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Questions of responsibility
Published in Al-Ahram Weekly on 14 - 10 - 2004

Israel's deliberate confusion of Jewishness with Zionism is a policy fraught with danger, writes Ali Kazak*
The European Commission opinion poll that showed 60 per cent of those polled believed Israel to be the greatest threat to world peace underlines increasing international rejection and condemnation of Israel's occupation, discrimination against, and gross violations of the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people.
The justification Israel and its lobby give for the occupation and oppression is no longer convincing anyone. Yet instead of reviewing its policies and practices, Israel now accuses its opponents of being anti-Semitic.
This accusation represents a danger to all Jews, and requires answers to several questions. Who is responsible for Israel's racism and crimes against the Palestinian people, clearly defined by international law as war crimes and crimes against humanity? Is it the Jews or Zionists? Is there a difference between the two? And is opposing Israel's occupation, war crimes and discrimination a form of anti-Semitism? I would like to answer these questions from the victim's point-of-view.
I was a few months old when, in 1948, I was dispossessed with my mother and denied the right to return to my homeland and rejoin my father in Haifa, the city of my birth. I did not see my father for 48 years. The first Jew I met was in my class at high school in Damascus. I was the only Palestinian refugee in the class and he was the only Syrian Jew. We were both Arabs and Semites. Despite my own personal tragedy and the Naqba, the tragedy of the Palestinian people, I never felt for a moment that either he or the Jews were responsible for the crimes committed against me and my people.
Neither my Arab culture, nor my religion, allows me to be anti-Semitic or anti-Jewish. Islam, Christianity and Judaism are all part of Arab culture: the three monotheistic religions and their prophets came from our region and are part of us. Islam is the continuation of Judaism and Christianity and is not against Christians or Jews. They are regarded as People of the Book. Muslims believe God is One, the One who sent all the prophets, from Adam to Ibrahim, Moses, Jesus and Mohamed (peace be upon them).
It is because of the openness of Arab culture and the moderation of Islam that many oppressed minorities from Europe sought and found refuge in Arab countries, including Jews, Armenians, Caucasians and others, and the Golden Age of the Jews was achieved within the Golden Age of Islam.
Palestine, the Holy Land, is holy to Jews, Christians and Muslims. But this does not give the right to foreign Jews, Christians and Muslims to occupy and control it. Roman Catholics from the US, for example, do not have the right to occupy and control the Vatican because it is holy to them, nor do Indonesian or Iranian Muslims have the right to occupy Saudi Arabia because it is holy to them.
Throughout the centuries Jews, Christians and Muslims made pilgrimages to Palestine and returned back home, and so did Arab Jews. They never felt the need to settle in Palestine at a time when they were able. (Until WWI there were no borders between Arab states. There was freedom of movement and residency.)
When Palestinians, Arabs and Muslims fought against the Crusaders they did not fight against them because they were Christians but because they were invaders, oppressors and occupiers. And when the Arabs fought against the Ottoman occupation they were not against the Turks, Muslims or Islam. Similarly, the current struggle against Israel and Zionism does not mean they are against Jews.
Anti-Semitism, like Nazism, Fascism and Zionism, is a product of Europe and not the Orient. The Nazis, who were able to establish branches in every West European country, and in the US, Canada and Australia, were unable to do so in any Arab or Muslim state.
Zionism is a political ideology developed in 1896 by an Austrian Jew, Theodore Herzl. In The Jewish State Herzl suggested Palestine or Argentina be given to the Jews to establish a colony of their own. A year later the First Zionist Congress was held in Basle, Switzerland, and in 1907 the Eighth World Zionist Congress chose Palestine as the site of the Jewish colony.
In 1917 Britain promised Palestine to the Zionists. In a letter to Lord Rothschild, a British banker and Zionist, Britain's Foreign Secretary Arthur Balfour wrote that the government would facilitate "the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people". This letter became known as the Balfour Declaration. According to the 1918 Official Statistical Data of the British Mandate, contained in a Survey of Palestine, the population was 92 per cent Arab and Eight per cent Jewish; land ownership was 97.5 per cent Arab and 2.5 per cent Jewish.
By 33 votes to 13, with 10 abstentions, the UN General Assembly partitioned Palestine in 1947. The resolution gave newly arrived Jewish European settlers, who now constituted one-third of the population and owned 5.6 per cent of the land, 56.47 per cent of the most fertile parts of Palestine while the two-third Palestinian population, who owned 94.4 per cent of the land were allocated 42.88 per cent of their country.
The Palestinians, rejecting the UN's unjust partition, called for the withdrawal of Britain and a democratic, independent state for all Palestine's Muslim, Christian and Jewish inhabitants. On the other hand the Zionists accepted the partition because it gave them, for the first time, the legitimacy they were looking for. They did not, however, have any intention of complying with the UN resolution.
In 1948 Plan Dalet was put into force by well- armed and trained Zionist terrorist groups, the Irgun, the Hagannah and the Stern Gang. The plan had two objectives: to establish a Jewish state beyond the boundaries defined by the UN and to deport the Palestinian Arab population from that state. Under the watchful eyes of the British they seized several hundred villages and most Palestinian towns before the termination of the British mandate on 15 May 1948, even though the great majority of these towns and villages were outside the area of the Jewish state as defined by the UN.
On 14 May, 1948, through massacres and terror, the Zionists were able to declare the founding of the state of Israel on 78 per cent of Palestine and ethnically-cleanse over 70 per cent of the Palestinian people in order to turn a Muslim and Christian majority into a minority and the Jewish minority into a majority. The Jewish state could only be realised by deliberate ethnic-cleansing. They destroyed Palestine and renamed it Israel.
Despite repeated UN calls to let Palestinian refugees return to their homeland and pay them compensation (UNGA 194) Israel denied them the right to return because they were not Jews, while at the same time any Jew could immigrate to Israel from anywhere and claim citizenship on arrival. Countries belong to their citizens, but this is not so in Israel. The Israel that was established does not belong to its citizens but is a trust for Jews around the world. The Palestinian minority which remained are discriminated against and treated as second class citizens.
Israeli leaders and historians now admit to the ethnic-cleansing and war crimes committed. Moshe Dayan, late Israeli defence minister, stated in a famous speech to students at the Israeli Institute of Technology in Haifa in 1969: "Jewish villages were built in the place of Arab villages. You do not even know the names of these Arab villages and I do not blame you because geography books no longer exist. Not only do the books not exist, the Arab villages are not there either. Nahial arose in the place of Mahlul; Kibbutz Gvat in the place of Jibta; Kibbutz Sarid in the place of Hunefis; and Kefar Yeshushua in the place of Tal Al-Shuman. There is not a single place built in this country that did not have a former Arab population."
Indeed, the Palestinian academic Dr Walid Khalidi documented 418 depopulated and destroyed Palestinian villages in his book All That Remains.
Israeli historian Benny Morris admitted in a recent interview with the Israeli daily Haaretz that "without the uprooting of the Palestinians [in 1948], a Jewish state would not have arisen here. The term to cleanse is terrible. I know it doesn't sound nice but that's the term they used at the time."
In 1967 Israel occupied what remained of Palestine and some 37 years later still maintains its bloody occupation: there is oppression, killing, assassinations, the destruction of homes, factories and farms, collective punishments, military and economic siege, the building of settlements and now Israel's latest invention, the eight-metre high and 788 kilometre long apartheid wall, more than twice as high and 19 times as long as the Berlin Wall.
What Zionism and Israel means to me is my dispossession from my homeland and denial of my people's right to return to it on racial and religious grounds. It means occupation, oppression and racial and religious discrimination.
We believe Judaism and Zionism are different. The literature of the Palestinian revolution and the PLO consolidates our vision and our belief in the difference between Judaism as a religion and Zionism as a political ideology. In order to make this crucial point clear the Palestinian national liberation movement (Fatah) raised the slogan "Not every Jew is a Zionist and not every Zionist is a Jew". Zionists are the ones responsible for the crimes committed against the Palestinian and Arab people and there are extremist Christian Zionist groups. Indeed, George Bush and Tony Blair are examples of non-Jewish Zionists. Indeed, the first people to reject Zionism and fight against it were not Palestinians but Jews, including the first Australian-born governor-general of Australia, Sir Isaac Isaacs.
The international community also found it crucial to emphasise the difference between the two when it adopted, in 1975, UN resolution 3379 condemning "Zionism as a form of racism and racial discrimination" and holding it responsible for crimes against the Palestinian people.
Israel, together with Zionist organisations, launched an anti-UN campaign and with the support of the US, Australian and British governments was able, 16 years later, through bullying other countries, pressure and bribes, to repeal that resolution in December 1991 thus putting an end to the international community's attempts to differentiate between Judaism and Zionism.
The objectives behind this were to silence voices opposed to Israel's policies and to blackmail any critics by insinuating that behind their criticism lies a hidden agenda of anti-Semitism.
Incalculable damage was inflicted on Jews and Jewish interests around the world by repealing this UN resolution. It blurred and confused the picture in the eyes of a public who now see Israeli and Zionist crimes as Jewish crimes, and cannot be blamed for doing so, especially when Israel calls itself the Jewish state and mainstream Jewish organisations zealously lobby and defend Israel's violations, occupation, war crimes and racism and campaign against the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people. The Zionists have shown once again they do not care about the damage inflicted by this deliberate mix-up. As always they commit crimes and hide behind the Jewish people.
The fathers of the Zionist movement acknowledged the benefits gained by the rise of anti- Semitism. Herzl himself wrote in his diary: "Anti- Semitism has grown and continues to grow, and so do I .The anti-Semites will become our most loyal friends, the anti-Semite nations will become our allies."
Without anti-Semitism Jews would not necessarily see the need to emigrate to Israel or to pay fat donations and defend it, right or wrong.
Israel tries to shirk its responsibility and blame its victims for the crimes and violations it commits against them. The accusation of anti- Semitism is counterproductive, a bankrupt policy that succeeded for a while but no longer intimidates anyone. People no longer care much about such accusations. On the contrary, people feel bitter about the insult, knowing it is an attempt to blackmail them into silence while Israel continues its daily crimes.
Australian author and film director Bob Ellis expressed precisely this view in a letter printed in The Australian newspaper on 29 October, 2003: "Is it anti-Semitic to say it is wrong to bulldoze apartment blocks and leave the tenants with nowhere to live? Then I swear on the head of my grandmother Rachel Larkman that I am anti- Semitic too. Is it anti-Semitic to say that killing 3000 unarmed Palestinians in three years is wrong and a crime against humanity? Then I swear by the blood of my ancestors all the way back to Abraham that I am anti-Semitic too. Is it anti- Semitic to say that threatening to "remove" a democratically-elected head of state is wrong and a breach of international law? Then I too am anti- Semitic and I await my punishment. By helicopter gunship perhaps."
Anti-Semites, no doubt, attempt to exploit Israel's racism and aggression to attack Jews, exactly as anti-Muslims attempt to exploit Bin Laden and 9/11 to attack Muslims.
Anti-Semitism is racism, and must be fought, alongside all forms of racism, against Aborigines, Muslims, Arabs, blacks and Asians. But for the fight to be effective and real there has to be a clear definition of anti-Semitism, which does not confuse it with anti-Zionism, which is legitimate.
UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan remarked in his recent speech to the UN-organised seminar dedicated to anti-Semitism that "when we seek justice for the Palestinians, as we must -- let us firmly disavow anyone who tries to use that cause to incite hatred against Jews -- in Israel or elsewhere". He should have continued to say that we should equally disavow anyone who incites hatred against Palestinians and who accuses those who support the legitimate rights of Palestinians and opposes Israel's crimes as being anti-Semitic.
The international community must put an end to the dangerous Zionist game of playing with words, of challenging international law and norms and turning facts upside down. The damage this causes goes far beyond the Palestinian people and affects Jews themselves and the world at large. Opposing Israel and Zionism is not anti-Semitism and fighting occupation, oppression and racism is not terrorism and must not be confused with terrorism.
Jews should be the first to be concerned with this confusion, with what Israel is doing "in their name".
A recent editorial in the London-based Palestinian newspaper Al-Quds Al-Arabi pointed out that "Israel has become the most hated country in the world and every day it adds a new cause for this hatred." When 60 per cent of Europeans regard Israel as the greatest threat to world peace Jewish people around the world receive a message and they must not allow Israel and its lobby to shoot the messenger. They must force Israel to recognise the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people and end its occupation before it is too late.
* The writer is head of the General Palestinian Delegation to Australia and New Zealand and the ambassador of Palestine to Vanuatu and East Timor.

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