Thousands of miles separate Uganda and Congo from the Gaza Strip, but these places are connected to Palestine in ways that traditional geopolitical analyses would fail to explain.
On January 3, it was revealed that the far-right Israeli government of Benjamin Netanyahu is actively discussing proposals to expel millions of Palestinians to African countries, in exchange for a fixed price.
The discussion on expelling millions of Gazans has supposedly entered the mainstream thinking in Israel starting on October 7. But the fact that this discussion remains active over three months since the start of the Israeli war on Gaza indicates that the Israeli proposals are not an outcome of a specific historical moment, for example, Al-Aqsa Flood operation.
Even a quick glance at Israeli historical records point to the fact that the mass expulsion of Palestinians - known in Israel as ‘Transfer’ - was, and remains, a major Israeli strategy which aims at fixing Israel’s so-called ‘demographic problem’.
Long before fighters from the Al-Qassam Brigades and other Palestinian movements stormed the fence separating besieged Gaza from Israel on October 7, Israeli politicians discussed, in fact on many occasions, how to reduce the overall Palestinian population to maintain the demographic Jewish majority in historic Palestine.
The idea was not only confined to Israel’s extremists, but was discussed even by the likes of former Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman when he suggested in 2014 a proposal for ‘population exchange plan’.
Even supposedly liberal intellectuals and historians have supported this idea, both in principle and practice.
A top Israeli historian, Benny Morris, has regretted in an interview with the liberal Israeli newspaper Haaretz in January 2004, that Israel’s first Prime Minister, David Ben-Gurion, failed to expel all Palestinians during the Nakba - the catastrophic event of murder and ethnic cleansing that led to the creation of the state of Israel on top of Palestinian towns and villages.
Another proof that the idea of ‘Transfer’ was not concocted on the spur of the moment is the fact that comprehensive plans were immediately produced after October 7. They include a position paper published by the Israeli think tank the ‘Misgav Institute for National Security & Zionist Strategy’ on October 17 and a report released three days later by the Israeli news outlet, Calcalist, which outlined a document proposing the same strategy.
The fact that Egypt, Jordan and other Arab countries openly and immediately declared their total rejection of expelling Palestinians indicates the degree of seriousness of those official Israeli proposals.
“Our problem is (finding) countries that are willing to absorb Gazans, and we are working on it,”
Netanyahu said on January 2. These comments were followed by others, including a statement by Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich when he said “What needs to be done in the Gaza Strip is to encourage emigration.”
It was then that the Israeli official discourse adopted the term ‘voluntary migration’. But there is nothing voluntary about the starvation of 2.3 million Palestinians, who continue to face an ongoing genocide, and are being pushed systematically toward the border region between Gaza and Egypt.
In its legal case at the International Court of Justice (ICJ), the government of South Africa included the planned ethnic cleansing of Gaza by Tel Aviv as one of the main points listed by Pretoria, accusing Israel of genocide.
Due to the lack of enthusiasm on the part of pro-Israel Western countries, Israeli diplomats are circumventing the globe looking for governments which are willing to accept ethnically-cleansed Palestinians.
Imagine if this behavior stemmed from any other country in the world; a country that murders people en masse, yet shops around looking for other states to accept the expelled survivors in exchange for cash.
Not only has Israel made a mockery of international law, but they have also set whole new standards of despicable behavior by any state, anywhere in the world, in any time in history, ancient or modern.
And yet, the world continues to watch, support, as in the case of the US, or gently or vehemently protest, but without taking a single meaningful action to stop the bloodbath in Gaza, or to block the terrifying scenarios that could truly follow if the war does not end.
But there is one thing that many people might not know, the Zionist movement, the very ideological institution that established Israel had attempted to move the world’s Jewery to Africa, to establish a state, prior to the choice of Palestine as the ‘Jewish homeland’. This was called the ‘Uganda Scheme’ of 1903. It was raised by Theodor Hertzl, the founder of Zionism, at the Sixth Zionist Congress. It was based on a proposal put forth by British Colonial Secretary Joseph Chamberlain.
The Uganda Scheme eventually fell through, but the Zionists continued to shop for some other place, finally, to the misfortune of the Palestinians, settling on Palestine. If one is to compare the genocidal language of Israeli leaders of today, study their racist references to Palestinians, one is to locate a major overlap between their collective perception and the way that Jewish communities were perceived by Europeans for hundreds of years.
The sudden Zionist interest in Congo as a potential ‘homeland’ for Palestinians further illustrates the point that the Zionist movement continues to live in the shadow of its own history, projecting the racism practiced against Jews in Israel’s own racism against innocent Palestinians.
On January 5, Israel’s Minister of Heritage Amihai Eliyahu proposed that Israelis “must find ways for Gazans that are more painful than death.” One does not need to struggle to find historical references of similar language, used by German Nazis in their depiction of Jews in the early half of the 20th century.
If history does repeat itself, it has an odd, and unkind way of doing so. We have been told that the world has learned from the mass killings of previous wars, including the Holocaust and other WWII atrocities. Yet, it seems that the lessons have largely gone unlearned. Not only is Israel now assuming the role of the mass killer but the rest of the Western world continues to play the role assigned to them in this historical tragedia. They are either cheering, politely protesting, or doing nothing at all.
- Dr. Ramzy Baroud is a journalist, author and the Editor of The Palestine Chronicle. He is the author of six books. His latest book, co-edited with Ilan Pappé, is ‘Our Vision for Liberation: Engaged Palestinian Leaders and Intellectuals Speak Out’. His other books include ‘My Father was a Freedom Fighter’ and ‘The Last Earth’. Baroud is a Non-resident Senior Research Fellow at the Center for Islam and Global Affairs (CIGA). His website is www.ramzybaroud.net