Apr 30, 2017

48 things

48 Things You Can Do for 48
By Shimrit Baer 

One of my favorite things is receiving  Mazin Qumsiyeh’s “Human Rights Newsletters”, which combine news roundups with something poetic and inspiring too. He also often ends his letters with a list of suggestions for how to help (http://qumsiyeh.org/whatyoucando/ ). I will take up #25 and submit my own suggestions, as from a counter-Zionist Jewish Palestinian Israeli citizen vantage point within what some call the “internationally recognized borders of Israel”, or what is more aptly called the “48 areas”.

While for obvious reasons most activism focuses its energies on the West Bank and Gaza, it is the 48 areas – their suburban ethnic purity, their total residential segregation, and their social engineering --  that constitutes the sacred core of the social structure of which the 1967 occupation is a manifestation, a natural development, and a protective shell.
I often think that the best thing the Zionist classes in Israel have going for them is that by and large the non-Zionist classes have no intention of breaking down segregated space inside the 48 areas, maybe because we think we want segregation too. Maybe we do – but let us be conscious of that choice and own its consequences, then. The fact is that the Zionist classes are expending unthinkable resources globally, just to maintain an aura of reliability and inevitability around their arrangement of space in the 48 areas. For the sake of argument, let’s assume that the non-Zionist classes (which I’ll define in a moment) indeed organized to disturb “Zionist Space,” the unit of measurement from which the Zionist State is derived: what forms could such disturbance feasibly take? And what would the Zionist classes then do to defend purity of space against the visible presence of the wrong type of citizens in Zionist Space? What are the subversive possibilities and limitations of the spatial act?

Navigating Zionist Space every day you can’t but feel the awesome imperviousness and solidity of it all. Yet if you break it down, you end up with an extremely unsophisticated and crude, and hence vulnerable, imposition of separate cities, separate living room, and separate education. The structure, so it seems, would not be able to bend and hold under strain of pressure, as would for example the far more crafty kinds of segregation that are imposed elsewhere through more roundabout post-civil rights policies.

So if Qumsiyeh started a list with “67 Ways to act for peace with justice” in the occupied areas, I’d remix: “48 ways to act in/for 48,” or something of the kind. And the first item on that impossibly finite list: Try to desire to act. Turns out, it is far from an obvious given that counter-Zionists inside the 48 areas desire to act. Everyone acts through resilience or resistance, via small everyday tactics of defiance and subterfuge or by overt practices of resistance. By ‘act’, though, I mean acting in an organized and conscious way. Because of its violently held monopoly of all public institutions, the Zionist caste-class has succeeded very well in confounding the non-Zionist classes’ ability to act in an organized way inside 48. The first thing must be a desire for the non-Zionist quasi-class to act as such.

A class analysis in conjunction with race-ethnicity readings of Zionism as a structure is based on the premise is that there is, and has always been, a non-Zionist quasi-class in the 48 areas comprising: (1) a caste of people who, by birth, are rendered permanently excluded from the ownership of the means of production of public institutions;  (2) individuals born within the Zionist quasi-class but have who have dislodged themselves from it to the extent of assimilation of counter-Zionist interests, of which economic reform and hence spatial reform constitute collective interests. With its institutions centered and run from within the 48 areas, Zionism exists as a quasi-class that owns the means of institutional production– including owning all the economic, military, educational and cultural means with which to reproduce itself, at the expense of the Palestinian castes and the non-Zionist quasi-classes. One is again and again confronted with an argument for the creation of a counter-Zionist union here on the ground, an organized space that is democratically structured, rule-bound (to protect the weak), sufficient to itself, and capable of producing and circulating ideas.

It seems that lately the byword in 48 is to act locally. There’s some logic to local actions when faced with the totalizing effect of the occupier’s global reach. In Israeli-Jewish counter-Zionist circles, the call to think locally might have something to do with the fact that the activist base is extremely small, as one of my BDS colleagues has recently argued: “To challenge…Israeli passivity…Israeli activists could focus on direct solidarity actions in the occupied Palestinian territories…even a small number of Israeli citizens can make a real difference in the lives of Palestinians … and embarrass the Israeli government.” (http://mondoweiss.net/2017/04/weakness-movement-jerusalem/). This reinforces the idea that Jewish 48ers have to go to the West Bank, in order to act in local issue-oriented ways. One would wonder why helping others stay in place should be more important than combating segregation at one’s doorstep, and one should also wonder why mobilizing against Zionism itself is seen as too divisive or too futile for 48 activism. You could concede that from a certain perspective, mobilizing around local issues and sticking thorns in the sides of the government is a logical way of proceeding. There’s also freedom, one supposes, in being a local player, with no need to recognize an elected hierarchy or feel bound by a broader consensus. But democratic organization is a selfless business; it exists to nurture a unity of diverse civil resistance forms on the ground.
As it is, there are many independent small scale groups mobilizing within 48, working in niches, rarely under the express name of counter-Zionism. BDS from Within, for example, has two unique, almost non-interactive, bodies of the same name operating within the 48 areas, neatly divided by language, space, and knowledges. Those who defend that state of organizational chaos say that it’s a good thing to have different and complementary activist bases, but the fact is that they are not strategizing together nearly enough. Whatever one might say, strategic debates within 48 also remain heavily determined by race and class markers, a fault aggravated by the lack of coordination and the absence of a mutual effort to connect the bases together and to broaden them. Anything done in the way of explicit counter-Zionist organization would thus be a positive good.
As soon as openly counter-Zionist groups have emerged, they have been rendered illegal and disbanded by the Zionist class, which of course has a monopolistic hold over all legislative and executive state institutions, as well as cultural ones. Yet it is wrong to view as impossible a union under the open banner of counter-Zionism. Correctly seen, it is an organizational challenge.

Attention must turn inwards. Whoever you are, what’s your true and honest relationships to Zionist Space?

To go back: the Zionist quasi-classes don’t want to lose their monopoly. That is what they’re scared of, and it is patently absurd to think that there is anything that can alleviate that quasi-class’s collective anxiety except the eventual outcome of loss – together with a new, better, safer and more just power structure.
It’s a self-evident interest of the non-Zionist quasi-class/caste conglomeration to want to seize the means of institutional production. There is disagreement about the specifics of form and content of that struggle, but once one accepts as social fact that it is the inherent and inevitable interest of the non-Zionist quasi-class to eliminate exclusive ethno-national ownership of social institutions and, specifically, of space, the political question will yield back answers on the ground that are not overly dependent on any faraway, theoretical ‘solution’, world events, or academic discussions.

We return again to the base problem that counter-Zionists are not of necessity politically conscious or conscientious. They just exist -- an unwanted force within a structure that is deeply compartmentalized and that accords them different opportunities, rights and knowledge.

Energies must at some point turn spatially. Especially now that the so-called genie of an apartheid analysis has been let out of even a UN bottle, one would urge the very materialist view and say that a society dependent on a system of segregation unto apartheid is not conceptually capable of understanding racism. First and foremost is a need to change space itself.

Indeed, as far as I can tell, the non-Zionist class struggling within and against the Zionist power structure has two main material (as opposed to more discursive or symbolic) routes, one directly institutional (i.e., by somehow regaining ownership of institutions and the economy) and the other indirect and spatial. The first option is less immediately operable given the global power of the Zionist class system. But what can we do with the spatial option at home that we are left with?

One way to begin is to form groups in one’s own area to strategize ways to disrupt “Zionist space”. For, logically, there must surely exist some ways in which an organized movement would be able to act to free itself of the “Zionist Space” noose – making disruptive moves spatially, materially, legally, culturally or discursively.

Institutions at the hands of the Zionist class are specifically designed for drying out all the non-Zionist institutions, through policies of disrepair, dilapidation, delegitimation, fear, and artificial distance. Yet, they’re constrained in their impossible-to-countenance calculus of pure Zionist Space.
Meanwhile, it is the non-Zionist class that can challenge innermost boundaries that have no moral or even real conceptual or institutional protection. In that, just like anything, resistance is constant innovation. There’s no one direction to go in– the main idea is to take back one’s space.

From here on in, I can only defer to Qumsiyeh’s list. Support for the 48 areas is also support for political prisoners and those being persecuted for their counter-Zionist ideas. It is also a support for Al Quds, and its forgotten residents living under an apartheid  “United Jerusalem”, over 80% of whom are living under the poverty line. It’s support for peoples to stay in place, even while it’s support for counteracting the reliability and stability of “place”. It’s a total challenge to the idea of Zionist-Only Space, including gated communities, kibbutzim, and housing projects with Zionist admissions committees. It’s support for the spatial struggles of oppressed and segregated peoples everywhere. This includes struggles for reparations for slavery and for racial injustices in the United States. Segregation and power are interlinked globally.  

The success of counter-zionist organizing within the 48 areas is crucial for the outcome everywhere.  The needs of the peoples in these areas include the need to act, a need not entirely addressed by BDS. While BDS strategies of nonviolence are growing internationally, the same strategies aren’t necessarily tailored for resistance groups within 48, not because these are dangerous and costly (as all resistance within is), but rather because there has to be a way for the ordinary person on the street to be involved in them. 

Mar 19, 2017

ذكريات باسل

بدأ تعارفي بعائلة الأعرج في 2009. في تلك السنة قابلت باسل وشيرين و أنضممت معهم في مظاهرات قرية الولجة ضد الجدار العنصري. في 6 آذار 2017 اغتيل باسل على يد الجيش الإسرائيلي، كان يبلغ من العمر 31 ربيعا، سيتحدث الآخرون عن استشهاده، أما أنا فسأتحدث عن حياته وعما قال لي، سيود باسل أن تكون الأمور بهذه الطريقة.

عرفت تفاصيل حميمة عن حياة باسل وعائلته في المرة الثالثة التي احتجزنا فيها معا، كان يبلغ 24 ربيعا وكنت أنا ضعف عمره، كان ذلك فيما وصفه باسل بدقة "زنزانة لا تصلح للحيوانات" والتي أنا ومجموعة من الفلسطينيين الذكور شاركناها مع فلسطينية وهي صديقتي وعمة باسل شيرين الأعرج، لقد تم احتجازي مرتين مع باسل ومرة مع شرين قبل ذلك الحدث (ومرات بعده). تلك الاعتقالات عمقت تقديري للعائلة وحصافة طباعهم وصدق تعاملهم ووطنيتهم مما أكسبهم احترام قرية الولجة بكاملها وأجرؤ القول احترام كل فلسطين، هذا يشبه عائلة التميمي في النبي صالح، ولم يكن محض صدفة أن يكون باسم التميمي بيننا في الولجة بعد يوم من اغتيال باسل وفي جنازته، أنا هنا لن أروي قصة عن باسل ولكنني أعيد سرد ما قاله باسل لي فكلامه أهم من أي شيئ ممكن أن أقوله. معظم ما هو هنا كتبته في 2014 وكنت أنوي نشر قصص فلسطينية ملهمة في كتاب وكانت قصة باسل وشيرين الولجة تتصدرها. بهنا قمت أ) بإضافة هذه المقدمة ب) تغيير الأفعال بدل الحاضر إلى صيغة الماضي (مثلا يقول باسل تصبح قال باسل) وج) أضفت خاتمة مقتضبة بآخر ما قاله وعن جنازته.

في بداية ذلك اليوم في 19 أيار 2011اجتمعت مجموعتنا على منحنى التل المدرج والذي يعج بالأشجار وبستان زيتون حيث خططنا للعمل مع الإسرائيليين، كنا مصممين جميعا على الدفاع بأجسادنا عن نجريف أشجار الزيتون وكانت نهايته ساعات بالحديث رهن الإعتقال وكان لدينا الوقت. في ذلك اليوم سيق خمسون منا إلى زنزانة صغيرة- كلهم ذكور وامرأة واحدة هي شيرين الأعرج. من جميع الأعمار البعض كان لم يبلغ الثانية عشر من العمر والبعض الآخر مثلي ومثل يوسف الشرقاوي في الخمسينات والستينات. أغلبنا يسجن لأول مرة، كان الجنود الإسرائيليين الذين اعتقلونا يبدو عليهم البؤس والعصبية أكثر منا نحن المحشورين في تلك الغرفة الصغيرة، محتشدين في زاوية على أرض الزنزانة الإسمنتية الباردة همسنا، وبرغم الجوع والإرهاق حافظنا على معنوياتنا عالية بالحديث وبشجاعة عن مستقبل يرتكز على التعايش حيث يتشارك جميع الناس في أرض واحدة في دولة ديمقراطية واحدة، تمحورت الموضوعات على إنهاء القمع والمدارس الحكومية المنفصلة، أخذ التخطيط الحالم بالمثالي ينساب طبيعيا بين رفاق جمعهم الصراع مما ساعد على صد بؤس الزنزانة وأبقى المعنويات عالية، تحرك الحراس جيئة وذهابا بعصبية مترددين في السماع لأحاديثنا المهموسة قبل إصدار توبيخ جديد لمنع التحدث. كانت جريمتنا هي المقاومة الشعبية. عدم ارتياحهم كان يكشف عن الشعور بالذنب الذي تعلموا التعامل معها بالتدريب من خلال العنف، اعتدوا علينا بالضرب وجعلونا نقف مضروبين وننزف في الشمس لساعات. لم ينظر إلينا الحراس الأصغر سنا مباشرة بالعين، إذ أنهم أخفضوا رؤوسهم ونظروا حولهم في إيماءات وشتات عدم اليقين والاضطراب ويمكن القول حتى الخوف. تسائل باسل إذا ما كان ذلك هو الشك أو خوف امجرم من العقاب القادم. بدأ أربع إسرائيليون معتقلون معنا التحدث بالعبريةللجنود وبالنجليزية معنا والتي يجيدها باسل وشيرين بالرغم من أن الجنود منعونا من التحدث. شركائنا الإسرائيليين في الزنزانة عملوا على خفض أصواتهم مع إبقائها مسموعة كفاية للحراس. الحراس أبدوا الإستياء وتنبيهنا بين الحين ولالآخر ولكن وبدافع الفضول لم يفرضوا أي عقوبة واسترقوا السمع للمحادثة. مع توخي الحذر لأاننا نعرف  أن هنالك "عصافير" (مخبرين بين السجناء لجمع المعلومات) وربما أجهزة تجسس.  وثقت في باسل وشيرين اللذين عرفتهما لمدة لا تقل عن عامين قبل هذا الاعتقال ولكن تحدثت إليهما عن أمور عادية لاحتياطنا وخصوصا باسل حديثا مطولا عن عائلته. حكى لي باسل قصة جده إبراهيم والقرويين في الولجة والذين قاوموا ضد المحتل الإسرائيلي ببسالة لحماية أرضهم.

عندما انتهى حديث المجموعة بدأنا نتحاور في مجموعات أصغر أو حوار واحد لواحد، اقترب مني باسل وسألني عن عائلتي، وسألته بدوري عن عائلته، وقد أبهرني لمحات الحياة الأسرية والتاريخ   (جزئيا بسبب أنني كنت أكتب كتاب عن المقاومة الشعبية في فلسطين والذي نشر بعد ذلك في 2012)، بعض ما أكتبه هنا كان من المفترض أن يطبع في ذلك الكتاب ولكن المحرر اقترح بحكمة أن يكون الكتاب أقصر ومركز وأن أترك القصص الشخصية المفصلة (ولدي الكثير منها) إلى كتاب آخر، حاولت أن أتذكر أغلب ما قاله لي الشهيد باسل في زنزانة السجن تلك، ولأتأكد من التفاصيل زرته بعد ستة أشهر في بيته في قرية الولجة، وقضيت أمسية كاملة أتعرف على تفاصيل الولجة وعائلته.

على كل حال، بدأ باسل بالشرح أن قريته قبل 1948 كانت موجودة داخل حدود الخط الأخضر على خط سكة الحديد المتجهة من القدس إلى اللد ويافا ثم حيفا والتي تمر من وسط اراضي القرية، يتحدث القرويون عن محصول زراعي وفير قبل النكبة سنة 1948، المحاصيل الزراعية من الولجة كانت مشهورة في أسواق القدس ويافا وساهمت في اقتصاد فلسطيني مزدهر. قال باسل أن المسلمون والمسيحيون عاشوا في هذا الجزء من البلاد في وئام وسلام. لم يكن من النادر أن تتحول العائلات عن المسيحية إلى الإسلام. فعائلة الأعرج في الولجة مسلمة بينما عائلة الأعرج في بيت جالا المجاورة مسيحية )لأنهم من أصل واحد). يوجد في حدود القرية ديران مسيحيان: كريمزان الذي يقع بين الولجة وبيت جالا، ومسكاري الذي يقع بين الولجة وعين كارم. الاستكشاف الأثري لقرية الولجة يظهر كنائس منها في عين الجنينة والتشارشة (من كنيسة church)‘ وحديثا جعلت السلطات الإسرائيلية آخر عين ماء وآثارها البيزنطية ممنوعة الدخول لسكان الولجة الباقون (كنت قد تنزهت هنالك ودرست الطبيعة مع باسل).
الولجة سيئة الصيت لدى الاستعمار كمكان شهد على ثورة 1938 ضد الاحتلال البريطاني ودعمه القوي للصهيونية، إن التقارير الرسمية روت التاريخ من جانب بريطانيا، أحد المواقع الإلكترونية البريطانية يقول "في 11 تشرين أول 1938، فإن الملازم ثاني ر. ي. ميلر R.E.Miller برفقة مفرزة من فصيلة "د" تم قطع طريقهم وقنصهم بكثافة من أحياء قريبة بينما كانوا ينفذون عملية استطلاع على خط الولجة قرب القدس، المفرزة خرجت بنجاح بالدعم الجوي وليس قبل أن يقع ضحايا في صفوف الأعداء" http://www.worcestershireregiment.com/wr.php?main=inc/bat_1_1939 

في 29 تشرين ثاني عام 1947 أوصت الجمعية العمومية للأمم المتحدة بتقسيم فلسطين، أخذت القوات الصهيونية ذلك القرار كضوء أخضر للبدء بالتطهير العرقي والذي أدى إلى مقاومة من قبل بعض الناس (معظمهم فلاحين بسطاء مثل الولجة كما قال باسل). حصلت معارك مثل ماذكرنا ومنها القسطل القريبة من الولجة وفي مداخل القدس والتي استشهد فيها القائد عبد القادر الحسيني. قال الحسيني أن وأن جامعة الدول العربية قد أوكلت قضية فلسطين إلى لجنة عربية عسكرية عليا وأن هذه طالبته بعدم الذهاب نحو القسطل فقال ردا عليهم :إنني ذاهب إلى القسطل وسأقتحمها وسأحتلها ولو أدى ذلك إلى موتي  والله لقد سئمت الحياة وأصبح الموت أحب إلي من نفسي من هذه المعاملة التي تعاملنا بها الجامعة ، إنني أصبحت أتمنى الموت قبل أن أرى اليهود يحتلون فلسطين ، إن رجال الجامعة والقيادة يخونون فلسطين .

جد أبو باسل وهو أبو خليل كان رفيقا لعبد القادر الحسيني وقاتل ببسالة وأصيب مدافعا عن أرضه في وجه الإستعمار الاستيطاني الصهيوني ورعاته (الإنتداب البريطاني)، عرفت لاحقا أن جندي أردني قال لجد باسل بأن هناك مؤامرة أردنية-إسرائيلية لتعديل الحدود والتنازل عن الولجة ومناطق أخرى (يشبه ما ثبت حصوله للقرى في منطقة المثلث في الشمال).

حاولت اسرائيل مرارا احتلال القرية وتهجير سكانها، في الرابعة صباحا من 21 تشرين أول عام 1948 بدأت آخر محاولة والتي نجحت. كانت في غمار موسم قطف الزيتون. يتذكر ابراهيم جد باسل ذلك الوقت، لقد نشروا ثمار الزيتون الوفير استثنائيا في ذلك الموسم على أسطح المنازل تحضيرا لفرز الزيتون للتخليل (رصيص)  أو لعصر للزيت. وصف باسل ردة فعل جده في تلك الليلة، "بينما كنت أحلم في أيام العمل أمامي فجأة أفقت على صوت القنابل وطلقات الرشاش على القرية، كانت تأتي من ثلاث اتجاهات. سمعت البكاء والصراخ يصدح في القرية، وشاهدت الجيران يجبرون على الرحيل تحت تهديد السلاح، بعضهم كان في ملابس النوم ولم يعط لهم الوقت لجمع أي من أشيائهم"، قال باسل أن القصف استمر خلال الليل والنهار وانتهى بعد 24 ساعة. ويضيف : يتذكر كيف وضع جدي أشقائه (أعمارهم وقتها 15، 6، 4، 2) في محطة القطار في بتير وذهب ليبحث عن والديه وأعمامه (تفرقوا في جحيم القتال)، قال باسل أن جده كان صلب رابط الجأش ويلهمنا النظام والثبات والصمود.  
تذكّرتُ، كيف إنّ تلك الأجزاء من سرْدِ "باسل" الذّكريات عن جدِّه، رسمت على مُحيّاه ملامح الكبرياء، و أسمح لنفسي بالتّجرّؤ أن أقول إنّه حنين لماضي بعيد فيه كرامة وكبرياء. من الواضح إنّ "باسل" رأى البطولة في أفعال جدِّه. و حين عَلِم باسل أنّني من بيت ساحور، قال لي بأنه حينما لمّوا شملهم، لجَأت العائلة كلها لِفترةٍ قصيرة بين أشجار الزّيتون في بيت ساحور، و ذلك قبل أن يتمّ ترسيم الحُدود، و يُسمح لهم بالعودة إلى الولجة الجديدة (الجزء من أرض الولجة التي أصبحت تحت الحُكم الأردني).
قال باسل أنه أنه َقبْل ترسيم الحدود وجَدت عائلتة صديقاً دعاهم للسكن في قريته التي تُدعى "بريضْعة" قرب التعامرة في شرق "بيت لحم". و قد نجح بعض الرجال في التّسلّل إلى بيوتهم في  الولجة و العوْدة ببَعض القمح و الزّيتون الذي ساعدهم في الصّمود لمدّة ستّة أشهر. و عندما انتهى التّموين الذي كانوا قد هرّبوه من بيوتِهم. قرّر إبراهيم ألا يستمرّوا عند أصدقائهم، و إنّ عليْهِم إيجاد مأوى آخر، و لكن  أيْن؟ ففي هذه الأثناء، كانت دوْلة "إسرائيل" الحديثة التّأسيس قد احتلّت 80% من أراضي "الوَلَجَة"، و قد بقي 20% مِنْ أراضي "الوَلجَة" تحت السيطرة الأردنيّة خارج خط وقْف إطلاق النّار، واسْتَوْلت "إسرائيل" على الجزء الخَصْب من أراضي القرية و أبْقَت على الأجزاء الجبَليّة منها التي تصلح لرعاية الأغنام فقط وهنالك عادوا ليسكن بعضهم المغاور.  في بدايات الخمسينيّات من القرن الماضي استمرّ بعض أهل القرية في التّسلّل إلى أراضيهم عبْر الخط الأخضر للعناية بأراضيهم و زراعتها و قطف ثمار أشجارهم. كان تصرّفهم خَطِرا لأنّ "إسرائيل" حديثة التّأسيس أصْدَرَتْ في سنة 1949 أوّل قرارٍ عسكريّ بإطلاق النّار فوراً على القرويٍّين الفلسطينيّين الذين أصبحوا الآن لاجئين إذا حاولوا العودة إلى أراضيهم أو إذا حاولوا فِلاحة أراضيهم ك"متسللين". و ما رواه "باسل" إنّ الحكومة الأردنيّة تآمَرت مع إسرائيل لمَنْع تلك "التّسلّلات" عبر الحُدود، و ذلك خوفاً من هجْمات "إسرائيل" وعقابها الجماعي الذي كان شائعاً في ذلك الوقت. في إحدى الحالات قبضت القوات  الإسرائيليّة على أحد أفراد عائلة باسل ولم تقتله وحين أطْلِقَ سراحه اتّهمتْه الحكومة الأردنيّة بالتّعاون مع "إسرائيل" و أنفقت العائلة ستة شهورٍ في سبيل إطلاق سراحه كما أنفقت الكثير من المال بدل أتعابٍ قانونيّة.

عاش بعض أفراد عائلة الأعرج بما فيهم عائلة إبراهيم جدّ باسل في مغارة، بينما اسْتَقَرّ آخرون في غرفةٍ صغيرة عند الطّرف الغربي من أرض القرية في مكانٍ يُدعى وادي هِلس القريب من المَخْرُور - بيت جالا حتّى سنة 1964. و في أوائل الستّينيّات أدرَكت الكثير من عائلات "الوَلَجَة" بأنّ احتمال عوْدتِهم إلى بيوتِهم ما وراء الخط الأخضر ضئيلٌ لتمادي الخيانة وأنّ "إسرائيل" لن تنصاع للقانون الدولي الذي نادى بِحَق عودة اللاجئين. فعاد بعض  اللاجئون الذين يملكون أراضي في المنطقة الباقية و بدأوا في بناء "الولجة الجديدة". وكانت السّنوات قاسية. و يروي باسل كيف يتذكّر والده مُعاناة أفراد العائلة من الأمراض الجلديّة، و المجاعة، و القمل، و من صدمة النكبة التي توغّلت في حياة الناس، و سبّبَت لهم الجِراح النفسية. و يذكر كيف إنّ أحد أفراد العائلة رفض أن يسمح لأبنائه الذّهاب إلى المدرسة، حيث ذكّرهم بأنّه من الهامّ أن يبقوا فلّاحين لكي يعودوا إلى الولجة، بينما رفض أبٌ آخر أن يسمح لأولاده البالغين أن يبنوا بيتاً خارج  الولجة و قرر الجد إبراهيم أن يتعلّم مهنة جديدة فاخْتار أن مهنة "دَقّ الحِجارة"، الأمر الذي مكّنه بعد تعلمها من أن يجد عملاً في الأردن و في لبنان، و بذا استطاع أن يُوفِّر النّقود التي كانت كافية لكي يبني غرفةً واحدة خارج المغارة التي سكنوها منذ لحظة ترحيلهم.

في 5 حزيْران 1967، و خِلاف لِلمُتَوقّع، تمّت مهاجمة "الولجة الجديدة" من الشّرق لا من الغرب.  و توقّع بعض سكان الوَلجة إنّ الهجوم من الشرق تمّ باتفاقٍ بين النظام الأردنيّ و "إسرائيل" كما قال باسل. و ذكرأيضاً إنّ جدّه الذي جُرِح في الدّفاع عن فلسطين سنة 1948 بكى بِمرارةٍ بنَكْسة 1967 لدرجة إنّه عانى من جلطة دماغٍ أفقَدَته بصره. و على إثرها تُوفِّي مخضوب الجناح بعدها بِشهر.

أنهت الأسلحة المتقدّمة الإسرائيليّة الحرب بعد ستة أيام من بدئها، (تعلّم الفلسطينيّون بأنهم لو تركوا بلادهم خلال الحرب، فإنّهم لن يُسمح لهم العوْدة إليها فبقيت العائلة). قبل إغلاق الحدود، قال باسل بأنّ جدّه إبراهيم ذهب إلى الأردن و اصطحب أمّه التي كانت في زيارةٍ  في الأردن. ونتيجة لضيق الحال وضنك العيْش أٌجْبِر العديد من الفلسطينيّين على العمل مع سادة الأرض الجُدُد. وقال باسل أن الكثير منهم قادهم غضبهم ومرارتهم و اعتِدادهم بأنفسهم إلى تسريحهم من عملهم في اليوم نفسه أو خلال يوميْن لأنّهم أظهروا اعتِداداً بأنفسهم و رفضِهم قبول إهانات محتلّيهم. في 1982وصل إلى الحكم في إسرائيل جناح اليمين برئاسة "ميناحيم بيجين"، و كانت نيّته المزيد من الاستيلاء على الأرض،  و بناء مستوْطنات استعماريّة في الأراضي المُحتلّة في الوقت الذي دقّوا فيه طبول الحرب على الحدود مثل حدود لبنان بارتكاب المجازر و جرائم الحرب. بدأت حكومة "بيجِن" بالاسْتَيلاء على المَزيد مِن أراضي "الولجة الجديدة. وَ جَرَتْ المُحاولات للاسْتِيلاء على 30 دوُنُماً تملكها عائلة الأعْرج. وقاوَمَت العائلة و ذهَبت إلى المحكمة و زَرَعت الأشجار في الأرض وحاوَلَت عدّة أفعال للمحافظة على ما تبقّى مِن أملاكِهم، فنجَحتْ في الحِفاظ على الأرض لِسَنَواتٍ عِدّة، و لكنّ "إسرائيل" بدأتْ في بناء جِدار فصلٍ عُنصُرِي هدفه فصل  النّاس عن أرضها وجَعْلِهِم يعيشون في سِجْنٍ مفتوح على أملِ أن يضطرّوا للرّحيل. لكنّ باسل وشيرين وعائلاتٍ أخرى رفضوا أن يتْرُكوا الارض. وهنا توقّف "باسل" عن الكلام فطلبت منه أن يُحدّثني بِتَفصيلٍ اكثر عن نفسِه.

قال لي: " كانت ليلة موْلِدي باردة و عاصفة. و لهذا اعتقد و الداي (سهام و محمود) بأنها علامة على إنني سأعيش حياة قاسية. كنت صغيراً جدّاً بِحَيْث و لا أستطيع تذكّر الكثير عن نشأتي إلّا إنني أتذكّر جيّداً إنّني كنت دائماً أحرِص على لبس حذائي أثناء نومي لكي أكون مستعدّاً حين يتمّ إجبارنا أن نترك منزلنا. و أتذكّر أيضاً إنّ حيازتنا العلم الفلسطيني في التسعينيّات من القرن الماضي كانت جريمة لا تُغْتَفر. كان اقْتِناء العلم الفلسطيني يُعَدّ أمراً غير قانوني بينما كانت حيازته قيمة كبيرة بالنسبة لنا. و أتذكر إنني يوماً ما أخذت علماً صغيراً من إحدى السيّارات، الأمر الذي جعلني أشعر بالذّنب، و لكنّني أردت الحصول عليه بشكلٍ كبير، إلا إنّ أحد الأولاد الأكبر سنّاً أخذه مني. و كانت في بيتنا زاوية خاصّة لآلة خِياطة لحِياكة ملابس العائلة، و لكنّنا استخدمناها ليْلا فيما بعْد لصُنع الأعلام الممنوعة مِن قِبَل إسرائيل. "

  و لكن واصَل "باسل" كلامه ليتحدّث أكثر عن السياسة وأقل عن نفسه وانطرق إلى اتفاقيّات "أوسلو"، فقال إنّ اهتمامه بالسياسة بدأ حين كان في سنّ العاشرة. لقد كان الهدف من اتّفاقيّات "أوسلو" الاعتراف المُتَبادل، فاعترَفَت منظّمة التحرير الفلسطينيّة بإسرائيل، و تنكّرت الأخيرة للاعتِراف بِ "فلسطين"، و بدلا من ذلك فقد أوجدنا "سلطة فلسطينيّة" إعترفت بشرعية كيان مغتصب لفلسطين. اعتقد باسل و اعتقدت عائلته أيضاً بأنّ اتّفاقيّات 1993-1994 أوْجدت حكومة مُتعاونة على غِرار حكومة "فيشي" في فرنسا خلال الإحْتِلال النّازيّ. ورأتْ حقبة ما بعد سنة 1994 تطوّراتٍ جَلبَت تحدِّياتٍ للنّاس في الوَلَجة والقُرى المحيطة بها. كانت "إسرائيل" تتحرّك باتّجاه  توسيع الموْجود من المستعمرات وتَشْرع في بناء البُنية التّحتيّة للمُسْتوطِنين. البُنية التحتيّة في المناطق الفلسطينية تهالِكت. و خطّة "إسرائيل" لَتحسين بنية الغاصبين تطلّب منها الاسْتيلاء على المزيد من الأرض. فَحِين تمّ بناء المستعمرة اليهودية "هار جيلو"، سيطرت "إسرائيل" على المزيد من أراضي الولجة و بيت جالا. وتربط المستعمرة بِبَقِيّة المستعمرات و بِالقدس المهودة. و فقدَت "عائلتنا (الأعْرج) الصغيرة" أربعة دونُماتٍ إضافيّة في مدخل القرية الجديدة. وأضاف "كان الأسوأ، فقدان القرية حقّ الوصول إلى نبعتيْن من مياهنا الجوْفِيّة. و في أواخِر سنة 1990 بقيَت للقرية نبعة واحدة فقط يُمكن الوصول إليها مِن أصل 22 نبعة ، و أصبح فيما بعد مستحيلٌ الوصول إليها بسبب بناء سور الفصل العنصُرِي. و ظلّ أهل القرية على ثباتهم والمُقاومة. و شارك كل واحد منا في المقاومة الشعبيّة التي تمثّلت في الصّمود بالجلوس على الأرض، و تقديم العرائض، و المظاهرات، و بالوسائل القانونيّة باللجوء إلى المحاكم الإسرائيليّة.  و قد اجبر اسلوب المقاومة السلميّة القاضي أن يسأل الحكومة الإسرائيليّة إزاحة الطريق 19 متراً بعيداً عن بيتنا " و نصب الإسرائيليّون نقطة تفتيش عسكريّة عند مدخل قرية "الوَلجَة" أمام بيت شيرين و باسل. وأضاف "وبدأت الآن معركة الإرادات، فاقْتَحم الجنود الإسرائيليّون المدَجّجُون بالسِّلاح البيوت بِغَرَض إرهاب العائلات و إجبارها على الرّحيل. و أهانوها. و هاجموا الأطفال الذين حاولوا منع الجنود من دخول الدّخلة التي تقود إلى أحد البيوت.  تحرّكت جرّافة إسرائيليّة من خلال الشوارع الضّيّقة حاملة معها التّراب الذي وضعته عند مدخل القرية بهدف إغلاق الطّريق. و عاودت الجرّافة الكرّة خلال اليوم عدّة مراتٍ حاملة التراب و وضعه في مدخل القرية لمنع القرويّين من الدخول أو الخروج من القرية. و وَاصل أهل القرية الليل بالنّهار لإزاحة الحاجز الترابي الذي أوجدته الجرّافة حتّى استطاعوا تنظيف المدخل و إعادة فتْحه. و قام الجنود الغاضِبين بالانتقام من العائلات. حين كان الجنود الإسرائيليّون يشعرون بارْتِياح العائلة، يقومون بإزعاجها بأيّ عذر يخطر بِبالِهِم. فالقيام بحفلة باربيكيو و شِواء اللحم، و لعب الأطفال بالكرة، و ارتّفاع الأصوات خلال مناقشة عائليّة ساخنة أو تشغيل الموسيقى كلّها كانت أسباباً لشعور الجنود بالإهانة. و زادت المقاومة، و كذلك زادت هجمات الجنود.  تدرّجت الاعتِداءات من اقتِحام البيوت و إهانة العائلات إلى اسْتِخدام قنابل الغاز المسيلة للدّموع، إلى استخدام الرّصاص المطّاطي، إلى استخدام الذّخيرة الحيّة في بعض الأحيان. و مع تكرار مُحاولات الجيش الإسرائيلي لجعل حياة النّاس جحيماً، أصبحت عائلتنا (الأعرج) أكثر تصميماً على النّضال لكي تحافظ على بيوتها و أراضيها.  ذكر "باسل": "أصبحنا سنة 2006، على علمٍ بخطّة إسرائيل، حين رأينا خارطة الجدار الذي يطوّق الولجة كما السِّوار حول المعصم. و إذا ما تمّ بناء الجِدار العالي (30 قدم) كما هو مُخطّط، فسوف يعزل الولجة الجديدة كليّاً عن أراضيها الزّراعيّة، و يحرم الأهالي من مصادر حياتِهم. و يتطلّب بناءه تدمير ثلاثة و ثلاثين منزِلا في الولجة الجديدة. بالإضافة إلى إعطاء 88 عائلة إشعارات بِهدم بيوتها فيما بعد". 

قال باسل إنّه درس الصيدلة  في مصر من سنة 2002 و حتى 2007. وفي أثناء وجوده هنالك واصل أصدِقاؤه و أقاربه الكِفاح من أجل أراضيهم. و كانت هناك اعتِقالات لأولئك الذين قاوموا و كان من بين المُعتقَلين صديق عزيز عليه قابعٌ الآن في السجون الإسرائيلية حيث تمّ الحكم عليه 40 عاماً بِسبب مقاومته (أريد أن أعرف اسم هذا الشخص).  سألته من أحبّ الناس إليه من أفراد عائلته عدا عن ابويْه، فقال إنه يحبّهم جميعاً. و حين ضغطّت عليه كي يعطيني إسم شخص ذكر اسم أبوه وعمَّه المحامي خالد الذي يدافع عن الناس. و ذكر اسم عمّته شيرين (المرأة القويّة التي تحتاج أن أخصِّص لها مقالة/فصلاً). فقد تعلم من شيرين قيمة المقاومة الشعبية. لقد أتى كفاح هذه العائلة في الولجة بنتائج إيجابيّة، إذْ تمّت إزاحة نقطة تفتيش الجيش الإسرائيلي سنة 2005. و تمّ سجْن "باسل" 3 مرّات كما تمّ اعتِقاله 3 مرّاتٍ أخرى (هذا قبل 2011 عندما عملت معه المقابلات). و قد عانى  من جِراحٍ متعدّدة بما فيها كسر أضلاع قفصه الصدري مرّتيْن. و قد تذكر بمرارة وحْشَية الجنود الإسرائيليّين الذين كسروا عمداً نظاراته الطبية التي يستعملها بسبب قصر النظر.  بعد أن فقد وظيفته كصيدلي (و ذلك بسبب نشاطه)، تمّ تعيينه مؤقتا لمدّة قصيرة لكي يعمل باحثاً في المتحف الفلسطيني. كانت تلك هي المرّة الأخيرة التي رأيته  فيها عندما تحدثنا عن خططنا للمتحف هنا في بيت لحم وأعطاني بعض الملاحظالت عن المتحف في بير زيت.  ثم سمعت باعتقاله وزملائه وسوء معاملتهم من قبل "السلطة الفلسطينية" وحاول الكثير منا الضغط لإطلاق سراحه ولم يتم ذلك إلا بعد عة أشهر وأعتقد أن هذه التجربة كانت نقطة تحول.

أصبح بعدها مطلوباً مِن قبل "السلطة الفلسطينيّة" و مِن قِبل الإحتلال. و لقد انتابتني مشاعر سيئة لأنّنا لم نتواص و بكيْت على فقدان صديقي باسل أكثر من بكائي لِفقداني ابنة عمي (المرأة الجميلة التي تركت وراءها طفليْن) حيْث ماتت في اليوم نفسه الذي إستشهد فيه باسل.  لا أزال أشك في رواية الإسرائيليّين بأنه كان يحمل السلاح أو ربما لا أعرف وربما هذا ليس المهم.  إذا كنت مخطئاٍ فإنّ التّطوّر إلى المقاومة المسلحة يكون مفهوماً و مُبرّراً. كما قال جون  كندي: "أولئك الذين يجعلون  الثورة السلميّة مستحيلة يجعلون  الثورة المسلحة حتمية". لقد تمّ اعتقالي مع "باسل الأعرج" عدّة مرّات وعرفته من 2009 إلى 2014 مفكراً و كاتبا ومناضلا ومن أكثر الناس معطائا  ومحبة لوطنه والآخرين وهذا يكفي و حين اعتقلته قوات الأمن الفلسطيني  مع مجموعة من رفاقه سنة 2016، صُدِمتُ و كتبت الرسالة البريديّة  الإلكترونيّة التالية لمجموعة المراسلة:

" باسل الأعرج في سجنٍ فلسطيني. و هو شاب فلسطيني صيدلاني كان يعمل في صيدلية في مخيم شعفاط في القدس. عرفته لأنّه من الولجة قرية كانت تناضل حين كانت "إسرائيل" تبني جداراً حول ما تبقّى من بيوتها (الآن 90%من السكان لاجئون في مكانٍ آخر). لقد سرق المستعمرون الإسرائيليّون أراضي القرية و آبارها الارتوازيّة سنة 1948 و ما يزالون مستمرّين في سرقتهم حتّى يومنا هذا. باسل يحب فلسطين و يكره الظلم. و باسل كبقية الشباب الصغار بحثوا عن مخرج وحرية. شارك في المظاهرات السلميّة في قريته و لكنه لم يكن راضياً عن النتائج. عندما أعطيته نسخة من كتابي عن المقاومة الشعبية باللغة العربية في 2013 عاد بسرعة ليزوّدني بانطباعاته عنهو قال إنّ الكتاب بحاجة لتحرير لغوي ولكن محتواه ممتاز!. وعاد إلي بالعديد من الأسئلة والشغف لتعلم المزيد، على وجه الخصوص كان مبهورا بذلك الجزء المتعلق بكيف سمى الفلسطينيون عن الانقسامات في عشرينيات وأوائل ثلاثينيات القرن الماضي (أكثر من 12 فصيل مقاتل وقوة شرطة فلسطينية تعمل مع الإنجليز) وصولا إلى ثورة 1936. قال إنه تعلم من الكتب الكثير عن تاريخ النضال الفلسطيني وكان يعرف صديقنا الشهيد بهاء عليان الذي نظم حلقات قراءة في القدس..

 حاول أساليب أخرى من الكفاح. فحاول هو و آخرون معه أن يغلقوا الطريق المؤدية إلى مستعمرة "معالي أدوميم". أيضا كنا أنا وهو و أربعة آخرون  الفلسطينيّين السّتّة الذين تمّ اعتقالنا على حافلة المستوطنين في  حزمة فيما سموه هؤلاء الشباب باص الحرية. رحمه لله.

 أنا لست قلقاً بأن القضية الفلسطينية ستموت (أنا متفائلٌ بطبيعتي) و لكنّ الأنانيّة، و الأنا، و عجز القادة الذين نصّبوا أنفسهم بأنفسهم يستطيع فقط تأخير التّحرّر الحتمي و يوجد أناساً رغّابين و قادرين على تحرير أنفسهم. "باسل" و صديقان له اعتقلتهما الآن السلطة الفلسطينيّة....". نعم، لقد كان "باسل" ضدّ اتفاقيّات "أوسلو" و ضدّ كل تركيبة السلطة الفلسطينيّة تحت الإحتلال. ويذكرنا ما قاله الشهيد عبد القادر الحسيني "إن التاريخ سيتهمكم بإضاعة فلسطين ، وإنني سأموت في القسطل قبل أن أرى تقصيركم وتواطؤكم".

قال لي "باسل" إنّ المهاجرين الجّدد إلى بلدانٍ معيّنة كالولايات المتحدة يبنون مراكز لحِفظ تراثهم. و أمثلة ذلك المدينة الصينيّة في "نيو يورك" و في "كاليفورنيا" و في بلدان غربية أخرى. و أضاف: " فعلنا الشيء نفسه في الولجة الجديدة للمحافظة على تراثنا وحتما سنعود إلى الولجة الأصلية. لقد مثّلت الولجة الجديدة تهديداً للممستوطنات اليهوديّة الاستعماريّة و تهديداً للقدس الغربيّة (بسبب موقعها الجغرافي) و لكن لدينا الكثير من المشاكل...و هي مشكلة الذين ارغمهم الاحتلال على ترك بيوتهم، و مشكلة اللاجئين، و مشكلة سرقة مياهنا الجوفيّة، و مشكلة الجدار المبني على أراضينا، و مشكلة تدمير البيوت، و مشكلة التمييز العنصري، و مشكلة حقوق المواطنة. إنّ المقاومة ردّ فعل طبيعي (على هذا)....و فلسطين هي عبارة عن ميكروكوزم الأشياء التي تدور حول العالم".

رنّت كلماته التّنبّؤيّة هذه في أذنيْ حين سمعت عن نبأ استشهاده. كما ذكرت في البداية، إنّ آخرين كتبوا عن إعدام "باسل". إحتجز جثمانه 10 أيام وحضر جنازته الآلاف ولم يكن هنالك شعارات أحزاب أو فصائل. فقط العلم الفلسطيني كما أراد باسل. بكيت عدة مرات خلال مراسيم الجنازة لأسباب لن أتحدث بها منها عندما رأيت وجههة وعندما حياه والده (أبو السعيد) بالتحية العسكرية وعندما رأيت صديقة له تبكي بحرارة وعندما رأيت لاصقة من حركة فتح – شعبة الولجة تنعاه. ولكن كما قلت في البداية معظم ما كتبت كان قبل استشهاده وهي كلماته الحية التي لن تموت وستبقى مع الأجيال القادمة حتى وبعد التحرير القادم لا محالة.  آثَرت أن أذكر لكم ما قاله لي هو شخصيّاً عن حياته و عن عائلته. و هذه هي وصيّته الأخيرة:

"بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
تحية العروبة والوطن والتحرير
أما بعد،
إن كنت تقرأ هذا فهذا يعني أني قد مِتُّ، وقد صعدت الروح إلى خالقها، وأدعو الله أن ألاقيه بقلبٍ سليم مقبل غير مدبر بإخلاص بلا ذرة رياء. لكم من الصعب أن تكتب وصيتك، ومنذ سنين انقضت وأنا أتأمل كل وصايا الشهداء التي كتبوها، لطالما حيرتني تلك الوصايا، مختصرة سريعة مختزلة فاقدة للبلاغة ولا تشفي غليلنا في البحث عن أسئلة الشهادة، وأنا الآن أسير إلى حتفي راضيًا مقتنعًا وجدت أجوبتي، يا ويلي ما أحمقني وهل هناك أبلغ وأفصح من فعل الشهيد، وكان من المفروض أن أكتب هذا قبل شهورٍ طويلة إلا أن ما أقعدني عن هذا هو أن هذا سؤالكم أنتم الأحياء فلماذا أجيب أنا عنكم فلتبحثوا أنتم أما نحن أهل القبور فلا نبحث إلا عن رحمة الله".

Mar 8, 2017

Basil of Al-Walaja: RIP

By Mazin Qumsiyeh

My encounter with the Al-Araj family began in 2009, the year I met Basil and Shireen and started joining them in demonstrations in Al-Walaja village. On 6 March 2017, Basil was murdered by the Israeli army. He was 31 years old. Others will speak of his martyrdom, I will speak of his life and what he told me. Basil would have wanted it told this way. I learned intimate details about Basil and his family life the third time we were detained together. He was 24 years old, I was twice his age. This was in what Basil accurately described as “a holding pin not fit for animals” which I and many Palestinian males shared with one Palestinian female, my friend and Basil’s aunt Shireen Al-Araj. I had been “taken”  twice before with Basil and once with Shireen before this particular incident (and more after). It was these arrests that deepened my high regard for the family. Beyond their decency and honest dealings were acts of self-sacrifice that earned the family the respect of their entire village of Al-Walaja and I dare to say all of Palestine. This is similar to Al-Tamimi family of Nebi Saleh and it was no coincidence tat Basem Tamimi was there with us in Al-Walaja the day after Basil’s murder. Here I am not telling you the story of Basil but I am recounting what Basil told me and I had written down in 2014 (was planning to publish inspirational Palestinian stories in a book). I merely now edited it to a) add this introduction) b) change to past tense instead of present tens ('Basil says or relays' now becomes 'Basil said or relayed'), and c) I added a brief ending with his last words.

Having time on our hands on that day 19 May 2011, Basil told me the story of his grandfather Ibrahim and the villagers of Al-Walaja who valiantly struggled against the Israeli occupiers to save their land. That day over fifty of us had been herded into one small cell – men and one woman, people of all ages, some as young as twelve, others well over sixty and most jailed for the first time. The Israeli soldiers holding us seemed even more miserable and nervous than those of us crammed into that small cell. Our crime was nonviolent resistance, their discomfort signaling guilt a force their training had only taught them to handle using violence. They had roughed us up, made us stand battered and bleeding in the sun for hours. The younger guards didn’t look us straight in the eye but lowered their heads or looked around in gestures that betrayed their uncertainty, confusion, and one might venture to say fear. Basil wondered if it is the uncertainty of a criminal fearing being caught!

Reason became apparent when four Israelis imprisoned with us began conversing in Hebrew. In spite of the soldiers telling us it was forbidden to talk, our Israeli cellmates kept on keeping their voices low yet audible enough for the guards to hear. Yelling, the guards feigned displeasure but being curious, imposed no punishment and remained attentive to the conversation. Most of my fellow inmates quickly befriended each other but I remained cautious because I have heard that Israelis sometimes plant informers among the inmates to gather information. I only trusted Basil and Shireen whom I knew for at least two years prior to this arrest (2009). I thus talked to them and especially Basil at length.

It was earlier that week when our group first gathered on the terraced hillside lush with trees and an olive grove that we planned that action with Israelis. We were all determined to defend with our bodies the oldest olive tree in the Bethlehem district. There was one tree believed to be between three thousand years old.
Huddled in a corner on the cold concrete cell floor, we whispered. In spite of hunger and exhaustion our spirits were kept high talking boldly about a future focused on coexistence – all peoples sharing one land in one democratic state. Topics centered on an end to repression and segregated government schools. Idealistic planning flowed naturally among comrades locked in mutual struggle, helped to ward off the misery of confinement and keep spirits high. The guard soldiers paced nervously back and forth hesitated to listen to our whispered conversation before issuing another reprimand for talking.

But as the group convesation ended we talked among smaller groups or one on one. Basil approached me and asked me about my family. I asked him about his family and was mesmerized by glimpses of family life and history (partly because I was writing a book on Popular Resistance in Palestine which was published later in 2012). Part of what I write here was supposed to be printed in that book but the editor wisely suggested a shorter more concise book and saving more detailed personal stories to another book (and I have many of those) which I never published. I tried to remember much of what Basil told me in that prison cell but to be sure of the details, I visited with him six months later at his home in Al-Walaja and spent a whole evening learned much more about Al-Walaja’s history and his family.

Basil was called the “intellectual revolutionary” for good reason. He had a keen mind and had read many books. When I gave him a copy of my book on Popular Resistance in Arabic in late 2013 (or perhaps early 2014), he finished reading it in three weeks and came back to me with lots of questions and wanting to know more., He was especially fascinated by the part of how Palestinians transcended the divisions of 1920s and early 1930s (over two dozen factions infighting and a Palestinian police force working with the British) to arrive at the great revolt of 1936.

Anyway, Basil started by explaining that before 1948 his village sat was located inside the Green line on the main railroad track line that headed from Jerusalem to Lydda and Jaffa and cut through village lands. Villagers tell of bountiful agricultural harvests before the creation of Israel and the Nakba (Palestinian uprising) of 1948. Agricultural products from the Al-Walaja village flooded the markets of Jerusalem and Jaffa by way of Jerusalem Jaffa Railroad, and significantly contributed to a prosperous Palestine economy . Muslims and Christians of in this part of the country lived peacefully with each other. It was not uncommon for families to convert from Christianity to Islam, which was the more recent religion. Al-Araj family of Al-Walaja is Muslim while the Al-Araj family of the adjacent town Beit Jala is Christian. Two monasteries are located within the village boundaries: Cremisan, which lies between Al-Walaja and Beit Jala, and Meskari, which is between Al-Walaja and Ain Karam. Archaeological exploration of Al-Walaja village land shows Churches include in Ain Jneinah and Tcharcha (comes from Church) areas of the village. Just tw months ago, Israeli authorities made the last spring and its Byzantine ruins of Al-Walaja off-limits to the remaining residents.

Al-Walaja earned notoriety as a scene of the 1938 rebellion against the British occupation and its strong support of Zionism. Official reports told history from the British side. One British regiment reports on its website: “On 11th October 1938, 2nd/Lieutenant R. E. Miller, with a platoon of “D” Company, was road-blocked and heavily sniped at close quarters while carrying out a reconnaissance of the Al Walaja track, near Jerusalem. The platoon extricated itself successfully with air assistance, and not without having inflicted casualties on the enemy. “ (http://www.worcestershireregiment.com/wr.php?main=inc/bat_1_1939 )

On 29 November 1947, the UN General Assembly recommended partition of Palestine. The Zionist forces took this proposal as a Green light to begin ethnic cleansing, which roused a backlash that led to combat in 1948. The Al-Qastal battle was fought between Israeli occupation forces and village defenders headed by Abd al-Qadir al-Husseini in the Palestinian village of Al-Qastal. During fierce fighting Abdel Alqader Al-Husseini was martyred.

Basil’s great grandfather Abu Khalil was a comrade of Abdulqader Al-hussaini and fought with valor and was injured defending his land from the colonizing Zionists and their sponsors (the British mandate). Later, I learned a Jordanian soldier had told Basil’s grandfather that there was a Jordanian-Israeli conspiracy to adjust the border relinquishing Al-Walaja and other areas (similar to what proved to have happened to the villages of the Triangle area in the north).

Israel’s planned, program of forceful transfer of Palestine’s indigenous population gradually digressed into what some people described as a civil war in and others saw as a colonial war targeting the natives population. Israel made several attempts to take over the village and remove its inhabitants. 4 AM on the morning of 21 October 1948, the last successful attempt began. It was during the olive harvest season. Basil’s grandfather Ibrahim remembers that time. They had spread an exceptionally bountiful harvest of olives on the roofs of houses in preparation for sorting and selecting those pressed to make oil and the olives for pickling (called rseis). Basil described his grandfather’s reaction that night. While dreaming of the days work ahead, I was suddenly awakened by the sound of bombs, canon , and machine gun firing in the village. It was coming from three directions. I heard cries and screams, ran into the village, saw neighbors forced to leave at gunpoint, some in their sleeping attire and given no time to gather any belongings. Basil says his grandfather told him the shelling continued through that night and on into the day finally ending about 24 hours later. “My grandfather recalls how he put his younger siblings (15, 6, 4, 2 years old) at the railroad station in Battir and went looking for his parents and uncles” (separated in the mayhem of the flight). Basil then tells how his grandfather was such a solid, collected guy who inspired discipline, perseverance, or what he calls sumoud (steadfastness).

I recalled how these parts of Basil’s narrative speaking about his grandfather gave his face a glow of pride and dare I say hope (nostalgia to a disant past?). Clearly Basil saw the actions of his grandfather as heroic. Knowing I am from Beit Sahour, Basil told me that when reunited , the extended family sought refuge between the olive trees in Beit Sahour for a short while then returned after the border was drawn to inhabit the parts of their Al-Walaja lands that came under Jordanian rule. It was in Beit Sahour, that the family found a friend who invited them to stay in his village called Breidh’a (nearTa’amra, east of Bethlehem). Some men managed to sneak back into Al-Walaja and get enough wheat and olives from the harvest to help sustain them for six months. When food supplies ran out, the family patriarch Ibrahim decided that they could no longer burden their friends in Breidh’a and should find another home but where? By this time. The newly founded state of Israel had occupied 80% of Al-Walaja’s land. Twenty percent was beyond the cease-fire line under Jordanian rule. Israel had taken the fertile part of the village leaving only a hill good only as grazing lands for sheep. In the early 1950s, some villagers continued to sneak across the green line to take care of their land, to harvest their trees and make contact with family members. This was risky. In 1949, the newly founded state of Israel issued its first major military order to shoot on sight any Palestinian villagers, who had now become refugees trying to return to their lands or attempting to work those lands. According to Basil, the Jordanian government collaborated with Israel to prevent these cross border “infiltrations” for fear of Israel’s disproportionate attacks that were common-place (collective punishment). In one instance, a member of the family was captured by Israeli forces but not killed. Upon his release, the Jordanian government accused him of collaborating with Israel and the family spent six months with lots of legal cost to get him released.

Some of the Al-A’raj family including the grandfather Ibrahim lived in a cave and others lived in a small room in the Western edge of the village land on a property called Wadi Hils near Al-Makhrour - Beit Jala until 1964. By the early 1960s, several families from Al-Walaja, realized there was little likelihood that they would ever be able to return to their homes. It had become evident that Israel had no intention of complying with International law that and called for the right of refugees to return). Twenty percent of the area still remained in what became known as the West Bank.Palestinian refugees who could afford it, moved on the remaining land and began to build Al-Walaja al-Jadida, (the new Al-Walaja). The years following the creation of Israel between (1950-1964), were harsh. Basil tells how his father remembers family members suffering skin diseases, parasites, hunger, the shock of the Nakba permeated life and left emotional scars. One family member refused to allow their children to go to school telling them that it is critical that they stay farmers to go back home to Al-Walaja. Another refused to allow his grown children to build a house outside the village. Basil’s grandfather Ibrahim decided to learned a new profession and chose that of stone masonry. He found work in Jordan and in Lebanon and so was able to save enough money to build a one room shack outside the cave where he and his family had been living since they were driven out.

On June 5, 1967, the new Al-Walaja village was attacked unexpectedly from the east rather than from the west. Some villagers speculated it was because the Jordanian regime was in collusion with Israel according to Basil. Basil said his great grandfather, injured in heroic defense of our motherland in 1948 cried so hard on learning of this Naksa (setback of 1967) that he suffered a stroke that resulted in the loss of his eye sight. Brokenhearted, he died a month later.

Israel’s advanced weaponry ended the war after six days and saw the occupation by Israeli forces of what remains of Palestine. Unlike 1948, large scale ethnic cleansing did not follow.(Palestinians had learned that if you leave during war, you would not be allowed to return). Before the borders where sealed, Basil’s said his grandfather Ibrahim had gone to Jordan and brought back his mother who was visiting in Jordan. This latest war created 300,000 additional Palestinians refugees in 1967, nearly a third of them refugees for the second time.

Out of desperation, many Palestinians were forced to work for the new masters of the land. Anger and bitter resentment led to confrontations and frequently the proud villagers were fired within a day or two for exhibiting pride and refusing to accept the insults of their captors. In 1982, a new right-wing Israeli government took over the government of Israel. Headed by Menachen Begin, it was intent on further confiscation of land and building colonial settlements within its occupied territories while simultaneously intensifying war in bordering regions such as in Lebanon, with the perpetuation of massacres and war crimes.

The Begin government began confiscating more land from Al-Walaja Al-Jadida. Attempts were made to confiscate 30 dunums (about 7 acres) belong to the A’rajfamily. The family fought back, went to court, planted trees in this rather unproductive hilly land, and tried many other actions to protect what remained of their property. They did so successfully for many years but then Israel started building a segregation wall that is intended to squeeze the people by depriving them of their land and making them live in a an open air prison hoping they will leave. Basil’s and Shireen’s and other families refused to leave. As he paused, I ask him to tell me more about himself.

He told me: “The night I was born was cold and snowy. My parents (Mahmoud and Siham) thought it was sign that I was destined to live a harsh life. I was too young to remember much about the first uprising except sleeping with my shoes just in case we had to leave the house. I also remember in the early 1990s that the possessing a Palestinian flag was a very big thing. It was illegal to own or display it but it was a prized possession. I remember once taking a small flag from a car, feeling guilty, yet wanting it badly, then an older kid took it from me. At home, there was a little place for sewing clothing for our family needs but then slowly it became used to make forbidden flags at nights.”

But then Basil went back to telling me more about politics and the Oslo era. Basil said his interest in politics started when he was 10 years old. The Oslo agreements were then meant the PLO recognized Israel while Israel did not recognize Palestine and instead we developed a “Palestinian Authority”. Basil and his family believed these 1993/1994 agreements created a collaborating government in the same way as Vichy government in France under the Nazis. The period after 1994 saw developments that brought new challenges for people in Al-Walaja and the surrounding villages. Israel was moving forward rapidly expanding existing Jewish settlements/colonies and building-up infrastructure in for settlers while ignoring the need to update the deteriorating Palestinian infrastructure. Israel’s plan to improve infrastructure required acquiring more lands. Much land had already been taken from Al-Walaja and Beit Jala when the new Jewish colony of Har Gilo was built; and now Israel’s plan was to link it with other Jewish colonies and with Jerusalem. It meant roads were to be built through the remaining land of Al-Walaja. Our Al-Araj small family lost an additional four dunums (one dunum is about a quarter of an acre). What was worse is that the village lost access to two more of its water springs. By the late 1990s only one of the original 22 springs remained accessible and eventually even that was inaccessible when the separation wall built prevented us from reaching it. Villagers remained determined to resist by the only means available against the armed occupiers, that of non-violence. Everyone became involved in a popular resistance that included demonstrations, sit-ins, petitions, and legal methods through Israel’s courts. Buttressed by the other forms of resistance, the legal approach forced a judge to ask the government to move the road 19 meters away from the Al-Araj house.

A military checkpoint was placed at the entrance of the village in front of Basil and Shireen’s homes. A battle of wills ensued. Soldiers invaded the homes to terrorize the families and force them to leave. Armed soldiers intimidated the Al A with insults. They attacked children who tried to block soldiers from the private driveway leading to one of the houses. An Israeli bulldozer rolled noisily through the narrow street carrying dirt and dumped it at the village entrance to block the road. Several times during the day it came back and forth to dump the dirt and prevent access to the village. Throughout the night, villagers worked to remove the mound, and by morning, it was gone. Angered soldiers retaliated with attacks on families. If the soldiers felt the family comfortable, they disrupted with any excuse. Family barbeques, children playing football, raised voices during a heated family discussion or playing music – all were reason for intimidation. Resistance increased, and so did soldier attacks. Attacks graduated from house invasion with insults to using tear gas, rubber coated metal bullets and in some instances even live ammunition. As the repeated attempts to make life hell for the people continued, the Al-Araj family became ever more determined to save their homes and lands.

Basil recalled “We became aware of Israel’s plan when first seeing a 2006, map of the wall to encircle Al-Walaja. If completed as planned, the thirty foot high wall would isolate the villagers of Al-Walaja Al-Jadida from their farmland and deprive them of their livelihood. Building the wall required the destruction of thirty three homes in Al-Walaja Al-Jadida. In addition, notices were given for the demolition of eighty-eight additional homes in the village.

Basil said he went to Egypt for study between 2002 and 2007 (getting a degree in Pharmacology). While he was away, friends and relatives continued the struggle for their land. There were arrests of those who resisted; among them was that of a good friend of his now serving 40 year jail sentence for resistance (I need to get this person’s name). I ask him about who he loves most in his family besides his parents and he says all of them but as I press him he mentions his uncle Khalid for defending people (he is a lawyer) and his aunt Shireen [A strong women who needs an article/chapter of her own]. From Shireen he learned the value of non-violent resistance.

The work of this family and others in Walaja paid off. The checkpoint installed was removed in 2005. Basil was jailed 3 times and apprehended three other times. He suffered multiple injuries including twice having his ribs broken. The short sighted Basil recalled with bitterness the cruelty of soldiers who intentionally broke his prescription glasses.

After he lost his job as a pharmacist (related to his activism), he was briefly hired as a researcher for the Palestinian Museum. That was the last time he ever called me and he became a wanted man (by the Palestinian security and Israeli security). I felt really bad that we did not connect and I cried more for my friend Basil than I did for my cousin (a beautiful mother of two who died the same day).  I do not believe the story about Basil carrying arms. I was arrested with Basil Al-Araj several times between 2010 – 2014 in non-violent actions. He was an intellectual and a writer and he read my book promoting non-violent resistance and his questions to me about the book have not even hinted at a transition or transformation to belief in armed resistance. If I am wrong on my understanding, an evolution to armed resistance would be understandable; as John F. Kennedy said: “Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable”

When he was detained with other colleagues by the Palestinian security forces in April 2016, I was shocked and I wrote an email to my list:

“Basil Al-Araj is in a Palestinian jail. He is a young Palestinian pharmacist who had worked at a pharmacy in Shufat Refugee Camp in Jerusalem. I knew him because he is from Al-Walaja, a village that was struggling as “Israel” builds a wall around the remaining houses of the village (already 90% of the residents are refugees elsewhere). Village wells and lands were stolen by the Israeli colonizers starting in 1948 and continuing till today. Basil had a love of Palestine and a hatred of injustice. Like most young people they searched for ways to act on their convictions. He participated in nonviolent demonstrations at his village but was not satisfied with their outcome. He read my book on “Popular Resistance in Palestine” in Arabic and gave me his feedback. He said he learned much about history of the Palestinian struggle. He said the book’s Arabic could use some editing. He tried other methods of action. He and a few others tried to block the main road near the colony of Maale Adumim. He and I and four others were the six Palestinian Freedom riders arrested in 2011 while demonstrating Israeli apartheid policies [http://mondoweiss.net/2011/11/follow-the-freedom-rides/ ]. These demonstrative actions were born of good intentions to help bring us closer to freedom. I always lamented even as I participated in such actions how the Palestinian leadership betrayed its people leaving young and old n a sense “orphaned of leadership”. I worried not that the Palestinian cause will die (I am by nature optimistic) but that the selfishness, ego, and incompetence of self-declared leaders can only delay the inevitable freedom and dispirit a population otherwise willing and able to liberate itself. Now Basil and two friends of his have been arrested by the Palestinian Authority….”

Basil and the author in the lead-up to the freedom riders and Basil's will

Yes, Basil was against Oslo and the whole PA structure. Basil told me that in certain countries, like the US, new immigrants build centers to preserve their culture. Chinatowns in New York and in California and other western cities. He adds “In our new Al-Walaja we did that and much more. The new Al-Walaja represented a threat to Jewish colonial settlements and West Jerusalem (because of its geographic location) but we had so many problems…the displaced and the refugees, taking our water rights, the wall built on our land, home demolitions, apartheid, residency rights. ….Resistance is normal reaction [to this]….. Palestine is a microcosm of the world, its history that of mankind. What happens here is an indicator of things to come around the world.” These prophetic words rang in my ears when I heard of Basil’s martyrdom.

As I said in the beginning, others have written of Basil’s extrajudicial execution (and if you are curious, here is one story and you can google for others: http://www.maannews.com/Content.aspx?id=775829 . I preferred to tell you of what he told me of his life and that of his family. They say that this is his last will (and indeed the original in Arabic looked like his hand writing. Its rough translation is:

“Greetings of Arab nationalism, homeland, and liberation. If you are reading this, it means I have died and my soul has ascended to its creator. I pray to God that I will meet him with a guiltless heart, willingly, and never reluctantly, and free of any whit of hypocrisy. How hard it is to write your own will. For years I have been contemplating testaments written by martyrs, and those wills have always bewildered me. They were short, quick, without much eloquence. They did not quench our thirst to find answers about martyrdom. Now I am walking to my fated death satisfied that I found my answers. How stupid I was! Is there anything which is more eloquent and clearer than a martyr's deed? I should have written this several months ago, but what kept me was that this question is for you, living people, and why should I answer on your behalf? Look for the answers yourself, and for us the inhabitants of the graves, all we seek is God's mercy.”

Al-Walaja story
Part 1 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gcodiFkotgk
Part 2 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HBeztx5Lcv8
Part 3 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2mramhyCQlI

Videos of Al-Walaja struggle with many showing Basil and Shireen
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BaF33HVqDpg (Israelis in Al-Walaja)

Palestinian activist 'executed' by Israeli forces after 2-hour shoot-out

Slain activist Basel al-Araj 'a representation of the soul of Palestinian youth'


Feb 16, 2017

Mythos und Wirklichkeit

"Many books go out of date and few remain iconic and critical to understanding an issue. The book in hand belongs to the latter category, the true classics. Simha Flapan was born in Poland 27 January 1911 and immigrated to Palestine as an idealistic “socialist Zionist” in 1930. He was national secretary of the Mapam party and head of its Arab Affairs department. Simha Flapan unfortunately died while his book went to press in 1987. However, the book was really revolutionary and hence it is now in German." 
I wrote this forward but never shared it with the readers of my blog. I highly recommend for English speakers to read the original book and for German Speakers to read the German translation published in 2015 with my forward. Anyway here is the forward I wrote to the German version of this remarkable book.

Forward/Vorwort  (in German) to Simcha Flapan, "Die Geburt Israels. Mythos und Wirklichkeit," Semit edition bei ZAMBON, Frankfurt/M. 2015 http://zambon.net/index.php?id=23&tx_ttnews%5Btt_news%5D=16&cHash=b31f316288177a61c0f7b3d7a8757a25

Forward By Prof. Mazin Qumsiyeh, Professor and Director, Palestine Museum of Natural History, Bethlehem University, Occupied Palestine

Many books go out of date and few remain iconic and critical to understanding an issue. The book in hand belongs to the latter category, the true classics. Simha Flapan was born in Poland 27 January 1911 and immigrated to Palestine as an idealistic “socialist Zionist” in 1930. He was national secretary of the Mapam party and head of its Arab Affairs department. Simha Flapan unfortunately died while his book went to press in 1987. However, the book was really revolutionary and hence it is now in German. I am sure had Flapan been alive, the publisher would have gotten him to write a very relevant forward in a form of a new edition. I am sad I never met Flapan but I am honored to reflect on why this work is so critical. The well-chosen title “The Birth of Israel: Myths and Realities” immediately draws attention to perhaps one of the most astounding historical events of the 20th century that still shapes conflicts in this part of the world and even beyond.
The tragic history that was unleashed here with the idea of Zionism was not unforeseen. Every Zionist leader knew that their project to colonize Palestine will create misery and mayhem because no colonization can be done nicely or with the support of the native people who will have to be expelled. Flapan does not give his opinions but he shows by documentary evidence how this tragedy happened. Palestine was to be transformed from multireligious and multi-cultural society (Jews represented less than 5% of the population in 1897) to the monolithic “Jewish state”. Ethnic cleansing achieved this goal and today 7 million Palestinians are refugees or displaced people (of a total Palestinian population of 12 million). This is the “miracle” of the Birth and growth of Israel. This miracle took a combination of military might, collusion by leaders near and far (including Arab leaders), and a lot of propaganda. Flapan exposes the myths that many Zionists told to justify their crimes. Flapan successfully tackles the biggest seven lies (myths) that Zionists used to create and perpetuate the state of Israel. The myths include things like the acceptance of partition by the Zionist leadership paralleling rejection by Arab leaders, the myth of a small Israel fending off large Arab armies (David vs. Goliath), the myth that Israel is looking for peace, and more. The most devastating myth is that of Israeli lack of responsibility for the creation of the Palestinian refugee “problem”. He demolishes these myths with irrefutable sources, most of them are actually from Israeli leaders themselves. This was a pioneering achievement and Flapan’s book opened a section of the wall of lies and myths to be followed by many Israeli honest writers such as Hillel Cohen, Baruch Kimmerling, Ilan Pappe, Tom Segev, Avi Shlaim, and Israel Shahak. Earlier many Palestinian historians have written extensively on the real history that is not the mythologized history of zionism (e.g. Aref Al-Aref, Walid Khalidi, Sami Hadawi, Emil Tuma, Nur Masalha etc).

The most important figure (the midwife) in the “birth of Israel” was David Ben-Gurion and the current book reviews extensively the record of this founding figure. We learn from Flapan things like what Ben-Gurion said in 1937 as to explain why a small state will help consolidate power “for the gradual conquest of all of Palestine”. We can trace this consistent thinking ten years later when Ben-Gurion explained that “After the formation of a large army in the wake of the establishment of the state, we will abolish partition and expand to the whole of Palestine.” We learn in this book of Ben-Gurion’s statement that he sees transfer as moral and we read his orders to remove inhabitants in many places and we learn about his creation of a “transfer committee”. Members of this transfer committee (Dannon, Weitz, Lipshitz) are exposed as racist ideologues who made many incriminating statements. In a fair world such individuals who led or participated in these actions would have been tried for war crimes and crimes against humanity. But Zionists were well placed in western countries and managed much misinformation as well as used the world sympathies after WWII to hide horrors committed to create the Jewish state.

But it is not just these amazing quotes that are relevant, but the nuances of wheeling and dealing reminiscent of the novel “The Godfather” that we become privy to by reading Flapan. We learn much about negotiations that ensured a declaration of independence that lacked any relevance to borders of the new state and from the wrangling between parties not about the morality of transferring population but merely about how to do it. We learn about the policies and practices that emanate from the Zionist maxim of maximizing geography (Palestinian land for the Jewish state) while minimizing demography (of the native Palestinians). We learn how international politics and local maneuvering were done with sophistication and cunning to hide the massacres and the ethnic cleansing. We learn about the collusion between Zionists and King Abdullah of Jordan to thwart the formation of a Palestinian state, a collusion that was crucial in the devastation inflicted on the local Palestinians in 1948-9. We learn that the Zionists, intoxicated with their power, even abandoned the favorable agreement made with Abdullah and moved forward with expansions. This is not unusual in colonial histories (e.g. in the Americas). Abdullah was assassinated for his collusion by a young Palestinian nationalist in 1951.

I find it remarkable that the insights that were revealed by Flapan in this book are echoed by previously classified and now declassified assessment from Western Intelligence agencies. For example, on 28 November 1947, the US Central Intelligence Agency correctly predicted the mayhem that would arise because of President Truman’s support for creation of a Jewish state. They also accurately predicted that “In the long run no Zionists in Palestine will be satisfied with the territorial arrangements of the partition settlement. Even the more conservative Zionists will hope to obtain the whole of the Nejeb [Naqab], Western Galilee, the city of Jerusalem, and eventually all of Palestine. The extremists demand not only all of Palestine but Transjordan as well. They have stated that they will refuse to recognize the validity of any Jewish government which will settle for anything less, and will probably under-take aggressive action to achieve their ends.”(document declassified 16 Jan 1978).

Flapan’s meticulous research shows the remarkable extent of the efforts to destroy native Palestinian civilian lives, drive people out, and create an ethnocracy with apartheid laws. Flapan uses the term population transfer (which Ben-Gurion found desirable) rather than the term ethnic cleansing which Ilan Pappe and others used. In this book we find a very good discussion of Plan Dalet, adopted in March 1948 and implemented on the ground to drive the natives out. We find good discussion of how the plan was put into force by forces under Yitzhak (break their bones) Rabin to drive the residents of Lydde (Lod) and Ramle out not in a heat of battle but to “cleanse” the area.

Why is demolishing these myths still as relevant today (2015) as it was in 1987 when Flapan died? It is because these myths provided and still provide useful justification for continued injustice. They basically create the fog that allows Israel to be both an apartheid racist state while claiming western values and “democracy”. It allows the state with the fifth strongest army in the world to be the only state with undeclared stockpiles of hundreds of nuclear weapons to claim its “vulnerability” and push other states to fight wars on its behalf. The current book is thus relevant even as some of its details may have become outdated. For example, Flapan mention Israel’s rule over 1.5 million Palestinian in the West Bank and Gaza in 1987 (the number is now 4 million).

As I discussed in my book on “Sharing the Land of Canaan”, abandoning myths helps us get correct diagnosis leading to applying appropriate therapies and a better prognosis. The sobering assessment bolstered by the declassified documents of the historians such as Flapan is that political Zionism is a racist colonial ideology built on myths and is incompatible with peace. This is perhaps not what Flapan wanted us to conclude. In his earlier book “Zionism and the Palestinians’ (1979)  he wrote that “To dispel misunderstanding, I want to make it clear that my belief in the moral justification and historical necessity of Zionism remains unaffected by my critical reappraisal of the Zionist leadership. The history of Zionism demonstrates the extent to which the urge to create a new society, embodying the universal values of democracy and social justice, was inherent in the Zionist movement and responsible for its progress in adverse conditions.” Towards the end of this book, we hear a slightly different Flapan put much of the burden for change on Israel (especially considering the asymmetry of power). Flapan apparently remained a Zionist though distraught at the (predictable) shift to the right in the Zionist discourse. This is different than the trajectory of other historians like Ilan Pappe or politicians like Avraham Burg who moved farther away from the Zionist narrative. But political opinions aside and no matter how Flapan would have evolved his thinking, his contribution to debunking the myths of Zionism ultimately also chip away at the ideology itself and thus help us get closer to peace with justice.

Burg, Avraham 2008. The Holocaust Is Over: We Must Rise From its Ashes. MacMillan, New York.
Flapan, Simha 1979. Zionism and the Palestinians. Croom Helm, London.
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Pappe, Ilan 2006. The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine. Oneworld, London and New York
Pappe, Ilan 2011. The Forgotten Palestinians: A History of the Palestinians in Israel. Yale University Press, New Haven, CT
Qumsiyeh, Mazin 2004. Sharing the Land of Canaan: Human Rights and the Israeli-Palestinian Struggle. Pluto, London.
Qumsiyeh, Mazin 2015. Kanaan: Ein Gemeinsames Land: Menschenrechte und der Israelisch-Palestinensische Kampf. Zambon Verlag, Frankfurt am Main.
Shahak, Israel 1997. Open Secrets: Israeli Nuclear and Foreign Policies.  Pluto Press, London
Shahak, Israel 1994 (New edition 2008). Jewish History, Jewish Religion: The weight of 3000 years. Pluto Press, London.

Shahak, Israel and Mezvinsky, Norton 1999 (New edition 2004). Jewish Fundamentalism in Israel. Pluto Press, London.