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The Palestinian refugees -- a reality check Part 1 & 2 (ISRAEL HAYOM OP-ED) Yoram Ettinger 12/29/13)Source: http://www.israelhayom.com/site/newsletter_opinion.php?id=6651 Israel Hayom Israel Hayom Articles-Index-TopPublishers-Index-Top
Western policymakers and media have misconstrued/misrepresented the Palestinian refugee issue, ignoring its global context and core data. Moreover, the Palestinian claim of dispossession -- which impacts the U.S. financial aid to UNRWA, and is defined as a key issue in the peace process -- fails the reality test.

The global context

At the end of 2012, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees documented 15.4 million refugees worldwide -- excluding Palestinian refugees who are administered by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency -- and 28.8 million internally displaced persons. Four million of the refugees are from Afghanistan. One of the results of the civil war in Sudan was 5.5 million refugees. Fifteen million refugees (Hindu, Muslim and Sikh) were created by the 1947 partition of India, which created Pakistan. The Greco-Turkish war of 1919-1922 involved a forced population exchange of two million people.

From 1990 to 1991, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait expelled 800,000 Yemenites and almost 300,000 Palestinians for collaborating with Saddam Hussein´s invasion of Kuwait. Some 300,000 Palestinians -- who were allies of Saddam Hussein -- fled Iraq following the first and second Gulf Wars. Since 1945, there have been some 100 million refugees worldwide, most of them resettled. On the other hand, Palestinian refugee camps in Arab territories have remained intact since 1950, while Palestinian leadership conducts a lavish life-style, including bank accounts stashed throughout the world.

Core data

According to an August 1971 Ford Foundation report, by 1950 the majority of the Palestinian refugees began evacuating the camps and non-refugees moved in to benefit from UNRWA´s services. For example, half of the population in the Jalazone refugee camp, near Ramallah, settled there after 1950.

A November 17, 2003 report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office documented that less than 33% of registered Palestinian refugees live in refugee camps.

The actual number of Palestinian refugees is determined by the following: Before the 1948-1949 War of Independence, 800,000 Arabs (per inflated numbers) resided within the boundaries of "pre-1967 Israel." At the end of that war, 170,000 Arabs stayed in Israel. Of the remaining 630,000 Arabs, 100,000 were absorbed by Israel´s family reunification gesture; 100,000 middle and upper class Arabs left before the beginning of the 1948-1949 war and were absorbed by neighboring Arab states; 50,000 migrant laborers returned to their Arab countries of origin; 50,000 Bedouins joined their brethren-tribes in Jordan and Sinai; and 10,000 were war fatalities. Thus, the actual total number of Palestinian refugees was 320,000. Most of the refugees followed their political, economic and social leadership, which left before the eruption of the war. Many were enticed to depart by Arab leaders, who promised a quick devastation of the Jewish state that would provide the evacuees with Jewish property. British authorities influenced others, pressuring the minority in mixed Jewish-Arab towns to evacuate: Arabs evacuated but Jews did not.

The claim of dispossession examined

According to Dr. Yuval Arnon-Ohanna of Ariel University and former head of the Mossad´s Palestinian research division ("Line of Furrow and Fire: The Conflict for the Land of Israel, 1860-2010," 2013, pp. 397-415): "The birth of the Palestinian refugee phenomenon -- in the form of a massive Arab flight -- occurred during the Arab riots of 1936-39, not during the 1947-49 war. ... The flight was confirmed by the British consul general to Beirut, G.W. Furlonge, in an October 27, 1938 report to the British High Commissioner in Jerusalem ... and by the Lebanese daily, Al Akhbar, in a December 1938 article. ... A documentation of 40,000 Arab refugees, during 1936-39, was included in Dr. Rony Gabbay´s 1959 Ph.D. thesis, which was submitted to Geneva University. ...

"The flight was caused by an Arab wave of terrorism, which was aimed initially at British personnel and Jewish communities, but was rapidly diverted at Arab targets. It perpetrated a violent anarchy among Arabs, totally devoid of Jewish involvement. Just like the 1947-49 flight, the 1936-39 flight triggered a departure by upper class Arabs, followed by lower and middle class Arabs, who felt increasingly insecure. Many returned to their countries of origin. ...

"The 1947-49 flight was limited, mostly, to Arabs from the coastal plain and valleys of Israel, while most mountain Arabs from the Galilee (which was taken over by Israel, but produced very few refugees), Samaria and Judea remained intact. ... Therefore, the Palestinian "claim of return" always highlights the coastal plain [pre-1967 Israel]. ...

"The coastal plain was devastated by the Muslims, following their victory over the Crusaders. ... Consequently, in the 19th century, Jaffa was reduced to a small village, Haifa had less than 1,000 residents and the valleys (Jordan, Beit Shean, Jezrael, Hula, etc.) were desolated, as documented by the 1881-83 surveys of the Palestine Exploration Fund. ...

"[Since 1882,] Jewish [immigration] concentrated in the coastal plain, producing economic growth, which attracted massive Arab immigration from neighboring countries, mostly Egypt, Syria, Lebanon and North Africa. It was that coastal population, and its descendants -- possessing limited roots in the Land of Israel -- which fled in 1947, before the eruption of the war. The flight was accelerated during the 1948-49 war."

Western policymakers and media who ignore reality, and embrace the claim of Palestinian dispossession, undermine the peace process and squander the Western taxpayers´ resources.

Palestinian refugees -- a reality check (part 2)

The Palestinian refugee issue has been dramatically misrepresented, distorting circumstances and numbers, in order to delegitimize the Jewish state.

The root cause then and now

According to the German Middle East expert, Fritz Grobba ("Men and Powers in the Orient"), the 1948 Palestinian leadership, headed by Grand Mufti Haj Amin Al-Husseini, wanted to apply Nazi methods to massacre Jews throughout the Middle East. In 1941, the mufti drafted a proposal requesting that Germany and Italy acknowledge the Arab right to settle "the Jewish problem" in Palestine and the Arab countries in accordance with national and racial Arab interests, similar to the practice employed to solve "the Jewish problem" in Germany and Italy. On Nov. 24, 1947, Acting Chairman of the (Palestinian) Arab Higher Committee Jamal Al-Husseini threatened: "Palestine shall be consumed with fire and blood," if the Jews get any part of it. On April 16, 1948, Jamal Husseini told the U.N. Security Council: "The representative of the Jewish Agency told us yesterday that they were not the attackers, that the Arabs had begun the fighting. We did not deny this. We told the whole world that we were going to fight."

On January 9, 2013, Mahmoud Abbas pledged allegiance to the Grand Mufti, who collaborated intimately with the Nazi leadership, particularly with Himmler, Hitler´s most ruthless right hand man: "On the anniversary of Fatah, we renew the pledge to our fortunate martyrs. ... We pledge to continue on the path of the martyrs. ... Here we must remember the pioneers -- the grand mufti of Palestine, Haj Amin Al-Husseini."

Who is responsible?

PLO Chairman and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas admitted that "Arab armies forced Palestinians to leave their homes" (Filastin A-Thawra, March 1976). On May 13, 2008, Al Ayyam, the second largest pro-Abbas Palestinian daily, claimed: "[In 1948] the Arab Liberation Army (ALA) told Palestinians to leave their houses and villages, and return a few days later, so the ALA can fulfill its mission."

The head of Britain´s Middle East Office in Cairo, John Troutbeck, reported in June 1949: "Arab refugees speak with utmost bitterness of Egypt and other Arab states. They know who their enemies are. Their Arab brothers persuaded them unnecessarily to leave their homes." Sir Alan Cunningham, the last British high commissioner in Palestine, wrote on April 28, 1948 that the total evacuation was urged on the Haifa Arabs from higher Arab quarters. The U.S. consul-general in Haifa telegraphed on April 25, 1948 that "reportedly, Arab Higher Committee is ordering all Arabs to leave."

The secretary-general of the Arab League, Azzam Pasha, told the Lebanese daily Al Hoda on June 8, 1951: "In 1948, we were assured that Palestine´s occupation would be a military promenade. ... Brotherly advice to Arabs in Palestine was to leave their homes temporarily." The London Economist wrote on Oct. 2, 1948: "The most potent of the factors [triggering the Arab flight] were the announcements 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." Syrian Prime Minister Khaled al-Azam admitted in his 1973 memoirs that "we brought destruction upon the refugees, by calling on them to leave their homes."

According to the first U.S. ambassador to Israel, James G. McDonald ("My Mission in Israel"): "These Arabs ... fled from Palestine as the result of mass panic when the wealthy Arabs, almost to a man, began running away in Nov. 1947. ... The flight was provoked by lurid tales of Jewish sadism issued by the Mufti and his followers. ... Superstitious and uneducated, the Arab masses succumbed to the panic and fled. ... The refugees were on [Arab leaders´] hands as the result of a war, which they had begun and lost."

How many refugees? The regional context

While the actual number of the 1948/9 Palestinian refugees was 320,000, Dr. Yoel Guzansky writes that about one-third of Syria´s population of 23 million have recently lost their homes, and over 2 million (and growing) have found refuge in neighboring Arab countries. In Jordan, there are 1.2 million refugees, intensifying domestic instability; 800,000 Sunni Muslims fled to Lebanon, aggravating Shiite-Sunni sectarian terrorism and constituting an existential threat; 700,000 are in Turkey, 250,000 in Iraq and 125,000 in Egypt. One million Libyans have fled their country, which has become increasingly violent and unstable since the 2011 toppling and assassination of Moammar Gadhafi. Half a million refugees from Ethiopia, Somalia, Djibouti and Sudan have reached Yemen, which is burdened by a similar number of Yemenis who lost their home due to tribal, religion, ideological and geographic domestic strife.

According to the British "Survey of Palestine, Volume I" -- cited in Samuel Katz´s "Battleground: Fact and Fantasy in Palestine" -- in 1947, there were 561,000 Arabs in the area that became Israel. Katz contends that at the end of the war there were 140,000 Arabs in Israel; thus, there could not have been more than 420,000 displaced Arabs. "At the end of May 1948, Faris el Khoury, Syria´s representative on the U.N. Security Council, estimated their number at 250,000. ... Emil Ghoury, secretary of the Arab Higher Committee -- the leadership of the Arabs in British Mandate Palestine -- announced on Sept. 6, 1948, that by the middle of June, the number of Arabs who had fled was 200,000, and by July 17 their number had risen to 300,000. ... Count Bernadotte, the U.N. special representative in Palestine, estimated the number of Arab refugees at 360,000, including 50,000 in Israeli territory." The Chicago Tribune´s E. R. Noderer reported on May 10, 1948 that "150,000 Arabs were estimated to have left the areas of Palestine assigned to the Jews in the partition plan."

Misinformation and disinformation have dominated the diplomatic discourse on the Palestinian issue, misleading Western policymakers and public opinion molders, thus radicalizing Arab expectations and demands, fueling terrorism and minimizing the prospects of peace.

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