Trapped Like a Rat

Partly because of my narrow escape from being trapped like the rest of the Jews in Soviet countries, I empathized with other people, even our enemies, who were likewise trapped and yearned to escape to a free land where they could raise their children.

Prof. Shmuel Neumann

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My father survived the Holocaust by posing as a gentile, stealing identity papers from town halls and frequently changing his identity. After the War, the Communists took over and initiated a campaign of anti-Semitism that was not very different from the tactics of the early Nazis. My father decided to abandon his considerable wealth to raise his children in a free country. Although Jews lived in his country for hundreds of years, they never were permitted to become citizens. As Jews could not be citizens, we could not legally get passports. While my father had no moral issue with stealing passports, he found a better way. He dressed me and my mother as Polish peasants and put us on a train that was removing the illegal Polish migrants that found their way to our country during the war. After six months, my father found a way out and joined us in Vienna. From there, after several months, we found our way to the United States via Paris and Montreal. My family never returned to visit our country of origin, as we left illegally.

When, as a teenager, I discovered that three million Jews were kept against their will behind the Iron Curtain, I joined the first demonstration that became front page news internationally. I kept going to demonstrations and watched them avalanche from a few flakes to a maelstrom of two million people angrily demanding basic human rights for Soviet Jews in front of the UN. Finally, the oddballs that started the Soviet Jewry movement succeeded in coercing the Soviet Union to permit Soviet Jews the freedom to emigrate. The right of emigration became a basic human right memorialized in the UN Charter.

Partly because of my narrow escape from being trapped like the rest of the Jews in Soviet countries, I empathized with other people, even our enemies, who were likewise trapped and yearned to escape to a free land where they could raise their children.

It may have been providence or coincidence. Way before the intifada started, I shopped in Arab villages and although the Arabs spoke Hebrew, my American accent was so pronounced that the conversation invariably led to how they can get to America. I had several lawyer friends and referred them to these immigration specialists. Word got out that we were successfully getting immigration visas and I received more calls. What started out as a casual referral to certain lawyers mushroomed to providing solutions to people that were trapped in the crossfire and desperately wanted out. What made their plight even more salient to me was that I had recently moved to Israel and I was undergoing the pains of yet another immigration experience. (Don?t let any dreamy eyed Zionists tell you different. It is hard. Extremely hard. But worth it.)

As hard as it is for us to immigrate to Israel, it is harder for them to emigrate. Israeli Arabs with an Israeli passport can freely emigrate, but the so-called Palestinians are trapped. Before 1967, those living in the so-called West Bank were full-fledged Jordanian citizens and those living in Gaza were full-fledged Egyptian citizens. After the Six Day War, this population ? that at the time numbered about 600,000 ? were not wanted by Israel, Egypt or Jordan. After the expiration date, the Jordanian and Egyptian passports were not renewed and the borders to Jordan and Egypt were closed to them. Becoming an Israeli was not an option unless they married an Israeli Arab and moved into Israel. By default, this population redefined themselves to their pre-1948 identity, even pre-1922 identity, before Jordan was created, as Palestinians. Eventually, they came to believe this fiction and persuaded most governments that they need their own country. Nothing can be farther from the truth.

With the exception of a very small minority of Machiavellian corrupt autocrats, who are still making fistfuls of dollars defrauding the West, the overwhelming majority (in fact, every single Arab I ever met) wants out. In the early 20th Century, their families moved to what is now Israel in the hopes of a better future for themselves. In the new budding Jewish state, there were jobs aplenty, education for their children and the promise of a modern democracy. Instead, they were turned into a scapegoat for the entire Arab world, forced into the role of oppressed refugees by their own crooked leadership, contained in poverty and exploited by the Western anti-Semitic media.

They are so desperate to leave that they even voiced their frantic aspirations in front of a television crew. A Russian news agency, on its way to interview the director of a new group called Assisted Emigration Services, stopped in an Arab village. When asked what they thought about a group of Jews helping Palestinians emigrate, hundreds begged for more information on how to get out. They did this right in front of the television cameras. This was broadcast on 168 Russian speaking news stations. It became such a threat to the Palestinian extremists, including the Palestinian Authority, that death threats are made to anyone seeking to emigrate. Complicating their dilemma, they also are subject to the death penalty if they sell their houses and lands to Jews. If they are unable to liquidate their assets, they usually do not have the financial resources to emigrate.

Even if they succeed in getting an immigration visa and they have the funds to emigrate, they still need security clearance from the Israeli security forces to leave. Israel, citing security concerns, frequently denies approval for their emigration. Israel will not approve the exit of those Arabs that are terrorists or are affiliated with terrorist organizations. Further, they will not approve the emigration of Arabs that are in place to provide important information. Those who fall in between cannot get an emigration visa because they cannot get the one-day pass to be interviewed by the consulate official, even after the papers submitted are deemed to be in order.

Ironically, Israel has become like the Soviet Union that for decades withheld exit visas of three million Soviet Jews who sought to exercise their basic human right of emigration. Those Egyptian and Jordanian Arabs that wish to emigrate from the West Bank and Gaza should be categorically permitted the equivalent of an exit visa.

Despite these apparently insurmountable obstacles, in the last year alone, hundreds of thousands of so-called Palestinian Arabs have elected to relocate abroad. They want nothing more than a chance for a normal life. They want to live in an area free of tyranny, injustice and free from those who have exploited them for generations. They understand that were they to stay, they are condemning their children to a lifetime of poverty, abuse by the so-called Palestinian leadership and anarchy. They do not want to become full-fledged Israelis, which in the future would require three years of army service from their boys and girls just like any other Israeli citizen. They certainly do not want to pay the high taxes that other Israelis pay. They want out. The United Nations charter guarantees the right of emigration as a basic human right.

Not only should they be permitted to emigrate, but some of them should be forced to emigrate. We need not maintain higher standards than every other democratic government. In every single democratic country, any non-citizen who is either a security risk or participates in the violent overthrow of a government is routinely deported. Just as a Jewish, non-Israeli malcontent who foments racism or is guilty of incitement is deported to his country of origin, Arab malcontents must similarly be deported. The entire terrorist infrastructure should be deported from top to bottom.

Facilitating their emigration is not only consistent with the Zionist dream, but an indelible part of it. Launched by a jaded journalist covering the Dreyfus trial, Theodore Herzl, initiated a movement that collected funds to buy out Palestinians. This started in the early 1900s and by 1948, a large part of Palestine, on both sides of the Jordan River was owned by Jews. A Jewish homeland requires more than just legal ownership. It requires physical possession that can only be possible by Jewish immigration and Arab emigration. Even today, Keren Kayemet buys land from Arabs. By simply buying out a small segment of the so-called Palestinians, this conflict can be brought to an end. There is no need for perpetual counter-productive negotiations.

Currently, the Palestinian Authority governs 99% of the Palestinian population. This 99% of the population lives on 42% of the approximately one and a half million acres that comprise the West Bank and Gaza. It is that one percent of the Arab population that is peppered in Area C that is critical to the successful resolution to the disputed 58% land mass. A large part was Jordanian government land and is now either officially a nature reserve or Jewish National Fund land. The small portion that is privately held by Palestinians is what prevents Israeli annexation of this 58% of the West Bank and Gaza.

We can end the conflict simply by investing. By buying out just 1% of the Arab population in Judea and Samaria, Jews can reclaim 58% of the land. In fact, it is much less than the one percent, as the overwhelming majority of Arabs that occupy Area C (58% of the West Bank) are illegal Arab squatters. Just as every Jew that lives in Yehuda and Shomron (Judea and Samaria) must prove ownership of their property, every single Arab living in Yehuda and Shomron should be made to show that they have similarly registered their land, proving their ownership through the Ottoman, British and pre-1967 Jordanian records. If they cannot prove ownership, they must be removed from those properties just as Jews are forcibly removed from properties they fail to register. By fining these squatters and forcing them to move, and buying out the rest, the entire area is de facto annexed to Israel.

The Arabs in the remaining 42% of the West Bank must also be required to prove ownership. Those Arabs in illegal possession of land around the villages in Area B must be compelled to evacuate. This land, together with land purchased by Jews, is then de facto also annexed to Israel.

Only when Palestinians are confined to Area A can security forces effectively protect the Israeli citizen from harm. Purchasing Palestinians' land and homes in Area C and B creates buffer zones that are easy to patrol by passive electronic equipment and substantially reduces Israel's defense budget. Once this area is reclaimed, there is absolutely no justification for maintaining the fiction that this is not Israel.

In fact, there is absolutely no justification in perpetuating the delusion that the entire West Bank is not Israel. Palestine was a name the Romans gave Israel when they conquered it in 77 CE. It was always a colony, first of the Roman Empire, then of the Ottoman Empire and, after WW I, a colony of the British Empire. The British divided Palestine along the Jordan River: the East Bank, 80% of Palestine, was given to Arabs and renamed Jordan, and the territory of the West Bank of the Jordan River to the Mediterranean was returned to the Jews for a Jewish homeland. This became Israel - a mere fraction of its original size. In 1948, the Egyptians and Syrians attacked the new Jewish state and, until 1967, Jordan illegally occupied the West Bank.

In the Six-Day War, Egypt committed an act of war by blockading the Straits of Tiran and Israel used military force to remove the blockade. After the second day of the Six-Day War, Jordan attacked and the West Bank was restored to Israel. The United States takes the position that as Israel fired the first bullet, it technically attacked Egypt and therefore is unjustified in retaining Gaza. However, even the United States must agree that as Jordan attacked Israel, they have no legal claims to the West Bank. Israeli annexation does not need to be an overt action. Applying Israeli law to this region as it applies every place else will have the same effect.

The lawlessness of the Palestinian Authority must be brought to an end. Israeli law must apply to everyone, including the permanent residents who live in Areas A and B. Furthermore, Israeli law must be equally applied to all residents, citizens and permanent residents alike; Jews and Arabs alike. It is unconscionable that Jewish Israeli citizens forfeit due process rights if they live in Judea, Samaria and Gaza, where martial law rather than civil law prevails. Israeli citizens are imprisoned without charges, are prevented legal representation and contact with lawyers, etc. They are citizens and the same due process should apply to them on both sides of the Green Line.

We must insist upon equality under the law. Jews must be guaranteed the right to directly purchase homes and land from Arabs. In the event that Moslem clerics threaten the Arab seller, they must be prosecuted for terrorist threats in addition to civil rights violations. Any Palestinian group that impedes fair trade practices must be held accountable and punished. If any Palestinian group kills an Arab that sells to Jews, then Israel must be legally compelled to react to this act of terrorism in the same way that they respond to terrorism against Jewish Israelis.

The so-called Palestinians are prevented from exercising their right of free trade by racist fatwas, or religious decrees, of Moslem clerics who issue a death warrant for any Moslem who sells land in Israel to Jews. In a country of law, this must not be tolerated. Ordering the death of the seller is conspiracy to commit murder, plain and simple, whether the terrorist threats are acted upon or not. The cleric must be punished to the fullest extent of the law. Palestinian web sites proudly display executions of land dealers, replete with video and pictures of the execution.

We need not remain deadlocked in futile negotiations with a terrorist entity. We can end it now. We need to facilitate their emigration, foster land and house acquisition, enforce Israeli law equally, and grant the law-abiding permanent residents of Judea, Samaria and Gaza with A-1 visas, a form of virtual Israeli citizenship that grants the right to vote in local elections, obtain professional licenses, and legal work permits without requiring army service and other obligations of full citizenship.

They want out and we should help them out.