Who Are the Palestinians?SAMI HADAWI
To many Americans the expression "Palestinian" is synonymous with either a refugee or a terrorist. The first receives philanthropic sympathy like all other refugees of the world; the second outright condemnation. Few attempt to find out the background of either. Let me explain:
Responsibility of the creation of the Palestine refugee problem rests primarily with the Christian Church. Influenced by Zionist arguments that the Jews as the "Chosen People" enjoyed special favor and interest of an omnipotent deity and that Palestine was their "Promised Land," many of the church leaders used their frocks and the pulpit to misinterpret Holy Scriptures into the belief that in supporting the realization of the dreams and goals of political Zionism of establishing a state in Palestine and ingathering the Jews of the world into it, they would be pleasing God and bringing closer the Second Coming of the Messiah. They made no attempt to explain, or even to comprehend, the difference between Judaism as a religion and Zionism as a political movement which was deliberately and maliciously using Judaism and Christianity to achieve its political aims in Palestine. Thus the Holy Land and its Moslem and Christian indigenous inhabitants, who claim descent from the earliest people of the country, were crucified on the cross of political intrigue and personal greed with the Christian Church acting as the Judas Escariot of the 20th century. What the Christian Church began in the early 1900s, the Western politician accomplished in 1948 to make the crime against humanity complete.
After the creation of the state of Israel and the expulsion and dispossession of the Moslem and Christian inhabitants of the country, Christian church leaders began to doubt that the newly established "physical Israel" that they so unwisely helped to create was the "Israel of God" which is ordained in Holy Scriptures. They realized that their blind support of political Zionism was ill-advised and, strictly speaking, had nothing to do with the Bible; while Israel's treatment of the Palestinians brought home to them the enormity of the sin that was being committed against humanity. Consequently, certain American Christian leaders made demands on the U.S. President to terminate all military aid to Israel which continues to act as judge, jury, and executioner in its own cause without regard to human decency, equity and justice.
The exposure of the true character of Zionism and the aggressive nature of Israel and the resultant change in attitude of the Christian Church, were a setback which the Zionists and Israelis had not contemplated. For succor they turned their attention to evangelical Christians and found support among some who were willing to sell their soul to the devil for thirty pieces of silver. Dangling fame and the dollar before their eyes with free trips to the Holy Land, the honor of being photographed with Israeli leaders, as well as adequate financial means to maintain a comfortable way of life for themselves, the misguided and corrupt among them have turned Christianity into a lucrative business with Christ serving as the product and they the beneficiaries. They take out television and radio time for their Sunday so-called "Crusade for Christ," and conduct tours of the Holy Land under the guise of visiting holy sites but the real purpose behind these is to influence Christians in favor of Israel. For example, if their faith was what they claim it to be, where is their Christian charity and conscience on what has been going on in Lebanon? Not a word of sympathy, not a word of condemnation, not even a prayer for the bereaved, the murdered men, women, and children, the maimed and those buried under the rubble of their own homes!
In 1975 the U.N. General Assembly adopted a resolution which determined that "Zionism was a form of racism and racial discrimination." This placed it on the same level with the "apartheid" policy of South Africa. The U.S. Government, faithful to the proddings of the Jewish Lobby, condemned the Resolution without taking into account the actual character of Zionism as declared in its principles of a state for Jews only. The Neturei Karta, a community of pious orthodox Jews, described Israel as a state "conceived in atheism, based on materialism, nurtured by anti-Semitism, led by Marxism, ruled by chauvinism, and trusting in militarism." For anyone to support such a racist destructive movement is to court disaster!
With regard to the Palestinians and terrorism, the Jewish Lobby in the United States has succeeded through intrigue, intimidation, economic power, and corruption in influencing the U.S. media of information and politicians to label the Palestinians as terrorists without attempting to understand the nature and reasons for their so-called terrorism. There are two basic categories of terrorism that can be defined, namely:
Under the first category fall such cases as the operations of the resistance movement in France during World War II. The Allies described their members as "freedom fighters" and supported them morally, militarily, and financially. The Occupying Power, on the other hand, called them "terrorists, saboteurs, murderers" and tried to exterminate them by any means at their disposal because their activities were intended to destroy their potential and military strength and re-establish freedom and human dignity. Although this type of action might terrorize the ruling and military institution, it cannot be conceived as a depraved "terrorism" in the true sense of the word. For all its negative attributes the world has seen fit to exonerate it as a struggle for human freedom, liberty, and dignity, and to endow it with almost religious sanction. Included in this category are the Palestinians who are fighting to regain possession of their usurped homeland, confiscated homes, and plundered property. In this category also fall the peoples of Africa who fought and those who are still fighting for their freedom, liberty, and independence.
The second category comprises such cases as the unique case of Palestine. There the Zionist movement, after enjoying for thirty years British patronage and protection for its programs to achieve political control over the country, turned against its erstwhile patron when the latter began to show signs of vacillation. One must be careful not to confuse the image of the French underground pitting itself against an army of occupation, or even PLO operations, and the illegal underground subversive organizations, the Hagana, the Irgun Zvei Leumi, and the Stern Gang, striking off the restraining fetters of their sponsor-turned-disciplinarian. When the time was right and the demoralized British were committed to abandon their mandate, the Zionist momentum was smoothly channeled into achieving what they had expected the British to achieve for them, namely, the seizure of Palestine, the demographic purgation of Palestine's Moslem and Christian inhabitants, and the declaration of the all-Jewish state of Israel, contrary to the provisions and spirit of the U.N. Charter, the U.N. Resolution of Partition, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and every principle of international law, justice and equity. Thus the Zionist movement's successful so-called "resistance" against the British mandatory government cannot be described as a liberation movement against colonialism, but was more in the nature of a "palace coup" carried out by one colonialist against another. Recalling the situation in those days, author Arthur Koestler said of the present Israeli leadership that as Zionists they "preached resistance but denied indignantly acting against the law; they alternately tolerated, fought against or engaged in terrorism, according to the opportunity of the moment, but all the time carefully maintained the fiction of being guardians of civil virtue." Correspondent David Hirst, on the other hand, referring to the present situation reported: "After the creation of the state of Israel, classical terrorism gave way to the outwardly more respectable terrorism designed to cow and subjugate the Palestinians and the Arab sympathizers." He condemned "an Israel which was built on terrorism and continues to glorify its terrorists to this day."
Commenting on U.S. policy in this respect, White House Correspondent Robert Pierpont accused the Government of having
Never in the modern history of mankind have human rights been so grossly violated as in the case of the Palestinian people and naked aggression so strongly and generously supported morally, politically, economically, and militarily, as in the case of Israel, by a nation which professes to be the champion of human dignity, liberty, and freedom.
It should be understood that the Palestinians are human too, made up of flesh and blood and have feelings like other human beings. They too love their country, regard their homes as their castles and, like people in the West, are willing to sacrifice all in defense of the same fundamental rights and principles for which peoples of the West fought two world wars and now enjoy and take for granted. The fact that the Palestinians have been denied similar rights and principles for the past thirty-four years should disturb the conscience of those who truly believe in equality for all peoples, human dignity, and the right to be free and secure in one's own homeland. The Palestinians believe in these principles and will go to any length of sacrifice to attain their objective whatever the cost.
To understand the issues involved in the Palestine Problem one must begin with three basic questions, namely, who are the Palestinians, what are their rights and grievances, and why are these rights denied. Unless these questions are amply recognized and equitably dealt with, man's inhumanity to man will continue unabated until it explodes into greater and wider conflagration. Today there is a madman loose in the Middle East aided and abetted by a gang of criminals including such people as Ariel Sharon and Yithak Shamir of pre-Israel Stern Gang fame who will stop at nothing to reach their objective of a "Greater Israel." The invasion of Lebanon and the cruelty of the invader have produced surprises that the Israel which emerged is not the Israel contemplated when it was born. The impotence of the world to stop the genocide of men, women, and children, and the indiscriminate bombing and shelling of Beirut encouraged Menachem Begin to arrogantly tell his benefactors in moral, political, economic, and military support that "a Jew will not bow to anybody except God" and that Israel today does not need the help of anybody. It is the duty of all peace-loving peoples to ensure that this madman and his gang do not by their irresponsible actions gradually embroil the world in a nuclear tragedy. While it is not too late, time is running out.
Before I deal with the three questions I have posed, I would like to present certain background information relative to Israeli thinking:
When it was suggested to the late Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir that Israel would be wise to agree to return occupied territories to their Arab owners as a gesture of goodwill and compromise in return for peace with its Arab neighbors, she replied: "How can we return occupied territories? There is nobody to return them to." On another occasion she said: "There is no such thing as a Palestinian ... It was not as though there was a Palestinian people in Palestine considering itself as a Palestine people and we came and threw them out and took their country away from them. They did not exist."
The late Israeli Prime Minister Levi Eshkol was no less emphatic in his denials and distortions. In an interview with Israeli newspaper Davar, he declared:
Such denials and distortions of facts are not only preposterous but are also an insult to the intelligence of man. When I read of them, I could not help but wonder if both ex-prime ministers were in their right mind. At the same time I pinched myself to find out if I, as a Palestinian, really existed. I can assure the Israelis and their friends that the Palestinians do exist and that nothing said or done will ever make me and the other over four million Palestinians scattered throughout the world to "go away" as former U.S. President Jimmy Carter once hoped the Palestinians would do. The Palestinians are here to stay and to multiply until justice triumphs and right overcomes wrong. The world has experienced grave injustices and great crimes but in the end the rule of law and order has prevailed. The Palestinians believe that through their own endeavour and determination they are not going to be an exception.
The Zionists endeavoured during the early period of their movement to make the world believe that "Palestine was a country without a people and that the Jews were a people without a country." Given the opportunity, they said, they would be able to make the desert bloom and bring prosperity to the few nomad bedouins who roamed the countryside.
The facts about the number of the Arab population and the extent of the productivity of the land have been grossly distorted. According to the Palestine Government statistics, the total population of Palestine in 1918 was 700,000 persons. Of these 570,000 were Moslems, 70,000 were Christians, and 56,000 were Jews; with the Jews owning less than 3% of the total land area. According to a study carried out by the British authorities soon after the occupation of the country, the estimated Jewish population between the years 1882 and 1922 was placed at a figure of 24,000 in 1882, rose to 85,000 in 1914, dropped to 56,000 during the war years of 1916-1918, and according to a government census rose in 1922 to 83,794 persons. By the year 1948 when the British mandate over Palestine came to an end, the population of the country stood at 1,415,000 Arabs (including 35,000 "others"), and 700,000 Jews who not formed one-third of the total population. Jewish ownership of land increased from about 3% to about 6%, still an infinitesimal figure.
For Levi Eshkol to claim that the so-called "non-Jews" were only 250,000 souls and that the Jews had made the desert bloom is misleading. The 3% of Jewish owned land fell within the fertile lands of the coastal and other plains. They could therefore not have been in a position to make the desert bloom because the desert was not under their control. Even today with Israeli control over all the lands of Palestine the desert lands are still desert except for patches here and there where soil exists. The Israeli allegation of development consists chiefly of confiscated Arab orange groves which made the "Jaffa orange" famous, centuries-old olive trees and fruit orchards, and first class cultivable land for all of which they now claim unearned credit and pride!
Given the financial support the Israelis received from the U.S. Government and world Jewry during the period 1948 to date, estimated to exceed fifty billion dollars, is it any wonder that extensive developments could have taken place in Israeli-occupied territory? With such colossal amounts of aid, it is possible to make even the vast deserts of Africa bloom! Incidentally, a visit to the Arab Gulf states show what money can do in the way of development; but if Israeli developments with free U.S. dollar contributions were to be compared with what the penniless Palestinian refugees were able to do on their own in Jordan, for example, the contrast would be enormous.
In regard to the fertility of the soil and production, foreign travellers visiting Palestine have described the country as it existed before the Jewish immigration, in glowing terms. One visitor of the 18th century said Palestine was "a land that flowed with milk and honey; in the midst as it were of the habitable world, and under a temperate clime; adorned with beautiful mountains and luxurious valleys; the rocks producing excellent waters; and no part empty of delight or profit." Such reports persist in profusion through the 18th and 19th centuries, not only in travellers' accounts but, by the end of the 19th century, in scientific reports published by the Palestine Exploration Fund.
To go farther back in time, perhaps it would be in order to solicit the help of the Holy Bible that describes Palestine as a land flowing with milk and honey and the fact that when Joshua sent his scouts ahead of the Israelites they returned carrying huge bunches of grapes which clearly proved that the country was inhabited, that its lands were fertile, and that its production was abundant. If that were the case in these ancient times, surely the situation could not have deteriorated to such an extent that it needed Jewish skills and endeavors to revive the land!
Whether Palestine was a land flowing with milk and honey or a desolate desert is beside the point. The fact remains that the country in whatever form it is belongs to its indigenous inhabitants and should not be taken away from them merely because the new-comers are in a better position to develop the land. If such Zionist logic were to be accepted in the world today there would be utter chaos.
The Zionists were aware all the time that Palestine was fully occupied and about its agriculture productivity potentials. In claiming otherwise, they hoped to raise the minimum of objections to their schemes of removal of the Arab inhabitants from their ancestral homeland and the seizure of their lands. In 1895 Theodor Herzl noted in his diaries that something will have to be done about the Palestinians. He wrote:
Other diabolical intentions towards the Palestinians came to light in later years. In 1921 Dr. Eder, a member of the Zionist Commission in Jerusalem, told the British court of enquiry appointed to investigate the causes of the first riots to break out between Arabs and Jews that "There can be only one national home in Palestine, and that a Jewish one, and no equality in the partnership between the Jews and Arabs, but a Jewish preponderance as soon as the numbers of the (Jewish) race are sufficiently increased." He then asked that only Jews should be allowed to bear arms.
A later disclosure of Zionist plans of expulsion and dispossession of the Moslem and Christian inhabitants was reported by General Patrick Hurley, Personal Representative of U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt. He wrote in 1943:
Zionist plans were partly realized in the 1948 and 1967 wars of aggression, and a third attempt at expansion is now in progress in southern Lebanon.
The history of Palestine and the Palestinian people is being deliberately obscured and distorted by the Zionist/Israeli propaganda machine. Palestine was traditionally a wholly Arab country until the arrival of the Zionists after World War I. The name Palestine, it should be remembered, was derived from the word "Philista" which was the land of the biblical Philistines who occupied the southern coastal area in the 12th century B.C. and remained there even after the Israelites had invaded the land. An examination of human remains by anthropologists revealed that 50,000 years ago the inhabitants of the country were of mixed racial stock. From the 4th millennium B.C. until 900 B.C., the predominant indigenous stock were the Canaanites.
The Zionist claim to Palestine is based on pure fiction and would not have been taken seriously in this modern age but for Jewish political and economic influences and pressures over the Christian Church and Western politicians. The claim is based mainly on two premises, namely, on ancient biblical promises of 4,000 years ago, and on Israelite (or Hebrew) historical connection.
In the case of the first, the "Divine Promise" said to have been given by God to Abraham, if it were to be taken seriously in the 20th century, was not made to the Jews but to the "seed of Abraham" which includes the Arabs who are the descendants of Abraham through his son Ishmael who was born and circumsized before Isaac was even conceived. Furthermore, the Jews of Ashkenazi extraction are descendants of the Khazars, a people of Turkish stock, who occupied an area between the Black and Caspian Seas, a territory now a part of the Soviet Union. The Khazars, originally pagans, had in 740 A.D. embraced Judaism and their descendants, while they may profess the Jewish faith today, cannot claim to be of the "seed of Abraham" and "heirs according to the Promise." The ancestors of those Jews who today immigrate to Palestine from Europe and the Americas and claim Palestine and beyond as their ancestral homeland, came not from Jordan but from the Volga, not from Canaan but from the Caucasus, and that genetically, they are more closely related to the Hun and Magyar than to the seed of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Besides, religion does not confer heritage or property rights on people! (For a full understanding of the Khazar origin of Ashkenazi Jews, see The 13th Tribe, by Arthur Koestler.)
As regards the second claim that the Israelites were in previous occupation of the land, this occupation started with an invasion under Joshua in 1100 B.C. and lasted to 585 B.C. when the Israelites were driven into captivity by Nebuchadnezzar. That occupation was limited to the hill regions, and at no time covered the entire country. It was short-lived, unstable, intermittent, long extinct, based on nothing better than the right of conquest and subject to the condition that there should have been national affinity between the Hebrews of 4,000 years ago and the Russian, Polish, American, and European Jew of today. If this transitory occupation can give the Zionists an historic right to the country, then it may be argued that the Arabs, who occupied Spain continuously for 800 years could claim that country today, while the Italians could claim the British Isles and the Red Indians could demand withdrawal from the Americas of all those who settled in the Western hemisphere and now call themselves Americans, Canadians, and Latin Americans!
To consider the three questions posed at the beginning of this statement, namely, who are the Palestinians, what are their rights, and why are these rights denied, I would explain:
(1) The present Palestinians are not, as is popularly believed, exclusively the descendants of the Islamic desert conquerors of 1300 years ago. They are, in fact, mainly the descendants of the original inhabitants, namely, the Philistines from whom the name "Palestine" is derived, the Canaanites, the Jebusites, etc. They were there when the early Hebrews invaded the land under Joshua, survived the Israelite occupation, retained possession of a large part of the country throughout the Israelite period, and remained in the land after the Hebrew dispersion to be intermingled with the Arabs of the 8th century, then with the Crusaders in the 11th century, and continued the occupation of the land in their new Arabized form until the political Zionist immigration began in the 20th century.
(2) As regards Palestinian rights, the only real title that any people has to its country comes from birth and long and uninterrupted possession. It is these that give the British their right to the British Isles, the French their right to France, and the Americans their right to the United States. This is a criterion which the common acceptance of mankind has set up as a universal principle. It is recognized as the basis of the integrity and security of an nations, and no just international order can be established in the world today on any other foundation. It was only in Palestine that this principle was abused.
If such a formula can apply to a new country like America with only 450 years of history, how much sounder in comparison is the right of the Palestinian Arabs to their country which dates back to the dawn of history? This right is claimed today and will continue to be claimed until it is realized.
What is apparently unknown in the Western world is that part of the Arab character is attachment to the soil where one's ancestors had lived and are buried. Their removal creates in them a spiritual emptiness which no amount of material compensation can satisfy. Although those fighting today for the liberation of Palestine were born after 1948, they are unwilling to accept the ouster of their parents from the land of their ancestors and are ready to lay down their lives in defense of what they believe is their heritage. The PLO is not made up of matter; it is an
ideology, an idea, a symbol, that cannot be defeated or erased until justice returns to the Holy Land.
(3) With regard to the third and last question why Palestinian rights continue to be denied, it is because the Israelis, with the moral and political support of the U.S. Government, refuse to comply with U.N. resolutions on Palestine and abide by their obligations under the various international instruments that they signed willingly but defy with arrogance. In 1948 the U.N. General Assembly called upon the Israelis to allow the refugees to return to their homes and to pay compensation to those who do not wish to return and for loss of or damage to property. This resolution was affirmed and reaffirmed annually but Israeli noncompliance continued with impunity. Other Israeli defiances are in respect of the following provisions:
The Israelis argue that since the Palestinians left the country they have forfeited their right of return. But the principles quoted above do not place any restriction or conditions on the right of return whatever the circumstances. Furthermore, the United Nations resolution admitting the state of Israel into membership of the World Organization was on the understanding that the Israelis were ready to comply with the provisions of U.N. resolutions of 1947 (on territory) and 1948 (on repatriation and compensation).
Before I conclude I would like to comment on the Second Camp David Accord dealing with a comprehensive settlement of the Palestine Problem. The Accord provides for so-called "autonomy" -not for self-determination- for the inhabitants of the West Bank and Gaza. Menachem Begin made it clear on more than one occasion that autonomy, according to Israeli definition, means that the local population will be allowed to run their own internal affairs under Israeli supervision but will have no jurisdiction over the land which shall remain the responsibility of the Israeli Government.
Apart from this absurd interpretation, the Accord makes three other very important omissions, namely, it ignores all resolutions of the United Nations on Palestine since 1948; it makes no mention of the status of Jerusalem; and it puts aside the question of the future of the majority of the Palestinians who now live outside the West Bank and Gaza. For these and other reasons the Camp David Accord is regarded to have been still-born, and its resurrection is as close to realization as "the entry of Satan into Heaven," to quote an Arabic expression.
Because of Zionist control over the mass media of information in the West few people are aware that the Camp David Accord was rejected and strongly opposed by the majority of the world community of nations. Due to its importance I will quote in some detail the provisions of U.N. Resolution No. 34/65B of 29 November 1979:
In a subsequent resolution No. 35/169D dated 15 December 1980, the General Assembly reaffirmed its rejection, expressed strong opposition to the Camp David Accords, and declared that no State has the right to undertake any actions, measures, or negotiations that could affect the future of the Palestinian people, its inalienable rights, and the occupied Palestinian territories without the participation of the Palestine Liberation Organization on an equal footing, in accordance with the relevant U.N. resolutions, and rejects all such, actions, measures and negotiations.
The Israeli invasion of Lebanon, the indiscriminate bombings and shellings, the cold-blooded murder, maiming, burning, and burying under the rubble of innocent men, women, and children, the wanton devastation of Beirut, and the murder and torture of young men in the hurriedly established concentration camps in southern Lebanon under the pretext that these young men were either PLO guerrillas or sympathizers, and claiming that all this is being done in defense of border security and peace in the Middle East, have left the conscience of the world stunned by the magnitude and cruelty of the Israeli action.
But what is more pathetic and distressing is the fact that whereas the U.S. Government would apply sanctions against the Soviet Union and urges other Western nations to follow suit because of the political situation in Poland, it opposes sanctions against Israel for its invasion and genocide in Lebanon, and has gone so far as to veto resolutions of the U.N. Security Council calling upon the Israelis to stop the aggression and withdraw from Lebanese territory.
All this leads to the conclusion that the Israeli invasion was arranged if not with the connivance at least with the full knowledge of President Reagan and Alexander Haig. It is American planes which are flying over Lebanon; it is American bombs of every description including those prohibited by international agreements which are being dropped on Beirut; it is American tanks, guns and ammunition which are being used against the Lebanese capital; and it is American money which is paying for the entire operation. To claim that the U.S. Government can do nothing to stop the holocaust, is an insult to the intelligence of man.
The mere removal of the PLO from Beirut will not solve the issue. On the contrary it has complicated the matter further. While the Israelis may now feel free to dig in themselves in southern Lebanon up to the Litani River, annex the West Bank and Gaza, and thereby realize part of their dream of "Greater Israel," the Palestinians are not likely to give up and resign their fate to remaining refugees in other peoples' lands. It is too early to comment on what is likely to happen.
It is now more urgent than ever that Menachem Begin and his gang of criminals should be out-maneuvered by the world community of nations by following up the withdrawal of the PLO from Lebanon with immediate and determined steps for a political settlement of the entire Palestine Problem on a just and equitable basis.
It is my personal considered opinion that the U.S. Government which holds the purse strings of the Israeli state and provides it with the needed weapons to carry out its aggression against the Arabs, is the only power in the world that can bring about an amicable and just settlement between Arab and Jew. After what has happened in Lebanon, it is no longer advisable to delay or procrastinate. Immediate steps must be taken first to stop the bloodshed and destruction in Lebanon to be followed by complete withdrawal of the Israeli forces, and then to follow up by taking the following measures:
Once these steps are taken and completed and the Israelis are made to recognize and hopefully discard the racist expansionist character of Zionism which has done the Jews more harm than good in their relations with the Arabs during the last thirty-four years, there is no reason why the peace of pre-Balfour Declaration days between Arab and Jew should not return once again to the Holy Land.