In my public presentations on the subject of Palestine-Israel, I am frequently asked to identify the force most responsible for the catastrophe we are witnessing today in Gaza, the West Bank and Jerusalem. Audiences are surprised when I say that the source is easily identifiable – it is Zionism.
Zionism is the political ideology that emerged in 19th century Europe among a small minority of Jews determined to establish a Jewish homeland. Twenty-two Zionist congresses were convened between 1897 and 1946. Theodor Herzl (1860-1904), Viennese journalist and founder of the modern Zionist movement, began the process of implementing his vision of a Jewish utopia at the first Zionist Congress in Basel, Switzerland, in August 1897.
Confident in his success, Herzl proudly announced, “I founded the Jewish state in Basel.” He helped build a campaign that transformed a popular movement to create a homeland for Jews into a political movement that shattered the homeland of Palestinians.
Fundamental to understanding Israel’s massacre of Palestinians and the wasteland they are creating in Gaza is to discern the blueprint that Israel’s founders drew up to create their Jewish homeland; what they called Eretz-Israel.
Early Zionist leaders were explicit about what they deemed “transfer” plans to effect a “Jewish majority” in Palestine. Yosef Weitz (1890-1972)—known as the “architect of transfer” – served as director of the powerful Jewish National Fund’s Land Settlement Department. As head of what he deemed Transfer Committees, Weitz set in motion long-held Zionist plans to “transfer” (ethnically cleanse) and dispossess Palestinians from their homes, land and businesses. His diary entry from 12 December 1940 is revelatory: “It must be clear that there is no room in the country for both peoples….If the Arabs leave it, the country will become wide and spacious for us…. The only solution is a Land of Israel… without Arabs. There is no room here for compromises… There is no way but to transfer the Arabs from here to the neighboring countries, and to transfer all of them, save perhaps [a few].”
Weitz also spoke about expanding the “Jewish state’s” borders to include areas in Lebanon and Syria. In a meeting on 22 June 1941 with Jewish National Fund Chairman, Menachem Ussishkin (1863-1941), Weitz wrote: “The land of Israel is not small at all, if only the Arabs will be removed, and if its frontiers would be enlarged a little; to the north all the way to Litani [River in Lebanon], and to the east including the Golan Heights . . . . while the [Palestinian] Arabs be transferred to northern Syria and Iraq. . . . From now on we must work out a secret plan based on the removal of the [Palestinian] Arabs from here . . . [and] . . . to include it into American political circles. . . . today we have no other alternative. . . . We will not live here with Arabs.” (Expulsion Of The Palestinians, 134-135).
The history of Palestine is one of the most intentionally distorted histories of our time. The European war of 1914-1918, the collapse and dissection of the Ottoman Empire (circa 1300-1923), the paucity of civil government in the Arab world, the hubris of European empires, Zionist intrigue, zeal and violence, all seeded the birth and growth of Israel. Born in illegitimacy, Israel has been mired in violence and in mythical religious ideology ever since.
Palestinians, reeling from the collapse of the Ottomans, were unprepared to fight British encroachment and the waves of Jewish emigres who were progressively gaining influence as well as political control over Palestine. The al-Buraq/ Western Wall uprising of August 1929 marks a turning point in the anti-Zionist, anti-colonial movement in Palestine. It was the first large-scale uprising and clashes among Arabs, Jews and the British mandate forces.
As Israel attempts to erase Palestinians from their homeland, it is important to reflect back on historical injustices and to also underscore the fact that Muslims, Jews and Christians lived together peacefully in Palestine before the forceful importation of European Zionism into the heart of the Middle East.
Since 450 B.C., Arabs have lived in a geographical region between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River. Palestinian roots are deeply embedded in the land they have lived on for centuries, long before the Ottoman period and the advent of Zionist colonialism following the First World War.
According to the records of the Government of Palestine, A Survey of Palestine, 1946, Volume I, page 144, by 1914, the population in Palestine numbered 689,000; of whom, 534,300 were Muslim Arabs; 70,000 Christian Arabs; and 84,700 Jews, who resided for the most part for religious reasons in four cities, Jerusalem, Safed, Tiberias and Hebron. There were also some Zionists who had come to settle in agricultural colonies largely under the generous patronage of Baron Edmund James de Rothschild (1845-1934), French member of the Rothschild banking family and strong supporter of Zionism. For centuries, religious tolerance and tranquility was the rule and animosity the exception in pre-Zionist Palestine….