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A celebration that ignores the plight of Palestine

By Antony Loewenstein and Michael Shaik - posted Wednesday, 14 May 2008

"If you will it," wrote Theodore Herzl, the founding father of the Zionist movement, in 1902, "it is no dream".

The dream to which he referred was the establishment of a Jewish state in the Arab country of Palestine.

To realise the dream, he insisted, the Jews must be willing to seize the reigns of history by renouncing the classical Jewish tradition of pacifism and collaborating with European anti-Semites who supported the Zionist movement as a means of ridding Europe of its "Jewish problem".


Ultimately, the indigenous population of Palestine would have to be forced from the country.

In 1948 the dream was realised with the establishment of the state of Israel and the flight of the Palestinians from almost 80 per cent of their homeland. Though some Zionist apologists have insisted that Israel did not practice a deliberate policy of ethnic cleansing, the displacement of the Palestinians was an indispensable part of the Zionist dream.

In a country that was overwhelmingly non-Jewish it would have been impossible to establish a Jewish state without the expulsion of its native population.

While the transformation of Palestine into a Jewish state was a sudden and violent event, however, Israel's subsequent transformation into a Jewish-Palestinian entity has been a gradual and predictable process.

In 1967 Israel conquered the remainder of Palestine, comprising of the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip. Because of the speed of the victory, the Israeli army was unable to carry out a comprehensive program of ethnic cleansing but nevertheless began colonising its newly occupied territories with Jewish settlers.

In 1973 Ariel Sharon boasted that Israel would "make a pastrami sandwich" of the Palestinians by building strips of settlements throughout the West Bank. In 1983 the former head of Israeli military intelligence, Professor Yehoshafat Harkabi warned that Israel's continued colonisation of the occupied territories would lead to the transformation of Israel into an Arab-Jewish state and the consequent "Belfastisation" of the area.


Today 450,000 settlers dominate 40 per cent of the West Bank, while the ratio of Palestinians to Jews living between the Mediterranean and the Jordan River is nearing one to one.

Last year Israel's Prime Minister Ehud Olmert warned that without a two-state solution the Palestinians would eventually opt for a South African-style struggle for equal voting rights and Israel would be finished as a Jewish state. His vision of a two-state solution, however, is unconvincing.

The Realignment Plan, which formed the platform upon which Olmert was elected, calls for the consolidation of Israel's Jewish majority by the unilateral annexation of all of "Greater Jerusalem", the Jordan Valley and all of the West Bank settlement blocs.
If this plan is realised the "state" remaining to the Palestinians will constitute a patchwork of reservations, surrounded by Jewish settlements, subdivided by "bypass roads" (which Palestinians are banned from using) and totally dependent on Israel for their electricity, water supply and access to the rest of the world.

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First published in The Age on May 8, 2008.

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About the Authors

Antony Loewenstein is a freelance journalist, author and blogger. He has written for the Sydney Morning Herald, Haaretz, The Guardian, Washington Post, Znet, Counterpunch and many other publications. He contributed a major chapter in the 2004 best seller, Not Happy, John!. He is author of the best-selling book My Israel Question, released in August 2006 by Melbourne University Publishing and re-published in 2009 in an updated edition. The book was short-listed for the 2007 NSW Premier's Literary Award. His 2008 book is The Blogging Revolution on the internet in repressive regimes. His website is at and he can be contacted at

Michael Shaik is the public advocate for Australians for Palestine.

Other articles by these Authors

All articles by Antony Loewenstein
All articles by Michael Shaik

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