“The attackers came at dawn, quickly occupying the town. The men were separated from women and shot. One of the attackers, opening the door of homes, found an old man standing there. He shot him. ‘He enjoyed shooting him,’ an eyewitness to the attack said afterwards.
“Soon the town was empty. The entire population of 5,000 had either been killed or expelled. Those who survived were put on trucks and driven to Gaza. The empty homes were looted. ‘We were very happy,’ one of the participants said afterwards. ‘If you don’t take it, someone else will. You don’t feel you have to give it back. They were not coming back.’”
Reading this horrific account, one could be forgiven for taking it to have been culled from the front pages of current newspapers describing the assault by the Palestinian resistance on the populations of Israeli towns and kibbutzes on the border with the Gaza Strip.
Except that it is not. This is, in fact, an accurate account of what happened at the time of Israel’s birth in 1948, whereas our newspapers’ headlines following 7 October have been exaggerated and often entirely fabricated distortions of what actually took place during the attack by the Palestinian resistance.
The above-quoted narrative is taken from the recollections of Yaakov Sharett, son of Moshe Sharett, one of the founders of Israel and a signatory to Israel’s Declaration of Independence who went on to become Israel’s first foreign minister and second prime minister.
Sharett’s son Yakov was recounting his experience of the seizure of Bersheeba in 1948 by Israeli soldiers during the Nakba (catastrophe), a period described by the zionists and their backers as Israel’s ‘war of independence’.
The United Nations’ 1946 plan for the partition of Palestine had allocated the Negev region to the Palestinians, but the zionist leaders devised an ‘11-point plan’ as a way of altering the existing status quo in the Negev, where 500 jews in three outposts lived among 250,000 Palestinians who occupied 247 villages and towns. The 11 new outposts planned by the zionists would boost Israel’s presence in the Negev, creating conditions whereby an indigenous majority, living and earning their livelihood on their ancestral land, would be converted literally overnight into a minority under foreign rule.
On the night of 5 October 1946, the zionists established their first post. The inhabitants of the village of Abu Yahiya provided the newcomers with fresh water and gave them every assistance, just when the Israeli military were preparing for the large-scale expulsion of Palestinians from the Negev. When the war came in 1948, the kibbutzniks from Hatzerim (the zionist settlement atop a hill adjoining Abu Yahiya) turned on their neighbours, murdering them and driving the survivors out of their homes for good.
Most of the survivors ended up in Gaza, from where the zionist state is engaged in an attempt to expel them for a second time.
The mass slaughter of Palestinians and the physical destruction of Abu Yahiya, the town of Bersheeba, and the 245 other Arab towns and villages in the Negev by Israeli soldiers and settlers, is part of the defining events that make up the Nakba. In all, in the years 1947-49, the zionists drove 750,000 Palestinians (three-quarters of the population) out of their homes at gunpoint.
More than 500 villages were destroyed and some 15,000 Palestinians were murdered, including in the brutal massacres such as that of Deir Yassin.
The catastrophic losses of the Nakba were compounded by the six-day war of 1967, known to Palestinians as the Naksa, or setback. Within a week, zionist forces captured the remaining Palestinian territories on the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem, as well as Syria’s Golan Heights, in the process turning another 400,000 Palestinians into refugees, many for a second time.
At present, the global Palestinian population is estimated at 14 million, around 6.4 million of whom are registered as refugees. Their firm belief in their right to return is symbolised in the keys to lost homes that many Palestinian families have inherited.
Palestinian life under occupation
Life for the Palestinians who remain living in the West Bank is hell on wheels, infested as it now is with 593 roadblocks and checkpoints, punctuated by 70km of apartheid wall. Constructed by Israel in 2002, during the second intifada (uprising), the wall was purportedly intended to prevent Palestinians without permits from entering Israel.
More than 85 percent of the wall’s route deviates from the Green Line of separation, however, penetrating into the territory of the West Bank to sever – and sometimes altogether enclose – Palestinian villages and land.
Crossing these checkpoints is a daily experience of humiliation and inordinate delays, completely disrupting any kind of normal life, business or social activity. Mechanisms of control – checkpoints, curfews, house demolitions, restrictions on agriculture and commerce, arbitrary arrests – make Palestinian life unbearable.
These conditions were what gave rise to the first intifada from 1987. Its main demands were centred on the right of return for refugees and the establishment of an independent Palestinian state on the basis of the right of self-determination.
During the intifada, the Palestinians used a variety of methods of struggle, ranging from non-violent demonstrations to mass boycotts and strikes, to stone-throwing and attacks with Molotov cocktails and firearms.
A year into the intifada, through US mediation, Yasser Arafat agreed on behalf of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) to recognise Israel’s right to exist, to accept UN resolutions dating back to 1947, and to accept the principle of a two-state solution, with East Jerusalem as the Palestinian capital.
This process eventually crystallised into the Oslo Accords of 1993, with a handshake between Yasser Arafat and Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin on the White House lawn. Israel accepted the PLO as the sole representative of the Palestinians, the establishment of an interim Palestinian government to oversee the West Bank and the Gaza Strip over a five-year period, following which permanent status talks were to be held on questions of borders, refugees and East Jerusalem.
But many other issues of settlement-building in the occupied Palestinian territories (OPT), the nature of the responsibilities of Palestinian self-government, and the status of Palestinians living inside Israel were left unaddressed.
The accords brought to an end the first intifada, which had claimed the lives of 1,200 Palestinians and 160 Israelis – a quarter of them children. A later investigation showed that the bodies of the Palestinians killed – usually young men – were often returned with their organs missing, having been harvested by Israeli medical establishments.
The Oslo accords
The Oslo accords were honoured by Israel only in the breach. The number of settlers in illegal occupation under international law has grown during the intervening years to more than 700,000, while confiscation of Palestinian land and water has continued unabated.
The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement (BDS) has been outlawed, and all peaceful protests are suppressed. In Hebron, to take just one example, 34,000 Palestinians are terrorised by 800 fanatical, fascistic zionists, who regularly shower Palestinian occupants with bags of urine and other refuse. The movement of Palestinians is controlled by more than 21 Israeli checkpoints, patrolled by curfew and CCTV, while the main streets have been annexed as settler-only zones. And all this is added to the strangulation of Palestinian commerce by enforced closures and routine assaults by Israeli settlers and Israeli soldiers.
In Palestine, even the flying of a Palestinian flag can land one in trouble. Palestinian homes are subjected to nighty raids and journalists and medics are routinely shot and killed.
The peaceful Great March of Return on the Gaza/Israel border in 2018 was met with a violent response by the Israeli army. During the 18 months of these entirely peaceful weekly protests, more than 200 Palestinians were shot dead, including doctors and journalists, while nearly 10,000 were wounded.
Let no one say that the Palestinians have not tried peaceful means to resolve their situation. At every turn, these expressions of peaceful protest have been met with a violent and brutal response by the Israeli army of occupation and indifference by Israel’s western backers.
The spirit of resistance
And yet the spirit of defiance amongst the Palestinian people is stronger than ever. The youth in Jenin and other refugee camps have begun to confront Israeli soldiers with guns, considering that all avenues of peaceful protest have been blocked.
The spirit and power of resistance is best reflected in the words of Ahed Tamimi, the teenager from Hebron who became an international celebrity in late 2017 after a video of her slapping an Israeli soldier went viral on social media.
She told journalists: “I’m not the victim of the occupation. The jew or the settler child who carries a rifle at the age of 15, they are the victims of the occupation. For me, I am capable of distinguishing between right and wrong. But not him.
“His view is clouded. His heart is filled with hatred and scorn against the Palestinians. He is the victim, not me. I always say I am a freedom fighter. So I will not be the victim.” (Ahed Tamimi: ‘I am a freedom fighter. I will not be the victim’ by Oliver Holmes and Sufian Taha, The Guardian, 30 July 2018)
Such spirited resilience cannot be defeated by any army, no matter how strong. And it was this spirit of defiance and courage that was on magnificent display on 7 October, when the resistance, in a flawless assault against a series of militarised settler and military strongholds encircling the Gaza concentration camp, broke the zionist siege – albeit temporarily – an operation that can be compared to a very large-scale prison breakout.
Cause of Palestinian rage
Let us make a digression which hopefully will not be regarded as irrelevant.
On 18 April 1956, Roi Ruttenberg, a security guard at the kibbutz of Nahal Oz, was ambushed and killed by Palestinians. Thousands of Israelis gathered for his funeral service. Israel’s then chief of staff Moshe Dayan delivered a eulogy which ran like this:
“Early yesterday morning, Roi was murdered. The quiet of the spring morning dazzled him and he did not see those waiting in ambush for him …”
He went on, with a candour rare in present-day zionist leaders:
“Yesterday with daybreak, Roi was murdered. The quiet of a spring morning blinded him, and he did not see the stalkers of his soul on the furrow. Let us not hurl blame at the murderers. Why should we complain of their hatred for us? Eight years have they sat in the refugee camps of Gaza, and seen, with their own eyes, how we have made a homeland of the soil and the villages where they and their forebears once dwelt.
“Not from the Arabs of Gaza must we demand the blood of Roi, but from ourselves. How our eyes are closed to the reality of our fate, unwilling to see the destiny of our generation in its full cruelty.
“Have we forgotten that this small band of youths, settled in Nahal Oz, carries on its shoulders the heavy gates of Gaza, beyond which hundreds of thousands of eyes and arms huddle together and pray for the onset of our weakness so that they may tear us to pieces – has this been forgotten? For we know that if the hope of our destruction is to perish, we must be, morning and evening, armed and ready.
“A generation of settlement are we, and without the steel helmet and the maw of the cannon we shall not plant a tree, nor build a house. Our children shall not have lives to live if we do not dig shelters; and without the barbed wire fence and the machine gun, we shall not pave a path nor drill for water.
“The millions of jews, annihilated without a land, peer out at us from the ashes of Israeli history and command us to settle and rebuild a land for our people. But beyond the furrow that marks the border lies a surging sea of hatred and vengeance, yearning for the day that the tranquillity blunts our alertness, for the day that we heed the ambassadors of conspiring hypocrisy, who call for us to lay down our arms.
“It is to us that the blood of Roi calls from his shredded body. Although we have vowed a thousand vows that our blood will never again be shed in vain – yesterday we were once again seduced, brought to listen, to believe.
“Our reckoning with ourselves, we shall make today. We mustn’t flinch from the hatred that accompanies and fills the lives of hundreds of thousands of Arabs, who live around us and are waiting for the moment when their hands may claim our blood. We mustn’t avert our eyes, lest our hands be weakened.
“That is the decree of our generation. That is the choice of our lives – to be willing and armed, strong and unyielding, lest the sword be knocked from our fists, and our lives severed.” (When Moshe Dayan delivered the defining speech of Zionism by Mitch Ginsburg, The Times of Israel, 28 April 2016)
As people in their millions reflect on the events of 7 October, when armed members of the resistance strode out of Gaza and swooped upon the kibbutzes and military outposts which surround the Strip, they need not look for the origins and purposes of these establishments beyond Dayan’s candid funeral oration. They need not look further for the reasons for the burning hatred of the Palestinians for the occupiers of their land.
The Israelis who lived, worked and guarded these settlements knew fully well that across the fence there was a sea of ‘burning hatred’ on the part of a people compelled to eke out a miserable existence in refugee camps while Kibbutzes around them had transformed ‘the lands and villages where they and their fathers dwelt’ into a homeland for the jewish occupiers. And they continued to hem an ever-growing population of refugees into the open-air concentration camp of Gaza.
No Israeli adult in the settlements is innocent
As Scott Ritter, in a very informative and courageous article from which this article has drawn some very useful information, correctly concludes:
“These Israelis all grasped the sword of zionism firmly in their hands. None among the adults who lived and worked in these encampments can be considered innocent – they were part of a system – zionism – whose very existence and sustainment demands the brutal imprisonment and subjugation of millions of Palestinians who had their homes stolen from them 75 years ago.
“They lived out their ‘fate’ as Moshe Dayan called it, with all its inherent brutality. The ‘heavy gates of Gaza’ was the destiny of their generation until, like Roi Ruttenberg before them, the gates weighed too heavy on their shoulders and overcame them. (Why I no longer stand with Israel, and never will again, 13 October 2023)
The zionists and their backers are inveterate liars, devoid of all human sentiment. The only victims in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict are the Palestinian people. The founders of Israel had the honesty to acknowledge the truth that if there is a zionist Israel there will never be an independent Palestinian state. Though obviously possessed of a flawed – in fact fascist – ideology, these founders, unlike the present-day zionist leaders and their imperialist backers, were refreshingly and cold-bloodedly candid.
Dayan’s analysis of the cause of conflict in Palestine was razor sharp and correct. As to his solution, blinded as he was by the ideology of zionism, he could only double down on the side of brutality and repression instead of coming to the sane conclusion that since the occupation is the problem, the occupation should be ended.
That being the case, the Palestinians have no option but to resist by any and every means. If the zionists and their imperialist backers don’t understand – or, more correctly, pretend not to understand – the real root of Palestinian resistance, then the unfolding Palestinian struggle will bring this knowledge to them.
Let those among the supporters of zionism who prattle about the events of 7 October as an ‘unprovoked attack on innocent Israelis’ understand that the conflict between the zionists and Palestinians (and it is a conflict between zionists and Palestinians not between zionists and Hamas) did not begin on 7 October. It dates back a whole century. Let those who regard the Palestinian people as ‘unreasonable aggressors’ consider the following statement made by David Ben-Gurion, the first prime minister of Israel:
“If I were an Arab leader, I would never make terms with Israel. That is natural: we have taken their country. Sure, God promised it to us, but what does that matter to them? Our God is not theirs.
“We come from Israel, it’s true, but two thousand years ago, and what is that to them? There has been antisemitism, the Nazis, Hitler, Auschwitz, but was that their fault? They see but one thing: we have come here and stolen their country. Why should they accept that?”
Another observation by Ben-Gurion drove the point home still further: “Let us not ignore the truth among ourselves … Politically, we are the aggressors and they defend themselves … The country is theirs because they inhabit it, whereas we want to come here and settle down, and in their view we want to take away from them their country.” (Noam Chomsky, The Fateful Triangle, 2017)
While most people’s eyes are fixed on the unfolding struggle in Gaza, the settlers and Israeli soldiers on the West Bank have been killing and terrorising Palestinians there. This year, 2023, has seen the highest number of violent settler attacks, resulting in 400 Palestinian deaths, 25 percent of which took place before the events of 7 October.
All these attacks have been aimed at ethnic cleansing, without the excuse of fighting against Hamas. Hamas has become an excuse for the zionist ethnic cleansing and genocide.
Let everyone understand that the zionists are engaged in a Nazi-like attempt to murder as many Palestinians as they can and expel the remainder.
But they will not succeed. Palestinian resistance is sure to overwhelm and overpower them, as is shown by the events of 7 October.
Victory to the resistance!
Death to zionism!