It is widely feared that Israel may use the diversion of a war in Iraq to begin the mass expulsion of Palestinians from the occupied territories into one or more Arab countries. In Israel, this has euphemistically been referred to as “transfer.” In reality, “transfer” is nothing more than ethnic cleansing. Apart from being morally outrageous, it is a severe breach of Article 147 of the Fourth Geneva Convention (1949) to uproot and exile a people from their homes. As a group that has faced ethnic cleansing in the recent past, we, as Jews and as members of Jews Against the Occupation, feel the need to speak out in order to prevent similar inhumane acts from being perpetrated on another people in our name.
The idea of “transfer” has moved increasingly from the fringes of Israeli society towards mainstream Israeli political discourse. As a proposed solution to both the Israeli “security” and “demographic problems” allegedly posed by the Palestinian population in the occupied territories, talk of deporting the Palestinians from these areas — a.k.a. “transfer” — has become an acceptable option to many Israelis. Recent polls show that more than 40% of the Israeli population is in favor of “transfer.”
Posters, signs and bumper stickers featuring such slogans as “Transfer = Peace and Security”; “Them there, us here”; “Only Transfer!”; and “No Arabs, No Attacks” have been seen throughout Israel.
There is a real risk that Israel may use the cover of a U.S. war in Iraq, while the international community’s attention is focused elsewhere, to begin the expulsion of Palestinians from the Occupied Territories. Current Israeli officials have offered their support for “transfer” in the past. Benjamin Netanyahu, the former Prime Minister (1996-99) and current Foreign Minister, stated in 1989 that “Israel should have exploited the repression of the demonstrations in China, when world attention focused on that country, to carry out mass expulsions among the Arabs of the territories.” The current prime minister, Ariel Sharon, has in the past supported the “Jordanian Option,” which he described as creating Greater Israel by annexing the occupied territories. But it is apparent that to maintain a viable Jewish majority in this “Greater Israel,” Israel will need to “thin out the number of Palestinians living in the territories,” as Eitan Ben Eliahu, the former Israeli Air Force commander, recently stated.
Ha’aretz recently reported that Sharon has rejected a Jordanian request that he rule out transfer as a possibility during the impending U.S. war on Iraq. Even more troubling, the current government contains a settlers’ party, Moledet [“Homeland”], which has openly espoused transfer. Moledet’s leader, Benny Elon, the current Tourism Minister, has stated that, “when you look at it, transfer is the only conclusion. It is the only light at the end of the tunnel.” Moledet has recently merged with other right-wing parties to form the National Union party, bringing the number of Israeli members of parliament officially espousing transfer from two to six. This number is expected to double in the formation of the new government following the recent election.
Mass expulsion of the Palestinians has occurred before. In both 1948 and 1967, hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were displaced so that Israel could take control of more land. As leading Israeli historian Benny Morris has stated, “The idea of transfer is as old as modern Zionism… .And driving it was an iron logic: There could be no viable Jewish state in all or part of Palestine unless there was a mass displacement of Arab inhabitants.”
The ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians is already underway through the repressive policies of the occupation. During 2002, more than 80,000 Palestinians left the West Bank, and thousands more left Gaza, to escape economic hardship and the brutal and dehumanizing actions of the IDF in the occupied territories. Under pressure from settler threats and attempts to harvest and steal olives from Palestinian groves, several villages have begun to empty out, including the village of Yanun, near Nablus. According to a USAID study conducted in September 2002, one in five Palestinian children under the age of five currently suffer from chronic or acute malnutrition. USAID cites as the cause of this malnutrition Israeli-imposed closures and sieges of major civilian centers in the Territories.
The World Bank recently reported that 62 percent of Palestinian families currently subsist on less than US$2 a day. These abominable living conditions, which have led many Palestinians to abandon their homes for a better life, constitute nothing less than a “silent” ethnic cleansing. Monetary support from the American taxpayer is a critical ingredient in the continuing Israeli occupation. The United States provides approximately US$3 billion in aid to Israel each year. Israel uses the vast majority of this aid to pay for its military’s actions in the occupied territories.
Despite the upsurge in support for ethnic cleansing amongst the Israeli population, there remain Israelis who recognize the urgency of preventing its fruition. Recently, nearly 187 Israeli academics published a statement articulating their growing concern about future ethnic cleansing in the occupied territories in the event of a U.S. war on Iraq: “The Israeli government may be contemplating crimes against humanity….We are deeply worried by indications that the ‘fog of war’ could be exploited by the Israeli government to commit further crimes against the Palestinian people, up to full-fledged ethnic cleansing….Politicians are regularly quoted in the media as suggesting forcible expulsion….Escalating racist demagoguery concerning the Palestinians citizens of Israel may indicate the scope of the crimes that are possibly being contemplated….We call upon the international community to pay close attention to events that unfold within Israel and in the Occupied Territories, to make it absolutely clear that crimes against humanity will not be tolerated, and to take concrete measures to prevent such crimes from taking place.”
Jews Against the Occupation stands firmly against all forms of ethnic cleansing of Palestinians. As Jews, we vehemently oppose these egregious and inhumane acts and see a critical need to avert their implementation. We believe that the only way for Israel to gain its desired security is to end the illegal and inhumane occupation and to flatly reject “transfer.” We implore Jews and non-Jews alike to take immediate action and make their voices of opposition be heard against ethnic cleansing in Palestine and against the continuing Israeli occupation.
What can you do?
It is urgent that you contact the White House and your representatives and demand that they publicly warn the Israeli government against implementing a policy of “transfer.”
Urge the United States government to cease giving the US$3 billion in annual aid to Israel since this aid facilitates the Israeli government’s brutal military occupation of the Palestinian civilian population that has lead to daily human rights violations and a “silent transfer.”
CONTACT: President George W. Bush
Tel. (202) 456-2111, Fax. (202) 456-2461,
CONTACT: Your United States Representative and Senator.
Congress switchboard: (202) 707-5000
CONTACT: Secretary of State Colin Powell
Tel. (202) 647-4000
For more information, see http://www.jewsagainsttheoccupation.org