This argument has one aim: to ignore the long history of Arab settlement in the area now known as Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories and to discredit any sense of Palestinian identity. Arabs (let's call them Palestinians) have lived in this area for thousands of years. Yet the current argument against the creation of the state of Palestine ignores this history and is in essence a form of ethnic and historical cleansing. It is a modern day form of Terra Nullius, a latin term which literally means 'land belonging to no-one'.
In 1901, a Zionist named Israel Zangwill wrote 'Palestine is a country without a people; the Jews are a people without a country'. In 1969, Golda Meir stated 'There is no such thing as a Palestinian people ... It is not as if we came and threw them out and took their country. They didn't exist'. Zionism is based on the concept of Palestine being terra nullius.
Yet the land has belonged to those people who occupied it for thousands of years, who built their lives, their farms, their families on this land. By the 19th century, these people were predominantly Muslim Arabs, with some Jews, Christians and others.
Numerous references to the land as Palestine are found throughout history, including the British campaigns against the Ottoman Empire during World War I, right back to ancient history when Egypt referred to it the people as the 'Peleset', biblical scripture referred to them as Philistines, the ancient Assyrians referred to them as the Pilistu, and the ancient Greeks called the area 'Palaistine'.
In the late 19th Century, Zionists (those who believe that this land belongs solely to the Jews because of the promise given by God to Abraham as recorded in the book of Genesis) decided that the Jewish diaspora (predominantly European Jews) needed a single homeland. The concept of a 'homeland' for these Jews is somewhat of a misnomer, considering that their ancestors were Europeans who converted to Judaism, not descendants of Abraham. Nonetheless, they turned their eyes to Palestine and set about obtaining this land for Jews from all over the world (the diaspora). In 1947, the United Nations General Assembly adopted Resolution 181 (II) Future Government of Palestine which called for the establishment of Arab and Jewish nations in the land of Palestine and an end to the 'British Mandate of Palestine'.
The Palestinian Arabs understandably disagreed. The UN resolution was implemented against the express wishes of the Palestinian Arabs; as a result, the Jewish nation of Israel was created while a nation for the Arabs was not created. The UN resolution created borders for Israel and for the Palestinian territories. The majority of Arabs were forcibly removed by Israel, whilst some sold their land to Israelis, often in response to threats, violence or withholding of essentials, such as food and water. The Arabs fought against this and of course lost to the much better armed and United States sponsored, Israel. As the Palestinian Arabs lost war after war, Israel occupied more and more Palestinian territory. The United Nations issued hundreds of resolutions condemning Israeli aggression, human rights violations, treatment of Palestinians and denial of basic services. Some of these resolutions were issued because Israeli occupation and settlement of Palestinian land violated the Fourth Geneva Convention.
Zionists and their apologists have been searing their consciences by:
- adopting the Terra Nullius argument and rewriting history in order to void thousands of years of Arab history in Palestine through claiming there was no Arab who identified as a Palestinian;
- believing that God Himself has anointed the Jews to occupy the Holy Lands at the expense of Arabs;
- demonising the Palestinians; and
- ignoring and white-washing the vast human rights violations of Israel.
The United Nations has issued hundreds of resolutions calling for Israel to stop the occupation, stop the slaughter, stop the human rights violations and to tear down the walls. Israel's increasing occupation of the Palestinian Territories is under-stated in the polite term of 'expansionism'; it is imperialism, it is conquest. It is illegal.
Regardless of whether or not a 'Palestinian' identity existed prior to 1948 (and it obviously did considering the territory was known as Palestine and Arabs lived there for thousands of years), this does not give Israel the right to deny them their basic human rights, it does not give Israel the right to effectively imprison them behind a 'security barrier', it does not give Israel the right to massacre men, women and children, it does not give Israel the right to deny them access to hospitals, food, water, jobs, education.
No wonder the conquest of Palestine has been white-washed. No wonder Palestinians have been dehumanised and their right to exist disregarded. Any opponent of Palestine who has a conscience, or who proclaims their belief in a loving God, would see that through their rejection of Palestine, they are sponsoring ethnic cleansing.
Some Palestinians have not done their cause any favours because of their support and involvement in terrorism and suicide attacks in Israel. However, the vast majority of Palestinians have adopted peaceful protests which the mainstream media does not report or focus on. It should also be kept in mind, that often those attacks are in response to provocation by Israel and for every Israeli killed, there are hundreds of Palestinians killed in Israeli actions against civilians.
Many others have protested simply by their continued existence and by not yielding regardless of how many illegal settlers occupy their lands or how violent those settlers are. There have been instances of Palestinian children throwing stones at settlers who have then responded by bashing or imprisoning the children without charge for months, sometimes years. There are other instances of settlers shooting the children dead, without fear of being charged for murder by the Israeli police. Children throw stones and are condemned for it. Settlers kill them and are rewarded. This is not the action of a just and civil society.
In justifying the 'security' wall, in justifying the use of military jets to bomb civilians in Palestine, in justifying the use of white phosphorous and depleted uranium, in justifying hundreds of check-points which prohibit Palestinians from living a normal life, Israel declares that it is acting in self-defence. Based on this argument, the Palestinians can also justify their attacks on Israel as it was the Israelis who forcibly took land and killed or removed the occupants. Self-defence as a justification cuts both ways.
In 1982, up to 3,500 Palestinian civilians living in the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps in southern Lebanon, were massacred by the Phalangists, a Lebanese Christian militia. The Israeli Army had surrounded the camps and controlled entry and exit to them. For three days, from 16 to 18 September 1982, the Israelis witnessed the Phalangists murdering men, women and children. Witnesses tell of the militia storming into dwellings and shooting children in front of the parents, including killing babies as they were nursed by their mothers. This was a war crime which then Israeli Minister of Defense, Ariel Sharon, was held personally responsible following an inquiry commissioned by the Israeli government (the Kahan Commission of Inquiry into the Events at the Refugee Camps in Beirut, which commenced on 28 September 1982 and handed down its findings on 8 February 1983).
Sabra and Shatila are just one of the many massacres perpetrated by the Israelis. Based on the Israeli 'self-defense' line, the Palestinians have every right to protect themselves from war crimes.
Regardless of the outcome of the United Nations vote on Palestinian statehood, the lives of Palestinians will not improve until Israel and its supporters abandon their genocidal policies, their rewriting of history and their misconstruing of religious scripture.
Those who claim that it is Israel's God-given right to rule this land based on a few scriptures completely ignore the rest of the scriptures which talk of God's love. For more on those scriptures refer to my article: 'Israel - Superstition, Prophecy and Human Rights'.
The Holy Land needs more love and tolerance and less of the partisan politics and racist policies dominating the discussion. Many of those who embrace and promote these policies are not extremists or militants, but ordinary people, often church-going people, who mistakenly believe that Palestinians have no right to exist in their own nation.
Israel argues that it has offered peace to Palestinians on a number of occasions, yet, these peace offerings have always been at great expense to the Palestinians. It also ignores the numerous peace offerings made by Palestinians. These offerings have rested on Israel returning to the pre-1967 boundaries; Israel has violently and vehemently refused to make any such compromise, yet they expect Palestinians to continue vacating land which they occupied for thousands of years. They expect Palestinians to accept the theft of land through illegal settlement, which breaches the Fourth Geneva Convention, and for the world to turn a blind eye to this war crime.
Israel argues that some neighbouring countries would like to see Israel driven into the sea. However, this does not justify Israel taking a similar approach and effectively destroying the Palestinians, driving them into the sea.
Israel is a reality that its opponents need to accept. At least within the boundaries legally set for it by UN Resolution 181.
Palestine is also a reality that their opponents need to accept.
Palestine has a right to exist and Palestinians have a right to live with the same rights and freedoms that all people are entitled to.