Australia/Israel Review


Scribblings: The “ethnic cleansing solution” on parade

May 28, 2021 | Tzvi Fleischer

(Credit: Shahid Jamil/Shutterstock)
(Credit: Shahid Jamil/Shutterstock)

Regular readers of this column will know that I have repeatedly shown evidence that substantial portions of the Palestinian national movement are seeking something I call the “ethnic cleansing solution”. This is not a two-state solution – Israeli and Palestinian states coexisting – or even a one-state solution – a single state encompassing both Palestinians and Jews – but quite simply a “solution” calling for all the Jews to leave the area between the “river and the sea” or else be killed.

Recent events have provided ample evidence of this aspiration. In this edition, Haviv Rettig Gur quotes Hamas deputy head Abu Marzouk saying the war against Israel will go on until the Jews negotiate “their leaving of Palestine.”

And even before the recent conflict, on May 7, senior Hamas official Fathi Hamad called on Palestinians to “cut off the heads of the Jews with knives,” adding, “The Jews have spread corruption and acted with arrogance… The moment of destruction at your hands has arrived.”

This perhaps echoes the Hamas Covenant which, alongside other blatant examples of antisemitism, includes a religious tradition predicting that Muslims will ultimately murder all Jews.

Meanwhile, Hamas’ allies have also been getting in on the ethnic cleansing fun. On May 24, Hezbollah released a cartoon infomercial urging Jews to leave Israel and offering supposed tips on how to do so. It added, “Your displacement around the world is your gift from God.”

Meanwhile, Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei also suggested the Jews would be forced to leave Israel in tweets that accompanied his Al-Quds Day speech on May 7. After going on about Israel’s imminent destruction, he touted Iran’s “plan” to settle the situation in Palestine: “Palestine’s original residents will vote. The referendum will determine the political system.” After that, he said, “That political system… will bring back to their own country all of those who have been displaced and it will decide about the foreign settlers.”

In case it is not clear enough, the “foreign settlers” are Israel’s Jews. He doesn’t say they will be expelled by the “original residents” but he clearly is implying that they have a right to expel these “foreigners” if they want to.

As Rettig Gur notes, Israel’s Jews have nowhere else to go and are not going anywhere. The delusional belief by Hamas, Hezbollah and Iran, as well as other Palestinian actors, that they can ultimately cleanse “Palestine” of its nearly seven million Jewish inhabitants is not only abhorrent but a major barrier to peace. 

 

The antisemitic governments club grows

As Ben Cohen reports in this edition, there has been a surge in antisemitism around the world during the recent Gaza conflict, including some truly frightening incidents, such as the public call in London to rape Jewish girls and the completely unprovoked attack on Jewish diners at an LA restaurant. Commentators have noted how antisemitism seems to be losing its stigma in many circles. This trend appears particularly worrying if we look at the representatives of national governments making openly antisemitic remarks in recent weeks. 

Iran is no surprise – its leaders, including Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, have been consistent purveyors of Holocaust denial over many years, as well as other antisemitic claims, amidst their constant calls for Israel to be destroyed. On May 7, before the recent violence, official Iranian TV published a video titled “The Big Lie”, featuring lots of blatant antisemitism. Its narrator claimed, “the fabricated story about the massacre of six million Jews in World War II” was actually the result of a plan whereby “against the backdrop of the World War, the first phase of the Zionists’ project of taking over the world began.”

Another not very surprising purveyor of antisemitic rhetoric has been Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan – though he took his long history of antisemitic remarks to a new level by apparently invoking “blood libel”, the racist claim that Jews kill non-Jewish children to drink their blood. He said of Israel, they are “terrorists”, “it is in their nature,” and “they kill children who are five or six years old. They only are satisfied by sucking their blood.” Not surprisingly these comments led to condemnation from the US Government.

But there are also some new members of the antisemitic governments club. Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, in an interview with CNN on May 20, said that Israel is losing “the media war” in its battle against Hamas, “despite their connections.” The interviewer replied “What are their connections?” Qureshi laughed, and said “Deep pockets.” Asked what he meant, Qureshi answered: “Well they’re very influential people, they control media.”

And even China has dived in, with May 17 comments by a host on the overseas channel of the official state broadcaster CCTV that “some people believe that US pro-Israeli policy is traceable to the influence of wealthy Jews in the US and the Jewish lobby on US foreign policymakers” before adding, “Jews dominate finance and internet sectors.” This incident followed several Chinese embassies tweeting a cartoon featuring an image of the Grim Reaper carrying a scythe with the Israeli flag leaving a bloody trail behind him. It’s an image frequently shared by Holocaust deniers and white supremacists. 

Antisemitism is obviously becoming far less fringe, as major world governments increasingly embrace and amplify it. 

 

A matter of proportion

I shouldn’t have to explain this yet again, but public discourse during the recent Gaza war makes it clear I do: The international military and humanitarian law concept of “proportionality” has very little to do with the common meaning of the term: “corresponding in size or amount.” 

It absolutely does not mean that, if attacked, you can only fight back using as much force as was directed at you, use the same weapons the enemy used against you, shoot only as many bullets as were fired at you, or kill only as many of the enemy as their forces killed on your side. 

The US Army’s Commander’s Handbook on the Law of Land Warfare summarises what the concept really means: “[it] requires a commander to refrain from attacks in which the expected loss or injury to civilians incidental to such attacks would be excessive in relation to the concrete and direct military advantage to be gained.” 

In other words, it’s about the proportion between expected civilian damage and expected military advantage. You can only tell if an attack is “disproportionate”, and therefore illegal if you know what the military objective of it was, the military means at the disposal of the commander ordering it, the military situation on the ground at the time of the attack and also the commander’s knowledge of it. Casualty numbers alone tell you very little about an attack’s proportionality and comparing casualty numbers between two warring sides tells you exactly nothing about it. 

Moreover, the very concept of proportionality makes it completely clear that causing some civilian casualties and damage to civilian property is expected and legal in warfare – provided they were caused in pursuit of valid and legal military objectives, and one makes efforts to try to minimise such casualties as much as possible. Many commentators seem to assume any such casualties are automatically war crimes.

As former US military Judge Advocate and Harvard Law graduate David French recently wrote, “Under the laws of war, once Hamas initiated hostilities against Israel, then Israel possessed the legal right to not just defend itself against Hamas’s attacks or to retaliate against Hamas’s attacks, but to also destroy Hamas as a military force” and was therefore entitled to use whatever force was necessary to further that goal. 

He also noted that Israel “sometimes even goes beyond the requirements of the law of war by, for example, warning targets of imminent strikes.”

You know who else agrees with both these points? The former commander of the US Marine Corps, Lt. Gen (ret.) Richard Natonski, published in this edition. He also says Israel adheres to the laws of armed conflict, and that claims otherwise are “wilful distortion” while noting that Israel’s ‘knock on the roof’ and telephone warnings to minimise civilian casualties “exceed the law of armed conflict’s requirements.” 

But French also put the damage to Gaza in perspective. He writes: “if you want to know what even the lawful, proportionate use of force can do to a city when a terrorist army digs in, I’d invite you to look at some of these before and after photos of Mosul after US and allied forces drove ISIS out of the city.” And he shows the following two photos, displaying south-east Mosul in 2015, before the allied offensive, and the same area in July 2017:

He notes that battle against ISIS in Mosul is estimated to have left some 30,000 people dead and displaced upwards of a million – yet there was “virtually no international outcry.”

What happened to Gaza and Gazans is extremely tragic, and the world should be doing everything possible to prevent another similar round of conflict – which, above all, requires disarming or defanging Hamas. Nonetheless, the next time you hear claims about alleged illegally “disproportionate” Israeli actions in Gaza, and people point to either casualty figures or pictures of destroyed buildings as evidence, be aware that these claims are based on either gross ignorance, wilful malice or both. 

 

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