Israel is a state that owes its very existence to ethnic cleansing, massacres and seemingly perpetual wars.
The events of 1947-48 when the state was founded are known as the Catastrophe (Nakba) by Arabs. This is because of the simple fact that 750,000 Palestinians were expelled by the violent Zionist militias that would later constitute the foundations of the Israel army.
Palestine was literally wiped off the map, and the refugees were sent into exile in the surrounding countries. They and their decedents have still not been allowed to return until this day.
Since that more sweeping and overt act of ethnic cleansing, Israel has been involved in a slower and more insidious process of removing the remaining native people from the land of Palestine. Through gradual colonisation and annexation of Palestinian land, the state has been removing more and more of the Palestinian people.
Jewish-only colonies, described in euphemistic terms as “settlements” are then built on the land from which Palestinians are violently removed. In some cases, such as too often in Hebron and Jerusalem, Jewish extremists take matters into their own hands, and then get the Israel military and fixed courts system to retroactively legitimate such blatant acts of aggression and theft. In other cases, the sate does it in a more systematic way.
Either way, the effect is the same for the Palestinian victims: ethnic cleansing. But the Palestinians have refused to be cowed, and continue their century-long struggle against the Zionist project. They resist every day, primarily by the simple act of continuing to exist on their land. This, more than anything else, frustrates the settler-colonial project.
Because of this, extreme voices in Israel are growing louder all the time, declaring that a slow process is not good enough. They call for swift expulsion. These voices, once on the extreme fringes of Zionism, are now centre stage – even in government, as I outlined in a recent column.
Witness this month’s “Jerusalem Day” provocations by Israeli fanatics in the occupied capital city of historic Palestine.
As reported by David Sheen and Dan Cohen, the annual event is “the country’s largest annual ‘Death to Arabs’ rally”. This year, “stickers calling to expel Palestinians from the land reading, ‘There is no coexistence with them [Palestinians] – Transfer Now!’, were freely distributed at the march by far-right activist Baruch Marzel. Jewish youth chanted ‘May your village burn!’ as they marched towards the Old City”.
A main theme was the calls for the destruction of the al-Aqsa Mosque – the third holiest site in Islam. The so-called “Temple Faithful” movement wants to replace it with a “Third Temple”. In fact, this is more of a nationalist (and fascist) political provocation than a religious yearning. Traditional Jewish practice held that the “Temple Mount” was the site of the “Holy of Holies” of the Bible stories – the very site of God’s presence on earth. Therefore observant Jews were not to approach.
These popular voices of fascist agitation are more about crushing any form of Palestinian existence on the land. They are about asserting Israeli superiority. Certainly extremists by any objective measure, these people are unfortunately closer and closer to the political centre in Israel.
At the rally at the Western Wall on Jerusalem Day, one of Israel’s chief rabbis (who are state funded) called for the destruction of al-Aqsa.
Uri Ariel, the agriculture minister, and a settler living in the occupied West Bank himself, echoed such calls: “Sovereignty is within the power of the State of Israel, it must use it and implement it all the way. We say to Prime Minister Netanyahu, it is time for sovereignty. It is time for sovereignty on the Temple Mount.”
A few days later Ariel called for Area C of the already-occupied West Bank (which constitutes 60 percent of the area) to be formally annexed to Israel. He underplayed the Palestinian population figures in those regions, claiming: “These are areas where there are no Arabs at all, except a few thousand who don’t constitute a significant numerical factor.”
He has to engage such denials of reality, since annexation implies the people living in such territories would have be given full citizenship – something that the so-called “Jewish state” wants to avoid at all costs when it comes to Arabs. The likely alternative to citizenship in the circumstance of annexation would be ethnic cleansing: driving out the Palestinians living there by force.
In fact, in an earlier version of the Times of Israel interview where Ariel advocates annexation, the minister outright called for this: “We would remove a few thousand, who do not constitute a significant numerical factor.” However, the website later issued a correction, saying this was “mistranslated” claiming “he did not call for them to be evacuated.”
Whatever the truth of that, annexation of Area C has long been advocated by Ariel’s party, Jewish Home. The group is part of the ruling coalition government, and are a bunch of settler thugs by any objective measure. The annexation plan underplays the number of Palestinians living in the mostly-rural region. In fact, more realistic figures suggest that there are at least 150,000 Palestinians living there.
Regardless, of the exact numbers, ethnic cleansing is clearly the overriding logic here. Israel needs to be stopped.