This is an incredibly short but good, if raw, summary of the history of the settlement of Jews in Israel before and after the state was founded (because it's in response to other postings on the thread, some of it may not make sense, out of context. It's also spiked with a couple of asides that don't necessarily reflect my own feeling.) Such summaries are necessary reading from time to time, especially--oh, God, especially--since the media and naive political left in Europe and America so instinctively cling to the most simple-minded--and inherently antisemitic--story line possible.
I post these things on my blog from time to time in lieu of punching the next smug, armchair political scientist hanging out at Stumptown--or claiming Rachel Corrie as a martyr--in the choppers.
From the talkback sections responding to an essay by Yossi Klein Halevi in The New Republic Online:
"Most people on the left sympathize with the standard story. "Israel kicked indigenous people out of their homes". The truth is much more complex. I do not subscribe to the pro-Zionist camp claiming that Israel was established on empty land.
Reliable census figures from the 1880's onward show an substantial Arab majority early on. But, as the Zionist enterprise took hold, these census figures show an increase of both Jewish and Arab populations which could only have been supported by emigration. In other words, the claims that the Arabs are the indigenous people there, are overstated. Many are late comers.
A second point was that the Arabs refused to allow even a rump Jewish State on land they rightfully purchased. This state would have been a series af "bantustans". The Jews would have accepted such an "unworkable" state, in 1937, and would have been content to reside there in peace.
A third point is that the early Zionists settled entirely on land purchased from Arabs. Not a single hectare of Arab land was expropriated until after the War of Independence, a war of annihilation initiated by Israel's Arab neighbors.
A fourth point is that, with rare exception, only those Arabs who fled at that time of the war Israel did not want, were exiled and had thei property exprorated.
A fifth point is that Jews who lived Arab countries were also exiled from them and now reside, by and large, in Israel. This sounds like "ethnic cleansing" to me. Particularly if you consider that Israel,with a 20% Arab minority with full political rights, is considered a racist country by its many detractors.
A sixth point is that no effort was made to permanently resettle Palestinian refugees, as opposed to similar efforts on behalf of every other displaced people after a war.
A seventh point is that the present Palestinian imbroglio is the direct result Arabs refusing to negotiate after their total defeat after the 1967 war. This, infortunately, emboldened Israel hard liners and led to the occupation and settlement problems, which further aggravated tensions and hatreds on both sides.
For real peace, most Israelis would gladly provide an indigenous Palestinian State in the West Bank and Gaza (with territorial swaps to retain settlements around Jerusalem) and permit Jerusalem to be shared as well.
It doesn't appear that most Palestinians would accept this arangement at this point. That's a huge problem. And it is exacerbated by the press portraying Israel as an Apartheid, pariah state. Such portrayal may have been useful in moderating positions of the hard liner, but it is backfiring now that Sharon unilaterally disengage from Gaza, only to leave Israel vulnerable to rocket attacks and Hamas in power. Now even Israeli moderates do not believe they have a peace partner. And the left is essentially non-existent. The entire country is circling the wagons. Not conducive for peace."