Bijeenkomst op zaterdag 7 april 2001 in Den Haag
al-Awda: wereldwijde actiedag voor het recht op terugkeer Palestijnse vluchtelingen

Nederlands Palestina Komitee
organiseert bijeenkomst in Den Haag met als gastspreker
de Palestijnse onderzoeker en publicist
dr Nur Masalha

Uitnodiging voor een informatieve bijeenkomst op zaterdagmiddag 7 april, in het kader van de internationale campagne inzake het recht op terugkeer van de Palestijnen naar de door hen in de oorlogen van 1948 en 1967 noodgedwongen verlaten gebieden in Israel/Palestina. Nur Masalha zal spreken over het thema:
geen terugkeer: geen vrede

De oorlog met als inzet het grondgebied Palestina begon lang vr 1948, maar in dat jaar kwam - als gevolg van gericht geweld van joodse/Israelische strijdgroepen - een grote vluchtelingenstroom op gang (toen ruim 700.000 mensen, ofwel driekwart van de bevolking van de kort tevoren geproclameerde staat Israel; in de Juni-Oorlog van 1967 nog eens 200.000).

Tot heden neemt de problematiek van de vluchtelingen een centrale plaats in het Palestijns-Israelisch conflict. De massale verdrijving van Palestijnen was onderdeel van een politiek van etnische zuivering - een politiek die in minder spectaculaire vorm tot de dag van vandaag door de Israelische machthebbers wordt voortgezet. Door natuurlijke aanwas is het aantal geregistreerde Palestijnse vluchtelingen inmiddels opgelopen tot rond 3,7 miljoen - de grootste vluchtelingengemeenschap ter wereld.

Het recht van de Palestijnen op terugkeer en compensatie is in meer dan 100 resoluties van de Verenigde Naties (VN) bekrachtigd - voor het eerst in resolutie 194 van de Algemene Vergadering van de VN in 1948. Israel heeft de uitspraken van de internationale gemeenschap steeds naast zich neergelegd en kon dat (blijven) doen, omdat met name Westerse lidstaten van de VN niet bereid bleken om aan Israels weigering consequenties te verbinden. Daarmee is - met het oog op het instandhouden van de internationale rechtsorde - een gevaarlijk precedent geschapen. Zonder een voor alle partijen aanvaardbare regeling van de problematiek van de Palestijnse vluchtelingen zal er van vrede tussen Israel en de Palestjnen geen sprake zijn.
De Palestijnse historicus Nur Masalha, die als docent verbonden is aan de School of Oriental and African Studies in Londen, is een groot deskundige op het gebied van de Palestijnse vluchtelingenproblematiek. De afgelopen jaren verschenen van zijn hand: Expulsion of the Palestinians - the Concept of 'Transfer' in Zionist Political Thought, 1882-1948 (Washington, 1992); de vervolgstudie A Land without a People - Israel, Transfer and the Palestinians, 1949-1996 (Londen, 1997); en Imperial Israel and the Palestinians - the Politics of Expansion (Londen, 2000). In onze tweemaandelijkse publikatie Soemoed publiceerden wij in juni 1999 zijn 'Kosovo/Palestina - over de actualiteit van etnische zuivering', en in augustus 1999 een interview met hem: 'Transfer van Palestijnen - etnische zuivering avant la lettre'.

datum:       zaterdagmiddag 7 april
plaats:         Institute of Social Studies, Kortenaerkade 12, Den Haag (bereikbaar vanaf Station Den Haag-Hollands Spoor met tramlijn 8, halte Mauritskade)

aanvang:     14.30 u. (zaal open vanaf 14.00 u.). De bijeenkomst zal rond 17.30 u. worden afgesloten.

Voor nadere informatie kunt u zich wenden tot het secretariaat van het Nederlands Palestina Komitee, telefoon 020-6246046 of via e-mail npk@xs4all.nl
Zie www.xs4all.nl/~npk en ook www.al-awda.org

Al-Ahram Weekly On-line
29 March - 4 April 2001
Issue No.527
Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875

Time to turn to the other front
Until the Intifada is understood in the West as a
civilian uprising against colonial oppression, writes
Edward Said, the Palestinians have no chance of
obtaining equality and justice

During the past several weeks, the Israeli government
has vigorously pursued policies on two fronts, one on
the ground, the other abroad. The first is vintage
Sharon, or for that matter vintage Israeli military.
The idea is to hit Palestinians in every way possible,
making their lives unbearable and so confined and
strangulated as to make them feel that they can no
longer endure remaining there. The rationale for this,
as the Palestinian scholar Nur Masalha has studied it
in three important books, is that Zionism has always
wanted more land and fewer Arabs
: from Ben-Gurion to
Rabin, Begin, Shamir, Netanyahu, Barak and now Sharon,
there is an unbroken ideological continuity in which
the Palestinian people is seen as an absence to be
desired and fought for.

This is so obvious and, at the same time, so carefully
obscured from the international (and even regional)
public's view as to require only some additional
remarks here. The core idea is that if Jews have all
the rights to "the land of Israel," then any
non-Jewish people there are entitled to no rights at
all. It is as simple as that, and as ideologically
unanimous. No Israeli leader or party has ever
considered the Palestinian people as a nation or even
as a national minority (after the ethnic cleansing of
1948). Culturally, historically, humanly, Zionism
considers Palestinians as lesser or inferior. Even
Shimon Peres, who occasionally seems to speak a humane
language, cannot bring himself ever to consider the
Palestinians as worthy of equality. Jews must remain a
majority, own all the land, define the laws for Jews
and non-Jews alike, guarantee immigration and
repatriation for Jews alone. And though all sorts of
inconsistencies and contradictions exist (e.g. why
should there be democracy, as it is called, for one
people and not for another in a "democratic" state?),
Israel pursues its policies -- ethnocentric,
exclusivist, intolerant -- regardless. No other state
on earth except Israel could have maintained so
odiously discriminatory a policy against a native
people only on religious and ethnic grounds, a policy
that forbids native people to own land, or to keep it
or to exist free of military repression, but for its
amazing international reputation as a liberal,
admirable and advanced country.

This brings me to the second front of Israeli policy,
which must be seen therefore through a double lens.
Even as it besieges Palestinian towns using mediaeval
techniques like ditches and total military blockades,
it can do so with the aura of a besieged victim of
dangerous, exterminationist violence. Israeli soldiers
(called a "defence force") bomb Palestinian homes with
helicopter gunships, advanced missiles, and tank
barrages, Israeli soldiers kill 400 civilians, cause
12,000 casualties, bring down economic life to a 50
per cent poverty level and 45 per cent unemployment,
Israeli bulldozers destroy 44,000 Palestinian trees,
demolish houses, create fortifications that make
movement impossible, Israeli planners build more
settlements and settlement roads -- all this while
maintaining the image of a poor, defenceless and
terribly threatened people. How? By a concerted
international, especially American, public relations
campaign, as cynical as it is effective.

Last week alone Sharon, Peres, and Abraham Burg
(Knesset speaker) were in the United States to
consolidate the Israeli image as righteously fighting
off terrorist violence. The three of them circulated
through one influential public platform after another,
gaining support and sympathy for Israel's policies
every minute. In addition, the media announced that
the Israeli government had hired two public relations
firms to continue promoting its policies through
advertisements, concerted lobbying efforts, and
Washington congressional liaisons. News of the
Palestinian Intifada has gradually disappeared from
the media. After all, how long can "violence," which
seems to be directed neither at long-standing
injustice (such as military occupation and collective
punishment) nor at a particular policy (such as
Israel's adamant refusal to regard Palestinian claims
as having any merit whatever), keep hold of reporters
whose every deviation from an accepted pro-Israeli
editorial policy is punished? It's not only that
reporters have no great story to report (such as a
ready narrative of Palestinian liberation), it is also
that Israel has never been firmly indicted for years
and years of massive human rights abuses against the
entire Palestinian population.

Senator George Mitchell's commission of enquiry as
well as Mary Robinson's similar set of human rights
experts, comprising a distinguished group that
includes Professor Richard Falk of Princeton, will
doubtless come to similar conclusions. I have read the
Robinson report and it is unequivocally damning of
Israel's cruelty and disproportionate military
response to what is in effect an anti-colonial
civilian uprising. But one can be certain that few
people will see or be affected by these excellent
reports. Israel's public relations machine, in the US
especially, will make certain of that.

Such propaganda campaigns in the US are far more
effective there than they are in the UK, for instance.
Robert Fisk, the excellent Middle East reporter for
the Independent, has complained of attacks on him and
his paper by the British Israeli lobby, but he
continues to write fearlessly. And when the Canadian
media tycoon Conrad Black tried to stop or censor
criticism of Israel in the Daily Telegraph or the
Spectator, both of which he owns, a chorus of his own
writers and others, like Ian Gilmour, were able to
respond to him in his own papers.

This could not happen in the US, where leading
newspapers and journalists for the most part simply do
not permit pro-Palestinian editorial comment at all.
The New York Times has only had two or three columns
like that, as against dozens of "neutral" or
pro-Israel commentaries. A similar pattern obtains in
every major US newspaper. Thus the average reader is
inundated with dozens upon dozens of articles about
"violence" as if that violence was somehow equal to,
or worse than, Israel's attacks with helicopters,
tanks and missiles. If it is sadly true that one
Israeli death appears to be worth many Palestinian
deaths on the ground, then it is also true that for
all their actual suffering and daily humiliation,
Palestinians in the media seem scarcely more human
than the cockroaches and terrorists to which they have
been compared.

The simple fact of the matter is that the Palestinian
Intifada is unprotected and ineffective so long as it
does not appear to be a struggle for liberation in the
West. The US is Israel's strongest supporter at $5
billion a year, and the one thing that Israelis have
long understood is the direct value of their
propaganda, which in no uncertain terms allows them to
do anything at all, and still retain an image of
serene justice and confident right. As a people, we
Palestinians have to do what the South African
anti-apartheid movement did, i.e. gain legitimacy in
Europe and especially in the US, and consequently
de-legitimise the apartheid regime. The whole
principle of Israeli colonialism must be similarly
discredited in order for any progress in Palestinian
self-determination to be made.

This task can no longer be postponed. During the 1982
siege of Beirut by Sharon's armies, a substantial
group of Palestinian businessmen and intellectuals met
in London. The idea was to help alleviate Palestinian
suffering, and also to set up an information campaign
in the US: Palestinian resistance on the ground and
the Palestinian image were seen as two equal fronts.
But over time, the second effort was totally
abandoned, for reasons I still cannot completely
understand. You don't have to be Aristotle to connect
the propaganda framework turning Palestinians into
ugly, fanatical terrorists with the ease with which
Israel, performing horrendous crimes of war on a daily
basis, managed to maintain itself as a plucky little
state fighting off extermination, and maintaining
unconditional US support paid in full by an
uncomprehending American tax-payer.

This is an intolerable situation, and until the
Palestinian struggle resolutely focuses on the battle
to represent itself as a narrative surviving valiantly
against Israeli colonialism, we have no chance at all
of gaining our rights as a people. Every stone cast
symbolically in support of equality and justice must
therefore be interpreted as such, and not
misrepresented as either violence or a blind rejection
of peace. Palestinian information must change the
framework, must take responsibility for it and must do
so immediately. There has to be a unified collective

In a globalised world, in which politics and
information are virtually equivalent, Palestinians can
no longer afford to shirk a task which, alas, the
leadership is simply incapable of comprehending. It
must be done if the loss of life and property is to be
stopped, and if liberation, not unending servitude to
Israel, is the real goal. The irony is that truth and
justice are on the Palestinian side, but until
Palestinians themselves make that readily apparent --
to the world in general, to themselves, to Israelis
and Americans in particular -- neither truth nor
justice can prevail. For a people that has already
endured a century's injustice, surely a proper
politics of information is quite possible. What is
needed is a re-directed and re-focused will to victory
over military occupation and ethnically and
religiously based dispossession.



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