Cheerleading genocide

Israel is gearing up to celebrate the 60th anniversary of its birth;
six decades of destruction for the Palestinians, writes Khaled
Amayreh.

With spectacular fanfare and a plethora of highlighted events, Israel
is planning to celebrate its 60th birthday on 18 May 2008.

According to an Israeli government website called Israelfestival.com,
the festival will include “non-stop entertainment, [a] fashion show,
a variety of ethnic food for sale, Israeli folk dancing, arts and
crafts, Israeli and Jewish cultural and heritage pavilions and art
exhibits”.

The centrepiece ceremony is expected to take place in West Jerusalem
and be attended by Israel’s political and military leaders as well as
foreign dignitaries. Among those expected are US President George W
Bush, French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela
Merkel.

Israeli media and non-governmental organisations have already begun
celebrations in earnest. For example, Israeli television has begun
airing a new series called Shishim (meaning “60”), which looks back
at the six decades since Israel was created in May 1948. The series,
which began 31 March, is divided into six episodes, each devoted to
one of the decades following the founding of the state.

Israel hopes that the high-pitched celebrations will serve as an
opportunity to promote Israel and enhance its questionable standing
abroad. “It is an opportunity to celebrate our achievements, our
successes, our national being,” boasted Israeli Foreign Minister
Tzipi Livni, who was not yet born in 1948.

From the Zionist viewpoint, Israel is a story of success. Today,
Israel is a political and military force to be reckoned with, even if
its power is based on the patronage of foreign entities. A country of
no more than seven million people, including nearly 1.5 million
non-Jews (mainly Palestinians), Israel more or less directs the
politics and policies of world’s only superpower, the United States,
thanks mainly to powerful Jewish lobbies in Washington.

The power of the Jewish lobby largely explains how massive American
financial and military support is to Israel, which is measured in
hundreds of billions of dollars. Were it not for this nearly
unlimited financial, economic, technological, political and military
backing, Israel would never have been able to survive, especially
given its predator tactics.

Israel, which has been mounting a vitriolic incitement campaign
against Iran for its acquisition of nuclear technology, is a nuclear
power on par with other established nuclear powers, and its military
supremacy — at least until summer of 2006 — has covered the vast
bulk of the Middle East from Turkey to Iran and from North Africa to
east and central Africa.

Economically, Israel is also a regional economic superpower, with a
GNP bordering on $0.5 trillion. In fact, Israel is among a few
pioneering states in the field of electronics and the development of
new generations of medicine, with Israeli pharmaceutical firms’ share
of the world market reaching billions of dollars.

Notwithstanding all its success and achievements, Israel remains a
state based on racism, apartheid and criminality against the
Palestinian people whose homeland it seized and whom it is trying to
obliterate to this day. To be sure, Israel has failed. Palestinians
remain, both as a human entity and as a national entity.

Israel, in order to achieve its goals, always sought to acquire, by
hook or by crook, as much Palestinian land as possible while taking
in as few Palestinian people as possible. The policies and tactics
employed by Israel to achieve this goal are both blunt and insidious
and amount to ethnic cleansing and the international crime of
genocide. Israel has institutionalised racism, bulldozed hundreds of
Palestinian towns and villages, shamelessly confiscated Palestinian
land and property, including private homes, and recently built the
so-called “Separation Wall” in the West Bank, aimed first and
foremost at annexing to Israel as much Palestinian land as possible.

On top of all of this, Israel has perfected the practice of
state-sponsored mass terror; a deliberate policy aimed at making
Palestinian life as unbearable as possible with the ultimate goal of
forcing Palestinians to leave their homes and land altogether. This
is done in broad daylight; in full view of key world powers, such as
the US, EU, Russia and China, which either keep silent or issue a few
terse and innocuous words about the need to stick to a peace process
that has form but very little substance.

Today, as Israel is getting ready to celebrate its 60th birthday, the
massive theft of Palestinian land in the West Bank, especially in
East Jerusalem and its surroundings, continues unabated. Against all
odds, the Palestinian people have survived. Indeed, Palestinian
resilience to Israeli oppression is legendary — a trait that
continues to baffle and frustrate Israeli strategists. Perhaps it is
this resilience that is encouraging influential Israeli political,
military and religious leaders to openly call for genocide of the
Palestinians.

Recently, Israel’s Deputy Defence Minister Matan Vilnai threatened to
“inflict a greater holocaust” on Palestinians. Similarly, a growing
number of rabbis associated with the two largest religious camps in
Israel, the Haredi ultra-Orthodox religious sector and the national
Zionist religious sector, issuing one edict after the other,
permitting soldiers to murder at will Palestinian civilians,
including children, on the grounds that in war all among the enemy
population ought to be treated as combatants, including children.

One might imagine that this is exaggerated, but it is not. Recently
Rabbi Yisrael Rosen, director of the Tsomet Institute, a religious
seminary attended by Israeli settlers in the West Bank, declared:
“All of the Palestinians must be killed; men, women, infants, and
even their beasts.” And the chief rabbi of the City of Safad, Shmuel
Eliyahu, urged the state and the army recently to hang the children
of a Palestinian fighter who last month attacked the Merkaz Haarav
Centre, run for Jewish settlers in West Jerusalem, killing eight
pre-military Talmudic students in retaliation for the killing by the
Israeli army of more than 130 Palestinians, most of them innocent
civilians, in the Gaza Strip.

The mushrooming of fascist impulses is not confined to the religious
sector. In March, the Israeli media quoted Knesset members and former
cabinet ministers as threatening to extend discriminatory laws
against non-Jews in ways reminiscent of Nuremberg Laws passed in Nazi
Germany. One Israeli Knesset member reportedly told his Arab
colleague: “the day will come when we will kick you out of this
house.”

Such instances raise no eyebrows in a country where some rabbis, like
David Batsri, openly teach that non-Jews are animals and donkeys. A
recent opinion survey published this week showed that as many as 75
per cent of Israeli Jews support ethnic cleansing of Arabs from
mandate Palestine — Israel proper and the occupied Palestinian
territories of the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip.
Understandably, the poll drew angry reactions from the Israeli Arab
community. Jamal Zahalqa, an Israeli Arab Knesset member, suggested
that Arabs are being treated in ways similar to the way Jews were
treated in the Third Reich ahead of World War II.

“The hateful smell of racism and fascism is wafting everywhere in
this country. You must know that we didn’t come to Israel from
abroad… On the contrary; it was Israel that invaded us. We are the
indigenous people of the land, and we receive our legitimacy from our
belonging to this land, not from having Israeli citizenship,” he
said.

Zahalqa described the poll as “additional evidence underscoring the
growing rampancy of racism and fascism in Israel as a result of the
ongoing waves of hate against everything and anything Arab.”

The fears of Zahalqa and other Israeli Arabs are real. Recently,
hundreds of Arab residents from Jaffa, Lod and Ramleh took to the
streets to protest against the planned eviction by the state of
thousands of Arab residents from Jaffa. Authorities had issued
warrants for the evacuation and destruction of hundreds of homes,
claiming infringements on building regulations. The state also
claimed that, “the families [had] lost the right to continue living
in their homes, since these homes belonged to their parents … ”

“We are here and we won’t leave. We will either live on this land or
die on this land. We will not let you touch our lands or our holy
places,” said Sheikh Raed Salah, leader of the Arab movement in
Israel. “All your rulings belong in the trashcan. We are not afraid
of you. We will continue to live in our homeland,” he added.

Last year, Richard Falk, a renowned American Jewish professor of
international law and practice, wrote an article entitled “Slouching
toward a Palestinian holocaust,” in which he warned that Israel was
moving towards the perpetration of a holocaust against the
Palestinians. “Is it an irresponsible overstatement to associate the
treatment of Palestinians with this criminalised Nazi record of
collective atrocity? I think not,” said Falk.

Justifying the Israel-equals-Nazi analogy, Falk argued that
developments in Gaza (the blockade against its estimated 1.5 million
inhabitants), were especially disturbing because they expressed
vividly a deliberate intention on the part of Israel and its backers
to subject an entire human community to life- endangering conditions
of maximal cruelty. “The suggestion that this pattern of conduct is a
holocaust-in-the-making represents a rather desperate appeal to the
governments of the world and to international public opinion to act
urgently to prevent these current genocidal tendencies from
culminating into a collective tragedy,” Falk wrote.

In sum, from the standpoint of fascism, Israel has much to celebrate
in terms of political and military achievements. But in terms of
justice, morality and humanity, one struggles to name a country on
earth that so openly practices oppression and racism. As such Israel,
on its 60th birthday, remains what it was when born six decades ago:
a state built on blood, murder, theft and lies.

Is Israel about to change its ways? Don’t hold your breath, Israeli
leaders might say. Unless, that is, you’re Palestinian in Ramallah.

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