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Population swap: From apartheid to something worse

January 24, 2014 at 2:25 am

“Do you want to move to the Palestinian state?”

“No, I want to stay in my city, Umm Al-Fahm.”

“So, you like living in the state of Israel?”

“No, this is my land; I was born here and I will stay here.”

“You will not be displaced from your city; instead of being a citizen of the state of Israel, you will be a citizen of the Palestinian State, in a state you support to be established. Don’t you want this state?”

That was the gist of a recent conversation between an Israeli journalist and a Palestinian citizen of Israel from Umm Al-Fahm. When the point presented by the journalist is raised, an Arab Palestinian citizen living in the cities and towns located in the area known as “The Triangle”, which has been talked about in official Israeli circles for many years, is confused. Israel views this area as an area that, along with its residents, must be annexed to the imaginary Palestinian state still to be created on land inside the West Bank. The most prominent of the proponents of this move is the openly racist Israeli foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman.

Indeed, why do Palestinian Israeli citizens refuse to be annexed to the “Palestinian state”? We cannot accuse them of loving Israel or identifying with its contents, figures and policies because they view Israel a foreign entity although there are, of course, some who have totally assimilated after losing their national identity, but these are a very small minority.

Maybe this ordinary, or extraordinary, citizen does not want to admit that life in the “Palestinian state” is likely to be worse than in Israel; after all, Israel turned life in the West Bank, Jerusalem and the other occupied territories into a hell after years of confiscation, Judaisation, oppression, arrests and the isolation of cities. Who would be willing to move from their homeland and harsh conditions to a place that is even harsher and more dangerous? To move to another part of their homeland that Israel wants to turn into a large prison and call it a state and which is governed by a subsidiary government of the apartheid occupation authorities, otherwise known as the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah?

All of historic Palestine, from the sea to the River Jordan, belongs to the Palestinians, but it is currently under an apartheid-style colonial government that oppresses and blockades Palestinian society. It is only the faces of this government that change from one area to another, including the West Bank, Jerusalem, Gaza Strip, the occupied Golan Heights and the Palestinian territories occupied in 1948. There is no shame in saying that the apartheid government in Israel is less harsh and arrogant (although it is bad enough) than others we could name. This is due to the fact that the Palestinian citizens of Israel are subject to Israeli law and, therefore, Israel has a responsibility, if only theoretically, towards them; that limits – but does not eliminate the oppression imposed on them in comparison with other areas. Dr Azmi Bishara once told the Zionists in the Knesset, “Take your democracy and give me back my country.”

Hence, we say that Israel, as an occupying state, is responsible for the people it occupied in 1948 and 1967 in accordance with international law, so it cannot continue to manipulate or increase the torture and deprivation of the original owners of the land, on whom they imposed Israeli citizenship. They are citizens in name only, as they are deprived of most of their rights supposedly guaranteed by law, and they have been fighting against such injustice since the Nakba of 1948.

The intention is to transfer some of the Palestinians in Israel from the context of a persecuted minority under an apartheid government which, until recently, was hidden from foreign eyes, to that apartheid government’s military occupation that is worse than the original apartheid regime that existed in South Africa. The “Palestinian state” that the Israeli government and US Secretary of State John Kerry are talking about is nothing but a Bantustan with no sovereignty over its borders and air space. It has no chance of developing into a real state and it will be created at the expense of the refugees’ right to return to their homes, thus preserving Israel as an unacceptable colonial and apartheid state.

Finally, the “transfer” (for which read, ethnic cleansing) of 300,000 Palestinians to a Bantustan will reduce the number of Palestinians in Israel itself and limit the political and ideological influence of those who remain Israeli citizens and the “threat” that they are perceived to be to the Jewishness of the state and its institutionalised racism. This means that Israel will be able to make sure the Palestinians remain inferior forever in every aspect of life; as one of their spokespeople said, “When a large number of the Palestinians in Israel are moved, there will be no resonance for those who continue to call for ‘a state for the citizens’ which stipulates the abolition of the colonial character and racial essence of the Israeli entity.”

The establishment in Israel is aware that the Palestinians with Israeli citizenship have hidden political, ideological and moral force only part of which has been put into effect. Some researchers believe that this may play a larger role in shaping the features of the national and democratic struggle for all of their people and in shaping the future solution for the conflict, especially if John Kerry’s dangerous “transfer” plan fails. We hope that it fails, because its success would signal another Oslo-style disaster. A fair and just solution would address the legitimate aspirations of the Palestinian people and provide a democratic answer to the Jewish question in Palestine without employing colonialism and apartheid.

The author is secretary-general of the National Democratic Assembly (Al Balad Party). This is a translation of the Arabic text published by Arabs48 on 8 January, 2014

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.