The Nakba, an ongoing Catastrophe

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Prof Usuf Chikte* writes

May 15 is NAKBA day. Nakba which means ‘Catastrophe – describes the ongoing human tragedy of Palestinians for the past 74 years. I 1947 Britain decided to establish a “state” for foreigners in someone else’s country, without consulting the Indigenous Palestinians, an act decided by the UN, dominated by colonial powers.

Ben Gurion, an arch-racist and coloniser like Dr Verwoerd, the first Prime Minister of Israel wrote to his son in 1937, prior, to the formation of Israel that Jewish settlers “must expel the Arabs and take their place. He also told his followers in 1948, when he unleashed the terror and ethnic cleansing that saw 750,000 Palestinians driven from their homes and land, that the “old will die and the young will forget” where they came from. The Palestinian people, including the youngest, who resist with stones, and some with rockets, are making a mockery of Zionist hopes.

Zionist gangs engaged a widespread ethnic cleansing leading the expulsion of Palestinians who became long-term refugees, conducted dozens of massacres, atrocities and looting against Palestinians, the demolition of more than 500 villages and the destruction of major Palestinian cities and their conversion into Jewish cities

Zionists have been erasing Arab geographical names and replacing them with Hebrew names by destroying the original nature and the Palestinians’ identity to create a European landscape, to Judaize Palestine and erase the presence, identity, and memory of Palestinians. Golda Meir, former Israeli Prime Minister said “There was no such thing as Palestinians a chilling justification for ethnic cleansing.

The barbaric onslaught on the people of Palestine goes unabated Naftali Bennet, shamelessly declared – I have killed many Arabs in my life – and there is no problem with that. More recently he called on “Israelis to use their guns. And that soldiers are liberty to do anything necessary.” The recent cold-blooded killing of the Palestinian journalist Shireen Abu Akleh by Israeli Occupation Forces shocked the world. By killing journalists Zionist think they can kill the truth.

The Israeli army also created havoc this year, rampaging through and  desecrating the Holy Sepulchre and Al Aqsa mosque, ethnically cleansing it of Palestinian worshipers, breaking windows and scattering glass crystals all over the prayer area , baton charging and trouncing Palestinians at prayer,  injuring more than a hundred and arresting over 450, preventing paramedics from attending to the injured, beating and blocking journalists from reporting and doing all this with impunity.. Racist Israeli settlers have marched through Al -Aqsa chanting “Nakba, Nakba” and “Abu Khdair” in reference to Palestinian child Mohammad Abu Khdair who was kidnapped, burned, and killed by the settlers in 2014, during their storming Al-Aqsa Mosque.

Cable tying of worshippers and breaking precious stained windows through which to gas worshippers, scattering of glass on Mosque carpets are all reminiscent of Kristal Nacht in Germany, 1938. There are glaring Nazi era analogies. Again, nothing new. One of Ben Gurion’s own ministers, Aharon Cizling, stated after the Deir Yassin massacre in May 1948 – ‘now we have behaved like Nazis and my whole being is shaken’.

The crimes of Israeli settlers, their allies and backers are legion. The Nakba is ongoing and conducted with impunity.

Palestinians have been calling for the recognition of Israel’s rule as apartheid for several decades. Yesh Din and B’Tselem, Israeli human rights organisations, have called out Israeli apartheid and internationally respected organisations such as Human Rights Watch and, most recently Amnesty International have published detailed reports evidencing Israel’s apartheid against Palestinians as a cruel system of domination and crime against humanity.

This adds to the report issued by the South African Human and Sciences Research Council as long ago 2009, eminent South Africans such as international law expert John Dugard and Archbishop Tutu who said that the situation for Palestinians is worse than apartheid in South Africa.

Apartheid is a violation of public international law, a grave violation of internationally protected human rights and a crime against humanity under international criminal law. South Africa knows well from our struggle against apartheid that the international community must play its part in support of the resistance and freedom struggle of the Palestinian people through isolating the pariah Israeli apartheid state.

It is imperative that that we increase our actions in solidarity with the brave resistance of the Palestinian people.

Every tenet of freedom and equality is violated by Israel in the entirety of the area it colonises, duly assisted by Kangaroo Courts and a brutal army of occupation.

The West Bank and East Jerusalem are home to more than half a million Israeli settlers who are subject to Israeli and not Palestinian law. Special “Israeli-only” roads join these settlements together and to Israel. There are more than six hundred checkpoints in the West Bank, where Palestinians need identity cards to travel from one village to another. Israel has imposed a matrix of controls that surpasses the restrictions once imposed by South Africa’s apartheid regime on the oppressed population.

Israel acts with impunity. The Palestinians have been betrayed by those who believe in the legal system that holds the world together and they have been betrayed by their despotic Arab neighbours, who bought peace from Israel. The European Union grants Israel the enormous advantage of preferential trading status, and billions of American dollars in “aid” allows Israel to have the most technologically advanced army and counter-intelligence agency in the world. Palestinian comrades have asked us break Israel’s immunity to sanction, as well as the criminal international support for settler colonialism and appeasement of Israel. It is imperative we confront the shameless complicity and funding of US imperialism, the EU, UK, France, and Germany together with their Arab vassals.

We must demand that South African Government break off all relations with Apartheid Israel, apply full sanctions and become the standard bearer for Palestinian liberation.         Our strategy should be not only to confront Israel and the empire which upholds, but to lay siege to it, to BDS it. To deprive it of oxygen. To expose it. To shame it. To dismantle it. To support right of Palestinians to resist against Israeli state terror. To stop the subjugation and suppression of Palestinians.

As South Africans we know that the root causes of Israeli repression can only be addressed through completely dismantling the system of apartheid. We intensify our campaign for our government to isolate the apartheid Israeli state though BDS. We call on the South African government to take a stand in the United Nations, to call for international sanctions including an arms embargo against the apartheid Israeli state as was done to apartheid South Africa.

It is time to delegitimise this Zionist entity. We did that to the apartheid government in South Africa, and the same must happen to Israel.

We spent years trying to isolate South Africa, and the campaign spread worldwide with calls for state-supported boycotts, including military, economic, sporting, academic and cultural sanctions. These campaigns stirred the conscience of the world.

We must resolve to:

  • Officially recognize that international crimes, including the crime of apartheid, are being committed in Israel.
  • Support in action and engage with other organisations on the call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against apartheid Israel.
  • Commit to educational programmes through political and civil structures on the resistance of the Palestinian people to settler-colonialism, racism, and apartheid.

We call on the South African Government and regional actors to:

  • Ratify the International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid
  • Ensure that South African legal and institutional frameworks are developed and implemented to enable the effective investigation and prosecution of perpetrators including their collaborators in South Africa who aid and abet the crime against humanity of apartheid and consequently prosecute South Africans serving in the IDF under the Regulation of Foreign Military Assistance Act.
  • Support the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement by breaking ties – diplomatic, trade, sporting, cultural and academic – and develop policy on BDS.
  • Note that Israeli citizens can travel to South Africa without a visa and declare Palestinians visa-free entry.
  • Work towards the removal of Israeli accreditation to the AU in contravention of the Constitutive Act of the AU and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights.
  • Work towards a UN resolution on Israeli apartheid calling for international sanctions and an arms embargo.
  • Reaffirm UNGA resolution 37/43 legalising “the legitimacy of the struggle of peoples for independence, territorial integrity, national unity and liberation from colonial and foreign domination and foreign occupation by all available means, including armed struggle”.

In summary, it is our duty to remain strong and mobilise for Nakba Day every day; build the BDS campaign; rally to the defence of our Palestinian brothers, sisters, and children. Stop Zionist liars in their tracks. Build a united coalition of advocates for Palestinian freedom; to expose Zionism’s equating criticising Israel and Zionism with antisemitism as our courts have upheld.

*Professor Usuf Chikte is an academic aligned with the Palestine Solidarity Committee

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