Another Reality Check on Palestinian Refugees
The Palestinian refugee issue has been dramatically misrepresented, distorting circumstances and numbers, in order to delegitimize the Jewish state.
The root cause then and now
According to the German Middle East expert, Fritz Grobba (“Men and Powers in the Orient”), the 1948 Palestinian leadership, headed by Grand Mufti Haj Amin Al-Husseini, wanted to apply Nazi methods to massacre Jews throughout the Middle East. In 1941, the mufti drafted a proposal requesting that Germany and Italy acknowledge the Arab right to settle “the Jewish problem” in Palestine and the Arab countries in accordance with national and racial Arab interests, similar to the practice employed to solve “the Jewish problem” in Germany and Italy. On Nov. 24, 1947, Acting Chairman of the (Palestinian) Arab Higher Committee Jamal Al-Husseini threatened: “Palestine shall be consumed with fire and blood,” if the Jews get any part of it. On April 16, 1948, Jamal Husseini told the U.N. Security Council: “The representative of the Jewish Agency told us yesterday that they were not the attackers, that the Arabs had begun the fighting. We did not deny this. We told the whole world that we were going to fight.”
On January 9, 2013, Mahmoud Abbas pledged allegiance to the Grand Mufti, who collaborated intimately with the Nazi leadership, particularly with Himmler, Hitler’s most ruthless right hand man: “On the anniversary of Fatah, we renew the pledge to our fortunate martyrs. … We pledge to continue on the path of the martyrs. … Here we must remember the pioneers — the grand mufti of Palestine, Haj Amin Al-Husseini.”
Who is responsible?
PLO Chairman and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas admitted that “Arab armies forced Palestinians to leave their homes” (Filastin A-Thawra, March 1976). On May 13, 2008, Al Ayyam, the second largest pro-Abbas Palestinian daily, claimed: “[In 1948] the Arab Liberation Army (ALA) told Palestinians to leave their houses and villages, and return a few days later, so the ALA can fulfill its mission.”
The head of Britain’s Middle East Office in Cairo, John Troutbeck, reported in June 1949: “Arab refugees speak with utmost bitterness of Egypt and other Arab states. They know who their enemies are. Their Arab brothers persuaded them unnecessarily to leave their homes.” Sir Alan Cunningham, the last British high commissioner in Palestine, wrote on April 28, 1948 that the total evacuation was urged on the Haifa Arabs from higher Arab quarters. The U.S. consul-general in Haifa telegraphed on April 25, 1948 that “reportedly, Arab Higher Committee is ordering all Arabs to leave.”
The secretary-general of the Arab League, Azzam Pasha, told the Lebanese daily Al Hoda on June 8, 1951: “In 1948, we were assured that Palestine’s occupation would be a military promenade. … Brotherly advice to Arabs in Palestine was to leave their homes temporarily.” The London Economist wrote on Oct. 2, 1948: “The most potent of the factors [triggering the Arab flight] were the announcements by the Higher Arab Executive, urging the Arabs to quit. … It was clearly intimated that those Arabs who remained in Haifa and accepted Jewish protection would be regarded as renegades.” Syrian Prime Minister Khaled al-Azam admitted in his 1973 memoirs that “we brought destruction upon the refugees, by calling on them to leave their homes.”
According to the first U.S. ambassador to Israel, James G. McDonald (“My Mission in Israel”): “These Arabs … fled from Palestine as the result of mass panic when the wealthy Arabs, almost to a man, began running away in Nov. 1947. … The flight was provoked by lurid tales of Jewish sadism issued by the Mufti and his followers. … Superstitious and uneducated, the Arab masses succumbed to the panic and fled. … The refugees were on [Arab leaders’] hands as the result of a war, which they had begun and lost.”
How many refugees? The regional context
While the actual number of the 1948/9 Palestinian refugees was 320,000, Dr. Yoel Guzansky writes that about one-third of Syria’s population of 23 million have recently lost their homes, and over 2 million (and growing) have found refuge in neighboring Arab countries. In Jordan, there are 1.2 million refugees, intensifying domestic instability; 800,000 Sunni Muslims fled to Lebanon, aggravating Shiite-Sunni sectarian terrorism and constituting an existential threat; 700,000 are in Turkey, 250,000 in Iraq and 125,000 in Egypt. One million Libyans have fled their country, which has become increasingly violent and unstable since the 2011 toppling and assassination of Moammar Gadhafi. Half a million refugees from Ethiopia, Somalia, Djibouti and Sudan have reached Yemen, which is burdened by a similar number of Yemenis who lost their home due to tribal, religion, ideological and geographic domestic strife.
According to the British “Survey of Palestine, Volume I” — cited in Samuel Katz’s “Battleground: Fact and Fantasy in Palestine” — in 1947, there were 561,000 Arabs in the area that became Israel. Katz contends that at the end of the war there were 140,000 Arabs in Israel; thus, there could not have been more than 420,000 displaced Arabs. “At the end of May 1948, Faris el Khoury, Syria’s representative on the U.N. Security Council, estimated their number at 250,000. … Emil Ghoury, secretary of the Arab Higher Committee — the leadership of the Arabs in British Mandate Palestine — announced on Sept. 6, 1948, that by the middle of June, the number of Arabs who had fled was 200,000, and by July 17 their number had risen to 300,000. … Count Bernadotte, the U.N. special representative in Palestine, estimated the number of Arab refugees at 360,000, including 50,000 in Israeli territory.” The Chicago Tribune’s E. R. Noderer reported on May 10, 1948 that “150,000 Arabs were estimated to have left the areas of Palestine assigned to the Jews in the partition plan.”
Misinformation and disinformation have dominated the diplomatic discourse on the Palestinian issue, misleading Western policymakers and public opinion molders, thus radicalizing Arab expectations and demands, fueling terrorism and minimizing the prospects of peace.
This article was originally published by Israel Hayom.