Palestine   Israel


by Michael R. Burch, an editor and publisher
of Holocaust and Nakba poetry

May 15, 2011: Nakba Day, the Day of the Catastrophe

Has the third Palestinian Intifada begun? If so, could the third time be the charm for equal rights, justice and self-determination for Palestinians?

Yom Ha'atzmaut commemorates Israel's declaration of Independence in 1948. This is a day of celebration for Israeli Jews. But for Palestinians who became victims of ethnic cleansing in 1948 during what they call the Nakba, this is a day of lamentation and mourning. (Nakba is Arabic for "Catastrophe.")

Americans should be able to understand and commiserate with the Palestinian position if they consider how Sitting Bull must have felt as he watched white soldiers celebrating "Independence Day" while Sioux women and children languished inside squalid concentration camps euphemistically called "reservations." In reality, white men had "reserved" all the best land for themselves, taking it by force, coercion and outright robbery. As a result multitudes of Native American women and children were suffering and dying. We can easily understand the rage that drove Sitting Bull to war, even though he was a man of peace who was famously slow to anger. In the same way, we should be able to understand how Palestinian men feel when they see their women and children suffering and dying so unjustly.

And so today, on Nakba Day, Palestinians remember and mourn acts of Israeli terrorism practiced against 700,000 to 800,000 noncombatant Palestinians, most of them defenseless farm families who were ethnically cleansed from their native land. Today "Palestinians reaffirm the adherence and commitment to their legitimate rights including the right of return and self-determination in an independent state on the lands occupied in 1967," as Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad said at a press conference in Ramallah. For Palestinians, May 15 is both a day of mourning and a day to demand independence. But for many young men, Nakba Day is also a day of rage, for completely understandable reasons, if only we are capable of empathy. My Cherokee ancestors suggested that we never judge other men until we have walked a mile in their moccasins. To understand why Palestinians are so angry, one has only to look at maps that show how much of their land has been taken by force and theft over the last 65 years:

Before the ethnic cleansing of 1948, Palestinians owned well over 90% of the combined land of modern-day Israel/Palestine. After the Nakba, Israeli Jews "owned" all the white areas in the second map "magically," without paying for the newly-acquired land. Anywhere else in the world this would be considered armed robbery, since the land was stolen with guns and bombs, primarily from noncombatant farm families. But because Israel has legions of propagandists who constantly play on the sympathies of Americans who want to believe that Israel is "only doing what is necessary," Israel has been able to "legally" steal Palestinian land that is worth hundreds of billions of dollars at today's prices.

As the Southern proverb goes, "The proof is in the pudding." In this case, it's easy to see what really happened. Israeli Jews acquired a huge amount of highly valuable land without paying for it. When farm families lose their land without compensation, they lose the ability to feed, clothe and house themselves. Thus they become homeless refugees dependent on the charity of strangers. And this remains the state of millions of Palestinian refugees who now languish in refugee camps in Jordan, Lebanon and other Middle Eastern nations. Ethnic cleansing is a terrible crime, a crime against peace and humanity.

As we can see from the third and fourth maps, Israel continues to "acquire" (i.e., steal) land from the Palestinians, to this day. This is done via a variety of methods. Sometimes military force is used. Sometimes Palestinian homes are demolished without due process of law. (Israel is the world's only "democracy" that regularly destroys the homes of people based on their race and creed.) Since Palestinians usually cannot obtain building permits from Israel, this means that many suddenly homeless Palestinians have to vacate their land, which is then snapped up by Israeli robber barons. But the main method of ethnically cleansing Palestinians today is to make their lives so miserable they choose to leave voluntarily. I recently read the account of an Australian peace activist who was told by her Jewish tour bus guide that Israeli Jews "politely make it impossible for them to live here [on their native soil in the West Bank]." But of course there is nothing "polite" about demolishing people's homes and punishing them collectively for having been "born wrong." What Israel is doing, in reality, is using a brutal, soul-crushing system of government-sanctioned racism and apartheid to force Palestinians to leave their native land. But most Palestinians either have nowhere else to go, or they refuse to be ethnically cleansed because they love their country, so Israel's "final solution" is only creating misery and violence for Jews and Palestinians alike, with Palestinians suffering the far greater misery and violence. The terrorism Israel practices against Palestinians on a large-scale, daily basis is far greater than the isolated acts of terrorism committed by Palestinian individuals. Yet all the while the Israeli Injustice Machine pours out tsunamis of propaganda blaming its victims for every sin under the sun ... exactly the way the white supremacist government of the United States and its white supremacist press once blamed Native Americans for every sin under the sun. We should never be so foolish as to believe what racists say about the victims they're robbing, defrauding, abusing and killing.

As I write this article, reports of Palestinian deaths are arriving through the Internet. It seems Israeli soldiers are reacting very aggressively, using live ammunition on the protestors. I am reminded of Kent State. This is the same strategy we have seen in Egypt, Tunisia, Iran, Bahrain, Yemen, Syria and Libya. How is Israel any different from other brutal, tyrannical, anti-democratic regimes that kill protestors when they demand freedom, equal rights and democracy?

I have no idea how many Palestinians will suffer and die in their latest attempt to free themselves from the racist tyrannies of Israel. I only wish my country, the United States, would stand firmly for equal rights, justice and democracy, rather than always supporting Israel "no matter what."

Everywhere else in the world that Arabs march for freedom and democracy, the U.S. will cheer them on, at least in public. But when they march for freedom and democracy in Palestine, the U.S. will side with Israel because Israel has a powerful lobby and can buy American silence and acquiescence. In effect, the tail wags the dog. The result of the tail wagging the dog has been 9-11 and two unnecessary, unwinnable wars. But as long as American politicians can garner Jewish votes and Jewish campaign contributions, it seems the suffering and deaths of innocents is a small price to pay. But by manipulating American politicians into supporting Israel's racial injustices, American Jews have become Israel's worst enemies; they have become like pushers providing hard drugs to an addict. Israel demands sympathy, so like an indulgent mother, American Jews supply it. Then the addict gets high and starts beating up innocent women and children, while robbing them blind. A good mother would see what her son was becoming and stop supporting his habit. 

Israel's prime minister is one in a long line of power-addicted bullies. Rather than ending Israel's abuse of Palestinian women and children, like any addict he blames other people for his failures. "I regret that there are extremists among Israeli Arabs and in neighboring countries who have turned the day on which the State of Israel was established, the day on which the Israeli democracy was established, into a day of incitement, violence and rage," Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said to the Israeli Cabinet in Jerusalem, according to a statement posted on his office's website.

What Netanyahu will not admit is that Israel has blatantly racist laws and courts that make racial violence on both sides inevitable. He reminds me of Andrew Jackson, the American President who lectured Native Americans about acts of violence, after having forced them to walk the Trail of Tears. Why should the victims of ethnic cleansing and genocide submit to their oppressors when they can clearly read the handwriting on the wall? The Palestinians know what happened to American Indians when they submitted to the not-so-tender mercies of a white supremacist government. They know what happened to black slaves who submitted to white slaveowners. They know what happened to Australian aborigines who submitted to the rule of white British imperialists. They know what happened to black South Africans who submitted to the racism and apartheid of white overseers. Why should Palestinians submit to ethnic cleansing and genocide, knowing what happens to "inferior" races who submit to their "superiors"?

Now as the "Arab Spring" sweeps the Middle East and Northern Africa, the Palestinian "Day of Rage" threatens to become a third Palestinian Intifada (Arabic for "shaking off," as in shaking off an oppressor). Tens of thousands of Palestinians and their supporters plan to march from Egypt, the epicenter of the Arab world and the largest Arab country. Many will set out from Tahrir square at the heart of Cairo. At the same time or soon thereafter, other Arabs will begin to march toward Israel from Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Gaza and Occupied Palestine (the West Bank).

The purpose? This mass protest will send a clear message to Israel and the rest of the world that liberating Palestinians from a brutally racist Israeli Occupation is the heartfelt cause of Arabs and Muslims in the Middle East and around the world. By marching together in large numbers they will be denouncing the ongoing occupation of Palestine and calling for an internationally recognized independent Palestinian state within its legitimate pre-1967 borders, with Eastern Jerusalem as its capital.

Since diplomacy has utterly failed the Arabs of Palestine in the past, and because Israeli and U.S. politicians have granted them nothing but despair and Diaspora for 60+ years, these Freedom Marchers have decided to take their lives and fates into their own hands. Many Israeli Jews and Americans will immediately label them "terrorists" because they have the courage and temerity to oppose the terrorism of Israel and the U.S. against millions of completely innocent Palestinian women and children. But what if Israeli Jews and Americans are wrong, and these Freedom Walkers simply refuse to see an Arab Spring that excludes millions of Palestinians? How can they be wrong to long for this blossoming of freedom and justice to include Palestine?

There have been two Palestinian Intifadas before: the first in 1987, the second (the Aq’sa Intifada) in 2000. During both uprisings Israel was forced to endure years of domestic unrest and worldwide condemnation of its apartheid and oppressive racist policies toward the Palestinians. But of course to date nothing has ever caused Israel to "see the light" and abandon its Jim Crow laws, racist courts, home demolitions and public lynchings. While the rest of the free world has called racism, colonialism and feudalism abominations, Israel remains a Dark Age feudal kingdom where people of one race are the "chosen few" and everyone else is out of luck. If any of the serfs object, they are immediately labeled "terrorists" and are either beaten, imprisoned or annihilated. Israel treats non-Jews the same way Saddam Hussein once treated Kurds. But because Israel has friends in high places, and a huge global propaganda machine, it continues to get away with racial injustices that would be instantly condemned anywhere else in the world.

Recently, a Facebook cause page called "The Third Palestinian Intifada" attracted almost 300,000 fans and a rapidly growing number of visitors in just few days. Tel Aviv was well aware that all the Arab uprisings so far have been sparked by Facebook pages. So “the only democracy in the Middle East” decided to squelch free speech. In late March Yuli Edelstein, Israel’s Minister of Diplomacy and Diaspora Affairs, wrote Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook's co-founder, and told him: “The social network site has great potential to rally the masses around good causes, and we are all thankful for that. However, such potential comes hand in hand with the ability to cause great harm, such as in the case of the wild incitement displayed on the Third Palestinian Intifada page.”

In other words, pro-freedom Facebook pages are beneficial, as long as no one proposes that Israel should free the Palestinians from its bigoted overlordship. Did the American Revolution start with polite talk over cups of tea? Of course not. The American Revolution began with the talk of the consequences for the feudal British monarchy if it continued to treat Americans as feudal serfs. In effect, the American Declaration of Independence declared open season on Englishmen if they persisted in denying Americans equal rights, justice and representative government. So according to the American Declaration of Independence, Israel has only two options: (1) make Palestinians fully equal citizens of a single democratic state, or (2) grant the Palestinians independence as a separate state. As long as Israel refuses to do one or the other, according to Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, John Adams, Ben Franklin and the rest of the American Founding Fathers, the Palestinians have every right to resist their feudal overlords.