The wholesale exodus was due partly to the belief of the Arabs,
encouraged by the boasting of an unrealistic press and the irresponsible
utterances of some of the Arab leaders that it could be only a matter of
some weeks before the Jews were defeated by the armies of the Arab states,
and the Palestinian Arabs enabled to re-enter and re-take possession of their
country. -- Edward Atiyah (Secretary of the Arab League, London, The
Arabs, 1955, p. 183)
As early as the first months of 1948, the Arab League issued
orders exhorting the people to seek a temporary refuge in neighboring countries,
later to return to their abodes ... and obtain their share of abandoned Jewish
property. -- Bulletin of The Research Group for European Migration
Israelis argue that the Arab states encouraged the Palestinians
to flee. And, in fact, Arabs still living in Israel recall being urged to
evacuate Haifa by Arab military commanders who wanted to bomb the city.
-- Newsweek, January 20, 1963.
The 15th May, 1948, arrived ... On that day the mufti of Jerusalem
appealed to the Arabs of Palestine to leave the country, because the Arab
armies were about to enter and fight in their stead. -- The Cairo daily
Akhbar el Yom, October 12, 1963.
In listing the reasons for the Arab failure in 1948, Khaled al- Azm (Syrian
Prime Minister) notes that
the fifth factor was the call by the
Arab governments to the inhabitants of Palestine to evacuate it (Palestine)
and leave for the bordering Arab countries. Since 1948, it is we who have
demanded the return of the refugees, while it is we who made them leave.
We brought disaster upon a million Arab refugees by inviting them and bringing
pressure on them to leave. We have accustomed them to begging...we have
participated in lowering their morale and social level...Then we exploited
them in executing crimes of murder, arson and throwing stones upon men, women
and children...all this in the service of political purposes... --
Khaled el- Azm, Syrian prime minister after the 1948 War, in his 1972 memoirs,
published in 1973.
The Arab states succeeded in scattering the Palestinian people
and in destroying their unity. They did not recognize them as a unified people
until the states of the world did so, and this is regrettable. -- Abu
Mazen (Mahmoud Abbas), from the official journal of the PLO, Falastin el-Thawra
(What We Have Learned and What We Should Do), Beirut, March 1976.
Since 1948, the Arab leaders have approached the Palestinian
problem in an irresponsible manner. They have used to Palestinian people
for political purposes; this is ridiculous, I might even say criminal...
-- King Hussein, Hashemite kingdom of Jordan, 1996.
Abu Mazen Charges that the Arab States Are the Cause of the
Palestinian Refugee Problem (Wall Street Journal; June 5, 2003): Mahmoud
Abbas (Abu Mazen) wrote an article in March 1976 in Falastin al-Thawra, the
official journal of the PLO in Beirut: 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, imposed upon them
a political and ideological blockade and threw them into prisons similar
to the ghettos in which the Jews used to live in Eastern Europe. As
Abu Mazen alluded, it was in large part due to threats and fearmongering
from Arab leaders that some 700,000 Arabs fled Israel in 1948 when the new
state was invaded by Arab armies. Ever since, the growing refugee population,
now around 4 million by UN estimates, has been corralled into squalid camps
scattered across the Middle East - in Lebanon, Jordan, Syria, Gaza, and the
In 1950, the UN set up the United Nations Relief and Works Agency as a temporary
relief effort for Palestinian refugees. Former UNRWA director Ralph Galloway
stated eight years later that, the Arab states do not want to solve
the refugee problem. They want to keep it as an open sore, as a weapon against
Israel. Arab leaders do not give a damn whether Arab refugees live or die.
The only thing that has changed since  is the number of Palestinians
cooped up in these prison camps.
3. THE QUESTION OF OCCUPATION AND THE
Besides the refugee problem, the two most prominent issues in the
Arab propaganda war against Israel are the alleged Jewish occupation of Arab
lands and the existence of Israeli settlements in the West Bank and Gaza
Strip. To peel away the myths enveloping these issues and proceed to the
realities beneath, it is necessary to review their history within the context
of the Arab war against Israel, which has been going on without interruption
since the creation of Israel in 1948, and which includes the Arab hostility
towards the Jews before that.
Zionist pioneers from the middle of the 19th century onward joined
the local Jewish communities in rebuilding a Jewish homeland in what was
then the Turkish Empire by purchasing land from the Turkish Crown and from
Arab landowners (effendi). There was no invasion, no conquest, and no theft
of Arab land and certainly not of a land of Palestine, since the Arabs
living in the region had been Turkish subjects for 400 years. Unarmed and
possessing no military, the Jews bought so much land from Arabs that in 1892,
a group of effendi sent a letter to the Turkish Sultan, requesting that he
make it illegal for his subjects to sell land to the Jews. Their successors
did the same thing, via a telegram, in 1915. Evidently, the very presence
of Jews owning land in the Middle East however legally acquired
was offensive to some.
It is indisputable that there was no theft, because no one complained
of any. No Arabs were driven from their homes. In fact, as a demographic
study published by Columbia University demonstrates5, the Arab population
of the area grew tremendously during this period in part because of the economic
development that the Jews helped to generate.
Between 1514 AD and circa 1850, the Arab population of this region
of the Turkish Empire was more or less static at about 340,000. It suddenly
began to increase around 1855, and by 1947 the Arab population stood
at about 1,300,000 -- almost quadrupling in less than 100 years. ( 5 Justin
McCarthy, The Population of Palestine, 1990).
The exact causes of this population rise are beyond the scope of this
essay, but the causal correlation between this independently documented
phenomenon and the Zionist enterprise is beyond rational argument.
Far from driving out any Arabs, stealing their land or ruining their
economy, the work of the Jewish pioneers in the 19th and early 20th centuries
actually enabled the Arab population to quadruple, the economy to enter the
modern era, and the society to slough off the shackles of serfdom that typified
the effendi-fellah (land-owner/serf) relationship of the Ottoman era. An
Arab working in a Jewish factory or farming community could earn in a month
what his father earned in a year eking out a living as a subsistence-level
farmer using medieval technology. Arab infant mortality plummeted and longevity
increased as the Jews shared their modern medical technology with their Arab
Much of the land that the Zionists purchased was desert and swamp,
uninhabited and deemed uninhabitable by the Arabs. Modern agrarian techniques
instituted by the Jews and the blood and sweat of thousands of idealistic
Zionists reclaimed that land and turned it into prime real estate with
flourishing farms and rapidly growing communities sporting modern technology
and a healthy market economy.
As a result, Arab migrants poured into the region from surrounding
states, with hundreds of thousands seeking a better life and greater economic
opportunity. Based on the above, it is fair to suggest that a significant
plurality, if not a majority, of Arabs living in Israel today owe their very
existence to the Zionist endeavor.
Validation of this history, which is quite at variance with the standard
Arab propaganda, comes from a surprising source. Sheikh Yousuf al-Qaradhawi,
international Arab terrorist and lieutenant to Osama bin Laden, in a televised
speech in May, 2005,6 chided his followers with the following words:
Unfortunately, we [Arabs] do not excel in either military or civil
industries. We import everything from needles to missiles
How come the
Zionist gang has managed to be superior to us, despite being so few? It has
become superior through knowledge, through technology, and through
strength. It has become superior to us through work. (MEMRI,
We had the desert before our eyes but we didnt do anything with
it. When they took over, they turned it into a green oasis. How can a nation
that does not work progress? How can it grow? 7 ( More academic validation
can be found in Palestinian-born Professor Rashid Khalidis
Palestinian Identity, in Kimmerling, B., and Migdal, J. The
Palestinian People, and in the as yet unpublished doctoral thesis of Dr.
Sandi Sufian, a Palestinian now doing post-doctoral work at the University
It was precisely this success of the Zionist endeavor that aroused
the fear and ire of Arab leaders. Zionist progress, technology, economy,
and the Jews willingness to share this technology with their Arab neighbors
radically threatened the medieval stranglehold of the effendi over the fellahin
Turkish methods of insuring tranquility under the Sultan were rather
draconian. Consequently, as part of the Turkish Empire, the Arabs in the
region did not wish to risk civil disturbance, and therefore maintained a
stoic sufferance of the Jewish presence that some have interpreted as tolerance.
But the British rule that followed the First World War was not so severe.
When Britain took over the governance of British Mandatory Palestine
(today the states of Israel and Jordan), Arab leaders discovered they had
a much freer hand. Stoking religious hatred and fanning the flames of fellah
resentment with lies about the Jews intent to destroy Islam,
representatives of the leading effendi families led by the Hajj Amin el-Husseini
began an Islamic jihad involving a series of pogroms against the Jews.
Peel Partition Plan From 1919 to 1936, Arab violence against
Jews expanded in scope and grew in brutality. The British did almost nothing
to curtail it and sometimes abetted it. Lord Earl Peel led a commission of
inquiry in 1936 with the goal of finding a solution to the seemingly endless
violence. His suggestion was partition. Let the Jews have their state on
the 15% of lands that they have purchased and redeemed. Let the Arabs have
theirs on the remaining 85%. In other words, the very idea of partition became
an agenda because the Arabs could not live peacefully beside Jews.
In 1922, Britain ceded all of the Palestine Mandate east of the Jordan
River to the emir Abdullah. This became the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan,
with a majority Palestinian population that by law permitted no Jew to enter.
When offered their own state in 1937 on roughly 85% of British Mandatory
Palestine west of the Jordan River, the Arab leaders chose war and terrorism.
This was the Great Arab Revolt of 1937-1939. With World War II
in the offing, Britain lost no time in brutally crushing the uprising.
Meanwhile, the pioneering Zionist endeavor continued with the purchase
of more crown land from the British. It is important to note that according
to international law, what had been crown land under the Turkish Empire was
now legally crown land under the British Mandate. The disposition of that
land through legal purchases was well within the rights of the British. It
also conformed to the parameters of international law. When the West emerged
victorious from World War II, Zionist organizations owned about 28% of what
is today Israel, and private Arab land ownership or British crown land accounted
for the rest.
With the end of the war, Arab leadership again promoted violence and
terrorism against Jewish settlements and against the British. The majority
of Jewish leaders preached restraint and practiced the exploration of political
solutions via the newly formed United Nations. A minority practiced terrorism
against the British and violent reprisals against the Arabs.
UN Partition Plan
Sick of the violence and facing political crises growing out of economic
problems following World War II, the British abandoned most of its empire
and decided to place the Palestine Question into the hands of
the United Nations. In 1947 several UN exploratory missions reached Lord
Peels conclusion of a decade earlier. On November 29, 1947 the UN declared
the existence of two states: a state for the Arabs on about 45% of the land,
and the state of Israel for the Jews on about 55%. But more than half of
the Jewish portion (60%) was the Negev desert, crown land largely unpopulated
and believed to be worthless.
The UN Partition Plan (UN Resolution # 181) created unwieldy boundaries
between the two nascent states based upon the land ownership and population
densities of the two groups.
The Arab states were members of the UN. Their membership presumably
entailed a willingness to abide by majority decisions of the newly formed
world body. But they did not.
In high-handed defiance of the UN partition plan, they launched a
war of aggression which, by their own public rhetoric, was to be a war of
annihilation. Their intent was not to correct some border dispute or to reclaim
turf lost in an earlier battle. Their intention was to destroy the newly
created State of Israel, and to dispatch by whatever means necessary its
To their everlasting chagrin, the Arab states lost their war of
aggression. In losing, moreover, they lost much of the territory that the
UN had designated for the state of Palestine. However, even this remainder
of what would have been Palestine (the West Bank and the Gaza Strip) was
obliterated by its two neighboring Arab states. Egypt maintained illegal
occupation of the Gaza Strip, and Jordan illegally annexed the West Bank.
Both actions were in high-handed defiance of international law and UN resolutions
181 and 194. There was no Arab or Palestinian protest over this. Why? The
only conclusion that can be drawn is that in 1949, the Palestinians
didnt consider themselves Palestinians but Arabs,
and in fact the term
was universally used to refer to the Jewish state.
To add to the Arabs embarrassment, Israel offered them in 1949
a formal peace treaty in exchange for which Israel would return much of the
land conquered in the war and allow the repatriation of some substantive
portion of the Arab refugees created by the war (Rhodes Armistice talks,
February July, 1949). Had the Arab nations been willing to accept
the UN partition plan, or had they been willing to accept the Israeli peace
offer, not only would a State of Palestine have existed since 1949, but there
would never have been an Arab refugee problem.
However, the Arab response was: no peace. The refugees would return
to their homes only when they could fly the flag of Palestine over the corpses
of the Jews. Better Palestinians should rot in squalid refugee camps than
that the Arabs should acknowledge a non-Moslem state in their midst. As in
1937, Arab leaders rejected the possibility of a Palestinian state in favor
of continued aggression against Israel.
It was not the creation of the State of Israel that caused the refugee
and other subsequent problems; it was the war of annihilation waged by the
Arab states that created the refugees and rejected the second opportunity
for the creation of a Palestinian state.
Pre-1967 Terrorism Against Israel From 1949 to 1956, Egypt
waged a terror war against Israel, launching about 9,000 attacks from terrorist
cells set up in the refugee camps of the Gaza Strip. The 1956 Sinai
campaign, in which Israel defeated the Egyptian army, ended Egypts
terror war, even though the United States forced Israel to return the
Sinai to Egypt without a peace treaty. But the terror continued
on other fronts.
In 1964, the Palestinian Liberation Organization was created
not to liberate Palestinians from Jordanian and Egyptian rule but
to begin a 40-year campaign of terror against Israel with the openly avowed
goal of pushing the Jews into the sea. Sponsored first by Kuwait,
and later by Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Iraq, Iran and others, the PLO leaders
declared unending war against Israel until all of Palestine was
liberated, redeemed in fire and blood.
From 1949 to 1967 there were no Jewish settlements in the West Bank
or the Gaza Strip. The Palestine that Arafat sought to
redeem was not the West Bank or Gaza, where Palestinians were
the abject subjects of Jordanian and Egyptian rule, but the entire State
of Israel within its 1949 green line borders.
It is instructive to read the original 1964 version of the PLO Covenant:
Article 24. This Organization (the PLO) does not exercise any regional
sovereignty over the West Bank in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, in the
Gaza Strip or the Himmah area.
Since the PLOs original Covenant explicitly recognized Judea,
Samaria, the eastern portion of Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip as belonging
to other Arab states, the only homeland it sought to
liberate in 1964 was the state that belonged to the Jews.
Three years later in 1967, five Arab states including Jordan
-- attacked Israel. As a result of Israels victory in the war Israel
now occupied the West Bank having defeated the Jordanian aggressor, who had
illegally annexed the West Bank 18 years earlier.
The PLOs response to these events was to revise its Covenant,
which it did on July 17, 1968. It removed the operative language of Article
24, thereby asserting for the first time a Palestinian claim
of sovereignty to the West Bank and Gaza Strip. In other words, the Palestinian
claim is asserted only against Jews.
The Jordanian occupation of the West Bank and the Egyptian control
of the Gaza Strip were typified by brutal totalitarian repression. In the
words of Arafat himself, in 1948 the Egyptians herded Palestinians into refugee
camps, kept them behind barbed wire, sent in spies to murder the Palestinian
leaders, and executed those who tried to flee.8
There were no Palestinian protests of this oppression or behalf of
any selfdetermination they felt they had been denied.
Belated Palestinian Nationalism The reason why there was no
agitation among Palestinians for their own national identity prior to 1967
is perfectly clear. The concept of Palestine as a nation and Palestinians
as a separate people did not exist among the Arabs of the Turkish provinces
that became British Mandatory Palestine after World War I.
Despite the contorted, forced, and contrived narratives of apologists
for the Palestinian war against Israel like Rashid Khalidi, Baruch Kimmerling
and others, there was never any state called Palestine, no country inhabited
by Palestinians, and before 1967 no concept of a separate political,
cultural, or linguistic entity representing a defined group that could be
identified by such an appellation.
In fact, the opposite is the case. Arab respondents to the UNs
1947 inquiries argued that there never was, nor should there ever be, a
Palestine. The area under discussion they claimed was historically part of
southern Syria, and for centuries had been known as balad esh-sham
(the country of Damascus). In fact, at that time, the term
Palestinian was applied only to the Jews living in Mandatory
Palestine. The Arabs of the region were known as Arabs.
In a March 31, 1977 interview with the Amsterdam-based newspaper Dagblad
de Verdieping Trouw, PLO executive committee member Zahir Muhsein said:
The Palestinian people does not exist. 8 (Yasir Arafat in his authorized
biography, Arafat: Terrorist or Peace Maker, by Alan Hart, 1982)
The creation of a Palestinian state is only a means for continuing
our struggle against the state of Israel for our Arab unity. In reality today
there is no difference between Jordanians, Palestinians, Syrians and Lebanese.
Only for political and tactical reasons do we speak today about the existence
of a Palestinian people, since Arab national interests demand that we posit
the existence of a distinct Palestinian people to oppose Zionism.
For tactical reasons, Jordan, which is a sovereign state with defined borders,
cannot raise claims to Haifa and Jaffa, while as a Palestinian, I can undoubtedly
demand Haifa, Jaffa, Beer-Sheva and Jerusalem. However, the moment we reclaim
our right to all of Palestine, we will not wait even a minute to unite Palestine
Even today, Syrian 5th Grade social studies textbooks show Greater
Syria as Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, and Israel. There is no nation called
Palestine. The concept of Palestinians as Arabs living for millennia
in historic Palestine is a fiction created for the political
and military purposes described by Zahir Muhsein. This latter day frenzy
of Palestinian agitations for national self-determination is simply the faux
mantle of respectability behind which genocidal Arab terrorism can be perpetrated
against Israel with the support of international do-gooders and
idealists. After the Holocaust, Western liberals cannot look
kindly upon genocidal terrorism; but they can embrace warmly and enthusiastically
the deep and heartfelt yearnings of an oppressed people struggling to be
free. Hence, Arafats terrorist propagandists needed to invent the lies
of Palestinian National Identity and Israeli occupation and oppression.
The Six-Day War of 1967 Contrary to current Arab propaganda,
but congruent with all news accounts contemporary to the events, Israel was
the victim of Arab genocidal aggression in the 1967 War. On May 15, 1967,
Egypt demanded that the UN peacekeeping forces, in place since the Sinai
Campaign, evacuate at once. UN Secretary General U-Thant, for reasons never
fully clarified, complied at once.
Then, Egypt closed the Straits of Tiran, blocking the Israeli
port of Eilat for shipping, and moved two tank battalions and 150,000 troops
right up to Israels western border. A military pact with Syria and
Jordan and illegal invasion of Israels air space for surveillance
over-flights of the Israeli atomic reactor in Dimona rounded out the threats.
These were five casus belli: actions defined in international law
as so threatening to a sovereign state that each one creates a legitimate
cause for defensive military response. Had Israel retaliated with lethal
force after any one of these five, its military action would have been completely
legal per international law, as legitimate defensive response to existential
threats from an aggressor.
However, Israel did not retaliate immediately. It first tried political
negotiations, but its complaints to the UN went unanswered. Its reminders
to President Johnson that the United States had guaranteed in 1957 to intervene
if the Straits of Tiran were ever closed, or if Egypt ever re-militarized
the Sinai, fell on deaf ears. President Johnson was too heavily involved
in the Vietnam war to consider American military action elsewhere, even though
President Eisenhower, when he forced PM Ben Gurion to retreat from the Sinai
after the phenomenally successful Sinai Campaign in 1956, had promised
Americas eternal vigilance that Israel would not again face a military
threat from Egypt.
After three weeks of watching the Egyptian-Syrian-Jordanian forces
grow in size and strength on its borders, Israel tried one last diplomatic
action. Via the UN commander of the peace-keeping forces in Jerusalem, Colonel
Od Bul (a Norwegian), Israels government sent a written message to
King Hussein of Jordan: if you do not invade Israel, Israel will not invade
the West Bank. Jordans King superciliously tossed the note back to
Colonel Od Bul and walked away.
On Monday, June 5, 1967, after receiving military intelligence that
Egypt was within hours of launching an invasion via the Gaza Strip, Israel
launched its defensive pre-emptive strike, an air attack that destroyed the
air forces of Egypt, Jordan, and Syria while they were still on the ground.
With the control of the skies firmly in Israels hand, its armor and
infantry put Egyptian forces to flight, reaching the Suez Canal within two