MYTH – "One million Palestinians were expelled by Israel during its Independence war between 1947-49."
The Palestinians left their homes in 1947-49, during Israel’s independence war, for a variety of reasons. Thousands of wealthy Arabs left in anticipation of a war, thousands more responded to Arab leaders' calls to get out of the way of the advancing armies, a handful were expelled, but most simply fled to avoid being caught in the cross fire of a battle.
Many Arabs claim that 800,000 to 1,000,000 Palestinians became refugees in 1947-49.
The last census was taken by the British in 1945. It found approximately 1.2 million permanent Arab residents in all of Mandatory Palestine.
In 1947, a total of 809,100 Arabs lived in Mandatory Palestine.
A 1949 Government of Israel census counted 160,000 Arabs living in the country after the Independence war. This meant no more than 650,000 Palestinian Arabs could have become refugees.
A report by the UN Mediator on Palestine arrived at an even lower figure of 472,000, and calculated that only about 360,000 Arab refugees required aid.
Although much is heard about the plight of the Palestinian refugees, little is said about the Jews who fled from Arab states. Their situation had long been precarious.
When the United Nations proposed the Partition Plan for Palestine, in which they recommended the creation of independent Arab and Jewish States linked economically and a Special International Regime for the city of Jerusalem, Arab leaders threatened them.
Egypt's delegate told the General Assembly: "The lives of one million Jews in Muslim countries will be jeopardized by partition."
The number of Jews fleeing Arab countries for Israel in the years following Israel's independence was nearly double the number of Arabs leaving Palestine. Many Jews were allowed to take little more than the shirts on their backs. These refugees (see photo's below) had no desire to be repatriated. Little is heard about them because they did not remain refugees for long.
Of the 820,000 Jewish refugees between 1948 and 1972, 586,000 were resettled in Israel at great expense, and without any offer of compensation from the Arab governments who confiscated their possessions.
Israel has consequently maintained that any agreement to compensate the Palestinian refugees must also include Arab compensation for Jewish refugees. To this day, the Arab states have refused to pay any compensation to the hundreds of thousands of Jews who were forced to abandon their property before fleeing those countries.
Through November 2003, 101 of the 681 UN resolutions on the Middle East conflict referred directly to Palestinian refugees. Not one mentioned the Jewish refugees from Arab countries.
The contrast between the reception of Jewish and Palestinian refugees is even starker when one considers the difference in cultural and geographic dislocation experienced by the two groups. Most Jewish refugees traveled hundreds and some traveled thousands of miles to a tiny country whose inhabitants spoke a different language. Most Arab refugees never left Palestine at all; they traveled a few miles to the other side of the truce line, remaining inside the vast Arab nation that they were part of linguistically, culturally and ethnically.
MYTH – "Arab leaders never encouraged the Palestinians to flee."
An abundance of evidence exists demonstrating that Arabs were encouraged to leave their homes to make way for the invading Arab armies.
The Economist, a frequent critic of the Zionists, reported on October 2, 1948:"Of the 62,000 Arabs who formerly lived in Haifa not more than 5,000 or 6,000 remained. Various factors influenced their decision to seek safety in flight. There is but little doubt that the most potent of the factors were the announcements made over the air 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."
Time's report of the battle for Haifa (May 3, 1948) was similar: "The mass evacuation, prompted partly by fear, partly by orders of Arab leaders, left the Arab quarter of Haifa a ghost city....By withdrawing Arab workers their leaders hoped to paralyze Haifa."
Benny Morris, the historian who documented instances where Palestinians were expelled, also found that Arab leaders encouraged their brethren to leave.
The Arab National Committee in Jerusalem, following the March 8, 1948, instructions of the Arab Higher Committee, ordered women, children and the elderly in various parts of Jerusalem to leave their homes: "Any opposition to this order...is an obstacle to the holy war...and will hamper the operations of the fighters in these districts" (Middle Eastern Studies, January 1986).
Morris also said that in early May units of the Arab Legion reportedly ordered the evacuation of all women and children from the town of Beisan, nowadays Beit She'an.
The Arab Liberation Army was also reported to have ordered the evacuation of another village south of Haifa.
The departure of the women and children, Morris says, "tended to sap the morale of the menfolk who were left behind to guard the homes and fields, contributing ultimately to the final evacuation of villages. Such two-tier evacuation — women and children first, the men following weeks later — occurred in Qumiya in the Jezreel Valley, among the Awarna bedouin in Haifa Bay and in various other places."
Who gave such orders?
Leaders like Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Said (photo above), who declared: "We will smash the country with our guns and obliterate every place the Jews seek shelter in. The Arabs should conduct their wives and children to safe areas until the fighting has died down."
The Secretary of the Arab League Office in London, Edward Atiyah, wrote in his book, The Arabs: "This wholesale exodus was due partly to the belief of the Arabs, encouraged by the boastings of an unrealistic Arabic press and the irresponsible utterances of some of the Arab leaders that it could be only a matter of weeks before the Jews were defeated by the armies of the Arab States and the Palestinian Arabs enabled to re-enter and retake possession of their country."
In his memoirs, Khaled al Azm, the Syrian Prime Minister in 1948-49 (photo above), also admitted the Arab role in persuading the refugees to leave: “Since 1948 we have been demanding the return of the refugees to their homes. But we ourselves are the ones who encouraged them to leave. Only a few months separated our call to them to leave and our appeal to the United Nations to resolve on their return.”
"The refugees were confident their absence would not last long, and that they would return within a week or two," Monsignor George Hakim, a Greek Orthodox Catholic Bishop of Galilee told the Beirut newspaper, Sada al-Janub (August 16, 1948). "Their leaders had promised them that the Arab Armies would crush the 'Zionist gangs' very quickly and that there was no need for panic or fear of a long exile."
On April 3, 1949, the Near East Broadcasting Station (Cyprus) said: "It must not be forgotten that the Arab Higher Committee encouraged the refugees' flight from their homes in Jaffa, Haifa and Jerusalem."
"The Arab States encouraged the Palestine Arabs to leave their homes temporarily in order to be out of the way of the Arab invasion armies," according to the Jordanian newspaper Filastin (February 19, 1949).
One refugee quoted in the Jordan newspaper, Ad Difaa (September 6, 1954), said: "The Arab government told us: Get out so that we can get in. So we got out, but they did not get in."
"The Secretary-General of the Arab League, Azzam Pasha, assured the Arab peoples that the occupation of Palestine and Tel Aviv would be as simple as a military promenade," said Habib Issa in the New York Lebanese paper, Al Hoda (June 8, 1951). "He pointed out that they were already on the frontiers and that all the millions the Jews had spent on land and economic development would be easy booty, for it would be a simple matter to throw Jews into the Mediterranean...Brotherly advice was given to the Arabs of Palestine to leave their land, homes and property and to stay temporarily in neighboring fraternal states, lest the guns of the invading Arab armies mow them down."
The Arabs' fear was naturally exacerbated by fabricated stories of Jewish atrocities following the attack on Deir Yassin. Deir Yassin is one of the founding myths of the Palestinian narrative, according to which Israelis murdered 254 people, committed rapes, and other gender-oriented atrocities in a peaceful 1948 Palestinian village.
There was no massacre in Deir Yassin. No rapes. Lots of unfounded Palestinian propaganda.
The native population lacked leaders who could calm them; their spokesmen, such as the Arab Higher Committee, were operating from the safety of neighboring states and did more to arouse their fears than to pacify them. Local military leaders were of little or no comfort. In one instance the commander of Arab troops in Safed went to Damascus. The following day, his troops withdrew from the town. When the residents realized they were defenseless, they fled in panic.
According to Dr. Walid al-Qamhawi, a former member of the Executive Committee of the PLO, "it was collective fear, moral disintegration and chaos in every field that exiled the Arabs of Tiberias, Haifa and dozens of towns and villages."
As panic spread throughout Palestine, the early trickle of refugees became a flood, numbering more than 200,000 by the time the provisional government declared the independence of the State of Israel.
Even Jordan's King Abdullah, writing in his memoirs, blamed Palestinian leaders for the refugee problem:
“The tragedy of the Palestinians was that most of their leaders had paralyzed them with false and unsubstantiated promises that they were not alone; that 80 million Arabs and 400 million Muslims would instantly and miraculously come to their rescue.“
Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mahmud Abbas ("Abu Mazen") 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, and threw them into prisons similar to the ghettos in which the Jews used to live.”
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