By Charles Miller
Listening to the pronouncements of Secretary of State John Kerry, one would think that peace between Israel and the Palestinians is mere millimeters away. His almost daily expressions that the final birth pangs of peace are upon us seem nonsensical if one listens
to the continued hateful rants of Palestinian negotiators. When Jewish history in the Land of Israel is continuously denied, when the concept of a Jewish state is wholly rejected, and when minimal security guarantees for Israel are denounced, then peace is far, far away.
Of the myriad demands apparently being fleshed out in the secret negotiations, none is more perplexing to me than the Palestinian demand for a state devoid of Jews. The reason for my astonishment is that, at the same time the Palestinians demand such a thing, Israel is universally expected to maintain a twenty-percent-and-growing hostile Arab population within her midst.
Until now, this immoral and hypocritical stance has been the accepted norm within international circles. Those within Israel who have expressed alternative scenarios to help resolve the conflict, along demographic lines, have been singled out as racist hatemongers. Notwithstanding this blatant hypocrisy, the international community’s professed need for a two-state solution, a Jewish state of Israel and a Palestinian Arab state, requires at its core a realization that demography should dictate the makeup of each respective state.
In 1936, a British Royal Commission of Inquiry, also known as the Peel Commission, set out to partition the land held by the British Mandate. The Arabs were to receive a much larger portion of the land, including the Negev desert, but the Commission also recommended an exchange of populations, by compulsion if necessary, between the two ethnic communities. Citing the population exchange of Greece and Turkey in 1923 as a precedent, the Peel Commission sought the most demographically suitable outcome possible.
In 1923, following the Greco-Turkish War and the independence of Turkey, the two countries signed the “Convention Concerning the Exchange of Greek and Turkish Populations,” involving the transfer of 1.5 million Greeks from Turkey and 500,000 Muslims from Greece. The goal of the exchange, to achieve ethnic-national homogeneity, was achieved for both states. By 1927, only 2.6 percent of the population of Turkey consisted of non-Muslims.
After World War II, Poland and Soviet Ukraine conducted population exchanges, with approximately 2,000,000 Poles deported to Poland from Ukraine and approximately 200,000 Ukrainians transferred from Poland. Similarly, when India achieved independence, more than five million Hindus and Sikhs were forced to move from present-day Pakistan into present-day India, with a similar number of Muslims moving from India to Pakistan.
While the Arab leadership of Palestine predictably rejected any political accommodation with the Jews, the two main Jewish leaders of the day, Chaim Weizmann and David Ben-Gurion, recommended approving the Peel Commission’s ideas as a basis for more negotiation. According to Ben-Gurion at that time, “The compulsory transfer of the Arabs from the valleys of the proposed Jewish state could give us something which we have never had, even when we stood on our own during the days of the First and Second Temples: [a Galilee that is almost exclusively Jewish] . . . We are being given an opportunity which we never dared to dream in our wildest imagination.” You won’t see that quote amongst those listed on today’s Labor Party website or on J Street’s platform, but such a view was at the core of Ben-Gurion’s mindset.
In 1947, the United Nations General Assembly in Resolution 181 formally terminated the British Mandate, declaring the founding of independent Arab and Jewish states in the area, including liberty of access, visit, and transit to holy places. Tellingly, the resolution allowed for Jews and Arabs to become citizens of the state they resided in at the time of independence; but it prohibited an Arab living in the area of the proposed Arab state to opt for citizenship in the newly formed Jewish state and vice versa. Even the United Nations General Assembly in 1947 understood, like the Greece-Turkey and India-Pakistan models, that population homogeneity was the best method to ensure peaceful coexistence.
In 2005, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, with the assistance of Vice Premier Shimon Peres, enacted the Gaza Disengagement, which destroyed 21 Jewish communities inside the Gaza Strip, removed by force nearly 8,000 Jewish residents, physically destroyed all Jewish synagogues and Jewish remnants in the area, and removed all Jewish graves from the area for reburial inside Israel proper. According to Peres, now Israel’s president, “We are disengaging from Gaza because of demography.”
The international community universally cheered the Gaza deportations, with Kofi Annan, then United Nations Secretary General, stating that the action “demonstrated that [Israel] has the requisite maturity to do what would be required to achieve lasting peace.” The plan apparently didn’t seem to irritate so-called human-rights groups, as none raised their voices in condemnation. According to world opinion, having areas 100% free of Jews was a precondition to peaceful coexistence between the two peoples.
Recognizing potential solutions in this regard, Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman has touted his own plan for peaceful coexistence. His plan does not call for the removal of any Arab from land they currently reside in. Rather, he proposes moving borders of the respective states to accommodate demographic realities on the ground. Specifically, an area within northern Israel known as the Triangle, home to several hundred thousand Arab citizens, would be moved within a Palestinian state. Lieberman proposes transferring the citizenship of those Arabs in that area to the Palestinian state, thus making Israel more Jewish demographically.
Concurrently, Lieberman advocates annexing the Jewish settlement blocs within Judea and Samaria and providing Israeli citizenship to those Jews living within those areas. His aim, similar to the logic utilized in the aforementioned world conflicts, is to diminish ethnic strife and create demographic harmony within certain confined areas. He stated, just in the past week, “Without an exchange of land and population, I cannot support a peace deal.”
A closer look at his plan demonstrates its far more liberal adaptation of the transfer method of resolving conflict. He doesn’t advocate physical transfer or displacement; rather, he advocates political transfer and demographic realignment. His plan is even contained on the website of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, under scenarios outlined by Senior Fellow David Makovsky, now a senior aide to Martin Indyk, President Obama’s envoy to the Arab-Israeli peace process.
Lieberman’s call to ease the demographic nature of Israel’s population has been condemned by the same groups who cheered the wholesale Jewish destruction and dispersion in Gaza. The Israeli left brands him a racist and a purveyor of “dark and illegal transfer plans.”
Mahmoud Abbas, leader of the Palestinians, declares without hesitation that he will never accept a Jewish state and denies Jewish history within the Land of Israel. He surprises the world’s billion Christians by telling them the founder of their faith was really a Palestinian, and he has repeatedly stated that any future state of Palestine will be empty of any Israeli presence. At the same time, he condemns Lieberman’s plan and would never fathom a more ambitious physical population transfer plan, the likes of India and Pakistan, removing Arabs from their current homes to areas within a newly formed Palestinian state.
I have never seen or heard of any condemnation from any world government, including our own in the United States, or from any so-called human-rights group, for the Palestinian demand that their state be Jew-free. I have also never seen these groups tout Lieberman’s plan or one that accomplishes the same. Rather, Israel’s demographic concerns are singularly dismissed as racist and contemptible by the international community.
Logic and intellectual consistency seem to be absent when the rights of Israel and Jews are concerned. But if peace is going to be achieved, certain critical thresholds are going to have to be crossed. The Palestinian narrative of a Middle East historically free of Jewish sovereignty must end; the rights of Jews to our land and holy places must be respected. And if the borders of the two states are ever to come to fruition, demographic and security realities must be taken into account.
A state of Palestine that is devoid of Jews, while Israel is required to maintain 20% of an often-hostile Muslim population, will not create the framework for peaceful coexistence. Rather, it will fuel the already delusional Palestinian minds who declare that Palestine is 100% their land and Israel is a yet-to-be-conquered place. Demographic swaps are the best way toward restoring the ethnic harmony needed in today’s environment.
Hopefully, in an era of hoped-for peace and coexistence, pragmatism and intellectual honesty will be required. Mutual respect must take hold and then, just maybe, the wide-eyed optimism of Secretary Kerry and others can come to fruition. v
Charlie Miller is a criminal-defense attorney residing in Woodmere with his wife and four children. He served in the United States Navy for six years on active duty as an officer in the Judge Advocate General’s Corps, including a year in the White House as a military aide to the President of the United States.