MUST READ: A Legal View Into Netanyahu’s ‘Ethnic Cleansing’ Speech

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s recent video about calls for the ethic cleansing of Jews in Judea and Samaria has generated much criticism from all walks dorks of life- be it the US administration, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, or the increasingly ineffectual and anti-Israel ADL.

Legal scholar Eugene Kontorovich looks at Bibi’s remarks from a legal standpoint.

Yet the most controversial part of his comments were two words: ethnic cleansing. Indeed, the phrase invites criticism because there is no precise legal definition of the term. However, it is generally used to refer to the purge of other ethnic groups, rather than the group doing the cleansing. Indeed, that is why the international community demands that Israel remove the settlers itself, so the Palestinians won’t have to. One might call it ethnic pre-cleansing. Again, there is no international precedent for a country being required to forcibly remove its own population en masse.

While it may not be entirely apt, ethnic cleansing is definitely part of the story. Jews lived throughout what would late be called the West Bank until its conquest by Jordan in 1949. The Jordanians expelled every since Jew from the area they controlled. Unlike the flight of Arabs from Israel, the purge was clearly coercive, as evidenced that not one Jew was left in the Jordanian occupied territory. This expulsion was clearly ethnic cleansing, and indeed it left the area clean.

Israel wrested this area, including the Old City of Jerusalem, from Jordanian control in the Six Day War. Much of the international community believes Israel was legally required to maintain the Jew-free status quo created by the Jordanian expulsion 19 years earlier. Any Israelis who do move into the area, in this view, are illegal settlers, and should be removed.

Assume that the presence of settlers is illegal. The only reason these people were “settlers” was the Jordanian expulsion of 1949, and their subsequent 19 year enforcement of a Jew-free territory. International law scholars like to say that Israel, as an occupying power, must maintain the prior status quo. Even assuming that is true, pointing out that the status quo was itself a result of recent, complete to-the-last Jew ethnic cleansing should hardly be bad form.

Read the whole thing, which also includes an examination of the fate of settlers in every occupation since the adoption of the Geneva Conventions.

The polemic around the Arab-Israeli conflict really involves a whole bunch of “sleight of hand” moves, which have hoodwinked so many. The “settlers” topic is right near the top of the list, and in this regard, Eugene Kontorovich’s article is very important in helping us better understand it.


David Lange

A law school graduate, David Lange transitioned from work in the oil and hi-tech industries into fulltime Israel advocacy. He is a respected commentator and Middle East analyst who has often been cited by the mainstream media

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