|Ilan Pappe says Israel needs to acknowledge the crime it committed
against the Palestinian people
As part of Al Jazeera’s coverage of the anniversary of the creation of Israel and the Palestinian ‘Nakba’, Israeli historian Ilan Pappe reflects upon the events of 1948 and how they led to 60 years of division between the Israelis and Palestinians.
Between February, 1948 and December,1948 the Israeli army systematically occupied the Palestinian villages and towns, expelled by force the population and in most cases also destroyed the houses, looted their belongings and took over their material and cultural possessions. This was the ethnic cleansing of Palestine.
During the ethnic cleansing, wherever there was resistance by the population the result was a massacre. We have more than 30 cases of such massacres where a few thousand Palestinians were massacred by the Israeli forces throughout the operation of the ethnic cleansing.
|Pappe says the Israeli army systematically
forced Palestinians from their homes
The Israeli army became a bit tired toward the end of the operation and the Palestinian villages became more aware of what was awaiting them and therefore in the Upper Galilee the Israeli army did not succeed in expelling all of the villages. This is why today we have what we call the Arab-Israelis or Israeli-Arabs.
This is a group of 50 to 60 villages that remained within the state of Israel and its population was steadfast and was not expelled over to the other side of the border – to Lebanon or Syria.
The international community was aware of the ethnic cleansing but the international community, especially in the West, decided not to confront head on the Jewish community in Palestine after the Holocaust.
And, therefore, there was a kind of conspiracy of silence and again the international community did not react and was complacent and this was very important for the Israelis because it showed them that they can adopt as a state ideology ethnic cleansing and ethnic purity.
Part of any ethnic cleansing operation is not just wiping out the population and expelling it from the earth. A very typical part of ethnic cleansing is wiping people out of history.
For ethnic cleansing to be an effective and successful operation you also have to wipe people out of memory and the Israelis are very good at it. They did it in two ways.
They built Jewish settlements over the Palestinian villages they expelled and quite often gave them names that reflected the Palestinian name as a kind of testimony to the Palestinians that this is totally now in the hands of Israel and there is no chance in the world of bringing the clock backwards.
|Pappe says many former Palestinian villages
were turned into recreational spaces
The other way they did it is planting trees – usually European pine trees – over the ruins of the village and turning the village into recreational spaces where you do exactly the opposite of commemoration – you live the day, you enjoy life, it is all about leisure and pleasure.
That is a very powerful tool for ‘memorycide’. In fact, much of the Palestinian effort should have been but was never unfortunately – or only recently began – was to fight against that ‘memorycide’ by at least bringing back the memory of what happened.
I think that there should be no reason in the world that two people – the Palestinians and the Jews – despite everything that happened in the past should not be able live together effective and in one state.
You need three things for that to happen. You need closure for the 1948 story – namely you need an Israeli acknowledgment of the crime it committed against the Palestinian people.
The second thing that you need is you need to make Israel accountable for this and the only way of making Israel accountable is by, at least in principle, accepting the Palestinian refugees right of return.
And thirdly you need a change in the Palestinian and Arab position towards the idea of a Jewish presence in Palestine as something legitimate and natural and not as an alien colonialist force.
I think these principles have to emerge and so far the political elites on both sides are unwilling to accept them.
The views expressed by the author are not necessarily those of Al Jazeera.