Oppression and land theft bring shame to Israel
How can Israelis close their eyes to the violent abuses inflicted by Israel’s military against the Palestinians? They live in an artificial world of denial — bolstered by a mastery of communications and the dysfunctionality of Palestinian activists — in which abuses against Palestinians such as racism, land theft, physical violence and killings take place every day. These actions do not even provoke a whimper from the majority of Israel’s Jews.
They have come to accept the fact that their country is one built on the oppression of others, while going to great lengths to separate its viciousness from that which fueled the Holocaust, which brought many of them into the initially welcoming arms of Palestine’s Christians and Muslims.
They may argue that not all Jews in Israel have turned their backs on righteousness. But that was also the response of populations in Germany and in Poland during the Second World War. Not everyone hated Jews, but very few spoke out until it was too late.
That is where Israelis are headed: Toward a fate in which one day they will have to answer for the atrocities that have taken place against Palestinians. The newly announced investigation by the International Criminal Court in The Hague, which was itself founded on principles defined by the postwar trials of the Nazis, is just the beginning.
Every day, Palestinian lands are being confiscated for the sole purpose of expanding the existing and building new Jewish-only settlements. The best farmlands are taken from Palestinians with impunity.
Reports frequently make it through the Israeli government-throttled mainstream news media about Palestinians who are attacked, brutalized and killed by Jewish settlers in the occupied West Bank. And yet Israeli Jews still manage to go about their business in places like West Jerusalem, where they openly refer to the big houses built using Jerusalem stone as “Arab homes.”
There is absolutely no shame, especially as Israeli Jews lead the campaign to recover land and property stolen from them during the Holocaust. As they do so, land and property is being stolen from the Palestinians in their name. And their major institutions don’t seem to care.
For Palestinians, March is a special month, during which they commemorate “Land Day.” This commemoration reflects on when — March 30, 1976 — the Israeli government passed a law allowing the expropriation of lands from non-Jews. Protests by Palestinian citizens of Israel raged from Nazareth to the Negev. It was the first time that Israel’s non-Jewish population had stood up to the racism on which Israel is based.
B’Tselem, an organization of Israelis of all backgrounds who embrace human rights, this month released a scathing report on how extensive the theft of land is. It argues: “The fact that the West Bank has not been formally annexed does not stop Israel from treating it as if it were its own territory, particularly when it comes to the massive resources Israel invests in developing settlements and establishing infrastructure to serve their residents.”
Tel Aviv may be able to change the face of the West Bank, but it cannot erase the truth.
The report adds: “This policy has enabled the establishment of more than 280 settlements and outposts now populated by more than 440,000 Israeli citizens (excluding East Jerusalem). Thanks to this policy, more than 2 million dunams of Palestinian land have been stolen, by official and unofficial means. The West Bank is crisscrossed with roads linking the settlements to one another and to Israel’s sovereign territory, west of the Green Line; and the area is dotted with Israeli industrial zones.” These industrial areas produce stolen products that are then disguised and sold to markets around the world — a process that the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement seeks to expose.
Israel may be able to change the face of the West Bank, just as it has meticulously erased much of the Arab identity from areas throughout Israel, but it cannot erase the truth, which will always stand as a testament to its cruelty.
Israelis are accountable for the horrors that their government inflicts on the Christians and Muslims in Israel and the Occupied Territories.
- Ray Hanania is an award-winning former Chicago City Hall political reporter and columnist. He can be reached on his personal website at www.Hanania.com. Twitter: @RayHanania