Thursday, May 15, 2008

As Israel turns 60, do not forget this........

The Other Side of Israel’s Birth
by Alice Rothchild

Published on Wednesday, May 14, 2008 by The Baltimore Sun

This spring we are obsessed with anniversaries: the fifth year since the invasion of Iraq, the 40th since the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination and, of course, the 60th anniversary of Israeli independence. Each such marker shapes our understanding of history, framing how a story is to be told and how it is to be remembered. I am struck by one conspicuous anniversary that is not making many headlines.

On tour recently in the U.S., Eitan Bronstein, director of the Israeli organization Zochrot, explained that “zochrot” is the Hebrew word for “remembering,” intentionally used in its feminine form to imply that this organization is not about the standard history of schoolbooks but about a memory grounded in compassion. Zochrot focuses on educating Israelis about the other side of the 1948 War of Liberation, the dispossession and expulsion of more than 700,000 Palestinians living in what was to become Israel. Through careful documentation of the locations of more than 450 destroyed Palestinian villages, by interviewing and photographing Palestinians living in Israel and surrounding refugee camps, Zochrot creates a living human memory that encompasses the other side of history.

Mr. Bronstein has been touring with Mohammad Jaradat, a Palestinian activist, negotiator at the Madrid peace talks and co-founder of Badil, Arabic for “alternative,” a foundation that researches and advocates for Palestinian residency and refugee rights. He is part of a vigorous Palestinian movement for civil society that is largely unknown in the U.S.

Listening to these two men, I was struck by how memory shapes our understanding of history and how dangerous it is to blind ourselves to the realities of the past. For decades, Jews have shaped the memory of the Holocaust, honoring its victims and justifying the behavior of its survivors, creating a story in which we Jews are all at some level survivors, claiming Israel’s victories as our own. The narrative of indigenous Arab resistance to a Jewish state and acknowledgment of the human suffering that was a consequence of Israeli military victory and political policy thus become a personal as well as a political threat.

Mr. Bronstein contends that Israel’s failure to recognize its responsibility for Palestinian dispossession is a critical though invisible part of Israeli history, that embracing this history is the first step toward acknowledging Palestinians as fellow human beings, and that this process can lead beyond peace to permanent reconciliation between the two peoples. While the Palestinians clearly “lost the war” in 1948, the decision to prevent them from returning to their ancestral homes was a political decision that has led to a constant state of friction and war between Israel and its neighbors.

At a time when Jews and Palestinians express little hope for a peaceful future, Mr. Bronstein offers us a path where Israelis acknowledge the price of their victory and take responsibility for their share of the Palestinian catastrophe. At the same time, Mr. Jaradat is working for the kinds of civil rights that are enshrined in international and human rights law, reminding us that Palestinians deserve nothing less than we would expect for ourselves. Both men share the conviction that acknowledging the Palestinian refugees’ internationally recognized right to return and developing creative solutions — from resettlement to financial compensation — is the foundation of a lasting resolution of the conflict.

As Israel celebrates its 60th anniversary today, I wonder what would happen if this tragedy, Al Nakba, were to be publicly recognized alongside the Israeli victory. Perhaps taking the risk of acknowledging the pain of the “other” and seeing “the enemy” as a real person is how peace is ultimately made.

The dispossession of two-thirds of the Palestinian population in 1948, and the consequences borne by generations of families living in Israel, the occupied territories, refugee camps and the diaspora, can no longer be hidden. It is time to acknowledge that other anniversary and to move forward with eyes and hearts open to the suffering of all the children of Abraham.

Alice Rothchild, a physician, is the author of “Broken Promises, Broken Dreams: Stories of Jewish and Palestinian Trauma and Resilience” and co-chairwoman of Jewish Voice for Peace, Boston.


gartenfische said...

This is great.

By the way, have you read The Lemon Tree? I highly recommend it, if you haven't. Here it is at Amazon, if you're interested.

poodledoc said...

I haven't read it but it looks interesting. Once I make a significant dent in my "to read" pile (which continues to grow) I'll look at it. Thanks for the recommendation!

Jaakonpoika said...

Who has heard that in the 1930's Bagdad every 3rd citizen was a native Jew? The Sefardi (Safrati) Jews have a 400 year old history and the Mizrahi Jews over 2,500 year old history in the Middle East - outside the location of the state of Israel (Palestine).

Here's the statistics regarding not ONLY the expelsion of Jews from various Moslim countries in the last 60 years that Israel has been an independent state, but also numbers expelled from the Europe in a longer time interval. The Jews are no settlers of colonialism:

60 years of survival. This is statistics, not Zionism. When the military means have lacked the power, it is now a time of a media war to spit on the Jews and curse the Jewish Scriptures. Both the Old and New Testament were written by Jews. Although Jasser Arafat in his books claimed that there never was any Jewish Temple in Jerusalem and that Jesus was not a Jew, he could not deceive the honest spectator

As a matter of fact, the population of Arabs (my beloved friends and brothers, just like the Jews, our common fathers) under the Israeli government was increased ten-fold (10X) in only 57 years. This is close to the world record for any tribe, nation, tongue or culture on the whole planet at the same time interval. The Sefardi Jews were expelled from Spain in the very date when Christoffer Colombo lifted up his anchors and sailed away from Spain. The Jews had to leave and their possessions were stolen. In the case of the Mizrahi, the Jews have lived for millennia all around the Middle East since the first exile of Israel 500 B.C., in what are now Muslim-dominated countries. While much has been made of the 700,000 Palestinians having been made homeless with the creation of the State of Israel in 1948, it's peculiar that there is no official recognition of their Jewish counterparts. A greater number of Jews - some 856,000 - were forcefully expelled from Arab countries after the creation of the State of Israel, their homes forfeited, their belongings seized. They became refugees, migrating to Israel, mainly. But they did not spoke any Hebrew but Arabic and Farsi (Persian).

The Second Intifada is called the Oslo War. Israel has been forced to damage the very infrastructure she has constructed and administrated while hunting the weapons from the milittant "freedom fighters". Between 1967-1993 roads, system of siewers (gutters, ditches), electricity supply, water supply, schools, health care system, and social welfare system to the West Bank and Gaza. Even for the Arab citizens of Israel, ideal was that everyody gets the same salary for the same job, with the same social benefits. This is stated in the law, officially. In contrast, even the official law in Jordan which has the peace treaty with Israel, it is forbidden for a Jew to live in the country. The health care services have been free for the Arab population, only a portion of the price of the drugs must have been paid by the patients. Under the administrations of Great Britain (1920-1947) or Jordan (1948-1967), no universities were established for the Arabs in the country. According to The Association of Arab Universitiesin mukaan (, in contrast, under the Israeli administration altogether six universities appeared during the time (of course by the force of the local Arab people, though). Also, since 1969 an independent newspaper has appeared in Jerusalem, which has never been put under a censorship.

The Palestinian life expectancy increased from 48 to 72 years in 1967-1995. The death rate decreased by over 2/3 in 1970-1090 and the Israeli medical campaigns decreased the child deat rate from a level of 60 per 1000 in 1968 to 15 per 1000 in 2000. (An analogous figure was 64 in Iraq, 40 in Egypt, 23 in Jordan, and 22 in Syria in 2000). During 1967-1988 the amount of comprehensive schoold and second level polytechnic institutes for the Arabs was increased by 35%. During 1970-1986 the proportion of Palestinian women at the West Bank and Gaza not having gone to school decreased from 67 % to 32 %. The Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per capita in West Bank and Gaza increased in 1968-1991 BKT from 165 US dollars to 1715 dollars (compare with 1630$ in Turkey, 1440$ in Tunis, 1050$ in Jordan, 800$ in Syria, 600$ in Egypt. and 400$ in Yemen).

One-fourth of the judgements of the Human Rights Commission of the United Nations strike Israel. Out of the incidences dealt in the Security Counsil one-third is having to do with Israel. I think this resembles the hysteria seen in the Black Plague in Europe, when the European Jews were accused of the pandemia and burnt alive. (As an example, one the biggest Jewish populations in the continent was in Basel, Switzerland, and all the 4000 souls were burned in one Rhein island.)

PLO was founded in 1964 - three years before the 6-day failed attack and occupation. The PLO articles openly state that it was not a project of the Palestinians but a project TO the Palestinians. They were commanded to literally sacrifice for them in the name of a greater war:
Helsinki, Finland

poodledoc said...

jaakonpoika, thanks for the post. I appreciate the information. Much of it I know. I'm aware of many horrible things that have happened to the Jews. Having been displaced many times, slaughtered many times is a horror no people deserve. But my concern is not with Jews. I am referring to the Isreali government, the STATE of Israel and their actions. You would think they would have leanred from their experiences. But then, they get the upper hand, with plenty of backing from the US, and perpetrated horrors. Displaced how many? Kill how many? Demolish how many homes? What you say here reminds me of what the US government said about the indians. We're dong all this "beneficial" stuff for "them", giving them reservations, forceable education in white boarding schools, relocation and genocide. The Israeli government leraned from this. They have much to answer for. Instead, they are the attack dog of the United States, being cruelly used once again. And ultimately, the US will turn on Israel when they have no use for them, as they do on their other "friends".

Ojalanpoika said...

I will quote from here again:

PAY ATTENTION that it is USA that profits from Israel, rather than the opposite. Israel gets nearly 2 billion euros from USA almost every year, that is true. But. US demands that Israel is not allowed to stop BRAIN DRAIN from Eretz israel to USA. Before the Second Intifada, there were 200 Israeli companies listed in the US High Tech Nasdaq, after the Intifaca the count had dropped to 70. At the moment, the number is back in 100, which is still greater than from all the European countries combined.

Dollars are green since the yankees pull the down from the tree when still raw and fresh. Israel has not been allowed to let any of its companies to be scaled up in their homeland but most are imported straight from the garage. The scaling up of industrial production would mean jobs, to both Jews, Arabs and other ethnic groups. Israel is ordered to stay as some kind of innovation laboratory only, as the 51. state. Astonishing number of 25% of the Israeli researchers have moved from Israel to the United States - and this figure does not yet even include the people with double citizenship! The next largest brain drain of researchers to US are 12.2% from Canada, 4.3% from Netherlands, and 4.2% from Italy.

One of the secrets of innovative success in Israel is the fact that cheating is minimized in the public funding: Money is not delivered according to research plans but steady income and thus the market analysis is emphasized. The support is designed so that the first 2-10 years a startup company does not have to pay taxes. But no direct funding without compensation is offered.

Today, Israel draws Venture Capital (VC) more than the Europe. A novel phenomenon is the strategy by which Israel has been able to claim victory over China and other Far-East countries regarding the most modern High Tech factories: As an example, the supranational Intel transferred the mass production of Centricon-processors to Israel, where 25% of citizens possess a higher decree from the university but where people respect patents and are not plagiating every item they produce for others. (China is a great country of thieves. The Empire of Pirates steals every moving article in your machine.) Intel was also offered an overall tax rate of 10%, which is about three times lower than that of US. Also, the biggest generic drug factory in the world was recently established in Israel. Over half of the export from Israel are High tech products, compared to the 25% which is the average in the OECD countries.

Although the export of the agriculture has remained constant past the last 30 years, its relative amount has dropped from 70% to 3%. Out of the 3000 companies in Israel 80% are less than ten years old, and the average failure rate of these start ups is very low, less than 50%. In biotechnology and drug development, about 400 experimental drugs have been approved or accepted in clinical phases. The greatest portion of funding of research per capita is found in Israel. Israel also has the greatest ratio of researchers per square meter or population in the face of the world, far exceeding I.e. Japan which was also raised by plagiation and copying of other peoples ideas after the WWII: