November 29 marks the darkest day in history for the people of Palestine, for it was on this day in 1947 that the United Nations General Assembly passed Resolution 181 (II) to end the British mandate in Palestine by August 1, 1948. At the centre of this historic resolution was the decision to partition Palestine and establish, after a transition period, “Independent Arab and Jewish States and the Special International Regime for the City of Jerusalem.”
Following the resolution, three-quarters of a million Palestinian Arabs, who were the majority of the population of historic Palestine, fled for their lives after facing or learning of brutal massacres by Zionist paramilitary organisations. During the ensuing Arab-Israeli war of 1948, many thousands of Palestinians were slaughtered and 531 villages and 11 urban neighbourhoods were destroyed. And by the time the armistice of 1949 was signed, the original partition lines had shifted violently so that Israel’s footprint became much larger than envisioned by the proposed partition plan—it was granted 55 percent by the plan, but seized an additional 23 percent of Palestinian territory.
Today, more than 70 years later, the drastically reduced Palestinian land continues to be occupied by the Israeli military. And Palestinians who were originally displaced from their homes in 1948 are still refused their right to return to their homes—as Israel continues to grab vast tracts of Palestinian land to build up illegal settlements for Israeli citizens, contrary to the resolution and the Fourth Geneva Convention.
For more than 70 years now, both Israel and its western allies have worked tirelessly and systematically to erase Israeli oppression of Palestinians. An investigative report by the Haaretz newspaper in Israel, details how Israel’s ministry of war’s secretive security department (Malmab) has been tasked with making the “Nabka”—the catastrophe of 1948 for Palestinians—disappear (“Burying the Nakba: How Israel Systematically Hides Evidence of 1948 Expulsion of Arabs”, July 5, 2019). The report says: “Its [Malmab] teams have been scouring Israel’s archives and removing historic documents…conceal[ing] [them] as part of a systematic effort to hide evidence of the Nakba.” Haaretz further discovered that the Malmab had “concealed testimony from IDF generals about” mass slaughter of Palestinians and destruction of their towns and villages, as well as dispossession of Bedouins during Israel’s first 10 years of statehood.
Another often used tactic by Israel to wash the blood of its hands is to label its critics “anti-semitic”. As Shulamit Aloni, former Israeli cabinet member and winner of the Israel Prize in 2000 explained in an interview with Amy Goodman: “‘Anti-semitic?’ It’s a trick. We always use it” to stifle criticism of Israel. And this tactic is particularly revolting because semitism or semitic does not refer to a race, but a language group, which does not include the vast majority of Jewish people today, according to a large number of Jewish scholars, but does include languages from today’s Arab countries spoken by Arab people, including Palestinians. Therefore, the term “anti-semitic” is actually used by Israel to shield itself from any criticism for its “anti-semitic” actions—the mass brutalisation of Palestinians.
Despite numerous declarations and resolutions by the United Nations on the Israel-Palestinian situation, the status of the Palestinian people still remains precarious at best. In fact, about half of the world’s Palestinian population today continues to live as refugees and in exile. And although UN member states have tried to propose and gain support for resolutions that push for Palestinian human rights, their efforts have been unsuccessful, because of the modification made to history by Israeli and western propaganda, and due to vetoes exercised in the UN by powerful members such as the United States in support of Israel.
In fact, so successful has been the anti-Palestinian propaganda, that few people today even know that as a condition for admission to the UN in 1949, Israel had accepted UN Resolution 194, which stipulates that Palestinians who fled or were expelled during the Israeli takeover of 1947-1949 in Palestine, have the right to return. Which is why it remains unfulfilled to this day, with very few uttering a word in support of the expelled Palestinians and calling for the removal of Israel from the UN for its failure to comply with the 1949 resolution.
However, that is only one among countless UN and international rulings ignored by Israel. In 2004, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruled the Palestinian West Bank “occupied”. According to the ICJ, “Israeli settlements in the Occupied Territory, including East Jerusalem, are illegal and an obstacle to peace and to economic and social development [and] have been established in breach of international law.” The ICJ further ruled against Israel’s Separation Wall, calling it illegal and ordering its completed sections to be dismantled. Mandating reparations for the “requisition and destruction of homes, businesses, and agricultural holdings [and] to return the land, orchards, olive groves, and other immovable property seized.” However, Israel, far from complying with the ICJ’s ruling, has done the complete opposite by seizing even more Palestinian land ever since.
Despite Israel’s refusal to comply with international law and UN resolutions, and the United States’ undivided support for Israel in the face of that, it is essential that historians and others record the truth, according to Jewish author Stephen Lendman, as “they matter longterm”—“establishing a judicial record of Israeli lawlessness”. At the end of the day, it is only through public support that the incredible backing that Israel receives from the world’s only superpower, the US, can be made conditional on Israel complying with international law and granting Palestinians their due human rights and dignity. Which is why, it remains vital for people and nations of good conscience to show solidarity with the people of Palestine, until the injustice against Palestinians is ended, and maybe with great effort, perhaps someday undone.
Eresh Omar Jamal is a member of the editorial team at The Daily Star. His Twitter handle is: @EreshOmarJamal