Darker days ahead

Posted on 03 October 2011

On Sunday night, the mosque in the small village of Tuba suffered an arson attack. Unknown agitators entered the building and set the fire, causing damage to carpets and the structure itself. Before leaving, they sprayed messages on the walls outside: “price tag” and “revenge”, in Hebrew. Until this weekend, these attacks seemed to be confined to the West Bank. And it isn’t just mosques that are targets. Olive groves, villagers, solidarity actions: all are “fair game” to the wild West Bank settlers.

Tuba is in the Upper Galilee, nearby is the Jewish town of Safed. Tuba village residents believe that the attack was the result of incitement from the rabbis in Safed. Safed is known for its hostility towards Arabs in general and Palestinian Israelis in particular. Despite the hostility, at Safed’s academic college over 50% of the student body is Palestinian Israeli.

For the last few years, an aggressive campaign to discourage Jews from renting to Arabs has been growing. There are few exceptions, one of the most notable being Holocaust-survivor, Eli Tzvieli. Not only does he rent to Palestinians, he openly supports them in a town where this is tantamount to being a traitor.

Today, Shimon Peres condemned the attack on Tuba’s mosque, saying “…we should condemn such acts among us.” Binyamin Netanyahu apparently also expressed outrage over the arson, instructing the security services to locate those responsible. Nothing about arrests, or trials. As is often the case, any form of attack against the Palestinian community, no matter where it is located, ends with no one arrested, no one charged, no one responsible.

And let’s look at Peres’ statement “…we should condemn.” This is from a man who was a member of the Haganah, the Jewish paramilitary forces that implemented Plan Dalet. Peres joined the Haganah in 1947 and David Ben Gurion appointed him as responsible for both personnel and arms purchases. Plan Dalet aimed to expel as many Palestinians and take as much of the land as possible for the soon-to-be-established state of Israel. Peres’ role in charge of personnel and arms was vital in achieving these aims. Peres is as much an architect of the Nakba as Ben Gurion is, or Ariel Sharon, or any of the other soldier-turned-politicians that Israel has produced, and all the dispossession thereafter.

So the attack in Tuba should not be viewed as something new, as some sinister development in right wing Jewish Israeli society. It is just a continuation of the decades-old aggression against Palestinians. Those who assume that Palestinians with Israeli citizenship are somehow immune from the attacks of individuals or the policies of a nation that would rather see them expelled, are being naïve.

Following the declaration of Israel as a state in 1948, and the armistice in 1949, those Palestinians who remained in Israel—many of whom were internally displaced—have been continually targeted, harassed and subject to accusations of being a fifth column. While Israel parades its nationalistic pride, based of course on its ‘Jewishness’, Palestinian citizens of Israel are not allowed to express their identity as Arabs, or identify with their brothers and sisters (in some cases, literally) in the West Bank and Gaza.

When the Jewish forces swept across Palestine, not only did they expel 750,000 Palestinians, they also destroyed over 500 villages, towns and neighbourhoods. They attempted to erase the Palestinian-ness of the landscape, replacing it with a Hebrew identity that actually only covered the surface, it could not remove the age-old roots of people who’d existed there for many centuries.

This deliberate policy to deny Palestinians an identity has been used ever since. So as the rise in attacks against Palestinians in the West Bank are increasing, so too will the attacks against Palestinians who are citizens of Israel. Notably, politically-motivated attacks against outspoken Palestinians have also been on the rise over the last two years. Ameer Makhoul, Haifa-based community activist and director of Ittijah, a network of Palestinian NGOs inside Israel, has been sentenced to nine years, despite lack of evidence to support the state’s case against him.

Prior to Makhoul’s detention, Dr Omar Said had already been arrested. He is also leader of the Arab nationalist party, Balad and a committed proponent of co-existence between Arabs and Jews. He, too, was charged with espionage. He was subsequently convicted on a lesser charge and was released last year.

Today is but a continuation of the Nakba; 1948 is ongoing, it was never finished. The policies of the Zionists are not new, their tactics are not new, and their aims are not new. In 1948 the international community failed to protect the majority Arab population of Palestine. There is now an opportunity to make up for that failure, but are any of the Western powers capable of taking such a stand? The signs, so far, are not favourable. The signs point to 1948 not just continuing but increasing in intensity. While the burning of the mosque in Tubas was nothing new, it does herald the darkest of times to come.

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