That Jews need to be “disengaged” from the Arabs is not a new idea. In July 1937 the British issued the Palestine Royal Peel Commission that concluded: “An irrepressible conflict has arisen between two national communities within the narrow bounds of one small country. There is no common ground between them. Their national aspirations are incompatible. The Arabs desire to revive the traditions of the Arab golden age. The Jews desire to show what they can achieve when restored to the land in which the Jewish nation was born. Neither of the two national ideals permits of combination in the service of a single State.”
Expelling Jews from their homes in any part of Israel or in the disputed territories will not solve the Arab/Israeli conflict. How do we know? The Arabs have been quite explicit in explaining why the conflict persists. PLO spokesman Bassam-Abu-Sharif and other leaders claim, “The struggle with the Zionist enemy is not a matter of borders, but touches on the very existence of the Zionist entity.” In other words, it does not matter whether Israel retreats to her 1967 borders, those mandated by the UN in 1948 or the 1949 cease fire lines. As long as the Jewish State exists, the Arabs are determined to bring about her demise.
Deporting Jews from their homes is also illegal. Writing in The New Republic on October 21, 1991, Professor Eugene V. Rostow made this clear when he declared, “[UN] Resolution 242, which as undersecretary of state for political affairs between 1966 and 1969 I helped produce, calls on the parties to make peace and allows Israel to administer the territories it occupied in 1967 until ‘a just and lasting peace in the Middle East’ is achieved. When such a peace is made, Israel is required to withdraw its armed forces ‘from territories’ it occupied during the Six-Day War–not from ‘the’ territories nor from ‘all’ the territories, but from some of the territories, which included the Sinai Desert, the West Bank, the Golan Heights, East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip.”
In another essay in which he investigates the Arab claim for self-determination based on law, Professor Rostow concludes, “the [British] mandate implicitly denies Arab claims to national political rights in the area in favor of the Jews; the mandated territory was in effect reserved to the Jewish people for their self- determination and political development, in acknowledgment of the historic connection of the Jewish people to the land. Lord Curzon, who was then the British Foreign Minister, made this reading of the mandate explicit. There remains simply the theory that the Arab inhabitants of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip have an inherent ‘natural law’ claim to the area.”
“Neither customary international law nor the United Nations Charter acknowledges that every group of people claiming to be a nation has the right to a state of its own. International law rests on the altogether different principle.”
In the absence of a peace agreement, how can one legally or morally justify forcing Jews to leave their homes? What did the Jews do to warrant this treatment? They were encouraged by Israeli administrations to establish residences and business in the area. Isn’t expulsion penalizing the victim, while rewarding the aggressor? And when peace negotiations do begin, wouldn’t it be better to have a presence in the area as a bargaining chip?
Another concern must be that expulsion clearly demonstrates that the Arab Intifada was not fought in vain. If the Israelis retreat under fire as they did in south Lebanon, the Arabs will once again see that terrorism is the most effective means to ensure acknowledgment for themselves, their goals, and to achieve their objectives. According to a joint Israeli-Palestinian Public Opinion Poll in June 2005 conducted by The Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research (PSR) in Ramallah and the Harry S. Truman Research Institute for the Advancement of Peace at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, 45% of the Israelis and 72% of the Palestinians believe that Ariel Sharon’s decision to remove Israeli settlements from Gaza is a triumph for the Palestinian armed struggle against Israel, compared to 52% among Israelis and 26% among Palestinians.
Furthermore, 51% of the Israelis and 66% of the Palestinians believe that the Intifada and armed confrontation has helped Palestinians achieve national and political objectives that negotiations could not have achieved. Israeli settlers share these perceptions with the Palestinians. 72% of the settlers think the disengagement is a victory for the Palestinians and 77% believe the Intifada has helped them achieve political goals.
As to the long term possibility for a political solution to the Israel/ Palestinian conflict, 46% of the Palestinians and 36% of the Israelis believe that there never will be a political settlement, 29% of the Palestinians and 31% of the Israelis think that this goal can only be realized either in future generations or in the next generation, 19% of the Palestinians and 27% of the Israelis expect it will be achieved in the next decade or within the next few years.
In a recent interview, former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, who presided over the retreat from south Lebanon and the failed Camp David 2000 Summit, said that Sharon surrendered to terror after realizing that his attempts to curb the violence had failed. Barak believes that the disengagement policy is flawed because even after the Israelis evacuate their armed forces and civilians from Gaza, international law dictates that Israel will be held accountable for everything that occurs there.
Barak further claims that president George Bush did not promise Sharon that Israelis will be allowed to remain in Gush Etzion, Givat Zev, Ariel, and Maaleh Adumim. Israel will not be allowed to remain in this as a reward for leaving Gaza. Behind closed doors, Barak says, Americans will tell you that this in not true. “The public is being deceived,” he asserts. Why? Because “Sharon is not strong enough to tell the Israeli public the truth.” Sharon and Israeli defense minister Shaul Mofaz have replaced the former Mossad chief, the head of the security service, IDF Chief of Staff, and the National Security Advisor, and appointed people who support disengagement.
Sharon is not being honest about the security fence either, according to Barak. The communities behind the fence will be abandoned. Several areas of the fence have been left open allowing terrorists access to Hadera, Afula, Be’er Sheva and Tel Aviv. Sharon has also lost the city of Ariel, and soon Maaleh Adumim.
Equally disturbing is the admission by Moshe Ya’alon, former Israel Defense Forces (IDF) Chief of Staff that the IDF did not participate in most of the discussions that formulated the expulsion plan. Only after the Americans and Egyptians were informed of the arrangement did he learn about it.
After his recent meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, Sharon once again called upon the Arabs to adhere to their agreement to stop the terrorism, violence and provocation, dismantle the terrorist organizations, collect their weapons and carry out organizational changes as a prerequisite to resuming the diplomatic process. Unless the threats are backed up with action, the Arabs will be even more encouraged to continue flaunting their agreements, if there are no consequences.
Another problem not openly discussed is that once Jews have been transferred out of the area, other Jewish communities will be exposed to Qassam rocket fire and terrorist infiltration. In January of this year, Colonel Uzi Buchbinder, head of the Home Front Command’s civil defense department, warned that 46 western Negev communities would be within range of enemy rockets and terrorist attacks after the retreat.
That the Arabs will not be swayed in any way by Israeli withdrawal should not come as a surprise. As political scientist Shlomo Avineri observes, the Arabs see themselves as the only “legitimate repository of national self-determination” in the region. They do not accept that national groups in the Middle East have the same right to self-determination that they have properly demanded for themselves. This exclusivity “borders on political racism,” and should not be tolerated in the Middle East any more than it is Europe.”
A few examples he points out will illustrate the problems Arabs have with minorities. The Kurds have a different language, culture and customs than the Arabs, and the Iraqi and Syrian governments (and the non-Arab Muslims in Turkey and the Persians in Iran) have oppressed them for decades. Yet no Arabs have ever asked that the Kurds be given the right to self-determination. In 2005, when the international community supports the establishment of a state for the Palestinian people, no Arab moderate or academic has requested comparable rights for the Kurds.
The Berbers in Algeria and the Christian Maronites in Lebanon are similar situations, he continues. The Darfur region of Sudan can be added to this group. Arab militias, with the support of the Arab dominated government in Khartoum, have committed what UN Secretary General Kofi Annan has called “ethnic cleansing” against the indigenous black population.
The refusal by the Sharon government to explain adequately the reasons for giving up land and transferring Jews in response to repeated terror attacks against its citizens, the failure to engage the Israeli public and politicians in an open dialogue about the implications of this policy, and its unfortunate success at fomenting distrust, alienation and hatred among various segments of the population does immeasurable damage to the Jewish people and weakens the Israeli and the American war on terrorism.
Before Israel “disengages,” there should be legal and moral justifications for uprooting Jews who have not violated any Israeli or international statue. When the Arabs are willing to accept the existence of the Jewish State and live in peace with her, then negotiations about future borders should be discussed. As long the Arabs want to destroy Israel, concessions only convince them that terrorism, rather than negotiation, is the best method to achieve their goal.
It appears that we have not progressed much since 1994, when Aharon Megged, the respected writer and supporter of the Labor Party, complained: “Since the Six Day War, and at an increasing pace, we have witnessed a phenomenon which probably has no parallel in history: an emotional and moral identification by the majority of Israel’s intelligentsia with people openly committed to our annihilation.” He also saw a trend by them “to regard religious, cultural, and emotional affinity to the land… with sheer contempt.” “You make peace with your enemies,” they incessantly proclaim, yet as Professor Edward Alexander observed, “it is clear that they can far sooner make peace with enemies wearing keffiyehs than with enemies wearing yarmulkes and tefillin.”
Dr. Grobman’s most recent book is Battling for Souls: The Vaad Hatzala Rescue Committee in Post War Europe [KTAV]. He is also co-author of Denying History: Who Says The Holocaust Never Happened? (University of California Press, 2000) His next book Zionism=Racism: The New War Against The Jews will be published in 2005.