Palestine will be Judenrein

Last Friday, during a tour of Ramallah, Palestinian Authority President, Mahmoud Abbas, is reported as having declared: “We are prepared to move toward peace based on international resolutions, the Road Map and 1967 borders, but when a Palestinian state is established, it will be empty of any Israeli presence.”

The argument that Jews have no right to live in East Jerusalem or on the West Bank is, of course, spurious. Indeed, an American missionary visiting Hebron back in 1835 estimated that there were about 400 Arab and 120 Jewish families living there at the time. Just a year later, Viceroy Ibrahim Pasha allowed the Jewish community of Jerusalem to rebuild the Hurva synagogue in the Jewish Quarter of the Old City. The synagogue had originally been established in the 18th century.

Statistics gathered at the time of the British Mandate show that Jews represented no less than 20.59% of the total population of Palestine in 1933.

There is, therefore, no historical justification for a future Palestinian state to be Judenrein (clear of Jews) any more than there is for the State of Israel to demand that all Arabs pack their bags and leave.

While Israel’s critics are fond of referring to Israel as an “apartheid state” they seem to have little to say about those Arab countries that not only refuse to grant citizenship to Jews but do not even allow them to cross their borders.

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11 Responses to Palestine will be Judenrein

  1. I scarcely think it is “for Israel” to flagrantly misrepresent the statement of a man who still remains the most promising hope for signing a lasting peace agreement with the Jewish state.

    Abbas did not say that Palestine would need to be free of Jews (Judenrein). He said it would not countenance an “Israeli presence”. Obviously, even under the most uncharitable view of Abbas’ words, these are not the same thing (so there isn’t even the excuse of “well, it’s not my fault he chose his words poorly”). But more importantly, what Abbas is almost certainly referring to is a continued official Israeli governmental (most likely military) presence in the West Bank or Gaza — such as, for example, Israeli early-warning posts in the Jordan Valley. If we imagine the Iraqi Prime Minister saying the same thing about an “American presence” by (say) 2015, this interpretation becomes apparent — it self-evidently wouldn’t mean that no American citizen (much less “no Caucasian” or “no Anglo-Saxon”) could ever set foot in Iraq, it would mean that by 2015 Iraq would expect no more American military troops in the country. It is implausible bordering on disingenuous to believe that Abbas — who is well aware that the Palestinian economy will be highly dependent on trade with Israel for the foreseeable — could have possibly meant the maximalist (and massively self-defeating) position you ascribe to him.

    It’s not unreasonable for a newly sovereign nation to oppose allowing a foreign entity to have a military presence inside its borders (especially one with which it has had, shall we say, tensions, in the past). It’s also not unreasonable for Israel to want to preserve early-warning capability against a potential Iranian attack (among other reasons why it might want to preserve a military presence in Palestine). When one is faced with two reasonable but conflicting positions, that’s usually a prime candidate to be resolved by negotiation, and indeed, this very question is one that has long been on the negotiating table. But there’s no sense begrudging Abbas for staking out a perfectly sensible Palestinian position (or begrudging Israel for taken an opposing, but also sensible position). And it is full-on sabotage to try and misrepresent a reasonable position on a difficult problem as an expression of extremist racism. That’s straight out of the BDSers playbook, and it is part-and-parcel of how this whole subject matter has turned into a farce for those of us truly concerned with a secure, democratic, Jewish state of Israel coexisting peacefully alongside a secure, democratic, state for the Palestinian people.

    • I thought that Micky might be taking the statement a bit too far until I saw this quote in the J Post article about what Abbas actually said:

      “We have frankly said, and always will say: If there is an independent Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital, we won’t agree to the presence of one Israeli in it,” Abbas told reporters in Ramallah.

      That is not “We don’t want soldiers.” It is “We don’t want Jews.” And with that quote, you can forget Jewish access to Jewish holy sites.

      See the J Post article at
      http://www.jpost.com/MiddleEast/Article.aspx?id=200935

      • See the very next paragraph in the J Post article:

        “He [Abbas] was commenting on unconfirmed reports suggesting that the PA leadership might agree to the presence of the IDF in the West Bank after the establishment of a Palestinian state.”

        So, actually, it is precisely “we don’t want soldiers”. Abbas was told of reports that the PA leadership would agree to allow the IDF to maintain a presence in the West Bank post-independence, and he said “absolutely not”. Coupled with the fact that Abbas knows that a Palestine that excludes Israelis is economically unsustainable, I think it is pretty definitive that my initial interpretation was correct. Abbas is referring to whether there will continue to be an Israeli military presence in the West Bank once an independent Palestine is established.

        Again, it is a fair question as to whether, absent an IDF presence at (for example) Jewish holy sites, Jews will be able to travel to those sites freely and safely. As noted, this is a situation where both sides have legitimate interests, and thus is an important one to subject to negotiation, so that we can (as best we can) actualize all side’s legitimate claims. It doesn’t surprise me that Abbas is staking out this position at the outset of negotiations; it likewise wouldn’t surprise me if some concessions could be exacted, or if an alternative arrangement that respected both Palestinian sovereignty demands and Jewish religious and travel rights were hammered out.

        But the “Judenrein” interpretation of Abbas’ remarks seems to be simply unsustainable on the facts and context. And I think there are enough actual instances of radicalism and maximalism that we don’t need to go all Cirque du Soleil in the search for new ones.

      • Micky may comment as well on this, but I think that this statement should be taken into context along with the multitude of statements made concerning the removal of all Israeli settlers after any peace agreement to Israeli territory. Would the state ban Jews from ever setting foot on its soil? That I doubt for the economic reasons you cite. My interpretation of Abbas statement however is that he was taking the question one step further. He could have easily responded to questions concerning Israeli soldiers by saying that no Israel SOLDIERS would be allowed. Instead he expanded, he broadened, the response to make it a blanket “no Israeli presence.”

        In other words, the discussion seems to have gone as follows. “Will there be Israeli soldiers on the border with Jordan?” Abbas’ response was essentially, “Definitely not. Not only will there not be soldiers, BUT there will be no Israeli PRESENCE.” He could have said “soldiers and left it at that.” This is a man with a PhD, granted in Holocaust Denial, but he is no dummy. To read that statement as being limited to soldiers, in my mind at least, misses the intended broader nuance. I believe that Abbas meant “No soldiers or any other Israeli,” not just “no Israeli military presence.” In the context of a discussion of a potential military presence, Abbas in essence responded with a Kol v’homer. So as I suggested earlier, the statement should be interpreted as “Not only will there be no Israeli soldiers, but there will be no Israeli presence at all.”

        Does that mean that never a Jew will be allowed to set foot on Palestinian soil? No. Does it mean that Abbas is pushing for a Palestinian state to be a Judenrein as possible? Absolutely, it does and the history of the conflict teaches us that such a plan has long been the goal so this is nothing new.

      • Rabbi Michael (Micky) Boyden says:

        David Schraub’s differentiation between “Israelis” and “Israeli soldiers” represents a worthy attempt to place a generous interpretation upon Mahmoud Abbas’ remarks in Ramallah last Friday. Of course, if that is what Abbas meant, he could have said it. David’s reference to him as having stated “We won’t agree to the presence of one Israeli” would appear to remove any doubt as to the correct interpretation to place upon his comment.

        However, living in Israel, I know what the reality is here. I couldn’t buy a home in the Israeli Arab town of Umm el-Fahem even if I wanted to. Hatem Abdul Khader, adviser for Jerusalem Affairs of Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyed, admitted in an interview that Israeli Arabs were arrested and interrogated by the Palestinian Authority for selling properties to Jews. Indeed, he called for harsh punishments for those engaging in such activities.

        Given that background, I am more inclined to take Mahmoud Abbas at his word.

  2. I think there are a couple threads here that need disentangling.

    The first is the meaning of Abbas’ statement. There seem to be three candidates: (1) No Israeli military presence, (2) No permanent Israeli presence (residential, military, etc.), or (3) No Israelis allowed period (Judenrein). To my knowledge, the third claim — the one for which this post is titled — is one nobody now is defending. I’m generally discomforted by the use of Nazi comparisons in any case where one isn’t explicitly referring to genocide of a particular group, but the very minimal obligation for using a Nazi-comparison is that it be scrupulously accurate. This one wasn’t. It should be withdrawn.

    With respect to numbers 1 versus 2, I think that it makes perfect sense, and is in accord with common linguistic practice, for Abbas to say “there will be no Israeli presence” and have “soldiers” be inferred when the antecedent question specifically referred to soldiers. If I’m asked “will there be any Yankees on the AL all-star team”, and I respond “no, there will be no New Yorkers on the team”, it is pretty well understood that — since I am answering a specific question relating to baseball players — my use of “New Yorkers” should be read contextually to mean “ballplayers on the New York team”, not “any person from New York”. Sure, I could have said “there will be no Yankees”, but it’s facile to say that my saying “New Yorkers” renders the statement even remotely ambiguous. Simply put, this is how people speak as a matter of course. Similarly, if Abbas was asked “will there be any Israeli military presence in the West Bank post-independence”, and he responded “no, there will be no Israeli presence — not a single Israeli”, I think it less the charitable interpretation and more the normal interpretation to import the question-context into the answer.

    That being said, I highly suspect that, if asked directly, Abbas and the PA would have objections to Israeli settlers remaining in the territory that would become sovereign Palestinian territory. It’s a complicated question, though, which counsels hesitation at inferring a specific position from an answer to an entirely different question, even if I did concede the answer was ambiguous (and I still maintain that my interpretation is in far better accord with normal modes of conversation).

    I’m aware of proposals (of varying degrees of seriousness) to permit certain settlers to simply stay where they are, within the borders of Palestine, and either (a) become Palestinian citizens or (b) retain their Israeli citizenship (theoretically, only the former is problem for Abbas). This has the advantage of letting Israel avoid the hassle of evacuating recalcitrant settlements, not to mention no longer having to deal with a contingent of its own citizenry which has already demonstrated its willingness to turn against Israel itself (this isn’t all settlers, but the sort of settlers who are so committed to the idea of the land that they would remain behind in a Palestine state likely heavily overlaps with this sect). On the other hand, it would represent an ongoing security nightmare and, depending on how active a role Israel was expected to take in maintaining their safety, would present a severe threat to Palestinian sovereignty. Determining who had legitimate title to any given land parcel also would be almost impossible to resolve, given the proliferation of illegal outposts and likely Palestinian rejection of the Israeli government’s right to grant title even to “public” land.

    Hence, I see the position that all settlements inside the borders of the to-be created Palestinian state should be evacuated as considerably more reasonable than one that forbids any IDF early-warning presence. I think it’s pretty well-established that part of ending this conflict is that not everyone gets to live in the precise parcel of land they wish (and there are excellent reasons why pro-Israel folks may wish to think twice before opening that can of worms). There will be steps taken to insure that Israel is the state for the Jewish people, just as steps will be taken to insure Palestine is the state for the Palestinian people, and these steps will conflict with the ability of any given person between the river and the sea to settle wherever they like.

    Is it sad that the Palestinian refugee can’t go back to their home in Acre, or that the Jewish descendant of those expelled from Hebron after the 1929 pogrom won’t have the right to return? I suppose. But we’ve long since accepted that such sacrifices are acceptable in pursuit of the keynote goal: a Jewish state of Israel, and a Palestinian state of Palestine. In all honesty, it really doesn’t keep me up at night, weighed against the existential necessity of creating a permanent, two-state solution that respects the national and democratic aspirations of both the Israeli and Palestinian peoples.

    To be sure, I wouldn’t object to a limited number of settlers being incorporated into a Palestinian state if they really want to stay, just as many peace proposals permit a token number of Palestinians to return to Israel-proper (while — rightfully — most refugees and their descendants are excluded). Like the Palestinians who return to Israel, the settlers who remain in Palestine would have to accept the sovereign authority of the state in which they reside. And perhaps President Abbas would consider this — I’ve read some things that indicate he would. Or perhaps not — it hardly strikes me as the most critical aspect of any final agreement. But in any event, it’s the sort of complex, nuanced topic that we’d do better to get an answer by asking the question directly, rather than infer it from a potential vagary in response to another, entirely different question.

    I think in general this is the sort of perilous road we walk when we start looking for reasons agreement won’t happen, negotiations won’t succeed, peace won’t sustain — searching for obstacles rather than searching for routes through them. It becomes self-fulfilling. So it strikes me as prudent to avoid assuming problems that may not exist, look for points of commonality rather than points of departure, and devote efforts towards building bridges rather than magnifying the many, many times they’ve been burned. We have enough troubles to account for without potentially conjuring up more. It will take a leap of faith and an act of will, but, as they say, if you will it — it is no dream.

    • Rabbi Michael (Micky) Boyden says:

      Having previously agued that “what Abbas is almost certainly referring to is a continued official Israeli governmental (most likely military) presence in the West Bank or Gaza “, David Schraub now concedes that “I highly suspect that, if asked directly, Abbas and the PA would have objections to Israeli settlers remaining in the territory that would become sovereign Palestinian territory .” Therefore, I think we are on the same page.

      As far as the use of the Nazi term Judenrein is concerned, the Palestinian insistence that their state would have no room for people like me is simply racist. Can you imagine the hue and cry that would go up were Israel to adopt a similar policy denying Arabs the right to live in our country?

  3. I think there is, in fact, a similar hue and cry that goes up regarding Israel’s refusal to concede a “right of return” for Palestinian Arabs because it would threaten Israel’s status as a Jewish state. There are hundreds of thousands of Palestinian refugees and their descendants who make the precise claim that Israeli policy is denying them the right to live in “their” country. And I think that hue and cry is similarly bogus — not because my liberal instincts have entirely withered, but because they are appropriately tempered by pragmatic ones. Not everyone is going to be able to live on exactly the parcel of land between the river and the sea they prefer. And the delineating characteristic will be ethnicity — we’re taking steps to keep the Jewish state Jewish, and the Palestinian state Palestinian.

    I don’t consider that racist == I’m comfortable with group-distinctions in certain limited cases, where the goal (as in the case of Israel-as-a-Jewish-state and Palestine-as-a-Palestinian-state) is not to perpetuate a system of superiority/inferiority, but to insure that a historically marginalized group is given a full and equal opportunity at human flourishing (which I think that having a state that is ones own is often an important part of — a place where one is “in tune”, as they say). Within certainly highly individualist conceptions of racism, it certainly is, but these are the same conceptions that couldn’t allow a “Jewish” state or a “Palestinian” state to exist at all. You are, of course, free to adopt any definition of racism you like — but insofar as it undermines the moral foundation for Israel’s existence as a Jewish state, I’m entitled to object strenuously.

    In any event, I don’t think we’re on particularly similar pages. (1) Judenrein refers to a policy of complete Jewish exclusion, done, if “necessary”, by extermination. President Abbas’ comments cannot under even the most uncharitable interpretation support this reading — it is, more or less, simple slander. And the dispute over whether Jewish settlers (of Israeli citizenship? of Palestinian citizenship? If the latter, do they qualify as an “Israeli presence”?) ought remain in post-independence Palestine can and should be expressed in terms that actually, accurately describe the subject matter under controversy. Inflammatory rhetoric is the kerosene of this conflict; it’s not too much to ask that you refrain from pouring gasoline on the fire. (2) The question of whether Jewish settlers should remain on Palestinian territories post-independence is a deeply complicated one (for all the reasons laid out in the prior post). It’s bad discursive practice to try and infer President Abbas’ position (or anyone else’s) by exploiting a latent ambiguity inherent in how people normally speak to from an answer to an entirely different question. This isn’t the behavior of one honestly seeking to understand the lay of the land. It’s the behavior of someone looking to reassure himself that his Enemy really is a Dire as he says it is.

    • There is a great deal of conflicting information coming out of the PA. Salaam Fayad for example has suggested that Jews may continue to live in the Palestinian state. Will they be Israelis or Palestinian citizens? Is it even a reasonable option? That is a different question. Meanwhile, President Abbas has said many times and explicitly so in front of Arab audiences that he has no intention of allowing any Israelis (and often uses interchangeably the word “Jews”) to reside in Palestinian territory going so far as to say that he would bar JEWS from serving in an international peace keeping force to make that clear.

      The recent statement is clearly a repetition of the early ones.

      As the founder of Palestinian nationalism, Yassir Arafat’s uncle, Haj Amin El Husseini was a friend of the Nazis, and Nazi anti-Jewish philosophy is pervasive in the Arab world, especially in Palestinian circles, it is not unreasonable to link calls to expel Jews for that reason alone.

      Meanwhile, the hostility shown by Abbas in his recent remarks is clearly far out of character for one who is “the best hope for peace.” If Abbas is “the best hope for peace” then I will say Kaddish for peace this Friday night. Abbas is far too weak to compromise, even if he is willing to do so, which is doubtful.

      Fayad, not Abbas, may be the best hope among the current PLO leadership, but he does not have the support of most of the population and is seen as allied with the US making suggestions of compromise by him look suspect.

      Take a look at these articles from July about statements that Abbas made at that time to the Arab League. There is nothing new under the sun.

      http://www.solomonia.com/blog/archive/2010/07/abbas-wants-jew-free-palestine-in-west-b/index.shtml

      http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/138856

  4. The Solomania article just links back to the INN piece, and INN isn’t really known as a particularly credible source (it’s the media arm of the settlement movement, and generally associated with the Israeli far-right). So it’s difficult for me to parse just how reliable these reports are. My understanding about the claim that Abbas opposed allowing Jewish (as opposed to Israeli) soldiers in any international peacekeeping force on the border is that this, too, turned out to be false — another confusion of Abbas opposing Israeli soldiers as part of the PKO (an entirely unsurprising position for the PA to take) and Abbas opposing Jewish soldiers of other nations from partaking in the PKO.

    In any event, as noted the question of whether settlers should be permitted to stay in post-independence Palestine strikes me as a tertiary issue. Let’s say that your read on Abbas’ position is correct (no permanent Israeli/former Israeli residents in the new Palestine). What follows from that? Is it a dealbreaker? Would it render a peace agreement between Israel and Palestine unsupportable? I think the answer is clearly “no”. If a deal was struck for a Palestinian state based on 1967 borders, with all the other things both sides want (agreement that this closes the conflict, abandonment of the right of return, agreed-status about Jerusalem, etc.), and one of the conditions was “all settlers currently residing inside the borders of the new Palestine will be evacuated, and Palestine will not for the foreseeable future accept any Israeli or Jewish immigrants”, would you say “deal” or “no deal”?

    If the answer is “no deal”, then I say your priorities are wildly out of order. If the answer is “deal”, then I say we have enough problems regarding subjects that we are willing to fight for, so don’t create new ones by elevating an admittedly tertiary issue to the level of a new Nazi threat (i.e., “your priorities are wildly out of order”).

    • Nazi threat? Definitely not. Nazi thought? Yes. Anyway, I agree that this is not the primary issue. Jerusalem is the issue. The rest of the borders are negotiable and both sides have pretty much admitted that. There is some debate over the quality of land that Israel could exchange for territory over the green line, but it it pretty much accepted that an exchange of territory will happy. HOWEVER, Jerusalem is not that. The Palestinians have no claim at all to Jerusalem and Israel’s claim, other than through history, is that it has been in possession of the city since 1967. As far as the recognition of borders is concerned, the armistice line is not a permanent border and the city itself was supposed to be under an international regime. The real issue is who will control Jerusalem.

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