I recently posted my debate with a Zionist defender of the ethnic cleansing of Palestine who left a nasty “review” of my book Obstacle to Peace: The US Role in the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict at Amazon.com despite not having read the book. So then along comes another Zionist hypocrite trying to defend how Israel was established by ethnically cleansing 700,000 Arab Palestinians from their homes…
One Rusty Shakelford jumped into the comments, the context for what follows being my observation that the Zionist leadership had no legal authority for their unilateral declaration of the existence of the state of Israel on May 14, 1948. Here’s our debate:
Wow. So you feel that after the Holocaust the Jews shouldn’t have gotten their own state. Most countries didn’t allow in Jews fleeing the Nazis and those that did allowed in very few Jews. The lack of a Jewish state before and during World War II was an enormous international crisis that had to be resolved as soon as possible after the war ended.
When the British Mandate ended on May 14, the Palestinian Arabs didn’t declare a state. Thus, there was no legal authority left in the Mandate’s place to maintain order. Once the British left, the Israelis were forced to start acting like a state. Once they were acting like a state, it only made sense for them to officially declare that they were a state. This is where the Israelis got the right to declare independence.
It’s important to remember that the Arabs began the fighting. Arab irregulars attacked Israel before their regular armies did. The Arabs blockaded Jerusalem in an attempt to starve out the 100,000 Jews there. Jerusalem’s Jews were forced to ration food. The Israelis had to fight back.
It’s also important to remember that ethnic cleansing was carried out by both sides in the war. 100% of the Jews living in areas overrun by Arab forces during the war were ethnically cleansed and not allowed to return after the war. The fact that more Arabs were ethnically cleansed than Jews were merely reflects the fact that the areas overran by the Israelis had more Arabs living there than vice versa.
Numerous states all over the world were created after World War II by ethnic cleansing. The establishment of the states of India and Pakistan resulted in the ethnic cleansing of 7 million Sikhs and Hindus from Pakistan to India and the ethnic cleansing of 7 million Muslims from India to Pakistan. None were allowed to return to their homes. Do you believe that India and Pakistan have no right to exist?
During World War II three of the five future permanent members of UN’s Security Council hatched a plan to ethnically cleanse all the ethnic Germans from Eastern Europe and force them to all go back to Germany and Austria. Once the war was over they carried out this plan with ruthless efficiency, creating 12 million German refugees. None of them were allowed to return to their homes.
If the international community refused to recognize Israel’s legitimacy it wouldn’t genuinely delegitimize Israel. It would merely delegitimize the international community.
Wow. So you feel that after the Holocaust the Jews were justified in establishing their own state by ethnically cleansing most of the Arab population from Palestine.
Only one of us rejects the equal right to self-determination of one of the parties to the conflict. (Hint: it’s not me whose standard is hypocritical. I affirm the right of the Jews in Palestine to self-determination; they simply had no legal claim to most of the land they conquered through ethnic cleansing to establish their “Jewish state”.)
And, once again, by the time the neighboring states intervened following the Zionists’ unilateral declaration of the existence of the state of Israel on May 14, 1948, 300,000 Arabs had already been ethnically cleansed from Palestine. (And how can Arab irregulars attack Israel before Israel existed?)
Yes, there was ethnic cleansing on both sides, although the Zionists’ ethnic cleansing of Arabs occurred on a far greater scale. For example, as readers can learn on page 307 of Obstacle to Peace, the Old City of Jerusalem was cleansed of its Jewish population of about 2,000. This occurred after the Zionists had cleansed West Jerusalem of most of its Arab population, about 30,000 Palestinians.
The difference between you and me is that I condemn the crimes of both sides, while you condemn the crimes of only the Arabs while shamelessly trying to justify the crimes of the Jews.
Amazon has since deleted that comment of mine! Rusty had a reply, basically asserting — nonsensically — that I wasn’t addressing his points and repeating them. I replied again to point out the errors in his reasoning. Both of those comments were deleted, too, and I have no record of them. (These may have been deleted by Amazon for their redundancy, though that’s speculation. One reason I’m posting these debates now on my blog, consequently, is to preserve them.) Anyhow, the debate picks up here…
It’s bad enough that you have to disagree with my arguments but now you’re going to lie about which of my points you did or didn’t address? I brought up the ethnic cleansing of ethnic Germans from Eastern Europe and the ethnic cleansing between India and Pakistan in the aftermath of WWII and you never said anything at all about those events. How the heck can you “fully address” those points without even mentioning them?! You never even mentioned the words ‘Germans’, ‘India’ or ‘Pakistan’.
It’s real easy to simply say that ethnic cleansings elsewhere don’t justify Israeli ethnic cleansing of Arabs but it’s a lot harder to prove it. Your lack of an argument for why your claim is so betrays a lack of confidence in the truth of your claim. If you like, I can simply reword my comparison of Israeli ethnic cleansing to other ethnic cleansings. Instead, I will say that if ethnic cleansing committed by other countries does not delegitimize the existence of those countries then ethnic cleansing committed by Israel clearly does not delegitimize the existence of Israel. If ethnic cleansing by other countries does not merit punishment of those countries then ethnic cleansing by Israel does not merit punishment of Israel. Equal application of the law is an absolute requirement for it to maintain its legitimacy. I’m not so much justifying Israel’s ethnic cleansing of Arabs as I’m saying that Israel doesn’t deserve to suffer any negative consequences because of it.
Your claim that my attempt to justify Israeli ethnic cleansing of Palestinian Arabs constitutes a rejection of the right of the Arab population to self-determination obscures the fact that Israel did absolutely nothing in 1948 to stop the Palestinians from establishing a state in the West Bank and Gaza so your claim is completely wrong. It also obscures the fact that the surrounding Arab countries came into Palestine in order to divide it up for themselves. Even without the establishment of the State of Israel there would have been no Palestinian state. Yet I don’t see you here bashing the surrounding Arab states for denying self-determination to the Palestinians.
There may not be a right for states to exist but at the same time the establishment of the State of Israel was not illegal. There is nothing in international law against unilateral declarations of independence:
The Palestine Mandate did not “mostly belong” to Arabs. Fred Skolnik already pointed this out to you. I don’t even understand why land ownership by individuals would matter for purposes of statehood anyway. In America we certainly don’t regard land ownership as a legitimate source of political power. Israel may not have had a right to ethnically cleanse Arabs but the fact that it did so does not invalidate its existence. Unless you want to argue that the existence of nearly half the world’s states are illegitimate. But I get the feeling you don’t want to do that.
Why do you keep ignoring what I said about the Arab siege of Jerusalem? Why? Why are you afraid of this issue? Most of the ethnic cleansing of 300,000 Arabs that occurred before the surrounding Arab states officially attacked Israel was part of the Israeli effort to secure the Jews in Jerusalem. The Arabs blockaded Jerusalem in an attempt to starve out the 100,000 Jews there. Jerusalem’s Jews were forced to ration food. The Arabs were attempting to ethnically cleanse Jews from Jerusalem. The Israelis had to establish their state through violence only because the Arabs tried to destroy that state through violence. I pointed out to you that Arab irregular forces attacked the Yishuv before Israel declared its independence. Please stop ignoring that point.
As a Jew, it would be easy for me to condemn 70 years after the fact all the horrible things the Allies did to the Germans during and after World War II. But that doesn’t mean for a second that I don’t accept the main result of the Allies’ war against Germany, which was its total defeat. And even then, it would probably be dishonest to not conclude that at least some of those bad things may have been necessary to win the war and to maintain peace in the future. In the real world you often have to accept some bad things because the alternative would be far worse. Does that make me a hypocrite? Does having the same attitude towards the establishment of the State of Israel make me a hypocrite?
It’s all fine and dandy for you to condemn the ethnic cleansing committed by both sides but that shouldn’t obscure the fact that at the end of the day the hundreds of thousands of Jews expelled from Arab countries had to *live somewhere*. Your condemnations of ethnic cleansing by Arabs doesn’t fix the problems of Jewish refugees. The Jews’ ability to force over a dozen Arab countries to allow Jews to live there was very limited. However, the Jews had a much greater ability to establish a single Jewish state which could give refuge to Jews expelled from numerous other countries. If Jews don’t have an inalienable right to permanently live in Arab countries then they obviously have a right to set up their own country where they can live permanently. You can make all the excuses you want for why the Arab countries expelled Jews but once they made the decision to do that they effectively destroyed any valid argument against the existence of a Jewish state, even if that state committed ethnic cleansing of Arabs.
Lastly, your recent claim to Fred Skolnik that the Arabs were a majority of the population within the proposed Jewish state (assuming you’re referring to the Jewish state proposed by the 1947 UN Partition Plan) is false. There were approximately 538,000 Jews and 397,000 Arabs in that area. In addition, it is false that the Arabs owned most of the land in Palestine. According to the British Government’s 1946 Survey of Palestine over 70% of the land was vested in the Mandatory Power. Finally, the Palestinians’ failure to destroy Israel does NOT constitute an acceptance of the Jews’ right to self-determination. It’s far too easy to condemn Israel for occupying people who have sworn for the past 70 years to destroy Israel.
One last observation. You told Fred Skolnik that the Zionists had no legal claim to most of the land they claimed to be part of the Jewish state on the day of Israeli independence. I don’t see how that could possibly be true since it’s my understanding that the Israeli government didn’t declare what its borders were at that time. Israel had to know that its borders would ultimately be determined by some sort of combination of war and negotiation. Bashing Israel for how much land it ended up with in a war fought for its very survival is just Monday morning quarterbacking.
Note that Rusty here cited the Survey of Palestine to support his contention that my statements about Arab land ownership were false. For the full context, see my previous post on my debate with Fred Skolnik, but for our purposes here, what you need to know is that my own source was none other than … the Survey of Palestine (the very source he claims disputes my statements about land ownership; note how, in addition to not reading my book, he didn’t even bother to read my other comments in the thread at Amazon.com)! See the appendices below. Since I had already addressed most of his claims, including this one, I didn’t go into the details, but summed up the main points, continuing…
Rusty, crimes against Jews elsewhere didn’t justify Jews’ crimes against the Arab inhabitants of Palestine. Didn’t your mother ever teach you that two wrongs don’t make a right?
The Zionists’ May 14, 1948, declaration of statehood did not declare borders; however, it did FALSLEY cite UN Resolution 181 as conferring legal legitimacy for their state, implying that their new state’s borders would be those recommended under the partition plan. The leadership also sent a letter to the US requesting recognition of their new state explicitly within those recommended borders. So when I say the Zionists had no legal claim to most of the land they were claiming to be part of their “Jewish state”, I mean they had no legal claim to most of the land recommended to them under the partition plan, much less most of the land they actually ended up controlling after the 1949 armistice agreements were signed (which extended beyond the partition plan’s recommendation).
It’s enough for me to observe how you just explicitly acknowledged that you are trying to justify the Zionists’ ethnic cleansing of 700,000 Arabs from Palestine (what could more epitomize a rejection of their right to self-determination?) in order to achieve their racist goal of establishing a demographically “Jewish state”.
I reject racism in all its forms, whether directed against Jews or against Arabs. It’s enough to observe what an extraordinary hypocrite you are.
Again, you’re completely ignoring most of my points. Either you’re not reading my posts in their entirety or you’re just purposely refusing to address half of what I say. Doing that makes it seem you like you realize I’m right and you just don’t want to admit it. Doing that makes it a lot easier for you to pretend that you’ve proven me wrong about things. You really should stick to arguing about international law because you look a lot smarter when you do that. When you try to make normative claims about the Israeli-Arab conflict you just end up making yourself look just as dishonest and delusional as Eugene Schulman. Your normative claims make it seem as though you’re afraid to fully and openly acknowledge all the practical implications of your claims about international law.
Before getting to Israel’s borders, I would like to remind you that you seem to be arguing that the State of Israel could not exist within any borders in Palestine without violating international law. You’ll have to forgive me for having a hard time figuring out what exactly is your legal position on the State of Israel. If you are in fact arguing against the legal legitimacy of Israel in any form then I earnestly request that you tell me where exactly in the world during the 1940s the Jews had a better legal case for their own state. If there were no such places then please acknowledge that fact. I would greatly appreciate it if you answered this question in full.
On to the issue of Israel’s borders, it’s my understanding that Israel got its legal legitimacy from the League of Nations Mandate for Palestine. Since that didn’t specify the exact borders for a Jewish state then it would seem to me that Israel could legitimately claim any borders within Palestine it chose unless there was a binding international agreement made on the matter prior to Israel’s establishment as a state which specified otherwise. At the very least, it would seem to me that the Jews were legitimately entitled to the borders set by the Partition Plan since the Jews were a majority in that area. Israel may not have had a legal claim to all of it before it was established but it would seem to me there was no legal problem with it having that land once it came into possession of it. After all, since there was no State of Palestine at the time that land didn’t really belong to anyone else in terms of sovereignty.
Again, I wish to stress that bashing Israel for the borders it ended up with in 1949 is merely Monday morning quarterbacking since they were the result of a war initiated by the Arabs before Israel even declared independence. The Arabs promised that they would go to war to prevent the establishment of a Jewish state no matter what its borders were. The legality of Israel’s 1949 armistice borders would only be a practically relevant issue once the Arab countries formally ended their war with Israel. Even with all the extra territory Israel had at the end of the war, it was still a tiny country only 9 miles wide at its waste. And it was still completely surrounded by countries sworn to its eventual destruction and which were still technically at war with it. Compare that to the Soviet Union, which used the deep Nazi invasion into its territory during WWII to justify the placement of its army 500 miles from its border in the middle of Germany. It did this in the name of preventing a future attack on it by a country split in 2 and occupied by the military forces of several other countries.
What you said about 2 wrongs not making a right is an extremely simplistic way of looking at the world that does not in any way acknowledge the reality of its difficulties. It’s an extremely lame claim for you to make in the context of the Israeli-Arab conflict. I don’t understand why you made this claim without backing it up with any argument at all. You had to know that I wouldn’t just accept the claim at face value and that I would make a long argument explaining why you’re wrong. I’m sure you’ve noticed by now that my posts tend to be a lot longer than yours. Arguing this way makes it seem like you don’t really care to convince me that you’re right.
First off, even YOU believe that 2 wrongs make a right. When I pointed out that 100% of the Jews in areas overrun by Arab forces in 1948 were ethnically cleansed you responded by pointing out that the Israelis ethnically cleansed Arabs on a much greater scale. By implicitly justifying the Arabs’ ethnic cleansing of Jews you were in effect claiming that the wrong of Israelis ethnically cleansing Arabs was made right by the wrong of Arabs ethnically cleansing Jews.
Second, the Palestinians themselves believe that 2 wrongs make a right. Otherwise, they would have never carried out a single suicide bombing or other terrorist attack against Israelis. If you claim that 2 wrongs don’t make a right then you’re forcing yourself to condemn without reservation all Palestinian terrorism against Israelis. I’m very doubtful you would be willing to do that.
The Arabs as a whole believe that 2 wrongs make a right. Otherwise, they wouldn’t have responded to Israel’s establishment by ethnically cleansing their countries’ Jewish residents. Muslims as a whole also believe that 2 wrongs make a right. Islam prescribes that people found guilty of theft should have their hands cut off. Muslims consider their founder Mohammed to be the last and greatest prophet even though he responded to the non-Muslim Meccans seizing the property of Muslims by leading Muslims in raids of the Meccans’ caravans. If you really believe that 2 wrongs don’t make a right then you have to condemn Islam. I’m very doubtful you would be willing to do that.
The Allies that defeated Nazi Germany and founded the United Nations also believed that 2 wrongs make a right. Because the Nazis had used the presence of ethnic German minorities in other countries to excuse aggression against those countries, the Allies decided that after the war they would ethnically cleanse all those ethnic Germans from those countries and send them back to Germany and Austria in order to deprive Germany of an excuse to attack those countries in the future.
Even in America we believe that 2 wrongs make a right. It’s an essential part of our legal system. If someone harms you then you can use the courts to take their money. If you illegally imprison someone in your home then the law responds by imprisoning you in jail. The Supreme Court has found the principle of retribution to be a legitimate basis for longer prison sentences for certain crimes. Neo-Confederates like to suggest that the wrong of slavery didn’t justify the wrong of 600,000 Americans being killed in the Civil War in order to end slavery. You strike me as the kind of person who would vehemently disagree with them.
The 2 wrongs don’t make a right philosophy is completely viable only in a perfect world. In the 1940s there was a very imperfect world, especially in the Mideast. The great philosopher John Locke observed that there can be no wrong or right in a state of anarchy. The Jews in the 1940s faced a completely anarchic world order, a fact you’re deathly afraid to acknowledge. They were the victims of massive injustices which were either punished after the fact or which were never dealt with at all by the world. They were faced with huge problems such as the hundreds of thousands of Jewish refugees from Arab countries. As I pointed out before, these Jews had to *go live somewhere*. The only option for most of them was Israel. If that may have necessitated ethnic cleansing of Arabs from Israel then that was perfectly reasonable in an anarchic world that provided these Jewish refugees with no other options. In an anarchic world, using the philosophy that 2 wrongs make a right is perfectly reasonable when everyone else is doing it.
In order to make an effective argument against a method for dealing with such a crisis faced by a group of people, when that method involves a wrong against another group of people, you absolutely have to provide another option for dealing with that problem. It’s not enough to whine about 2 wrongs not making a right. You have to provide an alternative for dealing with the problem. Is that incredibly simple concept just too difficult for you to understand?
I already pointed out that Israel did absolutely nothing in 1948 to stop the Palestinians from establishing a state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Therefore, I have clearly NOT rejected the Palestinian right to self-determination. And as I pointed out before, the surrounding Arab states didn’t want a Palestinian Arab state. They only came in to divide it up among themselves. Please stop acting as if there was any chance that there would have been a Palestinian state even without a State of Israel. Israelis wanting to have a Jewish state was not racist. Jews are not a race. Religion was the relevant difference between Israelis and Palestinians. A large fraction of Israeli Jews are Arab.
If a Jewish state is “racist” then the Arabs who attacked Israel in 1948 were far more racist since they ethnically cleansed every single last Jew from the West Bank and Gaza Strip. In contrast there were still 100,000 Arabs left in Israel after the war. If an officially Jewish state is so wrong then the numerous officially Arab states must be equally wrong. Especially after they ethnically cleansed all the Jews living in them. The same goes for officially Muslim countries, especially the ones that heavily persecute non-Muslims. Worst of all is Saudi Arabia, which bans non-Muslims from becoming citizens and bans its own citizens from converting to other religions. And the world’s billion-plus Muslims silently approve of Saudi Arabia’s Islamo-nazism by continuing to apply in droves for a chance to go on the Hajj. A committed opponent of bigotry like you surely must think that Muslims are terrible, evil people.
Why write a book bashing Israel but not one bashing all the horrible, evil Muslim countries? Why write a whole book bashing Israel while only making perfunctory denunciations of the far worse bigotry in Muslim countries instead of vice versa? That seems really hypocritical to me. The time and effort you put into opposing different instances of bigotry should be proportional to how bad the bigotry is. By any objective measure, the bigotry of Muslim countries against non-Muslims is far worse than Israeli bigotry against non-Jews. Condemnation of each should be proportional.
Viewing Israel’s choices through a realist lens that fully acknowledges the anarchic nature of the world order in the 1940s doesn’t make me a hypocrite. It makes me a realistic person that sees the world the way it really is. For your beknighted self to act holier than thou because you supposedly “reject racism in all its forms” while you persistently and aggressively bash Israel yet offer only perfunctory condemnations of Muslim countries that discriminate against non-Muslims only because I bring it up and force you to address it does NOT make you a better person than me. It merely makes you a self-satisfied defender of Muslim privilege who’s too alienated from the problems of Jews to even care to offer solutions for their problems. That makes you an enormous hypocrite. Any old jerk can condemn the persecution of Jews. But only a truly moral person will offer realistic alternatives for solving the Jews’ problems if he doesn’t like the ways that Jews have decided on for solving those problems themselves.
If you’d like to know exactly what my position is on the state of Israel, just read the book. You’ll see, if you do, that I advocate the two-state solution.
Your belief that the League of Nations Mandate created Israel or conferred legal authority to the Zionists for their unilateral May 14, 1948, declaration is false.
Your belief that the Jewish community “were legitimately entitled to the borders set by the Partition Plan” is also false, as I’ve now explained already in the comments repeatedly, including pointing out that Arabs were a majority even within the proposed “Jewish state” (and as I also explain in detail in the book, which you should read).
Your belief that there is no legal problem with acquisition of territory by war is belied by the prohibition of territorial conquest by such means under international law.
You are welcome to provide support for your claim that the 1948 war was initiated by the Arabs prior to May 14. Regardless, again, acquisition of territory by war is inadmissible under international law, and ethnic cleansing is a crime against humanity for which there is no possible moral or legal justification.
That two wrongs don’t make a right is an elementary moral truism. Did you mother not teach this to you? You claim I don’t believe this myself with the strawman argument that I tried to justify the Arabs’ ethnic cleansing of Jews. Well, now, readers can see that you are simply a liar, since I clearly condemned this in my previous comment. The fact you feel it necessary to resort to such an idiotic strawman argument to try to defend your own hypocrisy is highly instructive.
You say, “It’s not enough to whine about 2 wrongs not making a right. You have to provide an alternative for dealing with the problem.” Well, now, I have done so repeatedly. One alternative available to the Zionist leadership was to accept the Arabs’ proposal for the independence of Palestine to be recognized under a democratic government that guaranteed the rights of minorities. Once again, regardless, the ethnic cleansing of Palestine was completely unjustifiable.
Today, too, the alternative available to Israel is to choose peace over territorial theft and collective punishment of the Palestinians. This is all explained in meticulously documented detail in the book (which you should read).
And, once again, trying to justify the ethnic cleansing by which the “Jewish state” came into being is ipso facto a rejection of the right of the majority Arab population to self-determination (a right not limited to the Arabs living in the areas known today as Gaza and the West Bank, but which the Arabs who were ethnically cleansed also shared, your racist rejection notwithstanding).
Zionism is a political, not a religious movement, and I did not say that Jews wanting to have a state was racist; I said ethnically cleansing Palestine of most of its Arab population in order to establish a demographically “Jewish state” was racist. I don’t wish to get into a debate about the definition of “race”; I simply mean prejudice against a distinct ethnic group. Needless to say, the act of ethnic cleansing is a manifestation of extreme prejudice.
Regarding your comment, “A committed opponent of bigotry like you surely must think that Muslims are terrible, evil people.” No, I do not judge ALL Muslims based on the crimes of some Muslims or based on the actions of authoritarian regimes like Saudi Arabia.
Surely if I was to say that Jews are terrible, evil people because of the ethnic cleansing of Palestine, you would (rightly) accuse me of racism! (Well, perhaps not racism since you just argued Jews aren’t a race, but of “anti-Semitism” or some other such charge of prejudice.) Once again, your glaring hypocrisy is evident.
Why did I write a book criticizing Israel for it’s violations of international law and crimes against humanity (i.e., “bashing Israel” in your lexicon), but not “all the horrible, evil Muslim countries”? Simple. Do you see the cover? What flag do you see on it? Read the subtitle. What do you notice? I happen to be American. Therefore, what most concerns me are the crimes of the government that falsely claims to represent me. And the US supports Israel’s crimes against the Palestinians. Hence my writing this book. I also happen to condemn the US’s support for, e.g., Saudi Arabia’s crimes, so we see how vain your effort to characterize me as a hypocrite is.
Anyone can condemn the crimes of others. There is no moral courage in this. But it is moral cowardice and hypocrisy to condemn the crimes of one people while trying to justify the crimes of another — as you have been doing.
I strongly recommend that you actually read the book.
Appendix 1: Land ownership statistics from the Survey of Palestine
Appendix 2: Land ownership statistics from 1945 prepared by a UN General Assembly committee
Want to empower yourself with the knowledge to take on Zionist defenders of Israel’s crimes against the Palestinians? Order your copy of Obstacle to Peace: The US Role in the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict today!