63 years ago today, before the Arab armies had entered Palestine, and before Israel had declared its independence, Zionist militias were engaged in the conquest and ethnic cleansing of dozens of villages, from Abu al-Fadl near present-day Ramle to Akbara, which was 2 kilometers south of Safed. This week, as Palestinians plan to observe the formal anniversary of their dispossession on May 15, or “Nabka Day,” the Jerusalem Post’s Benjamin Speier reported that Israeli soldiers from the 202 paratrooper battalion “put their skills into action by conquering a simulation Arab village.”
“Each platoon needs to likhbush [conquer] an area in the village, and we get to likhbush an area called Yassin, south Yassin,” said company commander Matan Pelen. After the exercise was completed, Pelen commented, “This area is now ours, it’s under our control.”
Whether or not the Israeli army is training to literally seize a village and expel its residents, the reliance by modern day Israelis on a colonial vocabulary exposes the state’s essential mission. When Israelis refer to the occupation of the West Bank, they use the term “kibush,” or the conquest, underscoring the permanence of the settlement project across the 1949 Armistice Line and its connection to the military campaign of ethnic cleansing that enabled the Jewish state to emerge in 1948.
The language of conquest emerged through the ideologues of early Zionism. The early Zionists labeled their campaign to Judaize the marketplace by boycotting Arab businesses and terrorizing Jews who employed or patronized Arabs, "Kibush Ha'avodah," or the conquest of labor.
The Zionist internalization of anti-Semitic stereotypes of Jews as rootless cosmopolitans (or excessively contemplative Luftmenschen) prompted the “Kibush Ha’adamah,” the conquest of the land, and “Likhbush et Ha’adamah ba’Raglyim,” a phrase that means to conquer the land by foot. Besides expelling as many Palestinian Arabs as possible, these efforts were intended to encourage the New Jews to purge their diaspora contaminations through agricultural pursuits, physical labor and perpetual building.
Conquest is inscribed in the logic of Zionism. While Israeli political and military leaders resist any initiative to constrain the state’s expansionist impulses, Palestinian villages quietly disappear from the landscape. Just as the “kibush” remains continuous, so does the Nakba.
Last week, on May 6, Israeli authorities ordered 50 Palestinian families to leave Jerusalem. A day later, Israeli forces expelled 110 Palestinians from Khirbet Umm Nir, a small village south of the occupied city of Hebron. The village was destroyed for the third time in two months.
This post originally appeared on Max Blumenthal's blog.