For seventy years, Israeli violence has permeated every aspect of Palestinians’ lives. Once again, Palestinians are resisting
This excellent Visualizing Palestine graphic vastly undercounts the dead after yesterday’s massacre of Gaza protesters, but it remains an effective visualization – many Gaza residents are not far from the land they called home, and have the right to return. 70% of Gaza’s inhabitants are refugees from families which were expelled from territory that became the state of Israel in 1948.
Today marks Nakba Day, the 70th anniversary of the ‘Catastophe’, when hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were kicked off their lands to make way for the Israeli nation.
There are no innocent civilians in Gaza, according to Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman, and Israeli snipers yesterday killed another 58 protesters, wounding over 2,800; nearly half that number were wounded by Israeli sniper gunfire. Snipers continue to target the press corps and the young, with another 12 journalists and 13 children reported killed in the last twenty four hours.
The U.S. mainstream media has a difficult time reporting on Gaza and most other aspects of the Israeli-Palestinian situation with accuracy, context and depth, so it’s best to view their work with a critical perspective while following better media sources such as Democracy Now!, Electronic Intifada, Palestine Chronicle, or Middle East Eye. U.S. corporate press is much more likely to cover this story by asking for a quote from U.S. and Israeli officials.
Continue reading below the Visualizing Palestine graphic below for a Jacobin Magazine update from author Greg Shupak on the situation.
Anatomy of Repression
Israeli violence permeates every aspect of Palestinians’ lives, even as its strategies of control have taken a variety of shapes over time. To create the state in 1948, Zionist forces expelled 750,000 Palestinians from their homes. In the process, they carried out roughly ten large-scale massacres, each with at least fifty victims, along with around one hundred smaller massacres. The forces of Israel’s pre-state paramilitaries killed Palestinians in nearly all of their villages, repeatedlydumping the victims’ bodies into pits. On numerous occasions, Zionist militias killed Palestinian children and raped Palestinian women.
Similar atrocities continued in the state’s early years. In 1953, Israeli forces massacred 69 Palestinian villagers in Qibya after complaining of “infiltration” of Israeli territory by Palestinian refugees. During the Suez conflict three years later, they killed 48Palestinian laborers in Kafr Kassim; 275 Palestinians civilians at Khan Yunis and a nearby refugee camp; and then 111 more Palestinians at Rafah refugee camp.
After 1967, with the Israeli state now consolidated, it began to pursue what Tariq Dana and Ali Jarbawi call “its dream of a ‘Greater Israel’ of maximum land with minimum Arabs.” 350,000 Palestinians were driven from their homes as Israel occupied the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem (as well as Syria’s Golan Heights and Egypt’s Sinai). Nearly 600,000 settlers illegally colonized the occupied territories with the state’s support. And Israel’s massacres of Palestinians have continued since then: as recently as the summer of 2014, Israel left 2,251 Palestinians dead — including 1,462 civilians and 556 children — during a murderous rampage called Operation Protective Edge. As Canadian scholar Nahla Abdo has observed, violence by Palestinians has to be viewed in the context of this “asymmetrical relation” between the two sides.
Meanwhile, Palestinians in the occupied territories — but not Israeli settlers — are systematically denied due process of law: held without trial in administrative detention or subjected to farcical military prosecutions, and routinely tortured. Such treatment extends to Palestinian children, who are subject to practices that, in the words of UNICEF, “amount to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, according to the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Convention against Torture,” including threats of “death, physical violence, solitary confinement and sexual assault, against themselves or a family member.” Currently there are over 6,000 Palestinian political prisoners in Israeli jails.
When Palestinians aren’t being shackled, tortured, bombed, or gunned down, they live under the perpetual threat of such actions. After the 1967 war, Israel established a regime to scrutinize everything from Palestinian workshops making furniture, soap, textiles, olives product, and sweets, to how many televisions, refrigerators, gas stoves, orchards, animals, and tractors Palestinians owned, while also monitoring and often censoring Palestinian textbooks, novels, movies, newspapers, and political leaflets.
Economic violence — the expropriation of Palestinian wealth and the destruction of Palestinians’ capacity to sustain themselves — has defined Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians from the beginning. In the years immediately following 1948, Israel adopted policies aimed at seizing and controlling Palestinian land, most notably the 1950 Absentee Property Law, through which Israel secured 90 percent of the land by designating as “absentee” every Palestinian who left their residence due to the 1947 partition brought about by the United Nations.
Israeli settlements are built on resource-rich areas, designed to exploit Palestinian water and arable land — a policy which both adds to Israel’s resources and deprives the Palestinians of economic development. After the 1967 occupation, Israel built an economic regime aimed at incorporating the Palestinian economy into Israel’s own economy, thus making its colonial rule a cheap venture while simultaneously stymieing Palestinian economic development. Among measures adopted were the closure of Arab financial and monetary institutions, the imposition of the Israeli currency, the banning of exports and imports except through Israeli-controlled borders, the imposition of high taxes (customs, income tax, VAT), poor investment in infrastructure, strict licensing for industrial activities, and control over communications, electricity resources, water, and natural resources. Israeli policies transformed the Palestinian market into a captive one that became a convenient dumping ground for shoddy Israeli industrial products that could not compete with the manufacturers of the industrialized countries of Europe and North America. This has not only brought massive profit to the Israeli economy, but it has also formed a new class of Israeli capitalists whose primary manufacturing activities were designed for the occupied territories.
Thus, Israeli policies brought about a deterioration of the Palestinian economic base and created a structural dependency on the Israeli economy, as Israel controls key nodal points of economic activity such as borders, land, natural resources, trade, the movement of labor, fiscal management, and industrial zoning. For more than a decade, moreover, a brutal US-Israeli-Egyptian military siege has decimated Gaza to the point that it may soon be uninhabitable. Israel’s military and settlers have uprooted hundreds of thousands of Palestinian olive trees in the West Bank and Gaza Strip and in the first years of the millennium the Israeli military razed four million square meters of cultivated land.
The Great Return March
Since the beginning of the Great Return March demonstrations on March 30, Israel has killed dozens of Palestinians and injured almost 4,000, including 2,200 shot. Zero Israelis have been injured. The power of the march is that it calls attention to the illegitimacy of artificially maintaining a Jewish demographic majority across historic Palestine. As masses of Palestinians approach the fence between Gaza and Israel, the marchers embody the “threat” of Palestinians returning to their homes and living in a Palestine-Israel that isn’t premised on keeping Palestinians out and perpetually stateless — as refugees, occupied subjects, or as an oppressed minority inside Israel.
The demonstrators are, in short, attempting to assert, at least temporarily and symbolically, their right to their land, their identity, their nationhood, their liberation — precisely what negotiations with Israel and its American patron have not produced.
About the Author
Greg Shupak teaches media studies at the University of Guelph in Canada. He is the author of the upcoming book, The Wrong Story: Israel, Palestine and the Media.