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Displaced Palestinians arrive at a makeshift tent camp in Rafah, Gaza Strip (File photograph by Hatem Ali/AP)

The history, background, dates and events of the creation of the state of Israel have been meticulously recorded, and copiously reported and commented on. However, two aspects have received little or no attention, and both are at the heart of the decades-long animosity between Israelis and Palestinians.

The first one is that the land acquisition by the Jews, essential for founding a state, was not done under rules governing real estate transactions. There were no negotiations between Jews and Palestinians, no signatures to seal a deal, no adequate compensation.

Over the past 100-plus years, the Jews have gradually convinced themselves that the land known as Palestine has always been theirs because it was given to them by God, as written in the Torah/Old Testament (Book of Genesis).

The first problem with this is that religious scriptures are generally not suitable as legal documents of proof. The second problem is that the Palestinians do not see any reason why they should accept as valid an old real estate transaction by a “foreign” god.

In addition, the Jews had left the land during Roman occupation, never reclaimed it for about 1,800 years, during which time the Palestinian ancestors had moved in and taken ownership via bona fide usucapion.

By the time the Jews began thinking about “returning”, I presume public administration in Palestine, too, had developed so that most Palestinians had publicly registered proof of ownership of their lands.

The second aspect is the geographical shape and distribution of the lands for Jews and Palestinians. They came about over several decades of varying border plans/proposals, partly accepted/rejected attempts of agreements, broken promises, unilateral actions, mistrust, attacks, constant quarrelling, etc, etc.

The present borders are understandably satisfying neither to Israelis nor to Palestinians. None of the nations that attempted to find a solution have come up with one, but several are again promoting the two-state idea.

Does anyone honestly believe the Israelis and Palestinians would then peacefully live together like the Netherlands and Belgium, or at least remain in a state of uneasy quiet as is the case with the traditionally quarrelsome Balkan countries?

As that is highly unlikely, the two parties may have to keep fighting until they eventually get tired of it — or resort to drastic solutions. Which both already have in mind: the Palestinians, as led by Hamas, aim for the destruction of Israel under the slogan “From the River to the Sea”. The Israelis point at that as proof of the violent intent of the Palestinians while withholding that the same idea is anchored in the statutes of the Likud party.

While Israel’s overwhelming military strength makes Hamas’s wish a pipe dream, the Israelis have been working towards their goal for decades. About 12 years ago, an Israeli official defined his government’s main policy as thus: “We want that land [Gaza strip and West Bank] and we will get it even if it takes us 100 years. We will make their [Palestinians] lives so miserable that one day they just leave.” (By the way, Israel’s method of dealing with asylum seekers is also to make their lives miserable.)

Although declared as necessary for security or as police actions, the stifling 70-year-long administrative measures, military incursions, destruction of property, killings, apprehensions and incarcerations without trial had only one purpose — to make their lives miserable. But, apparently, all that has not been harsh enough. The Palestinians stayed — where could they have gone anyhow?

Then came October 7, the long-planned Hamas attack — how did Mossad, Aman and Shin Bet miss that? — executed with unique dumbness and revolting brutality. Hamas squandered in one day whatever sympathy the world might have had for the occupied Palestinians; instead, that sympathy was now heaped upon Israel.

The very nature of this attack gave the Netanyahu Government reason to believe it had a chance to once and for all incorporate the Gaza Strip into Israel. They labelled their response “self-defence” — and its allied governments concurred without hesitation.

Self-defence is the protective action of someone while under attack. Any further action would be self-defence excess, which is not justified but under certain circumstances excusable; the self-defender is expected to cool down and to act rationally again, or else face punishment.

Apart from a few security guards on the scene, Israel never “self-defended” itself because the Hamas attack had ended long before the Israel Defence Forces reacted. Therefore, its response could be seen as revenge or — if going only after Hamas — a “pre-emptive strike” to avoid a repeat.

However, I think Israel’s focus is on the total destruction of the Gaza land and its community. Once the shooting stops, there should be nothing left for the Gazans to return to: no houses, no schools, no hospitals, no libraries, no universities, no public administration, no water supply, no electricity, no mosques, no churches — quite a few Christian Palestinians live there, too!

Binyamin Netanyahu has not yet completed this job, in which the elimination of Hamas is only a welcome by-product, but which should be achieved slowly to give him enough time. That is why he does not want a ceasefire now, not to mention peace.

He does not care how many more Gazan civilians die; perhaps the more the better so that they do not forget that they are unwelcome in their own land. He does not want the Gazans to return to the places where their homes once stood — they also might find under the rubble many more bodies than the 34,000 Hamas has counted.

The Israeli prime minister is opposed to the establishment of a Palestinian state. He wants to keep an even tighter Israeli control over Gaza — and in future over the West Bank; a new road, suitable for a rapid-response force, is already cutting the Gaza Strip in half.

Settler associations are making plans for a return, and, as one said, they would make it a beautiful place to live. That is Netanyahu’s idea of “Total Victory”.

And where would the Palestinians go? One Israeli had the perfect answer: to Africa! Of course, where else? The noble Western nations are already dumping their toxic waste there. Why not throw in a few troublesome Muslims for good measure, and have peace?

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, British prime minister Rishi Sunak, Annalena Baerbock, the sassy German foreign secretary, and a few others have expressed their “concern” — or is it only embarrassment? — about the high death toll among civilians during Israel’s search for Hamas fighters.

The numbers were far too high. In that they are right, but unfortunately, Mr Blinken did not reveal what he thinks is the right number of killed civilians. He better let Israel know, so that they are properly guided when it is the West Bank’s turn.

In this set-up we have two parties uncompromisingly insisting exclusively on their view, with all the bloody consequences.

This is what Ariel Sharon said to the reporter Amos Oz, published in the December 17, 1982 issue of the Israeli newspaper Davar:

“You can call me what you like. Call me a monster or murderer. Describe Israel by any name, call it a Judaeo-Nazi state like [Yeshayahu] Leibowitz did. Why not? Better to be a living Judaeo-Nazi than a dead saint. History teaches us that the one who refuses to kill will be killed by others. That is an iron law...

“Personally, I do not want to be better than [the Ayatollah] Khomeini, [Muammar] Gaddafi or Harry Truman, who killed half a million Japanese with his two fine bombs. I only want to be more cunning than they, faster and more effective, not better or nicer.

“Tell me, do the rogues of this world have a bad time? They do not suffer from constipation and are not punished by Heaven. I would like Israel to join this club. Then it might just be that the world will begin to fear me, at last, instead of feeling sorry for me. It might be that they begin to tremble, fear my madness instead of admiring my high-mindedness. Thank God! Let them tremble ...

“Now, don’t be shocked: if they [the diaspora Jews] had killed six or even only a million Arabs, what would have happened? Sure, two or three ugly pages would have been written for history books, we would have been given all kinds of bad names — but we could live here in a nation of 25 million...

“Even today I am prepared to accomplish this dirty work for Israel: to kill as many Arabs as necessary, to deport them, to drive them out and to burn them. What you don’t seem to understand is that the dirty work of Zionism has not been finished by a long shot. The fact is, it could have been brought to an end in 1948, but you have prevented it because of the Jewishness in your souls. ... And you can write: I am a shame for humanity, it won’t matter to me — on the contrary.”

This is the underpinning of Israel’s policy regarding the “Occupied Arab Territories”. All those who still cherish the two-state idea better take that into account.

Dieter Waelzholz is a retired former officer at Butterfield Bank

Dieter Waelzholz is a retired former officer at Butterfield Bank

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Published May 13, 2024 at 7:59 am (Updated May 13, 2024 at 7:25 am)

Until they leave

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