Palestine Center Brief No. 339 (April 30, 2020)
By Mohamed Mohamed
On April 29, Israel celebrated its 72nd Independence Day. Under the specter of the COVID-19 virus pandemic, much of the ceremonies were pre-recorded and were not attended by a live audience.
But for Palestinians, this occasion is no cause for celebration, because Israel’s independence as a state came at their full expense.
In 1948, more than 750,000 Palestinians were expelled or forced to flee from their homeland in historic Palestine thanks to the violence and terrorism of invading Zionist forces. In the Palestinian village of Deir Yassin alone, Zionist terrorists massacred between 100 and 250 people, including men, women, children, and the elderly. It is very telling about Israel’s founding that many of these terrorists later became prominent political leaders, including prime ministers, and the Haganah terrorist group is the precursor to the Israeli army.
Most of the Palestinians who fled in 1948, along with their descendants, were never able to return to their homes. The Palestinians who were able to stay are now treated as second-class citizens, and they face extensive discrimination.
In 1967, Israel initiated a war and invaded the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza (and parts of Egypt and Syria). This created another wave of Palestinian displacement and refugees, and many of them remain refugees to this day.
All of them live either under a sadistic Israeli military occupation in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, or under a merciless siege in Gaza. More than 600,000 Israeli settlers have also illegally colonized Palestinian land since then.
Whether under Israeli military occupation or siege, or living in refugee camps in neighboring countries, Palestinians are in these predicaments because of Israel’s oppression, with its arrogant disregard for international law and the blind, unconditional support of successive US administrations.
During the independence day ceremonies, Knesset speaker Benny Gantz called for a society “where we, the leaders, take responsibility, act for you, citizens of the state, worry for the nation’s unity and maintain democracy and individual rights.”
This statement is laughable. If Israel was truly concerned with its society’s unity, democracy, and individual rights, it would address the systemic “institutional, legal, and societal discrimination” against its Palestinian citizens (according to the US State Department), who make up 20 percent of its population.
If Israel was genuinely worried about its (fraudulent) status as a democracy, it would not have more than five million stateless Palestinians living under its ruthless control, either under military occupation or under siege. Not even one of these people enjoy the same “individual rights” that Israelis do. They do not have the right to vote, the freedom of movement, equitable access to healthcare and resources, or an endless list of other basic human rights.
Despite what Israeli propaganda wants the world to believe, the fact is that Israel is an oppressive state that is not even remotely close to being a democracy. It is a discriminatory, apartheid state, and it should be treated as such. Only Israeli Jews are entitled to full rights, and even then, people like the Jews of Africa are treated poorly. In fact, one of the chief rabbis of Israel labeled black people as “monkeys” in 2018, and he said that non-Jews “are in Israel only to serve Jews.”
In the 21st century, where else can one find a state-sanctioned religious leader who refers to certain ethnic and minority groups as “monkeys” or animals? Where else will one find segregated roads like the ones that exist in the occupied Palestinian lands of the West Bank? Where else can one find a country that allows its towns to pick and choose which ethnic and religious groups can live in their communities? It would be very difficult to find any other state besides Israel.
The entire world is currently distracted with the COVID-19 virus epidemic, and this is good for Israel. But Israel’s severe transgressions against Palestinians will not be forgotten or ignored. Eventually, Israel will have to answer for its crimes.
Mohamed Mohamed is the Executive Director of the Palestine Center.
The views in this brief are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of The Jerusalem Fund.