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Saturday, May 25, 2013

Canadians hear settler’s moving story: Peace and Justice for Palestinians

Large-Scale illegal Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank have made a two-state solution impossible and some Israelis are advocating further ethnic cleansing by banishing Palestinians to five isolated cities in the West Bank and annexing their land, an Israeli-Canadian journalist-filmmaker says. 

Lia Tarachansky stated in Ottawa that Israel plans to annex almost all of Palestinian land but is contemplating what to do with the Palestinians whose land it has stolen. If it grants them citizenship, they might eventually become the majority turning Israel into a secular rather than a Jewish state. If it doesn’t grant them citizenship rights, it will become even more of an apartheid state than it already is. Some Israelis are suggesting that Israel banish the Palestinians to cities in the occupied territories and grant the cities “independence” to fend for themselves, Bantustan-style.

Tarachansky spoke at a function organized by the National Council on Canada-Arab Relations, which educates Canadians about the Middle East. She was born in the USSR but her parents, facing intense anti-Semitism, migrated to Israel. She grew up in Arial, the largest Israeli settlement in the West Bank. Though the illegal settlement adjoins Arab villages, there is no interaction between the settlers and the Palestinians. Israeli law forbids Israelis from going to Palestinian villages and it was only after her parents had moved to Canada that Tarachansky met a Palestinian and heard the Palestinian story. In Israel she was told that the Palestinians hate Jews and want to kill them.

After her studies in Canada, Tarachansky returned to Israel and now lives in Jaffa. She has tried to learn more about the Palestinians and is making a documentary, “Seven Deadly Myths”, which traces the stories of four veterans of the 1948 war that erased Palestinian villages and expelled Palestinians from their homes. The film connects the four stories to the ongoing Palestinian dispossession through the occupation and settlements. She hopes that her film, to be released this fall if she obtains funding for editing and refinement, will enlighten Israelis, and Jews around the world, about what really happened. She wants to do so because she was taught in Israel that Arab armies, three years after the Holocaust, attacked Israel to complete Hitler’s task and kill Jews. This brainwashing enables Israelis to oppress Palestinians without moral qualms.

More than two-thirds of Palestinians were ousted from their homes and over 530 Palestinian villages were destroyed. More than 40 percent of Palestinians have been jailed, some for years, often without charges. Arrested Palestinians are often tortured, she stated. While United Nations resolutions emphasize that Palestinians have the right to return home, Israel has enacted laws that ruled out their return to their homes or villages, even for a visit.

Laws were passed that allowed any Jew to come to Israel and become a citizen. Another law gave 93 percent of the land, mostly Arab land, to the state. In Mandatory Palestine, Arabs owned 12.8 million dunams of the 26.4 million dunams (26,400 km2). Jews owned 1.5 million dunams, 1.5 million dunams was public land and the Negev desert had 10.6 million dunams. Another law allowed confiscation of the property of Arabs who had been killed or expelled. The law defined even Palestinians who had not left their homes as “present absentees.” They could vote but could not use or sell their property. Another law decreed that anybody who sought to return to his home could be shot, imprisoned or deported.

More than 60 laws were passed, Tarachansky declared, that conferred or restricted citizens’ rights depending on whether they were Jewish.

Although most Israelis do not know or care about their government trampling on Palestinians’ rights, Tarachansky said she was hopeful about peace and justice. This is partly because Israelis like her are now learning about the dark side of their history. Israeli scholars studied Zionist records after they were declassified in 1978 and wrote books. They discovered, for example, that after the proclamation of independence, Israeli militias attacked and ousted Palestinians. Arab armies did not intervene until about eight months later and were repelled.

She asserted that the Israeli ambassador to the United States has told Premier Benjamin Netanyahu that American Jews are writing to him, after seeing the movies “The Gatekeepers” and “Five Broken Cameras”, asking why they should support a state that is committing such brutalities. “The Gatekeepers”, made by an Israeli filmmaker, showed Israeli atrocities against Palestinians that were indirectly criticized by former leaders of the Israeli intelligence agency Shin Bet.

“Five Broken Cameras” records the sufferings inflicted on Bil’in, a West Bank village, by illegal Israeli settlers and the army. The film was started by farmer Emad Burnat in 2005 and later directed by Israeli filmmaker Guy Davidi.

Tarachansky declared that Israeli policies are alienating American Jews, church groups and the youth. The boycott Israel movement that started in 2005 is growing and is having a profound psychological and financial impact on Israel. Last year 21 percent of Israeli companies reported losses because of the boycott movement. She said that Stephen Hawking, one of the world’s greatest scientists, rejected the invitation to address the Israeli president’s conference in May. His refusal drew 200,000 Facebook followers. A Guardian poll revealed that his decision was supported two to one and has been a big boost to the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement (BDS).

Those who listened to Tarachansky applauded her courage and moral fortitude. They also felt deep sympathy for the Palestinian victims of brutality and injustice.


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