Despite all these problems,
If one were to examine the history of
Why 700,000 people became refugees was disputed between
The creation of the [refugees] problem was almost inevitable, given:
- the geographical intermixing of the population
- the history of the Arab-Jewish hostility since 1917
- rejection of both sides of a binominal solution
- The depth of Arab animosity that existed toward the Jews and fears of coming under Jewish rule.
The structural weaknesses that characterized Palestinian society on the eve of the war made it especially susceptible to collapse and flight. It was
- poorly organized, with little social or political cohesion,
- there were deep divisions between rural and urban population, and
- between Muslims and Christians, and
- Between various elite clans.
- The absence of representative leaders, and
- National institutions [such as labor unions, health care, defense, tax collections, etc.]
- Because of economic and social processes that had begun in the mid-nineteenth century, large parts of the rural population had been rendered landless by the 1940s. In consequence there was a constant, growing shift of population from the countryside to urban shantytowns and slums; to some degree this led to both physical and psychological divorce from the land. Moreover, 70 or 80 percent of the people were illiterate [reader should note that the public educational system available to Palestinians before 1948 was limited to 25%-30% of total eligible Palestinian student population]. In some measure, this resulted in and was mirrored by a low level of political consciousness and activism. The "nationalism" of the urban elite was shared little; if at all, by the urban poor and peasantry.
- And finally, the Arab economy in
had failed to make shift from primitive, agriculture economy to a reindustrialize one--as the Yishuv had done. Equally relevant, in towns very few Arab workers were unionized; none, except the small number in British government service, enjoyed the benefit of unemployment insurance. Effectively ejected from Jewish enterprises and farms when Arab factories and offices closed down, they lost their means of livelihood. For some, exile may have become an attractive option, at least until Palestine calmed down. Palestine
It was also during this period that there was talk of transferring the Palestinian population from
Another crucial precondition was the penchant among Yishuv leaders to regard transfer as a legitimate solution to the "Arab problem." Recently declassified Zionist documents demonstrated the virtual consensus emerged among the Zionist leadership, the wake of the publication in July 1937 of the Peel Commission recommendations, in favor of the transfer of at least several hundred thousand Palestinian Arabs--if not all of them-- out of the areas of the Jewish state-to-be. The tone was set by Ben-Gurion himself in June 1938:
"I support compulsory [Palestinian Arab population] transfer. I do not see in it anything immoral."
Ben-Gurion's views did not change--though he was aware of the need, for tactical reasons, to be discreet. In 1944, at a meeting of the Jewish Agency Executive discussing how the Zionist movement should deal with the British Labor Party decision to recommend the transfer of Palestinian Arabs, he said:
"When I heard these things. . . I had to ponder the matter long and hard ....[but] I reached the conclusion that this matter [had best] remain [in the Labor Party Program] . . . Were I asked what should be our program, it would not occur to me to tell them transfer . . . because speaking about the matter might harm [us] . . . in world opinion, because it might give the impression that there is no room in the Land of Israel without ousting the Arabs [and] . . . it would alert and antagonize the Arabs . . ."
"The transfer of Arabs is easier than the transfer of any other [people]. There are Arabs states around . . . And it is clear that if the [Palestinian] Arabs are transferred this would improve their situation and not the opposite."
None of the members of the Executive opposed or questioned these views; most spoke in favor. Moshe Sharett, director of the Jewish Agency's Political Department, declared:
"Transfer could be the crowning achievements, the final stage in the development of [our] policy, but certainly not the point of departure. By [speaking publicly and prematurely] we could mobilizing vast forces against the matter and cause it to fail, in advance."
And he added:
"[W]hen the Jewish state is established--it is very possible that the result will be transfer of Arabs."
On February 7, 1948, three months into the war, Ben-Gurion told Mapai's Central Committee that in Jerusalem's Western neighborhoods, from which the Arabs had fled or been expelled, he had seen:
"no strangers [Palestinian Arabs]. Not since
[Click here for more "transfer" (Ethnic Cleansing) Zionist quotes]
These "great changes" took place in four stages. The first was between December 1947 and March 1948, when Yishuv was on the defensive and upper-and middle-class [Palestinian] Arabs--- perhaps as many as seventy-five thousand--- fled, mainly from mixed cities, or sent their dependents to the West Bank, Lebanon, Egypt, Syria, or Transjordan. In this context there can be no exaggeration the detrimental effect on the Arab morale of the IZL and LHI bombing campaigns in big towns.
These families had the wherewithal to settle comfortably in
Arabs also abandoned a number of villages in areas earmarked for Jewish statehood and with Jewish majority, such as the coastal plain. In villages on the edge of Jewish urban centers, a combination of fear of the Jews and actual intimidation, principally by the IZL and LHI, prompted flight. In at least one case there was also outright expulsion by the Haganah---on February 20 at Caesarea, midway between Tel Aviv and Haifa.
The flight of the upper and middle classes entailed the closure of schools, clinics and hospitals, businesses, and offices, and in turn engendered unemployment and impoverishment. This was the background of the second stage, the mass flight from urban neighborhood and rural areas overrun by the Jewish forces during spring 1948. The earlier flight of the elite sapped popular morale and gave the masses an example to emulate.
The principle cause of the mass flight of April-June was Jewish military attack, or fear of such attack. Almost every instance---exodus from Haifa on April 21- May 1; from Jaffa during April-early May; from Tiberias on April 17-18; from Safad on May10- was the direct and immediate result of an attack on and conquest of Arab neighborhoods and towns. In no case did a population abandon its homes before an attack; in almost all cases it did so on the very day of the attack and in days immediately following. And flight proved to be contagious. The fall of, and flight from, the big cities---principally
Haganah documents described "a psychosis of flight" griping the Palestinian population during this period. The echo of the slaughter on April 9 of the
In some areas Arab commanders ordered the villagers to evacuate to clear the ground for military purpose or to prevent the surrender [or collaboration, examples are too many to list]. More than half a dozen villages---just north of Jerusalem and tin the lower Galilee--- were abandoned during those months as a result of such order. Elsewhere, in
Indeed, psychological preparations for the removal of dependents from the battlefield had begun in 1946-47, when the AHC and the Arab League had periodically endorsed such a move when contemplating the future war in
During the first stage, there was not Zionist policy to expel the [Palestinian] Arabs or intimidate them into flight, though many Jews, including Ben-Gurion, were happy to see the backs of as many [Palestinian] Arabs as possible. And without a doubt, Jewish-both Haganah and IZL- retaliatory policies and the IZL/LHI terror bombings were precipitants. There was no Arab policy, aside from sporadic AHC efforts, to stem the tide of the upper-and middle-class departures.
During the second stage, while there was no blanket policy of expulsion, the Haganah's Plan D [Dalet] clearly resulted in mass flight. Commanders were authorized to clear the populace out of the villages and certain urban districts, and to raze the villages if they felt a military need. Many commanders identified with the aim of ending up with a Jewish state with a small [Palestinian] Arab minority as possible. Some generals, such as [Yigal] Allon, clearly acted as if driven by such a goal [especially in the
On the Arab side there was general confusion at this time about everything concerning the exodus. The governments appear simply not to have understood what was happening and, initially, did not try to stop it. Indeed, Arab Higher Committee [AHC] agents instructed the population of
The pan-Arab invasion of May 15 clearly hardened
In the third and fourth stages of the exodus, in July and October-November 1948, about three hundred thousand more [Palestinian] Arabs became refugees, including the sixty thousand inhabitants of Lydda and Ramla who were expelled by IDF troops [based on the orders of Ben-Gurion and Yitzhak Rabin]. However, many of Nazareth's [Palestinian] Arabs were allowed to stay, apparently to avert the prospect of negative reactions by Western Christian states [For the same reason Nazareth was the ONLY place where Ben-Gurion gave clear orders to shoot to kill any Jewish looter].
Ben-Gurion clearly wanted as few [Palestinian] Arabs as possible to remain in the Jewish state. But there was still no systematic policy; it was never as far as we know, discussed or decided upon at the Cabinet or IDF general staff meetings. Yet Israeli troops, both in the "Ten Days" in July and during Operation Yoav and Hiram in October-November 1948, were far more inclined to expel Palestinians than they had been during the first half of the war. In Operation Yoav, [Yigal] Allon took care to leave almost no Arab communities along the lines of advance. In Operation Hiram, in the north, where Moshe Carmel commanded the Israeli forces, there was confusion and ambivalence. Despite
As we can see, the activities of the Zionists in those days certainly did much to lay the foundations of hate between Palestinians and Israelis. The Palestinians viewed Jewish immigration into
In order to find a solution to this conflict, it is important to be aware of the roots of the conflict and both sides must learn to come to terms with the history of the conflict. The two versions of what happened in 1948, the Israeli version and the Palestinian version, are flawed and both sides see the truth in a different way. Those leaders of good will on both sides of the conflict have a large responsibility to their respective peoples in trying to find a solution to this conflict that has remained a festering sore for more than 60 years. The tendency is to harp on this history ad nauseam which has resulted in total lack of progress to reach a just settlement by which both sides can live side by side in peace.
Many attempts have been made by various scholars in
The Six Day War of June 1967 further complicated the Palestinian refugee problem as more Palestinians escaped from the Israeli occupation in the territories.
The settlers in the occupied territories built themselves palatial homes and encroached further onto Palestinian lands. Palestinian agricultural lands were destroyed to make way for aggressive housing projects for illegal settlements. This resulted in Palestinian farmers losing their livelihood and of course with that, increased frustration and hate for
Despite all the progress that
The Palestinian plight became a breeding ground for other regimes to take advantage. The main player here is
The Palestinian dream of the right of return of refugees has always been at the helm of any discussion concerning peace between the two peoples.
The future of peace between
The binational state solution will return for discussion as that is the only alternative to a two-state solution that has been destroyed before it even started due to the settlement policies of previous Israeli governments.
Another very disturbing phenomenon in
President Bush was in
Hamas is an essential component which has to be taken into account in a future peace agreement between