You are here

Lieberman’s racist ‘population exchange’

Jan 07,2014 - Last updated at Jan 07,2014

Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman has reiterated his plan to transfer some 300,000 Palestinian citizens of Israel living in several towns in the north to the Palestinian Authority.

This would be part of an “exchange of population and territory” whereby Israel would annex the Jewish colonies it has built illegally in the occupied West Bank since 1967, including East Jerusalem.

While Lieberman presents this as an “exchange”, it is an odious idea, rightly rejected first and foremost by Palestinians in Israel themselves. Far from “resolving” the conflict, it is a continuation of the Nakbeh — Israel’s ethnic cleansing of Palestinians that begin in 1948 and has not stopped since.

Lieberman’s goal, which has been supported by supposedly more “moderate” Israeli politicians such as Tzipi Livni, is to reduce the number of non-Jewish citizens of Israel, and thus strengthen the “Jewish majority”.

But stripping people of citizenship and transferring them to other states without their consent — a common practice in the 19th Century — is illegal and racist in the 21st Century.

The 1.5 million Palestinian citizens of Israel did not become Israelis by choice. They are the descendants of the Palestinians who remained behind in what is now Israel — which was founded on their land in 1948.

They are still treated as second-class citizens and face much legal and institutionalised discrimination; the rights they have are the result of their own unrelenting struggle for recognition and equality.

So it does not follow that they would welcome being stripped of their citizenship any more than African Americans living in the United States wanted to give up their citizenship even when they faced official segregation.

After 66 years of being Israeli citizens, these Palestinians alone, and individually, must decide if they want to change their status. No one else has the right to dictate to them.

Yet this proposal is hardly surprising, coming from the foreign minister of a state created through ethnic cleansing on purely religious grounds.

Lieberman’s proposal also illustrates what it would mean if Palestinians or anyone else would foolishly accept Israel’s demand to be recognised as having the “right to be a Jewish state”.

This means in practice that in the name of maintaining itself as a “Jewish state”, Israel would be able to abuse the rights of non-Jews, especially the Palestinians, who are the original owners of the land, to the extent of stripping them of citizenship.

No one should be fooled that Palestinian citizens of Israel transferred to the Palestinian Authority would be gaining citizenship in a Palestinian state.

As should be clear, except to the most misguided and naive, Israel has no intention of ever allowing a Palestinian state that has any meaningful sovereignty.

Thus, Lieberman’s proposal is simply a ploy to force hundreds of thousands more Palestinians into stateless limbo, endless occupation and perhaps eventual expulsion as “foreigners”.

While every racist proposal seems to be on the table in Israel, the idea that almost every Israeli leader rules out is the possibility of granting everyone equal rights. Israel, therefore, has chosen the path of apartheid pure and simple.

The world should respond accordingly.

Even were Lieberman’s idea not odious on its face, the notion that there is a fair “exchange” going on is also absurd.

All the land that is to be “exchanged” is Palestinian. The towns in Israel that Lieberman wants to “give up” are Palestinian and the land Israel would take in the West Bank is stolen Palestinian land.

So Israel would gain in both directions: it would get rid of Palestinian citizens, and legitimise the status of half-a-million Jewish settlers — one of them Lieberman himself — living on land seized from other Palestinians.

While Lieberman’s proposal is unlikely to be implemented, it is worrying to hear some people who should know better considering it as if it were a serious idea.

It must be emphasised here that even if the Palestinians would hypothetically agree to this exchange, the road to the envisaged settlement would remain blocked.

As long as maintaining its “Jewish status” is its priority, Israel will never be satisfied until it has got rid of all the Palestinians. Any concession made to this racism now will only be a prelude to more demands later.

Yet the Palestinian Authority continues to talk about “final status issues”, which the Israelis have put behind them with tacit American approval years ago.

Palestinians talk about the right of return while Lieberman declares loudly that “not one single Palestinian would be returning”.

Palestinians protest the continued settlement building while the Israelis build more and prepare for the annexation of the Jordan Valley.

Palestinians talk about Jerusalem as the capital of their future state while Israel insists that Jerusalem is its “eternal indivisible capital”.

That is the kind of “negotiation” currently taking place under the stewardship of the Obama administration.

What possible positive outcome could it produce?

77 users have voted.


Get top stories and blog posts emailed to you each day.