This year Israel celebrates its 60th birthday. Yet for Palestinians and for people of conscience this is not an occasion to celebrate.
The establishment of the State of Israel involved the destruction of over 530 Palestinian towns and villages and the expulsion of about two-thirds of the indigenous Palestinian Arab population from their homes and lands to pave the way for the establishment of a Jewish State, with a Jewish majority .
Contrary to Israeli claims that they declared statehood in response to an Arab war against them, in actual fact, Zionist leaders launched a campaign of ethnic cleansing against the largely defenseless Palestinian population in April of 1948. A month and a half into this campaign, 380,000 Palestinians had faced expulsion, accounting for half of the total Palestinians made refugees in 1948, spawning an era in Palestinian history known as the Nakba (catastrophe).
This major offensive was Plan Dalet (Dalet – Hebrew for letter D). The Zionist leaders waged this campaign to control and ethnically cleanse territories beyond that allocated to the Jewish state by the UN Partition Plan (UNPP). By 1949, the Zionist leadership/Israeli government controlled 78% of Mandatory Palestine, having seized an additional 23% of the land allocated to Palestinian State under the UNPP.
According to Plan Dalet, the brigade commanders were given full "discretion" in what to do with the villages they occupied – that is to destroy them or leave them standing. On numerous occasions, Zionist forces expelled residents from their towns and villages, committed rape and other acts of violence, massacred civilians, and executed prisoners of war. These acts have been widely documented, most forcefully by Israeli historians using military and State archives. Here is one of many testimonies from Zionist soldiers:
"The first [wave] of conquerors killed about 80 to 100 [male] Arabs, women and children. The children they killed by breaking their heads with sticks. There was not a house without dead." He added that a soldier had bragged of raping and shooting a woman, two old women had been blown up in a house, and another woman with her baby were shot.*
New Jewish settlers migrated from across the world to inhabit the very same homes from which their rightful Palestinian owners had been expelled. Today these rightful owners are still denied the right to return to their homes.
The campaign to ethnically cleanse Palestine of its population entailed a brutal attempt to eliminate Palestinian identity, culture and heritage.
60 years on, Palestinians continue to be denied their internationally sanctioned rights to return to their homes, to self-determination and to live in full equality in their homeland.
A recent UN report condemned Israel’s on-going policies in the Occupied Territories as forms of foreign occupation, colonialism and apartheid – all in violation of international law.
No other "democracy" has so flagrantly breached international laws and UN resolutions as Israel has.
60 years on, Israel's practices of ethnic cleansing continue.
* Sources: Abu-Lughod, Lila & Sa’di Ahmad, 2007, Nakba: Palestine, 1948, and the Claims of Memory, ed, New York: Columbia University Press; Morris, Benny, 2004, The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem Revisited, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press
Video: Memories of the Nakba: www.youtube.com/watch?v=z5A-U-W664c