[News] Palestinian Culture: 64 Years Under Israeli Assault

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Fri Aug 3 11:02:07 EDT 2012

*FACT SHEET: Palestinian Culture: 64 Years Under Israeli Assault*

IMEU, Aug 2, 2012

In late July, while on a trip to Israel and occupied East Jerusalem, 
presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney sparked outrage 
amongst Palestinians by telling a group of supporters at a fundraiser 
that the glaring disparity between the strength of Israel's economy and 
that of the Palestinian territories is a result of differences in the 
respective cultures of Israelis and Palestinians.

In response, many critics pointed out that the Palestinian West Bank, 
East Jerusalem, and Gaza Strip, have been under Israeli military 
occupation for more than 45 years, with Israel tightly controlling and 
systematically stifling Palestinian economic activity. Moreover, some 
pointed out that the destructive effects that Israeli policies have had 
on Palestinian economic development in the occupied territories is just 
one part of a wider, systematic, decades-old Israeli assault against 
Palestinian culture and historical memory.

To put this controversy into context, the IMEU offers the following fact 
sheet detailing Israel's more than six-decade-old assault on Palestinian 
society and culture.


    * During Israel's creation (1947-49) some 750,000 Palestinians, or
      2/3 of the Arab population in what would become Israel, were
      expelled from their homes and land by Zionist and then Israeli
      forces to make way for a Jewish majority state in a region that
      had previously been populated overwhelmingly by Muslim and
      Christian Palestinian Arabs.

    * Some 400 Palestinian towns and villages, including vibrant urban
      centers, were systematically destroyed by Zionist and Israeli
      forces during and after the creation of the state.

    * The total monetary loss of Palestinians dispossessed during
      Israel's creation has been estimated
      at upwards of $100 billion (US) in today's dollars.

    * At the end of 1947, just prior to Israel's establishment, Zionist
      Jews and organizations owned less than 7% of the land of British
      Mandate Palestine. Despite this, the United Nations Partition Plan
      passed in November 1947 allotted 55% of Mandate Palestine to a new
      Jewish state, disregarding the property rights and wishes of
      Palestinian Arabs, who comprised some 67% of the population.

    * During the subsequent military campaign that accompanied Israel's
      creation, Zionist and Israeli forces expanded far beyond the
      borders of the Jewish state called for in the UN Partition Plan,
      conquering 78% of Mandate Palestine and incorporating it into what
      became Israel's internationally recognized, pre-1967 War borders.

    * Most Palestinian refugees fled or were forced from their homes on
      short notice. Almost 65 years later, those refugees and their
      descendants continue to be denied their legal right to return to
      their land and homes, as called for in UN Resolution 194
      and have been denied any kind of compensation from Israel for
      their economic and other losses.

    * In 1967, during the June, or Six-Day War, Israel conquered the
      West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem, the 22% of historic Palestine
      that remained outside its borders in 1948. In addition to creating
      tens of thousands of new Palestinian refugees, some for the second
      time over, almost immediately Israeli authorities began to
      colonize the occupied territories, in violation of international
      law, with Jewish-only settlements built on expropriated
      Palestinian land. Today more than half a million Israeli Jews live
      on occupied Palestinian land in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

    * In 1988, the Palestine Liberation Organization made what was
      considered a major historic compromise, renouncing claim to 78% of
      Mandate Palestine and agreeing to a Palestinian state on just the
      remaining 22%, comprising the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza.
      Despite this, Israel has continued to relentlessly colonize the
      occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem with a network of
      Jewish-only settlements and attendant infrastructure, Israeli-only
      roads, military bases, and the West Bank wall, surrounding,
      dissecting, and isolating Palestinian population centers from one
      another and the outside world.


    * During Israel's creation in 1948, tens of thousands of Palestinian
      books were systematically "collected"
      by the Israeli army and its precursor, the Hagannah, in
      cooperation with the Israeli National Library. The books included
      priceless volumes of Palestinian Arab and Muslim literature,
      including poetry, works of history and fiction. Thousands of the
      books were destroyed and recycled for paper, while others were
      added to the library's collection. Today, many remain in the
      Israeli National Library, designated abandoned property.

    * Since prior to Israel's founding in 1948, British and then Israeli
      authorities engaged in a systematic campaign targeting Palestinian
      political leaders, artists, and intellectuals for imprisonment,
      exile, and assassination, starting in the 1930s with the exiling
      by British authorities of the Palestinian political leadership of
      the Arab Higher Committee. Amongst the artists and intellectuals
      subsequently murdered by Israel were writer Ghassan Kanafani, and
      poet and intellectual Wael Zuaiter

    * During Israel's invasion of Lebanon in 1982, Israeli forces
      systematically looted and confiscated the accumulated national
      archives of the Palestine Liberation Organization, including
      invaluable collections of films and other cultural artifacts.

    * The 2009 US State Department International Religious Freedom
      Report <http://www.state.gov/j/drl/rls/irf/2009/127349.htm> noted
      the Israeli government does not recognize non-Jewish holy sites
      and that as a result, "many Muslim and Christian sites are
      neglected, inaccessible, or threatened by property developers and

    * In a move that prompted international criticism and typifies
      Israeli policy towards Palestinian sites that are of cultural and
      historical importance, Israel is allowing the Los Angeles-based
      Simon Wiesenthal Center to build a "Museum of Tolerance"
      over one of the oldest and most culturally significant Palestinian
      Muslim sites in the Holy Land, the ancient Mamilla cemetery in
      Jerusalem. Press reports have revealed evidence of widespread
      desecrations of tombs and their remains by construction workers.


    * Israeli restrictions on the movement of Palestinians living in the
      occupied territories, including its network of hundreds of
      checkpoints and roadblocks in the West Bank, travel permit system,
      and siege of Gaza, prevent many Palestinian students from reaching
      their schools and accessing their right to education.

    * There is a de facto embargo against Palestinian students from the
      occupied territories wishing to study abroad. Students from Gaza
      in particular, including Fulbright Scholars,
      <http://abcnews.go.com/International/story?id=4964329&page=1> are
      often prevented by Israel's siege from traveling to universities
      in the West Bank and abroad to study in their chosen fields.

    * In the late 1980s and early 1990s, during the First Intifada, or
      uprising against Israel's occupation, Israeli authorities shut
      down many Palestinian schools, forcing Palestinians teachers and
      students to improvise classes in secret to avoid being shut down
      by the Israeli army.


    * In July 2012, the World Bank released a report that concluded
      Palestinian economic growth in the West Bank was unsustainable
      citing Israeli restrictions as the biggest impediment. The
      International Monetary Fund has stated
      <http://www.maannews.net/eng/ViewDetails.aspx?ID=375942> the same

    * At any given time, there are upwards of 500 Israeli checkpoints,
      roadblocks, and other barriers to movement within the occupied
      West Bank, -- an area smaller than Delaware -- hindering
      Palestinians and their goods from moving between their own towns
      and cities and the outside world. (Click here
      for December 2011 UN map of barriers to movement in the West Bank)

    * Historically, Jerusalem has been the economic and cultural center
      of Palestinian life in the surrounding West Bank. However, as a
      result of Israeli policies and actions taken in and around
      occupied East Jerusalem (the borders of which were greatly
      expanded by Israel unilaterally following the start of its
      occupation in 1967), including settlement construction and the
      implementation of a permit system for non-Israeli citizens, today
      Palestinians living in the West Bank are largely cut off from the
      city, unable to visit for worship, to see family, or to do business.

    * Almost 80% of the Jordan Valley, once the breadbasket of
      Palestine, is off-limits to Palestinians, designated for Israeli
      settlements, military 'firing zones,' and 'nature reserves.'
      (Click here
      for 2012 UN map)

    * According to a December 2010 Human Rights Watch report
      entitled "Separate and Unequal: Israel's Discriminatory Treatment
      of Palestinians in the Occupied Palestinian Territories":

          'Palestinians face systematic discrimination merely because of
          their race, ethnicity, and national origin, depriving them of
          electricity, water, schools, and access to roads, while nearby
          Jewish settlers enjoy all of these state-provided benefits...
          While Israeli settlements flourish, Palestinians under Israeli
          control live in a time warp -- not just separate, not just
          unequal, but sometimes even pushed off their lands and out of
          their homes.'


    * Although Israel withdrew its soldiers and 8000 settlers from the
      Gaza Strip in 2005, Gaza remains under Israeli occupation
      according to international law as Israel continues to maintain
      effective control over the area, controlling most entry in and out
      of the territory, as well as its coastline and airspace.* *

    * Since the early 1990s, Israel has restricted passage to and from
      Gaza, but in 2006, following Hamas' victory in Palestinian
      elections, Israel tightened its restrictions severely and imposed
      a naval blockade on the tiny coastal enclave of 1.6 million
      people. (Click here
      for December 2011 Gaza access and closure map)

    * A 2009 Amnesty International report
      following Operation Cast Lead, Israel's devastating military
      assault on Gaza in the winter of 2008-9, stated:

          'The prolonged blockade of Gaza, which had already been in
          place for some 18 months before the current fighting began,
          amounts to collective punishment of its entire population.'

    * Israeli officials have admitted that the siege is not motivated
      primarily by security concerns, but is part of a strategy of
      "economic warfare" against the people of Gaza. In 2006, senior
      advisor to then-Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Dov Weisglass, said
      <http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2006/apr/16/israel> the goal of
      the Gaza siege was to put the people of Gaza "on a diet, but not
      to make them die of hunger."

    * Although Israel loosened restrictions somewhat under international
      pressure following its deadly assault on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla
      in 2010, the siege and blockade continue to smother Gaza
      economically. According to a 2012 Human Rights Watch report

          'Israel's punitive closure of the Gaza Strip, tightened after
          Hamas's takeover of Gaza in June 2007, continued to have
          severe humanitarian and economic consequences for the civilian

          'Gaza's economy grew rapidly, but the World Bank said the
          growth depended on international assistance. The economy had
          not returned to pre-closure levels; daily wages, for instance,
          had declined 23 percent since 2007. Israel's near-total
          restrictions on exports from Gaza hindered economic recovery.
          Due to low per capita income, 51 percent of the population was
          unable to buy sufficient food, according to UN aid agencies.

          'Israel allowed imports to Gaza that amounted to around 40
          percent of pre-closure levels, the UN reported. Israel
          continued to bar construction materials, like cement, which it
          said had "dual use" civilian and military applications. Israel
          allowed shipments of construction materials for projects
          operated by international organizations, but as of September
          Gaza still had an estimated shortage of some 250 schools and
          100,000 homes.'


    * After taking control of the occupied territories in 1967, Israel
      began to exploit their natural resources. Most critically in the
      semi-arid region, Israel began to exploit aquifers and other water

    * A 2009 Amnesty International report
      entitled "Israel rations Palestinians to trickle of water" found:

          'In the Gaza Strip, 90 to 95 per cent of the water from its
          only water resource, the Coastal Aquifer, is contaminated and
          unfit for human consumption. Yet, Israel does not allow the
          transfer of water from the Mountain Aquifer in the West Bank
          to Gaza.

          'Stringent restrictions imposed in recent years by Israel on
          the entry into Gaza of material and equipment necessary for
          the development and repair of infrastructure have caused
          further deterioration of the water and sanitation situation in
          Gaza, which has reached [a] crisis point.'

    * According to a 2010 Human Rights Watch report
      60,000 Palestinians living in Area C of the West Bank, which is
      under full Israeli control, lack access to running water, and must
      pay high prices (up to one-sixth of their income) to bring in
      water tankers, which require special permits from Israel.

    * According to the 2011 US State Department Country Report
      <http://www.state.gov/documents/organization/190656.pdf> on Human
      Rights Practices for Israel and the occupied territories:

          'Between January and July, according to the UN, the Israeli
          military destroyed 20 water cisterns, some of which were
          funded by donor countries for humanitarian purposes.

          'Palestinian residents reported that water supplies were
          intermittent, and settlers and their security guards denied
          Palestinians, including shepherds and farmers, access to the

    * In the West Bank, Israeli settlers consume on average 4.3 times
      the amount of water
      as Palestinians. In the Jordan Valley alone, some 9000 settlers in
      Israeli agricultural settlements use one-quarter the total amount
      of water consumed by the entire Palestinian population of the West
      Bank, some 2.5 million people.

    * In addition to water and arable land, Israel also exploits
      Palestinian resources such as minerals, including from the Dead
      Sea region


    * Since the start of the occupation in 1967, Israel has destroyed
      vast amounts of Palestinian agricultural land in order to
      construct settlements and attendant infrastructure such as roads
      and military bases, and for the West Bank wall, deemed illegal by
      the International Court of Justice. In addition, vast amounts of
      farmland have been destroyed in Israeli military operations and by
      rampaging Jewish settlers, who set fire to Palestinian fields and
      crops, uproot olive trees, and even kill livestock.

    * According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian
      Affairs in the occupied Palestinian territories, in 2011 alone
      some 10,000 Palestinian-owned trees, mostly olive trees, were
      damaged or destroyed by Israeli settlers, significantly
      undermining the livelihoods of hundreds of West Bank families.

    * Between 2000 and 2007, more than half a million Palestinian olive
      trees were destroyed by settlers or by Israel for the construction
      of the West Bank wall.

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