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The Plight Of The Palestinians

Book Review by Edward Jayne

07 December, 2010

In his collection of thirty-two articles by almost as many authors, The Plight of the Palestinians: A Long History of Destruction, William Cook provides a devastating assessment of Zionist violence against Palestinians. Relentlessly told are one atrocity after another, one act of deception after another, one broken treaty after another, one surprise attack after another, one policy reversal after another--all of which are described with both effective immediacy and an adequate sense of historic context. The articles themselves extend from Francis Boyle's "Israel's Crimes against Palestinians," published in August, 2001, to Ilan Pappe's "The Necessity of Cultural Boycott," published in June, 2009, spanning almost a decade of Israel's sixty-year campaign to force the departure of Palestinians from the West Bank. Cook's long introduction is especially useful in its exploration of events during the late forties when Israel established itself as a Jewish state, the one and only specifically denominational nation in the advanced industrial world. Relevant to Zionist intentions at the time, Cook discusses such matters as the Haganah Oath, the Red House, Catling's Top Secret "Memorandum of the Criminal Investigation Department of July 31, 1947," and the Deir Yassin massacre as well as those of Saliha, Lod, Dawayima, and Abu Shusha. Regrettably, he neglects to mention the Zionist sound trucks that were reported to have circulated among Palestinian villages after the Deir Yassin massacre, warning that the same could happen to them as well.

The single issue that keeps recurring in the articles is whether Israel has been intentionally pursuing the genocidal destruction of Palestinians. The word "genocide" actually occurs in the titles of eight of the articles (one quarter of the total), and the flood of information contained therein--as well as most of the rest of the articles--suggests the choice of the word is in fact reasonable, not hyperbolic. Cook recounts how Raphael Lemkin coined the word "genocide" in 1944 by linking the Greek word "genos," referring to a tribe or race, with the Latin suffix "cide," meaning to kill. Cook also quotes Frank Chalk and Kurt Jonasson's more expansive definition of the word to suggest the destruction of culture, language, religion, political and social institutions as aspects of genocide that may fall short of total annihilation. And in fact the reference to "genocide" throughout the text is not limited to total annihilation but includes other modes of extreme repression, and appropriately so. It seems obvious by now that Zionists do not exactly seek to exterminate Palestinians, merely to get rid of them--i.e., either to "transfer" them to nearby Muslim nations or to sequester them in "cantons" (Ariel Sharon's word) equivalent to American Indian reservations minus the gambling casinos. In the words of Steven Lendman, "slow-motion genocide" would be involved, something presumably better and more "humane" than the Nazi gas chambers, but nevertheless despicable.

The words "ethnic cleansing" have been used to describe the elimination of an undesirable population without necessarily killing everybody. However, as indicated in Kim Petersen's somewhat confusing piece, "Bleaching the Atrocity of Genocide," the meanings of these alternative designations overlap without necessarily becoming identical, and it seems both redundant and unnecessary to submit them to systematic categorization. Massacres can occur without involving the specific intention of ethnic cleansing (for example General LeMay's bombing of Tokyo in 1945), and, vice versa, ethnic cleansing can occur without the systematic pursuit of a massacre (for example the chaotic population transfer between India and Pakistan in 1947). In the fullest sense, however, genocide usually involves, in the words of Andrew Bell-Fialkoff quoted by Petersen, "the expulsion of an 'undesirable' population from a given territory." In the words of Ilan Pappe, also quoted by Petersen, if to refute him, this expulsion might involve unplanned massacres that help to accelerate the flight, as perhaps illustrated by the example of Deir Yassin. Sometimes a relatively small massacre will do, again as illustrated by Deir Yassin; then again, complete or almost total destruction sometimes becomes necessary, whereupon what might otherwise seem a blatant pleonasm, "total annihilation" becomes justified as suggested by 737,000 Google citations combining the two words. Any number of circumstances might be involved relevant to any particular genocidal campaign, but what seems intrinsic to its implementation if it is truly genocidal is simply enough the intention to get rid of a population--if necessary to kill as many as needed to make this happen--even, if necessary, the total population.

Coincidentally, Hitler's original purpose was to "get rid of" the Jews, not necessarily to exterminate them. He was certainly willing to kill them in great numbers, but he seems to have been reluctant to put his so-called final solution into full effect until January, 1942, after all other approaches had been exhausted as determined at the notorious Wannsee Conference. Only when Germany was enmeshed in what seemed a successful two-front war, did the Nazis initiate a wholesale extermination campaign in concentration camps. Of course Hitler's treatment of Jews was brutal from the beginning, but he limited their killings to what might be described as homicidal exemplification (e.g. one or two executions per day at Dachau) while high-level subordinates negotiated as well as possible the transfer of Jews abroad--primarily to Palestine as documented by Leni Brenner in Zionism in the Age of Dictatorships, but also to the United States, Australia, South America, anywhere that would take them. Ironically, as disclosed by both Brenner and Dr. Elias Akleh, the latter in "Gaza's Holocaust" (p. 105), Jewish groups were among the most effective in blocking this effort. In 1938, for example, the Jewish Agency headed at the time by Golda Meir "spurned the German offer to transfer European Jews to Spain, to the US, or to British colonies for the price of $250 a head." Similar efforts were rejected in 1941 and as late as 1943 for Slovakian Jews. According to Brenner, the WZO rejected a flat offer of $2 million for all the Jews in Western Europe and the Balkans as late as November, 1942 (see Zionism in the Age of the Dictators, pp. 236-7).

The Turkish genocide of over a million Armenians after World War I also exemplified the effort to get rid of a seemingly alien minority, as did the extermination of the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka just last year. Similar results were obtained in the treatment of Native Americans from the beginning of our nation's history into the early twentieth century. The seventeenth century King Phillip's War involved the use of slaughter in order to drive Native Americans out of New England, and similar atrocities later occurred even in the supposedly peaceful effort to transfer Native Americans westward from the southern Atlantic seaboard. The so-called "Trail of Tears" in 1838 caused the deaths of as many as 4,000 of the 15,000 Cherokee tribe who were forced to march by foot on a long circuitous route to Oklahoma. Of course many contemporary white Americans considered these deaths regrettable, but the cause prevailed--to get rid of the Indians whatever it took. That the project turned out to be genocidal in the broad sense of the word was undoubtedly considered an unpleasant necessity.

The first recorded evidence of a campaign to get rid of an entire society is to be found in the Old Testament. Here God is disclosed to have sought the annihilation of tribes already established in the Levant in order to give ancient Jews enough territory for their own nation. Jews were newcomers in the region, having just escaped from Egypt, and to make space for themselves--Lebensraum as it were--it was necessary to eliminate their landed predecessors. In Exodus 23:23-33, God himself actually informs Moses that He himself intends "little by little" to drive out everybody already living in the region--identified as the Amorites, Perizzites, Canaanites, Hivites, and Jebusites--so the Jews can take complete possession of the land. However, God shifts this lethal responsibility to the Jews themselves in Deuteronomy 7:1-6 and 20:16-18 by ordering them to take on this unpleasant responsibility. God actually commands Moses to kill all the region's inhabitants and destroy all traces whatsoever of their former presence. The first of the passages in Deuteronomy cited above can be interpreted as a legal covenant that obliged Jews as God's chosen people to fulfill this command. Understood in this light, today's Zionists are now merely resuming the effort, and what they do amounts to a comparable genocidal effort somewhat mitigated by modern humanitarian concerns. Palestinians can live--those who avoid getting killed (as could the Cherokees who survived the Trail of Tears)--but Zionists cannot neglect the primary task at hand to get rid of them, whatever it takes.

When much later driven from the Levant by Roman troops, some Jews who can be considered early "Zionists" once again sought to create a nation entirely their own by getting rid of a different host population, this time by killing as many as 240,000 inhabitants of Cyprus in 115-17 A.D. After having been defeated and expelled from Israel by Roman legions, it seems numerous Jews relocated in Cyprus, befriended its local population, and then butchered everybody in a surprise night attack in order to possess the entire island as their own. However, in retaliation the Roman Emperor Hadrian sent in Roman troops to put to sword almost the entire Jewish expedition. This shameful chapter of Jewish history is not widely known, its story having been told in fragments--a footnote in Gibbon, a couple of paragraphs in the 11th edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica, a muddled item in the Jewish Encyclopedia, a couple pages in Houston Chamberlain's Foundations of the Nineteenth Century, etc. But it did happen, and its impact could only have thrust the Jewish Diaspora into more distant lands where Jews themselves came to be victimized by exclusionary campaigns. For a variety of reasons inclusive of money lending, the Jewish population was "gotten rid of" by King Edward II in England during the late thirteenth century, then in France at the beginning of the fourteenth century, in Spain during the late fifteenth century, in Poland during the mid-seventeenth century, in Russia during the late nineteenth century, and, as already indicated, in Germany and most of the rest of Europe during the mid-twentieth century. In medieval England and France, their expulsion was relatively bloodless, but, if anything, the level of violence elsewhere seems to have enlarged from one country or region to the next over the following centuries.

With the inception of the modern Zionist movement at the turn of the twentieth century, the theater of choice was once again Palestine, and by 1947 with a lot of help from the British government, President Truman and others, a contingent of Zionist immigrants became operational in the Levant, heavily subsidized, trained, and equipped for sophisticated military combat. Quickly and decisively it used its advantage to drive into exile as many as 780,000 Palestinians--over half the original population. The United Nations had given Zionists limited room for the creation of their own nation, but they grabbed more, and the fight was on to expel as many of the remaining Palestinians from the so-called Holy Land as soon as possible. Of course there was always the pretense in negotiations that Zionists sought an honorable compromise, but it became plain after encounters in Madrid, Oslo, Camp David, Taba, and Annapolis as well as the refusal to accept generous offers from the Arab League and the Anglo-American road map participants, that Israel's diplomacy was limited to the task of appeasing world public opinion while continuing to get rid of Palestinians, whatever it took to do this. In fact this is exactly where the situation is at right now, and with no prospect of a resolution that doesn't involve Israel's acquisition of the entire West Bank and the dispersal of most Palestinians who survive hostilities into adjacent Arab nations and/or small well-guarded cantons.

I can suggest a modest if unthinkable proposal how this campaign might finally be resolved with an arrangement equitable to Palestinians. Simply enough, why not buy their departure from Gaza and the West Bank? According to Kathleen and Bill Christison's excellent article, "Does It Matter What You Call It?" a recent poll has determined that the number of Palestinians now willing to give up and leave the region is at about 32 percent and rising." (p. 125) If Palestinians were generously subsidized for accepting this option, a much greater number might be willing to join the exodus--perhaps even a substantial majority. If, for example, the four million Palestinians who live in Palestine and Israel could be paid $5,000 per year apiece ($20,000 apiece for a family of four) to migrate elsewhere, and if potential host nations could be plied with substantial additional funding to facilitate the transition, one suspects the financial aspect of the transfer could be fulfilled to everybody's satisfaction. Zionists could finally take complete possession of the increasingly desiccated lands they have always sought, and Palestinians could migrate to nearby societies able and willing to accept their full citizenship.

But how could sufficient funding be obtained for such a solution? Again, the answer is quite simple. It would only be necessary to transfer the $3 billion the United States annually spends on Israel to the Palestinians instead. Israel could retain the generous tax-free donations it receives from the Zionist-American community as well as its numerous lucrative military arrangements with the Pentagon, but the transfer of U.S. foreign aid allotments plus some of the promised money from the Arab league would be more than sufficient to lubricate an acceptable "final" solution to the problem, both relieving the dire circumstances of Palestinians and helping to bring an end the political crisis that has dominated the Near East since 1948.

Is this truly possible? Probably not, simply because Zionist strategists are convinced that Israel has won and doesn't need to get rid of the Palestinians right away, since it can do this at its convenience when it chooses to take this step. Right now it reaps truly generous financial benefits because of its current difficulties, and as long as its narrative of fearful adversity continues to play to its audience in the United States, it can wring generous support from both the federal government and the American Zionist community to sustain Israel's relatively prosperous standard of living into the indefinite future. And nothing can be done to change the situation. For though nobody seems willing to admit it, the Palestinians are now a defeated people--destroyed, reduced to penury. So the more desperate their circumstances become, the more readily they can be swept aside when the struggle against them is no longer sufficiently lucrative to Israel. In other words, the current impasse can be expected to persist as long as American financial support continues, and this can be expected to persist as long as the U.S. media remains totally supportive of Israel, for example by playing to the hilt a dozen Israelis having been killed in home-made rocket attacks over a period of six years while ignoring the 100-1 kill ratio when Israel launched its surprise attack against Gaza two years ago. Even more forgettable was Hamas' 16-month unilateral truce ignored by Israel once Hamas was elected in 2006 as well as the U.S. involvement in Sharon's partially successful 1967 strategy to divide Fatah from Hamas by using it to drive Hamas from Gaza.

Today Israel thrives as the result of both its relentless strategic effort and the continuing U.S. support despite negative publicity resulting from this effort. Amazingly, its unemployment rate is 6.2 percent in the midst of a worldwide depression, and by most accounts its triumphalist collective morale is sky high despite its declining world-wide reputation except in the United States. So a genuine peace treaty that transfers U.S. aid to Israel to subsidize Palestinian migration, thereby terminating its "existential" crisis, seems hardly likely despite its potential benefit to the suffering Palestinians. Of course Jewish racial purity is desirable as best obtained by a fully Jewish state, but even more desirable is the ultimate attainment of this purity additional to continued generosity from abroad for as long as possible. In effect there has been a feedback cycle since the seventies: U.S. financial support makes possible successful operations against the Palestinians, and, vice versa, publicity connected with these operations makes possible the continuation of full financial support. Why should this feedback cycle be permitted to end?

How can indignant Americans deal with this situation? For some by participating in the protest movement wherever its efforts do not turn out to be counter-productive. They must be wary, though, that almost any publicity whatsoever that might seem useful to the Palestinian cause can be "flipped" to discredit it by Israel's talented apologists. It is also possible to deal with the situation by boycotting everything linked with the Zionist cause, by helping to educate the American public as well as possible, for example by publishing and circulating books like The Plight of the Palestinians in relatively cheap editions [!], by confronting the issue in otherwise pleasant conversations with otherwise pleasant people, and by always making very plain their sympathy and full support for the rapidly growing number of emancipated Jews who reject the Zionist cause. These include numerous individuals with normal attitudes toward political responsibility, especially those Jews aligned with the J Street campaign and certainly the hundreds of supposedly "self-hating" Jews included on the Zionists' so-called SHIT website who reject the ideological juggernaut of Zionists dedicated to a misbegotten Biblical mandate.