Hidden History: Life Inside a Palestinian Refugee Camp

Seven Days in Beirut

Al Jazeera (2018)

Film Review

Al Jazeera has been running an excellent series of documentaries about the daily lives of ordinary Palestinians. Seven Days in Beirut is about a British-Italian journalist who spends a week in the Burj Barajneh refugee camp in southern Lebanon. Many Palestinians who were evicted from their homes by Zionist paramilitary forces in 1948 are in permanent limbo in crowded Lebanese refugee camps.

The family the journalist stays with have lived in the camp, which has the appearance of a overcrowded favela or slum, ever since they were forced to flee Palestine in 1948.

Because Lebanon refuses to grant citizenship to the 18,000 Palestinian refugees who live in the camp, they can’t own land outside the refugee camp, work in the professions they have trained for (medicine, nursing, education, etc) or receive free health care and education guaranteed Lebanese citizens.

Electricity is delivered to their tenements via low hanging tangles of power cables that pose a constant danger of electrocution. Finding work is extremely difficult, and residents support themselves by working in shops and cafes, working as cleaners and singing at weddings.

There is one medical clinic (funded by the UNRWA (UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees)*  serving 25,000 Palestinian and Syrian refugees. However residents must make advance cash payment ($US 7,000) if they require hospitalization.

The UNRWA also funds a school inside the camp for children.

All the refugees interviewed for the film believe they will eventually return to their homes in Palestine. They place great store in education to prepare their children for this day.


*The future of UNRWA, which relied heavily on US funding, is very uncertain since Trump discontinued it a few weeks ago.

Israel Independence and the Forced Eviction of 700,000 Palestinians

Al-Naqba: The Palestinian Catastrophe Part 4

Al Jazeera (2013)

Film Review

Zionist leaders proclaimed the independent state of Israel on May 14, 1948, the day British occupation of Palestine ended (see Brits Look On as Jewish Terrorists Ransack Palestinian Villages). By July, more than 400,000 Palestinians had been forcibly evicted from their homes. This final episode of the Al-Nakba documentary includes poignant testimony from Palestinian refugees whose families lived in the open for months without access to food or water. One man describes his mother feeding the family a mixture of hay, oil and onions.

The Swedish mediator the UN appointed to negotiate a peace settlement called the plight of Palestinian refugees a humanitarian disaster. He also put forward a peace proposal granting Palestinian refugees the right of return and was promptly assassinated by the Stern Gang.*

By the end of 1948, more than 700,000 Palestinians had been driven from their homes. Despite a UN Security Council resolution calling for Israel to guarantee their right to return to their villages, Ralph Bunche, the new UN mediator omitted this requirement from the separate peace agreements he negotiated between Israel and Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan and Syria in early 1949.

Based on these peace accords, the West Bank of the Jordan River was annexed to Jordan and Gaza to Egypt. In this way, Israel succeeded in their goal of totally erasing Palestine from history. The European and US media fully colluded in this endeavor.

In the end, only 15% of Palestine’s 1.3 million Arabs were allowed to remain within Israel’s borders. Owing to its strong link with the Vatican, the Arab population of Nazareth was allowed to remain.

Israel offered Christian and Druze Arabs the right to remain in Galilee. Instead, standing in  solidarity with Muslim neighbors who had been evicted, they opted to emigrate.

At present six million Palestinian refugees (and their descendants) live outside Israel. Two million if them still reside in desperate conditions in refugee camps in Lebanon and Jordan. Approximately 8.3 million live in Israel proper (1.8 million) or the Israeli occupied West Bank (4.5 million ) and Gaza (2 million).


*The Stern Gang was a prominent Jewish terrorist/paramilitary organization formed during the British occupation of Palestine. See1947: British Ethnic Cleansing in Palestine

1947-1948: Brits Look On as Jewish Terrorists Ransack 274 Palestinian Villages

Al-Nakba: The Palestinian Catastrophe Part 3

Al Jazeera (2013)

Film Review

Once the UK announced its intention (in February 1947 – see 1947: British Ethnic Cleansing in Palestine ) to end its occupation, the UN Security Council voted to partition Palestine –  granting 56% of country to Jewish settlers (who represented 5.5% of the population) and 44% to the indigenous Arabs (who comprised 94.5% of the population). There is documentary evidence that the Truman administration used a combination of bribery and “pressure” (unfavorable aid or trade consequences) to swing the UN vote in favor of partition.

By 1947 the combined forces of the Jewish paramilitary (terrorist) groups had reached 40,000 and begun a campaign of systematic ethnic cleansing (which paramilitary leader and future prime minister David Ben-Gurion documents in his diary). By May 14, 1948, the day British troops withdrew from Palestine, half of the country’s 548 villages had already been evacuated and taken over by Jewish terrorists.

Jewish paramilitary forces typically employed a strategy of shelling Palestinian cities and villages from three sides, while leaving an single open corridor for civilians to flee. Any Palestinians who stayed to defend their homes were slaughtered or transferred to detention camps. British troops and police looked on without intervening.

In several instances Jewish terrorist forces imitated their Nazi persecutors in Europe by forcing Palestinians to dig their own mass graves before shooting them.

The remaining Palestinian resistance desperately sought assistance from Arab League nations in defending their homeland. Surrounding Arab countries amassed roughly 24,000 troops to defend Palestine. In addition to being poorly equipped and trained,* they had no unified command. Jordan, the only country with a strong, well-equipped military, made a secret deal with the Jewish forces not to support the Palestinians.

In contrast, Palestine’s Greek orthodox churches assisted by offering sanctuary to both Christian and Muslim Palestinians fleeing Jewish violence. The Jewish gangs, refusing to honor the age-old custom of sacred spaces and sanctuary, responded by seizing and killing teenager Palestinians until the adults agreed to surrender.


*When British troops marched out of Palestine, they left nearly all their heavy military equipment behind for the use of of the Jewish paramilitaries.

1936-1947: British Ethnic Cleansing in Palestine

Al-Nakba: the Palestinian Catastrophe Part 2 (1936-1947)

Al Jazeera (2013)

Film Review

The Palestinian “revolt” of 1936 took (see Palestine’s 200 Year History of Ethnic Cleansing) took three years of British brutality to crush. Declaring martial law in 1937, Britain forced five members of the Arab High Committee (which ruled Palestine) to the Seychelles. The other four fled to Lebanon, fearing arrest or imprisonment or worse. Many Palestinian civilians were arrested without charge and held in concentration camps. Britain also armed Jewish paramilitary groups to perform night time raids on Palestinian families with the assistance of British volunteers.

In all 5,000 Palestinians were killed between 1936-39 and 14,000 wounded. Hundreds of Palestinian homes were demolished as collective punishment. By 1940, one-tenth of the male population of Palestine was dead or in prison or exile – leaving the Palestinian resistance movement virtually leaderless.

During World War II, Palestinian Jews were allowed to enlist in the British military, providing hundreds of them training in strategy and advanced weaponry that they would later use to form the Israeli Defense Force. The British military also allowed Palestine’s Jewish minority to form a secret intelligence unit to scope out every Palestinian village to ascertain its ease of access and desirability for occupation.

During the 1940s, Britain suddenly reversed themselves and banned any further Jewish immigration to Palestine. This decision would lead to the rise of three Jewish terrorist groups Haganah, Irgun and the Stern Gang. All three carried out a slate of deadly bombing campaigns directed against British troops and Palestinian civilians

In 1946, the newly formed Arab League, a regional coalition of Arab states, held their first summit in Egypt to discuss the growing crisis in Israel.

In 1947, the crisis came to a head when Jewish militants led by future Israeli prime minister Menachem Begin* kidnapped and murdered three British soldiers, to punish Britain for executing three Jewish terrorists for their bombing campaigns.

This so-called Soldiers Affair – as well as British public opposition to the loss of British troops in Palestine – would lead the UK to announce (in February 1947) their plan to withdraw from Palestine and turn governance of the country over to the newly formed United Nations.


*In 1978 Begin would be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, along with Egyptian president Anwar Sadat, for their role in negotiating the Oslo Peace Accord.

 

 

Al-Naqba: Palestine’s 200-Year History of Ethnic Cleansing

Al-Naqba: The Palestinian Catastrophe Episode 1 (1799-1936)

Al Jazeera (2013)

Film Review

This is the most comprehensive documentary of the Zionist movement I’ve ever watched. The cinematography is incredibly beautiful and moving and includes scarce footage of vibrant pre-World War II Palestine.

I continue to be surprised by all the important events Western accounts leave out regarding the history of Zionism. Contrary to Western belief, the Jewish colonization of Israel didn’t began in 1916 with the infamous Sykes-Picot agreement, but with Napoleon’s 1799 proposal to establish a Jewish homeland in Palestine under French protection.

In 1840, when the British Foreign office tried to persuade the Sultan of the Ottoman empire to open Palestine to Jewish immigration, there were only 3,000 Jews in Palestine.

In the 1880s, as the power of the Ottoman empire started to decline, French banking magnate Baron de Rothschild openly campaigned to expand Jewish immigration, spending 40 million francs on the establishment of Jewish settlements in Palestine. The term Zionism* was first coined in 1885, with the first Zionist conference held in Basel Switzerland in 1906.

In 1907, as western Europe actively worked to usurp Ottoman colonies, the British Foreign Office called for the creation of a buffer state in the Arab-dominated Middle East – one that would be friendly to Europeans and hostile to Arabs.

The same year, 40,000 Palestinian farmers were forced off their lands by Jewish immigrants from Europe and Yemen.

By the close of World War I, when Palestine became a British protectorate, there were 50,000 Jews in Israel, 100,000 Arab Christians and 400,000 Arab Muslims.

In 1922, when the League of Nations charged Britain with preparing for the establishment of a Jewish homeland in Palestine, it was opposed by US president Woodrow Wilson.

During the 1920s, Jewish immigration continued to increase, accompanied by increasing confiscation of Arab lands. Between 1922-25, 33,000 Jews immigrated to Palestine. Between 1925-1930, the country was flooded by an additional 175,000 immigrants.

Palestine’s ruler, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, approached the issue of Jewish immigration by trying to curry favor with the British colonizers. In contrast Arab (both Muslim and Christian) farmers who were being displaced began organizing and protesting Jewish immigration from 1925 on. The initially peaceful protests were brutally and barbarically suppressed by British troops, in the same fashion as India’s independence movement. Hundreds of protestors were jailed, executed or forcibly exiled.

As Jewish immigration continued to increase (42,000 in 1934 and 62,000 in 1935, The al-Qassam movement, which called for violent revolution to expel the British, launched a six-month Palestine-wide general strike in 1936.


*An international movement calling for the establishment of a majority Jewish state in Palestine via forced displacement of its Arab occupants.

The Demise of Academic Freedom in the US

Watchtower

Press TV (2017)

Film Review

This documentary concerns three extremely popular and effective college professors who were denied tenure and/or fired after being targeted by the Jewish Anti-Discrimination League (ADL) for their views on Palestine. Two of the professors targeted (Dr Norman Finkelstein) and Dr Joel Kovel) were accused by the ADL of being “self-hating Jews,” owing to their support for justice for Palestine. The third, Dr Joseph Massad, a Jordanian whose family fled Palestine in 1948, was accused of being an “anti-Semite” who made Jewish students uncomfortable.

None of the above accusations were ever supported by the facts. In each case, the school that employed them (DePaul, Brooklyn College and Columbia) failed to follow their own established processes. Instead they were more concerned about bad publicity interfering with their ability to fundraise.  .

In 2008 Massad, who Columbia improperly denied tenure, sought the assistance of the the ACLU for the clear violation of his First Amendment rights. With their support, he finally won tenure in 2009.

One of the most ominous aspects of these three cases is the clear monitoring/surveillance role the ADL* is playing in all US institutions of higher learning. In Finkelstein’s case, this monitoring entailed dispatching outside non-student agitators to disrupt his classes.


*The ADL has a long history of collaborating with the FBI to spy on progressive groups. In the mid-eighties they were involved in spying on a group I belonged to The Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador (CISPES): https://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2000/12/27/12071.php

World War I: How the West Fomented Ethnic Conflict to Destroy the Ottoman Empire

The Ottoman Empire: Demise of a Major Power

DW (2017)

Film Review

This documentary demonstrates how people of multiple religions and ethnicities were able to coexist peaceably for over four centuries in the Ottoman empire. This flies in the face of western propaganda about the inevitably of genocidal violence when various religions and ethnicities share the same geographic space.

According to the filmmakers, the long peaceful coexistence of multiple religious and ethnic groups (the main ones being Roman Catholic, Protestant and Orthodox Christians, Jews, and Sunni, Shia and Sufi Muslims) relates mainly to the Ottoman creation of semi-autonomous regional “millets.” These were under the administrative control of local religious leaders.

The democratic ideals that arose from the 1789 French Revolution would pose the first major challenge to this stability, in triggering a whole series of rebellions. In 1821, Greek rebels would launch a full scale war of independence. Russia, France and Britain, keen on expanding their empires into the Balkans and Middle East, supported the rebellion. Greece would ultimately win independence in 1829.

Over the coming decades, the Russian and Austro-Hungarian empire fomented similar rebellions by ethnic Serbs, Romanians and Bulgarians. In 1877, Russia declared war on the Ottoman Empire – under the pretext of protecting its Christian subjects – which ended with the 1878 Congress of Berlin. The latter divided up the Balkans and placed the minority Armenians in the Anatolia peninsula under the protection of the European powers. Russia was granted control of Bulgaria, Serbia and Montenegro and the Austro-Hungarian empire control of Bosnia-Herzegovina. This peace agreement, which led to the displacement of hundreds of thousands of Balkan Muslims, signaled the dawn of the modern age of refugees.

For me the most intriguing part of the film concerned the intelligence role of archeologist Thomas Lawrence (aka Lawrence of Arabia), who was actually a British secret agent sent to mobilize the Arabs in the Arabian peninsula to revolt against their Ottoman rulers. Lawrence, on behalf of Britain, promised Arab fighters their own Arabian kingdom in return for their military support – a promise Britain conveniently broke in 1920.*

This documentary leaves absolutely no question that the real agenda in World War I was 1) disrupting the growing German-Ottoman alliance and 2) for the European powers who initiated the war to divide up the Ottoman empire. Following the 1918 armistice and 1920 Treaty of Sevres, Britain would win colonial control of Egypt, Mesopotamia (Iraq and Kuwait) and Palestine and the French control of Syria and the newly created Christian enclave of Lebanon.

After Britain gained colonial control over Palestine in 1920, they immediately revved up ethnic tensions by requiring Jerusalem residents to reside in distinct religious zones an


*The Ottoman Empire’s possessions in the Arabian Peninsula became the Kingdom of Hejaz, which was annexed by the Sultanate of Nejd (today Saudi Arabia), and the Mutawakkilite Kingdom of Yemen. The Empire’s possessions on the western shores of the Persian Gulf were variously annexed by Saudi Arabia (Alahsa and Qatif), or remained British protectorates (Kuwait, Bahrain, and Qatar) and became the Arab States of the Persian Gulf. requiring passports for travel between zones.