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Masking occupation: How Israel rewrote history.

The official Israeli discourse regarding its 'vision' for the future of Palestine and Israel is as ruthless as it is definitive and unyielding.

In contrast, the official Palestinian narrative is confused, inconsistent and, at times, self-destructive.

If there is any 'clarity' in the messages of Fatah and Hamas, it is the fact that they remain completely committed to marginalising and crushing each other - something which appears even more of a concern than the Israeli occupation.

The Palestinian National Authority (PNA) of Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah is largely attempting to benefit as much as possible from the status quo, with his party being 'too comfortable' to get engaged in the costly battle of fighting a military occupation.

It is thus hardly surprising that the Israeli discourse has itself become more rigid and extreme under Abbas' leadership since 2005. This was made clear in Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's recent visit to Washington.

"Israel must retain the overriding security control over the entire area west of the Jordan River," he told his American host, US President, Donald Trump.

Commenting on his statement, Rashid Khalidi wrote in the Nation: "Netanyahu thereby proclaimed a permanent regime of occupation and colonisation, ruling out a sovereign independent Palestinian state, whatever fictions of 'statehood' or 'autonomy' are dreamt up to conceal this brutal reality."

Between the Palestinian leadership's self-serving and subservient language, and Israel's hegemonic discourse predicated on the complete dismissal of Palestinians and their rights, there is a vacuum in the narrative that must be filled. And it cannot be done by Palestinians alone. While the Palestinian narrative went through several stages - dominated by an Arab discourse early on, revolutionary and nationalistic at times, and acquiescent and factional as of late - the Israeli discourse has largely remained unswerving since Israel's independence in 1948.

Whatever decipherable changes occurred in Israel's official language (as during the period of the 'peace process') were mostly tactical, and remain demonstrably insincere.

""While Palestinians are gearing up to commemorate the war of June 5, 1967, which led to the 50-year military occupation, Israel is 'celebrating' it ..."" -Dr Ramzy Baroud Share on facebook Tweet this

Since its founding, Israel has resorted to three main strategies to suppress Palestinian calls for justice and human rights, including the Right of Return for refugees: attempting to rewrite history; endeavouring to distract from present, brutal realities altogether; and reclaiming the Palestinian narrative as essentially an Israeli one.

The Israeli hasbara (propaganda) machine went into motion almost simultaneously with Plan Dalet (Plan D), which ensured the military conquest of Palestine and the ethnic cleansing of its inhabitants.

But the actual discourse regarding the 'Nakba' - or the 'Catastrophe' of 1947-48 - was constituted in the 1950s and 60s.

In an article entitled: 'Catastrophic Thinking: Did Ben-Gurion Try to Rewrite History?' Shay Hazkani revealed the fascinating process of how Israel's first Prime Minister, David Ben Gurion, worked closely with a group of Israeli Jewish scholars to develop a version of events to describe what had taken place in 1947-48: the founding of Israel and the destruction of Palestine.

Ben-Gurion wanted to propagate a version of history that was consistent with Israel's political position, and needed 'evidence', to support his position.

The 'evidence' eventually became 'history', and no other narrative was allowed to challenge Israel's take on the 'Nakba'. "Ben-Gurion probably never heard the word 'Nakba,' but early on, at the end of the 1950s, Israel's first Prime Minister grasped the importance of the historical narrative," Hazkani wrote.

The Israeli leader assigned scholars in the Civil Service the task of fashioning an alternative history that continues to permeate Israeli thinking to this day.

Distracting from history - or the current reality of the horrific Occupation of Palestine - has also been in motion for nearly 70 years.

From the early myths of Palestine being a 'land with no people for a people with no land', to today's claim that Israel is an icon of civilisation, technology and democracy surrounded by Arab and Muslim savages, Israel's official distortions are relentless.

So, while Palestinians are gearing up to commemorate the war of June 5, 1967, which led to the, thus-far, 50-year military occupation, Israel is 'celebrating' its military occupation of Palestinians.

"A state that celebrates 50 years of occupation is a state whose sense of direction has been lost, its ability to distinguish good from evil, impaired," wrote Israeli commentator Gideon Levy in the 'Haaretz'.

"What exactly is there to celebrate, Israelis? Fifty years of bloodshed, abuse, disinheritance and sadism? Only societies that have no conscience celebrate such anniversaries."

Levy argues that Israel won the war of 1967 but has "lost nearly everything else."

Since then, Israel's arrogance, detestation of international law, "ongoing contempt for the world, the bragging and bullying" have all reached unprecedented heights.

In Levy's article entitled 'Our Nakba', he is not attempting to reclaim the Palestinian narrative, but is succinctly registering that Israel's military triumphs were an affliction, especially as they were not followed by any sense of national reflection or attempt at correcting the injustices of the past or present.

However, the process of claiming the term 'Nakba' has been pursued cunningly by Israeli writers for many years.

For those scholars, 'the Jewish Nakba' refers to the Arab Jews who arrived in the newly independent Israel, largely based on the urgings of Zionist leaders for Jews worldwide to 'return' to the Biblical homeland.

A 'Jerusalem Post' editorial complained that "Palestinian propaganda juggernaut has persuaded world public opinion that the term 'refugee' is synonymous with the term 'Palestinian.'" Israelis attempt to hijack the Palestinian narrative, hoping to create an equilibrium in the discourse, one that is, of course, inconsistent with reality.

The editorial puts the number of 'Jewish refugees' of the 'Jewish Nakba' at 850,000, slightly above the number of Palestinian refugees who were expelled by Zionist militias upon the founding of Israel.

Luckily, such disingenuous claims are increasingly challenged by Jewish voices, as well.

Writing in the 'Forward', Donna Nevel refuses to accept that the discussion of the conflict in Palestine starts in the war and occupation of 1967. Nevel is critical of the so-called 'progressive Zionists' who insist on positioning the conversation only on the question of occupation, thus limiting any possibility of resolution to the 'two-state solution.'

Not only is such a 'solution' defunct and practically impossible, but the very discussion precludes the Nakba.

The "Nakba doesn't enter these conversations because it is the legacy and clearest manifestation of Zionism", Nevel wrote. "Those who ignore the 'Nakba' - which Zionist and Israeli institutions have consistently done - are refusing to acknowledge Zionism as illegitimate from the beginning of its implementation."

This is precisely why the Israeli police have recently blocked the 'March of Return', conducted annually by Palestinians in Israel.

For years, Israel has been wary that a growing movement among Palestinians, Israelis and others around the world, has been pushing for a paradigm shift in order to understand the roots of the conflict in Palestine.

It seems that 70 years after the founding of Israel, the past is still looming. Fortunately, the Palestinian voices that have fought against the official Israeli narrative are now joined by a growing number of Jewish voices.

It is through a new common narrative that a true understanding of the past can be attained, all with the hope that the peaceful vision for the future can replace the current one - one which can only be sustained through military domination, inequality and sheer propaganda.

Dr Ramzy Baroud is an internationally-syndicated columnist, a media consultant, an author of several books and the founder of His latest book is My Father Was a Freedom Fighter: Gaza's Untold Story.

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Publication:Gulf News (United Arab Emirates)
Geographic Code:7ISRA
Date:May 2, 2017
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