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by Boris Shusteff

The verdict is in. An unprecedented majority of Israelis supports transfer for the purpose of achieving peace between the Arabs and the Jews. In case you missed them, let us briefly recapture the highlights of the events that must inevitably bring us to this conclusion.

Polls conducted in February 2002 in Israel demonstrated that 46% of respondents supported the transfer of Arabs from Judea, Samaria and Gaza while 60% were inclined towards the transfer of Arabs from Israel proper. In October 2003 the Israeli left announced the drafting of the so-called "Geneva Initiative," which is supposed to be officially signed on December 1. The core idea of the document is to facilitate the transfer of 4.5 million Arabs and half a million Jews in an attempt to separate Jewish and Arab populations for the sake of peace. Yossi Beilin, the ideologist of the Geneva transfer initiative, plans to distribute the document to every Israeli household. According to the latest polls 25% already support the initiative. Since most of them are situated on the left flank of Israel's political spectrum, knowing the ratio between left and right in Israel, it is safe to assume that the number will grow to 30-35%. That means that more than 90% of Israelis in one way or another support the transfer idea. The only difference is that the majority of them prefer for the transferees to be only Arabs, and the minority sees both Arabs and Jews among the transferees.

Disregarding for a moment the ethnic origins of the people subject to relocation, let us stress again the great importance of this point. Israelis both "left" and "right" are overwhelmingly keen on the idea of transfer. Moreover, if Jews are included in the population group that must be transferred, the world community immediately weighs in with its wholehearted support of the transfer. Even prior to the news of the "Geneva Initiative" the international community eagerly endorsed all the plans that were in works including the "Road Map." And it is no secret that the "Road Map" has as its endpoint the transfer of several hundred thousand Jews (as a result of dismantling Jewish "settlements" in the disputed territories). Clearly, those who claim to oppose the transfer of Arabs because 'it is wrong to forcibly move people out of their homes' cannot truly believe in this principle, if they simultaneously support forcibly transferring Jews out of primordial Jewish lands.

Let us pause for a moment in order to clarify some misunderstandings in terminology and misconceptions associated with the word "transfer." In his article on November 11 in "The American Conservative" Doug Bandow criticizes American syndicated columnist Ben Shapiro for stating that "if you believe that the Jewish state has a right to exist, then you must allow Israel to transfer the Palestinians and the Israeli-Arabs from Judea, Samaria and Gaza and Israel proper." As is typical of those who oppose this sort of policy, Bandow claims that Shapiro is "advocating forced ethnic cleansing."

The term "ethnic cleansing" is relatively new. As Drazen Petrovic demonstrates in his article "Ethnic cleansing - An attempt at Methodology" it did not exist before 1992, and was introduced in order to describe the military operations conducted during the civil war in former Yugoslavia. He writes that the term "has its origin in military vocabulary. The expression 'to clean the territory' [literal translation from Serbo-Croatian] is directed against enemies, and it is used mostly in the final phase of combat in order to take total control of conquered territory. ?The word 'ethnic' has been added to the military term because the 'enemies' considered to be the other ethnic communities."

The word "ethnic" was added, the military aspect of the operations was dropped, and the usage of the term became much looser, meaning any action that had as its goal the expulsion or relocation of any ethnic majority or minority group of people from a certain location. This kind of action is not new in world history. It was employed by nearly all modern democracies at some stage of statebuilding, and later with their approval toward the successful resolution of several international conflicts [between Greece and Turkey, India and Pakistan, Germany and Poland, etc.]

Since the term is not defined in international law it appears that it receives a negative or positive connotation only in the context of its usage. For example it is negative when the Jews consider the transfer of the Arabs out of Judea, Samaria and Gaza. At the same time it is positive when the world community supports the proposal to transfer several hundred thousand Jews as envisioned by the "Road Map." Although in this case the term 'ethnic cleansing' is shyly replaced with some politically correct synonym such as 'dismantling settlements.' Even more telling is the fact that the world democracies are ready to support the transfer of the Arabs as well. This can be perceived from their approval of the "Geneva Initiative."

The document envisions a forced transfer within a certain period of time of 4.5 million Arabs from the so-called "refugee camps" into several Arab and other countries. One must realize that the transfer of the Arabs that Yossi Beilin, Amram Mitzna, Amos Oz and other authors of the document have in mind will be involuntary. The Arabs' "permanent place of residence" will be "determined by the International Commission" and the Arabs will have only two years to submit an application for the selection of the place to which they will be relocated. Even the people who do not submit such applications will be forced to move from the refugee camps somewhere else in search of a means of sustenance. In language void of political correctness, this is called a mass relocation (i.e. transfer) of 4.5 million Arabs.

This means that the negative connotation assigned to the term "ethnic cleansing" by Bandow is of a purely political nature. If the "ethnic cleansing" of Jews from Judea, Samaria and Gaza - transferring hundreds of thousands of them - is viewed by the world community as totally acceptable, the transfer of the Arabs from the same land must be considered acceptable, as well. It should not matter whether one "cleanses" territory of Arabs or of Jews. The connotation of the meaning of the word should stay the same. If one differentiates between them, only one possible explanation suggests itself - anti-Semitism.

In addition to "ethnic cleansing' another label commonly attached to the word "transfer" is "genocide." One does not have to spare a lot of efforts to squarely reject any connection between the terms. Article 2 of the 1948 Genocide Convention defines as genocide

"Any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such: (a) Killing members of the group; (b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; (c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part; (d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group; (e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group."

This definition is absolutely inapplicable to the transfer of the Arabs envisioned by the Jews. Especially since the main purpose of the Arab transfer from Judea, Samaria and Gaza is to save as many lives as possible, and not to destroy them.

The existence of so many misrepresentations and misinterpretations of the transfer idea proves that the time is long overdue to approach the issue in a serious and responsible manner. Since the supporters of transferring Jews have an open forum all over the world in advocating their case it would be only fair to allow the voices of those who support the transfer of Arabs from Judea, Samaria and Gaza for the sake of peace in the Middle East to be heard too.

It is time to hold an International Transfer Conference where proponents of both options will openly bring forward their arguments in support of their respective positions. It is also important to remember that transfer should not be an idea in itself. Its main purpose must be the achievement of peace between the Arabs and the Jews. This in its turn raises many questions that must be objectively answered. For example, those who advocate the transfer of several million Arabs into Judea, Samaria and Gaza must honestly prove that the Arab state, which they want to create on a meager 2,200 square miles of land can be viable.

It is the world community that will foot the bill for any population transfer operations, and it must wisely choose between investing the money and throwing it into a sewer. One must understand that an Arab state on the minuscule land areas of Judea, Samaria and Gaza will be the most densely populated country in the world, with millions of people living in dreary substandard conditions, with rapidly dwindling last available resources of drinking water, in a surrogate semi-state that will not be independent. This option does not even deserve a comparison with Jordan, a real state of Palestinian Arabs (who comprise more than 65% of its population) which is not only 20 times bigger in size, but is already a full-fledged independent country.

Another, even more poignant point that nullifies the main incentive for transferring Arabs into Judea, Samaria and Gaza must also be considered. The transfer idea, with all hardships that it involves, makes sense only if it leads to a decrease in tensions between the two ethnic communities. However, the exact opposite will be achieved if more Arabs are relocated into Israel's backyard.

The unanimous conclusion of the American Joint Chiefs of Staff that a majority of Judea, Samaria, and Gaza must remain in Israel's possession in order for her to defend herself is well known. An Arab state, if created there, will rob Israel of vitally needed strategic military assets. Instead of increasing Israel's defensibility this will severely hamper it, making Israel much more vulnerable in the eyes of the Arab world, thereby further delaying any chances for real peace.

At the same time it is easy to demonstrate that the transfer of the Arab population from Judea, Samaria, and Gaza will substantially increase Israel's defense capabilities achieving true separation between the Arabs and the Jews, and giving realistic chances for lasting peace in the region.

The raging fire of the Israeli-Arab confrontation can indeed be extinguished by means of population transfer. Instead of running away from this option, it is time to look at this legitimate mechanism of achieving peace in the Middle East. The suggested International Transfer Conference must commence a series of deliberations on serious issues. Freedom of speech does not prohibit any kinds of discussions, especially with peace between the Arabs and the Jews as the incentive. The blood of the victims on both sides of this continuing conflict demands that all people of good will work to start the ball rolling. It is a task of the utmost urgency.

Boris Shusteff is an engineer. He is also a research associate with the Freeman Center for Strategic Studies. This essay appeared on the Gamla website ( November 17 2003.

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