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by Yosef Ben Shlomo


The moment the left began employing the term "transfer" to describe the displacement of Arabs, I could afford to use the same term to describe the displacement of Jews. From the start, it would never have occured to me to use this term in connection with the evacuation of settlements. There are certain terms, such as "selektzia" or "transfer" that carry horrific connotations and which in my view should not be used. However, it is clear that the left chose the term "transfer" deliberately, to evoke such an association, and thereby in one fell swoop removed the argument and discussion from the sphere of politics and formal law - from the question of whether Jews and/or Arabs ought to be removed from their homes to promote peace - and placed it on an ethical moral plane. The left here took a moral stand, one with which I agree wholeheartedly. I truly believe that people must not be removed forcibly from their own abode to another, whether they be Jews or Arabs.

The problem is that the left accepts this definition and applies it only to moving an Arab population from its place against its will and not with regard to moving a Jewish population from its place against its will. This is a logical fallacy, a syllogism based on a foregone conclusion: a particular moral ideological stance is assumed a priori, that the Arabs residing in this country are residing in their historic homeland, whereas the settler Jews are in the business of dispossessing and are occupiers who came to an alien land. Once we have assumed these assumptions, which I of course reject, the next step is to state that the definition of "transfer" applies only to Arabs, not to Jews. The philosopher Immanuel Kant calls such application of a general term to a specific case an "error of judgment."

It is not possible that forcibly taking one stretch of land in Eretz Israel in 1948, such as Sheikh Munis on which Tel Aviv University sits today, is not considered "occupation," whereas taking another stretch of land of Eretz Israel in 1967, on which Kedumim sits today, is called "occupation." That is linguistic prostitution. It is unthinkable that my own evacuation from the prefabricated cubic building in which I live in Kedumim - when I did not touch a single meter of land belonging to an Arab and when Arabs near my home continue to work their olive grove undisturbed - will not be considered "transfer," whereas the eviction of an Arab from his home will be so considered. To apply the term "transfer" only to Arabs, just because they are Arabs, borders on racism. To demand that in a peace agreement Umm al-Fahm will move to the Palestinian state and the Kedumim region will remain "cleansed of Jews" is also racism. And so are the horrifying things Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said, to whit by the end of 2005 "not a single Jew will remain in Gush Katif."

I had an outstanding teacher, Gershom Scholem - by no means a "right-winger" - who used to tell me that he is well-acquainted with the liberalism of liberals: "They are liberal so long as others agree with them." The liberals who now oppose designating the evacuation of Jewish "transfer" are also liberals of that sort: According to the dictionary definition I know, "transfer" is moving population from its place of abode, against its will, to another country. Therefore, even if I am uprooted from my home and moved against my will to another place, and even if that place is within the State of Israel, I am being transferred. Both uprootings are wrong and equally immoral.

And still nobody has answered my question: Why only the "left's rabbis," like Amos Oz, have immunity from trial when they threaten "to blow up bridges" and to break the law if a decision is reached to transfer the Arabs, but when the right's rabbis call for defying that same decision with regard to Jews, based on a supreme political, moral, or religious value - they are considered inciters?

Yosef Ben Shlomo teaches in the philosophy department at Tel Aviv University.

This article appeared in Ha'Aretz ( July 22, 2004. It is archived at


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