At a recent meeting in London the Israeli writer and academic Ilan Pappe, whose books include 'The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine' and 'A History of Modern Palestine' spoke about the continuing suffering of the Palestinian people and the prospects for change in the light of the revolutions in the Middle East and North Africa. Below is a summary of his speech.
There has been no signicicant change in the suffering of the Palestinians as a result of the 'Arab Spring'. However, the arab revolutions may change the facts on the ground. Will there be a Palestinian Revolution this year? Probably not, but then a lot of things have happened this year that were unexpected.
Ethnic cleansing is a strategy; it is ideological. It is more than just a policy for Zionists. Israel is sometimes described as a settler-colonialist state and sometimes as an apartheid state. Is Israel settler-colonialist? Yes, Zionism began as a colonialist movement but this does not explain Israel's policy towards Gaza today. Is Israel an apartheid state? In some ways it is but it does not attempt to exploit Palestinians in the same way that the white South African government exploited black South Africans. Rather Israel tries to exterminate Palestinians.
Zionism has elements that are unique to it. It does not just carry out ethnic cleansing, but a unique Zionist ethnic cleansing. Zionism tries to convince Israelis and the world that Palestine has an immigrant population, that is alien and strange. Furthermore it tries to pretend that Palestinians are usurpers of the land. This was clearly impossible for them between the founding of Zionism in 1882 and the declaration of the 'state of Israel' in 1948. Zionists knew very well that Palestine was not a 'land without people'. Up to 1937/8 this was an abstract concept. However, the rise of fascism in Europe and the realisation of the dangers of Zionism to Palestinians led to this being implemented as an actual policy.
In 1937 Zionists debated how to take as much land as possible with as few Palestinians as possible. In 1940 Zionists realised that the British would not achieve this for them so they began to plan the ethnic cleansing of Palestine.
Jewish supremacy, exclusivity and control dominates every area of society including the Communist Party. There are actually Communist Zionists with a lot of 'internalised existential angst'.
The 'Peace Process' is simply a cover to enable the ethnic cleansing to continue without too much criticism from other countries and this continues to this day. The ethnic cleansing continues in Hebron, Nazareth, Wadi Ara and other places.
The revolutions in the region give hope that things may change but it is still a very difficult situation. The best thing that people in the west can do is to support campaigns for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS). They can also try to put pressure on their own governments to stop supporting Israel. People should challenge Israeli propaganda that claims Israel is a normal liberal democracy or that there can be a two-state solution. Israel must be countered with propaganda, activism and protest in the west. Secular and socialist forces should find a modern day solution to modern day problems. There is no excuse for ignorance in 2011.
To read books by Ilan Pappe visit the website of Bookmarks the Socialist Bookshop here. See also The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine (part two) .