Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Population exchanges

In the modern world, major population exchanges have occurred several times, and although they are drastic and involve great loss of life, they may be judged ultimately to have been successful.   It would be preferable if communities with different cultures and religions could live together (in an ideal world), but more often than not, the evidence is that they can't.  Here are some examples,
1.  India and Pakistan:  The separation of the inhabitants of the subcontinent into Hindu India and Muslim Pakistan in 1948, although it involved the transfer of ca. 12 million people and the loss of ca. 1 million lives, may ultimately be regarded as successful. The war that succeeded the departure of the British imperialists resulted in the formation of an independent Muslim State separate from the rest of India.  Actually it is incorrect to state that India is exclusively Hindu, since there remains a very large Muslim minority in India, ca. 15% or 177 million people, that makes India the third largest Muslim nation in the world.  There are of course other minorities in India, such as Sikhs, Catholics, Parsees, Jains, Buddhists and Animists, so that India is a secular democratic republic.  By contrast Pakistan is quite homogeneous, although it has quite a troubled political history.   Nevertheless, despite two wars between them, India and Pakistan are currently co-existing.
2. Greece and Turkey:  After WWI the future of Turkey was in doubt, the Ottoman Empire had been defeated and there were plans by the Allies (Britain, France and the USA) to divide Turkey, much as they did Germany after WWII.  British PM Lloyd George, who was a liberal and philo-Hellenist, supported Greece in attacking the Turkish mainland in 1919 to take territory that had been inhabited by Greeks for millenia.  Unfortunately, the Greeks finding little opposition went too far inland and were then counter-attacked and defeated by a Turkish Army led by the hero of Gallipoli, Gen Mustafa Kemal known as Ataturk.  As the (Muslim) Turks advanced the (Christian) Greeks fled before them and concentrated in the city of Smyrna, now known as Izmir, where a series of massacres occured, including drowning tens of thousands of Greeks in the harbor.  The Republic of Turkey was established in 1923 with Ataturk as President.  The Turks then systematically expelled 1.5 million Greeks from villages and towns along the western coast mostly to Greek islands.  In exchange ca. half a million Turks were expelled from the Greek Isles, such as Crete, to Turkey.  This exchange of populations, although it caused great suffering at the time, has undoubtedly resulted in a more stable, peaceful climate between Greece and Turkey.  Much later the island of Cyprus was divided between northern Turkish and southern Greek regions by the invasion of Turkish forces in 1974, also resulting in an exchange of Greek and Turkish populations.
3. Germany and Eastern Europe: During WWII the German Reich expanded its borders by conquest and annexed territory to the east, including Poland and parts of Russia.  As the Soviet forces advanced westwards on the eastern front, Germans were forced to flee before them.  Between 1944-1950 it is estimated that 12 million Germans, both those that had been re-settled and the original ethnic German inhabitants were expelled from Poland and eastern Europe.  In exchange, millions of Poles and other nationals who had been expelled to make way for the German settlers, were repatriated to their native countries.  However much one might consider this exchange of populations brutal and forced, nevertheless the position of Germans in Eastern Europe was no longer viable after WWII and the exchange of populations led to a more stable situation that has lasted for 65 years.
4. Arabs and Jews: In 1947 the UN voted to Partition the British Mandate of Palestine into Jewish and Arab enclaves. Israel accepted the Plan, but the Arab countries rejected it and their armies invaded Israel. The Palestinian Arabs were told to move out of the way, while the armies of the Arab countries (Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Lebanon and Iraq) killed the Jews. But, the Arabs were defeated and as a result of the 1948 War of Independence, Israel became a recognized country in the UN. The Arab refugees (ca.750,000) were left where they were, mostly incarcerated in camps from which they were not allowed to leave or to work.  Only Jordan gave the Palestinian refugees citizenship, thus actually removing from them the designation of "refugee."  Also, those that remained on the West Bank or in Gaza were still within the Palestine Mandate and also technically were not refugees.  This left ca. 400,000 actual refugees in Syria, and Lebanon.  But, since the international definition of a refugee is only those who leave a country and does not include their descendents, this leaves only a handful of actual refugees today (ca. 20,000).  At the same time the Arab countries attacked, massacred and expelled their indigenous Jewish populations.  Many fled, from Morocco to Iraq a total of ca. 800,000 Jewish refugees, and about 500,000 of these came to Israel, where they were integrated within the population and ceased to be refugees. Most of the rest went to France, but many are leaving there now to settle in Israel due to the tremendous wave of anti-Semitism and violence there.  This was then a population exchange between Israel and the Arab countries, for which the Jewish refugees have received no compensation, unlike the Palestinian Arabs who have been supported to the tune of billions of dollars by UNWRA.
The lesson to be drawn from this is that population exchanges when the two groups are incompatible, although terribly costly in lives and disruption, are effective in the long term, as long as both sides are satisfied by the complete separation.  Unfortunately in the case of the Arabs and Israel, this is not the case, the separation was incomplete and perhaps needs to be completed for there to be peace between the two sides.


Blogger Shalom Bertie100 said...

Why can't I access any blogs after Wednesday 24th September?

2:27 PM  

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