This is part of a longer piece from The Empire Files, no. 37, presented by Abby Martin, formerly of RT and now, I think, a presenter with Telesur English. This tells the story of the shrinking of Palestine from the foundation of the early Zionist settlements to the carnage of the foundation of Israel in 1948. It’s a grim, ugly picture of organised, imperialist brutality, meted out by people Albert Einstein and other western Jewish critics compared to the Nazis and the Fascists, a view also held by one of the Israelis’ own army officers.
It’s entitled The Untold History of Palestine and Israel, and Martin states that this is the history that is not taught in schools. She and her team had been there filming the Israeli occupation of the West Bank for two weeks. It’s a brutal occupation that is funded by the US taxpayer to the tune of $30 billion in aid. But Israel is presented to Americans through the images of ‘Birthright Tours’, which show Israel as a fun-loving, peaceful land threatened by militant Muslims.
Palestine was originally a province of the Ottoman Empire. During Ottoman rule, it had a population of 500,000 people. 75 per cent of these were Muslims, 20 per cent Christian, and 5 per cent Jewish. Nearly all of them were Arabs. Its cities were centres of intellectual culture and art, drawing visitors and scholars from across the Middle East. Even before it had borders, Palestine constituted a distinct, recognisable nation through its peoples shared customs and culture.
Martin explains that the Zionist movement began in the late 19th century as a reaction to the anti-Semitic violence and pogroms, which broke out in eastern Europe. She correctly states that Zionism was the belief in an exclusively Jewish state. I make this point here, because Nazis used the term incorrectly to mean their stupid and imaginary Jewish conspiracies to enslave gentiles. The Zionists were at this point only a small minority within the Jewish people. Most Jews wanted to stop to anti-Semitism in their own countries. This is illustrated with an article from the New York Times about Jewish Ukrainians organising to stop anti-Semitism in Ukraine. Many Jews resisted leaving Europe on the grounds that this would be giving in to the anti-Semites.
Zionism became a fervent movement under its Theodor Herzl, who claimed to be its father. Herzl was an Austrian atheist. He first considered homelands in Argentina and Uganda, before finally deciding on creating a Greater Israel in the Middle East. As shown on a map, this would include not just Palestine, but also the whole of Jordan and Lebanon, and parts of Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and a tiny section of Turkey. Herzl spent his time travelling around the West trying to gather support and sponsorship for his scheme. He wrote to the Duke of Baden, for his aid, saying
If it is God’s will that we return to our historic fatherland, we should like to do so as representatives of western civilisation and bring cleanliness, order and well-established customs, … to this plague-ridden, blighted corner of the Orient.
The Zionists promised to make Palestine a vanguard against barbarism, which meant that it would be an extension of western military power, and ‘build highways of the civilised peoples’, which meant trade for western millionaires. Their slogan was ‘A land without a people for a people without a land’. But the Zionists were all too aware that the land already had a people, and were determined to cleanse them. Another Zionist leader, Israel Zangwill, said
Palestine is not so much occupied by Arabs as overrun by them.
From the first the Zionists planned on the expulsion of the indigenous peoples. Much of the country was semi-feudal, with tenant farmers labouring for absentee landlords away in the cities of Jordan or Syria. From 1892 onwards the Zionists began purchasing this land. In many cases the new, Jewish owners evicted the original inhabitants. Jews, Christians and Muslims had lived in peace and harmony in the region for thousands of years, but these purchases and expulsions resulted in immediate conflict.
New opportunities for the further expansion of the Jewish settlements arose during World War I. The Zionists were aware that the Russians, British and French were planning to carve up the region. The infamous Syke-Picot agreement divided the Middle East between the French and British. Britain was given control of Palestine by the League of Nations. The British government, composed of lords, then issued the Balfour Declaration, which pronounced the British government’s support for a Jewish homeland in Palestine. The British Mandate resulted in riots in Jerusalem by the indigenous Palestinians, who naturally resented having their homeland given away without their consultation.
Again, the Zionist settlers were planning the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians. In 1924 the US envoy stated
The Zionists look forward to a practically complete dispossession of the present non-Jewish inhabitants of Palestine.
At this point, settlers comprised 10 per cent of the population. But this was already producing a refugee crisis. This section of the film shows a picture of rally of Palestinian refugees in Syria from 1929. Already there were 50,000 of such people, thrown out of their homes. As more land was purchased, and people evicted, David Ben Gurion, the future prime minister and mascot of Ben Gurion airport, declared
We were not just working. We were conquering, conquering, conquering land. We were conquistadors.
From 1920 to 1939 the settler population rose from ten to thirty per cent. Ben Gurion himself laid out the settlers’ plans for ethnic cleansing:
We must expel the Arabs and take their places.
This policy naturally produced a rise in clashes between the Palestinians and the Zionist settlers. In 1936 the Palestinians launched a general strike against British rule. This was initially peaceful, until the British declared martial law, and recruited Zionist settlers to attack dissidents and Arab villages. This provoked the strike to become an armed uprising. The British in response embarked on a policy of blowing up Arab homes. 200 were destroyed in the Arab village of Yaffa. The rebellion was eventually crushed three years later in 1939. The death toll was 5,000 Palestinians against 300 settlers and 250 British soldiers. The Zionists formed their own armed forces, which were later used in the war of independence. These comprised the Hagana, the official force recognised by the British authorities, and various unofficial militias, the largest of which was the Irgun. These militias began by attacking the Palestinians, before moving on to British soldiers. It was the Irgun which bombed the Kind David Hotel, killing 91 people, including 17 Jews. This was so popular that one of the militias’ leaders, Menachem Begin, later became president of Israel.
Abroad, many Jews were far less impressed. Albert Einstein and a group of other Jews wrote a letter to the New York Times condemning Begin’s movement. They wrote that it was
A political party closely akin in its organisation, methods, political philosophy and social appeal to the Nazi and Fascist parties.
But the Zionists continued with their plans for the country’s ethnic cleansing. Joseph Weitz, the head of the Jewish National Fund, wrote in 1940
There is no room for both people in this country … and there is no way besides transferring the Arabs from here to neighbouring countries, to transfer them all.
… We must not leave a single village, a single tribe.
The terror created by the Holocaust with its six million Jewish dead, along with the mass murder of other peoples, political prisoners and gays, propelled Zionism from the political fringe to a mass movement. In 1947 the British turned Mandated Palestine over to the UN. This finally gave in to 70 years of Zionist campaigning, creating the state of Israel. The new state was given 70 per cent of the area’s land. Palestine was divided into three zones. However, the new Israel still had a population that was forty per cent Arab. This was a situation that the Israeli founders and leaders were determined to remove. Ben Gurion announced that
There can be no stable and strong Jewish state so long as it has a Jewish majority of 60 per cent.
In 1948 the tensions culminated in a full-blown war, during which the Israelis launched Plan Dalet for the mass terrorisation, murder and expulsion of the Palestinian people. This was the Nakba, the Palestinian term for the destruction of their homeland, a word which means, ‘disaster’ or ‘catastrophe’ in Arabic.
This section of the film describes some of the massacres that were committed, and the atrocities perpetrated against innocent civilians. One of the villages targeted for extermination was Deir Yassin, where there had been no terrorist attacks committed against the settlers. Israeli soldiers murdered nearly the entire population, raping the women before butchering them. One survivor described seeing his entire family lined up to be shot, including his mother, who was breastfeeding a baby. 200 people were murdered. A Red Cross official stated
Here the cleaning up had been done with machine guns, then hand grenades. It had been finished with knives.
!2 days after this, the Zionists attacked and massacred the people of Haifa. At the same time the Israelis broadcast radio messages intended to terrorise the Arabs. These included recordings of women wailing, and the message ‘Flee for your lives. The Jews are using poison gas and nuclear weapons.’ In Abu Shusha, the Palestinians who remained in their homes were raped, then hacked to death with axes. Those who tried to flee were shot on sight. 110 people were killed. At al-Dawayima 450 were killed, with a further 250 missing. In another village, the mosque was bombed, killing the 80 people, who had sought refuge within it. The remaining villagers were rounded up in the town square and shot, leaving a further 70 dead. In Lydda the Zionists massacred around 250-500 people, 250 of which were killed in about half an hour. This was supposedly in response to gun shots being fired from the local mosque. John Bagehot-Howe, a British army officer, commented
It would be an exaggeration to claim that great numbers were massacred. But just enough were killed, or roughly handled, to make sure all the civilian population took flight.
A senior Zionist officer, Joseph Imani, saw Palestinians shot after they came out of their homes waving white flags and carrying food. He said
Where did they come by such a measure of cruelty, like Nazis. Is there no more humane way of expelling the inhabitants than such methods?
During this period 800,000 Palestinians fled their homes, comprising 80 per cent of the Palestinian population of Israel. 500 villages were razed to the ground.
This is the history that you will mostly definitely not find taught in schools, as Abby Martin says. Nor will you see it covered on the mainstream news, whether in the US or over here, by the BBC. Lobster has remarked on the way the Beeb ‘ties itself in knots’ trying to tell itself that it is not biased towards Israel, while being biased towards Israel. And that monster and apologist for mass murder, Mark Regev, the Israeli ambassador, would scream blue murder if anyone in the mainstream media dared to do so, or called those responsible for these atrocities what they are – butchers and mass murderers. As Einstein and the other Jewish critics said, the Zionists responsible for such atrocities and the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians are very much like the Nazis and Fascists. But Regev will scream that you’re an anti-Semite or ‘self-hating’, if you’re Jewish, if you dare to mention this.
But we do need to be aware of these atrocities, if we are to understand the paranoid mindset of the Muslim radicals in Britain today. Kalim Saddiqui, a vile bigot, who was one of those responsible for the hate campaign against Salman Rushdie in the 1980s and 1990s, was filmed at his mosque by the Beeb telling his congregation that
British society is a monstrous killing machine, and killing Muslims comes very easily to them.
When the documentary team challenged him on this, he tried to bluff his way out of it by blustering about how Salman Rushdie’s Satanic Verses had been published as part of a propaganda campaign to prepare for a ‘holocaust of Muslims’. It’s a risible, stupid slander. But to some Muslims, it has a terrible verisimilitude. Many mosques do cover the atrocities committed against Muslims in Palestine and elsewhere around the world in their equivalent of Christian parish magazines. They’re acutely aware of campaigns of terror against their co-religionists. Hence such hysterical claims over here. But these atrocities are deliberately kept hidden from us, so that Islamic terrorism can appear as completely irrational, and Muslims presented as violent terrorists and butchers, killing for the sake of it. That is, admittedly, true to a certain extent of Daesh and al-Qaeda, though even with these cases there is more to it than simply that. If there is ever to be a just peace in the Middle East, we need to know about the real history of the region, how it has been conquered and its people brutalised by western imperialism and the rapacity of multinational corporations. Not only do we need to defeat the Islamists, we also need to defeat the thugs, genocides and corporate despoilers in our own societies.