One of the standard retorts from hard core supporters of Israel is “Palestinians don't really exist,” or that the term Palestine is a cover up for what is a group of fungible, generic Arabs who should stop causing trouble and go live in some Arab country where they belong.
This supposedly argument-clinching line is usually delivered with a triumphant smile (or grimace). “Ha! top that, Arab-lover!” is the sub-text and quite frequently the spoken aloud text.
I'm reading and hearing this more often from champions of a greater, ethnically pure Israel. This is most likely because they know that Israel and its sponsor, the United States, are becoming increasingly isolated and criticized. To their minds this is because the preponderance of the world’s population hate Jews and want to destroy them.
It doesn’t occur to them that the frenzied escalation of violent attacks upon Palestinian villages in the West Bank by armed settlers, the routine killing of civilians by the Israeli Army on the borders of Gaza and in the West Bank and other acts of ethnic cleansing (burning Mosques, evicting Palestinians from East Jerusalem, making some speech and actions by even Jewish citizens of Israel in support of Palestinian rights illegal etc.) has come to international attention and perhaps fair-minded people don’t approve.
So it’s time to deploy the heavy artillery of polemics: the existential issue -- States of being, non-being, real being vs. fake being (I guess the Zionist argumentative class isn’t interested in nothingness, just leave that to readers of Sartre and Heidegger).
Declaring any minute criticism of the Israel state as an existential threat which will lead to the destruction of world Jewry, Zionists now have what they think is the trump ontological gambit: we can’t be persecuting and pushing out some group of people who actually do not exits!
Denying the existence, or humanity of the inhabitants of Palestine has been a cornerstone of Zionist policy since the time of Theodore Hertzl and the founding Congress of the World Zionist movement in 1897. At first the convenient fiction was that the land was uninhabited, “a land without people for a people without a land,” was the watchword coined in the early days of the coalescing of the Zionist ideology in Europe. When Max Nordeau, a close associate of Hertzl, communicated to him about his visit to Palestine, then a part of the Ottoman Empire, he was shocked and despairingly reported, “the bride is already married!” There were people living there!
But wait! That’s no real problem. The European conquerors and colonizers flooded into the Americas killing and chasing off the indigenous inhabitants without any moral misgivings. Because these alleged people were not really people like the invading Spanish, French, English, et al. They were just tribes, or wandering stone age leftovers, without civilization. This racist colonialist attitude was part and parcel of the world view of the European Zionists as well. It was the normal way of thinking of the European upper and middle class, of which the Jews who led the Zionist project were a part.
Thus the predictable reaction of the Zionist leaders was to not accept the reality that for thousands of years people known as Palestinians have lived in a geographical area that has also been known as Palestine for thousands of years. It was Palestine for the 500 years it was part of the Ottoman Empire until it’s collapse at the end of WWI and the start of the British Mandate. It was Palestine when the Roman Emperor Hadrian abolished the Roman province of Judea and declared the land to be Palestina Syriana in the 2nd Century AD. And the region was also known as Palestine for thousands of years prior to that as the area in which the Philistines lived (Jews and other peoples also lived in that area ) But forget about that. The Zionists wanted the land to colonize and were looking for sponsors, wheeling and dealing with different World powers (Hertzl sounded out the Ottomans and the Germans until his successor, Chaim Weitzman, got the backing of England). To make the case that the whole area should belong to the Jews, a new historical narrative had to be thought up and marketed worldwide. Any people called Palestinians were not part of the sales pitch. God promised the land to Moses; it was the home of all the Jews of the world and now was the time to return (this is the secular argument for those who were not big on god or religion). Any other people were just passing through, nomads, or traders Cameling through the area from one place to another…they were or are just ephemera, we are the real people here.
However nomads or passersby don’t build and live in cities and villages, cultivate crops, build schools, engage in commerce, have a literature, music, culture…or develop profound attachment to the land, their land and their ancestors land. There is a place called Egypt, so the continuous inhabitants are known as Egyptians, the same with every other country in the world. Ah, but what about those Arabs of no particular nationality? Why don’t the Arabs mistakenly living in the land of Israel (whose borders are elastic) go live with other Arabs and let us Jews have our own land?
This is a corollary argument to the “Palestinians don’t exist” thesis. These so-called Palestinians can find their own home by living with some other group of Arabs. This idea makes as much sense as telling the Bolivians that they should go live in Uruguay or Costa Rica since all these people are the same: speaking Spanish and being of the same Latin American “group.”
Lebanese, Yeminis, Saudis, Egyptians, Libyans, etc. are all Arabs, but this language and cultural group is divided into nations and a Lebanese most likely would not want to be mistaken for a Yemini, or be forced to live there. These are separate nationalities with different histories and cultures and even languages (many dialects of Arabic are radically different from each other). The Palestinians happen to be a nationality in the Middle East whose national rights were thwarted by the combination of the British and the Jewish colony that the British countenanced in the Palestinians' own home. Where Egypt, Syria, Iraq and other peoples were able to gain national independence from European colonial powers, Palestine was not able withstand the onslaught of England and the Yeshuv, the Jewish proto-state under the British Mandate from 1917 to 1948.
Presently, the number of Jews and Palestinians in the territory between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River is approximately equal. The Demographics point towards a Palestinian majority. Within this area Israeli Jews have rights and the Palestinians don't. On the West Bank they live under martial law. In Gaza they are basically imprisoned by a comprehensive blockade. Inside the borders that most of the world recognizes as the state of Israel, there are 1.5 million Palestinian citizens of Israel (equaling about a quarter of the total population) who at best live under a Jim Crow system as existed in Alabama or other southern US states before the Civil Rights movement forced its abolition.
The disparity in rights, treatment and even conceptualization of the two populations living inside the state of Israel raises the question: “What does Israeli citizenship mean?”
Israel's leaders and the world wide Zionist leadership proclaims to the skies that Israel is the “Jewish State.” Not only that, it's the homeland of all the Jews of the world, all they have to do is just show up and they're in: citizens with all the rights and benefits.
But, of course, they add, it's a Jewish and a democratic state. But Israel is an ethnocracy. By definition it is not democratic. To maintain a Jewish state for the Jews, it's necessary to discriminate against the non-Jewish population and police their numbers so that the Jewish majority can be preserved. It has to be undemocratic to survive as a Jews only state. It cannot and does not have full equality under the law for every citizen. Jewish citizens are always more equal compared to “the Arabs” who are Israeli citizens.
In terms of land ownership rights, housing rights (the Israeli courts have recently sanctioned the right of town councils to exclude non-Jewish residents), voting rights and participation in elections there is no equality. Palestinian political parties are often declared illegal, Palestinians who are elected to the Kenesset have had their membership rights suspended or have been expelled for the crime of free speech – which is always covered up as an issue of “national security.”
Across the board, Jewish rights trump any so-called “rights of a citizen of Israel.” Before the law, and in daily life, being Jewish is the standard by which citizenship rights are judged. The term “Israeli citizen” is an empty category. It doesn't apply. It isn't meaningful. The “Jewish State for all the world's Jews” is not a democracy. It is not a state for all of it's citizens or for all of it's subject people (in Gaza and the West Bank).
Apologists for Israeli apartheid and ethnic cleansing like to claim that Israel is a democracy like Western countries and any injustices will be solved by a impartial justice system. Many Americans wrongly believe that Israel is like the USA, a multi-ethnic society in which peoples of different races and religions demand equal treatment as their natural right. This is false, There is no such thing as an Israeli citizen with full rights – only Jews who lord it over Palestinians, both Christians and Muslims.