How a Map of Palestine Drove the American Neo-colonial Elite Mad

By Juan Cole
Source

I mirrored a map of modern Palestinian history that has the virtue of showing graphically what has happened to the Palestinians politically and territorially in the past century.

map-story-of-palestinian-nationhood.jpg

Andrew Sullivan then mirrored the map from my site, which set off a lot of thunder and noise among anti-Palestinian writers like Jeffrey Goldberg of the Atlantic, but shed very little light. (PS, the map as a hard copy mapcard is available from Sabeel.)

The map is useful and accurate. It begins by showing the British Mandate of Palestine as of the mid-1920s. The British conquered the Ottoman districts that came to be the Mandate during World War I (the Ottoman sultan threw in with Austria and Germany against Britain, France and Russia, mainly out of fear of Russia).

But because of the rise of the League of Nations and the influence of President Woodrow Wilson’s ideas about self-determination, Britain and France could not decently simply make their new, previously Ottoman territories into mere colonies. The League of Nations awarded them “Mandates.” Britain got Palestine, France got Syria (which it made into Syria and Lebanon), Britain got Iraq.

The League of Nations Covenant spelled out what a Class A Mandate (i.e. territory that had been Ottoman) was:

“Article 22. Certain communities formerly belonging to the Turkish Empire have reached a stage of development where their existence as independent nations can be provisionally recognised subject to the rendering of administrative advice and assistance by a Mandatory [i.e., a Western power] until such time as they are able to stand alone. The wishes of these communities must be a principal consideration in the selection of the Mandatory.”

That is, the purpose of the later British Mandate of Palestine, of the French Mandate of Syria, of the British Mandate of Iraq, was to ‘render administrative advice and assistance” to these peoples in preparation for their becoming independent states, an achievement that they were recognized as not far from attaining. The Covenant was written before the actual Mandates were established, but Palestine was a Class A Mandate and so the language of the Covenant was applicable to it. The territory that formed the British Mandate of Iraq was the same territory that became independent Iraq, and the same could have been expected of the British Mandate of Palestine. (Even class B Mandates like Togo have become nation-states, but the poor Palestinians are just stateless prisoners in colonial cantons).

The first map thus shows what the League of Nations imagined would become the state of Palestine. The economist published an odd assertion that the Negev Desert was ’empty’ and should not have been shown in the first map. But it wasn’t and isn’t empty; Palestinian Bedouin live there, and they and the desert were recognized by the League of Nations as belonging to the Mandate of Palestine, a state-in-training. The Mandate of Palestine also had a charge to allow for the establishment of a ‘homeland’ in Palestine for Jews (because of the 1917 Balfour Declaration), but nobody among League of Nations officialdom at that time imagined it would be a whole and competing territorial state. There was no prospect of more than a few tens of thousands of Jews settling in Palestine, as of the mid-1920s. (They are shown in white on the first map, refuting those who mysteriously complained that the maps alternated between showing sovereignty and showing population). As late as the 1939 British White Paper, British officials imagined that the Mandate would emerge as an independent Palestinian state within 10 years.

In 1851, there had been 327,000 Palestinians (yes, the word ‘Filistin’ was current then) and other non-Jews, and only 13,000 Jews. In 1925, after decades of determined Jewish immigration, there were a little over 100,000 Jews, and there were 765,000 mostly Palestinian non-Jews in the British Mandate of Palestine. For historical demography of this area, see Justin McCarthy’s painstaking calculations; it is not true, as sometimes is claimed, that we cannot know anything about population figures in this region. See also his journal article, reprinted at this site. The Palestinian population grew because of rapid population growth, not in-migration, which was minor. The common allegation that Jerusalem had a Jewish majority at some point in the 19th century is meaningless. Jerusalem was a small town in 1851, and many pious or indigent elderly Jews from Eastern Europe and elsewhere retired there because of charities that would support them. In 1851, Jews were only about 4% of the population of the territory that became the British Mandate of Palestine some 70 years later. And, there had been few adherents of Judaism, just a few thousand, from the time most Jews in Palestine adopted Christianity and Islam in the first millennium CE all the way until the 20th century. In the British Mandate of Palestine, the district of Jerusalem was largely Palestinian.

The rise of the Nazis in the 1930s impelled massive Jewish emigration to Palestine, so by 1940 there were over 400,000 Jews there amid over a million Palestinians.

The second map shows the United Nations partition plan of 1947, which awarded Jews (who only then owned about 6% of Palestinian land) a substantial state alongside a much reduced Palestine. Although apologists for the Zionist movement say that the Zionists accepted this partition plan and the Arabs rejected it, that is not entirely true. Zionist leader David Ben Gurion noted in his diary when Israel was established that when the US had been formed, no document set out its territorial extent, implying that the same was true of Israel. We know that Ben Gurion was an Israeli expansionist who fully intended to annex more land to Israel, and by 1956 he attempted to add the Sinai and would have liked southern Lebanon. So the Zionist “acceptance” of the UN partition plan did not mean very much beyond a happiness that their initial starting point was much better than their actual land ownership had given them any right to expect.

The third map shows the status quo after the Israeli-Palestinian civil war of 1947-1948. It is not true that the entire Arab League attacked the Jewish community in Palestine or later Israel on behalf of the Palestinians. As Avi Shlaim has shown, Jordan had made an understanding with the Zionist leadership that it would grab the West Bank, and its troops did not mount a campaign in the territory awarded to Israel by the UN. Egypt grabbed Gaza and then tried to grab the Negev Desert, with a few thousand badly trained and equipped troops, but was defeated by the nascent Israeli army. Few other Arab states sent any significant number of troops. The total number of troops on the Arab side actually on the ground was about equal to those of the Zionist forces, and the Zionists had more esprit de corps and better weaponry.

[The nascent Israeli military deliberately pursued a policy of ethnically cleansing non-combatant Palestinians from Israeli-held territory, expelling about 720,000 of them in 1947-48, then locking them outside, bereft of their homes and farms and penniless.

Map6_RefugeesRoutes.gif

The final map shows the situation today, which springs from the Israeli occupation of Gaza and the West Bank in 1967 and then the decision of the Israelis to colonize the West Bank intensively (a process that is illegal in the law of war concerning occupied populations).

There is nothing inaccurate about the maps at all, historically. Goldberg maintained that the Palestinians’ ‘original sin’ was rejecting the 1947 UN partition plan. But since Ben Gurion and other expansionists went on to grab more territory later in history, it is not clear that the Palestinians could have avoided being occupied even if they had given away willingly so much of their country in 1947. The first original sin was the contradictory and feckless pledge by the British to sponsor Jewish immigration into their Mandate in Palestine, which they wickedly and fantastically promised would never inconvenience the Palestinians in any way. It was the same kind of original sin as the French policy of sponsoring a million colons in French Algeria, or the French attempt to create a Christian-dominated Lebanon where the Christians would be privileged by French policy. The second original sin was the refusal of the United States to allow Jews to immigrate in the 1930s and early 1940s, which forced them to go to Palestine to escape the monstrous, mass-murdering Nazis.

The map attracted so much ire and controversy not because it is inaccurate but because it clearly shows what has been done to the Palestinians, which the League of Nations had recognized as not far from achieving statehood in its Covenant. Their statehood and their territory has been taken from them, and they have been left stateless, without citizenship and therefore without basic civil and human rights. The map makes it easy to see this process. The map had to be stigmatized and made taboo. But even if that marginalization of an image could be accomplished, the squalid reality of Palestinian statelessness would remain, and the children of Gaza would still be being malnourished by the deliberate Israeli policy of blockading civilians. The map just points to a powerful reality; banishing the map does not change that reality.

Goldberg, according to Spencer Ackerman, says that he will stop replying to Andrew Sullivan, for which Ackerman is grateful, since, he implies, Goldberg is a propagandistic hack who loves to promote wars on flimsy pretenses. Matthew Yglesias also has some fun at Goldberg’s expense. [Otherwise, like most other major US institutions, our press is corrupt on this issue.]

People like Goldberg never tell us what they expect to happen to the Palestinians in the near and medium future. They don’t seem to understand that the status quo is untenable. They are like militant ostriches, hiding their heads in the sand while lashing out with their hind talons at anyone who stares clear-eyed at the problem, characterizing us as bigots. As if that old calumny has any purchase for anyone who knows something serious about the actual views of Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu or . . . Avigdor Lieberman, more bigoted persons than whom would be difficult to find…

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israeli Racism – Legalized and Running Rampant

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Israeli Racism – Legalized and Running Rampant

What might it look like to be a minority in an apartheid state that has spelled out your second-class status, sanctioned discrimination against you, and not-so-secretly wants to get rid of you? Here’s how that looks in Israel.
Israel’s new Nation State Law, just over 1 month old, has already increased the discrimination against Palestinians in Israel to absurd levels: they’re being prohibited from raising chickens, planting potatoes, gathering traditional herbs. Small sewing and knitting factories are being closed down and moved to Jordan. The only logical explanation: it’s part of a plan to make survival in Israel impossible, to initiate a “soft transfer” or “voluntary emigration” of Palestinians, because mass deportation – as in the Nakba – is no longer practical.

By Zuhair Andraus, Nazareth, Raialyoum; translated by Ziyad Shihadah

Israel is increasing its economic, political, and security siege on the 1.6 million Palestinians of 1948 – the Palestinians who make up 21% of Israel’s population. Its discriminatory policies have reached a level in which Palestinians are prevented from raising chickens and planting potatoes, small textile factories have been closed and transported to Jordan, and other products and ways of life have been impacted as well.

This is a racist phenomenon with the deliberate goal of “soft transfer” or “voluntary emigration” of Palestinians, because mass deportation – as in the Nakba – is no longer practical.

Help Wanted – with a catch

But before we get into the details, it must be noted that every job in Israel, whether governmental or non-governmental, has as a condition that the applicant has served in the occupation army, which clearly prevents the Arabs of 1948 from entering the labor force. This explains why Arabs undisputedly have the highest level of unemployment, and why 50% of Palestinian children at home live below the poverty line.

In addition to that, on the facades of many, many shops from the far north to the far south of the Jewish State, Help Wanted signs are posted for salespeople. In Eilat (Umm al-Rashrash), this writer saw a help wanted sign in an underwear shop with a requirement that the candidate has served in the occupation army.

What is the relationship of the army to underwear? Perhaps the answer can be found in the many advertisements by Jewish call girls. They say clearly what others hint at: “We do not welcome Arabs!” Of course there are clear obscene messages in public places, like “Arabjarrab” (Arabs are lepers) and other filthy insults and curses.

Chickens, eggs, and potatoes

In the context of the economic persecution of Palestinians, the Israeli Ministry of Agriculture lately decided to prohibit the 1948 Arabs from raising chickens. As a result, they prevented them from obtaining eggs, asserting that this product should come only from Jews in the moshavim (cooperative villages) . Within days, Arab eggs disappeared from the markets and were replaced by Israeli eggs, which came from moshavim built on the ruins of Palestinians villages destroyed since the Nakba.

Israeli authorities also issued a law forbidding Arabs to plant potatoes, thanks to pressure from Israel’s large potato farmers – after authorities discovered that potato cultivation is inexpensive and that potatoes are a valuable source of income for Palestinians. The eggs and potatoes are examples of the institutional racism in the Jewish state.

Potatoes have always been an important cash crop for Palestinian farmers – but in a moment’s time, their clientele has dried up: now that it is perfectly acceptable to discriminate in Israel, Israeli potato farmers have demanded all of the action, and gotten it.

No more free thyme

It is well known that Palestine is a fertile agricultural land, rich in many types of plants that grow in the wild. Some of these, such as thyme and hibiscus, are harvested and used by Palestinians for food, but not known or eaten by Jews.

The Israeli government has recently instructed the so-called “Nature Protection Authority” to declare that these plants are on a list of “protected” plants, and that those who harvest them are breaking the law.

At the same time, many Jewish merchants who discovered the importance of these plants for Palestinians have applied to the Israeli Ministry of Agriculture for the necessary permits to grow these plants and then sell them in Arab markets. Thus, the Palestinian has become a profitable market for Israeli trade for a product that used to be available for free.

Tobacco is another crop important to economic survival for Palestinian farmers – which makes it an excellent target for those seeking to ruin them. REUTERS/Mohamad Torokman

Tobacco and textiles are out

In this context, the occupation authorities found another outlet to narrow the economic space to the Palestinians, with the Dubek, the only Israeli cigarette producer, stopped purchasing tobacco from Arab farmers. Keep in mind that tobacco is one of the main cash crops for Palestinians in the Galilee (West Bank), within the so-called “Green Line.” Thus, Israel has eliminated the market for one of the most important Arab agricultural products in Palestine. Instead of Arab tobacco, Israel has turned to its ally Turkey, and is importing Turkish tobacco.

To make things even worse in the economic war against the Palestinians – and in cooperation with Jordan – Israel recently closed a number of small sewing and knitting factories in the Galilee, the Triangle (a cluster of Israeli Arab villages near the Green Line), and the Negev areas. These factories, the source of income for a large number of Palestinian families, are now being moved to Jordan with the excuse of cheap labor. It is rumored that this is an attempt to support Jordan’s fragile economy, but clearly  the occupation wants to cut off income sources of the 1948 Arabs.

And on and on

It is worth mentioning that Israel’s economically strangling policies to date have led to a 33% unemployment rate in the Negev and Umm al-Fahm, and widened the employment gap between Palestinians and Israelis: unemployment among Palestinians reached 25%, vs. 6.5% among Israelis.

To illustrate the depth of Israeli racism, it is enough to point to the humiliation the 1948 Arabs face during Israeli airport searches and unnecessary, inciting investigations. In addition, the Israeli Prime Minister’s Office does not employ even one Arab; homes are demolished; towns and villages are not allowed to expand and build. Finally, Israeli trains do not pass through any Arab cities or towns inside Palestinian land.

israel’s (apartheid state) Food Theft as a Form of Cultural Genocide

Food Theft as a Form of Cultural Genocide

Palestinian-Cuisine

Cultural Genocide

Back in 2012 I wrote a short book entitled Cultural Genocide (Rutgers University Press). It looked at four case studies of this phenomenon: the American Indians, Russian treatment of Jews in the 19th century, Chinese assimilation of Tibet, and Israel’s ongoing treatment of the Palestinians. It is an aspect of Palestinian plight that I want to revisit here.

The idea behind cultural genocide is relatively simple—it is the systematic erasure of the culture of indigenous people subject to colonization. The endgame here is that the conquered land will no longer be popularly identified with the culture and traditions of those who were once native to it. Instead, their culture will be replaced by that of the colonizer.

The most common way of doing this is to disperse or actually wipe out a good part of the indigenous population, with the resulting trauma causing their culture, at least in its native form, to disappear. However, sometimes the colonizers will appropriate elements of the native culture as their own. This is cultural genocide by theft as well as destruction.

In Cultural Genocide I laid out how the Israelis were attempting to undermine and ultimately destroy Palestinian culture in a seemingly never-ending effort to “Hebraize” the territory now called Israel. Here are some of the techniques employed: (1) the practice of renaming, which began as early as the 1920s:

“With the help of archeologists, geographers and biblical scholars” the Zionists “began to systematically erase Palestine’s Arab history and heritage from what would be Israel’s own official records, maps and histories”; (2) The physical destruction of Palestinian archeological sites, artifacts, ancient mosques and historic houses to the extent that the UNESCO World Heritage office describes the Israeli actions as “crimes against the cultural history of mankind”; (3) The purposeful looting and subsequent destruction of Palestinian libraries, archives and museums; and (4) the imposition of literally thousands of regulations designed to make it impossible for Palestinians in occupied territory to express themselves culturally or politically. For further information, see Cultural Genocide, pp. 77-80.

Mislabeling Palestinian Cuisine

When I wrote this book in 2012, the issue of the appropriation of native foods as the colonizer’s own did not come up. It was, if you will, “under my radar.” It got on my radar about five years ago, whereupon I began complaining (often to no avail) to supermarkets and restaurants about hummus and falafel being advertised as “Israeli food.”

I was again reminded of the issue by a series of events, most recently, a local catered dinner to raise money for Playgrounds for Palestine. The food was all Palestinian. The well-known chef Anan Zahr reminded us all that “this is a crucial time for the Palestinian people, whose identity and culture are aggressively threatened on a daily basis by the Israeli government. It is so important for us to highlight and showcase the Palestinian cuisine to prevent ongoing food appropriation.”

To “highlight and showcase Palestinian cuisine” here in the West is a difficult task, if only because the effort must overcome a sea of ignorance and indifference. Despite the decades of ongoing conflict that has been grist for the mill of mass media, there are still millions of Americans, and others too, who know little about the cultural genocide of the Palestinians. What resides now in the minds of most people (when they consider the topic at all) is Israel presented to them as a “normal country” periodically threatened by Muslim Arabs. And, just as the Italians eat Italian food, and the French eat French food, the average American assumes that the Israelis eat “Israeli food.”

A good example of this was the controversy sparked by celebrity chef Rachel Ray, who appears on a number of on-line and televised cooking shows. Back in December 2017Ray, who is not Jewish, put out a number of tweets describing “an Israeli night meal.” The foods she tweeted about included hummus, tabbouleh (“tabouli”), stuffed grape leaves, chicken fried in za’atar and cucumber salad—all of them traditional Palestinian foods.

As the Times of Israel described it, “the posts spurred a cascade of more than1, 600 replies, most of them critical.” This is an expression of the fact that Palestinians “see Israeli claims to these foods as just one more form of oppression.” Yousef Munayyer, who directs the U.S. Campaign for Palestinian Rights, placed the situation in context: “place names, street names, historical markers have been changed.

Zionists and their supporters have a response to these complaints. However, like all their other arguments, they rest on an utter unwillingness to take responsibility for their own collective actions.

Forests have literally been planted above our villages, obfuscating the very remnants of our history and the graves of our ancestors. So please understand, when you label this food ‘Israeli’ you’re participating in a broad process of replacement that goes way beyond what is on a plate and is instead about denying Palestinians [to] even have a place at the global table.” He asserted that Ray’s tweets had contributed to “a culture in which Palestinians, as a people, are often told they do not exist.” In other words, by taking Palestinian food and renaming it Israeli, the Zionists perform an act of cultural genocide.

All of this must have left Rachael Ray’s head spinning. She did not directly respond to the consequences of her faux pas but quickly moved on to tweeting about Greek cuisine. As far as I can learn, her mislabeling of Palestinian cuisine as Israeli was largely due to ignorance. She has no particular connections to Israel beyond the fact that she has a friend who goes there and brings her back recipes. She certainly is no hard-core Zionist. For instance, back in 2008 Ray was accused of giving moral support to a “murderous Palestinian jihad,” by appearing in a commercial for Dunkin Donuts wearing a scarf that “looked too much like a keffiyeh.”

The Zionist Response

Zionists and their supporters have a response to these complaints. However, like all their other arguments, they rest on an utter unwillingness to take responsibility for their own collective actions. What they do in this case is talk around the issue, thus avoiding a complete picture. Thus, their principle response, given here by one Alex Kay, goes like this: “Israeli cuisine is a beautiful celebration of Jews from around the world, including 800,000 Jewish Arabs thrown out from Arab countries. In Israel you have Eastern and Western food mixed perfectly. … Palestinians don’t own chopped salad or za’atar.”

It is quite beside the point whether or not Israeli cuisine is “a beautiful celebration of Jews from around the world” or “in Israel you have Eastern and Western food mixed perfectly.” The context for the complaint of food appropriation has nothing to do with the celebration of “Jewishness” or a melding of cuisines. Nor, quite frankly, has it to do with the allegation that 800,000 Jewish Arabs were “thrown out from Arab countries” soon after Israel was founded. This assertion is an exaggerated element of the broader Zionist mantra.

Jewish Arabs faced much less hostility in most Arab countries than the Zionists say they did, particularly considering that, at the time, the Zionists had begun to ethnically cleanse Palestinians. However, in every case these Arab Jewish communities faced relentless Zionist pressure to emigrate. And, when they did go to Israel they faced discrimination because of their Arab heritage.

The only pertinent allegation in the Zionist retort is “Palestinians don’t own chopped salad or za’atar.” Yet, within the broader context in which Israel’s appropriation of Palestinian food takes place, the truth is that the Palestinians do “own” these foods—not only historically, but also morally. As noted above, that greater context is one of purposeful destruction of the Palestinian people, and that makes all the difference.

As long as the Israelis practice ethnic cleansing and continue down the road to apartheid state status (as they did with their recent nationality law), their claim on any aspect of Palestinian heritage—be it land or food—is a de facto act of cultural genocide. And, if this form of destructive racism is not to become ever more frequent, every aspect of Zionist appropriation must be fought, right down to the last “Israeli” falafel.

 

israel (apartheid state) was founded on and is maintained by theft, we shouldn’t be surprised

Eyewitness Onboard Boat to Gaza Says Israeli Forces Beat Passengers and Stole Thousands of Dollars, Antibiotics During Raid

Dr. Swee Ang is a medical doctor and was a passenger onboard the al-Awda, a ship headed to Gaza as part of the Freedom Flotilla. The Israeli navy commandeered the vessel on July 29, 2018. 

The last leg of the journey of al-Awda (the boat of return) was scheduled to reach Gaza on 29 July 2018. We were on target to reach Gaza that evening. There are 22 on board including crew with $15,000 of antibiotics and bandages for Gaza. At 12.31 p.m. we received a missed call from a number beginning with +81… Mikkel was steering the boat at that time. The phone rang again with the message that we were trespassing into Israeli waters. Mikkel replied that we were in International waters and had right of innocent passage according to maritime laws. The accusation of trespassing was repeated again and again with Mikkel repeating the message that we were sailing in international waters. This carried on for about half an hour, while al-Awda was 42 nautical miles from the coast of Gaza.

Dr. Swee Ang. (Photo: Blizard Institute
Queen Mary University of London)

Prior to the beginning of this last leg, we had spent two days learning non-violent actions and had prepared ourselves in anticipation of Israeli invasion of our boat. Vulnerable individuals especially those with medical conditions were to sit at the rear of the top deck with their hands on the deck table. The leader of this group was Gerd, a 75-year-old elite Norwegian athlete and she had the help of Lucia, a Spanish nurse in her group.

The people who were to provide non-violent barrier to the Israelis coming on deck and taking over the boat formed three rows – two rows of threes and the third row of two persons blocking the wheel house door to protect the wheel house for as long as possible. There were runners between the wheel house and the rear of the deck. The leader of the boat Zohar and I were at the two ends of the toilets corridor where we looked out at the horizon and inform all of any sightings of armed boats. I laughed at Zohar and said we are the Toilet Brigade, but I think Zohar did not find it very funny. It was probably bad taste under the circumstances. I also would be able to help as a runner and will have accessibility to all parts of the deck in view of being the doctor on board.

Soon we saw at least three large Israeli warships on the horizon with five or more speed boats (Zodiacs) zooming towards us. As the Zodiacs approached I saw that they carried soldiers with machine guns and there was on board the boats large machine guns mounted on a stand pointing at our boat. From my lookout point the first Israeli soldier climbed on board to the cabin level and climbed up the boat ladder to the top deck. His face was masked with a white cloth and following him were many others, all masked. They were all armed with machine guns and small cameras on their chests.

They immediately made to the wheel house overcoming the first row by twisting the arms of the participants, lifting Sarah up and throwing her away. Joergen the chef was large to be manhandled so he was tasered before being lifted up. They attacked the second row by picking on Emelia the Spanish nurse and removed her thus breaking the line. They then approach the door of the wheel house and tasered Charlie the first mate and Mike Treen who were obstructing their entry to the wheel house. Charlie was beaten up as well. Mike did not give way with being tasered in his lower limbs so he was tasered in his neck and face. Later on I saw bleeding on the left side of Mike’s face. He was semi-conscious when I examined him.

They broke into the wheel house by cutting the lock, forced the engine to be switched off and took down the Palestine flag before taking down the Norwegian flag and trampling on it.

They then cleared all people from the front half of the boat around the wheel house and moved them by force and coercion, throwing them to the rear of the deck. All were forced to sit on the floor at the back, except Gerd, Lucy and the vulnerable people who were seated around the table on wooden benches around her. Israeli soldiers then formed a line sealing off people from the back and preventing them from coming to the front of the boat again.

As we entered the back of the deck we were all body searched and ordered to surrender our mobile phones or else they will take it by force. This part of search and confiscation was under the command of a woman soldier. Apart from mobile phones – medicines and wallets were also removed. No one as of today (4 August 2018) got our mobile phones back.

I went to examine Mike and Charlie. Charlie had recovered consciousness and his wrists were tied together with plastic cable ties. Mike was bleeding from the side of his face, still not fully conscious. His hands were very tightly tied together with cable ties and the circulation to his fingers was cut off and his fingers and palm were beginning to swell. At this stage the entire people seated on the floor shouted demanding that the cable ties be cut. It was about half an hour later before the ties were finally cut off from both of them.

Around this time Charlie the first mate received the Norwegian flag. He was visibly upset telling all of us that the Norwegian flag had been trampled on. Charlie reacted more to the trampling of the Norwegian flag than to his own being beaten and tasered.

The soldiers then started asking for the captain of the boat. The boys then started to reply that they were all the captain. Eventually the Israelis figured out that Herman was the captain and demanded to take him to the wheel house. Herman asked for someone to come with him, and I offered to do so. But as we approached the wheel house, I was pushed away and Herman forced into the wheel house on his own. Divina, the well known Swedish singer, had meanwhile broken free from the back and went to the front to look through the window of the wheel house. She started to shout and cry “Stop –stop they are beating Herman, they are hurting him”.  We could not see what Divina saw, but knew that it was something very disturbing. Later on, when Divina and I were sharing a prison cell, she told me they were throwing Herman against the wall of the wheel house and punching his chest. Divina was forcibly removed and her neck was twisted by the soldiers who took her back to the rear of the deck.

I was pushed back to the rear of the boat again. After a while the boat engine started. I was told later by Gerd who was able to hear Herman tell the story to the Norwegian Consul in prison that the Israelis wanted Herman to start the engine, and threatened to kill him if he would not do so. But what they did not understand was that with this boat, once the engine stopped it can only be restarted manually in the engine room in the cabin level below. Arne the engineer refused to restart the engine, so the Israelis brought Herman down and hit him in front of Arne making it clear that they will continue to hit Herman if Arne would not start the engine. Arne is 70 years old, and when he saw Herman’s face went ash color, he gave in and started the engine manually. Gerd broke into tears when she was narrating this part of the story. The Israelis then took charge of the boat and drove it to Ashdod.

Once the boat was on course, the Israeli soldiers brought Herman to the medical desk. I looked at Herman and saw that he was in great pain, silent but conscious, breathing spontaneously but shallow breathing. The Israeli Army doctor was trying to persuade Herman to take some medicine for pain. Herman was refusing the medicine. The Israeli doctor explained to me that what he was offering Herman was not army medicine but his personal medicine. He gave me the medicine from his hand so that I could check it. It was a small brown glass bottle and I figured that it was some kind of liquid morphine preparation probably the equivalent of Oramorph or Fentanyl. I asked Herman to take it and the doctor asked him to take 12 drops after which Herman was carried off and slumped on a mattress at the back of the deck. He was watched over by people around him and fell asleep. From my station I saw he was breathing better.

With Herman settled I concentrated on Larry Commodore, the Native American leader and an environmental activist. He had been voted Chief of his tribe twice. Larry has labile asthma and with the stress all around my fear was that he might get a nasty attack, and needed adrenaline injection. I was taking Larry through deep breathing exercises. However Larry was not heading for an asthmatic attack, but was engaging an Israeli who covered his face with a black cloth in conversation. This man was obviously in charge.

I asked for the Israeli man with black mask his name and he called himself Field Marshall Ro…..Larry misheard him and jumped to conclusion that he called himself Field Marshall Rommel and shouted how can he an Israeli take a Nazi name. Field Marshall objected and introduced himself as Field Marshall ? Ronan. As I spelt out Ronan he quickly corrected me that his name is Ronen, and he Field Marshall Ronen was in charge.

The Israeli soldiers all wore body cameras and were filming us all the time. A box of sandwiches and pears were brought on deck for us. None of us took any of their food as we had decided we do not accept Israeli hypocrisy and charity. Our chef Joergen had already prepared high calorie high protein delicious brownie with nuts and chocolate, wrapped up in tin foil to be consume when captured, as we know it was going to be a long day and night. Joergen called it food for the journey. Unfortunately when I needed it most, the Israelis took away my food and threw it away. They just told me ”It is forbidden” I had nothing to eat for 24 hours, refusing Israeli Army food and had no food of my own.

As we sailed towards Israel we could see the coast of Gaza in total darkness. There were three drilling rigs in the northern sea of Gaza. The brightly burning oil flames contrasted with the total darkness the owners of the fuel were forced to live in. Just off the shore of Gaza are the largest deposit of natural gas ever discovered and the natural gas belonging to the Palestinians were already being siphoned off by Israel.

As we approached Israel, Zohar our boat leader suggested that we should start saying goodbye to each other. We were probably two to three hours from Ashdod. We thanked our boat leader, our captain, the crew, our dear chef, and encouraged each other that we will continue to do all we can to free Gaza and also bring justice to Palestine. Herman our Captain, who managed to sit up now, gave a most moving talk and some of us were in tears.

We knew that in Ashdod there will be the Israeli media and film crews. We will not enter Ashdod as a people who had lost hope as we were taken captive. So we came off the boat chanting “Free Free Palestine” all the way as we came off. Mike Treen the union man had by then recovered from his heavy tasering and led the chanting with his mega-voice and we filled the night sky of Israel with Free Free Palestine as we approached. We did this the whole way down the boat into Ashdod.

We came directly into a closed military zone in Ashdod. It was a sealed off area with many stations. It was specially prepared for the 22 of us. It began with a security x-ray area. I did not realize they retained my money belt as I came out of the x-ray station. The next station was strip search, and it was when I was gathering up my belongings after being stripped when I realized my money belt was no longer with me. I knew I had about a couple hundred Euros and they were trying to steal it. I demanded its return and refused to leave the station until it was produced. I was shouting for the first time. I was glad I did that as some other people were parted from their cash. The journalist from Al Jazeera, Abdu,l had all his credit cards and $1,800 taken from him, as well as his watch, satellite phone, his personal mobile, his ID. He thought his possessions were kept with his passport but when he was released for deportation he learnt bitterly that he only got his passport back. All cash and valuables were never found. They simply vanished.

We were passed from station to station in this closed military zone, stripped searched several times, possessions taken away until in the end all we had was the clothes we were wearing with nothing else except a wrist band with a number on it.  All shoe laces were removed as well. Some of us were given receipts for items taken away, but I had no receipts for anything. We were photographed several times and saw two doctors. At this point I learnt that Larry was pushed down the gangway and injured his foot and sent off to Israeli hospital for check-up. His blood was on the floor.

I was cold and hungry, wearing only one teeshirt and pants by the time they were through with me. My food was taken away; water was taken away, all belongings including reading glasses taken away. My bladder was about to explode but I am not allowed to go to the toilet. In this state I was brought out to two vehicles – Black Maria painted gray. On the ground next to it were a great heap of rucksacks and suit cases. I found mine and was horrified that they had broken into my baggage and took almost everything from it – all clothes clean and dirty, my camera, my second mobile, my books, my Bible, all the medicines I brought for the participants and myself, my toiletries. The suitcase was partially broken. My rucksacks was completely empty too. I got back two empty cases except for two dirty large man size teeshirts which obviously belonged to someone else. They also left my Freedom Flotilla T-shirt. I figured out that they did not steal the Flotilla tee as they thought no Israeli would want to wear that tee in Israel. They had not met Zohar and Yonatan who were proudly wearing theirs. That was a shock as I was not expecting the Israeli Army to be petty thieves as well. So what had become the glorious Israeli Army of the Six Day War which the world so admired?

I was still not allowed to go to the toilet, but was pushed into the Maria van, joined by Lucia the Spanish nurse and after some wait taken to Givon Prison. I could feel myself shivering uncontrollably on the journey.

The first thing our guards did in Givon Prison was to order me to go to the toilet to relieve myself. It was interesting to see that they knew I needed to go desperately but had prevented me for hours to! By the time we were re-x-rayed and searched again it must be about 5 to 6 a.m.. Lucia and I were then put in a cell where Gerd, Divina, Sarah and Emelia were already asleep. There were three double decker bunk beds – all rusty and dusty.

Divina did not get the proper dose of her medicines; Lucia was refused her own medicine and given an Israeli substitute which she refused to take. Divina and Emelia went straight on to hunger strike. The jailers were very hostile using simple things like refusal of toilet paper and constant slamming of the prison iron door, keeping the light of the cell permanently on, and forcing us to drink rusty water from the tap, screaming and shouting at us constantly to vent their anger at us.

The guards addressed me as “China” and treated me with utter contempt. On the morning of 30 July 2018, the British Vice Consul visited me. Some kind person had called them about my whereabouts. That was a blessing as after that I was called “England” and there was a massive improvement in the way England was treated compared to the way China was treated. It crossed my mind that “Palestine” would be trampled over, and probably killed.

At 6.30 a.m. 31 July 2018, we heard Larry yelling from the men’s cell across the corridor that he needed a doctor. He was obviously in great pain and crying. We women responded by asking the wardens to allow me to go across to see Larry as I might be able to help. We shouted “We have a doctor” and used our metal spoons to hit the iron cell gate get their attention. They lied and said their doctor will be over in an hour. We did not believe them and started again. The doctor actually turned up at 4 p.m., about 10 hours later and Larry was sent straight to hospital.

Meanwhile to punish the women for supporting Larry’s demand, they brought hand cuffs for Sarah and took Divina and me to another cell to separate us from the rest. We were told we were not going to be allowed out for our 30 minutes fresh air break and a drink of clean water in the yard. I heard Gerd saying “Big deal”

Suddenly Divina was taken out with me to the courtyard and Divina given four cigarettes at which point she broke down and cried. Divina had worked long hours at the wheel house steering the boat. She had seen what happened to Herman. The prison had refused to give her one of her medicines and given her only half the dose of the other. She was still on hunger strike to protest our kidnapping in international waters. It was heart-breaking to see Divina cry. One of the wardens who called himself Michael started talking to us about how he will have to protect his family against those who want to drive the Israelis out. And how the Palestinians did not want to live in peace…and it was not Israel’s fault. But things suddenly changed with the arrival of an Israeli Judge and we were all treated with some decency even though he only saw a few of us personally. His job was to tell us that a tribunal will be convened the following day and each prisoner had been allocated a time to appear, and we must have our lawyer with us when we appear.

Divina by the end of the day became very giddy and very unwell so I persuaded her to come out of hunger strike, and also she agreed to sign a deportation order. Shortly after that possibly at 6 p.m. since we had no watches and mobile phones, we were told Lucia, Joergen, Herman, Arne, Abdul from Al Jazeera and I would be deported within 24 hours and we would be taken to be imprisoned in the deportation prison in Ramle near Ben-Gurion airport immediately to wait there. It was going to be the same Ramle Prison from which I was deported in 2014. I saw the same five strong old palm trees still standing up proud and tall. They are the only survivors of the Palestinian village destroyed in 1948.

When we arrived at Ramle prison Abdul found to his horror that he his money, his credit cards, his watch, his satellite phone, his own mobile phone, his  ID card were all missing – he was entirely destitute. We had a whip round and raised around a hundred Euros as a contribution towards his taxi fare from the airport to home. How can the Israeli Army be so corrupt and heartless to rob someone of everything?

Conclusion:

We, the six women on board al-Awda had learnt that they tried to completely humiliate and dehumanize us in every way possible. We were also shocked at the behaviour of the Israeli Army especially petty theft and their treatment of international women prisoners. Men jailors regularly entered the women’s cell without giving us decent notice to put our clothes on.

They also tried to remind us of our vulnerability at every stage. We know they would have preferred to kill us but of course the publicity incurred in so doing might be unfavourable to the international image of Israel.

If we were Palestinians it would be much worse with physical assaults and probably loss of lives. The situation is therefore dire for the Palestinians.

As to international waters, it looks as though there is no such thing for the Israeli Navy. They can hijack and abduct boats and persons in international water and get away with it. They acted as though they own the Mediterranean Sea. They can abduct any boat and kidnap any passengers, put them in prison and criminalise them.

We cannot accept this. We have to speak up, stand up against this lawlessness, oppression and brutality. We were completely unarmed. Our only crime according to them is we are friends of the Palestinians and wanted to bring medical aid to them. We wanted to brave the military blockade to do this. This is not a crime. In the week we were sailing to Gaza, they had shot dead seven Palestinians and wounded more than 90 with life bullets in Gaza. They had further shut down fuel and food to Gaza. Two million Palestinians in Gaza live without clean water, with only two to four hours of electricity, in homes destroyed by Israeli bombs, in a prison blockaded by land, air and sea for 12 years. The hospitals of Gaza since the 30 March had treated more than 9,071 wounded persons, 4,348 shot by live fire from a hundred Israeli snipers while they were mounting peaceful demonstrations inside the borders of Gaza on their own land. Most of the gun-shot wounds were to the lower limbs and with depleted treatment facilities the limbs will suffer amputation. In this period more than 164 Palestinians had been shot dead by the same snipers, including medics and journalists, children and women. The chronic military blockade of Gaza has depleted the hospitals of all surgical and medical supplies. This massive attack on an unarmed Freedom Flotilla bringing friends and some medical relief is an attempt to crush all hope for Gaza. As I write I learnt that our sister Flotilla, Freedom, has also been kidnapped by the Israeli Navy while in international waters.

BUT we will not stop, we must continue to be strong to bring hope and justice to the Palestinians and be prepared to pay the price, and to be worthy of the Palestinians. As long as I survive I will exist to resist.  To do less will be a crime.

Between israel’s bullets and bulldozers

Between Israel’s bullets and bulldozers

Adlan Mansri The Electronic Intifada

The shepherding community of Khirbet al-Malih is located in a hilly area of the Jordan Valley in the northeast corner of the occupied West Bank. Pockets of families live in metal-frame tents in small Bedouin encampments. Israel occupied the area in 1967 and, like some 60 percent of the West Bank, it is under full Israeli military control.

Since the 1970s, this area has also been an Israeli live-fire military zone, along with around half of the rest of the Jordan Valley, according to the rights group B’Tselem.

In an otherwise peaceful countryside lies a military outpost. For the residents of Khirbet al-Malih, the firing zone designation means the Israeli military can train whenever they want. The shepherds and their families live with the constant presence of military vehicles criss-crossing the countryside, semi-trailer trucks transporting tanks, low-flying aircraft, gunfire and explosions.

Khirbet Al-Malih is dry and hot in the summer, rainy in the winter and deep green in the spring. Spring is the best season for milk because there is plenty of food for the animals.

A Bedouin resident of Khirbet al-Malih rolls a cigarette made with tobacco grown on his field.

If Israeli forces want to use the land around a Bedouin family compound for military exercises, they do. They pull up to a tent and demand everyone leave for a certain period of time, often for days. Families pack the few things they can, gather their animals and leave. They sleep outside until they are allowed to return, often to trampled crops and turned-up earth where tanks passed through. This photo shows the aftermath of one such military exercise. Since 2014, at least three Palestinians have been killed and five injured by unexploded ordnance left behind during military exercises in the Jordan Valley, according to B’Tselem.

Khadir Brahim lives in Khirbet al-Malih on land owned by a Christian church. In recent days, Brahim said, the military performed exercises. “They made us and others leave our homes,” he said. When Brahim is forced to evacuate, he said: “I take the minimal, the goats, the sheep and just go.” Brahim added that, “If anyone is caught staying in their home, the army would physically throw us out and beat them if necessary.” The army once shot a camel, he said.

Ezra Nawi is an Israeli human rights activist who has been working in the northern Jordan Valley for years. He says Israel’s aim in the Jordan Valley is the same as in the South Hebron Hills and East Jerusalem: pushing Palestinians off their land. “It is the police, the army, the intelligence. It’s the same body with many arms. All of them with the same target, how to squeeze them out,” he said.

Mahyoub al-Meer is a shepherd living with his family on land his grandfather owned. He said he has papers proving his family’s ownership of the land. But under military occupation, papers do little to protect one’s rights. “Every day there is the army, the settlers, the exercises. Every day there are problems,” he said.

The army recently approached al-Meer’s family, some of whom are seen here, and declared his land a closed military zone. There were no military exercises as far as he could see but they still forced him to leave. “I resisted, I asked why? I asked if it was just me, or did the settler two kilometers away also have to evacuate. The army then asked for my papers. I told them that I was born here, why would I need a license? So I had to leave, I took my family away with me for two days.“

Al-Meer and his family are surrounded by three hillsides cradling their cluster of tents and sheep pens. One hillside has a road cutting through it, leading to Amihai, the newest settlement, just two kilometers away, built on his family’s land in 2017. On the adjacent hill, directly above them, is a military outpost with a watchtower and cellphone tower, leaving them with the feeling of always being watched. These hills were once for grazing, but now al-Meer keeps his distance unless Nawi or other volunteers are with him.

Because Israel prevents Palestinians from building in Area C – a zone comprising about 60 percent of the West Bank – al-Meer cannot dig a well. He cannot access the water line that goes up to the military outpost. Instead, he pays for water tanks trucked in from the nearest town. He has been cut off from his pastures, reducing the available food for his sheep and goats. In 2016, his family dwellings and animal shelters, built of mud and earth, were demolished by the military. They also tore down a small kindergarten on his land. The small schoolhouse served children from neighboring camps, giving them a head start before they went to Tubas for regular schooling.

Adlan Mansri is a French-Algerian photojournalist based in the Middle East.

israeli army blows up three Palestinian wells in occupied Hebron

Israeli army blows up three Palestinian wells in occupied Hebron
As the extensive Israeli military invasion into the southern West Bank district of Hebron continues to escalate, the soldiers destroyed, on Thursday morning, water wells, and the entrances of several Palestinian homes. Media sources in Hebron said the soldiers destroyed several Palestinian water wells, detonated the entrances of eight apartments, in Hebron city, violently searched many residences and kidnapped at least one Palestinian. Also in Hebron, the army invaded Farsh al-Hawa area, and the area around the al-Ahli Hospital, before storming a residential building, and violently searched several apartments. During the invasions, the soldiers detonated three Palestinian water wells. The soldiers invaded two workshops in Hebron city, allegedly used for manufacturing weapons, and also stormed and ransacked many homes in the towns of Sa‘ir and Bani Ne‘im, east of Hebron, and placed concrete blocks, closing Hebron’s northern road
.http://imemc.org/article/army-destroys-water-wells-damages-property-in-hebron/

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)

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

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 communal well. (source: Palestine Remembered)

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.”

Israeli President Shimon Peres, right, and French President Francois Hollande, plant a Cedar tree in Jerusalem. The National Lawyers Guild called for the investigation of the Jewish National Fund, an organization famous for planting tress on land forcibly seized from Palestinians. (AP/Abir Sultan)

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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