Why is Hamas more than 100 times better at avoiding civilian casualties than Israel?

Note/Warning the following was published on Thursday July 31st 2014. As of now there are over 1200 Palestinian fatalities (70%-80% civilian), and 2 direct Israeli civilian fatality and 1 indirect fatality (heart attack from bomb siren) as well as 56 Israeli soldiers killed. If things change in any way the thoughts below will not be relevant. And I expect there will be a change in public perception.

Why is it that Hamas, which is declared a terrorist organization, has killed 56 soldiers but only 2 civilians (a ratio of 28:1), and Israeli which is declared a liberal democracy (and by some a guardian of Western civilization), has killed 1000 civilians but only 200 militants (a ratio of 1:5 in the opposite direction)? So that if we just compare the ratios Hamas, which is said to be a terrorist organization targeting civilians has been more than 100 times better at avoiding civilian casualties.


There are many reasons that are advanced to say why Israel can’t help killing civilians, while showing what great lengths they go to, to avoid killing civilians, but I have read very little about why Hamas has killed so few civilians besides the presence of the Iron Dome missile defence system (and to be clear most analysts say it doesn’t work that well).

I think one important reason has to do with the two main factors that governments have to deal with in a conflict such as this: public opinion at home, and public opinion abroad.

(I have already written that public opinion abroad is in fact why I believe Hamas shoots rockets: see this post from two weeks ago: Why Hamas Shoots Rockets for the reasoning.)

(Of course this is one reason, there’s the obvious reason that Israel is fighting in Gaza, and Hamas is not able to carry out attacks in Israel to anywhere near the same extent, despite the multitude of tunnels. But it remains that Hamas could have done more to kill civilians and Israel could have done more to prevent the killing of civilians, so it can’t all be blamed on the difference in capabilities. This article tries to show a reason why one side is more motivated than the other to avoid killing civilians, which is necessary to account for the full difference above.)

(Note: here I am calling both Hamas and the Israeli authorities governments, though Hamas does not have a state or a proper army, and I am also assuming that both sides are mostly rational.)

Both Hamas and Israel have an interest in minimizing the killing of civilians, because it will turn international public opinion against them. But as a democracy the Israeli government and Netanyahu care just as much and probably more about public opinion at home.

The Israeli public cares more about Israeli lives than Palestinian lives. Now before you think that I am implying that this is somehow the fault of Judaism, I will say that I do not know of a single counter-example in the history of the world. Americans cared more about American casualties in Vietnam, there is a clear number 57 thousand something, while I don’t know the exact number of Vietnamese killed (as in I don’t know how many million), and probably you don’t either. And the British cared about British casualties in World War I and World War II, I am assuming much more than they cared about German casualties.

Furthermore Hamas is the weaker party and depends on international opinion to help them out (to pull their chestnuts out of the fire), but Israel being the stronger party will get what it wants directly by force, and only needs the international community not to intervene (not to pull Hamas’s chestnuts out of the fire).

As Noam Chomsky has said, Israel knows that as long as it has the support of the only country that matters (the US), it doesn’t matter what the rest of the world thinks. Of course in this case the rest of the Western world (the other countries that matter, though they matter less), have also not spoken out.

On the other hand Hamas is painted as a terrorist organization and nothing would be worse for them than for a large number of Israeli children to be hurt or killed. It would take all the attention away from the suffering of their own people. This is exactly what happened in the 2006 war in Lebanon where the 44 Israeli civilian casualties allowed CNN and others to more or less ignore the deaths of Lebanese civilians.

However this is not to say that Hamas leaders don’t care about Palestinian public opinion or that they totally disregard the loss of Palestinian lives. Only that given their relative weakness and the lack of options on their side, they must rely almost entirely on international opinion. Hamas’s main weapon is international public opinion. Israel’s main weapon is weapons.

In conclusion Hamas must win the world to its side. Even more it must win the Western world to its side, particularly the US but also Europe. This is quite difficult as they are considered terrorists by many, a designation it is difficult to lose. On the other hand Israel must not gravely offend the international community again mainly the Western world. Therefore to me it seems that Hamas kills 100 times less civilians because it needs world opinion 100 times more than Israel.

This is quite a shocking conclusion. Hamas the so-called terrorist organization of necessity cares 100 times more what the world thinks of it, than Israel the so-called civilized country, which couldn’t care less as long as the West doesn’t stop it from bombing and shelling Gaza back to the stone age.

In conclusion it is my hope that no more civilians will be killed on either side, that the international community will intervene to impose a ceasefire and lift the blockade/siege of Gaza. I hope the Palestinian unity government holds, that they hold elections next year and that the Israelis and Palestinians reach an agreement towards a two-state solution.

1948 – Benny Morris 2/11 UN Partition Resolution

This is my post on the second chapter of Benny Morris’s book “1948 A History of the First Arab-Israeli War”. I hope to cover each of the other chapters in turn.

This chapter deals with the handing over of the Israel/Palestine issue to the UN, the UN special committee on Palestine (UNSCOP) which came up with the plan, the vote on the resolution in the UN general assembly and the reaction of the Arab states.

In February 1947 the British who could no longer afford and were no longer interested in maintaining their mandate in Palestine handed the issue over to the UN.

The UN gave the issue to a specially formed committee UNSCOP composed of representatives from Holland, Sweden, Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, Canada, Australia, India, Iran, Peru, Guatemala and Uruguay. So no Arab, Zionist or Great Power members.

The members of the committee visited Palestine for five weeks that summer. The Palestinian leadership boycotted UNSCOP (though the committee met with some Palestinians privately), and the committee members generally got a favorable view of the Zionist settlers as opposed to the Palestinians, especially the poor peasants.

Also the chair of UNSCOP came to believe that if there was a partition and it led to war, the Yishuv (Jewish community in Palestine) would win the war against the Arabs and gain control of most of Palestine.

They witnessed the Exodus affair, where the British turned away a ship of 4,500 Jewish immigrants, who were sent to France in three separate ships. France refused to unload the ships by force against the wishes of the migrants. The British then took them to Germany and put them in camps. Sending the Jewish holocaust survivors back to Germany of all places, made the British look particularly bad.

Two UNSCOP members witnessed the transfer of the migrants to the three ships in Haifa and had a chance to talk to them and this has a profound effect on them.

The UNSCOP members then went to Europe and voted 6 to 4 in favor of visiting the Holocaust survivors in displaced persons camps. All of the survivors they met wanted to immigrate to Palestine.

They then came up with their proposal. Two suggestions were made, one the majority view supported to states one Jewish the other Arab joined in an economic union, with Jerusalem and Bethlehem being part of neither state but under international trusteeship. This was from the representatives of Sweden, Holland, Canada, Uruguay, Guatemala, Peru and Czechoslovakia.

The minority plan supported a single democratic state with an Arab minority and with Jewish immigration limited to maintain an Arab majority. This was from the representatives of Yugoslavia, Iran and and India.

The following map shows the partition plan as finally voted on in the general assembly. The green map shows the borders as originally given by the majority proposal (slightly different, giving the Jewish state 62% rather than 55%).

UN Parition Plan 1947

The Zionists didn’t want to give citizenship to the Arabs that would be left in the Jewish state (the Arabs were to be more than 40% of the population), because then they could not expel them, but merely jail them, and it would be according to Ben-Gurion better to expel than to jail.

This was presented in September 1947. The British considered the majority proposal as grossly unfair to the Arabs, and were surprised that there were no angry demonstrations in the Arab world. But they committed to leave and let the Arabs and the Jews sort it out. They didn’t want it to be their responsibility.

There was lobbying to gain votes in the general assembly. A two-thirds majority was needed for the plan to be accepted. There was lobbying of the UN delegations and of their countries at home. The Americans refused to pressure other countries until November 25th, a few days before the vote, when Truman basically decided to support the Zionists diplomatically.

The final vote was on 29 November 1947. The final count was 33 yes, 13 no and 10 abstentions. And so the resolution passed with the required two-third majority.

Resolution 181 called for partition into two states one Jewish the other Arab. The Jewish state on 55% of the land, the Arab state on 42% of the land, and the rest being international Jerusalem and Bethlehem.

Both sides thought that war would ensue. The Arab states got together and decided on war, but couldn’t come up with any real plans. They ended up agreeing not to invade until after the British withdrew because they didn’t want to fight the British. They also didn’t like the Husseini the Palestinian leader, and didn’t really want a Palestinian state to be established under his rule. In any case they couldn’t back down because they were unpopular and undemocratic regimes that didn’t want to go against the wishes of the people in their respective countries who felt strongly about the matter.

There was rioting and violence against Jews and against British/Western targets in the Arab world following the general assembly vote and the passing of the resolution.

In December 1947 the British decided to pull out, while not helping to implement the partition plan which they considered to be unjust.

And this leads to the first stage of the civil was between the Zionists and the Palestinians which is described in the next chapter.

Where is Gaza? Where is Israel?

Looking at my traffic it seems a lot of people come here looking for picture while searching for “Where is Gaza?”. So here are some pictures to explain where Israel and Gaza are located with respect to the rest of the world (as well as where the West Bank is located, which is the other half of the Palestinian territories).

For a great picture of just Israel, Gaza and the West bank see the map in this previous post.

Here’s a picture of the whole world with a little red circle around Israel:
Israel in the World

Here’s a picture of Europe and Asia with a red circle around Israel:
Israel in Eurasia

Here’s a picture of the greater Middle East with a red circle around Israel and finally at this scale I can draw a blue circle around Gaza:
Israel and Gaza in the Middle East

Here’s a picture of Israel (red) and Gaza (blue) and their immediate neighbors (Egypt to the South-West, Lebabnon and Syria to the North-East, and Jordan to the East, Mediterranean to the West, and part of Saudi Arabia past Jordan), the West Bank where the rest of the Palestinian territories are located is circled in Green:
Israel and Gaza and their neighbors

And finally here’s a picture of Israel with Gaza circled in blue and the West Bank in green (also in case it is not clear, all the area to the East of the Dead Sea is in Jordan, Amman being its capital):
Israel and Gaza

Israeli Settlements, the Barrier Wall and the Two-State Solution

Based on feedback from Facebook, I’ve realized that an important issue that needs to be examined is the status of the settlements in the West Bank. Specifically where they are located, which ones Israel is willing to evacuate and which ones Israel plans to keep.

The following map answers all three of these questions:
Land Swap 2008

It is a map of a proposal that was made by the Israeli PM (Ehud Olmert) to Palestinian leader Abbas Mahmoud Abbas in August 2008.

The dark blue areas are the settlements Israel plans on keeping (which held 88% of the settlers, 413,000 people). In lighter blue is the area of the West Bank Israel would annex (6.8% of the West Bank).

The red areas are the settlements Israel would evacuate (12% of the settlers, 56,000 people). And the dark beige areas behind the green lines are the unused land in Israel that the Palestinians would get in exchange for the blue areas Israel would annex (the equivalent of 5.5% of the West Bank).

Here’s a close of view of the Greater Jerusalem area.
Land Swap 2008 2

While not explained in the legend the red line is the separation wall. Note East Jerusalem is on the other side of the wall, as is an area to the west of Bethlehem. In light purple is a proposal for a road that links Bethlehem to Ramallah (bypassing East Jerusalem).

There would also be a road from the West Bank to Gaza but it would be under Israeli sovereignty.

For more details of the offer see:
Summary of Ehud Olmert’s “Package” Offer to Mahmoud Abbas – August 31, 2008

The following two maps show the land division currently in the West Bank. Area A is under full Palestinian control (including security), Israeli are in principle forbidden from entering this zone. Area B is held by the Palestinians but under Israeli security control (that means the IDF or Israeli army). Area C (70%) is off limits to the Palestinians, and is reserved for Israeli settlements, nature reserves and much of it (more than 50%) is empty but forbidden to the Palestinians.

Map West Bank Areas

Again settlements in blue in the above image.

Here’s another similar map but with the barrier wall in red and the 1967 borders in green.
Oslo Areas and Barrier Wall

Let me know if you have any questions!

Israel’s Warnings, Collective Punishment and Killing Civilians

Much is made of Israel’s calling to warn victims before destroying their houses by bombing and missiles. This totally misses an important point. Israel only makes these calls when they are not targeting any militants (aka terrorists). At best they are destroying the militant’s family home as punishment, which is forbidden by article 33 of the 4th Geneva convention, which forbids collective punishment.

If Israel claims that they are bombing to prevent rocket attacks rather than to avenge them. This doesn’t help at all in fact likely the opposite. In essence Israel is then guilty of terrorism which is also prohibited by the same article. This is from the commentary to this article:

” During past conflicts, the infliction of collective penalties has been intended to forestall breaches of the law rather than to repress [p.226] them; in resorting to intimidatory measures to terrorise the population, the belligerents hoped to prevent hostile acts. Far from achieving the desired effect, however, such practices, by reason of their excessive severity and cruelty, kept alive and strengthened the spirit of resistance. They strike at guilty and innocent alike. They are opposed to all principles based on humanity and justice and it is for that reason that the prohibition of collective penalties is followed formally by the prohibition of all measures of intimidation or terrorism with regard to protected persons, wherever they may be (3).”

Commentary – Art. 33. Part III : Status and treatment of protected persons #Section I : Provisions common to the territories of the parties to the conflict and to occupied territories

Again to be clear about warnings being issued. Warnings are only issued when Israel is not targeting militants. That is when they are blowing up a house, because they have reason to believe weapons are in it, or because the owner is related to a Hamas militant (which again would be against the Geneva convention, don’t know if that makes it a war crime).

If they are trying to kill a Hamas militant they don’t phone a warning. It doesn’t make any sense to phone in a warning to the guy you are trying to kill, 10 minutes before you drop the bomb. Therefore if the guy they are trying to kill is in a building with civilians, too bad for the civilians.

In fact one 4 story house was blown up killing 25 civilians, it looks like this was in order to get their Ramadan guest who was a Hamas militant:
The Atlantic – The Dangerous Logic Used to Justify Killing Civilians

25 Civilians Killed in Gaza in Attack on a Single House

Blockade of Gaza: Collective Punishment (and Act of War?)

In 2006 Hamas won the elections in both Gaza and the West Bank. Since Hamas took over the Gaza strip in 2007 Israel and Egypt closed their land borders to the Gaza strip. In addition Israel implemented a blockade of Gaza by land, air and sea. This blocks not only imports, some of which Israel can claim threaten its security, but also exports. The blocking of exports has crippled Gaza’s economy and has no security justification. It is simply collective punishment directed at the population of Gaza. This is prohibited by the 4th Geneva convention.

Gaza Closure December 2012

In 2010 Israel eased the blockade and allowed agricultural exports, while still banning industrial exports, so Gazans can export strawberries, peppers, carnations, and cherry tomatoes to Europe.

In any case Israel’s stated reason (casus belli) for starting the June 1967 war was Egypt’s blockade of the Straits of Tiran. It is unclear whether Egypt would have blocked all ships coming to Israel through the Red Sea or simply Israeli flagged vessels, but the point is Israel considered it an act of war, and considered their response self-defense.

Gaza has been under blockade for seven years. Does Israel accept that its blockade of Gaza is an act of war? Is Hamas acting in self-defense? Or was the 1967 war a war of aggression?

1948 – Benny Morris 1/11 Historical Background

This is my post on the first chapter of Benny Morris’s book “1948 A History of the First Arab-Israeli War”. I hope to cover each of the other chapters in turn.

This chapter briefly deals with the background from 1881, just before the first Zionist immigrants arrived, until early 1947, before the UN got involved in coming up with a plan/solution.

This is pretty much a summary of the chapter. For future chapters/posts I do not intend on following the text in such detail. But since this chapter covers such a large period it would have been difficult to just focus on one or two important points.

“In 1881, Palestine had about 450,000 Arabs — about 90 percent Muslim, the rest Christian — and 25,000 Jews. Most of the Jews, almost all of whom were ultra-Orthodox, non-nationalist, and poor, lived in Jerusalem, the country’s main town (population thirty thousand).”

Important to note that Palestine here refers to a region, not a separate province, let alone an independent political entity.

Also of note Palestine was at the time part of the Ottoman empire. That is until the end of World War I, when the Ottoman empire falls apart, and the British take over Palestine.

Ottoman Empire

The first wave of Zionist immigrants, the first Aliya, brought about 30,000 Jewish settlers between 1882 and 1903. Morris says that their goal was to build Jewish settlements and towns that would eventually result in a Jewish majority and the establishment of a Jewish state in all of Palestine. Though they generally kept this objective to themselves.

Most of the settlers from the first and second Aliya (1904 to 1914), settled in the lowlands of Palestine, less crowded areas largely owned by effendis, wealthy urban landowners (the peasants of Judea and Samaria (the West Bank) and most of the Galilee owned their lands and were generally unwilling to sell). The Zionists succeeded in winning the demographic contest in the lowlands and this was to be the territorial base of their future state.

Around this time (the end of the 19th century) Theodor Herzl considered to be the father of modern political Zionism, writes about a Jewish State as being the solution to European anti-Semitism. He starts organizing and working toward this, but doesn’t get far by the time he passes away in 1904, though eventually the movement he helps create bears fruit.

Morris writes that nationalism was a foreign concept to most Palestinians, who were impoverished and illiterate. The elite, the ayan, were somewhat influenced by European ideas and they appealed from 1891 on to Istanbul to stop Jewish immigration. However the Ottomans never really stopped Jewish immigration, land purchases, etc.

By 1914 there were four dozen Jewish settlements including Tel Aviv and the first kibbutz Degania both founded in 1909, and 60,000 to 85,000 Jews about 2/3 of them Zionists.

There was not much conflict between Jews and Arabs at first until about 1909 it was mostly regular crime and disagreements between neighbors about land use, etc. In 1909-1914 there was more violence and of a more nationalist form. Though the outbreak of World War I temporarily halted the violence.

The Ottoman army made two offensives against British-ruled Egypt from Palestine in 1915 and 1916. In 1917 the British conquered the southern half of the country. In 1918 they conquered the rest and pushed onto Syria forcing a Turkish surrendered and the end of the Ottoman Empire. The British gave up most of the land back to various Arab rulers except for Palestine, which they either wanted to keep or give to the Jews.

The Balfour declaration of 2 November 1917, by the British Foreign Secretary Arthur James Balfour, declared in a single sentence that: “His Majesty’s Government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish People and will use their best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country”

The Jews who had lobbied for it, saw this as a huge breakthrough. The Arabs took this as a betrayal and a step backwards.

The British and the French carved up the Arab parts of the Ottoman empire between themselves. France got Lebanon and Syria, the British got Palestine and Iraq with indirect control over Egypt and Jordan.

British Mandate

On April 4th 1920 there was the first pogrom-like Arab rioting against Jews in Jerusalem. Six Jews died, many were injured and a handful were raped. This resulted in the formation of the Haganah (essentially a Jewish militia, which would eventually become the Israeli army).

There was more violence in 1921, 1929, and 1936-1939. Morris believes this was driven by a 1. growing national consciousness due to an increase in literacy and increased prosperity, 2. religious sources as well, but mainly 3. fear and antagonism toward the Zionist enterprise.

But Palestinian Arab society was fragmented. Divisions between Muslims and Christians, between the sedentary population and the nomadic Bedouins and between townspeople and villagers. Finally loyalties were to the family, clan and village, not to a nation.

The elites were divided by clan, the most powerful clan were the Husseinis, the opposition were the Nashashibis. The main conflict was a struggle for power, more than anything else.

There was an Arab Revolt during 1936-1939. Caused by fears of Zionist immigration, settlement, Judaisation of the country and fears of eventual displacement, but driven mainly by the large influx of immigrants due to the rise of anti-Semitism in Central and Eastern Europe. Between 1931 and 1939, the Jewish population went from 175,000 to 460,000.

Both the Jewish and Arab communities increased in size and power during this period. Though Morris says that the Jews fared better, because they “received enormous contributions and investments from Western Jewry and large British government loans” and the Arabs received “little foreign investment or loans”.

Jewish population:
1881: 25,000
1918: 60,000-85,000
1948: 630,000

Arab population:
1881: 450,000
1918: 650,000
1948: 1,300,000

Net domestic product Arabs:
1922: 6,600,000 pounds sterling (539,000 manufacturing)
1947: 32,300,000 pounds (6,700,000 manufacturing)

Net domestic product Jews (Yishuv):
1922: 1,700,000 (491,000 manufacturing)
1947: 38,500,000 (31,000,000 manufacturing)

The Jews had managed to create internal, democratic governing institutions which in 1947-1948 converted into the agencies of the new State of Israel. They had an effective taxation system. They founded a university, etc.

As a result of the revolt the British sent a committee headed by Lord Peel to examine the situation in Palestine, and it issued a long report. There was a partition plan that would give 20% of the land to the Jews, 70% to the Arabs and 10% would be kept by the British (Jerusalem and Bethlehem and a path from there to the sea at Jaffa). The plan also required removing 300,000 Arabs from the Jewish state.

Peel Partition Plan 1937

But with all its problems the Peel recommendations basically set up the idea of the two-state settlement. The Zionists accepted the partition plan (though the right-wing revisionist Zionists rejected it) and the Palestinians rejected it.

As a response to the Peel proposals the Arab rebellion started up again in September 1937. The violence was worse during this second period. The Irgun Zvai Leumi (IZL, National Military Organization), carried out retaliatory terrorist attacks against Arab towns, and the Haganah carried out selected reprisals. The British also cracked down and arrested or got rid of the rebels.

Though the rebellion failed militarily it kind of succeeded in changing British policy. The British wanted to assure quiet in the Middle East during the war and so issued a new white paper limiting Jewish immigration and land purchase.

The Yishuv (the Jewish community in Palestine) protested against the white paper, and the IZL carried out some attacks against British targets.

But between 3,000 and 6,000 Palestinian political and military activists were killed and thousands more were driven into exile or jailed. They were much weakened by this fighting against the British, and this did much damage to their war effort in 1947-1948.

The conflict between the Arabs, the Yishuv and the British was put on hold during World War II. The Jews supported the British, and many volunteered to serve in the British army. The Palestinians like most of the Arab world supported the Axis against the British (though five or six thousand Arabs joined the Allied armed forces, vs more than twenty-six thousand Jews).

After the war the weakening of British and French power resulted in the liberation of many regions from imperial rule, and the emergence of new countries. Lebanon, Syria and Jordan became independent, and Egypt and Iraq had looser imperial control.

On the one hand the Holocaust destroyed “Zionism’s main potential pool of manpower”, but on the other hand it created sympathy within the international community for the Jews and for their quest to create a national home for themselves. Just as World War I resulted in the Balfour declaration, World War II resulted in the UN partition plan of 29 November 1947, which would lead to the creation of the State of Israel.

In January 1942 Chaim Weizmann in an article in Foreign Affairs, demanded a Jewish state in all of Palestine. And in May at a Zionist conference, the demand for a Jewish state in the Land of Israel was adopted as an official policy.

Morris writes that in the US the Jews decisively won the battle for public opinion, “due to the impact of the Holocaust and effective Zionist propaganda”. The American Jewish community of five million was energized and united by the Holocaust, they were well organized and wealthy and were traditionally big donors to political campaigns.

Towards the end of the war and after the war the Zionist efforts were focused on allowing the survivors of the concentration camps in Europe to immigrate to Palestine. The British were still blocking it.

The LHI (Lohamei Herut Yisrael) or Freedom Fighters of Israel a small group also called the “Stern Gang” (after the name of its leader), sought to fight the British. It attempted to establish an “alliance” with Nazi Germany against the British, but failed to do so. It then carried out a campaign against the British rulers, but didn’t manage to do much, due to its small size, Haganah and IZL tip-offs, and British suppression.

In 1944 the IZL under the command of Menachem Begin resumed their armed struggle against the British. They believed that the main battle was not against the Arabs but against the British. They carried out attacks against the British. The mainstream Zionists condemned this, and there was an open-season called the “Saison” against the IZL from November 1944 to March 1945.

But after the war and with continued British opposition to letting the Displaced Persons (DPs) immigrate to Palestine, the Haganah joined them from November 1945. The three groups Haganah, IZL and LHI made a formal agreement known as the Hebrew Rebellion Movement. Two significant attacks were the blowing up railway tracks at 153 points around Palestine on November 1st and the simultaneous destruction of eleven bridges connecting Palestine to Jordan, Syria, Lebanon and Egypt on 17 June 1946.

At the same time the Haganah resumed its illegal immigration campaign. which managed to get 70,700 immigrants into Palestine between August 1945 and May 1948. (they had previously tried to get immigrants in, at the start of the war, but were blocked by the British, and by 1941 the Germans blocked all the boats from their side)

The Americans wanted 100,000 DPs to be allowed to immigrate immediately but the British opposed this. There was an Anglo-American Committee to examine the situation of the DPs. Their recommendation was to allow the 100,000 DPs as quickly as conditions would permit. But it rejected partition and suggested that the British Mandate should continue under UN trusteeship. Later Palestine should be independent either under a single state or a binational state.

The Zionists accepted the immigration recommendation but rejected the rest. The Arabs rejected everything. They wanted independence not binationalism.

After the report Jewish attacks against the British resumed. The British cracked down on the Haganah, but it didn’t have much effect because the intelligence of the Haganah managed to get advanced warning. In response the IZL blew up the King David Hotel in Jerusalem, which was the British military and administrative headquarters killing 91 people.

The British tried to come up with another solution/plan. The Jews demanded immediate Jewish statehood, the Arabs demanded “immediate Arab independence”. And things didn’t get anywhere. That was the situation at the beginning of 1947.

The British basically gave up and handed the problem over to the UN, which is the subject of the next chapter.

Israel’s “New Historians”

Since history is so important to the Israel/Palestine conflict, I intend to focus on it seriously for my next posts. I will try to alternate between historical posts and posts similar to my previous ones on the current situation.

The New Historians are a group of Israeli historians that from the late 1980s onwards began to challenge traditional versions of Israeli history.

Basically they succeeded in changing Israeli history from propaganda, apologetics and chronology (at best), to a real critical history.

I will start by focusing on three of them in particular: Benny Morris, Avi Shlaim and Ilan Pappe.

I hope to cover the following books:

  • 1948, A Hisotry of the First Arab-Israeli War – Benny Morris
  • Righteous Victims, A History of the Zionist-Arab Conflict, 1881-2001 – Benny Morris
  • The Iron Wall Israel and the Arab World – Avi Shlaim
  • Israel and Palestine, Reappraisals, Revisions, Refutations – Avi Shlaim
  • The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine – Ilan Pappe
  • The Forgotten Palestinians Ilan Pappe

In my view, Benny Morris is the most Pro-Israeli of the bunch, although no less critical of Israeli history. Avi Shlaim, to me, represents the moderate view and favours a two-state solution. Ilan Pappe seems to me a bit of an idealist and favours a one-state solution.

I will leave you with some explanation of the differences between New and Old/Official history/historians (thanks to Wikipedia):

Avi Shlaim described the New Historians’ differences from what he termed the “official history” in the following terms. According to Shlaim:

  • The official version said that Britain tried to prevent the establishment of a Jewish state; the New Historians claimed that it tried to prevent the establishment of a Palestinian state
  • The official version said that the Palestinians fled their homes of their own free will; the New Historians said that the refugees were chased out or expelled
  • The official version said that the balance of power was in favour of the Arabs; the New Historians said that Israel had the advantage both in manpower and in arms
  • The official version said that the Arabs had a coordinated plan to destroy Israel; the New Historians said that the Arabs were divided
  • The official version said that Arab intransigence prevented peace; the New Historians said that Israel is primarily to blame for the “dead end”.[4]

Pappé suggests that the Zionist leaders intended to displace most Palestinian Arabs; Morris believes the displacement happened in the heat of war. According to the New Historians, Israel and Arab countries each have their share of responsibility for the Arab-Israeli conflict and the Palestinian plight.

Furthermore according to Benny Morris (again from Wikipedia):

  • The “Old Historians” lived through 1948 as highly committed adult participants in the epic, glorious rebirth of the Jewish commonwealth. They were unable to separate their lives from this historical event, unable to regard impartially and objectively the facts and processes that they later wrote about.[14]
  • The “Old Historians” have written largely on the basis of interviews and memoirs and at best made use of select batches of documents, many of them censored.[14]
  • Benny Morris has been critical of the old Historians, describing them, by and large, as not really historians, who did not produce real history: “In reality there were chroniclers and often apologetic”,[15] and refers to those who produced it as “less candid”, “deceitful” and “misleading”.[16]

Parties in Israel’s current coalition government (and their views on the two-state solution and settlements)


Coalition members (68):
Likud (20)
Yesh Atid (19)
The Jewish Home (12)
Yisrael Beiteinu (11)
Hatnuah (6)

Likud (20/68)): Netanyahu’s right-wing party. According to Wikipedia:

The 1999 Likud Party platform emphasizes the right of settlement.
The Jewish communities in Judea, Samaria and Gaza are the realization of Zionist values. Settlement of the land is a clear expression of the unassailable right of the Jewish people to the Land of Israel and constitutes an important asset in the defense of the vital interests of the State of Israel. The Likud will continue to strengthen and develop these communities and will prevent their uprooting.”[27]
Similarly, they claim the Jordan River as the permanent eastern border to Israel and it also claims Jerusalem as belonging to Israel.
The ‘Peace & Security’ chapter of the 1999 Likud Party platform rejects a Palestinian state.
“The Government of Israel flatly rejects the establishment of a Palestinian Arab state west of the Jordan river. The Palestinians can run their lives freely in the framework of self-rule, but not as an independent and sovereign state. Thus, for example, in matters of foreign affairs, security, immigration and ecology, their activity shall be limited in accordance with imperatives of Israel’s existence, security and national needs.”[27]
With Likud back in power, starting in 2009, Israeli foreign policy is still under review. Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu, in his “National Security” platform, neither endorsed nor ruled out the idea of a Palestinian state.[28] “Netanyahu has hinted that he does not oppose the creation of a Palestinian state, but aides say he must move cautiously because his religious-nationalist coalition partners refuse to give away land.”[29]
On 14 June 2009, Netanyahu delivered a seminal address[30] at Bar-Ilan University (also known as “Bar-Ilan Speech”), at Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, that was broadcast live in Israel and across parts of the Arab world, on the topic of the Middle East peace process. He endorsed for the first time the creation of a Palestinian state alongside Israel, with several conditions.
The Likud Constitution[31] of May 2014 is more vague and ambiguous. Though it contains commitments to the strengthening of Jewish settlement in Judea and Samaria, it does not explicitly rule out the establishment of a Palestinian state.

Yesh Atid (19/68) a centrist party, again from Wikipedia (note point 8):

In the application submitted to the party registrar, Lapid listed the party’s eight goals. According to this statement, these include:[18][19]

  1. Changing the priorities in Israel, with an emphasis on civil life – education, housing, health, transport and policing, as well as improving the condition of the middle class.
  2. Changing the system of government.
  3. Equality in education and the draft—all Israeli school students must be taught essential classes, all Israelis will be drafted into the Army, and all Israeli citizens will be encouraged to seek work, including the ultra-Orthodox sector and the Arab sector.
  4. Fighting political corruption, including corruption in government in the form of institutions like “Minister without portfolio”, opting for a government of 18 ministers at most, fortifying the rule of law and protecting the status of the High Court of Justice.
  5. Growth and economic efficiency—creating growth engines as a way of fighting poverty, combating red tape, removing barriers, improving the transportation system, reducing the cost of living and housing costs, and improving social mobility through assistance to small businesses.
  6. Legislation of Education Law in cooperation with teachers’ unions, eliminating most of the matriculation exams, raising the differential education index and increasing school autonomy.
  7. Enact a constitution to regulate tense relations between population groups in Israel.
  8. Striving for peace according to an outline of “two states for two peoples”, while maintaining the large Israeli settlement blocs and ensuring the safety of Israel.

The Jewish Home (12/68) a religious pro-settler party, Wikipedia says:

As the descendant of the National Religious Party, the Jewish Home is willing to cooperate with secular Israelis in governing the state, but it has not forgone its objective of creating a polity governed by Jewish law. The party’s members adhere to the belief that Jews are divinely commanded to retain control over the Land of Israel. Many members have taken the lead in establishing Israeli settlements,[5] making it nearly impossible for the party to join a coalition led by the center-left political bloc.[17]
The party primarily represents Modern Orthodox Jews,[5] who tend to be more nationalist in Israel. For many years, this community has been politically fractured and weak.[18] During 2013 elections, the party’s leader appealed to both religious and secular Israelis.[2] The party’s pro-settlement message and the appeal of party leader Naftali Bennett, a charismatic, high-tech millionaire, helped it increase popularity among a broader segment of the population.[5] The attention that Bennett received also apparently had an effect on Likud’s 2013 election strategy, pushing it to the right.[18] Along with Yesh Atid, the Jewish Home surged in popularity by promising to end the controversial system of draft exemptions given to ultra-Orthodox seminary students, and to “ease the burden” on middle class Israelis who serve in the military, work and pay taxes. These two parties became two largest coalition parties in Prime Minister Netanyahu’s government, and leaders of both parties were able to force Netanyahu to promise that the ultra-Orthodox political parties will not be in the new coalition.[19] Despite Bennett’s alliance with Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid on many domestic issues, the two differ sharply over peace efforts and settlement building. Bennett is opposed to concessions to the Palestinians and has called for Israel to annex Area C of West Bank.[5][18]

Yisrael Beiteinu (11/68) a right-wing party in favour of getting rid of as many Israeli Arabs by transferring areas of high Arab concentration in Israel to the future Palestinian state. Wikipedia:

Relations with Israeli Arabs and Palestinians
One of the party’s main policies is that of drawing the borders in such a way that areas with large Arab populations, such as the Triangle area and the Wadi Ara, both gained by Israel as part of the 1949 Armistice Agreements, would be transferred to Arab sovereignty. Known as the Lieberman Plan, such an arrangement would mean that the majority of Jews would live in Israel and the majority of Arabs would live in a future Palestinian state. In most cases there is no physical population transfer or demolition of houses, but creating a new border where none existed before, according to demographics.[28]
United Nations General Assembly Resolution 55/153, written in 2001, explicitly states: “When part of the territory of a state is transferred by that state to another state, the successor state shall attribute its nationality to the persons concerned who have their habitual residence in the transferred territory and the predecessor state shall withdraw its nationality from such persons,” and Lieberman claims that this means Israel can legally transfer territory and citizens as a means of peace and ultimate conflict resolution.[28]
Avigdor Lieberman argues that the Arab residents see themselves not as Israelis but as Palestinians, and should therefore be encouraged to join the Palestinian Authority. Lieberman has presented this proposal as part of a potential peace deal aimed at establishing two separate national entities, one for Jews in Israel and the other for Arabs in Palestine. However, he is known to have an affinity for and is popular amongst the Druze population (the only Arab population to be fully drafted into the IDF), and has attracted a number of Druze voters, including some in the Golan Heights who voted for the party in protest.[29] Druze candidate Hamad Amar was elected to the Knesset on the party’s list in 2009.[30]
Regarding Palestinian statehood, Liberman has said that he supports the creation of “a viable Palestinian state”.[31]
Internal Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch proposed to use “administrative detention against those carrying out so-called ‘price tag’ attacks.” This was in reference to Jewish extremists perpetrating hate crimes against Arabs.[32]

Finally Hatnuah (6/68) a center-left party. Wikipedia:

Livni has stated that there should be a three-step process in order to resume negotiations with the Palestinians; the first step would be to ensure coordination with America; the second step would be utilizing the EU to back the negotiations; the third step would be to direct negotiations with the Palestinians; she also stated that there would be no negotiations with Hamas unless they “renounced terror”.[30] It is also committed to passing a Basic Law that deals with the protection of the environment,[31] and another to protect social rights. It is in favor of a differential value added tax as well as cancelling existing subsidies for West Bank settlements and ultra-Orthodox sectoral interests while increasing the fees charged for the mining of natural resources. Livni has long been an advocate for women’s rights and gay rights,[32] and her party supports same-sex marriage.[33]

How big is Gaza? How big is Israel?

Just out of curiosity looked up the areas of Gaza and Israel. The Gaza strip has an area of 360 km^2, Israel has an area of between 22,000 km^2 and 27,000 km^2 depending on what you include/exclude. For comparison the Island of Monteal is 499 km^2. And the province of Quebec is 1,542,056 km^2. Country-wise Israel is smaller than Albania but bigger than Slovenia. Gaza on the other hand would be smaller than Barbados but bigger than Malta.

Here are some images.

Montreal vs Gaza to scale (image approximately 100km x 50km):
Map of Montreal vs Gaza

Montreal vs Israel to scale (image approximately 150km x 400km):
Map of Montreal vs Israel

Israel vs Quebec to scale (image roughly 2300km x 2300km):
Map of Israel vs Quebec

Note: All of these maps were grabbed off of google maps, sized and resized based on the map scale and image dimension in pixels. Sizes may be off. This is my second attempt at getting it right…