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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 4/19/18

"A place I do not recognize": Palestinians mark 70 years of Israeli injustice

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Officials, therefore, established admissions committees to vet applicants to communities like the kibbutz and moshav that controlled most of Israel's new territory.

For decades these committees have ensured that such communities remained exclusively Jewish. For most of that time, Palestinian citizens were simply rejected out of hand based on their ethnicity, said Bishara.

Faced with legal challenges to this policy through the 2000s, the Netanyahu government passed the Admissions Committee Law in 2011. It entitles more than 400 rural communities like Tzipori to bar Palestinian citizens on the grounds that they are "socially or culturally unsuitable."

A government draft of a new Basic Law currently before the parliament that defines Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people will expressly allow segregation based on national or religious criteria. Israel's liberal Haaretz newspaper recently warned that the measure would ensure rural communities remained "clean of Arabs."

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Bishara said: "For the first time, there will be an explicit legal basis for racist discrimination, one that denies outright even a theoretical principle of equality."

Regret but no guilt

Guy Kruger, a 32-year-old peace activist who lives in Tzipori, told MEE that he was "saddened that the life that used to be here has gone." But he added: "While I regret what happened [in 1948], it had to be done. It was a necessity for the Jewish people. I feel regret but not guilt."

Kruger, whose family moved from South Africa, said the Jewish residents of Tzipori were polarized about the issue of having contact with the refugees living close by in Nazareth.

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"A small number are liberal and open to the idea of dialogue. But the majority is indifferent and have no interest in the refugees," he said.

Kruger's family home and their sheep pens are a short distance from the ruins of Saffuriya's cemetery. As a child he remembers the site but said he never thought about its significance.

"Neighbors and friends commonly express the view that the Arabs attacked us first, that they fled on the orders of their leaders, or that they ran away rather than that we chased them away."

Researchers such as Pappe have disproved such claims, but they persist among the vast majority of Israeli Jews.

Bombed at sunset

Abu Arab recalled that Israeli warplanes dropped bombs on Saffuriya's homes in July 1948, just as the families sat down to break the Ramadan fast. At dawn the next day, Israeli soldiers arrived to carry out expulsions.

Like others, Abu Arab's family fled northwards, towards Lebanon. The eldest of his three siblings, the late Taha Muhammad Ali, would later become a renowned Palestinian poet, often writing of the Nakba and Saffuriya.

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Shortly after the family reached Lebanon, Abu Arab's young sister died, probably of heat exhaustion. "My mother was heartbroken," he said. "She would sit by the grave every day, consumed with grief."

Months later, when it became clear Israel had no intention of allowing the refugees back, defining returnees as "infiltrators" and allowing soldiers to shoot them on sight, the family decided to risk the perilous journey to Saffuriya.

There they discovered the village gone, their former homes declared a closed military area.

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Jonathan Cook is a writer and journalist based in Nazareth, Israel. He is the 2011 winner of the Martha Gellhorn Special Prize for Journalism. His latest books are "Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East" (Pluto Press) and "Disappearing Palestine: (more...)

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