By David Meir-Levi
The Arab version of the tragic fate of Arab refugees who fled from British Mandatory Palestine before and during the 1948 war, and from Israel immediately after the war, has so thoroughly dominated the thinking of even well-educated historians, commentators, journalists and politicians, that it is almost a given that the creation of the State of Israel caused the flight of almost a million hapless, homeless, helpless and hopeless Arab refugees. Israel caused the problem and thus Israel must solve the problem.
This assertion, although viscerally engaging and all but canonized by the anti-Israel left (including the Arab-dominated UN)and the core of its narratives of the Middle East conflict, is unequivocally and utterly false.
Origins of the Problem
The details of the process whereby the approximately 725,000 Arab residents of British Mandatory Palestine in Cis-Jordan achieved refugee status and endured
brutal oppression and unmitigated suffering at the hands of their host Arab countries are described in Part II below (“the Eight Stages of Creation”). The bottom line itself is very straightforward and simple:
The State of Israel was created in a peaceful and legal process by the United Nations. The UN partition plan (resolution #181, November 29, 1947) created two states: the State of Israel for the Jews, and the State of Palestine for the Arabs.
The Arab refugees were people who fled because of the war, the Arab states started. The rulers of eight Arab countries whose populations vastly outnumbered the Jews initiated the war with simultaneous invasions of the newly created State of Israel on three fronts. Nascent Israel begged for peace and offered friendship and cooperation to its neighbors. The Arabs rejected this offer and answered it with a war of annihilation against the Jews, which fortunately failed. To this day the Arab states and the Palestinians refer to the failure of their aggression and the survival of Israel as the Nakhba – the catastrophe.
Had there been no Arab aggression, no war, no invasion by Arab armies whose intent was avowedly genocidal, not only would there have been no Arab refugees, but there would have been a state of Palestine on the West Bank and Gaza since 1948.
Israel offered to return land it had acquired in defending itself against the Arab aggression in exchange for a formal peace. It made this offer during the Rhodes Armistice talks and Lausanne conference in 1949. The Arab rulers refused. Had Israel’s offer been accepted, there could have been prompt and just resolution to all the problems that have afflicted the region since. The only problem that wouldn’t have been resolved to the satisfaction of the Arabs was their desire to obliterate the state of Israel. After their victory, Israel passed a law that allowed Arab refugees to re-settle in Israel provided they would sign a form in which they renounced violence, swore allegiance to the state of Israel, and became peaceful productive citizens. During the decades of this law’s tenure, more than 150,000 Arab refugees have taken advantage of it to resume productive lives in Israel.
It should be completely obvious to any reasonable and fair-minded observer of this history, therefore, that it was not the creation of the State of Israel that caused the Arab refugee problem, nor was it Israel that obstructed its solution.
On the contrary, the Arab refugee problem was the direct result of the aggression of the Arab states, and their refusal after failing to obliterate Israel to sign a formal peace, or to take care of the refugees who remained outside Israel’s borders.
The Jewish Refugees
There were other refugees from the Arab-Israeli conflict that everyone on the Arab side of the argument chooses conveniently to forget. Between 1949 and 1954 about 800,000 Jews were forced to flee from the Arab and Muslim lands where they had lived for hundreds and even thousands of years – from Iraq, Morocco, Tunisia, Jordan and Iran. These Jews were peaceful citizens of their Arab countries and in no way a hostile population. Nonetheless, they were forced at gun-point to flee with nothing but the clothes on their backs. The only reason for their expulsion was revenge against the Jewish citizenry of Arab countries for the shame of the Arab defeat in their war of aggression.
Most of these Jewish refugees came to Israel, where they were integrated into normalcy by the tiny fledgling Jewish state, which did for its own precisely what the Arab states (and later the PLO) have refused to do for theirs.
Some observers have suggested that this turn of events could be understood as a “population exchange” – Arabs fled to Arab countries as Jews fled to the Jewish country, both as a result of the 1948 war, both under conditions which their side regards as forced evacuations. On the other hand, no one on the Arab side has suggested the obvious: if Jewish refugees were resettled on land vacated by fleeing Arabs, why not resettle Arab refugees on the lands of Jews who were forced to flee the Arab countries. One reason no one has suggested this is that no Arab state with the exception of Jordan will even allow Palestinians to be citizens. Another point: Taking into account the assets of the Jewish refugees from Arab and Muslim lands, one can conclude that the Jews have already paid massive “reparations” to the Arabs whether warranted or not.
The property and belongings of the Jewish refugees, confiscated by the Arab governments, has been conservatively estimated at about $2.5 billion in 1948 dollars. Invest that money at a modest 6.5% over 57 years and you have today a sum of $80 billion, which the Arab and Muslim governments of the lands from which the Jews were expelled could apply to the benefit of the Arab refugees. That sum is quite sufficient for reparations to Arab refugees. There is no way of accurately assessing the value of Arab property left in Israel’s control; but there are no estimates as high as a 1948 value of $2,500,000,000. So, hypothetically, the Arab side would be getting the better of such a deal.
The Arab Refugee Problem
Another irony must be considered in the context of the refugee issue. Israel handled its Jewish refugee problem by devoting massive resources to the education and integration of the Jewish refugee population into its society. These refugees never became a burden on the world, never needed the assistance of the United Nations, and never had their civil and human rights denied by their new host country. Instead, despite great hardship, early discrimination, difficult adjustments and initial privations, they and their offspring have become productive citizens of the Middle East’s only democracy, and substantive contributors to one of the most technologically and socially advanced countries in the world.
The fate of the Arab refugees has been the diametric opposite of this obvious positive solution to their problem. Arab leadership has purposely kept their Palestinian brethren in the equivalent of concentration camps, maintained at a subsistence level, with their misery perpetuated by Machiavellian rulers to be used as a propaganda weapon against Israel and against the west. The Palestinian refugees in Gaza were forced there in 1948 not by Israel but by the Egyptians, kept there under guard, shot if they tried to leave, and never given Egyptian citizenship or Egyptian passports. (These facts are recorded by Yasir Arafat himself in his authorized biography by Alan Hart, Arafat: Terrorist or Peace Maker? 1982). Refugees in Lebanon were kept under similar but less draconian repression, with Lebanese law barring them from almost 70 professions, with no citizenship, and no right to travel. Only in Jordan were the refugees granted citizenship.
This brutal repression of Arab refugees by their Arab host countries is especially significant when one recalls that during the many wars of the 20th century, tens of millions of refugees were created in Europe and Asia. In 1922, 1.8 million people were relocated to resolve Turkey-Greece war. Following World War II, some 3,000,000 Germans were forced from countries of Eastern Europe and resettled in Germany. When the Indian sub-continent was divided, over 12 million people were transferred between India and Pakistan.
All such refugee issues have been resolved, except the 725,000who fled Israel during the 1948 war!
Senior Fatah Central Committee member Sakher Habash succinctly explained the reason for the calculated refusal of the Arab rulers including the Palestinian rulers to help the Palestinian refugees to return to normal lives. During a 1998 lecture at Shechem’s An-Najah University, Habash said: “To us, the refugee issue is the winning card which means the end of the Israeli state.”
In other words, war, terrorism, diplomatic isolation of Israel, world-wide PR campaigns to demonize Israel…..all may fail (and most have, so far); but as long as this last trump card is still alive, hope for the destruction of Israel still pulses in the hearts of Arab revanchists.
In reality, Palestinians who fled Israel in 1948 and are still alive have no legal right to return to Israel, because the Arab leadership representing them (Arab nations until 1993, and since then the Palestinian Authority) are still, de jure and de facto at war with Israel; and these refugees, therefore, are still potential hostiles. International law does not require a country at war to commit suicide by allowing the entry of hundreds of thousands of a potentially hostile population. In the context of a peace treaty, in 1949, the Arab refugees could have taken advantage of Israel’s offer; but their leadership refused.
Of course the present Palestinian claim of a “Right of Return” is accompanied by the claim that there are not 725,000 refugees (minus those who have died in the interim) but 5 million. This number serves many political agendas but from the point of view of international law later generations born into a refugee population that has been resettled and living in exile do not have the legal status of refugees. That means that legal refugee status today applies only to those few surviving Arabs who fled in 1948, among whom most are advanced in age.
A Summary of The Salient Facts
The protracted Arab refugee crisis is an artificial crisis maintained for 57 years by Arab rulers in order to exploit their own people’s suffering -- to create a “poster child” for Palestinian victim-hood; a staging ground for anti-Israel propaganda; a training center for Arab terrorists; and a trump card for the anti-Israel jihad (per Sakher Habash) if/when all else (war, terrorism, international diplomacy) fail.
“Haq el-Auda,” the “law of return”, for Palestinian Arabs to their own homes and farms and orchards that have been part of Israel for the past 57 years is a sham.
Sixty years ago there were nearly a million Jews in the Arab states of the Middle East: honest hard-working citizenry contributing to the culture and economy of their countries of domicile. Today, there are almost no Jews in the Arab countries of the Middle East, and racist apartheid laws prohibit even Jewish tourists from entering Arab countries.
In Israel, on the other hand, the Arabs who did not flee numbered about 170,000 in 1949; and now number more than 1,400,000. They 12 representatives in the Israel Parliament, judges sitting on the Israeli supreme court bench, and Ph.D’s and tenured professors teaching in Israeli colleges and universities. They are a population that enjoys more freedom, education, and economic opportunity than do any comparable Arab populations anywhere in the Arab world.
The Arab rulers caused the Arab refugee problem in 1948 by their war of aggression against the infant state of Israel, a legal creation of the United Nations; the Arab rulers have since maintained the Arab refugee population and and denied it any possibility of normal life in Arab countries in order to use the suffering they themselves have causedit as a weapon in their unending war against Israel.
During all these decades the refugee camps and their Arab exploiters have been funded by billions of dollars from the United Nations, the United States, the United Kingdom and the European Union.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
The Eight Stages of the Creation of Arab Refugee Problem
There were eight stages to the flight of Arabs from what would soon become Israel:
One. As early as the Fall of 1947, months before the UN partition plan of 11/29/47, it was clear that there would be a war no matter what course of action the UN took. In anticipation of this war, many of the well-to-do Arabs (the Effendi) of the Western Galilee, from Haifa to Acco and villages in between, closed down their houses and went to Beirut or Damascus, where with their wealth and connections they could wait out the war in safety. They thought that they would thus be out of the way of danger, and when the war was over (no one imagined that Israel would win) they would come back to their homes.
Current estimates by objective observers (Conan Cruise O’Brien, in his book “The Siege”, being perhaps the most objective) is that about 70,000 fled.
Two. These refugees caused a sudden absence of political and social leadership among the Arabs of the Galilee, and thus as the hostilities developed in the Winter of 1947, many of the Arab peasantry (Felahin) fled as well, following their leaders' example. They lacked the money and connections to make a comfortable trip out of the way of danger, as their Effendi had done. So many of them simply walked with whatever they could carry, to Lebanon or Syria. Their main motivation for leaving was that since their leadership had fled, things must be pretty bad, so they had better leave too. They too were sure, based upon documentation from Arab press at the time, that when the war was over and the Jews were all dead or driven from Israel, they would come back to their homes.
There are no solid numbers for this exodus, but estimates range around 100,000 people. There were so many exiting that the Arab states had a special conference in Beirut to decide how to handle all the Arabs that were pouring across the borders. They set up special camps...later to be known as refugee camps.
Note Well!! These Arabs were fleeing of their own free will. No one, neither Israel nor Arab states, were encouraging, frightening, or ordering them to do
so. The war had not yet even begun.
Three. After 11/29/47, warfare between the Israeli Haganah (not yet called the IDF because the local British Mandatory forces were stalwartly pro-Arab and
routinely arrested Haganah soldiers and took their arms...so the Israeli army was still an underground army) and para-military Arab volunteers numbering in
the tens of thousands (trained and armed in Syria and Lebanon, with the aid of both ex-NAZI and British officers) began in earnest.
The Arab press and public speeches made it clear that this was to be a war of annihilation...like the great Mongol hordes killing all in their path. The Jews would be either dead or out. Israel was fighting not a war of independence, but a war of survival.
In order to defend some areas where Jews were completely surrounded by Arabs (like the Jews of Jaffa, Jewish villages or kibbutzim in parts of the Galilee
and central hill country, and in Jerusalem) the Haganah adopted scare-tactics that were intended to strike terror into the Arab population of those areas, so that they would retreat to safer ground, and thus make it possible for the Hagana to defend those Jews who would otherwise be inaccessible and thus vulnerable to genocidal Arab intentions.
Many Arabs in parts of the western Galilee, Jaffa, and parts of western Jerusalem, fled because of these tactics (rumors that a huge Jewish army from
the West was about to land on the coast, hand-grenades thrown on front porches of homes, jeeps driving by and firing machine guns into the walls or fences of
houses, rumors circulated by Arabic-speaking Jews that the Haganah was far bigger than it really was, and was on the verge of surfacing with a massive
Jewish army, etc.).
Here it is important to note that Jews were at cause in this part of the Arab flight. But it was not because they wanted to ethnically cleanse the country, or to wipe out the Arabs. It was because they knew that Jews undefended in Arab enclaves would be slaughtered (as in fact was the case of Jews in the Gush Etzion villages and in the Jewish Quarter of the Old City in Jerusalem, and as had happened in Hebron in 1929). It was the exigency of their fighting a war of survival against a bigger and better armed enemy that drove them to the tactics described above.
It is also important to note here the following two facts:
A) Had the Arab leadership accepted the UN partition plan; there would have been a state of Palestine since 11/29/47, for the Arabs, alongside of Israel.
B) Had the Arab armies not invaded, there would have been no refugee problem.
In light of these two facts, it is clear that the total onus of culpability for the start of the refugee problem rests squarely and solely upon the Arab states that invaded, in clear disregard for the UN resolution 181 and international law.
Four. Arab leadership from among the para-military forces, and the forces of Syria, were vociferous in their announcements that they wanted Arabs to leave so that the armies would have a clear field in which to perpetrate their genocide of the Jews (see appendix below). When the war was over (Arab newspaper articles suggested about 4-6 weeks before all the Jews were driven out or killed), the Arab residents could come back and have both their own lands and those of the Jews.
We cannot know how many Arabs fled because of these announcements; but since a number of Arab spokespersons after the war admitted to having done this, and wrung their hands publicly in painful repentance of having created the refugee problem, it is clear that the Arab leadership's own message to many Arabs in the area was a major factor in the Arab flight.
It is also important to point out at this time that there were a number of cases where Jewish leaders got out in public and pleaded with Arabs not to leave. The mayor of Haifa is the best example of this. At the risk of his own life, he drove through the Arab section of Haifa with a loudspeaker on his jeep, and in Arabic called out to the residents of his city to disregard the Arab propaganda.
Nonetheless, tens of thousands fled. The incredulous British officers who witnessed this (don't forget, the British had not yet left) documented it in a
variety of sources (some mentioned in the appendix below). Those Arabs who stayed were unharmed and became citizens of Israel.
The British also documented for the world a similar phenomenon in Tiberius (a town in which the Arab population vastly outnumbered the Jewish), where the
Arabs quite literally chose to leave even though they were under no direct threat from the Jews, and asked the British to assist them. Tens of thousands
left under British guard, while the Jews, both civilian and Hagana, looked on.
In a slightly different twist, the Arabs of Safed (Tzefat), fled before the Haganah attack, even though the Arab forces in Safed outnumbered the Jews about 10 to one.
Wherever Arabs chose to stay, they were unharmed and later became citizens of Israel.
There have been a number of essays written by later historians contesting the truth of the assertion that Arab leaders told their people to flee. But Conan
Cruise O’Brien’s “The Siege”, and Mitchell Bard's "Idiot's Guide to the Mid-East conflict" and "Myths and Facts", offer irrefutable proof of just such
Five. Deir Yassin: The events that took place at Deir Yassin are still hotly disputed. But by their own admission, Arab leadership today acknowledges that the lies created by the Arabs then about the fictitious "massacre" were concocted in order to shame the Arab armies into fighting against the Jews, and to frighten the Arabs and encourage them to flee.
The village sits near Jerusalem, overlooking the road from Tel Aviv. Jewish Jerusalem was under siege, and its lifeline was this one road to Tel Aviv. A
contingent of Iraqi troops had entered Deir Yassin on 3/13/48. Some sources suggest that they were asked to leave. Apparently they did not, since their
armed bodies were numerous among the dead after the battle. It was obvious that they were going to try to cut off that road. Doing so would spell the end of Jewish Jerusalem. So on 4/9/48 a contingent of the Irgun (a para-military splinter group) entered the village. This operation was completely legitimate in the context of rules of engagement, since the Iraqi presence made the village a legal military objective.
Their intent, to capture the village and drive out the Iraqis, was completely clear from the onset, because they entered with a jeep and loudspeaker telling
the civilian population to flee the village (unfortunately, this jeep slid into a ditch, so some of the villagers may not have heard the message; but many did, because they fled before the Irgun got into the village); and because rather than surrounding the village and barring escape, they left several routes open for the civilians to flee, which hundreds of villagers used. However, the Iraqis had disguised themselves as women (easy to hide weapons beneath the flowing robes of the burqa) and had hidden themselves among women and children in the village. So, when the Irgun fighters entered, they encountered fire from women!
When the Irgun fighters fired back, they killed many innocent women because the Iraqis were hiding behind them. After suffering more than 40% casualties to their forces, the Irgun succeeded in killing or capturing the Iraqis. Then, while they were in a group, still dressed as women, having surrendered and agreed to be taken prisoner, some of the Iraqis opened fire again with weapons concealed beneath their women's clothing. Irgun fighters were caught off guard, more were killed, and others opened fire into the group. Iraqis who had indeed surrendered were killed along with those who had only pretended to surrender and had then opened fire.
When the Hagana arrived they found the dead women and other civilians; and thus incorrectly accused the Irgun of murder and massacre. But the Red Cross, which was called in to assist the wounded and civilians, found no evidence of a massacre. In fact, even the most recent review of the evidence (7/1999), by Arab scholars at Beir-Zayyit university in Ramallah, indicates that there was no massacre, but rather a military conflict in which civilians were killed in the crossfire. The total Arab dead, including the Iraqi soldiers, according to the Beir Zayyit calculation, was 107.
So where did the idea of a massacre come from? The same Arab sources that confess to having urged the Arabs to flee have also acknowledged that Arab
spokespersons at the time galacticly exaggerated the Deir Yassin fight, making up stories of gang rape, brutalizing of pregnant women, killing unborn children cut from their mothers' wombs by blood-thirsty Jews, and massive murders with bodies thrown into a nearby quarry. These same Arab sources admit that their purpose in these exaggerations and lies was to shame the Arab nations into entering the conflict with greater alacrity, so that the Jews would be destroyed by the overwhelming numbers of Arab invaders.
The plan backfired. The Arab armies invaded, but only with a fraction of their total military capacity. But as a result of these exaggerations and lies, Arab civilians panicked upon hearing these stories, and fled by the tens of thousands. This is documented on television by a 1993 (revised 2001) PBS program (50 Years of War) in which Deir Yassin survivors were interviewed in 1991. They unabashedly proclaimed that they begged Dr. Hussein Khalidi, director of Voice of Palestine (the Palestinian radio station in East Jerusalem) to edit out the lies and fabrications of atrocities that never happened. He told them: “We must capitalize on this great opportunity!”
Note well!! The flight of Arabs had begun per #1-4 above many months before Deir Yassin. So Deir Yassin cannot account for those hundreds of thousands of Arabs who sought refuge prior to 4/9/48. Moreover, while current Arab propaganda asserts that Deir Yassin was one of many examples of Jewish massacre and slaughter, there is not one other documented example of any such behavior by the Jews. Deir Yassin was not an example, it was the exception.
In sum, re Deir Yassin, it was not what happened at Deir Yassin that caused the flight of tens of thousands of Arabs; it was the lies invented by the Arab High Command and Dr. Hussein Khalidi of the “Voice of Palestine” radio news channel that caused the panic. One can hardly blame Israel for that.
Moreover, we have from an unimpeachable source, Yassir Arafat himself (his authorized biography, by Alan Hart, "Arafat: Terrorist or Peace Maker") that the Deir Yassin lies were spread "like a red flag in front of a bull" by the Egyptians. Then, having terrorized them with these stories, the Egyptians proceeded to disarm the Arabs of the area and herd them into detention camps in Gaza (today's Gaza refugee camps). Why did the Egyptians do this? According to Arafat, it was to get the Arabs out of the area because the Egyptians wanted a free hand to wage their war. Egypt had every intention of conquering the Negev and southern part of the coastal plain. They wanted no interference from the locals.
So the lies about Deir Yassin were spread in order to shame the Arab armies (didn't work) and (by the Egyptians) panic the Arab civilians (did work).
Bottom line, Deir Yassin was not a massacre, nothing even vaguely akin to what the Jews are accused of ever happened. The lies were made up by Arabs, and spread by Arabs. The further flight of refugees after 4/9/48 was caused not by the Deir Yassin battle, but by the Arab lies about the Deir Yassin battle. And this from Yassir himself, and from Beir Zayyit University.
We don't know how many Arabs fled as a result of the “Voice of Palestine” exaggerations. Several hundred thousand is a good estimate. Most of them ended
up in the Egyptian detention camps in Gaza.
Six. There were two more incidents (in addition to the actions noted above in #3) of Arab refugees being forced to flee by Israeli army actions: Lydda and Ramle.
Both villages sat astride the road from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. As the siege on Jerusalem tightened, the Israeli forces knew that in order to save the Jews of
west Jerusalem from defeat and possible annihilation, they had to keep that road open. So one night they entered both villages and forcibly drove out the Arab residents. They rousted them from bed and sent them walking across the fields to the area that was under Jordanian control (some kilometers away).
Note...none were killed. There was no massacre. But they were driven out. However, they were driven out because their villages sat astride the road to Jerusalem, and the only way to guarantee the survival of 150,000 Jews in Jerusalem was to control this one road.
Seven. By 5/15/48 the British had evacuated their forces from all of British Mandatory Palestine, and the Jews had a free hand in using their Haganah,
which now became the IDF. And the Arab countries had a free hand in attacking. And attack they did. Armies from 8 Arab nations poured into the area from
Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Iraq and Egypt (volunteers and soldiers from Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Morocco came too - hence 8). They outnumbered the Hagana (now IDF) about 5 to one. For the next month or so the Israelis were fighting a terribly difficult defensive war, just barely able to keep the invaders out. There were about 63,000 IDF volunteers, but weapons for only 22,000.
In June of '48 the UN imposed a cease-fire. By July when the Arabs re-initiated hostilities, the Israelis had been able to use the cease-fire to import arms and planes from Russia and Germany via Czechoslovakia. Now better armed, the IDF numbered 65,000 and the odds were reduced to about 2-1. Good odds for the determined Jewish fighters.
When the fighting resumed in July, the IDF went on the offensive and succeeded in driving the Arab armies out of both the Jewish areas and large parts of the
areas that the UN had intended to be the Palestinian state (western Galilee, and southern coastal plain north of Gaza). When this offensive began, more Arabs fled. As noted above, the Arabs that stayed were not harmed, and became citizens of Israel.
Contrary to revisionist and mendacious Arab propaganda, there was never any intent to massacre Arabs. Many civilians died in the cross fire, and the
overwhelming majority of Arabs who fled did so needlessly, at their own initiative, or because of the Arab leadership that lied and intimidated them.
Some Arabs were driven out by the IDF, but as part of a defensive measure. Not as part of any plan to ethnically cleanse the land or massacre/genocide the
Arabs. These accusations are all new revisionism aimed at exonerating the Arabs from their heinous and brutal role in creating the Arab Refugee problem, and at transferring the guilt to Israel.
Perhaps the most revealing considerations in the conclusion that Israel NEVER set out to put into action a plan to genocide the Arabs of Palestine or to drive them from their homes are:
The complete absence of any coverage in any world press, including Arab press and western press openly hostile to israel, about any such actions of which Israel is today accused. The complete absence of these accusations from any Arab spokespersons during this time, even at the very height of the flight (post-Deir Yassin), and for many years thereafter). The fate of the Arabs who stayed. They became Israeli citizens and enjoy more freedom, democracy, political representation, high standard of living, education, and economic opportunities, than any Arabs anywhere in the Arab world today.
Finally, after the 2/49 cease-fire, when the war was over, there was still a continued flight by tens of thousands of Arabs. The Jews did absolutely nothing to encourage or force this flight.
The above are the 7 stages of causation. The next stage recounts on-going Arab obduracy in the maintenance of the refugee problem and refusal to seek any solution.
Eight. As noted above, the Arabs caused the problem by starting the war, and by encouraging Arabs to leave during the war. Even worse, although Israel offered
on several occasions to repatriate refugees, the Arab states refused.
During the Rhodes armistice talks in 2/1949, Israel offered to return to the Arabs the lands that the Jews had conquered that were meant to be part of the
Palestinian state, in exchange for a peace treaty. This would have allowed hundreds of thousands of refugees to return to their homes. The Arabs said no,
because, as they themselves admitted, they were momentarily going to mount a new offensive. They had lost round one. There would be more and more rounds, until the Arabs won. Their new offensive was the 9000 terrorist attacks mostly from Egypt that the Arabs perpetrated against Israel from 1949-1956 (part of the cause of the '56 war).
At the Lausanne conference in 8-9/49, Israel offered to repatriate 100,000 refugees even without a peace treaty. The Arab states said NO, because that
would involve a tacit recognition of the state of Israel.
Thus, despite Israel's offers of repatriation, the Arabs insisted on maintaining the refugees in their squalor and suffering. Arab spokespersons in Syria and Egypt were quoted in their newspapers as saying: we will maintain the refugees in their camps until the flag of Palestine flies over all of the land. They will go back home only as victors, on the graves and corpses of the Jews.
Moreover, as some Arabs were candid enough to announce in public, the refugee problem would serve as "..a festering sore on the backside of Europe", as moral leverage to be used against Israel, in order to win the emotional support of the West against Israel.
The Arab refugee problem was created by the belligerent Arab states that defied the UN, invaded Israel, encouraged the Arabs to flee, and then purposefully kept them in a state of wretched poverty for Machiavellian propaganda purposes. Israel’s role was a relatively minor one, in legitimate military contexts, which it tried to reverse after the war.
The problem was maintained intentionally by the Arab states through their refusal to abide by the UN resolutions and the Geneva convention, refusal to integrate any refugees into under-populated Arab countries (except for Jordan), refusal to enter into peace negotiations with Israel, and refusal to countenance ANY steps toward resolution by Israel or others.
By maintaining the problem, the Arab leaders sought to gain pseudo-moral leverage against Europe and Israel, to keep a “festering human sore” in the forefront of their propaganda war against Israel, and to use the issue as a political weapon against Israel.
Israel indicated its willingness on several occasions to include repatriation and/or reparations for Arab refugees, in context of peace treaty; but its offers were rejected by the Arab leadership.
Egypt, in its 1979 treaty with Israel, refused to deal with refugee issue in Gaza strip, and ceded all of Gaza strip to Israel. The PLO refused to negotiate with Israel, so refugee status of Gaza Palestinians was maintained.
Jordan had integrated thousands of Palestinians into its economy, and did not see any need or responsibility to deal with the disposition of those on the West Bank in the context of its 1994 peace treaty with Israel.
The abuses, exaggerations, lying, and distortions, perpetrated by Arab governments, UNWRA and the refugee spokespersons made it impossible, even back in 1949, to identify a bona fide refugee populace.
The Palestinian population of the West Bank, under Israeli rule from 1967 to 1992, experienced the highest standard of living of any Arab country with the exception of the oil states. The same is true of Arab Israelis. The Arab population of West Bank and Gaza has tripled since 6/67: no genocide, no ethnic cleansing.
The Palestinian population under the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) from 1994 to the present has declined precipitously, the standard of living eroded, GDP is one-tenth of what it was under Israeli control; all due to mis-appropriation of approximately $5.2 billion by the PNA into personal wealth and weapons stock-piling, and due to Arafat’s terror war against which Israel must exercise defensive controls and deterrents.
Justice for Jewish and Arab refugees could have been part of a peace settlement, if the Arab states had been willing. Today the same is true, if the Palestinian National Authority would stop the terror war and fulfill the obligations to which it committed at Oslo.
Appendix: Quotes confirming that Arab leaders told Arabs to flee:
1. “The first group of our fifth column consist of those who abandon their homes…At the first sign of trouble they take to their heels to escape sharing the burden of struggle”
-- Ash-Sha’ab, Jaffa, 1.30.48
2. “(the fleeing villagers)…are bringing down disgrace on us all… by abandoning their villages”
-- As-Sarih, Jaffa, 3.30.48
3. "Every effort is being made by the Jews to persuade the Arab populace to stay and carry on with their normal lives, to get their shops and businesses open and to be assured that their lives and interests will be safe."
-- Haifa District HQ of the British Police, April 26, 1948, (quoted in
Battleground by Samuel Katz).
4. "The mass evacuation, prompted partly by fear, partly by order of Arab leaders, left the Arab quarter of Haifa a ghost city.... By withdrawing Arab workers their leaders hoped to paralyze Haifa."
-- Time Magazine, May 3, 1948, page 25
5. “The Arab streets (of Palestine) are curiously deserted (because)…following the poor example of the moneyed class, there has been an exodus from Jerusalem, but not to the same extent as from Jaffa and Haifa”,
-- London Times, 5.5.48
6. "The Arab civilians panicked and fled ignominiously. Villages were frequently abandoned before they were threatened by the progress of war."
-- General John Glubb "Pasha," The London Daily Mail, August 12, 1948
7. “The fact that there are these refugees is the direct consequence of the act of the Arab states in opposing partition and the Jewish state. The Arab states agreed upon this policy unanimously and they must share in the solution of the problem."
-– Emile Ghoury, secretary of the Palestinian Arab Higher Committee, in an interview with the Beirut Telegraph 9/6/1948. (same appeared in The London Telegraph, 8.48)
8. The most potent factor [in the flight of Palestinians] was the announcements made over the air by the Arab-Palestinian Higher Executive, urging all Haifa Arabs to quit... It was clearly intimated that Arabs who remained in Haifa and accepted Jewish protection would be regarded as renegades."
-- London Economist Oct. 2, 1948)
9. “It must not be forgotten that the Arab Higher Committee encouraged the
refugees’ flight from their homes in Jaffa, Haifa, and Jerusalem”.
-- Near East Arabic Broadcasting Station, Cyprus, 4.3.49
10. "[The Arabs of Haifa] fled in spite of the fact that the Jewish authorities guaranteed their safety and rights as citizens of Israel."
-- Monsignor George Hakim, Greek Catholic Bishop of Galilee, New York Herald
Tribune, June 30, 1949
11. “The military and civil (Israeli) authorities expressed their profound regret at this grave decision (taken by the Arab military delegates of Haifa and the Acting Chair of the Palestine Arab Higher Committee to evacuate Haifa despite the Israeli offer of a truce). The Jewish mayor of Haifa made a passionate appeal to the delegation (of Arab military leaders) to reconsider its decision”.
-- Memorandum of the Arab National Committee of Haifa, 1950, to the governments of the Arab League, quoted in J. B. Schechtman, The Refugees in the World, NY 1963, pp. 192f.
12. Sir John Troutbeck, British Middle East Office in Cairo, noted in cables to superiors (1948-49) that the refugees (in Gaza) have no bitterness against Jews, but harbor intense hatred toward Egyptians: “ They say ‘we know who our enemies are (referring to the Egyptians)’, declaring that their Arab brethren persuaded them unnecessarily to leave their homes…I even heard it said that many of the refugees would give a welcome to the Israelis if they were to come in and take the district over”.
13. "The Arab states which had encouraged the Palestine Arabs to leave their homes temporarily in order to be out of the way of the Arab invasion armies, have failed to keep their promise to help these refugees."
-– The Jordanian daily newspaper Falastin, Feb. 19, 1949.
14. "The Secretary General of the Arab League, Azzam Pasha, assured the
Arab peoples that the occupation of Palestine and of Tel Aviv would be as
simple as a military promenade...Brotherly advice was given to the Arabs of
Palestine to leave their land, homes, and property to stay temporarily
In neighboring fraternal states, lest the guns of invading Arab armies
mow them down."
--Al Hoda (a New York-based Lebanese daily) June 8, 1951
15. "Who brought the Palestinians to Lebanon as refugees, suffering now from the malign attitude of newspapers and communal leaders, who have neither honor nor conscience? Who brought them over in dire straits and penniless, after they lost their honor? The Arab states, and Lebanon amongst them, did it."
-- The Beirut Muslim weekly Kul-Shay, Aug. 19, 1951.
16. "We will smash the country with our guns and obliterate every place the Jews seek shelter in. The Arabs should conduct their wives and children to safe areas until the fighting has died down."
-- Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Said, quoted in “Sir An-Nakbah” (The Secret Behind the Disaster) by Nimr el-Hawari, Nazareth, 1952
16. "The Arab Exodus …was not caused by the actual battle, but by the exaggerated description spread by the Arab leaders to incite them to fight the Jews. …For the flight and fall of the other villages it is our leaders who are responsible because of their dissemination of rumors exaggerating Jewish crimes and describing them as atrocities in order to inflame the Arabs ... By spreading rumors of Jewish atrocities, killings of women and children etc., they instilled fear and terror in the hearts of the Arabs in Palestine, until they fled leaving their homes and properties to the enemy."
–- The Jordanian daily newspaper Al Urdun, April 9, 1953.
17. The Arab governments told us: Get out so that we can get in. So we
got out, but they did not get in. (Quoting a refugee)
-- Al Difaa (Jordan) Sept. 6, 1954
18. “The wholesale exodus was due partly to the belief of the Arabs, encouraged by the boasting of an unrealistic press and the irresponsible utterances of some of the Arab leaders that it could be only a matter of some weeks before the Jews were defeated by the armies of the Arab states, and the Palestinian Arabs enabled to re-enter and re-take possession of their country”.
-- Edward Atiyah (Secretary of the Arab League, London, The Arabs, 1955, p. 183)
19. “The Arab states do not want to solve the refugee problem. They want to keep it as an open sore, as an affront to the UN and as a weapon against Israel. Arab leaders do not give a damn whether Arab refugees live or die”, -- Ralph Galloway, former head of UNWRA, 1956
20. "As early as the first months of 1948, the Arab League issued orders exhorting the people to seek a temporary refuge in neighboring countries, later to return to their abodes ... and obtain their share of abandoned Jewish property."
-- Bulletin of The Research Group for European Migration Problems, 1957
21. "Israelis argue that the Arab states encouraged the Palestinians to flee. And, in fact, Arabs still living in Israel recall being urged to evacuate Haifa by Arab military commanders who wanted to bomb the city."
-- Newsweek, January 20, 1963
22. "The 15th May, 1948, arrived ... On that day the mufti of Jerusalem appealed to the Arabs of Palestine to leave the country, because the Arab armies were about to enter and fight in their stead."
-- The Cairo daily Akhbar el Yom, Oct. 12, 1963.
23. In listing the reasons for the Arab failure in 1948, Khaled al-Azm (Syrian Prime Minister) notes that “…the fifth factor was the call by the Arab governments to the inhabitants of Palestine to evacuate it (Palestine) and leave for the bordering Arab countries. Since 1948, it is we who have demanded the return of the refugees, while it is we who made them leave. We brought disaster upon a million Arab refugees by inviting them and bringing pressure on them to leave. We have accustomed them to begging...we have participated in lowering their morale and social level...Then we exploited them in executing crimes of murder, arson and throwing stones upon men, women and children...all this in the service of political purposes...”
-- Khaled el-Azm, Syrian prime minister after the 1948 War, in his 1972 memoirs, published in 1973..
24. "The Arab states succeeded in scattering the Palestinian people and in destroying their unity. They did not recognize them as a unified people until
the states of the world did so, and this is regrettable."
-- Abu Mazen (Mahmoud Abbas), from the official journal of the PLO, Falastin el-Thawra (“What We Have Learned and What We Should Do”), Beirut, March 1976
25. “Since 1948, the Arab leaders have approached the Palestinian problem in an irresponsible manner. They have used to Palestinian people for political
purposes; this is ridiculous, I might even say criminal...”
-- KING HUSSSEIN, Hashemite kingdom of Jordan, 1996
26. “Abu Mazen Charges that the Arab States Are the Cause of the Palestinian Refugee Problem” (Wall Street Journal; June 5, 2003):
armies entered Palestine to protect the Palestinians from the Zionist tyranny, but instead they abandoned them, forced them to emigrate and to leave their
homeland, imposed upon them a political and ideological blockade and threw them into prisons similar to the ghettos in which the Jews used to live in EasternEurope" (emphasis added).