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Do Palestinians have the right to live?

23. April 2008

John Wight, Scotland, on Carter’s attempt for a dialogue with Hamas

The attempt by former US president, Jimmy Carter, to facilitate dialogue between the Israelis and Palestinians over the past week has ended in inevitable failure and condemnation. Indeed, the former president’s assertion that in any peace negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians Hamas must be included earned him the kind of opprobrium associated with paedophilia from within both Israel and the US. The fact he deigned to meet Khaled Meshaal of Hamas in Damascus merely compounded the issue, guaranteeing Carter, a man who in the past few years has revealed increasing sympathy for the plight of the Palestinians, the eternal calumny of Israel and her supporters around the world.

Yet again, throughout the week of the ex-president’s failed attempt to facilitate meaningful dialogue between the parties involved, we have heard the same revulsion levelled at Hamas’ refusal to recognise Israel’s right to exist as the reason for their exclusion. In fact, this mantra has been repeated so often down through the years of this perennial struggle it has now assumed the status of received truth. It is a received truth, however, which flies in the face of a history of ethnic cleansing, apartheid, and expropriation.

Based on the balance of forces involved in this brutal conflict, based on its entire history, the question is not whether Hamas or the Palestinians recognise Israel’s right to exist, the question is whether or not Israel recognises the Palestinians’ right to exist.

With this in mind, perhaps the most telling aspect of this ongoing conflict is the way in which our mainstream media continues to present it as a struggle between two equal sides. In fact, on the contrary, the mainstream media does its level best to present Israel as the victim, as a courageous little outpost of western civilization in the midst of Arab hordes committed to its destruction.

Only the extent of Israel’s violence and savagery forces the media to acquiesce in portraying its violence as ‘disproportionate’ in response (always in response mind, never as the aggressor) to Palestinian attacks, which in contradistinction are always portrayed as acts of terrorism.

Alarm bells should be set ringing when we hear such easy assertions being made by mainstream commentators and journalists. For we’ve been here before, haven’t we? In fact, the entire history of empire, colonialism, and imperialism is replete with oppressors attempting to portray themselves as victims and their victims as terrorists and savages that need to be either tamed, cleansed or subjugated – and, of course, always in the interests of civilisation or security and stability.

Think British Empire, think Nazi occupation of Europe, think French and US occupation of Vietnam, think French occupation of Algeria, think British occupation of Ireland, think Israel’s occupation of Palestine, and the same pattern emerges.

Among the aforementioned examples, the state of Israel has enjoyed something of an Indian summer in terms of its ability to continue to deny the Palestinians their national, civil, and human rights. This is due, of course, to the continuing guilt complex which pervades the upper reaches of European and US society over the Nazi Holocaust in which the Palestinians played no part. This guilt has combined with strategic objectives – namely oil – to provide Israel with economic aid, without which its economy would collapse; enough weaponry to maintain its status as fourth largest military in the world; the ability to flout international law repeatedly without consequence; as well as a legitimacy for what is a clear policy of apartheid and ethnic cleansing vis-à-vis the Palestinians.

It’s ironic, is it not, that criticism of Israel is immediately denounced as anti-Semitic, regardless of how much savagery and violence it brings to bear against a people whose only crime is that they continue to exist, while China is demonised internationally for clamping down on riots in Tibet?

Too, the recent flurry of activity by celebrities like George Clooney, Steven Speilberg, and most recently the author of the Harry Potter books, J K Rowling, over the issue of Darfur, reveals a hypocrisy that verily reeks with support of the dominant ideology – US imperialism. Maybe in this we might be accused of being a tad cynical; but isn’t it more than mere coincidence that when it comes to both Tibet and Darfur, the common denominator is China?

Where are our esteemed celebrities when it comes to the Palestinians, one is entitled ask.
Never mind that 60 years ago 530 Palestinian towns and villages were depopulated and destroyed, and that 750,000 men, women, and children were forcibly expelled by zionist terrorist organisations like the Stern Gang or The Palmach. Never mind that 78 percent of historic Palestine was expropriated and that illegal Israeli settlements continue to be built and extended to the present day. Never mind, too, that the Palestinians, economically, have been starved and blockaded throughout Israel’s occupation, a state of affairs which has reached its nadir with the ongoing and barbaric siege of 1.4 million men, women, and children in Gaza.

In recent months we’ve heard Israel’s Deputy Defence Minister, Matan Vilnai, threaten those same 1.4 million men, women, and children with a ‘shoah’, or holocaust, and most recently, the incoming UN special investigator, Richard Falk, draw comparisons between Israel’s policy of collective punishment against the Palestinians of Gaza, and Nazi tactics in occupied Europe during the Second World War.

Yet, still, not a peep from our liberal intelligentsia or messrs Clooney and Co.

Jimmy Carter’s visit to the region took place amid a backdrop of more Israeli atrocities against the Palestinians of Gaza. Daily incursions by Israeli troops and tanks, along with airstrikes, have resulted in the slaughter of more Palestinians, a fair proportion of them children. The Israelis claim these daily shooting galleries to be in response to Palestinian rocket attacks against the Israeli town of Sderot, which lies a few miles outside Gaza.

Here, again, we see the work of a generation of scholars in service to Israel and its interests in the rewriting of history. In the case of Sderot, a determined attempt has been made to suppress the fact that this is a town established on land where the Palestinian village of Najd once stood.

Najd’s inhabitants were forcibly expelled from their village on 13 May 1948 by the Negev Brigade of the then nascent Israeli army, before Israel was declared a state and before any Arab armies entered Palestine. Therefore, in accordance with UN Resolution 194, and also with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 13, Section 2, the villagers of Najd have a right of return to their homes.

The village of Najd was destroyed and settled by Jews in 1951. It has been known ever since as the Israeli town of Sderot.

The history of the origins of Sderot is one repeated hundreds of times all over what is now the state of Israel. As such, and again, the question a world interested in justice should be asking the Israelis is a simple one:

Do the Palestinians have the right to exist?