The pro-Israel crowd love to trot out anti-Semitic memes to smear their opponents. One of them, used widely by Alan Dershowitz and the like is the term “blood libel.” Accuse Israelis of killing Palestinians indiscriminately and it’s a blood libel because, of course, a Jew shedding non-Jewish blood is the same as Jews murdering Christian babies to use their blood in making matzah for Passover. Got that?
Bibi Netanyahu’s latest outrage is this video in which he ever so innocently professes bafflement that Palestinians would oppose Israeli settlements. Why, he asks, if 2-million “Arabs” (the actual number is 1.8-million) live in Israel proper, can’t Jews live in Palestine?
There is a wee-small problem with this analogy: approximately 600,000 Israeli Jews live in settlements. But they have lived in them for at best a generation, while Palestinian have lived in Israel for centuries. The vast bulk of settlers moved to Palestine since 1967, while Palestinians have lived in Israel over a vastly longer span. Nor have Palestinians displaced anyone over this period. While Israeli settlers have literally stolen the land out from under the Palestinian natives.
Bibi’s general argument is not new. He and his supporters have advanced it for years. But he added a new and even more outrageous twist this time: Palestinian opposition to Israeli settlements was akin to ethnic cleansing because it meant no Palestinian would ever accept any Jew living anywhere on Palestinian land.
There are numerous outrageous elements to this charge worth parsing. The first, and most obvious is that it’s Israel, rather than Palestine, that’s engaged in ethnic cleansing. Israel has destroyed a record number of Palestinian homes over the past year, leaving their inhabitants homeless. It has enacted draconian definitions of Palestinian residency which render tens of thousands of Palestinians stateless if they live outside areas like East Jerusalem for any length of time. Israel also depopulates Palestinian neighborhoods of East Jerusalem through forcible eviction and theft of homes. Israel maintains a stranglehold over the West Bank economy so that stifles innovation, independence and development that might sustain the population. The final coup de grâce is the siege of Gaza, which has forced thousands of Gazans to flee their imprisonment by any means possible.
So which Israeli Jew has ever been ethnically cleansed from Palestine? None. Further, the claim that Palestinians will never accept Jews living in Palestine is a hoax perpetrated by none other than Netanyahu himself and his followers. In fact, those like Rabbi Menachem Froman, who lived in the Tekoah settlement before his untimely death, denounced the idea of Israeli national sovereignty in the West Bank. He argued that he would happily live under Palestinian jurisdiction. What was important to him was not which nation owned the land on which he lived. Rather, he believed God owned the land and his allegiance was to Him and not to any particular nation.
Such an approach offered a way for Jews to remain in Palestine after a peace agreement was signed. Undoubtedly, the lion’s share of settlers would return to Israel, rather than remain under Palestinian sovereignty. But to those who really sought to uphold the vision of Abraham and the Bible to live in this Holy land, they could live there as Palestinian (or Israeli) citizens.
The final hypocrisy of Bibi’s video is his refusal to reciprocate with Palestinians regarding Jewish settlers in Palestine. If you truly believe that Jews must live there, then it’s self-evident that Palestinians should be permitted to return to their homes in pre-48 Israel. Jewish settlers see their return to their ancestral homeland as a fulfillment of sacred Biblical texts and a divine promise. The Palestinian return to their homelands from which they were expelled by Israel in 1948 is no less compelling to them. It is, to them, reparation for the Original Sin committed against them by Ben Gurion in the establishment of the State.
So if Bibi wants to argue that Jews who returned to ancient sites like Hebron or Tekoah or Bethlehem must be permitted to remain there, I say fine: then let’s talk about the return of the original refugees expelled in the Nakba and their direct descendants.
The U.S. government was none to happy with Bibi’s incitement against Palestinians. The State Department, in its typical milquetoast fashion, called the comments “inappropriate and unhelpful.” This sort of language is akin to taking a pebble to a gunfight. It’s one thing when David faces off against Goliath with a slingshot. But this is like David blowing bubbles at his well-armed nemesis. Indeed, the motto for U.S. policy toward Israel should be an inversion of the famous military slogan: “always outnumbered, always outgunned.”
NOTE: I’ve just published a new piece at Mint Press News, Israel Ramps Up Its War on BDS. It exposes an official Israeli campaign of death threats and intimidation against Palestinian activists and NGOs. Please read and promote via social media.
We should not assume that all the Palestinian refugees want to return to Israel/Palestine. True justice now would be for them to be given lots of money, by Israel, to go wherever they want. Some of them will return to Israel/Palestine, some may want to stay in their present host countries, but recent history has shown that most displaced Arabs head for Europe, with their ultimate goal being Britain or the USA, since they are more likely to be familiar with English than other European languages. It would be very fitting if they were welcomed by these countries which are ultimately responsible for their plight: Britain, for its Jewish National Home policy under the Mandate; the US, for Truman’s premature recognition of the State of Israel.
Richard Silverstein says
@dgfincham: That’s right. Unlike pro-Israel types who argue all refugees will flood Israel in order to destroy it, the number who would insist on return to Israel proper would be far less than the 1 million Soviet Jews who inundated the country in the 70s-80s. If offered enough compensation most would remain where they are if they are outside the Mideast. Others would settle near families already living in the Territories. Then several hundred thousand (Geneva Initiative used demographic research to estimate 400,000) would Return.
Trapper Jon says
” It would be very fitting if they were welcomed by these countries which are ultimately responsible for their plight: Britain, for its Jewish National Home policy under the Mandate; the US, for Truman’s premature recognition of the State of Israel. ”
Who made you the arbiter of ‘ultimate responsibility’? You’re not complaining about the Mandates of Syria, Iraq or the creation of Saudi Arabia, Lebanon and Jordan, are you?
Only Israel. Why not blame the League of Nations and the United Nations, while your at it.
Didn’t the Arabs have something to do with this situation, or have you conveniently forgotten them?
Richard Silverstein says
@ Trippin’ Jon:
Let’s recap: Israel expelled 1-million Palestinian residents of Israel in 1948. Israel refused to accept them back after the War. Israel continues to refuse any responsibility for those it expelled. Yet the Arab states are now responsible for what Israel did? Not on your life buddy.
While Bibi’s video caused me to role my eyes, claiming there was no Jewish cleansing from the west bank is false.
“So which Israeli Jew has ever been ethnically cleansed from Palestine? None.” – really? The old city of Jerusalem was emptied from the Jews who lived there for centuries. The Jews of Hebron were forced to leave the city in 1929 and Jews who lived on land legally purchased like in Gush Etzion were also taken from their homes.
So, is the answer still ‘None’?
Richard Silverstein says
@Sivan: Yes, I wrote “Israeli Jew” and was clearly speaking of Israeli Jews alive now, not events of 70+ yrs ago. No Israeli Jew has been ethnically cleansed, period. Further, if you wish to compare the number of Jews expelled from Hebron, Gush Etzion, etc. back then with the number of Palestinians expelled from Palestine or Israel there is no comparison. Several hundred thousand have been expelled by various means.
OMG, 70 years ago. Such a long time. ‘Israeli Jews’ but not Jews. Funny how you tailor made history to fit your narrative. Lets look at only these facts because other facts don’t fit in.
The 400,000 refugees you write of in another comment are also the results of the very same events. Why don’t they get ‘Statute of limitations’ of 70 years?
And for the percentage game below, in 1948 100% of the Jews in the West Bank were kicked out (‘cleansed’ if one is Bibi) while in Israel, some remained.
[comment deleted: this comment is off-topic and contains no argument or substance. Do not publish off-topic comments again or you may be moderated.]
This is a cynical stupid statement by Bibi that reflects a characteristically shallow understanding of Western moral standards. He fails to make the moral distinction between actual ethnic cleansing, and the situation in which Israelis are settled into conquered territories illegally (by Western standards), than being told that they shouldn’t be there. Even to an Israeli “conservative” (relative to you) this is a false analogy.
It’s stupid because he thinks he understands Western values (by using the term “ethnic cleansing” with an American accent) but using it in a distorted and inappropriate way that would be transparent to anybody with a brain. For somebody with a reported high IQ he is a social idiot.
I’m sure there’s an Amen corner of his admirers who think that this is great but obviously it convinces nobody.
As you can see a I am not a Bibi admirer even if you think I am a fascist and a racist
“It’s stupid because he thinks he understands Western values (by using the term “ethnic cleansing” with an American accent) but using it in a distorted and inappropriate way that would be transparent to anybody with a brain. For somebody with a reported high IQ he is a social idiot.”
We have not agreed often Yehuda, but this time we certainly do. (If you are always the same ‘Yehuda’ that posts here. I think you are, but there are so many people here who post with different names or pop up again and again under different identities…)
I saw that video and some earlier ones he posted, and everytime my jaw just drops. They convinced me that there is something seriously wrong with him. Very seriously, as in a pathology that requires treatment.
I am the same Yehuda as before.
Its good to know that we can agree on something…
A big problem with politicians everywhere is that the longer they stay in office the more power they accumulate, as they become embedded in the administrative, legal and power centers of the state and media. Then we run the risk of a Putin or Erdogan– supposedly democratically elected leaders but actually autocrats.
So then. no matter how harmful they become you can’t unseat them, because they run everything.
There need to be term limits here, but, alas there are none.
John F says
Jews were ethnically cleansed from what became known as the West Bank and east Jerusalem incl. the Jewish quarter(!) by Jordan in 1948/49. When Israel captured the West Bank from Jordan many of those Jews merely returned from where they were expelled 19 years earlier.
One could argue that it wasn’t the Palestinians who cleansed the West Bank from the Jewish population but the Arabs but that would make that person a “Palestine denier”
Richard Silverstein says
@JohnF: So what percentage of the 600,000 Israeli settlers were themselves expelled in 1948? Even if we included direct descendants, what percentage? 1%, 5%? So that justifies the remaining 500,000 stealing Palestine?
Trapper Jon says
I’m sure that if the genocidal Mufti of Jerusalem had prevailed, the Jews would have been ethnically cleansed or killed by the Arabs.
Oh. And by the way. Who killed 6,600 Jews, many of whom were civilians, during Israel’s War of Independence. That was more than 1% of the Jewish population of Palestine. Who killed them?
Richard Silverstein says
@ Trippin’ Jon: The Mufti was exiled from Palestine before WWII. He never returned to Palestine after 1937 and died in virtual anonymity in exile. Even the Arab states rejected him. So how would he have returned to commit genocide against Israeli Jews after the 1948 War? Not to mention that the Arabs didn’t prevail, making this entire statement a red herring.
Do not publish more than three comments in any 24 hour period. The comment rules require you not to monopolize the comment threads.
Joe Benoliel says
Why arnt Israelis taking Bibi court for incitement under Israeli law given the inflammatory nature of what he said?
Richard – your argument would possibly have been correct in 1985 (when there were no 2nd generation non-minors). Possibly even correct in 1993.
But realities on the ground change.
Today the -vast majority- of Jewish inhabitants of the west bank were -born there-. Not only that – many are 3rd generation and there are even 4th generation Jewish inhabitants.
The settler of 1970 who had a son, that son was 25 in 1995. His son is now 21.
Should 2nd, 3rd, 4th generations of illegal immigrants in the US be expelled?
Should the Anglo descended population in the states be expelled for supposed past crimes against the Native Americans?
How far back do you go? Do you go back as far as the Muslim conquests?
The realities on the ground have changed. Many discuss the west bank as if it were still 1990. It’s not.
Richard Silverstein says
@ lepxii: As usual, you misconstrue what I said. I don’t care how many generations of settler there are. Palestinians go back 100 generations in Israel proper. The only justification for a settler to remain after Palestinian statehood is if they were a direct descendant of those expelled in 1929 or 1948. Otherwise, they have no justification to remain. But if Jewish settler are prepared to accept Palestinian sovereignty, then Palestine should consider permitting them to remain as long as Israel reciprocates by accepting Palestinian Nakba survivors & their direct descendants’ return.
Illegal immigrants to the U.S. are in an entire different situation. They came here for economic reasons. They were not settled here by their government as Israeli settlers were. The Mexican government has made no territorial claim on U.S. land either as Israel has on Palestine.
Settlers apparently only spout sons.
To Joe Benoliel: Because it is only Palestinians who incite. Jewish Israelis are so perfect that they should never be accused of incitement. And if by some extraordinary fluke, they are accused, then surely the courts would find them not guilty
Ann Cooney says
The Irish poet WB Yeats wrote after the Irish rising of 1916;
TOO LONG A SACRIFICE CAN MAKE A STONE OF THE HEART.
O WHEN MAY IT SUFFICE?
THAT IS HEAVENS PART,OUR PART
TO MURMER NAME UPON NAME………….