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A Jew Seeking Justice

21 March 2002

As a Jewish American, I feel it is finally my responsibility to opine on behalf of my Palestinian sisters and brothers:

Imagine if a group of strangers marched into your home and told you that you couldn't live there anymore. This is the home that your parents inhabited; your grandparents bequeathed to them. These strangers told you that thousands of years ago, their ancestors had populated this area, albeit for a short while. Now they have come to take what's rightfully yours and call it their own. When you don't voluntarily leave, they threaten you with violence. Fearing imminent danger, you take your children and flee. These people pay you a pittance of the value of your land without your consent and label you an 'absentee landlord'. When you return to reclaim your home, your land, the strangers argue that because you separated yourself from your belongings, they are no longer yours. Because they have attained the title to your home and land, you no longer have the right of possession.

This is the story of Israel - a stolen land taken from the Palestinians. The Zionist movement was founded on the principle that the Jews deserved a land; a land that they could call their State; their home but they would only be able to identify themselves as a wholly Jewish state at the expense of uprooting an existent civilization, the indigenous Arab population.

The Jewish claim to Palestine is based on the existence of a kingdom that reigned for only 414 years (Beatty, I: Arab and Jew in the Land of Canaan.) The Jewish kingdoms were only one of many periods of ancient Palestine. There exists the dangerous misconception that opposition to Jewish occupation stems from anti-Semitism. Tensions between Arabs and Jews began after Zionist settlers arrived in the 1880s and had bought land from absentee Arab owners. This led to the dispossession of land that had been cultivated by peasants. In effect, the Zionists were colonizing Arab land.

The Zionists probably could not have been so successful in their acquisitions if it weren't for strong support from the British and later the Americans. The Balfour Declaration was instituted in November 1917 by the British Government to secure a Jewish Homeland in Palestine. It is easy to be skeptical of such a declaration as it was fashioned by a European power; about a non-European territory; and completely discounted the presence and desires of the indigenous majority residents of the territory.

When Israel was declared a state in 1948, it owned a bit more than six percent of the land of Palestine. The UN charter envisages a peoples' right to self-determination based upon the democratic requirement of consent for the majority of the people - the Palestine Arabs had composed a 2/3 majority at that point it time. Thus, the UN Partition of Palestine in 1947 violated its own law.

Since the inception of a codependency between Israel and the U.S., the U.S. media has done everything in its power to taint the struggle of the Palestinians. President Truman stated in 1947 "I am sorry gentlemen, but I have to answer to hundreds of thousands who are anxious for the success of Zionism. I do not have hundreds of thousands of Arabs among my constituents" (Pres. Harry Truman, quoted in Anti Zionism, ed. By Teikener, Abed-Rabbo & Mezvinsky).

Arabs have only responded to an unlawful, undeserved expropriation of their land. They became refugees in their own villages. Over 750,000 Palestinians became refugees on their own land during the winter of 1947. But Israel was not satisfied with its allocation. In violation of international law, Israel seized over 52 percent of the land in the West Bank and 30 percent of the Gaza Strip for military use or for settlement by Jewish civilians.

Israel has an historical record of invading surrounding countries, and currently occupies Lebanese, Syrian, and Palestinian territory against international law. It has been Zionist policy to kill anywhere from 50 to 100 Arabs for every Jewish fatality. But the U.S. media have never criticized Israel of inciting the ensuing Islamic terror. Instead, Israeli soldiers who participate in cruel acts of torture are labeled "security forces" whereas Palestinians are all perceived as terrorists.

Currently, violence in the Middle East is as high as it has ever been. Israeli deaths are reported to us whereas Palestinian losses are dehumanized and go faceless in our news.

Our unconditional support of Israel and its practices portray us as unsympathetic to a robbed people.

Fundamentalist Halacha, or Jewish law, is what is propagating violence - it condones murder in the pursuit of Zionist expansion. Much like other sects of religious fundamentalism, it is dangerous and should be feared and mistrusted.

We can no longer sit idly and watch an indigenous population become dispossessed. It has taken a couple hundred years for Americans to look at our ancestors with disdain - those who decimated the original inhabitants of our land - the once thriving American Indians. We still feel guilt for what our forefathers stole. Will disclosure of facts and revision of our textbooks in the secular classroom and in the synagogue someday reveal the truth about Israel? And will it be too late then?

Jennifer Balkan
Published by Common Dreams © Jennifer Balkan

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