Sixty-eight years after the occupation of Palestine began people refer to the Zionist rape and pillaging of Palestine as a “conflict.” It is the “Israeli-Palestinian conflict” or the Israeli Palestinian “Issue” some even call it a “dispute” and others, a “question.” My friend, Dr. Mads Gilbert told me recently that if anyone in Norway referred to the German occupation of Norway as a “conflict” or “dispute” they would be thrown out of the room.
I expect this would be true in France, or Belgium and even on the Island of Jersey. No one will refer to the German occupation, not to mention the German policies towards Jews under the Nazi regime as a conflict. Yet when speaking of occupied Palestine, where ethnic cleansing and genocide have been the reality for sixty-eight years people often refrain from using the term occupation – particularly regarding 1948, when lion’s share of Palestine was occupied.
There are two things we are not allowed to say about the Palestinian Nakba. Two things that Western “civilized” society finds impolite. The first is comparing or even juxtaposing the Jewish experience under the Nazi regime to the Palestinian experience under the Zionist regime. The second is to claim that the Palestinian experience is one of a slow and methodical genocide. So I will apologize in advance for breaking the rules of civilized society and I shall address these two issues right here. Jews in Germany and in parts of Europe that were occupied by Germany suffered from the Nazi policies of racism and physical extermination from the time of Hitler’s rise to power in 1933 until the German defeat in 1945. Palestinians have been living under Zionist policies of apartheid, ethnic cleansing and slow genocide since 1948 and there is no real end in sight. It is true that the Nazi plan to exterminate Jews was fast, violent and very effective, and thankfully the Nazis were defeated and the genocide was brought to an end. It is also true that Zionist policies do not mirror those of Nazi Germany and the killing of Palestinians has not been as fierce. At the same time, families in Gaza who lose loved ones to indiscriminate bombing by Israel, and millions of Palestinian refugees who are imprisoned in camps, might find the differences negligible.
In case there is any doubt that what the Zionist regime in Palestine, i.e. Israel is doing is genocide, article 2 of the United Nations convention on genocide may clear things up. It defines genocide as any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group. Article 3 discusses who may be punished for the crime of genocide.
Article II: In the present Convention, genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:
(a) Killing members of the group;
(b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
(c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
(d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
(e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.
Article III: The following acts shall be punishable:
(b) Conspiracy to commit genocide;
(c) Direct and public incitement to commit genocide;
(d) Attempt to commit genocide;
(e) Complicity in genocide.
Over the past sixty-eight years Israel has made its intent more than amply clear through its actions in regards to the Palestinians, and three out of the acts in Article 2 and all five out of article 3 apply to Israel. As a matter of fact, all of article 3 as it relates to Palestine also applies to the US, UK, France, Germany and several other European countries.
The saga “Times of White Horses” by Ibrahim Nasrallah, that relates the stories of a Palestine than no longer exists, and the works of Walid Khalidi and Salman Abu Sitta that record the cities, towns and villages that were destroyed yet still live in the hearts of Palestinians everywhere, allow us to appreciate what was there before the Zionist invasion. Not a land without a people, not a desert that was made to bloom by Jews, but a richly diverse land that was home to a living, thriving nation made of farmers and scholars, writers and politicians, merchants and builders.
This year the Palestinian community inside of 1948 held Nakba day events and demonstrations throughout the entire country, commemorating the Nakba on sites where villages were destroyed. Palestinians were waving the Palestinian flag, which inside 1948 is a remarkable thing, and in one case in Eljalil the Israeli flag was taken off the poll at a police station and the Palestinian flag was placed instead. Thousands attended an event in the Naqab where the village of Wadi Zubala existed until 1948. The residents of Wadi Zubala went to the South Hebron Hills in the West Bank which at that point in time was outside of Israeli jurisdiction. There they purchased land and settled in Um Hiran where they have lived ever since. Now, Jewish settlers have taken over their land in Um Hiran forcing them off their land for the second time.
“The old will die and the young will forget,” this is what Zionist leaders tell themselves. But this is merely wishful thinking. The old die, sadly that is the way of the world but young Palestinians remember. Not long ago I attended a conference on Palestine in Chicago. As often is the case with conferences which Muslims and Arabs attend, there were many, many young children present. It is one of the joys of participating in such conferences. During a break a few friends and I sat at the hotel lounge and watched the kids play around. When we asked these kids, all of whom were born in the US, many of whom had parents who were born in the US, where they from the replies came fast and without any hesitation. Among their responses were Yaffa, Haifa, Isdud, Akka, Yibne, and on and on. So much for forgetting.
My friend Nader Elbanna always says, “The Nakba is much more than losing the land and the house.” Fadwa, my better half puts the issue of the Nakba in very raw terms,
“I want my country back, and I want my father to have his dignity back before he dies. And after all they had done and continue to do to us, the Jews will never be welcome here.” Her father is 85 years old, a scholar and an educator. “Because he refused to work with the Yahud, he was not able to work at all” she told me. He refused to collaborate with the Israeli secret police, the Shabbak, and so at the age of 40 he lost his job as a school principle and was never able get another job. Beyond the genocide, the ethnic cleansing and the death and destruction, beyond the humiliation and the years of suffering for which no compensation or restitution will ever suffice, there is a deeply personal aspect to the Nakba. Every Palestinian has been touched by this and each one has a personal, heart wrenching story. And yet there is a common thread among the countless stories: there is no dispute, no conflict, just people who quite simply want their country back.
This article was written by Miko Peled for American Herald Tribune on May 16, 2016. Miko Peled is an Israeli writer and activist living in the US. He was born and raised in Jerusalem. His father was the late Israeli General Matti Peled. Driven by a personal family tragedy to explore Palestine, its people and their narrative. He has written a book about his journey from the sphere of the privileged Israeli to that of the oppressed Palestinians.