Thursday, September 08, 2005

No peace until all the dispossessed get justice

One aspect of the Gaza pull-out highlighted in this Beirut Daily Star article of 3 September, but scarcely mentioned elsewhere, is that the land at Kfar Darom had been legally owned by Jews since the 1930s. One can hardly disagree with Michael Fischbach's conclusion - that people who have been dispossessed on all sides need their grievances satisfied, or there can be no lasting solution.

With his Arab readership perhaps in mind, Fischbach says that Palestinian Arabs lost far more land in Israel than Jews lost in Gaza and the West Bank, and this has led to a certain Israeli reluctance to ask for compensation for Jewish-owned land. Crucially, though, apart from a cursory mention, Fischbach fails to make the essential point that Jews from Arab countries lost far more still than Arabs.

"How to deal with these decades-old private property claims underscores an important point that future architects of lasting Arab-Israeli peace would do well to consider. Governments can make decisions about land with the stroke of a pen during negotiations. For peace to last, however, dispossessed persons on all sides who suffered property losses over the decades must gain a measure of satisfaction from the process. Otherwise, their grievances will fester and ruin the possibility for a peaceful future.

"Historically, this has been a much greater matter in terms of the large number of Palestinians who abandoned land in Israel than for the small number of Jews who lost property in Gaza and the West Bank. Yet the issue remains the same for both sides: Persons who sustained losses must feel that their demands for compensation and-or restitution are addressed satisfactorily by any final peace agreement, or such a peace is bound to fail.

"For that matter, the small number of Jordanians, Syrians, Lebanese and other Arab nationals who owned land in Palestine prior to 1948 must be compensated satisfactorily for their losses as well. So, too, must Israeli Jews who had acquired and then lost land in those countries because of the conflict. To this list one could also add indigenous Jews from the Arab world who lost property when they emigrated, mostly to Israel, starting in 1948. All such claims must be addressed. Peace must be personal, not just national.

"Governments can cut deals about land. To leave out private citizens from such deals, however, will only sow the seeds for continued bitterness in a region that desperately needs to heal."

Read article in full

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