Thursday, February 24, 2005

Bizarro World

I find this an utterly bizarre inversion of morality:
The World Council of Churches, the main global body uniting non-Catholic Christians, encouraged members Tuesday to sell off investments in companies profiting from Israeli control of the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

The Council's Central Committee, meeting in Geneva, praised the United States Presbyterian Church for examining the possibility of divestment in Israel similar to the financial boycott it used against the apartheid regime in South Africa two decades ago.

The Presbyterian threat, which echoes divestment debates at some U.S. universities, has set off a wave of dissent in the church and angered American Jewish leaders.
Talk about hypocrisy! Do they ever utter a peep about divesting from the true terror regimes? They don't even pretend to be even-handed in their condemnations, which in itself would be a cop-out.

What's even weirder is in case they hadn't heard, Israel is unilaterally removing -- by force if necessary -- all of its settlements in Gaza, and is withdrawing behind its brilliant Security Wall in the West Bank. It's like they want to jump on a bandwagon and feel like they had something to do with the impending historic settlement of the palestine issue, which is nearly a fait accompli.

That it may end up officially annexing some of that territory legitimately captured in war should surprise no one; what is really surprising is that they haven't simply expelled that group of Arabs who 40 years ago started calling themselves "palestinians" (after the name the British had whimsically given to the region after the manner of the Romans, who had named their ancient colony after the biblical Philistines to annoy the Jews -- the Philistines having nothing to do with Arabs and being long extinct), and taken it all. That would be in accordance with typical world behavior: literally millions of Europeans, for example, had to move all over the place as borders were moved after each of the World Wars.

But people have odd ideas about what's going on with Israel, due to very poor teachings of history. The short answer is, obviously the Jews have been in Israel since the biblical times of the bronze age thousands of years ago, but the Arabs didn't come along until the middle ages. And in modern times, there was never any independent Arab country of palestine, but rather the area had been ruled by the Ottoman Turk Empire until it was broken up after WW1, and then divided into arbitrary colonies by the French and British, which were further rearranged as they withdrew after WW2. There's no historical justification for the arbitrary identification of a subgroup of Arabs known as palestinians as distinct, say, from those who ended up in the arbitrary region called Jordan next door.

One place to find out a wealth of information on he creation of Israel, that addresses many common misconceptions, is here. If one believes the source is biased, the refernces can be checked and at least a basis for further research is given.

For example, one finds that:

"Jews stole Arab land."

Despite the growth in their population, the Arabs continued to assert they were being displaced. The truth is that from the beginning of World War I, part of Palestine's land was owned by absentee landlords who lived in Cairo, Damascus and Beirut. About 80 percent of the Palestinian Arabs were debt-ridden peasants, semi-nomads and Bedouins.18

Jews actually went out of their way to avoid purchasing land in areas where Arabs might be displaced. They sought land that was largely uncultivated, swampy, cheap and, most important, without tenants.
It was only after the Jews had bought all of the available uncultivated land that they began to purchase cultivated land. Many Arabs were willing to sell because of the migration to coastal towns and because they needed money to invest in the citrus industry.20
The Peel Commission's report found that Arab complaints about Jewish land acquisition were baseless. It pointed out that "much of the land now carrying orange groves was sand dunes or swamp and uncultivated when it was purchased....there was at the time of the earlier sales little evidence that the owners possessed either the resources or training needed to develop the land."24 Moreover, the Commission found the shortage was "due less to the amount of land acquired by Jews than to the increase in the Arab population." The report concluded that the presence of Jews in Palestine, along with the work of the British Administration, had resulted in higher wages, an improved standard of living and ample employment opportunities.25

In his memoirs, Transjordan's King Abdullah wrote:

"It is made quite clear to all, both by the map drawn up by the Simpson Commission and by another compiled by the Peel Commission, that the Arabs are as prodigal in selling their land as they are in useless wailing and weeping (emphasis in the original)."26

Even at the height of the Arab revolt in 1938, the British High Commissioner to Palestine believed the Arab landowners were complaining about sales to Jews to drive up prices for lands they wished to sell. Many Arab landowners had been so terrorized by Arab rebels they decided to leave Palestine and sell their property to the Jews.27

The Jews were paying exorbitant prices to wealthy landowners for small tracts of arid land. "In 1944, Jews paid between $1,000 and $1,100 per acre in Palestine, mostly for arid or semiarid land; in the same year, rich black soil in Iowa was selling for about $110 per acre."28
One normally doesn't hear that much of the land was bought. Much like the case of William Penn, who not only received the royal grant of land of Pennsylvania from King Charles, but then also went and bought it, fair and square (and not for a few trinkets, but for a reasonable sum), from the Delaware chiefs and their Iroquis overlords, meaning the remaining Native Americans were squatters.
Penn paid a total of 1200 pounds for the land, which though a large sum, was probably fair for both sides. Penn took the advice of Dutch and Swedish colonists who had already set some parameters for treaty agreements These earlier settlers provided invaluable assistance in delineating who to contact, and who to pay for the land. On the other side of the 'covenant chain', the Delaware had many years of negotiating such treaties, and were ready to sell their land to Penn, on their terms. Disease had decimated much of their population so they needed less of the land near Philadelphia, and at the time there was plenty of un-occupied space to the North and West of the (future) city. As well, the Indian's 'ownership' of the land, was not as 'savagely simple' as had been assumed. (Jennings, 201). They worked with a complex arrangement of overlapping 'right's to use certain areas, and rights to dispose of these obligations. So Penn may have had to pay several times to the same holder in order to clear all claims.
Not everyone would be as scrupulous as Penn, of course, but the point is the situation was not the unmitigated land-grab of popular conception, just like with the Israel issue.

And this site has a nice animated intro. Both links were found on LGF.


Anonymous CLIFF HOBERMAN said...


12:17 AM, March 01, 2005  

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