the case of an American war on Iraq, Palestinians will not be watching
for a "smart bomb" heading their way, but for the Israeli
army forcing them out of their homes. This possibility is of greater
danger that one might think.
It is seldom that the international community has stood in the face
of Israel and halted its plans, whether invading Arab land, "transferring"
civilian populations, destroying a refugee camp or ending a siege
imposed on a church. These violations have been repeated time and
again, and were almost entirely cloned during the ongoing Palestinian
uprising: the reoccupation of the West Bank, the "transfer"
of many Palestinian residents in the northern West Bank villages,
destroying much of the Jenin refugee camp and the siege on the church
of the Nativity (one ought to mention that many mosques were destroyed
or burnt to the ground by Israeli troops in the last two years. Such
news seems to be of lesser significance in the Western media).
"Transfer", an euphemism of ethnic cleansing is one of these
terms with a non-threatening sound and catastrophic results. There
is no need to examine the sounding of the word however, since history
has clearly detailed the meaning of the expulsion of Palestinians
from their ancestral homeland, and the massacres that often accompany
To ease the process of expelling Palestinians in 1948 so that the
Jewish state might obtain a "demographic" advantage, many
massacres took place, in Tantura, Deir Yassin, Beit Daras and many
more. Innocent Palestinians were slaughtered in the streets and in
their homes. 418 villages were destroyed, and over 750,000 Palestinians
were driven out of their land, some at gunpoint while others fled
for their lives as Zionist gangs bombarded every Arab population center.
But the expulsion of Palestinians was hardly the clean sweep Israel
had hoped for. Israel’s outright Jewish majority was still threatened
by the mere existence of Arabs, whether those remaining inside the
borders of the newly established Jewish state, or by the refugees
and the original inhabitants of the West Bank and Gaza. On the eve
of the 1956 Sinai war campaign, Israel was busily finalizing a plan
to expel Palestinians who remained, from northern Israel, an area
known as the Little Triangle. Now Israel’s Prime Minister Ariel Sharon
was then a colonel. The celebrated warrior reportedly ordered his
subordinates to investigate how many buses it would take to transfer
300,000 Palestinians out of northern Israel. The plan didn’t go through,
not until 1967, when once again Israel took advantage of war to transfer
up to 300,000 Palestinians from the West Bank.
Slower, but real expulsion has continued to take place since 1967.
Day after day, Palestinians find themselves without land or shelters
as Israeli Jewish settlements illegally expand in the Occupied Territories.
The process is painful to watch and becomes more painful when one
realizes that the international community seems not to care. According
to a recent study by the Israeli group "Peace Now", the
United States is the main source of funds to these settlements, in
defiance of United Nations resolutions and the Fourth Geneva Convention.
Israel uses every chance to expand the settlements and to drive Palestinians
out. The number of Palestinian homes demolished is on the rise, this
time no longer a scattered demolition here and there, but concentrated
attempts where entire neighborhoods and villages are razed forever.
Just in the last month alone, scores of homes and shops were destroyed
in Nazlit Issa, Tulkarm, Hebron and Nablus. With such wanton destruction
and the expulsion of the inhabitants of the lands, Jewish settlements
expand. Thousands of acres of fertile Palestinian land in Nablus and
Hebron and elsewhere had to be destroyed so that Itmar and Kyriat
Arba might grow, along with their fancy villas and swimming pools.
The resurfacing fear of "Transfer" is not an illusion created
by Israel’s dreadful habit of expelling Palestinians at times of wars,
wars created precisely for that purpose. But the expulsion of Palestinians
is no longer a far off possibility championed by the infamous Meir
Kahane and Rehevam Zeevi. In an opinion poll on March 2002, administered
by the University of Tel Aviv, 46 percent of Israeli Jews support
the "Transfer" of Palestinians, while 60 percent favored
"encouraging" Palestinians to leave on their own. The "encouraging"
of Palestinians to leave might have been taken by heart by Jewish
settlers near the Yanoun village in the West Bank. The settlers would
raid the village every night and open fire at Palestinian homes, they’d
chase them out of their lands and let their vicious dogs loose throughout
the villages. It was indeed encouraging enough, as the villagers packed
their belongings and left Yanoun on October 18, 2002, in a scene that
was almost an identical depiction of the black and white photos of
Palestinians being driven out of their towns and villages in 1948.
While the fear of expulsion continues to haunt entire communities
in the West Bank, in particular Palestinians in the Yatta area where
750 families are threatened to be removed from their villages, the
building of the enormous "security wall" to separate the
West Bank and Israel was constructed precisely to alienate dozens
of villages and to trap the residents between the "green line"
and the West Bank, in the midst of giant walls of concrete and barbed
wire. It’s only a matter of time before thousands of Palestinians
find themselves "transferred" from these areas, for their
existence would soon be cited as a "security threat" for
Sharon’s own cabinet now includes some of the most vibrant pro "transfer"
politicians in Israel, and the subject has become so popular that
some of the so-called new historians are offering it as a "solution"
to the Arab-Israeli conflict. Benny Morris is one. It’s Ilan Pappe,
one of Israel’s most respected academics that found the most suitable
description for this: The "demons of the Nakba (the Arabic word
referring to the Palestinians Diaspora of 1948) have returned to haunt
Israel." I am afraid that these "demons" have never
abandoned Israel in the first place.
Despite the urgency of protesting the war on Iraq, the international
community, human rights organizations, activists from all over the
world must pressure Israel and its main backer, the United States
government, to halt any plans to expel Palestinians out of their land
in the Occupied Territories whether in the case of war or not. Israel
must be held accountable for its own actions and cannot be left to
ravage Palestinians’ lives whenever a chance arises as a form of experimentation
to resolve its "demographic problems".
If attention continues to be diverted from the Palestinian question,
the world will awake one day with another million Palestinians carrying
their belongings and seeking tents and water at some Arab country’s
border. It’s our moral responsibility to stop this ghastly ethnic
cleansing, before it starts, although as far as the residents of many
Palestinian villages in the northern West Bank are concerned, "transfer"
has already begun.