Eretz Israel is our unforgettable historic homeland...The Jews who will it shall achieve their State...And whatever we attempt there for our own benefit will redound mightily and beneficially to the good of all mankind. (Theodor Herzl, DerJudenstaat, 1896)

We offer peace and amity to all the neighbouring states and their peoples, and invite them to cooperate with the independent Jewish nation for the common good of all. The State of Israel is ready to contribute its full share to the peaceful progress and development of the Middle East.
(From Proclamation of the State of Israel, 5 Iyar 5708; 14 May 1948)

With a liberal democratic political system operating under the rule of law, a flourishing market economy producing technological innovation to the benefit of the wider world, and a population as educated and cultured as anywhere in Europe or North America, Israel is a normal Western country with a right to be treated as such in the community of nations.... For the global jihad, Israel may be the first objective. But it will not be the last. (Friends of Israel Initiative)

Sunday, 12 September 2010

Talking Tachlis on the Arab Refugees

“The plight of Arab refugees, consequent upon the war that was started by the Arab League, has not only aroused genuine humanitarian concern,” remarked the London Jewish Chronicle in December 1948, “but has also formed the pretext of much unscrupulous propaganda against the Jews.” Sounds familiar?

If there is ever an issue which is going to prove a sticking point in the peace talks between Israel and the Palestinian Arabs, it is the notion of Haq el-Auda, the claimed right of return for the 725, 000 (some sources say 750,000) Arab refugees of 1948 – and not only for as many of them as are still alive but their descendants, a total of 5,000,000 people. One of the questions in the August AWRAD (Arab World Research and Development) poll of 3001 Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza was : “With regards to the peace process and reaching a final status agreement, which issues do you consider to be Very Significant, Of Some Significance, Of Little Significance, Of No Significance, or I don’t know?” The issues identified were: Establishing an independent and sovereign Palestinian state (Very Significant – 91.7%); The status of Jerusalem (Very Significant – 91.0%); Security for Palestine (Very Significant – 86.2%); The rights of refugees (Very significant – 83.2% ); Settlements in the Occupied Territories (Very Significant – 81.3%). And as I stated in my last post, 87.5% of respondents consider it “Essential” that refugees be given the “Right of return and compensation”. But at the same time, 45.7% of respondents believe that “No change in the status of refugees will take place”.

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.”

Between 1949 and 1954 about 800,000 (some estimates say 900,000) Jews were forced by persecution and threat on the part of humiliated Arab regimes smarting at Israel’s failure to be vanquished to leave the Muslim lands in the Middle East and North Africa in which Jews had lived for hundreds and even thousands of years. These were the refugees of whom most of the world is unaware – the forgotten refugees, and whereas the Arab nations – with all the land at their disposal and all their petro-dollars failed to rehome the Arab refugees – the nascent Jewish State, despite all the other calls on its resources, ensured their welfare, education, and absorption.

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.”


  1. Fascinating that the Times should devote a full page to this story of the Jews in Arab lands. Was it to atone for the poor job they did on the plight of the European Jews? Great find!

  2. Thanks, Bella. I can't take credit for actually trawling through the hard-copy of the NYT for it - there was already a screenshot online. Pity it's not big or clear enough to read properly. Maybe with a magnifying glass! (Note the Nazi-loving Mufti of Jerusalem in the cartoon - he had blue eyes and as you probably know was made an "honorary Aryan by his chum Adolf.) I looked in vain for any similar large article in the London "Times"!

    On the rescue of Jews from Pakistan in the 1970s thanks to an Australian diplomat's wife see the blog Point of No Return