They came, they saw, they settled: interlopers of old cause conflicts of today

IT is a time-honored strategy and the cause of much misery in today's world.

Country A conquers the territory of Country B. To consolidate control and establish legal claim, Country A brings in settlers to take over lands vacated by a fleeing enemy. Or, the enemy is cleared off the land - this is now called ``ethnic cleansing'' - and friendly subjects are settled there.

Often the conquerors remain a minority in the occupied land, leading to decades, and sometimes centuries, of ethnic strife.

The root cause of ``the Troubles'' in Northern Ireland, where peace efforts may finally bear fruit after the recent cease-fire declaration by the Irish Republican Army, is the settlement in Ulster of Scottish Protestants centuries ago. British attempts to colonize Ireland go back to 1171, when Anglo-Norman King Henry II permitted his noblemen to displace Irish-Gaelic lords.

After the Reformation, Roman Catholic Ireland became a security threat to Protestant Britain, especially as the Catholic powers of Europe, Spain foremost among them, used Irish territory to attempt invasions of Britain or lent support to Irish rebels.

King James I (he of the Bible translation) finally brought in Scottish Presbyterians and gave them land confiscated from the Irish. They, in turn, he brought in more Scots and English colonists. The new settlers got the best lands and the Irish natives the worst. Two separate and hostile cultures grew up side by side with consequences sadly apparent today. When Ireland became an independent republic, the majority Protestant population in the six northern counties demanded continued union with Britain, and the country was partitioned.

Israel followed a similar strategy after conquering the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and Sinai Peninsula in the 1967 Six-Day War. Israeli settlers, often belonging to some of Judaism's most conservative branches, settled throughout the occupied territories, bringing conflict with the indigenous Arabs, both Muslim and Christian.

The Israeli settlers have been in the forefront of opposition to returning the occupied territories to Arab control in exchange for peace. When the Sinai was returned to Egypt in the early 1980s after the signing of the Camp David Accords, the Israeli Army had to forcibly remove some settlers. As the current peace process unfolds, with Israel turning over more and more civil control to the Palestine Liberation Organization, the fate of the Israeli settlers will be a key issue.

Many other examples exist around the world. In the states of the former Soviet Union, for example, Russians and Ukrainians were often settled in the territories of other ethnic groups, usually as factory workers.

Russian minorities ranging from one-quarter to nearly one-half of the population now exist in the three Baltic states of Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia. With independence, these countries have been loathe to grant citizenship to people they regard as interlopers.

Such resettlement schemes rarely have the intended effect, except perhaps in the short term. Over the long run, they tend to create ethnic tensions that can far outlast the original dispute. So far, there is little indication that governments around the world have learned the lessons.

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