Monday 12 January 2009

The Tangata Whenua of Palestine deserve our support

by Auckland union activist

In the 12th Century BC desert tribes invaded the Palestinian region. The Canaanites, Gibeonites and Philistines who occupied the area already were never completely subdued by the invading Hebrew tribes and maintained control of the coastal plains alongside the Mediterranean (encompassing the area of modern Gaza).

The ancient Kingdom of Israel that was founded by these desert people lasted about two centuries, until it split into two kingdoms: Israel in the north and Judah in the south. These later fell to the invading Assyrians and Babylonians. Throughout this period, and all subsequent invasions, right up to the 20th century, the Palestinians maintained continuous residence in Palestine.

Some of the followers of the Judaic religion also remained in the area and lived peacefully alongside the Palestinians, who mostly converted to Islam. But most of the Jews scattered throughout Europe. All these facts are recorded in any encyclopedia and even in the Old Testament.

Modern Jews are the descendants of this ancient religious order. Many of these descendants do not practice this religion let alone owe allegiance to Israel. And like Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, etc., the followers of Judaism are citizens of whichever country they were born in. Judaism is not a race or a nation but a religion.

Is it logical to claim that the descendants of a religious order which inhabited an area for a time, two thousand years ago, have national rights over that land, above that of the native inhabitants? Judaism became a primarily European centred religion, though being a minor faith. And like a lot of minority faiths throughout history it suffered persecution and discrimination.

This gave rise to a separatist right wing political movement known as Zionism. So what is Zionism? In 1897 the first Zionist Congress was convened in Basle, Switzerland. This founding conference passed a resolution that: “The objective of Zionism is the establishment of a national home for Jews in Palestine.” The movement took its name from the old hill in Jerusalem, “Zion” (the “gateway to heaven”).

The chairman of this congress was Theodor Herzl (commonly regarded as the “father of Zionism”) who had written a leaflet the previous year entitled ‘The Jewish State’, in which he advocated a British sponsored Jewish colony in Argentina or Palestine, with a view to the eventual creation of a Jewish state. Herzl made it his job to peddle his racist plan to any colonialist or imperialist power that would back him.

Herzl met the Kaiser in Palestine in 1898 and tried to exploit the fact that the German Emperor had his eye on the strategic importance of the area. He told the Kaiser that the “Jewish state” could be “a beach-head between Asia and the West”. Herzl tried to flatter the German Emperor by stating: “A German Protectorate would be more welcome than others.”

In the end it was the British imperialists who took up Kupapa’s offer to help their imperial grab for this region. On November 2, 1917, Balfour, the British Secretary of Foreign Affairs, in a letter to Lord Rothschild, wrote the following (known as the Balfour Declaration):

“His Majesty's Government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavour to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights to existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country.”

Many leading Jews opposed this declaration. One of the leading Jews consulted about the declaration before it was made, C.G. Montefiore, said:

“We claimed and desired, as I and my friends still claim and desire, that they should be free and equal citizens of all the countries in which they lived.”

The Balfour Declaration pledged to protect the rights of non-Jews in Palestine (who were 96% of the population). But in a memorandum to the British Government, dated August 11, 1919, Balfour wrote:

“In Palestine we do not propose even to go through the form of consulting the wishes of the present inhabitants of the country... The four great powers are committed to Zionism. And Zionism, be it right or wrong, good or bad, is rooted in age-long traditions, in present needs, and future hopes, of far profounder import than the desires and prejudices of the 700,000 Arabs who now inhabit that ancient land.”

What were the “present needs” and “future hopes” which were of “far profounder import than the desires . . . of the 700,000 Arabs” who inhabited the area? Initially the British imperialists (and their French allies) were primarily interested in the division of the Arabs, so they could maintain control of the Suez Canal. British Prime Minister of the time, Campbell-Bannerman, called together a commission of historians and sociologists to study the possible means of perpetuating European imperial domination. The commission, in part of its reply, dealt with the “Arab region”. It stressed the necessity to fight “against the union of popular masses in the Arab region or the establishment of any intellectual, spiritual or historical link between them” and recommended that “all practical ways of dividing them as much as possible” should be sought.

One way of doing so, it was suggested, would be to establish a powerful human “barrier” foreign to the region. Churchill later commented:

“If in our time we are lucky enough to be present at the birth of a Jewish state, not only in Palestine but on the two banks of the River Jordan we shall be witnessing an event which will be in complete conformity with the interests of the empire.”

In 1914 the leading Zionist of the time (and later first Chief of State of Israel), Chaim Weizman, offered the Zionist scheme to the British empire as “an effective guard for the Suez Canal”.

Later oil became the dominant interest of the imperial powers in the area. In the mid-1950s (before the decline of British power in the region), the U.S. magazine Newsweek enviously reported that “some 600 million dollars a year flows into London in one form or another from the Gulf region.”

In 1918, the Jewish community in Palestine constituted 8% of the population. They owned 2.5% of the land. Following British and Zionist-encouraged Jewish immigration to Palestine, the ratio increased to 33% of the population, with ownership of 5.67% of the land.

The immigrants had no links with Palestine other than biblical claims, and, with British stirring, this led to tension between the immigrants and the native Arab inhabitants. Organisations that tried to build unity between Arabs and Jews were actively suppressed, while racist Zionist organisations were encouraged and flourished.

In 1948, the Zionists began in earnest the campaign to drive the Palestinians from their land.

In one of the most infamous acts that year, two Zionist terrorist organisations, the Irgun and the Stern Gang, combined to attack the village of Deir Yassin. On 9 April, using grenades and knives they murdered 254 men, women and children. The chief Delegate of the International Red Cross, Jaques de Reynier, who was able to visit the scene, said that the villagers were massacred “without any military reason nor provocation of any kind”. He described meeting Zionist troops with “large knives most of which were still bloodstained”.

The object of the massacre was to terrorise the Arab civilian population into evacuating the areas the Zionists wanted. The Zionists warned of possible repetition of this crime and many Arabs abandoned their homes and made a general exodus.

By the end of 1948 the minority which owned 5.6% of the land finished up with 78%. The Zionists have deliberately used the great international sympathy for the Jews who were victims of Nazi persecution and extermination. As British historian Arnold Toynbee commented:

“In 1948, the Jews knew through experience what they were doing, and it is their greatest tragedy that what they learned from their encounter with the Nazis led them not to avoid but to imitate certain crimes committed by the Nazis against the Jews.”

In fact, during the Holocaust, the Zionists in their drive to build Israel encouraged the Allies not to accept Jewish refugees as a point of principle. In a report to the American Jewish Congress, the Zionist organiser responsible for Holocaust survivors, Chaplain Klausner concluded: “I am convinced that the people must be forced to go to Palestine.”

At that time, Ben Gurion (who later became the founding Prime Minister of Israel) revealed the obscenity at the heart of the Zionist enterprise. He openly opposed a British scheme to allow entry to England of several thousand German Jewish children and said:

“If I knew that it would be possible to save all the children in Germany by bringing them over to England, and only half to Eretz Yisrael (Israel), then I would opt for the second option.”

When Hitler came to power in 1933 he discovered in the World Zionist Federation of Germany, the main Zionist organisation there, a kindred spirit as warped as his own. They sent Hitler a memorandum, which would shape the Zionists’ relations with the Nazis throughout this dreadful era, including the gas ovens:

“Our acknowledgement of Jewish nationality provides for a clear and sincere relationship to the German people, and its national and racial realities. Precisely because we do not wish to falsify these fundamentals, because we too are against mixed marriage and are for maintaining the purity of the Jewish group.... For its practical aims, Zionism hopes to be able to win the collaboration even of a government fundamentally hostile to Jews, because in dealing with the Jewish question no sentimentalities are involved, but a real problem whose solution interests all peoples, and at the present moment especially the German people. The realisation of Zionism could only be hurt by resentment of Jews abroad against the German development. Boycott propaganda – such as is currently being carried on against Germany in many ways – is in essence un-Zionist, because Zionism wants not to do battle, but to convince and to build.”

Of course, the Zionists’ terrible attitude to the Nazis must never be allowed to hide or disfigure the tremendous courage shown by Jewish resistance fighters against the Nazis. They had to contend with what amounted to a Zionist “fifth column” in their own ranks, whispering: “Do not fight, you cannot fight, the German Nazis are right, you are not welcome in Europe. You do not belong here.”

In 1943 in the Warsaw Ghetto in Poland Jewish fighters rose up against the Nazis. They fought for six months, hiding in bombed out buildings and the maze of sewer tunnels beneath the city. German commanders recorded: “Over and over we observed that Jews, despite the dangers of being burned alive, preferred to return to the flames rather than be caught by us.” Though encircled and occupied, like the Palestinians of Gaza today, against impossible odds, and with very few arms the Warsaw Jews fought to the end.

Uri Avnery, a former member of the Stern Gang, one of several armed Zionists organisations that spent the war in Palestine, and included such figures as Yitzhak Shamir, who became Israel's deputy prime minister, commented:

“Throughout the war, nothing much was done by the Zionist leadership to help the Jews… Many think things could have been done – hundreds of Haganah and Irgun fighters could have been parachuted into Europe.”

In the same year as the Warsaw uprising, Yitzhak Greenbaum, head of the Zionist Jewish Rescue Committee, declared:

“If I am asked: Could you give from the (United Jewish Appeal) money to rescue Jews? Isay: No, and again no. In my opinion, we have to resist that wave which puts Zionist activities in the second line.”

In 1948 the Zionists declared the state of Israel, but took the unusual step of not declaring their boundaries for their new state. Since then the reason for this has become obvious.

Ben Gurion, as the Zionist first Prime Minister of Israel said:

“The present map of Palestine was drawn by the British mandate. The Jewish people have another map which our youth and adults should strive to fulfill – from the Nile to the Euphrates.”

The two blue lines above and below the star of David on the Israeli flag symbolises these two great rivers and the Zionist dream for an Israeli junior empire encompassing most of the Arab lands of the Middle East. So do the Palestinians have the right to resist Israel’s land thefts and ethnic cleansing? Is Israel right to massacre the Palestinians for resisting?

Is Foreign Minister Murry McCully’s claim that the Palestinians should cease their resistance, really balanced? When Israel still has half of Gaza’s MPs in jail, demolishes homes, blockades roads, protects illegal land thefts, and sanctions murders by militant Zionist settlers? When Israel uses targeted assassinations and detention without trial? And keeps the Palestinian population under occupation or in refugee in camps?

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