The population exchange theory holds that as many Arabs "voluntarily fled" from Israel as Jews "were expelled" from Arab lands. While it may be true that certain Palestinians owned property that was taken over by Israel, Jewish property was taken over by Arab governments as well. In short, Arab grievances against Israel cancel out with Jewish grievances against Arab countries and there should be no right of return for either. Since the Jews haven't been asking to return to Iraq, Yemen or Morocco, this basically means that the Palestinians should renounce their right of return to Israel. Sixty years have passed and it's not reasonable not to accept that.
Of course, the theory rests on the premise that Oriental Jews who emigrated to Israel were refugees, and a number of objections can be made to that claim; but that will be covered in another post and I'd like to focus here on another aspect of the problem.
A little known fact about the population displacements that took place in 1948 is that some Arab refugees from West Jerusalem went to live in as nearby a place as... East Jerusalem. When Israel occupied and annexed the eastern city following the Six-Day War, those refugees became Israeli residents.
Among those people, Haaretz informs us, were Mohammed al-Kurd and his wife Fawzieh. In 1956, the couple were provided housing by the Jordanian government and a UN refugee agency in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of East Jerusalem.
Fifty years later, a Jewish group moved into part of the house, maintaining that an Ottoman-era bill of sale granted ownership of the property to the Committee for the Sephardic Group. The al-Kurds started a legal battle for their house which was adjudicated in July 2008, when a Jerusalem District Court issued a ruling in favor of the Sephardic Group, which transferred the property to a settler organization called "Shimon's Estate." The al-Kurds were ordered to leave the property, amid protests from human rights groups and, unusually, the United States.
Finally, today, at 4:45 in the morning, some 20 IDF vehicles and seven police minibuses sealed off much of the neighborhood, and proceeded to evict the al-Kurds.
Apart from the horrendous humanitarian dimension of a couple well into their seventies being thrown out of their home by the military in the wee hours, this incident puts the population exchange theory to test.
Granted, the Sephardic Group may have been the true owners of the house. But doesn't their right "cancel out" with the rights of, say, the inhabitants of Ein Hod whose mosque was turned into a posh café for Jewish artists? And if the inhabitants of Iqrit and Birim (who are Israeli Arabs expelled by the IDF) don't have the right to return to their villages, why should the "Shimon's Estate" group enjoy the right to "return" to an East Jerusalem house where neither they, nor their parents or grandparents, ever lived?
Why is it assumed that the Palestinians must accept the outcome of a population exchange (i.e., the loss of their property), but the Jews don't have to accept their part of that outcome?
Israel has been tested on the population exchange theory, and the result is FAIL.
El País (Der Stürmer)
8 years ago