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 Nick Cooper

The Not So Mysterious Reason for the Israel / Palestine Conflict

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By Nick Cooper

Ethnic cleansing is the systematic forced removal of ethnic or religious groups from a given territory with the intent of creating a territory inhabited by people of a homogeneous or pure ethnicity, religion, culture, and history. It is considered a crime against humanity by both the International Criminal Court and the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia. The United States committed ethnic cleansing in the 1800s, moving Native Americans onto smaller and smaller pieces of land. Israel started committing ethnic cleansing over 60 years ago.

The familiar assertion that Israel is threatened by Hamas is absurd as saying that the US is threatened by the Crips. In both cases, only a maniac would suggest blowing up entire neighborhoods in response. However, Israel would rather portray its defining struggle as against a weak military enemy like Hamas than as against a legal or ethical challenge. Israel is threatened not by Hamas, but because it embarked on a colonial project of ethnic cleansing a hundred years too late to get away with it.

In the 1800s, the US committed acts of ethnic cleansing while calling Indians “savages” or “indian givers.” The US controlled the narrative and the history. It was a century before it was seriously questioned. Israel is trying to use the same techniques to control the narrative, calling Palestinians “savages” or “terrorists,” or even playing the holocaust card, but most of the world is no longer susceptible to this ploy. It is only in Israel, the US, and Jewish communities around the world that such techniques can convince most of the people.

Ethnic cleansing occurred in Israel, starting in the late 1940’s when the mostly Muslim population in cities and pastoral areas was displaced. After WWII, the State of Israel was established for Jews. The Muslims were moved out. Whether they were displaced through violence and threats of violence, or even if they had just left to go on vacation is irrelevant to the question of ethnic cleansing, because when they wanted to return to the homes their families had lived in for 1000 years, there were not allowed. They had the keys to their doors, but we’re not allowed to return because of their ethnicity and religion, and that alone constitutes ethnic cleansing. Israel wanted the people who lived there to be Jewish (even if they were atheists, as long as they could prove that their mother’s mother was Jewish).

So, this was the initial act of ethnic cleansing, but it continued. After the ’67 war, large parts of Palestine were occupied. International law does provide for occupation in some circumstances, and the legitimacy of this particular occupation is a separate issue from the ethnic cleansing. Once Israeli civilians began settling on this land, it constituted a breach of international law, even if the occupation was legitimate. So, sometimes an occupation can be viewed as legitimate under international law, but settling a civilian population on occupied territory is always a breach.

Today, there are three varieties of ethnic cleansing going on in Israel / Palestine. One is the displacement of ethnic Bedouins in the Negev desert. Second are urban evictions of non Jewish people in East Jerusalem. The third is continuing to establish new settler colonies in areas of the West Bank. All three of these involve moving non Jewish communities out, and moving Jewish Israelis in.

In the history of Israel Palestine, ethnic cleansing has occurred at all phases. There is no balance, no “well, Hamas is guilty of it too” about it. Israel’s ethnic cleansing is Israel’s problem, and it alone drives the conflict.

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