The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine – From the birth of Zionism till the eve of 1948

This article and its subsequent ones on the topic will be an attempt to summarize the book “The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine” by the Israeli Historian Ilan Pape.

To understand the magnitude of the crime committed first it needs to be defined. The term Ethnic cleansing refers to a hegemonic exercise of displacing an undesired group or groups of people based on their ethnicity/religion in a process to homogenize the ethnically mixed population of a particular region or territory. Ethnic cleansing effectively erases both the people who are indigenous along with their history in the land to effectively create space for repopulation by the desired group. The most common method this is done is by forced depopulation by expulsion or other violent means, followed by demolition or desecration of properties to minimize even their tacit presence. While a master plan from the aggressor command exists which perhaps commands for less sanguinary options the troops in the ground are cognizant of what’s expected of them, as such massacres accompany them. Pappe notes several examples to illustrate the historical examples of such acts, notably when Peck in western Kosovo was depopulated within 24 hours, those who resisted were massacred. It is to be also noted that the seriousness of the allegation of ethnic cleansing against the aggressor party is whether or not the aggressor party is brought to justice by the international community. Till that happens the claim of ethnic cleansing is ‘alleged’ not established. However, alleged or not it is a crime as per the International criminal court and thus subjected to adjudication under international law. Till that happens and the perpetrators, David Ben-Gurion the leader of Zionism and his Hveadah Hamyeazet Consultant Committee, brought to account for their crimes the memory of it shouldn’t dissipate. For the Naqba that happened in 1948, half the people of Palestine were driven out and half their village displaced, and it’s a shame that in the modern world with myriads of reporters and UN observers a crime of this magnitude committed by the Zionists is shrugged away.

Zionism as a nationalistic ideology started to emerge in the 1880s in central and eastern Europe as antisemitism was on the rise. While Jewish religious authorities yearned for the coming of their Messiah and reestablishment of their biblical kingdom Zionism managed to secularize and nationalize significant portions. They eyed for a mass return under a Jewish theocracy in what was then known as Eretz Israel, the name of Palestine in the Jewish religion, to which they performed the holy pilgrimage. Till Britain got a colonial hold over the Palestinian region in 1918, the practice of Zionism existed mostly as an ideology with some tangible exercise of purchasing the land and immigration. A theme of “Palestine being a land without people waiting for Jews who are people without land” started. Indicating that to these Zionists the people in Palestine were either nonexistent or effectively synonymous to the nature of the land itself that they must tame to live. While the systematic purchase did raise eyebrows among the people at large it wasn’t seen seriously enough to ban purchase. An attempt to systematize the purchase of land was started by early Zionists where a detailed registry of all Arab villages was documented, titled Jewish National Fund (JNF) which is maintained to this day. In time its scope and capacity grew and by 1945 it even included the detailed description of Palestinian villages and its inhabitant along with the files related to the number of guards and quantity and quality of arms present(which were generally antiquated or even nonexistent). In the west, mostly Britain, opinion among the protestant politicians brew in favor of zionists in opposition to the ‘Arabs’/’Mohammadans’. Balfour Declaration in 1917 followed by a hold of Palestine after the first world war provided a necessary boost for the Zionist movement angering the Arabs especially after 1918.

In the 1920s the British tried to enact a political structure that tried to show some degree of parity between the Palestinians and the Zionist settlers though it was deemed more favorable to the zionists. Being more than 80% of the population the Palestinians refused while the Zionist leaders enforced. By 1928 the Palestinian leadership apprehensive of the Zionist settlers tried to accept the previous negotiations but the Zionist leadership rejected the deal they agreed to. This followed the 1929 revolt and another one in 1936 from the Palestinian side both of which were quelled by the joint British military and Jewish paramilitary. The Palestinian leaders were exiled and their paramilitary units were disbanded. The unrest in the region prompted Britain to ramp up its military presence, which started to train the Jewish paramilitary, Hagana, translated: defense, in Hebrew. The revolts especially after 1936 helped the Hagana to put the training to practice against relatively defenseless Palestinian villagers.

By 1945 the Zionists grew strong enough and the presence of the British as overlords became a sore issue and tensions started to grow leading to the bombing of King David Hotel, the British headquarters in Palestine. The British response was a rather mild disarmament campaign of Jewish troops. David Ben Gurion the defense minister and effectively the prime minister of the nonexisting Zionist state attempted to opt for demanding nearly 80% of Palestinian land for the establishment of Israel, in a meeting with his Zionist ally in the Royal Monsue hotel, Paris. This was then drawn up on a map in few months and distributed to those relevant to the future of Palestine. Palestinians remaining in the land through the majority of the population, devoid of any meaningful leadership and were essentially farmers and village folks, and as such their input in the matter was nonexistent. By 1947 the village files discussed above, JNF, updated with a list of ‘wanted’ men in every village all of whom were rounded up in 1948 many of them executed on spot. The British, exhausted by their engagement in the second world war, facing a looming Jewish rebellion in the region decided to transfer the Palestinian question to the UN and left in hurry with no regrets in February of 1947. The stage was set and the so-called Plan D for the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians was put to place by 1948.

The UN was birthed 2 years before 1947 and as such a task of such proportion was something they simply had no experience in. They formed a committee to handle the question of Jewish state UNSCOP made up of members who had scanty knowledge on the regional history of Palestine. They readily accepted the claim of Zionists regarding the Jewish state and sought to compensate the Jews for the recent tragedy of the holocaust. As a result, the Zionists were promised a state that stretched over more than half of the country of Palestine, it’s worth noting that by then only 1/3rd of the population were Jewish and most of them arrived after 1920 and legal ownership amounted to only 5.8% of cultivated land. Predictably the Arab leaders rejected the plan and decided to boycott the negotiation as a sign of protest. To Arab leaders and Palestinians this concept itself was unethical and an insult, indigenous people don’t have the obligation of bartering their land off to settlers, to allow for such a notion as a viable topic of negotiation was roundly seen as immoral and illegal. This opportunity was taken up by the Zionist leaders to which ensured that they had the bargaining capacity within the negotiation. They pleaded for approximately 80% of the Palestinian land including Jerusalem, however even UNSCOP thought this was too much and they asserted a major portion of 56% of the land. The Catholic countries in the UN persuaded to make Jerusalem an international city rather than be incorporated just under Judaic hold, due to its religious significance.

The UN resolution regarding this came to be known as Resolution 181, and it saw the legalization of transfer of ownership of more than half of the country that belongs to a group of people to a group of settlers who were around 1/3rd of the then-current population owning around less than 6 % of the cultivable land. On the Zionist side, Ben Gurion both accepted and rejected the resolution. He was happy that a concrete step towards the formation of a Zionist was taken but unhappy regarding the amount of space allocated. The fact that Arab leaders boycotted the plan gave him the opportunity to accept the plan ceremonially but he and the other zionist leadership declared that given the borders are not accepted by a negotiation thus the extent of it will be determined by force rather than Partition resolution.

On 29 November 1947, the UN passed its resolution 181. It was met by indignation and anger from the side of Palestinians which prompted the protest. That allowed for an opportunity for the Zionist leaders and the forces to mount a “defensive” maneuver on the eve of 1948. It’s since the then ethnic cleansing of Palestine under the tacit approval of the United Nation began on a massive scale. With this, we arrive at 1948, a year that marks a sanguinary takeover that continues to this day and innocent Palestinians pay for the mistake of being born as Palestinians. In the next article, I will try to summarize the dastardly Plan D that Zionists undertook in 1948 and the effect it had on the Palestinians. May Allah give them sabr and sakinah. Ameen

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