19 May 2011

Yitzhak Laor: Which chapter of Joshua?

Today’s edition of the Israeli daily Ha’aretz contains an opinion piece by Yitzhak Laor entitled Which chapter from the book of Joshua? He denies that the prevention of Palestinian return has much to do with security, and says that in any event what Israel is dealing with

… is not the Palestinians' return to Israel at all. The issue at stake is the refugees' return to the Palestinian state alongside Israel. Israel has no other way to take part in solving what it created in atrocious innocence in 1948.

The article begins:

Between 1949 and 1956, in what Israel calls "retribution operations," thousands of Palestinians, who did not come to attack, were killed on the borders. Hundreds of others, probably fewer, who came to kill or steal or take what was theirs, were also killed. Those thousands were all killed, and others were imprisoned, because the new state's laws categorized them as "infiltrators."

The argument about whether the Palestinians were driven out or fled is sanctimonious. From the moment hundreds of thousands of them were forbidden to return, their flight became a deportation. Civilian populations flee at a time of war and return, all over the world (Israel's defenders always point out the exceptions). But preventing their return, the killing and the internal debates show how the "refugee problem" was gradually but speedily labelled a security problem.

The military rule in the villages hunted down those who succeeded in returning. Until it was dismantled in 1967, this rule ensured the massive land confiscation and effectively prevented the return. In fact, not all of the state's leadership during the war realized that the army and David Ben-Gurion intended to "cleanse" the land. So some leaders had no idea from where to deport people and from where not to deport them, and whether to allow them to return or not.

Later in the piece:

… to understand how extreme Benjamin Netanyahu is, and how much he is part of the radical nucleus of the rejectionist front, you must listen to his cliches about "we're willing to cede parts of homeland." What exactly is he ceding in the West Bank? What chapter from the Book of Joshua is he living in?

He concludes that the matter will not end until the Israeli public understands that it's in its own interest, and essential for its survival, to reconcile and withdraw from all the territories.

Read the full piece here.

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