Monday, September 12, 2005

Will there be Jews in Palestine?

In the aftermath of the Gaza withdrawal and on the threshold of declaring their own state of Palestine, the Palestinians ought to learn from Nelson Mandela's South Africa and jettison an outdated concept of Arab nationalism that inevitably entails the 'ethnic cleansing' of Jews, argues the Tunisian-born French writer Marco Koskas ( via Primo-Europe.org).

Well, that's it then. There is not a single Jew left in Gaza. This poor sandswept strip of land is now under Palestinian control - and a good thing too. Let's hope peace will finally come - and that this embryonic compromise between the belligerent parties is followed by further, preferably mutual, peace gestures.

The question remains: why, with every triumph of Arab nationalism, must the Jews leave? whether in the Maghreb or the Mashrek (Middle East), not a single Arab country has gained sovereignty without having expelled the Jews. Or ushered them along towards the exit.

In all these countries the Jews had been there since time immemorial, sometimes even before the Arabs. And these Jews were not settlers. Their presence was not the result of a military occupation. They were not even armed, as the Gaza settlers were. Nonetheless they had to pack up and leave.

A million Jews were thus forced to leave the Arab countries in the 1950s and 1960s. It was a silent ethnic cleansing and nobody batted an eyelid.

It was as if the Jewish population of the Arab countries had been lumped together with French colonialism, its civil servants, soldiers, its White Fathers kicked out of the countries at independence.

At the time, not a single voice was raised at this confusion. There was not a word of comfort for those who had to flee from one day to the next, leaving everything behind.

While the Palestinians expelled from Palestine created a heroic nationalism in exile, the Jews expelled by Arab nationalism were content to rebuild their lives elsewhere - in France, Canada, and especially in Israel.

These are the Jews who have been expelled from Gaza. These same people have been forced out of a future Arab state. These same Jews, fifty years on, are still unwanted by the Arabs.

Will history repeat itself - will we hear the same old tune replayed?

While there is still time - let's ask the leading question: will there be Jews in Palestine? In the future Palestinian state, that is. Will this state be the preserve of Muslims, and a tiny minority of Christians, or will some Jews be mixed in as well?

Provided they disarm and respect the laws of this future state, why could the Israeli Jews already living there not continue to do so? Provided of course that the Palestinian state guaranteed their security and even gave them Palestinian nationality. There is a good million Palestinians in Israel and no one would dream of transferring them to the other bank of the Jordan.

The odds are on as to the identity of a future Palestinian state and whether there will be Jews in it. Unfortunately the way it is shaping up at the moment, this state is basing itself on the Arab nationalist model of the 1950s, with its population composed exclusively of Muslim-Arabs.

Raus Juden - as ever.

Let us disregard the Gaza model, because what worked for Gaza, despite the screaming and wailing, would not work for the rest of the Territories, given the numbers of settlers and the scattered nature of the settlements.

Nobody could force out the hundreds of thousands of Israelis settled there, some for the last thirty years. Otherwise there would be a bloodbath, indescribable chaos and horror.

No Israeli leader would take that risk, not only out of conviction, but because most of the Israeli population is also deeply scarred by the ethnic cleansing that took place in the 1950s and 1960s in the Arab countries.

One has to understand that the collective Israeli unconscious is shaped more by this ethnic cleansing than by Auschwitz. It determines this people's reactions. As long as the de-Judaisation of the Arab countries is not referred to as such, no Israeli would find it fair to leave the Territories. This is not an extremist political position but the expression of a trauma - a gaping wound in the psyche of all oriental Jews. (My emphasis - Ed)

This is why the Palestinian leadership should break with Arab nationalism and say so. They should break with the idea that people can be transferred as easily as pawns on a chessboard.

Were Palestinian claims to be taken seriously (return of the refugees and evacuation of settlements) several million people would be on the move between the Galilee and the Red Sea, as when India was partitioned in 1947, with all the ensuing massacres.

The Palestinians must therefore rethink their position. As long as they continue to confuse Israeli military occupation and a Jewish presence on their territory, there will be no solution.

Let them declare that the occupation is unacceptable but that the Jews already living there are acceptable, and things would be different. Let them guarantee to those Jews the same rights that the Israeli state guarantees to Muslims within its borders, and everything would become possible.

In short they would have to make the transition from the Arab model of national liberation to the South African. There, the extremists had to bow to Mandela. He did not give the whites, as the Algerian FLN gave to the 'pieds noirs', the stark choice between suitcase and coffin.

Quite the opposite. Mandela had the great and just idea of guaranteeing all citizens - black or white - their right to live in South Africa. The right of soil, so to speak. That's why there was no re-make of the Algerian drama over there.

And the right of soil which prevailed in South Africa must prevail in the sort of peaceful Middle East that everyone - except the extremists - wishes to see.

Read article in French

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