It’s just as well that their demands are tempered by pessimism – perhaps realism is a better word. Although Bibi Netanyahu is surely more pragmatic than is often suspected, he’s hardly likely to give way on this one. To put it bluntly, Israel bears no culpability for the refugee situation, and it cannot be expected to solve it in the way most respondents (and extremist partisans of the Palestinians around the world) want. Had the Arabs accepted the hand of friendship proffered by the little Jewish State on its establishment in 1948 instead of – with the intention of obliterating Israel – immediately waging what proved for the aggressors a disastrous war, there would be no “refugee problem”, and the Palestinian Arabs would have their own state.
‘For too long the public have been treated to all sorts of articles and announcements from a wide variety of sources in which the recurring theme has been that the appalling plight of the Arab refugees is the fault of the Jews, and scarcely a voice has been raised in protest. Even a prominent Jew has gone so far as to write that “these women and children would not be dying of starvation and exposure if the Israeli State had never been founded”’, observed the Jewish Chronicle (16 November 1948).
“The truth is surely quite otherwise. The plight of these unfortunate people is a direct result of the chaotic condition into which the British Government allowed Palestine to drift when its troops were withdrawn last May, and for which the United Nations must bear a large share of responsibility through its failure to establish an effective regime to succeed the Mandatory Government. Long before the last British troops left the country this newspaper joined the ranks of those who warned the Government and the United Nations that a vast toll of human suffering was inevitable unless effective steps are taken to enforce the November 29 resolution. It is patently unjust to saddle Jews with the responsibility for what has occurred, and naive for Jews to be misled into thinking that the responsibility is collectively theirs.”
The Spectator (19 November 1948), carried an article entitled “Refugees and the Jordan”. Its author, Michael George Ionides (1903-78), a British irrigation expert who was Director of Development in the administration of Transjordan from 1937-39, laid responsibility for the refugees’ plight not at Israel’s but at Britain’s door. He outlined a scheme for settling the refugees on the territory east of the River Jordan – in Transjordan – declaring: “so far as the refugees in the Arab parts of Palestine and in Transjordan are concerned, irrigation of the Jordan Valley terraces is the only possible hope for their future existence. There is none else.”
He acknowledged that there would be difficulties in implementing this scheme, but declared: “What of that, when half-a-million refugees face starvation, disease, and death – this winter, next winter, and the one after that, till something is done? Mulberry came off. So has the Berlin airlift. So can a Jordan Valley Relief Project – if we will it.”
As we all know, it did not eventuate.
Cruelly, cynically, cravenly, corruptly, Haq el-Auda is being held over Israel like a Sword of Damocles – the perceived suffering of people in refugee camps is the potent symbol of Palestinian victimhood which threatens Israel as surely as does war and terror. That is, of course, why the vengeful Arab states have never integrated the Palestinians or alleviated their suffering - to use them as pawns, as weapons against Israel. As is blatantly obvious to friends and enemies of Israel alike, such an influx as demanded – that of 5,000,000 persons – would ring the death knell of Israel as a Jewish State. In any case, I understand that under international law the progeny of a resettled refugee population has no right to return to the land that the original refugee generation left. The progeny are not, despite Arab-speak, refugees.
As the Jewish Chronicle editorialised on 20 August 1948:
“A very different problem is presented by the plight of Jewish Communities in Arab lands. This is acute and urgent, though little has been said about it in the British Press, which prefers to harp on Jewish transgressions, real or imaginary. For every word of editorial comment on the mass arrests of Jews in Egypt, or the brutal killing of Jewish tourists, at least twenty have been devoted to the isolated case of the abominable Deir Yassin massacre. This is understandable, since the pro-Arab school is badly in need of an explanation for the almost incomprehensible mass flight of Arabs from the land from which they were supposed to be so deeply attached. It is nonetheless regrettable, for it hides a very real problem.”
What would be their fate, the paper wondered,
“if the wave of fanaticism rises with every defeat suffered by the Arab forces in Palestine? Zionism now ranks with Communism in the eyes of the Arab authorities, and the measures taken to impress this fact upon the Jewish Communities range from simple imprisonment and confiscation of property – with a substantial rake-off going to persons in authority – to looting, mob violence, small-scale pogroms, and the imposition of the death penalty for such crimes as attempting to escape to Palestine. It is not surprising that many Zionists see in these incidents the harbingers of coming massacres, and insist upon the necessity to remove these communities – if necessary, by way of exchange for the Arab population which has fled from Israeli territory.”
Recently, Israel’s Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon (Jerusalem Post, 9 September 2010), whose grandfather fled Algeria when on becoming independent of France it granted citizenship only to Muslims, took a leaf out of the Arabs' book by stating “I Am a Refugee”, and summarised the situation well when he wrote, inter alia: “However, I do not consider myself so; I am a proud citizen of the State of Israel. The Jewish refugees found their national expression in Israel; so too, the Arab refugees should find their national aspirations being met by a Palestinian state.”