee from the Arab village of Jatt, was a youth named Mahmud Masarwa. In his defence speech he stated as follows:

The Honourable Court, Your Honourable Judges,

My father was born in the village of Sarkas, near kibbutz .. , in the vicinity of Haderah. My father was the son of a peasant. In 1948, he was removed from his land, expelled by force. Their lands were confiscated. Their homes were destroyed. On the site a factory for the kibbutz was built. My father was compelled to go out and seek work as a labourer in order to feed … [his family]. We went to live in such a tiny house: twelve people in the space of metres times 3 metres. In 1957, I remember this quite well, one year after the Sinai war, my father told me and my brother who sits here [in the court room]: ‘Go out to work in order that you at least help me to finance your studies .. .’ (Quoted from the official Protocol of the court proceedings.)

‘My brother who sits here in the court room!’

His brother who sat there was Rashid Masarwa who, in 1961, applied to be admitted to the kibbutz together with his Jewish wife. It was Rashid Masarwa who told the members of the kibbutz:

I want to live here as a loyal kibbutz member like everyone else, but I want my children to know that their father is an Arab, and I want my children to know the Quran, and I want them to celebrate all the Jewish holidays, but also know what Ramadan is, and that their grandfather and grandmother will come to visit them here in the kibbutz, and that my children will also go to the village to be with their grandfather and grandmother in the holidays.

Now he is sitting here, Rashid Masarwa, and watches his brother being sentenced for wanting to take by the force of arms what he himself had hoped to gain by application and consent, and all the brotherhood among the nations in the world could not be of any avail to them.

In the Ramleh central prison the son of the dispossessing kibbutz und the son of the dispossessed village met again. Only one youth, one Udi Adiv, from that kibbutz. resolved in his mind to cross the road. But the world has no space to accommodate the naive.

And if prisoners in jail do dream – both prisoners, no doubt, see in their dreams the colour of the sky, and perhaps they also savour the taste of mulberries.

1 Tantura is a Palestinian Arab village on the Mediterranean coast, some 13 km north of Caesaria. In 1944 its population was estimated at 1,470 Muslim and 20 Christian inhabitants. It was occupied by the Israeli army in 1948 and subsequently almost completely destroyed. All of its inhabitants were expelled and made refugees. The lands of the Palestinian Arab village of Tantura are now cultivated by the Israeli Jewish kibbutz Nahsholim (established 1948; population 350; area of cultivation 1,500 dunams). [Footnote probably by Uri Davis]

2 After the Russian conquest of Circassia from the Ottomans in 1878, many Circassian clans and families loyal to the Ottoman regime emigrated to various countries throughout the Ottoman empire. The Ottoman Sultan Abd al-Hamid extended his support to the Circassian resettlement and made lands available to them in Palestine, inter alia, where there are two Circassian villages, Kufr Qama in Lower Galilee and Rihaniyya in Upper Galilee. The attempt to settle Circassians in the Northern Sharon, in the northern coastal plain, where they established the village of Sarkas failed, and the original Circassian inhabitants were gradually replaced by native Palestinian Arabs. In 1947 the village population totalled some 400 inhabitants. [Footnote probably by Uri Davis]

3 The Hebrew designation of historical Palestine.


Eliminating the Palestinians as a political entity

Eliminating the Palestinians as a political entity

The government is intent on destroying every political entity in the West Bank and turning the Palestinians into a marginalized, fragmented people.

By Yitzhak Laor | 05:28 11.07.14 | 1

Israel’s policies in the West Bank are turning the Palestinian people, at best, into a fragmented, marginalized people deprived of their rights. Photo by AFP
In the midst of events, with all the TV commotion enveloping the current crisis, one tends to forget the crux of the matter, the continuous chain linking it to previous steps – the foiling of negotiations with the Palestinians, refusal to release prisoners as agreed upon, incitement against their unity government and the expansion of settlements.

All of these are part of this right-wing government’s plan to destroy any political entity in the occupied territories, turning the Palestinian people, at best, into a fragmented, marginalized people deprived of their rights.

The conflict is costing little Jewish blood but much Arab blood. In any event, in the absence of significant opposition, Israel is intent on inheriting it all – as few Palestinians as possible, with maximal destruction, despair, poverty and real estate.

The Oslo Accords, with their implicit assent to the settlements, were signed by Israel after 25 years of occupation to the backdrop of the collapse of the Soviet Union, which temporarily left the United States as the sole power in the region. Now, with the gradual disengagement of Washington, the right-wing government and its satellites are planning to rescind not only the Oslo Accords, but to abolish any political entity in Palestine.

This is the strategy carried out by the IDF in its “inter-war campaign.” It calls for a crisis from time to time, a Palestinian yearning for freedom, a few Israeli deaths with some grieving and much unity, with a drive to further break the Palestinians, in the name of deterrence or the Zionist vision. And what if Jihadists arise there on the ruins of the popular resistance movements? Very good! This will only further serve our territorial greed.

The blood is always the blood of innocents. The objective is always to maximize the opportunities for expansion with no internal dissent.

That is how the current crisis began – two youths and a young man were abducted in the occupied territories by terrorists, who come from the occupied nation. These facts were known from the outset, and apparently there was no reason for us to “unite as one nation, regardless of left or right.” We don’t go into around-the-clock televised mode when Israeli hikers disappear in Chile. We don’t gather around in a national grief session when a whole family is wiped out in a traffic accident on the Arava road. Only when it comes to the occupation – in which case a brutal murder is much more effective than a land mine – do we turn into a proud and tearful nation.

The State of Israel is the best military mobilizing officer in the democratic world. Every such crisis is exploited in order to turn the masses into a furious mob, while expanding destruction in the territories. At the head of the mob always appears the fascist leader of the moment, prepared to stoke the flames. This is how we got Ariel Sharon after his visit to the Temple Mount. Avigdor Lieberman acquired his national stature during the bloodbath of Operation Cast Lead in Gaza in December 2008. Now, he and others are vying for the next achievement in the incitement campaign against Israel’s Arab citizens.

It’s a pity that of all times, it is during a crisis, such as during the search for the abducted teens, that the Israeli left stutters. Some among them obediently stand to attention, not comprehending what is actually transpiring in the occupied territories. Some of them actually explained that they would temporarily join the herd, emerging strengthened, since the herd will have sympathized with them. But the herd always smells blood, or reeks of it. Even when it is bloodied itself it will not reverse direction since there is no external force – an organized left that retains memories of past circumstances – that will hit again and again, saying: “Remember what we said? It’s the occupation!”

Gone are the days of street demonstrations attended by both Arabs and Jews, which ceased with “Cast Lead.” Up until the kidnapping crisis people here were occupied with MK Meir Shitreet’s housekeeper and her hush money. This was – for those who need reminding – during the hunger strike staged by administrative detainees. The silence continued during the search for the bodies, the mass arrests, the breaking into Palestinian homes and the torture.

Benjamin Netanyahu is not lying when he casts blame on the Palestinians. They are still there, and hence, as far as he is concerned, they pose an obstacle to peace. We are in the midst of a colonial story. Not the oppression of a nation but its elimination as a political entity. No opposition agenda can bypass this truth.

Israeli bill aims at divide Palestinians along confessional lines

Israeli bill distinguishes Christians from 1948 Palestinians

By: Yazan al-Saadi
Published February 25, 2014
A Greek orthodox priest guards a chapel built inside the Orthodox Christian monastery of the Temptation near the West Bank city of Jericho, on February 22, 2014. (Photo: AFP- Thomas Coex)
Israel’s legislative branch, known as the Knesset, passed a controversial bill into law that defines 1948 Christians Palestinians as “non-Arabs”, Israeli media reported.
The new law – passed on Monday with a vote of 31 in favor and 6 against – for the first time differentiates Christian Palestinians from the rest of the Palestinian community, who had survived the 1947-48 ethnic cleansing by Zionist forces, and remained within the 1948 territories.

“This is a historic law. It’s the first time there is separate representation for Christians,” Likud Beytenu coalition chairman Yariv Levin, who proposed the bill, was quoted by the Israeli press prior to the the vote.

“Soon we’ll expand on this and give [Christians] all the separate representation they deserve,” he added.
Previously, Levin justified the bill as “an important, historic step that could introduce balance to the State of Israel, and connect us [Jews] with the Christians, I am careful not to refer to them as Arabs, because they are not Arabs.”

“The community in 1948 will not remain quiet. This is a major move by the forces of occupation and colonization, and there will be mobilizations just like how we saw the creation and continuation of Land Day protests within 1948 lands. We will see protests in the future.”

“We and the Christians have a lot in common. They’re our natural allies, a counterweight to the Muslims that want to destroy the country from within… We will use an iron hand and demonstrate zero tolerance of Arabs who tend to identify with the terror of the Palestinian state,” he added.

According to reports, the law will enforce a separate representation on the Advisory Committee for Equal Opportunity within the Employment Commission, by extending the number of panel members to ten, adding specific seats for the ultra-Orthodox, Druze, Christian, Circassian populations, and others.
‘Palestinian Christians are Arabs’
CIA statistics put the Arab Christian population living in Occupied Palestine at around 123,000. These people will be directly affected by the new law.

Arab members of the Knesset unanimously condemned the bill as a “racist” act and a “divide-and-conquer” tactic.

“Colonialists try to separate groups of natives. The prime example of this is South Africa,” MK Hanin Zoabi of the Arab political party, Balad, reportedly said to the media after the vote.

“We are the natives here and we have a clear identity, [we] are Palestinians, part of the Arab nation, and your law will fail. Part of the Zionist project is to oppress our identity, but I have the right to speak in the name of Palestinians.”

Khalid Musmar, an official for the Palestinian National Council, told Al-Akhbar,“The Palestinian Christian community will rebuke this before anyone else. The Palestinian Christians are Arab despite the wishes of anyone in the Knesset or otherwise.”

“They have always said they were Arabs and have fought side-by-side with their Muslim brethren, from the times of the Crusades to today. The Palestinian community, in all it’s colors and creeds, is a unified Arab community confronting occupation. They are struggling for a Palestinian nation with Jerusalem as it’s capital. This will not change by the acts of Knesset or anyone else,” the official said.

“The community in 1948 will not remain quiet. This is a major move by the forces of occupation and colonization, and there will be mobilizations just like how we saw the creation and continuation of Land Day protests within 1948 lands. We will see protests in the future.”
“If [Israel] wants to do right to the Palestinians in general and Christians in particular,” said Jumana, from the Galilee region of northern occupied Palestine, during a separate conversation with Al-Akhbar, “let them approve the return of the refugees and internally displaced Palestinians from the two Christian villages of Ekrith and Birem, who already have a court ruling allowing them to return to their destroyed villages.”

She added that this law comes at a time when “the government is attempting to make the drafting to the Israeli Army obligatory to Palestinian Christians, [and] this is completely not acceptable, since this is their way of dividing the Palestinian minority and fragmenting the community as a whole.”

In a similar vein, a 1948 Palestinian Christian from Nazareth, who requested anonymity due to the sensitivity of the matter, told Al-Akhbar, “I think [Levin’s comments] are outrageous and untrue. It is part of Israel’s broader attempt to segment and fragmentize the Palestinian community from one another inside Israel. Other examples of this are with the Bedouins and the Druze, and this is part of [Israel’s] attempt to break up what is a cohesive community. It won’t work.”

“I see myself as an Arab and so do other Palestinian Christians. [Levin’s] logic only reaffirms the agenda to separate and break-up minorities within minorities,” she added.

“There should be more representation of Palestinians in Israel in general. Christian Palestinians are just as repressed as Muslims.”

Tribunal Issues Landmark Verdict against Israel for Genocide

Tribunal Issues Landmark Verdict against Israel for Genocide

Analysis and Opinion

Global Research, December 01, 2013

To a crowded courtroom on the late afternoon of November 25, presiding Judge Lamin Mohd Yunus announced the verdict by an international panel of seven jurists:

“The Tribunal is satisfied, beyond reasonable doubt, that the first defendant, (General) Amos Yaron, is guilty of crimes against humanity and genocide, and the second defendant, the State of Israel, is guilty of genocide.”

The landmark ruling against Israel for its genocide against the Palestinian people rendered by the Kuala Lumpur War Crimes Tribunal is significant for several reasons:

–          In contrast to other non-official courts of conscience on Palestinian rights, for example, the Russell Tribunal on Palestine (New York 2012), the prosecution in Kuala Lumpur took a step beyond war crimes and crimes against humanity to the higher and broader charge of genocide.

–          The decision was rendered during the ongoing commission of the alleged crime by the defendant, rather than after the fact as in earlier genocide cases.

–          Instead of limiting its ruling to individuals who ordered genocidal actions, the jurists also charged the state as a defendant.

–          As a consequence, this case breaks the tradition of immunity of nation-states from criminal prosecution under international law.

–          The decision introduces a legal basis for international action to protect minorities from genocide as a lawful alternative to the current response of so-called humanitarian intervention, invasion, occupation and regime change, which have often been as illegitimate and more destructive, and in some cases as genocidal as the original violation being punished.

 The Kuala Lumpur Tribunal based its momentous decision on the 1948 Genocide Convention, which prohibits and punishes the killing, causing of harm and deliberate infliction of conditions of life calculated to bring about the physical destruction of a group of people, targeted for their ethnicity, religion or race. In instances of genocide, these criminal acts are done with the specific intent of destroying as a part or in whole of the targeted group, as in this plight the Palestinian people.

The defendants, Gen. Yaron and the Israeli State , through its representatives, refused to accept the Tribunal summons and appear in court.

Prominent Israeli legal scholars also refused invitations to serve as defense counsel. The Tribunal therefore appointed an Amicus Curae (defense counsel, referred to by the Latin term for “friends of the court”), including attorneys Jason Kay Kit Leon, Larissa Cadd, Dr. Rohimi Shapiee and Matthew Witbrodt, to defend the accused. Even absent Israeli participation, the defense proved to be forceful and often made heated remarks in Israel’s defense, especially during the cross-examinations of expert witnesses.

Why Not New York , London , Paris or Berlin

One point to note is that the sponsoring Kuala Lumpur Commission on War Crimes and its associated international Tribunal is unrelated to Malaysia and its legal system, aside from the participation of some Malaysian jurists and citizens in its proceedings. Malaysian laws are in many areas quite different from and sometimes in diametric opposition to the legal opinions of the international Tribunal. The independence of this “court of conscience” allows an approach to international law unconstrained by local norms, but this also means that the Tribunal lacks an enforcement capability.

That the first-ever Tribunal to prosecute Israel for genocide was initiated in Southeast Asia offers some indication of the continuing sensitivity within the traditional “center” of international law, Western Europe and North America, toward the circumstances behind Israel’s creation.

The Kuala Lumpur proceedings are bound to raise controversy and discomfort, especially among a reluctant West, since the historical motive behind creating a modern Jewish state in 1948 was largely a response to the abandonment of European Jewry to the pogroms and extermination program of the Third Reich, which in its early stages went unopposed by Western governments and prominent opinion leaders in the Atlantic community.

The courage to finally confront Israel after nearly seven decades of eviction and merciless brutality against the Palestinian people was summoned not by the Atlantic community but in faraway Southeast Asia , where a law case could be pursued with critical distance, logical dispassion and an absence of historical complicity. In short, an evidence-based fair trial found Israel to be guilty of genocide.

Why Israel

Why then was Israel singled out by the Kuala Lumpur War Crimes Commission on genocide charges before its Tribunal, when many other states have gone unpunished? Chief prosecutor Gurdial Singh explained:

“Other settler states, for example Australia, have offered compensation and apologized for the dispossession and harm to their indigenous populations, while Israel remains unapologetic and continues its campaign of destruction against Palestinians and to make their conditions unlivable inside and outside its borders.”

In contrast with previous special courts involving genocide charges, this Tribunal left the time frame of events open-ended, by starting just before the creation of the State of Israel until the present and, presumably, into the future until Israel ceases its expansionist campaign against the Palestinians and offers instead justice and reconciliation. By comparison in prior cases invoking the Genocide Convention, including those against former Yugoslavia, Rwanda, Cambodia and Sierra Leone, the mass killings of civilians were perpetrated within a short time-frame by political leaders of the then-governing regime or by a major political faction.

The Kuala Lumpur Tribunal asserted that the modern Jewish state, in contrast to other cases, had since even before its inception pursued a genocidal program as a consistent feature and indeed a foundation of state policy. Therefore, genocide in the Israeli case cannot be solely attributed as the isolated action of a leader, political party or elected government but remains the responsibility of the state itself.

Genocide as Response

The specific intent of Israeli state policy, since even before the founding of Israel, was discussed in a live-video transmission by expert witness Ilan Pappe, an Israeli historian at University of Exeter in the UK and the director of the European Centre for Palestine Studies. His research has revealed that a planning group of top-ranking Jewish military leaders in the Haganah militia, led by David Ben Gurion (who later became Israel’s first prime minister) devised an ethnic-cleansing program to rid the future Israel of its Arab predecessors. Called Plan Dalet (the letter “D” indicating the fourth plan of a colonialist agenda) was to be activated as soon as the British suspended the Palestine Mandate.

With the declaration of Israeli statehood in 1948, a coordinated armed campaign by Israeli military forces and paramilitary units against hundreds of Palestinian urban neighborhoods and rural villages led to the flight of an estimated 700,000 refugees from Palestine and parts of neighboring Trans-Jordan, including Jerusalem . Although the Israeli intent was intended to intimidate the Palestinians into relocating outside the borders, but before long village populations that refused to flee were mass murdered.

The forcible deportation of indigenous inhabitants from their homes and land was a criminal act of ethnic cleansing, Pappe said. That policy, however, soon metamorphosed into a systematic campaign to destroy Palestinians, that is, genocide. Under cross-examination by defense team, the historian explained, that as an Israeli citizen and son of Jewish refugees who escaped Nazi-ruled Germany , it is morally, ethically and historically inconsistent to condemn the genocide against Jews while endorsing a new one against Palestinians.

 Cumulative Record of Crimes

The Israeli record of massacres, extrajudicial killings and daily harassment of Palestinian comprises a continuum of criminal behavior over the past 67 years. Given the overwhelming evidence, the prosecution team therefore decided to focus on key cases, which were extensively reported in the news media and/or were subject of investigations. These included:

–          the September 1982 massacre of Palestinians, mainly women and children, at the Sabra and Shatilla refugee camps in a southwest district of Beirut, Lebanon;

–          lethal firing of teargas canisters and “rubber” bullets by Israeli Defense Forces that resulted in the deaths of unarmed civilians during the Intifada campaigns and subsequent protests; and

–          intensive and indiscriminate aerial bombing and artillery shelling of civilian quarters in the Gaza Strip in 2008.

  Among the witnesses who testified in person or via video transmission included:

–          a former university student who was shot without warning at a peaceful protest by an Israeli sniper firing a fragmentary bullet that caused extensive and permanent damage to his internal organs;

–          a Christian resident of the West Bank who was repeatedly imprisoned and tortured on grounds of subversion;

–          a female resident of Nablus who suffered mental anxiety due to her imprisonment and subsequent social ostracism; and

–          two men from the Al Sammouni clan of Gaza, which lost 21 family members, mainly children and women, in an Israeli commando raid on their home.

–          a Palestinian physician who conducted studies on the psychological trauma inflicted, particularly on children, as result of constant intimidation, massive violence and state terror during and following the second Intifada;

–          Expert witness Paola Manduca, an Italian chemist and toxicologist, who found extreme levels of toxic contamination of the soil and water across the Gaza Strip caused by Israeli weapons made of heavy metals and cancer-causing compounds.

 Killing Fields

Professor Pappe said that the mass killing of defenseless civilians trapped without avenues of escape within a cordon or enclosure is clear evidence of genocidal policy, as happened inside the Beirut refugee camps surrounded by Israeli tanks and hostile Phalangist militiamen and inside Gaza cities that are ringed by a wall-fence.

For the Beirut atrocity, Israeli Defense Force commander General Amos Yaron was charged in absentia for crimes against humanity and genocide. Among the witnesses who testified in person on the Camps Sabra and Shatilla events were:

–          Chahira Abouardini, a widow whose husband and three children were murdered by Israeli-allied militiamen at Camp Shatilla, provided a graphic account of the carnage, describing piles of bullet-riddled bodies and, in one case, of a pregnant women whose belly had been slit open and with her dead unborn child left on top of her corpse. She recounted how refugees were rounded up from their homes and lined against walls for summary execution by automatic weapons fire.-

–          Dr. Ang Swee Chai, a London-based Singaporean surgeon and medical volunteer at the time at a hospital run by the Palestinian Red Crescent Society, with the aid of the International Committee of the Red Cross, testified that another Beirut hospital had been bombed by Israeli jets, all Palestinian facilities including schools and hospitals were deliberately destroyed by artillery barrages and explosive charges, and ambulances were intercepted and their drivers shot dead. She stated that an Israeli observation post positioned in the 7-storey Kuwaiti Embassy, located on a hilltop, had an unobstructed view of the refugee camp, indicating that the Israeli forces were directing a joint operation to exterminate the refugees left behind under the international plan to withdraw the PLO from Lebanon . In her forensic investigation of the bullet wound that injured a male nurse at her hospital, Dr. Ang determined that the sniper fire had come from the Israeli-occupied Embassy building

Considering the Israeli checkpoints on roads and its vantage points, Brigadier General Amos Yaron as field commander of the Beirut incursion and occupation, had effective control over the camps. His close liaison with the local militia leader meant that Yaron had condoned the 36-hour rampage by militiamen, which led to an estimated 3,500 civilian deaths. No orders were issued to prevent the one-sided violence, prosecutor Aziz Rahman argued before the Tribunal. A 1983 special commission report, under its chairman Nobel Laureate Sean MacBride, concluded that Israel had “complicity in genocide”. Research findings gathered since then indicate that Yaron was not merely complicit but held personal responsibility for the massacre.

A point contested by the Amicus Curae defense team was that then Israeli Defense Minister Ariel Sharon, an official of superior rank, should have been prosecuted instead of Gen. Yaron. (The prosecution had earlier declined to serve notice on Sharon, who has been in a coma for many years and is unable to testify in hisown defense. Moreover, Yaron had wide sway of authority as field commander in a battle zone outside the borders of Israel .) Prosecutor Gurdial Singh pointed out that Israel not only failed to file criminal charges against Yaron and his subordinates but subsequently awarded and repeatedly promoted the general and his circle. Yaron was therefore found guilty as accused.

Responsibility of the State

International law has traditionally taken for granted the immunity of states from prosecution by a court in another country. There are several reasons for immunity of states, even for high crimes such as genocide and serious violations of various humanitarian codes.

–          International law and the treaty system are based on the principle of equality among states, which are parties to and enforcers of international agreements. The criminal conviction of a state for serious crimes would automatically weigh against the accused party, thereby causing an imbalance in relations and introducing unfairness to the international system.

-The sovereignty of states is a fundamental protection against aggression or undue interference by a foreign state or alliance of nation-states.

–          As argued by defense counsel Matthew Witbrodt, prosecution of and penalties imposed on a state would result in collective punishment of all of its citizens. (Since the Treaty of Versailles that ended World War I, the international community has tried to avoid forms of collective punishment, including heavy war reparations.)

 On the other side of the coin, total immunity for the state can encourage violations of international law by dictatorial, racist and/or bigoted regimes. The absence of legal challenge by foreign courts therefore leaves few legitimate means to pressure the offending state. The more “peaceful” methods include economic sanctions, which can be interpreted as a type of collective punishment against a victimized citizenry.

With no legal recourse to counter mass atrocities, other states then must launch interventions through extralegal and often illegal strategies of covert warfare,  proxy insurgencies or biased peacekeeping operations. The subsequent invasion and occupation by self-appointed saviors can be more harmful to the people, and to the principles of law, than the original violations of the offending regime.

Thus,  quoting its opinion upon the verdict, a “reason the Tribunal wishes to reject the doctrine of absolute state immunity from prosecution in matters of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity is that the existing international law on war and peace, and humanitarianism, is being enforced in a grossly inequitable manner. Small, weak nations, mostly in Africa and Asia , are periodically subjected to devastating sanctions, military interventions and regime changes. At the same time, unbearable atrocities and brutalities are inflicted on the military weak nations of Latin America, Africa and Asia by powerful nations in the North Atlantic and their allies go unscrutinized and unpunished.”

The alternative to the law of the jungle applied by self-appointed unilateral powers or coalitions of the willing is the reform of international law to balance sovereignty with the responsibility of the state for high crimes such as genocide.

Restricting Sovereignty

In its opinion on the ruling, the Tribunal therefore offered a rational method for limiting sovereignty in cases of gross crimes: “Where there is a conflict between two principles of law, the one hierarchically higher in importance should prevail. To our mind, the international law doctrine against impleading (suing) a foreign state, being lower than that that of the prohibition against genocide, resulted in the charge against the State of Israel.”

The Tribunal did not spell out how a genocide ruling can be enforced or provide a model for a reconstitution of state. Presumably and theoretically, the general effect of genocide-based restrictions on sovereignty would be to dissuade and deter state administrations from perpetrating mass atrocities with impunity. Under a legal standard for common action to stop genocide, a preventive intervention could then proceed under accepted rules of engagement and with safeguards against unwarranted violence by peacekeepers. When an inherently extreme policy in embedded in the constitution or state regulations, a lawfully grounded international authority could then abolish that state structure and reconstitute a legitimate state subject to a referendum. A legal process for constitutional change is far preferable to the current method of arbitrary regime change favorable to the interests of and politically subservient to an occupation authority. This remains hypothetical, showing only that the international community is yet to seriously consider the alternative to the present unlawful model.

Restriction of state sovereignty, as the Tribunal noted, is a new and evolving trend in international law. The U.S. permits its citizens to file lawsuits in federal court against states that harbor terrorists, and although this is covered under tort law, such cases inherently restrict the sovereignty of foreign countries. The European Union has also constrained the sovereignty of member states. Under the 1978 State Immunity Act, the British privy council ruled that vessels owned by foreign governments are subject to the same liability laws as commercial vessels.

As argued by the Tribunal panel in their opinion, “We find it rather mind-boggling when some courts can consider commercial disputes as a reason for not allowing a state to be shielded by the state immunity principle and yet strenuously protect such a state in cases of genocide or other war crimes. Human lives cannot be less important than financial gain.”

The vigorous and often well-founded arguments by the Amicus Curae team in defense of Israel were constructive criticism that greatly helped to focus the Tribunal on the complexities of international law. In heated courtroom debate, defense counsel Jason Kay Kit Leon opined that “the elephant in the room” was Palestinian terrorism against Israeli civilians, for instance, the launching of unguided rockets at settlements, and that Israeli forces have acted in self-defense. The thrust of his claim was based on “In Defense of Israel” by Harvard law scholar and attorney Alan Dershowitz.

The jurists, however, accepted the prosecution argument. “It is our finding that much of the Palestinian-generated violence is not on Israel’s own territory, but from and on Israeli-occupied Palestinian land. Much of the violence perpetrated by Palestinians in a reaction to the brutalities of the vicious racism and genocide that is a tragic feature of Palestinian life.”

The opinion went further, by stating: “We also hold that the force of the IDF is excessive, totally disproportionate and a violation of international humanitarian law. The methods used are unspeakably inhumane and amount to war crimes.”

Internal Disputes

Earlier disputes within the Commission had led to a two-month adjournment of trial proceedings due to harsh and sometimes bitter accusations between participants. In the conflicted process, several judges recused themselves or were absent due to schedule conflicts and one prominent prosecutor resigned in protest of suspected tampering of the judicial panel. These controversies fortunately served to clarify rather than muddy the legal issues and court procedures, resulting in stronger arguments on both sides. Taking Israel to task is never an easy proposition.

Thereby, a stunning precedent in international law was achieved with the Tribunal’s unanimous decision to charge a state for the high crime of genocide. The arguments and verdict against the State of Israel will undoubted be a hotly debated test case for legal scholars over years to come. Since its Charter does not allow an appeal process, the case of “The Kuala Lumpur War Crimes Commission Against the State of Israel” will stand as the nub of controversy for human-rights law and the principle of sovereignty for nation-states.

While citing several precedents, the strongest argument for implication of the state is outlined in the 2007 genocide case of Bosnia and Herzegovina v. Yugoslavia , which covered the Sebrenica massacre of Bosnian Muslms by Serb-dominated federal armed forces. As Canadian jurist John Philpot, who earlier served on the Rwanda Tribunal, pointed out following the reading of the verdict “Bosnia/Herzegovina clearly laid out the culpability of the state and thus served as the precedent for our judgment against Israel .”

According to the Bosnia/Herzogovina ruling, “Genocide is a international crime entailing national and international responsibility on the part of individuals and states” and “if an organ of the state, or a person or group whose acts are legally attributable to the state, commits any of the acts proscribed by Article 3 of the (Genocide) Convention, the international responsibility of that state is incurred.

A point to note: The Rwanda and Yugoslavia genocide cases, are considered by some legal experts to be flawed by the underlying covert and illegal factor of great-power interference. These cases were cited infrequently and judiciously by the Kuala Lumpur Tribunal, which exercised proper case in selection of appropriate passages, while relying on a much wider range of legal precedents in regard to liability of the state.

Critique: Going Beyond Reparations

Until this genocide ruling by the Kuala Lumpur Tribunal, offending states and their foreign sponsors have evaded responsibility while the entire burden of guilt has been placed on the individual agents of weak nation-states. Under the Tribunal ruling, both the core state apparatus – including the executive office, military command, intelligence agencies, supportive ministries and, in many cases, the judiciary and police – bear as much and, in some cases, more criminal responsibility for genocide as individual leaders or military officers.

Yet that is still insufficient when the primary responsibility should rest on powerful sponsor states that move from supporting the offending regime toward punishing its rebellious hubris. The nexus of powerful and ruthless states and global elites, with their machinery for war-making and arms production, creates the political state of siege, the economic strangulation and the covert weapons trade that prompt weaker states to perpetrate genocide.

Barely addressed in just one paragraph of the Tribunal opinion is the reality that powerful states oppose any dilution of their absolute state immunity with the unspoken objective of preserving their war-making powers. The dominant Atlantic allies have cited genocide solely as a pretext to expand their global domain though invasions under a broad and vague “responsibility to protect” principle and have imposed new constitutions on defeated adversaries authored by foreign legal scholars while guised as the ideals of domestic political revolutions. Meanwhile, their own genocidal state structures, centered in the national-security structure and military command, categorically reject any international controls over extralegal interventions operated under the cover of humanitarian operations.

Also, in limiting its call for remedial action to reparations from Israel , the Tribunal wasted a precious opportunity to demand full justice for the Palestinian nation. What is realistically required is an international peacekeeping force to guarantee the withdrawal of the Israeli miltary and police force from Palestinian territory until a domestic law-enforcement and security force can take over; the elimination of wall-fences, checkpoints and other barriers to the free movement of citizens; the return of occupied land in Palestine; financial restitution for the loss of lands and property inside the boundaries of Israel; and an official apology for the countless crimes committed.

Furthermore, the continuity of genocide perpetrated by the core state structure and abetted by the complicity of much of the Israeli population demands that the offending state must be reorganized under a new constitution free of religious bias and racial discrimination to ensure legal norms that prevent a repetition of genocide. This objective should require an international occupation of Israel in event that powerful elements in Israeli society refuse to comply with international law. Israel should be spared the violence unleashed against the Third Reich, but stern justice and strong rule of law are nonetheless required in situations of ideological conformity based on the goals of genocide.

  Courage and Wisdom

Whatever its few shortcomings, the Kuala Lumpur Tribunal demonstrated immense courage, foresight and wisdom in leveling the long-overdue charge of genocide against the State of Israel. The Tribunal correctly framed genocide in the context of international law rather than merely as a localized violation. The verdict along with the sophisticated judicial opinion provides an important initiative toward deterring the great powers from promoting and exploiting genocides among weaker nations and victimized peoples.

The Tribunal verdict raised not only a legal challenge to supporters of the Zionist cause in the United States and Europe but also appealed to universal moral principles in the tradition of high-minded rhetoric. “Much as we condemn violence and pray for peace, it must be stated that no power on Earth can douse the flame of freedom from the human spirit. As long as there is suppression, there will always be people prepared to die on their feet rather than live on their knees.”

 The precedent-setting decision by the Kuala Lumpur Tribunal is a giant step forward not only for dispossessed Palestinians but also for humanity as a whole.

Author: Yoichi Shimatsu, an East and Southeast Asia focused journalist, is former editor of The Japan Times Weekly in Tokyo.

New documents on Taliban style historical erasure in the Holy Land

History Erased
By Meron Rapoport
Ha’aretz, July 10, 2007

In July 1950, Majdal – today Ashkelon – was still a mixed town. About 3,000 Palestinians lived there in a closed, fenced-off ghetto, next to the recently arrived Jewish residents. Before the 1948 war, Majdal had been a commercial and administrative center with a population of 12,000. It also had religious importance: nearby, amid the ruins of ancient Ashkelon, stood Mash'had Nabi Hussein, an 11th-century structure where, according to tradition, the head of Hussein Bin Ali, the grandson of the Prophet Muhammad, was interred; his death in Karbala, Iraq, marked the onset of the rift between Shi'ites and Sunnis. Muslim pilgrims, both Shi'ite and Sunni, would visit the site. But after July 1950, there was nothing left for them to visit: that's when the Israel Defense Forces blew up Mash'had Nabi Hussein.

This was not the only Muslim holy place destroyed after Israel's War of Independence. According to a book by Dr. Meron Benvenisti, of the 160 mosques in the Palestinian villages incorporated into Israel under the armistice agreements, fewer than 40 are still standing. What is unusual about the case of Mash'had Nabi Hussein is that the demolition is documented, and direct responsibility was taken by none other than the GOC Southern Command at the time, an officer named Moshe Dayan. The documentation shows that the holy site was blown up deliberately, as part of a broader operation that included at least two additional mosques, one in Yavneh and the other in Ashdod.

A member of the establishment is responsible for the documentation: Shmuel Yeivin, then the director of the Department of Antiquities, the forerunner of the present-day Antiquities Authority. Yeivin, as noted by Raz Kletter, an archaeologist who has studied the first two decades of archaeology in Israel, was neither a political activist nor a champion for Arab rights. As Kletter explains, he was simply a scientist, a disciple of the British school and a member of the Mandate government's Department of Antiquities who believed that ancient sites and holy places needed to be preserved, whether they were sacred to Jews, Christians or Muslims. In line with his convictions, he fired off letters of protest and was considered a nudnik by the IDF.

"I received a report that not long ago, the army blew up the big building in the ruins of Ashkelon, which is known by the name of Maqam al-Nabi Hussein and is a holy site for the Muslim community," Yeivin wrote on July 24, 1950, to Lieutenant Colonel Yaakov Patt, the head of the department for special missions in the Defense Ministry, and sent a copy to chief of staff Yigael Yadin and other senior officers. "That building was still standing during my last visit to the site, on June 10 – in other words, the army authorities found no reason to demolish it from the conquest until the middle of 1950. I find it hard to imagine the site was blown up due to infiltrators, as they have not stopped infiltrating the area during this entire period."

The detonation, by the way, was extremely successful. Of the ancient and holy site, not so much as a stone remained.

Yeivin's complaint was seemingly related to procedural matters, but only seemingly. The army, he wrote, needed to understand that there were "sanctified buildings," and if it wanted to touch them, "it is proper, honest and courteous first to talk to the institutions that supervise these areas and buildings, and to consult with them in order to find ways to avoid destruction." But that is not happening, Yeivin stated. "I was told that simultaneously, the mosque in the abandoned village of Ashdod was blown up," Yeivin added. "This is not the first case. I already have had many occasions to draw your attention to similar cases elsewhere, and the chief of staff issued explicit directives with regard to the preservation of such buildings and places, but apparently none of this avails commanders of a certain type … I believe the commander responsible for this explosion should be brought to trial and punished, because in this case there was no justification for a swift, war-contingent operation."

A perusal of the IDF Archives shows that Lieutenant Colonel Patt forwarded Yeivin's complaint to Yadin. However, Yadin, who would later become Israel's preeminent archaeologist and whose father, Eliezer Sukenik, was an archaeologist of repute in his own right and Yeivin's colleague in the Mandate Department of Antiquities, was not unduly upset. Below Patt's letter addressing Yeivin's complaint are handwritten remarks: "1. Confirm receipt of letter and inform that the matter is being dealt with; 2. Add to Dayan's material for my meeting with B.-G." – referring to then prime minister and defense minister David Ben-Gurion.

It stands to reason that the handwriting is Yadin's, as it is unlikely that anyone else could have met with Ben-Gurion concerning "Dayan's material." And Yadin, as is clear from another note written on the letter, did not attribute any great importance to the complaint. "Teven la'afarayim," it says, roughly the equivalent of "coals to Newcastle" – in short, there is nothing new in Yeivin's complaint.

Nor was Dayan unduly upset. In a response he sent to the chief of staff's bureau, apparently on August 10 under the heading "Destruction of a holy place," Dayan wrote: "The detonation was carried out by the Coastal Plain District, at my instruction." The first words of the sentence have been struck out, but a letter dated August 30 removes all doubt. Dayan replied to a letter concerning "damage to antiquities in the Ashkelon area": "The chief of staff approached me and I gave him my explanations; the action was carried out at my instructions."

That reply was so embarrassing that Yaakov Prolov, the head of the Operations Department in the General Staff, sent a letter to the chief of staff's bureau asking for guidelines on how to reply to Yeivin. "A mistake was made here and it can be assumed it will not happen again," someone instructed him in script that looks like that attributed to Yadin in the previous letter. Whitewashing, it turns out, is not a new invention.

Blots on the landscape

Not surprisingly, it did in fact happen again. At the end of October, Yeivin sent another letter, this time directly to Yadin, to complain about "the blowing-up of the ancient mosque at Yavneh," a 1,000-year-old structure whose minaret is still standing on a hill south of Yavneh, close to the train station. Yeivin reminded Yadin that he had been promised that those responsible would be punished this time. But it turned out there was an unexplained disparity between the explicit orders prohibiting damage to mosques and the actual policy in the field.

"I have just received an official reply from your bureau chief [Michael Avitzur], and after reading it I am totally at a loss," Yeivin wrote to Yadin. "On the one hand, I have in front of me your explicit order, which speaks unequivocally about preserving places of archaeological or historical value … On the other hand, I read in the letter of Lieutenant Colonel Michael Avitzur that the mosque at Yavneh 'was exploded on July 9, 1950, before the date on which the cessation of blowing up mosques was announced.' How can these two things be reconciled?"

Yeivin's quotation from Avitzur's letter makes it clear that blowing up mosques was widespread enough that it required a special order to stop it. Yeivin himself wrote later in the letter, "I am extremely concerned following my talks with a number of people involved in the policy on this question." Yeivin did not specify whom he spoke to, but noted, "I do not see myself as being able to write explicitly about everything."

David Eyal (formerly Trotner), who was the military commander of Majdal at the time, says "he does not want to return" to that period. The historian Mordechai Bar-On, who was Dayan's bureau chief during his term as chief of staff and remained close to him for years, says he himself did not serve in Southern Command at the time and therefore is not familiar with the destruction of mosques in Ashkelon, Yavneh and Ashdod, and also never heard Dayan issue any such order.

"As a company commander in Central Command, we expelled the Arabs from Zakariyya, but we did not destroy the mosque, and it is still there," Bar-On says. "I know that in the South, in the villages of Bureir and Huj [near today's Kibbutz Bror Hayil], the villages were leveled and the mosques disappeared with them, but I am not familiar with an order to demolish only mosques. It doesn't sound reasonable to me."

The affair of the mosque demolitions does not appear in Kletter's book "Just Past? The Making of Israeli Archaeology," published in Britain (Equinox Publishing) in 2005. Kletter, who has worked for the Antiquities Authority for the past 20 years, does not consider himself a "new historian" and has no accounts to settle with Zionism or the State of Israel. Nevertheless, the story of archaeology comes across in his book to no small degree as one of destruction: the utter destruction of towns and villages, the destruction of an entire culture – its present but also its past, from 3,000-year-old Hittite reliefs to synagogues in razed Arab quarters, from a rare Roman mausoleum (which was damaged but spared from destruction at the last minute) to fortresses that were blown up one after the other. Had it not been for a few fanatics like Yeivin, who pleaded to save these historical monuments, they might all have been wiped off the face of the earth.

As the documents quoted in the book show, only a small part of this devastation occurred in the heat of battle. The vast majority took place later, because the remnants of the Arab past were considered blots on the landscape and evoked facts everyone wanted to forget. "The ruins from the Arab villages and Arab neighborhoods, or the blocs of buildings that have stood empty since 1948, arouse harsh associations that cause considerable political damage," wrote A. Dotan, from the Information Department of the Foreign Ministry, in an August 1957 letter that is quoted in Kletter's book. A copy was sent to Yeivin in the Department of Antiquities. "In the past nine years, many ruins have been cleared … However, those that remain now stand out even more prominently in sharp contrast to the new landscape. Accordingly, ruins that are irreparable or have no archaeological value should be cleared away." The letter, Dotan noted, was written "at the instruction of the foreign minister," Golda Meir.

Kletter reveals in his book that Yeivin and his staff occasionally tried to stop the destruction – not always, not consistently, and not for moral reasons or out of any special respect for the people (the Arabs) who lived for centuries in these towns and quarters. Their grounds were scientific, and Kletter believes this approach stemmed from their background. Before 1948 they worked for the Department of Antiquities of the Mandate government under British management, alongside Arab employees. Kletter relates that in the department they fought for the "Judaization" of the names of ancient sites, but nevertheless remained loyal to the department – so much so that after the United Nations passed the partition plan, in November 1947, Yeivin proposed that the department remain unified even after the country's division into a Jewish state and an Arab state. Eliezer Sukenik went one step farther: "I do not believe the Jewish state will preserve its antiquities," he said in a December 1947 discussion. "We must place scientific sovereignty above political sovereignty. We are interested in the archaeology of the whole land, and the only way [to ensure this] is a unified department."

Perjury at Megiddo

"Yeivin was not the greatest archaeologist in the world, but he had personal integrity, which is the most important trait of the British heritage," Kletter says. "But that heritage did not suit the nationalism of the 1950s, because Ben-Gurion wanted to erase everything that had been, to erase the Islamic past."

Ben-Gurion saw everything that existed here before the revival of the Jewish community as wasteland. "Foreign conquerors have turned our land into a desert," he said at a meeting of the Society for Land of Israel Studies in 1950. Thus the failure of Yeivin and his colleagues was a foregone conclusion. In the 1950s, when archaeology was a fad and archaeologists like Yadin were cultural heroes, people of science were nudged out of management positions. Yeivin was forced to resign and "technocrats" like Teddy Kollek were effectively put in charge of managing Israel's major archaeological sites.

The Department of Antiquities was formally established in July 1948, as a unit of the Public Works Department in the Ministry of Labor. Even before this, the veterans of its Mandatory predecessor tried to preserve antiquities, and in particular to prevent looting, but did not always succeed. The museum in Caesarea was emptied out by thieves, and the same fate befell the findings and documents at Tel Megiddo, which were concentrated in the offices of the University of Chicago archaeological expedition, which had been digging there since the 1920s. Rare collections, such as the one at Notre Dame Monastery in Jerusalem, disappeared almost completely, and private collections and antique shops in Jaffa and Jerusalem were also targeted by thieves. "All the objects have disappeared from the government museum [more than 100 fragments of inscriptions and parts of pillars]," reported Emanuel Ben-Dor, who would later become Yeivin's deputy director, after visiting Caesarea. "The collection in the office of the Greek patriarch was destroyed." The Megiddo incident was particularly embarrassing, as the dig was carried out by American archaeologists and the U.S. consulate wanted to know who was responsible for the devastation. An investigation was launched under Yeivin's supervision, and the local commanders said that Arab units had wrecked the site. Yeivin discovered that this was untrue, and that Israeli soldiers had looted the site and then burned the archaeological expedition's offices.

In a confidential report, Yeivin quoted from an internal letter of the local unit: "In consultation with the battalion commander and with the brigade's operations officer, we agreed that in the event of an investigation by the U.S. consul general … we will (shamefully) lie and say the place was found in this condition when it was captured and that the crime was committed by the Arabs before they fled."

But the theft of antiquities was only a small part of the problem. The major problem was the destruction. In August 1948, the army started to demolish ancient Tiberias, apparently in the wake of a local decision. The attempts to salvage some of the town's archaeological gems were to no avail. In September the site was visited by Jacob Pinkerfeld, from the Department of Antiquities' monument conservation unit.

"In ancient Tiberias the army began to blow up a hefty strip of buildings in the Old City," Pinkerfeld wrote in his report. "In talks with all the responsible parties at the site, we emphasized the special importance of the ancient stone with the relief of the lions on it, which was built into one of the walls. We were promised that this antiquity dating back 3,000 years would be specially guarded, but in my last visit I found precisely this stone blown to bits." So sweeping was the destruction of Tiberias that even Ben-Gurion was taken aback when he visited the city in early 1949.

The list for destruction sometimes assumed ludicrous proportions. During a visit to Haifa in August 1948, Yeivin discovered the army was laying waste to large sections of the Arab city around Hamra Square (now Paris Square) under the direction of the city engineer. In his restrained language, Yeivin expressed his astonishment at the destruction: "With our own eyes we saw the ruins of half of a building that had served as a synagogue on the Street of the Jews … According to Jews who live there and wandered about among the ruins, another two or three synagogues were also destroyed there … It would appear that with attentiveness, the damage inflicted to these holy buildings could have been avoided."

Depressing impression

The leveling of the villages began as soon as the fighting ended. During his visit to the North, Yeivin saw the army blowing up villages near Tiberias and Mount Tabor. He asked that before villages were demolished, consultations be held with representatives of the Department of Antiquities, because "in many villages, ancient building stones are embedded in the houses." At Zir'in (now Kibbutz Yizrael) a Crusader tower was blown up, and the fortress at Umm Khaled, near Netanya, was reduced to rubble.

But there were successes, too. An order was issued to raze the fortress at Shfaram, but Antiquities Department staff arrived at the last minute and blocked the demolition. And at Al-Muzeirra, a village south of Rosh Ha'ayin, a miracle occurred: the army used a handsome building of pillars in the middle of the abandoned village for target practice, apparently without knowing it was "the only mausoleum that survived in our country from the Roman period," according to Yeivin. When, nonetheless, the decision came to blow up the mausoleum in July 1949, an antiquities inspector arrived at the site and prevented the blast. The site is now known as "Hirbat Manor" (the Manor Ruin) and is recommended in all sightseeing guides for the area.

Kletter relates that in February 1950, at the initiative of Yeivin and others, who grasped that without government intervention, the country's urban past would simply disappear, Ben-Gurion agreed to establish a government committee "for sacred and historic sites and monuments." The committee was staffed by senior government and military personnel. The report, which was submitted in October 1951, stated that certain sites had to be preserved as "whole units" – "Acre, a few quarters in Safed, small sections of Jaffa and Tiberias, small sections of Ramle and Lod, a few sections of Tarshiha." The rest of the towns, and hundreds of villages, were already lost.

However, the state institutions failed to honor even these conclusions. According to Kletter, Yeivin was one of the first to fight the August 1950 decision to demolish all of Jaffa. Afterward, artists who had moved into the abandoned city joined the struggle, as did Development Authority personnel, and thus a few sections were spared total annihilation. Yeivin was less successful in Lod. In June 1954, he wrote a protest letter to the education minister, in the wake of a decision on "the destruction of the ancient quarter in the city of Lod." Israeli law, pursuant to British law, stipulated that only what was built before 1700 was considered an "antiquity," but Yeivin wrote that the other sites should also be preserved – both for tourism and because they are "cultural and educational assets and living historical testimonies that every enlightened state is obliged to preserve."

Kletter's book leaves the impression that the destruction was not accidental and that its perpetrators were aware of its significance. The ideological foundation of the devastation is set forth in the August 1957 Foreign Ministry letter sent at the behest of Golda Meir. After the author of the document, A. Dotan, requested the Ministry of Labor to "clear the ruins," he specified "four types" of "ruins" and the grounds for their destruction:

"First, it is necessary to get rid of the ruins in the heart of Jewish communities, in important centers or on central transportation arteries; rapid treatment must be given to the ruins of villages whose residents are in the country, such as Birwe, north of Shfaram, and the ruins of Zippori; in areas where there is no development, such as along the rail line from Jerusalem to Bar Giora, one receives a depressing impression of a once-living civilized land; attention must also be directed to ruins in distinctly tourist areas, such as the ruins of the Circassian village in Caesarea, which is intact but empty … Accordingly, the Ministry of Labor should assume the mission of clearing the ruins … It should be taken into account that the participation of nongovernmental elements requires caution, as politically it is desirable for the operation to be executed without anyone grasping its political meaning."

Kletter says he was surprised to discover the scale of the destruction, but that to some extent he understands those who were behind the operation. The decision not to allow the Palestinian refugees to return was unavoidable, he believes, if the idea was to establish a Jewish state here. Those were the rules of the game in that period, he says, and if the Jewish community had lost in 1948, the Arab victors would likely have treated the Jews in the same way. And because it was impossible to preserve hundreds of abandoned Palestinian towns and villages, there was no choice but to demolish most of them, Kletter maintains.

He also has nothing against the archaeologists who in the early years of the state were concerned almost exclusively with Jewish sites, or in the best case with Christian or Roman sites, and ignored Muslim sites almost completely. It is natural for researchers to be interested first and foremost in their own culture, Kletter says; and besides, relative to the political pressure exerted on them by people like Ben-Gurion, who declaredly wanted to erase the Arab past of this country, they behaved honorably. "Early Israeli archaeology has something to be ashamed of and much to be proud of," Kletter writes.

Still, Kletter says, his book is "about loss, about what could have been but was not. The loss of archaeology that began with a scientific tradition and did not continue, the loss of vast historical information, the loss of the village landscape. I don't think this village landscape belongs to us – it belongs to the people who lived here – but still, there is longing for that lost landscape. We cannot bring it back, but at least we should be aware of the truth and not lie to ourselves."

Kletter says this country's great good fortune lies in the fact that it contains so many monuments that it was impossible to destroy all of them. But even those that were destroyed somehow continue to live a different life. Mash'had Nabi Hussein, the holy site in Ashkelon, was leveled in 1950, but the Muslim believers did not forgo it. A few years ago, the Shi'ite Ismaili sect, which is based in central India, established a kind of small marble platform at the site, on the grounds of Barzilai Hospital, and since then thousands of believers have come there every year. In Yavneh, only the minaret remains of the razed ancient mosque, standing alongside heaps of rubble and one fig tree, but in a visit to the site a week ago I saw a group of elderly Ethiopians there on the hill, praying ardently under the fig tree. It was as if the place had remained holy even if its inhabitants had changed.