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 15 May 2011

Nakba Myths: Refugees ... and Refugees ...

David Ben-Gurion's Declaration of Independence on 14 May 1948 (to use the secular calendar) was of course followed by the Arabs' determined but heroically thwarted attempt to wipe the fledgling state off the map, and in the course of hostilities - started of course by the surrounding Arab nations, not by Israel, which sought only peace - some 600, 000 Arabs (now termed, in hindsight, Palestinians, as cunning and effective a propaganda move as there ever has been) became refugees.

A few years ago a writer in a Palestinian Authority newspaper, Al-Hayat Al-Jadeedah,  laid the blame for the so-called Nakba ("catastrophe") squarely where it indeed resides: with the Arab leaders themselves. 
"…The leaders and the elites promised us at the beginning of the “Catastrophe” in 1948, that the duration of the exile will not be long, and that it will not last more than a few days or months, and afterwards the refugees will return to their homes, which most of them did not leave only until they put their trust in those “Arkuvian” [i.e. unkept] promises made by the leaders and the political elites. Afterwards, days passed, months, years and decades, and the promises were lost with the strain of the succession of events…"  (hat tip: Elder of Ziyon)
But, as David Gutmann, a former Palmach fighter, observed in an article entitled "The Arab Lie Whose Time Has Come" :
"To back up its demands for full repatriation to Israel of Arab refugees and their descendants, the Palestinian leadership has—for over fifty years—busily spun the story of their "Naqba," their catastrophic flight from Palestine during 1947-48, in all the media available to them. This version of events—replete with Jewish brutality and Arab victimization—is a lie whose time has come, one now almost universally believed by Gentile and Jew alike.

It has become the latest Blood Libel against the People of the Book; and like the others it will never go away. Nevertheless, many Jewish Peaceniks—both Israeli and American—have signed on to the Naqba narrative, and Jewish authors and intellectuals now number among its leading proponents...."
Testified Gutmann from his own firsthand knowledge:

 "The Palestinians initiated the war that led to their Naqba. Troops from Tel-Aviv eventually conquered Jaffa, but it was Arab fighters in Jaffa who, from the towers of their mosques, first fired into Tel-Aviv, and turned the intercity border areas into a battleground.
The first refugees were not Arabs but Yemenite Jews, from the Tel Aviv-Jaffa No-Man's Land that Arab aggression had created. Unlike the Palestinians, theirs was only a temporary refugee status. Instead of packing them away and forgetting them in squalid refugee camps, their Ashkenazi compatriots took them into their own neighborhoods. For the most part the Yemenites camped out in Tel Aviv apartment lobbies, and used the cooking and sanitary facilities of the permanent residents. When Jaffa fell to Irgun soldiers, they went back home.
The Palestinians fled for many reasons and from many threats, both real and imaginary, and that thousands upon thousands fled when nobody pushed them. As an example, when my unit occupied the abandoned British police station at Sidn'a Ali in the Sharon Plain, British troops were still stationed in the vicinity, and we had to train and patrol with our few guns (antiquated or homemade) concealed. Nevertheless, the Arabs of Sidn'a Ali were long gone, way before we could have pushed them out, and while the Brits were still in place to protect them from us. Needless to say, in the absence of any Palestinian targets (save for some abandoned camels) we committed no rapes." (For the rest see:
One of the most intriguing and insightful commentaries on the refugee issue and Arab rejectionism of Israel has been made by Francisco Gil-White in a well-documented article:
"Critics of Israel from the moderate ... to the most extreme portray it as an example of colonialism: European settlers push out the native population turning them into homeless refugees. And sure, they say, those Europeans were themselves victims of genocide, but do two wrongs make a right?
There are two problems with this view. First, it incorrectly portrays the makeup of the people who constitute most of the Jewish population in Israel. And second, it incorrectly describes the causes and nature of the Palestinian refugee problem....
Is Israel a European “Settler State”?
That is the commonly held view, but the truth is quite different."
Pointing out that, following the establishment of  and Israel in 1948, refugees from Iraq (130,000), Yemen (45,000), Libya (35,000) and other mizrachi communities took refuge there -  in such numbers that some of the countries were virtually depleted of Jews altogether, he states the obvious truth:

Yemeni Jews airlifted to Israel: Operation Magic Carpet
  "Thus, the general perception that Arabs are the only refugees produced by the Arab-Jewish conflicts since 1947 is simply wrong. The difference is that Jewish refugees who fled to Israel – and who had everything taken from them in the process – became Israeli citizens (or citizens of other countries). By way of contrast, Palestinian refugees were refused citizenship by every Arab state except Jordan."

The number of Oriental Jews (450,000) who fled to Israel between 1948 and 1956 was markedly higher than the number (360,000) who made aliya from Europe and the USA.

Gil-White cites studies that show that by the early 1970s the number of Israelis of mizrachi  background outnumbered Jews there of other origins, and that  in 1985, the "Oriental Jews" constituted the majority of Israel's Jewish population, a proportion later diminished by the arrival of Jews from the Soviet Union.

Regarding the lands the mizrachim left behind:
'Many claim that the status of Jews in the Arab world was not like that of Jews in Europe (i.e., it was supposedly better), and therefore Arabs did not have anti-Semitic attitudes until Zionists came to Palestine. In truth, Jewish life in the Arab world was characterized by institutionalized racism....
Why did Zionism, the movement for a Jewish state in Palestine, elicit fury in many Arabs from its very beginnings? To understand this, one must look at the world from a traditionalist Arab/Islamic point of view.
The Arab upper classes saw "dhimmitude" as the cement of the social fabric, helping guarantee the loyalty of 'the street'. Many ordinary Arabs perceived in the lowly status of Jews – that is, in "dhimmitude" – a confirmation of their own worth. And there was special contempt for the Jews, perhaps because, unlike the Christian case, no Jewish states existed to compete with Islamic states....
Why did millions of Arabs all over North Africa and the Middle East, who never met a Zionist, hate them? There are two reasons. First, they did not act like proper dhimmis. Second, the Zionist Jews carried the dangerous contagion of modern ideas....
This helps explain why the Mufti of Jerusalem, Nasser, Arafat, Hamas, etc. have not merely called for defeating Israel and/or extracting political concessions, but rather have always agitated for Israel’s total destruction. The existence of a Jewish State in the Middle East is seen as an offense to the natural order of Allah-proclaimed Jewish inferiority – and as a source of ideas that challenge the traditional Middle Eastern practices and power-relations. Arab leaders use both these perceived offenses to mobilize popular support from the Arab 'street'.
This also explains some otherwise odd facts. For example, the Mufti, Hajj Amin al-Husseini, organized a murderous attack against Jewish civilians in 1920.
It was directed primarily at members of the ‘Old Yishuv’. These were not recent Jewish immigrants. Their families had been in Palestine for over 2000 years. In 1929, Mufti-organized Arabs slaughtered Jews in Hebron and other towns. Although Palestinian leaders speak of the Hebron massacre as a heroic act of resistance to Zionism, in fact, it was a terrorist pogrom, and directed largely at indigenous Palestinian Jews, not recent immigrants.
The context of "dhimmitude" explains why so much terrorist violence was directed against non-immigrant Jews in Palestine. By presenting themselves as equal to Muslims, the Zionists had cancelled the dhimma; therefore, jihad could resume. Since the dhimma was an agreement that applied to the entire community, all Jews were now subject to jihad slaughter...
The Egyptian, Syrian, Lebanese, Jordanian and Saudi armies and Iraqi and Palestinian irregulars did not invade Israel because it had attacked or threatened those countries, but because Israel had chosen to exist. By doing so, it had cancelled the dhimma on a grand scale.'
Read all of Gil-White's article here:

There's also another pertinent point to be made.

Last September, a guest post on this blog reminded us of the uniqueness of the Palestinian Arabs' insistence on the right to return to their former homeland - other persons displaced as a result of other twentieth-century events, including catalysts during the 1940s, made new lives for themselves, but only in the case of the "Palestinian refugees" is the right to return - a sine qua non for a peace deal as far as the PA is concerned - demanded.  See

See also:

And for great posts on the Nakba question from the archives of a master see:

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