“Perhaps if we don’t give them enough water they won’t have a choice, because the orchards will yellow and wither.”
That is what Israeli Prime Minster Levi Eshkol said in 1967 about Gaza, as revealed in newly declassified documents from the time. Ofer Aderet of Haaretz reported about this today.
As I have already written, Eshkol, the leftist ‘liberal Zionist,’ was very willing to send Palestinians to the moon:
“I want them all to go, even if they go to the moon”, he said.
As is widely known, the standard UN definition of Genocide includes “Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part”.
These newly declassified documents reveal that the genocidal policy was indeed there already in 1967. This is important, because it sheds light on later policies, such as Israel’s siege of Gaza, which is part of an ‘incremental genocide,’ as historian Ilan Pappe has been calling it since 2006, and it puts the notion of a “huge concentration camp”, the term Haaretz journalist Amira Hass has used for Gaza, in historical perspective.
Indeed, Eshkol was aware in the months after the 1967 war of the “suffocation and imprisonment” in Gaza in 1967, as the declassified documents reveal. And he was quite clear about this being an instrument to effect Israeli strategy:
“precisely because of the suffocation and imprisonment there, maybe the Arabs will move from the Gaza Strip”, he said.
Eshkol was also paraphrasing Herzl, when Eshkol told the cabinet he was “working on the establishment of a unit or office that will engage in encouraging Arab emigration.” He noted that
“We should deal with this issue quietly, calmly and covertly, and we should work on finding a way from them to emigrate to other countries and not just over the Jordan [River].”
This is a near quote of Herzl’s 1895 diary entry:
“We shall try to spirit the penniless population across the border by procuring employment for it in the transit countries, while denying it employment in our country. The property owners will come over to our side. Both the process of expropriation and the removal of the poor must be carried out discretely and circumspectly”, Herzl wrote.
Defense Minister Moshe Dayan was approving of Eshkol’s (and Herzl’s) ideas. He said,
“By allowing these Arabs to seek and find work in foreign countries, there’s a greater chance that they’ll want to migrate to those countries later.”
Dayan raised the idea of giving the Palestinians of the West Bank and Gaza permits to work abroad, in the hope that some would prefer to stay there.
Eshkol was rather obsessed with the ethnic cleansing of Gaza as a prime issue:
“We are interested in emptying out Gaza first”, he said.
This shows that the notion of the complete ethnic cleansing of Gaza is not limited to right-wing politicians such as Moshe Feiglin, who as Likud Knesset co-speaker in July 2014, provided a 7-point plan to Netanyahu, to do just that.
Eshkol also provides for other more apocalyptic options:
“Perhaps we can expect another war and then this problem will be solved. But that’s a type of ‘luxury,’ an unexpected solution.”
This ‘luxury’ (for Zionists, that is), is quite precisely what the ‘leftist’ Israeli historian Benny Morris was speaking about when he told Ari Shavit in 2004:
“But I am ready to tell you that in other circumstances, apocalyptic ones, which are liable to be realized in five or ten years, I can see expulsions”.
Dayan, by the way, was a bit more ‘generous’ than Eshkol, and suggested that out of the 400,000 Gazans, the 100,000 whom he considered ‘not refugees’ would be allowed to stay.
Dayan also seems to suggest the ‘Bantustan’ blueprint, which is the idea that has informed Israeli policy in the West Bank, even within the ‘peace-process’ of the last few decades, even when Israel was supposedly being ‘generous’:
“No soldier will have any interest in interfering in the lives of the inhabitants. I have no interest in the army sitting precisely in Nablus. It can sit on a hill outside Nablus”, Dayan said.
In the same way, Israel does not need to be IN Gaza, or only occasionally. It’s much easier to just control the prison from outside, from a nearby hill…
In 1967, Israel was experiencing the duality of exhilarated joy at the ‘liberation’ of the new territories (as even ‘leftist hero’ Ehud Barak puts it), and the ‘trouble’ of the Palestinian presence. This is embodied in Eshkol’s words:
“I suggest that we don’t come to a vote or a decision today; there’s time to deal with this joy, or better put, there’s time to deal with this trouble”.
The ‘trouble’ was of course the Palestinian ‘demographic problem’, which has been looming upon Israel from its very beginning.
“I cannot imagine it — how we will organize life in this country when we have 1.4 million Arabs and we are 2.4 million, with 400,000 Arabs already in the country?”, Eshkol said.
These words are very interesting to scrutinize. When Eshkol says “we are 2.4 million”, he is actually not including the Palestinian citizens of Israel (known in Israel as ‘Israeli Arabs’). This is clear, because in 1967, the total population of Israel was nearly 2.8 million. The last time the population was 2.4 million was early 1963. The prime minister couldn’t possibly be making a numerical error of that magnitude. No; Eshkol is clearly excluding the Palestinian population from the count, and treating it as a population to be regarded as a fifth column, an alien population, of ‘Arabs already in the country’ – just like the 1.4 million Arabs who have just come under Israel’s control. Let it be noted, that in late 1966, Israel relinquished its 19-year military regime over Palestinian citizens in Israel. Eshkol’s words demonstrate that whilst the relinquishing of this regime happened technically, and for ‘moral’ reasons, the establishment’s overall perception of Palestinian citizens was still as ‘others’.
The concern with the ‘demographic problem’ in the minutes is all-consuming. Education Minister Zalman Aranne was emphatic about the ‘demographic threat’:
“The way I know the Jewish people in Israel and the Diaspora, after all the heroism, miracles and wonders, a Jewish state in which there are 40 percent Arabs, is not a Jewish state. It is a fifth column that will destroy the Jewish state. It will be the kiss of death after a generation or a generation and a half”.
Adding vitriolic spices of ‘Arab hatred’ and the ‘high birth rate’ of Arabs, Aranne continued:
“I see the two million Jews before me differently when there will be 1.3 million Arabs — 1.3 million Arabs, with their high birth rate and their permanent pent-up hatred. … We can overcome 60,000 Arabs, but not 600,000 and not a million”.
Finally, there is an interesting part about Jewish settlement in Al-Khalil (Hebron). Eshkol showed the ministers a letter he received in November 1967 from associates of the dean of Hebron Yeshiva — which had relocated to Jerusalem after the 1929 Hebron Massacre — asking the government to “make appropriate arrangements to let dozens of the yeshiva’s students, teachers and supervisors return and set up a branch in Hebron.” Labour Minister Yigal Allon (author of the famous Allon Plan to annex large swaths of the West Bank) was all for it: “There is a benefit in finding the first nucleus of people willing to settle there. The desire of these yeshiva students is a great thing. There aren’t always candidates willing to go to such a difficult place”, he said.
So much for rogue religious rightwing settlers twisting Israel’s arm.
Those who have followed the Zionist historical trace may not be surprised by these statements, nor that they are uttered by ‘liberal-Zionists’, by ‘leftists’.
The logic here is, after all, Zionism 101. Nonetheless, they can still be shocking to read, and they should be. These are statements that convey clear intention of ethnic cleansing, and even Genocide. Emptying out, suffocation, deprivation of water till orchards wither. These words are not uttered by rightist Zionist leaders, but by leftist ones. No wonder Israel keeps these archives hidden for 50 years and more.
H/T Ian Berman for bringing the recent Haaretz article to my attention.