Abbas’ “Ethnic Cleansing Solution”
I have written before in these pages about the Palestinian partiality to what I call the “ethnic cleansing solution.” Both polls and much Palestinian discourse show that a large portion of the Palestinian public – it appears to be a plurality of those surveyed – do not want the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to end with either a two-state solution, a Palestinian state beside Israel, or a one-state solution, Jews and Palestinians sharing a single country. What they want is that the Palestinians should get all of the land of British mandate Palestine and all or most of the six million Israeli Jews should either leave or be killed.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has not made any recent statements that I know of indicating that this is what he seeks – though other members of his Fatah party certainly have.
However, if we go back in history, Abbas used to also plump for ethnic cleansing of Palestine – which was more or less official PLO policy under the Palestinian National Charter of 1968.
Abbas wrote a book in 1981 entitled Taking Advantage of Victory penned in the lead-up to the first Lebanon war, and seeking to justify the PLO’s strategy at the time of striking northern Israeli communities with rockets from Lebanon.
In it, he wrote the following:
“Let us not forget the high morale enjoyed by the Arab, which draws him toward the motherland, the land of his forefathers. Meanwhile, the Israeli is continuously drawn abroad, since he feels disconnected from any homeland, country, or territory. All the legends and fairytales circulated by the Zionist propaganda machine and used to brainwash him can never convince him to stay and defend a land he knows in his heart of hearts belongs to others.” [Source: Elhannan Miller, writing in Tablet Magazine, April 6, 2016].
What Abbas is unquestionably implying is that if the Palestinians keep attacking Israeli communities, the rootless Jews, who have no real organic connection to the land, will leave and go “abroad”, leaving the land to the supposedly indigenous Palestinians. In other words, he wanted to use force to ethnically cleanse the land of Jews.
And in 1981, Abbas was already considered a relative PLO moderate, after suggesting talks with Israelis in 1977. Yet so entrenched was the Palestinian goal of ethnically cleansing “Palestine” of Jews, even he called for it in 1981.
It is to his credit that he no longer does so (though it’s less to his credit that he engages in other pretty indefensible forms of incitement). Given that the PLO, as the modern Palestinian national identity was developing, did its best for decades to spread the expectation that not only would Israel be destroyed, but the Jews of Israel killed, expelled or made to flee, is it any wonder that this remains a common and frequently expressed Palestinian goal?
And given this reality, is it any wonder peace remains elusive – until such time as the Palestinian leadership educates its population that the Jews are not going anywhere, and coexistence in two states is the best they can justly hope for. Sadly, while Abbas is no longer calling for ethnic cleansing himself, he is also decidedly not trying to provide such realism to his people.
Why are Gazans Suffering?
Something unusual happened on April 3. Someone from the UN admitted that a problem in Gaza was not Israel’s fault. Israel had temporarily suspended cement shipments to Gaza’s private sector (cement for international projects still continued going in) because Hamas’ economics office was blatantly commandeering some shipments, in violation of the international agreements to supply the cement. And the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Nickolay Mladenov, confirmed Israel’s concerns were justified, saying: “Those who seek to gain through the deviation of materials are stealing from their own people and adding to the suffering of Palestinians in Gaza.”
The UN will not admit, however, how many other Gaza problems are caused by Palestinian corruption, internal bickering or misbehaviour.
For example, Gaza has a severe water problem, with tap water unfit to drink in most places because overpumping has depleted the aquifers. The obvious short-term solution is to buy water from Israel, but the PA refuses to do so, and instead is trying to build a desalination plant, paid for by international donors, which won’t be ready for years. Why the refusal to buy water from Israel? The PA says it’s because it does not want to be dependent on Israel – but the West Bank is already dependent on Israel for a large fraction of its water. No, as pro-Palestinian Haaretz journalist Amira Haas noted, the real reason is that it expects Hamas won’t pay for Gaza’s water use, and the PA will be stuck with the bill.
Meanwhile, Gaza’s only power station was shut down from April 9 through 12 due to a lack of fuel as a result of a similar dispute between the PA and Hamas over who would pay and how much.
Almost the only good news in Gaza is supplied by Israel, which let 104,000 people cross from Gaza into Israel in 2015 – both for humanitarian purposes like medical treatment, and to facilitate economic activity. Meanwhile mechanisms Israel put in place last year to facilitate the import of construction supplies have facilitated considerable progress in rebuilding from the 2014 war – 80,000 of the 130,000 housing units damaged during the conflict have been fixed, with another 20,000 currently being repaired. Of the 18,000 homes completely destroyed, nearly 11,000 have now been rebuilt.
But despite Mladenov’s unusual outburst, don’t expect UN officials to admit any of this. Instead, they are more likely to blame Israel for Gaza suicides, as UNRWA spokesperson Chris Gunness did in a tweet on April 12.
This article is featured in this month’s Australia/Israel Review, which can be downloaded as a free App: see here for more details.