The Zionist Story by Ronen Berelovich (Video and Notes)


I recently watched a documentary called “The Zionist Story” and ended up taking notes while watching it. This film was produced by Ronen Berelovich, a former Israeli soldier, “someone who has spent his entire life in the shadow of Zionism.” There are a couple statements in this 75 minute-film that I would like to verify further, but it was an informative and gripping film. I learned a few new things about the history of pre-1948 Palestine, the formation of Zionism, etc. I’m posting this as a reference for myself, as well as for anyone who may be interested. My notes are below this video, and I did my best to keep my emotional reactions to myself (I had plenty):

In case this video is ever taken down for any reason, it’s also available here, here, and here.

0:48   “For over 1,300 years, since the very beginning of Islam, Jews and Muslims lived together in an unprecedented religious and cultural harmony in Palestine, North Africa, and Spain.”

2:30     Basel, Switzerland was the location of the first Zionist Congress in 1897. “Zionism was a national revival movement that sought to unite all Jews in a national homeland.” Prior to 1897, proposed settings for such a homeland included Uganda, Alaska, and Madagascar. The 1897 Congress decided on Palestine as the setting for a Jewish homeland. 

3:55     Concerning the Arabs already living in Palestine: “Theodor Herzl, considered to be the founder of Zionism, wrote in 1895, ‘We shall try to spirit away the penniless population across the border.’ Leo Motzkin, one of Zionism’s most liberal thinkers, wrote, ‘The colonization of Palestine has to go in two different directions: Jewish settlements in Eretz Israel and the resettlement of Arabs in areas outside the country.’ Chaim Weizmann, the head of the World Zionist Congress and future president of Israel, proclaimed the Palestinians to be ‘the rocks of Judea, obstacles that need to be cleared on a difficult path.'”

6:15    In the early 20th century, Zionists began campaigning for Jews to come to Palestine. Zionists also began buying land from Palestinian absentee landlords, and evicted Palestinians living on that land, in a process called “Judaifying the land.”

7:35     In 1917 the British conquered Palestine from the Turks. The Balfour Declaration came out that same year.

8:50    The Palestinians launched two uprisings against the British, who were aided by the Zionists, in 1929 and in 1936, resulting in thousands of lives lost. “The British also exiled the Palestinians’ leadership and dismantled all Palestinian paramilitary units. The Palestinians were left defenseless and leaderless.”

11:21   “Then in the 1940’s the cards turned. Following a string of British pro-Palestinian policies, the Zionists launched terrorist attacks on British personnel and facilities.” In the bombing of the King David hotel, 88 people were killed and “a good deal of the British high command was wiped out. Their goal was to drive the British out of Palestine. The mastermind of the King David bombing was Menachem Begin. He would become Israel’s Prime Minister. His accomplice, Yitzhak Shamir, would also later become Prime Minister… At this point the British have had enough, and they transfer the matter of Palestine to the United Nations.” 

13:30     In late 1947 the United Nations officially recognized a partition of Palestine into two states. “In 1947 the Jews owned 5.8% of the land. In the UN partition plan, the Jews ended up with 56% of the land, almost 10 times what they actually owned… [The population of the Palestinians] was split into two, half of it living in the Zionist state as a minority.” 

15:48   “David Ben-Gurion, the leader of the Zionist movement in Palestine [and who became Israel’s first Prime Minister], wrote in 1937, ‘The Arabs will have to go, but one needs an opportune moment for making it happen, such as a war.‘”

17:04   “Towards the end of 1947 the Zionist leadership came together and drew Plan Dalet. Plan Dalet was about securing the borders of Israel by cleansing, expelling, and destroying Palestinian towns, villages, and urban neighborhoods. The plan was implemented by the Zionist armed forces.” Quoting Professor Charles Smith, a historian at Arizona University: “In March [1948] they began a push to ensure their control of areas that would become Israel under the partition, and as that happened you began to get many more Palestinian Arabs fleeing. Particularly after a massacre of a place called Deir Yassin… Begin and the Irgun and the Stern gangs (Yitzhak Shamir was part of that) – there was a combined attack on a Palestinian village that massacred a lot of people (107)… After that you had mobile radio bands that Begin put into play threatening more Deir Yassins if the Arabs didn’t flee – in other words you’ll be massacred just like Deir Yassin.”

18:34   “Between the 30th of March and 15th of May 1948, 200 villages were occupied and their inhabitants expelled. In some villages, such as Deir Yassin and Ain al-Zeitun, horrible massacres were perpetrated. The towns of Tiberias, Haifa, ???, Bayside, Jaffa, and Akra fell into Zionist hands. As a result, more than 250,000 Palestinians were expelled. All of this took place before the 1948 war even started.”

19:33    Professor Salaman H. Abu Sitta, from the Palestinian Land Society in England, tells his story of becoming a refugee in May 1948 when he was 10 years old. Among other things, he tells of Zionist soldiers terrorizing Arab farmers and shooting at them from Jeeps as they were working in the fields. Several weeks after his boarding school was shut down in fear of it being attacked, his home was attacked and blown up by about 24 tanks which came to cut the Gaza Strip in half. The school that his father built in 1920 was also blown up, along with the well that his village used for drinking water and to irrigate their fields. 

25:44   The Zionists declared independence on May 14, 1948 and David Ben-Gurion became the first Prime Minister of Israel. The next day seven Arab countries declared war on Israel and invaded, citing Zionist aggression that had caused more than a quarter million Palestinian Arabs to be made homeless and to seek refuge in neighboring countries. 

29:05  While the war of 1948 was going on, Zionists continued to expel and massacre Palestinian villagers. In one city, more than 50,000 Palestinian Arab villagers were expelled in one day, and 426 men, women, and children were killed. Yitzhak Rabin was the general in charge of this operation, and he later became a Prime Minister of Israel for two terms. In many cases, surviving villagers were systematically stripped of all their belongings and sent off as homeless refugees. The Zionist militias destroyed 531 Palestinian villages, 11 urban neighborhoods and towns, and cleansed approximately 750,000 Palestinians.

34:30    (A discussion of the 1967 War and its aftermath)

35:03    (Interview with Professor Ilan Pappe, an Israeli historian at Exeter University) 

43:30   Discussion of two Palestinian uprisings or Intifadas – the first was in 1987 and the second began in 2000: “The first Intifada was put down by the Israeli government with so much brutality that the UN condemned Israel for violating the Geneva Convention. The Intifada succeeded, however, in bringing the Palestinian case to the attention of the world. It also heralded the schizophrenic path that the Palestinian resistance would take from now on. While peaceful, nonviolent demonstrations were conducted, suicide bombers entered Israel and blew up buses packed with people.”

45:36    Elections took place in the West Bank and Gaza, with Hamas emerging as the elected victor. Around this time, 10,000 Jewish settlers were evacuated from the Gaza Strip, and Gaza was sealed shut, becoming “the largest prison on the planet. Israel controls all sea, land, and air access to Gaza. It regularly cuts off all food, water, and power supply to the Strip in order to punish the population for their defiance. In response to bombing by F-16 jets, and Apache helicopter gunships and targeted assassinations, Palestinians fire homemade rockets at Israeli settlements.” 

47:36    (Ilan Pappe speaking again)

51:08    Discussion of the security wall enclosing the West Bank and 3.5 million Palestinians, Palestinian Arabs living in Israel as second-class citizens subject to discrimination, illegal settlements, Zionism’s seeming untouchability, more interviews, narrator’s conclusion, etc.