US and World Politics

Zionism’s Ethnic Cleansing

By Amjad Alqasis

August 8, 2023—Political Zionism, as laid down in the First Zionist Congress in Basel in 1897, has been brutal from the beginning—a colonial racist movement aimed to take someone else’s land for its own exclusive use. The only way to accomplish this goal was through forced population transfer. This crime, so hideous that it is deemed a war crime and a crime against humanity, served as the foundation of Zionism as well as Israel, where the forcible removal of Palestinians and the installment of its own identified privileged settler group on that same land formed the basis of the state.

While Zionist forces have used military might over the decades to advance this goal, the Zionist movement has also sought to mask this process by placing its atrocities under a legal umbrella. In Zionist logic, not just the mighty sword but also the mighty gavel of the judge would hammer down on Palestinian rights and existence.

Legal strategies to
promote colonization

The Israeli narrative itself describes its own establishment by historic birthright and political turmoil. Zionism wanted to appear modern, democratic, and enlightened—not murderous, supremacist, and authoritarian. In 1948 already, Israel issued a series of military orders to place its crimes within a set of legal regulations. The Absentee Property Military Order, later formed into the

Israeli Absentee Property Law, was created to further appropriate Palestinian land and belongings by the appearance of a system ruled by the rule of law. According to that rule, Israel declared that all Palestinian refugees and internally displaced persons who were forced out of their homes by the same regime that was prohibiting them from returning were absentees, and therefore all their land and property would be confiscated and transferred to Israeli state ownership. Although a clear violation of international law and principle, the law facilitates ethnic cleansing through legal venues.

Another example is how the state has established “legal” means to prohibit all Palestinian villages and neighborhoods from expanding in size. In practice, this has meant that since 1948 these places have been unable to grow to accommodate their inhabitants, which have quadrupled. A similar regulation was put in place in the territory occupied in 1967, with the same devasting result. The laws and regulations Israel put in place to advance its policies of forced population transfer are almost endless. For instance, in the 1967 occupied cities and areas, more than 2,000 Israeli military orders exist alongside Ottoman, British, and Jordanian laws. Israel chooses which regulations to apply in a specific situation to get the maximum result. And if the law does not exist, a new military order is formulated. This contradictory approach to all international legal principles forms the basis of Israel’s legal illegality.

In recent years Israel adopted laws to further curtail public freedoms, demonize all forms of Palestinian resistance as terrorism, and call all international supporters of Palestinian rights antisemites. The 2018 Nation-State Law is a prominent example of how the Israeli political system is heading further into a majoritarian and authoritarian direction. This law simply codified long-standing existing Israeli practices, in particular, that the right to exercise national self-determination in Israel is exclusively for Jewish people, and therefore made the fundamental imbalance of being a democratic state and a Jewish state clear. The law, in essence, declares if there is a clash between the Jewish and democratic character of the state, Jewishness precedes the latter. Such a grave restriction to democratic principles reveals Israel’s true nature and stands in direct contradiction to the decades-long mantra of being a “Jewish and democratic” state.

Another example is the recently passed amendment of one of Israel’s central apartheid laws, the 2010 “Village Committees Law,” which grants neighborhoods up to 700 households to reject people from moving in to “preserve the fabric” of that community, naturally leading to Jewish-only communities. According to Adalah (The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel), the amendment will lift the limitation on households in five years’ time, potentially granting Jewish-only admission committees power in all Israeli-controlled areas and cities throughout historic Palestine.

An accelerating process

Israel designed a displacement strategy through legality to complement its mass deportations in 1948 and 1967. Population transfer is achieved by creating an overall untenable living situation that leaves no choice for the inhabitants other than to leave their homes. This strategy has taken the form of “silent” transfer, and through it, Israel attempts to avoid international attention by displacing small numbers of people on a weekly basis. However, this policy is gradually being abandoned by Israel and Zionist leaders to make room for a more aggressive displacement strategy.

Today, Israeli ministers openly discuss the takeover of holy places, the erasure of whole Palestinian villages, and the deportation of large parts of the population. It seems that Israel’s leaders, more than 75 years after the original accomplishment of Zionism, the creation of a state, are trying to complete the Zionist vision in their own lifetime.

The current judicial overhaul fits into this accelerationist line of thinking. Though it should be pointed out that all Zionist Israeli institutions, including the Israeli Supreme Court as well as all preceding governments, advanced the Zionist goal of colonizing all of historic Palestine, disabling the potential judicial oversight of courts allows for much more quickly adopted and aggressive transfer policies.

Israel’s oppression and systematic dispossession of Palestinians are executed by brute force masked within a web of laws and legal mechanisms. The Zionist elites are currently working on closing any potential loopholes to that system, even though this means sacrificing their own institutions in that process. Thus, Israel will not be able to untangle itself from the web it has woven, and when actual judicial oversight is applied, its legacy of war crimes and crimes against humanity is all that will remain.

Mondoweiss, August 8, 2023