"...even though one hundred years of Zionism teaches us that the Palestinians have much more to fear from the Zionists than vice-versa. Only one side has ever actually wiped the other’s country off the map – and it wasn’t the Palestinian side."I am glad to take the opportunity to clarify what I meant by the assertion that Israel wiped Palestine off the map. I was not trying to compete with Iranian President Ahmadinejad, who said that Israel should vanish from the pages of time (which apparently did not mean that the Israeli people should be obliterated. He seems to have been speaking, Reagan-like, of regime change that would replace the current state of Israel with another state. As far as I know, he did not call for the death or expulsion of Israeli Jews.) What I meant was that the State of Israel, during and after the 1947-8 war, deliberatedly changed the map of Palestine when it systematically destroyed Palestinian villages, renamed existing Arab place names with Hebrew names, and diminished the Palestinian presence in Palestine by expulsion of Palestinians and mass immigrations of Jews. What I did not mean was that Israel nuked Palestine or mass-murdered Palestinians. "To wipe a country off the map" means simply that one country is totally (or almost totally) replaced by another country. And indeed, if you examine maps of Palestine before 1947 and maps of Israel after 1952, say, you will find radical alterations. Presumably, part of the reason why the Zionists erased the Palestinian presence was to present Israel as a state that arose, if not ex nihilo, than out of a desert, with only a few picturesque native villages. That way, the natives who had been expelled would have no claim to places which no longer existed, and Zionists could argue that there never was a significant Palestinian presence in Palestine. Now, it is true that many states wipe their predecessors off the map when they become independent and conquer territory. Lviv was Lwow, and before that, Lemberg, and before that Lwow, etc., depending upon who was in charge. And states do that mostly for the same reason that Israel did; to obliterate the immediate past. Israel went further than this and literally obliterated villages and neighborhoods, but other states have done this, too. I am not, obviously referring to all of Palestine, but only to that part of mandatory Palestine that was under Israel's control by virtue of the armistic agreements. Of course, not only were villages destroyed, but sites were renamed with Hebrew names. Sometimes, the official Hebrew names never stuck. Few people even in Jerusalem know that the official Hebrew name of the neighborhood of Baka is "Geulim", and that the post office there is called the Geulim post office. Everybody refers to it as Baka, perhaps because the original Arab neighborhood was used to settle Arabic-speaking Jewish refugees from Arab countries. As for the claim that there was no country of Palestine -- well, that is really silly. There was no modern state of Palestine, but the peoples of Palestine (including the small Jewish communities) had every reason to expect that in time there would be a state, and that given the principle of self-determination, that state would have the character of the majority of its inhabitants. This happened throughout the middle east, and indeed, throughout the world, with the breakup of empires. Anyway, for those interested in pursuing this subject beyond the information on Palestinian websites, one can consult Meron Benvenisti's Sacred Landscape: The Buried History of the Holy Land Since 1948, and Salman Abu Sitta's Atlas of Palestine 1948, if you can get a hold on it. And please look at the website of those Israelis who are trying to bring to the Israeli consciousness the tragedy of the Nakba, the Israeli organization Zochrot. One of their activities is to go around the country posting signs with the old Arabic place names, sometimes in English and transliterated Hebrew.
Monday, August 27, 2007
"Wiping Palestine off the Map"
Coming posts for the Magnes Zionist include a continuing series of responses to arguments on behalf of the Law of Return. I promised that two weeks ago, and I have yet to get back to it, but I will. But first, a reply to a comment to A Talmudic Precedent for a Just Solution to the Israel Palestinian Conflict that was posted when I was recently stranded in cyberspace. I wrote in that post