Greenwashing the Nakba: The Real Story Behind israel’s “Blooming Desert”

Whitney Webb | MintNews
Though the official narrative of the state of Israel claims that it has turned the land it occupies from an empty desert into a lush, agricultural wonder, the actual fate of the land following Israel’s establishment in 1948 tells a very different story.

In this Monday, Sept. 7, 2009 file photo, an Israeli flag is seen in front of the West Bank Jewish settlement of Maaleh Adumim on the outskirts of Jerusalem. (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue, File)

It has often been said that Israel, since its establishment in 1948, has presided over the “miracle” of making the country’s “desert bloom.” That heavily promoted narrative — which asserts that the Palestinians have long lacked the capacity, knowledge or desire to properly develop agriculture in the region — has often been used as a legitimizing factor in Israel’s establishment. As former Israel Prime Minister Shimon Peres once said, “The country [Palestine] was mostly an empty desert, with only a few islands of Arab settlement; and Israel’s [cultivated] land today was indeed redeemed from swamp and wilderness.”

Were it not for Israel, the desert would have remained unproductive and fallow – or so the story goes.

There is, however, another side to this story, one that shows that the “blooming desert” of Israel is a convenient disguise for the degradation and destruction of Palestine’s natural resources, a means of obfuscating the worst of occupation by wrapping it in the cloak of Zionist mythology. While a central theme of Zionist mythology has long been the need for the Jewish Diaspora community to re-establish itself by returning to agricultural labor, the truth of Israel’s agricultural “success” involves the unsustainable use of occupied resources and the deliberate destruction of the land and water still used by Palestinians today.

Erasing a rich history
Though the official narrative of the state of Israel claims that it has turned the land it occupies from an empty desert into a lush, agricultural wonder, the actual fate of the land following Israel’s establishment in 1948 tells a very different story. Indeed, prior to 1948, the historical record demonstrates that Palestinian farms were very productive and that both Palestinian Arabs and Jewish settlers were successful farmers. For example, a UN report on agriculture in Palestine between 1945 and 1946 recorded that Palestinian-grown crops accounted for nearly 80 percent of Palestine’s total agricultural yield that season, with Palestinian farms producing over 244,000 tons of vegetables, 73,000 tons of fruit, 78,000 tons of olives, and 5 million liters of wine.

Two years later, when the majority of Palestinians were forced from their land during the “Nakba” that founded the state of Israel, the farms and orchards that had previously been tended by Palestinians were left abandoned, as their owners fled under the threat of death at the hands of Zionist militias.

As Israeli historian and journalist Meron Benvenisti detailed in his book Sacred Landscape: The Buried History of the Holy Land Since 1948:
By April 1948 Jewish farmers had already begun harvesting the crops that had ripened in the abandoned fields and picking the citrus fruit in Arab groves. […] by mid-1949 two-thirds of all land sown with grain in Israel was abandoned Arab land.”
Thus, it was land theft that was largely responsible for Israel’s initial agricultural production, not the labor or agricultural expertise of Zionist settlers.

In addition, the claim that Israel turned an undeveloped desert into an agricultural wonder seems to be – in part – projection on the part of the Israeli state. Indeed, as Benvenisti noted, following the removal of Palestinians, the vast majority of centuries-old fruit orchards that had long been maintained by the native inhabitants of the land were untended, neglected and, in some cases, bulldozed to make room for ever-expanding settlements.

According to Benvenisti’s research, that neglect led to a situation in which “entire tracts of productive citrus trees, especially in the Tel Aviv-Jaffa area, were earmarked for the construction of housing developments,” as was the case for Palestine olive groves and pomegranate orchards that the land’s new occupants considered “an annoyance.” Part of the reason for the destruction of the land was that it would weaken Palestinian claims to return to the land, as keeping agricultural infrastructure intact “might have made possible the absorption of the returning refugees.”

Current Israeli government policy, particularly its support for the construction of illegal settlements on Palestinian land, is the continuation of this effort to erase Palestine’s history by targeting its agricultural heritage as well as its natural wonders. Indeed, Israeli newspaper Haaretz noted back in 2011 that Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s steady push for Israeli expansion into Palestinian territory had been coupled with “his insistence on seeing nature and landscape as no more than an obstacle to the realization of his settlement vision.”

Covering a crime with water-sucking pines
Another project central to the “desert bloom” mythology is Israel’s “afforestation” of the desert, which has helped “turn the desert green” through the planting of non-native pine trees. These forests, largely planted by the Jewish National Fund (JNF), have been touted as a “miracle.” Yet, the pine stands, much like Israel’s treatment of Palestine’s agricultural legacy, have been motivated by a need to cover up the events that led to the creation of the Israeli state.

Indeed, more than two-thirds of all JNF forests and sites lie on top of the ruins of Palestinian villages demolished during and after the founding of Israel, and the group’s continuing afforestation efforts are aimed at acquiring land in the occupied West Bank to prevent “trespassing” and “conceal” Palestinian villages in order to prevent the return of Palestinian refugees.

Moreover, the effort to maintain a forest of non-native trees – regardless of whether its chief aim is to cover up the true history of Palestine or “green” a desert — has come at a great cost to the natural environment. As journalist Max Blumenthal has noted:
Most of the saplings the JNF plants at a site near Jerusalem simply do not survive, and require frequent replanting. Elsewhere, needles from the pine trees have killed native plant species and wreaked havoc on the ecosystem.”
They also become fodder for forest fires that have caused major damage and mass evacuations throughout Israel over the years.

Another ecological consequence of JNF forests is their likely effect on Israel’s horrendous drought, considered to be the worst the region has faced in over 900 years. As studies have shown in other countries where non-native pine plantations have been introduced in vast numbers, pines consume a significant amount of water – leading to droughts and even the disappearance of entire rivers – as well as fundamentally alter and degrade the soil. While these forests have been presented as an ecological miracle, they are instead destroying the environment and degrading the land’s resources, suggesting that the main driver behind the long-standing project is aimed at covering up the ruins of Palestine.

Continuing the attack on Palestinian agriculture
Today, the stark difference in agricultural development in the land tended by Israelis and Palestinians derives from policies that often receive little coverage in the media and are largely absent from the “desert bloom” narrative. Indeed, much of the coverage the issue has received paints Palestinian agricultural successes as either the work of foreigners offering aid or resulting from the “theft” of Israeli-settlement agricultural infrastructure.

Such reports fail to acknowledge the realities of the issue, such as the illegal blockade of Gaza that has crippled its economy and agricultural sector, as well as Israel’s destruction of agricultural infrastructure in Gaza and the West Bank. Gazan agricultural infrastructure was ravaged by Israel in times of war and, in the West Bank, Israeli soldiers regularly demolish rain cisterns, pipelines and irrigation systems installed by Palestinians, citing as a reason that such structures lacked the “proper authorization” from Israel. Farmers themselves, mainly in Gaza, are often targeted directly by Israeli soldiers if they come too close to the border fence.

A Palestinian elderly woman collects olives from broken olive tree branches in the village of Qusra, northern West Bank, Tuesday, Oct. 9, 2012. Palestinian farmers say Jewish settlers from the nearby settlement of Eli cut more than 70 olive trees overnight. Olives are the backbone of Palestinian agriculture. (AP Photo/Nasser Ishtayeh)

The Israeli government has also targeted Palestinian agriculture through chemical warfare. The use of white phosphorus as a weapon against Gaza, for example, has had major consequences for the area’s farmers. In addition to the chemical weapon’s often deadly effects on the human body, it has destructive effects on the environment and plants, as its incendiary nature often leads to the spontaneous ignition and burning of trees, forests and farmland. It also lingers in the environment for several years.

Beyond the use of chemical weapons, Israel has also directly targeted Gazan farmland with herbicide. In 2015, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) admitted to using herbicides and germination inhibitors to kill off vegetation along the Palestinian side of the border, damaging over 420 acres of land. A year later, tactic was repeated, this time destroying around 400 acres of farmland. The IDF has stated that it sprays the chemicals over the vaguely defined “no-go zone” it has established along the border “in order to enable optimal and continuous security operations.” However, the area accounts for a third of Gaza’s arable land and 17 percent of the entire territory.

Furthermore, the herbicides, like white phosphorus, have consequences for the environment long after they are sprayed. As Anwar Abu Assi, manager of the chemical laboratory at Gaza’s Ministry of Agriculture, told Al Jazeera in 2016:
Herbicides are sprayed in high concentrations. Thus, they remain embedded in the soil, and then find their way to the water basin. This constitutes a real hazard for the population.”
The targeting of Palestinian agriculture in the present and its treatment by the Israeli and American press suggest another and nefarious way in which Israel’s “desert bloom” mythology has manifested. In order for Israel’s agricultural “superiority” to remain unchallenged, Palestinian agriculture must also be suppressed. Were Palestinian agriculture able to develop unimpeded and flourish, it would call into question the idea that the land was barren before the Zionists, threatening the latter’s legitimacy.

The cover-story for all conquerors and colonizers 
The myth of Israel “making the desert bloom” has its basis in neo-colonial narratives that have long been used in other settler states such as Canada, New Zealand, the United States and Australia. In the cases of the latter countries, the native inhabitants and their culture have also inaccurately been depicted as “primitive” and incompetent, a narrative that suggests that the land would have remained “wild” and undeveloped were it not for the “fortunate” appearance of European settlers. Such narratives cast the settlers as both superior and normal while the natives become inferior and abnormal, thus obfuscating the settler’s status as foreigner and conqueror.

Zionist mythology reinforces similar themes. For example, as in the United States Native Americans were considered as uncivilized and wild as the natural environment, Zionist mythology reinforces the idea that all Arabs are “sons of the desert” while the desert similarly represents a barbaric obstacle to “progress” and development.

Another historical analogue is the 19th century concept of “manifest destiny” — the idea that the expansion of the United States had been preordained by God himself, which led the U.S. to break many of its numerous treaties with indigenous tribes and even go to war with Mexico in order to acquire the land it coveted. The Israeli government similarly sees its expansion and control of all of Palestine as a matter of fulfilling prophecy and “redeeming” the Holy Land. This effort of redemption continues to feed Israel’s expansion. As Netanyahu has said, Israel is “obligated to develop all parts of the country – the Galilee and the Negev [the West Bank].”

Living the myth and the lie
Yet, no matter how much evidence exists to the contrary, Israel will never tell the real story behind the “miracle” of making “the desert bloom.” It will never tell the real story precisely because it can’t – to do so would mean demolishing the neo-colonial narrative at the center of the settler state, a narrative that is the pillar of its legitimacy.

Indeed, if Israel has not actually improved the land by making “the desert bloom” but instead degraded the land, the legitimacy of the state of Israel itself becomes questionable, as it suggests that its native inhabitants – the Palestinians – were better caretakers of the land than the current occupiers. For this reason, Israel must continue to propagate the myth regardless of the facts, and continue to deny Palestine’s rich cultural history and agricultural legacy.

With Israel now facing the consequences of its mistreatment of the land and its resources, the historical revisionism once used to sell the disparity between Israeli and Palestinian agricultural prowess has become ineffective. For that reason, Israel must now use other tactics — chemical warfare through toxic agrochemicals, the physical destruction of Palestinian agricultural infrastructure, and illegal blockades – in order to keep the artificial narrative alive, creating the illusion of primitivism and scarcity where none exists.


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The fallacy of israel’s human shields claims in Gaza

The Fallacy of Israel’s Human Shields Claims in Gaza

Desperately trying to justify the killing of unarmed protesters, Israel once again uses its ‘human shields’ mantra.

by &
Palestinian medic Razan al-Najjar, who was killed by an Israeli sniper, was featured in an Israel propaganda video claiming she was used as a 'human shield' by Hamas [Reuters/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa]
Palestinian medic Razan al-Najjar, who was killed by an Israeli sniper, was featured in an Israel propaganda video claiming she was used as a ‘human shield’ by Hamas [Reuters/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa]
It has become part of a macabre ritual. Each week, thousands of Palestinians stride towards the fence surrounding the small swath of land in which they have been imprisoned for years, as Israeli snipers pick their victims and shoot.

Since March 30, 132 Palestinians have been killed and over 13,000 have been injured as they have courageously protested the effects of Israel’s ongoing military siege on Gaza.

To some, the Palestinian march might look suicidal, but to Palestinians, it is the ultimate act of peaceful resistance. Malnutrition, lack of drinking water, daily electricity outages, massive unemployment, and extreme poverty are not abstract slogans for the civilians who have participated in these demonstrations.

So, week in and week out, they march towards the fence in the hope that the world will hear their anguish and that some country, some leader, or even some movement will support their cause and help them break the siege.

But each week, Israel is trying hard to push a different narrative. The Israeli military has been disseminating on social media images and videos of young children at protests. One short clip plays a lullaby interrupted by the sound of gunfire and rhetorically asks: “Where are the children of Gaza today?” After showing children amid the protesters, it then displays the word “here” in all caps across the screen.

Such videos are used as “the ultimate proof” that Palestinians are deploying children as human shields.

Israel’s “human shield” propaganda has also been applied on civilian adults. Following international outrage at the slaying of 21-year-old Razan Al-Najjar, who was killed while treating an injured protester, the Israeli army circulated an edited clip entitled “Hamas uses Paramedics as Human Shields”.

The video is based on an interview with Al Mayadeen TV in which Razan described her work as a medic: “My name is Razan Al-Najjar. I’m here on the front lines as a human shield to protect and save the wounded on the front lines.”

The Israeli army’s media unit conveniently edited the interview, omitting Razan’s claim that, for her, shielding the wounded is part of her responsibility as a medical worker. They also artfully ignored another clip posted on the New York Times website, where she describes the protests as an attempt “to send a message to the world: without weapons, we can do anything”.

Israel justifies its violent attacks by continuously accusing Hamas of using human shields, desperately hoping to stir moral indignation while also trying to muster a legal defence for the indefencible.

Morally, the charge intimates that the Palestinians are savages. Not unlike imagined barbaric pagans who offered their children to the gods, it suggests that the Palestinians of Gaza have no problem sending their sons and daughters to the front lines. The subtext is that civilised people protect their children while Palestinians sacrifice them.

Legally, a human shield is a civilian who is used in order to render a legitimate military target immune from attack. By accusing Hamas of deploying human shields, Israel hopes to shift the blame from the hunter to the prey, since, according to international law, the party responsible for the death of human shields is not the one killing them but the one using them.

This is precisely the message Danny Danon, Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations conveyed in a letter he sent to the Security Council: “[the] terrorists continue to hide behind innocent children to ensure their own survival”.

With this statement, Danon not only shifts the blame but, in effect, also categorises anyone who participates in the March of Return as a military target. 

Exactly because human shields, by definition, defend legitimate military targets, the seemingly endless accusation that Palestinians use human shields to protect demonstrators reveals that for Israel all Palestinian protesters are fair game.

But despite Israel’s best efforts, the “human shield” argument is increasingly failing to convince. In a recent report, Human Rights Watch accused Israel of perpetrating war crimes in its efforts to suppress Palestinian demands for liberation.

Meanwhile, the UN General Assembly passed a resolution with overwhelming majority condemning Israel’s use of “indiscriminate force”, while UN human rights chief Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein called for an investigation.

What is even more frightening, however, is that Gaza is not particularly unique.

From Venezuela, where priests defended anti-government activists from the lethal violence of riot police, to South Africa, where white students shielded black students as they rallied against unaffordable tuition fees, to the United States, where veterans tried to protect peaceful Native Americans who were being brutally attacked by security dogs, blasted with water cannons in subzero temperatures, and fired on with rubber bullets at Standing Rock Reservation, more and more people are either being framed as human shields or are actually serving as human shields.

In spite of the differences between these contexts, the figure of the human shield – whether used to justify colonial violence or to protect demonstrators – has become omnipresent in our contemporary political landscape.

This, in turn, suggests that protesters are increasingly conceived as lawful targets and that the repertoires of violence as well as the legal justifications used in war have entered the realm of civilian life and are being normalised

israel is not just getting the US to do its bidding in Syria, but also using Syria as a stepping stone to Iran itself

Whose Wars?

Whose Wars?

“A perfectly executed strike,” President Donald Trump tweeted Saturday, April 14, 2018, in the aftermath of his second decision in two years to fire missiles against Syria. “Thank you to France and the United Kingdom for their wisdom and the power of their fine military. Could not have had a better result. Mission Accomplished!”

The US has surrendered its sovereignty to a tiny client state, and now our foreign policy is not even remotely connected to actual U.S. interests. This refleects Jewish power in the US and powerful Israel-centric lobbies and media outlets. Israel is not just getting the US to do its bidding in Syria, but also using Syria as a stepping stone to Iran itself. Whatever is best for Israel.

by Philip Giraldi, The Unz Report

In March 2003, Pat Buchanan wrote a groundbreaking article entitled “Whose War?” in opposition to the Bush Administration fueled growing hysteria over Saddam Hussein’s alleged weapons of mass destruction which was producing demands for an armed intervention to disarm him. Buchanan rightly identified a number of prominent Jewish officials and journalists closely tied to the Israel Lobby as the principal driving force behind the rush to go to war.

Buchanan is still a powerful voice arguing against the war fever in its 2018 manifestation, which is all too similar to the hysteria prevailing in 2003. But if he were writing his article today, even though those demanding war are pretty much the same people with the same names including Podhoretz, Krauthammer, Kristol, Kagan, Brooks and Boot, he would have to broaden his purview to ask “Whose Wars?” as it is no longer a simple case of going after one third-world autocrat and overthrowing him, we are now instead being urged to attack Syria, Iran and even nuclear superpower Russia due to Moscow’s support of Damascus and its friendship with Tehran.

Lest there be any confusion, the same country keeps surfacing as a central player in the lead-up to America’s regime-change wars, which now have included an illegal attack on Syria, the second such intervention in the past year. That nation is Israel.

Israel’s fingerprints are all over American interventionism, reflecting Jewish power in the United States and the presence of a plethora of well-funded Israel-centric lobbies, think tanks and media outlets. Just last week, the only persistent voice in the mainstream media who, prior to Trump’s cruise missile attack, asked why on earth the United States should be contemplating a major power confrontation that could end life on this planet as we know it over Syria, where Washington has no vital interests, was Tucker Carlson of Fox News. His memorable monologue blasting the “talk show generals” who have “no idea of what is really happening” skewered the pretexts for war being bandied about in spite of the lack of any actual threat directed against the United States or a vital national interest is a model for what the Fourth Estate should be doing but isn’t. Carlson later followed up with an interview of Senator Roger Wicker of Mississippi. He asked what might be an American national interest that would mandate military involvement in Syria. Wicker hardly hesitated before responding, “If you care about Israel, you have to be interested in what’s going on in Syria.”

Israel indeed. And Israel is not at all shy about what it wants to happen, namely a war in Syria targeting both Damascus and Tehran, leading to a much bigger war with the Iranians. Fought by Uncle Sam, to be sure, as Jewish lives are far too precious to waste.

Tel Aviv has long been feeding the propaganda line relating to why war with Syria and Iran are desirable. Gilad Erdan, who is Netanyahu’s deputy in Likud and serves as Public Security Minister, addressed the latest alleged use of chemical weapons in Douma, saying “The shocking attack shows the incredible international hypocrisy of the international community focusing on Israel confronting the terrorist organization Hamas that is sending civilians to our [border] fence, when dozens are being killed in Syria every day. It shows the need for strengthening the presence of Americans and other international forces, because without them the genocide we are seeing will only intensify.”

Construction Minister Yoav Galant, a former IDF major-general and a security figure close to Netanyahu, also called for military action against the Syrian leader. “Assad is the angel of death, and the world would be better without him.”

The compassion for Syrian civilians, being expressed both in Washington and in Tel Aviv, is, of course, a joke. Donald Trump and John Bolton couldn’t care less about Syrian babies and if Trump were genuinely concerned about civilian deaths due to war crimes by governments the first country he would attack would be Israel. Erdan and Galant, meanwhile, serve in a government that has recently shot and killed or injured 2,000 unarmed demonstrators in Gaza, in some cases involving snipers having fun by shooting boys running away and cheering when they were successful, so their hypocrisy is evident.

Eye on Iran

Israel has also been busy at creating a pretext for using Syria as a stepping stone to Iran itself. The Associated Press is reporting comments by Yossi Cohen, head of Mossad, who claims to be “100 percent certain” that Iran remains committed to developing a nuclear bomb, which is the old “weapons of mass destruction” ploy used to jumpstart the Iraq War. Israel’s bombing attack on Syria that took place one day after the reports of the alleged chemical weapon incident, deliberately targeted Iranians, killing 7 at a military base near Damascus. Iran has promised to respond, guaranteeing that the conflict will expand and draw in both regional and foreign players, definitely including the United States.

More recently, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu congratulated the U.S., the U.K, and France for bombing Syria, an operation that was coordinated in advance with Israel by National Security Advisor John Bolton. Netanyahu went on to assert that Syrian president Bashar al-Assad must understand that “his provision of a forward base for Iran and its proxies endangers Syria,” an analysis of the situation which is, of course, self-serving bullshit.

Unfortunately, Israel has a receptive quasi-American audience in the team that Donald Trump has pulled together under his son in law Jared Kushner to deal with the Middle East. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, who is supposed to represent U.S. interests, has become adept at repeating Israeli Foreign Ministry talking points as if they were American policy, while Chief Negotiator Jason Greenblatt has warned demonstrating Gazans to avoid provoking Israel while also failing to advise the Israeli Army that shooting unarmed protesters just might be considered unacceptable.

Kushner-Friedman-Greenblatt is an Israeli dream team in place, backed up by as subservient Congress that reflexively does whatever Israel wishes. One wonders why Congressmen and the media are not screaming about the slaughter in Gaza and pondering how and why the United States has surrendered its sovereignty to a tiny client state in the Middle East, but never fear, Jewish power backed by lots of money is firmly in control of any entity that might challenge bad Israeli behavior. On top of Friedman, Greenblatt and Kushner, one might also add National Security Adviser John Bolton, U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. And Trump himself? Who knows what he actually thinks if he bothers to think at all. He has just announced that it is “mission accomplished” in Syria, suggesting that he is delusional as well as ignorant.

Media coverage of Syria, apart from Carlson, scrupulously avoids the issue that the United States is in Syria completely illegally and has been cynically supporting terrorist groups in spite of its pledge that it is in the country to get rid of such vermin. It is a measure of how divorced from actual U.S. security America’s Syria policy has become that the White House has not hesitated to launch a second illegal cruise missile barrage against a government that hasn’t attacked the U.S. and doesn’t threaten Americans. Bombing the Syrian government hasn’t made the U.S. or any other country more secure, and it will likely weaken President Bashar al-Assad just enough to prolong Syria’s civil war and add to the suffering of the civilian population. It is a perfect example of a military intervention that is being done for political reasons with no connection to any discernible interests or overall strategy.

Syria is only part of a much larger problem. It is remarkable the extent to which Israeli concerns dominate those of the United States, which now has a foreign policy that often is not even remotely connected to actual U.S. interests. Congress and the Special Counsel are investigating Russia’s alleged interference in America’s political system while looking the other way when Israel operates aggressively in the open and does much more damage. Netanyahu and his crew of unsavory cutthroats are hardly ever cited for their malignant influence over America’s political class and media. Bomb Syria? Sure. After all, it’s good for Israel.


Philip M. Giraldi, Ph.D., is Executive Director of the Council for the National Interest, a 501(c)3 tax deductible educational foundation that seeks a more interests-based U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East. Website is www.councilforthenationalinterest.org, address is P.O. Box 2157, Purcellville VA 20134 and its email is inform@cnionline.org

In Their Own Words: Was Every israeli Prime Minister a Racist?

In Their Own Words: Was Every Israeli Prime Minister a Racist?

4 Votes

 

gilad-sharon

THE RUSSOPHILE – Most nation states in our world today have dealt with their fair share of institutionalized racism and bigotry, and Israel is no exception. However when it comes to Israel, the volume of racism expressed by prominent political figures is both astounding and concerning.

A compilation of various racist and hateful quotes by Israeli Prime Ministers demonstrating the extent to which racism is entrenched as well as normalized in Israeli political culture.

DAVID BEN-GURION:

David Ben-Gurion was the first Prime Minister of the state of Israel, serving his first term between 1948 and 1953, he later served a second term from 1955 to 1963. Other than being a member of – what the British considered a terrorist organization at the time – the Haganah, David Ben-Gurion also notably presided over the ethnic cleansing of an estimated 750,000 Palestinians from their homeland.

David Ben-Gurion made his contempt for Palestinian human rights evident from his actions and therefore giving an example of his hatred for Palestinians would be nothing new. Instead it is crucial to understand that, from the very first Prime-Minister, the Israeli government viewed non-European Jews as “the other” and were very much racist.

On the 11th of June, 1962, David Ben-Gurion made the following statement at a meeting with the head of Israel’s teachers federation, Shalom Levin:
“The danger we face is that the great majority of those children whose parents did not receive an education for generations, will descend to the level of Arab children”. (Source: https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/.premium-1.653134)

The statement was addressing the question as to whether Israel should segregate the “Mizrahi” (Jews of Middle-Eastern origin or “oriental communities”) from the “Ashkenazi” (European Jewish) population.

This quote is crucial to understanding the attitude of the Prime Minister towards Jews, who were not of European descent.

This information comes from the Israeli Labour Party archives and was reported upon by the Israeli media outlet Haaretz on the 24th of April, 2015.

MOSHE SHARETT:

Moshe Sharett was Israel’s second and shortest serving Prime Minister (1953-1955), he was perceived by many as a liberal Zionist. Unfortunately for Israel romanticists, the fictional depiction of Moshe Sharett, as the ‘dove amongst hawks’, really came under fire when he revealed his racially charged descriptions of Palestinian refugees.

The following is an entry from Moshe Sharett’s diary on the 15th of November, 1953, where he refers to returning Palestinian refugees as infiltrators:

“In the last three years [Shani reported] 20,000 infiltrators settled in Israel, in addition to 30,000 who returned immediately after the war…. Only because these 20,000 have not been given permanent documents has the brake been put on the flow of infiltration directed toward settlement. To abolish the military government would mean to open the border areas to undisturbed infiltration and to increasing penetration toward the interior of the country. Even as things are, around 19,000 Arabs in Galilee are in possession of permanent permits to move freely around but only to the West and the South and not toward the North and the East…. it is true that the troublesome problem of the evacuees must be liquidated through a permanent resettlement”.

The entry was made addressing a report, which was submitted to the Israeli cabinet, that same day, by the chief Military governor of the Arab minority in Israel, ‘Colonel Yitzhak Shani’.

A leading right-wing Israeli scholar, Benny Morris, in his book Righteous Victims: A History of the Zionist-Arab Conflict quotes Sharett as saying; “We have forgotten that we have not come to an empty land to inherit it, but we have come to conquer a country from people inhabiting it”, confirming that the liberal Zionist, isn’t so representative of liberty when it comes to Palestinian human rights.

LEVI ESHKOL:

Levi Eshkol served as Israeli Prime Minister between 1963 and 1969. Eshkol oversaw 1967’s ‘six day war, in which Israel was responsible for attacking a defenseless Egypt and initiating a war in which they would illegally occupy the Golan Heights (From Syria), the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and the Sinai Peninsula.

On the 17th of November, 2017, Haaretz News reported upon declassified documents previously release by the Israeli government. The documents unearth some very revealing opinions and the way in which Levi Eshkol discussed Palestinians.

In December 1967, months after the war, Levi Eshkol discusses the Palestinians of Gaza, labelling them a “problem” that needs to be dealt with by making life so miserable for them that they would just leave, he even began discussing the “luxury” of another war which would deal with the “problem” Israel faces.

Eshkol goes on to state:
“I cannot imagine it – how we will organize life in this country when we have 1.4 million Arabs and we are 2.4 million, with 400,000 Arabs already in the country?”
(Source: https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/.premium-1.823075)

Evidently someone who declares Palestinians as a “problem” and “cannot imagine” living with them, actively working to violently expel them and/or force their departure, is no friend to any kind of peace in the region.

GOLDA MEIR:

Golda Meir became Prime Minister of Israel in 1969 and served until the year 1974. Golda Meir notably spoke of non-European Jews in a very demeaning way, perpetuating a very popular European Zionist stereo-type, that Jews from parts of the world other than Europe were essentially primitive.

Golda once said, whilst addressing the Zionist federation of Great Britain (in 1964):
“We in Israel need (Jewish) immigrants from countries with a high standard, because the future of our social structure is worrying us. We have immigrants from Morocco, Libya, Iran, Egypt and other countries with a 16th century level. Shall we be able to elevate these immigrants to a suitable level of civilization?”

Golda’s statement speaks for itself as to what she thought of non-European Jewry, hardly holding those from countries foreign to Europe at high esteem.

A notable concept pushed by the likes of Golda Meir, is the idea that Palestinians don’t exist, they are just Arabs and that Palestine never existed, an outright denial of history.

Golda Meir stated this idea loud and clear, on the 8th of March, 1969:
“It was not as if there was a Palestinian people in Palestine and we came and threw them out and took their country away from them. They did not exist.”
(Source: https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/.premium-1.654218)

Although the statement above is one that Golda Meir gave, she seemed to acknowledge the existence of Palestine when she wrote letters, during her time living under the British Mandate of Palestine.

YITZHAK RABIN:

Yitzhak Rabin was Israel’s Prime Minister twice, the first time between 1971 and 1977 and then the second time he served 1992-95. Yitzhak Rabin, for the most part, was seen through the eyes of the West as a liberal president, ultimately facing assassination at the hands of a fanatical right wing Israeli in 1995.

The Yitzhak Rabin known to the Palestinians however, was the bone-breaker, who oversaw mass murder and the brutalization of their people.

Something very kept quiet, is Yitzhak Rabin’s greeting of John Vorster in April, 1976. Yitzhak Rabin threw a Banquet for the Prime Minister of Apartheid South Africa, expressing that Israel and Apartheid South Africa both face “foreign-inspired instability and recklessness”, he then went on to praise Apartheid South Africa and hailed “the ideals shared by Israel and South Africa”.

MENACHEM BEGIN:

Menachem Begin was Israel’s Prime Minister between the years 1977 and 1983. Menachem Begin was once described by Albert Einstein as a terrorist, he and 25 other prominent Jews even wrote an open letter to the ‘New York Times’ in 1948. Begin was involved in the infamous bombing of the King David Hotel as well as many other terrorist attack, which claimed the lives of innocent men, women and children.

To point to the language, by which Menachem Begin used, to characterize his Palestine “enemy”, I would simply turn to Ammon Kapeliouk’s article from the New Statesman (June 25,1982). The article entitled ‘Begin and the Beasts’ sums up the dehumanizing way in which Menachem Begin referred to Palestinians, stating that they were “beasts walking on two legs” according to Kapeliouk’s account from the observation of his speech delivered to the Knesset.

YITZHAK SHAMIR:

Yitzhak Shamir was Prime Minister of Israel twice, first from 1983 to 1984 and then again from 1986 to 1992. Yitzhak Shamir was formerly a leader of the Lehi (Stern Gang), a terrorist group responsible for the Deir Yassin massacre of 1948, along with countless attacks on civilians before this.

Yitzhak Shamir said, prior to the Madrid peace talks (in 1991), “The Arabs are the same Arabs and the sea is the same sea”. With this statement he was insinuating that the Palestinians and Arab neighboring countries had never changed, asserting that engaging with them in a negotiable manner was not something he was so happy about.

Yitzhak Shamir also referred to Palestinian protesters in 1988 as “grasshoppers compared to us”, vowing to crush the demonstrations.
(Source: http://www.nytimes.com/…/shamir-promises-to-crush-rioters.h…)

SHIMON PERES:

Shimon Peres was elected twice as Prime Minister of Israel, serving the first time from 1984-1986, then again from 1995 until 1996. Peres also served the ninth President of the state of Israel (2007-2014) taking over from the convicted rapist Moshe Katzav.

Although dubbed as a champion of peace, Shimon Peres was in fact the man who led the initiative to create Israel’s first illegal settlements. He was also the founding father of Israel’s nuclear weapons program.

As Prime Minister Shimon Peres oversaw the massacre of Qana Massacre (South Lebanon, 1996) in which more than 100 civilians were killed, this occurred after Israel targeted and blew up a United Nations facility where roughly 800 people had gathered to take shelter.

Despite the often used, flowery language he chose to consult international media with, Shimon Peres actively enforced the strategic, zionist objective, of pacifying the Palestinian population through the means of strangling them financially.

During an interview, conducted by al-Jazeera, (published on the 30th of December, 2012) Peres blamed Palestinians for the hardships they endure, stating that; “They are self victimizing. They victimize themselves. They are a victim of they’re own mistakes, unnecessarily .” (Source: https://www.aljazeera.com/…/2012/12/2012122610132412135.html)

BENJAMIN NETANYAHU:

Benjamin Netanyahu was also Israel’s Prime Minister twice, beginning his first term in 1996 leaving office in 1999, he was then again elected in 2009 where he currently remains to this day.

Benjamin Netanyahu has a large track record of massacring Palestinians, most notably in Gaza during the large scale bombardments in 2012 and 2014. Netanyahu has on multiple occasions announced that settlements will never be reversed and constantly allows the approval of more settler units in the West Bank and Jerusalem.

A sample of things that commonly come from Benjamin Netanyahu’s mouth are as follows:

On March the seventeenth, 2015, in order to urge Israeli Jews to vote for him, Benjamin Netanyahu released a video on Facebook and other social media platforms, where he said; “The right-wing government is in danger. Arab voters are heading to the polling stations in droves.” (Source:https://www.facebook.com/Netanyahu/videos/10152778935532076/)

As reported by Haaretz News, Netanyahu on the ninth of February, 2016, visited the construction of a concrete wall that was being constructed on the border between Gaza and Israel. In his own words, the wall was necessary to “defend ourselves against the wild beasts”.
(Source: https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/1.702562)

Something else that is notable about Mr. Netanyahu is his views on African migrants. Haaretz News reported upon the comments made by the Prime Minister – on the 31st of August, 2017 – in which he referred to African Migrants as “infiltrators”. A portion of what Netanyahu said was; “We will return south Tel Aviv to the citizens of Israel, they are not refugees, but infiltrators looking for work,” he said. He added: “If needed, we will legislate an amendment to the law or change the agreements with the African countries, or both.”
(Source:https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/1.809999)

EHUD BARAK:

Ehud Barak was Israel’s Prime Minster between 1999 and 2001, he saw the beginning of the second Intifada during his time in office.

In April of 1973 Ehud Barak entered Beirut, dressed in drag (as a woman), in order to assassinate members of the PLO (Palestinian Liberation Organization), in killing innocent people.

On the 13th of June, 2002, Ehud Barak was interviewed by the New York Review of Books, during this interview he said the following:
“They [Arabs] are products of a culture in which to tell a lie… Creates no dissonance. They don’t suffer from the problem of telling lies that exists in Judeo-Christian culture”.

ARIEL SHARON:

Serving from 2001 until 2006 as Israeli Prime Minister leaving behind a lengthy trail of blood.

Ariel Sharon was most infamous for commanding the Qibya massacre,along with the massacres at Sabra and Shatila. Sharon also used his death squads to execute people in mass numbers in Gaza during the 50’s, especially upon the strips establishment.

Other than his willingness to massacre Palestinians and Arabs, it is also important to be aware of Ariel Sharon’s stance on stealing Palestinian land. Ariel Sharon said (as Foreign Minister) on Israeli radio in November of 1998; Everybody has to move, run and grab as many [Palestinian] hilltops as they can to enlarge the [Jewish] settlements because everything we take now will stay ours… Everything we don’t grab will go to them.
(Source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-11576714)

EHUD OLMERT:

Prime Minister from 2006 until 2009, Ehud Olmert, inflicted devastating wars of aggression upon the civilian population of Lebanon (2006) and the Gaza strip (2008-2009), targeting and killing thousands of innocent people.

Like former Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, Ehud Olmert also liked to compare Israel to Apartheid South Africa. Olmert spoke to Haaretz News following the Annapolis conference – which ended in an agreement to try and reach a Middle-East peace settlement by the end of 2008 – making the following comments:
“If the day comes when the two-state solution collapses, and we face a South African-style struggle for equal voting rights (also for the Palestinians in the territories), then, as soon as that happens, the State of Israel is finished”.
(Source: https://www.haaretz.com/…/olmert-to-haaretz-two-state-solut…)

In 2014 Ehud Olmert was sentenced to 27 months imprisonment, over charges on the grounds of corruption, he served 16 of those months before being released.

Racism and bigotry have been prominent features of Israeli politics since the states very inception. Israeli political leaders have repeatedly expressed dehumanization of Palestinians and Jews of non-European origin, across the political spectrum.

israel’s different responses to Jewish and Palestinian stone throwers

Israel’s different responses to Jewish and Palestinian stone throwers

Israeli police forces clash with people in the Jewish settlement outpost of Netiv HaAvot in Gush Etzion, which the Supreme Court ruled was partially built on privately owned Palestinian land, and would be demolished therefore. June 12, 2018. Photo by Yonatan Sindel/Flash90

Israeli police forces clash with religious nationalist youth in the Jewish settlement outpost of Netiv Ha’avot in Gush Etzion in the occupied West Bank. June 12, 2018. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

In the West Bank, the consequences for throwing stones at Israeli soldiers differ dramatically, depending on who’s doing the throwing. The same act, when carried out by Jews in the West Bank, is met — often literally — with a soft-gloved hand. When carried out by Palestinians, the punishment can be as severe as death.

Israeli forces routinely raid Palestinian homes in the middle of the night to arrest children suspected of stone throwing. In many instances, Israeli soldiers have responded to stone throwing by Palestinians with tear gas, rubber bullets, and even live ammunition. “Stones kill,” said Education Minister Naftali Bennett after Israeli forces shot and killed 17-year-old Mohammed al-Casbah for throwing stones at Israeli soldiers in 2015. Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked has said that “anyone who throws stones is a terrorist.”

When Jewish settlers throw stones at Israeli soldiers, however, a different set of rules apply. Two weeks in June show the deadly, gaping disparity between what Palestinians who throw rocks face — and what faces Jews who do the same.

When Israeli police, unarmed and dressed in special t-shirt uniforms, arrived at the illegal outpost of Tapuach West to evict 10 buildings on Sunday, they were met by hundreds of right-wing settler protesters who threw stones, bleach and other objects at them. Eleven officers were reportedly wounded, and police arrested just six right-wing activists.

Settler youth clash with Israeli police during the eviction of Netiv HaAvot. June 12, 2018. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Settler youth clash with Israeli police during the eviction of Netiv HaAvot. June 12, 2018. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Five days earlier, during the eviction of 15 houses in the illegal outpost of Netiv Ha’avot, hundreds of religious nationalist protesters similarly occupied the homes and threw stones and other objects at the police. Six police officers were reportedly injured during the eviction, including one officer who was hit in the head by a rock. Just three protesters were arrested; they were later released. The others returned to their homes safely after police dragged them out of the houses they had been occupying.

Six days before that and roughly 60 kilometers north, in the Palestinian village of Nabi Saleh, 21-year-old Izz ad-Din Tamimi joined a group of Palestinian teenagers throwing rocks at heavily armed Israeli soldiers. According to the IDF, Tamimi approached the soldiers and threw a rock, hitting one of them, who opened fire. Tamimi was shot twice — in the neck and chest — from a distance of roughly 50 meters, witnesses said.

Two men hold Izz ad-Din's Tamimi bloody shoot in the West Bank village of Nabi Saleh. June 6, 2018. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Two men hold Izz ad-Din’s Tamimi bloody shoot in the West Bank village of Nabi Saleh. June 6, 2018. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

The IDF reported that no soldiers were injured. Izz ad-Din’s body was transferred to the hospital in Ramallah later that day, in preparation for his funeral. However, Israeli forces blocked the funeral procession and reportedly deployed “skunk” water cannons along the road leading to the village. Izz ad-Din eventually returned home in a shroud, to be buried.

The settler youth who threw stones and bleach — and injured Israeli forces — mostly got off with a slap on the wrist, while Izz ad-Din lost his life. Izz ad-Din, like many other Palestinians, was not arrested, tried, or sentenced for stone-throwing — he was shot and killed on the spot.

israel advances bill criminalizing filming atrocities against Palestinians

Israel to outlaw filming of anti-Palestinian atrocities

The file photo shows an Israeli soldier detaining a 12-year-old Palestinian boy in the West Bank.The file photo shows an Israeli soldier detaining a 12-year-old Palestinian boy in the West Bank.

Israel’s cabinet ministers have authorized a bill that would criminalize filming of the Israeli soldiers’ atrocities against the Palestinians while on duty.

A ministerial committee which oversees legislation voted in favor of the controversial bill on Sunday.

The bill, sponsored by the Yisrael Beitenu party in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s governing coalition, would subject anyone caught filming or publishing footage “with intent to harm the morale of Israel’s soldiers or its inhabitants” to up to five years in prison.

It would give 10 years in jail to those intending to damage Israel’s “national security.”

The parliament will probably vote the bill this week. If passed, it will be scrutinized and amended before three more parliamentary votes needed for it to pass into law.

In recent months, Israeli troops have on numerous occasions been caught on camera brutally killing Palestinians, with the videos going viral online and sparking condemnations of the regime’s military.

A video circulated online in April showed the moment an Israeli sniper shoots an unarmed Palestinian protester near the border fence in the besieged enclave. The sniper and the other soldiers are heard rejoicing following the “successful” shooting.

An Israeli human rights organization also in August 2017 captured a video showing Israeli settlers verbally abusing Palestinians and swearing at the holy religion of Islam as well as Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) in the presence of regime forces.

The B’Tselem video shows the Israelis from the settlement of Kiryat Arba using obscene language through a loudspeaker against a Palestinian woman, who is a local volunteer for the group, and is filming the incident from her window.

In March 2016, Israeli Sergeant Elor Azaria shot dead a Palestinian who was lying immobile on the ground, following an alleged stabbing attack in the West Bank city of al-Khalil (Hebron).

Azaria was found guilty of manslaughter and given 18 months in prison. However, he was released earlier this month after serving only two-thirds of his sentence.

Yisrael Beitenu leader and Minister of Military Affairs, Avigdor Lieberman, said: “Israeli soldiers are under constant attack by Israel haters and supporters of terrorism who look constantly to degrade and sully them. We will put an end to this.”

However, Deputy Palestinian Information Minister Fayez Abu Aitta condemned the move and told Reuters, “This decision aims to cover up crimes committed by Israeli soldiers against our people, and to free their hands to commit more crimes.”

The phrasing of the bill stops short of a blanket ban, aiming instead at “anti-Israeli and pro-Palestinian organizations” which spend “entire days near Israeli soldiers waiting breathlessly for actions that can be documented in a slanted and one-sided way so that soldiers can be smeared.”

The bill claims that B’Tselem and several other rights groups are supported by organizations and governments with “a clear anti-Israel agenda” and that the videos aim to damage Israel and its national security.

The ban would cover social networks as well as traditional media.

B’Tselem spokesman Amit Gilutz shrugged off the bill and said, “If the occupation embarrasses the government, then the government should take action to end it.”

“Documenting the reality of the occupation will continue regardless of such ridiculous legislation efforts,” he pointed out.

Palestinian journalists in May condemned the draft law, entitled “Prohibition against photographing and documenting IDF soldiers.”

The Palestinian Journalist Syndicate (PCJ) said in a statement that the “racist” bill “severely attacks the profession of the press and legitimizes the criminal practices committed by the Israeli occupation army against the Palestinian people.”

israel’s “making the deserts bloom” myth

The Real Story Behind Israel’s “Blooming Desert”

A Palestinian farmer looks at Israeli army soldiers after he planted an olive trees near the West Bank town of Tubas in the Jordan valley, during a protest against the closure of land to Palestinians by the army and Jewish settlers, Tuesday, April 8, 2014. Dozens of Palestinians protested in the Jordan valley where Palestinian sources said that Israel has closed land for the army to use for the military training. (AP Photo/Mohammed Ballas)

A Palestinian farmer looks at Israeli army soldiers after he planted an olive trees near the West Bank town of Tubas in the Jordan valley, during a protest against the closure of land to Palestinians by the army and Jewish settlers, Tuesday, April 8, 2014. Dozens of Palestinians protested in the Jordan valley where Palestinian sources said that Israel has closed land for the army to use for the military training. (AP Photo/Mohammed Ballas) Click to enlarge

It has often been said that Israel, since its establishment in 1948, has presided over the “miracle” of making the country’s “desert bloom.” That heavily promoted narrative — which asserts that the Palestinians have long lacked the capacity, knowledge or desire to properly develop agriculture in the region — has often been used as a legitimizing factor in Israel’s establishment. As former Israel Prime Minister Shimon Peres once said, “The country [Palestine] was mostly an empty desert, with only a few islands of Arab settlement; and Israel’s [cultivated] land today was indeed redeemed from swamp and wilderness.”

Were it not for Israel, the desert would have remained unproductive and fallow – or so the story goes.

There is, however, another side to this story, one that shows that the “blooming desert” of Israel is a convenient disguise for the degradation and destruction of Palestine’s natural resources, a means of obfuscating the worst of occupation by wrapping it in the cloak of Zionist mythology. While a central theme of Zionist mythology has long been the need for the Jewish Diaspora community to re-establish itself by returning to agricultural labor, the truth of Israel’s agricultural “success” involves the unsustainable use of occupied resources and the deliberate destruction of the land and water still used by Palestinians today.

Erasing a rich history

Though the official narrative of the state of Israel claims that it has turned the land it occupies from an empty desert into a lush, agricultural wonder, the actual fate of the land following Israel’s establishment in 1948 tells a very different story. Indeed, prior to 1948, the historical record demonstrates that Palestinian farms were very productive and that both Palestinian Arabs and Jewish settlers were successful farmers. For example, a UN report on agriculture in Palestine between 1945 and 1946 recorded that Palestinian-grown crops accounted for nearly 80 percent of Palestine’s total agricultural yield that season, with Palestinian farms producing over 244,000 tons of vegetables, 73,000 tons of fruit, 78,000 tons of olives, and 5 million liters of wine.

Villagers of Sidna Ali drawing water from a communal well. Click to enlarge

Villagers of Sidna Ali drawing water from a communal well. Click to enlarge

Two years later, when the majority of Palestinians were forced from their land during the “Nakba” that founded the state of Israel, the farms and orchards that had previously been tended by Palestinians were left abandoned, as their owners fled under the threat of death at the hands of Zionist militias.

As Israeli historian and journalist Meron Benvenisti detailed in his book Sacred Landscape: The Buried History of the Holy Land Since 1948:

By April 1948 Jewish farmers had already begun harvesting the crops that had ripened in the abandoned fields and picking the citrus fruit in Arab groves. […] by mid-1949 two-thirds of all land sown with grain in Israel was abandoned Arab land.”

Thus, it was land theft that was largely responsible for Israel’s initial agricultural production, not the labor or agricultural expertise of Zionist settlers.

In addition, the claim that Israel turned an undeveloped desert into an agricultural wonder seems to be – in part – projection on the part of the Israeli state. Indeed, as Benvenisti noted, following the removal of Palestinians, the vast majority of centuries-old fruit orchards that had long been maintained by the native inhabitants of the land were untended, neglected and, in some cases, bulldozed to make room for ever-expanding settlements.

According to Benvenisti’s research, that neglect led to a situation in which “entire tracts of productive citrus trees, especially in the Tel Aviv-Jaffa area, were earmarked for the construction of housing developments,” as was the case for Palestine olive groves and pomegranate orchards that the land’s new occupants considered “an annoyance.” Part of the reason for the destruction of the land was that it would weaken Palestinian claims to return to the land, as keeping agricultural infrastructure intact “might have made possible the absorption of the returning refugees.”

Current Israeli government policy, particularly its support for the construction of illegal settlements on Palestinian land, is the continuation of this effort to erase Palestine’s history by targeting its agricultural heritage as well as its natural wonders. Indeed, Israeli newspaper Haaretz noted back in 2011 that Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s steady push for Israeli expansion into Palestinian territory had been coupled with “his insistence on seeing nature and landscape as no more than an obstacle to the realization of his settlement vision.”

Covering a crime with water-sucking pines

Israeli President Shimon Peres, right, and French President Francois Hollande, plant a Cedar tree during a welcome ceremony for Hollande at the president's residence in Jerusalem, Sunday, Nov. 17, 2013. (AP Photo/Abir Sultan, Pool) Click to enlarge

Israeli President Shimon Peres, right, and French President Francois Hollande, plant a Cedar tree during a welcome ceremony for Hollande at the president’s residence in Jerusalem, Sunday, Nov. 17, 2013. (AP Photo/Abir Sultan, Pool) Click to enlarge

Another project central to the “desert bloom” mythology is Israel’s “afforestation” of the desert, which has helped “turn the desert green” through the planting of non-native pine trees. These forests, largely planted by the Jewish National Fund (JNF), have been touted as a “miracle.” Yet, the pine stands, much like Israel’s treatment of Palestine’s agricultural legacy, have been motivated by a need to cover up the events that led to the creation of the Israeli state.

Indeed, more than two-thirds of all JNF forests and sites lie on top of the ruins of Palestinian villages demolished during and after the founding of Israel, and the group’s continuing afforestation efforts are aimed at acquiring land in the occupied West Bank to prevent “trespassing” and “conceal” Palestinian villages in order to prevent the return of Palestinian refugees.

Moreover, the effort to maintain a forest of non-native trees – regardless of whether its chief aim is to cover up the true history of Palestine or “green” a desert — has come at a great cost to the natural environment. As journalist Max Blumenthal has noted:

Most of the saplings the JNF plants at a site near Jerusalem simply do not survive, and require frequent replanting. Elsewhere, needles from the pine trees have killed native plant species and wreaked havoc on the ecosystem.”

They also become fodder for forest fires that have caused major damage and mass evacuations throughout Israel over the years.

Another ecological consequence of JNF forests is their likely effect on Israel’s horrendous drought, considered to be the worst the region has faced in over 900 years. As studies have shown in other countries where non-native pine plantations have been introduced in vast numbers, pines consume a significant amount of water – leading to droughts and even the disappearance of entire rivers – as well as fundamentally alter and degrade the soil. While these forests have been presented as an ecological miracle, they are instead destroying the environment and degrading the land’s resources, suggesting that the main driver behind the long-standing project is aimed at covering up the ruins of Palestine.

Continuing the attack on Palestinian agriculture

A Palestinian elderly woman collects olives from broken olive tree branches in the village of Qusra, northern West Bank, Tuesday, Oct. 9, 2012. Palestinian farmers say Jewish settlers from the nearby settlement of Eli cut more than 70 olive trees overnight. Olives are the backbone of Palestinian agriculture. (AP Photo/Nasser Ishtayeh)

A Palestinian elderly woman collects olives from broken olive tree branches in the village of Qusra, northern West Bank, Tuesday, Oct. 9, 2012. Palestinian farmers say Jewish settlers from the nearby settlement of Eli cut more than 70 olive trees overnight. Olives are the backbone of Palestinian agriculture. (AP Photo/Nasser Ishtayeh) Click to enlarge

Today, the stark difference in agricultural development in the land tended by Israelis and Palestinians derives from policies that often receive little coverage in the media and are largely absent from the “desert bloom” narrative. Indeed, much of the coverage the issue has received paints Palestinian agricultural successes as either the work of foreigners offering aid or resulting from the “theft” of Israeli-settlement agricultural infrastructure.

Such reports fail to acknowledge the realities of the issue, such as the illegal blockade of Gaza that has crippled its economy and agricultural sector, as well as Israel’s destruction of agricultural infrastructure in Gaza and the West Bank. Gazan agricultural infrastructure was ravaged by Israel in times of war and, in the West Bank, Israeli soldiers regularly demolish rain cisterns, pipelines and irrigation systems installed by Palestinians, citing as a reason that such structures lacked the “proper authorization” from Israel. Farmers themselves, mainly in Gaza, are often targeted directly by Israeli soldiers if they come too close to the border fence.

The Israeli government has also targeted Palestinian agriculture through chemical warfare. The use of white phosphorus as a weapon against Gaza, for example, has had major consequences for the area’s farmers. In addition to the chemical weapon’s often deadly effects on the human body, it has destructive effects on the environment and plants, as its incendiary nature often leads to the spontaneous ignition and burning of trees, forests and farmland. It also lingers in the environment for several years.

Beyond the use of chemical weapons, Israel has also directly targeted Gazan farmland with herbicide. In 2015, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) admitted to using herbicides and germination inhibitors to kill off vegetation along the Palestinian side of the border, damaging over 420 acres of land. A year later, tactic was repeated, this time destroying around 400 acres of farmland. The IDF has stated that it sprays the chemicals over the vaguely defined “no-go zone” it has established along the border “in order to enable optimal and continuous security operations.” However, the area accounts for a third of Gaza’s arable land and 17 percent of the entire territory.

Furthermore, the herbicides, like white phosphorus, have consequences for the environment long after they are sprayed. As Anwar Abu Assi, manager of the chemical laboratory at Gaza’s Ministry of Agriculture told Al Jazeera in 2016:

Herbicides are sprayed in high concentrations. Thus, they remain embedded in the soil, and then find their way to the water basin. This constitutes a real hazard for the population.”

The targeting of Palestinian agriculture in the present and its treatment by the Israeli and American press suggest another and nefarious way in which Israel’s “desert bloom” mythology has manifested. In order for Israel’s agricultural “superiority” to remain unchallenged, Palestinian agriculture must also be suppressed. Were Palestinian agriculture able to develop unimpeded and flourish, it would call into question the idea that the land was barren before the Zionists, threatening the latter’s legitimacy.

The cover-story for all conquerors and colonizers

The myth of Israel “making the desert bloom” has its basis in neo-colonial narratives that have long been used in other settler states such as Canada, New Zealand, the United States and Australia. In the cases of the latter countries, the native inhabitants and their culture have also inaccurately been depicted as “primitive” and incompetent, a narrative that suggests that the land would have remained “wild” and undeveloped were it not for the “fortunate” appearance of European settlers. Such narratives cast the settlers as both superior and normal while the natives become inferior and abnormal, thus obfuscating the settler’s status as foreigner and conqueror.

AMERICAN PROGRESS EAST GOING WEST USA 1872 BY JOHN GAST LARGE PRINT REPRO

American Progress East Going West USA 1872 by John Gast

Zionist mythology reinforces similar themes. For example, as in the United States, Native Americans were considered as uncivilized and wild as the natural environment, Zionist mythology reinforces the idea that all Arabs are “sons of the desert” while the desert similarly represents a barbaric obstacle to “progress” and development.

Another historical analogue is the 19th-century concept of “manifest destiny” — the idea that the expansion of the United States had been preordained by God himself, which led the U.S. to break many of its numerous treaties with indigenous tribes and even go to war with Mexico in order to acquire the land it coveted. The Israeli government similarly sees its expansion and control of all of Palestine as a matter of fulfilling prophecy and “redeeming” the Holy Land. This effort of redemption continues to feed Israel’s expansion. As Netanyahu has said, Israel is “obligated to develop all parts of the country – the Galilee and the Negev [the West Bank].”

Living the myth and the lie

Yet, no matter how much evidence exists to the contrary, Israel will never tell the real story behind the “miracle” of making “the desert bloom.” It will never tell the real story precisely because it can’t – to do so would mean demolishing the neo-colonial narrative at the center of the settler state, a narrative that is the pillar of its legitimacy.

Indeed, if Israel has not actually improved the land by making “the desert bloom” but instead degraded the land, the legitimacy of the state of Israel itself becomes questionable, as it suggests that its native inhabitants – the Palestinians – were better caretakers of the land than the current occupiers. For this reason, Israel must continue to propagate the myth regardless of the facts, and continue to deny Palestine’s rich cultural history and agricultural legacy.

With Israel now facing the consequences of its mistreatment of the land and its resources, the historical revisionism once used to sell the disparity between Israeli and Palestinian agricultural prowess has become ineffective. For that reason, Israel must now use other tactics — chemical warfare through toxic agrochemicals, the physical destruction of Palestinian agricultural infrastructure, and illegal blockades – in order to keep the artificial narrative alive, creating the illusion of primitivism and scarcity where none exists.

Top Photo | A Palestinian farmer looks at Israeli army soldiers after he was arrested for planting olive trees near the West Bank town of Tubas in the Jordan valley, during a protest against the closure of land to Palestinians by the army and Jewish settlers, April 8, 2014. Mohammed Ballas | AP

Whitney Webb is a staff writer for MintPress News and a contributor to Ben Swann’s Truth in Media. Her work has appeared on Global Research, the Ron Paul Institute and 21st Century Wire, among others. She has also made radio and TV appearances on RT and Sputnik. She currently lives with her family in southern Chile.

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