Friday, April 11, 2008

Remembering Palestine (our Brother in exile) Part 1

Securing the Land for the Jewish People
Jewish immigrants in 1950 in Iqrit, northern Galilee
By the end of 1948, any Palestinians remaining within newly occupied Israeli lands knew that they were now under a very new form of occupation, and for the short term at least, nothing would change that. The new government perceived Palestinians remaining in the state as a fifth column waiting to aid returning villagers or Arab fighters. Thus, special effort was exerted to keep Arabs, despite their Israeli ID, away from the borders and highways where they could help Palestinian resistance to recapture land. Villages such as Ikrit and Kafr Bir�im on the northern Lebanese border were cleared of inhabitants after the villagers had received official Israeli ID to remain. This particular case became famous in later years owing to the persistent campaigns of the villagers and their descendents.

Click here to view a photo gallery on the period 1948 - 1967.

On a 1950s visit to Natzeret �Illit, a new settlement developing on confiscated land of Nazareth, Prime Minister Ben-Gurion did not visit the neighboring Arab town of Nazareth, the largest Palestinian town then under his control. His disgust at seeing the numerous Palestinian villages still remaining in the Galilee led to the initiation of the ongoing program to �Judaize the Galilee,� a project that continues in earnest today.

Yosef Weitz, as head of the Jewish National Fund (JNF), was a leading figure in obtaining land and espousing plans that advocated the wholesale transfer or ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian population during the Mandate era. He favored continual harassment of Arabs inside the Jewish state and putting pressure on refugees not to return. While all were united in gaining maximum land control, strategies varied as to how to achieve this goal. Weitz and the JNF wanted to continue buying directly from Arabs in exile and within, while on the other hand, the government, which discouraged direct sale, wanting to be in sole control. In early months, the JNF did, indeed, continue with land purchase. By January 1949, a further 55,000 dunums had been bought (Morris, 1990, pp.122-4).

Imposition of Military Law
Palestinian concentration inside Israel, 1949
In order to control the Palestinian population within the new Jewish state, Israel enacted emergency military regulations developed during the Mandate time. At the official end of the 1948�49 hostilities, there were some 30�40,000 internally displaced out of 150,000 total Palestinians inside the Jewish state. However, the official signing of agreements did not mark an end to the expulsion of residents from homes and land, and the creation of more refugees both beyond and within Israeli borders. In early months and years the drive to expel continued. Thousands were expelled from villages in the Upper Galilee, such as Rama, Iqrit, Kafr Bir�im, Al-Ghabisiyya, Kirad Al-Baqarra, and Kirad Al-Grannama, and were transferred either across the borders to Lebanon or Syria, or to other villages. Refugees who had fled to other villages were expelled; thus some suffered the trauma and humiliation twice over.

Villages Declared �Closed Military Areas�
Most of the evacuated villages were declared �closed military areas� under the emergency regulations (Emergency Regulations [Security Zones] 1949), aiding the state to declare such land �absentee property.� (Examples are Iqrit and Al-Ghabisiyya. ) Specific villages deemed a potential security threat to the Jewish state were targeted. Those along the border with Lebanon were considered by Israel to have the potential to aid �infiltration� of returning refugees as well as weapons and Arab fighters. Residents of the smaller villages in the Triangle area on the West Bank border were moved several kilometers in from the Lebanese border. Fear of further expulsion kept a terrified population silent.

Owing to persistent campaigning and specific circumstances, the expulsions from the Christian villages of Iqrit and Kafr Bir�im have become the most well known. The villagers were already in possession of Israeli ID, meaning that they had been given official permission to remain as part of the Jewish state. The villagers only assented to moving after a promise by authorities that it was only for a temporary period during military operations. When villagers were not allowed to return, they launched a legal battle, declaring that their Israeli IDs and the authorities� promise of return made them a special case. The case continues to this day.

From Looting to Legalization of Land and Property �Acquisition�
With the flight of some 800,000 refugees, and internal displacement of thousands more, the new Jewish state was left with the practical issue of what to do with land, housing, and movable property at their disposal. Israeli historian Tom Segev presents a detailed account of the activities of Jewish authorities and individuals. The Custodian of Absentee Property commissioned individual contractors thus:

Go from house to house, from shop to shop, from warehouse to warehouse, from plant to plant, from quarry to quarry, from field to field, from orchard to orchard, and also from bank to bank and safe to safe�to count, measure, evaluate, estimate, replace locks on doors and transfer all moveable property to well-guarded warehouses, while maintaining a correct inventory of the property and its location (Segev, 1998, p.69).

All profits from Palestinian property were to go to the government treasury, but many were taken for individual use by looters.

This inventory included approximately 45,000 homes and apartments, 7,000 shops and businesses, 500 workshops and industrial plants, and over 1,000 warehouses. Alongside this work, the Custodian wanted to ensure that over 800,000 acres of Palestinian land continued to be cultivated so that crops didn�t go to waste and livestock did not die. All profits were to go to the government treasury, although many were taken for individual personal use and sale against orders of the government (Segev, 1998, p.68).

Dov Shafrir, the Custodian of Absentee Property, initially handed over confiscated goods and equipment to the army, and other property was put up for sale. Much property and land was taken when owners were still present; for example, theft of extensive orange groves in Jaffa (Segev, 1998, p.73).

As the months passed, the new state began to assemble legislation to legalize the process of expropriation of Palestinian property. The pre-state Haganah had created a Committee for Arab Property, but by the end of 1948 the new government had begun to draft the Absentees� Property Law, which would give the Custodian a share in the ownership of the property he had thus far only been �trustee� of. This law, the most important regarding the dispossession of Palestinian land, was finally passed in 1950, replacing the Emergency Regulations that had been serving the goal of Israeli land confiscation.

In the final wording of the law, absentees were defined (in retrospect), as those who, after November 29, 1947, were legal owners of property in what was now the new Israeli state, and who at any time either were citizens or present in Lebanon, Egypt, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Trans-Jordan, Iraq, or the Yemen, or the remainder of Palestine unoccupied by Israeli forces, or simply a Palestinian citizen who left his ordinary place of residence for a place outside Palestine before September 1, 1948 or for a place in Palestine held at the time �by forces which sought to prevent the establishment of the State of Israel or which fought against it after its establishment.�

The law was strictly enforced in all possible cases against Palestinians. When residents of the Little Triangle area found themselves Israeli citizens following the ceasefire agreement with Jordan in April 1949, they were still considered �absentees� and the Custodian refused to return farmland from which they had become separated by the temporary border (Abu Hussein and McKay, 2003, p. 71).
The Absentees� Property Law was swiftly followed six months later by the Development Authority (Transfer of Property) Law, 1950. This law authorized the transfer of land from the Custodian to the DA. In a further agreement three years later, it was agreed that the Custodian would transfer all immovable property to the DA. Previously the Custodian had only been authorized to make short term leases (Abu Hussein and McKay, 2003, p.72). It is estimated that by 1959 the Custodian had administered over 3 million dunams, the majority of which he passed to the Development Authority.
The new Zionist government also made use of the Mandatory Land (Acquisition for Public Purposes) Ordinance when implementing the 1951 State Property Law. Under this law, the state took all lands registered under the 1943 ordinance as �state property.� This included lands that had been registered in the name of the Mandate High Commissioner as �on behalf of Arab villages.�

Bulgarian Jewish settler girls studying in old Palestinian school in Al Bassa, Acre district, 1950
Other laws, such as the Emergency Articles for the Exploitation of Uncultivated Lands, were used to take remaining land. This law dictated that land which had not been cultivated for a specific length of time was government property, yet the law was exploited specifically to suit the government (Gilmour, 1982, p.103). The military government would declare land to be within a �military area� so that farmers could not enter. After a few years of closure, the Minister of Agriculture would declare the land uncultivated and thus be the property of the ministry.

However the Custodian did not suggest that the �internal refugees� should return to their land, but merely that they should be offered compensation in order to soothe their grievances. Porat proposed that bank accounts should be released and compensation made. Attorney General Shapira had also recommended compensation previously to calm what was seen as a potentially rebellious Arab front. However, the government made few compensation offers, and the modest sums were not considered fair by Palestinian landowners.

Settling the Jewish Population
An essential part of the strategy of claiming the land for the Jewish people was to literally settle the land. Palestinian homes in large cities such as Haifa, Jaffa, and Akka were quickly filled with new Jewish immigrants. Between 140,000 and 160,000 immigrants were settled in Arab homes in Jaffa, around 45,000 in downtown Haifa, and 40,000 in Akka (Segev, 1997, p.76). In several cases, homes were taken by individuals before any central allocation by Israeli bureaucracy, the Absorption Ministry. It was not poverty-stricken immigrants seizing homes, but the wealthy European Jewish elite. In upper-class Arab neighborhoods of West Jerusalem, homes were taken by Jews with senior governmental and institutional positions.

Regarding the depopulated Palestinian villages, towards the end of 1948, the Jewish Agency prepared a list of several dozen Arab villages that it proposed to repopulate. In August 1948, a government meeting was held in which the possibility for resettlement of 61 Arab villages was discussed. That meeting resulted in a decision to place Jewish residents in 31 villages initially.

Several international supporters of the Jewish state, including Martin Buber, expressed concern over the resettlement of Deir Yassin when the killing was very fresh in the minds of many people. Despite opposition, the village was repopulated straight away. Up to 350 villages were, in the end, reoccupied by Jewish Israelis. Settling Jewish villagers into old villages continued into the 1950s.

One of the most visibly shocking examples of the settlement of Jewish citizens in the homes of Palestinians is the old village of `Ayn Hawd. This village, close to Haifa, withstood a two-month siege, but was finally occupied mid-July 1948. The majority of villagers became refugees in the West Bank, Jordan, and as far as Iraq, but one family managed to remain in the hills a few kilometers from the village. Never allowed to return home, the villagers had to suffer the indignity of seeing a Jewish �artists colony� set up in their own homes in the early 1950s.
Jewish artists renovating Palestinian �Ayn Hawd in 1954
The villagers of `Ayn Hawd today are now at the forefront of the campaign to provide services and equal treatment to villages, like their own new village, that are officially unrecognized and neglected by the state, despite the residents� Israeli citizenship (see campaign Web site www.assoc40. org).

New settlements were placed strategically to prevent what the Israeli government labeled as �infiltration� ; in other words, the return of refugees who had fled from their homes in terror or had been forced out after the war. Kibbutz Yas�ur in Western Galilee for example, was established on the lands of Al-Birwa. The residents were moved to Majd Al-Kurum, Al-Makr and Jdeideh. Kibbutz Beit Ha�emek was established on the lands of Kuwaykat in Western Galilee. Moshav Zippori was built on the land of Saffuriyya.

Destruction of Villages: Case Study of Saffuriyya
Of 4,500 original inhabitants of this village outside Nazareth, only a few hundred remained after the July bombing and occupation and were initially granted Israeli ID cards recognizing Saffuriyya as their place of residence. Seven months after the original attack and occupation of Saffuriyya, the army came back to the village and threatened to kill those that remained. The Saffuriyya Heritage Association has registered the names of the heads of 86 families who were given ID cards. Locals believe that there were about 1,500 people residing in the village at this stage, but many had been sheltering elsewhere and had been given ID cards with other villages marked as their place of residence. Later on when they thought it safe, they returned to their original homes, believing they could remain. Many still hold these identity cards, proving that the Israeli government recognized at least some Palestinians as resident in Saffuriyya.

Ali Al-Azhari today lives in Jaffa. It was only in recent years that he lost his ID card, the only document that recorded his birthplace as Saffuriyya:
My father, Sheik Muhammad Abdel Majid Al-Azhari, a graduate of the University of Al-Azhar in Cairo, and a well-known religious authority, was recognized as such, and a sign saying �A Holy Place,� in three languages was placed on our house. Six months later, on January 7, 1949, when the fighting was over, came the expulsion order. It was quite unequivocal�anyone found in the village 48 hours later would be shot (Al-Azhari, 1996).

Despite these threats, many held their ground, so the Israeli military forced them onto trucks. Refugees were dumped in Nazareth and other villages close by. The village of Saffuriyya and its land were declared a military zone, mantiqa askariya. Only those with a permit could enter.
Saffuriyya with threshing floors in the foreground, 1931
� Khalidi, All That Remains, 1994
Although people were scattered throughout the neighboring villages, they �never ceased to demand the right to return to their homes and lands.� Families from Saffuriyya who had IDs with the village inscribed as their place of birth and residence grouped together to challenge their expulsion legally. Lawyer Ali Sharif Zoubi appealed to the High Court on their behalf, but in November 1951 the High Court of Justice turned down this petition on behalf of 86 villagers. The Minister of Defence and Military governor of the Northern District were required to state why the petitioners were not allowed home, and the High Court accepted the argument that Saffuriyya was within a �closed military zone.�
�However this did not prevent the construction of the Jewish village of Zippori at about that time, on the outskirts of Saffuriyya and on its lands,� Al-Azhari writes, originally to an Israeli Jewish public in an article published in Hebrew, in the Israeli daily Ma�ariv. He describes how his father sent letters (which he has kept) to many senior Israelis, from the Custodian of Absentee Property to Ben-Gurion himself, pleading that logic dictated that at least those with ID cards should be allowed to return.
The answer was not long in coming. It was three or four that morning, when the village of A-Reineh, where we were living at the time, woke to the sounds of mighty explosions from the direction of Saffuriyya, some five km away. Columns of smoke and dust rose to the heavens above Saffuriyya. In the evening came the news; there would never be a return (Al-Azhari, 1996).

Saffuriyya was not the only village to suffer this fate. Destruction of the village buildings and homes was a clear message from the Israeli government to the refugees that they would not be allowed to return.

Securing the Land as �Jewish�
During the 1950s the Israeli government worked on developing the new state law to further secure the land for the benefit of the Jewish people only. The concept of creating �Israeli Lands� meant securing the land not only for Jewish Israelis, but for all Jews across the world to claim at any point in the future, through exercising the Law of Return. Not only was land to be barred in perpetuity from Palestinian refugees, but it was specifically to be held in trust for the Jewish people.

The government enacted a series of laws that gave pre-state Zionist organizations such as the JNF, JA and WZO quasi-governmental powers.

To do this, the government enacted a series of laws that gave pre-state Zionist organizations such as the Jewish National Fund (JNF), the Jewish Agency (JA), and the World Zionist Organization (WZO) quasi-governmental powers. The 1953 Land Acquisition (Validity of Acts and Compensation) Law gave individual Israeli agencies increased powers in the development of land for settlement and �security� purposes, but also validated earlier actions retrospectively.

The JNF, for example, had been registered in the United Kingdom before 1948, and thus was a private foreign company. In 1953 it became a legal private Israeli company. In the 1954 covenant between the JNF and the state, the JNF was given the power to act for Jews, only, in any area of land under the jurisdiction of the Israeli government. In the case of the organization� s dissolution, the land (currently around 13% of 1948 conquered Israel) would be transferred to the government (Abu Hussein and McKay, 2003, p.151). The WZO and the JA were given similar powers in the World Zionist Organization� Jewish Agency (Status) Law of 1952 and the further covenant made between the JA and the government in 1958.
As mentioned previously, the state made use of the Mandatory Lands (Acquisition for Public Purposes) Ordinance of 1943 to seize land that had been registered as state land under the previous regime. This law continued to be implemented to expropriate land claimed to be for �public use.� However, this law is used for the building up of land for Jewish use only, as numerous cases demonstrate.

In a series of complicated laws and processes that ostensibly saw the land pass through the hands of numerous governmental and institutional agencies, the new Israeli government oversaw that the land belonging to Palestinians, both present and absent, came into the hands of the Jewish state largely for the use and under the control of the Jewish people. Specific directives ensured that in the early days, Jewish citizens could not lease land or employ Arabs to work on any land that had belonged to them, thus taking yet another step to distance refugees from their land.

Jewish villages were built in the place of Arab villages. You don�t even know the names of these Arab villages, and I don�t blame you, because these geography books no longer exist. Not only do the books not exist, the Arab villages are not there either. Nahlal arose in the place of Mahlul, Gevat in the place of Jibta, Sarid in the place of Haneifa, and Kfar-Yehoshua in the place of Tel-Shaman. There is not one single place built in this country that did not have a former Arab population.
� Moshe Dayan (Commander of Israeli forces in 1967, and later Defence Secretary) speaking in 1969

Law courts deemed it illegal to transfer ownership of �Israeli Lands� through sale, thus ensuring exclusive ownership by Jews.

Throughout the 1950s and 1960s the confiscation and legalization of land expropriation continued. Israeli government inspectors, on behalf of the Custodian, ardently pursued their goal of using the Absentees� Property Law to claim every inch of land possible. If a Palestinian landowner died, the Custodian would try to discover if any of the sons were absentees; if so, the Custodian would claim a stake in the inheritance. The Absentees� Property Law thus affected all Arab citizens in the Jewish state, not just those classed as �present absentees� but the family of �absentees.�

In 1960, Israel adopted two pieces of land legislation to define the status of �national land�: the Basic Law: Israel Lands and Israel Lands Law. These laws further isolated Palestinians in the eyes of Israeli law from their claims to the land, and further reinforced the role of the Jewish National Fund. Israeli law courts deemed that it is not possible to transfer the ownership of �Israeli Lands� through sale or any other means, and thus ensuring exclusive ownership by Jews. It is estimated that �Israeli Lands� represent 92 percent of the land declared Israel in 1948.

1956-57 Occupation of the Gaza Strip and Sinai
Jewish settlers making the most of Palestinian property in Dayr Al-Qasi, Acre district, 1949
Under the 1947 partition plan, the whole of the district of Gaza was to be in the Palestinian state, but in 1948, half of the Gaza district was seized as part of the new Jewish state. Following 1948, the population of the Gaza Strip trebled with the influx of landless refugees.

On October 29, 1956, the Israelis invaded the remaining part of the Gaza District, the part which is today known as the Gaza Strip. The area was held for four months before strong international pressure (American opposition being particularly significant) forced Israel to evacuate the area.

The original Israeli intention had been to hold on to the Strip at this time. The authorities had already begun to build railroads and other infrastructure, showing clear plans to remain. The whole of Gaza, as with the West Bank (of which there were also many raids on border lands), was considered an integral part of Israel to the Zionists.

Yet the Israelis knew it would not be an easy task. Ben-Gurion�s biographer described his horror when he visited the refugee camps in Gaza after the 1956 occupation (Masalha, 1997, pp.35-51). Seizing and remaining in control of the entire land of Palestine to the Jordan River would require not only defying international pressure, but occupying land that was far from empty, a task which Zionism continues to set itself today.

Zachary A. Othman

Source: Palestine in Focus


Daripada Abu Umarah iaitu al-Bara' bin 'Azib radhiallahu anhuma, katanya: "Kita semua diperintah oleh Rasulullah s.a.w. untuk melakukan tujuh perkara, iaitu meninjau orang sakit, mengikuti janazah, menentasymitkan orang yang bersin, menolong orang yang lemah, membantu orang yang teraniaya, meratakan salam dan melaksanakan sumpah."

(Muttafaq 'alaih)

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