Sunday, 8 September 2013

“Enough is enough!”

Palestine belongs to the Arabs in the same sense that England belongs to the English or France to the French… What is going on in Palestine today cannot be justified by any moral code of conduct… If they [the Jews] must look to the Palestine of geography as their national home, it is wrong to enter it under the shadow of the British gun. A religious act cannot be performed with the aid of the bayonet or the bomb. They can settle in Palestine only by the goodwill of the Arabs… As it is, they are co-sharers with the British in despoiling a people who have done no wrong to them. I am not defending the Arab excesses. I wish they had chosen the way of non-violence in resisting what they rightly regard as an unacceptable encroachment upon their country. But according to the accepted canons of right and wrong, nothing can be said against the Arab resistance in the face of overwhelming odds.” Mahatma Gandhi, 1938

India, Pakistan and Kashmir know what it is like when a nation makes a unilateral decision to partition another country, disregarding the wishes, culture and traditions of its indigenous people. Theirs has been the desolation of the enforced dismantling of homes and lives. As refugees within their own land, they trekked to unfamiliar and unloved territory, along unsought, unwanted paths, towards an unknown future. Some in their midst declared, “Enough is enough!” and retaliated against the injustice of forced partition and relocation. India, Pakistan and Kashmir know that the cry, “Enough is enough!” was the catalyst for violence, bloodshed, revenge and increased suffering. Smouldering disagreements exploded into mutual hatred as people unwillingly occupied each other’s homelands and tried to settle in surroundings they never sought for themselves and their families. India, Pakistan and Kashmir share a great deal in common with Israel and Palestine.

Gandhi wrote about the rights of Palestinian Arabs before the outbreak of World War II and Communism. He could not foresee the Holocaust or the Gulags. A non-violent protest by European Jews could not have stopped Hitler or Stalin. Becoming unresisting fodder for the gas chambers was a horror that Gandhi himself could not envisage. Neither satyagraha (non-violent protest) nor India’s partition occurred within the context of world war and genocide. India’s fight for justice by satyagraha could not compete with the insatiable greed of the gas chambers and the gulags.

In 1948, 750,000 Palestinians were forcibly expelled from land that their ancestors had inhabited for 5,000 years. Israel subsequently appropriated Palestinian villages, land, houses, orchards, businesses and personal possessions, claiming that the refugees were ‘absentee landlords’ whose property Israel claimed legitimately in order to establish a Jewish State! The tragedy is that a people who had lost everything through the Holocaust and Stalin’s purges in its turn despoiled Palestinian families. In declaring its right to a Jewish homeland, Israel, backed by the United Nations, did so in territory that had belonged to Palestine for millennia - and wondered why Palestinians objected.

Why did Gandhi speak of Palestine as the home of Arabs and not of Jews? Today’s Palestinian Arabs are descended from the Canaanite peoples encountered by the Israelites after their escape from Egypt and subsequent 40 years in the desert. When Muslim Arabs invaded Palestine in the 7th century AD, the Canaanites intermarried with the new arrivals, becoming both Muslim and ‘Arabised’. Today, there is no distinction between those whose ancestors were Hittite and those who were Jebusite, Perizzite, Persian, Greek etc. The Jews always remained a distinct group, who did not intermarry: hence the religious and racial distinction between Jew and Arab within Palestine.

Jewish rule of Palestine under David and Solomon lasted for approximately 73 years. The period of the ancient Jewish kingdoms lasted for approximately 414 years, extending from David’s conquest of Canaan in 1000 BC to the destruction of Judah in 586 BC. Recent Israeli archaeology has demonstrated that when David established his throne in Jerusalem, he did so in a large city which Canaanites had built and fortified eight centuries earlier.

Palestine became a predominantly Arab, Islamic country from the end of the 7th century. Until 1948, there was a massive Arab majority in Palestine and a small Jewish minority. For example, in 1931, the Jewish population of Palestine was 174,606 compared to an Arab population of 1,033,314.

Israel (including the Golan Heights)
76.4% Jewish
(various origins)
(mostly Arab)
(West Bank & Gaza)

West Bank
83% Palestinian Arab and other

Gaza Strip
Palestinian Arab



(Statistics: CIA, The World Factbook)

Today, most people presume that the difficulties between Israel and Palestine are the result of the British Balfour Declaration, made in November 1917. Most are unaware of the long quest for a Jewish homeland, dating back to the 19th century. Also, just as Islam, Muslim and Islamist are not coterminous concepts, neither are Jew, Israeli and Zionist.

Of course one can always ask if Britain had the right in the first place to partition another country and relocate its inhabitants. Did Britain learn nothing from its Norman invasion in 1066 and the near annihilation of its Anglo-Saxon people, language, traditions and culture?

Zionism is a Jewish nationalist movement to establish a homeland in Palestine. It began as a 19th century reaction to European anti-Semitism. Initially inspired by a longing for security from discrimination and persecution, Zionists were the Jews who declared “Enough is enough!” They began to acquire land in Palestine even though it meant dispossessing the peasant occupants. However Rabbi Hirsch of Jerusalem declared in the Washington Post of 3 October 1978,
“Zionism is diametrically opposed to Judaism.  Zionism wishes to define the Jewish people as a nationalistic entity. The Zionists say, in effect, “Look here, God. We do not like exile. Take us back, and if you don’t, we’ll just roll up our sleeves and take ourselves back. This, of course, is heresy. The Jewish people are charged by Divine oath not to force themselves back to the Holy Land against the wishes of those residing there.”

Martin Buber, the renowned Jewish philosopher, wrote:
“We took hold of the key economic positions in the country without compensating the Arab population, that is to say, without allowing their capital and their labour a share in our economic activity. Paying the large landowners for purchases made or paying compensation to tenants on the land is not the same as compensating a people…”
Ilan Pappé, an Israeli historian, wrote:
”Archival documents [on the eve of the 1948 war] expose a fragmented Arab world wrought by dismay and confusion and a Palestinian community that possessed no military ability with which to frighten the Jews… The Jewish military advantage was translated into an act of mass expulsion of more than half of the Palestinian population. The Israeli forces, apart from rare exceptions, expelled the Palestinians from every town they occupied. In some cases this expulsion was accompanied by massacres [of civilians]… rape, looting and confiscation [of Palestinian property]

Inevitably, there were Arabs who declared “Enough is enough!” and so the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO), Hezbollah and Hamas were born. Throughout history, armed conflict has catalysed technological progress. Thus Palestinian guerrilla activity moved from the throwing of bricks to hurling shells and home-made explosive devices. Israeli blockades inspired secret tunnels for the movement of weapons and vital supplies of food and everyday goods.

… and what of the Christians who form such a tiny minority in the Holy Land? These are also declaring “Enough is enough!” Unarmed and caught between the crossfire of the two opposing forces with whom they are trying to live peacefully, many are leaving. Their numbers are too small to make much local impact. Present in the Holy Land for 2,000 years, at least 25,000 Palestinian Christians have left their homeland because of the continuing violence and curfews. They leave because of confiscated land and identity cards, the closures of schools, businesses and medical facilities, house demolitions and the Separation Wall. Even Christians with Israeli citizenship experience discrimination. The Holy Land suffers until Israel and Palestine declare a lasting peace. Pope Benedict once commented:
“There is hope… for a new impetus along the path to peace. We wish above all to encourage the Christians in the Holy Land and throughout the Middle East to remain, to offer their contribution in their countries of origin: they are an important component of the life and culture of these regions… So I hope that the Christians really will find the courage, the humility, the patience to remain in these lands, and to offer their contribution to the future of these lands.”

Enough is enough! It is time for peace!

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