Tuesday, March 13, 2007

The ethnic cleansing of Palestine

by Ilan Pappe
October 03, 2006 - ZNET

(1) Can you tell ZNet, please, what your new book, "The ethnic cleansing of Palestine" is about? What is it trying to communicate?

The book tries to show that in 1948, the Zionist movement waged a war against the Palestinain people in order to implement its long term plans of ethnic cleansing (whereas Israeli historians, including 'new historians', claimed that the war was waged by the Arab world against the state of Israel in order to eliminate it and it resulted in expulsions of Palestinians). The Arab world tried to prevent this cleansing, but was too fragmented, self-centered and ineffective to stop the uprooting of half of Palestine's native population, the destruction of half of its villages and towns and the killing of thousands of its people.

And since that ethnic cleansing was successfully implemented in almost 80% of Palestine without any global or regional repercussions - the ethnic cleansing policy continues ever since 1967 in the remaining 20% of the country. Creating a Jewish state in historical Palestine cleansed of Palestinians is still the ideolgoical infrastructure on which the state of Israel is based. How to achieve this goal is a divisive issue between Left Zionists - hoping to negotiate a settlement that would leave a small number of Palestinains in a greater Israel and the Right Zionsts willing to implement a more direct cleasning policy from the same area even today.

The book uses the accepted scholarly definition of Ethnic Cleansing to show its academic as well legal applicability to the case of Palestine and argues that since in the eyes of the world - including the State Department and the UN - ethnic cleansing is a crime against humanity, this how we should view the Israeli actions in the past and ISrael's policies in the present.

(2) Can you tell ZNet something about writing the book? Where does the content come from? What went into making the book what it is?

The book is based on three major sources. First it uses new material from the Israeli military archives that was released in the late 1990s. Secondly, it is based on a re-reading of the older archival material through the prism of the ethnic cleansing paradigm. Thirdly, it uses extensively the Palestinian oral history archives.

(3) What are your hopes for "The ethnic cleansing of Palestine"? What do you hope it will contribute or achieve, politically? Given the effort and aspirations you have for the book, what will you deem to be a success? What would leave you happy about the whole undertaking? What would leave you wondering if it was worth all the time and effort?

The book first and foremost is my modest message to the Palestinians wherever they are, and especially to the refugees, that their narrative, which was denied for so many years, is fully vindicated and validated in this book.

Secondly, I think that through the paradigm offered in this book for the 1948 events, one can have a far better understanding of the Israeli policies in 2006. It offers a better conceptualization of the nature of the Israeli actions agaisnt the Palestinian minority inside Israel, in the occupied territories, and the disengaged Gaza Strip and lately in Lebanon. In this respect occupation and pullout and ingathering are all different ways for implementing the coveted goal of a complete ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians.

Thirdly, but this is really in the realm of wishful thinking, it hopes to stir public opinion in the West and in Israel. If the premises of this book are accepted, the West has to change its attitude towards the Jewish State. It can not be absovled any more for its past and present crimes. And more importantly, the Israeli society has to look at the mirror and refuse the policies that were and are made in its name. If this is not done then eventually all of us - Palestinians and Israelis alike - will perish in a mutually assured destructive process.

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