The Beginnings

One cannot truly understand the Israeli – Palestinian ‘conflict’ without first understanding the history and origin of Israel. In order for us to understand this situation, it is also necessary to for us to work around and demystify the political and media jargon that is thrown at us everyday. And as time goes, this blog hopes to address those truths and fallacies that surround this ‘conflict’.

Today’s post serves as an introduction to two laws that govern Israel and how these laws impact on ordinary Palestinians.

Israel was established as a Jewish state and this in turn means that it was not intended to be a state for all of its citizens – Jews and non Jews alike. Instead it was primarily envisaged as a state of which every Jewish individual throughout the world would be a potential citizen.

So when Israel was unilaterally established in 1948, it became imperative for its legislative body to define in law those persons who would qualify as actual or potential citizens and those who would be excluded (non Jews in general and Palestinian Arabs in particular).

A mere 2 years later, the Knesset (Israel’s legislative body) passed 2 laws: the Law of Return and the Absentee Property Law. The former defined the boundaries of inclusion (‘every Jew has the right to immigrate into the country’) and the latter defined the boundaries of exclusion (‘absentee’).

So what do these law’s mean? Well under these laws, every Jew throughout the world is legally entitled to become a citizen of Israel upon immigration whilst some 2 million people (the 1948 Palestinian Arabs and their descendants) who were exiled as a consequence of the 1948-9 and the 1967 wars, are denied the rights of citizenship. Now here’s the kicker – their (the exiled Palestinians) right of return is universally recognised in international law and in repeated UN resolutions (beginning with resolution 194 (III), 11 December 1948). Yet they are defined by Israeli law as ‘non-existent’ and as ‘absentees’, and hence excluded from actual or potential citizenship in the Jewish State.

It is important to realise that the

“the most damaging manifestation of Israeli legislation is directed against those non-Jews who are legally excluded as ‘absentees’ from the body of Israeli polity: two million Palestinian Arab displaced persons, conventionally referred to as ‘refugees’.Thus, each Israeli Jew has a shadow: the Palestinian Arab refugee of 1948. Israeli Jewish homes are built on the ruins of their homes. Israeli Jews cultivate their land.
The Palestinian Arab refugee of 1948 is today a soldier in the Palestine Liberation Army: a fida’i. All human beings will rebel, must rebel, in such circumstances, to reconstitute their full human existence, to reclaim their rights, if necessary by armed struggle, inside every part of the homeland from which they have been excluded. And in this struggle the Palestinian Arab deserves our full moral and material support.” (Uri Davis, Israel: an Apartheid State)

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6 Responses to The Beginnings

  1. Dreamlife says:

    Nice site, and thank you for starting it. My biggest realisation on the Palestinian situation, last month, was that its time to educate myself about it. But as you know, the amount of books and articles can be overwhelming – so a consolidated site such as this is very helpful 🙂

    Anyway, a point of discussion:

    I’ve been thinking about those who were forced to leave their homes because of the wars – and what happens when they pass on (meaning, their generation, because they date back from 1948 to 67 and later).

    Does this mean that the rights of those people – who will now have passed on – become invalid? They lost their land and their homes – but after they are gone, do those rights to that land and those homes still exist?

    Are those rights passed on to their children?

    Or was it, in part, a waiting game by Israel – so that, 50 or 60 years later they can say that all those “refugees” from that time have passed away; so their ‘right of return’ has passed away with them; and Israel is entitled to keep the land.

    Does anyone know what’s happening in SA with the Land Claims thing / Apartheid reparations…or something to that effect, that were supposed to come after the TRC? (i’m not sure about any of this – but why i bring it up is that we also have people in SA who lost their land due to oppression; and from what i remember, they are to be compensated for that. But what happens – in SA’s legal framework – when those people pass away? Do their children inherit those rights of compensation?)

  2. Bilal says:

    Israel refuses to let them return- they say that the Arabs fought a was with them so they won the land after those battles. What needs to be broken down is the whole premise on which they base their claim: Palestine was a land without people, for a people without land!
    The fact that people lived there already is completely overlooked!

    And now with the construction of the Apartheid Wall, they are further making is difficult for a solution to be found. Most people in the world don’t even know the Wall exists!

  3. mish says:

    some time ago, i had the opportunity to meet the palestinian delegation, who were visiting south africa. they were taken to the apartheid museum and they were reduced to tears. they said that the palestinians have less rights are subjected to more intense forms of torture than non whites did during the reign of apartheid. can you imagine anything worse than that???

  4. zee says:

    DreamLife: well firstly the current generation still dont have any rights in their own country – even though UN Resolutions have made it clear that they do.
    In South Africa how it works is that if their is a valid claim to the land – through historcal records, title deeds, and the like, a person/group/community that was subjected to prejudice and forcebally removed will have a right to claim that land back.

    However, what the government has come up with is that it values the land at current market value (through an independant valuator) and then approaches the current owners of the land and gives them the option of giving up the land or paying compensation for it. the government then in turn pays out the party that has laid claim to it.

    It is important to remember that this system can only work with a government that is elected freely and fairly

    so yes, the Descendants should have the right to claim back land.

    Bilal: that is an important point bud – maybe we should have a full post on that aspect

    Mish: thats horrible – in fact on of the Government officials made the statement that Palestine is experiencing far worse that what SA experienced. that was said a couple of weeks ago – but lemme check it up properly and ill get back to u

  5. Cevriye says:

    Zee, thank you for starting this blog! I really get to know more about this issue. I never really dared to deal with it. Even though I know the history it’s very complicated. Hope you can enlighten me. And how right you are with your previous post!!! Thanks again!
    I wish you tawfiq!

    Cevris:)

  6. Fatima says:

    eish….like Dreamlife said, I also get overwhelmed by the amount of info there is on the whole Palestinian conflict.
    I’m glad this has started.
    Woohoo 🙂

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