Ethnic Cleansing and Unequal Narratives

Malini
7 min readOct 21, 2023

The history of Palestine is a complex and contentious narrative that spans thousands of years. It is a story of land, people, and identity, marked by successive waves of conquests, migrations, and political changes. However, in recent history, the Palestinian experience has been characterized by a painful cycle of erasure, ethnic cleansing, and, for some, genocide.

Ancient Roots

The roots of the Palestinian people can be traced back thousands of years to ancient Canaan, a region encompassing modern-day Israel and Palestine. Over centuries, this land witnessed the rise and fall of empires, including the Egyptians, Babylonians, Persians, Greeks, and Romans, each leaving their mark on the culture, language, and identity of the people living in the region.

Zionism and British Mandate

The modern conflict in Palestine was significantly influenced by the emergence of political Zionism in the late 19th century. Zionism aimed to establish a Jewish homeland in Palestine, which was then part of the Ottoman Empire. With the support of the British government, the Balfour Declaration of 1917 paved the way for the establishment of a “national home for the Jewish people” in Palestine. This laid the groundwork for a future Jewish state, causing tensions and conflicts with the Arab majority.

UN Partition Plan & The Nakba

The 1947 UN partition plan allocated approximately 56% of historic Palestine to a Jewish state, despite the fact that Jewish people represented a minority of the population at the time. The remaining 44% was intended for an Arab state. Jerusalem was supposed to have international status. The proposed borders did not account for the demographic distribution of Jews and Arabs, and it led to immediate tensions and armed conflicts.

In 1948, the State of Israel was officially established, leading to the Nakba, or “catastrophe” for the Palestinian people. This war resulted in Israel gaining control of a significantly larger portion of the territory than what had been allocated to it by the UN partition plan. It marked the beginning of a substantial alteration of the map of historic Palestine. This period saw the displacement of over 700,000 Palestinians through violence, forced expulsion, and intimidation, resulting in the erasure of their homes and communities. Entire villages were depopulated, and Palestinians became refugees in neighboring countries.

Source: Palestine Portal

After the 1948 war, Israel controlled about 78% of historic Palestine, which included the land originally designated for the Arab state in the UN plan. The West Bank and East Jerusalem were occupied by Jordan, while Gaza was controlled by Egypt. This period also resulted in the displacement of hundreds of thousands of Palestinian Arabs, who became refugees. What became a homeland for one peoples became a nightmare for another peoples, one that we are all yet to wake up from.

What became a homeland for one peoples became a nightmare for another peoples, one that we are all yet to wake up from.

Occupation, Settlements, and Gaza

The aftermath of the 1967 Six-Day War further transformed the territorial map of the region. In this war, Israel captured the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, Gaza Strip, and the Golan Heights. East Jerusalem was subsequently annexed by Israel in a move not recognized by the international community. The construction of Israeli settlements in these occupied territories has continued since the 1967 war, leading to a further displacement of Palestinians from their homes. These settlements have expanded and fragmented the West Bank, complicating the prospects for a contiguous Palestinian state.

In 2005, Israel unilaterally withdrew its settlers and troops from the Gaza Strip. However, it has maintained a strict blockade on Gaza since 2007, limiting the movement of people and goods, and causing significant humanitarian suffering. Some have argued that the blockade constitutes a form of collective punishment, as it has resulted in severe economic and humanitarian consequences for the people of Gaza.

Agnès Callamard, Amnesty International’s Secretary General, said “For 16 years, Israel’s illegal blockade has made Gaza the world’s biggest open-air prison — the international community must act now to prevent it becoming a giant graveyard.”

For 16 years, Israel’s illegal blockade has made Gaza the world’s biggest open-air prison — the international community must act now to prevent it becoming a giant graveyard.

As of today, the situation remains one where the original size of historic Palestine has been reduced beyond measure. Israel continues to occupy the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and maintains a blockade on Gaza, leading to a fragmented and marginalised Palestinian territory. The ongoing construction of settlements, land confiscation, and restrictions on Palestinian movement and autonomy have made it challenging to envision a viable Palestinian state alongside Israel, and the situation remains a focal point of international concern and diplomatic efforts.

The Palestinian struggle continues to this day, characterised by sporadic conflict, tensions, and attempts to find a peaceful resolution. The current situation constitutes a form of ethnic cleansing as Palestinians are continually dispossessed and marginalized. The conditions in Gaza and the West Bank can be seen as a form of genocide, as defined by the United Nations, due to the severe restrictions on daily life, healthcare, and movement.

So, what just happened?

Hamas is a Palestinian organization that is considered a terrorist group by several countries, including the United States, Israel, and the European Union. It was founded in 1987 during the First Intifada (Palestinian uprising) against Israeli rule and has its roots in the Palestinian territories. The group's stated goals include the establishment of a Palestinian state and resistance against what it sees as Israeli occupation, but its methods, such as suicide bombings and rocket attacks, have led to its designation as a terrorist organization by many governments. Since 2006, Hamas has been considered the ruler of the Gaza strip.

On 17 October 2023, after a century long build of frustration due to ethnic cleansing and erasure, Hamas launched an attack on Israel.

The Global Conflict Tracker Reports:

In early October 2023, war broke out between Israel and Hamas, the militant Islamist group that has controlled Gaza since 2006. Hamas fighters fired rockets into Israel and stormed southern Israeli cities and towns across the border of the Gaza strip, killing and injuring hundreds of soldiers and civilians and taking dozens of hostages. The attack took Israel by surprise, though the state quickly mounted a deadly retaliatory operation.

One day after the October 7 attack, the Israeli cabinet formally declared war against Hamas, followed by a directive from the defense minister to the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) to carry out a “complete siege” of Gaza. Since then, the two sides have traded daily rocket fire, and Israel ordered more than one million Palestinian civilians in northern Gaza to evacuate ahead of a possible ground assault. Meanwhile, Gaza is running out of water, fuel, and supplies amid an Israeli aid blockade, and the conflict risks spreading as cross-border strikes escalate in Lebanon and Syria.

Siezing the opportunity amidst the horrendous grief experienced by Israelis, Israel broke multiple international laws and launched an all out attack on Palestine. The goal, as many in Israel have espoused since its conception, was to wipe Palestinians off the face of the earth.

The Guardian reports:

Israel has imposed a “complete siege” on Gaza, bombing it from the land, sea and air and cutting off power, food and water to the territory’s 2.3 million inhabitants.

The war was launched in retaliation for the 7 October attack by Hamas militants, in which gunmen killed 1,400 when they stormed military posts, massacred civilians in their homes and took nearly 200 hostages.

Israel’s war in Gaza — the fifth since 2007 — has quickly become the most fatal, with more than 3,785 Palestinians killed and 12,500 wounded.

Residents there were already trapped. Israel and Egypt, Gaza’s other neighbour, have maintained a crippling blockade on the 25-mile-long area for 16 years. The UN says the blockade constitutes collective punishment, which is a war crime.

Source: Statista

It is never okay to take another human life, whatever the circumstances may be. However, this principle has never been enforced when it came to the imposition of Israel on Palestinian land and lives. Only when it is convenient for Israel and its allies, it is true. I stand by Palestine, I stand by the victims of terror by the Israeli government and Hamas, and I stand by humanity.

Educate yourself. The numbers are clear, the stories are there, and they speak to the darkest realities of human nature — are you listening?

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