02 January, 2009

Bombing the victims of ethnic cleansing

This picture, taken in april 2007, show a demolished palestinian home in the village of An-Nu'man in occupied Eastern Jerusalem. In the background is the Har Homa settlement, the construction of which was begun in 1997, also on occupied territory. While Har Homa and other jewish neigbourhoods in Eastern Jerusalem continues to expand, arab neighbourhoods and villages like An-Nu'man are not allowed to grow. In fact this particular village is not even recognized and its inhabitants are considered illegal squatters. When I visited it was being cut off from Jerusalem by a settler highway on one side, and from the West Bank by the Wall on the other.
This is the reality of the apartheid system that is being built by Israel today around Jerusalem and on the West Bank. This is what has been going on during all those years of peace talks between Israel and the PLO, and this is what is going on right now. As the bombs are falling on Gaza the silent war against the population of the West Bank is also continuing. This reality tends to be forgotten during periods of "peace" and optimism (it was not long ago Bush hoped for a comprehensive settlement of the Israeli-palestinian conflict before the end of his term) as well as in times of war, when headlines are dominated by the latest war communiques and casualty figures.
If Truth is the first casualty of war, then maybe History is the second. Whenever media reports another Israeli air raid against the refugee camps in Gaza, how many among the western public have a clue of why those camps are there in the first place? How many realize that it is the victims of the ethnic cleansing of 1948, their children, and their grandchildren that are being bombed - when in fact they should be compensated for the crime that was committed against them.
The Israeli historian Ilan Pappe has argued that untill the ethnic cleansing that took place is not recognized as such, and some kind of restitutive justice - involving compensation rather than punishment - is achieved, this conflict will never end. The current war on Gaza, one of the worst military assaults in 60 years of conflict, seem to vindicate his argument.

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