Thursday, February 01, 2007
Dr.Abu Sitta: The Geography of Occupation
Author, Atlas of Palestine
Video: The Geography of Occupation
Dr. Salman Abu Sitta begins the video The Geography of Occupation with a description of how he became a refugee. He was ten when the headmaster of his boarding school, which was about forty-sixty kilometers (24-36 miles) from Abu Sitta's house, told the students, six weeks before the end of the term, that he could no longer protect them and that they would have to return home.
Dr. Abu Sitta relates how he and an older cousin began the trek home through a path frequented by Zionists in jeeps outfitted with machine guns in the front and in the back. They terrorized the local farmers and shot anyone on the road. Dr. Abu Sitta and his cousin agreed that they would hide in the wheat fields when they heard a jeep.
Once he reached home he slept for two days. Six weeks to the day the Zionists in twenty-four tanks assaulted his house and destroyed the school which his father built in 1920.
"What did we do to them?" he asks. "I'd never seen a Jew before in my life."
Dr. Abu Sitta notes that the Balfour Declaration stated that the Jews would have a "home," not a "state," "in" Palestine, not "of" Palestine. At the beginning of the British Mandate Jews comprised nine percent of Palestine's population; by the end, thirty percent. He notes that the Zionists amassed an army of 120,000, that immigrants were picked for their military prowess, including many World War II combat veterans. Contrast this to twenty-thirty home guards in each village, for a total of 2500 Palestinians. Despite discriminatory tax laws imposed by the mandate authorities on the Palestinians, Zionists managed to secure only 5.5 percent of land in Palestine by the end of the mandate.
Before the end of the Mandate Period, [and before any Arab armies entered Palestine], Zionists had expelled over one-half of Palestine's inhabitants. He states that it would have not have been possible for Arab Jews to immigrate to Palestine unless Palestine's Arabs were expelled. Zionists depopulated a total of 675 Arab villages and to insure that their people wouldn't return shot returnees they labeled "infiltrators," demolished homes, burned crops, and poisoned wells. When Zionists completed the initial faze of its ongoing ethnic cleansing, eighty-five percent of Palestine's population was disenfranchised.
He points out that the 1949 July armistice line has no value; it neither confers or denies rights; it is a temporary line and not a legal international border. Unfortunately, 111 villages have been decimated by this line, with 5-7 in Gaza suffering a similar fate, losing wells, farmland, houses, etc.
"My home is my castle," the British and Americans say. No less so for Palestinians. Many families are named after villages with Palestinian presence going back 5000 years. Eighty-eight percent of Palestinians live within 100 miles of their land; ninety-seven percent of the refugees are within sixty miles of their homes, with fifty percent of the refugees twenty-four miles away. Some can see their property from their refugee camps.
If Palestinians, without financial support and arms, were not strong in their belief of return they would not have endured fifty-eight years of brutal occupation. A human being's identity is tied to his/her patrimony. People belong to their place of origin and "defy severance of their geography. A nation's history and geography must be united."
UNGAR 194 has been reaffirmed over one hundred times in the UN. It calls for right of return and compensation for damages and revenues earned for fifty-eight years.
Israel asks the world to pay compensation in return for its legal rights to the land. Thus, Israel would secure legal rights to land paid for by others. Palestinians are united in refusing to accept compensation in return for their land and in refusing to agree to settle anywhere other than their home.
And Umka is one of the best for keeping all of this in mind! The most compassionate and intelligent person I've ever known.... and don't let me start telling you how great a cook she is.... I won't be able to stop!