Try to imagine what the world would be like if Israel had granted the “Palestinian refugees” who fled from Israel in 1948-49 the right to return to Israel. Not to the West Bank. Not to the Gaza Strip. But to Israel within its pre-1967 borders.
What, then, would the world have left to bash Israel about? What would the anti-Semites have left to scream about, or the crowd claiming to be “anti-Zionist but not anti-Semitic,” or the self-hating leftist Jews?
Well, hold on to your shtreimel, your shaitel (non-Indian hair, of course) or your beanie. Because I’ve got something shocking to tell you: Israel did grant “Palestinian refugees” the right to return.
In 1947-48, the UN proposed partitioning Palestine into a Jewish and an Arab state of approximately equal sizes. The Jews accepted the plan and the Arabs rejected it. When the British Mandate over Palestine was ended under the UN decision, the Arab states attacked the newborn state of Israel, tried to annihilate it and its population, and at the same time gobbled up most of the territory the UN had allotted for the proposed Palestinian Arab state.
The territory that became Israel had never been a Palestinian Arab state. In fact, most of the Arabs in Palestine had migrated there from neighboring Arab countries during the last decades of the 19th century, seeking to benefit from the first stages of the great Zionist awakening – namely, the influx of capital and the availability of jobs and services
In other words, the Arabs of Palestine in 1948, exactly like the Jews, were by and large people from families who had been in the country for three generations or less.
During the fighting in the 1948-49 war, thousands of Arabs living in the territory that became Israel fled. The main reason they fled was that they understandably wanted to put some distance between their families and the battle zones. At the same time, they were ordered by the Arab political leadership to leave the territory of Israel. Why take my word on this? Listen to Arab sources:
“The Arab states encouraged the Palestine Arabs to leave their homes temporarily in order to be out of the way of the Arab invasion armies.” – Falastin (Jordanian newspaper), February 19, 1949.
“The Arab governments told us: Get out so that we can get in. So we got out, but they did not get in.” Ad Difaa (Jordanian daily), September 6, 1954.
“The Arab 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.” – Abu Mazen, erstwhile prime minister of the Palestinian Authority, in “What We Have Learned and What We Should Do,” published in Falastin el Thawra, the official journal of the PLO, March 1976.
So how many Arabs fled? The number has become enormously distorted over time by the bash-Israel lobby and Arab propagandists and their apologists, who usually claim between
500,000 and a million. A more realistic estimate is between 300,000 and 450,000, based in part on Arab and UNRWA sources.
Most of these refugees ended up in some of the twenty-two sovereign Arab states, including those from which they had migrated into Palestine in the late 19th and early 20th centuries in the first place. In other words, the “refugees” went back to their earlier homelands in Lebanon, Syria, and Jordan. It was a sort of “right of return.” At the same time, the Arab states carried out a near-total ethnic cleansing of nearly a million Jews, who had been living there since biblical days and in many cases before those states had Arab populations.
In the years immediately following World War II, there were more than 50 million refugees: Poles, Germans, Indians, Pakistanis, Hungarians, Chinese, Japanese, Koreans, and others. They were all long ago resettled and forgotten. But not the “Palestinian refugees.”
For decades, the Arab states found it convenient to utilize the “refugees” as a political and military weapon against Israel. Palestinians inside Arab states were trained as terrorists and sent out to murder. At the same time, there was enormous incentive for the Arab locals in the countries into which the refugees had entered to pretend also to be “Palestinian refugees.” After all, the UN and other agencies were handing out free food and other perks to anyone
claiming to be a refugee from Palestine.
Unlike all those many millions of other people considered refugees in the late 1940’s, the Palestinian Arabs were the only ones for whom the “right of return” to their previous homes was considered an entitlement. The reason was not a selective affection for Palestinians, but a selective hostility toward Israel and Jews.
Israel would have been insane had it allowed itself to be inundated with real and make-pretend Palestinian “refugees” in a tiny sliver of land the size of Maryland. Just like the infant United States, which refused to allow any of the tens of thousands of Tory Loyalists expelled by the patriots to return after the War of Independence, Israel was entirely in its rights to refuse to
allow the return of masses of Palestinian Arabs whose migration was being demanded by those seeking to liquidate Israel via a demographic flooding.
Even so, Israel did let Palestinian refugees return – tens of thousands, in fact, were quietly allowed back, in many cases to their original homes, once the fighting in 1949 subsided. Many continue to be admitted today within the framework of “family reunification” agreements.
Between 1948 and 2001, Israel allowed about 184,000 “Palestinian refugees” or their families to return to Israel proper (Jerusalem Post, January 2, 2001; see also Haaretz 28 December 28, 2000). These are in addition to about 57,000 Palestinians from Jordan illegally in Israel, toward whom the authorities are turning a blind eye (Haaretz, April 4, 2001). Not the West Bank, not Gaza, but Israel inside its pre-1967 “Green Line” borders.
The call for a “right of return” by Palestinians to Israel is no doubt the most absurd political demand floating anywhere around the planet. There is already an Arab state in two thirds of Mandatory Palestine. It’s called Jordan, and most of its population is Palestinian Arab. The Oslo Accords and Israel’s Camp David II offer would have created a second Arab state in Palestine, the West Bank and Gaza as part of a comprehensive peace settlement. Any “Palestinian” from anywhere could have moved to “Palestine” or to Jordan within the
framework of such a peace, the same way any Jew who wishes to may immigrate to Israel, or any Armenian may immigrate to Armenia, and Greeks from the Greek diaspora are automatically welcomed in Greece.
The PLO and the Islamofascist states backing it demand that in addition to establishing a second Arab state in Palestine within the framework of any peace settlement, Israel itself must also be converted into a third Arab Palestinian state, via unlimited massive immigration of people claiming to be Palestinians. Benjamin Franklin, who opposed granting even a dime in compensation to the Tory refugees expelled from the United States during the War of
Independence, would be splitting his sides laughing.
But the most Orwellian absurdity of all is that Israel, as we have seen, long ago did grant the right to “return” to Israel itself to tens of thousands of “Palestinian refugees.” Did this earn Israel the world’s gratitude for its uniquely generous gesture? Did the world denounce the Arab fascist states who ignored this generosity and continued to seek Israel’s destruction? Do today’s bleeding hearts and recreational compassion posturers, always pretending to feel such
exquisite pain for Palestinians, even know about the limited “right of return” granted by Israel over the past decades?
Hindus have never been returned to Pakistan. Muslims from Pakistan have not been returned to India. Ethnic Germans were not returned to their pre-war homes in Czechoslovakia, Poland, Russia or Romania. Japanese have not been returned to Manchuria. Greeks have not been returned to Anatolia. Jews have not been compensated for the billions they left behind when ethnic cleansing of Jews in Muslim countries took place, and Tory Loyalists were never returned to New England.
But tens of thousands of “Palestinian refugees” were granted by Israel what none of these others received.
Steven Plaut is a professor at Haifa University. His book “The Scout” is available at Amazon.com. He can be contacted at email@example.com.
About the Author: Steven Plaut is a professor at the University of Haifa. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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