Gaza to Galilee: The colonial context
Framing events in Gaza in the colonial context is vital for understanding the nature of the violence, argues author.
Last Modified: 16 Dec 2012 17:56
Many of the inhabitants of the Gaza Strip are a few miles away from the land of their ethnically cleansed former villages, across the border fence in southern Israel [AFP]
|While it is common knowledge that a majority of the population of the Gaza Strip are refugees, it is less well understood where they came from. The shocking reality is that many of the inhabitants of the Gaza Strip are a few miles away from the land of their ethnically cleansed former villages, across the border fence in southern Israel. Like so much else with Palestine, you can’t understand Gaza if you don’t understand the Nakba.
To give a few examples. In 1948, most of the Palestinians of al-Majdal had fled in fear by the time the Israeli army took the town. In November of that year, around 500 were expelled to Gaza. But during 1949, a good number of Palestinians managed to return. Those remaining Palestinians were “concentrated and sealed off with barbed wire and IDF guards in a small, built-up area commonly known as the ‘ghetto‘”.
The ethnic cleansing of al-Majdal was completed between June and October 1950. And if you haven’t heard of al-Majdal before, I’m sure you know the Israeli port city built in its place: Ashkelon.
Or take the village of Najd, whose inhabitants cultivated citrus, bananas, cereals and orchards. They were expelled by Israeli forces in May 1948 and you can find Palestinians from Najd in Jabaliya refugee camp. The Israeli city of Sderot was founded on its land.
An AFP article from 2008 illustrates the links between 1948 and 2012, and how the Nakba never finished:
One final example: the village of Simsim. Ethnically cleansed by Israel in 1948, most of its population also lives in Jabaliya camp, just nine miles away. A kibbutz now holds village land, with ruins located in a “nature preserve”. Israeli organisation Zochrot published a booklet on the village, in which the author writes:
These roots are not limited to the area around Gaza – they also go to the Galilee where Jewish development town Upper Nazareth sits overlooking the famous Palestinian city.
During the recent attack on Gaza, Upper Nazareth’s mayor wrote to the Interior Minister to declare the city of Nazareth to be “hostile” to the state, adding:
The mayor has form; in 2010 he commented:
The back story of Upper Nazareth is instructive about the colonial present of the Middle East’s “only democracy”, a town created in the 1950s on land expropriated for the “public interest”:
Israel’s then-Prime Minister Ben-Gurion wrote in 1957 that Upper Nazareth “must be a Jewish town that will assert a Jewish presence in the area”. Today, while Upper Nazareth’s 50,000 inhabitants occupy 42,000 dunams (4,200 hectares), down the hill in Nazareth, 70,000 Palestinians are forced into just 14,000 dunams (1,400 hectares): four times as crowded.
This is just one example from a regime of systematic discrimination that has developed and been maintained by Israeli leaders from Ben-Gurion to the likes of Deputy FM Danny Ayalon, who recently declared that “settling the land is highly important” and means “creating a Jewish hold in [the Negev and Galilee]”.
Framing events in Gaza in the colonial context is vital for understanding the nature of the violence, as well as the separation and sealing off of the territory, a microcosm of fragmented Palestine. The colonial paradigm brings the focus back to the Nakba, to the foundational act of ethnic cleansing and ongoing policies of exclusion. It is a reminder that the answers for Gaza are the same as those for Jerusalem, the southern Hebron Hills and the Galilee: decolonisation, implementation of the Palestinian people’s rights – and international sanction of Israel until such a goal is realised.
Ben White is a freelance journalist, writer and activist, specialising in Palestine/Israel. He is a graduate of Cambridge University.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial policy.
Framing events in Gaza in the colonial context is vital for understanding the nature of the violence