An online roundtable of academics and activists discussed the ongoing Palestinian struggle and Israeli apartheid in the 21st century on Friday, Anadolu Agency reported.
They also considered what the future holds for the occupied state following weeks of brutal violence and attacks by the Israeli state and settler community.
The online forum was hosted by the Cordoba Foundation and CEO Anas Altikriti. It featured celebrated Israeli critic professor Ilan Pappe from the University of Exeter, Phyllis Bennis of the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington and Ammar Al-Dwaik head of the Independent Commission for Human Rights.
Pappe gave a brief history of the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians in Palestine before 1948 and the Nakba, or Catastrophe, that occurred shortly thereafter that saw the mass expulsion of Palestinians from their lands, the demolition of their cities, towns and villages and the beginning of Zionist settler colonialism in what would become Israel.
"Nowadays, more and more we understand the nature of the Zionist movement in relation to Israel as being a project of settler colonialism — people coming from all over Europe to someone else's homeland [Palestine] with the intention of having the land without a people. Such an impulse eventually leads to acts of ethnic cleansing," said Pappe.
"There were already minor acts of ethnic cleansing by the Zionist movement under British rule in the mid-1920s and before 1948 but of course the massive expulsion of Palestinians took place within nine months in the year of 1948. Half of Palestine's villages – more than 500 – were demolished in the ethnic cleansing," he said "Half of Palestine's population was expelled and most of the towns and urban spaces were destroyed and rebuilt to house the settlers from Europe."
International accountability, Israeli apartheid
Al-Dwaik expressed relief at the announcement of a cease-fire that saw an end to Israel's brutal and indiscriminate attacks on Gaza but reminded the international community of its responsibility to help rebuild the impoverished and destroyed territory, because Israel, he said, who bears the true responsibility for its death and destruction, will refuse to reconstruct towns and cities that lay in ruin.
"This killing and destruction machine has stopped but sadly it has left a massive destruction of the infrastructure in Gaza and a catastrophic humanitarian situation that should not be understated," he said. "There should be a mobilization of billions of dollars to reconstruct Gaza, whose wounds have not yet healed from the previous wars. We are seeing a cycle of destruction and reconstruction in the territory and this is the fourth systematic and devastating attack in 12 years."
The human rights activist also reminded the world that although the attacks have ended, Palestinians are still undergoing ethnic cleansing at the hands of Israeli occupation forces, they are still being militarily occupied and evictions in Sheikh Jarrah and elsewhere will continue "without any consequences and with immunity."
The cease-fire does not address those issues and Palestinians are left to deal with the ongoing genocide without any support, said Al-Dwaik.
Bennis addressed the crime of Israeli apartheid and said international attention and focus were now settling on the breach of international law.
The international community, and especially the US, she said, is complicit in allowing apartheid to exist in Israel and occupied Palestinian territories.
"Apartheid exists when you have one territory, one power in control of that territory and you have two different legal systems which are applicable to two groups of different people based on their race and ethnicity for the goal and domination of one racial group over another and that is the description of Israeli policies towards Palestinians, from the river to the sea," said Bennis.
Israeli apartheid has been discussed for more than 20 years by international figures such as Archbishop Desmond Tutu and former South African freedom fighter and leader Nelson Mandela, she said. But the phenomenon has expanded in recent years to involve the denial of basic rights and amenities to Palestinians that are enjoyed by illegal Zionist settlers such as freedom of movement, access to water and electricity and the ability to see families and friends.
After nearly a fortnight of intense and brutal air raids and ground attacks, the Israeli government agreed Thursday to a cease-fire.
At least 243 Palestinians have been killed and more than 1,700 wounded since May 10, according to Palestinian authorities.
A cease-fire between Israel and Hamas, a Palestinian resistance group, began early Friday.
Occupation forces have also targeted Gaza's electricity grid, leaving it without power and cut off from the rest of the world.
Israel occupied East Jerusalem during the 1967 Arab-Israeli war and annexed the entire city in 1980 – a move that has never been recognized by the international community.