Permanent Ceasefire Now! Rally in Hastings (East Sussex) on 2 December 2023

History is the key to understanding the nightmare unfolding in Gaza today

Speech delivered by Katy Colley at the rally

'The Arabs will have to go, but one needs an opportune moment for making that happen, such as a war.'

Which Israeli leader said this? Was it Netanyahu perhaps? Naftali Bennett? It could certainly be applied to today's phoney 'war on Hamas'. It was actually David Ben-Gurion writing to his son in 1937 and that 'opportune moment' came 10 years later. David Ben-Gurion, Israel's first Prime Minister and leader of the Zionist movement from the 1920s to the 1960s, was the mastermind of the ethnic cleansing of Palestine, the plan to 'make all the Arabs go.'

The Nakba (the catastrophe) where the majority of the Palestinian people, 750,00, fled the terror of the Zionist militias. 1948
What we're witnessing in Gaza today can look, on the face of it, barbaric and senseless. And while it is certainly barbaric it is not senseless and to understand this we need to go back. To understand what is happening today we must place it in history, we must apply context. Context is key.

A quick recap - Palestine was part of the Ottoman empire when, in 1917, then British Foreign Secretary Arthur Balfour wrote a famous letter to a figurehead of the Jewish community Lord Rothschild, promising a 'national home for the Jewish people' there, which it subsequently occupied.

The Nakba. 1948.
This was the Balfour Declaration and is known today all over Palestine as the 'great betrayal' - a colonial European power promising away a country that wasn't theirs to give. It set in motion the foundations for present day Israel. Almost immediately Britain started to facilitate Jewish immigration to Palestine, changing the demographic reality on the ground from 9 to 27 per cent of the population by 1935. Israel has been changing the demographic reality on the ground ever since.

The movement driving this change was Zionism - a nationalist political ideology that aimed for an exclusively Jewish homeland in Palestine. 'Exclusively' being the key word. The Zionist leadership in Palestine began taking over more and more land and the Palestinians resisted. Consequently, a large portion of the leadership was exiled. After pushing out the British by force, Zionist forces then conducted a ruthlessly efficient military strategy for depopulating Palestinians from their land. It had a name - it was called Plan Dalet. It called for the systematic and total expulsion of Palestinians:
'These operations can be carried out in the following manner: either by destroying villages (by setting fire to them, by blowing them up and by planting mines in their debris) and especially those population centres which are difficult to control continuously or by mounting combing and control operations according to the following guidelines: encirclement of the villages, conducting a search inside them. In case of resistance, the armed forces must be wiped out and the population expelled outside the borders of the state.'

Deir Yassin massacre April 9, 1948 where around 120 Irgun and Lehi Zionist paramilitaries attacked the Palestinian village of roughly 600 people near Jerusalem.
Sound familiar? The goal from the very beginning was to take as much land as possible and remove as many Palestinians as possible. There were many atrocities and what we know today to be war crimes during the period that Plan Dalet was enacted, but I'm just going to give you a few examples so you can get a sense of what Palestinians experienced from 1947 to early 1949.

First came the threatening leaflets to the villagers:
'If the war will be taken to you your place, it will cause massive expulsion of the villagers, with their wives and their children. Those of you who do not wish to come to such a fate, I will tell them; in this war there will be merciless killing, no compassion.'

One of the first villages to be attacked was Khisas, a small village with a few hundred Muslims and one hundred Christians. It happened in the dead of night on 18 December 1947, when militias started randomly blowing up houses while the occupants were fast asleep. Fifteen people, including five children were killed.

Israeli bombing of Jabaliya refugee camp December 2023.
This heralded the start of the terrorising campaign of the indigenous population by the Zionist militias which included a range of tactics from rolling barrels of explosives down streets then shooting at terrified residents when they ran out of their houses to throwing bombs into crowds of Palestinians and also, large scale massacres. Ben-Gurion and his cabinet signed off on all these lethal attacks, Ben-Gurion stressing that there was no need to distinguish between the innocent and the guilty. He said: 'Every attack has to end with occupation, destruction and expulsion.'

If all this is sounding familiar it is because, fast-forward 75 years, and we are witnessing the same strategy, the same tactics being played out all over again. Threatening leaflets, utter terror in the dead of night, large scale massacres, everyone a legitimate target. All with the same goal - the land without the people.

Unidentified bodies from the Indonesian and Al-Shifa hospitals in northern Gaza were buried in a mass grave at a cemetery in Khan Yunis.
Gaza now is in the process of being ethnically cleansed; the people there today are being massacred in far greater numbers and terrorised with the most lethal weapons ever but it is for the same ends - to achieve expulsion. They're even using the same propaganda tools - dehumanising language. In 1948 the Zionist leadership called the Palestinians mice, now they describe them as 'human animals' They accused Palestinians of being Nazis in 1948. Two weeks ago the Israeli military tried to claim they found a copy of Hitler's Mein Kampf in a child's bedroom in Gaza. Today they accuse all the population in Gaza of being Nazis, the children included. It was as ridiculous then as it is now. Same lies, different time.

In Jaffa, February 1948, houses were randomly selected and dynamited with people still in them. Sasa was attacked at midnight. The troops took the main street and systematically blew up one house after another while the families were still sleeping inside.

In Haifa in April 1948 the commander gave the order to: 'Kill any Arab you encounter, torch all inflammable objects and force doors open with explosives.' Such was the terror unleashed that the people streamed towards the port and literally ran into the sea, crowding the boats there which turned over and sank with their passengers.

Palestinians fleeing from north Gaza, escaping from Israeli bombing December 2023.
Plan Dalet was clear. The directive was not to spare a single village and, in many villages, like Deir Yassin, the attacks were accompanied by cold blooded massacres. According to testimonies from the perpetrators and surviving victims, many of the people slaughtered - from those who were tied to trees and burned to death to those lined up against a wall and shot by submachine guns - were women, children and the elderly. Bodies were mutilated, women were raped and thirty babies were killed. As news of the atrocities spread, thousands fled their villages in fear.

Again, future echoes of today. We know that at least four premature babies suffered a slow, torturous demise in Al Shifa hospital when the life support system shut down due to lack of fuel caused by the Israel's total siege on Gaza. Only an international outcry prevented 28 more from suffering the same appalling fate. Tragically, this was not the case elsewhere. There was a horrifying discovery this week of the remains of five premature babies that were left to die on their ventilators at Al Nasr hospital when staff were ordered out and were not allowed to return.

Expulsion and no return. That is what Gazans are being told today - during the seven day truce those attempting to return to their homes in the north were shot at by snipers. The same thing happened during the first Nakba. At Tantura, another massacre in the form of the systematic execution of able bodied men on the beach, the cemetery and mosque. When it was over two Palestinians were ordered to dig mass graves for 230 bodies. Did you see the picture of the mass grave filed with 100 blue body bags last week when the Palestinians were finally allowed to bury their dead? Many of those bodies were unidentified.

Babies in the neonatal intensive care unit at Shifa Hospital were beginning to die from lack of oxygen due to Israel's refusal to allow fuel into besieged Gaza.
Between December 1947 and January 1949, 531 towns and villages were depopulated in this way, approximately 15,000 killed and 750,000 Palestinians were forced into never-ending exile. Today, the number killed in Gaza exceeds that number killed during the Nakba, after just 7 weeks.

Then came the memoricide, the prevention of people knowing about the Nakba by planting 'forests' and parks over the depopulated villages, simultaneously preventing return of the refugees. There are now 5.6 million Palestinian refugees today. And as we know 70 per cent of the population in Gaza are refugees. They were never allowed to return home, despite that right being enshrined in international law.

Why am I telling you all this? Because to understand the present and to look to the future we must have a clear picture of the past. This is nothing to do with Hamas and everything to do with completing the ethnic cleansing of Palestine that began under Ben-Gurion with Plan Dalet.

It started with threatening leaflets - as it did 75 years ago.

Israel conducting a campaign of terror - as it did 75 years ago.

Demonising and dehumanising Palestinians to justify its atrocities - just like it did 75 years ago.

Targeting the civilian population, even babies - just like it did 75 years ago.

Slaughtering huge numbers - just like it did 75 years ago.

And all for the same ends - the ongoing Nakba.

Five premature babies that were left to die at Al Nasr pediatric hospital when Israeli soldiers ordered staff out and were not allowed to return. Video report from Middle East Eye.
This is not a matter of historical controversy. These are facts, drawn from contemporaneous reports, diaries, records and military archives. Read about what happened in The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine by Israeli historian Ilan Pappe. Today we are seeing the cleansing operation in overdrive everywhere in illegally occupied Palestinian land - in the expansion of settlement building in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, settler violence, the brutal military repression. And, in Gaza, where prolonged imprisonment has been transformed into a terror campaign of unimaginable proportions. We see the most well-equipped, technologically advanced army in the world pitted against an unarmed, trapped civilian population that has been starved for the past 57 days. This so-called 'war'!

We've all seen the pictures: Gaza is in rubble, in ruins. Gaza has been destroyed. It has been made uninhabitable and its people terrorised to push them into the Sinai desert. This is not senseless killing. It all makes sense if you look at it in context.

We have to understand that Israel has been doing this for 75 years. Which is why we do not have the luxury of despair. We must take a lesson from the Palestinians, who have withstood these horrors for decades and remain steadfast - the word in Arabic is samud. We will not despair. We will stand in solidarity with Palestine and Palestinians everywhere now and in the future because it's about bloody time.

    At the Permanent Ceasefire Now! Rally in Hastings (East Sussex) on 2 December 2023.