Thursday, September 16, 2010

(INFO) The Arab And Jewish Refugee Issue

There are many questions regarding the issue of the 1948 War of Independence and Arab refugees right to return to Israel. Why did hundreds of thousands of Arabs abandon their homes? Were they cast out? Did Israel make them leave? Did the invading Arab armies force them to flee? How many refugees are there? And why does the media rarely mention the 800,000 Jewish refugees who had to escape from Arab countries around the same time? We’ve put together some data that will help you understand one of the most important issues in Israel’s relationship with her Arab neighbors and the Palestinians.

Arab Refugees: Facts and Figures

  • 800,000 Arabs lived within the Green Line before the 1948/9 War of Independence
  • 170,000 Arabs remained after the war
  • Israel allowed 100,000 Arabs to return in order to reunite with their families
  • 100,000 upper and middle class individuals integrated into society in Arab countries
  • 50,000 foreign workers returned to their respective homes
  • 50,000 Bedouins integrated into Bedouin tribes in Jordan and Sinai
  • 10,000 – 15,000 were killed in the 1948/9 war
  • Total number of refugees: 320,000

In the period before the War of Independence many Israeli Arabs were originally refugees who settled in Israel after fleeing from neighboring Arab countries
Before we explain the 1948 refugee problem, it is important that you are aware of the following basic fact: many Israeli Arabs, who settled in Israel before the War of Independence, were refugees fleeing from neighboring Arab countries:

  • Jewish immigration triggered economic development as the sudden arrival of uprecedented fiscal and human capital created demand for more infastrucutre and agricultural development of previously fallow lands. This increase in demand for manpower brought waves of Arab immigration to Israel.
  • Between 1831-1840 thousands of Egyptians who refused to serve in the Egyptian military fled to Acre in Northern Israel where they settled. Thousands of Egyptian and Sudanese immigrants followed and settled in Gaza, Tulkarem and the Hula Valley in the following decades.
  • British geographer Henry Baker Tristram, in his book The Land of Israel – a Journal of Travels in Palestine from 1865, and the British Palestine Exploration Fund, documented large concentrations of Egyptian immigrants in Jaffa (e.g. in Abu Kabir), Acre, Hadera, Sheikh Munis (near Tel Aviv), Beit Dagan, Zarnuga/Kiryat Moshe, Al-Qubeibeh, Nahal Iron (Wadi Ara), Beit She’an and more. Swiss geographer, Philip Baldensperger (The Immovable East: Studies of the People and Customs of Palestine) documented immigrants from 25 Muslim countries in Jaffa, and immigrants from Morocco and Syria in Ramla.
  • 30,000-36,000 Syrian immigrants arrived in Palestine during a few months in 1934 (according to the Syrian daily paper La Syrie, August 12th 1934, citing the Mandates Commission, el-Haurani).
  • The British geographer Masterman, wrote in 1914 that half the Muslims in Safed were Algerian and the rest were immigrants from Syria and Bedouins from the Jordan Rift Valley. British geographer Claude Conder reported in 1878 that the Jezreel Valley was a sanctuary for Bedouins from Jordan.
  • Arab immigrants from Libya settled in the region of Gedera. Muslim refugees from Algeria (Maghrebi/Moroccan) arrived at Safed and Tiberias in 1856 after the French occupation in 1830.
  • The Ottoman regime and the British mandate encouraged immigration from Arab countries for the purpose of building infrastructure (e.g. the Jaffa-Jerusalem railway in 1892), building military bases, working in quarries, building the Haifa port and drying up swamp land. The British mandate encouraged immigration of foreign workers from Egypt, Syria and Lebanon but limited Jewish immigration.

The Story behind the 1948 Refugees
Early desertion by Arab (Palestinian) leadership, as early as 1947, caused low morale among Palestinians and led many to leave, abandoning their homes. The British governor urged Jewish and Arab minorities to evacuate mixed cities. The Jews refused and stayed, while the Arabs heeded the governor and left.

Many testimonies since 1947 mention the fact that many Israeli Arabs chose to leave their homes for a number of reasons. Three hundred thousand Arabs left their homes even before the War of Independence broke out, when the Arabs had a military advantage and the U.S. was putting pressure on Jewish leaders not to declare the independence of a Jewish nation, fearing its immediate destruction. Rumors of Jewish victories throughout the War of Independence, such as the Battle of the Castel (Al-Qastal), and the Arab leadership scaring Arab residents with tales of Jewish acts of revenge, accelerated the phenomenon of Arabs abandoning their homes. In August 1953, Head of UNRWA (United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East) Ralph Garroway stated that the Arab nations are not looking for a solution to the refugee problem, but want to maintain it as an open sore, a weapon against Israel.

Britain’s McDonald: Responsibility for the refugee problem rests squarely upon the Arab Leadership
In his book My Mission in Israel, Prof. James McDonald, the first U.S. ambassador to Israel, points to Arab leaders as the ones responsible for the refugee problem and writes: ”They fled from Jewish-controlled Palestine as the result of mass panic when the wealthy Arabs, almost to a man, began running away in November, 1947...provoked by lurid tales of Jewish sadism issued by the Mufti and his followers... The refugees were on their [the Arab Governments’] hands as the result of a war which they had begun and lost... most of the Arab Governments showed no real concern for the refugees...”

His words are supported by those of British governor Alan Cunningham, the last British High Commissioner in Israel: "Arabs have been deserting mixed cities... panic among the Arab middle class continues... early desertion by Palestinian leadership has broken Palestinian morale..." (December 1947). The British governor urged Jewish and Arab minorities to leave mixed cities (e.g. Safed – Jewish minority, Tiberias – Arab minority). The Jews refused and stayed, while the Arabs heeded his request and left.

Even the London paper The Economist reports (October 2nd, 1948): “The biggest cause of the Arab exodus was the messages from the Arab Higher Committee that urged Haifa Arabs to abandon their homes, or else they will be accused of treason. It was made clear that the Jews would be driven into the sea when the British occupation was over”. The Jordanian paper Falastin supports the report (Feb 19th, 1949): “The Arab nations urged the Palestinians to leave their homes so they would not interfere with the Arab invasion”.

Arab Leadership: We Made the Palestinians Leave their Homes
U.S. and British leaders are not the only ones to attest to this. Abu Mazen, leader of Fatah, stated: "the Arab armies forced Palestinians to leave their homes in 1948." (Falastin A-Th’ora, march 1976)

Secretary General of the Arab League, Azzam Pasha, agreed that Arab leadership encouraged Palestinians to temporarily leave their homes: ”It was promised that conquering Palestine would be a military picnic, our advice to the Palestinians was to temporarily leave their homes” (Al-Huda, Lebanon June 5th, 1951).

Syrian Prime Minister, Khalid Al-Azam (in his book Memories, 1973) laments and writes:” We brought disaster on the refugees, when we urged them to abandon their homes.”

Note the difference between the organizations that deal with Refugees: UNRWA Perpetuates the Problem, while the UNHCR Helps Resettle Refugees

  • On January 26th, 1952 UN Secretary General, Daag Hammarskjöld, announced a three year plan for settling the 1948 Arab refugees in Arab countries (UN resolution 413).
  • UNRWA was founded in 1948 for a period of 2-3 years in order to solve the Arab refugee problem. In 2008 UNRWA celebrated 60 years: not a single refugee had been resettled, but a billion dollars has accumulated in the organization’s pension fund.
  • UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees), which aids 21 million refugees throughout the world, employs 6,300 people. UNWRA, which deals only with the 1948 Arab refugees, has become the UN’s largest organization and employs 29,000 workers. All but 150 are Palestinian.
  • In contrast with UNHCR, UNWRA awards refugee status to all decedents of the original refugees. UNHCR resettles refugees (67,000 in 2008), but UNRWA perpetuates the refugee problem. As opposed to UNHCR which resettles refugees in their current country of residence, UNWRA instills in the refugees the desire to return to the scene of the conflict.
  • UNRWA awards refugee status to all Arabs, including foreign workers, who resided in Israel two years before May 1948. The High Commissioner for Refugees awards refugee status to any individual who had to flee their country of citizenship.
  • UNWRA is interested in increasing the number of refugees. Since 1950, local villagers have settled in refugee camp homes which resettled refugees left, and were then awarded refugee status. According to a 1971 RAND study, half of the residents of the Jalazone refugee camp next to Ramallah are local villagers. According to a U.S. Government Accountability Office report from January 17th 2003, less than one third of registered refugees live in refugee camps.

What about the 800,000 Jewish Refugees from 1948?
The constant debate about the Palestinian refugee problem makes most people forget that 820,000 Jews escaped and/or were chased out of Muslim/Arab countries and became refugees. On May 16th 1948 an article in the New York Times stated: “Jews in Muslim countries in grave danger. 900,000 Jews in Africa and Asia are faced with waves of hate from their enemies”.

Below are the numbers of Jewish refugees who were exiled from their homes and country:

Morocco: 240,000 Jews
Algeria: 140,000 Jews
Iraq: 135,000 Jews
Tunisia: 105,000 Jews
Egypt: 70,000 Jews
North Yemen: 55,000 Jews
Libya: 37,000 Jews
Syria: 25,000 Jews
South Yemen: 8000 Jews
Lebanon: 5000 Jews

600,000 Jewish refugees from Arab countries settled in Israel, while 200,000 immigrated to France, the U.K., Canada and the U.S. (source)

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