Thursday, May 16, 2013

Azmi Bishara: Property Rights, Unjust Appropriation and the Nakba

Azmi Bishara
As I stated during a Nakba commemoration twenty years ago, the expression “armed robbery” sums up the Zionist-Israeli approach to Arab property rights in the land and holy sites of Palestine. At the time, I called it the “largest ever case of daylight robbery in the twentieth century”. Aside from it being a robbery, and one carried out by force of arms, there is another aspect of this situation which I want to make clearer below. Specifically, I will address the question of a “conflict”, and how “rights” are turned into “disputed matters” before arbitration is completed; in other words, how claims to ownership are declared only after the act of appropriation.

 1) “A” violates the property rights of “B”, let's say the latter's home 2) If “B” is unable to push “A” out, a “conflict” ensues 3) “A” proposes to “B” that they should divide the violated property (B's home), in order to prevent bloodshed. “A” also proposes that “B” lets go of the past, and focus instead on the here and now. All the while, “A” constructs a historical narrative to vindicate his own property claims, one which predates the property claims of “B”. Thus, “A” encourages others to abandon the past, so that he himself may control it: “A” is busily creating and appropriating historical myths. 4) Should “B” decline, he is branded a rejectionist, while “A”, the aggressor, becomes a moderate realist. 5) If the conflict continues until the stronger party is victorious, the party with the upper hand not only claims to have a rightful title, but claims to “the” rightful claimant; here, “B” is turned into the aggressor.

 The Israelis have used the above approach in their dealings throughout Palestine, using it in every microcosmic case, with every piece of land. They applied it to a “t” in the case of the Ibrahimi Mosque, and diligently continue the same approach with every home, every piece of land in Jerusalem.

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