Ann Arbor (Informed Comment) – The extremist, fascist government of Binyamin Netanyahu continues to press its monstrous, illegal and most of all completely implausible plan to push the 2.2 million Palestinians of Gaza out of the Strip into Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula or into other Arab countries. Netanyahu also pledged to continue the high-intensity campaign against the people of Gaza.
This blatant project of ethnic cleansing recalls the ways in which the dictators of the 1930s and 1940s moved around entire ethnic groups. Stalin displaced the Soviet Koreans to Uzbekistan or Siberia. I met some of their descendants in Tashkent in the mid-1990s. The exile of the Crimean Tartars is recognized by Ukraine as a war crime. Hundreds of thousands died in these paroxysms of ethnic cleansing. Hitler ethnically cleansed millions, as well, and at the end of the war there were 11 million displaced persons in Europe, 8 million in Germany.
After the end of WW II, world authorities attempted to forestall such atrocities, creating or strengthening International Humanitarian Law. In the Rome Statute, which went into effect in 2002 and has been signed by 124 countries, one of the offenses constituting “Crimes Against Humanity” is:
“Deportation or forcible transfer of population” ( Rome Statute Art. 7 d ).
The heinous character of these plans of the Israeli far right is not masked by the phrase “voluntary” transfer. Helpless Palestinians made homeless and denied food and water by the Israeli authorities can no more assent to exile from their homeland of millennia than an enslaved woman can assent to sex with her master.
On Monday, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu held a meeting of his Likud bloc and told the other far right politicians there that he was still working on the “voluntary” immigration of Gaza’s inhabitants to other countries. He said the only problem is finding countries willing to absorb them. A Likud member of parliament concurred, saying that such plans were already accepted by the Canadian immigration minister and by US presidential candidate Nikki Haley. So reports al-Ghad from Yisrael Ha-Yom.
For its part, the Palestinian Foreign Ministry was scathing about Netanyahu’s remarks, saying they were “a slap in the face to all the countries that supported Israel in its war against our people, and still do, under the pretext of self-defense, especially since it reveals a malicious conspiracy hatched by the ruling Israeli right against our people with the aim of liquidating their cause and existence.”
That Netanyahu is talking in this desperate way, the ministry said, is a clear sign that Israel has failed in its stated war aims.
That is, the Palestine Authority correctly recognized that Netanyahu is using revenge on Hamas as a cover story, and that the actual purpose of his total war on the civilians of Gaza is to ethnically cleanse them.
The Foreign Ministry called on other countries roundly to condemn Netanyahu’s grotesque remarks.
No one is going to take the Palestinians off the Israeli prime minister’s hands. Egypt roundly rebuffed any such suggestion. In fact, the Egyptians have warned of a severe rupture in ties with Cairo if Israel tries to push the Palestinians south into the Sinai. So reported a prominent Egyptian television anchor.
Meanwhile Al-`Arabi al-Jadid reported yesterday that the Egyptian military is bulking up the number of troops it has stationed near the Rafah Crossing from Gaza into the Sinai. It is also building more barriers and watchtowers. This activity reflects Egyptian anxieties as the Israeli military campaign against the Palestinians in Gaza stretches south to Rafah, raising the specter of mass displacement. Apparently an unusual number of Palestinians are approaching Egyptian border authorities pleading for asylum.
The government of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has spent a decade attempting to wipe out the Muslim Brotherhood from Egypt, and has also repeatedly fought heavy battles to assert Cairo’s authority in the Sinai Peninsula, the people of which often feel badly treated by the government. The prospect of having 2.2 million angry, hungry and desperate Palestinians, many of them essentially Muslim Brothers, plopped into a place famed for its lawless smuggling and terrorism networks is a horror show for the Egyptian authorities. Egypt is a country of over 100 million people and its military is ranked 14 out of 145 countries in the global firepower review. If its officer corps doesn’t want that influx of Palestinians, it won’t happen. In some past incidents Egyptian troops have simply shot down Palestinians attempting to enter Egypt.
Netanyahu’s plans to ethnically cleanse the Palestinians of Gaza, which have been echoed by many other Israeli politicians, including cabinet members, aren’t just plans to commit crimes against humanity. They are also highly implausible fantasies. The hard line, fascist government that Netanyahu has cobbled together dreams big, but just isn’t that powerful in the real world, and nor does the Biden administration want to see the Palestinians ethnically cleansed. Though, if it somehow did happen, no doubt Washington would put lipstick on that pig for Israel’s sake, as well.