Monday, March 29, 2010

Arab-Jewish Population Swap?

Eugene Rogan, director of the Middle East Centre at St Antony’s College, Oxford university makes an interesting point in FT.com, Published: March 28 2010:

...The international community is agreed that a solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict lies in a two-state land-for-peace settlement on the basis of the pre-1967 boundaries. Yet a fallacy persists, that somehow these two states should be ethnically pure: that Israel should be uniquely Jewish, and Palestine uniquely Arab.

The truth is that the population of Israel and the Palestinian territories is highly intermixed. There are 1.2m Palestinians of Israeli citizenship [actually closer to 1.5 million - SL] – nearly 20 per cent of the population of Israel. And there are nearly 400,000 Israeli citizens living in settlements in East Jerusalem and the West Bank. When at some future date Israel and the Palestinian Authority agree to a peace deal, there is no reason to expect this trend to reverse.

Peace should accelerate exchanges of goods and people in the region. [hear, hear!! - SL]

Nor should peace be attempted through the expulsion of Israelis or Palestinians from each other’s territories. The history of Israel and Palestine has been stained by forced displacement in the past. The exile of Palestinians in 1948 and 1967 engendered the refugee crisis and more than 60 years of misery. The removal of settlements from Sinai in 1982 and the Gaza Strip in 2005 were deeply traumatic for Israelis – and would pale in comparison with any attempt to evacuate settlements in East Jerusalem or the West Bank.

[Here Rogan forgets, as many do, the "forgotten refugees": the 850,000 Jews who were expelled from the 22 Arab nations surrounding Israel, since 1948. As a result the calculus in his proposed solution is wrong. Here's what he suggests. I'll give you my version below. - SL]

...One way would be a right of return of Palestinians in refugee camps in Syria and Lebanon to offset Israeli settlements.

According to Central Intelligence Agency figures, there are about 177,000 Israeli settlers in East Jerusalem and 187,000 in the West Bank. The United Nations agency responsible for Palestinian refugees says there are about 224,000 in camps in Lebanon, and another 126,000 in camps in Syria. The number of Palestinian camp refugees is nearly as large as the number of Israeli settlers in the occupied Palestinian territories.

Imagine that the settlers were to be allowed to remain as Israeli citizens in the state of Palestine after a peace deal, in exchange for an equal number of Palestinians in refugee camps being allowed to return to their native lands inside Israel. ...

[In fact, the 600,000 Arab refugees of the 1948 War of Independence were more than offset by the 850,000 Jewish refugees from Arab lands. To truly "balance the scales" under this proposal, Israel should be allowed to settle the same number of Jews in prospective "Palestinian" territory, as the 1.5million Arabs who live in Israel.

However even this is wrong, because in 1922, referring to the entire area west of the Jordan River, the League of Nations recognised "the historical connection of the Jewish people with Palestine and to the grounds for reconstituting their national home in that country.” The “Mandate for Palestine,” thus recognised the Jewish legal right to settle anywhere in western Palestine, a 10,000- square-miles area between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea. The legality of the League of Nations’ “Mandate for Palestine” [i.e., The Trust] was not terminated with the end of the British Mandate. Rather, the Trust was transferred over to the United Nations.

Article 80 of the UN Charter implicitly recognizes the “Mandate for Palestine” of the League of Nations.

This Mandate granted Jews the irrevocable right to settle anywhere in Palestine, the area between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea, a right unaltered in international law and valid to this day. Jewish settlements in the West Bank, Gaza and the whole of Jerusalem are legal.


All of western Palestine, from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea, including the West Bank and Gaza, and most certainly any part of Jerusalem, remains open to Jewish settlement under international law.]
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