Dear Mr. Brisbane,
Your newspaper recently published an op-ed written by Mahmoud Abbas, the unelected president of the Palestinian Authority.
In it, he claims that in 1948 he was forced to flee as a thirteen-year-old from Safed in what is now Israel and was forced to live in a tent city in Syria as a poor refugee.
He further claims the Palestinians were victims of what he refers to as “our expulsion” and that “Zionist forces expelled Palestinian Arabs to ensure a decisive Jewish majority in the future state of Israel,” which was why “Arab armies intervened. War and further expulsions ensued.”
What’s unusual here is not only that this is a blatant falsehood, but that it was contradicted publicly by Abbas himself.
A 2003 Wall Street Journal article, titled “Abu Mazen Charges that the Arab States are the Cause of the Palestinian Refugee Problem,” noted that Abbas had authored an article in March 1976 (in the official journal of the PLO in Beirut) that said, “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, 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 Eastern Europe.”
Not only that, but in an interview with Al-Palestinia TV in 2009, Abbas admitted that his family was not expelled or driven out, but rather left voluntarily out of fear that the Jews might take revenge for the slaughter of 20 Jews in the city during the Arab pogroms of 19 years earlier:
“I am among those who were born in the city of Safed. We were a family of means. I studied in elementary school, and then came the nakba [calamity, namely, the founding of the State of Israel - ed.]. At night, we left by foot from Safed to the Jordan River, where we remained for a month. Then we went to Damascus, and then to our relatives in Jordan, and then we settled in Damascus.
“My father had money, and he spent his money systematically, and after a year, the money ran out and we began to work.”
So much for those moving claims of being reduced to living in a tent as poverty stricken refugee.
As always, there’s more.
From the Jordan daily newspaper Falastin, February 19, 1949:
“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.”
From the Cairo daily Akhbar El-Yom, October 12, 1963:
“May 15, 1948 arrived; on that very 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.”
From a memorandum by the Arab National Committee to the Arab League governments on their refusal to sign a truce, April 27, 1948:
“When the Arab 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. The Jewish representatives expressed their profound regret. The mayor of Haifa adjourned the meeting with a passionate appeal to the Arab population to reconsider its decision…”
Abbas’s claim that the Arab armies intervened only after the Israelis supposedly expelled the Arab inhabitants en masse is also a falsehood. The Arab states had publicly declared their intention to murder every Jew living in Israel if statehood were declared and had begun organizing their forces to do so even before the UN vote took place. That is a matter of historical record.
That’s what the so-called nakba really commemorates: a failed attempt at genocide a mere three years after Auschwitz had been liberated – an attempt in which a significant number of the Arab inhabitants of what was then the Palestine Mandate took part.
I was able to find these references after a cursory search. I find it difficult to believe that The New York Times, with its professional researchers, fact checkers and other resources, was unable to do the same and more.