Friday, June 15, 2007


Follow Up Regarding Israel/Palestine

Just to clarify things: in saying Israel needs to come to term with it's role in the "catastrophe", I do not mean to take any sides in the debate as to how the Palestinian refugees came to be refugees. What is the case is that, even though the life of such families in what is now Israel was certainly not the golden way they remember it through the rose colored glasses of nostalgia, it was certainly better than life in a refugee camp. And since, no matter who's to blame for what, if Israel didn't exist, these people wouldn't be in refugee camps, at some level Israel is culpable. And, in order to negotiate in good faith, Israel must come to terms with this fact of its existence: the land of Israel once had a reasonable percentage of Arabs in its population and now it doesn't. That is a de facto ethnic cleansing and to deny that reality, no matter what the intentions of who were or who's really to blame, is to be part of a collective psychosis (denying reality).

On the other hand, it is a psychotic delusion among too many in the Arab world and on the left that the de facto ethnic cleansing surrounding Israel's birth was something (at the time) considered to be completely beyond the pale. At the time, such mass populations transfers were seen as positive and perhaps the only way to keep peace.

Indeed, if we look at many historical hot-spots (Germany's borders, for example) that cooled down in the last half of the 20th century, it is the population transfers of millions of people, on a scale far exceeding that of the Palestinian/Arab-Jewish population exchange, that has allowed the peace to be kept. For that matter, if we look at current and recent hot-spots, we see that many are cases where the population transfers either did not happen post-WWII (the former Yugoslavia) or were not accepted by at least one side (Israel/Palestine). In fact, many of these cases are ones in which dictators or dominant ethnic groups used "reverse ethnic cleansing" to forcibly mix populations to either prevent the formation of separatist ethnic enclaves (Yugoslavia under Tito) or to ensure control by a dominant ethnic group of territory (Israel's settlements on occupied territory, Saddam Hussein moving Sunni Arabs into Kurdish cities): when the dictator is gone or the dominant ethnic group cedes some power, civil war seems to inevitably result.

I am not advocating mass population transfers as the primary way to world peace, but I'm pointing out that, in the context of the times of Israel's formation, mass population transfers were not only condoned but in fact were considered salubrious. For the Arab world or the left to pretend otherwise is a psychotic denial of historical reality with rather severe consequences: not only does this denial breed a grudging, reactionary mindset that prevents the Middle East from moving forward into a new era of peace and development, but it directly prevents the Palestinian people from being allowed to form a new society based not on looking to some past that will never be recovered (and Israel needs to acknowledge the trauma of this) -- the Palestinian people are kept in horrid refugee camps not by Israeli nefariousness but by those who would deny the reality of population transfers as something deemed salubrious.

As the song goes "you don't have to live like a refugee". The sooner this is realized, the better.

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