Just like Ben-Ami, Taub, Avishai, Plitnick, Shlensky, and others, a new Ha’aretz editorial laments that there is a growing international movement that “no longer distinguishes between the settlements and the Green Line, between the ‘occupation’ and Israel’s very right to exist.”
This statement once again blames Israel’s current crisis of conscience on the consequences of the Six Day War. But the 42-year occupation of the West Bank, Gaza, East Jerusalem, and the Golan Heights accounts for almost 70% of Israel’s entire existence. It is not a simple anomaly, a misstep off the path of righteousness. The occupation, land theft, colonization, displacement, dispossession, and disenfranchisement of and violence against Palestinians is not anathema to Zionism, it is Zionism.
Levy is essentially emulating the honesty of his journalistic predecessor Yeshayahu Bar Porath who, in 1972, wrote, “It is the duty of Israeli leaders to explain to public opinion, clearly and courageously, a certain number of facts that are forgotten with time. The first of these is that there is no Zionism, colonialization or Jewish State without the eviction of the Arabs and the expropriation of their lands.”
Zionist leaders from Herzl to Ben-Gurion, have all understood and acknowledged this.
In 1898, Theodor Herzl recognized that, in order to establish a “Jewish state” in Palestine, the inconvenient indigenous population would have to be removed. “We shall try to spirit the penniless [i.e. Arab] population across the border by procuring employment for it in the transit countries, while denying it any employment in our own country,” he suggested.
Vladmir Jabotinsky, in his 1923 Zionist manifesto, The Iron Wall, wrote, “Zionism is a colonization adventure and therefore it stands or it falls by the question of armed force. It is important to speak Hebrew but, unfortunately, it is even more important to be able to shoot — or else I am through with playing at colonization,” adding, “Zionist colonization, even the most restricted, must either be terminated or carried out in defiance of the will of the native population.”
In 1938, years before Jewish terrorist organizations and Zionist militias rampaged through Palestine, blowing up hotels, massacring Palestinians and destroying entire villages, David Ben-Gurion, Israel’s beloved first Prime Minister, said, “Let us not ignore the truth among ourselves. Politically we are the aggressors and they defend themselves. The country is [the Palestinians’], because they inhabit it, whereas we want to come here and settle down, and in their view we want to take away from them their country.”
Nevertheless, many in the Israeli left (and their counterparts here in the US) still insist on differentiating between the nobility and righteousness of “Herzl’s Zionist vision” and the frustrating, “unhelpful” post-1967 occupation.
Levy, as usual, is able to tell it like it is. Earlier this year, he explained that the problem is “rooted in the left’s impossible adherence to Zionism in its historical sense. In precisely the way there cannot be a democratic and Jewish state in one breath, one has to first define what comes before what – there cannot be a left wing committed to the old-fashioned Zionism that built the state but has run its course. This illusory left wing never managed to ultimately understand the Palestinian problem — which was created in 1948, not 1967 — never understanding that it can’t be solved while ignoring the injustice caused from the beginning. A left wing unwilling to dare to deal with 1948 is not a genuine left wing.”
In a just-published interview, Levy elaborates: “I think there could be a solution, but it requires Israel to have good will — which it doesn’t have. It would involve, first of all, Israel recognising its moral responsibility. That’s the first condition. It’s about time for Israel to take accountability for what happened in ’48 and realise and recognise that there was a kind of ethnic cleansing…”
The Nakba and Beyond
“It’s not a matter of maintaining the status quo. We have to create a dynamic state, oriented towards expansion.” — David Ben-Gurion
That the creation of Israel and the guarantee of establishing complete hegemony of a Jewish minority in 1948 required the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians from most of their homeland is neither a secret nor a matter of debate. It is a known fact.
The forcible removal of the indigenous Palestinian population by Zionist violence and intimidation was not an unhappy accident of history, nor was it an unforeseen consequence of the Zionist dream; it was integral to Zionism’s success and a well-planned, non-negotiable aspect of its implementation. As scholar Norman Finkelstein wrote in Image and Reality of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, “One can imagine an argument for the right of a persecuted minority to find refuge in another country able to accommodate it; one is hard-pressed, however, to imagine an argument for the right of a persecuted minority to politically and perhaps physically displace the indigenous population of another country. Yet…the latter was the actual intention of the Zionist movement.”
The United States-sponsored King-Crane Commission in 1919 concluded that the Zionist project demanded and anticipated “a practically complete dispossession of the present non-Jewish inhabitants to Palestine.”
In 1937, Ben-Gurion declared that “In many parts of the country new Jewish settlement will not be possible unless there is a transfer of the Arab peasantry…The transfer of the population is what makes possible a comprehensive [Jewish] settlement plan.” He is also credited with saying, “Land with Arabs on it and land without Arabs on it are two very different types of land.”
Moshe Sharett, Israel’s second prime minister, said, “We have forgotten that we have not come to an empty land to inherit it, but we have come to conquer a country from people inhabiting it … if we cease to look upon our land, the Land of Israel, as ours alone and we allow a partner into our estate — all content and meaning will be lost to our enterprise.”
After the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire following World War I, and the expiration of the British Mandate, the Palestinian people have, for over 63 years, been denied self-determination and sovereignty in their own land. In 1947, the United Nations recommended that the indigenous majority (then consisting of about 70% of the population in historic Palestine) establish a state of their own on 44% of its homeland, while the 30% minority (consisting mostly of recent Jewish immigrants from Europe) would get 56% of Palestine, despite the fact that the minority owned less than 8% of the land at the time. When that suggestion was unsurprisingly rejected by Palestinian representatives, a unilateral declaration established a Jewish State of Israel in Palestine and, in the ensuing war, Israel grabbed an extra 22% of Palestine as its own.
During what Israelis proudly refer to as their “War of Independence,” over 450 Palestinian towns were destroyed, including villages that had signed non-aggression pacts with their Jewish neighbors, and over 750,000 Palestinians were driven from their own homes. The terror campaign of Plan Dalet, put into effect in early 1948, consisted of “large-scale intimidation; laying siege to and bombarding population centres; setting fires to homes, properties, and goods; expulsion; demolition; and finally, planting mines among the rubble to prevent any of the expelled inhabitants from returning.”