Two People, One Land?

Picturing Palestine Photo: Courtesy Eretz Israel Museum
Picturing Palestine Photo: Courtesy Eretz Israel Museum
March 23, 2014

Originally published in The Jerusalem Post

An old anti-Zionist argument has recently been reasserted by one of the mildest critics, Ari Shavit. In his book My Promised Land, Shavit promotes the thesis that the ultimate source of the trouble between Israelis and Palestinians is a grand illusion which was and is at the core of Zionism. Zionists are said to have believed that Jews were a people without a land, and that Palestine was a land without a people, and hence it provided the perfect place for the erection of a Jewish homeland. Shavit, like others before him, debunk this assumption by pointing out that Arabs already occupied the land. Hence, Zionism required that they be driven out, oppressed, or killed to make room for the new settlers.

I knew that the thesis was deeply flawed but was reluctant to give voice to my criticisms because they were based on personal observations. I then realized that there is strong statistical data to support my observations.

Read the full article.

In response to our article, Dr. Amatzia Baram wrote:

“There is one statistical mistake in the article. It says: 

“At the end of 1946, just before the United Nations’ declaration that led to the foundation of Israel, there were 1,267,037 Arabs and 543,000 Jews in Palestine. By the end of 2012 there were 1,647,200 Arabs in Israel (and nearly 6 million Jews). That is, the numbers of Arabs increased by nearly 400,000. Since 1946 many more Jews and Arabs found a home in this blessed land”.

The yellow part is a mistake. The 1.2 million Arabs mentioned in 1946 were living in the whole of Palestine, between the sea and the Jordan River. (The vast majority of the Arabs lived in what later became the West Bank). In 1949 only around 100,000 Arabs remained in pre-1967 “little” Israel. The 1.6 m Arabs mentioned in the articles for today are only those living in pre-1967 “Little” Israel. Hence: their number went up between 1949 and 2010 from 100,000 to 1.6 m.

As for the whole of British Mandatory Palestine (today Israel, the W. Bank and Gaza Strip) the number of people living there today is 5.8 million Arabs and 6.1 million Jews and others. So: where in 1946 1.8 m people were living, today around 12m people are living. The figures are an approximation.”