Inspired by the honesty and integrity of Ilan Pappe’s new book, Ten Myths About Israel, this writer penned a book review that has already appeared on a number of sites.
However, by the subsequent intense, sometimes heated, always thought-provoking, responses these reviews have elicited, several truths soon became manifestly evident: namely, how contentious are whatever term one ever chooses to use – be it ‘invasion’, ‘colonialism’, ‘imperialism’, ‘apartheid’, ‘ethnic cleansing’, or ‘genocide’ – to describe the past seven decades of turmoil that has occurred between Israeli Jews and Palestinian Arabs since the Zionists incursions into Palestine in 1948.
If one ever dares to raise the specter of ‘genocide’, or even ‘ethnic cleansing’ or ‘apartheid’, to describe what Israel has done to the Palestinian peoples, like the massacre of the village of Kafr Qasim in 1948, they are immediately challenged by the counter-charge of genocide committed by the Arabs who killed 100 Jews after they surrendered at Kfar Etzion. If one raises the charge of genocide by Israel’s use of the ‘Wall of Separation’, or its forcing Palestinians out of their homes and villages into refugee camps throughout the Middle East, there are those who will also argue that Pre-Holocaust Nazi’s also wanted to drive Jews out of Germany and ask, “Was that also genocide?” Still others will contend that what is happening between Israeli Jews and Palestinian Arabs isn’t genocide at all, but simply mutual unfortunate acts of war and atrocities that happen in every war. They ask, in turn,
“So is every war a genocide? Is every mass killing a genocide?”
Others will contend that there hundreds of genocide currently going on in different parts of the world, and challenge,
“So how is what is happening to the Palestinian’s any different or more special than what is happening to many others?”
But what such defenders of Israel’s many genocidal atrocities don’t get is that, just like what has happened to every indigenous peoples who have ever been invaded by an outside aggressor (Native Americans, First Nation peoples, Australian Aboriginals, etc), the difference between them and their aggressors is that they weren’t invading anyone until they simply had to defend themselves, their families, villages, people and entire way of life from those invaders who wanted to take it all away from them.
So when does the ethnic cleansing and apartheid of the Palestinians in Palestine ever become genocide? Or does it mean that Israel’s ‘ethnic cleansing’ of them will simply go on indefinitely until the Israeli Wall of Separation corrals every last Palestinian into tiny Bantustans with no real collective political, cultural, economic, religious/spiritual independence or self-determination until they finally cease to be? When that occurs will that not constitute the genocidal massacre of an entire culture and race of people?
Yet in spite of whatever arguments and appeals to reason and logic can ever be made, many supporters of Zionism, to this day, give their unwavering allegiance to: the historic unfolding of the Israeli Kibuttzim in Palestine: that began as utopian communities that combined socialism and Zionism, that, in turn; led to the rise of the Jewish kibbutznik’s settler movement in the occupied Palestinian territories of Greater Jerusalem, the occupied Syrian territories of the Golan Heights and occupied Egyptian territories in the Gaza Strip and West Bank. No amount of Geneva Convention violation protests, U.N. Security Council Resolutions or declarations of ‘illegality’ under international law by the international community (United Nations, International Court of Justice, European Union, Organization of Islamic Cooperation) has ever made one iota of difference.
The response to the use of the term ‘genocide’ in the title of this companion article to the original book review of Ilan Pappe’s work reflects the same hostility that exist in the world and the stone deaf ear that has been shown for decades towards all the civil rights and human justice violations of Palestinian sovereignty and right of self-determination and independence that is every people and nation’s inherent right.
Still, there are many others who have sought to remain truthful to the historical record and to themselves, and who have undertaken a serious read of the original imperialistic designs and intent of those early Zionist visionaries and plotters towards Palestine in the late 19th century and 20th century; and those who have come after them in Israel’s settler movement since 1948 who have held to their vision for Palestine, the Levant and the creation of an ever-greater Eretz Israel. They know that this vision that has driven and motivated Zionist visionaries and plotters since day-one has never made any real distinction between what some would balk at either being called racism, ethnic cleansing, apartheid or genocide.
They would be the first to deny that Israel’s imperialistic designs were and are as ruthless as any Alexander the Great, Genghis Khan, Adolph Hitler or any other conqueror of the past who was prepared to do whatever had to be done, without any sense of guilt or culpability, to sweep away or eliminate all those peoples who got in their way. An Andrew Jackson in America’s early frontier wasn’t any different than a David Ben-Gurion of early Zionist Israel, who was prepared to do whatever was required to remove or eliminate the sub-humans in question that represented an impediment to their greater megalomaniacal designs. No fundamental difference exists between a Republican Party President who once cleared out the American South of all its Native American’s, and put them on a forced Trail of Tears death march to some distant, uninhabitable land, and those actions taken by hardliner Likud Party leaders and their followers towards the Palestinian Arabs in Palestine. No matter how one construes it, the actions of the original Zionists, and the settler movement that came after them, are as ruthless and criminal as any so-defined ‘terrorist’ movement in 2017. To read a history book of some early American frontiersman justifying his or her right to kill Native Americans – whether men, women, children or babies – on the basis that nits grow lice, one can’t help but be reminded of those modern-day Zionists who justify taking the same action on the basis that Palestinian Arabs are nothing more than ‘snakes’ who must be eliminated, young and old alike, along with all their homes, villages and towns so that “no more little snakes can continue to be bred.”
SO, the ultimate questions that always have to be answered about the ethnic-cleaning, genocidal actions of whatever conquering, imperialistic power begins with asking,
“When does all the ethnic-cleansing turn into genocide? How many must die to qualify the difference? Who decides? How arbitrary are such distinctions?”
If a whole village or town is massacred, like at Kafir Qasim and other villages, does that qualify as genocide in the specific or in the main? A dual side to these questions, as in the case, of every conquering power and all those peoples it subdues and robs of all their lands, resources and way of life is,
“When do such stolen lands ever become un-stolen lands?”
Do they become un-stolen only so long as they have the power to hold onto them until some other, even greater, conquering power comes along and in turn steals them again?; which begs the further question,
“Is this the sum total of what it means to be fully human and what human history has been, and always will be, about until that final predicted Biblical Rapture Up that is so often talked about, and for which so many pray?”
Jerome Irwin is a freelance writer and author of “The Wild Gentle Ones; A Turtle Island Odyssey” (www.turtle-island-odyssey.com), a three volume account of his travels as a spiritual sojourner, during the 1960’s, 70’s & 80’s among Native Americans & First Nations in North America. It encompasses the Spiritual Renaissance & Liberation Movements among native peoples throughout North America during the Civil Rights era. More recently, Irwin authored a series of articles on the “NODAPL/KEYSTONE XL/CLIMATDE CHANGE protests against the United States government. Irwin also is the publisher of The Wild Gentle Press.