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My great grandfather’s house (Ismail Najjar) in upper Lifta, now inhabited by Jews [Photo: Rima Najjar]
If you have never heard of Umm al-Hiran, don’t blame yourself. What’s happening there is a well-kept secret in the international media, along with Israel’s other ongoing crimes.

But within Israel, Umm al-Hiran (and other forced evictions and ethnic-cleansing projects taking place today in the Naqab, the Jordan Valley, Jerusalem and elsewhere) is run-of-the-mill news coated with hasbara that doesn’t flinch even at an image like the one below of Ayman Odeh, a Palestinian Arab Member of Knesset (MK), who was shot in the head and back with sponge rounds by Israeli police in January 2017, as he and others protested the plans to raze this village.

Ayman Odeh, a Palestinian Arab Member of Knesset (MK), was shot in the head and back with sponge rounds by Israeli police in January 2017, as he and others protested the plans to raze Umm al-Hiran.

Razing this village and forcibly transferring its inhabitants elsewhere is bad enough. Israel’s declared reason for doing so is worse. It’s to build housing units there for Jews in its never-ending quest to populate Arab Palestine with Jews and depopulate it of non-Jewish Arabs.

Israel’s mission and reason for being necessitates continuous ethnic cleansing of Palestinian Arabs from their homes and the daylight robbery of their lands and property, transferring them to Jews.

There is a direct line from the Jewish Agency , which laundered its robberies through the Jewish National Fund before the Nakba, and the present Israel government that claims Palestinian land and property as the “inalienable property of the Jewish people”.

What’s happening to us Palestinians is an ongoing Jewish-state Nakba. A straight line connects what is happening in Um al-Hiran right now and what happened to my grandfather and father in Lifta in 1948.

By using a passport of some Western country that allows them entry as tourists, many Palestinians who find their way back to their homeland, now self-styled the Jewish state, have knocked on the door of homes that are still standing and occupied by Jews. They get different reactions from these Jews and write about their heart-wrenching experiences.

When I had this opportunity to visit my great grandfather’s house in upper Lifta, which is still standing and occupied by Jews as you can see from the photo on top, I gazed at it and took pictures from across the street but did not knock, daunted by the sight of a mother struggling with a child’s stroller trying to get to the second storey apartment (the house has been cut up into several apartments).

The reactions by the Jews now living in or on Palestinian property to their rightful owners when the latter happen to appear vary — from hostility and suspicion to helplessness and disbelief.

The disbelief comes from being so long in ignorance, having been brainwashed by Zionist ideology since birth.

I wonder, though, will the Hebrew name of the new “settlement” include the words “Hurba” or “Iyim” for “ruins” or will it simply steal the name al-Hiran with a few variations? (See Erased from Space and Consciousness: Israel and the Depopulated Palestinian Villages of 1948 by NogaKadman)

I wonder about the Jews slated to live on the ruins of Umm al-Hiran. Will they not know? Will they feel no shame? What does the Israeli government plan to name the Jewish housing village?

Or will these “settlers” have zero empathy and no shame like Eden Wiseman, Roni Rotem, Nitzan Lederman, Maayan Cohen Marciano, Adi Shildan and Maia Halter?

These names are of the Israeli dancers whose application to dance at “Feminine Tripper”, a dance festival held in Oslo, Norway, was rejected on the grounds that Israel uses culture to whitewash its crimes against Palestinians.

The letter invited these Jewish Israeli dancers to empathize with artists

“from the occupied Palestinian territories struggle with very restricted access to travel to international art venues and that they have little opportunity to communicate their art outside of the occupied territories. … We appreciate your artistic project and hope to have the opportunity to invite you to Norway again once the political circumstances have changed. We hope that you — as artists — will help raise awareness in your society about the concern many of us artists and cultural workers around the world have about the brutal effects of the occupation on Palestinian artists and the rest of the population.”

Such a hope on the part of the festival organizers in Oslo was dashed when these young Jews responded by making the argument that they themselves are victims, fighting “in order to obtain their freedom of speech and expression due to recent censorship attempts by the Israeli minister of culture” with not even one word for or about Palestinians in their whole sorry response.

In their Israeli Jewish world, Palestinians are, at best, ghosts. These young Jews are indeed victims of the Zionist state, but not as they conceive it.

Philip Weiss wrote recently about the panic engendered in older Jews, like Ron Lauder, the head of the World Jewish Congress, David Harris of the American Jewish Committee and Senator Chuck Schumer, by young Jews in the US who are “not persuaded of the value of the great Jewish project of the last century, Israel.”

Will young Israeli Jews ever join young Jewish Americans in this realization? We need to keep reassuring them that our inevitable return will not dislocate their lives much. As researcher Salman Abu Sitta has shown, the return of Palestinian refugees and exiles to their homeland as per Res 194 is feasible without much dislocation of the present Jewish communities.


Rima Najjar is a Palestinian whose father’s side of the family comes from the forcibly depopulated village of Lifta on the western outskirts of Jerusalem. She is an activist, researcher and retired professor of English literature, Al-Quds University, occupied West Bank.

 

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