These were the words left ringing in my ears last night when I questioned the thesis that Palestinian nationalism or a Palestinian state had existed when the Jews began to return to the Middle East at the beginning of the 20th century.
I was at LSE again for Ben White’s talk Democracy or Apartheid? Israel’s regime of control and the Palestinians .
The talk that was part of the sixth international Israel Apartheid Week.
Israel Apartheid Week is basically two weeks of propaganda and lies spoken against Israel to demonise both Israel and its supporters.
We were a tiny audience, 20 at most. White put this down to “event fatigue” but “Ben White fatigue” would be more accurate. White has a book to flog and so has been back and forth across the Atlantic racking up the airmiles trying to do exactly that.
His presentation consists of little more than accusation after accusation against Israel. His evidence mainly consists of random quotes of Israeli politicians, past and present, a few photographs and some maps. White does maps a lot.
But he started off by demeaning Zionism. My loose definition of Zionism is:
The will of the Jewish people for national determination in a land where they used to live in great numbers before being expelled by Roman conquest. Just 96 years ago that “land” consisted of provinces of the Ottoman Empire (see my own map below) and contained approximately 525,000 people. It was not a state. Today that same area contains over 10 million people.
White demeans Zionism as anti-democratic and having been implemented by force:
“Zionist colonisation could only be carried out in defiance of the will of the native population,” Jabotinsky, 1923.
“Were I an Arab I would rise up against immigration liable sometime in the future to hand the country over to Jewish rule,” Ben Gurion, 1939.
Sure, Zionist leaders were hardtalking and pragmatic but, apart from the Irgun and the Stern Gang of the 1940s, Zionism established itself via negotiations with politicians and opinion formers, not with force.
White then described what he views as Israel’s apartheid measures against Israel’s own Palestinian community (“don’t call them ‘Israeli Arabs'”), against East Jerusalem’s Arab population and against the Palestinians in the West Bank.
On the Israeli Arabs he mentioned martial law, land confiscations and Judaization of the Galilee and the Negev. “Judaization” is moving of Jews into these areas:
“The project of ‘Judaizing the Galilee’ commenced when the state was founded and has continued in various guises to the present day.” Prof. Hillel Cohen.
On the Arabs of East Jerusalem he spoke of their “residency” status being somewhere between the Palestinians in the West Bank, who have no status, and the Israeli Arabs, who are “citizens”.
“Residency” means they can move about freely in Israel but cannot vote in national elections but this “residency” can be stripped without notice as, apparently, happened to 4,500 East Jerusalem Arabs in 2008.
He quoted a Jerusalem Post headline: “Jerusalem Mayor Barkat: Arab population in capital a strategic threat.”
About the West Bank White spoke about settlement building “which is a consensus issue in Israel as the settlement project accelerated even under a Labour government from 1993 to 1996” and about house demolitions.
Then he brought out his maps of “disappearing Palestine”.
Based on his maps for White there is only one conclusion: a one-state solution.
In the Q&A I made the point that the West Bank settlements aren’t necessarily there to stay but can be removed as part of a negotiating process so leaving a fully functioning Palestinian state.
But White answered that the settlements are deeply ingrained in Israeli policy.
Then I made my point about Palestinian nationalism for which I was called a Holocaust denier and scum.
Some 96 years ago the area now comprising Israel, the West Bank, Gaza, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria were merely provinces of the Ottoman Empire. There were towns, villages and provinces, but not a Palestinian state.
Neither did Palestinian nationalism exist. It grew in direct opposition to Zionism. That is not to say that the Palestinians should not have a state now. They are a now a people. But to say there ever was a Palestinian state is just not the truth and there is scant evidence of Palestinian nationalism at the time.
“Palestine” was not a land without “people” but it was a land without “a people”.
You can call me a “Holocaust denier and scum” but do your own research.
This map shows how “Palestine” looked just 96 years ago.