Depopulating Palestine, dehumanizing the Palestinians
One might have thought that, in the wake of the Nazi regime’s systematic crimes against humanity last century, dehumanization would have become unthinkable once and for all. Unfortunately, this has not been the case. It has shamefully continued unabated, the assorted perpetrators including, with tragic irony, those who themselves were victims of Nazi dehumanization.
Dehumanization is an apt term because it consists of more than merely murder, massacre, torture, blockade, dispossession, humiliation, and the like. It consists of the very denial of the humanity of the victims and their cultures; it may include attempts to wipe them from the archives and from anyone’s memory. This denial makes simple physical destruction easier: cruel treatment on a mass scale would seem to require that the victimizer view the victim as subhuman, as verminous, as something that infests the surroundings, as something unworthy of the consideration one normally gives even strangers about whom one knows nothing.
The case of the Palestinians is hardly the only case of dehumanization in the post-World War II era; for example, the African victims of the European powers –the mistreatment of whom got underway well before the 1930s. What seems to distinguish the Palestinian case is the sophistication, duration, and outside support of the effort to deny the very existence of people, Muslims and Christians, who have lived for a long time south of Syria and Lebanon and north of Saudi Arabia between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River.
No one better vocalized this denial better than a former Israeli prime minister, Golda Meir, who famously said: There were no such thing as Palestinians. When was there an independent Palestinian people with a Palestinian state? It was either southern Syria before the First World War, and then it was a Palestine including Jordan. It was not as though there was a Palestinian people in Palestine considering itself as a Palestinian people and we came and threw them out and took their country away from them. They did not exist.
A libertarian approach offers a perspective that tends to get overlooked by conventional analysis. Examining whether the Palestinians as a group constitute a “people” deserving of “national” self-determination or liberation can yield useful information, but that question cannot be fundamental because whether or not “Palestinians” qua communally conscious people lived in “Palestine” before the Israeli Zionism got underway, we do know this: individual human beings who were not recent European Jewish, better to read ‘Zionist’ immigrants legitimately owned property there.
But in fact, notwithstanding fabricated and wholly discredited “histories” of Palestine and Israel, it is now uncontroversial to state that the establishment of Israel saw hundreds of thousands of indigenous individuals driven from their ancestral homes and hundreds of others massacred by recent European immigrants (many of them atheists yet nevertheless claiming to be Jewish) without a tenuous connection to Palestine. There’s a reasonable question: “If it is proper to ‘reconstitute’ a Jewish state which has not existed for two thousand years, why not go back another thousand years and reconstitute the Canaanite state? The Canaanites, unlike the Jews, are still there.”
The early Zionist affinity for the indigenous population of Palestine faded when people began to resist the encroachments by the so-called European Jewish newcomers. The upshot is that since before Biblical times, people have lived continuously in Palestine. Every emissary who scouted the area for Theodor Herzl and his new Zionist project reported the same thing: Palestine was not “a land without a people,” contrary to the claim made in the self-assumed “1948 Declaration of the Establishment of the State of Israel”.
Ahad Ha’am, a “spiritual Zionist” who had spent time there, reported in 1891, “‘Palestine is not an uninhabited country,’ and has room ‘for only a very small proportion of Jews,’ since there was little untilled soil except for stony hills or sand dunes.” Ha’am and others warned the Zionist movement to respect the indigenous population.
As per this alleged Zionism preacher, if there was to be a so-called Jewish state, most if not all of the non-Jews would have to go!! Ben-Gurion told the 1937 Zionist Congress “Only in a very few places in our colonialization were we not forced to transfer the earlier residents.” David Ben-Gurion was the primary national founder of the Zionist, usurper regime of Israel and the first Prime Minister of the occupied lands called ‘Israel’. His militias forced many more others be transferred a decade later.
As individual human beings, they obviously cared about their homes and communities, whether rural or urban, and thus could be counted on to resist proposals that they be “transferred” — expelled — from their homes to somewhere else. To assume otherwise is to see these individuals as less than human.
In fact, though, we can find signs of “national” self-consciousness at different times and in different stages of development (for lack of a better term in the context of anti-colonial resistance). Khaled M. Safi, a historian at Al-Aqsa University writes, “Islam and the Ottoman Empire were the broadest and most meaningful socio-cultural and political entities, but there developed a type of proto-national sense regarding Filastin, as it was termed, from the seventeenth century on.” However, Palestinian consciousness seems to have preceded the 17th century. The famous 10th-century Arab geographer Al-Muqaddasi, who was born in Beit al-Moqaddas, describes Palestine (or Filastin) in great deal, including its lush farmland and nourishing natural waters, in his book, Description of Syria, Including Palestine.
In the early 1920s, after the French (under the imposed Sykes-Picot Agreement) forbade independent Arab rule of greater Syria, of which Palestine was regarded as the southern province, Arab leaders were determined to defend the independence of Palestine. The British of course would have none of that; it ruled Palestine under the League of Nations mandate system that incorporated the 1917 Balfour Declaration‘s endorsement of the “establishment in Palestine of a national home for the alleged ‘Jewish’ people.”
The victims of British and French duplicity, like their forebears, tended to develop, or rather increase, a communal identity. This identity was already solidifying as the Zionist plan for an exclusivist state became a reality on the ground through the eviction of fellahin (Arab farmers) and city inhabitants from properties; in Zionist eyes these were Jewish, better to say Zionist lands that had to be redeemed after their defilement by non-Jews. Stephen Halbrook’s valuable “The Alienation of a Homeland” shows that only a small percentage of those properties were purchased from individual tillers of the soil. Most were acquired by force whether directly or indirectly.
The dehumanization of the Palestinians was manifest in the Western attitude that, under pressure and force, these individuals saw themselves merely as undifferentiated members of an Arab horde, indifferent to their immediate surroundings, that is, to their homes, towns, villages, farming communities, market connections, and ultimately their larger homeland, and thus would accept “transfer”, better to read being expelled to other Arab areas. No Westerner ever thought of himself in such nonhuman terms, but thinking of Palestinians that way came easy. That’s the stuff of mass injustice, of literal and cultural genocide.
Realization of the dream of a Zionist state entailed the dispossession and expulsion of the Palestinians, who by the common standard of justice were legitimate owners of their land. Those who remained were made third-class citizens or even worse in the apartheid status. The countless micro offenses against those individuals were compounded by the macro offense: the destruction of their flourishing culture, communities, and country.
Speaking at a United Nations Security Council (UNSC) meeting on Palestine, Iranian Deputy Ambassador to the United Nations Es’haq Al-e Habib denounced the Israeli parliament's endorsement of the so-called “nation-state” law as a “highly dangerous development.” He said the new Israeli measure is “meant to legalize racism and apartheid,” and that “the international community should pressure the regime into revoking it.” The Iranian diplomat said that Israel’s adoption of a law that defines the occupied territories as an exclusively “Jewish state” is further proof of the regime’s apartheid nature, urging international pressure on Tel Aviv to cancel the law.
Israel’s Knesset adopted the law just recently by 62 votes to 55. It prioritizes Jewish values over democratic ones in the occupied territories, declares Beit al-Moqaddas the “capital” of the usurper regime of Israel, allows Jewish-only communities, sets Hebrew as the official language of Israel and relegates Arabic from an official language to one with “special status.” The approval came despite widespread condemnations even among Israelis themselves, who argue that the law discriminates against Arabs and other minority groups and violates their basic rights.
Elsewhere in his remarks, the Iranian envoy described the Israeli occupation of Palestine as the root cause of the crises gripping the Middle East. Al-e Habib said, America’s “unwavering support” and “the Security Council’s inaction” have emboldened the Israeli regime over the past seven decades to press ahead with its “occupation, brutal acts and expansionist policies”.
The relocation of the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Beit al-Moqaddas in May this year violates international law and UNSC resolutions and is a blatant example of the US backing for Israel.
What you heard was excerpts of an article by Sheldon Richman, the executive editor of The Libertarian Institute, senior fellow and chair of the trustees of the Center for a Stateless Society, and a contributing editor at Antiwar.com. That was added by parts of the remarks made Iran’s Iranian Deputy Ambassador to the United Nations Es’haq Al-e Habib speaking at a United Nations Security Council (UNSC) meeting on Palestine.