The Palestinian Endgame

Undoubtedly the most vexing question in the Israel/Palestine conflict concerns the issue of refugees; that is, the Arab refugees from the 1948 war. Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas has described the right to return as an individual right, one that is beyond his power to waive. On the surface this seems like a principled position, even if one disagrees with it.

Opponents of the Palestinian right of return have argued that it would transform Israel into another Palestinian state if all five to eight million descendants of the refugees of 1948 returned, effectively negating the right of the Jewish people to self-determination. But this argument suggests an immediate objection; certainly a people has a collective right to self-determination, but when that right comes into conflict with basic individual rights it must give way.

The problem with this objection is that for the Palestinians the right of return is a means to an end. Every Palestinian leader, even the most moderate, sees as their goal the restoration of the Arab and Islamic character of historic Palestine, which includes all of present-day Israel. Consider the following statement by Palestinian moderate Omar Barghouti,

“I make a distinction between self-determination for Jewish settlers in Palestine, which I categorically oppose -- never in history was a colonizing community ever allowed self-determination not in South Africa, not in Algeria, not in Ireland, not anywhere. Colonizers are not entitled to self-determination, by any definition of self-determination, but post-colonialism, post-oppression, after justice has happened, then we must envision integrating the former colonizers into a common nation that can determine its future. So they are part of the future determination of the state if they are indigenized.”

Self-determination in this case means a partition along ethnic/religious lines, a partition that would afford both groups the ability to live in a state where they formed the majority. Barghouti rejects any majority Jewish state on principal.

Is Mahmoud Abbas’s position all that different? He has repeatedly refused to recognize Israel as a Jewish state, effectively negating the framework of two states for two peoples. Abbas claims that to do so would undermine the rights of Arab Israelis; Barghouti at least tells us what he really thinks. I leave it to readers’ imagination what indigenization entails.

What does the decidedly un-moderate and wildly popular Hamas see as the future for Jews in a Palestinian state? See for yourself.

Given recent events in France and the penchant of both Palestinians and self-hating Jews to cite the French experience in Algeria as a precedent, I thought it might be useful to review what happened after France left Algeria.

In the early part of the 19th century, France conquered present-day Algeria and set about incorporating it into France. When Algeria gained its independence in the mid-20th century, roughly a million Frenchmen lived there. Virtually all of them fled, along with the indigenous Jewish community. The French Algerians had lived there for more than a hundred years, and the Jewish community dated to the time of the Phoenicians.

During negotiations, the Algerians assured French President Charles De Gaulle that the ethnic French community could stay in Algeria; for some reason things didn’t work out that way. After the French left, between 30,000 and 150,000 Algerian Muslims who sided with France were massacred. Historian Alistair Horne provides a description of what happened to them,

“Hundreds died when put to work clearing the minefields along the Morice Line, or were shot out of hand. Others were tortured atrociously; army veterans were made to dig their own tombs, then swallow their decorations before being killed; they were burned alive, or castrated, or dragged behind trucks, or cut to pieces and their flesh fed to dogs. Many were put to death with their entire families, including young children.”

Nobody should make the mistake of assuming that because Israel is powerful they have nothing to fear from the Palestinians. If it happened to the French, it could happen to the Israelis, and there are a lot of people fantasizing that it will.

Undoubtedly the most vexing question in the Israel/Palestine conflict concerns the issue of refugees; that is, the Arab refugees from the 1948 war. Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas has described the right to return as an individual right, one that is beyond his power to waive. On the surface this seems like a principled position, even if one disagrees with it.

Opponents of the Palestinian right of return have argued that it would transform Israel into another Palestinian state if all five to eight million descendants of the refugees of 1948 returned, effectively negating the right of the Jewish people to self-determination. But this argument suggests an immediate objection; certainly a people has a collective right to self-determination, but when that right comes into conflict with basic individual rights it must give way.

The problem with this objection is that for the Palestinians the right of return is a means to an end. Every Palestinian leader, even the most moderate, sees as their goal the restoration of the Arab and Islamic character of historic Palestine, which includes all of present-day Israel. Consider the following statement by Palestinian moderate Omar Barghouti,

“I make a distinction between self-determination for Jewish settlers in Palestine, which I categorically oppose -- never in history was a colonizing community ever allowed self-determination not in South Africa, not in Algeria, not in Ireland, not anywhere. Colonizers are not entitled to self-determination, by any definition of self-determination, but post-colonialism, post-oppression, after justice has happened, then we must envision integrating the former colonizers into a common nation that can determine its future. So they are part of the future determination of the state if they are indigenized.”

Self-determination in this case means a partition along ethnic/religious lines, a partition that would afford both groups the ability to live in a state where they formed the majority. Barghouti rejects any majority Jewish state on principal.

Is Mahmoud Abbas’s position all that different? He has repeatedly refused to recognize Israel as a Jewish state, effectively negating the framework of two states for two peoples. Abbas claims that to do so would undermine the rights of Arab Israelis; Barghouti at least tells us what he really thinks. I leave it to readers’ imagination what indigenization entails.

What does the decidedly un-moderate and wildly popular Hamas see as the future for Jews in a Palestinian state? See for yourself.

Given recent events in France and the penchant of both Palestinians and self-hating Jews to cite the French experience in Algeria as a precedent, I thought it might be useful to review what happened after France left Algeria.

In the early part of the 19th century, France conquered present-day Algeria and set about incorporating it into France. When Algeria gained its independence in the mid-20th century, roughly a million Frenchmen lived there. Virtually all of them fled, along with the indigenous Jewish community. The French Algerians had lived there for more than a hundred years, and the Jewish community dated to the time of the Phoenicians.

During negotiations, the Algerians assured French President Charles De Gaulle that the ethnic French community could stay in Algeria; for some reason things didn’t work out that way. After the French left, between 30,000 and 150,000 Algerian Muslims who sided with France were massacred. Historian Alistair Horne provides a description of what happened to them,

“Hundreds died when put to work clearing the minefields along the Morice Line, or were shot out of hand. Others were tortured atrociously; army veterans were made to dig their own tombs, then swallow their decorations before being killed; they were burned alive, or castrated, or dragged behind trucks, or cut to pieces and their flesh fed to dogs. Many were put to death with their entire families, including young children.”

Nobody should make the mistake of assuming that because Israel is powerful they have nothing to fear from the Palestinians. If it happened to the French, it could happen to the Israelis, and there are a lot of people fantasizing that it will.