Posts Tagged ‘Land Seizures’

Israel’s Ethnic Cleansing of the Palestinians and the Italian Fascist Colonisation of Libya

March 5, 2018

Yesterday I put up a piece showing the parallels between Israel’s seven decades long campaign of violence, dispossession and ethnic cleansing of the indigenous Palestinians and the Nazis’ annexation of Poland during the War, and their ethnic cleansing of the Poles and attempts to found German colonies in the cleansed regions.

I’ve no doubt that this comparison between the Nazis and Poland, what Israel is doing to the Palestinians, will be extremely unpalatable to the Israel lobby, who object that it is hurtful and anti-Semitic to compare them to the Nazis, the Jews’ mortal enemies. But however unpleasant and disturbing these comparisons are, they are there. And as the anti-PC right like to say, hurt feelings are no reason for covering up the facts or trying to shut down honest debate.

There is also another Fascist parallel to Israel’s occupation of Palestinian land, their campaign of colonisation through expanding, illegal Israeli settlements and the harassment and violence against the Palestinians themselves, and the seizure and destruction of their homes and property. It’s the Italian Fascist colonisation of Libya during the Second World War.

Italy had been trying to establish an empire in North Africa before Mussolini seized power, but had little success. Indeed, one Italian government fell because they were defeated in battle by indigenous African resistance forces. This was a massive humiliation for a European country, which considered themselves racially superior to the people over whom they sought to rule. Nevertheless, Italy continued to press for an empire, and the project was revived by Mussolini and the Fascists, who saw themselves as restoring the old Roman Empire. A brief description of the Italian Fascist occupation and colonisation of Libya is given in the article ‘Libya (Tripolitania and Cyrenaica)’ in Philip V. Cannistraro, ed. Historical Dictionary of Fascist Italy (Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press 1982).

This states

The Ottoman provinces of Tripolitania and Cyrenaica became Italian possessions at the conclusion of the Italo-Turkish War of 1911-12. Patriotic rhetoric and a sensational newspaper campaign had described Libya as a ‘terra promessa’ (promised land) for Italy’s emigrants who were forced to settle in foreign lands. Italians soon found that they had acquired sovereignty over two vast desert territories, totally lacking in natural resources and thinly populated by a hostile Muslim population-scarcely an emigrant’s paradise. Nevertheless, for nearly thirty years, until the defeat of the Axis marked the end of Italian rule, Italy worked to create a “fourth shore” (to add to Italy’s Tyrrhenian, Adriatic, and Sicilian shores), a single colony, along the lines of Algeria, that would become an integral part of the mother country and would provide opportunities for emigrants to settle as small landowners.

Following the initial conquest, Liberal regimes, preoccupied with World War I and then with Italy’s postwar domestic crisis, made little attempt to establish control over the entire territory or to undertake colonisation. When the Fascists came to power in 1922, they embarked immediately on a campaign of military conquest. The repression took nearly a decade. Although Tripolitania was peaceful by 1924, the Sanusi-led rebellion in Cyrenaica lasted until 1931 and was particularly ferocious. According to official Italian figures, the population of Cyrenaica declined from two hundred twenty-five thousand in 1928 to on hundred forty-two thousand in 1931. Moreover, the livestock, the chief means of livelihood of the indigenous population, was decimated.

Under the governorship of Count Giuseppe Vulpi between July 1921 and July 1925, General Emilio De Bono between July 1925 and December 1928, and Marshal Pietro Badoglio between January 1929 and December 1933, the Italians experimented with various programs of land grants and subsidies to attract investors and colonists. Despite ever larger subsidies and increasing government regulation, the results remained unsatisfactory. Large plantations (devoted to almonds, olives and vineyards), worked by Italian labour, developed instead of a small landholders paradise.

During the last half dozen years of Italian rule, however, the outlines of a “fourth shore” began to emerge. Thanks to peaceful internal conditions, the eagerness of the Fascist regime to finance the colony’s development, and the personal energy and influence of the flamboyant Italo Balbo, governor from 1934 to 1940, the colony flourished. Colonisation companies, financed by the government and by social welfare organisations, were entrusted with programs of intensive land settlement. Balbo himself presided over two mass migrations of colonists (twenty thousand in October 1938 and an additional ten thousand a year later) chosen primarily from the Po Valley and the Veneto. Communications improved vastly with the completion of a 1,800-kilometer border-to-border highway inaugurated in 1937. Tripolitania and Cyrenaica were united administratively into one territory known as Libya with a single governor located in Tripoli. Socially and culturally the coastal regions became an extension of Italy, as tourists flocked to special events such as car races and air rallies or to visit the newly excavated archaeological sites of Sabratha and Leptis Magna. By 1939 the transformation was given legal recognition when the four coastal provinces of Tripoli, Misurata, Benghazi, and Derna were incorporated into the kingdom of Italy.

The transformation of Libya, however, was very costly to the mother country. The colony never came close to self-sufficiency and remained heavily dependent on subsidies from Italy. Nor were the Italians successful in dealing with the indigenous Libyans, on whom they depended for labour. By 1940 the Italian population numbered about one hundred and ten thousand in contrast to a Libyan population of eight hundred thousand. The failure of a “separate but equal ” policy became clear when World War II broke out. Many Libyans rallied ot the Sanusi banner once again (in alliance with the British), and the Libyans rejected any claims for even a limited period of postwar Italian trusteeship over Tripolitania. Nevertheless, a sizeable Italian colony remained in Tripoli until its final expulsion in 1970. (Pp.305-7).

When Blair, Sarko, Killary and the rest were demanding Colonel Gadaffy’s overthrow a few years ago, one Tory MP put his head up to say that the Libyan dictator deserved it, because he was anti-Semitic. The MP’s father was Italian Jewish, and was one of those, who’d been expelled. It’s possible that anti-Semitism was a factor in his father’s expulsion, as there is a very strong current of it in the Middle East. But it’s far more likely that the man was expelled because he was Italian, and therefore one of the country’s hated colonial overlords.

I realise that the parallels between the Nazi occupation of Poland, the Italian Fascist colonisation of Libya and Israel’s own persecution and colonisation of Palestinian territory aren’t exact. Nazism and Fascism were both anti-democratic dictatorships. Israel is a multiparty democracy, and there are Arab members of the Knesset, as well as a separate Palestinian authority.

But Israel was born through the massacre of the indigenous Arab population, and has imposed a system of apartheid on those who remain, most similar to the former White South Africa, and presumably something like the “separate but equal” policy implemented by the Italian Fascists in Libya. While making noises about finding a two-state solution to the problem of Palestinian statehood and equal rights, Israeli policy appears instead to be to encourage the further expansion of their settlements in the Occupied Territories, intimidation of the indigenous Palestinians through aggressive policing and military action, and the seizure of Palestinian land and homes, as well as the destruction of Arab property, by militant settler groups. All while running schemes to encourage more Jewish and Israeli emigration to these areas. Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, runs a business financing and building such settlements.

The comparison between Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy and Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians can be pushed too far, but it is still there. And libelling those, who point it out as ‘anti-Semitic’ is no argument or defence against it. The truth often hurts, but honesty requires that history should be squarely faced and the horrors of the past and present confronted.

Israel Is Doing to the Palestinians What the Nazis Did to the Poles

March 4, 2018

One of the methods the Israel lobby uses to silence comparisons between their decades long maltreatment and ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians and the Nazis’ persecution of the Jewish people, culminating in the Shoah – the Holocaust – to proclaim very loudly that such comparisons are hurtful and particularly offensive to them as Jews, the Nazis’ victims. This doesn’t mean that the comparisons aren’t there. Critics of Israel have pointed out that Israel’s policies towards the Arabs certainly does resemble the Nazi persecution of the Jews up until 1942, when Hitler and the rest of his murderous gang decided on the infamous ‘Final Solution’. The Conservatives and other, self-proclaimed opponents of ‘Political correctness’ have made it very clear that hurt feelings should not be used to silence plain speaking and honest debate. This is true, although by plain speaking it usually means standing up for the type of people, who see nothing wrong with using racist epithets and making very racist remarks about Blacks, Asians and any other ethnic groups they don’t like. See the mouthings of the Daily Mail on this issue for further information.

But the Jews weren’t the only people the Nazis regarded as subhuman. They also despised the Slavonic peoples of Eastern Europe. Hitler made it very clear that in his invasion of Poland, Ukraine and Russia, he was merely continuing the medieval ‘Drang Nach Osten’, or ‘Drive/ Penetration to the East’ of the German medieval kings to conquer the Slav tribes. Prussia was one such state to be Germanised through conquest during the Middle Ages. The Pruzzi, from whom the German state took its name, were a Baltic tribe, and the area was also occupied by the Wends, a Slav people, whose language still survives today around the town of Cotbus in the former East Germany. They also waged war against the Poles. This finally ended with the collapse of Poland in the 17th century, and its annexation by Prussia, Austria and the Russian Empire.

Hitler’s plan for the conquered eastern European territories was to establish a series of German colonies in areas seized from the indigenous peoples. In those areas free of colonisation, the Slav peoples were to be reduced to an uneducated, peasant class, who would provide their German masters with foodstuffs.

D.G. Williamson, in his book The Third Reich (Harlow: Longman 1982) writes

Hitler’s primary aim in eastern Europe was to found a series of new German colonies. In the former Polish territory, which had been annexed by the Reich in 1939 a start was made in resettling German refugees from the Baltic States and eastern Poland, which had reverted to Russian rule in 1939-40. By 1943 the RKFDV had expelled about a million Jews and Poles and brought in roughly the equivalent number of ethnic Germans, of whom only about half were settled on the land. The remainder spent the war in refugee camps. Hitler wished to reduce the Polish population to a semi-illiterate mass whose main function would be to serve the interests of Greater Germany, and to allow the economy to deteriorate into what he called ‘the Polish chaos’. (p. 63).

Further information on the Nazi ethnic cleansing and enslavement of the Poles is provided by Norman Davies in his book, Heart of Europe: A Short History of Poland (Oxford: OUP 1984). He writes

As a result of the September Campaign, the whole of Poland passed under the occupation of Nazi and of Soviet forces. the Polish government and High Command took refuge in Romania, and on 30th September, a new Government was constituted abroad under General Sikorski, first in France, and later in England. On the western side of the Nazi-Soviet demarcation line along the Bug and the San, the Germans established a ‘General Government’ with its headquarters in Cracow. May districts of pre-war Poland, including Suwalki, West Prussia, Wielkopolska, and Upper Silesia, were directly incorporated into the Reich. (P. 65).

According to the outlines of the Generalplan-Ost, the Nazi aimed to redistribute the entire population between the Oder and the Dneiper. German settler were to be introduce by the million. the Poles were destined either for Germanisation where suitable, or for expulsion beyond the Urals. The residual Slavs were to be turned into a pool of half-educated slave labourers. Inferior or useless human beings-Jews, gypsies, recalcitrant prisoners of war, imbeciles and invalids-were to be eliminated….

German resettlement schemes were already under way in West Prussia,, where 750,000 Polish peasants had ben expelled to make way for Germans transferred from the Baltic States. Now the same methods began to be applied in central Poland, notably in the region of Zamosc. In 1942-3, over 300 villages were cleared in this region alone. There remained 400 villages intact simply because the SS could not spare the manpower to clear them. The evictions were attended by unspeakable burnings, beatings and butchery. The well-known fate of the one Bohemian village of Lidice, where 143 men were murdered by a Nazi reprisal order, was visited on Poland not once, but hundreds of times over.
(Pp. 69-70).

Map of Nazi occupied Poland, from Davies’ Heart of Europe, page.69.

Okay, there are some major differences between the Israeli ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians, like the Nazis and the Nazi occupation of Poland, quite apart from the fact that they haven’t set up death camps to murder them as they did to Polish Jews. The Israelis aren’t interested in retaining the Palestinians as an enslaved peasant class. They just want to expel them. But this has been done through massacre, land seizures and horrific persecution. And Gaza has been compared to a wartime Jewish ghetto.

I am in no doubt that such comparisons will be just as unpalatable to the Zionist lobby in this country, as the comparisons to the Nazi persecution of the Jews before 1942 and the ‘Final Solution’ are. But that does not mean that they aren’t there, and valid.

The truth often hurts, but real history, not propaganda, is about facing up to them, to explain and explore history and recognise what really happened in the past. Not to purvey cosy, patriotic myths about what we’d like to believe happened. This applies to everyone, regardless of nationality, religious creed or race.

Screaming that the comparisons between the Nazi occupation of Poland and the ethnic cleansing and enslavement of its people, or claims that such comparisons must be anti-Semitic aren’t arguments. It’s just more libel and abuse. It’s time for Israel’s supporters to wake up to the facts, and stop their support for Israeli imperialism, apartheid and ethnic cleansing.