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The Historical and Ongoing Ethnic Cleansing of Palestinians: A Call for Awareness

By: Khaled A. BaRahma

Credit by: Arab Center Washington DC

For over seven decades, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has raged on, marked by wars, uprisings, and a seemingly endless cycle of violence. Yet, amidst the cacophony of headlines and talking points, the issue of ethnic cleansing against Palestinians—a contentious term but undeniably linked to the historical context—is often overlooked. This article seeks to shed light on the history of displacement, land confiscation, and systematic erasure faced by Palestinians, and to raise awareness of its ongoing nature.

Historical Overview

1. 1948 Nakba (Catastrophe)

The most significant episode of forced displacement occurred in 1948 when Zionist paramilitary groups and later the nascent Israeli army expelled an estimated 700,000 Palestinians from their homes. Entire villages were depopulated and destroyed, their inhabitants either killed, internally displaced, or turned into refugees in neighboring countries. This event, referred to by Palestinians as the "Nakba" or catastrophe, marked the beginning of the Palestinian diaspora.

2. 1967 Six-Day War

Another wave of displacement occurred after the Six-Day War in 1967, when Israel occupied the West Bank, Gaza Strip, Sinai Peninsula, and Golan Heights. Approximately 300,000 Palestinians were displaced, with many of them being second-Ɵme refugees, having been displaced in 1948.

The Matrix of Control

Ethnic cleansing does not only manifest in overt violence or large-scale expulsions. It can also be seen in the establishment of a matrix of control, which seeks to diminish the presence of a particular ethnic group from a region:

1. Settlement Expansion: Since 1967, Israel has established over 130 settlements in the West Bank, often on Palestinian-owned land. These settlements, illegal under international law, result in the confiscation of land, restriction of movement, and further displacement of Palestinians.

2. Home Demolitions: Israeli authorities routinely demolish Palestinian homes, citing a lack of building permits, even though obtaining such permits is almost impossible for Palestinians.

3. Administrative Measures: Revoking residency rights, particularly in East Jerusalem, has led to the displacement of thousands. Such administrative tactics often go unnoticed but have profound implications for the affected Palestinians.

Present Day: An Ongoing Crisis

Despite peace accords and international resolutions, the situation remains dire for many Palestinians:

1. Gaza: Often described as the world's largest open-air prison, the Gaza Strip has been under a blockade since 2007. The repeated military offensives have resulted in thousands of civilian deaths and a humanitarian crisis till today.

2. Annexation Plans: Recent discussions surrounding the potential annexation of parts of the West Bank by Israel would lead to further confiscation of Palestinian land and potenƟal displacement.

3. Refugee Rights: The right of return for Palestinian refugees remains one of the most contentious issues. These refugees, now numbering in the millions, continue to live in camps throughout the Middle East, waiting for a resolution that seems ever elusive.

In conclusion, the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians is not just a historical event; it's an ongoing process. Recognizing this reality is crucial for anyone committed to understanding the conflict and advocating for a just solution. The narratives of the displaced, the oppressed, and those living under occupation must be foregrounded in discussions and policy decisions. Only by acknowledging past wrongs and their present manifestations can we hope for a future of peace and justice in the region.



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