Monday, March 9, 2009

Palestine: An Introduction to History & Issues

If you scratch your head about the crazy goings on over there in the middle east, this is an excellent read. It only takes about 15 minutes, but will certainly balance the unsatisfying propaganda we get from the MSM.

The whole piece is at, but I have included a few main exerpts below to whet your appetite.

Both Palestinians and Jews have lived for thousands of years in the region once known as Palestine and now known as Israel, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
For some two thousand years, Palestinian Jews were a small and accepted minority in Palestine. The current conflict is not ancient, but has its roots in the nineteenth century with the birth of the Zionist movement in Europe.

Zionism began in the late 1800s as a nationalist movement among European Jews who hoped to escape from centuries of persecution, apartheid, pogroms and expulsions from European countries. The Zionist movement advocated forming a Jewish national state in Palestine. By the nineteenth century, however, since Jews had long been only a small minority there, founding a Jewish majority state would by definition require the displacement of the non-Jewish majority population.
After WWI, there were about 600,000 Palestinians and 60,000 Jews in the territory, half of the latter figure being Jewish settlers from Europe.

On November 29, 1947, the General Assembly of the United Nations -- under heavy pressure from the United States Government -- adopted Resolution 181, which recommended dividing Palestine into two nations, one Palestinian and one Jewish.
The Palestinian Arabs, having already rejected the UN's right to partition their land, now rejected the Resolution as unjust. They demanded instead the independence that the British and French had promised them after World War One.

Civil war between Zionist Jews and Palestinian Arabs broke out immediately after UN Resolution 181 was announced. One of the first major assaults by Zionist/Jewish forces came on December 18, 1947, when Palmach troops (the shock troops of the Zionist underground army) attacked the Palestinian village of Khissas in northern Galilee. Men, women and children were killed and wounded in the night raid.
Armistice agreements were signed in January 1949. The new state of Israel had conquered 78% of Palestine, with Jordan taking control of the West Bank and Egypt taking control of Gaza. Historic Palestine disappeared from the map of the world.

By 1949, at least 800,000 Palestinians had been driven out of their homes.
Israeli historian Benny Morris has documented 369 Palestinian villages that were eradicated. At least 234 of those villages were destroyed by direct Israeli military action. Over 80 of these villages were outside the territory of the UN-defined Jewish state. Israeli towns were founded on many of the sites.

Border skirmishes and instability increased, with neither side refraining from attacks on civilians. In 1956, Israel invaded Egypt in tandem with a French-British attack on the Suez Canal, only to be forced to retreat by US President Eisenhower.

Palestinians who had managed to remain inside Israel lived under harsh martial law until 1966. Israel became increasingly militarized and Arab governments continued threatening and violent rhetoric which was not backed up by any serious military capability or plans.

The Israeli military created provocations in what was supposed to be a demilitarized zone between Israel and Syria.
In 1967, violent rhetoric on both sides had escalated to the point where both the Arab countries and Israel had reason to fear invasion by the other. Egypt, though participating in diplomatic initiatives from the U.S., also moved troops into defensive position in the Sinai Peninsula. On June 5, Israel launched a surprise attack on Egypt. Israel called the surprise attack a preemptive strike, though Israeli military and government leaders have since admitted that they knew there was no actual military necessity:

"Message intercepts by the [United States Ship] Liberty made it clear that Israel had never intended to limit its attack to Egypt. Furthermore, we learned that the Israelis were themselves intercepting communications among Arab leaders. The Israelis then retransmitted 'doctored' texts to encourage Jordan and Syria to commit their armies in the erroneous belief that Nasser's army had repelled the Israeli invaders. To destroy this incriminating evidence, Moshe Dayan [Israeli Minister of Defense] ordered his jets and torpedo boats to destroy the Liberty immediately." --Wilbur Crane Eveland, CIA operative in the Middle East during 1967

After the victory of 1967, Israel annexed East Jerusalem to become a part of the State of Israel. The other conquered areas -- the West Bank and the Gaza Strip -- have never been formally annexed and so the 3.5 million Palestinians who remain there are not citizens of any country but have been subjects of a military occupation since 1967.

4th Geneva Convention, Article 49:
"The Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies."
"Individual or mass forcible transfers, as well as deportations of protected persons from occupied territory to the territory of the Occupying Power or to that of any other country, occupied or not, are prohibited, regardless of their motive."
Beginning in 1967 and accelerating through the present day, the Israeli government has given financial incentives to Israeli Jewish citizens to move to "settlements" in the Occupied Territories.

By suppressing Palestinian industry inside the Occupied Territories, Israel keeps Palestinians as a cheap labor force for Israeli industry. Over the past decades, Israel has tried to become less dependent on Palestinian labor by exploiting immigrant labor from Thailand, Romania, the Philippines and other countries.
With unemployment in the Occupied Territories as high as 80%, many Palestinians live in abject poverty just outside the walls of prosperous government-supported Israeli settlements.

Palestinians are deprived of access to hospitals, social services, and cultural and religious centers in Jerusalem. Palestinians with illnesses are routinely turned away at the hundreds of Israeli checkpoints that strangle Palestinian freedom of movement throughout the West Bank.

Palestinians living in the Occupied Territories are not allowed to vote in Israeli elections. They are, however, forced to pay taxes to the Israeli government. Though they pay taxes to the Israeli government, they do not receive equal government services. Taxes collected in the Occupied Territories are primarily spent inside Israel, not in the West Bank or the Gaza Strip.

Palestinians living inside Israel proper, although they are citizens, are also subjected to many human rights violations. They lived under martial law from 1948 until 1966. Today their communities receive poorer municipal services than comparable Jewish cities. Their access to jobs, loans, or business permits is extremely limited. Palestinians students have not been allowed to study or celebrate their own history or culture -- though this situation is improving somewhat with the revision of textbooks starting in 1998. Palestinian Bedouins, the indigenous people of the Negev desert, have been forced into shanty-towns, where crime, poverty and drug abuse are rampant.

Israel's Law of Return allows Jews anywhere in the world to receive immediate Israeli citizenship with all its privileges, simply by setting foot on Israeli soil. Meanwhile, millions of Palestinians outside Israel are not allowed to return to their homes; Palestinians inside Israel are treated as second-class citizens; Palestinians in the Occupied Territories have no vote and are citizens of no country.

In the spring of 2002, the Israeli military began constructing a physical barrier to separate the West Bank from Israel proper. However, most of this barrier, often called the Annexation Wall, is not being built on the pre-1967 Border, called the Green Line, between Israel and the West Bank. The barrier is being constructed well inside the West Bank, fencing Palestinians away from major water sources and large tracts of their farmland, dividing villages, separating people from hospitals and schools, leaving over 200,000 Palestinians on the Israeli side of the Wall but still without the rights of Israeli citizens. The International Court of Justice ruled in June 2004 that the Wall as currently planned and constructed is illegal and must be dismantled.

In 2005, the Israeli government moved approximately 8000 Israeli settlers out of Gaza and redeployed Israeli military forces to the border. Israel also took down four tiny settlements in the West Bank. The government of Israel tried to present this as an end to Israeli occupation in Gaza. However:
o Israel still controls Gaza's airspace, sea shore, borders and border crossings, including Gaza's border with Egypt.
o Israeli soldiers still can and do enter Gaza at any time and for any reason. Over 400 Palestinians were killed by Israeli soldiers in the second half of 2006 in Gaza alone.
o Israel still controls Gaza's electricity and water, with the ability to shut them off at any time.
o Israel still has veto power over any legislation passed by the Palestinian Authority in Gaza.
As defined by the Hague Regulations of 1907 and the Nuremberg Tribunal of 1948, this amount of “effective control” still constitutes occupation.

In the Palestinian election of 2006, a majority of seats in the Palestinian authority were given to Hamas, a political militant organization whose charter calls for an Islamic religious state in all of historic Palestine. In the early days of Hamas, the government of Israel had nurtured and enabled the organization, hoping to create internal conflict and reduce the effectiveness of secular Palestinian resistance movements such as the Palestine Liberation Organization and Fatah. Hamas' rise to power in the Palestinian Authority has nonetheless created grave concerns in Israel.

The US government has consistently supported Israel and Israeli policy, giving several billions dollars of aid each year to Israel in the form of direct aid, weapons shipments, loan guarantees, and weapons contracts. The US government has repeatedly vetoed UN Security Council resolutions critical of Israel, and pressures other countries to refrain from reprimanding Israel for its policies or actions. In spite of this apparent bias, the United States continues to present itself as the only "honest broker" for Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations.

Palestinians have resisted occupation in many ways. For many years, they practiced sumud, meaning a steadfast refusal to leave their land, even when the oppression was most difficult.

International law also forbids occupying powers from launching armed reprisals against the occupied population. While the right of self-defense is universally supported, Israel’s military also violently maintains an illegal occupation, consistently attacks civilians, and participates in acts intended to destroy the means of living for Palestinians.

Palestinians resisting ethnic cleansing and occupation have employed armed struggle as well as nonviolence. While the Geneva Conventions and other international laws support the right to resist military occupation and dictatorship “by any means at hand” including armed struggle.

A vast majority of Palestinians have never resorted to legitimate or illegitimate violence to resist the occupation, but continue to use steadfastness and nonviolence to struggle against Israel’s military occupation and ongoing attempts to dispossess the Palestinian people.

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