Israel has no "Right to Exist"
by Charlotte L. Kates
March 3, 2003

Note: This article was originally posted to a private list. It was printed, in edited form, in the Rutgers student newspaper The Daily Targum on March 5, 2003, retitled by the editors as "Palestinian roots in land proven through history". The Targum version (here) does not include the information about UN Resolution 194.

What may one call a state created from colonized land, stolen from its native inhabitants and turned over to European invaders through a process of militarily-enforced ethnic cleansing and occupation? While one may call it "the United States," one may also call it "Israel"--but one certainly cannot, and should not call it a "democratically-created state."

In 1947, Palestinian Arabs owned 93% of the land of Palestine. Their land had been subject to British colonial rule since the end of World War I, at which point those same colonizers made vague promises to the nascent Zionist movement of a "Jewish national home" in Mandatory Palestine. The Zionist movement was, in the early twentieth century, but one fringe of Jewish cultural and social organization--and a reactionary one, formed in nationalistic reaction to the internationalist organizing of Jewish socialists, communists and anarchists; as such, despite (and perhaps because of) European anti-Jewish hatred, the Zionist movement found support among various European political sectors.

The Zionist movement considered not only Palestine as a place for their dream of a "Jewish state"; it considered Argentina and Liberia as other likely prospects--also nations of the global South, long subject to domination, imperialism and exploitation. A largely secular movement, nonetheless, Zionism became centered around Palestine due to its historical and religious significance. The Zionist movement never pretended to offer anything better to indigenous population than ethnic cleansing and subservience; its mythology of a "land without people for a people without land" served to consign the Palestinians to nonexistence in popular propaganda while seeking to create such nonexistence in fact.

While Jews had always lived alongside Muslims and Christians in historic Palestine, they were Palestinian Jews; the Zionists' essential identification and role was not their religious affiliation but rather their political organization as a European settler colonialist movement, seeking the dispossession of Palestinians and the expropriation of their land. Following World War II, a "Partition Plan" was proposed and adopted by the United Nations; without consultation with the Palestinians who lived in Palestine, Palestine was to be divided into two states--a "Jewish state" and an "Arab state." Unsurprisingly, the Palestinian people resisted this new imperialist attack; there was no compelling reason to accept the splitting and expropriation of large amounts of Palestinian land for no other reason than the decision of European powers and European settlers. Confronted with the Palestinian people's desire to retain their land and independence, the Zionist forces waged an armed onslaught. Contrary to common accounts of the 1948 war, the "Arab armies" entered not the territory granted to the "Jewish state" in the partition plan, but only that designated as "Arab land"--the Zionist army was equally determined to reject partition as proposed, as it failed to satisfy dreams of a Greater Israel.

During the war of 1948, thousands of Palestinian civilians were slaughtered and nearly a million driven from their land and homes, becoming refugees in the West Bank, Gaza, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon. This process of ethnic cleansing was neither accidental nor innocuous; it had long been part of Zionist plans for Palestine. Since that time, they have been repeatedly denied their internationally-recognized human right to return to their homes and homelands. Every year, the United Nations has re-affirmed Resolution 194, the resolution passed in December of 1948 that called upon all refugees to be allowed to return to their homes. However, the newly-declared Israeli state soon declared those refugees "absentees" and their land "absentee property"--subject to confiscation by the state for the Jewish National Fund, the agency that oversees over 90% of Israeli land--land that may never be sold to a Palestinian. The Palestinian refugees have continued to demand their human right to return; indeed, Israel's admission to the UN was conditioned upon its acceptance of 194. Nevertheless, today, nearly five million Palestinian refugees and direct descendants in the world are still waiting for their right of return.

The Palestinians who remained in the land that became Israel were subject to military rule until 1967 and continue today to be the victims of more than twenty laws, including the Basic Laws of Israel, that deny them equal status with Jews in Israel. In the West Bank and Gaza Strip, further Palestinian territory illegally occupied by Israel in 1967, Palestinians live under brutal military occupation, struggling to survive and to continue to fight back against Israeli oppression--deprived of water, facing home demolitions, detention and torture, and death.

The oppression and occupation of Palestinian land is funded by United States tax dollars; Israel receives more foreign aid money than any other country in the world, and has used its extensive military aid to garner advanced weapons to wage an illegal war in occupied territory against a civilian population. Our money goes to pay for Apache helicopters and F-16s, raining death and destruction on Palestinian towns; our money goes to pay for the M-16s held by Israeli soldiers as they take aim at Palestinian demonstrators.

All people have the right to practice their religion freely and to live in peace, but no group of people has the right to invade the land of another, expropriate that land by force, force out its indigenous residents, and create a racist, brutal apartheid structure. There is no right to imperialism, and no right to apartheid. The world said "no" in South Africa; the world must say "no" today to Israel. As members of the Rutgers University community, we can raise our own voices in protest; we can call upon our university to stop financially investing in corporations that continue to do business with the State of Israel until Israel ceases its violations of human rights. There is no right to create an ethnically, religiously exclusive state. As we stood against fascism and apartheid, we must also stand against Israeli apartheid.