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Hebrew University
Debate over [Hebrew U, Chemistry Dept.] Victoria Buch's "History and 'morals' of ethnic cleansing: Reflections after Gaza invasion"

[Hebrew U, Chemistry Dept.] Victoria Buch recently wrote an article "History and 'morals' of ethnic cleansing: Reflections after Gaza invasion"

Victoria Buch http://www.fh.huji.ac.il/~viki/
Occupation Magazine
Jan. 4-th, 2009

I arrived in Israel 40 years ago. It took me many years to understand that the very existence of my country, as it is today, is based on an ongoing ethnic cleansing of Palestinians. The project started many years ago. Its seed can be traced to the basic fallacy of the Zionist movement, which set out to establish a Jewish-national state in a location already inhabited by another nation. Under these conditions, one has, at most, a moral right to strive for a bi-national state; establishing a national state implies, more or less by definition, ethnic cleansing of the previous inhabitants...

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Ralph Dobrin: I was born in 1937 in Johannesburg, South Africa, where I learned first-hand the evils of racial discrimination – being on the side of the white discriminators. My parents had fled Nazi Germany the year before I was born because they were Jews. I came to Israel in 1957 and my main concern, apart from the wellbeing of my family, is this country’s survival in the face of the ongoing quest of a large part of humanity to obliterate us – using falsehood, half-truths and the self-indulgent obtuseness of the so-called enlightened peoples of the free world. But Israel’s survival is dependent mainly on the character and spirit of its people. Integrity, common decency and a feeling of togetherness must be developed as well as a belief in national destiny.   For more information visit:  www.israelandtruth.org


Re: History and 'morals' of ethnic cleansing: Reflections after Gaza invasion, which appeared in "Occupation Magazine" on Jan. 4th, 2009

Dear Victoria Buch,
You might be pleased to know that your article has appeared on a number of websites, apart from "Occupation Magazine."
But I get the impression from your writing that the Jews of this land are indeed guilty of Original Sin. That we have no right to have our own state and no matter what we do or omit to do, we are always wrong. Please correct me if I'm wrong.
You mention correctly that this land was "already inhabited by another nation." But hadn't there always been Jews living here? Or were we a totally alien nation that suddenly descended upon that other nation? And isn't it true to say that the Arabs hadn't ruled Palestine long before the start of Ottoman rule in 1518? So, did the Arabs have more rights to this land than the Jews when the Ottoman Empire crumbled?
Personally my answer to that is that the Arabs had a right to much more of what was Palestine at the start of the British Mandate than the Jews because they outnumbered the Jews considerably.
But subsequently there were factors that evened out the equation. Namely, lopping off 77% of Palestine at the outset, and creating an Arab (Judenrein) state called the Kingdom of Jordan, and then the Partition Plan of 1947, leaving the Jews with about an eighth of the original Palestine. That sounds as though it might have been a reasonably sensible basis for the defining of national borders. A lot of other independent Arab states were established in this whole period – Lebanon and Syria (that actually included small parts of Ottoman Palestine), Iraq, and borders in other Arab countries were redefined. A lot of other Arab countries along the whole of North Africa and the Arabian Peninsula had their independence consolidated.
Meanwhile it is clear that the Jews – more desperately than any other nation – needed to have their own national sovereignty, after losing dominion here nineteen hundred years earlier, and being cringingly helpless at the mercy of most of the people among whom they lived?

Also, Palestine of the early Halutzik period, in the words of many famous nineteenth century travelers, was a land with vast emptiness and barrenness? So, was it wrong for the oppressed Jews of Europe to come here and purchase the malaria-infested swamps of Galilee, Jezreel and the Sharon Plain, and build farms and villages? Was all that wrong? Should they have just stayed in Kishinev, Minsk, Odessa, Sa'ana and all the thousands of other places were Jews had been beaten and butchered for hundreds of years simply because they were Jews? Why shouldn't they have had the right to turn themselves into a normal nation once again with its own sovereign territory, especially with the terrible rise in anti-Jewish violence as well as the changing balance of power in the world, that added a sense of urgency to the idea of Jewish renaissance.

Furthermore, people have always moved to new lands. Often there is friction with the locals. Although here, many of the Arab locals were themselves newcomers from surrounding countries, attracted by the prosperity generated by the expanding Jewish presence and the British Mandate.

And then, when Arab violence began, should the Jews have just lain down and submitted – like they had always done in Europe and other Arab lands? After all, as you mention, according to Amos Elon, Albert Einstein had warned Chaim Weizmann about Prussian-style nationalism.

You judge: "But such warnings passed un-heeded by the Zionist movement." So what should the Jews in Palestine have done when attacked in their fields or in the towns by killer-mobs? Didn't they act naturally and instinctively when they sought to defend themselves, just like normal human beings everywhere?

But you reckon: "So here we are, nearly a century later, with a Jewish national state dominated by militaristic and militant nationalists, who diligently pursue colonization and "judaization" of the land under Israeli control, on both sides of the Green Line."

So clear-cut! No mention whatsoever about Arab masses killing Jews and ransacking property long before we even had our independence. And what does "Judaization" mean? Some disease to be avoided or eradicated?

You lament: "Young Israelis, generation after generation, join the army to provide the military cover. The young folks have been brain-washed to honestly believe that the army pursues Israel's "fight for existence."

What? The 1948 War to obliterate Israel; the 1967 War with the same intention or the 1973 Invasion – these weren't wars launched by the Arabs in order to end Israel's existence? You don't have a single word about Arab intentions to destroy us, or the boycotts, the constant lies, the launching of terror squads against Israel and against Jewish targets in other parts of the world? All this is irrelevant in your thinking?
When writing about the 1948 War you say: "What is conveniently overlooked is that Palestinian Arabs constituted between one third and one half of the population of that designated Jewish homeland. Why should these people (the Arabs), whose ancestors lived there for generations, accept living in somebody else's designated homeland?" Well, why shouldn't they? Every country has a minority. Only, heaven forfend that Arabs should be a minority – and in a Jewish state! How unthinkable! So, what about Jews who had lived in places like Hebron, Jericho and Safad for hundreds and maybe thousands of years – according to the Partition Plan, they would be living in the Arab part of newly Partitioned Palestine (if they'd have avoided their prompt slaughter).

The Arabs totally, but totally rejected any notion that the Jews had any right to any part of this region. So they started the war in 1947. Or maybe they didn't start that war according to your way of seeing things? Although neutral sources talk about a pan-Arab war launched against the new, internationally sanctioned Jewish state (a mere three years after the Holocaust). I really can't see that the Jews here had any alternative but to fight desperately to defend themselves and to win. Again, I ask you this question: Were they wrong? Should they have immediately capitulated and trusted that the Arabs, who had never played cricket, would treat them and their families kindly? Oh, but the Jews shouldn't have killed civilians and caused civilians to flee! Well that's what happens in wars, and had the Arabs won … boy oh boy, they would have taught the world a thing or two about frenzy. You can be pretty sure there wouldn't have been many Jewish refugees left. (And if there had been you can be absolutely certain that they wouldn't have created a long-lasting refugee problem. I'd be very interested to hear what you have to say about the cynical perpetuation of the Arab refugee problem.)

But the outcome was of the 1947-1949 war tuned out very differently than the Arabs expected, didn't it? So, the local Arabs lost their allotted part of Palestine. But most of it was snatched away by fellow-Arabs – Jordan annexed the West Bank and Egypt the Gaza Strip. Also, let's remember that the Arab declared purpose in that war was not just to create yet another enlarged Arab state, but in the immortal words of the Secretary General of the Arab League Azzam Pasha, "This will be a war of extermination and a momentous massacre which will be spoken of like the Mongolian massacres and the Crusades." That war was the Arabs' original sin!!! This is what people all over the world should have said at the outset and should be saying now: "You people talked about extermination of another people and that was wrong, very wrong!"

About the Six Day War in 1967 you mention that Yitzhak Rabin, the Chief of Army Staff at that time, told Le Monde: "I do not believe that Nasser wanted war. The two army divisions which he sent into Sinai on May 14 would not have been enough to unleash an offensive against Israel. He knew it and we knew it."

But it seems highly improbable that Rabin ever said anything like that. Firstly, if as you quote, he didn't believe that Nasser wanted war, why on earth did the great man have a nervous breakdown a few days before the war broke out? Obviously he knew enough about Egypt's intentions and strength to genuinely fear the destruction of Israel. Also, if Nasser really didn't want war then why did he close the Straits of Tiran to Israeli shipping and all foreign ships bound for Eilat? Wasn't that in itself an act of war? And incidentally the figure supposedly quoted in Le Monde, is way off the mark. There weren't two Egyptian divisions in Sinai. By June 5th there were seven! Egypt, Syria and Jordan had about 250,000 troops poised to attack Israel. Had Israel not successfully launched that pre-emptive attack it is almost certain that within hours she would have been decimated.

I understand from your footnotes that Rabin's quote and statements by other Israeli leaders regarding the Six Day War are from the expressive pen of Stephen Lendman in Zmagazine. The trouble with anything by a Marxist or Post-Marxist writer is that truthfulness always takes second place to agenda expediency, so I'm not surprised at such way-out statements.

As for Benny Morris, I found especially interesting what you chose to omit in that interview with Ari Shavit. Talking about Ben Gurion, Ari Shavit asks:

"Was Ben-Gurion a transferist? (in favor of expulsion of Arabs?)

Morris replies: "Of course. He understood that there could be no Jewish state with a large and hostile Arab minority in its midst. There would be no such state. It would not be able to exist …  In certain conditions, expulsion is not a war crime. I don't think that the expulsions of 1948 were war crimes …"

Morris adds: "A society that aims to kill you, forces you to destroy it. When the choice is between destroying or being destroyed, it's better to destroy."

Would you say that Morris is wrong? Should he have said "When the choice is between destroying or being destroyed, it's better to be destroyed"?

About Gaza – even when Israel pulled its whole presence out of there, you criticize it as a "brilliant propaganda move." For you there is no doubt that it really had nothing to do with defusing the situation or answering Arab demands. The thousands of rockets fired on the towns and settlements in Israel, especially after that pullout from the Gaza Strip, is of no consequence to you, even if it were a propaganda move? The frequent shootings at Jewish farmers across the international border was okay? The enormous smuggling of weaponry and explosives that had one purpose only – to cause havoc and civilian deaths in Israel – that too was okay? The deliberate shooting and sabotage of crossing points providing humanitarian aid for the Gazans – that too was okay? But Israel's attempt to bring about a halt to these attacks, which can only be done by waging the kind of war we've now done – oi gevalt! That's wrong. That's shameful. Please world – help stop this! Israel must not be allowed to defend herself under any circumstances.

Your reference to those Israeli generals and ex-generals who make blood-thirsty speeches, is an amazing statement for a supposedly mature person. "Blood-thirsty!" Even though I am an avid news freak, I have never heard a blood-thirsty speech by any Israeli army general or leader. We did hear Olmert's braying at the beginning of the Second Lebanon War, and even Avigdor Lieberman who doesn't smile when he talks about Arab violence has never come close to the level of vulgar, blatant blood-thirstiness that one hears every day by Arab and Muslim leaders throughout the world. Or perhaps in your world view, the likes of Haniya, Ahmedinijad, Bin Laden, Nasrallah and their cohorts are really nice, kind, honorable, decent men? They are just fooling when they talk about wiping Israel from the face of the map. Nothing blood-thirsty in any of them!

Or the ethnic cleansing you mention, bewailing the fact that Jews are living in Judea. But why shouldn't a Jew live in a place called Judea? And talking about ethnic cleansing, when Jews have to move out of the West Bank as well as Gaza – that isn't ethnic cleansing? And the factories and workshops that you mention as being destroyed – I suppose they were all making barbie dolls and yo-yoes. Certainly not rockets! Surely Israel must have lied about all that!

These are just a small fraction of your accusations against Israel. There's just too much to respond to in the framework of this letter. From your words and your recriminatory tone, it seems that for you only Israel and its Jews are culprits and scoundrels. We are to blame for everything.

All over the world there have always been confrontations between different nations and peoples. Incidentally, few conflicts had anything to do with morality. They had to do honor, exploitation, religion, economics, territory or just plain nastiness. Often they are a combination of a few of these factors. In all conflicts civilians are wounded and killed, and buildings turn to rubble, and it is the stronger side that determines what happens after the warring. But only Israel, which time and time again has stated its genuine desire for peace, and which has relinquished lands from which attacks and invasions were launched upon her, is condemned for waging war the way that any other enlightened state would see its undeniable right under circumstances far less pressing.

Can you name any other nation on earth that under similar circumstances would have waged their struggle any less lethally? I'm not even going to dwell on the way Hamas, and indeed most Arabs wage war and what they do to civilians (even their own civilians). But generally when talking about conflict in the world, a few place names readily come to mind: like Dresden, Kosovo, Georgia, Darfur, Chechniya, Congo, and another hundred names which will give you an idea how other people wage war. Or the mass-butchering that has taken place in every single Arab country, of thousands upon thousands of their own people. The data is all readily accessible if you're interested.

Gratifyingly – for me and for another six or seven million sane Israelis, Israel, despite her restaint, has managed to prevail in this ongoing conflict – but only partially. We are too small to defeat the whole of the Arab and Muslim world and bring this conflict to an end. Especially when we are constantly stymied by the rest of the world that sees fit to toady up to the oil-rich Arab and Muslim world.

But make no mistake – one defeat for Israel, and Azzam Pasha's promise will come true: "This will indeed be a war of extermination and a momentous massacre which will be spoken of like the Mongolian massacres and the Crusades."

I want to end by saying that I reckon that as a decent person and as a scientist, for you the quest for truthfulness must be very important. I would imagine that for you that would also mean not automatically accepting every single statement as the gospel truth, even those statements that might ring appropriately to your present outlook. Everything bears checking out. Especially issues of a controversial nature. I'm sure that you know that not everything you read – especially by people writing for a cause – is absolutely accurate, and like any good scientist would advise, should be double-checked. Certainly before sending out your thoughts into the world.

I think that the issue of national and personal morality needs to be constantly examined. I acknowledge your concern. But our little nation is constantly being threatened by our enemies and badgered by our so-called friends. The threats deal with our utter destruction. Also, there are legions of media people outside Israel who work assiduously and insidiously to weaken our stand and erode the little support we have in the outside world. Much of the time they use half-truths, falsehood and selective omission in their one-sided articles and broadcasts. An especially potent source for them are statements by Israelis like yourself.

When you send out articles like this present one to internationally viewed media sources, hundreds of thousands of people – many our mortal enemies – see your words and take delight in them and are encouraged to continue attacking Israel. This in turn leads to retaliation by Israel, like in the present Gaza conflict. And as usual it is the Arabs who suffer most.

I would imagine that additional suffering of the Arabs, is not your intention. I would like to hope, also, that weakening or damaging or heaven forfend, the demise of Israel, isn't your aim, either. But I can't help feeling that your words actually represent a betrayal of your people – if indeed we Israelis are deemed by you to be "your people." I have heard people with your mindset saying things like: "Oh I am saying this because I have my people's welfare at heart." That's just crazy. A person with your obvious talent and intelligence can do so much good in this world and in this conflict. With your contacts you can begin by telling people a few home truths. That will take a lot of courage on your part. And honesty!

Ralph Dobrin






---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Victoria Buch <vvbb54@yahoo.com>
Date: 2009/1/19
Subject: response to letter
To: rafi421209@gmail.com

Dear Sir,

I think people have / or should have / a right to move from one country to another. I rather like, for example, the Canadian policy in which every person is welcome as long as he or she does not seem like a likely burden on the society. On the other hand I do not think that any nation has a right to establish their national state in a place already occupied by another nation, by kicking out the members of that other nation. Which is what Israel did in 1948 within ceasefire borders. At present, after 1967 conquest,  Israel established an apartheid state with apartheid laws which apply to Palestinians of the West Bank. Apartheid laws have no justification whatsoever. Like Israel, South African white racists also tried to justify them by "defending their existence", "their historical rights to independence", whatnot, and it did not work.

In 19-th century most of the inhabitants of this land were Arabs. In 19-th century there was a small minority of Jews. Jews ceased being a majority sometimes in Roman times.
Before WWII the land was purchased by Jewish immigrants, not expropriated. This purchase was not unproblematic because the rich land owners got the money and the Arab farmers who worked the land were kicked out. But there was no outright land robbery. During 1948 war Ben Gurion instructed the army to expel as many Palestinians as possible. It looked, more or less, as follows - the army would enter a village,  and tell the rest to get lost if they value their lives. Might shoot a few people as an example. That was ethnic cleansing.

As for the UN partition plan, as I noted in my article 1/3-1/2 of inhabitants of that designated Jewish part were Arabs. Most were expelled as described above. The fact that they were expelled to Arabic countries is no justification. The level of the argument is of the same order as stating that French Canadians can be expelled to France since they speak French.

As for your argument that Jews "needed" a state and Palestinians did not "need" one: Suppose me and my buddies had a really hard life and we need a place to live. So we kick you out of your house and take your car and other property and deprive you and your family of citizenship because there are "so many other English-speaking countries to which you could go". I wonder if you would be full of understanding to our plight.

As for "many of the Arab locals were themselves newcomers from surrounding countries, attracted by the prosperity generated by the expanding Jewish presence and the British Mandate." - this is cheap propaganda sponsored by the State of Israel. As well as this myth of "vast emptiness" - "a land without a nation for a nation without a land" another cheap slogan.

"Judaization" of the West Bank means stealing of Palestinian land for settlers.  And ongoing pogroms and haraasment of Palestinians by the settlers and the army, to "encourage" them to leave. And demolitions of Palestinian homes. I disapprove of all such things. You seem to disapprove of them if they are done to Jews, but approve of them if they are done by Jews to Palestinians - because Palestinians are "enemies" and we have to "defend" ourselves. That is what antisemites who did pogroms to our ancestors said, too - because Jews were "communists", "subversive", unpatriotic", "enemies of state.

We seem to have a different value system.
Sincerely, Victoria


Here's my response:

Dear Victoria,


Thank you for your prompt answer. I read your mail a few times in order to really try and understand it and also to see if we had any common ground. I think that most people tend to stick tenaciously to their points of view. I know that I have this tendency. That's why I frequently question the validity of my own notions, especially when having a dialogue with someone with completely different views than my own. I sometimes wonder if I've been wrong all along.


We both know that the Israel-Arab conflict is a vast subject and each side presents its own version. I often go into Arab websites and, apart from messages by people like Wafa Sultan and Brigitte Gabriel, one gets the clear impression that the Arab narrative is a heart-wrenching series of expulsion, massacres, rapes and usurpation of their lands. Seldom if ever, is there any mention of Arab attacks and invasions against Israel. Nothing about their mass killings of Jewish civilians. They make out that the docile, peace-loving Arabs went like innocent sheep to the slaughter and that the Jews are solely responsible for the whole dreadful situation in the Middle East.


Now, I've been living here since 1957 and have always been quite involved in the general life here, including many years of army reserve service. My experiences have also included a lot of involvement in fostering Jewish-Arab harmony. At a certain point I even considered declaring myself to be an Arab in the interests of bringing peace to our region (but that's another story). Also, I grew up in South Africa and was involved in trying to change the apartheid system. I give you a little of my background in order to show that I am not clueless or exclusively chauvinistic.


So, I know what the ugly term "apartheid" really means. And it most certainly doesn't apply to Israel. If it did, how could there be so many Arab university lecturers and professors in our universities and colleges, and thousands of Arab students from all over Israel and even Judea and Samaria? The word "Apartheid" doesn't tally at all with the presence of hundreds of Arab doctors in our hospitals, some from Judea, Samaria and Gaza, some are heads of hospital departments. If it were Apartheid, there wouldn't be a large percentage of Arab patients, not only from within Israel, but also the West Bank and even from other Arab countries. Our police force has many high ranking Arabs. There are government offices headed by Arabs. While I agree that there seems to be a lot of official unfairness in budget allocation and job acceptance, and room for improvement in other spheres, but Israel is most definitely not an apartheid state!


What I do know, without a shadow of a doubt, is that there is an ongoing struggle lasting for generations, between my people and a large part of the Arab and Muslim world. It's a life and death struggle – the life and death of my country and my nation. I think the core issue is land and ethnicity. Actually, there's nothing unique about that because there are scores of such conflicts in the world right at this very moment. Most of them hardly ever reach the general public eye. In my view, the land issue was created by a violent approach by the Arabs to any land rights for Jews anywhere in this region. It has been complicated by the various wars launched against Israel. Had the issue been settled without resort to violence, right at the beginning of the emergence of two national movements – Jewish and Arab, there wouldn't have been any subsequent wars or any refugee problem. Over and over again Israel has shown a willingness to relinquish land in the cause of peace. The latest example is Israel's withdrawal from the Gaza Strip in 2005 and the murderous attitude of the Gazans towards that move.


This conflict is also inflamed by our not being Muslims. We should be their dhimmis. For them we represent dar el harb, which must become dar el islaam. And that in itself is pretty irreconcilable for most seriously religious Muslims.


Yet, we have had good relations with some of the Muslim countries. There are also many close friendship between individual Jews and Arabs.


Israel must avoid three things:

(1) Racial discrimination against Arabs (or anyone else, including foreign workers) due to bigotry or economic expediency. (2) Being militarily overwhelmed by the Arabs, which would probably result in large scale slaughter for most of the Jews in Israel. (3) Becoming dhimmis in the Middle East.


Without a formidable defence establishment we will be over-run and Azzam Pasha's gruesome 1948 promise will be fulfilled, make no mistake about that.


But the struggle is not waged only through superior military skills. It is also a battle of words and clearly our enemies keep winning this battle. They win because, being infinitely larger than us, they can generate a far larger volume of words through the various media. Also they are far less concerned with veracity than we are – or rather many of us. 


And on this point I want to say that I could take each of your comments and give counter explanations. In fact that's what I did in a limited way in my first letter to you. Obviously my words didn't make any impression on you. So, I'm not going to go over all the arguments again.


But the impression that I got from your answers, was that any claim that explains our right to be here and to defend ourselves is just "cheap propaganda" for you. You don't have a single word about Arab intentions to destroy us, or the boycotts, the constant lies, the launching of terror squads against Israel and against Jewish targets in other parts of the world?


This latest round of fighting with Hamas presents a clear litmus test for you regarding the murderous intent and levels of veracity of our enemies. Interesting, what excuses enlightened folks like yourself are making in favor of Hamas, while disqualifying Israel from any means to defend herself, no matter how long or how unprovoked or how murderous the attacks had been upon her civilians. Or maybe you can surprise me with some comment that is favorable to the Jewish residents of the south or our limited attempts to stop the attacks.


Generally speaking, your words do accomplish one thing. They encourage the terrorists of this world – Hamas, Hizbollah, El Khaida and all the rest of the enemies of humanity. They spur others – whether they are Arabs, Muslims and all the other peoples – to hate us even more. You even cause other Jews in Israel and abroad to believe that Israel is exclusively culpable and inherently a pariah among the nations. But damningly, your words do not tell the truth because they always omit the murderous intent and actions of Israel's enemies, and they perpetuate the eternal blood libel against us.

Now, only you can know what's really in your heart and how you see yourself. Are you a decent, honest, honorable person, deeply concerned about the plight of people no matter who they are? And do you have the courage to ask yourself whether, considering your words and actions, you might actually be a person with selective myopia and a monumental disloyalty to her own people – if indeed they are her own people?

The thing is that you can do so much good, not only for Israel, but for the Arabs themselves.  With your intelligence and your contacts you can begin by telling the Arabs a few home truths. That will take a lot of courage on your part. And honesty! But it will be so much more constructive.

Thank you for reading until now.



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