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For Students





From 'Ethnic Cleansing' to Casualty Count, Prof. Qumsiyeh Errs


Mazin Qumsiyeh, an associate professor of genetics at Yale University, has an active extra-curricular life. The co-founder and media coordinator for Al-Awda, the Palestinian Right of Return Coalition, he busies himself publishing letters and op-eds in newspapers across the country. His latest installment, a July 27 op-ed (“Time to apply South Africa remedy to Israel”) in the New Haven Register, contained highly distorted and unsubstantiated accusations against Israel. While the accusations were of an extremely general nature, Qumsiyeh did make some specific allegations which are demonstrably false.

For instance, he claims that “The center of this problem is the ethnic cleansing of Christian and Muslim Palestinians while opening the gate for any Jew or convert to Judaism to take their place.” Ethnic cleansing? In actuality, Israeli Arabs and Palestinians have the highest rate of natural increase in the world. According to Professor Arnon Soffer, Israel’s leading demographer, the natural rate of increase of the Arab population in Israel and the West Bank is 3.5 percent. Among the Beduins (in the south of Israel) and in the Gaza Strip the figure is as high as 4.5 percent, which means that the population doubles in 15 to 17 years (“Israel, Demography 2000-2002,” University of Haifa). For comparative purposes, Egypt's natural rate of increase is 1.89 percent, and Saudi Arabia’s is 3.41.

Figures from the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics back up this data. According to PCBS statistics dating back to 1997, the Palestinian population in the Palestinian territories has increased steadily each year, from 2,783,084 in 1997 to 3,827,914 in 2004.

Likewise, despite the supposed “ethnic cleansing,” the Arab population inside Israel itself has also been flourishing. In 1997, Israel’s Arab population (Muslims and Christians) was 1,069,400. By 2002, the figure increased to 1,263,900 individuals. (Statistical Abstract of Israel, 2003)

As for Christians, in particular, Israel is one of the few places in the Middle East where that population has been growing. In contrast, the Christian population in the Muslim Palestinian territories has been diminishing (Daphne Tsimhoni, “Christians of Israel and the Territories,” Middle East Quarterly, Winter 2001). Thus, in 1997, Israel’s Christian Arab population was 104,800. In 2002, it rose to 114,300. This growth represents an increase of 9.1 percent. Israel’s Muslim population during this period increased from 867,900 to 1,038,300, representing a huge increase of 19.6 percent!

While Qumsiyeh suggests that Jews are “taking the places” of Christians and Muslims in Israel, the opposite is true. In the 1997 to 2002 time period, Israel’s Jewish population growth lagged far behind that of Muslims and Christians. It grew from 4,701,600 to 5,094,200, an increase of just 8.4 percent.

So, just who exactly is replacing whom?

The facts again do not fit Qumsiyeh’s venomous charge that “Violence always kills more native civilians than the settlers or colonialists. The ratio is 5-to-1 in the case of Palestinians.” It is unclear exactly what Qumsiyeh means by “colonialists,” though by the context it seems that he is referring to any Israeli since he already has settlers in a separate category. Thus, by the most generous count–assuming that every single Palestinian killed was a “native civilian" and every single Israeli killed was a “settler” or “colonialist” (but not a “civilian”)–then Qumsiyeh is still not correct.

According to the Associated Press, since September 2000, “3,045 people have been killed on the Palestinian side, and 970 people have been killed on the Israeli side” as of Aug. 4, 2004. This is a ratio of 3.1-to1. And, of course, this AP figure does not at all take into account that the Palestinian side does not solely consist of “native civilians,” but also includes suicide bombers, others killed while carrying attacks out on Israelis, terrorists killed when their bombs prematurely exploded, and “collaborators” killed by fellow Palestinians.

Moreover, according to the Institute for Counter-Terrorism, of the 921 Israelis killed from Sept. 27, 2000 until May 1, 2004, 715 people, or 77.6 percent, were noncombatants killed by Palestinians. In contrast, on the Palestinian side, in the same period only 985 out of 2806–or 35.1 percent–were noncombatants killed by Israelis.

Even when Qumsiyeh provides purported sources, they do not support his claims. For example, he writes:

Israeli colonial activity, including the wall, violates a number of international laws and covenants: The Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949; U.N. resolutions; the Hague Regulations; the U.N. Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials; International Covenant of Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights/Convention on Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination and the Convention on Rights of the Child.

Had Qumsiyeh bothered to read the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, for example, he would learn that it actually upholds the Israeli Law of Return which he so vilifies. Article 1, Section 3 states: “Nothing in this Convention may be interpreted as affecting in any way the legal provisions of States Parties concerning nationality, citizenship or naturalization, provided that such provisions do not discriminate against any particular nationality.” In other words, states single out certain groups for preferential treatment so long as they do not discrimate against any particular group. In that respect, Israel is no different from numerous other democratic countries which grant certain privileges to particular ethnic groups. Just like Israel’s Law of Return extends automatic citizenship to any Jew who desires it, many other nations provide certain people easier access to citizenship, including Mexico, Finland, Greece, Poland, Germany, Italy and Denmark.

In addition, Section 4 establishes that affirmative action--displaying preferences to undo prior discrimination--is legitimate:

Special measures taken for the sole purpose of securing adequate advancement of certain racial or ethnic groups or individuals requiring such protection as may be necessary in order to ensure such groups or individuals equal enjoyment or exercise of human rights and fundamental freedoms shall not be deemed racial discrimination, provided, however, that such measures do not, as a consequence, lead to the maintenance of separate rights for different racial groups and that they shall not be continued after the objectives for which they were taken have been achieved.

And, if ever there was a people in need of affirmative action it was the Jews of Palestine. A few years earlier, European Jewry was nearly wiped out in the actual ethnic cleansing of World War II, when the free world tightly locked its doors to Jewish refugees and the British turned back boatloads of the Jewish condemned who attempted to reach safety in Palestine.

Finally, Qumsiyeh misrepresents what became of Mandate Palestine when he writes: “The wall literally makes concrete the colonization of roughly 30-40 percent more of the 22 percent of Palestine that remains” (emphasis added). The figure of 22 percent is based on the area of Mandate Palestine. His suggestion that Israel took over the other 78 percent is entirely fallacious because the original land of Palestine, as determined by the League of Nations, includes what is now Israel, Gaza, the West Bank and the entire state of Jordan. In 1922, the British severed Mandate Palestine so that nearly 80 percent of it became Transjordan (now Jordan), from which Jewish immigration was barred. Palestinian Arabs, however, were not restricted from settling in Transjordan or what was left of Palestine. In 1947, the United Nations partitioned the 20 percent of what remained of Palestine, offering Israel only about half. And, when Jordan annexed the West Bank in 1950, Arabs controlled approximately 80 percent of Mandate Palestine while the Jewish state held a mere 17.5 percent. (Gaza, under illegal Egyptian occupation, was the remainder.)

Thus, with the 1947 United Nations offer, 89.4 percent of the original Mandate (comprised of Jordan and almost half of the land that was left after Jordan’s creation) would have been in Palestinian Arab hands.

It seems the Yale scientist disregards the norms of careful research and documentation when it comes to his after-school activities.


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