Socialist Worker

The Forgotten Palestinians: ‘aliens’ in their own country

by Miriam Scharf
Issue No. 2252

The book

The book's cover

The “forgotten” Palestinians are those living within Israel’s borders.

Their history is different to the refugees who fled when Israel was founded in 1948 or those caught in the territories occupied in 1967.

Anti-Zionist historian Ilan Pappé details the way the Israeli state has acted towards this non‑Jewish indigenous minority in his new book The Forgotten Palestinians.

He analyses how these Palestinians have reacted to being citizens of a country that denies their identity, history and basic rights.

Israel has defined this group of nearly 200,000 people as “hostile aliens”.

A Jewish state professing to be a Western-style liberal democracy required a Jewish majority.

Lawmakers established the right of Jews to acquire citizenship in the new state and continued an active policy of Palestinian eviction.

For Palestinians in Israel, life was a struggle to survive, and until 1977 they were effectively under severe military rule.

Resistance was limited—despite the state’s non-registration of people, the demolition of villages and confiscation of land and property.

Pappé tracks the Palestinians’ use of the law, of political parties, of culture and of education, in a growing effort to counter institutional discrimination.

But a decisive shift came in 1976, when demonstrations against government seizure of more land for Jewish-only settlements marked a collective assertion of a nationalist identity.

By the 1987 Intifada, or uprising, the Palestinians within Israel were openly defined as the enemy and treated as such.

Pappé defines Israel as an “Oppressive State”, typified by its colonialist settler nature and its use of an aggressive secret service to control the indigenous Palestinian minority.

The Forgotten Palestinians was finished before the Egyptian revolution transformed the political landscape. It shows mounting Israeli acceptance of the need to “transfer” or expel Palestinians.

The book rightly insists that these people don’t remain forgotten as any new negotiations about future states take place.

The Forgotten Palestinians by Ilan Pappé (Yale, £18.99)

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Article information

Tue 17 May 2011, 18:18 BST
Issue No. 2252
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