Sunday, December 07, 2014

Crimean Tatars and Palestinians

In 2014 two events happened that demonstrated the continuing historical parallels between the Palestinians and the Crimean Tatars. These were the renewed Israeli assault on the Gaza Strip and the Russian invasion and annexation of Crimea followed by a new wave of persecution by the Russian occupation authorities against the indigenous Crimean Tatars. In the 20th Century the history of the Crimean Tatars and Palestinians had followed similar paths of dispossession and political mobilization organized around the principle of returning to their ancestral homelands.  The ethnic cleansing of the Crimean Tatars in 1944 and the expulsion of the Palestinians in 1948 both followed familiar strategies of forcibly removing indigenous populations from designated territories. In both cases the victimized group was forcibly rounded up and transported against their will to alien lands ill prepared to receive them and permanently lost most of their property including their homes, farms, cemeteries, and mosques. In the process the perpetrators used a great deal of violence including massacres such as what happened at Deir Yassin in Palestine and the Arabat Strip in Crimea. Finally, strict measures were undertaken by both the Israelis and Soviets to prevent the return of the deported populations to their places of origin. The similarities are not entirely coincidental since the Soviet deportation of whole nationalities including the Crimean Tatars was an admitted source of inspiration for the Israeli treatment of the Palestinians.  Conversely the situation of the Palestinians and Soviet support for their position became known and was used as a rhetorical tool against the Soviet government in the 1970s by the Crimean Tatars. The very active, but completely peaceful, Crimean Tatar national movement in the USSR compared the plight of the Crimean Tatars living in exile in Uzbekistan to that of the Palestinians and pointed out the hypocrisy of the Soviet government in this matter. While the comparison between the Palestinians and the Crimean Tatars has been made in passing in a large amount of scholarly literature, more in depth examinations of the parallels between the two nationalities has remained extremely limited. My short  article "Socialist Racism: Ethnic Cleansing and Racial Exclusion in the USSR and Israel," Human Rights Review, April-June 2006 remains the only published academic journal article focusing on the similarities and differences between the two cases. I have toyed with the idea of writing another article on the subject in light of more recent events. But, I really don't have anything new to say despite the passage of over eight years. It would be nice though if somebody with more access to the relevant sources than myself, however, did write an extended and updated comparison of the two situations.

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