Saturday, July 26, 2014

The Trouble With Talking About The Middle East

The problem we always run into in talking about the Middle East is that there is so much long-standing misinformation about the subject that it requires an extreme effort to discover the truth.  This is not a one-sided situation.  I remember being taught, when I was growing up, that all of the Arab residents of Israel who left in 1947 did so voluntarily, at the urging of their political and religious leaders.  We have long since learned that this is only partially true; that a significant number were driven out by hostility and threats from Jews.

The same is far more true on the other side.  The greatest success at this maneuver has been getting the world to swallow the whole notion of a "Palestinian" people, an ethnic group whose claims stand against those of the Jews, but which was never heard of before 1967.  This has enabled them to portray the Jewish migration to Israel as a specimen of colonialism, an easily sold fabrication which flies in the face of the obvious fact that you are not a colonialist when you are returning to your homeland.  Another is that there was a large population of Arabs in the area of Israel that had been there for a long time- a claim that is easily falsified, as we know that this land was largely depopulated as late as the 1860's.

Another is the endlessly repeated claim that it is a war crime to expel an unalterably hostile population from your country after they have joined in a war against you.  At the very time that Israel was founded, the victorious countries of World War II were in the process of removing millions of ethnic Germans from various countries in Eastern Europe, most notably the Sudetenland, where 3 million ethnic Germans were forced to move back to Germany as a result of their hostility to Czechoslovakia in the war.  This establishes a clear international precedent for the Israelis to refuse to allow the repatriation of an incurably hostile minority.

Anyway, discussion of this issue inevitably declines into wasting time wading through the falsehoods on both sides, and never ever reaching the point where we can deal with the truth.  This is the problem I have had with Sam.  I just don't have the time or energy to enter into endless circular arguments with people who do not have the will to discover clear historical fact.

8 comments:

Infidel753 said...

The concept of a "Palestinian people" depends on the concept of "Palestine" as a nation with a distinct identity. As we're seeing now with Iraq, the arbitrarily-bounded states or proto-states drawn up by Britain and France after World War I never constituted nations. The inhabitants of Iraq don't look upon themselves as an "Iraqi people", but rather as Shiites, Sunnis, and Kurds, hostile to each other and loyal only within their own group.

If one accepts the concept of a "Palestinian people" based on the arbitrary boundaries of the Palestine mandate, the eastern three-quarters of that mandate was split off early on and became the country of Transjordan (now Jordan), so there is already a "Palestinian state" in the majority of Palestine's original territory.

I remember looking at population tables during the period of Zionist colonization (1880s-1940s) and being surprised at how fast the Arab population grew during that period. Later I found out that there was considerable immigration from surrounding areas because the Zionists were developing the economy.

Unfortunately the re-writing of history has real-world consequences for real people. Most of the Palestinian refugees and their millions of multi-generation descendants have never been absorbed into the Arab countries where they live (and where most of them were born), being instead held hostage to the impossible dream of recovering something that never existed -- unlike the much greater numbers of eastern German refugees who were integrated into the remainder of Germany and present so such irredentist problem today.

Anonymous said...

The outcome of war and aggression write history. The victors get to write the new rules and set new boundaries. The State of Israel was created by the victors at the time.
We not only took this land from the Native Americans, but we murdered them off with unspeakable atrocities. I guess we are just lucky there were no world councils (UN) at the time holding us responsible for our immoral behavior.
This wasn't our land, but military might allowed us to take it. Military might (backed by the US) is what keeps Israel, Israel. History shows that land to have changed hands many times through the thousands of years of wars. It's another war(s) that will decide boundaries, not some claim that a certain people have a superior claim to the land.

Green Eagle said...

Infidel, right as usual.

Anonymous, the comparison you make between the Israelis and European settlement deserves a more detailed answer than I can give in a comment. I will try to write a post about it in the next couple of days. I will add at this point that Europeans were not returning to their homeland as Jews were when they moved to Israel. That's a big difference.

Anonymous said...

Waiting to read that post.
Other groups have claim (ancient or otherwise) to land. Kurds come to mind. Prior to WW I and going farther back, many countries existed that no longer do, due to military victors drawing the new lines. When the USSR broke up some of those countries wanted their independent country back and cut ties with the USSR. In fact the map looks more like pre WW I with all its little nations dotting Europe and middle Asia. Look at all the boundary changes in just the 20th century alone.

Sam 240 said...

"The problem we always run into in talking about the Middle East is that there is so much long-standing misinformation about the subject that it requires an extreme effort to discover the truth." -- Green Eagle

Here are some books that might help. Three are by Israeli Jews, and one by a Diaspora Jew.

*"The Banality of Denial" by Yair Auron.
*"Jewish State or Israeli Nation" by Boas Evron
*"Original Sins" by Benjamin Beit-Hallahmi
*"Image and Reality of the Israeli-Palestine Conflict" by Norman Finkelstein.

You might also want to read the reports of Amira Hass and Gideon Levy, two more Israeli Jews.


“a 'Palestinian' people, an ethnic group whose claims stand against those of the Jews, but which was never heard of before 1967.” – Green Eagle

Let's take a trip to Santiago, Chile: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Club_Deportivo_Palestino

http://www.thenation.com/blog/177943/israel-palestine-pinochet-soccer-jersey

Yes, that Palestino. It's a soccer team established in 1920 by emigrants to Chile, who regarded Palestine as their homeland and a Palestinian background as part of their identity. I wonder how they managed to have such an identity 47 years before Green Eagle claims the concept of “Palestinian” was invented. The mind boggles.


“This has enabled them to portray the Jewish migration to Israel as a specimen of colonialism, an easily sold fabrication which flies in the face of the obvious fact that you are not a colonialist when you are returning to your homeland.”--Green Eagle

Let me note the incredible anti-Semitism here. Edwin Montagu was a member of the British Cabinet when Balfour issued is declaration. If you had asked Montagu what his homeland was, he would have declared that it was Great Britain. “The members of my family, for instance, who have been in this country for generations, have no sort or kind of community of view or of desire with any Jewish family in any other country beyond the fact that they profess to a greater or less degree the same religion. It is no more true to say that a Jewish Englishman and a Jewish Moor are of the same nation than it is to say that a Christian Englishman and a Christian Frenchman are of the same nation: of the same race, perhaps, traced back through the centuries - through centuries of the history of a peculiarly adaptable race.” (http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/History/Montagumemo.html)

Green Eagle is implying that the true homeland of a Jew in Brooklyn is the State of Israel. Isn't it possible that the homeland of a Brooklyn Jew is the United States? The early Zionists were residents of Europe, whose ancestors had lived in Europe for centuries. What would their homeland be?

Furthermore, the Goths came to Germany from Eastern Europe and the steppes. If Germany were to move millions into Poland and Russia, then, by Green Eagle's standards, it can't be colonialism. They're just moving back to their homeland. If millions of people from England were to move to central Germany, driving the residents out of their homes, it wouldn't be colonialism, because that was where the Angles and Saxons came from originally. One could reply that the English settlers weren't returning to their homeland, because they hadn't lived there since just after the fall of the Roman Empire. But that would mean the early Zionists weren't returning to their homeland, either.

Sam240 said...

“Another is that there was a large population of Arabs in the area of Israel that had been there for a long time- a claim that is easily falsified, as we know that this land was largely depopulated as late as the 1860's.” – Green Eagle

Green Eagle's claim is easily falsified. According to Justin McCarthy's “The Population of Palestine,” there were about 340,000 people in Palestine in 1850, which increased to 369,000 people in 1860, of which only 13,000 were Jews. That leaves 356,000 Gentiles, most of whom were Arabs. My copy of the World Almanac gives rounded population figures of 326,000 for New Hampshire, 315,000 for Vermont, and 377,000 for modern-day West Virginia, according to the 1860 census. Were New Hampshire, Vermont, and modern-day West Virginia depopulated? In 1860, Palestine was actually more densely populated than many of the USA's states.

“Another is the endlessly repeated claim that it is a war crime to expel an unalterably hostile population from your country after they have joined in a war against you.  At the very time that Israel was founded, the victorious countries of World War II were in the process of removing millions of ethnic Germans from various countries in Eastern Europe, most notably the Sudetenland, where 3 million ethnic Germans were forced to move back to Germany as a result of their hostility to Czechoslovakia in the war.  This establishes a clear international precedent for the Israelis to refuse to allow the repatriation of an incurably hostile minority.” – Green Eagle

According to Matthew White's “The Great Big Book of Horrible Things,” 12 million ethnic Germans were expelled from Eastern Europe after World War II. 2.1 million of these Germans died in the process of being expelled, which is why population transfer was made illegal soon afterwards.

On August 12, 1949 – after the Sudetenland expulsion – the Fourth Geneva Convention was passed, making such an expulsion illegal. According to Article 49, “Individual or mass forcible transfers, as well as deportations of protected persons from occupied territory to the territory of the Occupying Power or to that of any other country, occupied or not, are prohibited, regardless of their motive.” (http://www.icrc.org/ihl/WebART/380-600056)

In any case, as Green Eagle admits, many of the refugees of 1947 “were driven out by hostility and threats from Jews.” This would apply to many of the refugees of early 1948 as well. Since these Palestinians were driven out of their home before any invasion of Israel took place, they could not have joined in a war against Israel, and hence Green Eagle's argument cannot apply to them. Therefore, they would be entitled to return to their former homes, and Israel has refused to let them exercise this right.


"Anyway, discussion of this issue inevitably declines into wasting time wading through the falsehoods"-- Green Eagle

And yet I keep trying to correct those spread by Green Eagle. Might I suggest he read the books I recommended earlier?

Sam240 said...

"I remember looking at population tables during the period of Zionist colonization (1880s-1940s) and being surprised at how fast the Arab population grew during that period." -- Infidel753

Did you look at population tables for the decades before Zionist colonization, too?

We have about 327000 Gentiles in Palestine in 1851, according to McCarthy, and 663904 Gentiles in Palestine, according to the 1922 census.

The Jews started coming in 1882; where did all the 447454 or so Arabs that were already there, according to McCarthy's figures, come from?

The population of the world increased from 1.23 billion in 1850 to 1.92 billion in 1920 – what planet did all the extra people came from? They didn't come from elsewhere; there were more births than deaths, and that caused an increase in population.

According to my numbers, between 1851 and 1882, there was an increase of 1.0168% per year in the Arab population in Palestine – and this was all before the first Zionists arrived. It was due to the excess of Arab births over Arab deaths. If we extrapolate this rate of increase to 1922, we get 670643 Arabs in Palestine by 1922. The census numbers say 663904, which is very close to what our projection says.

The population increase of Arabs in Palestine between 1851 and 1922 was 1.0% per year – it was that way for the three decades before the Zionists started to come, and it was that way for the four decades after the Zionists started to settle in Palestine. It wasn't necessary for any Arabs to move into Palestine for that population increase over the latter four decades to take place.

Anonymous said...

Certainly the Palestinian land issue goes back before 1967 and promises were made in 1948 about a Palestinian homeland. Their own behavior (not excepting Israel) is part of the reason that issue never got settled, but it should have been settled in 1948. It would be easier to deal with them if they had a homeland and leaders to be held accountable as a nation.