Roberts1 suggests in a recent article that one should consider the post war large -scale population transfers. I presume that he does not consider the population transfers of Jews to Israel or to concentration camps as an acceptable model. He asks the Palestinians to accept their displacement as ‘an irreversible historical fact’ . This is an astonishing statement for a historian. The juxtaposition of ‘irreversible’ and ‘fact’ reveals the deep deceit. Whether the change is ‘irreversible’ is an opinion not a fact. There is nothing about a population displacement that is physically ‘irreversible’.
By quoting many examples of injustice he does not prove any point, nor does he establish that those populations invariably ‘accepted’ their displacement as legitimate. In 19th century Europe popular nationalism recreated ancient kingdoms such as Italy and Greece. The Austrian Empire broke up into its constituent nationalities. Basque and Corsican liberation movements evidence that ‘irreversible’ is in the eye of the beholder. Scottish nationalism, Welsh nationalism, Irish nationalism all remind us that what has been done may be undone.
One wonders sometimes whether Roberts has left this earth. He mentions that some Viet Namese boat people who fled famine to the US now have successful lives. It does not follow that any of them wished their country had lost the war. Many Irish fled Ireland due to famine. 2 Would that have been justification for continued British rule? To suggest that voluntary migration is the equivalent of voting against one’s own country is rather astonishing. Half a million British people emigrate from the UK each year. Is this proof that they would be happy if Germany had won the war? 1.2 million Germans emigrated from Germany in 2022.3
If people had heeded Roberts point of view apartheid South Africa would remain as would racist Rhodesia and an independent Ireland would not exist.
Roberts is not above simple gross propaganda. He characterises the Palestinians’ main object is wiping out Israel and killing Jews rather than seeking their own homeland. This from a distinguished historian is reaching the rock bottom of absence of integrity. In fact, the word that comes to mind is: bigotry.
1. (Roberts, 2023)
2. (Irish-Catholic Immigration to America | Irish | Immigration and Relocation in U.S. History | Classroom Materials at the Library of Congress | Library of Congress, n.d.)
3. (Migration Flows, n.d.)
Irish-Catholic Immigration to America | Irish | Immigration and Relocation in U.S. History | Classroom Materials at the Library of Congress | Library of Congress. (n.d.). [Web page]. Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. 20540 USA. Retrieved 25 July 2023, from https://www.loc.gov/classroom-materials/immigration/irish/irish-catholic-immigration-to-america/
Migration flows. (n.d.). Federal Statistical Office. Retrieved 7 November 2023, from https://www.destatis.de/EN/Themes/Society-Environment/Population/Migration/_node.html
Roberts, A. (2023, October 30). For a better tomorrow, Palestinians need to forget historical grievances. The Telegraph. https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2023/10/30/palestinians-israel-history-grievance-future-forget/