They’re Calling Ethnic Cleansing “Voluntary Migration” Now

Violently coercing someone to do something and killing them if they don’t is the opposite of “voluntary”

Palestinians inspect the damage following an Israeli airstrike on the El-Remal aera in Gaza City on October 9, 2023. Israel continued to battle Hamas fighters on October 10 and massed tens of thousands of troops and heavy armour around the Gaza Strip after vowing a massive blow over the Palestinian militants’ surprise attack. Photo by Naaman Omar/apaimages

Caitlin Johnstone, January 2, 2024

Listen to a reading of this article (reading by Tim Foley):

Israeli officials are now openly admitting that they’re working on “encouraging” the migration of Palestinians from Gaza, ridiculously claiming that this migration would be “voluntary” despite their having deliberately made the enclave uninhabitable over the last three months.

The Times of Israel reports:

More

“Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s two senior far-right partners endorsed the rebuilding of settlements in the Gaza Strip and the encouraging of “voluntary emigration” of Palestinians on Monday, while hawkish opposition MK Avigdor Liberman called for Israel to reoccupy southern Lebanon.

“Speaking during their parties’ respective faction meetings in the Knesset, National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir and Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich presented the migration of Palestinian civilians as a solution to the long-running conflict and as a prerequisite for securing the stability necessary to allow residents of southern Israel to return to their homes.

“The war presents an ‘opportunity to concentrate on encouraging the migration of the residents of Gaza,’ Ben Gvir told reporters and members of his far-right Otzma Yehudit party, calling such a policy ‘a correct, just, moral and humane solution.’

“‘We cannot withdraw from any territory we are in in the Gaza Strip. Not only do I not rule out Jewish settlement there, I believe it is also an important thing,’ he said.

“The ‘correct solution’ to the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict is ‘to encourage the voluntary migration of Gaza’s residents to countries that will agree to take in the refugees,’ Smotrich told members of his Religious Zionism party, predicting that ‘Israel will permanently control the territory of the Gaza Strip,’ including through the establishment of settlements.”

The repeated use of the word “encourage” stands out in these remarks, given that encouraging Gaza’s inhabitants to flee their homeland is exactly what Israel’s actions since October have been doing. Once you’ve made 90 percent of Gaza’s inhabitants homeless with internal displacement, forced half the population into starvation via siege warfare, destroyed the enclave’s entire healthcare system to the point where disease is now running rampant, all while raining death and destruction from above in a wildly unpredictable manner with airstrikes routinely hitting designated safe zones, you’re offering the population some very strong “encouragement” indeed to vacate the region as soon as possible.

This obviously makes the argument for the “voluntary migration” of Gazans completely nonsensical, since violently coercing someone into doing something and ensuring that they’ll die if they don’t do it is the exact opposite of what the word “voluntary” means.

But that’s the slogan we’re seeing pop up again and again as Israel draws closer to its final solution to the Palestinian problem in Gaza. Netanyahu and his cohorts have been repeatedly uttering phrases like “voluntary resettlement” and “voluntary migration” to describe the plan for Gaza’s Palestinian inhabitants to either move to refugee camps set up in the adjacent Sinai Peninsula in Egypt or to be taken in by other nationsaround the world. 

Netanyahu has said that a team must be established to “ensure that those who want to leave Gaza to a third country can do so.” Iraq invader Tony Blair was reportedly being eyed as a potential leader of such a team by Israeli officials, though Blair has denied this.

Mitchell Plitnick wrote the following on the absurdity of the “voluntary migration” talking point in an article for Mondoweiss last month:

“The term ‘voluntary emigration’ is likely to be heard quite a lot in the coming weeks and months, and it is one of the most cynical, dishonest terms one can imagine. There is, of course, nothing voluntary about people leaving Gaza. Israel has made the place unlivable, and that was before the current bombardment.

“Now, they are essentially being forced to leave under the threat of imminent death. The people of Gaza did not suddenly lose their attachment to Palestine. They will die if they stay, as will their children. If you cut off water, electricity, food, and medical care, destroy all the shelter, and then ask a person, ‘Would you still like to stay?’ their decision to leave is obviously not voluntary.”

But that’s the narrative they’re going with apparently. 

And it’s nothing new; Israel has been falsely claiming for generations that its violent forced expulsion of Palestinians known as the Nakba was voluntary as well. In 2000 Palestinian academic Ghada Karmi wrote that “The Israeli version of history — that the Palestinians left voluntarily or under orders from their leaders and that Israelis had no responsibility, material or moral, for their plight — has been successfully marketed to the world community for decades.”

The plot to relocate Palestinians from territories desired by Israel is also far from new. In a 2002 article for The Guardian titled “A new exodus for the Middle East?”, Israeli historian Benny Morris writes that the agenda to “transfer” Palestinians to other countries has existed for as long as modern Zionism:

“The idea of transfer is as old as modern Zionism and has accompanied its evolution and praxis during the past century. And driving it was an iron logic: There could be no viable Jewish state in all or part of Palestine unless there was a mass displacement of Arab inhabitants, who opposed its emergence and would constitute an active or potential fifth column in its midst. This logic was understood, and enunciated, before and during 1948, by Zionist, Arab and British leaders and officials.

“As early as 1895, Theodor Herzl, the prophet and founder of Zionism, wrote in his diary in anticipation of the establishment of the Jewish state: ‘We shall try to spirit the penniless [Arab] population across the border by procuring employment for it in the transit countries, while denying it any employment in our country … The removal of the poor must be carried out discreetly and circumspectly.’”

This is a very, very old agenda, being presented as something brand new that is only just occurring to Israeli officials just now. They didn’t just come up with this. It’s been fantasized about for as long as Israel was a twinkle in its founding fathers’ eyes. 

This is the real objective in Gaza. Not the “elimination of Hamas” (whatever the hell you want to pretend that would look like in practice), but the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians from the Gaza Strip. 

Hamas is not the target in Gaza. Hamas is just the excuse.


CAITLIN JOHNSTONE

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