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Transfer: A Moral Discourse – Part II

Boris Shusteff Arutz Sheva July 25, 2003

Now that we have examined the situation during the time of Israel’s creation,
let us look at things as they stand today. The resurrection of the Jewish
state and the events of the decades that followed have drastically changed the
situation in western Palestine. Demographic changes in the region, with the
Jewish state now home to over 5.5 million Jews, have made the Jewish right to
self-determination unquestionable.

As Gavison puts it: “justification for the existence of a Jewish state… is
stronger now than it was in 1947… because Israel today hosts a large and
diverse Jewish community with the right to national self-determination and the
benefits that it can bring.” Accordingly “today, Israel has not only the right
to exist, but also the right to promote and strengthen its Jewish character.
Indeed, this dramatic shift in the validity of the Jewish claim to statehood is
one of Zionism’s major achievements.”

At the same time, despite the increase in the Arab population, the Arabs’
corresponding liberty to settle in western Palestine cannot be translated into a
right to self-determination in Eretz Yisrael. Numerical growth in population
is not by itself a sufficient argument for this. Especially since the Arabs’
constant use of violence against the Jews continuously violates Jewish rights to
life and safety. Thus, from the standpoint of universal moral principles, the
Arabs are continuously weakening their claim to the right to
self-determination on this land.

Gavison stresses that, “while we cannot ignore the history of the conflict,
neither can we ignore the reality that has taken hold in intervening years.”
And this reality clearly demonstrates that nearly all Palestinian Arab activity
during this time was directed against the Jewish state and not toward
establishing institutions of Arab government, or planting any seeds for self-rule.
Just the last ten years have seen an outrageous anti-Semitic campaign in the
Palestinian media and educational institutions due to the Arabs’ stubborn
rejection of the legitimacy of the Jewish state. Violent murders of Jews have become
the norm, supported by nearly 80% of Palestinian Arabs, as every poll
consistently indicates. Hatred against the Jews has penetrated deep into the souls of
several generations of Arabs to whom the Jews are constantly presented as
nothing but ruthless, murdering occupiers. To reward this sort of attitude among
Arabs with statehood is plainly immoral. Remembering Gavison’s postulate that
the Arabs “certainly had full liberty to [act]… so long as they did not
infringe on any basic human rights or violate the laws of the land,” one must admit
that the Arabs, incited by their leaders, have miserably failed to meet even
this minimal standard.

Some may argue that the preceding arguments, though valid, only apply to ”
Israel proper”, as defined by its 1948 borders. We therefore now turn our
attention to the reality that has taken hold in Judea, Samaria, and Gaza (to which we
refer by the Hebrew acronym “Yesha”), the lands that came under Israel’s
control after the Six Day War of 1967.

Significantly, it is precisely due to Arab efforts directed toward Israel’s
destruction that the Jews have settled on the land that they gained in 1967, in
addition to living in areas they have controlled since 1948. Just as
significantly, there should be absolutely nothing a priori questionable about settling
this land, since, based on universal human rights, the Jews have exactly the
same rights as the Arabs to settle in western Eretz Yisrael. This is supported
by the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states in article 13
that “everyone has the right to… residence within borders of each state.”
Furthermore, article 2 states that for these purposes, the status of territories
does not matter. “No distinction shall be made on the basis of the… status
of the country or territory… whether it be independent, trust,
non-self-governing or under any other limitation of sovereignty.” Thus, anybody who
advocates the liberties of the Arabs to settle in the disputed lands of western
Palestine must admit that the Jews have exactly the same liberties.

Moreover, the laws of the land give preference to the Jews. The only existing
legitimate international document pertaining to this disputed land, which is
the League of Nations’ 1920 San Remo Declaration, encourages Jewish settlement
there. Israeli laws that apply to this area do not prohibit settlement,
either for Jews or Arabs.

On balance, then, from the standpoint of international legitimacy, there is
no distinction between most of Israel “proper” and the disputed lands of Yesha
. In both cases, Jews gained the land after repelling enemy attempts to
destroy the Jewish state. The land obtained by Israel in 1948 was not under anyone’s
sovereignty. The lands of Judea and Samaria, gained by Israel in 1967, were
under Jordanian jurisdiction, which was not recognized by the international
community, and was later waived by Jordan in 1988, thus giving it exactly the
same status as the land acquired by Israel in 1948. A similar situation exists in
the Gaza Strip, to which Egypt made even less claim when it controlled the
Strip between 1948 and 1967. Therefore, if it is legitimate for Jews to settle
anywhere inside the area designated by the 1948 armistice lines, it is
similarly legitimate to settle in the areas designated by the 1967 armistice lines,
adjusted based on peace agreements with Egypt and Jordan.

The fact that all of the land now controlled by Israel has the same status
is, ironically, supported by the Arab position as well. The Arabs typically do
not distinguish between the Israeli conquests of 1948 and 1967. They consider
the whole Jewish enterprise in Palestine, as Gavison puts it, “illegitimate at
its core, since it was harmful to Arab interests and limited their control
over the public domain.” However, while recognizing Arab concerns, Gavison argues
that they do not put moral obligations on the Jews from restraining their
settlement in Eretz Yisrael. She writes: “The claim that Jewish settlement harmed
Arab interests is certainly understandable, and the fears that lay at its
core were no doubt warranted. But did these fears place a moral obligation on the
Jewish people to refrain from returning to their homeland?”

The equivalence in status of the lands conquered by Israel in 1948 and 1967
has another extremely important moral aspect that cannot be ignored. Namely,
that it is immoral to reward an aggressor by restoring the status quo that
existed before the aggression if the aggressor loses territory as a result. Since
in both 1948 and 1967, the land was conquered in defensive wars, it is just as
immoral to demand that Israel give up her rights to the land conquered in 1967
as it is immoral to demand that she give up her rights to land conquered in
1948. This effectively means that, on moral grounds, the Arabs have no chance
whatsoever of transforming their liberty to live in western Eretz Yisrael into
any sort of right to a state there.

But if the Arabs do not have a right to exercise self-determination in the
lands of Yesha, we then have an extremely difficult situation with respect to
those Palestinian Arabs already living there. It is obvious that the present
situation is very volatile, constantly on the brink of explosion, and must be
somehow resolved. This gives only two possible options: the creation of a
separate state for Palestinian Arabs on part of Yesha, after Israel voluntarily
relinquishes her rights to this land, or the transfer of the Arabs either to
Jordan, where their brethren currently exercise their right to self-determination,
or to any other suitable place in the Arab world.

Let us first put aside the transfer option and look at the possibility of
creating a state for Palestinian Arabs in Yesha. Gavison, a proponent of this
idea, gives the following substantiation: “From a moral point of view, it is
preferable to give the Palestinians national sovereignty over at least part of
their homeland. In this way, the Jewish people’s right to self-determination
would not come at the expense of the corresponding rights of the Palestinians.”
This statement is very questionable from the standpoint of historical accuracy
and very difficult to defend on moral grounds. Eretz Yisrael was never a
national home for any people other than the Jews. The statement that Eretz Yisrael
is part of the “Palestinian homeland” is an exercise in political correctness
and only confuses the issue. One would not, for example, entertain the idea of
giving national sovereignty over a part of California to Mexican Americans,
under the pretext that it is their homeland because several generations of them
were born there. Meanwhile, one could argue that the Mexicans have much more
right to California then the Palestinian Arabs do to Eretz Yisrael. At least
for 27 years, from 1821 to 1848, California was a sovereign Mexican land, a
part of the Mexican state, while no Palestinian state ever existed in Eretz

On the other hand, what moral right do the Jews have to decide for the
Palestinians over what part of “their homeland” they should be given sovereignty?
If it is indeed the Palestinians’ “homeland”, then it is they, and only they,
who have the right to decide on what part of it they want to live. This sort
of patronizing approach is quite clearly immoral in this case.

And last, but most important, if we view Palestine as the homeland for the
Palestinian Arabs, we must not forget that they have obtained national
sovereignty on the greater part of their homeland more than half-a-century ago – in
Jordan. Thus, the Jewish people exercising their right to self-determination in
Eretz Yisrael by no means comes at the expense of the corresponding rights of
the Palestinians.

As long as we are considering the issue of a possible Palestinian state, it
cannot be discussed without touching on two other extremely sensitive issues:
refugees and Jerusalem. The Arabs consistently demand part of Jerusalem as the
future capital of their state and demand the right for all “Palestinian
refugees” to return to their “original homes” in what is now Israel. As Gavison
very well explains, Israel cannot allow Arabs to flood the country, as this will
destroy the Jewish nature of the state. The Jews can refuse to grant this ”
right of return” (as well as demand that the Arabs fulfill certain other
conditions) only because they were victorious in the wars that the Arabs have
unleashed on them. To put it differently, this is an application of the longstanding
international principle of nullum crimen sine poena (“no crime without
punishment”). The Arabs certainly should not be rewarded for their aggression against
the Jews by granting them fictitious “rights.”

Moreover, is it moral to place an obligation on the Jewish people to refrain
from having access to the holiest place for the Jews, the Temple Mount? Yet,
it is clear that this is exactly what will happen if the Arabs gain sovereignty
in Jerusalem. Even now, when all of Jerusalem is under Israel’s control,
Islamic authorities prohibit Jews from accessing much of the Temple Mount. And
what is so often called “Arab East Jerusalem” is nothing but the very same
Jerusalem for which the Jews longed for 2000 years of exile.

It is clear, then, that the refugees and Jerusalem are two red lines that
cannot be crossed if Israel is to remain a Jewish state. While the influx of Arab
refugees will destroy the Jewish state demographically, the loss of the
Temple Mount and other parts of authentically Jewish Jerusalem’s Old City will
irreversibly corrode the Jewish soul of the state. The Jewish state without the
Temple Mount is, by definition, not Jewish.

One more important point must be made – the moral implications of a
Palestinian state in Yesha for the Arabs themselves. It is clear that, for over 50
years, the Arabs’ basic rights to life, safety and dignity have been unceasingly
violated by their own leaders, with the explicit support of the United Nations
and the international community. Arabs are kept in terrible conditions in the
so-called refugee camps. All Israeli attempts to improve these conditions were
rejected by Arab leaders, manipulatively working through the UN. One need
only look at how many Arabs have been killed as a result of the Intifadas,
irresponsibly provoked by Arab leaders, to agree that Arab rights to safety and life
are utterly neglected. It is to these irresponsible leaders that the fate of
the Palestinian Arabs will be handed, if a Palestinian Arab state is
established in western Eretz Yisrael as a result of the latest Road Map peace plan.

[Part 2 of 3]

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