For several years, throughout the height of Israel’s anti-Iran war-mongering and propaganda, we were told that a nuclear Iran threatened to wipe the Zionist state “off the map”. In fact, this claim was based on a mistranslated statement by the then Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. What he had actually called for was for Israel’s political regime to “vanish from the page of time” in a similar fashion to the Soviet Union or the South African apartheid regime.
As with so much Israeli propaganda, this was yet another case of a psychological phenomenon known as projection. This is where an aggressor projects onto their victim the aggressor’s own crimes.
Subconsciously, the aggressor knows that what they did to the victim was wrong, but must justify or deny the crime in order to live with themselves. They then live in fear that the crimes they have committed will be revisited upon themselves in revenge. They then convince themselves that the victim deserved the crime all along because of this imagined revisitation.
In the case of Israel this is invoked regularly as propagandists ramp up fears that Israel’s enemies want to “wipe Israel off the map” or “push the Jews into the sea”. In both cases, these sentiments are based on fabricated and/or mistranslated reports.
The historical record shows beyond doubt that it is Israel which has, in reality, wiped an entire country off the map: Palestine. And it is Israel which pushed Palestinian refugees into the sea during the 1947-48 Nakba, the appalling ethnic cleansing before, during and after the establishment of the state of Israel on Palestinian land. This was done, quite literally, as Ilan Pappé recounts in his seminal book The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine; Palestinian refugees were actually pushed into the sea while fleeing for their lives. Some escaped by boat to Lebanon, hoping to return when the fighting died down.
Palestine no longer appears on English-language maps, whereas it did before 1948. In its place is “Israel”, sometimes with vague dotted lines around the West Bank and/or Gaza Strip, with the status of those particular occupied territories remaining vague and undefined.
More to the point, the Zionist militias that ante-dated the Israeli army mostly succeeded in the goal of creating a Jewish majority state in a country — Palestine — which was overwhelmingly not Jewish. They did this by driving 750,000 people into exile at the barrel of a gun and under fear of being massacred (as many were).
Today millions of Palestinians, the descendants of those 750,000, still live in exile in refugee camps which have become established concrete facts on the ground, and the wider diaspora. Yet the desire for the implementation of the legitimate right of the refugees to return remains one of the few points of almost unanimous consensus in the divided Palestinian body politic.
Moreover, there is a less well known ethnic cleansing for which Israel is responsible, one that came in the wake of its 1967 war of aggression against surrounding Arab countries. Not content with wiping Palestine off the map, Israel has done the same to that part of south-western Syria known as the Golan Heights.
Following Israel’s illegal conquest and occupation of that territory in 1967, more than 125,000 native Syrians were either forcibly removed from their homes, or compelled to flee by the threat of war. Israel then set about to systematically destroy hundreds of Syrian villages to make the prospect of those Syrians returning to their land highly unlikely. Israeli settlements built for its Jewish colonists have been built on the ruins of the destroyed villages. Sometimes these were cynically named after the village that had been literally wiped off the map, and given Hebraic names.
At the end of last year Israel announced that it was using the cover of the war in Syria to expand the settlement of Katzrin. That particular settlement was built on the land of Qasrin, a former Syrian village long since demolished by the Israelis.
New research released by Syrian Golan human rights group Al-Marsad shows that the number of villages destroyed by Israel in this way was greater than originally thought. Up until this month, it was believed that Israel had destroyed between 240 and 260, but the new research shows that the true number was much higher, with 340 villages and farms wiped off the map. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it, but this is no propagandist rhetoric. This has happened, and Israel has done it.
The now-corrected discrepancy seems to be down to various factors, including inaccurate maps and Israel’s non-recognition of the demilitarised zone in the Golan between Syrian and Israeli armed forces.
A new map published by Al-Marsad provides a stark illustration of how extensive Israel’s ethnic cleansing of the Golan Heights has been. The green dots representing the destroyed villages cover the map along the length and breadth of the territory. Only a few Syrian villages remain there now, in the north near the demilitarised zone.
Nevertheless, despite Israel’s ethnic cleansing of Syrians, the Golan Heights was and remains Syrian. The Israeli occupation of Syrian territory must end immediately, just as the occupation of Palestine must end.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.