June/July 2005


Where are your Grandparents From?

Many people do not know who the Palestinian people really are, nor who are what they refer to as "Israelis." In fact, it seems that most people believe that the colonialists and settlers in Palestine have "always been there," and that Israelis are indigenous to the land of Palestine. This article aims to shed light upon the obscured history and demographics of Occupied Palestine, or the colonial apartheid state of Israel.

Demographics - the characteristics of a population - is an important issue both for Palestinians, the indigenous inhabitants of Palestine, and for the Zionists who have sought to eradicate Palestinian Arab identity and existence from Palestine. The indigenous people of the land of Palestine are the Palestinians, while the majority of Israeli citizens are from Europe, the United States and other countries outside Palestine; the majority of the people who constitute the Israeli people and state are foreign to Palestine, and came to Palestine as colonizers of indigenous Palestinian land. Like the French colonizers of Algeria, and the British colonizers of India, they are European colonialists who have no inherent "right" to be there, occupying Palestinian land.

This issue is too infrequently addressed and researched despite its importance. Recognition of the indigenous stature and rights of the Palestinian people is a key point in rejecting the dangerous and defeatist "two-state solution," and in rejecting the so-called "right" of Israel to exist as a state on stolen Palestinian land.

While some "Israeli" Jews in Palestine today migrated to Palestine from other Arab countries and a small minority of Jews lived in Palestine amongst the other Arab Palestinians long before the advent of Zionism, most "Israeli" Jews in Palestine today are not indigenous to the land of Palestine, nor descendants of indigenous Palestinians. In fact, the majority come from Europe or the United States, and it is these who dominate the Zionist political arena.

A young Palestinian marches in New York City for
the Right to Return. Photo: Fred Askew.
According to the CIA World Fact Book, the ethnic group breakdown of the Zionist state is as follows: "Jewish 80.1% (Europe/America-born 32.1%, Israel-born 20.8%, Africa-born 14.6%, Asia-born 12.6%), non-Jewish 19.9% (mostly Arab)."

The majority are European- or American-born; even the 20.8% designated as "Israel-born" include a large number of those who are descendants of the earlier Zionist colonial settlers in Palestine - who also were not born in Palestine and are not indigenous to Palestine. The rest were also born outside of Palestine in Asia and North Africa; they as well as European Jews have no "right" on the basis of religion or ethnicity to settle in Palestine, and occupy Palestinian land.

According to About.com's statistics on the Zionist state, immigration (or, more accurately, colonization), is the basis of the "Israeli" population: “Since the nation was formed a total of 2,894,094 people immigrated to Israel: 454,100 from Asia, 519,700 from Africa, 1,761,196 from Europe and 258,000 from America.” Again, the vast majority come from Europe.

Jews who are not of European descent also face discrimination in Israel; the non-European Jewish communities have had revolts and protests against the Israeli state, which is mostly dominated by Ashkenazi European Jews. According to the MSN Encarta Encyclopedia:

"The two main groupings of Jews are Ashkenazim and Sephardim. The Ashkenazim, whose tradition was centered in Germany in the Middle Ages, now include Jews of Central and Eastern European origin. The Sephardim, whose tradition grew in Spain in the Middle Ages, now include Jews with ancestry from the Middle East, North Africa, and the Mediterranean region. Historically the groups differ in religious rite, pronunciation of Hebrew, and social customs. Ashkenazic Jews, who formed a majority at the time of Israeli independence, continue to dominate political life as well as the upper levels of employment and education. Sephardic Jews immigrated rapidly to Israel in the decades after independence. The new state’s lack of resources to handle this flood, combined with cultural differences between the new immigrants and the Ashkenazic establishment, resulted in separate and usually poorer Sephardic communities. The Sephardim continue to struggle for greater economic and political influence."

This indicates the domination of Ashkenazi European Jews in political life - a domination that extends not only to discrimination and oppression targeting the Palestinian people, but also against non-European Jews. However, this discrimination recedes in comparison to the oppression and suffering of the Palestinian people and the occupation of Palestinian land.

According to Noam Chomsky in Safundi, the Journal of South African and American Comparative Studies, the majority of the Jews that lived in Palestine before the creation of the state of Israel were anti-Zionist:

"Well, there was a small Jewish community that was mostly anti-Zionist. There was a traditional Orthodox Jewish community in Jerusalem and a few other places, but before the European settlers started coming in it was strongly anti-Zionist, and their descendants are still anti-Zionist. This is by now a marginal, small group. They were Orthodox Jews who wanted to pray in Jerusalem, and they even called on Jordan to take over Jerusalem again so they could have religious freedom, which they feel they don’t have under Israel. But they are a separate story, you know. That’s also not one-hundred percent of them. There was a pro-Zionist element among them, too, but the majority of them—before what’s called the Aliyah, meaning "rising to the land," the arrival of Europeans—were anti-Zionist."

Even the Jewish Virtual Library, proud Zionists, exhibit population statistics that clearly demonstrate that the Palestinian Arab people were a huge majority of the population until they were massacred and expelled by European Zionists in 1948. Before 1947, Jews owned less than 10% of the land of Palestine; despite that, the United Nations partition plan, passed in that year, sought to designate 55% of Palestine as a "Jewish state." Most of these colonial settlers are European, and have no right to claim Palestine as their country; even those Jews from Arab countries and North Africa who entered Palestine as occupiers have no right to claim Palestine as their own, at the expense of the indigenous Palestinians.

In contrast, the Palestinian people are indigenous to Palestine; they do not come from Europe, America, North Africa or other Arab countries. They were expelled from their land by European Jews, the colonial settlers who created the state of Israel. The Palestinians should be the ones who have a state on the land of Palestine, and the Jews should be citizens of that state. Whatever land that Jews owned before 1948 is rightfully theirs, and the land and property that Palestinians owned before 1948 should is rightfully Palestinian. It should be returned - but the Israeli state is forcing the Palestinians to struggle to get it back by force. The Palestinian people do not want to be fighting right now; they want to work, make money, build homes, educate their children and have food on the table like everyone else - but they are the victims of Zionism and the creation of the state of Israel, a crime that continues today.

The aims of the Zionist colonial settler project could not be achieved merely by owning the land that had been purchased prior to 1948. Instead, they kicked out the Palestinians; they needed to steal the land and forcibly get rid of the Palestinians in order to accomplish their goals. The Zionist leaders knew what they were doing and were, at times, frank in their admissions of their goals and methods. According to Chomsky in his book "The Fateful Triangle", the future Prime Minister of Israel, David Ben-Gurion, was one who spoke frankly:

"In 1936-9, the Palestinian Arabs attempted a Nationalist revolt …David Ben-Gurion, eminently a realist, recognized its nature. In internal discussion, he noted that ‘in our political argument abroad, we minimize Arab opposition to us,’ but he urged, ‘let us not ignore the truth among ourselves.’ The truth was that ‘politically we are the aggressors and they defend themselves… The country is theirs, because they inhabit it, whereas we want to come here and settle down, and in their view we want to take away from them their country, while we are still outside’… The revolt was crushed by the British, with considerable brutality."

However, it is rarely necessary to research deeply in order to realize who are indigenous to the land and who are not. In fact, it is often very simple. Go to any Palestinian, anywhere in the world, in Palestine or in exile, and ask them where their grandparents were born; they will tell you the village or area in Palestine. Do the same to the Israelis; ask any Israeli where their grandparents were born, and the vast majority will tell you - Russia, Poland, Ukraine, Germany, and America, anywhere but Palestine.

The so-called "Israelis," then, are mostly European; not only were their grandparents born in Europe, many of today's "Israelis" were also born in Europe themselves. Over 1 million Europeans from the former Soviet Union alone have settled in Palestine in the fifteen years since the end of the Soviet Union, while Palestinians who were forcibly expelled from their land by European Zionist settlers are denied the right to return to their homes, and the occupation of Palestine continues until today.

The state of Israel has no right to exist on stolen Palestinian land. The only solution to the conflict is to allow the Palestinians who were expelled from Palestine to return to their homes and properties, which are rightfully theirs, and to allow the indigenous Palestinian people to build a state in all of historic Palestine where those Jews who live there now can be citizens of this Palestinian state, enjoying equal rights. Whoever is unwilling to recognize the rights of the Palestinian people to return and to self-determination can leave and return to the land of their grandparents.

Those who are unwilling to accept justice should leave Palestine; they are not indigenous, they are foreign colonizers - even those who claim to not intend to be colonizers and settlers still, in reality, are exactly tat. To suit the interests of justice and reduce the possibility of conflict for centuries to come, these colonizers must accept the rights of Palestinians to their land. It is deeply unfair that any Jew, anywhere in the world, can become a citizen of Israel and make a claim to Palestinian land - while the millions of Palestinian refugees in exile are not allowed to return, and the Palestinians who live in Palestine are abused, murdered, tortured, occupied, discriminated against, denied statehood, denied an identity and denied equal rights. It is to the indigenous Palestinian people to determine the future of Palestine's European settlers, for them to return to the nations from which they came, or to integrate them into one Palestinian state.

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