Does Israel Commit Ethnic Cleansing?
[ http://www.omayya.com/new/refugees/g1/19.jpg The man in the picture is a Palestinian refugee of the Israeli ethnic cleansing campaign of 1948, his leg with the missing foot says "The war of 1948". He is thinking "Because I sacrificed my foot, I won't sacrifice my key ]
ethnic cleansing: The systematic elimination of an ethnic group or groups from a region or society, as by deportation, forced emigration, or genocide.
The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition
A friend suggested that "ethnic cleansing" may not be the appropriate term for what Israel does to the Palestinians. The idea being that this is more in line with say the Yugoslav wars of the 90s with mass graves, rapes, mass expulsions, etc.
The reality is, the term is appropriate, although Israeli ethnic cleansing comes in waves with varying degrees of severity and a broad range of tools. 1948 certainly saw the full range of ethnic cleansing - massacres, mass graves, entire populations forced to flee en masse, looting, dispossession, rapes (yes, many of my friends who are supporters of Israel refuse to believe Israeli soldiers raped Palestinian women, but it did occur - see Avi Shlaim's "The Iron Wall" for a few brief mentions, I'll have to go dig up other references but they abound in other sources I read many years ago for those diligent enough to research a topic that Israelis and their supporters have long tried to bury). The massacre at Deir Yassin was certainly one of the most famous of these attrocities (though by no means the only one):
In total, about 400 Palestinian villages were wiped off the map by Israel in 1948:
In total, somewhere between 700,000 and a million refugees were created as the Israelis led primarily by Ben Gurion (George Washington this man was not, he was far more Slobodan Milosovic) deliberately "pushed the Arabs into the sea":
If you speak Arabic, you can see almost 200 oral history video interviews of 1948 refugees at this URL:
These people are pretty much forgotten by everyone outside of the Middle East. But in the Arab world they and the keys they still hold to their houses remain a daily reality everyone sees and knows. Palestinian families almost all have at least 2 (and sometimes more) of the same painful stories - family members who were ethnically cleansed in 1948 and family members who were killed or tortured by the Israelis in the two Intifadas.
Here is another example of ethnic cleansing (about 50 pictures to scroll through, though the main points can be seen in the first dozen or so). This was the biblical village of Emmaus. Israel occupied it in 1967, promptly ethnically cleansed it of its inhabitants, razed it to the ground, planted a mini-forest to cover it up, turned it into a "nature preserve", and now settlements such as Modi'in are encroaching upon it and will probably shortly swallow it up:
Well, getting a bit late now, far more can be said on this topic and I will in the future. But in a nutshell, besides for the violent methods above, Israel also uses slower methods of ethnic cleansing in between its violent outbursts:
- Settlers kicking Palestinians out of their homes and taking them over (as in Hebron for example).
- Unscrupulous rich settler-supporters bribing equally unscrupulous Palestinian landlords who sell housing and land to the settlers and in return receive enough money to run off abroad. The residents of the houses and land who frequently have lived in the units for generations but were not well off enough to purchase them are then left homeless.
- Settlements built on Palestinian agricultural land vital for economic survival of the villages, thus "encouraging" emmigration.
- Settlements that literally surround Palestinian homes and neighborhoods. Roads and other infrastructure for the settlers then cuts off the ability to get in and out and makes life so hard that emmigration rates increase because people simply cannot live anymore. Houses are then frequently either demolished, or land is otherwise confiscated and taken over by Israeli settlers.
- House demolitions against "illegal" Palestinian structures. They are only "illegal" in that Israeli authorities never granted them a building permit because Israeli authorities 99% of the time refuse to grant these permits to Palestinians. Palestinians who need to build to house their extended families are left with no choice but to go ahead and build anyways, and then are frequently forced to see their homes demolished. Meanwhile, Israeli settlers squat on their land, are retroactively granted "permits" and build entire neighborhoods under the watchful guard of Israeli soldiers.
- Military checkpoints by the hundreds make life so miserable and hard for Palestinians that they cannot live normally and emmigration becomes the only means to survive for some.
Again, more can be said, but there's a starter. Israel forcibly and systematically tries to remove those of Palestinian ethnicity so that Israelis can take over their land. At times it is overt and bloody, other times it is quieter (at least to the outside world) and bureaucratic. It meets the dictionary definition of ethnic cleansing with ease.