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Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Whose Land For What Peace?

In the international circle of chattering classes, whose discussions run the gamut from the disestablishment of Israel to the mere demonization of Israel as an "apartheid state" involved in stealing Palestinian land, it is never mentioned that, in fact, a lot of the "land grab" is an Arab land grab.

Ha'aretz addressed this in part recently:

Jewish-owned Land, Homes Left Outside Jerusalem Fence

By Nadav Shragai

About 5,000 dunam (1,250 acres) of private land owned by Jews were left outside the separation barrier in the Jerusalem area. The route of the barrier was completed earlier this week. In the Atarot-Neveh Ya'akov area, some of this land is already being used by Palestinians. In other areas, such as Har Gilo and Anatot, the land is currently not being used.

Military officials say that deciding on the route of the fence sometimes required making difficult decisions that take into consideration High Court decisions as well as the demographic map created by the barrier. They emphasize that the barrier harms Arabs as well as Jews, and that most of the difficulties are the result of decisions based on security factors.

Much of the Jewish land at issue was purchased before the establishment of the state. In his book "Zahav beyerushalayim" ("Gold in Jerusalem"), author Eliezer Smali related how, in the 1930s, educator Yehoshua Avizohar went to Meah She'arim to persuade residents of the neighborhood to purchase land in Abu Dis. Hundreds of Meah She'arim residents followed Avizohar to Abu Dis - then considered "the end of the world" - in hopes of exchanging their dark, crowded homes for a better place. About 1,000 dunam of the land purchased there will be beyond the separation fence.

In north Jerusalem, about 1,000 dunam of Jewish National Fund land next to the Atarot airfield will suffer a similar fate. If the landowners' appeal to the Appeals Committee of the Tel Aviv District Court is rejected, this land will not serve the "Jewish people," as the JNF's convention specifies. Here, too, much of the land is already in Palestinian use and hundreds of homes - the majority without permits - have already been built.(noto bene: Arab settlement of disputed land, which is endemic, is totally ignored by the media, NGOs and "peace activists."--ed.)

Military, police and Border Police officials have repeatedly told the landowners, or their heirs, that if they can remove the squatters from their land, there is a good chance that the property will be included within the route of the barrier and remain within Jerusalem. The political echelons, however, thought differently. Even in places where trespassers were driven from the lands, the ground remained outside of the fence.
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This article only addresses land in Jerusalem. It doesn't go into greater detail, and most people under the age of 60 are not aware that many farms and villages of Gush Etzion, a "settlement bloc" south of Jerusalem, were built on lands purchased by pre-State Jews seeking to establish farms and villages there. Those who stayed and defended their homes against the Arab invasion were massacred by the Jordan Legion and its irregulars in 1948, and Jordan annexed the land.

In 1948, Atarot was a long-established Jewish dairy farm north of Jerusalem which supplied fresh dairy products to the city; today, Arab propagandists call it a "settlement" because it is beyond the 1948 cease-fire line. Neve Ya'acov likewise was a Jewish farming settlement on legitimately purchased land which was overrun by the Jordanian forces in 1948. Jews returning to that Jewish-owned land after 1967 have been demonized as "settlers."

Sometimes, Jewish purchasers paid for the same land more than once in order to satisfy first, the original absentee landowner, then again, the British Mandatory authorites who were overly sympathetic to complaints of Arab villagers who hadn't shared in the landowner's windfall profit.

One of the best works on this subject can be found in Avneri's The Claim of Dispossession

I am quoting from a review of The Claim of Dispossesion (which I've read but I'm lazy--the quote summarizes the book quite well):

[T]he book shows that Palestine's population barely grew for 250 years--rising from 205,000 Moslems, Christians and Jews in 1554 to only 275,000 in 1800. In the second, records from 1830, 1863, 1878 and 1893 and 1917, among others, demonstrate that when the heaviest Jewish immigration began in 1880, a large proportion of the 425,000 to 440,000 Arabs in Palestine were themselves recent immigrants.

The book also carefully documents the origins of those immigrants. Many came from Egypt: The 1831 invasion by the Egyptian Khedive, Ibrahim Pasha, forced Palestine fellaheen, urban dwellers and Bedouin to permanently flee Ottoman military drafts and taxes. The 1837 Great Earthquake and epidemics that followed further cut their numbers. In their wake came Ibrahim Pasha's Egyptian Arabs, who settled the empty land. In 1831 alone, 6,000 Egyptian Arabs settled in Akko. The Egyptian Arab-Hinadi, Ghawarna tribes settled in the Beit Shean and Hula Valleys and in the Jordan Valley towns of Ubeidiya, Delhamiya and Kafer-Miser. In the Hula Valley, the Egyptian ez-Zubeids later sold their land to Jewish settlers from Yessud-Hama'ala. According to an 1893 British Palestine Exploration Fund report, Egyptians made up most of the population in Jaffa.

Additionally, Avneri shows, Arab and Muslim immigrants also came from Algeria, Damascus, Yemen, Afghanistan, Persia, India, Tripoli, Morocco, Turkey and Iraq. The French conquest of Algeria, for example, led to the eventual rebellion and imprisonment of Abd el-Kadar el-Hassani, whose followers in 1856 fled to Syria and the Lower Galilee towns of Shara, Ulam, Ma'ader, Kafer-Sabet, Usha (near present-day Ramat-Yohanan), the Mount Atlas village of Qedesh and villages on Lake Hula and in the Upper Galilee, where they spoke Berber. In Ramle, immigrants spoke Qebili, a Mugrabi dialect. Circassian refugees from the Caucasus settled in Trans-Jordan and as far east as Caesarea.

Arab immigration continued to rise through World War I, as Avneri documents, despite locusts, the Ottoman draft and more epidemics. Egyptian laborers, contractors and businessmen flooded the country. By 1922, the Moslem population had more than doubled to 566,311, including 62,500 Bedouins. The 1931 Mandatory government census counted 693,147 permanent Moslem residents, including 66,553 Bedouins. It also gave the natural increase of the population as 132,211--57,125 less than the absolute increase. Only illegal Arab immigration explains this contradiction, Avneri shows.

The next census in 1948, as Avneri recounts, followed unprecedented economic growth, during which illegal Arab immigration continued. From April 1934 to November 1935, for example, 20,000 Haurani Arabs came to Palestine. These and thousands of other Arab immigrants worked on farms, construction projects (building roads, railroads and the Haifa port), and government and municipal jobs. Syrians and Lebanese Arabs were free to come with nothing but border passes, and they came along with immigrants from Somalia, Trans-Jordan, Persia, India, Ethiopia and the Hejaz. Mandatory government rules required the supervision of immigration, but Palestine's borders remained porous to all but Jews. In all, Avneri shows that 35,000 to 40,000 illegal Arab immigrants came from 1931 to 1947--on top of up to 20,000 other Arab immigrants who arrived from 1935 to 1945.


All of this history and ethnic demography is routinely ignored in the discussions of Israel and what to do about the Middle East. The EU and UN, for their own purposes, have adopted the Arab mythology of a 'displaced Palestinian people' when in fact, today's Arabs of the West Bank and Gaza are no more "Palestinian" than the Jews are---both Arab and Jewish populations have indigenous people in their ranks, and both have experienced an influx of Arabs and Jews from other quarters during the 19th and 20th centuries.

So let's get off this "poor Palestinian" spin that the Arabs promote and the chattering classes have adopted and recognize that in the interests of peaceful coexistance, Jews have been giving up land for almost a century: what is today Jordan was originally part of the Palestinian Mandate which the Balfour Declaration promised as a Jewish state, yet Britain gave it to the Arabs to quell complaints about British promises of Jewish statehood in the region; in 1939 the Jews agreed to the proposed partition of the rump of land left after Jordan's creation, but the Arabs objected to any Jewish state; in 1947, the UN voted for a two-state solution, and the Arabs again objected, and sent their armies to invade, occupy and kill.

After 1948, there was a significant silence about the "Palestinian" issue--because there were no "Palestinians." There were Jordanians and Egyptians in the (Jordanian occupied) West Bank and (Egyptian occupied) Gaza respectively.

After the 1967 War, the Labor Government of Israel offered a land-for-peace formula that was officially and resoundingly refused by the Arab League and it's allies at the Khartoum Conference (the infamous Three Noes -- no peace with, no recognition of, and no negotiation with Israel).

Yasser Arafat refused Clinton's two-state solution and Hamas has carried that refusal even farther, stating it will never recognize the State of Israel.

The Gaza Disengagement was designed to showcase Israel's peace talk with action. It resulted in the disruption of thousands of Israeli lives and an increase in missile attacks on Israel, many of them fatal. (Hamas has recently announced that the town of Sderot, which has taken the brunt of the missile attacks, should be evacuated by the Jews because they are "occupying Palestinian land." Great sound bite for the MSM, which eats this stuff up--someone should point out to the media that Hamas considers Tel Aviv "occupied Palestinian land" despite the fact that nothing but sand dunes was there when the Jews established the city.)

The Arab mindset since the last century has been that of a two-year-old: "what's mine is mine and what's yours is mine, too." Both religious and nationalist justifications for this psychotically self-absorbed world view have been invoked over the decades.

Unfortunately, close attention to and critical examination of the history of the Middle East is lost in the Western fixation with "quick-fix" solutions and Arab sloganeering. The Arabs have no more a vested right to this land than the Jews, historically speaking. Any religious claim to the land is certainly equalled if not trumped by 5000 years of continuous Jewish life here, albeit sometimes held by a thread.

The continuous myth of victimization spun by the Arab propaganda machine is a disservice to the Arabs themselves, who should have been permitted to build their own state alongside of Israel in 1948, in 1967 and after Oslo. But Arab leadership, ever despotic and avaricious, has kept the Palestinians in thrall to this jihadist rhetoric for generations in the narrow interests of enriching that leadership and preventing revolt by the nationalist focus on killing Jews. Unfortunately, it has kept the Israelis enticed by that elusive promise of a peace that never materializes.

It's time for Israel to realize that there is no peace at hand. There is no formula that will satisfy neighbors who feel that Jews are less than human, and certainly less than Arabs. It's time for Israel to recognize that while the Arabs want peace as much as the Jews do, our definitions of peace are very different--our peace is that of neighbors. The Arab idea of peace is Dar es-Salaam -- the world, starting with Israel, under Moslem conquest.

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