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Palestinian Refugees – The Truth (whose responsibility?)

Yoram Ettinger, Straight from the Jerusalem Cloakroom #214

June 13, 2008

While the surrounding Arab countries – assisted by Palestinian Arabs – invaded the newly established Jewish State:

1. The British Mandate urged Arabs and Jews (November 30, 1947- May 14, 1948, before the outbreak of the war) to evacuate small mixed towns, where they constituted a minority. Arabs complied, while Jews defied. Consequently, Alan Cunningham, the British High Commissioner, stated: “Arabs are leaving the country with their families in considerable numbers, and there is an exodus from the mixed towns to the rural Arab centers…The panic of the Arab middle class persists and there is a steady exodus of those who can afford to leave the country (December 1947, five months before the 1948/9 War)”.
2. The Arab Higher Committee (the effective leadership of Palestinian Arabs) instructed/forced Arabs in Jaffa, Jerusalem, Haifa and other urban centers to relocate “until Jews are obliterated,” while British troops were still there, pleading with them to stay. The London Economist (Oct. 2, 1948): “The most potent factors [in the flight] were announcements made by the Palestinian-Arab Higher Committee, urging all Haifa Arabs to quit, intimating that those remaining would be regarded as renegades.” Arab over-confidence prior to the war (600,000 Jews vs. 27, 000,000 Arabs) was crashed by defeat, intensifying the flight of Arabs.”
3. Leaders of Arab countries and the Arab Liberation Army enticed urban and rural Arabs to evacuate, in order to facilitate the Arab onslaught, and then inherit the homes of the Jews. Abu Mazen (Filastin A-Thawra, March 1976): “Arab armies forced Palestinians to leave their homes.” Khaled al-Azam, Syrian Prime Minister in 1949 (memoirs, 1973): “We brought destruction upon the refugees, by calling on them to leave their homes.” The Jordanian daily, Filastin (Feb. 19, 1949): “The Arab States…encouraged the Palestinians to leave their homes, temporarily, not interfering with the invading Arab armies.” Al-Ayyam daily (May 13, 2008): “The Arab Liberation Army told the Palestinians – ‘Leave you houses and villages, and you will return in a few days. Leave them so we can fulfill our mission…’”
4. Lack of leadership and no sense of shared-destiny. High Commissioner, Cunningham (before the outbreak of the war): “The collapsing Arab morale in Palestine is in some measure due to the increasing tendency – of those who should be leading them – to leave the country… In Jaffa, the mayor went on a 4 day leave 12 days ago…In Haifa, the Arab members of the [mixed] municipality left some time ago…The Chief Arab Magistrate has left…The Effendi [aristocrat] class has been evacuating in large numbers and the tempo is increasing…” Lack of national cohesion was reflected via inter-regional, urban-rural, inter-urban Palestinian animosity and the eventual rejection of the refugee camps by surrounding Palestinian and Arab communities.
5. The 1936-39 Palestinian violence, with more Arabs than Jews murdered by Arab terrorists, triggered a large wave of Arab migrants, who sought refuge in their countries of origin – Lebanon, Syria, Egypt, Jordan (most coastal Arabs migrated to the area, from the surrounding Arab countries, as well as Sudan, Algeria, Libya, Bosnia during 1831-1947). The 1947-8 pre-war urban and rural anti-civilian terrorism instigated a similar flight. US Consul General, Robert Macatee: “A Jewish woman, mother of 5 children, was shot in Jerusalem, while hanging out clothes on the roof. The ambulance rushing her to the hospital was machine-gunned, and the mourners following her to the funeral were attacked…”
6. Rumors of bogus Jewish atrocities. Jordanian daily, al-Urdun, April 9, 1953: “Arab leaders were responsible for the [Arab] flight, disseminating exaggerated rumors of Jewish atrocities, in order to incite the Arabs, thus instilling fear in the hearts of the Palestinians.” Yahya Hammudah, former (1966) PLO chairman to the Christian Science Monitor: The Jews did not expel us from Lifta [in Jerusalem]; the entire village left following the killing of a 35 person Jewish convoy in April 1948, in order to pre-empt a vicious Jewish vengeance. Jordanian daily, al-Urdun, April 9, 1953: “Arab leaders were responsible for the [Arab] flight, disseminating exaggerated rumors of Jewish atrocities, in order to incite the Arabs, thus instilling fear in the hearts of the Palestinians.”
7. Over 300,000 left before the eruption of the full scale 1948/9 War, while the Arabs had the upper hand, and while the US Department of State and CIA – as well as some of Ben Gurion’s colleagues – urged him to avoid declaration of independence, “lest he be responsible for a second Jewish Holocaust in less than ten years.” Ismayil Safwat, Commander in –Chief of the Arab Liberation Army (March 23, 1948): “The Jews have not attacked any Arab village, unless attacked first.” John Troutbeck Head of the British Middle East Office, Cairo (June 1949): “The refugees speak with utmost bitterness of the Egyptians and other Arab states. They know who their enemies are, and they are referring to their Arab brothers who – they declare – persuaded them unnecessarily to leave their homes…”
8. Arab Street and Arab media amplification of unexpected Jewish victories and fall of Arab military leaders – such as the fall of Abdel Qader Husseini in the critical Castel Battle – Arab evacuation – triggered a Domino Effect of further Arab flight.
9. An exchange of populations occurred when 820,000 Jewish refugees were expelled from – or fled – Arab countries, while 315,000 Palestinian refugees were created by the aforementioned developments. A mega-million population exchange took place between India and Pakistan (Hindus and Muslims) and in East Europe (Poles and Germans). 100 million refugees were created via wars since World War II and 80 million refugees during 1933-45. Most of them are no longer refugees.
10. The 1948/9 Palestinian-Arab refugees totaled 315,000, in contrast to conventional “wisdom.” 800,000 Palestinian Arabs resided within the “Green Line” before the war and 170,000 remained at the end of the war. Of the 630,000 gap, 100,000 were absorbed after the war by Israel, 100,000 (middle and upper class) were absorbed by surrounding Arab countries, 50,000 were migrant laborers who returned to their countries, 50,000 were Bedouins who joined their tribes in Jordan and Egypt and 10,000-15,000 were war fatalities.
11. The Palestinian-Arab 1948 goal. Haj Amin Al-Husseini, the Palestinian leader in 1948, requested (1940) that Germany and Italy acknowledge the Arab right “to settle the question of the Jewish elements in Palestine, and in other Arab countries, along lines similar to those used to solve the Jewish question in Germany and Italy.” (Fritz Grobba, Peoples and Powers in the East, pp. 194-7, 207-8, Berlin, 1967; Joan Peters, From Time Immemorial, p.37, Harper, 1988). Jamal Al-Husseini, acting Chairman of the (Palestinian) Arab Higher Committee threatened on Nov. 24, 1947 that “Palestine shall be consumed with fire and blood,” if the Jews get any part of it. The misrepresentation of the Palestinian-Arab refugee phenomenon – just like Abu Mazen’s Palestinian hate education – constitutes the most authentic reflection of the Palestinian/Arab Vision. It is intended to de-legitimize and de-humanize the Jewish State, while legitimizing the “Claim of Return” as a means to destroy Israel. The misrepresentation of the Palestinian-Arab refugee phenomenon is much more significant than the seemingly-moderate Arab/Palestinian exchanges with Israeli and Western policy-makers and public-opinion molders.

This Cloakroom is based on data reported by Dr. Yuval Arnon-Ohana, a top Israeli expert on the Palestinian issue (HaUmma Quarterly #141 and 142, autumn and winter 2000) and Prof. Efraim Karsh, Head of Mediterranean Studies at King’s College, University of London (Commentary Magazine, May 2008).