[OPE-L:8490] Threats of forced mass expulsion; a new Palestinian diaspora

From: rakeshb@stanford.edu
Date: Thu Feb 20 2003 - 16:50:05 EST

Le Monde Diplomatique   February 19, 2003
>>Threats of forced mass expulsion
>>Israel: a new Palestinian diaspora
>>The repugnant idea of the 'transfer' of the Palestinians - 
meaning their
>>total expulsion - now appeals to many Israelis. The Israeli army 
and some
>>settlers are already organising 'mini-transfers' in the West Bank, 
and any
>>serious new threat to Israel (for example, missile attacks from 
Iraq at war)
>>could precipitate the brutally enforced expulsion of millions.
>>by Amira Hass*
>>A European diplomat spotted a road sign in Israel's Jordan 
Valley in
>>December, showing that the road had been renamed Gandhi, 
which was the
>>nickname of General Rehavam Zeevi, founder of the far-right 
>>(Homeland) party. Zeevi, who had publicly called for 
Palestinians to be
>>"transferred" to Arab countries, was killed in 2001 by a gunman 
from the
>>Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. Was the sign an 
example of
>>cynicism or just a joke in bad taste? It stood just before the road 
>>east to the Allenby Bridge linking Israel and Jordan, indicating 
the way
>>Zeevi's "transferees" might have to take.
>>Just before his assassination, and soon after another 
Palestinian suicide
>>attack, Zeevi said in a radio broadcast that the only solution to 
>>problems was the "approved transfer" of its Arab population. He 
clearly felt
>>he then had the necessary support to deliver this unambiguous 
>>although he had been obliged to keep it secret for years.
>>The real problem is that Israelis do not view the suicide 
bombings as part
>>of the Palestinian struggle to end Israel's occupation, nor do 
they see them
>>as revenge for the aggressive tactics of the Israeli Defence 
Forces (IDF).
>>(According to the Palestinian Red Crescent, military action has 
caused more
>>than 2,000 Palestinian casualties, at least 1,500 of them 
>>Israelis see the attacks as proof that the Palestinians are 
determined to
>>destroy the state of Israel, and to kill Jews because they are 
Jews. In this
>>climate the expulsion of the Palestinians is touted as a security 
measure, a
>>humane response to an intractable problem. The Israeli 
authorities are doing
>>nothing to check the momentum of such plans.
>>Which populations will be "transferred" remains deliberately 
>>Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank? Those in the 
>>camps? Or all Palestinians between the Mediterranean and the 
Jordan river,
>>including Israel's Arab citizens?
>>Limor Lavnat, the Israeli education minister, legitimised the 
debate when
>>she ordered schools to observe the anniversary of Zeevi's 
death. Anti-Arab
>>slogans appeared across the country: "No Arabs, no attacks"; 
>>equals Peace"; "Palestine is Jordan". One poll found that 20% 
of Israeli
>>Jews would consider voting for the extreme-right Kach party if it 
>>legally permitted to field candidates. (Kach was founded by 
Rabbi Meir
>>Kahane in 1973: in the early 1980s it won one seat in 
parliament, getting
>>just 1.5% of the vote. Kahane was barred from standing for 
election in 1988
>>and the party was banned after the February 1994 massacre in 
>>Some 73% of those who live in the Jewish settlements, 
euphemistically known
>>as development towns (1), believe that Israel should encourage 
its Arab
>>population to leave. This rises to 76% among Jews from the 
former Soviet
>>Union and to 87% among religious Jews.
>>With the assistance of foreign recruitment firms that publish job 
ads in
>>Arab newspapers, Moledet activists have been encouraging 
Palestinian workers
>>to find work abroad - to demonstrate that Palestinian emigration 
is somehow
>>legal, feasible and humane. They acknowledge, though, that 
>>hundreds of thousands of people voluntarily would be 
impossible: an
>>operation of that magnitude would have to be compulsory. 
Professor Arieh
>>Eldad, the IDF's former chief medical officer, is the second 
candidate on
>>Moledet's electoral list. Eldad makes a distinction between 
voluntary and
>>approved transfers: the first category assumes that all 
Palestinians would
>>agree to emigrate, even though Eldad acknowledges that it is 
unlikely that
>>any fellah would leave his land of his own accord. He also 
believes that any
>>approved transfer would require international support, which 
>>actively seeks.
>>Some rightwingers would go even further: they see a link 
between "transfer"
>>and the intifada. Effi Eitam, who heads Mafdal, the National 
>>party, would like to see Israel exert sovereignty over all territories
>>between the Jordan river and the Mediterranean. A Palestinian 
state would be
>>established in Jordan and the Sinai. The Palestinians would 
then have to
>>choose their status: either "enlightened" residents of Greater 
Israel or
>>"obscure" citizens of a Palestinian state. "I wouldn't use the term
>>transfer," Eitam explains. "I don't see it as a political option, nor 
do I
>>find it morally acceptable." Yet he describes war as a game with 
>>rules (2).
>>Although Eitam, a former brigadier general, claims not to seek a 
>>confrontation, he believes when war breaks out, "many Arab 
citizens will not
>>stay here". He also draws parallels between Israel's war of 
independence and
>>the expulsion of 800,000 Palestinians in 1948-1949.
>>Zvi Katzover, mayor of the Kiryat Arba settlement outside 
Hebron, is more
>>upfront. He is one of the founders of Gush Emunim (Bloc of the 
>>spearhead of the settlers' movement. In an interview after the 
>>military assault on Hebron, which left 12 Israeli soldiers and 
>>Palestinians dead, Katzover said: "When the big war begins and 
the Arabs run
>>away from here, sooner or later we'll be back in the [Hebron] 
houses" (3).
>>He was referring to homes inhabited by Jews before the 1929 
massacre of
>>Jewish residents in Hebron.
>>Most Israelis still view those who back expulsion as a tiny 
minority with
>>unrealistic and immoral objectives. Newspaper columnists and 
writers of
>>letters to papers condemn the proponents of "transfer", 
although more and
>>more Israelis approve their efforts. Likud and most other 
rightwing parties
>>avoided the issue during the election campaign. But given this 
>>attempts to stir up public opinion, one wonders if Israel's 
political and
>>military leaders have planned for the worst-case scenarios. Are 
>>democratic forces powerful enough to stop the scheme before it 
is too late?
>>All Palestinians, whether Israeli Arabs or those in the West 
Bank or Gaza,
>>remember the 1948 expulsion and unceasingly vow: "This time 
we won't let
>>them drive us out." The Palestinians are well aware of the 
danger, though
>>their legal expertise and their links to the international 
community on both
>>sides of the Green Line separating Israel from the occupied 
>>provide some protection.
>>Before the 28 January elections the rightwing-majority central 
>>committee sought to disqualify the list of candidates submitted 
by the
>>National Democratic Assembly (NDA), an Arab party, together 
with two
>>individuals: the NDA leader, Azmi Bishara, and Ahmad Tibi, of 
the Ta'al
>>party (Arab Movement for Renewal). The attorney-general, 
Elyakim Rubinstein,
>>who denounced Bishara for advocating the destruction of the 
Israeli state
>>and for supporting terrorism, also tried to ban Kach's former 
leader, Baruch
>>Marzel, who ran for the far-right Herut (Freedom) party. Herut 
has toned
>>down its statements on expulsion, though it refuses to 
condemn those who
>>promote "voluntary transfer" by offering the Palestinians work 
>>The Israeli left organised rallies to fight the proposed ban 
affecting Arab
>>legislators. These were sparsely attended even though the civic 
rights of
>>20% of Israel's Arab population - the NDA's supporters - were at 
stake. The
>>supreme court finally stepped in, ruling on 9 January that the 
NDA could put
>>forward candidates. Democracy in Israel was boosted and a 
mass Palestinian
>>boycott of the elections averted.
>>Israel's attorney general has come out against the "transfer" 
scheme but has
>>refused to take action against its proponents. This prompted a 
Labour member
>>of the Knesset to call for an official investigation into "voluntary"
>>emigration, noting that Israel's anti-racist legislation prohibits 
>>distinction between voluntary and compulsory "transfer". Young 
>>activists have joined in a campaign to stamp out racist slogans, 
launched by
>>Courage to Refuse, a group of soldiers who refuse to serve in 
the occupied
>>territories (4). Some Labour party veterans resent the 
refuseniks, branding
>>them anti-Zionist traitors.
>>Others on the left who oppose the refuseniks' efforts are loath to 
see the
>>Israeli army controlled by the right, and by hardline Jewish 
settlers all
>>too ready to make "transfer" a reality when the time comes. 
Several surveys
>>indicate that the number of Jews from the former USSR in 
Israeli combat
>>units has risen significantly, as has the proportion of religious
>>rightwingers in the upper echelons of the military. Both groups 
are avid
>>supporters of "transfer".
>>The presence of military pacifists in the occupied territories has 
>>prevented "mini-transfers". Faced with non-stop harassment 
from their 500
>>Jewish neighbours and a round-the-clock military curfew 
designed to protect
>>settlers, many Palestinians have moved out of the ancient city of 
Hebron. In
>>the northern West Bank 180 Palestinian villagers in Yanun were 
forced to
>>abandon their homes and relocate after increased harassment 
from the
>>neighbouring Jewish settlement of Itamar. Other expulsions 
have taken place
>>because of the construction of Israel's infamous wall (5). 
Though such
>>"mini-transfers" have come to the attention of the Israeli public 
>>resulted in demonstrations, the loss of land and homes over 
the past two
>>years has left the Palestinians feeling dispossessed.
>>"Internal closure" has meant 2.5 million Palestinians in the 
West Bank and 1
>>million Gaza residents confined to their towns and villages. The 
IDF, still
>>trying to quell the violent uprising that broke out in September 
2000, has
>>prohibited the Palestinians (except for a few special 
permit-holders) from
>>using primary roads, leaving their villages or travelling to larger 
>>Palestinian towns are hemmed in by roadblocks, fences, iron 
gates, mounds,
>>tanks and military vehicles. This has hindered movement, but 
has done little
>>to stop those who enter Israel to carry out attacks. To avoid the
>>checkpoints many Palestinians have moved to the cities to 
work. Anyone
>>travelling in Israeli-only sections might get the impression that 
>>expulsion has already happened: the roads, Palestinian 
villages, lands and
>>orchards, are deserted.
>>Tormented by the fear of more attacks, Israelis still reject the 
notion that
>>internal closure is a form of collective punishment, which only 
leads to
>>increased support for the suicide bombers. Senior military 
officers describe
>>the policy as reversible and say it will be discontinued when the
>>Palestinians finally renounce terrorism. Meanwhile closure 
dovetails nicely
>>with the "definitive agreement" espoused by the same rightwing 
parties that
>>have dodged the issue of transfer. Russian Jewish supporters 
of Yisrael
>>Beitenu (Israel Our Home), currently allied with Moledet, have 
>>creating isolated prison-like enclaves with no territorial 
contiguity. The
>>size of the enclaves is the only thing that separates this plan 
from the
>>Palestinian state envisioned by the Israeli prime minister, Ariel 
>>Some fear that military intervention in Iraq by the United States 
>>create a climate that could lead to the mass expulsion of 
>>especially if Baghdad attacks Israel with chemical weapons or if 
>>Palestinians show support for Saddam Hussein. Should either 
of these happen,
>>things could rapidly get out of control. But to achieve its 
objectives, the
>>US needs stability in the Middle East, and mass expulsions 
would have the
>>opposite effect.
>>Others worry that a Palestinian group will carry out a lethal 
mega-attack. A
>>senior officer, sounding fearful, expressed doubt that the army 
would or
>>could stand in the way of local initiatives to expel the residents 
>>Palestinian villages thought to be harbouring terrorists. To 
illustrate this
>>he recalled how the Israeli authorities and the IDF refused to 
take action
>>against Jewish settlers who had forcibly prevented Palestinians 
>>harvesting their olive crops.
>>Yet those Palestinians who send their young to Israel on 
bombing missions or
>>to launch a possible mega-attack do not seem to understand 
that such actions
>>could lead to mass expulsion. In extreme circumstances a 
majority of the
>>Israeli public and many Western nations might look favourably 
on extreme
>>countermeasures. Palestinian and Jewish fundamentalists 
have expressed
>>similar beliefs that a great war may be the only way to change 
>>Over the past two years the Jordanian government has 
tightened regulations
>>on West Bank and Gaza residents who enter its territory. Jordan 
>>huge influxes of Palestinians fleeing the miseries of Israeli 
>>and other dire scenarios. Its fears are understandable: as the 
>>Ha'aretz reported on 28 November, Sharon has offered no 
assurances that
>>Israel will not expel the Palestinians to Jordan, on the grounds 
that such a
>>suggestion is offensive. This prompted Jordan's prime minister, 
Ali Abu
>>al-Ragheb, to point out the Israel-Jordan peace treaty prohibits 
>>of any kind. But the proponents of "transfer" take a dim view of 
>>Until now Israelis and the international community have not 
shown much
>>interest in the "mini-transfers" and other relocations within the 
>>territories. But opposing such illegal and dangerous practices 
is extremely
>>necessary, since the threat of mass expulsion is all too real. 
>>developments in Israel are disturbing: fundamentalist and 
>>beliefs are on the rise, moral considerations have disappeared 
from politics
>>and the IDF has devised new forms of oppression. With 
>>passivity and the absence of Palestinian leaders capable of 
guiding the
>>resistance to the occupation, these are discouraging signs.
>>* Amira Hass is the correspondent for the Israeli daily Ha'aretz. 
She is
>>based in Ramallah.
>>(1) These mushroom towns are similar to France's former villes 
>>(new cities, or suburban housing projects).
>>(2) Ha'aretz, Tel Aviv; 22 February 2002.
>>(3) Quoted in a television interview on Israel's Channel One on 
27 November
>>(4) See Joseph Algazy, "Irael's army refuseniks", Le Monde 
>>English language edition, March 2002.
>>(5) See Matthew Brubacher, "Israel: walled in, but never secure", 
Le Monde
>>diplomatique, English language edition, November 2002.
>>Translated by Luke Sandford

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