If you were paying attention to the news in 1998 and 1999, the phrase “ethnic cleansing” probably conjures up images of Albanian Muslims being forcibly evicted at gunpoint from their homes in Kosovo, a province, then, of the rump state of Yogoslavia. The European diplomatic community arose in uproar against the atrocities, the U.S. State Department issued a scathing report, and NATO launched a full two and a half months of air strikes against Yugoslav and Serbian forces in a partially-successful attempt to stop the forced relocations.
Serbian President Slobodan MiloÅ¡eviÄ‡ now stands accused before an internationational court in The Hague, of crimes against humanity for ordering the forcible removal of people from their homes and their region solely on the basis of their ethnicity and religion.
Meanwhile, less than 2,000 miles away, another government is preparing to forcibly evict another group of people from their homes and their region solely on the basis of their religion. But this time, European diplomatic community is praising this as “necessary,” and the move has the perhaps-more-than-tacit approval of the U.S. government. In fact, the leader of the country is being threatened with prosecution in The Hague if he does not order the ethnic cleansing.
What’s the difference?
The difference, simply, is that in the second case, the people who are to be forced from their homes are Jews.
I speak, of course, of the impending forced removal of Jews from their homes in Gush Katif and other towns in the Gaza Strip. This is, of course, “Palestinian land” — a Palestinian state in fact if not in law, and Palestinians, unique among all the nations of the world, have a near-universally recognized right to live in a land completely free of Jews. (“Judenrein,” as another regime called it.)
Keep in mind that the issue is not land ownership as such. The Jews living in the Gaza Strip (and the West Bank) live on land that was owned by Jews prior to 1948 or was purchased, generally from absentee Arab landlords in Egypt and Jordan. A transfer of sovereignty need not involve a transfer of land ownership or of populations; in fact, most transfers of sovereignty in history have not changed the ownership of individual plots of land. (Since I grew up in California, I think of the U.S. recognition of Mexican land titles after 1846, but there’s nothing unusual about California in this regard.)
The issue is also not about citizenship. Ethnic Palestinians who are citizens of Israel are permitted to stay; Jews of non-Israeli citizenship are to be forced to leave. Indeed, some Gaza Jews have expressed an interest in taking on Palestinian citizenship, but the Palestinian Information Minister Nabil Shaath said, “they would first have to apply for residency” before they would be permitted to live in their own homes.
Nor is it about economics; on the contrary, many Palestinian Arabs will lose, and have already lost their jobs as Jewish-owned factories have been closed in preparation for the withdrawal.
Two months after Israel’s announcement that it would abandon the industrial zone as part of its proposed evacuation of Jewish settlements in the Gaza Strip, the 30-year-old site, hailed as a model of Palestinian-Israeli cooperation, is another casualty of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
The disappearance of the carpentry, welding and sewing workshops â€” including some jointly owned by Israelis and Palestinians â€” undermines the economic base for 50,000 Palestinians living in the Strip, according to a recent United Nations estimate.
“I don’t know what I’ll do,” said Adeeb Zarouq, 41, a metal-furniture welder, who for the moment has his job at an Erez factory but knows his days of employment are numbered.
“Hamas will say it forced the Israelis out,” and the Israelis will respond with force, Zarouq , the Erez welder, said. “When that happens we, the workers, will be the losers once again.”
Meanwhile, in Israel itself, for once it is Jews not Arabs who are using Nazi analogies to describe Ariel Sharon nad his disengagement plan. As Jeff Jacoby writes:
[T]ens of thousands of Israeli troops are scheduled to carry out Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s “disegagement” â€” the forced evacuation of every Jewish resident in Gaza and parts of the West Bank. In a country deeply scarred by Holocaust memories, it was inevitable that the wholesale transfer of more than 9,000 Jews from communities where some of them have lived for decades would trigger angry â€” and anguished â€” comparisons to Nazism.
In the village of Elei Sinai, some residents plan to wear concentration-camp uniforms or yellow stars with the word “Jude” on the day they are expelled. A Likud Party faction opposed to disengagement calls it “an order the likes of which were last signed in German.” A member of Israel’s parliament set off a storm when he said, “Maybe we killed Eichmann for no reason, because he was also just following orders.”
Such Nazi allusions have been sharply condemned. … Let’s be clear: You don’t have to support disengagement to agree that this Nazi-talk is grotesque. The Israeli army is not the Gestapo. The peaceful Jewish residents who will be forced from the homes and land they love are not being sent to gas chambers. Sharon’s plan may be delusional — instead of enabling Israelis to “disengage” from Palestinian violence, it will bring them more of it, and in deadlier forms — but it isn’t the Final Solution.
And yet . . .
And yet there is no getting around the fact that Israel is about to become the first modern, Western nation in more than 60 years to forcibly uproot a whole population — men, women, children, babies — solely because they are Jews. There is no getting around the fact that the forthcoming expulsions are rooted in the belief that any future Palestinian state must be Judenrein — emptied of its Jews. And while it goes without saying that Sharon and every member of his government abominate the Nazis and all they stood for, there is no getting around the fact that disengagement is meant to appease an enemy that has always regarded the genocidal hatred of Jews in a very different light.
Long before there were “occupied territories,” Haj Amin El-Husseini, the grand mufti of Jerusalem and leader of Palestine’s Arabs, urged Hitler to “solve the problem of the Jewish elements in Palestine and other Arab countries . . . by the same method that the question is now being settled in the Axis countries.” When five Arab armies invaded the newborn Israel in 1948, the secretary-general of the Arab League vowed to wage “a war of extermination and a momentous massacre, which will be spoken of like the Mongolian massacres and the Crusades.”
More than half a century later, how much has changed? The Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, is the author of a book denying the Holocaust and claiming that Zionists collaborated with the Nazis against the Jews of Europe. Palestinian Authority TV broadcasts poisonous diatribes, like one Friday sermon by Sheik Ibrahim Mudeiris. “The Jews are a virus resembling AIDS, from which the entire world suffers,” he preached. “The Jews will not enjoy a life of tranquility under our rule, because they are treacherous by nature and have been throughout history.”
Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza changes nothing, the senior Hamas leader Mahmoud al-Zahard said recently. He told an Italian newspaper that Israel’s existence would be unacceptable even if it were to retreat to the armistice lines of 1949. “In the end, Palestine . . . must become Muslim,” he insisted. “And in the long term Israel will disappear from the face of the Earth.”
If someone proposed expelling the Jews from Alabama, or Utah, or London, there would be an uproar — or at least, everyone would recognize this as antisemitism and ethnic cleansing. Someone — unfortunately I can’t remember who — once pointed out that the everyone recognizes the right of Jewis to live in Hebron, Maine, but not in Hebron, Israel. To this we might now add that Jews have the right to live in Palestine, Texas, but not in Palestine, Palestine.
It seems that the modern, right-thinking, “educated” position on the Israeli/Arab issue is exemplified by this well-expressed blog post by Gabriele Corsetti:
Basically, I believe in granting the Arabs living in the territories known as “the West Bank and Gaza” self-determination. Whatever the risks may be for Israel, they have a right to rule themselves. This will also mean that the few hundred thousand Israeli settlers living in the region will have to go, since they will not be able to live there without an army to defend them. Tough but unavoidable, and they probably shouldn’t have gone there in the first place. I also believe that within Israel, any discrimination against the million Arab-Israelis living inside the original borders should cease[.]
Note the double standard here: Arabs have the right to self determination, so Jews living in majority-Arab areas “have to go.” But Arabs living in Jewish-majority areas must be free of discrimination that they are assumed to suffer from. Arabs may not be discriminated against in any way; Jews must be expelled completely.
Not to pick on Gabriele, because nearly everyone seems to say the same thing, but this advocacy of an ethnic/religious double standard is so blithe it seems she doesn’t even know what she’s advocating.
And this is not even to mention the reason she gives for expelling the “few” hundred thousand Jews: that they will “not be able to live there without an army to defend them.” In other words, the Arabs are going to murder the Jews living among them, so the Jews have to leave, and furthermore “they probably shouldn’t have gone there in the first place.” If that’s not rewarding violence and blaming the victim, I don’t know what is!
One other hand, since the Jews will not murder the Arabs living among them, they get to stay — but they need extra protection against “discrimination.” Arabs deserve protection from discrimination, but Jews do not deserve protection from murder. If Jews don’t want to be murdered, it’s their responsibility to stay away from Arabs, not Arabs’ responsibility not to murder them. But if Arabs want to live free of discrimination, Jews are obliged to provide such a life.
Arabs can choose to live in either the Israeli or Palestinian zones — but Jews must be prohibited from entering Palestinian zones.
This double-standard, hypocritical view is standard fare in the diplomatic community, the State Department, the European capitals, and academia. Almost everyone I know who is not an ardent Zionist subscribes to this view — and is utterly and completely oblivious to the fact that they are advocating blatant racial/ethnic/religious discrimination against Jews.
As long as the Arabs can keep convincing Western leaders of this viewpoint, there will never be peace. As soon as they Jews are kicked out of Gaza, the same arguments will be used to kick them out of the “West Bank.” Arabs will launch violent attacks on Jews, the Israeli Army will repond, the diplomats will say the Jews “should never have gone there in the first place” so the Arab murders of Jews ar the fault of the Jews and the solution is for the Jews to withdraw from the West Bank. And then out of Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Haifa, and so on until they “throw the Jews into the sea” like they claimed they were going to do back in 1948.
And then the “problem” will be solved. Once the Jews are all dead, there won’t be any murders of Jews any more, and there will be “peace.”
The only “peace” that can result from withdrawal is the peace of the grave.