Thursday, June 5, 2008

Wherein Lola Speculates about Refugees

Part deux of my History of the Conflict is as follows. Let me remind my readers once again that this blog is designed to be an introduction to the Middle East for people who know little or nothing about the situation. This is because I am also just beginning to educate myself about it. So my musings are not meant to be the definitive word on anything, nor am I claiming to have all the information about this or any other event.


Count Folke Bernadotte, the UN mediator between Israel and Palestine, was assassinated in the fall of 1948 by the Stern Gang, an extremist Jewish militia. In their statement claiming responsibility for the assassination, which occurred the day after Bernadotte issued his recommendation, they called the UN "members of foreign occupation forces."

The recommendation called for the following resolutions:

  • Palestine would come under King Abdullah's control
  • al-Ramla and Lydda, as well as other large parts of the Negev, would be returned to Arab hands
  • Jews would keep control of the Galilee and Haifa
  • Jerusalem would be controlled by the UN
  • Arab refugees would be allowed to return to their homes or would be compensated financially if they did not wish to do so.

David Ben Gurion detained, disarmed, and virtually disbanded the Stern Gang and Irgun militia after this. Nevertheless, Bernadotte's plan was ignored.

In contemplating the concept of "the right to return" and why it has been refused by Israel, one must not only consider the ramifications for the displaced, but also the reasons for the continued displacement. Whether Israel is right or wrong, one can certainly not pass judgment without first understanding.

It seems that originally Ben Gurion would not allow refugees to return to conquered villages because he was afraid an Arab presence in his newborn country would undermine Jewish authority. And why have successive leaders also denied this right? Even now that Israel is a world power? I can only speculate at this point.

Besides the fact that these homes are, and have been, occupied by Jewish families since 1948, what I speculate is that there is an unpublicized long-term plan to dodge the issue of return until all those displaced in 1948 are dead. At this time, those still fighting for return will not only lack the resources to accomplish it, but they will have lost substantial desire to do so. It's one thing to want to return to your own home, but to want to return to a place you've never been is a difficult dream to keep alive.

History is full of displaced ethnic groups who have quietly blended into their new surroundings within the course of one or two generations. Chief among them, the Jews. One could argue even that the reason the Jewish faith and culture has survived so long despite never having an empire is that they became adept at practicing the customs of the larger society no matter where they were. Another example is the plight of Native Americans. They put up quite a fight, but once European settlers had become the dominant group, this fight died within a generation, along with countless aspects of their culture. And how about the story of Africa and the slave trade. Imported slaves also adopted most aspects of the larger culture while practicing their tribal beliefs in secret, also for one generation. And the Zulu in South Africa. The list goes on.

All these stories are similar in that they were displaced peoples overtaken by a dominant culture. But they are different in how those dominant cultures have dealt with them. Native Americans have been assigned plots of land and will receive government aid as long as they exist. The descendants of African slaves attained the same legal rights as whites in the 1960s but are still largely economically disadvantaged. South African apartheid ended in 1990 amidst a buzz of wide-ranging emotions.

And what of the Jews in history? They have experienced everything from enslavement in Egypt, to a warm welcome in Bulgaria. We already know history repeats itself, but which way will it repeat itself in this case?


manifest destiny said...

i wrote a big long response then left it on the work computer. oops. basically my answer was fear. jews are scared of palis takin over losing the majority and thus safety (in numbers). it's ancient over 5 millenia of generations passing down fear of persecution.

now, is it a valid fear? Simply, yes. It may not be PC to say - but shit - there are lots of (justifiably) angry people who'd be returning adding numbers to the pali population, thus power. If anyone honestly thinks that those returning wouldn't rise up and blow shit up, they are just naive, idealistic, or far too PC. I don't think it would be a nice peaceful homecoming. Who out there TRULY thinks it would be? Israel would be in total chaos.

Whether you think that is a good or bad thing is another story - but if you were the leader of Israel would you allow that to happen?

Plus, I don't see how there could be right of return w/o that of their progeny as well. If everyone returned it would be a logistical nightmare at best, and an all out bloody mess at worst. Of course I agree with the sentiment but at this point i just don't see it ever happening, or being in Israel's interests at all.

When Israel was created approx. 800,000 arabs were displaced (either they chose to leave cos of war or were kicked out by "fair buying of their land". At the same time around that number of Jews were displaced *choice or forced to leave* from surrounding arab countries and came into Israel. If the 800,000 who left, plus their progeny, returned... yeah. How many smurfs can you fit in a prescription bottle? I dunno.
If that many people returned to ANYWHERE... there would be anything but peace. There is no way Israel will ever allow the right of return. Will Israel ever not be a "Jewish State" - my answer is no.

Personally, I say to hell with tribalism, come on universalism humanism love - but unfortunately there are too many people who want "their people's land" and will kill to have it. The sad bottom line - there ain't enough land or good will to go around.

Nader said...

Manifest Destiny, can I ask you, do you believe in democracy? I hear your fear about fear of persecution, but you cannot apply those fears to how Palestinians and Jews were living before 1948. Let me tell you, it is possible for Jews and Palestinians to live together, but not under the circumstances we have today. The ends justify the means.

It is your choice to believe that Israel cannot ever be able to be anything but a Jewish state. With this kind of attitude comes racism and ethnic cleansing. Any state that believes it can only allow new citizens as a result of religion is not a democracy. Not in Israel and not in Saudi, etc. A democracy does not discriminate based on this stuff. I am sick and tired of seeing Israel and Blue Star PR advertise itself as a democracy when it denies non-Jews citizenship and at the same time it is spreading its military occupation and settlement expansion in the West Bank with absolutely NO justifiable reason!

Please tell me a reason besides the old, impractical reason that Israel is going to be wiped into the sea because it is only so many kilometres wide. And the other one that Israel won the West Bank in 1967 so now it is theirs, and besides the West Bank used to be part of Judea and Samaria, so that means we can take it. Oh, and the other one that it will help prevent suicide bombers coming into Israel. Did I forget any? Oh, one more, that the state of Israel doesn't allow this expansion, but the "extreme" Jews do it anyway and that the state can't stop them.