On the pain of being driven out of one’s own land

Progressive British Journalist Robert Fisk wrote an impressive article concerning one aspect of the conflicts between Israel and Palestine which is currently seldom mentioned.

I’m reproducing his article because I find it greatly interesting. This shouldn’t, though, be viewed as my endorsement of everything he had to say.

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week



OK, so by this afternoon, the exchange rate of death in two days was 40-0 in favour of Israel. But now for the Gaza story you won’t be hearing from anyone else in the next few hours.

It’s about land. The Israelis of Sederot are coming under rocket fire from the Palestinians of Gaza and now the Palestinians are getting their comeuppance. Sure. But wait, how come all those Palestinians – all 1.5 million – are crammed into Gaza in the first place? Well, their families once lived, didn’t they, in what is now called Israel? And got chucked out – or fled for their lives – when the Israeli state was created.

And – a drawing in of breath is now perhaps required – the people who lived in Sederot in early 1948 were not Israelis, but Palestinian Arabs. Their village was called Huj. Nor were they enemies of Israel. Two years earlier, these same Arabs had actually hidden Jewish Haganah fighters from the British Army. But when the Israeli army turned up at Huj on 31 May 1948, they expelled all the Arab villagers – to the Gaza Strip! Refugees, they became. David Ben Gurion (Israel’s first Prime Minister) called it an “unjust and unjustified action”. Too bad. The Palestinians of Huj were never allowed back.

And today, well over 6,000 descendants of the Palestinians from Huj – now Sederot – live in the squalor of Gaza, among the “terrorists” Israel is claiming to destroy and who are shooting at what was Huj. Interesting story.

And same again for Israel’s right to self-defence. We heard it again today. What if the people of London were being rocketed like the people of Israel? Wouldn’t they strike back? Well yes, but we Brits don’t have more than a million former inhabitants of the UK cooped up in refugee camps over a few square miles around Hastings.

The last time this specious argument was used was in 2008, when Israel invaded Gaza and killed at least 1,100 Palestinians (exchange rate: 1,100 to 13). What if Dublin was under rocket attack, the Israeli ambassador asked then? But the UK town of Crossmaglen in Northern Ireland was under rocket attack from the Irish Republic in the 1970s – yet the RAF didn’t bomb Dublin in retaliation, killing Irish women and children. In Canada in 2008, Israel’s supporters were making the same fraudulent point. What if the people of Vancouver or Toronto or Montreal were being rocket-attacked from the suburbs of their own cities? How would they feel? But the Canadians haven’t pushed the original inhabitants of Canadian territory into refugee camps.

And now let’s cross to the West Bank. First of all, Benjamin Netanyahu said he couldn’t talk to Palestinian “President” Mahmoud Abbas because he didn’t also represent Hamas. Then when Abbas formed a unity government, Netanyahu said he couldn’t talk to Abbas because he had unified himself with the “terrorist” Hamas. Now he says he can only talk to him if he breaks with Hamas – even though he won’t then represent Hamas.

Meanwhile, that great leftist Israeli philosopher Uri Avnery – 90 years old and still, thankfully, going strong – has picked up on his country’s latest obsession: the danger that Isis will storm west from its Iraqi/Syrian “caliphate” and arrive on the east bank of the Jordan river.

“And Netanyahu said,” according to Avnery, “if they are not stopped by the permanent Israeli garrison there (on the Jordan river), they will appear at the gates of Tel Aviv.” The truth, of course, is that the Israeli air force would have crushed Isis the moment it dared to cross the Jordanian border from Iraq or Syria.

The importance of this, however, is that if Israel keeps its army on the Jordan (to protect Israel from Isis), a future “Palestine” state will have no borders and will be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory.

“Much like the South African Bantustans,” says Avnery. In other words, no “viable” state of Palestine will ever exist. After all, aren’t Isis just the same as Hamas? Of course not.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (Getty Images) Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (Getty Images)

But that’s not what we heard from Mark Regev, Netanyahu’s spokesman. No, what he told Al Jazeera was that Hamas was “an extremist terrorist organisation not very different from Isis in Iraq, Hezbollah in Lebanon, Boko Haram…” Tosh. Hezbollah is a Shia militia now fighting to the death inside Syria against the Sunni Muslims of Isis. And Boko Haram – thousands of kilometres from Israel – is not a threat to Tel Aviv.

But you get the point. The Palestinians of Gaza – and please forget, forever, the 6,000 Palestinians whose families come from the land of Sederot – are allied to the tens of thousands of Islamists threatening Maliki of Baghdad, Assad of Damascus or President Goodluck Jonathan in Abuja. Even more to the point, if Isis is heading towards the edge of the West Bank, why is the Israeli government still building colonies there – illegally, and on Arab land – for Israeli civilians?

This is not just about the foul murder of three Israelis in the occupied West Bank or the foul murder of a Palestinian in occupied East Jerusalem. Nor about the arrest of many Hamas militants and politicians in the West Bank. Nor about rockets. As usual, it’s about land.

As I mentioned elsewhere, a cultural genocide has been carried out by the French government in my region and I feel extremely grieved while driving through villages where the Germanic dialect of the past has almost died out.

But I CAN’T really imagine what it is means to know that one’s entire land has been stolen away.

It makes me truly sick to see that for countless Conservative Evangelicals, the lives and well-being of Palestinians are far less important than those of Israelis due to their literalist interpretation of Christ’s second coming.


As I have explained here, I really think that fundamentalism is destroying Christianity in America.




6 thoughts on “On the pain of being driven out of one’s own land

  1. Pew’s 2/14 poll on support for Israel in the US.

    Jewish support: 11% say we’re too supportive of Israel, 31% not enough, 54% about right.

    White evangelical: 12% too supportive, 46% not enough, 31% about right.

    Catholics: 22, 20, 47.

    Unaffiliated: 35, 13, 41.

    The point is that, yes, there’s a bump in support of Israel among evangelicals. But you know what? Even the majority of unaffiliated think our support for Israel is either not enough or just right. There is not a single group polled that thinks the US is too supportive of Israel. This even cuts across party lines.

    So why in the hell are you saying this is a ‘conservative evangelical’ problem?

    • I didn’t say as much. But among all sionists, CE are arguably the most vocal advocates of the State of Israel and I find they tend to use the most inhuman rhetoric.

      Now you are free to prove me wrong on that.
      The difference between Evangelicals and Catholics is far greater in France where the latter ones express much more solidarity towards Palestinians.


      • Lothar,

        So why in the hell are you saying this is a ‘conservative evangelical’ problem?

        You said: “It makes me truly sick to see that for countless Conservative Evangelicals, the lives and well-being of Palestinians are far less important than those of Israelis due to their literalist interpretation of Christ’s second coming.”

        I pointed out, even if evangelicals support Israel somewhat more than the rest of the population, we’re talking about a country where every political and religious group almost – across the board – favors Israel over the Palestinians. I supplied the data. The second batch of statistics drives the point home even moreso.

        You didn’t cite ‘rhetoric’ in your original post. You talked about sympathy for the Israelis over the Palestinians. But that is the very metric which undercuts you – you may as well condemn American progressives, American unaffiliated, American liberals, and hell, Americans as a whole while you’re at it.

        And you know what? That would actually be defensible from the standpoint of ‘supporting Israel unequivocally over Palestine is wrong’. But no, instead you turn this into a conservative evangelical problem. That comes across as drastically mistaken to me.

        Now you are free to prove me wrong on that.

        Unfortunately I can’t poll ‘rhetoric’. The best I can do is survey evangelical organizations for their statements and attitudes, much like I survey atheist and humanist organizations for theirs. But if I do that, it’s just going to undercut you because even the pro-Israeli ones will state their support, in terms of major organizations, in bland terms of Israel’s right to exist, etc. Do you deny this?

        Here, Marc. Think of it this way. Let’s say I said the following to you:

        “It makes me truly sick to see that for countless Liberal Progressives, the lives and well-being of Palestinians are far less important than those of Israelis due to their enshrining of western secular values.

        I truly believe progressivism is destroying appreciation for human rights in America.”

        Statistically, I’ve got you – even the left wing in the US is sympathetic to Israel in tremendous number over Palestinians by the stats I’ve cited. Self-described liberals favor Israel 2 to 1.

        Would you agree I’d have at first blush a defensible position there?

      • Lothar,

        Let me try another tack here.

        First: on the question of Israel, I have no strong opinions other than ‘it’s more complicated than most people like to admit’. You talk about the pain and humiliation of Palestinians being driven out of their homeland. You do not talk about how the Jews had no homeland until recently, and paid one hell of a price for lacking exactly that. On the other hand, even experiencing the literal holocaust does not give a community a perpetual ‘get out of jail free’ card when it comes to abusing others. I can understand the tenacity of Israelis, just as I can understand your tenacity when it comes to german-speakers in France. I think you err when it comes to saying, essentially, ‘The palestinians have it worse therefore the palestinians are who we should be cheering for’, but that doesn’t mean Israel is beyond reproach, or even that Israel isn’t possibly more in the wrong than Palestinian authorities.

        Second – notice that I didn’t try to spin this around and say, a-HA, it’s the PROGRESSIVES who are the REAL demons here. Not my game, and it’s wrong in this case. I’m pointing out that you’re dealing with, in America, a country for whom (at least according to the polls I provided) the majority of every major political and religious demographic skews towards Israel support over Palestinian. Heavily. Yet you turn around and in your post seek to lay the blame of American sympathy at the feet of one particular group. Yes, they have a higher percentage of people supportive of Israel than most – but when everyone is so far in the majority with that support, singling them out as THE problem is just absurd.

        So that leads me to ask: why do it? Why weren’t you satisfied just talking about the problems, as you see it, with Israel? Even if you had criticism of conservative evangelicals on this front, why did they have to be THE problem – indeed, the only one you found necessary to single out?

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