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The dreadful and the trivial: A response to Paula Schmitt on Palestinian refugees

In giving voice to Palestinian refugees, journalist Paula Schmitt inadvertently strengthens the Zionist narrative.

By Danny Orbach

A Palestinian refugee looks over the Jaramana Refugee Camp in Damascus, 1948. (Author unknown)

A Palestinian refugee looks over the Jaramana Refugee Camp in Damascus, 1948. (Author unknown)

American author Scott Baker once wrote, “men generally possess no inkling of what their actions portend. This problem is not, as one might suppose, a result of man‘s blindness to the consequences of their actions. Rather it is a result of the mad way in which the dreadful turns on the trivial when the ends of one man cross the ends of another.” This quote came to mind when I read Paula Schmitt’s article about Palestinian refugees, published recently in +972. Like so many other pro-Palestinian activists and journalists, Schmitt appears to have very clear intentions: righting the wrongs done to the Palestinians in the Nakba of 1948, preferably through a combination of full compensation and a “right of return.” She even tries to emphasize the peaceful intentions of the refugees, who, as she writes, are ready to “live together” with the Jews once the crooks are made straight.

However, when reading Schmitt’s article, it was interesting to see how the “dreadful turned on the trivial” at the moment her interviewees were allowed to speak for themselves. Their own opinions, when carefully listened to, rather confirmed the fears of most mainstream Israelis. As Schmitt herself wrote, “more often than not, their answers would include the end of Israel.” Even those who admitted – usually in private – some kind of consent to live in peace with their Jewish neighbors conditioned it with full acceptance of the Palestinian narrative. And as most Israelis think rather differently about history than those Palestinian refugees, the article strengthened the notion that mass return may herald bloodshed and constant civil war, detrimental to both sides.

Schmitt probably had no inkling that her article might strengthen the Zionist narrative – a rather unexpected result. And hers, one has to emphasize, is far from being the only case. A compendium of “right of return” fantasies, published recently by radical-left Israeli organization “Zochrot,” also intended to bring the “right of return” to mind as a tangible political alternative. However, yet again, the dreadful turned on the trivial when many of the Palestinian contributors openly expressed their wish to ethnically cleanse the Jews from Palestine, or at least to undo their self-determination and force them to accept, instead of an equal partnership, full-fledged Arab rule. Only for these reasons, the Israeli Foreign Ministry has to thank both Paula Schmitt and Zochrot.

Schmitt undoubtedly did an important job by “giving a voice” to Palestinian refugees, and yet her piece is hampered by utter absence of a critical perspective. For starters, her description of the events of 1948 is distorted beyond recognition, and is merely a repetition of worn-out Palestinian national myths. Had an alien come from space and read Schmitt’s article, he would have probably thought that some evil empire, alternately called “Israel” or (collectively) “the Zionists,” viciously attacked a peaceful population and dispossessed and exiled it from its homeland without any provocation. But alas, history is never so simple.

Unlike the “innocent victim” legend purported by Schmitt, Israel did what it did in 1948 out of a tangible threat of existential danger. The Palestinian leadership of the time had very clear plans what to do with the Jews had they lost: to ethnically cleanse most of them at the best, and to slaughter them at worst. Such statements were repeatedly made by Palestinian leaders and their allies. In 1943, five years before the war, the Mufti Haj Amin Al-Husseini declared that all Jews must be expelled not only from Palestine, but also from the Arab world in its entirety, if not exterminated altogether. The Palestinians’ major ally, the secretary-general of the Arab league, openly defined the campaign as “a war of extermination.” At the same time, the Palestinian leadership refused to live together with the Jews in any way. They rejected not only the partition resolution of 1947, as it is often said, but also alternative proposals for a bi-national or federal state, and even a scheme for Jewish autonomy inside an Arab political entity.

Some people may say that the Arabs were right to refuse any compromise with the “Zionist invaders”, but this is surely not the question, as one could not expect the Zionists in 1948 to share that point of view. The Nakba, with its enormous human tragedy, is not a result of Zionist wickedness but a violent, defensive reaction to a tangible threat of dispossession and extermination. And indeed, compared with countries facing similar (and even lesser) threats at the same time, Israel behaved in a surprisingly restrained manner. As Benny Morris shows, the number of civilian causalities in 1948 was significantly smaller than in other, similar conflicts around the world, and Israel did end up with a sizable Palestinian minority inside its borders. In the pre- and post-WWII era, by contrast, ethnic cleansing and population exchange were the usual way to solve ethnic conflicts, civil wars and state partitions. Think about the Turks and the Greeks, the Germans, the Japanese, the Indians and Pakistanis, Jews in the Arab world and countless other examples. Israel, therefore, was a positive outlier.

Even the story of the frozen bank accounts (based on the groundbreaking research by Sreemati Mitter and others) is irrevocably distorted by Schmitt. The money was returned by Israel to the British banks, and it was they – and not the Israeli government – who failed to reimburse some of the refugees. By contrast, almost all other states which faced similar situations at the time did not “freeze” bank accounts but rather confiscated them outright. Egyptian and Iraqi Jews, for example, had all of their property stolen and did not see a penny back. The only country that returned at least some refugee property was, again, Israel. Schmitt, therefore, judges Israel according to theoretical moral standards. Such standards were indeed emerging in international law around 1949 they, but were – and are – hardly implemented. In any case, it is highly questionable to hold Israel more accountable to moral standards than other nations in similar situations of conflict.

Did we say “refugees”? This mythical term, accepted uncritically by Schmitt, has to be deconstructed as well. In the 1950s there were many millions of “refugees” around the world. Almost all of them, Germans, Turks, Greeks, Ukrainians, Poles and Japanese, were resettled in countries which many of them had never seen before. At that moment, they stopped being “refugees” and certainly no one had dreamt to give such status to their children and grandchildren. Those few who turned to legal channels were consistently turned down by European courts. The “hereditary refugee status” is nothing but a cynical, post 1948 manipulation of Arab diplomats, cemented by the establishment of UNRWA, a UN organization which cordoned the problem of the Palestinian refugees and artificially separated them from all other refugees around the world. Israel admittedly contributed to this problem, when it, too, helped fund this questionable organization. Then, most Arab states perpetuated the problem by keeping these Palestinians in squalid camps and under effective apartheid conditions, hammering into their children and grandchildren myths of victimhood, revenge and eternal plight. If the Nakba goes on until today, as many Palestinian spokesmen say, then here it is. Sentenced to life at birth? Maybe – but the jailers are in Beirut and other Arab capitals, not in Jerusalem.

Indeed, just as no true peace can be realized before Israel gives up the folly of the occupation and settlements, effective reconciliation depends on the Palestinians waking up from the fantasy of return. And just like “friends of Israel” in the US undermine its true interests by backing the settlements and the occupation, so Schmitt is doing a great damage to the Palestinian refugees by nurturing their disastrous, futile fantasies.

Danny Orbach is a History PhD student at Harvard, specializing in the history of rebellions, disobedience and illegal orders in Japan, China, Germany, Israel, Egypt and elsewhere. Among his publications: Valkyrie – German Resistance to Hitler (Yedioth Ahronot Press, 2009 – in Hebrew) and Black Flag at a Crossroads: The Kafr-Qasim Political Trial, 1957-8.  More of his articles can be read at his blog, “The Owl,” in English and in Hebrew.  

Related:
Sentenced to life at birth: What do Palestinian refugees want?
Despite efforts to erase it, the Nakba’s memory is more present than ever in Israel

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    1. goldmarx

      There are lots of good points in this article.

      After the Arab Revolt of 1936-1939, the Husseini clan, headed by the Grand Mufti, eliminated the heads of all the other Palestinian clans, including the Nashashibis. The Nashashibis were anti-Zionist but non-violent and were in favor of making deals with the Zionist leadership so that both sides could save face and co-exist in some meaningful fashion.

      But then, the pro-Nazi Mufti took over, and most Palestinian villages were ruled by people loyal to the Mufti. After the Holocaust, it is understandable that Jewish forces would work to expel all those Palestinians, and leave those Palestinians who were with the Nashashibis intact.

      Just as the Allies committed war crimes during World War II (the bombing of Dresden, the mass rape of German women by Russian soldiers), so did the Israeli army during its War of Liberation (ex: the massacre at Lydda). But that does not change the fact that the Allies and the Israelis were on the right side of history.

      As a Zionist who supports BDS, I note that no position paper has been issued as to how the Right of Return would be implemented. Obviously, those refugees with hostile intent would receive last preference, for example.

      Reply to Comment
      • Goldmarx, I agree with most of what you said in the comment. But as a Zionist who opposes BDS, let me offer you my own two pennies on a possible solution to the refugee problem. My assumption is that in order to ensure the well-being of both Israelis and Palestinians, each nation has to live in its own national state, with its own peculiar identity and self determination. However, that does not mean that our states will be ethnically “pure”. I agree with Yossi Beilin’s proposal that settlers will be given the right to remain in the Palestinian state and hold Palestinian (and maybe even dual) citizenship. In return, Israel will accept a limited number of refugees into its territory on a 1:1 basis (that is, one refugee for every settler who remains in the Palestinian state). My estimation is that in both cases, the number is likely to be very limited.

        Reply to Comment
        • goldmarx

          Danny: “I agree with Yossi Beilin’s proposal that settlers will be given the right to remain in the Palestinian state and hold Palestinian (and maybe even dual) citizenship.”

          I have a real problem with this, because there never was any legitimate security reason for those settlers to be there in the first place. Israel behind the June 4, 1967 borders was a viable country. As documentaries such as “5 Broken Cameras” made clear, the settlers are a nasty, fanatical, racist bunch all of whom should be transferred to the Negev or other areas in Israel proper in need of ‘pioneering’ development.

          If they remain as citizens in a West Bank Palestine, they will agitate violently to hold onto their privileged settlements, and implore the Israeli Army to intervene on their behalf as a result of violence that they provoke.

          These settlers cheered the killing of Peace Now activist Emil Grunzweig and the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.

          They should not be allowed to get away with it.

          Reply to Comment
          • I fully agree with goldmarx concerning the Beilin idea. After 45 years of acting as masters toward the Palestinian, and promoting the apartheid character in the occupied territories, there is not even a slightest chance of “Truth and Reconciliation” between settlers and their neighbors. The mutual hatred will require many years to be eliminated. The extreme settlers who support the pogromists (“price tag”) may request to stay in Palestine in order to provoke and bring the IDF back.

            Also, the Beilin plan suggests that “settlement blocs” will be annexed, but it turns out that except for three towns that are close to the green line – Beitar-Illit, Modiin-Ilit and Maale Adumim, all others recently mentioned by Netanyahu (Etzion, Ariel, Hebron and Bet El-Ofra) are “enclaves” that are surrounded by Palestinian localities that are 5-10 times larger in population than those settlements enclaves.

            Reply to Comment
          • Kolumn9

            “the settlers are a nasty, fanatical, racist bunch all of whom should be transferred to the Negev or other areas in Israel proper in need of ‘pioneering’ development.”

            “the Arabs are a nasty, fanatical, racist bunch all of whom should be transferred to Jordan or other areas in Arabia in need of ‘pioneering’ development.”

            Is all generalizations and demonization racist and wrong or only that about Arabs?

            Reply to Comment
          • goldmarx

            Arabs are an ethnic group. The settlers are not an entire ethnic group, only a small slice of one, just like the French pied noir settlers in Algeria.

            Reply to Comment
        • goldmarx

          Danny, a charge has been made here (by Vicki?) that you attempted to shut down or prevent a conference on a One-State Solution.

          Is this true? If so, why?

          Reply to Comment
          • Goldmarx,

            I do not have the ability of shutting down anything. But as a graduate student and member of the Harvard community, I do not think my university should sponsor propaganda events of either side. And yes, I believe that the demand to deny self-determination from the Jewish people is racist in some sense. And yes, I believe that a call to destroy a sovereign country and a member of the UN is illegitimate.

            If it was an academic conference with a well-balanced discussion of the one-state solution, I would say nothing against it. But that was a propaganda event, featuring speakers from Electronic Intifada and “scholars” devoid of minimal academic integrity, like Ilan Pappe. Based on these reasons, I called my university to withdraw its sponsorship from the conference, and I don’t regret it for one minute. At the end, at least they forced the organizers to clarify that their views do not represent Harvard University or the Kennedy School.

            By the way, the other side doesn’t care a bit about our freedom of speech. Whenever an Israeli speaker comes, they try to shout him or her down. A lecture by Prof. Benny Morris was cancelled in a British University because the of threats by the radical left. They do support freedom of speech, apparently, but only their own.

            Reply to Comment
      • Rehmat

        The record show that it’s not the Mufti but Zionist Jewish groups which collaborated with Nazis.

        On January 27, 2014, Israel National News reported the discovery of an important document which proves that several Jewish organizations in British mandated Palestine collaborated with the German Nazis.

        “The Kfar Etzion Field School conducted a study into the acquisition of the land from the ‘El Hahar” real estate company in the 1930’s. To their amazement they uncovered a letter of S. Glazer, one of the company’s representatives, requesting from the Reich Chancellor Adolf Hitler permission to sell pieces of land to German Jews, and then approve their immigration to Palestine. In return, Glazer promised to deposit 100,000 pounds in Germany’s account for the purchase of German goods to bring into Palestine,” said the newspaper.

        http://rehmat1.com/2014/02/07/hitlers-israeli-jews/

        Reply to Comment
        • Rehmat, any more antisemitic myths to disseminate? You know, according to some people, even AIDS was a Zionist invasion.

          Still, if we keep to your point, they are ridiculous. Trying desperately to bargain with the Nazis in order to save some Jews, while almost no one gave them visas to escape, is very far from collaborating with the Nazis.

          As for the Mufti,look at the following:

          (Nazi official H. Gorba, 1942):

          “I reported considerable concern … about the participation of members of the entourage of Prime Minister Galiani [Rashid Ali] and of the Grand Mufti in SD [secret security police] courses and site visits to concentration camps … The visit by three assistants of the prime minister [Galiani] and one of the Grand Mufti at concentration camp Oranienburg had already taken place. The visit lasted about two hours with very satisfying results … the Jews aroused particular interest among the Arabs…. It all made a very favorable impression on the Arabs.”

          The Mufti’ own declaration in 1943:

          “t is the duty of Muhammadans in general and Arabs in particular to … drive all Jews from Arab and Muhammadan countries….Germany is also struggling against the common foe who oppressed Arabs and Muhammadans in their different countries. It has very clearly recognized the Jews for what they are and resolved to find a definitive solution [endgültige Lösung] for the Jewish danger that will eliminate the scourge that Jews represent in the world.”

          That sets the record straight, I hope.

          Reply to Comment
      • andrew r

        After the Holocaust, it is understandable that Jewish forces would work to expel all those Palestinians, and leave those Palestinians who were with the Nashashibis intact.

        This is risible, since villages that made deals with the Haganah did not receive preferential treatment once they fled, and the Haganah certainly did not work to leave Deir Yassin intact despite that village making a non-aggression pact and holding to it.

        The Jaffa-area villages, Sheikh Muwannis, Arab abu Kiskh and Jammasin collectively made a deal with the Haganah for protection. After the kidnapping of five senior residents of Sheikh Muwannis by Irgun, this village and Arab abu Kiskh fled to Qalqiliya and Tulkarm. All Jaffa-area villages were incorporated into Tel-Aviv.

        But that does not change the fact that the Allies and the Israelis were on the right side of history.

        As I’ve said here many times, it does not hold water to claim the Zionists were just going to live alongside the Arabs without any disruption, and were forced to become racists by violent opposition to their immigration. The result of the expulsions, making Palestine a demographically Jewish state, was a clear aim of the Zionist movement well before any organized armed resistance to the British Mandate. The JNF bylaws restricted leasing and selling land to Jews only. Herzl’s failed scheme to get the Ottoman Sultan in on the colonization directly, the Jewish-Ottoman Land Company, would have obtained separate plots of land in other parts of the empire for fellahin who would be removed from the Jewish Colony[1] (Ruppin made a similar proposal less than a decade later).

        The motive to commit expulsions was integral to the Zionist project; the ability to carry it out was not there until 1948.

        [1] http://www.al-awda.org/zionists01.html

        Reply to Comment
        • goldmarx

          Andrew: “The result of the expulsions, making Palestine a demographically Jewish state, was a clear aim of the Zionist movement well before any organized armed resistance to the British Mandate.”

          The Zionist movement had lots of ‘clear aims’. Uganda as a Jewish state/homeland? Check. Australia as a Jewish homeland/state? Check. Since the Zionist movement never formally reversed itself on those plans, should I be worried about an impending invasion of Jewish settlers if I am a government official of Uganda or Australia?

          The pre-1948 Zionist movement made contingency plans to cover just about every possibility. Its fetish for flexibility and timely opportunism was legendary. So if events fell into place to fulfill any one of those plans, that’s just the law of probability at work, not a concerted conspiracy.

          Reply to Comment
          • andrew r

            The Seventh Zionist Congress (1905) rejected settlement in any territory outside Palestine after the exploratory commission created at the previous Congress deemed Uganda (Kenya) unsuitable.

            As for the “clear aim”, the source for that was the memo Ruppin submitted late in 1907 that got him the job as director of the WZO branch in Jaffa known as the Palestine Office. He laid out Jewish autonomy would be achieved through purchase of most of the land and mass immigration until Jews were in the majority. (See Etan Bloom, ‘Arthur Ruppin and the Production of the Modern Hebrew Culture’, online)

            The pre-1948 Zionist movement made contingency plans to cover just about every possibility.

            Except for the territory of the Jewish state almost suffering an invasion by the Germans, which is what happened in 1942.

            Reply to Comment
          • goldmarx

            Did Ruppin’s plan call for forced expulsion of Palestinians on land not purchased?

            Reply to Comment
        • goldmarx

          Andrew: “This is risible, since villages that made deals with the Haganah did not receive preferential treatment once they fled, and the Haganah certainly did not work to leave Deir Yassin intact despite that village making a non-aggression pact and holding to it.”

          It would be interesting to see if there were some compliance audit done to see how many villages had non-aggression pacts, and what percentage of them were held. That would settle this question.

          If a village decides to flee without being forced, but because of the fear of eventually not surviving an armed conflict whirling around them, that would not count as a violation of the pact.

          Interesting, that all the examples you give have the Irgun violating the pact. To enforce the pact as you suggest, the Haganah would have had to open fire on fellow Jews (the Irgun). Was the typical Haganah soldier ready to do that at that moment?

          Andrew: “The motive to commit expulsions was integral to the Zionist project; the ability to carry it out was not there until 1948.”

          So why didn’t the Zionist authorities expel ALL the Palestinians if they had the ability to do so? I’m trying to make sense of why 100,000+ Palestinian Arabs remained in what became Israel. Hillel Cohen’s book suggests the answer, and I have not seen any detailed, well-informed rebuttal to it.

          Reply to Comment
      • Piotr Berman

        “After the Holocaust, it is understandable that Jewish forces would work to expel all those Palestinians…”

        If it was so understandable, why did Israeli Jews created the myth, thought in schools etc. that Arabs were not expelled but departed voluntarily because of some radio broadcast?

        And if we accept the novel version of Goldmarx, that there was a sophisticated distinction made between “Husseinists” Palestinians who were understandably expelled and “Nashashibist” Palestinians who were allowed to stay, why the latter were subjected to massive dispossession as “present absentees” and put under military rule?

        Reply to Comment
        • Jed

          Pioter writes “why did Israeli Jews created the myth… that Arabs were not expelled but departed voluntarily because of some radio broadcast?”

          Palestinians themselves admit it:
          http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9iR5nDFhBL0

          Reply to Comment
        • goldmarx

          This is no ‘novel version’. I derived this from this very website’s promotion of Hillel Cohen’s book on the Hebron Massacre. Blame +972, not me!

          Reply to Comment
          • andrew r

            It doesn’t matter what the book review said, you should take responsibility for your own judgement if it involves actions taken against someone you would not wish on yourself.

            While I’m on the subject, one of the most hypocritical tropes in Zionist discourse is the taboo on Zionist-Nazi comparisons and otoh the insistence on comparing their actions favorably to other 20th century population transfers, but only including those committed by the Allied powers. This is an implicit admission that the Haganah committed actions similar to Germany under the Third Reich, since population transfer was the raison d’etre for the invasion of Eastern Europe.

            Reply to Comment
          • goldmarx

            Andrew, the population transfers organized by the Nazis were intended to lead to wholesale extermination. That is why the analogy to those transfers is invalid.

            Reply to Comment
          • andrew r

            And in all cases, the intention was to get rid of the unwanted population. The methods by which the Haganah/IDF accomplished population transfer were already a crime in international law by 1948 under the 1899 Hague Regulations, namely–

            Art. 23. Besides the prohibitions provided by special Conventions, it is especially prohibited (g) To destroy or seize the enemy’s property, unless such destruction or seizure be imperatively demanded by the necessities of war.

            Art. 25. The attack or bombardment of towns, villages, habitations or buildings which are not defended, is prohibited.

            Art. 28. The pillage of a town or place, even when taken by assault is prohibited

            Art. 23(g) was of course violated by the demolishing of towns after occupation. Regardless of how you stretch the definition of ‘imperatively demanded’, nearly all Palestinian villages had nothing that could constitute a military base. Even though Plan Dalet justified destroying the villages so they couldn’t be used by irregulars, there was no discrimination in favor of villagers who fled, but were not targeted directly by Haganah, when they appealed to return. This indicates the Zionists turned the ‘necessities of war’ on its head by making civilian towns the military target and not strictly the irregular forces.

            25 was of course violated by Haganah shelling of places including but not limited to Haifa, Acre, Beisan, Tiberias, Jerusalem neighborhoods Qatamon and Sheikh Jarrah, and Irgun shelling of Jaffa. 28 was violated by what I already mentioned as the transfer of land ownership to the Israeli govt.

            Even if the Allies didn’t put themselves and the Zionists on trial, that doesn’t mean we have to take their own rationale at face value. We certainly don’t have the excuse of ‘it was war’ to work with.

            Reply to Comment
        • goldmarx

          Piotr: “why the latter were subjected to massive dispossession as “present absentees” and put under military rule?”

          Because, in contradiction to Israel’s Declaration of Independence, Ben Gurion and his cronies favored state Zionism over democratic Zionism. State Zionism discriminates on behalf of Jews in all matters Israeli, and that is what I oppose.

          Reply to Comment
        • mcohen

          piotr

          i have always wondered why some arabs fled the country while others stayed behind especially in the light of accusations made against israelis of ethnic cleansing,israel is a small country yet many arabs remained behind and became israeli citizens.

          Reply to Comment
      • andrew r

        My earlier comment may have been eaten, so here’s a rewrite.

        But that does not change the fact that the Allies and the Israelis were on the right side of history.

        Regardless of the strategic importance of notorious Allied warcrimes, there was no material gain to be had from them. Stalin did not reciprocate the National Socialist intentions for the USSR in East Germany.

        The Provisional Govt. of Israel duly looted the immovable property of the dispossessed Palestinians and transferred it to the relevant bodies through a maze of legislation and military orders. It had been official Zionist policy since 1908 to make Palestine a demographically Jewish territory through mass immigration, and both Herzl and Ruppin proposed similar aborted schemes for transferring fellahin out of the desired Jewish colony by securing plots of land for them in other parts of the Ottoman empire (Look up the Jewish-Ottoman Land Company). The intentions of the Zionist movement should not be obscured by portraying it as a hapless party to an ethnic conflict.

        Reply to Comment
        • Are you serious? The looting the Soviet did in Eastern Germany (and in the territories occupied from Germany) was enormous. As I said, concerning the norms of the time, Israel was a positive exception also in that regard. Certainly, it was not worse than others.

          Reply to Comment
          • andrew r

            That would’ve been an amazing response had I asserted there was no looting by the Allied troops. However, the warcrimes by the Haganah were necessary to the creation of the Israeli state itself. Zionism at the turn of the century was no worse than other colonial movements, that just happens to make it rotten enough.

            Reply to Comment
          • goldmarx

            One could argue that the war crimes committed by the Soviet troops (mass rape of German women) were necessary to expand Stalin’s domination of eastern Europe and setting up the Iron Curtain.

            And there are those, such as Gar Alperovitz, who argue that the nuking of Japan was a war crime designed by the US as a warning shot to the USSR that it has serious imperial designs as well.

            Reply to Comment
      • Joel

        @Goldmarx

        “Just as the Allies committed war crimes..so did the Israeli army during its War of Liberation (ex: the massacre at Lydda)”.

        No massacre at Lydda.

        See, ‘Myths and Historiography of the 1948 Palestine War Revisited: The Case of Lydda: Alon Kadish and Avraham SelaSource: Middle East Journal, Vol. 59, No. 4 (Autumn, 2005), pp. 617-634.

        Reply to Comment
    2. It’s unsurprising that Zochrot’s discussion of a one-state outcome is characterised as Palestinians wanting to ethnically cleanse Jews from Palestine, as Danny Orbach fought to prevent a conference on the one-state solution from being held at Harvard on the grounds that one state is an anti-Semitic codeword for destruction. Such sloppy disingenuous conflations make it difficult to take seriously his plea for critical thought on RoR, especially when his idea of critical thinking involves brushing off a state-sponsored campaign of expulsion that continued even after Israel was established (Palestinians were still being deported in 1950) as ‘surprisingly restrained’…while giving far greater weight to a disputed quotation from Abdul-Rahman Azzam, treating it as a solid admission that ‘the Arabs’ were planning genocide. So the systematic expulsion or internal displacement of civilians, the confiscation and destruction of property, the massacres, and the immediate imposition of ethnic-based martial law – all things that happened – represent restraint, while a quotation that has been misattributed for decades and whose single solitary source is hearsay published in an obscure newspaper is an open admission of a united Arab plot to exterminate Jews. This whole article privileges speculation about what might have happened above discussion of what actually did occur, using the former to justify the latter. There is nothing critical or scholarly about this obfuscation.

      “Indeed, just as no true peace can be realized before Israel gives up the folly of the occupation and settlements…”

      So presumably refugees expelled in 1967 will be granted RoR? And if yes, how are they any different from the refugees of 1948 – or, for that matter, those who were expelled after the creation of the state? The argument seems to be that the Nakba happened long ago and that neighbouring states need to absorb its grandchildren, instead of feeding them ‘disastrous, futile fantasies’ of return after seventy years. The irony here is that political Zionist thought is overshadowed by a dream of return that is considerably older than seven decades. Palestinians are expected, demanded even, to respect the sacralised dream of return after thousands of years – as well as the experiences of victimisation that strengthened it. But when it comes to their own connection to the land and to their community, well, that’s just the product of UNRWA’s ministrations, the behaviour of Arab states, and the tutelage of Paula Schmitt – these people can’t possibly have any real affinity, they’ve been gone for too long, they should stop whining about bad stuff that happened. As for the absence of any meaningful restitution, if they bring that up we will just mention those Arab Jews who lost property and possessions, as though the residents of Shatila have got their belongings stashed in a basement somewhere.

      At the heart of these arguments is the unspoken but pervasive assumption that one Arab is identical to another. A quotation of dubious provenance can be taken as indicative of what ‘the Arabs’ thought and what they would have done, with no further analysis necessary, because one Arab said it and that’s enough to know what they all think, and they’re all violent. A Palestinian refugee cannot ask for restitution when a Yemeni Jew made aliyah because his life was at risk; the fact that she’s Arab is enough to make her bear responsibility for persecutions a thousand miles south and to exonerate Israel of all responsibility for having orchestrated her expulsion. And a woman from Salfit could just as easily live in Salt in Jordan, because Salt is Arab and Salfit is Arab and they’re all the same.

      Regarding refugees in Europe, despite the massive scale of the displacement that occurred in World War 2 there were still efforts to facilitate a return home for people who wished it. Voluntary repatriation was actually the preferred solution. Orbach doesn’t mention this, or the fact that UNRWA was established primarily as a provider of humanitarian aid at a time when there was no international umbrella organisation for refugees. Its political remit is actually more limited than UNHCR’s; it was never designed to give Palestinian refugees special snowflake status. Among all the refugees and displaced persons of the 1940s, Palestinians are only ‘special’ because there never has been any effort at repatriation at all.

      Seventy years after World War 2, the open borders of the EU make travel and resettlement very easy for the descendants of displaced people who want to move back or at least learn more about their origin. The option to visit is often enough for people who have grown up with family legacies of displacement. Palestinian refugees don’t even have that. Given their lack of power, it seems odd that an article about their opinions would have agitated Orbach enough for him to feel the need to provide this little corrective, which is nothing more than a rehash of the usual arguments against RoR. It’s a step down from campaigning to suppress Ivy League conferences that commit the grave crime of ‘pushing the notion that the two-state solution is obsolete’, as he put it.

      Reply to Comment
      • Vicki, the quote of Azzam is no longer disputed. It was found in Akhbar Al-Yaum, whose reporter interviewed Azzam in October 11, 1947. There are numerous other, similar quotes, certainly about ethnic cleansing. And yes, in a war (and generally) people do suffer because of mistakes done by their leaders. This may be unpleasant, but this is the reality of the world. In any case, my point was that the Nakba was a violent, defensive reaction to threats of extermination and/or ethnic cleansing. And there are ample evidence to prove that beside Azzam’s quote.

        Really? Efforts to return home in Europe? What are you speaking about? Until the 1980s, Germans were not even allowed to visit their old towns in Poland, some of which belonged to Germany for centuries. And after a peace agreement will be reached and the fantasy of return abandoned – I am not adverse of giving Palestinians the right to visit Israel as well.

        Want examples for ethnic cleansing statements in Zochrot’s anthology? Here you go.

        “כל זה שייך לפלסטינים”, אומר סאלח, “אם הם יחליטו שהם לא יישארו, אז כל משפחה תצטרך לחזור לארץ שממנה באה במקור”

        Translation: “all of this belongs to the Palestinians,” says Saleh [when he sees ‘racist settlements’ along the way], if they decide that they [the Israeli Jews] will not stay, then every family will have to return to its land of origins.”

        Reply to Comment
        • Danny, you haven’t dealt with the points I raised: namely that you’re giving greater weight and significance to one quotation from an obscure newspaper that was misattributed for years, using it as proof positive that a genocide was sure to have occurred, than you are to actual happenings (such as the deportations from Majdal in 1950), which were ‘surprisingly restrained’ and reveal Israel to be some kind of moral outlier. I know that the quotation was eventually run to earth in Akhbar al-Yaum, but the sheer effort that it took to find the quotation in an obscure publication that was never famous for its journalistic quality, its credibility, or its wide circulation – and the fact that it contradicts what was said in the major press – means that it hardly constitutes the ‘open definition’ that you try to frame it as. This is why you’re forced to source it from a neocon site whose tagline is ‘Promoting American interests’ and that pals around with Campus Watch, because that analysis wouldn’t pass muster elsewhere, irrespective of the politics of the historian. It’s speculative counterfactual history at its worst muddied with extremely shoddy attention to sources.

          Have you read Zochrot’s anthology? You’re pulling a quotation from the Ha’aretz article to which you linked and giving it the same treatment as you gave Azzam: one refugee said it, this is what refugees think. I could provide a hundred and one refugee perspectives from the refugee camps in Bethlehem area – and even from young women in Shatila, who have never seen an Israeli and whose families have been through hell on earth – that, while cautious, are compassionate and above all curious, and don’t feature a desire for anyone to leave. But all this would count for nothing, because rather than looking for a holistic picture, you’re cherry-picking snippets that make refugees out to be hell-bent on ethnic cleansing (and then magically imbuing them with the power to commit such cleansing) in order to justify denial of their rights, even while the Israeli government continues to commit actual displacement. Once again, a shaky hypothetical is used to cancel out actual needs and actual problems.

          A more sensible approach would be to look at the circumstances that shape individual perspectives on coexistence. I have a good friend in Gaza who had her ‘fantasies’ once – sincere beliefs that Israelis must be well-off, that they all have second passports and homes elsewhere. She asked me when my partner immigrated. Born here. His parents? Born here too. She didn’t know what to make of that. His grandparents? One born here, three born in three separate countries, behind borders that have now changed. It took time and a harrowing visit to Green Line territory for her to develop a full perspective on contemporary Israeli life. Her misunderstandings were hothoused by severe isolation during which her only contact with Israelis was with soldiers who entered her house when she was seven, along with abuses inflicted on Gaza’s population. Basic rights (e.g. the right to move around) are a prerequisite for understanding other people, but refugees are to be denied these rights until they can demonstrate enough tractability to satisfy a government that is busily conducting winter home demolitions in the Jordan Valley, with its army confiscating residents’ tents (the Red Cross has suspended its delivery program due to this snag). But it is refugee attitudes that are the problem?

          “Schmitt herself wrote, more often than not, their answers included the end of Israel. Even the sentence you quoted implies full and unconditional acceptance of the Palestinians’ narrative and demands.”

          If Scotland declares independence it could mean the end of the United Kingdom. The referendum is threatening the UK’s ‘right to exist’. But states don’t have rights, people do, and so the question here isn’t how to balance one national narrative against another to group satisfaction, it’s about how best to meet those rights. Can the rights of all be safeguarded in a state that explicitly defines itself as Jewish? Refugees aren’t the only people to say no; as Ahmad Tibi put it, “Israel is democratic for Jews and Jewish for Arabs.” Internally displaced citizens of Israel have fought for decades for the right to return to (or at least receive compensation for) their original homes without success, while Jewish immigration from a thousand miles away is facilitated easily. No matter how sincere your desire to live as a privileged member of an ethnocracy might be, it can’t come at this price. It takes quite a dizzying level of chutzpah to ask a dispossessed community to respect that desire while implying that they’re violent if they don’t.

          As for the plight of German refugees from Eastern Europe, particularly Poland, out of the sea of displaced people swilling about Europe in the aftermath of WW2 they were the only group where voluntary repatriation wasn’t on the table. If the thoughts of an Arab leader quoted in an obscure paper make it legitimate to deny RoR, the Nazi regime’s mass slaughter certainly make this decision unsurprising. But a few decades on, easy travel between Germany and Poland is possible. So is moving house. About thirty years ago the Czech government apologised and requested the forgiveness of expelled Germans and their descendants, an admission of wrongdoing that the Israeli government has never shown the slightest sign of giving. In invoking expelled Germans as support for your stance that Palestinians cannot claim return or restitution, you are also invoking government remorse and the classification of the German refugees as victims of human rights abuses by the first UN Commissioner for Human Rights. And this leads me to another question. In your article you treat the Nakba as small potatoes compared to what was happening elsewhere. So, if an open border can exist between these countries even after such atrocities, with nationals of one having the automatic right to live and work indefinitely in the other, why is RoR to be written off as impossibility, a guaranteed precursor to violence? In calling for an end to ‘the folly of the occupation and the settlements’ (without answering what this means for ’67 refugees) you’re also demanding the dismantling of the current political system, as occupation is shot right through the weft. My suggesting the implementation of a gradual program of restitution and return for refugees, commencing in the West Bank with a structured program of visits and paired with an education/rehabilitation program is no more radical a political transformation than demanding self-determination for Palestinians in the OT. The risk here is not physical threat but a threat to a treasured national mythos in which ‘they’ are all violent and THIS IS SPAR – Masada, which explains the heavy fixation on narrative.

          Reply to Comment
          • Vicky,

            For good order, I’ll answer your points one by one:

            1. The quote from Azzam is not misattributed. It was published as an interview, and in any case – it is identical to many other quotes, including those of Haj Amin Al Khuseini, the pronounced leader of the Palestinians in 1948 (I’m pointing you to the books by Benny Morris and Hillel Cohen, as well as to Khalil Sakakini’s diary). They were not random people, but leaders of their nations. You can find similar quotes everywhere, from many Palestinian and Arab leaders at the time, as well as in German sources.

            2. You consistently ignore the substance of my argument. I did not argue that all refugees demand outright expulsion of Jews from Palestine, though Schmitt’s article and Zochrot’s anthology points out that quite a few of them do. The main issue, that you ignore again and again, is that even those who are allegedly ready to “live together” condition it in unconditional surrender of Israeli Jews. By unconditional surrender, I mean full acceptance of the Palestinian narrative, dismantling of Israel as a state and undoing of Israeli national self-determination. You can see it in Zochrot’s anthology, in the grovelling characters of Chaim and the “white woman” in Jaffa, who is offering herself as a servent/slave to the Palestinian woman Faten.

            3. Political transformation of such magnitude, especially when one side demands unconditional surrender of the other’s narrative, ideology and identity, rarely happens in history without serious bloodshed, often ethnic cleaning or vicious civil war. Sometimes even a genocide. I want to avoid that at all costs. No one wants the nightmare of 1948 to repeat itself, least of all me.

            4. Middle Eastern precedents support this argument. Look what happens in multi-ethnic countries in the Middle East: Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, even with the Coptic minority in Egypt. Now add to that the bloody history of Israelis and Palestinians, and the utter difference in historical narratives, mix with memories of the violent past, and… what would you get? I guess you’ll forgive me that I don’t want to try a scheme that virtually failed everywhere in the MS, and in many other places around the world on my compatriots. The right of return, therefore, in all likelihood, will harbor a political impasse and then a civil war. No thank you.

            5. Therefore, two national states- one Jewish, one Palestinian, would be the best solution for both sides. Your argument that the end of the occupation equals the end of Israel is weird to say the least. The issue here is Jewish self-determination in a national state of a Zionist character. That does not preclude the existence of minorities, of course, and can easily happen in the 1967 borders. But just like the Palestinian constitution in making, heralding a country with a distinct Arab identity , and Islam as a formal religion, we will keep our unique national identity intact.

            6. From all of the reasons stated above, our national self-determination and the Jewish-Zionist character of our state is not subject to any negotiations – it is a given. Returned refugees, by their own admissions, will never accept it. Israeli Jews, at least the vast majority of them, will never give it up. Therefore, a violent clash is inevitable.

            7. Your analysis of Europe shows, unfortunately, ignorance with both regions – Europe and the Middle East. In no place that I know were refugees allowed to return en masse. It did not happen with the Germans, the Japanese, the Ukrainians, the Poles, the Turkish or the Greeks. Nor did it happen, for example, with the Chinese in Vietnam. In Cyprus, the European court of human rights had even rejected such demands. Of course, in a scenario of a two states solution and decades after an Israeli Palestinian reconciliation, I will be very glad to have open borders as well. Maybe, one day a Middle Eastern EU will be established. I’d love to have close cooperation with both the Palestinians and other Arabs. But we’re still not there.

            8. As for the 1967 refugees, of course they’ll have full rights to return to an independent Palestinian state. What’s the question? This is just the solution I am fighting for.

            9. I am not against visits of refugees in Israel, with two conditions. This has to be after, not before a peace agreement, and not as part of any “right of return” scheme.

            10. As for MK Ahmad Tibi, I esteem his honesty and courage, notwithstanding our political differences. Ask him, and he will tell you how I publicly defended him from right-wing libel, though they threatened to sue me in millions. I am completely with him in the struggle for Arab equality in Israel in budget, opportunities, employment and everything else. But my opinion that does not preclude, but rather strengthens, the Jewish-Zionist character of our state. Read Herzl’s Altneuland and you’ll understand.

            Reply to Comment
          • Windows 8 does not like me, so this may be a partial repeat; if so, I am sorry. But I had to rewrite part of this so I paid too.

            This exchange between Danny and Vicky is at one of the higher levels I’ve seen on 972. I think it hopeless to say who is right where, as I think history has become as much a hindrance as help. All I’ll say are my usual points:

            1. RoR is socio-economically unsupportable. The Israeli economy could not sustain such and remain what it is today. And it is true that Arab “host” countries have actively prevented integration of refugees into their own. Moreover, UNRWA has indeed privileged the refugees through its very mandate; but that mandate comes, conceptually, of UN 181’s failure–only half of the partition was successful, so what to do with the other half (using “half” very losly here). Given the refugee’s enforced political limbo, UNRWA became life support. But it is also fantasy to advocate refugee return into a newly formed Palestinian State. That State would be quite undeveloped politically, socially, and economically; to force refugees into their new Paradise would be disastrous for the infant country as well, I suspect, for Israel. Leaving Gaza aside, these refugees are no ones, and Danny makes a rare slip for suggesting their return to infant Palestine. No one wants to say it, but they are lost.

            2. Vicky is right that the Zionist reason for Jewish return is rather weaker than the the Palestinian reason for return. Expelled centuries ago does not trump 50 or so years ago; nor does pogram after pogram or mini-Holocaust unto pure Holocaust provide moral warrant for the expulsion of present residents in Palestine, which now means the tiny West Bank–unless I say “Judea and Samaria” which seems to reinvent Palestine unto the East Bank.

            3. Present residents, not past residents. Israel was created through winning its quasi civil war, and to rail against it is, in a favorite phrase, to yell against the sun. The question is not how Israel came to be or what it was, but what it will be. But there is an intersection between was and will be: the ingathering of the exhiles guaranteed by the Israeli Declaration of Independence. This, along with State protection of the ingathered, is core Israel and ever Zionist. The question of what Israel will be is, however, also contingent on what the ingathering does to present residents, both Israeli citizens and Palestinian prior residents, this last now limited to the tiny enclave of the West Bank (unless I say Judea and Samaria in which case things get even tinier; I leave Gaza aside as well,as has everyone else, it seems).

            4. Your Declaration holds the answer for present Israeli citizens: equality in social and political rights–a rather remarkable statement for 1949. The ingathering cannot curtail, in any form full social and political rights for Arab Israelis. Here Zionism ends as usually applied. The Declaration is both Zionist and post-Zionist; indeed, it envisions the two enduring together. To do this you will need an independent High Court with real judicial review and an abandonment of Knesset Supremacy. Although the Court is showing signs of such independence, the struggle is far from certain.

            5. The West Bank is the rub. The settlements have created a vibrant culture of annexation, feeding directly into the present ruling coalition. As it stands, a true Palestinian State seems unreachable. Instead, you have the ingathering usurping land, water, and agriculture, as well as denying what little liberty might be had, and I see nothing to stop slouching towards Greater Israel in the name of Security. And, quite frankly, here you have a slow motion replay, with less overt violence, yes, of Nakba. While Danny defends Two States, One State prays forward. And that will ultimately cause a great Zionist crisis, for the prior residents will, largely, not go away, nor, I think, will not be absorbed into the True Palestine presently misnamed Jordan.

            6. One State is not a final solution expelling Jews into the sea but a consequence of not controlling the logic of ingathering. I understand how it happened, from 67 onward; but here you now are. I think the national right with its settler coalition is winning, nay, has won. You can prevent all the One State conferences you like, but One State comes. Indeed, conferencing Two States is a diversion tactic. At best you can go for Two States in One State (great, isn’t it!); but even that is obscured through talk of Two States and warning of the horror of One State. Vicky, rather more vehement than I can recall elsewhere, is, in my view, not advocating One State for all as such, but warning of the One State coming, which, from what we have seen of the occupation so far, shall not be pleasant.

            7. You have the ingathering (which I consider a fantasy that did come true–humans can do that every once in a great while). Without the post-Zionist promise of equality of social and political rights, you risk losing your Zionism; or, rather, becoming something (even more) unpleasant.

            8. Giving the security issue of the Jordan Valley, I see only Two States in One State (great how things combine!) as a fall back. But this will require an end of the final agreement Two State talk(s) and a realization that economic development, and economic courts, will be needed to integrate the quasi-independent Two States. The Palestinians will have to give up much fantasy. The settlers will have to as well. And the rule of law, with an independent High Court reviewing the equality of rights as applied, must evolve.

            9. So dealing with your internal issues, Arab citizens (shall we hand some of them over to the never to be Palestinian State as your Foreign Minister suggests? Strong concept of constitutional citizenship in that)and African refugees (shall the Knesset just override High Court decision by pretending that MK’s have the subtlety of Talmud?).

            10. Stop arguing with yourselves, what’s left of the left. See that the national right has walked far past you. And do something about it.

            Reply to Comment
          • Ten million European refugees were repatriated to their countries of origin after WWII. I wasn’t quite right when I wrote that voluntary repatriation was the preferred option; until the establishment of UNRWA, which opened up other possibilities for refugees, repatriation – voluntary or otherwise – was the only option that the UN had any mandate to promote. Displaced Germans (many of whom were forcibly transferred in the belief that peace could only be safeguarded through ethnic homogeneity and a conviction that the war had made coexistence impossible) weren’t even accorded refugee status. In order to make your case, you aren’t comparing the Nakba’s refugees with displaced persons who held the same refugee status – you’re comparing them to a group that didn’t have that status in an effort to make it appear as though RoR is some Palestinian privilege. Your argument essentially becomes, “There was a population transfer in Europe too, so why was ours such a big deal?”

            Supporters of that transfer argued that it was necessitated by the Nazi slaughter of millions of people, while the only justification you provide is a bricolage of quotations that you piece together to try and demonstrate that Palestinians had a.) intention and b.) capability to commit slaughter. This brings us back to the misattribution of the Azzam quotation. You’re missing the point I’m making. It *was* misattributed for decades; even the CampusWatch affiliate that you link to mentions this. However, they are satisfied that it was eventually run to earth in Akhbar al-Yawm, without pausing to consider that had this been the policy of the Arab League, it wouldn’t have been necessary to conduct a forensic search through the back issues of a newish Egyptian weekly in order to find the evidence. Akhbar al-Yawm in the 1940s was hostile to the League, unwaveringly loyal to the Egyptian monarchy, and took the quaint editorial line that Palestine ought to be a province of Egypt, which means that it cannot be read as a solid blueprint for Arab League policy. The nature of a source matters. Pointing to al-Husayni’s contacts with Hitler doesn’t lend any extra weight to the idea that there was a strategy of extermination afoot either, largely because of the factionalism that existed in Palestinian society at this time. Hillel Cohen argues that while there were two main political positions in Palestinian society – to resist or to collaborate – undercutting and sometimes conflicting with these were various familial and sectarian interests. (I’ve never seen him advance the idea of a planned extermination anywhere and it seems to contradict what I’ve read of his work.) The same factionalism is vividly illustrated in minute detail throughout Sakakini’s diaries. Incidentally, his politics were rooted in the conviction that Zionism was a colonial movement and a grave immediate threat to Palestinian livelihood – and by your logic, all he would need to do is pluck out a few sinister quotations from Zionist writings here and there to demonstrate risk and to justify an ethnic cleansing of Jews! Taking a more rigorous approach to the source material, there is no evidence for a plan of extermination or the capability to carry it out.

            The idea that the Nakba was some regrettable security measure is contradicted by the expulsions after the state’s creation and internal displacements. A few years ago I interviewed refugees from the destroyed village of Al-Bassa (all of them former soldiers of the British army, hardly cheering fanboys of Hitler). Some of them ended up in camps in the Lebanon; others sneaked back across the border, settling in other Galilean villages. Like other ‘present absentees’ they had their property confiscated and weren’t permitted to return to their homes. So the displaced residents of Ayn Hawd are a security threat if left in Ayn Hawd, but not when they’re removed from their houses and pushed into tents a short distance away? The inhabitants of Majdal, who were being loaded onto trucks and deported to Gaza in 1950, might have leapt up and exterminated the Jewish population if permitted to remain? Communities that had signed non-aggression pacts were depopulated. Villagers who had no arms and put up no fight were ordered out of their homes. Look at the events that made up the Nakba and it becomes impossible to square each event with the idea of security; the pattern that emerges is dispossession, which is woven seamlessly into the ’67 occupation. The Umm al-Khair community was expelled from the Negev in the Nakba; now they are subjected to land confiscation orders, repeated home demolitions, and a government plan to forcibly transfer all 27000 Bedouin from Area C to Area A. It’s all of a piece with what they experienced seventy years ago (and occupation supporters would be very quick to produce a few snippets from Islamic Jihad leaders as a security rationale for displacing these people and not retreating to ‘Auschwitz borders’, which is why I asked you the question about ’67 RoR – your beliefs about the ’48 refugees are no different from what many occupation proponents believe about Palestinians generally). The military law that is enacted in the Territories was forced on Palestinian citizens of Israel first. Yet you talk as though the occupation is like a handbag that ruins Israel’s Jewish nature, to be put down at will, as though the same policies haven’t been a core part of the state from its inception. You deny return to the refugees for fear that they cherish humiliating fantasies about having Jewish servants, ignoring the daily humiliations that were and are still inflicted on Palestinians by the state; and then you talk about fighting for equality for all within the state, as though this can be achieved once the closet (i.e. Lebanon) is sealed shut with the skeletons safely inside.

            If given RoR, those skeletons wouldn’t come rushing across Allenby Bridge in their millions. All research to date suggests that practical update would actually be small. This is another reason why I don’t see it as a political transition of any greater magnitude than the dismantling of settlements that would come with the end of the 1967 occupation, and certainly no more likely to cause bloodshed. For people who oppose RoR, the problem does not seem to be the number of skeletons, but the fact that there are any at all: they ruin the narrative of national innocence and they inspire the fear that they might re-enact what was done to them. This is clear in your own writing.

            I am sure you have defended Ahmad Tibi to right-wingers, but as I first came across your name in connection with your attempt to suppress an academic conference (shoulder to shoulder with people who probably wouldn’t be too sorry if Tibi dropped down dead), I am sceptical about how you define these rights that you fight for.

            Reply to Comment
          • Vicki,

            1. You are avoiding the question with a smock screen of half truths. Not only the Germans were deported, and never returned, before and after WWII. What about the Japanese, the Poles, the Ukrainians, the Indians, the Pakistanis, the Turkish, the Greeks, and most important for our case, the Egyptian and Iraqi Jews? I repeat what I said: the standard at this time was ethnic cleansing. And by that measure, Israel was a positive example, as it did let many to remain. I don’t care about international lawyers and all sort of conventions. I care about the reality on the ground. And it cannot be accepted that Israel is singled-out and expected to obey ideal standards more than other nations.

            2. About the Azzam quote – you ignore the most important issue. It was not the only quote – I refer you to Haj Amin al-Husseini and what *he* said. I also refer you to what the Palestinians actually did to Jews in Hebron in 1929, most of them non-Zionists. So half a decade after the Holocaust, with Palestinian and Arab leaders promising extermination – would you blame the Jews that they believed it and felt, at least, threatened by extermination? And people who are threatened, or feel threatened enough, behave accordingly. That’s an iron law of human behavior.

            3. And you also ignore the Palestinian plan to ethnically cleanse the Jews, which was much more pronounced than the threats of extermination.

            4. Your argument that the Palestinians only spoke and the Israelis did is a logical fallacy. The Palestinian didn’t ethnically cleanse the Jews because they lost the war, not because they didn’t want to do it. Of course, not every Palestinian citizen was to blame. But in real wars, far away from the la-la-land of the radical left and its international lawyers, innocent people pay the price for the mistake of their leaders. I’m sorry, but that’s how it is.

            5. 1948, by all means, was a zero-sum game. All or nothing for both sides. I abhor zero-sums games, just as I abhor wars. I want to prevent them as much as I can. But if I find myself in a zero-sum game, I’ll fight to the end. The Zionists, as you know well, agreed to a compromise, though the Jewish state as decreed in the UN resolution was on the verge of being non-viable. The Palestinians, by contrast, did not only reject the partition resolution – they rejected also the minority report of the UN commission, along with any prospect of bi-nationality and even Jewish autonomy inside an Arab state. That also strengthened the perception that the Jews are fighting for their national, if not physical existence. The Nakba has to understood in this context. And yes, Israel continued to feel in existential threats also after 1948, as it was surrounded by hostile states which did not recognized its very existence. Add to the Fedayun, and you’ll understand, at least, the historical context of the time.

            6. As I said (and proved) before, Israel was relatively restrained, because in almost all other civil wars, state partitions and ethnic conflicts, the percentage and number of civilian casualties was much higher. Read Benny Morris’ 1948, both about that and about the ethnic cleansing intentions of the Palestinian side.

            7. You mentioned several examples of Israeli outrages (expelling villages who cooperated, the 1950 expulsion from Ashkelon) and so forth. These are, unfortunately, true examples. Wars are never clean, and never fought by the book. Civil wars much less so. Was it possible, from our side, to behave better? Certainly. Are there things I regret, or ashamed at? Certainly so. Would I, personally, reinstate villagers such as Ikrit and Bir’am? As far as I’m concerned, tomorrow. And if you take a look at my writing, you see I did study affairs which are very uncomfortable for Israel, such as the Kafr-Qasim massacre (look at the link beneath the article). I do not argue that we were angles. But I do argue we are not demons, and relatively to other nations in similar situations, we are indeed a positive outlier. Certainly in comparison to the Arab states, and what they did to our fellows Jews.

            8. About the return of the refugees – sorry, I don’t trust such estimations. The declared attentions of too many refugees is outright hostile. And another point you consistently ignore: multi-ethnic countries do not work in the MS. Why would we want to imitate the failing models of Lebanon, Syria and Iraq? It’s hard enough for Jews and Arabs to get along in Israel as it is. More refugees from the outside might be a trigger for bloodshed. Why do you believe that in Israel-Palestine, with all of the hot blood and terrible memories, things would work better than anywhere else in the MS is truly beyond me.

            9. The one state conference in Harvard was not an “academic conference”. Vicki, I am a professional historian. I’ve been in countless academic conferences, and spoke in many. I know how an academic conference should look like. And to tell you the truth, I’ve been in conference on Israel-Palestine, where they were serious pro-Palestinian historians. I had absolutely no problem with that. The problem with the one state conference is that its nature was that of a propaganda event, not an academic event. And I do not think that a respectable institution like Harvard University should sponsor an event featuring the likes of Ali Abu Nimah – certainly not a scholar – and people like Ilan Pappe who gave their support to academic forgeries. How should I tell my students not to forge evidence and not to plagiarize, when my university gives a stage to someone like Pappe who supported the forgeries of Teddy Katz, and distorted evidence countless times in his books? In addition, I don’t believe that calling to destroy a sovereign state, and a member of the UN, is a legitimate thing to do. And still, had it been a serious, well-balanced academic conference, I wouldn’t have said a thing.

            9. I supported Ahmad Tibi not because I agree with all of his opinions, but because he was wronged by dubious reportage in Palestinian Media Watch. And my conception of truth and justice is to defend my fellow citizens, when they are wronged, regardless of religion and ethnicity.

            Reply to Comment
      • Tony Riley

        So why did so many of those interviewed mention their desire to get rid of all of the Jews in Israel? Is that acceptable to you? You have to understand that any person who moves to Israel will have to become an Israeli citizen, pledge allegiance to the state and agree to live peacefully.

        Reply to Comment
        • Those interviewed said exactly the opposite. From Schmitt’s article: “Almost everyone, with one single clear exception, agreed that if Israel stopped ‘occupying our land, killing and humiliating our people, stealing our water, and respected our rights, we could live in peace. Perhaps even together.'” In Orbach’s article this is turned on its head because he translates support for one state as a desire to commit wholesale ethnic cleansing. This is a fantastical leap of logic at best.

          The refugees have never expelled anyone. Their children are not conscripted at the age of eighteen into an occupying military. Yet it is they who have to demonstrate their willingness to ‘live in peace’ to the satisfaction of the most militarily powerful country in the Middle East, which continues to demolish Palestinian homes and draw up blueprints for the forcible transfer of entire communities even now. Somehow it is seen as quite natural that it is refugees who need to demonstrate their peaceable intentions even as bulldozers roll into Walajeh. This is where the Israeli state makes the same false conflation as Orbach: a willingness to live in peace is defined as a willingness to accept Israel as a Jewish state – in other words, as an ethnocracy in which Palestinians (even those who have citizenship) are automatically second-class. Refusal to accept such a status is not the same as a desire to ‘get rid of all the Jews’.

          Reply to Comment
          • Vicki, critical reading is all about mining the facts from the midst of empty rhetoric. Schmitt herself wrote, “more often than not, their answers included the end of Israel.” Even the sentence you quoted implies full and unconditional acceptance of the Palestinians’ narrative and demands. Israelis are unlikely to accept both without reservations. Even I won’t do it, and I am far left from the Israeli political center. What about citizens who currently support the right? What about religious Israelis? And as long these refugees condition their readiness to live in peace and *maybe* “together” in full acceptance of their narrative and demands, that wouldn’t really work. Probably, the result would be an ethnic conflict Bosnia-style, if not worse.

            Now, even if you think (as you probably do) that it is perfectly fine to destroy Israel as a state, you must realize that most Israelis don’t share your opinion. Therefore, if the refugees come back with such intentions, bloodshed is unavoidable.

            In any case, historically speaking, there are very few examples of large-scale destruction of political systems, especially ones supported by most of their citizens, without large scale bloodshed. Why do you think it would be different in Palestine with its violent history? Why so, when multi-ethnic countries drown in blood all over the Middle East? Maybe you’ll mention South Africa, the founding myth of the new radical left. Oh well, let’s see if you do.

            Reply to Comment
          • The Trespasser

            “Almost everyone, with one single clear exception, agreed that if Israel stopped ‘occupying our land, killing and humiliating our people, stealing our water, and respected our rights, we could live in peace. Perhaps even together.”

            What they are offering is, basically, that Jews unconditionally surrender control of entire Palestine “from the river to the sea” in hopes for some peace. Perhaps.

            I’m afraid that in the light of well known… regional, so to say, hospitality, ex. Syria, Egypt, Lebanon, Gaza, Iraq, etc., we’ll have to reject this generous offer for now. In a century or two, perhaps.

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          • “We’ll have to reject this generous offer for now. In a century or two, perhaps.”

            So says the fellow with the Palestinian girlfriend from Ramallah who, for reasons best known to herself, plans to marry you. Unless you can rustle up a bit more confidence in humanity than this the wedding might as well be conducted by the Chevra Kadisha by the time you get round to holding it. You’ll be 104 and in bath chairs. No wonder she complains about your trust issues.

            P.S. Your cognitive dissonance is getting painful to watch. I am going to have to do something to help. I have decided. This is the last straw. It will be a more practical contribution to peace than trawling through Levantine newspaper archives and arguing their contents, and possibly with comedy attached.

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          • directrob

            The moderator should probably very quickly delete the two previous mails.

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          • The Trespasser

            >So says the fellow…

            So says the fellow who else to see, let alone take part, no matter on what side; one should learn and
            I shall not elaborate any further.

            >Unless you can rustle up a bit more confidence in humanity than this.

            Humanity like in human kind? Nah, these are hopeless.

            >trust issues.

            Not only me tho. Beauty of the Middle East. Ask Bibi.

            >Your cognitive dissonance

            No dissonance. Palestinian Arab refugees who are unlucky enough to live in Lebanon and elsewhere would never be allowed back inside Palestine, unless, of course, some kind of an Overwhelming Peace Agreement is written on Unicorn sk… I mean written on a parchment scroll and signed by Unicorns.

            >It will be a more practical contribution to peace…
            A more practical contribution to peace would be travelling to Gaza strip and persuading Hamas to accept legitimacy of Israel. But I would not recommend you trying to do that. Even tho you are a Leftist.

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          • Vicky: neti, neti.

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      • Andrew Miller

        Excellent, excellent comment.

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      • Ted Damasco

        Your characterization of the situation in Europe after World War II is not correct. Some 10 million or so Germans were expelled from East-Central Europe, where they had lived for centuries, with no recourse for returning home. They became an influential bloc in post-war German politics and many politicians were happy to court their hopes and fears. Furthermore, treating the formation of the European Union and its attendant open borders as historical inevitability is a logical fallacy, and does little to ameliorate the specific anxieties surrounding RoR, which typically fails to advance past ‘feel goodism’ and a cheerfully peddled notion that history can be redeemed without the pesky intervention of ‘unintended consequences.’

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    3. Bill Kelsey

      Hasbarists really seem to love Haj Amin Husseini. What would you do without him?

      It is tempting to elaborate on his relative insignificance and dig up the numbers of Arabs who fought in French and British units against the Nazis. (The names on death memorials on Corsica are almost entirely Arab). But that would miss the point, which is that there is an unfortunate mindset in the world of Hasbara which thrives on proving that everyone, everywhere, all the time is out to kill the Jews, and no one, anywhere, at any time wants to be their friend. This is bad juju.

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      • Bill,

        I have nothing to do with Hasbara whatsoever. Not in the organizational sense, and not contentwise. I state my opinions, that’s all. If you follow my writing in English and especially in Hebrew, you may see that I criticize Israeli policy quite a lot, including Israeli behavior in the past. But let’s leave it aside for the moment. This all “Hasbara” line of accusations becomes increasingly similar to “I am rubber, you are glue.” Rather childish, I believe.

        The “insignificance” of the Mufti is an invention of modern day Palestinian historians, like Rashid Khalidi, who want to appeal to a liberal audience. That’s completely not in par with the evidence from that time. I recommend you, for example, to take a look at Hillel Cohen’s “Army of Shadows” – certainly not a pro-Israeli work – and examine the power of balance between the Husseinis and the opposition throughout the years. The Mufti and his relatives all but defeated the opposition in 1948. They controlled most national institutions, they were at the head of the Arab High Council and they represented the Palestinians in the Arab world and to outside forces.

        I refer you to the diary of Khalil Al-Sakakini, a Palestinian educator and certainly not a radical person, who referred to the Mufti as “our great and only leader” also after 1948.

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      • Kolumn9

        We would point to similar genocidal statements made by the other Arab leaders during the 1948 war, before it, and after it.

        One doesn’t need to get to:
        “proving that everyone, everywhere, all the time is out to kill the Jews, and no one, anywhere, at any time wants to be their friend”

        in order to point out that yes, there have been numerous episodes in history where there were very large numbers of people that were “trying to kill the Jews”, with that of the Arabs in the 1930s (and since) being only one of the latest episodes.

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    4. Jan Elshout

      “Fantasi of return”
      A 2004 British parliamentary investigation showed that practically no refugee wants to return physically. That is logic: they do not want to be victim of severe discrimination.
      However the RoR plays a very vital role in recognition of the injustice done to Pals.

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      • If recognition is the issue here, I am perfectly ready to establish a joint-committee of historians, half Israeli and half Palestinian, to discuss the contribution of each side to the tragedy of the Nakba. And I don’t mind apologizing, as long as the Palestinians apologize for their part, from the massacre of 1929, through the Mufti’s cooperation with the Nazis to their war of extermination against us in 1948.

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    5. martin sessler

      why:…….by radical-left Israeli organization “Zochrot,” also…..antiisraeli movements arn’t left. they are anti-israeli

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    6. Simcha

      Wow. I didn’t realize I had pulled up the op-ed page of Yisrael Hayom, wherein we justify the ethnic cleansing that was the foundational violence of Israel. This article’ implication that Palestinians (or is it all Arabs) are inherently anti-Semitic and defined by an irrational and endemic hatred is straight up racist. Apparently, if the last line of your article says you believe in a two-state solution, you can now say whatever drivel you want on +972mag.

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      • Simcha, I know that reality is harder than fantasy. Deal with the facts.

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    7. BOOZ

      I would be really eager to know once and for all what is Vicky’s (and one-staters in general) vision of the Jewish population rights in a single state:
      – Will Hebrew be one of the institutional languages of the country? In which language(s) shall the laws of the country be written? In which language(s) civil servants in public administrations shall have to relate to the citizens? In which language(s) courts shall hear and debate civil & criminal cases? Which will be the language(s) for private (commercial and so on) agreements so that they may be legally enforceable?
      – What will be the contents of history and/or literature programs in high schools? When sitting for a literature exam, whose authors writings will the pupils be supposed to comment?
      – Which day of the week will be legally the one when employers have to release their staff from work ? Which will be the legal holidays? ( What about Pesach, Rosh hashana, … Yom Ha’atzma’ut, to name a few ? Of course, this does not preclude Aid-El Fitr, Aid el Adha….and X-mas, Roman Catholic & Orthodox-style)
      – One-staters are very fond of RoR. What about the LoR ?
      Depending on the responses, I will be able to determine whether their goal is sincerely “a state for all its citizens” or another attempt at making the case of Arab supremacy.

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      • BOOZ,

        I’ll give you a brief guess under Two States in One State:

        Each enclave or State would determine its own language by law, as the Knesset does. Each would determine State holidays. School history curricula would be tricky. One State could not deride the other without fear of disunion, so some of the curricula, not all, would have to be decided by the federation or One State.

        The Law of Return is inviolable, but does not include entry into the Palestinian State. A right of return into the Palestinian State would be limited and incremental, contoured by the creation of Federation. I have no idea what to do with Gaza. Residency in One State allows economic transactions with the other under Federation, but not residency within the other State without that State’s permission. So any attenuated RoR does not impinge on Israel proper.

        Business contracts crossing State boundaries would have to be in the languages recognized by each State. Crucially, there would have to be Federation economic courts which are able to determine disputes without override by either State. From this would creep the creation of social and political rights, as economics deals with the person in life over time. But the whole idea is to evolve Federation rights thereby, not try to stipulate everything in a founding charter, which could easily kill the proposal in negotiation.

        Israel would have its own law in Israel proper of today (if we can still actually figure out what proper is). It would also have to have border security control of the Federation for some time, although via some sort of Federation arrangement. There would also have to be direct subsidy of the Palestinian police force.

        You can get most of this by just keeping the PA as bantu but adding on economic courts for mixed transactions, having both Israeli and Palestinian judges, again, with real authority, with the IDF controlling the borders. Over time, one hopes a Federation would thereby evolve.

        I said putting Gaza aside. Gaza is actually the settler right’s best weapon. It prevents any final determination on paper, allowing settlement creep to continue. I think the US should have gone for developing economic courts rather than final agreements, admitting the latter is impossible. The US could have helped create relatively impartial economic courts, then provided granting mechanisms to businesses crossing the PA/Israel line; it would have to keep control over the grants, not give it to Israel, for that would sour any attempt at neutrality.

        This is fantasy, yes. So is most talk about the conflict. The only ones who seem to have a fantasy that works are the settlers. Shouldn’t people start coming up with alternative fantasies?

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      • Booz, I’m sceptical about the two-state solution because it’s bound up with the idea that there are two distinct communities with two distinct versions of history and that the dual narratives are competing for the same space. When I began a research project on forbidden histories with children drawn from multiple subcommunities within Israeli and Palestinian society, I realised that I wasn’t dealing with two narratives at all, but with many – what Eyal Naveh terms ‘a mosaic of intercommunicating stories and memories’. Shoehorning people into an artificial binary does nothing except to polarise the situation further, leading me to view the two-state solution as just a way to contain hostilities while simultaneously increasing them.

        Your questions about the school curriculum are particularly interesting to me, as peace education and its overlap with child mental healthcare is my main area. There are already a handful of integrated Palestinian/Jewish schools in Israel that show how a thoughtful bilingual curriculum can be implemented: http://www.handinhandk12.org/ I want to give some full answers about curriculum design (there is a lot to learn from youth work and peace education in Northern Ireland here) but it’s late. I’ll get to this tomorrow.

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