Last updated on: 5/15/2008 12:35:00 PM PST

How Has the Issue of "Population Transfer" Evolved throughout the Course of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict?

General Reference (not clearly pro or con)

I. Population Transfer: Late 19th Century - British Mandate Palestine

Benny Morris, PhD, Professor of History at Ben-Gurion University in Beersheba, Israel, in his 2001 book Righteous Victims, wrote:

"For many Zionists, beginning with Herzl, the only realistic solution lay in transfer...Following the outbreak of 1936 [Arab Revolt], no mainstream leader was able to conceive of future coexistence and peace without a clear physical separation between the two peoples--achievable only by way of transfer and expulsion...

Moreover, transfer was seen as a highly moral solution. The Zionist leaders felt that the Jews' need for a country with empty spaces able to absorb future immigrants morally outweighed the rights of the indigenous Arabs--who were no different than their brothers across the Jordan or Litani [Rivers] and could relocate there with relative ease if the transfer was well compensated and well organized...separation was preferable to an intermingling, which could only end in a bloodbath.

Transfer would best be accomplished 'voluntarily.' But Palestine's Arabs did not wish to evacuate the land of their ancestors, and they made this very clear. Moreover, neither the Ottoman Turks nor the British were of a mind to clear out the local population to make room for the Jews. The matter raised ethical questions that troubled the Yishuv [Jewish community of British Mandate Palestine] from within and inspired opposition to Zionism from without. Yet transfer, however problematic or cruel, offered a way out of the demographic dilemma, and it was sporadically given an airing."

2001 - Benny Morris, PhD 

II. Population Transfer: Early State of Israel (1948-1967)

Joseph Schechla, coordinator for Housing and Land Rights Network, Habitat International Coalition, in an Autumn 2001 article published the Journal of Palestine Studies titled "The Invisible People Come to Light: Israel's 'Internally Displaced' and the 'Unrecognized Villages'," wrote:

"Symbolizing Palestinian Arab Citizens' precarious status in Israel are hundreds of villages whose existence remains unrecognized. For them, no official map bears witness to their presence, and the development policies of the state conspire to make their absence a fact on the ground. The residents of the 'unrecognized villages' form the weakest link in a chain of surviving indigenous communities within Israel's 1948-49 borders and constitute one of the last frontiers for Israel's population transfer of Palestinians from the lands occupied before 1967. Other Palestinians uprooted from their homes during the war but who remained within Israel's borders bear the paradoxical title of 'present absentees.' The term denotes the familiar extrangement of internally displaced and dispossessed citizens still living out of place, so close but yet so far from their confiscated homes and lands. More than one-fourth of the 156,000 Palestinians remaining within the Jewish state in Palestine after the 1948 war had either been pushed out of villages and towns besieged by the Zionist forces or fled... The State of Israel subsequently destroyed those and more than 400 other villages depopulated during 1948-49. The internally displaced are a living testimony to the fact that Israel's transfer and forced removals of Palestinians in the context of war was not the 'evacuation' of civilians away from the hazards of armed conflict, in the humanitarian law sense, but rather transfers with the purpose of confiscating civilian properties and preventing their restitution. These people are also conspicuous by their long absence from the international agenda and the denial of international refugee aid that has served their counterparts who sought relative safety across international borders."

Autumn 2001 - Joseph Schechla, MA 

Israel Shahak, PhD, the late Professor Emeritus at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, in an Spring 1989 article published in the Journal of Palestine Studies titled "A History of the Concept of 'Transfer' in Zionism," wrote:

"By 1951, Israel had signed cease-fire agreements with the neighboring Arab states and had a Palestinian population that represented only a fraction of its pre-1947 numbers. In autumn of that year, Weitz [Yosef Weitz, former Director of the Jewish National Fund] met with Moshe Sharett (28 August 1951), the Israeli minister of feoreign affairs, to discuss the 'project of transferring or of contributing to the emigration of the Christian Arabs of the upper Galilee to South America...' Sharett was to bring this idea of 'transferring' Christian Arabs before the prime minister, Ben-Gurion. On 31 August Sharett's secretary notified Weitz that Ben-Gurion had given his agreement and authorized the project. However, on 13 November 1951 Weitz recorded that that very day he had had an interview with the prime minister in order to obtain his special blessing before going to Argentina, the place to which the Christian Palestinians were to be 'transferred.' When reminded of the idea, the prime minister remarked 'that it was a splendid idea, and very important.' On 30 November, Weitz was in Buenos Aires where, in the Israeli legation, he consulted with three Jewish agronomists who had been in Argentina for a long time to draw up a schedule for his tour of a few provinces in connection with the 'transfer' plan.

After completing his Argentine tour, on 5 February 1952 Weitz was back in Jerusalem to discuss the matter with Ben-Gurion. The prime minister's primary concern was that the Christian Church would surely oppose the project, but that, nonetheless, 'We must do it.' And the process began at once. On 6 March, Witz, together with another official of the JNF, was in Jish, a Christian village in the Upper Galilee, trying to 'persuade' its inhabitants to emigrate to Argentina. The first meeting was unsuccessful, but Weitz returned for a second meeting, the results of which he recorded on 8 March. Weitz relates how he tried again to describe Argentina as the best of all lands, but his listeners sat in silence until the end, when one Palestinian remarked, 'No country is as good as this country of ours. Even our mountains are better than the plains over there. Even the rock can grow plants, and every stone produces a crop.

The plan of 'transfer' of the Christian Palestinians to Argentina had apparently failed, as witnessed by the subsequent silence on the matter by Weitz. However, from other information, it is known that it was pursued for some months, using the means described above as well as through offers of considerable bribes, but again without success. The authorities were unwilling to employ extreme forms of pressure against Israeli citizens, and therefore, the plan was allowed to die."

Spring 1989 - Israel Shahak, PhD 

III. Population Transfer: Modern Israel and the Palestinian Territories (1980-Present)

Israel Shahak, PhD, the late Professor Emeritus at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, in an Spring 1989 article published in the Journal of Palestine Studies titled "A History of the Concept of 'Transfer' in Zionism," wrote:

"Since early summer 1987, a movement has been growing in Israeli-Jewish society which supports the idea of expelling all Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza Strip to neighboring Arab countries or, preferably, beyond. The present plans resemble older Zionist attempts or plans for the expulsion of Palestinians, referred to euphemistically as 'transfer' plans. It must be emphasized that the existence of a very strong minority that advocates this idea, combined with the support or at very least the lack of opposition from influential personalities, makes this idea of 'transfer' a potentially very dangerous one. Indeed, a significant minority of Israeli Jews takes this option seriously. In general, opposition inside Israel to transfer includes people from across the political spectrum, but it is much stronger among the secular than among the religious."

Spring 1989 - Israel Shahak, PhD 

Robert Blecher, Fellow at the Center for Human Rights at the University of Iowa, in a Winter 2002 article published in the Middle East Report titled "Living on the Edge: The Threat of 'Transfer' in Israel and Palestine," wrote:

"'Transfer,' the euphemism referring to the expulsion of Palestinians from Israel-Palestine, enjoys more legitimacy today than it has since 1948, the year of the state of Israel's creation and the first Arab-Israeli war...In the early 1980s, Rabbi Meir Kahane, the far-right leader of the Kach Party, broke the taboo by promoting the eviction of Palestinians from Israel and the Occupied Territories, but in 1988 his party was banned as racist and anti-democratic. The idea of evicting the Palestinians found new life in Rehevan Ze'evi's Moledet Party. Ze'evi, a product of the mainstream Labor Party, explicitly cited the war of 1948 as a precedent for his agenda. Ironically, Ze'evi's version of Zionist history agreed with that advanced by Israel's 'new historians,' who during the same period compiled detailed evidence of Israel's repsonsibility for the Palestinian refugee problem. Ze'evi celebrated this history, while the 'new historians' offered a more critical appraisal, yet both found themselves accused of distortin 'authentic' Zionist history. In the wake of the 1993 Oslo accords, however, concern over the fate of the Jewish state brought transfer into the Israeli mainstream. Especially since the outbreak of the current intifada, moments of Palestinian dispossession--1948 in particular--have been openly invoked as models for quelling Palestinian resistance... A substantial portion of the Israeli public agrees that the very presence of Palestinians in Israel and the West Bank constitutes a threat to the future of the Jewish state. In a March 2002 poll administered by Tel Aviv University, 46 percent of Israeli Jews supported the transfer of Palestinians from the West Bank and 31 percent advocated the same treatment for Palestinian citizens of Israel; 60 percent said they supported 'encouraging' Palestinian Israelis to leave Israel; and a full 80 percent objected to the inclusion of Palestinian Israelis in decisions of national importance."

Winter 2002 - Robert Blecher 

Hassan Barari, PhD, Senior Fellow at the U.S. Institute of Peace, in a written summary of a Jan. 21, 2004 seminar hosted by the University of Jordan's Center for Strategic Studies titled "The Separation Wall, Transfer and the Implications on Jordan" wrote:

"Annual conferences held in Herzliya, Israel are attended by a majority of Israeli military, security, political, and economic elite, in which they continuously deliberate on a topic of paramount importance in the Israeli strategy. This importance lies in the participants unwavering conclusion, although the Israeli elite differ on many themes, they all concur on how Israel perceives itself, as a Jewish/Zionist and democratic state. There is dissonance, however, on how to realize this core value. Some propose a solution based on a two state solution, others advocate a unilateral disengagement, others advocate ethnic cleansing, while still others believe in perpetuating the status quo. The practical conclusion of this state of indecision leads to a demographic development that would foreclose the possibility of establishing an independent and viable Palestinian state thus pushing extreme ideas such as transfer to the forefront.

The number of Israelis discussing transfer are increasing... Thus, I claim that transfer (which was never an alien concept to Zionist thinking and was enacted in 1948 as Benny Morris reveals in his seminal book on the birth of the refugee problem) might become a rational Israeli choice in the light of demographic developments in the next two decades...

Israeli demographic projections show that Palestinians will constitute a clear majority, in the piece of land stretching from the Mediterranean to the river, in less than two decades. For instance, in 2015, there will be roughly 15 million people in historic Palestine; 6.3 million Jews compared to 8.7 million Palestinians. This means that in a democratic polity, Palestinians will take over.

Israelis will certainly refuse to accept such a dramatic development. Israel will have to grapple with two options. The first option is that the Israelis accept a bi national state but will retain power thus creating an apartheid regime. This is not a Zionist aspiration. The second option will be to actively maintain a Jewish majority via expelling Palestinians from their homeland. Israeli historian, Benny Morris, expects the transfer as the probable scenario.

In the case of transfer, Jordan is expected to pay dearly. Jordan would become the alternative homeland for Palestinians. To fight this scenario is of paramount importance. Jordan should not rely on the assurances of some Palestinians who say they have learned the hard way in 1948 and that they will not leave their homes. This is unrealistic reasoning and they will become inactive agents should Israel decide to expel them by force. Some even say that transfer is not acceptable even to the majority of Israelis and that this option is not adopted by any mainstream political force. This is true. Yet, in an opinion poll conducted by Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies at Tel Aviv University in February 2002, 46 percent of the Jewish respondents supported the transfer of Palestinians into Jordan and 31 percent backed the transfer of Israeli Arabs. The point that I want to make is that should the transfer appear as the only scenario to solve Israel’s demographic nightmare, this option would become a rational choice fortified by ample justification within Israel."

Jan. 21, 2004 - Hassan Barari, PhD 

Anshel Pfeffer, Ha'aretz Jewish World Correspondent, in a June 19, 2006 Jerusalem Post article titled "Population Swap Debate Goes Mainstream" wrote:

"As recently as two years ago [referring to 2004] few experts or politicians expressed the view that Israel could transfer sovereignty of areas within the 1967 borders of the state heavily populated by Arabs to a Palestinian entity. But in 2004 Israel Beiteinu chairman Avigdor Lieberman began talking about the idea in interviews and even wrote a book about it. His party's success in the last elections opinion polls showing a growing acceptance of the concept and the willingness of respected experts and academics to address the issue have raised both hopes and fears that it is an idea whose time has come.

'We are of course against the idea that thousands of Israeli Arabs who are integrated into our society and are full citizens can have their citizenship stripped away from them,' says joint head of the Floersheimer Institute Prof. Amiram Gonen, 'but we think that the idea should be debated...'

'I've been writing for years that the Wadi Ara and Triangle areas shouldn't remain a part of the state,' says Biger [Prof. Gideon Biger of the Geography Department at Tel Aviv University]. 'My belief is that we founded the State of Israel for the Jewish people that's the objective. We are prepared to give rights to Arab citizens but when they don't identify with the state and they're talking about changing the anthem the flag and the Law of Return this is where we have a problem. It's absurd. If you don't want to be a part of this state so don't.'"

June 19, 2006 - Anshel Pfeffer