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Tuesday, February 19, 2019 ARCHIVES  |  SEARCH  |  POST ADS  |  ADVERTISE  |  SUBSCRIBE   |  LOGIN   |  CONTACT US

War crimes cover-up

By Dr James J Zogby

First, the Trump administration “took Jerusalem off the table”.

Now, in an especially dangerous display of recklessness, it has announced the intention to do the same for the Palestinian “right of return”.

The first indication that this was in the works came with the administration’s announcement that it would be suspending all US assistance to UNWRA, the UN agency created to address the humanitarian needs of Palestinians forced to flee their homes in 1948 and again in 1967.

More recently, the administration - supported by some Republican members of Congress - launched an effort to limit “refugee” status to only those Palestinians who were victims of the 1948 expulsions.

Because Israel has always rejected its culpability for the Palestinian refugee crisis and has consistently refused to acknowledge that those who fled in 1948 had any rights to repatriation, the US intent to take the refugee issue “off the table” was described by one Israeli writer as a “dream come true”.

A minister in Prime Minister Netanyahu’s government celebrated the US move as: “Finally speaking the truth to the Arab lie that has been marketed all over the world for decades...There is no reason for [Palestinians] to dream of returning.”

Israel claims to have no responsibility for Palestinian refugees.

Israelis have attempted to exonerate themselves by creating alternative facts - that Palestinians voluntarily left their homes or that they were ordered to leave by advancing Arab armies.

However, an examination of the historical record establishes that the Zionist political leadership executed a deliberate plan to “cleanse” entire areas of Arab inhabitants to create a state larger than what was provided by the UN partition, with fewer Arabs.

In the aftermath of the war, during which thousands of Palestinians were murdered and another 700,000 were forced into exile, Ben Gurion celebrated what he termed “a double miracle” - an Israel with more land and less Arabs.

After its establishment, Israel compounded its crimes against Palestinians by passing a series of Orwellian laws enabling the new state to seize Arab-owned land (over two million acres were taken including businesses, homes, orchards, and farmland) and demolish 385 Arab villages - all to physically erase any evidence of the prior Palestinian presence.

I spent time in Palestinian camps in 1971 collecting the nightmarish personal stories of those who were expelled, perusing their family photo albums of the homes they had left behind, and being shown the keys they still carried, which had become a sacred symbol representing what they had lost and hoped to regain.

One said to me: “The Jews said they remembered for 2,000 years. For me, it has only been 23 years, how can I forget?”

In the face of this, the actions of the Trump administration are not only dangerous and reckless, they are cruel and insensitive, and violate of international law and covenants.

While some conservatives love to cherry pick the celebrated 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights – citing their favourite, Article 18, which guarantees freedom of religion and belief - they wilfully ignore other relevant articles.

Article 9: “No-one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile.”

Article 13/2: “Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country.”

Article 17/2: “No-one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his property.”

In addition, there is the 1948 UN resolution declaring “the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes”, a resolution which has been regularly and overwhelmingly passed by the UN General Assembly.

In the face of this incontrovertible history of Israeli “ethnic cleansing” and international conventions on the rights of refugees, I cringe when I hear of the Trump Administration’s intention to take the refugee issue “off the table”.

At stake are lives and fortunes of innocent Palestinians and their families; the rule of law; simple human justice; and the possibility of peace.

The more than five million Palestinians living under occupation and in refugee camps in Jordan, Lebanon and Syria cannot be erased.

In their attempt to do so, it is not only the Israelis who are guilty of the war crime of ethnic cleansing, but also the Trump administration.

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