UCLA Professor Raul Moreno Campos once told me, “Words have meaning, so be careful when you use them.” Therefore, I do my due diligence when using words, especially when they have serious ramifications for context. So when I read the opinion submission, “Jews not to blame for Palestinian displacement,” I was taken aback by Goren and Moore’s misrepresentation of words in an attempt to level frivolous charges against pro-Palestinian students on campus.
On May 16th, a submission to the Daily Bruin described the 1947-1949 Palestinian exodus – and, Israel’s current state policies – as “ethnic cleansing.” In response, Goren and Moore suggested that the use of the term ethnic cleansing to describe the Palestinian exodus was “baseless.” They then claimed that ethnic cleansing is used to describe the Rwanda and Armenian genocides, as well as atrocities such as the Holocaust. So for them, usage of the term ethnic cleansing to describe the Palestinian exodus is “hateful,” “discriminatory,” and serves “to create a hostile environment for pro-Israel and Jewish students.”
While it is true that ethnic cleansing is used to describe genocides, it is also true that the term is used to describe systemic practices that serves the same purpose of a genocide: Ethnic or religious expulsion to achieve homogenous geographical spaces.
By doing a simple Google search, one can see that ethnic cleansing is defined as “the mass expulsion or killing of members of an unwanted ethnic or religious group in a society.” Ethnic cleansing is also described as “the attempt to get rid of (through deportation, displacement or even mass killing) members of an unwanted ethnic group in order to establish an ethnically homogenous geographic area.” Former UN Special Rapporteur of the Commission on Human Rights, Tadeusz Mazowiecki, emphasized that ethnic cleansing should be equated “with the systematic purge of the civilian population based on ethnic criteria, with the view to forcing it to abandon the territories where it lives.”
Now, some scholars suggest that any form of ethnic cleansing should be considered genocide, but I am discussing the most basic definition at the moment. By examining the basic definition, one can easily see that ethnic cleansing encompasses a genocidal component with the intent of death, and a systemic component that emphasize systemic displacement. So, I find Goren and Moore’s attempt to vilify Palestinian students for exposing Israel’s history of ethnic cleansing humorous given the fact that a simple Google search disproves the very bases of their argument that usage of the term ethnic cleansing is slanderous.
Moreover, while Goren and Moore seem to have a problem when Palestinians use the term ethnic cleansing, they have forgotten, unless they were not aware, that Israeli documents from 1948 used the term “to cleanse” when talking about Palestinian expulsion and village demolitions. So Israeli documents illuminate the purposeful ethnic cleansing inflicted upon the Palestinian people despite the Israeli government’s attempt to re-write history and deny Palestinians the right of return. In fact, the Israeli government reclassified and sealed historical material once available to researchers after documents showed evidence of deliberate expulsion ordered by senior commanders of the IDF and Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion himself. So, the idea that over 700,000 Palestinians voluntarily left their homes at the orders of Arab leaders are just false and part of Israel’s long standing propaganda machine to reshape the historical narrative.
In addition, a simple Google search will show a proliferation of discussion regarding Israel’s systematic denial of building permits and home demolitions that is, by definition, ethnic cleansing. For example, you will find that a United Nations report revealed that Israel issued over 14,000 demolition orders in Area C of occupied Palestine, where most illegal colonies are built. According to the UN, home demolition orders “heighten the vulnerability of thousands of poor Palestinian households” who are “at imminent risk of forcible displacement.” Forcible displacement of Palestinians from their home land? That is the definition of ethnic cleansing. Using Israel’s own data, a report by Peace Now revealed that over a 7 year period, 94%, or 1,533 out of 1,715 building permits requested by Palestinians were denied. In contrast, 18,472 illegal colonial projects were constructed for Jews in Area C of Palestine. This data was extracted from Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics, so Israel’s own numbers tells a story of ethnic cleansing.
If people are going to personally attack students on campus by accusing them of being hateful and discriminatory, I suggest that they adequately make their case and not use baseless accusations and over-the-top rhetoric designed to inflict harm to one’s character. There is plenty of room for scholarly debate without having to resort to such disgusting libel.
Goren and Moore told the Daily Bruin that it should have “known better than to print offensive and ultimately false accusations without doing their due diligence beforehand.” Now there’s something we all can agree on.