Thursday, November 22, 2012

Where, when, how, who--the population of Israel and Palestine through the ages

Should the Dakota people should start shelling the Twin Cities? We took their land, we pushed them into reservations, we yanked their children to boarding schools where they were often physically and sexually abused, let alone the emotional abuse of being taken from their homes, language and culture. 

In researching Jewish girls' education from 1921-1936, I typed Jewish girls, 1921, and pulled up images. It was thus that I accidentally stumbled on an image of a Jewish child in Jerusalem fleeing the Arab riots of 1936. 

I didn't know about the Arab riots of 1936. I didn't really think about Jewish children in Jerusalem in 1936, though I believe an uncle of my husband was there for awhile around that time, going back and forth between Tel Aviv and So, i researched Jewish population in Palestine, and apparently, over the last 2000 years, whenever whichever conquerers allowed Jews to exist in Israel, they did. 

Mark Twain spoke of Palestine as a vast emptiness, but other visitors in that era spoke of fertile wheat fields, etc. From the time of the British Mandate, it looks like Jews were at least 4% of the population, making up more like 20% of Jerusalem's population. Most of the feladin, largely peasants working property belonging to Jordanians, were replaced by Beduins for a time. Jews were buying land from Jordanian land-owners, which knocked more feladin off their tenant farms. I can't find the proportion of tenant farmers vs landowners yet, though tenant farmers can feel an ownership over the land they work but do not own. 

Even after those riots of 1936 chased out many Jews and killed others, the Jews returned. By 1941, Jews were 30% of the population of Palestine. That's something I didn't know. I thought the Jews "took the land." 

Then, the British announced the creation of the land of Israel, war was declared by all the neighboring countries, and present history began. It's interesting to me that so many Arabs stayed, given that fleeing Arabs were promised a swift return by neighboring countries that immediately declared war on Israel. Even at the inception of Israel, the state was about 15% Arab, as it was in 1950. Israel today is about 17% Arab. 

Meanwhile, between 1946-1970, neighboring Arab countries kicked out 820,000 Jews from their countries. That means 820,000 refugees. Their bank accounts were not frozen, but confiscated, as was all their land and property. Like the Palestinians, they had to leave their country, their language, their culture, everything, traveling thousands of miles to their new homes. that is more than the estimated amount of original Palestinian refugees, yet I have never heard someone talk about helping them reclaim their homes or even that these governments should compensate them for their losses, which amount to about $7 billion in today's dollars. Lost Palestinian property, in land, buildings and frozen assets is considered to be about 4.4 billion in 2012 dollars.

Also, I learned that for the first twenty years, the "reservations" for Palestinians were held and ruled by Jordan and Egypt. So okay, my comparison to the Dakota reservation was inaccurate.  It would be more like--let's pretend that the Dakota understood land as property, and sold some, and they were lured into reservations by, say, Ojibwe, and held there for twenty years in stinking conditions until the Twin Cities won a war and got control over them, too. Meanwhile, similar Ojibwe would have been kicked out of Dakota lands and would have simply been absorbed by other Ojibwe. 

Except that's not an accurate metaphor, either. 

Then, it turns out the UN has a different definition of refugee when it comes to Palestinians. So now I have to research why that is and how they are different. 

There was a letter to the editor in the Star Tribune that equated "Jewry" with whining, apologists and Nazis. I know this is common thinking. I know it is current in Norway, in much of England, in Sweden, and in parts of the U.S. Still, I was shocked to see this letter printed in the paper in Minneapolis so shocked that I looked up the writers up. They are self--described "passionate anti-nuclear Catholics" who have legally adopted an adult Israeli Jew, a forty-six-year-old man who is in prison for attempting to give away secrets about Israel's nuclear program. These are characters who would be believable in fiction only if we were writing farce.

I am grateful then, that I have grown up as a Jew, which means I have grown up learning to question. I am grateful for my gifts as a researcher, which allow me to try to see what is behind the "truths" we are presented with. I am grateful that I am surrounded by friends who will talk and listen about the ways they differ on important issues, like gay marriage and Israel and Palestine. I am grateful that I live in a country where I am allowed to speak freely about my concerns, both political and social. 

I am fearful, as always, of bigotry. The evil bigotry can create in the world is so horrendous, and the losses it has caused are so personal--the children we knew who were murdered in the Holocaust, the children we see who are victims of political coups, the places we have lived that were edged with violence which I believe is related to decades of bigoted policies. I am hopeful that those of us willing to listen to each other, to research, and to think can eventually find a way to a better world. 

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