By Jamal Kanj
Much has been written on Israeli policies seizing Palestinian land and building illegal ‘Jewish only’ colonies in the West Bank. However the discrimination against the original natives, the non-Jewish Israeli citizens, has gone unnoticed for 64 years.
The creation of Israel in May 1948 on the land of Palestine resulted in the expulsion of roughly 85 per cent of the indigenous and the annexation of 92 per cent of their land. Nearly 150,000 Palestinians remained in what later became Israel.
The vast majority of them were displaced in their own country and relocated to the handful of Palestinian towns spared destruction like Nazareth, Um al-Faham, Shifa-Amr and on the periphery of what were once large cities such as Acre, Haifa and Jaffa. This is in addition to several thousand semi nomadic Bedouin tribes in a sundry of “unrecognized” villages in the arid Negev region.
The original inhabitants of the land, otherwise known by the nomenclature Israeli Arabs, have endured Israeli institutional racism since 1948. The supposed Israeli citizens lived under separate military law until 1965. Representing approximately 20 per cent of Israel’s population today, the aboriginals have access to only 2 per cent of the total land mass.
Their properties were confiscated for the benefit of new Jewish immigrants and turned over to the Jewish National Fund (JNF) as part of a program legally denying non-Jews the right to use or lease JNF administered land.
Addressing their predicament, Walter Leh, then a professor of linguistics at the University of Minnesota wrote in 1974 “…the [Israeli] state under color of law effectively prevents any non-Jews from leasing or holding any rights … to 90 Per cent of the [JNF administered] land in Israel.”
In a recent interview Haneen Zoabi who is one of the small marginalized Knesset representatives of the Palestinians, akn Israeli Arabs, declared that “… since 1948, Israel has confiscated our land and turned it over to the exclusive use of the Jews. …We don’t have permission to build our own houses on our own land and thus have no rights to use our land that hasn’t been confiscated”
Israeli official program for the Judaization of areas with high native inhabitants such as the Galilee and the Negev region was not limited to physical properties, but extended to robbing the “historical memory” of the natives by altering the original historic names of landmarks, villages and roads.
As part of Israel’s forged historical project, Israel bestowed Hebrew pseudonyms on locations which were once flourishing Palestinian villages and towns. Thus, Tel Rabi became Tel Aviv, Lubya turned into Lavi, Al Zeeb transpired into Gesher Haziv, and Saffuriyya into Tzippori and Beit Jala metamorphosed into Gilo.
Despite all this, Israel has failed to defuse, what it termed, the “demographic bomb” threatening Israel’s Jewish ethnocentricity. This racial paranoia is the impetus behind the new stratagem to sideline natives by proclaiming Israel officially as a state of the Jewish people.
Ms Zoabi cautioned of grave injustice violating basic human rights for the non-Jewish original inhabitants if Israel was defined by the ethno religious identity of the new immigrants, declaring that: “I am the indigenous people. I did not immigrate to Israel; it was Israel that immigrated to me”
– Jamal Kanj writes frequently on Arab World issues and the author of “Children of Catastrophe, Journey from a Palestinian Refugee Camp to America,” Garnet Publishing, UK. Jamal’s articles can be read at www.jamalkanj.com. He contributed this article to Palestine Chronicle.com. Contact him at: firstname.lastname@example.org.