Halat hisar was a larp about the occupation people in Palestine are living under, and occupations in general. After the larp, we were asked how our fictional alternate reality world of Occupied Finland corresponded to real history.
If you wish to know more about the specific issues, follow the links.
Our intention was to write a fictitious history where the political reality would resemble that of Palestine as closely as possible with regards to the occupation. It is modeled on the real world history of Palestine from the 1800’s when the Zionist movement was born.
Before 1922, Palestine was a part of the Ottoman Empire, and in 1922-1948 it was under British rule. In our version of the history, the Russians play the part of the British. The UN partition plan, the ethnic cleansings and the founding of Uralia in 1950, and the occupation of Åland and South Coast in 1970 all have their counterparts in reality. Palestine was ethnically cleansed and Israel founded in 1948. In 1967, Israel conquered the West Bank from Jordan and Gaza from Egypt; in the same war it also conquered Golan Heights from Syria and the Sinai Peninsula from Egypt. After the war, Israel started integrating occupied land by building settlements. The first and second kapina correspond to the Palestinian intifadas that happened in 1987-1993 and 2000-2005. The real world counterpart of the Cairo Peace Process is the Oslo Peace Process that started with the signing of Oslo Accords in 1993. The Finnish Authority is modeled after the Palestinian Authority, which was formed as part of the Peace Process. Israel started building the separation wall in 2002.
The settlements are illegal according to the Fourth Geneva Convention which states: “The Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies.” (Article 49) The International Court of Justice has given a verdict on the wall, deeming it illegal.
A short version of the real-world Palestinian history (in Finnish) can be found here.
The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine by Ilan Pappe is a good source on the events of 1948. The author bases his research mainly on Israeli state archives.
For an overall history, we would recommend the first part in Jonathan Cook’s book Disappearing Palestine, a well-sourced and well-argued work.
The Occupied Palestinian Territories consist of two separate geographical entities, West Bank and Gaza. Palestinians cannot move between the two territories. In the game world, the South Coast plays the role of West Bank and the Åland Islands the role of Gaza. Throughout the Occupied Palestinian Territories, the Israeli currency, NIS (New Israeli Shekel) is used.
The PA seat of administration is located in Ramallah. We chose Helsinki to play the role of such an administrative capital, as it would be easy for the players to remember. Similarly as the South Coast, the real world West Bank is divided into the three administrative areas, A, B, and C. Movement is restricted by the separation wall and the checkpoints, and the wall de facto annexes large parts of the West Bank. On the Jordanian border, there is a large buffer zone controlled by Israel. Informative maps can be found here.
Israel controls and utilizes the natural resources of the West Bank. This means primarily water. As water is not scarce in Finland, we had to invent something else – thus the Uralian paper industry utilizing Finnish forests.
The village of Iittala was modeled after several West Bank villages (e.g. Bil’in, Ni’lin,…) where unarmed protests are regularly held against the separation wall. The situation in Tampere was modeled after Hebron (Khalil), the only West Bank city that has Israeli settlers living there. In Hebron, Palestinians are not allowed to walk on Shuhada Street, the main street of the city.
The situation in the Åland Islands was modeled after Gaza, which has been under comprehensive siege since 2006. One important aspect of the current crisis in Gaza is the shortage of clean water. In the case of the Åland, this was changed to lack of heating, which suits Finland better. According to the UN, Gaza will become unlivable before 2020 unless the current situation is changed (more here and here).
Concerning Finnish culture, this section of course consists mostly of made-up material. However, some facts concerning the economic and societal framework were drawn from the real situation in Palestine. Israel controls the movement of goods and people, which has led to a captive economy. The biggest employers in urban areas are the PA and various NGOs. The unemployment and poverty figures are based on ones from Palestine in 2009-2010, as given by the Palestinian think-tank Al-Shabaka.
According to the prisoner support and human rights organization Addameer, 20% of the Palestinian population has been in prison. Prisoners are often treated inhumanely, and torture is a routine interrogation method.
Uprooting and appropriating Finnish culture also has its counterpart in reality. The Israelis have branded many traditional Palestinians things as their own. For example, falafel has become “traditional Israeli food”. The fate of Fazer as a famous Uralian chocolate company is not unheard of in the real world, either. For example, Jaffa oranges were a Palestinian brand before they were taken over by Israel in 1948.
All the human rights violations described happen in reality in Palestine. Here are some sources.
Harassment by soldiers:
Restrictions on freedom of speech:
The SDLP is a hybrid of the real world Finnish Social Democratic Party (SDP) and the Palestinian party Fatah. Its early history and goals are the same as those of the SDP in the real world. Fatah does not share the long history of SDLP but was formed in the late 1950’s by Palestinians living in exile. It was formed as a liberation movement, and later assumed a leading role in the PLO (Palestinian Liberation Organization). Like SDLP, Fatah has its roots in socialist ideology and was at some point supported by the Soviet Union. In the current political situation of the game world, SDLP played the role of Fatah in the sense that Fatah is the party that initiated the peace process and controls the PA on the West Bank.
Party of Christ
Party of Christ is the Finnish version of Hamas. The Islamist party Hamas was founded in 1987, during the first intifada. It has its roots in the conservative Muslim Brotherhood, which Israel and the United States started supporting in 1970’s, hoping that it would provide a counterforce to the socialist PLO. In the 2000’s during the second intifada, Hamas conducted a series of suicide attacks against civilian targets inside Israel. In 2006, Hamas victory in parliamentary elections led to Fatah attempting a military takeover, in coordination with Israel. Fatah succeeded on the West Bank, whereas Hamas won in Gaza. There have been no parliamentary elections since then, and Hamas has boycotted municipal elections on the West Bank. Hamas has sought to advance Islamist conservative social norms in Gaza. Hamas resorts to violent resistance and often responds to Israeli actions by indiscriminate rocket attacks (here’s a statistical analysis on who mostly starts the violence). Like the Party of Christ, Hamas has also expressed willingness for a two-state solution.
SRF and PNLF
These parties were not based on any real Palestinian parties. The SRF is first and foremost a socialist party, and it fitted the setting very well since socialism has been an important force both in Finnish and Palestinian politics. The concept of Pan-Nordic Nationalism was based on Pan-Arab Nationalism, and the PNLF was built on this idea. The main reason for including this party in the materials was to enable players from other Nordic countries to be part of the game world politics.
The Non-violent Resistance Movement
This movement was based on the Palestinian non-violent resistance born as protests against the separation wall in several villages.
The description of the peace process mirrors the case of Palestine. Normalization is a major political question in Palestine. The suggested three solutions we mention are ones that are often brought up in the case of Palestine. The section on AL involvement in the end of the document is based on the standpoints and actions of the EU with respect to the Palestinian question.
The Finnish Mind is based on a book called The Arab Mind by Raphael Patai, an Israeli cultural anthropologist who has taught at several US universities, including Columbia and Princeton. It has been used as a sourcebook by the US military and State Department.
Here’s a Guardian article on it.
The book itself can be downloaded here.
The Uralian history is a mixture of historical facts and myths that are often used in the mainstream Israeli narrative. To mention some of the former, 67 Jews were really murdered in Hebron in 1929 (this corresponds to the Tampere massacre), in the 1970’s there were hijackings of passenger planes, the second intifada included suicide bombings, the PA violently suppresses critics, and the economic situation in the Palestinian territories is bad.
It is also true that the Palestinians refused the UN partition plan in 1947 (which would, by the way, have required either population transfers or a large population of Palestinians living in the Jewish state). However, research by Ilan Pappe and other historians suggests that the leaders of the Zionist movement regarded the partition plan only as a first step towards establishing a Jewish state in Palestine. Indeed, the de facto borders of Israel established in 1949 went beyond the partition plan. In the war of 1967 Israel conquered the West Bank and Gaza, thus gaining control over the whole of historical Palestine. It is often claimed that the war started on Israel being attacked by its neighbours. In fact, in the mid of escalating tensions, Israel first attacked Egypt, and was then attacked by countries in a defence treaty with Egypt (see e.g. Avi Schlaim’s book The Iron Wall).
Not very surprisingly, histories written from the Israeli perspective often omit the ethnic cleansing of 1948. In them, Palestinians voluntarily left in anticipation of the war or fled during the war. Palestinian Arabs are often depicted as nomads who were not much attached to the land anyway, while in reality most of them were farmers (this is the inspiration for Finns as “nomadic reindeer herders” in the Uralian history). In fact there was a systematic plan to ethnically cleanse the area of the Arab population (see for example The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine, by Ilan Pappe).
The separation wall that Israel started to build in 2002 is often portrayed as a security measure, and its success as such is justified by the fact that there have been no suicide bombings since 2007. However, this has probably more to do with Hamas officially ending its suicide bombing campaign than with the wall. Thousands of Palestinians manage to circumvent the wall to illegally work in Israel without the required permits, and it would be easy for terrorists to do the same. In addition, about 200 000 of the Palestinians living in the occupied territories are on the Israeli side of the wall.