The Zionist narrative exists to justify the existence of the state of Israel. It is the narrative that dominates the perspectives of the US and Canadian governments as well as the mainstream media in North America. This narrative accepts as its starting point the right of a Jewish state to exist based on the fact that Jews lived in the biblical lands 2,000 years ago and that these lands belong to God’s chosen people: the Jews. But does this narrative reflect the truth? Or is it self-serving propaganda? After all, given this starting point, the inevitable outcome of establishing a Jewish state in Palestine was the ‘cleansing’ of the existing Arab population in that region because a Jewish majority was required to make a Jewish state viable.
Prior to the emergence of the Zionist movement in Europe in the late 1800s, the Jewish population in Palestine had remained steady at about four percent for centuries. And by all accounts the Jews lived in relative harmony with the Muslim majority as well as with Christians and the Druze. But European Zionists began urging European Jews to ‘return’ to the Holy Land with the objective of establishing a Jewish state.
In the Zionist revision of history, the Palestinians suddenly and irrationally began attacking the Jewish population in Palestine between 1920 and 1947, while Jews were simply defending themselves. But most of the Jews in Palestine by 1920 were not the Jews who had been living there for centuries; the overwhelming majority were European Zionists who had recently migrated and whose primary objective was to establish a Jewish state.
In the decade following the Balfour declaration in 1917, more than 100,000 Jews migrated to Palestine from Europe, and by 1948 that number had reached half a million. Many of these European Jews did not migrate to Palestine to co-exist in harmony with the Arab majority, but to help fulfil the Zionist goal of establishing a Jewish state with a Jewish majority. There are countless records of statements made by Zionist leaders between 1920 and 1948 on the need to remove all Arabs from the ‘Land of Israel’ in order to make a Jewish state with a Jewish majority viable.
Was there violence perpetrated by Arabs against the recently-arrived European immigrants? Yes, there was. But this violence was in response to the threat that the Zionist project posed to Palestinians and their lands—and in response to Zionist violence too. Consequently, it was the Palestinians who had lived there for generations who were defending themselves, not the European Zionists. After all, where were they supposed to turn for redress? Following the implementation of the British Mandate in 1922, the Palestinians were being governed by the same foreign government that had pledged in the Balfour declaration to create a Jewish state on their lands.
Many Zionists claim that the Palestinians were being unreasonable when they rejected the independence they were offered in 1947 under the UN Partition Plan that sought to establish the state of Israel on 56 percent of the territory of Palestine (despite the fact that Jews only constituted 32 percent of the population) and a Palestinian state on 43 percent of the land with Jerusalem decreed an international city to be governed by the United Nations.
But how would Israelis respond today if the United Nations passed a resolution declaring the partition of Israel so that the Christian minority in the country could establish a Christian state in the Holy Land? We know what the response would be, it would be a flat-out rejection, especially if that Christian state was to encompass 56 percent of Israeli territory. Therefore, the Palestinian rejection of such a proposal by foreign powers in favour of a Jewish minority who overwhelmingly consisted of recently-arrived European immigrants was a perfectly rational response.
A crucial part of the Zionist narrative is the claim that Palestinians voluntarily fled during the 1948 war to escape the conflict rather than being forcibly expelled in what the Palestinians call the Nakba, or the ‘catastrophe.’ But this is pure historical revisionism. Documents that have emerged from Israeli archives since the late 1980s have led many Israeli historians to challenge the long-established Zionist narrative about the creation of the state of Israel. These documents include the diary and letters of Israel’s ‘independence’ hero and first Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion, as well as the writings and military orders of other prominent Zionist leaders during the 1930s and 1940s. These documents make clear that the Zionist objective long before 1948 was the removal of the Arab population from Palestine in order to create a Jewish state with a Jewish majority.
Thanks to these documents, which verify the countless oral accounts of the forced expulsion provided by Palestinian refugees over the years, we now know that the more than 700,000 Palestinian refugees did not voluntarily abandon their lands as the Zionist narrative would have us believe. These documents show that the forced expulsion of the Palestinian Arabs began six months before Israel declared its independence and its Arab neighbours sent in their armies (previously Arab volunteers had fought with the Palestinians). And, in particular, that the infamous Plan Dalet was launched six weeks before the 1948 ‘independence’ war began. This plan called for the systematic expulsion of Palestinians from Israel and, in reference to it, Ben-Gurion wrote that “the cleansing of Palestine remained the prime objective of Israel.”
Creating a Jewish state with a Jewish majority anywhere in the world would have required the removal of the majority of the existing inhabitants. And, as these documents make clear, this is precisely what occurred in Palestine as Palestinian refugees were forcibly and systematically expelled from Palestine in 1948—and this expulsion began before the Arab armies attacked Israel in response to the Zionists unilaterally declaring independence.
Zionists also claim that a Palestinian state could have been established following the 1949 armistice when the West Bank and Gaza remained in Arab hands (controlled by Jordan and Egypt respectively). But why would Palestinians accept only 23 percent of the land as a state only two years after rationally rejecting 43 percent of the territory? And while it is true that Jordan had its own political agenda in occupying the West Bank, this in no way de-legitimizes the desire of Palestinians to achieve their own independent and sovereign state. Furthermore, the declaration of a Palestinian state on only 23 percent of the land would have constituted a de-facto recognition of Israel’s ownership of 77 percent of the territory.
A powerful aspect of the Zionist narrative has been the portrayal of Palestinians as terrorists. Palestinians have lived under Israeli military occupation since 1967 and some have turned to armed struggle to achieve their liberation. So while it is true that Palestinian groups have targeted Israeli civilians through suicide bombings and other violent acts, the narrative has effectively portrayed Israelis as the victims while obscuring the state terrorism that has been perpetrated by Israel.
The resort to armed struggle should not come as a surprise given that the international community has repeatedly failed the Palestinian people, with the most powerful nations, particularly the United States, consistently siding with Israel. For instance, despite Israel’s repeated violations of
international law, the Palestinians have never been able to obtain justice because the United States has used its veto power in the Security Council on 41 occasions to ensure that the numerous UN resolutions condemning Israel’s illegal occupation and refusal to allow Palestinian refugees to return to their lands are not enforced.
Meanwhile, the state terrorism perpetrated by Israel is rarely addressed by the international community. The Zionist narrative that portrays Israel as the victim has succeeded in obscuring the fact that a hugely disproportionate number of Palestinians have been killed in the long-running conflict. Over the past 15 years, according to the Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem, 8,701 Palestinians have been killed by Israelis compared to 1,138 Israelis killed by Palestinians. The disparity in the number of Palestinian children killed is even greater with a total of 1,772 killed during that period compared to 93 Israeli children.
This reality was never more evident than in the Israeli military’s seven-week assault on Gaza last year. According to the United Nations, the Israeli military killed 2,025 Palestinians, including 1,483 civilians, of whom 521 were children. Additionally, more than half a million Palestinians were forcibly displaced from their homes by the assault. Meanwhile, 71 Israelis died, of which 66 were soldiers. And yet, it is the Palestinians who are portrayed as the terrorists.
Zionists also claim that Palestinians are not serious about negotiating a two-state solution. It is true that many Palestinians do not want a two-state solution if it prohibits the more than five million Palestinian refugees who now live in camps from returning to their lands in Israel. But the Zionists are also adamantly opposed to a two-state solution—and always have been. The aforementioned documents released from Israeli archives illustrate how Ben-Gurion and other Zionist leaders wanted to incorporate the West Bank into the state of Israel back in 1948. This Zionist attitude is also evident in the statements of contemporary Israeli government officials. Tzipi Hotovely, Israel’s deputy foreign minister, recently declared, “This land is ours. All of it is ours. We did not come here to apologize for that.” Hotovely went on to refer to the Torah to provide justification her claim.
Perhaps the most blatant illustration that the Zionists have never seriously considered a two-state solution is the Israeli government’s long-standing policies promoting the building of Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem. There is nothing temporary about these illegal settlements that now house half a million Jews in the Occupied Territories; making it clear that Israel has no intention of relinquishing these lands to allow for the creation of a Palestinian state.
One only has to travel around the West Bank to realize that there is no possible way that a viable, contiguous Palestinian state can be established while the settlements remain in place and under the control of Israel. A related factor that has further undermined the possibility of establishing a viable Palestinian state is the fact that the Jewish settlements have appropriated most of the best agricultural lands and water resources in the West Bank.
The Zionists have effectively re-written the history of Israel and it is this misrepresentation of the past and present that has dominated the Israel-Palestine narrative. But one only has to visit the many national parks in Israel that have been established on the land of expelled Palestinian villagers to understand the degree to which historical revisionism has taken place in Israel. The plaques in these parks tell of the numerous ancient and past civilizations that existed on these lands but they do not mention a single word about the Palestinians who lived there just a few decades ago—and who had lived there for more than a thousand years. There is no clearer example of how the Zionist narrative has not only attempted to revise history, but has tried to erase it.
Garry Leech is an independent journalist and editor of Palestine Journal. He is the author of numerous books including Capitalism: A Structural Genocide (Zed Books, 2012); Beyond Bogota: Diary of a Drug War Journalist in Colombia (Beacon Press, 2009); and Crude Interventions: The United States Oil and the New World Disorder (Zed Books, 2006). ). He is also a lecturer in the Department of Political Science at Cape Breton University in Canada.