Ebrahim Moosa – Cii News | 20 September 2012
For many decades, Israeli propagandists aided by the complicity of an unquestioning media had successfully managed to obscure the harsh realities of its apartheid policies and illegal occupation of Palestine from the eyes of the world. Palestinians were conveyed as violent beings always initiating conflict, and Israel as a tiny, embattled state relentlessly struggling for its survival. A sustained disinformation campaign had reaped its dividends, making the spectre of a just settlement to the conflict appear all the more distant. A 2004 audit of British understandings of the Palestinian question even made the shocking revelation that two-thirds of the British public were still unsure whether Israel was occupying the Palestinians or vice-versa.
Fortunately, the winds of change that have blown through the Middle East seem to have altered all that. So too have phenomena such as the Occupy Movement that has gripped the countries of the West. The world has of late seen the emergence of the ‘enlightened citizen’ who is ever wary of the machinations of the elite and will no longer tolerate deceit and ineptitude. Tools such as social media and mass mobilisation have assisted him to amplify his voice and the effectiveness of state propaganda and military might in subjugating and controlling is steadily declining. In brief, the global balance of power is shifting.
In its immediate neighbourhood, Israel today confronts the daily reality of a shrinking circle of friends. Where it could once count on the Mubarak cabal in Egypt and court Turkey as a co-operative ally, it now has an unstable Syria, an emboldened Egypt and an antagonistic Turkey. Added to that, the determination of the global Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions(BDS) movement has succeeded in increasing its isolation on a global stage.
Faced with such dim prospects, the Zionist State is being forced to adopt increasingly drastic measures. It has sought friendship from African nations such as Uganda and Kenya, and is pursuing strategic alliances with minnows Cyprus, Turkey and Azerbaijan perceivedly seeking economic benefit. In a further attempt to reinvent itself, Israel’s latest gamble involves a high profile drive to highlight the cause of Jewish so-called refugees, whom it says were forced to flee Arab States en masse following the founding of Israel in 1948. According to Israeli Foreign Ministry figures, it is alleged that 850 000 Arab Jews fled their native countries across the Middle East due to state-sponsored persecution and were forced to abandon their property and possessions. Dubbed “I am a Refugee,” the campaign, energised by the Foreign Ministry and World Jewish Congress is canvassing for the sympathy of the international community. According to the Jerusalem Post, Israeli envoys at the UN as well as embassies around the world have been instructed to raise the matter in all official government meetings and to highlight it to parliamentarians. They purport that just as many, or perhaps even more Jews were displaced by events in 1948 than Palestinians, and have undertaken to ensure that “Jewish refugees are not forgotten.” Israeli officials also have suggested the campaign to be a counterbalance to the Palestinian narrative of the Nakba, which Israeli Minister Danny Ayalon bemoaned as having been allowed to stand uncontested for too long.
A campaign Facebook page has also been setup with “personal stories, photos, video documentaries and documents…of Jewish life and escape from various Middle Eastern countries.”
Palestinian officials have scorned the motivations behind the new Israeli drive and describe it as a reiteration of a decades-old plan meant to absolve the Israeli government from the responsibility of compensating Palestinian refugees. PLO Executive Committee member Hana Ashrawi labelled it a form of deception and delusion and has accused Israel of seeking to distort the Israeli-Palestinian struggle and deny the rights of Palestinians it ethnically cleansed 64 years ago. Writing in the Huffington Post, Ashrawi said the intention of Israel’s campaign was not to protect the rights of Jews, but rather to “undermine the rights of the Palestinian refugees, whom it uprooted, dispossessed, and expelled from their homeland.”
Researcher and historian at the Al-Zaytouna Centre for Studies and Consultations in Lebanon, Dr. Mohsen Saleh agrees. He says many facts exist to belie the narrative now being marketed, including the involvement of Zionists themselves in evicting Jews from Arab lands.
“No Arab country ever forced any Jewish community in their land to emigrate to the Zionist state. The Zionist organisations were very active in such countries are were trying their best to convince the Jewish communities there to emigrate to the Zionist state to strengthen it and to bring more Jewish people to the newly established state, to the extent that Zionist organisations in countries like Iraq, in North Africa made much unrest and even orchestrated some terrorist attacks on Jewish places and synagogues in these countries, to put these Jewish communities in these countries in such an environment to psychologically force them to emigrate by giving them the feeling that they are not in a safe country, or that their security may be in jeopardy.”
Dr Saleh argues that if Israel was honest in seeking justice for the so-called Jewish refugees, they would respond favourably to Arab proposals for the exchange of the displaced peoples. “If they consider themselves refugees, let’s ask them to go back to their countries of origin, and at the same time everyone in the world knows that the Palestinians are also refugees who were driven out of their own country and homeland, Palestine, by force by the Zionist state when it was established in 1948 . So if this Foreign Ministry is serious about the case of refugees then they should accept the right of return of Palestinian refugees to their homeland, then there’d be no problem with Jewish refugees returning to their countries.”
Echoing a contention made by Ashrawi, Saleh believes the Israeli government is not interested at all in the return of Jews to their own communities because this is at odds with the basic Zionist precept of all Jews worldwide adopting Occupied Palestine as a homeland. “At the very core of Zionist ideology is the idea that Israel is the homeland of the Jewish people,” writes Ashrawi. “They cannot be returnees to Israel and refugees from another homeland at the same time.”
Responding to recent claims made by pro-Zionist former Canadian Justice Minister Irwin Cotler that United Nations Resolution 242 – which Palestinians highlight as offering a just basis to settle the refugee problem – also referred to Jews, Saleh accused Zionist advocates of being hypocritical. “Why be selective, let us deal with all UN resolutions, we have resolution 181 which gave the basis of a Palestinian state, we have 194 which gave the basis of the right of return to their own homeland, we have hundreds of UN resolutions! So they cannot be selective and select an article here or there. If they are serious about taking about Jewish and Arab refugees – Are they serious in dealing with the Palestinians as refugees and accepting their right of return? Israelis should answer such questions first before going for such lies and baseless claims about the so-called Jewish refugees.”
The distinguished researcher said the world needed to comprehend the magnitude of injustice meted out to the Palestinians during the Nakba, to avoid being sidetracked by Zionist claims. “The Zionist organisations and terrorist groups in 1948 committed 34 massacres on Palestinian innocent people to force them out of Palestine and this caused the problem of the Palestinian refugees which destroyed the social fabric of the Palestinian community. Around 60% of the Palestinians were forced out of their homeland. We have more than 120 UN resolutions supporting the right of return which the Israelis continuously reject and ignore.”
Muslims and Jews, explained Saleh, had co-existed peacefully in the Middle East for centuries prior to the establishment of Israel. “Jews always found a safe haven in the Muslim world and they were dealt with on the basis of equality and had full citizenship.” Jews, he said, preferred Muslim lands as a refuge to Europe which in contrast was the author of Jewish persecution. “Because of such continued persecution(in Europe) they had no choice but to emigrate to Muslim lands where they found a safe haven and protection. Anti-Semitism is not a Muslim creation but was a European one.”
He accused Israel of using such campaigns to buy time and divert global attention from its ongoing violations of international law. “The Israeli government is working day and night to Judaize Bayt al Maqdis and areas of the West Bank; they continue confiscating Palestinian land; establishing settlements. The Israelis have no intention of any kind of a peaceful settlement to the Palestinian issue, the 2 state solution is null and void after almost 18 years of negotiations with the PA and PLO; they don’t have any real solution for the Palestinian issue..I think it is just prolonging time.”
A committee of Iraqi Jews has hit back at the Israeli plan demanding an investigation into alleged Mossad links to bombings of synagogues in Baghdad, and secret negotiations Israeli leaders may have entered into with Iraqi leaders to hasten the exodus of its Jewish population. In a letter, they have also threatened to file a suit in an international court demanding half of the sum total of compensation for their refugee status from the Israeli government and half from the Iraqi government.
Dr. Saleh agrees that such questionable campaigns convey Israeli desperation vis a vis the Arab Spring and the changing balance of power in the Middle East. “Activists have become much more expert in conveying the Palestinian plight to the mainstream and delegitimising the Israeli state and also espousing the ugly face of the Israeli government in the area and in the region.” However as Israel’s freshest “new victimhood campaign” itself attests, the wounded tiger is still on the prowl.Dr. Mohsen Saleh, Ebrahim Moosa, Hanan Ashrawi, Israel, Palestine, Zionism