Is It Fair To Describe Land Acquisition By Jews In East Jerusalem As "Ethnic Cleansing"?

Several days ago a friend brought to my attention a December 2 article from something called “The National,” with the headline “How Palestinians in Jerusalem are being targeted in a campaign of ethnic cleansing.”  If you haven’t heard of it, The National bills itself as “the Middle East’s leading English-language news service,” and is produced in the UAE.

Now, “ethnic cleansing” is a rather charged term.  I first heard that term used in the 1990s in the context of efforts by the Serbian army to remove Muslims and Croats from certain areas of Bosnia.  Here is a description of what that “ethnic cleansing” consisted of from Wikipedia:

The ethnic cleansing campaign that took place throughout areas controlled by the Bosnian Serbs targeted Muslim Bosniaks and Bosnian Croats. The ethnic cleansing campaign included unlawful confinement, murder, rape, sexual assault, torture, beating, robbery, and inhumane treatment of civilians; the targeting of political leaders, intellectuals, and professionals; the unlawful deportation and transfer of civilians; the unlawful shelling of civilians; the unlawful appropriation and plunder of real and personal property; the destruction of homes and businesses; and the destruction of places of worship.

The worst single event in the Bosnian ethnic cleansing occurred in and around the town of Srebrenica in 1995.  From the same Wikipedia article:

The events in Srebrenica in 1995 included the killing of more than 8,000  Bosniak("Bosnian Muslim") men and boys, as well as the mass expulsion of another 25,000–30,000 Bosniak civilians, in and around the town of Srebrenica in Bosnia and Herzegovina,

I have also seen the term “ethnic cleansing” used in connection with the events in Rwanda, also in the mid-1990s, that included the 1994 killing of an estimated 500,000 to 1 million members of the Tutsi tribe by members of the Hutu tribe.  The term “genocide” is also frequently used to describe these events.Now, is it remotely accurate to describe current events in Israel using this highly charged term “ethnic cleansing”?  The article from the National particularly focuses on developments in a neighborhood of East Jerusalem known to Palestinians as Silwan, located in a steep valley immediately south of the walled Old City of Jerusalem.  In recent decades the area has been inhabited mainly by Palestinians. Jews often refer to the same area, or at least part of it, as the “City of David,” based on a belief that this was the location where King David first established the city and built his palace back around 1000 BC.  Apparently there is substantial archeological evidence to support this belief, but I have not personally evaluated that.  When I visited Israel in 2017, there was a large archeological dig going on in some of this area, which you could look into from the adjacent higher ground; and there are plans to turn the archeological site into a visitors’ center.  Clearly, if there had previously been homes on this spot, they had been removed.

So how have Jews or Jewish organizations obtained control of this area to conduct their archeological dig? . . .

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Do You Know The Difference Between "Settlers" And "Immigrants"?

In our very inter-connected world, in any given year many people move from one political jurisdiction to another.  Such a move may be motivated by a large number of reasons -- economic (seeking a more prosperous or less expensive life), physical security (seeking to avoid strife and conflict), religious (seeking to be nearer to religious sites or co-religionists), weather, health, etc.  Most people who move to another country go by the name of "immigrants" in their new homes, but some go by the name of "settlers."   Do you know how to tell the difference?

I know that you probably think this is a silly question.  After all, everybody knows that "immigrants" are good, whereas "settlers" are bad.  Back in the 1980s, "settlers" was the term applied to whites who lived in apartheid-era South Africa, inspiring the slogan "one settler, one bullet" from their adversaries.  Today, the word "settler" is the term used to describe those, mostly Jews, who have moved into the territories (mainly known as East Jerusalem and the West Bank) taken by Israel in the 6 day war of 1967.  

On the subject of "immigrants," the United States has approximately 33 million or so of the legal variety, and another estimated 11 million of the "undocumented" (illegal) variety.  The combined total of about 44 million is more than 13% of current U.S. population.  In the United States, immigrants of the legal variety are entitled to essentially all of the rights and privileges of the native-born (exception: an immigrant cannot vote until becoming a citizen).  For purposes of buying or renting property in the United States, even legal residency is not a requirement.  Literally anybody can do it.  From

Unlike many countries that only allow land sales to those with citizenship in the country, the United States treats sales of real estate to foreigners almost the same as sales to citizens. The only limitations are usually imposed by homeowners associations, condominium associations, cooperatives, or other forms of community associations.     

And for renters?  In my home town of New York, we have a Human Rights Law that protects aspiring tenants from "discrimination" based on "immigration status" -- definitely including the "status" of "illegal."  According to DNAInfo here on Thursday, the City is even now investigating a landlord in the Corona neighborhood of Queens who allegedly "illegally harass[ed prospective] tenants" by "post[ing] a sign in his apartment building saying he wouldn't re-sign leases unless tenants showed their immigration papers."  Obviously, we mustn't have that.  After all, these people are immigrants.  We need to treat them as equals in every respect, even the ones in the country illegally. 

On the other hand, if we were talking about "settlers" the situation would be very different.  Currently I am spending the week in the country of Israel.  As we all know, the international community has with near-unanimity condemned the Israeli "settlers."  Most famously, back in December the UN Security Council passed a resolution declaring that the Israeli settlements were "a flagrant violation under international law."  That resolution became unanimous when the U.S., in the waning days of Obama and Kerry, failed to veto it, as the U.S. had vetoed comparable resolutions in the past.  

In preparation for our trip to Israel, our friends suggested that we see a new documentary movie "The Settlers," then recently released and playing in a theater in Greenwich Village.  The film was, to say the least, not favorable to the position of the Israeli settlers in the occupied territories.  Many unhappy Palestinians appeared in the film, saying things like (paraphrase) "these have been our lands for many generations."  

But, I kept asking, can't anyone now just buy or rent some land or a house or an apartment and move in?  That's the way it works where I come from, and nobody really says a word about it (beyond the general issue for some that the overall level of immigration is too high).  In the Borough of Queens, where one of my daughters lives, they say that some 800 languages are spoken -- and everybody seems to be getting along just fine.  (Check out this map of Queens showing languages by neighborhood.)   

But the film studiously avoided addressing the question of why people can't just buy or rent property and move in as legitimate immigrants.  While here in Israel I have tried to investigate the answer to that question.  The Israeli view appears to be that almost all of the settlements are on land that either (1) was legitimately purchased from a prior Palestinian owner, or (2) was unoccupied land that had no prior registered owner, and therefore was owned by the state and is OK for anyone to occupy and then seek legitimate status.  There have been a few notable cases where land was acquired illegally (generally from someone who fraudulently claimed to be the owner, but did not have proper title), and in those cases the settlements have been forcibly removed.

So the question is, should the Israeli government forcibly prevent anyone who is not a Palestinian Arab from moving into the disputed territories (East Jerusalem and the West Bank)?  The argument most commonly advanced for the pro side of that question is that doing so would assist the "peace process," by leaving clean boundaries to enable negotiators to divide up territories for a prospective "two state solution."  Maybe.  But to favor that, you would have to believe that the "two state solution" is actually going to happen imminently, and also that, once implemented, a two state situation with clean ethnic and religious separation between the states would be stable and successful.  I don't believe either of those things.    

Why does the same principle that applies to the United States and Europe, and calls for us to accept large numbers of immigrants of all cultures and religions on an ongoing basis, and allow them to live among us wherever they choose, not also apply to the Palestinians and, for that matter, to everyone else?  No reason that I can see.

Meanwhile, the prosperity in modern-day Israel is quite remarkable.  In almost every respect -- appearance, architecture, prosperity, climate -- the cities of Tel Aviv and Haifa are remarkably comparable to the big coastal cities of California like Los Angeles and San Diego.  Here is a picture of Tel Aviv from a raised spot along the Mediterranean coast:

Yes, that first (domed) building in the foreground is a mosque.  And here is a picture of Haifa from a high spot (the Bahai garden on Mount Carmel) overlooking the town:

In my naivety I would think that the Palestinians would want to get with the program that seems to be working so well, but that is not their current agenda.


Will "Trumpism" Split Or Transform The Republican Party?

I'm writing this before any meaningful election results are in.  My view is that there is no likely good result from today's election.  We are probably in for four years of pain, not to mention any longer term damage that might be inflicted by one of these flawed candidates.  The best result we can hope for will be keeping the execrable Schumer from becoming Majority Leader of the Senate.    

But this is as good a time as any to look forward on a few issues.  

Number one is the future of the Republican Party.  Many have predicted that the rise of Trumpism will mean the demise of the Republican Party, particularly that it will splinter into two or more pieces.  I don't buy it.  The party will likely evolve some, but even there, my prediction is, not much.  Here's why.  Our system of popular election of the President essentially forces us into a two-major-party system.  In a parliamentary system like they have in most European countries, multiple minor parties can elect a few deputies each; and then, if no major party gets a full majority in the parliament, the major parties must go shopping to buy minor party support.  The result is that minor parties frequently can demand policy concessions or cabinet positions, and can end up with influence in running the government well beyond the numbers of their supporters.  This gives the minor parties an ongoing reason for existence; and then, sometimes, one of them will start growing until it overtakes one of the formerly major parties.  In the U.S., by contrast, the President, once elected, has the full executive authority, and doesn't need ongoing support from anybody outside his party.  Minor parties who can't hope to elect a President have zero influence on the running of the government.  To be a party that can elect a President, you need to be a broad-based coalition that aspires to 50+% support of the entire population.  By the very math of the situation, it's highly unlikely to have more than two of those at any one time.  Yes, in a year when a minor-party candidate gets some traction (think Ross Perot in 1992 or 1996), you can become President with support perhaps in the low 40s of percent.  Still, a party that actually aspires to elect Presidents regularly must be constantly working to build that 50% coalition.  If the Republicans break into two or three pieces, now no one of the pieces will have more than about 25 - 30% support.  If that happens, the Republicans will be in the wilderness essentially forever until they figure out how to re-coalesce.  The forces pushing them back together would be almost irresistible.  I literally can't imagine that it wouldn't happen. 

But how about Trump's big issues of trade and immigration?  If anything defines "Trumpism," it is his positions on these two issues.  Will the Republican Party be transformed by adopting those positions, or some variant of them?  Again, I don't buy it, except maybe a little around the edges.  Sorry, Donald, but your positions represent dead ends for the country and indeed for your most fervent supporters.  You have run further with these issues than their previous champions, like Ross Perot and Pat Buchanan; but these issues will fade away again, as they have in the past, because they are dead ends.

Trade.  If there is one major theme of this blog, it is that the fundamental driving principle of the progressive left -- which is the idea that all human problems can be solved with more government spending -- is a delusion that can't possibly work.  Here's something else in the same delusional category:  the idea that some form of trade protectionism, or "better trade deals," or punishment of American companies for having foreign affiliates, can prevent the internationalization of the world economy and thereby "bring the jobs back."  

Yes, a not small number of Americans have lost jobs in manufacturing when foreign producers figure out how to produce and deliver the same products for less.  The government cannot solve this problem with trade restrictions.  Indeed, there is no solution to the problem other than the creation of new private companies and new jobs for the displaced workers.  Trying to solve the problem with tariffs or import quotas is a total dead end for the American economy and even particularly for the blue collar workers who seem to be Trump's strongest supporters.  Tariffs act as a regressive tax that hits lower-middle-income workers the hardest.  Meanwhile, a tariff only postpones the inevitable:  sooner or later every factory will be put out of business by some form of competition, which could just as well be domestic as foreign.  And if tariffs are high enough to cut off American producers from the best international technologies and supply chains, then we get a second-rate American economy.  Today, our economy is the world's strongest, and our wages the world's highest, precisely because we are constantly exposed to the best that the world has to throw at us.

And then there is Trump's concept of "better trade deals."  I have no idea what he is even talking about there.  By a "better trade deal," does he mean a deal that makes foreign products more expensive for Americans to buy?  How exactly is that "better"?  Even to state it that way shows how crazy it is.  In fact, existing trade deals like NAFTA or the pending TPP have essentially nothing to do with setting the terms of trade.  (Those are set by private agreements between buyers and sellers.)  The trade deals do lower tariffs, which makes foreign products cheaper for Americans to buy.  Sorry, but that's a good thing for Americans.  Going forward, the Republican Party is going to have to decide whether it wants to be in favor of making the things that Americans buy cheaper or more expensive.  There's only one right way to go.  Besides, the Democrats -- because of their ties to unions and crony capitalists, let alone environmentalists -- are already the party in favor of making the things Americans buy more expensive.  

My prediction is that, even if Trump becomes President, his trade agenda will largely fade away.  OK, TPP may die (although it also might get approved in the lame duck session of the Senate).  But I can't imagine a major general tariff increase getting approved by Congress, let alone the repudiation of NAFTA, which is deeply baked into our economy at this point.  Most likely if Trump is elected:  Trump makes a few proposals, they sit in Congress without action, and then everybody moves on to other things.  If Hillary gets elected, TPP likely also gets stalled, but she is more likely to revive it a year or two down the road.  Probably, she gets some modifications and re-submits it.  Her best hope to get it approved will be in the next Congress.  Of course, that's because there will be more Republicans then.

Immigration.  The immigration issue is subject to far more complexities and ambiguities than the trade issue.  With trade, while there are clearly some losers among American workers, trade overall is a huge net plus for the American economy.  With immigration, it's much less clear.  And also, the political divide over immigration is so stark that the chances for a meaningful reform that actually improves things are not good.  As I have written before, as bad as our immigration system is, almost any reform that might get passed is likely to make things worse.

Meanwhile, how big a problem is immigration?  Many sources have reported that net illegal immigration has been negative for many years, basically since the big recession.  Here is a report on the subject from Pew.  There just aren't that many poor Mexicans looking to get into the U.S. any more.  Of course, the biggest factor contributing to the waning of the illegal immigration problem with Mexico has been -- you guessed it -- NAFTA!  And anyway, for all the talk of the problem of illegal immigration, somehow nobody seems to mention that the big numbers are in legal immigration.  The Pew report just cited has a figure for illegal immigrants in the U.S. in 2015 of 11.1 million.  According to here, the number of legal immigrants in the U.S. exceeds 40 million, almost half of whom are already citizens.  And new legal immigrants continue to arrive in the U.S. at a rate of about 1 million per year.  One could debate whether that number is too high -- or, maybe, too low.  I haven't really heard much if any debate over that subject.  Have you?  And nobody really says that the U.S. should dramatically lower that number, let alone cut it off entirely.  After all, we are a nation of immigrants.  In my view, given that it's just not possible to take in everybody in the troubled world, a smart reform would be seeking to get the highest quality and best educated immigrants we can find to fill our limited quotas.  As sensible as that would be, I don't think that the Democrats would agree to it.  To put it cynically, they want to import people who will become dependent on government.  So the law will likely not change.  

That means that the difference between the candidates going forward will be in the enforcement of existing law, rather than the likelihood of any new laws.  Hillary is on record (at fundraisers, or course, not campaign rallies) as being in favor of open borders, at least within the Americas.  That really means that she represents no change from the intentionally lax enforcement regime of Obama. Trump promises stricter enforcement and a wall.  OK, but net illegal immigration is already negative.  In a Trump administration, I would expect immigration to fade as an issue, as would trade.  There are far more important things to focus on.  The pain will be in other areas, and on other issues, of which there are plenty.

So will "Trumpism" transform the Republican Party?  Not likely.

UPDATE, November 9:  In Trump's short victory speech late last night, suddenly the issues he's talking about are infrastructure spending and "taking care of our vets."  What happened to trade and immigration?  That was fast!  Meanwhile, with solid Republican control of both houses of Congress, I really should be more optimistic than indicated at the beginning of this post.  Hey, will they actually roll back some of Obama's War Against the Economy?  It's entirely possible that that could give the economy a real boost.

A Few Thoughts On Obama's Immigration Executive Action

Several readers have urged me to share my thoughts on President Obama's Executive Action on immigration of a few days ago.  So here goes, in no particular order:

First, as loudly trumpeted as this is, I'm not sure that a whole lot is going to change.  The basic proposition here is a declaration by the executive that we are going to stop seeking to deport people in certain categories, e.g., those who have been here five years and have kids who were born here and thus are citizens.  (Here's a link to a government web site with descriptions of the Executive Orders.)  Well, were they actually deporting a lot of those people up to now, at least among those who avoided contact with the law and did not get caught committing crimes?  Not that I've noticed.

Supposedly these new Actions are being taken as a matter of "prosecutorial discretion."  Of many orders and memos released in this blizzard of paper, here's one talking about how they are going to be "exercising" that "discretion."  They seem to be saying that you have to ask for it, and they will only grant it on a case-by-case basis:

As an act of prosecutorial discretion, deferred action is legally available so long as it is granted on a case-by-case basis, and it may be terminated at any time at the agency's discretion.  Deferred action does not confer any form of legal status in this country, much less citizenship; it simply means that, for a specified period of time, an individual is permitted to be lawfully present in the United States.

And then you have to register and give them all kinds of information about yourself:

Applicants must file the requisite applications for deferred action pursuant to the new criteria described above.  Applicants must also submit biometrics for USCIS to conduct background checks similar to the background check that is required for DACA applicants.

Well, if you're working at some Silicon Valley shop, giving up that information may make some sense.  What if you're a casual day laborer?  And remember, the next President can completely change his mind and undo this thing, now that your name, address, and biometrics are all conveniently sitting in his data base. 

Of course they do have a method of luring you onto their radar screen, which is a few hundreds of billions of dollars of prospective welfare, food stamp and Medicaid benefits for the "regularized."  One of the great unrecognized advantages of our current very messy immigration system is its strong discouragement of the millions of illegals from signing on for the vast regime of handouts.  You might get discovered and deported!  Now that disincentive is at least partially gone. 

Indeed, without the prospect of handouts no one in their right mind would volunteer to register with the government like a subject of the Soviet Union.  So it would appear that the whole idea of the project is to get a few million new dependents signed up for the handouts.  If you haven't previously read it, I recommend my article from May 2013 titled "Any Immigration Reform Passed By Congress Will Make Things Worse."  (OK, I didn't think at the time that there might be a big immigration reform without it being passed by Congress.  I should have just said that any immigration reform will make things worse.)  Among other things, the article contrasted the U.S. versus European immigration regimes, with the Europeans having large number of immigrants qualifying for lots of handouts while most of our largely illegal immigrants did not.  How does that European system work out?

The result of that in places that have tried it, namely much of Europe, is a huge alienated underclass seething with resentment and ready to explode in riots and/or terror attacks.  For example, consider Sweden, currently engulfed in about a week of riots with no end in sight.  The rioters are predominantly muslim immigrants, who make up about 6% of the population, while receiving some 70 - 80% of welfare payments.  Or consider the extensive rioting in the poor suburbs around Paris in 2005, again largely by unemployed immigrants subsisting on various forms of state handouts.  France just had another round of such riots in Amiens in 2012.  Relevant to this issue is the now eighteen-part series by Mickey Kaus of the Daily Caller titled "Does Welfare Cause Terrorism?"  Recent subjects of the series have included the Tsarnaev brothers of Boston marathon fame - yes, they had been on welfare.

A theme of many commenters has been the damage done to the rule of law by these executive orders covering things that most had thought required Congressional action to achieve -- the "most" including President Obama himself, caught on tape numerous times denying that he had the authority to do what he has just now done.  Yes, there has been damage to the rule of law.  But the real damage was done long ago, when Congress got the idea that it's OK to pass hundreds and hundreds of laws, some of them thousands of pages long, that nobody can possibly read and understand, and that the executive can't enforce more than a small part of.  Examples: Obamacare -- well over 1000 pages; Dodd-Frank -- closer to 2000 pages. 

How many federal crimes are there?  Here is a Wall Street Journal article from 2011 describing an effort to get a count, where the counters ultimately gave up after coming up with around 3000 or so.  Manufacturing a 100 watt incandescent light bulb?  Installing a toilet of over 2 gallons flush?  At some point nobody pays attention to this stuff any more.

Over at Powerline, John Hinderaker suggests that the next time there is a Republican President, he can have a lot of fun with the new Obama non-enforcement doctrine.  How about announcing that the corporate income tax will no longer be enforced?

Under the Obama Non-Enforcement Doctrine, a president can’t enact new laws by decree, but he can exercise his discretion by not enforcing existing laws. This means that the doctrine is a one-way ratchet with an inherently libertarian bent. Given a little thought, conservatives could come up with a long list of laws that we would be better off without. Each one would be a candidate for the Obama Non-Enforcement Doctrine. 

Hinderaker predicts that the Democrats will soon cry "uncle" if a Republican President should try such a tactic.  Perhaps they would propose a Constitutional amendment, such as a requirement that the President "take care that the laws be faithfully executed."  Oh, wait a minute, he's pulling your leg -- that's what the Constitution already says (Article 2, Section 3).  Problem is, there aren't enough people in the universe to accomplish the job.