In 1978, U.S. President Jimmy Carter presided over a meeting of the Israeli cabinet. The only non-Jew to have ever chaired such a meeting, Carter was told by then-Minister of Agriculture Ariel Sharon that there was already a Palestinian State, that it was Jordan, and that Carter could take for granted that within the next few years there would be two to three million Jews living in the occupied territories. Sharon added that, “Even as we speak, Jewish families are migrating into Judea and Samaria.”
Sharon’s decision to remove 7,500 Jewish settlers from Gaza (that’s 1.7 percent of the total number of settlers in the territories occupied by Israel in the 1967 war) is nothing more than a tactical move. He gave up what Israel didn’t want, and in return consolidated Israel’s holdings in Jerusalem and the massive settlements in the West Bank. For this trade, Sharon gained the endorsement of President George W. Bush, who reversed 38 years of American diplomatic momentum and tradition.
Sharon is now attempting to transform the Gaza Strip from a seething source of guerilla resistance, home to Hamas and Islamic Jihad, into a giant outdoor prison. The Gaza Strip is the residence of 1.4 million Palestinians, mostly refugees from 1948 or 1967, or their descendants. They are crowded into a six-by-28-mile strip and make up the densest and most impoverished concentration of people anywhere in the world.
Barbed wire, electric fences and guard towers surround Gaza. All traffic or commerce into and out of Gaza is carefully controlled by Israel as is its airspace and water resources. There are even plans for an offshore fence in order for Israel to have complete control of its coastal boundary.
Since the formation of Israel 57 years ago, the state has been responsible for the deaths of 50,000 Palestinians, according to estimates by Israeli historian Ilan Pappe. Occupying no more than 6 percent of the land area of Palestine at the beginning of 1948, Israel captured 80 percent of it by the year’s end in a wave of ethnic cleansing that saw the expulsion of 800,000 of the indigenous Arabs and massacres in about 30 Arab villages, claiming the lives of two to three thousand Arabs.
Israel now exercises control over the entirety of Palestine. It controls the population living within the territory captured in the 1967 war who are exposed to daily humiliation and degradation as Israel confiscates their property and subjects them multiple checkpoints that prevent or severely restrict their travel and commerce. Forty-seven percent of the residents of the occupied territories are now living on less than $2 per day, owing to Israel’s destruction of businesses, transportation routes and agricultural capacity.
Israel has destroyed 12,000 Palestinian homes and more than one million olive and citrus trees since its capture of the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem in 1967. As of last spring, Israel has killed 3,847 Palestinians since October 2000. This equates 71.24 Palestinians killed by Israel per month over the five-year period, or 2.38 killed per day, a fact never mentioned on CNN or on the rest of the American media. The fact is that Israel can kill Palestinians with total impunity, and does so.
Zionism is a product of the 19th century thinkers such as Theodore Herzl and others. It consist of two basic principles: first, that a Jewish state should be established exclusionary of Christians and Muslems and Arabs to every possible extent, and secondly, that the indigenous Arab population must be driven from their homes and ancestral lands to the surrounding Arab states.
This ethnic cleansing has taken place with the 1948 as well as the 1967 refugee population expanding to approximately 4.5 million Palestinian refugees, the largest and longest-standing refugee population in the world.
Yet the fact of the matter is that Zionism and a Jewish state are intrinsically incompatible and inconsistent with the human rights of the indigenous Palestinian population. One cannot have it both ways. This is the reason for 38 years of negotiations failing to produce a peaceful settlement.
The world can realize the human rights of all the Middle East people or it can have Zionism and a racially exclusionary Jewish state, which continues the ethnic cleansing of 1948. But it cannot have both.
It is time that we consider the justice of the continued existence of a racist and racially exclusionary state and ask, “Is it worth the subjugation and continued ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian people?”
William Martin is aninstructor at USF.