Clarissa O'Conor | Thanksgiving in Palestine

From Palestine to Penn | Like in America, my holiday was spent in the shadow of crimes against indigenous peoples

· December 2, 2013, 4:40 pm   ·  Updated December 2, 2013, 11:11 pm

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Clarissa O’Conor
From Palestine to Penn

As a student studying abroad during Thanksgiving, being away from family can be hard. Being in Palestine for this holiday, however, takes on a new meaning when considering the shared histories and realities of colonialism and ethnic cleansing of indigenous populations in both the United States and Palestine.

This past Saturday, just two days after Americans celebrated Thanksgiving — a holiday that whitewashes the horrific history of the ethnic cleansing of the indigenous peoples of the Americas at the hands of European colonists — Palestinians and Israeli and international activists joined in the third “Day of Rage” to protest Israel’s plan to destroy 35 Palestinian Bedouin communities in the Naqab or Negev Desert, which would expel between 30,000 and 70,000 Palestinian Bedouins from their homes and communities.

This is called the Prawer Plan, which passed its first reading in the Israeli Knesset this past June and could be made into law by the end of this year.

Israel’s actions under the Prawer Plan fall under the definition of ethnic cleansing — “the attempt to create ethnically homogeneous geographic areas through the deportation or forcible displacement of persons belonging to particular ethnic groups.” Under the Prawer Plan, the Palestinian Bedouin — who also happen to hold Israeli citizenship — would be forcibly expelled from their homes and relocated to urban townships.

Over 100,000 Bedouin already live in these townships due to Israeli efforts to strip them of their land beginning in 1969. These townships face high levels of poverty.

Israel’s determination to carry out the Prawer Plan reveals another layer to its system of apartheid — because they are not Jewish citizens of Israel, the Bedouin are subject to discrimination under Israeli law even though they hold Israeli citizenship. Israel does not provide services like water, electricity and sanitation to Bedouin communities.

Israel’s justification for the Prawer Plan is that these Bedouin communities are “unrecognized,” and therefore, the Bedouin are “trespassing” on state land. The Bedouin have inhabited the Naqab Desert since the seventh century and are entitled to international protection as an indigenous people. Furthermore, many Bedouin have titles and deeds to their land.

Similar to Israel’s policy of crafting laws and policies to justify its systematic demolition of Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, Israel claims that these Bedouin communities are “unrecognized” despite the fact that the Bedouin have been living in the Naqab well before the creation of the State of Israel.

The ultimate goal of Israel after expelling the Palestinian Bedouin from the Naqab is to build Jewish settlements on the stolen land, and with the help of the Jewish National Fund, plant forests on the ruins of these communities. The Jewish National Fund — which aids Israel in ethnically cleansing Palestinians from their homes — has already been implicated in the demolition of Bedouin communities in the Naqab as part of its “Blueprint Negev” project to Judaize the Naqab.

With the help of the Jewish National Fund, the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian Bedouin is unfortunately well underway. One unrecognized Bedouin community is Al Araqib. On Nov. 20, Israel demolished Al Araqib for the 61st time since 2010 and arrested a local leader for violating an Israeli sanction preventing him from entering his own land. The Jewish National Fund has plans to plant a forest on the land of Al Araqib.

Much of Israel’s ongoing ethnic cleansing of Palestinians takes place within the Palestinian territories it occupies, and resistance to these efforts is usually confined to these places. While the victims are usually not citizens of Israel, in the case of the Prawer Plan they are.

Resistance to the Prawer Plan defies these norms and cuts across a broad spectrum of Palestinian society. The Days of Rage against the Prawer Plan happened both inside 1948 Palestine and Israel — in Haifa and the Naqab — as well as in Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza.

While we may oftentimes be oblivious to how our existence on this land is predicated on the ethnic cleansing of indigenous peoples, we should not be blind to the fact that the same process is happening now — especially given our financial and rhetorical support for the state undertaking these crimes.

Clarissa O’Conor is a College junior from Lititz, Pa., who is studying abroad in Palestine this fall. Her email address is oconorc@sas.upenn.edu. View her tumblr here. “From Palestine to Penn” appears every other Tuesday.

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