Land thefts reinforce Palestinian attachment to their country

Land thefts reinforce Palestinian attachment to their country

Land thefts reinforce Palestinian attachment to their country
Children stand with other displaced people as they evacuate Gaza City, Mar. 25, 2024. (AFP)
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Donald Trump’s son-in-law and former Middle East adviser, Jared Kushner, characterized the Gaza carnage as “a little bit of an unfortunate situation.” Yet, as a solution Kushner proposed that Israel should “move the people out and then clean it up” — remarking that “Gaza’s waterfront property could be very valuable.” He added insult to injury by saying that allowing Palestinians to have their own state would be “a super-bad idea” that “would essentially be rewarding an act of terror.”

Beyond the sheer jaw-dropping idiocy of such comments, Kushner essentially voices the Israeli far-right’s agenda of forced relocation or extermination of Gaza’s entire population. Kushner agreed that Israel likely would never allow Palestinians back into Gaza after such a forced evacuation, while questioning the historic existence of Gaza or Palestinians as a people.

The vision of wholesale depopulation has become normalized throughout Israel, after long being a fantasy of the fascist extreme-right. A CNN report highlighted an initiative by former residents of the 21 Gaza settlements evacuated within Ariel Sharon’s 2005 disengagement plan.

Proponents of such initiatives have been energetically raising funds and signing up hundreds of families for Gaza resettlement schemes, following the enforced purging of Arab inhabitants. A figurehead for these Gaza resettlement initiatives, Daniella Weiss, told CNN: “No Arabs. I’m speaking about more than 2 million Arabs. They will not stay there … The Arabs want to annihilate the state of Israel, so you can call them monsters.” A map advocated by Weiss shows Jewish settlements spanning the entire Gaza Strip, wholly depopulated of Palestinians.

Recent polling found that 26 percent of Israelis support the reconstruction of Gaza’s Gush Kati settlements, rising to 51 percent among supporters of Netanyahu’s government. Speaking alongside other far-right government ministers, Amihai Eliyahu, Israel’s heritage minister, explicitly supported these Gaza resettlement proposals, saying: “Why do you think it is immoral to take land from someone who wants to kill me? Why is it immoral to take my land?”

Kushner’s comments are particularly concerning because in the event of an incoming Trump administration, they express the prevailing mindset, which would be entirely in alignment with hard-right Israeli political consensus. Even though Kushner claims he is not seeking a formal position, nobody doubts his huge influence. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu knows that a Trump regime would offer a blank cheque to fulfil the desires of lunatic fascist acolytes, such as Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich and National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir.

Attending recent social gatherings, I hear people questioning why Palestinians are unable to find new homes among vast Arab nations; or, conversely, why Israeli Jews cannot relocate to Europe, Russia or the US? Both scenarios fundamentally miss the point concerning the intimate attachment of both sides to their land.

Both my parents are of Lebanese heritage, and the thought of losing an inch of our motherland is unthinkable. For our children’s safety, we fled Lebanon for the UK during Israel’s 1982 invasion. I was warmly received, but my feeling of belonging to Lebanon and its culture has only strengthened. I dream of dying in my native land. Palestinians displaced to nearby states over past decades likewise are still passionately enmeshed within all aspects of their culture, and a young generation is even more intimately attached to their lost lands. Hence, Palestinians who say they prefer to die in Gaza, rather than face the rootless misery of foreign refugee camps.

Over the past 75 years of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, the extreme fringe fantasies of each generation became the orthodoxy for the next generation, whether the huge 1948 territorial seizures; or the post-1967 expansions of the settler movement, as obscure hilltop outposts mutated into sprawling towns carving up Palestinian lands into ever-shrinking cantons. During the 1990s Oslo years, those who preached complete eradication of Palestinians, such as Rabbi Meir Kahane and Baruch Goldstein were belittled as an extreme lunatic fringe.

Hamas and Hezbollah’s rhetoric of forcibly regaining the entirety of Palestine is no less of a dangerous and unrealisable fantasy, given that most Arabs and Palestinians have come to accept the futility of military struggle as a means for supposedly removing Israel, with all its military might and US backing. Most Israelis alive today were themselves born there and know no other land.

However, a 2024 poll found that 63 percent of Israeli Jews reject the creation of a Palestinian state, while politicians talk unashamedly of Palestinian territories being forcibly divested of their rightful inhabitants, despite such genocidal blueprints being flagrantly illegal.

The vision of wholesale depopulation has become normalized throughout Israel.

Baria Alamuddin

Provocatively timed with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s Israel visit, Smotrich last week announced the single largest land seizure since the 1993 Oslo accords. The location is particularly provocative because it would sever the northern and southern West Bank, while also calculatedly making it impossible for Palestinians to claim parts of East Jerusalem as their future capital. Following Blinken’s departure, there are unmistakable signs of Israel stepping up its activities in the Rafah area toward a likely full-blown operation. Britain has warned that it could halt arms supplies unless Israel allows essential goods into Gaza and adheres to international law, with Foreign Secretary David Cameron expressing “enormous frustration” at obstruction of humanitarian aid.

Gaza’s blood is on Netanyahu’s hands, but it is also on America’s hands for decades of submitting to Israel’s every whim, shielding it from international accountability and bankrolling maximalist militarized policies — buying into rhetoric that Palestinians and Arabs were a subspecies, to be exterminated at will. Progressive US congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez described the situation as a “mass starvation of people … accomplished with US resources and weapons. If you want to know what an unfolding genocide looks like, open your eyes.”

Enough of Biden and Blinken throwing up their hands and protesting their impotence. If they genuinely believe in international law and a two-state solution, they hold all the cards for compelling a leadership which has violated all international norms to halt the carnage.

If you do not like seeing the bombing of babies and women, simply cease sending bombs to Israel. Meanwhile, the only way this long-traumatized land can ever see peace is by both sides mutually recognizing each other’s inalienable rights, attachment and sovereignty over their beloved homelands.

  • Baria Alamuddin is an award-winning journalist and broadcaster in the Middle East and the UK. She is editor of the Media Services Syndicate and has interviewed numerous heads of state.
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