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Friday, April 28, 2006

Middle East Democracy

Towards the end of last year the UAE Government announced a plan to introduce a little bit of 'democracy' into the selection of members of the FNC (Federal National Council). I blogged about it then, and was possibly a bit disparaging. Some of the Emirates have now started the process of selecting their councils. Emirati blogged about it, and concludes that this is not democracy. Well, certainly it's not.

But this is where we run into problems, because politics and democratic ideas are so new in this region. There is absolutely no tradition of 'voting' for things. There is a tradition of consultation in Majlises, but that only works when you are dealing with a small number of people. A leader simply cannot ask a million people what they think. I think the UAEs slow and cautious approach is probably wise, given that we actually have the best possible leadership in place right now. It's actually not broken, and doesn't need fixing. The rest of the world, however, thinks otherwise.

We have already seen that democratic elections in Iran threw up the lunatic Ahmedinejad, in Palestine the terrorist Hamas organisation won, and Iraq is a complete can of worms that now can probably not be solved without a horrible civil war and the eventual splitting of the country into three bits. Even sleepy Bahrain has its share of Islamist MPs who would be very happy to take their country back to the 14th century.

Now, I know that in a true democracy, you cannot say 'vote for anybody you like, but if that guy with the long beard and crazed look in his eye wins then we cancel the election and have to start again'. But this is the very very real danger that democracy poses to the Middle East right now. The 'wrong' people will win. I'm talking about Islamists / theocrats. They will win because they want to win. Because the moderate voices of the moderate candidates will not be heard. Because the indigenous population of the Middle East is so pissed off with the way the West has treated them, that they will vote for the guys that will irritate the West most.

To say that the Middle East is not yet ready to embrace Western-style democracy is a total understatement. It'll all end in tears, you mark my words.

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32 Comments:

Blogger Duffy said...

There's an old adage that comes to mind: People eventually get the government they deserve. Also some British guy once said "Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others."

9:26 pm  
Blogger angua von uberwald said...

You can't make a cargo cult out of voting. Democracy *also* includes an educated voting public, freedom of the press, equality before law, etc. If all the constituent pieces of a democracy are missing, then voting is a useless exercise.

FWIW, the Palestinians have a fairly vibrant democracy, and elected Hamas knowing the consequences. On the other hand, Iranian elections are a sham.

3:01 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I would appreciate if u removed the word terrorist before Hamas, cause it looks like apparently you dont really know anything about Hamas. Ive been reading ur blog for a reaaaally long time and i like ur open minded view of things. But id like to say.. Hamas is NOT a terrorist organization. Thank you.

9:41 pm  
Blogger Keefieboy said...

Anon: maybe I don't really know anything about Hamas. But I do know this: any 'political' organisation that uses violence as a means to an end is a terrorist organisation in my book. That includes the likes of the IRA, ETA, Tamil Tigers etc. They may have legitimate arguments and claims, but bombing innocent people is 100% not the way to pursue those arguments, as both the IRA and ETA have now conceded.

There is a bit of a problem with Hamas being the government of Palestine because they refuse to recognise Israel. Whether you like it or not, Israel has been where it is for quite a while now, and I'm pretty sure they are not planning to relocate any time soon. And the only way any progress can be made is if both parties actually bloody speak to each other.

10:02 pm  
Blogger Dubai@Random said...

If this place was run by the people, not by the leaders, Sheikh Shakbut would still be in power. I'm not sure exactly what happened to him: One of my sources said the Brits deposed him, another said, no, it was the US, and a third source said, not really, it was a joint effort. Sheikh Shakbut's crime: he didn't want to sell any Muslim oil to infidels.

I was sitting around a campfire, and everyone thought that was a great idea. If Bush really spreads democracy, Thomas Friedman might get his with to reduce US consuption of energy.

10:58 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is me again (Im so sure ur not so glad!)
First of all i would like to apologize if i showed any disrespect in my earlier post. However i still strongly believe that you should learn more about Hamas before u judge them.
Why is everyone pushing democracy and when Hamas wins by elections everyone goes agains it? Moreover, Hamas has the full right not to recognise Israel. What is israel? Have you thought of that? They just come to a country and its suddenly theirs? Why do you look at dead Israelies and read their stories, but not even spare a moment to learn all the stories behind palestinian deaths? People are being killed daily, prohibited the right to learn, to eat well where are the human rights now ?
One more last thing, if you lived in a villa, would you give me a room to live in? I guess not. Would you split your house with me in half? I guess not too. Would u let me rule the house? Im sure not. How do you expect the palestinians to recognise israelis on their land, their home?

I ask you to think if this, put yourself in the palestinian people's shoes. Thats all I'm asking.

11:48 pm  
Blogger Keefieboy said...

Anon: I'm not saying the establishment of Israel in Palestine is /was right, in fact it was probably one of stupidest political acts of the 20th century. However, 60 years later, it's still there, so deal with it.

6:15 am  
Blogger Tim Newman said...

Moreover, Hamas has the full right not to recognise Israel.

Indeed. And Israel and the rest of the civilised world have every right to oppose the policies of Hamas. This is what's known as democracy.

What is israel? Have you thought of that? They just come to a country and its suddenly theirs?

Erm, this question would better be asked of Jordan and Egypt. There was once an independent Palestine existing alongside Israel, but Jordan and Egypt invaded a day or so after its formation and annexed it into their own territories.

10:18 am  
Blogger bandicoot said...

"...Israel and the rest of the civilized world..."

Sounds like a Cold War cliché, except in this case it’s a lot more disingenuous. Israel? civilized? Is that why Israel is building a new Berlin wall on Palestinian land, grabbing (i.e. stealing) in the process huge swaths of territory and keeping intact most of its Jewish colonies, that much of the same civilized world find them detrimental to peace and illegal? So this is civilization? Or is it Israel’s policy of demolishing the homes and bulldozing the livelihood of thousands of Palestinian families during its long military rule of the West Bank and Gaza Strip? (not to mention the hundreds of villages razed to the ground in the aftermath of 1948 and the expulsion of Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians)? Or is it Israel’s “civilization” of detaining Palestinians indefinitely without trial, wide-spread abuse and racism (including different legal systems for Palestinians and Jewish settlers), and officially-sanctioned torture and assassination? Israel’s record in this respect is among the worst in the world, and this has been the case for many years, before the suicide bombings, before the wave of terrorism, before Hamas was founded, before the uprisings, and in most cases without any convincing justification. Israeli rule over Palestinian land and people was made feasible only through a draconian suppression of Palestinian rights and an state-organized system of violence, intimidation, and subjugation, where Israeli secret police had absolute powers to terrorize and the military and armed Jewish settlers could provoke and attack with impunity. This is the Israeli civilization that Palestinians had the privilege to experience for the past four decades (and by the way, the decades before them were not any prettier)! The fact that Jordan and Egypt were in control of the West Bank and Gaza before 1967 doesn’t excuse or change the facts about what Israel did in these areas in the last forty years. Israel civilized? Give me a break; unless democracy is the sum of civilization and once you’re democratic it doesn’t matter what you do to others!

4:15 pm  
Blogger Tim Newman said...

Bandicoot,

Uncivilised Israel may be, but it is vastly more civilised that its neighbour who raise children for the specific purpose of strapping explosives to their waists and sending them to mass murder Israeli civilians.

No, Israel is not civilised when viewed in isolation. But somehow its neighbour has managed to stoop so low as to make Israel appear a beacon of liberal values in comparison, and therein lies the real problem.

6:32 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tim Newman: I am sorry to see people like, blind people who have narrow minded opinions and argue about them. The palestinian kids are not raised to wear explosive belts, its what ignorants think. Palestinians haven't stooped so low. They have gone so high, to a noble state, theyre the most sacrificing people ever, and the only low stooping people here are israel, but theyre crimes are never seen by people like you, cause your two busy looking at the other side, condemming palestinians for what theyre doing. But that is the only thing they can do to fight occupation.

Keefie: Since u say that israel's occupation is a stupid thing but its been there for 60 years. so its right. So i take it like this.. If i steal your money and hide it with me for 60 years.. thats makes it mine?

You guys gave me a good laugh there.. a laugh at your morals, at ur ethics, (or maybe at the lack of those)

8:50 pm  
Blogger Tim Newman said...

If i steal your money and hide it with me for 60 years.. thats makes it mine?

No. But if two people share money but hold it in a single bank account, and then the bank agrees to divide the money up between the two owners, and after 60 years one of them is still complaining about not having all of it, I'd say they need to move on.

9:21 pm  
Blogger bandicoot said...

Tim,
And why do you view Palestinian terrorism in isolation? Do you think that these homicidal maniacs who choose to blow themselves up into a group of Israeli civilians grew up on Mars? Why can’t you see their evil actions in the context of the evil of the occupation? Decades of daily humiliation, routine violation of basic human rights, and systematic brutality will not produce a nation of Buddhas! People who knew the reality of the Occupation, including many foresighted Israelis, warned repeatedly that the gross injustice of Israel’s military rule will only degrade the humanity and morality of both occupier and occupied. Their words couldn’t have more prophetic. Furthermore, you know it’s quite a stretch to refer to the Palestinians collectively as the neighbors busy raising children as suicide bombers. That’s a harsh and unwarranted judgment. I would never say Israeli families are busy raising their children into soldiers to send them to kill and abuse Palestinian civilians, though the killings and abuses are widespread. You know that most Palestinians are ordinary people busy with daily survival rather than training their children to die and kill. Those among them who embrace the nihilistic ways of terrorism are a fringe minority; they’re perhaps smaller in numbers than fanatical Jewish groups dedicated to mad biblical visions of “Greater Israel” and the expulsion of Palestinians from their homeland. Finally, most of the Israeli practices I mentioned in my previous post started way before the creation of Hamas and Islamic Jihad and cannot be defended or excused because of suicide bombings. It’s meaningless to search for the thin “morality” line dividing the killing of civilians in cold blood and the actions of a suicide bomber. There are no beacons of light here on either side. The truth is, there is only darkness, inhumanity, viciousness and horror, and the faster we recognize this fact (without looking for excuses to defend the indefensible) the better; not just for Israelis and Palestinians, but also for bloggers like us!

11:41 pm  
Blogger bandicoot said...

Tim,
The funny thing is that your bank metaphor applies to both sides (though with different senses, one tragic and one ironic)! Yes there are Palestinians who after 60 years cannot move on. Why? Because they are still in refugee camps, denied by Israel the right of return to their very homes and properties (the same right that every Jew anywhere in the world, and regardless of their social, political or humanitarian condition enjoys by definition according to Israeli law), nor they received the justice that would allow them to really consider your offer and “move on.” And why should they, when they can see that the Jews didn’t learn to “move on” even after 2000 years of exile? I know you’re directing your comment at the Palestinians of course, but I imagine you’ll agree that there are many Israelis, individuals and political parties, who still complain about not having the whole of Palestine, despite the fact that hey took by force most of it and illegally colonized the little that remained to the point of jeopardizing the 2-state solution. I’m afraid this is not a “shared account” any more (if it ever was)! It’s more like one fat account using mostly illegal means to swallow a smaller and shrinking one while at the same time blaming it s owner and asking him to move on!

12:26 am  
Blogger Tim Newman said...

Yes there are Palestinians who after 60 years cannot move on. Why? Because they are still in refugee camps, denied by Israel the right of return to their very homes and properties (the same right that every Jew anywhere in the world, and regardless of their social, political or humanitarian condition enjoys by definition according to Israeli law), nor they received the justice that would allow them to really consider your offer and “move on.”

Erm, no. The Palesinans are living as refugees because their Arab neighbours refuse to grant them anything other than refugee status, despite the vast majority of these Palestinians having been born in these neighbouring countries and lived there for 3 generations. The offspring of Palestinian refugees do not have a right of return to Israel, as this right has never been granted to the offspring of any refugees anywhere in history. It is only for political purposes that the Arab world demands that an exception be made for Palestinians, an exception which has kept them in refugee camps for decades. This is an Arab policy, not an Israeli one.

8:16 am  
Blogger Tim Newman said...

And why do you view Palestinian terrorism in isolation? Do you think that these homicidal maniacs who choose to blow themselves up into a group of Israeli civilians grew up on Mars? Why can’t you see their evil actions in the context of the evil of the occupation?

Because I flatly refuse to view the deliberate mass murder of civilians by terrorist militias in any context. It is inexcusable, period. Putting such acts into context gives them a veer of acceptability that I do not believe they should ever be granted.

8:19 am  
Blogger bandicoot said...

“ The Palesinans are living as refugees because their Arab neighbours refuse to grant them anything other than refugee status, despite the vast majority of these Palestinians having been born in these neighbouring countries and lived there for 3 generations… This is an Arab policy, not an Israeli one.”

So if a stranger evicts you from your house and moves in, and a neighbor gives you temporary shelter till you’re able to go back home, then somehow it’s the neighbor that is to blame for your homelessness because ha hasn’t made you a full member of the family (rather than the stranger who stole your house in the first place and refuses to let you back in)!

It just doesn’t make sense to take a problem that is inseparable from the creation of the state of Israel in 1948 (and for which Israel bears full responsibility) and throw it at the feet of the refugees host nations, namely the Arab states! These people fled or were forced to leave in a time of war with the normal human expectation to be able to return to their houses, farms, shops, and businesses in cities and villages where they had lived for many generations as soon as the war ended and their safety is guaranteed. It is a shame that Israel allowed only a tiny fraction to return in 1949 under a limited family reunification program, but barred the majority of the 700,000.00 plus refugees to return, ignoring the basic principles of justice and the UN General Assembly resolution #194 that asked Israel to allow the repatriation of Palestinian refugees or to compensate those who choose not to return. This refusal is the main reason why there is a Palestinian refugee problem today.

The legal homeland of Palestinian refugees is not Syria or Lebanon or Jordan; it’s not even in the Gulf states, Europe, the USA, or other states where some refugees ended up and are doing economically well, but haven’t become citizens of these countries. The true home for these people is simply where they or their father or grandfathers lived and worked and raised families and owned land and properties, all of which illegally taken over by Israel. No other country can substitute as a homeland, unless these refugees make that decision voluntarily. None of the Arab states with Palestinian refugees living in UNRWA refugee camps or outside of them (mainly Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria) is obligated to grant them citizenship or absorb them into their population. Why should they? They had to put up with them for six decades, and in the process paid dearly for the economic, political and social problems resulting from the existence of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians in their midst. Well, they also used them and abused them, no question about it; but that doesn’t make them an Arab responsibility.

But even in a hypothetical situation where Arab states agree to absorb Palestinian refugees, who can say that the refugees would accept that? It’s also a bit unfair to say all Arab states treat them simply as refugees and have done nothing to help them (beyond accepting them as refugees, an obligation under international law). Jordan has opened the door for citizenship and many refugees have taken advantage of that and Syria has granted them many citizen-like privileges; however full citizenship and assimilation for all is something else, and for some almost unthinkable. For example, a state like Lebanon, with its precarious religious-ethnic balance, should not be expected to rehabilitate a quarter of a million non-Lebanese people (mostly Sunni Muslims).

Blaming the Arab states (or the Palestinian themselves) for not solving what the whole world recognizes as (at least in principle) an Israeli obligation is truly cynical, but is familiar in official Israeli propaganda and in circles of apologists for Israel. Israel must take responsibility for actions that culminated in one of the most horrific examples of national dispossession and ethnic cleansing of the 20th century. And until that happens, the refugee question will continue to be the living example of that chapter in history that the Palestinians call the Nakbah, or the Catastrophe, and Israel will remain the principal party who caused and continue to cause their displacement and suffering. Israel and its supporters can create myths about what happened in 1948, pretend the refugees are someone else’s problem, and wish them to just go away; the fact is, this is just wishful thinking and not problem solving. Israel needs to abide by international norms and open the door for fairness and reconciliation; otherwise the refugee problem will continue to haunt it and will likely undermine any lasting peace and stability in the region.

“The offspring of Palestinian refugees do not have a right of return to Israel, as this right has never been granted to the offspring of any refugees anywhere in history”

So what you’re saying is that if a stranger forced you out of your house and continued to prevent you back in, that by the time have grandchildren your offspring would have lost any claim to it!

Now, what kind of justice of this and what concept of legal rights and property you’re talking about? That sounds like something out of the law of the jungle. Palestinian refugees the actual individuals who became refugees in 1948 and their offspring equally enjoy an absolute right of return to their home of origin. They are all entitled to what is simply legally theirs and don’t lose this entitlement because they are second or third or tenth generation (unless they freely choose to forfeit it). I’m not aware of any cases where this right has been withdrawn from the sons and grandsons of actual refugees. Certainly the thousands of Jews who immigrate every year to Israel under the self-declared Jewish “right of return” don’t seem to agree with the offspring argument, regardless of the fact these people are mostly well off full citizens of other modern Western states and that they’re supposedly returning to a homeland whose ancestors left hundreds if not thousands years ago.

Yet many Palestinians are realistic and sophisticated enough to understand the demands of the reality that evolved since 1948 and the need to make a two-state solution possible as the basis for solving the whole Palestine-Israel conflict. This means there is readiness to be flexible and a desire to solve problems rather than creating new ones; but for this to work Israel and its traditional advocates need to address this issue differently, justly, bravely, and open-mindedly. There are several routes that lead to justice, but there no route out without justice. The right of return for Palestinians is enshrined in UN resolutions, Customary International Law and Human Rights norms and conventions. Its existence cannot be doubted without making a mockery of the whole legal and moral fabric of the international community, the very source of Israel’s right to exist and the fight against all forms of racism and bigotry and injustice.

Again, nobody knows for sure how many Palestinian refugees would actually want to go back to Israel. Polls seem to show some 80% of them would like to return if they get the chance to do so. However, nobody can accurately predict what might transpire in the reality of an eventual solution with this option. If the refugees are given the choice between returning to Palestine or rehabilitation and integration into another country, it is conceivable that many would prefer the second choice, especially if it’s coupled with a fair compensation. For many refugees, it’s the recognition of their right to return and the ability to exercise this right in principle that is the real issue now; perhaps more so than any genuine desire to go back and live in what for all practical reasons an alien and clearly hostile state. Israel can bury its head ion the sand, but the refugee issue will not go away.

“I flatly refuse to view the deliberate mass murder of civilians by terrorist militias in any context. It is inexcusable, period.”

Well, I couldn’t agree with you more; I just hope you will be able to recognize some of the instances of murder (deliberate and semi-deliberate) of Palestinian groups (and individuals) committed by Israelis (soldiers, officers, and militants) and similarly insist on refusing to view them in any context because they are inexcusable. I also hope you’ll give torture, unprovoked violence, and systematic dehumanization of people their due place as disgusting crimes of which many Israelis have been guilty over the long years of war and occupation. I personally believe that nothing should be viewed in absolute isolation. Everything has a context. I’m not saying this to justify or excuse any wrongdoing or outrageous behavior, and certainly not to give extremists and bigots and terrorists any reasons to blame others or get away with their crimes. I know that for many people a context can serve as an excuse for abhorrent action including murder. That’s not how I conceive of it. I just believe that seeing the background, connections, relations, etc. can be part of analyzing and understanding. Evil doesn’t emanate out of nothingness. It’s done by people (though ones who behave rather like monsters) and for that fact alone one needs to have a longer and deeper look at the universe that created these people and try to untangle its web and history. I know that sometimes it’s just a futile exercise or even impossible. But as far as I’m concerned there is no good reason to just refuse to contemplate it; especially when this refusal seems to be not just simply morally motivated, but also politically expedient or convenient.

2:49 am  
Blogger bandicoot said...

I’m a bit disheartened at how other bloggers seemingly decided to stay out of this (assuming anybody is reading our posts). I know this has become a sort of a duel exchange between Tim and myself, with very little chance that either one of us would experience a dramatic change in their minds and stands; yet I believe we’re testing our ideas in a public forum of sorts, as we argue back and forth, forcing us and others to think and rethink this stuff. This I thought would’ve attracted few more people to participate, but unfortunately this doesn’t seem to be the case. As for any potential participants who are not fully in command of the facts, legal status, and the human conditions of Palestinian refugees, please can consult the following:

http://www.badil.org/Publications/Legal_Papers/RoR48.pdf

http://www.badil.org/Refugees/facts&figures.htm

http://www.palestineremembered.com/Articles/General/Story1654.html

http://cgi.stanford.edu/group/wais/cgi-bin/index.php?p=769

http://www.ccmep.org/2004_articles/palestine/123104_were_still.htm

4:43 am  
Blogger Tim Newman said...

So if a stranger evicts you from your house and moves in, and a neighbor gives you temporary shelter till you’re able to go back home, then somehow it’s the neighbor that is to blame for your homelessness because ha hasn’t made you a full member of the family (rather than the stranger who stole your house in the first place and refuses to let you back in)!

Your anlogy is nonsense. Thousands upon thousands of Israelis did not "evict Palestinians and move in", they lived there and owned the land already. Israelis and Palestinians shared the land up until 1948, and then it was divided between the two. The Israelis moved a load of people into their part yes, but this is besides the point.

Your view that the Israelis arrived and stole land which was rightfully Palestinian is not based in fact, and having used this basis to absolve neighbouring
Arab governments of any responsibility for the plight of the Palestinians - despite them having invading and annexing Palestinian land for themselves - speaks volumes.

There is no reason at all why the Arab countries could not have absorbed some if not all Palestinian refugees, in the same way that Israel absorbed thousands of Jews kicked out of Arab countries at the same time. And now that the Arab neighbours have supposedly recognised Israel's permanent existence, is it too much to ask that they now accept that after 60 years they allow the Palestinians something other than refugee status? Or shall we keep them all as refugees to make a point regarding an event 60 years old?

12:33 pm  
Blogger Tim Newman said...

The right of return for Palestinians is enshrined in UN resolutions, Customary International Law and Human Rights norms and conventions.

You quote these articles, but clearly don't know their content. The right of refugees to return is guaranteed, but not their offspring. An exception was made for the Palestinians at the insistence of Arab governments precisely because they new that this would create a very difficult problem for Israel in the future.

If evicted Palestinians want to return, fine. But subsequent generations should not have that right, any more than a second generation Russian living in the US has a right to live in Moscow.

12:38 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bandicoot i have quit discussing this topic with Tim after I realized that his prospect of viewing the Palestinian problem in a narrow minded racist view.

Keefieboy quit replying and didnt answer my questions so i thought of dropping the trial to discuss it with him.

I want to thank you for your time, the effort, and the references.

11:35 pm  
Blogger Tim Newman said...

Bandicoot i have quit discussing this topic with Tim after I realized that his prospect of viewing the Palestinian problem in a narrow minded racist view.


Translation: I stopped discussing this topic when I realised my arguments were poorly thought out, and resorted to calling him racist instead.

12:36 am  
Blogger bandicoot said...

The question is not whether Israel brought in loads of Jews or shared the land or not. It’s simply what Israel did to the Palestinians and their property in and after1947-1949. There is overwhelming evidence that Jewish/Israeli actions in this regard resulted directly in the national dispossession of the Palestinians. This included terrorizing civilian population into fleeing using criminal and atrocious methods. Palestinian exodus was a normal human reaction to war, where civilians may run for safety; but in this case it was also largely caused by threats, killings, and massacres, forcible displacement, dynamiting of homes and civilian buildings. After people were driven out of their homeland, the process culminated in the Israeli refusal to allow the refugees to return to their homes, the systematic eradication of Palestinian villages (some 400 of them) and the illegal confiscation of the refugees’ land and property. These are all well-documented facts and there is no use denying them or suspecting their veracity.

That’s why my argument and analogies on the subject are based on facts. I’m not here to score points, spread lies, or be a cheap propagandist. This is beyond politics; it’s about the fate of a nation, the narrative and memory of victims, and the necessity of truth and justice. Let me try next and present a slice of the reality of the 1948 Palestine and show how Palestine was stolen and its people forced into exile to this day.

Yes there were Arabs and Jews on the eve of 1948 in Palestine, but let’s look more carefully at the numbers that most scholars agree to:

• By 1946 the Jewish population of Palestine numbered 600,000.
At the same time the Arab population numbered 1,300,000.

• By 1946 Jews owned about 10% of the land in Palestine.
At the same time Arabs owned almost 90% of the country.

By 1948 population increased for both, but ratios of population numbers and land ownership between Jews and Arabs haven’t changed that much. In other words, it would be safe to assume that the balance of population and land ownership in 1948 roughly reflected that of 1946.

For more information about the population of Palestine till 1948, the most seminal study on the topic is Justin McCarthy’s The Population of Palestine: Population History and Statistics of the Late Ottoman Period and the Mandate. (New York: Columbia University Press, 1990). Data on land ownership, mostly derived from British Mandate documents and UN reports, can be found in many academic sources (see for example: Michael Fischbach, Records of dispossession: Palestinian refugee property and the Arab-Israeli
conflict
. (Columbia University Press, 2003). For a comprehensive atlas with detailed maps, see: http://www.plands.org/atlas/index.htm

Some 700,000 Palestinians, or about half the Arab population of Palestine, became refugees as a result of the 1948 war. What happened to their property? The indisputable answer is, it was forcibly taken away from them, forcibly; in many cases through looting and use of violence during the course of the war, and later when the war ended by illegally transferring refugee property to the state of Israel and the Jewish National Fund. There is now a near consensus on the events and facts of this period, and no serious historian will dispute the fact that large numbers of Palestinian civilians were expelled from their homes and communities by force. The works of Israeli researchers, especially the “New Historians” like Benny Morris (The Birth of the Refugee Problem, 1947-1949), Ilan Pappe (The Making of the Arab- Israeli Conflict, 1947-1951) and Norman Finkelstein (Image and Reality of the Israel-Palestinian Conflict) have left no doubt about this matter.

The following are two long quotations that will help illustrate my point. The excerpts, from two sources (each indicated at the end of each quote), show how Palestinian civilians were subjected to threats and atrocities and were coerced into fleeing by Jewish forces in 1948.

Beginning of Quote 1:
“There is ample evidence of forcible expulsions. The most notorious was the Lydda/Ramle death march. On July 12 and 13, 1948, on the direct order of Ben-Gurion, Israeli forces expelled the 50,000 residents of the towns of Lydda and neighboring Ramle…..Forcible expulsions were commonly practiced by the Jewish/Israeli military during 1948: Qisariya on February 15; Arab Zahrat al-Dumayri, al-Rama and Khirbat al-Sarkas in April; al-Ghabisiya, Danna, Najd and Zarnuqa the next month; Jaba, Ein Ghazal and Ijzim on July 24; and al-Bi'na and Deir al-Assad on October 31, among many others. Israeli historian Benny Morris has identified 34 Arab communities whose inhabitants were ousted…..Not uncommonly, the Jewish forces resorted to simple terrorism. Sometimes this took the form of bombs planted in vehicles or buildings: 30 killed in Jaffa on Jan. 4., 1948, with a truck bomb; 20 killed the next day when the Semiramis Hotel in Jerusalem was bombed; 17 killed by a bomb at the Jaffa Gate in Jerusalem two days later.

More often, a Jewish military force entered an Arab village and massacred civilians, either during a night raid or after the seizure of the village. The massacres started early: Major General R. Dare Wilson, who served with the British troops…reported that on Dec. 18, 1947, the Haganah murdered 10, mostly women and children, in the Arab village of al-Khisas

Throughout 1948, the massacres continued: 60 at Sa'sa' on Feb. 15; 100 murdered in Acre after its May 18 seizure by the Haganah; several hundred at Lydda on July 12, including 80 machine-gunned inside the Dahmash Mosque; 100 at Dawayma on Oct. 29, with an Israeli eye-witness reporting that "the children were killed by smashing their skulls with clubs"…..The supreme act of terrorism by Jewish militias was the slaughter of nearly the entire village of Deir Yassin on April 9, 1948. According to Jacques de Reynier, a Swiss physician working for the Red Cross who arrived before the bloodletting had ended, 254 people were "deliberately massacred in cold blood." "All I could think of," he later said, "was the SS troops I had seen in Athens." According to Meir Pa'il, who served as a communications officer for the Haganah in Deir Yassin and was present during the assault, 25 male survivors were taken to Jerusalem and paraded through the streets in a perverse victory celebration, then shot in cold blood…Menachem Begin, the leader of the Irgun, one of the militias involved in the horror at Deir Yassin, called the atrocity a "splendid act of conquest." In 1977, Begin was elected Prime Minister of Israel.

The massacre at Deir Yassin played a crucial role in undermining the morale of the Palestinian population. As de Reynier, the Swiss physician, wrote, "a general terror was built up among the Arabs, a terror astutely fostered by the Jews."

Once the Israeli military had forced the Palestinians to flee, various Israeli institutions attempted to insure that there would be no return. The new Israeli government decided on June 16, 1948--just a month after Israel had declared independence, and before half of the refugees had even become such--that it would not permit the Palestinians to return to their homeland. The military, meanwhile, worked to render return a physical impossibility. Its forces leveled 418 Palestinian towns and villages, erasing the majority of Palestinian society from the face of the earth.

Completing the process of dispossession, Israel took control of land owned by the Arabs whom it would not allow to return. Before 1948, Jews owned only 1.5 million of the 26 million dunams of land in Palestine. (A dunam, the local measure of land area, is a quarter-acre.) After the eviction of the Palestinians, Israel controlled 20 million dunams, an increase from 6% to 77% of the total. They simply stole an entire country.

Moshe Dayan, Israeli war hero, described this reality succinctly in a 1969 speech: "Jewish villages were built in the place of Arab villages. You do not even know the names of these Arab villages, and I do not blame you because geography books no longer exist; not only do the books not exist, the Arab villages are not there either. ... There is not one single place built in this country that did not have a former Arab population."

While a wrong of these incalculable dimensions can never be truly rectified, simple considerations of justice require that the Palestinian refugees from what is now Israel, and their descendants, be permitted to return home.” End of Quote 1.

The entire article from which quote 1 is taken, entitled “The Expulsion of the Palestinians, 1947-1948,” with footnotes and full citations can be found on
http://www.robincmiller.com/pales2.htm


In the second quote, another source, summarizing from Michael R. Fischbach’s Records of Dispossession - Palestinian Refugee Property and the Arab-Israeli Conflict, gives more examples of the violence and that Palestinian civilians had to endure:

Beginning of Quote 2:
“While the battles were still being waged some Jews began to move into Palestinian homes. According to Fischbach, new Jewish immigrants, Holocaust survivors that had been initially housed in rural kibbutzim found that these accommodations reminded them of Nazi concentration camps. Some broke into well-appointed homes in Haifa, some of which were abandoned but others were still occupied by Palestinians who had remained. “Some Jews simply evicted the owners by force. One Palestinian, Sa’id Atma, reported that Jews broke into his home, assaulted him, threw out his furniture, and began living in his home.”

Arab homes were also looted by Jewish soldiers and civilians, and early in the war the future prime minister, David Ben Gurion “issued orders to the Hagana to begin settling Jews in captured Palestinian homes.” During the summer of 1948, the Israeli army began destroying abandoned Palestinian villages….

The declaration of statehood in May 1948 was followed a month later by a law to provide a legal basis for extending Israeli jurisdiction not only to abandoned property, but to “abandoned areas” of Palestine. By definition this meant that almost all Arab land which came under Israeli control, whether through capture or surrender, could be labeled abandoned. “The law also stated clearly that not all the land’s inhabitants need to have fled for it to be labeled ‘abandoned.’ The law also allowed the state to take over buildings, crops and just about anything else located on the land….” The law also declared persons who at any point after November 29, 1947 were citizens of Arab states to be absentees, whether or not they were actually absent from any land they owned in Palestine.” End of Quote 2.

The full article of this quote, entitled “Israel’s “Mass Robbery” of Palestine Re-Examined but Still Unresolved,” by Genevieve Cora Fraser, with the citations, can be found on:
http://www.palestinemonitor.org/Analysis/israels_mass_robery.htm

These and many other similar examples point to the existence of widespread practices or a systematic plan of deliberate dispossession and expulsion of a nation to make room for another one. It is ethnic cleansing pure and simple. Only Israel can resolve this problem and bring about a meaningful and just conclusion to it. The right of return for these refugees cannot be eroded by the passage of time and the succession of generations. You are free to choose the opposite view (though you still haven’t answered the question how you would reconcile such stand with the absolute “right of return” granted by Israel to Jews anywhere, any time , and irrespective of the passage of generations)! I just happen to think differently, based on my analysis and reading of the facts as we know them, and I believe that there is more convincing legal and moral ground for my position.

And by the way, I do know the contents of my sources and I take the time to understand what I quote before I quote it, so really there is no need to hit back with unproven assumptions and engage in negative personal attacks. There are many things I don’t like about your views and reasoning, but I tried my best to maintain a reasonable distance between what you say and who you are as a person. I engage in debates on the assumption that people know what they say and have the integrity to talk about the most difficult issues without loosing their cool and, if necessary, admit mistakes or even ignorance. This might be my last post on this topic here; unless somehow I see an absolute need for posting again. There are many other interesting things to blog about and I don’t want to be consumed by one issue (that is also so depressing). I hope that these posts have shown at least the complexity and human depth of this issue. And finally, KB, apologies for taking your blog on this unplanned ride into the historical wilderness of the Middle East! I know it’s not that much fun, but I had no choice!

12:40 am  
Blogger Keefieboy said...

Anon: Keefieboy quit replying and didnt answer my questions

All of this started because I referred to Hamas as a terrorist organisation. The original post was about Middle East democracy, not the rights and wrongs of the Palestine/Israeli issue. The latter issue is one that I really really do not want to get involved with on my blog, ok?!

1:30 am  
Blogger Tim Newman said...

The question is not whether Israel brought in loads of Jews or shared the land or not. It’s simply what Israel did to the Palestinians and their property in and after1947-1949.

I have no problem with your highlighting what Jews did to Palestinian property during 1947-1949. My problem is that you completely ignore the fact that Palestine's Arab neighbours invaded Palestinian land and confiscated Palestinian property with equal gusto and caused fr greater suffering to the Palestinian population between 1947-1949 than the Israelis did. You refusal to consider that the Arab neighbours of Palestine are equally to blame for the plight of the Palestinians causes me to doubt your historical knowledge, or the objectivity with which you gained it.

It is ethnic cleansing pure and simple.

As was the expulsion of thousands of Jews from Arab countries follwing WWII, the Hebron Massacre, and the 4 wars of elimination which Arab countries have launched against Israel since its creation.

The right of return for these refugees cannot be eroded by the passage of time and the succession of generations.

Well, yes it can. As I have said before, subsequent generations of refugees have historically never been given right of return (for entirely sensible reasons, as no country is able to absorb several million people overnight some 50 years after a particular event). Out of interest, do you believe all subsequent generations of refugees should have right of return to their forbears' original land? If so, can I assume that you fully support the right of Jews expelled from Arabic lands to full citizenship, plus their offspring, even if the latter have for 3 generations lived in London? Can North London Jews now claim citizenship of Saudi Arabia, on the basis that their grandparents were kicked out in the 40s? If not, why not?


(though you still haven’t answered the question how you would reconcile such stand with the absolute “right of return” granted by Israel to Jews anywhere, any time , and irrespective of the passage of generations)!

Eh? There is nothing to reconcile. Israel is an independent country, and if it chooses to grant all Jews residency rights in Israel, then it is up to them. There is no obligation for Israel to grant this right to anyone else, Palestinian, Congolese, British, or Mongolian. To reconcile the different treatment of Jews and Palestinians in the region is not the job of Israel. Israel has absorbed enormous numbers of Jewish refugees without complaint and granted them full rights, yet the Arab countries flatly refuse to grant Palestinian refugees anything other than refugee status after 60 years. Yet you think the blame lies with Israel here?!!

10:52 am  
Blogger MamaDuck said...

Bandicoot said: I’m a bit disheartened at how other bloggers seemingly decided to stay out of this (assuming anybody is reading our posts).... [W]ith very little chance that either one of us would experience a dramatic change in their minds and stands......... I believe we’re testing our ideas in a public forum of sorts, as we argue back and forth, forcing us and others to think and rethink this stuff. This I thought would’ve attracted few more people to participate, but unfortunately this doesn’t seem to be the case.

Bandicoot and Tim - I for one have 'stayed out of this' because I have nothing to contribute except cheers for the fact that you both speak so thoughtfully and passionately from your own knowledge and understanding of a situation which matters to me, but also baffles me.

Now I’d like to add my thoughts, but Keefieboy’s had enough, so I’m putting it on my blog. Hoping you’ll visit. You, too, Anonymous!

4:13 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Keefieboy: ((The latter issue is one that I really really do not want to get involved with on my blog, ok?!))

Well you could have removed the word terrorist and been fair, less judgemental and not insulting.

Tim: ((I stopped discussing this topic when I realised my arguments were poorly thought out, and resorted to calling him racist instead.))

Oh grow up, will you? My arguments were not thought out, my arguments were met by someone who was waiting for them to reply to them, rather than to read them. When you read my posts you just do your best to come with an anti-argument instead of trying to read and understand.




Well since some people here seem to have such low IQ's (im NOT referring to Tim Or Keefie) i will put my own argument in a preschool form.

Israeli people come

Israeli people kill palestinians

Israeli people live in Palestine

Israeli people decide to be generous and give palestinians half their OWN FRIGGIN LAND

Palestinians fight back

Palestinians try to get their land back

Palestinians are terrorists???????


Where is the world going to?

1:29 am  
Blogger Keefieboy said...

Anon: Well you could have removed the word terrorist and been fair, less judgemental and not insulting.

It's the truth as I see it, if you find that insulting and judgmental then I am sorry. As a matter of policy I do not change my posts to suit the requests of readers, especially anonymous ones: it's my blog. If you want to start a 'Hamas is a warm and cuddly organisation' blog, you are free to do so, and then we'll also know something about who you are and why you think they can win against a world that shuns them.

5:33 am  
Blogger Tim Newman said...

Oh grow up, will you? My arguments were not thought out...

I can well believe that.


my arguments were met by someone who was waiting for them to reply to them, rather than to read them. When you read my posts you just do your best to come with an anti-argument instead of trying to read and understand.

Erm, no. I read them, found them to be wanting, disagreed with them, and said so. Don't enter arguments if you don't like people tearing your arguments apart.

i will put my own argument in a preschool form.

Good. Now, when you leave preschool, you may amend your argument such that it reflects reality.

8:30 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

(Good. Now, when you leave preschool, you may amend your argument such that it reflects reality.)

Actually I've left preschool a long time ago. Even back then the little kids were much smarter than you.
You didn't comment on my argument. I guess it was too complicated for you.

10:05 am  
Blogger Tim Newman said...

Okay, let's look at your argument.

Israeli people come

To add to the many more who were already there.

Israeli people kill palestinians

And Palestinians kill Israelis. It's a de facto civil war.

Israeli people live in Palestine

In illegal settlements. But most Israeli people live in Israel.

Israeli people decide to be generous and give palestinians half their OWN FRIGGIN LAND

Erm, no. The United Nations decides to be generous and allow Israelis and Palestinians to each have their own country and govern themselves. 24 hours later, the neighbouring Arabs invade Palestine and attempt to eliminate the Jewish presence from the Arabian peninsular entirely, the continuation of a policy which had been in effect elsewhere in the Arab world. Palestine ceases to exist, and it becomes Egypt and Jordan. The Palestinians still refuse to allow Israelis to govern themselves, insisting that they must be governed by Palestinians, who are unfortunately without a state of their own thanks to Egypt and Jordan. Egypt and Jordan then decide to launch another genocidal war against Israel and lose badly, abandoning what was Palestine in the process. Egypt and Jordan then launch another war against Israel, but lose badly again. Egypt and Jordan and the Palestinians declare that Palestinians deserve a state of their own, and Israelis should be governed by Palestinians. The irony is not lost on the West.

1:03 pm  
Blogger j'nert said...

Please check out the following, without the spaces and followed by the usual to make it a website, not sure why this is not allowing it through: tell the children the truth, dot com. Also, might want to read first person accounts from those who understand, Nonie darwish has written an autobiographical account which should not be dismissed called "now they call me infidel",

6:38 am  

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