They want the land sans the inhabitants

December 17, 2023

Dr Ajaz Anwar argues that since theres a growing demand for ceasefire in Gaza, and even the White House staff has joined in the protests, its time to think why theyre doing it

The illustration first appeared in The Pakistan Times, dated May 12, 1948. — Image: Supplied
The illustration first appeared in The Pakistan Times, dated May 12, 1948. — Image: Supplied


fter their expulsion from Spain, Muslims and Jews who had been living in complete harmony for centuries were accepted with open arms by the Al-Maghribi and the Ottomans. Many more scattered in various European countries. Being a hardworking minority, and having business acumen, over the centuries, the Jews evolved into a people that prided themselves on their banking and publishing industries.

Eventually the Western European nations decided that they had to be driven out. Some land had to be found — and/ or stolen — to shepherd them into.

The Jews explored various parts of the globe. As the Ottoman Turkey had been defeated in the Great War (as World War I was then called), the Jews thought of Kara Moja in Uganda. But this option was rejected for being surrounded by black people. South Africa too was not suitable, because the apartheid there would run counter to the racial policies to be followed by the future Jewish state. Even Albania was rejected.

Several countries of Europe were discussed. Even lands close to Japan were considered. The idea was welcomed by the Japanese who thought it could bring them prosperity.

Then came the Balfour Declaration, promising settle the Jewish people in Palestine. The land, taken away from the Ottomans, was inhabited mostly by Arabs. The Jewish population constituted a tiny minority.

Some chunks of land were purchased from local Arabs at exorbitant prices. Funds were raised in all parts of the globe in support of the Jewish settlement. Golda Meir suggested that the Palestinians should be trampled over like grasshoppers.

It took three decades for the mandate to be put into practice. The Holocaust happened much later. It was exploited after the defeat of the Nazi Germany.

The nakbah involved gruesome massacre of the Arab population. Nearly 700,000 people were forced out of their ancestral lands and homes.

The Zionists had a large military arsenal at their disposal. The Arabs had no regular army or military-grade weapons. The various Arab rulers in the region had been ‘selected’ by the British and the French. Having defeated the Greeks at Gallipoli, Ataturk was focused on consolidation of whatever had been left of his country and making it a secular nation state. The Arabs had rebelled against the Turks for over a century and alienated them. They had also opposed the Hijaz Railway. The time was ripe for the creation of a country on stolen land.

There was an attempt to legitimise this with references to holy scriptures. But how could God, or Allah, permit the killing of non-combatant women and children? Today, Palestinians in Gaza are being driven away in just undergarments.

Ever since the creation of Israel, the Palestinians have been living in an open prison. They are being harassed, tortured and deprived of the right to life.

Britain and the USA were among the first nations to recognise this artificial country. Soon it was admitted to the United Nations. With every war between the Arabs and the Zionists, more and more of Palestinian land has been usurped in the name of Israel’s right to defend itself.

The settlers continue to usurp land. Olive orchards continue to be cleared away as illegal settlements come up. Palestinians are denied livelihood. The settlers have access to deadly firearms and military training.

The recent events have shaken all peace-loving people around the globe, irrespective of their religious affiliations. The October uprising did not happen in a vacuum; it represented an outburst by a people that had long been oppressed.

The occupiers are armed to the teeth. The killing of infants in the hospitals continues unchecked.

As if bombardment from the air was not enough, tanks are now advancing in Gaza. Bulldozers are working overtime to level any shelter even for the insects. Fire is being rained on any settlement left standing.

The besieged populations have no water, no food, no fuel. Internet access has been cut off to deny reporting of the atrocities. Journalists and their families have been killed.

From the rooftops, snipers are keeping a watch over any human movement. The survivors are not being allowed to bury their dead. Even the graveyards have been flattened using road rollers.

A boycott of products produced and marketed by those supporting the Zionists is necessary.

A supermarket based in Karachi and now operating in some other cities has vowed not to sell such products. It’s time to think of local alternatives.

A fund-raising event organised by Mrs Piracha at the Model Town Park has grabbed media headlines. It is heartening to see that there’s a growing demand for ceasefire. Even some of the White House staff has joined in the protests. It is high time to figure out why they’re doing it. It is unfortunate that most Western leaders have called for a mere ‘pause’ in the killings and not ceasefire or peace.

(This dispatch is dedicated to the countless Palestinian women and children who’ve been killed)

The writer is a painter, a founding member of Lahore Conservation Society and Punjab Artists Association, and a former director of NCA Art Gallery. He can be reached at

They want the land sans the inhabitants