In December 2000, the first Herzliya Conference took place, a now annual event and regular fixture in the diaries of politicians, military officials and defense industry figures from Israel and around the world. The report produced after that first gathering included a section on Israel’s “geodemographic aspect”, and noted the following:
“The encouragement of Jewish settlement in demographically problematic regions, especially in the Galilee, the Jezreel Valley, and the Negev, among others, is necessary in order to prevent a contiguous Arab majority that would bisect Israel.”
This need to ‘Judaize’ the Galilee and the Negev in light of the perceived demographic ‘threat’ posed by Palestinian citizens of Israel is a consistent feature of Israeli policies since 1948. Read more
Given the insistence by its leaders that Israel be “recognised” as a Jewish state, some people might be surprised to know that there is considerable disagreement among Jewish Israelis about exactly what that means.
Enter the justice minister, Tzipi Livni, who in addition to her key role in negotiations with the Palestinian Authority seems set on making a contribution to one of the most contentious issues in Israeli politics: the state’s Jewish identity. Read more
From the refugees in 1949 looking over the Lebanese border at the land from which they were expelled, to the students in the Gaza banned by the Israeli Supreme Court from studying in the West Bank, Israeli colonisation has fragmented the Palestinian people over the decades with walls, fences, guns, bureaucracy and propaganda.
Overcoming that fragmentation has become further complicated in recent times on account of the moribund state of representative bodies like the Palestine Liberation Organisation, as well as the long-running split between Fatah and Hamas. Read more
Today marks the 65th anniversary of the historic ethnic cleansing of Palestine by the Zionist movement, and the establishment of the State of Israel on the rubble of hundreds of emptied, destroyed villages.
Nakba Day continues to grow in prominence as a time for remembrance and protest, an alternative history to the narrative of Israeli ‘independence’, and a reminder that the ‘miracle’ of a Jewish state was actually realised through the historically familiar methods of expulsion and colonial erasure. But this is more than just an anniversary or commemoration. In three important ways, the Nakba is not simply confined to the history books.
First, the Nakba is a defining event. Many potted histories or summaries of the “Israeli-Palestinian conflict” cover 1948 with a sentence like this: ‘The State of Israel declares independence and is immediately attacked by its Arab neighbours’. The Palestinian refugees emerge in the narrative as if by magic, or as a vague consequence of war.
Yet the ethnic cleansing of 1948 is the heart and soul of the Palestinian people’s struggle. This is how a landscape was obliterated and communities destroyed; homes, schools and mosques disappearing under rolling explosions, citrus groves and fields of crops separated from their owners. Palestinian lives are shaped by the Nakba, from refugee camps and fragmented families to destroyed livelihoods and murdered loved ones. Read more
Framing events in Gaza in the colonial context is vital for understanding the nature of the violence, argues author.
While it is common knowledge that a majority of the population of the Gaza Strip are refugees, it is less well understood where they came from. The shocking reality is that many of the inhabitants of the Gaza Strip are a few miles away from the land of their ethnically cleansed former villages, across the border fence in southern Israel. Like so much else with Palestine, you can’t understand Gaza if you don’t understand the Nakba. Read more
The forced relocation of Bedouins in southern Israel fits Foreign Affairs’ definition of ethnic cleansing.
In September 2011, Israel’s government approved a plan to forcibly relocate tens of thousands of Bedouin citizens in the Negev from their unrecognised villages to government-approved shanty towns. The Prawer Plan, as it is known, advanced again in March this year, when it was endorsed by a committee in the Prime Minister’s Office.
Around half of the Bedouin population in Israel live in 45 “unrecognised villages”, with a handful in the ”process of recognition” by the state (see Israeli NGO Adalah’s “Myths and Misconceptions“). The Israeli government wants to force them out, claiming that their “squatting” is taking over the Negev. In fact, while constituting 30 per cent of the region’s population, today Bedouin are claiming ”less than five per cent of the total area”. Read more
A wine and beer festival to be held in a former Great Mosque is an exemplar of contemporary Israeli history.
This week, the Israeli city of Be’er Sheva (Beer el-Sabe) will hold a wine and beer festival in the courtyard of the city’s former Great Mosque. The municipality’s plans have provoked anger from the country’s Palestinian citizens, including a legal challenge by minority rights group Adalah, as well as a protest tent and condemnation by community leaders and politicians.
This episode is a microcosm of Israel’s hidden history, a country where town and country alike is strewn with reminders of the ongoing ethnic cleansing at the heart of the establishment of a “Jewish and democratic” state. Read more
Israel has a Jewish majority today because of the expulsions and denationalisation of most Palestinians living there.
Among the many good reasons for marking the anniversary of the Nakba are two which speak to the intensifying debate about Israel’s “democratic values”: firstly, the fact that the Nakba is ongoing, in the daily acts of piecemeal ethnic cleansing from the Jordan Valley to the Negev, and secondly, the way in which the historical facts of “transfer” undermine the mythology of Israel as a supposed “Jewish and democratic” state. Read more