Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Peter Beinart tweeted on Sunday, "The Jewish state in the UN plan would have been 40-50% Arab, which is why, according to Benny Morris,  Ben-Gurion felt that "without some sort of massive displacement of Arabs from the area of the Jewish state-to-be there could be no viable ‘Jewish’ state.” 

He is quoting from his own article last year on Nakba Day in his Jewish Currents magazine.

If you read Benny Morris you can see that Beinart is wrong in ascribing this viewpoint to Ben Gurion. But worse than that, Morris discusses the issue in detail, with Zionist leaders swinging between opposition, support and pretending the issue will go away. Not only that, Beinart is quoting Morris discussing the 1930s, not 1948  - the displacement that some Jews envisioned meant the British moving Arabs elsewhere because Arab violence made it clear that Jews and Arabs would not live in peace together, which was the original Zionist idea according to most.

Beinart is copying and pasting half-truths to make Jews look like bigots.

Here is Morris from The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem Revisited, with as much context as I can place here. I italicize Beinart's quote.

The notion of transfer remained, in Zionist eyes — even as Zionist leaders trotted out these historical precedents — morally problematic. Almost all shared liberal ideals and values; many, indeed, were socialists of one ilk or another; and, after all, the be-all and end-all of their Zionist ideology was a return of a people to its homeland. Uprooting Arab families from their homes and lands, even with compensation, even with orderly re-settlement among their own outside Palestine, went against the grain. 

...Rather, the Zionist public catechism, at the turn of the century, and well into the 1940s, remained that there was room enough in Palestine for both peoples; there need not be a displacement of Arabs to make way for Zionist immigrants or a Jewish state. There was no need for a transfer of the Arabs and on no account must the idea be incorporated in the movement's ideological/political platform.

But the logic of a transfer solution to the ‘Arab problem’ remained ineluctable; without some sort of massive displacement of Arabs from the area of the Jewish state-to-be, there could be no viable ‘Jewish’ state. The need for transfer became more acute with the increase in violent Arab opposition to the Zionist enterprise during the 1920s and 1930s. The violence demonstrated that a disaffected, hostile Arab majority or large minority would inevitably struggle against the very existence of the Jewish state to which it was consigned, subverting and destabilising it from the start. Moreover, the successive waves of anti-Zionist Arab violence (1920, 1921, 1929 and 1936-1939) bludgeoned the British into periodically curbing Jewish immigration. Hence, Arab violence promised  to prevent the gradual emergence of a Jewish majority. This was the significance of the British White Paper of May 1939, which the British delivered up at the end of, and in response to, the Arab Revolt of 1936-1939, the biggest outburst of Arab violence during the Mandate. The White Paper assured the Arabs — who at the time numbered about one million to the Jews’ 450,000 — of permanent majority status (by limiting Jewish immigration to 75,000 over the following five years) while promising that majority ‘independence’ within 10 years. Palestine would become an Arab state with a large Jewish minority (whose future status and rights, needless to say, would be determined by the new Arab rulers).

Each major bout of Arab violence triggered renewed Zionist interest in a transfer solution. ...

The outbreak of the Arab Revolt in April 1936 opened the floodgates; the revolt implied that, from the Arabs’ perspective, there could be no compromise, and that they would never agree to live in (or, indeed, next to) a Jewish state. Moreover, they were bent on forcing the British to halt Jewish immigration — and this, precisely at a time, when the Nazis threatened Europe's Jews with an unimaginably appalling future. Never had there been such need for a safe haven in Palestine.
Beinart, here and in his article, implies that "transfer" is an inhumane Jewish Zionist desire for a Jewish majority country. But Morris makes clear that  this was a reluctant position, and Arab violence and pressure on the British to stop Jewish immigration is what forced the Zionists to think about transfer as a response. The entire point of Zionism was to have a safe haven for Jews to live freely in the Jewish homeland; if the Arabs insist that they will never accept such a national home, there was not much choice but to consider how best to separate the populations so the Jewish minority is not slaughtered.

Beinart gets very dishonest by implying that "transfer" is forcible displacement. But that is not at all what was meant, certainly not before 1948. Morris writes:
The Jewish Agency Executive debated the idea.

Ben-Gurion observed:

"Why can’t we acquire land there for Arabs, who wish to settle in Transjordan? If it was permissible to move an Arab from the Galilee to Judea, why is it impossible to move an Arab from the Hebron area to Transjordan, which is much closer? . . . There are vast expanses of land there and we [in Palestine) are over-crowded . . . We now want to create concentrated areas of Jewish settlement [in Palestine}, and by transferring the land-selling Arab to Transjordan, we can solve the problem of this concentration . . . Even the High Commissioner agrees to a transfer to Transjordan if we equip the peasants with land and money . . ."

Ben Gurion at that time was suggesting voluntary transfer and buying Arab land from those who want to move to Transjordan.  There is nothing the slightest bit immoral about paying someone to move elsewhere if they have no objections.

Peter Beinart doesn't want you to know that. (I'd love to hear Benny Morris' opinion of Beinart's quoting him.)

Beinart's dishonesty doesn't end there. Before the Fourth Geneva Convention, the idea of transferring populations to avoid civil war was almost universally considered better than the alternative - tens of millions were transferred in the years after World War II, especially in Eastern Europe and India/Pakistan.  The planner of a project to transfer two million Christians and Muslims between Greece and Turkey,  Fridtjof Nansen, was given the 1923 Nobel Peace Prize.

Using 2022's moral standards to damn Jews in the 1930s and 1940s for considering a practice that was not only accepted but even praised is just another manifestation of antisemitism. This is especially true because the Jews at the time who were facing genocide and wanted to save their people in the face of implacable Arab opposition and British acquiescence to Arab demands.

Like all good propagandists, Peter Beinart only looks at one side of the ledger.

As usual, Peter Beinart writes slander - but with just enough truth to dazzle the haters and to be able to say, "I didn't lie!"  This one tweet shows that he is adept at communicating lies by artfully juggling facts and timelines while ignoring the context, always with the intent of denigrating and insulting Jews who had to make life-saving decisions.

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