Transfer in Israel: Who and to Where?

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"Nakba Tree." Credit: Creative Commons/falasteenyia.

On May 15, the anniversary of the founding of the State of Israel, Israel’s Arab citizens observed a day of mourning for the victims of the Naqba (“catastrophe”)—the mass exodus of half the Palestinian people from the territory that became Israel.

Like every year, this aroused much fury. Tel Aviv University allowed Arab students to hold a meeting, which was attacked by ultra-right Jewish students. Haifa University forbade the meeting altogether. Some years ago the Knesset debated a “Naqba Law” that would have sent commemorators to prison for three years. This was later moderated to the withdrawal of government funds from institutions that mention the Naqba.

The “Only Democracy in the Middle East” may well be the only democracy in the world that forbids its citizens to remember a historical event. Forgetting is a national duty.

Trouble is, it’s hard to forget the history of the “Palestinian issue”, because it dominates our life. Sixty-five years after the foundation of Israel, half the news in our media concern this one issue, directly or indirectly.

Just now, the South African government has decreed that all products of the West Bank settlements sold there must be clearly marked. This measure, already in force in Europe, was roundly condemned by our Foreign Minister, Avigdor Lieberman, as “racist” (looks who’s talking!). However, it joins a boycott initiated 15 years ago by my Israeli friends and me.

The new government coalition has declared that it will renew negotiations with the Palestinians (everybody knows that this is a hollow promise). A wave of murders and rapes is being attributed to Arabs (and African asylum seekers). All presidential candidates in Egypt promise to take up the fight for the Palestinians. Senior Israeli army officers have disclosed that 3500 Syrian and Iranian missiles, as well as tens of thousands in Hizbollah’s South Lebanon, are ready to be launched against us because of Palestine. And so on, a daily list.

Fully 115 years after the foundation of the Zionist movement, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict dominates our news.

The founding fathers of Zionism adopted the slogan “a land without a people for a people without a land” (coined much earlier by a British Christian Zionist). They believed the Promised Land to be empty. They knew, of course, that there were some people in the country, but the Zionists were Europeans, and for Europeans at the end of the 19th century, the heyday of imperialism and colonialism, people of color did not count as people.

When Theodor Herzl put forward the idea of a Jewish State, he was not thinking about Palestine but about an area in Argentina. He intended to empty this area of all its native population – but only after they had killed all the snakes and dangerous beasts.

In his book “Der Judenstaat” there is no mention of Arabs—and not by accident. When Herzl wrote it, he was not yet thinking about this country. The country appears in the book only in a tiny chapter added at the last moment, titled “Palestine or Argentina?”

Therefore Herzl did not speak about evicting the Palestinian population. This would have been impossible anyway, since Herzl was asking the Ottoman sultan for a charter for Palestine. The Sultan was a Caliph, the spiritual head of all the world’s Muslims. Herzl was too cautious to bring this subject up.

This explains the otherwise curious fact: the Zionist movement has never given a clear answer to its most basic question: how to create a Jewish state in a country inhabited by another people. This question has remained unresolved to this very day.

But only seemingly. Hidden somewhere underneath it all, on the fringes of the collective consciousness, Zionism always had an answer. It is so self-evident, that there was no need to think about it. Only few had the courage to express it openly. It is imprinted on the “genetic code” of the Zionist movement, so to speak, and its daughter, the State of Israel.

This code says: a Jewish State in all the Land of Israel. And therefore: total opposition to the creation of a Palestinian state – at any time, anywhere in the country, at all costs.

When a strategist plans a war, he first of all defines its aim. That is the Main Effort. Every other effort must be considered accordingly. If it supports the main effort, it is acceptable. If it hurts the main effort, it must be rejected.

The Main Effort of the Zionist/Israeli movement is to achieve a Jewish State in all of Eretz Israel – the territory between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River. In other words: the prevention of an Arab Palestinian state.

When one grasps this, all the events of the last 115 years make sense. All the twists and turns, all the seeming contradictions and deviations, all the curious-looking decisions make perfect sense.

In a bird’s eye view, the Zionist-Israeli policy looks like a river striving towards the sea. When it meets an obstacle, it goes around it. The path deviates to the right and to the left, sometimes even going backwards. But it perseveres with a wondrous determination towards its goal.

The guiding principle was to accept every compromise that gives us what we can get at any stage, but never let the final aim out of our sight.

This policy allows us to compromise about everything, except one: an Arab Palestinian state that would confirm the existence of an Arab Palestinian people.

All Israeli governments have fought this idea with all available means. In this respect there was no difference between David Ben-Gurion, who had a secret agreement with King Abdullah of Jordan to obstruct the setting up of the Palestinian state decreed by the UN General Assembly’s 1947 resolution, and Menachem Begin, who made a separate peace with Anwar Sadat in order to get Egypt out of the Israeli-Palestinian war. Not to mention Golda Meir’s famous dictum: “There is no such thing as a Palestinian people”. Thousands of other decisions by successive Israeli governments have followed the same logic.

The only exception may be the Oslo agreement—which also did not mention a Palestinian state. After signing it, Yitzhak Rabin did not rush forwards to create such a state. Instead, he stopped in his tracks as if stunned by his own audacity. He hesitated, dithered, until the inevitable Zionist counter-attack gathered momentum and put an end to his effort—and his life.

The present struggle over the settlements is an integral part of this process. The main aim of the settlers is to make a Palestinian state impossible. All Israeli governments have supported them, openly or covertly. They are, of course, illegal under international law, but many of them are also illegal under Israeli law. These are variously called “illegal,” “unlawful,” “unpermitted” and so forth. Israel’s august Supreme Court has ordered the removal of several of them and seen its rulings ignored by the government.

The settlers assert that not a single settlement has been set up without secret government consent. And indeed, all the “unlawful” settlements have been connected at once to the water and electricity grids, special new roads have been built for them and the army has rushed to defend them – indeed the Israel Defense Forces have long ago become the Settlements Defense Forces. Lawyers and shysters galore have been employed to expropriate huge tracts of Palestinian land. One famous woman lawyer discovered a forgotten Ottoman law that says that if you shout from the edge of a village, all the land where the shout cannot be heard belongs to the Sultan. Since the Israeli government is the heir of the Jordanian government, which was the heir of the Sultan, this land belongs to the Israeli government, which turns it over to the settlers. (This is not a joke!)

While the Israeli-Palestinian conflict seems in abeyance and “nothing happens,” it is really going on with full force in the only battlefield that matters: the settlement enterprise. Everything else is marginal, like the awesome prospect of an Israeli attack on Iran. As I have been saying all along: that will never happen. It is a part of the effort to divert attention from the Two-State Solution, the only peaceful solution there is.

Where is the negation of the Palestinian state leading to?

Logically, it can only lead to an apartheid state in the entire country between the Mediterranean and the Jordan. In the long run, that would be untenable, leading to an Arab-majority “bi-national” state, which would be totally unacceptable to almost all Israeli Jews. So what is left?

The only conceivable solution would be transfer of all the Arabs to the other side of the Jordan. In some ultra-right circles, this is openly talked about. The Jordanian monarch is deadly afraid of it.

Population transfer already happened in 1948. It is still a point of debate whether this was done deliberately. In the first part of the war, it was clearly a military necessity (and practiced by both sides). Later on, it became more deliberate. But the main point is that the refugees were not allowed back when the hostilities were over. On the contrary, some villages were emptied and destroyed even later. Everybody acted under the invisible directive of the Main Effort, a direction so deeply ingrained in the collective consciousness, that it did not need any specific order.

But 1948 is long gone. The world has changed. What was tolerated from post-Holocaust brave little Israel would not be tolerated tomorrow from mighty, arrogant Israel. Today It is a pipe-dream—like similar dreams on the other side that Israel would somehow disappear from the map.

This means that ethnic cleansing, the only alternative to the Two-State solution, is impossible. The Main Effort has run into a dead end.

It has often been said that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a clash between an unstoppable force and an immovable object. This will dominate our lives and the lives of generations to come.

Unless we do something that looks almost impossible: to change the Main Effort, the historic direction of our state. Substitute for it a new national aim: peace and coexistence, reconciliation between the State of Israel and the State of Palestine.

 

Uri Avnery is chair of Gush Shalom, the pre-eminent peace activist organization in Israel.
 
tags: Analysis of Israel/Palestine, Israel/Palestine   
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5 Responses to Transfer in Israel: Who and to Where?

  1. talknic June 3, 2012 at 9:27 am

    Israel should be held to the laws is voluntarily obliged itself to. Only the US veto vote in the UNSC stops the law having its full effect. Justice for the Palestinians controlled by the US senate. All Israel’s eggs are in one precious basket..

    • Israel Draiman December 14, 2014 at 10:05 am

      Re: Israel – To whom it may concern in Europe and the US and elsewhere:

      We are tired of hearing that withdrawal from Judea and Samaria will bring peace. We know and you know that it would bring another Gaza. So stop saying it and promoting this fallacy. Past experience has proven that concessions, appeasement and land for peace only increased terror, violence and more conflict.

      We are tired of hearing that land beyond the Green Line is ‘Palestinian land’. The Green Line is simply an armistice line that has no political significance. You know this too. The San Remo Treaty of 1920 Granted the Mandate for Palestine to the Jewish people, the same Allied powers also established 21 Arab States and one Jewish State – The Arabs are not willing to give up any part of the 21 Arab States and the Jews are not willing to give up any part of the Jewish State.

      We are tired of hearing about the “Palestinian people.” They are no different from the Arabs of Syria or Egypt, from which most of their ancestors migrated in the last 150 years or so. There is no Palestinian language or religion, and until very recently they considered themselves simply ‘Arabs’. Their culture is almost entirely defined by their opposition to the Jewish state. There never was an Arab-Palestinian State or people in History. The Arab Palestinians have a State in Jordan which is 80% of the land originally allocated to the Jewish people under the San Remo Treaty of 1920.

      We are tired of hearing that “the Palestinians deserve a state.” We are indigenous here, not them, and their behavior entitles them more to a trial at The Hague than to a state. The Arab Palestinians have a State it is called Jordan which was carved out of Jewish allocated land.

      And they certainly don’t deserve our state, which is the only state they want. They already took 80% of Jewish allocated land which is Jordan. Israel also gave them the Gaza Strip.

      We are tired of hearing about ‘The Occupation’. As Minister Naftali Bennett said the other day, you can’t be an occupier in your own land. The Arabs are the occupiers, Greater Israel has been a Jewish state for 4,000 years even if it was temporarily conquered and occupied by various nations over the centuries.

      We are tired of hearing that “settlements are illegal under international law.” They are not. The San Remo Treaty of 1920 expliciptly stated that Jewish people can reside anywhere in the Mandate for Palestine, those terms are set in perpetuity.

      We are tired of hearing that “settlement construction is an obstacle to peace.” Arab rejectionism and terrorism is the reason there is no peace. When the Arab-Palestinians teach and preach hate, terror and destruction to their children, this is definitely not a road to peace and coexistence.
      By the way, we are pro-peace. We are just not pro-suicide and self destruction.

      We are tired of hearing about the 5 million (or whatever ridiculous number there are alleged to be) ‘Arab-Palestinian refugees’ or the ‘Arab-Palestinian diaspora’. There were about 600,000 Arabs that left their homes in 1948, mostly of their own volition, more or less at the same time as the 980,000 Jewish refugees from Arab countries, of which the Arabs confiscated their homes and assets. We resettled ours with limited land and resources — resettle yours, the 21 Arab states have more land and resources.

      We are tired of hearing anything from anyone associated with the U.N. The U.N. is a parasitic and criminal enterprise dominated by our mortal enemies. The U.N. cannot create states, it can only recommend and so can other nations only recommend and not create a state that never existed before in history. If they want an Arab-Palestinian state, it already exists, it is Jordan which has taken 80% of Jewish allocated land.

      We are tired of stupid post-colonialist rhetoric. We are not ‘colonists’ and Arabs do not have the right to murder us in the name of ‘resistance’ or beheading Jewish Rabbi’s in Jerusalem’s Har Nof Synagogue. Talking this way reveals you as moral imbeciles. They train their children to be suicide bombers.

      You can not recognize a state and people that never existed and that has no borders, no single government, and no economy. They are not trusted by Arab states either.

      We know we can not depend on any kind of security guarantee from anyone except the Israel Defense Forces. So stop being insulted because we do not trust you. And do not ask us to give up any nuclear weapons we might or might not have or any other method and technology that could help protect us.

      We know that the left-wing parties in Israel are bankrupt of ideas. We are not going to vote for them, no matter how much you would like us to. So do not bother trying to influence our election. We will only vote for a government that protects its people and cares about the Jewish heritage, more than it cares for world opinion.

      Don’t believe what you read in Ha’aretz newspaper, they represent a minority that has no allegiance to the Jewish heritage.
      Jerusalem, undivided, is the capital of the state of Israel. Get used to it, because you can’t change it, the Jewish temple will be rebuilt in Jerusalem.
      Sincerely,
      Ordinary Israelis who care about their heritage.

  2. Paul Tominac June 4, 2012 at 11:55 pm

    An easily distracted person, reading half way through a Uri Avnery essay would find him controversial, provocative, and one who doesn’t just talk the Truth to Power, but roars it.

    Finishing the second half tends to leave one not so impressed.

    An Avnery essay starts off with a gust of righteous indignation, “The Very Thought!” “The Hypocrisy” and a half dozen Harrumphs! for good measure. Then, he throws in the back story, usually with some arcane details, like the idea in this essay that the original goal of the Zionists was not a Jewish home in Palestine, but one in the Argentine (minus the indigenous locals of course, always a problem with the Zionists), and then, seemingly having spent himself, Avnery settles into his old and comfortable cant: The Evils Of Zionists!

    One could be forgiven for thinking Israel is being ruined by the Zionists, who simply won’t listen to anybody, while the ordinary Israeli is a likeable chap, perfectly willing to come to an accommodation with the Palestinians—a magnanimous idea given that the Israelis–Zionist or not, are all living on Palestinian land.

    “We took your land, and some of us are real upset about that, so we’ll give you half of it back, won’t that be nice?”

    Avnery sounds like a real radical, but to achieve that, he’d have to ask some really pointed questions of Israel itself: Like, what entitles Jews from Europe and America to claim Arab land in Palestine. Especially since we know that the ancient Jews never left–they even helped the Muslims bring down the last remnant of the Holy Roman Empire, at Constantinople, after which a number of them converted to Islam.

    If the Jews never left the Old Country, who are these Europeans and Americans asserting a right to return?

    But no, Avnery winds down with a lovely idea that Zionism’s endgame has run into a dead end, and Transfer is over, and a two-state solution is the only way.

    But, shouldn’t we ask why Avnery is so convinced that Israel has a future, when in fact it might actually be less than permanent, in a region where the future is likely to be Arab and Muslim, free of Western interference?

    I love Uri Avnery’s temerity, in the first half of his essays. But the second half always drives me crazy. It’s always Evil Zionists Are Ruining Israel, when in fact, the whole idea of Israel is unsustainable, and should be.

    After all, what would we do if someone took Berkeley and gave it to the Australian aborigines? And they took Oakland after they arrived? And closed Chez Panisse. What would WE do? How would WE feel?

  3. don June 9, 2012 at 7:25 pm

    Paul, Those “Americans and European” are Jews with roots in Israel. Many of those so called Palestinians migrated firm elsewhere win the economy improved under the mandate,.

    I am guessing that your ancestors arrived in the US from elsewhere. If you are calling for Jews to depart Israel, I suggest you pack yo bags and return to your ancestral Europe.

  4. Ed wysocki July 7, 2012 at 9:10 pm

    Yo Don, In 1914 there were 534,000 muslims, 70,000 christians and 85,000 jews living in Palestine. So don’t keep pedaling that zionist line that there was no one living there or they just showed up later.

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