Ifwe­want­peace andtruth, there can’tbe­boy­cotts

The Jewish Chronicle - - LIFE - ZION­ISM SI­MON BARON-COHEN

ZION­ISM WAS a utopian dream of cre­at­ing a safe home­land, born in the minds of Jewish refugees flee­ing the hor­rific pogroms of East­ern Europe in the 1880s and 1890s. Some 30,000 Jewish utopi­ans took the boat to Pales­tine, erect­ing tents and build­ing the first ide­al­is­tic so­cial­ist com­munes, the kib­butzim. With ex­tra­or­di­nary pre­science, those Zion­ists an­tic­i­pated that a Jewish home­land might be needed to pro­tect Jews from fur­ther per­se­cu­tion. They could never have imag­ined that, in the 1930s and 1940s, two out of ev­ery three Euro­pean Jews would be killed by the Nazis. This is an im­por­tant early con­text to the Mid­dle East con­flict.

But there is an­other im­por­tant con­text: in 1897, there were more than half a mil­lion Arabs, Be­douins, and Druze liv­ing in Pales­tine. The 30,000 Jews who ar­rived were really guests in some­one else’s land. By 1935, the Jewish pop­u­la­tion com­prised a quar­ter of the pop­u­la­tion of Pales­tine and each year the num­ber of Jews in Pales­tine rose by more than 10 per cent. Arabs in Pales­tine felt and were dis­placed. This dis­place­ment lies at the heart of the cur­rent con­flict. By 1936, anger to­wards the Jews in Pales­tine was pal­pa­ble: alKas­sam called on Arabs to kill Jews, and to carry out a ji­had against the Jewish im­mi­grants whom he saw as steal­ing Pales­tine from the Pales­tini­ans. By 1936, the na­tional Arab lead­er­ship was in­cit­ing violence against the Jews. The Arab re­volt of 1937 led to an in­creas­ingly fre­quent mur­der of Jews.

In case the claim of Arab dis­place­ment is dis­puted, I pro­vide a clear ex­am­ple of this from Ari Shavit’s im­por­tant book My Promised Land: On July 4, 1948, Ben Gu­rion launched Op­er­a­tion Lar­lar, to con­quer the Arab town of Ly­dda. On July 11, Arabs fired ma­chine guns from Ly­dda at the ad­vanc­ing Is­raeli army, who sent in an ar­moured bat­tal­ion with a can­non.

In 47 min­utes, more than 100 Arab civil­ians were shot dead, in­clud­ing women, chil­dren and old peo­ple. The Is­raeli con­voy en­tered Ly­dda and con­fined thou­sands of civil­ians in the Great Mosque, the small mosque, and St Ge­orge’s Cathe­dral. In the com­bat, Is­raeli sol­diers fired an anti-tank shell into the small mosque and, in 30 min­utes, more than 200 Arab civil­ians were killed. The next day, July 12, Oper­a­tions Of­fi­cer Yitzhak Rabin is­sued a writ- ten or­der: “The in­hab­i­tants of Ly­dda must be expelled quickly, with­out re­gard to age.” By the evening, tens of thou­sands of Pales­tinian Arabs left Ly­dda in a long col­umn. The photo here cap­tures this ex­o­dus. In Shavit’s words “Zion­ism oblit­er­ates the city of Ly­dda.” He de­scribes Ly­dda as the “dark se­cret of Zion­ism”.

Shavit, and the Is­raeli his­to­rian Ilan Pappé, call this ‘‘eth­nic cleans­ing”, an emo­tive term that is de­bated by other Is­raeli his­to­ri­ans such as Benny Mor­ris, who nev­er­the­less con­clude that the ‘‘old history’’ of Is­rael was “less than hon­est” and who are now writ­ing the ‘‘new history’’. In Shavit’s words: “By the end of May 1948… the en­tire Safed-Tiberias re­gion is cleansed of Arabs” and he re­minds us that those Pales­tinian Arab refugees are “lan­guish­ing… in the refugee camps of Jeri­cho, Bal­ata, De­heisha, and Ja­balia… Seven hun­dred thou­sand [Pales­tinian] hu­man beings have lost their homes and their home­land”.

Is­rael was founded by the UN on May 14 1948 and the next day five armies (Egypt, Jor­dan, Iraq, Syria, and Le­banon) in­vaded her. This is the war that Is­rael cel­e­brates as the War of In­de­pen­dence; but it is the same war that the Pales­tinian Arabs memo­ri­alise as the ‘‘Nakba’’, or “the Catas­tro­phe”. To understand why a war can have a dif­fer­ent name to each com­mu­nity, one needs to lis­ten

We must see that those in Is­rael who will suf­fer from a boy­cott are a source for peace


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