Sunday, November 9, 2008

Israel tested --and failed-- on the population exchange theory

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.

10 comments:

Anonymous said...

Two "examples" do not prove your "premise" that Israel has failed on the population exchange theory. This is too small a sampling to have any statistical meaning.

It would be like saying that all Arabs are evil because two Arabs murdered their mothers. Your post is basically garbage.

andrew r said...

The post is about a blatant case of Israel double backing on its own excuse, not how many times it's happened. And how often does it have to happen before you can statistically say the population exchange idea holds no water?

Greg Potemkin said...

Good article Hasbara Buster.

Your logic is impeccable - and I suppose that is why the hasbarists don't like it

Yitzchak Goodman said...

I think this post blurs two different issues:

1. Moving populations around

2. Property

The idea of moving populations around to recreate pre-1948 demographics has all the obvious drawbacks. That isn't an argument, however, that someone with a legitimate claim to property should not receive the property back or, alternatively, receive monetary compensation. That would also apply to Palestinians who lost property unjustly although Israelis have an obvious disinclination to see the principle applied only to the Palestinians and not to Israelis. Glib hypocrisy charges don't yield much in the way of analysis or insight here. See there, I have high expectations of you.

Ibrahim Ibn Yusuf said...

The idea of moving populations around to recreate pre-1948 demographics has all the obvious drawbacks.

That's precisely what I'm criticizing: that Israel is giving a Jewish group a house in an Arab neighborhood to recreate the pre-1948 situation in which Jews lived there.

By the way, and although I didn't mention it specifically in the post, the same applies to the settler community in Hebron. In this case, Israel is trying to recreate the demographics of 1929.

Israelis have an obvious disinclination to see the principle applied only to the Palestinians and not to Israelis.

Israel doesn't want to see the property restoration principle applied to Israelis. It wants to see it applied to Jews. The villagers of Ein Hod, whose mosque was turned into a bar, are Israeli Arabs who fled the village in 1948 and are considered "present absentees." The Israeli government is in no rush to give them back their homes or house of prayer.

Yitzchak Goodman said...

In this case, Israel is trying to recreate the demographics of 1929.

I think you should notice how you try to make everything grist for the rhetorical mill. Jews want to have a presence in the holy city of Hebron. They want to pray at the Cave of Machpelah. I think they can object to transferring millions of people into the country without being termed hypocrites for not abandoning one of Judaism's holiest sites, but many of Jews of Hebron probably care very little for these arguments. They are responding to the religious significance of the place. Imagine that--there is something is life besides politics.

Ibrahim Ibn Yusuf said...

They are responding to the religious significance of the place. Imagine that--there is something is life besides politics.

The problem with that logic is that Israel won't allow the Arabs who formerly inhabited Ein Hod to pray in their mosque, which has been turned into a trendy bar for artists.

Also, and as you probably know, Israel's efforts to inject Jews into the West Bank far exceed what would be reasonable under the "religious significance" excuse. See, for instance, here.

Yitzchak Goodman said...

The problem with that logic is that Israel won't allow the Arabs who formerly inhabited Ein Hod to pray in their mosque, which has been turned into a trendy bar for artists.


And you forgot the kosher pizza shop that used to be a Koran store. I was trying to make the point that you don't distinguish between day-to-day life and broad political themes. You didn't get or respond to the point.

Ibrahim Ibn Yusuf said...

you don't distinguish between day-to-day life and broad political themes

You seem to forget that I'm a Hasbara Buster, not a creator of interesting ideas or an analyst of everyday reality.

The Hasbara point usually made is that Jews have the right to live in Hebron because other, completely unrelated, Jews lived there and were killed or expelled in 1929. If that is so, with much more reason a former resident of Lod, or his children or grandchildren, have the right to return to what was called Lydda until Arabs were expelled.

Also, I believe you're being a bit naïve in not seeing ulterior political aims --and not just a deep religious motivation-- in today's Jewish inhabitants of Hebron. These days they have desecrated the Muslim cemetery yet again, and they have scribbled "Muhammad is a pig" on a local mosque.

My Blog said...

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.