Belgium’s Development Minister, Caroline Gennez, has claimed that Israel is engaged in “colonization” in Gaza. The charge is preposterous.
How can the Jews of Israel be “colonizing” the land that Jews started living on more than 3500 years ago, the land where Jewish history was made? There is no metropolitan power “colonizing” this territory. The Israelis who have settled on state or waste lands, or bought land from Arab owners, or taken over land abandoned by Arabs when they left in 1948, hoping to soon return with victorious Arab armies, have nothing in common with the French colonizing Algeria or the British colonizing Kenya. Jews in Israel have ingathered, returning to the original home of the Jewish people — a home that Jews can be said to have never entirely left, because Jews, albeit in small numbers, have continued uninterruptedly to live somewhere in the Land of Israel during the past 3500 years. In exile, Jews never stopped thinking about the place from which they were driven. When a Jew dies, non-family members offer a traditional condolence — “May God comfort you in Zion and Jerusalem.” “Zion” is synecdoche for the Land of Israel. The true colonizers of the Land of Israel are the Arabs, who arrived in the first half of the seventh century, more than two millennia after the Jews had first been living there. It is Muslim Arabs who came out of Arabia to colonize not just Israel, but all of the land from Morocco to Iran, settling in large numbers, imposing their language and culture and religion on the indigenous inhabitants.
Thus did Egypt go from being a country peopled entirely by Christian Copts to one where, over many centuries, those Copts converted to Islam and adopted Arabic names and accepted Arab culture, so that now 90% of Egyptians identify themselves as Muslim Arabs. The Berbers were the original inhabitants of North Africa, but now a majority of the people living in that area have been thoroughly arabized by the Arabs who conquered their lands in the first few centuries of Islam, and now, while sizable numbers of Berbers, speaking Tamazigh, still exist in Morocco and Algeria, most North Africans see themselves as Arabs. Lebanon, once peopled entirely by Christians, is now 65% Muslim. The Greek Orthodox and Syrian Orthodox Christians of Syria, who once completely dominated Syria, are now only 2% of that country’s population. In Iraq, similarly, a country once consisting of Assyrians, Chaldeans, and Syriac Christians, have been reduced to less than 1% of the population. The Arabs are in fact the most successful colonizers in history, not only for the vast territories that they conquered, but also because they managed to convince those peoples that they conquered that they too, were Muslim Arabs.
What about Caroline Gennez’s charge that Israel is engaged in “ethnic cleansing”? Has Israel been moving whole groups of Arabs out of Israel? Not a single Israeli Arab has been moved out of Israel by the government. Israel took control of Gaza in 1967, when its Arab population was 390,000. Israel pulled out every Jewish civilian and soldier from the Strip in 2005. During those 38 years, no Arabs were expelled from Gaza. Between 1967 and 2005, the Arab population more than tripled to 1.3 million. It is much the same in Judea and Samaria (a/k/a the West Bank). In 1967, the Arab population of that area was 900,000. Today it has more than tripled, to 3 million. No Arabs have been expelled from the area. A few Arab villages, with several hundred people, have been moved from one part of the West Bank to another, mainly for security reasons, including the need to move civilians further away from, or out of, IDF training sites. But that is very different from being subject to “ethnic cleansing.” And those who claim that Israel is engaged in the “ethnic cleansing” of east Jerusalem are also wrong. In 1967 the Arab population of east Jerusalem was 66,000 when Israel took it over; by 2023, that same population had skyrocketed to 370,000, nearly a six-fold increase. Ethnic cleansing? What ethnic cleansing?
Will any of these facts – these numbers that tell a tale — matter to Belgium’s Minister of Development, who chastises Germany for supporting the Jewish state that, Caroline Gennez claims, engages in “colonization” and “ethnic cleansing”? You and I both know, alas, the answer to that.
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