Prime Minister Netanyahu has been condemned from all sides for a video in which he accused the Palestinians of seeking to “ethnically cleanse” Judea and Samaria. His charge that the Palestinians are seeking a state in which there would be no Jews was met by shock and revulsion from the international community. The media reported the reactions by the U.S. State Department and United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon dismissing the Prime Minister’s claim.
The message was clear: How dare the Israeli Prime Minister make such a baseless accusation. What would lead him to think that the Palestinians would want a state with no Jews?
It seems that everyone who condemned the remarks needs a brief history lesson. Because in 1948, ethnic cleansing was exactly what was done to the Jews in Jerusalem and parts of Judea — the exact same places that the Palestinians demand as part of their state.
There had been a Jewish community living in the Old City of Jerusalem for thousands of years in 1948. Some residents’ families had lived there for generations.
But in an instant, this continuous Jewish presence was forcibly destroyed. Some Jews were murdered at gun point. The rest were forced out with nothing but the shirts on their backs.
Here’s what happened next under Arab occupation: (SixDayWar.org)
Upon its capture by the Arab Legion, the Jewish Quarter of the Old City was destroyed and its residents expelled. Fifty-eight synagogues–some hundreds of years old–were destroyed, their contents looted and desecrated. Some Jewish religious sites were turned into chicken coops or animal stalls. The Jewish cemetery on the Mount of Olives, where Jews had been burying their dead for over 2500 years, was ransacked; graves were desecrated; thousands of tombstones were smashed and used as building material, paving stones or for latrines in Arab Legion army camps. The Intercontinental Hotel was built on top of the cemetery and graves were demolished to make way for a highway to the hotel. The Western Wall became a slum area.
If the exile of all Jews and the destruction of any evidence of Jewish habitation is not “ethnic cleansing,” then what is?
The ethnic cleansing was not limited to Jerusalem. In Gush Etzion, Kfar Etzion, the last of the Jewish towns there were surrounded and attacked. When the defenders ran out of ammunition and surrendered, they were brought together and massacred.
Again, not content with erasing Jews, the local Palestinians set about erasing signs that Jews had ever been there. Every Jewish house was burned down. Even agricultural fields were burned.
These examples of ethnic cleansing were not from ancient history. There are Israelis alive today who remember being uprooted from Jerusalem and seeing their homes and synagogues destroyed.
Has today’s Palestinian leadership condemned or even distanced themselves from the events of 1948? No, quite the contrary. They lament that the fledgling Jewish country was not “ethnically cleansed” at birth.
So it is really not surprising that the Prime Minister of Israel made the politically incorrect charge that the real goal of the Palestinian leadership was a land without a Jewish presence. But devoid of historical context, the video does leave many wondering why he would say such a thing.
It would have been refreshing if some in the media had referred to the events of 1948 while reporting on the condemnations of Netanyahu’s remarks. Doing so, even briefly, would have given readers better context to try and understand the Prime Minister’s video.