“Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less “said Marie Curie the only person to win a Nobel Prize in two scientific fields ( physics and chemistry). These days accessing sound information in mainstream media that might enable understanding, especially on contentious issues, is challenging. Opinions dominate; the more fear-inducing the headline, the more attention is diverted, and the fewer the opportunities to understand.
Such is the fate of current horrifying events in Palestine. Thirty years ago, Nelson Mandela who championed the downfall of apartheid stated that ‘Palestine was the greatest moral issue of our time’. The mainstream media has ignored his insight to our detriment.
We are fed sound bites, graphic images, politicians’ threats and counter threats, civilian slaughters, desperation, destruction and heroic reports of humanitarian efforts. No maps. No demographics, just fragments of history and rare, if ever, explanations of terms like Nakba, Zionism. No mention of the deceit of imperial powers after both World War 1 and 2. For 75 years Palestinians have not lived free in their own country. Their 3000-year history in the land has been buried by other interests that have dominated the news.
Zionism (largely a secular movement, founded) emerged in response to horrifying European anti-Semitism. It envisaged a land where Jews might live without persecution. After the First World War which resulted in the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire the newly-created League of Nations granted Britian and France colonial authority (mandates) over former Ottoman territories. But Palestine never achieved the level of independence evidenced in Iraq, Syria, Jordan and Lebanon.
Indeed, Britain in collusion with European Zionists and for its own imperial interests (including preventing Jewish immigration to England), established a Jewish state on Palestinian land. In the 28-article institutional framework devised there was not a single reference to the Palestinians as a people with national or political rights.
Mass Jewish immigration to Palestine occurred during the British Mandate years (1922-1948 enhanced by the horrendous racist policies of Nazi Germany. As the designs of the Zionists for an ethno-nationalist state grew, massacres of Palestinians by Zionist militia began, Haifa in 1937 and Jerusalem the same year. Resistance by the indigenous Palestinians increased accordingly until Britain, unable to manage the conflict, ended their mandate on 14 May 1948.
Israel proclaimed its ‘independence’ and began implementing its ‘Plan Dalet’ to destroy Palestinian towns and villages – 450 at least. The Nakba commemorated each May 15th saw 780,000 of the approximately 1 million Palestinians violently expelled from their ancestral lands. They, and their progeny live today in refugee camps mostly in Lebanon, Jordan and Syria and of course, Gaza, West Bank and East Jerusalem.
The genocide unfolding today is the culmination of over a century of European imperialism, European anti-Semitism and its response – Zionism with unconditional support of Israel by successive USA administrations.
Since 1948 influential pro-Israel lobby groups have spent millions to promulgate the falsehood that Palestine was a haven for people without a land. That it was already populated was never acknowledged with critics silenced as antisemitic. Playing on guilt over the horrors of the Holocaust has been very effective until now when the world is witnessing unbelievable barbarity by Israel a nuclear-powered state seemingly intent on obliterating an entrapped and largely defenceless people.
What might it take for the realities of the injustices perpetrated on Palestinians by Israel with the support or connivance of Western powers to be covered in the depth it deserves? Not everyone has time to search out books or find well-researched articles and documentaries on the internet. We need backgrounders, maps and debates in our daily mainstream news.
There is hope in the next generation. For example, ten years ago two young students from Otorohanga College, aware that they were not informed about local history, garnered the support of 12,000 petitioners to get government recognition of significance of the New Zealand Wars and the way they reshaped us. The first Raa Maumahara National Day of Commemoration for the wars, occurred in 2017 and will be marked every year on October 28 and is now part of our schools’ curriculum.
Perhaps Nelson Mandela’s moral issue will be addressed by actions of the younger generation thoughtfully inquisitive, digging below the superficial layers of the newsfeed and initiating change that even governments might heed.
I have been involved with the Palestinian struggle since 1982 when Israel invaded Lebanon and worked with the Palestine Human rights Campaign now subsumed into the Palestine Solidarity Network Aotearoa.
However, I would describe myself as a human rights activist having been involved in a number of issues social justice. I was co-founder of the Child Poverty Action Group in 1994. (Mother of 4 children and 11 moko …)