I realize an exchange like this can't go on forever. That's why I'm not making a paragraph-by-paragraph response to everything Sunflower Philosophy wrote, or to anyone else. But I must discuss a few issues she raised--in particular, her statements about Jordan and about Palestinian refugees. I don't doubt that Sunflower Philosophy, an American-born Israeli teenager, believes what she wrote; but it makes me wonder about Israel's indoctrination of its people.

I'm also including some interesting statistics I recently found online.


Sunflower Philosophy: Saying that Palestinians were welcomed into other States is downright wrong. I have studied this. The other Arab states (or Muslim states, it doesn't matter) refused to take in any Palestinians. The reason there are 3 million in Jordan is because that was originally intended to be the Palestinian State in the first place, and there were already millions living there when Israel became a state!...

Israel was the only state that offered refuge to the Palestinians. Look it up.

My response: I did.

From the Britannica Online website's article on Jordan:

"About half of Jordan's population are Palestinians. [Elsewhere, I've seen a possibly more recent estimate of two-thirds. The population of Jordan is now over 5 million.] The influx of Palestinian refugees...altered Jordan's demographic map... Jordan's population in the late 1940s was between 200,000 and 250,000. [Emphasis mine.] After the 1948–49 Arab-Israeli War and the annexation of the West Bank, Jordanian citizenship was granted to some 400,000 Palestinians, who were residents of and remained in the West Bank, and to about half a million refugees from the new Israeli state. Many of these refugees settled east of the Jordan River [i.e., in Jordan proper]. Between 1949 and 1967 Palestinians continued to move east in large numbers. After the 1967 Arab-Israeli War, an estimated 310,000 to 350,000 Palestinians, mostly from the West Bank, sought refuge in Jordan; thereafter immigration from the West Bank continued at a lower rate. During the 1990–91 Persian Gulf War, some 300,000 additional Palestinians fled Kuwait (or were expelled) to Jordan.

"Most Palestinians are employed and hold full Jordanian citizenship. By the mid-1990s approximately 1.3 million Palestinians, representing about one-third of Jordan's population, were registered with the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), which provided education, medical care, relief assistance, and social services. [And not everyone who qualifies as a refugee registers with the U.N.] About one-sixth of these refugees live in camps in Jordan."

From the website of BADIL Resource Center for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights, a Palestinian organization legally owned by the refugee community and based in Bethlehem:

"Palestinian refugees from 1948 and their descendents [sic] comprise the bulk of the Palestinian refugee population today numbering over 5 million persons and constituting nearly two-thirds of the Palestinian people. If one includes Palestinians displaced for the first time in the 1967 war and internally displaced Palestinians inside Israel, approximately three-quarters of the Palestinian people have been uprooted from their traditional lands over the past five decades, making Palestinian refugees the largest and one of the longest standing unresolved refugee cases in the world today...

"The Palestinian refugee diaspora spreads around the world. The majority of Palestinian refugees, however, live within 100 miles of the borders of Israel in neighboring Arab host states. More than half the refugee population lives in Jordan. [Emphasis mine.] Approximately one-quarter of the refugee population lives in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. Around 15 percent of the refugee population resides in almost equal numbers in Syria and Lebanon, with the remaining refugee population residing inside Israel (internally displaced persons), in the Arab Gulf and in Europe and the United States. Approximately one-third of those refugees displaced in 1948 live in refugee camps located in the West Bank, Gaza Strip, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria."

When Sunflower Philosophy wrote that Review, she should have been aware of recent publicity about the situation of Palestinian refugees in Iraq. Here's an excerpt from a Washington Post article by Pamela Constable, dated June 3, 2003:

"...[W]ith the collapse of [Saddam] Hussein's government in April, the estimated 70,000 Palestinians living in Iraq--including some who arrived half a century ago and many who were born [in Iraq]--lost a powerful patron. And in the chaotic, score-settling days that followed, a society that had embraced them for decades revealed an uglier face...

"[But] not every Palestinian [in Iraq] has encountered...ostracism. Many have deep roots in their communities. Some run second-generation businesses or professional practices. They point out that Iraqi leaders before Hussein also reached out to Palestinians as afflicted fellow Arabs, and they express confidence that any future Iraqi government will do the same."

Sunflower Philosophy: The [1940s Israeli terrorism] of which you speak was against military targets, might I remind you.

My response: That terrorism was not solely against military targets. Most notoriously, there was a raid on the village of Deir Yasin on April 9-10, 1948, in which over 100--perhaps as many as 250--Arab men, women and children were massacred. Later, Zionist forces continually reminded Arabs of Deir Yasin, implying the same thing would happen to them if they didn't leave their homes.

Sunflower Philosophy: If war never justifies stealing land, I ask you to explain why it's not okay for Jews to take a strip of Palestinian land when they had none originally, but you completely fail to mention that the Jews WERE there in the first place and got kicked out first by the Babylonians (who had plenty of living space), then by the Romans (same goes for them), then by the Crusaders (who didn't satisfy themselves by kicking people out, but murdered them all instead of wasting all that time and effort)...

What's the difference? The Palestinians were there for several hundred years. Jews were there for a thousand, long before them.

My response: I did mention the earlier Jewish population's having been driven away by pagan and Christian rulers. I didn't discuss it at length because it's irrelevant (beyond making the point that for whatever slight difference it might make after all this time, it wasn't Muslims who were responsible).

But in the interest of accuracy: The Romans may have been the worst killers. According to the Britannica, some sources claim that after the Jewish uprising in the 2nd century, they slaughtered almost the entire Jewish population of Judaea--an estimated 500,000 people. As for the period of the Crusades (11th through 13th centuries), it should be noted that Jews were then a minority in the region. It was earlier Christian rulers who played a major role in driving them away. Some were undoubtedly killed by the Crusaders, but far more Muslims than Jews were affected by those wars. And Muslims ultimately drove out the invaders.

The reason victory in a modern war doesn't permit annexing or changing land is that we have a body of international law that didn't exist in ancient times. Member nations of the U.N. are bound by these laws because they were incorporated into the U.N. Charter; many states were previously bound by international conventions to which they were signatories.

As I understand it, Israelites/Jews and Muslims were each the principal people of Palestine for about 1300 years. But modern Jews don't have a right to live there because their ancestors lived there 2000 years ago, any more than I have a right to live in either of the countries my ancestors left in the 19th century.

If you emigrate from a land, your descendants lose the right to live there, unless--in the modern world--it's a case of refugees having fled a war. That's recently adopted international law; it can't be applied retroactively to someone's having fled a war thousands of years ago.

No one can prove why long-ago ancestors migrated, or even who their ancestors were. It's not at all certain that every modern Jew (excluding converts) had even one ancestor who left Palestine in a situation that would, today, qualify the person as a refugee, and whose descendants never had and rejected a chance to go back. (A concrete example of a "chance to go back": When Persia conquered the region in ancient times, it allowed some of the Jews who'd been driven away by the Babylonians to return and begin construction of the Second Temple. There were undoubtedly exiles who could have returned, but decided against making what was then a difficult trek.)


Now I must mention an excellent set of maps and charts, links to which I've found at the website of the International Solidarity Movement. (Yes, they have an accurate map depicting the 1947 Partition Plan!)

These maps show that the British Mandate of Palestine was made up of 16 administrative districts. In 1922, Jews were more than 30 percent of the population in only two districts. As late as 1944, they were more than 30 percent in only four districts, no two of which were contiguous.

Jews were an actual majority in only one district, the one that included their city of Tel Aviv. That was the most populous district, but one of the two smallest in area. And it also included the city of Jaffa--which must have been heavily Arab, since the 1947 Partition Plan would assign it and its environs to the Palestinians.

In many districts Jews were a small fraction of the population. There were three that had no Jews at all.

Why was 1944 used as a benchmark year? I'm not sure, but I'm guessing it was because it marked the end of what the British considered "legal" Jewish immigration. In 1939, after giving up on the idea of partition, they stated their intention of admitting 75,000 Jewish immigrants over the next five years--and then no more, without Arab acquiescence. (They later did agree to admit a small additional number.)

Other maps show land ownership in Palestine in--for some reason--1945. Elsewhere, I've seen a claim that only 6 percent of the land was Jewish-owned. I don't doubt that it's true. But the figure seems so low, in light of the Jews' known, determined campaign to buy all they could, that it invites skepticism. This breakdown by district is a better reference.

Despite all their efforts, Jews didn't own 40 percent of the land in any district; there were only three in which they owned over 30 percent. These were also the districts in which they were over 30 percent of the population--excluding the Al-Quds (Jerusalem) district, in which they were 42 percent of the population but owned only 2 percent of the land. They did own over 40 percent of the agricultural land in four districts, but less than 50 percent.

There were five districts in which Jews owned only 1 percent of the land, two in which they owned only 1 percent of the agricultural land.

The single district of Bi'r As Sabi (Beersheba) undoubtedly made up more than a third of the British Mandate. It included part of the Negev (a desert or semidesert region spanning several countries), but also an outlet on the Gulf of Aqaba. Few people lived there in the 1940s. Jews were less than 3 percent of the population, and owned next to none of the land. Yet the 1947 Partition Plan would assign this (relatively speaking) vast area to the Jews.

And it wasn't considered of little value. Access to the Gulf benefits commerce, and could be crucial in the event of war. Israeli terrorists assassinated the U.N. mediator, Count Bernadotte, in 1948 because he wanted them to give it up.

In later years, Israel has used the desert as--among other things--a nuclear testing ground.

To me, the one puzzle in these figures--if it's not simply an error--involves the Arab population of that district. In all the others, the Arab population increased between 1922 and 1944. In Bi'r As Sabi, it plummeted from 73,300 to 5570. And Jews can hardly have been responsible: their population had only grown from 98 to 150. If anyone knows the explanation, I'd love to hear it.

Finally, a bar graph shows how percentages of Jews and Arabs in the former British Mandate (Israel plus the Occupied Territories) changed between 1922 and 1995.

In 1922, Jews were only 11.1 percent; in 1947, 33 percent.

Population, Jewish and Arab, exploded over the years. The Jews benefited from immigration, but the Arabs' forced or reluctant emigration was offset by births. Of the benchmark years shown, Jews reached their percentage peak of 64.4 percent in 1978. (Note that the Arabs--even then, after all those years of expulsions and trauma--were not as small a percentage as the Jews had been in 1947, when the U.N. voted to give them a state.)

Since then the Arabs' higher birth rate has been narrowing the gap. In 1995 Jews were 54.3 percent, Arabs 45.7.

A quick crunch of population figures--some admittedly estimates--in the 2003 World Almanac shows that the trend is continuing. Jews are now only 51.5 percent, Arabs 48.5.

The handwriting is on the wall.