Possible Expropriation Later Vs. Actual Expropriation Now

Map Photo Courtesy of Peace Now

Commentary editor Jonathan Tobin responds to my post on Maen Areikat by mischaracterizing my first point, and then demonstrating my second.

Tobin characterizes my view as “the dustup over Maen Areikat’s remarks is just a neocon canard.” Untrue. Not only did I criticize Areikat’s comments, as “troubling,” (and the previous day as “ridiculous”) I actually located and linked to the original source of the comments. I think the concern over the remarks is entirely warranted and legitimate (which is why it’s good to see the Palestinians clarifying today that “The future Palestinian state will be open to all its citizens, regardless of their religion.”) The canard, which we can almost certainly expect Tobin and others to keep repeating, is the claim that the Palestinian leadership is actively planning a “Judenrein” state.

Responding to my comparison between Areikat’s comments and Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman’s proposed plan to transfer Palestinian Israelis out of the country, Tobin argues that, “Areikat’s views are not, as could be said of the opinions of radical right Israeli settlers or even the more mainstream hard line views of Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, the opinions of a minority faction.”

Leaving aside the fact that Lieberman is himself a right-wing Israeli settler, Tobin’s argument that a PLO diplomat speaks for all Palestinians, while Israel’s foreign minister — that is, the boss of all of Israel’s diplomats — represents only “the opinions of a minority faction” is not one I find convincing.

Tobin takes serous issue, however, with my pointing out the hypocrisy of Areikat’s critics who’ve never had anything bad to say about Israel’s ongoing efforts to seize Palestinian property (the latest evidence of which we have this morning):

[F]or Duss to compare a promise to evict all Jews from a Palestinian state to property disputes in Jerusalem (in which some Arabs lost court cases in which Jews held the title to the land or houses in question) is an absurdity. Whether or not you believe Palestinians who have squatted on other people’s property in Jerusalem ought not to be forced to move, to compare Israel’s record on this with a Judenrein Palestine makes no sense. Duss seems to forget Israeli Arabs have full citizenship rights, serve in the Knesset and have redress to independent courts.

For a response to this, I spoke to Danny Seidemann, an Israeli lawyer with the organization Terrestrial Jerusalem, and considered one of the world’s leading experts on Israeli policy in Jerusalem. “Sure, the courts almost always rule in favor of the settlers,” Seidemann said, “because the law discriminates. Under Israeli law, Jews who lost property in East Jerusalem [in] 1948 may recover their properties. The Palestinians there are ‘squatters’. Those Palestinians who lost property in West Jerusalem [in 1948] may NOT recover their properties. The Israelis who live in these are ‘homeowners’, not ‘squatters’.”

Seidemann also corrected Tobin on the status of Jerusalem’s Palestinians. Apart from about 13,000 out of about 290,000 total, Seidemann said, “The Palestinians of East Jerusalem are not ‘full citizens’ of Israel, but rather permanent residents. They may not vote in national elections, get elected to the Knesset, serve as judges, become mayor or get an Israeli passport.”

As Israeli human rights groups like B’Tselem, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, and Ir Amim have rigorously documented, there exists in Israel a system of laws designed specifically to divest Palestinians of their property and put it under Jewish control. A 2009 European Union report “accused both the Israeli government and the Jerusalem municipality of working deliberately to alter the city’s demographic balance and sever East Jerusalem from the West Bank.” If that sounds ugly, that’s because it is ugly, for none more than the Palestinian families who suffer under it.

It’s quite true that this is not the same as planning a “Judenrein” Palestine, but it is nevertheless incredibly inhumane, not to mention entirely illegal under international human rights law. It’s also a highly provocative attempt to predetermine Jerusalem’s future status, which is why both the United States and the United Nations have condemned such evictions. But, for the committed apologist, all of this can be dismissed as merely a “property dispute.”