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Preparing public opinion for ethnic cleansing

Not too long ago, Peter Beinart chastised the American-Jewish establishment for stretching the ostensible bond between liberal values and Zionism ever-closer to breaking point, and serving as enablers for ultra-right trends that would eventually destroy Israel as a democratic state. In particular, Beinart slammed the Jewish leadership’s attempts to smooth out the image of Avigdor Lieberman:

After Israel’s elections last February, for instance, Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice-chairman of the Presidents’ Conference, explained that Avigdor Lieberman’s agenda was “far more moderate than the media has presented it.” Insisting that Lieberman bears no general animus toward Israeli Arabs, Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that “He’s not saying expel them. He’s not saying punish them.” (Permanently denying citizenship to their Arab spouses or jailing them if they publicly mourn on Israeli Independence Day evidently does not qualify as punishment.) The ADL has criticized anti-Arab bigotry in the past, and the American Jewish Committee, to its credit, warned that Lieberman’s proposed loyalty oath would “chill Israel’s democratic political debate.” But the Forwardsummed up the overall response of America’s communal Jewish leadership in its headline “Jewish Leaders Largely Silent on Lieberman’s Role in Government.”

Denial and trying to cover Lieberman’s commitment to ethnically cleansing Israeli citizens is bad enough, but at least it indicates the American Jewish leadership think their constituents wouldn’t support such a policy. Today, Jerry Haber (Magnes Zionist) came across what may be the first attempt to legitimise the policy itself to international and international Jewish opinion. Haber dedicates a meticulous, extensive post to a recent award-winning book by Rabbi Dr Daniel Gordis. Gordis is senior president of the Shalem Center, an ultra-right think tank that is for Netanyahu’s government what the Project for New American Century was for the Bush administration. Here are the relevant sections, quoted via Haber:

Rabbi Gordis admits at the outset of that discussion that the “mere suggestion of ‘transfer’” immediately evokes the thought of Meir Kahane and Avigdor Lieberman, and that “on the surface there are almost innumerable reasons to denounce transfer as immoral or unfeasible.” (All bolded emphasis is mine, not his) But instead of providing a single reason to consider transfer immoral, he talks briefly about its unfeasibility, especially with respect to the difficulties that Israel would face in the international arena. “Forced population transfers are nowconsidered an international crime by many authorities.” But the picture is not “nearly as one-sided as it is often portrayed.” Forced expulsion, though traumatic, “need not condemn you to poverty“. Moreover, “there are many cases of population transfer that have been conducted bloodlessly, and that have contributed to the creation of peace between formerly warring neighbors,” e. g. the transfer of population in Cyprus after the Turkish invasion of 1974.

And also,

…despite the great pain, these potentially agonizing solutions to an undeniable problem have to be raised…Those who seek to restore purpose to Israeli life will have to decide how to preserve Israel’s Jewish majority. For it is that majority that enables Israel to serve as such a beacon of hope for Jews. That, in turn, invariably will entail more than rhetoric. It will require abandoning the pretense that Israel is just like other countries, the charade that claims that Israel can deal with its minorities precisely as other democracies do…If Israelis genuinely believe in that purpose, they will then have to be willing to discuss what they are actually willing to do to protect the existence of the state that has saved the Jewish people.

Here we have the mechanics of preparing public opinion for ethnic cleansing laid almost bare: The doctrine of Israeli exceptionalism  is being tentatively extended to unilaterally disenfranchising a significant part of its population, forcibly expelling these people from their homes, into the “Palestinian state”. Moreover, this is presented as a challenge to the Israelis, “despite the great pain.” (This is particularly perverse, of course; an American empathises with the pain that will be felt by a native collective as it executes a crime against humanity against another native collective. My heart bleeds for the good rabbi). Furthermore, this is cast as possibly necessary for the state’s survival, and may even be an instrument of peace.

Legitimisers of Lieberman will be quick to point out that my use of the term “ethnic cleansing” is mistaken, if not deceiving; after all, he only suggests to redraw the borders, so that already Arab-majority areas are included into the future Palestinian state; and, indeed, the Israeli Arabs’ final destination is not a death camp or a faraway colony, but reuniting with the rest of the Palestinian collective in a Palestinian state of their own.

To the first point, my answer would be to invite you to take part in an exercise. Look at the map. Israel has for years been placing Jewish moshavim, kibbutzim and towns strategically in between Arab villages and towns in its territory. Take a pencil and try to bend the northernmost section of the Green Line so that it includes 50% of the Arab Israeli population, without including any of the Jewish areas. You see? For this plan to work, some of the communities will need to moved. My guess that it’s not going to be the Jewish ones.

As for the Palestinian state that will supposedly make the Israeli Arabs’ (involuntary) sacrifice worthwhile, all I can say is: Look at the news. No real, sovereign Palestinian state is on the table, and hasn’t been on the table for years. What is being discussed now is a shredded enclave, without an army, without control of airspace, without control of borders (international, or, a lot more likely, Israeli forces will divide the new “state” from its intended Jordanian border). “Moderate” Ehud Olmert demanded to keep the Israel Airforce flying over Palestinian airspace, and to retain control even over telecommunications. The Netanyahu administration believes Olmert had gone too far; According to a recent report, Netanyahu even wants to retain IDF bases near the Palestinian cities. You call that a state?

Finally, I use “ethnic cleansing” because rounding up a population of a certain ethnic origin and excluding it en masse from participation in the civic and economic life of their country is precisely what ethnic cleansing is about. It does not need to involve much bloodshed, and indeed, it usually  is not planned to at first. Simple ethnic cleansing can deteriorate rapidly into murderous ethnic cleansing if the targeted population stages an armed resistance, or of outside powers try to come to its aid; but even without that, mass expulsion of citizens based on their ethnic-cultural characteristic is a nightmare scenario.

And it would seem that this is the direction in which we are going: The establishment of an amputee Palestinian entity in some areas of the West Bank; and the artificial linking of the issue of Palestinian-Israeli civil and collective rights to this enclave. Indeed, as of this year, Israeli security forces have already included some elements of that scenario in their yearly training.  Chillingly, Dr Gordis implies that sometimes transfer can be preferable to avoid mass killing.

Drawing on previous historic experience, it’s not at all difficult to imagine it being legitimised through precisely that scenario. The past weeks alone have seen numerous clashes between Arabs and Jews, including senior rabbis issuing an edict prohibiting renting flats to Arabs (imagine American evangelists proscribing selling flats to blacks), and Jews in Safed literally staging a pogrom, including a shooting attack, against Israeli-Arab students in the city. If these events continue and escalate, a future government may well propose endorsing Lieberman’s plan – “for the Israeli Arabs’ own protection.”

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  • COMMENTS

    1. Dimi, you may be interested to know that Rabbi Gordis is not enthusiastic of moving Israel’s borders “to ‘offload’ 200,000 full Israeli citizens” that live in Wadi Ara. And why not?

      “Given the fact that the solution would address only a small percentage of Israel’s Arabs, moving the borders for this reason might not be worth the price it would exact.” (p. 158) (The price is not a moral one, by the way.)

      No, nothing less than full expulsion seems to be able to solve the “Arab conundrum” for Rabbi Gordis. See pp. 159-163 of his book

      http://books.google.com/books?id=EUkBb3Ys4t4C&pg=PA158&lpg=PA158&dq=%22What,+then,+is+the+alternative%22+gordis+saving+israel&source=bl&ots=J-8K2h-o8Y&sig=GSqFdphlUUS6KZKVOZf_QXyXUPs&hl=en&ei=p3HQTN30C8bysgbe1t3jAg&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=1&ved=0CBIQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q&f=false

      Reply to Comment
    2. Ben Israel

      C’mon you “972″ guys, you really don’t have anything against “ethnic cleansing” as such. When Israel ethnically cleansed Jews from the Sinai in 1982 and from the Gaza Strip in 2005 you were cheering. You are all waiting in breathless anticipation for the moment when half-a-million Jews are ethnically cleansed from Judea/Samaria and eastern Jerusalem. You will be dancing in the streets then.
      I recall humanist Jerry Haber celebrating the destruction of Gush Katif at his own web site. Seeing synagogues burned down, yeshivot bulldozed and people homes destroyed can feel real good, can’t it, as long as they belonged to Jews, right?

      Reply to Comment
    3. It nevers fails to amaze ..the ignorance that still exists in the world. I can only thank God for the teachings of the Mission of Maitreya that shows that we are all really brothers and sisters on this earth and we need to work together toward that end..unity and bringing His Kingdom on earth (as God has promised in the scriptures that it would come but we must be willing to work for it.)

      Reply to Comment
    4. Freeman

      It’s amazing how the Sioinst propaganda organization is widespread all over the world.
      Wherever in the world a mere hint of a criticism towards Israel’s policy is being raised, a “defender” of Israel, armed with false arguments, never fails to show up in minutes.
      Must be the black list setup by ADL’s Foxman.

      Ben Israel there is a pretty fair example: a pathetic tentative of role-switching.
      Like ben Gurion never wrote of the “necessity or removing the arabs” from their self-claimed Promised Land. The Jews have been practising ethnic cleansing for some 60 years, they’re just speeding up the agenda.

      Reply to Comment
    5. Abo Ahmed

      (“ethnic cleansing” as such. When Israel ethnically cleansed Jews from the Sinai in 1982 and from the Gaza Strip in 2005 you were cheering)
      The Jews were withdrawn from the occupied territories which occupied on 1967.
      The Jews presence at the Egyptian Land SINI and Palestinian land GAZA ) is ethinic cleansing , the presence of Jews at(GAZA, WEST BANK and EAST JERUSALEM which is the Palestinian Land occupied on 1967 by the IDF.
      The demolishing of the Palestinian houses and building settlements is ethinic cleansing .
      The deportation and evacuation of Palestinians under shooting on 1948 is the ethnic cleansing.
      The IDF acts will continue till they evacuate all the palestinians from palestine they want the land and will continue doing that to the neibhoured Arab countries the IDF dream to have a Jewish Empire in the world wide and the US which blindly supports the IDF will find itself occupied the Jewish and be under that empire.Awake up US citizens it is sham on you.

      Reply to Comment
    6. Holden

      The above article is a joke. Even though there are problems, Israeli Arabs are completely integrated into Israel’s population and institutions.

      Despite all the other problems, Jews and Arabs have lived together and intermarried and run businesses together since the late 1800′s.

      That’s not about to change anytime soon.

      Just another ridiculous screed by a Jew hater.

      Reply to Comment
    7. Miri

      Jaime “Holden,” your hasbarism isn’t going to work here. These people are dedicated and uncorruptable. They’ve been shoulder to shoulder, and some have even had a few bones broken.

      Even though you’re merely pasting from what you just wrote on my fb wall, you might want to save your energy for those who are not quite sure about reality.

      Reply to Comment

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