Good Old Israel?

By Georgina Reeves

In his latest piece written for the New York Times, Avraham Burg asks: ‘Where is the good old Israel?’ Assuming he is not being tongue-in-cheek, and there is no suggestion in the rest of the article that he is, he continues to peddle the same old clichés that liberal Zionists are so fond of. Propaganda is a powerful tool, but so is the truth.
He talks of the early days of Israel’s foundation: "It was an age of dreamers and builders who sought to create a new world, one without prejudice, racism or discrimination." He neglects to mention, though, the Palestinians who remained in what became Israel, and how the new state treated them.
From 1948 until 1966, Palestinians lived under martial law. They required permits issued by the military governor to leave their villages or towns. Palestinians were subject to curfews, administrative detention – detention without charge or trial – and expulsions were common. As Palestinians were concentrated mainly in the Galilee, the Negev and the Triangle, subjecting them to such strict measures of control was simple for the authorities.
Alongside the physical restrictions on Palestinians, the newly-created state of Israel also enacted laws designed to dispossess Palestinians of their land and their rights to their land. The Absentees Property Law aimed to take ownership of property and land belonging to Palestinians. The term "absentee" was carefully applied and targeted Palestinians who had been expelled from their homes during the war of 1948,.
This law applied to Palestinians who had been made refugees and were now outside Israel, and also to those who were now in Israel but living as internally displaced persons. Israel calls these Palestinians "present absentees", an Orwellian state of being which denies them access to their homes, even though many live in the same area and their homes are still standing (unlike the 500-plus towns and villages razed to remove the evidence of Palestinians’ existence on the land for many hundreds of years before).
Burg goes on to say "But something went wrong in the operating system of Jewish democracy. We never gave much thought to the Palestinian Israeli citizens within the Jewish-democratic equation." But that is just not true. A lot of thought went in to how to treat the non-Jewish citizens of Israel. Even before 1948 the Zionists were planning how to gain as much land with as few Palestinians as possible: for the Zionist plan of the Jewish state to become reality, Arabs had to be removed.
Yossef Weitz, director of the Jewish National Fund played a major role in acquiring land for the Yishuv (pre-1948 Jewish community). He stated: "Transfer does not serve only one aim–to reduce the Arab population–it also serves a second purpose by no means less important, which is to evict land now cultivated by Arabs and to free it for Jewish settlement. The only solution is to transfer the Arabs to neighbouring countries. Not a single village or a single tribe must be let off."
The Dalet plan was devised during February 1948 by the Haganah – the Jewish paramilitary organisation succeeded by the Israeli Defence Forces upon Israel’s establishment. The plan was simple: the systematic expulsion of the Arab communities. The expulsions were conducted by the Palmach (elite Haganah fighters), the Irgun and the Stern (Lehi) gang. Villages and towns were attacked, depopulated and destroyed.

The men who designed and fought the war of 1948 were the same men who designed and created Israel after that war. Prejudice, racism and discrimination characterise the Israel they built and the Israel that exists today. The truth is there never was a "good old Israel".

– Georgina Reeves splits her time between London and Bethlehem, and is a co-founding trustee of Ahdaf, a British charity supporting Palestinian students. She contributed this article to Visit:

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