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The Arab Refugees and the Missing Israeli Narrative

Jock L. Falkson Feb 27. 2008

(A response to Gerard Michaud’s “A matter of choice”, ‘Up Front’, Jerusalem Post. Feb 8, 2008) Gerard Michaud’s essay on the Palestinian’s claim to the “right of return” is interesting and easy to read because the anecdotes he presented put a human face on the Arab side of the problem. However, it seems clear the writer was already of the opinion that the refugees had been hard done by, and that Israel was to blame. Thus his odyssey was a journey to seek evidence to support his view. In a key passage Michaud writes: “Driven from their homes during the 1948 fighting that gave birth to the Jewish state – expelled according to the Palestinian account or a panicked flight according to the Zionist narrative.” But while Michaud accounts for the Arab narrative well enough he does nothing of the sort for Israel. In fact he completely overlooks the Israeli narrative which claims that the majority of the Arabs exited the Jewish areas voluntarily. That they were motivated by Arab leaders to get out and escape injury while allowing the Arab armies to annihilate the Jews. (Extermination and obliteration of the state were the Arab war aims. Nothing less.) Here then are 17 references (sequentially from 1948 to 2006), quoting Arab sources which support the Israeli narrative that the Arab exodus was almost entirely voluntary:

  1. Research reported by the Arab-sponsored Institute for Palestine Studies in Beirut. . . .“the majority” of the Arab refugees in 1948 were not expelled,” and “68%” left without seeing an Israeli soldier.”
  2. Report in Jaffa newspaper Ash Sha’ab, January 30, 1948.“The first of our fifth column consists of those who abandon their houses and businesses and go to live elsewhere….At the first signs of trouble they take to their heels to escape sharing the burden of struggle.”
  3. Jamal Husseini, Acting Chairman of the Palestine Arab Higher Committee, speaking to the United Nations Security Council. Quoted in the UNSC Official Records (N. 62), April 23, 1948, p. 14.”The Arabs did not want to submit to a truce they rather preferred to abandon their homes, their belongings and everything they possessed in the world and leave the town. This is in fact what they did.”
  4. From a memorandum by The Arab National Committee in Haifa to the Arab League Governments. 27 April 1948.”… when the delegation entered the conference room it proudly refused to sign the truce and asked that the evacuation of the Arab population and their transfer to neighboring Arab countries be facilitated.”
  5. Emile Ghoury, secretary of the Palestinian Arab Higher Committee, in an interview with the Beirut Telegraph, Sept. 6, 1948.”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 agree upon this policy unanimously and they must share in the solution of the problem.”
  6. Jordanian daily newspaper Falistin, Feb 19, 1949.”The Arab states which had encouraged the Palestinian 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.”
  7. Radio broadcast by the Near East Arabic Broadcasting Station, Cyprus. April 3 1949.”It must not be forgotten that the Arab Higher Committee encouraged the refugees’ flight from their homes in Jaffa, Haifa, and Jerusalem.”
  8. Statement by the Arab National Committee of Haifa in memorandum to the Arab States, April 27, 1950. Cited by Peter Dodd and Halim Barakat, “River Without Bridges. – A Study of the Exodus of the 1967Arab Palestinian Refugees”. Beirut 1969. p. 43.”The removal of the Arab inhabitants … was voluntary and was carried out at our request … The Arab delegation proudly asked for the evacuation of the Arabs and their removal to the neighboring Arab countries…. We are very glad to state that the Arabs guarded their honour and traditions with pride and greatness.”
  9. Report by Habib Issa in Lebanese newspaper, Al Hoda, June 8, 1951.”The Secretary-General of the Arab League, Azzam Pasha, assured the Arab peoples that the occupation of Palestine and Tel Aviv would be as simple as a military promenade. He pointed out that they were already on the frontiers and that all the millions the Jews had spent on land and economic development would be easy booty, for it would be a simple matter to throw Jews into the Mediterranean.“Brotherly advice was given to the Arabs of Palestine to leave their land, homes and property and to stay temporarily in neighboring fraternal states, lest the guns of the invading Arab armies mow them down.”
  10. The Beirut Muslim weekly Kul-Shay, Aug. 19, 1951.”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.”
  11. Nimr el Hawari, the Commander of the Palestine Arab Youth Organization, in his book Sir Am Nakbah (The Secret Behind the Disaster, published in Nazareth in 1955), quoted the Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Said as saying”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.”
  12. The Egyptian daily Akhbar El Yom, Oct 12, 1963.”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 countries were about to enter and fight in their stead.”
  13. Nuri Said, Iraqi Prime Minister, cited by Myron Kaufman, “The Coming Destruction of Israel” The American Library Inc., 1970 pp. 26-27.”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.”
  14. Khaled al-`Azm, who served as Prime Minister of Syria in 1948 and 1949, wrote in his memoirs, Beirut 1973 that among the reasons for the Arab failure in 1948 was “the call by the Arab Governments to the inhabitants of Palestine to evacuate it and to leave for the bordering Arab countries, after having sown terror among them…Since 1948 we have been demanding the return of the refugees to their homes. But we ourselves are the ones who encouraged them to leave…We have brought destruction upon a million Arab refugees, by calling upon them and pleading with them to leave their land, their homes, their work and business…” (Part 1, pp. 386-387).
  15. Fuad Abu Higla, columnist, writing in PA daily Al Hayat Al Jadida, March 19, 2001. He quotes a prisoner from the 1948 generation. (Per Palestinian Media Watch)“To the [Arab and Muslim] Kings and Presidents, Poverty is killing us, the symptoms are exhausting us and the souls are leaving our body, yet you are still searching for the way to provide aid, like one who is looking for a needle in a haystack or like the armies of your predecessors in the year of 1948, who forced us to leave [Israel], on the pretext of clearing the battlefields of civilians… So what will your summit do now?”
  16. Journalist Mahmud Al-Habbash, in the official PA paper, Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, in his column “The Pulse of Life” December 13, 2006.”The leaders and the elites promised us at the beginning of the “Catastrophe” [the establishment of Israel and the creation of refugee problem] in 1948, that the duration of the exile will not be long, and that it will not last more than a few days or months, and afterwards the refugees will return to their homes, which most of them did not leave only until they put their trust in those “Arkuvian” promises made by the leaders and the political elites. Afterwards, days passed, months, years and decades, and the promises were lost with the strain of the succession of events.”
  17. From Asmaa Jabir Balasimah Um Hasan, who fled Israel in 1948. Quoted from Al-Ayyam May 16, 2006 per Palestinian Media Watch.

Israeli negotiators should stand fast on the true narrative of the causes of Arab flight in 1948. The Arabs harkened to the exhortations of their leaders and the leaders of the Arab nations who had readied their armies to attack the nascent Jewish state. They intended to annihilate the Jews. They urged cis-Jordan Arabs to get out and allow them to carry out their planned genocide. They even threatened them with death as collaborators if they did not. They promised them a goodly share of the Jewish wealth that would be theirs after they had finished their killing spree. The Arab nations were responsible for a war they had initiated with the most evil of intentions. The consequences were their responsibility. If anyone should compensate the so-called refugees, the responsibility is theirs. Israel ow