Not only thePalestinains in Gaza, but those in Israel and the West Bank have been rejoicing at the sight of Israeli land being set on fire by incendiary balloons. A report on this unfeigned joy is here:
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There are Palestinians, obviously not all of them, whose hearts soared at the sight of last week’s fires, which wiped out thousands of acres of land around Jerusalem. There are too many Palestinians who rejoiced at the sight of the flames burning their “stolen land,” turning it into blackened fields.
While so many peoples’ hearts were wrung at the sight of the embers and the destruction and the burned homes and the smoke – theirs swelled with joy. I know this because in the past few days, I’ve been talking to a few of them. They are smart enough not to be interviewed on the record, but too happy at the suffering of others to hide it.
I found them after encountering a few social media posts from Palestinians and Arab Israelis. One was the well-known Haifa historian Dr. Johnny Mansour, a lecturer at Beit Berl College. Mansour and his colleagues aren’t dancing with joy, but they choose to stress what, in their eyes, the fires exposed: the “geographic, historical truth” of what the “Zionist colonial project” was hiding – “sights that no one expected,” Mansour said.
He cited “agricultural terraces that Palestinians worked for decades, the result of the Palestinian peasant’s hard work, sweat, and blood to preserve his land and make a living off it, landscapes that the ‘project of occupation and Zionist uprooting,’ with its ‘colonial institutions’ planted with trees to destroy what the peasants created and to hide the land and the characteristics of the region.”
The land that Johnny Mansour claims was “worked for decades” by Palestinian peasants was, in fact, the “bleak and desolate” land that 19th century visitors, including Mark Twain, described. It was Zionist pioneers who during decades of land reclamation “made the desert bloom.” It was the leading American agronomist, Walter Clay Lowdermilk, author of Palestine: Land of Promise, who described the enormous effort undertaken not by Palestinians (i.e., Arabs), but by Jewish settlers, to turn scarcely arable land into productive farmland. It was Jewish farmers, too, who engaged in reforestation projects that stopped the further erosion of the soil. Johnny Mansour ignores all this; he wants us to believe the tale of “Palestinians” tilling their own rich farmland only to see the “colonial” Zionists steal that land, and plant trees on some of that land, a practice, according to Mansour, intended not to save the soil from blowing away, but in order to “destroy what the peasants created.” Mansour pretends not to know that the land the Zionist pioneers worked until 1948 was of two kinds: first, there were the “state and waste lands” that, according to the Mandate for Palestine, Article 6, were to be places for “close settlement by Jews on the land”; second, land bought, at exorbitant prices, from Arab owners, many of them absentee landlords living in Amman and Beirut. It was only after 1948 that lands abandoned by Arabs were made available for settlement by Jews. Like the rest of Israel, those lands were soon improved by modern methods of agriculture not practiced by the Arabs, including crop rotation, improved seeds, drip and other improved methods of irrigation, and much more.Reforestation was meant to help keep the soil from blowing away, in order to prevent desertification of the soil that the Arabs had exhausted with their primitive methods of agriculture. But none of this is mentioned by Johnny Mansour and other Palestinians who want the world to believe that land reforestation in Israel was a sinister plot to “hide” what the Arab farmers had accomplished before the “colonial settlers” arrived.
Mansour, who sees Palestinianism and its agricultural expressions as natural, and Zionist forestation as a foreign weed, is not alone in his views. The discourse in Arab Israeli society, much like among the Palestinians, is redefining the green landscapes of the land and sees the forestation planted as a method of hiding the Palestinian past and the remains of the villages that existed around Jerusalem until 1948.
The astounding regreening of Israel, the planting of 250 million trees -200 of them after 1948 — on what was once scarcely-arable land, is being presented by the enemies of Israel not as a triumph of intelligent land reclamation and carbon sequestration, but as a politically motivated act to cover up the Palestinian farmland that had once supposedly been flourishing (in reality that soil of “Palestine” had been exhausted by primitive farming methods of the Arabs). It was the Zionists who used modern methods to “reclaim” the soil and to allow farming to once again flourish on newly-enriched, properly irrigated soil.
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