69 million page views

The Morality of Transfer

Reader comment on item: "Transfer" the Palestinians? Reasons Against

Submitted by Boris Shusteff (United States), Mar 9, 2009 at 19:25

The Morality Of Transfer

Boris Shusteff

"One single act of compulsion is better for both sides than perpetual friction" (Israel Zangwill).

January 22, 2002

On September 20, 1998 the Israeli daily Maariv published the results of a survey conducted among Israeli Jews. One of the questions was formulated in the following way: "Do you agree with deporting all the Arabs in the West Bank and Gaza if Israel does not pay a diplomatic price for that?" 65% of respondents answered "Yes," 26% said "No" and 9% did not give their opinion. Nevertheless, it is not the fear of diplomatic complications that is the main reason why Israel does not loudly advocate the transfer of Arabs out of Eretz Yisrael. The real issue lies within the moral sphere, in which the opinion is virtually unanimous - transfer is immoral and therefore cannot be used to solve political problems. Perhaps if this idea of transfer is taken out of the context of real life and considered in the vacuum of a perfect world, it could be seen this way. However, due to the extremely explosive relationships between Israel and her Arab neighbors and the almost biological hatred that Arabs feel towards the Jews, the transfer of Arabs from Eretz Yisrael (which includes Israel, Judea, Samaria and Gaza) is significantly better than the current situation from a moral standpoint. Let us look carefully at the moral issues involved.

From the outset it must of course be said that transfer is certainly an extremely painful and devastating event. A large group of people must be uprooted from their homes, relocated to a new place and forced to start their lives anew, nostalgically recalling their previous "homeland". But this terrible experience must be measured against a much grater calamity. It must be weighed against unending enmity, half a dozen wars, hundreds of thousands of deaths, uncountable numbers of maimed and wounded people, the non-stop suffering of millions of people, festering hatred in people's hearts, and the constant threat of a regional war, which could very well turn into a World War. It is not the purpose here to discuss who has the greater right to Eretz Yisrael (or Palestine, as it is called by non-Jews). The Jews will always be convinced that their claim to Eretz Yisrael is irrefutable. By the same token, the Arabs will never stop saying that their connection with Palestine is ages old. For the sake of argument, we will use the position stated in 1945 by the Reverend James Parkes. He wrote,

"so far as rights are concerned, both Jews and Arabs have unchallengeable cases… therefore one would have to give way to the other…. From the standpoint of need it seems to me clear that the decision lies in favor of the Jews" - the Arabs having "lands stretching from the Atlantic to Iran" (1).

It is this point, that "one would have to give way to the other," which is the foundation of the necessity for transfer. However, first we must take a brief look at the history of the conflict. Two groups of people claim the same territory. Since the beginning of the controversy in 1917 (if we take the Balfour Declaration and the British Mandate as the starting point), one of the claimants - the Jews - has always been ready to share the territory. The other claimants - the Arabs - have remained adamantly against recognizing any Jewish rights to the territory and even now reject the historical link between the Jews and Eretz Yisrael. In 1922, with the separation of Transjordan, the Jews were forbidden to settle on almost 77% of the disputed territory, while Arab settlement went unrestricted. By 1993, the year the infamous Oslo process began, the Arab state of Jordan occupied those 77%, while Israel, the Jewish state, huddled on 18% of the original British Mandate land, with the remaining 5% of the territory still in dispute, though, technically, under very reluctant Israeli control. Unable to squeeze Israel out from the land that the Jewish state obtained in 1948 (after withstanding the bloody assault of seven Arab states at once), the Arabs never relinquished the hope of conquering the land from the Jews. After losing additional territory in 1967 and 1973 and failing to defeat Israel militarily, they are now trying regain the land through a diplomatic process.

Well aware that the world community will not support blatant efforts to completely eliminate Israel, the Arabs now devote their activity to first obtaining the disputed and unallocated 5% of the lands of the former British Mandate. They demand the lands historically known as Judea, Samaria and Gaza for the creation of yet another Arab state. Over fifty years of Israel's existence have seen immutable Arab hostility toward the Jewish state. On several occasions Israel's military might forced the Arabs to accept Israel's presence in the Middle East, but time and again the undying hope of expelling the Jews from Eretz Yisrael prodded them to initiate another military confrontation. And in order to further their unscrupulous purposes, the Arab leaders have continually and shamelessly exploited the unfortunate fate of their brethren - the Palestinian Arabs - who have been caught between the anvil of the Jews' millennia old inextinguishable attachment to Eretz Yisrael and the hammer of the Arab leaders' hatred toward the Jews.

Who are the Palestinian Arabs? Majority of them are the descendants of those Arabs who flocked to Palestine from other Arab countries in the beginning of the 19th century, hoping to obtain employment and better living standards where the Jews were beginning to reclaim and develop Eretz Yisrael. Today these Palestinian Arabs either languish in refugee camps in various Arab countries or live in misery and the worst of conditions in Arafatland. Daily and nightly they are fed by their leaders the fairy tale of "returning to their homes in Palestine." To this day they remain the fuel that is constantly being added by Arab leaders to the fire of the Arab-Jewish conflict. What is most regrettable in this situation is that the world community, unable to suppress its own anti-Semitism, instead of helping to resolve the conflict, only helps to tie this Gordian knot tighter.

Israel's existence has unequivocally proven one thing: the Jews and the Arabs cannot live together on land that both claim is theirs. If the Arabs were not under the constant ill influence of their leaders, perhaps this coexistence might be possible. But since it is impossible to remove this influence, there is no other solution except transfer. Already in 1937 Arab enmity towards the Jews was apparent to the authors of the Peel Commission Report, which stated in its 22nd chapter that, "the existence of Jews in the Arab State and Arabs in the Jewish State would clearly constitute 'the most serious hindrance to the smooth and successful operation of Partition' " (1). Therefore the authors of the Report were advocating transfer, stating, "If Partition is to be effective in promoting a final settlement it must mean more than drawing a frontier and establishing two States. Sooner or later there should be a transfer of land, and as far as possible, an exchange of population." (1).

It is no secret that the Arab attitude towards the Jews has not changed since 1937, and has even became worse in some cases. It is enough to quote only one absolutely outrageous result of a recent survey in order to understand the magnitude of the Arab hatred towards the Jews. The Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research (PSR) in Ramallah and the Harry S. Truman Research Institute for the Advancement of Peace at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem conducted this poll among Palestinian Arabs during the week of December 19-24, 2001. They found that "69% of Palestinians would not view as an act of terrorism the future use of chemical and biological weapons against Israel by Palestinians, but when committed by Israel 93% of Palestinians would define it as terror."

It is the Arab hatred toward the Jews that makes the transfer of Arabs from Eretz Yisrael a must. The Jews and the Palestinian Arabs cannot live together. One of the parties must be resettled. We return to Rev. Parkes's words: "one would have to give way to the other." There are only two options. Either the Arabs have to vacate western Palestine or the Jews must abandon Eretz Yisrael. Since Israel is the only Jewish state in the world, the Jews have nowhere else to go. At the same time the Arabs can be resettled in one or more of two dozen Arab countries. In the decade prior to the Second World War there were many proposals and ideas pertaining to this population exchange. Mojli Amin, a member of the Arab Defense Committee for Palestine proposed the idea "that all the Arabs of Palestine will leave and be divided up amongst the neighboring Arab countries. In exchange for this, all the Jews living in Arab countries will leave and come to Palestine" (1).

Amin was one of a very few Arab leaders who was ready to place the famous Arab hospitality above his enmity toward the Jews. He wrote in 1939, "We the Arabs are prepared to accept upon ourselves this great sacrifice for the sake of your welfare and the gathering in of your exiles and because of the generations of suffering which you underwent in Spain, Russia and other places" (1).

It is a tragedy for both Arabs and Jews that Amin's proposal was not supported by other Arab leaders. Hatred toward the Jews doomed hundreds of thousands of Arabs to live under terrible living conditions. And generation after generation of Arab youth was raised on enmity towards the Jews. Money that could have been spent for Arab and Jewish welfare has been used to buy weapons. Five destructive wars between the Arabs and the Jews have taken several hundred thousand lives, with many times more people wounded and maimed.

In the face of these circumstances, how is it possible to say that transfer is immoral? Maybe it is moral for children to be raised in hatred towards their neighbors? Maybe it is moral to rob children of their childhood? Maybe it is moral to promote a culture of suicide? Maybe it is moral to doom generations of Arabs to live in poverty and misery? Under what kind of morality it is better to let people murder and be murdered instead of allowing them to start a new life in a new place?

All of this is the result of a hypocritical fear of transfer. Abraham Sharon (Schwadron), a Zionist writer who settled in Palestine in 1927, understood much more than we understand today, in the twenty first century. He wrote in 1941,

"Zionism has come and shown us a new way - a radical solution for quarrels between peoples living in one land by means of the transfer of one of the peoples to a different territory; a transfer that is not an uprooting and a destruction but a planting and an alleviation. It is certainly a very difficult and complicated solution, but it is fundamental, realistic and of enduring value" (1).

Somehow we never think that the biggest achievements in the history of the mankind happened through transfer of the people. Such stalwarts of democracy as America and Australia came into existence through transfer. Israel Zangwill, one of the rare transfer proponents among Zionists, wrote in 1904 that there would have to be a complete clearance of various false theories, such as that of migration being a tragedy. "This is one of the most conspicuous falsehoods in the world. Migration is a fortunate experience. In ninety-nine cases out of a hundred the transferees have found their new territories to be better, more spacious and healthier" (1). Several years later Zangwill wrote,

"As could be seen from Canada and the Transvaal leaving races put up in one territory led to trouble and friction. The World War had been fought to break up the dangerous sources of friction in Austria and Hungary. Where was the logic of creating in Palestine a minor Austria artificially? The races should separate as Abraham did from Lot" (1).

Zangwill was not the only person who realized that the elimination of sources of friction through transfer is a very viable solution. A much greater political leader made a similar proposal. Herbert Hoover, the thirty-first President of the United States wrote in 1943 in a book The Problems of Lasting Peace, "Consideration should be given even to the heroic remedy of transfer of populations… the hardship of moving is great, but it is less than the constant suffering of minorities and the constant recurrence of war" (1).

Hoover was advocating the transfer of the Palestinian Arabs to Iraq with its fertile soil and severe under-population (a transfer that a later American president, Franklin D. Roosevelt, also supported). He said of this transfer, "If the lands were organized and homes provided, this particular movement could be made the model migration of history. It would be a solution by engineering instead of by conflict"(1). Championing his transfer plan, he wrote, "I realize that the plan offers a challenge both to the statesmanship of the Great Powers as well as to the good-will of all parties concerned. However, I submit it and it does offer a method of settlement with both honor and wisdom" (1). Hoover did not built his proposal on sand. By this time the world community had already achieved tremendous success in the compulsory exchange of population between Greece and Turkey following the Greco-Turkish War of 1922. The transfer in that case was proposed by Nobel Peace prize-winner Dr. Fridtjof Nansen who was the League of Nations' first High Commissioner for refugees. That transfer was sanctioned by the League of Nations and carried out under the guidance of a mixed commission. Altogether nearly two million people were transferred: 1,300,000 Greeks and some 400,000 Turks, and the transfer was completed within eighteen months. The Peel Report that recommended the transfer of the Arabs, described in 1937 the world's reaction to Nansen's transfer operation,

"Dr. Nansen was sharply criticized at the time for the inhumanity of his proposal, and the operation manifestly imposed the gravest hardships on multitudes of people. But the courage of the Greek and Turkish statesmen concerned has been justified by the result. Before the operation the Greek and Turkish minorities had been a constant irritant. Now the ulcer had been clean cut out, and Greco-Turkish relations, we understand are friendlier than they have ever been before" (1).

Several days after the publication of the Peel Report, Abraham Bonne, who was Director of the Economic Archives for the Near East in Jerusalem, wrote that the Peel Commission came to the conclusion regarding Palestine that "the racial antagonism between Jews and Arabs could only be settled by very radical means, i.e. by the exchange of population" (1).

It is very unfortunate that this warning about the antagonism between Jews and Arabs went unnoticed. It is a tragedy that there were no brave Israeli or world statesmen at that time who could have brought to fruition a plan to transfer the Palestinian Arabs from western Palestine [Israel, Judea, Samaria and Gaza] into the Arab countries. If the transfer had taken place half a century ago, Arabs and Jews would have at the very least been spared hundreds of thousands of dead and wounded people. Moreover, the maniacal Arab hope of eliminating Israel might have been dead by this time and conditions might have been ready for establishing decent neighborly relations between the Jewish Palestinian State of Israel and the Arab Palestinian State of Jordan.

The argument that Arab hatred towards the Jews would not have subsided and that the Arabs would not forget the lands that were once under their control can easily be dismissed. The example of Spain is sufficient proof. The Moslems once ruled Spain and considered it to be their land. They were defeated, left the Iberian peninsula and today they do not demand the return of these lands.

The elimination of the causes for future friction and wars is on its own a sufficient moral substantiation for transfer. The creation of another Arab state in Judea, Samaria and Gaza, which the Arabs so adamantly strive for today, will only exacerbate the situation. This fictitious and non-viable entity will serve only as a bridgehead for another Arab-Israeli war, and a prologue to more bloodshed and suffering.

The cancer of conflict must be cut out. As Sir Walter Smiles, a Conservative member in British House of Commons said on November 24, 1938, during the debates on the Peel Commission Report, "No matter what sacrifice or discomfort people who were transferred were put to at one time, it might be better to get it over at once as the Greeks who left Asia Minor and went to Greece learned, rather than to be always at enmity with their neighbors" (1).

Four Nobel Peace Prize winners have proposed population transfer - Sir Norman Angell, Christian Lange, Philip Noel-Baker (in the specific case of Palestine), and Dr. Fridtjof Nansen as the proponent of the Greco-Turkish exchange. This speaks volumes about the morality of transfer. And especially in our case. As Hoover wrote in 1954 when he reached the age of 80, replying to a congratulatory letter, which referred to his transfer plan, "We were on the only sane track!" (1). The time is long overdue to look at a transfer of the Palestinian Arabs without prejudice and bias. Political correctness must be pushed aside. After an objective evaluation of all the pros and cons, if one really cares about the future of both the Jews and the Arabs who currently reside in Eretz Yisrael, there can be only one sane track.

1. Rabbi Dr. Chaim Simons. "A Historical Survey of Proposals to Transfer Arabs from Palestine 1895 - 1947."


Note: Opinions expressed in comments are those of the authors alone and not necessarily those of Daniel Pipes. Original writing only, please. Comments are screened and in some cases edited before posting. Reasoned disagreement is welcome but not comments that are scurrilous, off-topic, commercial, disparaging religions, or otherwise inappropriate. For complete regulations, see the "Guidelines for Reader Comments".

Comment on this item

Mark my comment as a response to The Morality of Transfer by Boris Shusteff

Email me if someone replies to my comment

Note: Opinions expressed in comments are those of the authors alone and not necessarily those of Daniel Pipes. Original writing only, please. Comments are screened and in some cases edited before posting. Reasoned disagreement is welcome but not comments that are scurrilous, off-topic, commercial, disparaging religions, or otherwise inappropriate. For complete regulations, see the "Guidelines for Reader Comments".

See recent outstanding comments.

Follow Daniel Pipes

Facebook   Twitter   RSS   Join Mailing List

All materials by Daniel Pipes on this site: © 1968-2021 Daniel Pipes. daniel.pipes@gmail.com and @DanielPipes

Support Daniel Pipes' work with a tax-deductible donation to the Middle East Forum.Daniel J. Pipes

(The MEF is a publicly supported, nonprofit organization under section 501(c)3 of the Internal Revenue Code.

Contributions are tax deductible to the full extent allowed by law. Tax-ID 23-774-9796, approved Apr. 27, 1998.

For more information, view our IRS letter of determination.)