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News and views on Israel, Zionism and the war on terrorism.

December 04, 2002

Just the Facts, Maam

After reading a US journalist's argument against transfer, I wrote to him to challenge on his "fundamental facts" as he put it.
Your first "fundamental fact" is that there was ethnic cleansing of 700,000 Palestinians in '48.

While all wars result in movement of refugees to other countries voluntary or otherwise and while there is some truth to the fact that in some cases "Palestinians" were frightened into fleeing as a result of the death and destruction occasioned by the fighting as in all cases of war, there was no forced marches or buses etc used to ensure that they went. In addition it is also well known as a fact that the Arab countries around them encouraged them to leave arguing that they could come back with the victorious armies and share the spoils. There is context that should also be considered .. The Arabs had shown by words and deeds that not only would they not live in peace with the Jews but that also they would not acquiesce in a state being created for the Jews. Realistically it made sense to carve out defensible borders and deport the Arabs who were sworn to kill them. You will argue that that is not nice to transfer populations but the act of killing Jews is also not nice.

At the same time, Jews in Arab lands were expelled and their property confiscated. These refugees totaled at least 700,000 most of whom settled in Israel. They were not Europeans as the Arabs like to portray the Israelis but local Semites no different racially from the Arabs and they constituted a majority of the population in Israel. You might say there was a population exchange. Quite common historically.

I wonder what you have written about other refugees who had to settle elsewhere. Is this a cause that vexes you or only when the Jews are involved as the"cleansers".

Finally it sometimes makes more sense to separate groups into separate countries with some transfer rather than to keep fighting each other over who gets the land. Why not do the rational thing as opposed to the emotional thing. Transfer has always been an alternative to killing and a rational way to end the conflict.

Your second "fundamental fact" is Israel's "illegal occupation" and [the violation of] international law. I believe that their presence there is neither illegal nor an occupation in the strict meaning of the word nor contrary to international law.

Resolution 242 of the Security Council sanctioned Israel's presence in the territories until such time as they could withdraw to secure and recognized borders. This required agreement between the warring parties namely Jordan, Egypt, Lebanon and Syria. The Palestinians as an idea did not exist at that time. International law requires the occupying force after a war to maintain law and order. That is their duty.

In 1971, the Arabs voted at the Khartoum conference the three famous "no"s; no recognition, no negotiation, no peace. Obviously no agreement could be worked out so Israel remained in control. Therefore this "occupation" was certainly not illegal.

Now for "occupation". In international law the word occupation refers to occupying the lands of another country. Since the West Bank is not and never was in the last 500 years another country there is no real occupation in a legal sense. These territories are disputed not occupied. This dispute will remain until there is agreement. Israel also has a claim to these territories.

Oslo was entered into with the hope of achieving such agreement. There was no obligation to return all the lands but Israel was entitled to secure borders. There is much in the records of the UN to support that everyone expected changes to the border. That's why the resolution didn't refer to all territories to be given back for peace. If the Palestinians want to end the occupation they could at any time make a deal that Israel finds acceptable. This they refuse to do so the war goes on.

I'm sure you will argue that why should they have to make a deal that they didn't like. Assuming that there is some deal short of destroying Israel, that they would find acceptable, why should they be forced to settle for less than they want. I would argue that that is the real world, or to end the occupation, or because they agreed in Oslo to settle all disputes by negotiations and to stop all violence and incitement.

Now what is this "international law " you talk about. I'll be happy to show you that you are wrong but you have to quote the sections of whatever you quote from so that we can deal with the law and not a psuedo law.
Needless to say, he never wrote back.

Ted Belman/ tedbel@rogers.com