OPINIONS

Sun 26 Nov 2023 6:40 am - Jerusalem Time

About expulsion, displacement and migration

There has been much discussions since the outbreak of the Israeli war on the Gaza Strip, and anxiety and tension have risen, and Palestinian and Arab fears have escalated, regarding Israel’s intention and plan to exploit the period and horrors of the war on civilians, to forcibly expel the largest possible number of Palestinians from the Strip, and later the West Bank, abroad. This discussion did not come out of nowhere, as Israel explicitly expressed the need to empty the Gaza Strip by pushing the Palestinians into North Sinai, under the pretext of removing civilians from the battlefield. But for the Palestinians and Arabs, this pretext was nothing more than a flimsy cover for what is known about the deep Israeli desire, and the tireless pursuit, to expel the Palestinian people from their homeland. 

The Zionist project, from its beginning, was based on emptying Palestine of its people and replacing the Jews in their place, under the myth of the colonial slogan “a land without a people, for a people without a land.” Not only that, the Palestinian and Arab memory is still groaning from the weight of the systematic expulsion of Palestinians that took place in the Nakba of 1948 and the setback of 1967. 


Therefore, Palestinian and Arab apprehension about the possibility of Israel repeating what happened has a harsh practical background, as well as terrifying future repercussions. The consistency of the American position at the beginning of the current war with the declared Israeli desire, and the attempt to promote it and pass it on in the relevant Arab capitals, had a great impact in stoking that anticipation.


It is worth noting that in the actions of states, and at the international level, there is a difference and dividing boundaries between three things that have a relationship with each other, but are not necessarily identical, which are desire and ability. The state's desire relates to the goals it wants to achieve, while the ability expresses the sources of power the state possesses to achieve the desired goals. As for ability, it is an issue that is not related to the state itself, in terms of the availability of desire and ability, but rather to external circumstances and factors if they are appropriate and conducive to achieving goals. The state may have the desire to achieve a specific goal, but it lacks the ability to achieve it, unless it has an external party who, on its behalf, achieves that goal for it. The state may have the desire and ability to achieve a goal, but external circumstances and factors are an obstacle, preventing it from achieving it. If circumstances and factors continue as such, the goal will collapse and end.

Although Israel has the desire, and has sufficient internal capacity, to achieve the goal of expelling the Palestinians, this time it collided with the wall of absolute Palestinian and Arab rejection, which ended (not hindered) its ability to achieve this goal. The rapid Palestinian rejection, reinforced by the Arab position rejecting expulsion, especially the strict and categorical position of Egypt and Jordan in this regard, had a decisive impact in closing the door of possibility on Israel, not only in achieving the goal of expelling the Palestinians this time, but in completely dropping it from discussion and passage in the future too. One of the results of this position was that the American administration reviewed its strategic calculations, quickly changed its initial position facilitating the Israeli goal, and turned it into a clear public position rejecting the forced displacement of Palestinians out of the country. Rejecting positions began to come from various capitals, international bodies and institutions around the world, besieging the Israeli goal, to the extent that it stifled it. 


This war, despite its heavy cost to the Palestinians, will prove to be the fruit of Israel's goal of forcibly expelling the Palestinians from their homeland. The door has been closed on Israel's ability to achieve this.

To reach this result, Israel shifted its efforts from imposing the forced expulsion of Palestinians by force, to seeking to implement it in a soft manner, by exploiting the difficult humanitarian conditions arising from the current war to engineer an organized mass displacement campaign, in which it gets rid of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians. The outcome of this displacement is not necessarily the neighboring Arab countries that reject the issue of expulsion in principle, but rather attractive foreign countries that attract immigrants, with which attempts are apparently being made to reach an understanding to open the doors of immigration to them to accommodate large groups of Palestinians. For the success of this displacement, Israel is betting on the possibility of a latent desire among large and increasing numbers of Palestinians to change their living conditions and search for a safe and better future, especially after a war that exhausted them in the Gaza Strip, closed off their means of livelihood, and destroyed all the structures of their lives. If Israel is able to facilitate the acceptance of a number of countries to accept the organized displacement of large groups of Palestinians, it believes that the Palestinian demand for this migration will fall on the absorbing countries. To confirm this trend of thinking in Israeli circles, it is sufficient to follow the repeated statements issued in this regard so far by Israeli officials, some of which call for a collective international effort to implement it, and some of which call for the allocation of UNRWA funds to achieve it, with assurances about Israel’s readiness to contribute effectively, financially and logistically, to make this endeavor successful.

To confront its deteriorating possibility, there is an absolute necessity to confront this plan proactively, to block it from now on. This requires organized action, requiring a concerted Palestinian and Arab effort together, not only to expose this plan to the world, but also by taking practical steps to communicate with the candidate countries that might accept, for various reasons, opening their doors to receive the results of an Israeli campaign for organized mass Palestinian displacement, to discourage them from the possibility of doing so, and holding them responsible for the repercussions this will lead to. Such organized action will be able to have a positive impact and act as a check on the position of these countries, especially since many parties in the world are monitoring developments and are ready to contribute by exerting a package of moral and practical pressures on those countries, if they agree and contribute to the Israeli plan to empty Palestine of its people.

I believe that the danger of emptying Palestine of its people does not lie through forced expulsion or organized mass displacement. The possibility of Israel succeeding in either of them is very small, if not non-existent. The danger of emptying lies in voluntary individual migration, which is an open and available field that expresses a personal choice that cannot be prevented or controlled, or requiring countries that receive immigrants to prevent a Palestinian from the right to apply for immigration to them, or prevent his absorption there if his application meets the conditions. 

It is expected that the number of Palestinians wishing to emigrate from the Gaza Strip, as well as from the West Bank, although perhaps to a relatively smaller extent, will witness a significant increase after the current war ends. The loss of family members and life resources, on the one hand, and the difficulty of resuming normal life for a long period after the war, on the other hand, may lead many to choose to strive hard to start a new life in another country. Here we must not forget about those who, before the war, took the greatest risk and tried to go to Europe via dangerous boat trips across the Mediterranean, putting their lives in danger, or sacrificing them.

This voluntary migration, if it worsens, could deplete the future Palestinian presence in the country. It is expected that Palestine will lose an important part of its human capabilities, which it desperately needs. The largest category of candidates for immigration is the youth, which is the most qualified, capable and effective group, and upon whom the country's future is built. How can we limit the possibility of this potential bleeding, which will achieve an important part of Israel’s goals and deprive the country of the most important element to ensure its immunity?

Simply relying solely on nationalism as the only reason for people to remain on their land, especially those who have the capabilities to leave, will be of no use in curbing the possibility of this expected bleeding. Although this national belonging exists, it alone will not be sufficient for people to survive, especially in light of horrific conditions, and if the future continues to be bleak, without hopeful prospects. Singing slogans, and taking people's ability to endure, withstand, and sacrifice as a given, is always and constantly guaranteed, will not succeed in being a substitute for the necessity of providing the basic supplies and requirements necessary to convince people of the necessity of continuing to bear the hardships that burden their livelihood. Not only that, but it is necessary to remember that people have the right to have hopes and ambitions greater than remaining “firewood” in the furnace of battles, and to have a promising future that will achieve more than subsistence living.

For all of this, and in order to hedge in advance to stop the possibility of potential voluntary migration, it is necessary from now on to pay utmost attention to the following:

Firstly, the Palestinian situation requires, from now on, and not after the end of the war, that the utmost attention, thought and action be given towards finding the necessary lever to move the wheel of the economy, in addition to how to provide the mechanism and requirements for the reconstruction of the Strip. Reconstruction and moving the wheel of the economy, although they are interconnected, their requirements and paths are distinct. We must think about how to provide the requirements for reviving the Palestinian economy in light of developments that must be taken into account. The volume of Palestinian labor inside Israel will shrink after the war, and workers from Gaza will not enter it (this may not pose a major problem since the reconstruction of Gaza needs these workers). Also, restoring the necessary level of foreign aid, which has diminished significantly over previous years, will be fraught with many requirements. How will enough job opportunities be created to jumpstart the economy? Where will the necessary funds be provided for this? This is with the necessity of taking into account that the issue of the reconstruction of the Gaza Strip, which includes many precise and extremely important details, will enter into the circle of political tensions at various levels, and will become part of the arrangements currently being deliberated by international and regional parties regarding the Palestinian future, with clear Palestinian marginalization. Is there a Palestinian assigned to carry out the task of thinking and preparing the required economic file from a Palestinian point of view, or is the matter left for others to do and then be imposed on the Palestinian side?!

Secondly, the economic leverage, even if achieved, will not be sufficient on its own. Rather, in order for it to succeed and be sustainable, it must be accompanied by a political settlement that controls the conflict for a long period, enabling the Palestinian people to catch their breath and care about building a promising future. Voluntary migration will continue as long as the political situation remains unstable. It is clear that what was called “economic peace” cannot be an effective and successful alternative without a political settlement that fulfills the minimum Palestinian requirements, primarily ending the occupation and achieving freedom and independence. In this regard, the Palestinian side must not remain marginalized and spectators, while the various parties are busy discussing post-war arrangements. It is true that the priority is to stop this frenzied war, spare the blood of the Palestinians, and avoid further destruction of their various vital structures. But despite the loftiness of this goal, which it is clear that the Palestinian ability to achieve is weak at best, if not non-existent, the supreme national interest requires engaging ourselves, in the first place, and with various regional and international parties, secondly, in researching what the future will bring us in terms of challenges. It is not permissible to let others take over the task, and we content ourselves with complaining about the bad situation. Therefore, it is necessary that an official and organized Palestinian effort begins to prepare the future Palestinian vision, which does not stop at the main headlines, but is primarily concerned with the minute details. Has such an effort begun, or is it up to fate?

Third, in order for the Palestinian side to have an effective role, and not be the only recipient of the external demands and conditions that will be imposed on it, it is necessary to take proactive steps to arrange the internal Palestinian situation and activate the Palestinian political system that is calcified over a long-standing division, and it has become clear how important it is to overcome it. There will be no winning Palestinian side after the end of this war. Rather, all parties are under bombardment and guillotine. As for the activity and movements currently taking place between Palestinian parties, the source of most of them is still the remnants of past disputes, and their goal does not go beyond an attempt to reposition those who are engaged in searching to secure a hoped-for future position. This will not help in moving the wheel of the national issue forward. Rather, it will not deviate from turning in the same wheel of thinking that was tried in the past, and produced nothing but ruin. Therefore, is it not time for this division and fragmentation to end, as we are going through a pivotal stage that will have profound consequences and repercussions on the Palestinian future?! If this is not the time, when will it be?! Isn’t it more appropriate and more effective for all Palestinians to be busy preparing to face the repercussions of the war, instead of each party being preoccupied with trying to undermine the other party and achieve imaginary “victories” over each other?!

We are going through a critical period; In the neck of the bottle. Either we can get out of it with the least amount of losses, or we remain inside it, trapped in repeating the same pattern of thinking and performance. It is true that the circumstances we face are very difficult, and that external pressure on us is increasing, but this does not exempt us from bearing responsibility, and from the necessity of holding ourselves accountable for the mistakes we commit.

We must all work hard to remedy the repercussions of the wave of voluntary migration coming in the coming days. But this will only be effective by opening the door to delving deeply into addressing the causes and consequences for which we bear responsibility.


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