Nadene GoldfootA refugee group made up of Arabs have been living in the Gaza Strip, Judea and Samaria since 1948 when Israel was created. Refugees usually become this way because a people are attacked by an enemy and forced out. They might leave for fear of their enemies and what they know they will do to them. The Arabs became the only refugees caused by the action of their very own leaders who told them to leave their homes and communities. Then, as if in a chess game, these Arabs were kept by their leaders in deteriorating filth and degration. They were prevented from improvement as this condition was held over the heads of the Israelis as the cause of their condition. This condition was not in the hands of the Jews. Gaza was held by Egypt. Judea and Samaria were in the hands illegally of Jordan. All hope of return to their homes was ended, building the blame on the Jews.
The Arabs had seen the richest of them all leave in December 1947 and early 1948 before Israel was announced to be a state among the nations. They were called a 5th column of deserters who left at the first sign of trouble by their newspapers, like the Jaffa Ash Sha'ab who wrote this on January 30, 1948. By March 30, 1948 they wrote accusing the people of Sheikh Munis and other villages around Tel Aviv of "bringing down disgrace on us all" because they abandoned their villages. May 5th paper of the London Times reported: "The Arab streets are curiously deserted and , evidently ....following the more moneyed class there has been an exodus from Jerusalem too, though not to the same extent as in Jaffa and Haifa." In other words, aware Arabs gave up and left the country.
The Haj Amin el Husseini, the exiled pro-Nazi Mufti of Jerusalem, and the Arab Higher Committee for Palestine encouraged the Arab exodus. Refugees were sure that their absence would not last long and that they would return within a week or two. The 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" as reported in Sada al Janub, August 16, 1948. Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Said had thundered, "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." Only their leaders kept them in refugee camps instead as pawns for future fighting. One of the refugees commented later that "the Arab governments told us: "Get out so that we can get in. so we got out, but they did not get in."
62,000 Arabs living in Haifa all left except for about 5,000 to 6,000 who remained. Their leaders let those that remained know that they would be regarded as renegades for doing so. This was reported by the London weekly Economist on October 2, 1948.
Jews tried to prevent the Arabs from leaving when they had the opportunity in between fighting for their lives. Bishop Hakim of Galille told Rev. Karl Baehr, Executive Secretary of the American Christian Palestine Committee that the Arabs of Haifa "fled despite Jewish authorities guaranteeing their safety and rights as citizens of Israel." "Every effort was made by the Jews to persuade the Arabs to stay and carry on with their normal lives, to get their shops and businesses open and to be assured that their lives and interests will be safe." The effort was in vain. They left in large convoys escorted by the British military and left Haifa for Beirut. They left by sea steadily. Convoys left Tireh for Transjordan. Quays and harbor were crowded with refugees and their possessions. The Arab military delegates refused a truce with Israel and asked for British help in transferring the Arab population to the neighboring Arab countries. The British provided the means, including trucks. Jamal Husseini, Acting Chairman of the Palestine Arab Higher Committee to the U.N. Security Council was quoted: "The Arabs did not want to submit to a truce...they rather preferred to abandon their homes, their belongings and everything they possessed in the world and leave the town. This is in fact what they did." Jamal proclaimed this as a virtue.
These areas fell into Israel's hands after the Six Day War of 1967 when the surrounding Arab states again attacked Israel. Israel tried their utmost to improve their conditions, but they had been so conditioned to hate, that it was very difficult to make inroads into their minds or the land. Even without a peace settlement, Israel's policy was to maintain security for all alike, allow the Arabs to live normal lives without losing contact with Arabs in other countries, make possible rapid economic development and to encourage co-existence and cooperation between the Arabs and Israelis. Local affairs were administered by the local population. Open bridges on the Jordan allowed movement in either direction. Up to 1967 Arabs and Jews had been separated and Israel hoped a peacerful and fruitful co-existence was starting up to 1972 when Israel was again attacked.
Instead of owning up to their own greedy error, the Palestinian leaders have blamed the Jews of Israel as a natural act of self-exculpation. Then it was used as a powerful propaganda weapon in war against Israel. Next, the leaders inflated the numbers of the refugees. Mr. Emil Ghoury, Secretary of the Arab Higher Committe said in 1960 at the U.N. that "expelled" Arabs amounted to 2 million. Nadim Dimechkie, a Lebanese representative on November 25th disagreed and said that more than a million were expelled. Four days later a spokesman for Sudan said 1 1/2 million were expelled. We know they weren't expelled by Israel nor did they number that high.
In 1947 there were about 1 million Arabs in the whole of western Palestine. British figures, inflated as explained by Joan Peters in "From Time Immemorial" put the number at 1,200,000. Independent calculation found 800,000 to 900,000 Arabs who left.
Of these, the total number actually living in that part of Palestine which became Israel was according to British figures: 561,000. Not all left. After the end of fighting in 1949, there were 140,000 Arabs in Israel. The total number who left could not have been more than abut 420,000. By May 1948 Faris el Khoury, Syrian Rep on the UN Security Council thought their number to be 250,000. Emil Ghoury 12 years later thought they were 2 million. but had announced on September 6, 1948 that the number was 200,000. As time went on he inflated the numbers as by July 17th he said the number had risen to 300,000. Count Bernadotte, the UN Special Rep in Palestine reported on September 16, 1948 to the UN that the number was 360,000, including 50,000 in Israel territory. After July 1948 a 4th exodus took place of 50,000 Arabs from the Galilee and Negev. Israel's figures of 1972 were that almost a million Arabs lived in the administered area. 640,600 lived in Judaea and Samaria, 388,600 in the Gaza Strip and North Sinai and 8,000 on the Golan Heights.
The Arabs continue to be refugees and depend on the United Nations for their sustenence. UNRWA's inflated numbers in 1947 showed 711,000 Arabs. In 2008 the number had risen to 4.62 million including their descendants. Being mostly Sunni Islamists, they do believe in at least having 4 wives, so their population has exploded. Arab "Palestinians" are also found to be living in Jordan, which is greatly populated by them as well as in Lebanon and Syria. Jordan has 338,000 Palestinians living in refugee camps out of their 1,951,603 Palestinian population. The others are citizens of Jordan. The refugees are held out as pawns against Israel.
To become a refugee one only had to have lived in the British Mandate of Palestine for 2 years or be a descendant. That means they were living in the area before Israel was a state in 1948. UNRA finds there are 4.8 million Palestinian refugees. They are funding them annually with U.S. dollars. The money comes from:
1. European Commission of $190 million
2. USA $185 million
3. Sweden: $51.6 million
4. United Kingdom: $37.5 million
5. Norway: $35.1 million
The reason these Arabs are called "Palestinians" is that this term was used for both Jews and Arabs living in the mandated region of Palestine under the British control after WWI. It is not that there ever was a country of Palestine. This is only the term the Romans called Israel and Judea after they conquered the land in 70 CE. They were erasing the Jewish connotation of the land by doing this, a common practice of theirs. They picked the Latin term of Palaistine as it was the name of the enemies of Israel, the Philistines who lived north of them. For 1,878 years, from 70 CE to 1948 CE, the Land was ruled by foreign governments and never by the people which lived in it.
Most of the modern day Arabs had come into the region from the surrounding Arab lands looking for work when the Jews returned in the 1800's to build the country. It was an opportunity for them to make more money than in their own homeland. Most were all immigrants. Otherwise, there were Jews and Arabs still living in the land who had remained.
The few Arabs who were living in the land that became Israel had no thought in mind of creating a new Arab country. No one had wanted this land since 70 CE. It had become either swampy or arid desert and as Mark Twain had put it, was pretty vile. Only when Jews had finally returned with a determination to create and rebuild their land did it amount to the Garden of Eden it is now. It took draining swamps and enduring malaria from the thousands of mosquitoes to figuring out how to grow crops in a desert, but mainly it took a fierce love for the land it had been and what it could become. Jewish pioneers went through the same sort of fates that American pioneers suffered, and maybe even more.
In September the Palestinian Authority will go to the UN to attempt to declare themselves as a state while still being in a state of war with Israel. This will not prevent them from continuing their attacks on Israel. It most likely will give them the incentive to continue. My furtive hope is that the members of the U.N. will see reason and morality and will not allow this to happen.
Resource: Battleground: Fact and Fantasy in Palestine by Samuel Katz
Facts About Israel from Division of Information, Ministry for Foreign Affairs, Jerusalem