Friday, July 20, 2012

The maps of disappearing Palestine

Anyone who deals with the Israel-Palestine conflict will probably have come across the nasty four-map series purporting to show how Israel is eliminating Palestine step by step. Recently some fellow in the NY area hired space on local billboards to expose them to commuters. I contacted him and asked if he'd be willing to listen to a critique; when he said he would I sent him the following analysis. You can see his brief response - and mine - at the end.

According to what I've read on Mondoweiss, you seem to be of the opinion that the series of four maps showing the disappearing Palestinian presence in what was once Mandatory Palestine are factually accurate. I suggest we take a closer look.
There are various problems with the series, the most obvious being that it compares apples with oranges and also with screwdrivers, meaning that the different maps present different data-sets. Some of the data-sets themselves are inaccurate.
Judging by the picture above, your version of the maps is even more problematic than some of the other versions which are out there. I'll relate to your version as presented on Mondoweiss.
First, the map from 1946. Even standing alone without the series, it's misleading in that it contains two distinct types of information. The outline is of the territory controlled by the British, commonly known as Palestine. Being a map of a political entity, however, the whole thing should be the same color, green in this case, since the entire territory was ruled by the British, the white parts and the green. If one wished to show privately owned land under the sovereignty of the British according to ethnic identity, the green would have been replaced by a hodgepodge of colors. Some of the land was owned by Jews, some by Arabs (today we would call them Palestinians), some by Arab absentee landlords of other nationalities (Lebanese, Syrians, Egyptians and so on), some by European churches – Catholic Protestant, Greek Orthodox, Russian Orthodox and others, and finally, the largest section by far would have been land registered by no-one and thus belonging to the government, i.e the British.
As far as I can see, your version has omitted the Jewish ownership of property in Jerusalem (where there was a majority of Jews), and in various pockets such as the Etzion Block, Neve Yaacov, settlements on the Dead Sea, Hebron, Safed, Naharia and its hinterland, Kfar Darom in Gaza, and so on. But the main problem with this map isn't its omissions of Jewish property, but rather the implication that any land not owned by Jews was "Palestine". Not true. If it's land ownership you're trying to depict then most of the territory was owned by the British government; if it's political sovereignty then the entire area was British.
The second map drops the issue of land ownership, and the series never returns to it. This map is a reasonably accurate depiction of the partition plan adopted by the United Nations on November 29th 1947, with one glaring omission: the Jerusalem-Bethlehem area, which was very clearly not allocated to either side, but designated as a Corpus Separandum. I emphasize: Jerusalem and Bethlehem. So the cartographer has allocated to a notional Palestine a very important piece of territory which it never had.
Of course, this map never depicted a reality. At the time it was rejected by all the Arab states which had a vote, and also by the local Arabs themselves who did not generally call themselves Palestinians at the time, but we can agree to call them that now. I'm not going to get into the question of who foiled the UN partition plan, but I think we can agree that all sides played their roles; the Jewish Yishuv, Husseini's Palestinian forces, Kaukji's forces, and the Egyptian, Jordanian, Syrian, Iraqi and Lebanese forces which participated in fighting in territory which had previously been under British rule.
The third map (1949-1967) is misleading in its own way. It depicts Israel in white, and two other un-named territories in uniform green, the same green the first two maps implied had been Palestinian territory. Of course, this does not conform to the historical reality. The Gaza section was controlled by Egypt, not the Palestinians, and rightfully should be defined as Egyptian-occupied Gaza. The larger green section was controlled by Jordan. Jordan annexed it and gave its population Jordanian citizenship, so I don't know if it was legally occupied or not: if so, it's status was probably similar to its status under Israeli rule after 1967: occupied, with settlers from the occupying country. If it wasn't occupied, then it was part of Jordan. (That's the source of the name "West Bank: the western half of Jordan). Either way, it can't be depicted as Palestine.
You'll also note that this map shies away from dealing with private ownership, which was the theme of the first map. Had it shown private ownership it would have had to note that some of the territory inside Israel was owned by Palestinians, of course, but that no land inside Jordan was accepted as being owned by Jews, even though in some places their ownership had never been rescinded in anything that might resemble due process.
Finally, the fourth map. For the first time in the series, there is now a type of Palestinian rule – in all of Gaza, and on the West Bank. Let's set aside the distinction between Hamas rule in Gaza and PA rule on the West Bank. Less explicable is the cartographer's decision to pretend that the Palestinian writ runs only in Area A, with nary any mention of the larger Area B sections. As far as I understand the history, this map doesn't show a rump area of Palestinian rule, but on the contrary, it shows the emergence, for the first time ever, of a new entity, of and for Palestinians. Not a disappearing Palestine, but an emerging one!
I suppose you may say I'm quibbling, and that in a territory which had a minority of Jews 150 years ago, there has emerged a state of foreigners which has thwarted the emergence of a state of the original population. This, of course, is true. The tragedy of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is that both sides are right, and both have legitimate claims on the same tiny piece of land. Most of us think that the only way to resolve the conflict is for each side to reconcile itself to the loss of important parts of the territory so that the other side will have room for their national state. As to why this hasn't yet happened, you and I probably disagree. We may also not agree on the details of how the partition ought to be done. Yet those are legitimate issues which need to be resolved in negotiations.
The maps you've published, on the other hand, tell a different story: that Israel is purposefully pushing out the Palestinians so as to have the entire land for itself. This is not true, which explains why in order to make the claim the maps need to be so sloppy with the facts.
Finally, a note on projection. I never cease to be surprised by Americans, Canadians, Australians or New Zealanders who feel they have a moral right to condemn the Jews for migrating to another land and pushing aside the natives. Surely the Jewish case for moving to the land of their history is vastly better than the case of Europeans moving to continents they had no history in. Over time, however, I've begun to notice that such critics of the Jews assume, perhaps subconsciously, that the behavior of the Jews must by necessity follow the pattern of their own forebears: total dismissal of their common humanity with the natives they're pushing aside, followed by near-total dispossession. This, however, is a complex of the critics, and has very little to do with the Jews.

HC's response:
In any format the bottom line is irrefutable - the Palestinian people have lost most of their homeland.

My response (and the end of our conversation)

And equally irrefutable: the Jews finally have it back.

Now, either they find a way to partition it, or one side will be without. Partition seems to me vastly better, but the possibility that the Jews need to do without is unacceptable


adam harishon said...

Great comment about these maps. I would add that the partition map shows a bigger jewish state only because it includes the Negev desert.
I like your last comment, I will use it myself in my own discussion.
Thank You, Shabbat Shalom
Adam Harishon

Anonymous said...

"Finally, a note on projection. I never cease to be surprised by Americans, Canadians, Australians or New Zealanders who feel they have a moral right to condemn the Jews for migrating to another land and pushing aside the natives. Surely the Jewish case for moving to the land of their history is vastly better than the case of Europeans moving to continents they had no history in."

I disagree that the Jewish case for is vastly better, but let's leave that aside for one moment (to me, it's not really that important--whether or not there is or was a good reason for it, Israel exists. That's the only justification any states has). I would present to you a sort of converse of the puzzle you've presented: while many Americans, Canadians, Australians, and New Zealanders have realized that many parts of the founding of their countries involved a repugnant and unacceptable assault on the native population, they have reconciled themselves to the fact that history cannot be run in reverse. Nevertheless, and though they may not bear any personal responsibility for past crimes, they realize that there is some duty to acknowledge the fact that the founding of their country involved, in part, a brutal assault on another people.

Now, I think that what Israel has done to the Palestinians is actually much, much less bad than what other colonizers have done to other native populations. And the Palestinians deserve significantly more blame than, say, the Native Americans for what has occurred. Still, some Israeli recognition parallel to the recognition offered by the citizens of other colonial states is surely called for. That seems to me to be a necessary prelude to the partition negotiations that you and I agree are the best way to resolve this problem.

What.about.the.Arab.lobby? said...

Also the big headline about millions of Palestinians classified by the U.N. as refugees is inaccurate by any fair standard.

No one except the Palestinians are entitled to the same broad definition of refugee. The entire rest of the world has made do with only one U.N. organization dedicated to all of them. What's more the shared organization has done a far better job of helping millions of refugees to find refuge, decreasing their enrollment, than the Palestinian one which has actually added members who still live in the country of their birth (and are not refugees from anywhere).

Will the Palestinian Syrians legitimately fleeing for their lives now be added to the numbers used to defame Israel, in spite of their refugee status being caused by Syria?

Why do so many countries demand Israel admit refugees when they themselves refuse to do so? How are the Kurds (or the Bakassi of Cameroon or the Basques in France)undeserving of a state; but the Palestinians are? [My own ancestors came from England and were forced out in the same way the Palestinians say they were. Am I entitled to get some land in England?] And in what way are "Palestinians" a distinctive group as are the Kurds, Bakassi, Basques and others?

Why do so many people choose to support the story told by Palestinians and refuse to even examine proof that this isn't true, such as the person who bought the space for these maps.

NormanF said...

There will never be peace with the Arabs.

The Jews will in the end acquire full sovereignty over Judea and Samaria.

This simply completes a process that began with the British Mandate and was confirmed by Israel's establishment.

As the Arabs don't want to amicably partition the land, I presume they will disappear as peoples in other countries have done. This fate of theirs is not in any way Israel's fault.

That is why there is no mutually agreeable solution that will allow to both sides to live happily ever after. Perhaps in some other world - not in the one we live in now and not for the foreseeable future.

Dvar Dea said...

The faultiness of the maps is one thing, what it says about the Palestinians and their true intentions, is another.

As for comparing Palestinians to Native Americans etc.


Ian said...

Re Canada, United States, Australia and New Zealand.

You’ll find more support for Israel in those countries, than in socialist Europe.

As for “pushed aside the natives” that would also include Central and South America, who barely acknowledge their own “native” population. Your nation-wide psychological analysis would be better directed towards them.


Anonymous said...

Your case was extremely well stated.

Frankly, I'm a bit surprised at Clifford's total lack of response.

Really, your counter-argument here should be the de facto response wherever those maps are presented as fact.

Saul Lieberman said...

Daniel Gordis might say that you should agree with the NY maps so that you can achieve your political vision.
So I have to give you credit for discrediting the maps.

Sylvia said...

Superb analysis, Yaacov.

Regarding Jordanian rule, they occupied and administered the WB but never legally claimed ownership. The last rightful owners were - as the first map shows - the British.

4.7 million Palestinians are CLASSIFIED BY THE UN as Refugees.
Not the same as saying they ARE Refugees. Prudent of him.

Anonymous said...

Actually - ever seen a map of Palestine - officially put out by the Palestinian Authority and taught to all schoolchildren in Palestine? Hmmm - there is no Israel! It shows Palestine over the whole area!

Sylvia said...

And how did a small clan from Arabia got 23 countries to speak its language and 57 countries to submit to its religion?

Anonymous said...

You omit two important reasons for the existence of the Jewish State:

1. Thousands of years of persecution. If ever there was a humanitarian ground for creating a new state, Israel is "it". Millions of refugees have been saved since 1948. Had Israel been created earlier it would have saved many more millions.

Which other country has as good a reason to exist?

2. Israel exists. That's as good a reason as any other country has. No reason to justify ourselves.


Anonymous said...

Interesting piece, Yaacov, as always. Two quick questions:

(1) You say this:
" a territory which had a minority of Jews 150 years ago, there has emerged a state of foreigners which has thwarted the emergence of a state of the original population. This, of course, is true."

So does that not undermine your argument elsewhere that Zionism was not in essence a colonialist project? If not, could you articulate why not?

(2) Is there any chance you might start blogging a bit more regularly again? If there's no conflict of interest with your current job, it would be most welcome because you provide us with something quite unique on the web.

All the best,

JG Campbell

Anonymous said...

The other obvious omissions are that Jordan was part of Palestine in 1918 but illegally given to a S'audi Family to rule by the British.

The maps don't show Israel control and subsequent withdrawal from Lebanon, Sinai too.

I others could equally post similar maps of say Greek control of Turkey and make a similar case but of course leftists and Muslims are never neutral so for them Muslims never are imperialists. The irony of this is that European Imperialism and the crusades were both direct results of Muslim imperialism in which Arabs,and later Turks conquered Christian lands and blockaded European trading routes to India and China (and elsewhere). Muslims only have themselves to blame.

If they sincerely believe this is the truth then a case could equally be made for giving Pakistan and Bangladesh back to India but of course these useful idiots would never make it.

Palestine was mainly Aramaic speaking until the 20th century and not even Arabic but never let facts get in the way of Muslims' fiction.

Stop BDS Park Slope said...

Yaacov -

A great post. I hope there is a graphic artist who will make the correct map in response these maps. A graphic has so much more power.

@jonathan - In a colonial enterprise:
1) the colonists serve a front head for a mother country and the purpose of the colony is to serve the interests of the mother country.
2) the colonists have no relationship to the land in question, other than as newcomers. The historic connection of the Jews to the Land of Israel is historic fact. Efforts by the Palestinians to claim otherwise, is simply a lie.

Yaacov said...


During the last centuries before the advent of Zionism there weren't very many Jews in Erez Israel. Of course, there were always some, and at tmes they even played important roles in Jewish history, most spectacularly in 16th century Safed. Still, the success of Zionism is that it re-created a Jewish national home in the historical homeland, and that means, of course, that it brought the Jews back. You can't celebrate Zionism without telling that it changed the reality by inserting large numbers of Jews where they hadn't recently been. Their forefathers, yes, and they returned to a land they had never ceased to insist they would one day return to, but the act itself is irrefutable.

My final paragraph in the above post touches upon a subject I"ve been thinking about recently, in which Europeans with guilty conciences project the sins of their forefathers on today's Jews, so that a Jew today cannot condemn the worst aspects of European colonialism without himself being subject to derision for hypocrisy. But as I noted, that's a cognitive problem Israel's critics need to work through; we shouldn't try to play their game by downplaying the historical record. And the historical record is that we came back, as a nation, to what had once been our physical homeland and had always been our aspirational one. In doing so, we indeed came into conflict with a local populace who had in the meantime moved in, some many centuries ago and others quite recently.

That's the tragedy of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

No, I hope not to return to regular blogging. Partly because I'm not allowed - I can't very well be a political blogger and a civil servant simultaneously. More importantly, however, I'm not coming back because I'm too busy doing other things, which, I hope, are more significant in the long run. Blogging was a way of confronting Israel's critics or at least bolstering her defenders against them. In my current day job I don't give the critics much thought, prefering to do my 2-cents worth of making Israel better and stronger, in a field where my abilities can make a difference I hope.

On the other hand, once you've been bitten by the bug it's hard to be totally cured, which partially explains why my colleagues and I have recently launched our two Israel State Archives blog, one in Hebrew
and the other in English
We hope lots of people will follow us over there, and we welcome any suggestions or requests.

Talknic said...

The first map shows Jewish owned REAL ESTATE in Palestine. The second map shows partition as accepted by the Jewish Agency and as Israel was recognized before becoming a UN member State. The third map shows territory illegally acquired by war by Israel and never legally annexed. The third shows illegal 'facts on the ground' created since 1967. It's quite accurate. Only Armistice Demarcation Lines have changed in the 64 years since Israel was declared and recognized. Borders have not.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your thoughtful responses, Yaacov.

Best wishes,

Anonymous said...

Talknic@ only a Tom Parsons such as yourself would try to deal with Yaakov's founded historic claims in the way you did - ignore historic facts such as the British Mandate and Jordanian occupations and apply reverse logic on the facts you find more convenient.

peter said...

Great analysis of thes propaganda maps, mut I think it misses out a key point: There should at least be two more maps. Map 3 claims to illustrate the situation between 1949 and 1967, while map 4 deals whith 2010. The time between 1967 and 1995 (Oslo 2) is completely ommitted. That's 44% of the allegedly covered history.

Were we to accept the green / white colouring as Palestinian / Israeli land, then map 4 would become map 6, the new map 4, covering 1967-1993 (Oslo 1) would'nt have any green spots at all, map 5 (1993-1995) would have just the Jericho area and the Gaza strip in green.

But that would obviously contardict the claim of "Palestinian Loss of Land 1946 to 2010" but instead show Palestinian Loss and Regaining of Land 1946 to 2010", which would undermine the intended propaganda.

I've seen Nazi propaganda maps that similarly distorted the truth. And they have something else in common: They were too created by Antisemites.

TBS said...

Elder of Ziyon has a opost of maps debunking these ones:

BTW the Jews did not edge aside any natives. There were Jews already there and they bought their land.
The Jews were and are the indigenous of Israel, the Muslims the invaders.

Dan said...

Almost everyone seems to misunderstand the significance of these maps, which lies in their labeling of certain territories as "Palestinian land". Now, the word "Palestinian" here might be taken to imply some kind of Palestinian ownership, sovereignty or at least political control. In fact, the term "Palestinian land" in this context has only ever meant one thing: "land free/cleansed of all traces of Jews". Palestinian identity and goals have never had anything to do with ownership or sovereignty--they have always focused exclusively on purging Jews from as much land as possible. And the map is a largely accurate expression of the history of that paramount goal.

In 1946, for example, Palestinians were still ruled by Britain, but Jews had little presence, political or demographic, beyond their individual communities--and the first map in the sequence thus shows almost all of British-Mandate Palestine as "Palestinian land". The 1947 partition plan would have extended the Jews' presence--by virtue of their sovereignty--to the entirety of their assigned state, as represented by the second map. The 1948 war further extended that presence to the 1949 armistice lines, and the West Bank and Gaza areas were conquered and ruled by foreign despots in Amman and Cairo--but since the latter were forcibly purged of all Jews, they are duly presented on the third map, despite their subjugated status, as "Palestinian land".

The 1967 war (omitted from the map sequence for obvious reasons) later extended the taint of Jews out to the Sinai, West Bank and Golan Heights. Then the subsequent Oslo accords ceded small enclaves in the West Bank to virtually complete Palestinian control--and hence eliminated any traces of Jewish presence, qualifying them as "Palestinian land". But in other parts of the West Bank, either exclusive Israeli or shared Israeli-Palestinian security authority--not to mention Israeli authority to allow Jews to live there--meant that those regions could not be considered fully free of Jews. These latter portions are thus excluded from the label, "Palestinian land", on the maps, despite Palestinian majorities and even partial Palestinian security control.

So the story the map tells is actually a happy one, of the colossal failure of Palestinian ambitions to completely purge Jews from as much land as possible, and the gradual shrinkage of the regions from which Jews have been completely eliminated. That so many allegedly "pro-Palestinian" Westerners treat this happy failure of ethnic cleansing as a catastrophe says a lot about their real attitude towards Jews.