On his official Facebook page yesterday, Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu posted a speech in English. The concept here is so novel, that the text merits full presentation:
“I’m sure many of you have heard the claim that Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria, the West Bank, are an obstacle to peace. I’ve always been perplexed by this notion. Because no one would seriously claim that the nearly two million Arabs living inside Israel, that they are an obstacle to peace. That’s because they aren’t. On the contrary. Israel’s diversity shows its openness and readiness for peace.
Yet the Palestinian leadership actually demands a Palestinian state with ONE precondition: No Jews.
There’s a phrase for that: it’s called ethnic cleansing. And this demand is OUTRAGEOUS. It’s even more outrageous, that the world doesn’t find this outrageous. Some otherwise enlightened countries even promote this outrage. Ask yourself this: would you accept ethnic cleansing in your state? A territory without Jews, without Hispanics, without blacks?
Since when is bigotry a foundation for peace? At This moment, Jewish school children in Judea and Samaria are playing in sandboxes with their friends. Does their presence make peace impossible? I don’t think so. I think what makes peace impossible is intolerance of others. Societies that respect all the people are the ones that pursue peace. Societies that demand ethnic cleansing don’t pursue peace.
I envision a middle east where young Arabs and young Jews learn together, work together, live together, side by side, in peace. Our region needs more tolerance, not less. So the next time you hear someone say that Jews can’t live somewhere, let alone in their ancestral homeland, take a moment to think of the implications. Ethnic cleansing for peace is absurd. It’s about time somebody said it. I just did.”
Netanyahu is apparently discussing a claim that is not new, but three years old, and that does not mention Jews as such. In 2013, Palestinians President Abbas said, following a meeting with interim Egyptian President Adly Mansour in Cairo, that “In a final resolution, we would not see the presence of a single Israeli — civilian or soldier — on our lands”.
Abbas is thus referring to Israelis and soldiers of the occupying power. This is completely uncontroversial by international law, where the Fourth Geneva Convention (article 49) clearly states that “the Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies”.
But Netanyahu turns this potential realization of international law, into an intent of “ethnic cleansing” by the Palestinians.
This is especially perplexing considering Israel’s history of ethnic cleansing, a history which continues today, where the rate of Israeli demolitions in occupied territory have doubled this year. Netanyahu further refers to Israel’s Palestinian citizens (the “nearly two million Arabs living inside Israel”), who are incidentally also subject to discrimination by some 50 laws and recurring displacement (particularly the Bedouin community). Those Palestinians are the roughly 15% of the Palestinian population that managed to survive the first large-scale ethnic cleansing of Palestinians in 1948. He regards their presence, and Israel’s ‘tolerance’ of them, as a proof for Israel’s moral magnanimity.
Netanyahu states that “Jewish school children in Judea and Samaria are playing in sandboxes with their friends”, rebuffing a supposed claim that their “presence makes peace impossible”. Disregarding the fact that these children play in segregated sandboxes, in segregated communities connected by segregated roads and sometimes throw stones at Palestinians with an impunity not experienced by Palestinian children, the usage of the emotional appeal of “children” is hardly relevant, nor tasteful, to say the least, in this context.
This appears to be a new spin-strategy by Netanyahu’s office: taking the term “ethnic cleansing”, which the world has increasingly become aware that Israel enacts, and turning it against its victims.
Yesterday, I happened to read Isabelle Kershner’s article in the New York Times (dated August 30th), concerning the settlements. Allow me first to note, that Kershner’s article has a main flaw, in that she cites only 350,000 settlers in West Bank. This appears to be an outdated 2013 number, and excluding East Jerusalem. The number today excluding East Jerusalem is about 400,000, and the East Jerusalem settlers by some counts nearly double that number, which justifies citing the settler figures as high as journalist Gideon Levy recently did: 800,000 settlers. The citing of settlers in the West Bank excluding East Jerusalem is a common practice, which effectively endorses Israel’s illegal and unilateral annexation of East Jerusalem by 1980 Basic Law: Jerusalem.
Nonetheless, Kershner’s article brings us some interesting information.
“Asked about the legalization of outposts — and the international criticism — Mr. Netanyahu’s spokesman, David Keyes, did not respond directly, but instead turned the question to the Palestinian leaders’ stance that no settlements could remain in the West Bank under a future deal. “The frequently echoed Palestinian demand to ethnically cleanse their future state of Jews,” Mr. Keyes said via email, “is outrageous, immoral and antithetical to peace,” she notes.
This is a spin that is thus being repeated by the Israeli government over the last ten days. The demand to evacuate settlers and settler infrastructure from a future Palestinian state is regarded as “ethnic cleansing”, based upon racist notions.
The whole world is being admonished by Netanyahu for being “intolerant” in entertaining such notions at all.
Chemi Shalev, an analyst with the Haaretz daily, noted: “After years that Israel has toiled to prevent the loaded term ‘ethnic cleansing’ from entering the Israeli-Palestinian lexicon, Netanyahu is now pushing it in himself, through the front door.”
As a counter-video hurriedly produced by the Palestinian Authority pointed out, (in this video) Israel’s founding fathers spoke out repeatedly in favour of ethnic cleansing.
Extending Netanyahu’s logic, another commentator in Haaretz observed that, if Jews had an inviolable right to live on Palestinian land, why should Palestinians expelled in 1948 not have an equivalent right to live in their former homes now inside Israel, in cities like Haifa and Jaffa?
Netanyahu’s claim not only shines an embarrassing light on Israel’s past crimes. Palestinians are currently being driven off their land to allow for the expansion of Jewish-only settlements, with Israel demolishing Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem and in West Bank communities, in the Hebron Hills and Jordan Valley.
It is doing the same to Palestinian citizens inside Israel. The homes of 1,000 Bedouin residents of Umm al-Hiran in the Negev are about to be demolished so that an exclusively Jewish town – also called Hiran – can be built in their place.
In short, ethnic cleansing – of the kind defined by international law – is very much an ongoing project by Israel.
Then there is the matter of the United States, Israel’s patron. Netanyahu chose to issue his video in English, indicating that it was intended for a foreign as much as a domestic audience.