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"The LORD said unto Abram, ... 'I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee ...
And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed
(Genesis 12:1-3)

"Thus saith the LORD God of Israel ... 'The LORD liveth, ... which led the seed of the house of Israel out of the north country,
and from all countries whither I had driven them; and they shall dwell in their own land
(Jeremiah 23:2,8)

"Behold, He that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep" (Psalm 121:1-4)

The Palestinian Refugee Problem

by Lance Lambert

(Reproduced from the Appendix to his book Battle For Israel)

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Much is now heard about the rights of the Palestinian refugee.  The facts that lie behind the problem are not widely known.  What has registered in Western minds has been the vociferous voices of the Arab leaders, both national and terrorist and the harsh fact that the world's major oil deposits on which the economies of the West depend, lie in Arab hands.

It is an interesting fact that the early Arab nationalists never referred to the Palestinians as such or to their rights.  In May 1947 their argument at the U.N. General Assembly was that "Palestine was part of the province of Syria" and that "politically the Arabs of Palestine were not independent in the sense of forming a separate political entity".  As late as May 31st, 1956, Ahmed Shukairy, the Saudi Arabian delegate to the U.N. (and later the leader of the Palestinian Liberation Organization) told the Security Council "It is common knowledge that Palestine is nothing but Southern Syria".  The Palestinian refugee came into being in 1948, but to talk about the Palestinian and his rights only became convenient for Arab nationalists as a political weapon against Israel in more recent years.

The Palestinian Arab Before 1948

Until the growth of Jewish immigration to Palestine at the beginning of [the 20th] century and the resulting increase in prosperity, Palestine was a place of Arab emigration.  Large areas of land were owned either by absentee landlords or by local sheiks and the Palestinian Arab was usually in their debt.  He consequently suffered most from the hand of his fellow Arab and at the best earned for himself and his family a very meagre existence.  Bedouin bands frequently roamed and plundered their villages and as a result many were leaving Palestine for Trans-Jordan and elsewhere.

Then came the Jewish pioneers.  Great tracts of the country had for centuries remained in an arid or semi-arid condition.  Huge areas were only malarial swamp.  It was usually these areas that the Jews bought, often at exhorbitant prices and then began to transform.  Arid land became fertile, malarial swamps were drained, prosperity from the land became a reality and then the Palestinian Arab wanted to join in.  From 1922 Arab emigration turned to one of immigration.  From Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Trans-Jordan and Egypt they began to migrate to Palestine.  Between the two world wars the increase was extraordinary, notably in the areas of Jewish concentration and development.  In Haifa, for example, the Arab population during these years increased two hundred and sixteen per cent as against thirty-two per cent in Bethlehem or forty-two per cent in Nablus.  The British Royal Commission of 1937 clearly related the rapid increase in the Arab population of Palestine (565,000 in 1922; 1,200,000 by 1947) to the Jewish presence, for it was in stark contrast to the record of other Arab countries, notably Trans-Jordan.

Why Then Did the Palestinians Leave?

Until the creation of a Jewish state in 1947, the Arabs were coming into the land.  Why then did they leave in 1948?  Many contradictory statements have been made as to the causes.  Israeli spokesmen point to a number of contributory causes and one overwhelming reason.  A substantial proportion of the Palestinian Arab middle and professional classes emigrated voluntarily with much of their property, prior to the foundation of the state of Israel and have settled happily elsewhere.  many Arab villagers and peasants left because their leaders had deserted them.  A small percentage left directly as a result of the 1948 war, especially Ramleh and Lydda, where the Israeli army was forced to bring about their evacuation.  Then came the tragic massacre at Deir Yassin, an Arab village a few miles to the south-west of Jerusalem and an area of much fighting which had a profound effect on Arab morale.  On April 8th, 1948, a patrol of the Jewish para-military organisation Irgun Zvi Leumi attacked the village in the course of which two hundred and fifty-four Palestinian men, women, and children were killed.  The Irgun claimed that the villagers put out white flags and then opened fire on them, killing eight and wounding fifty-seven.  The Israeli government of Ben Gurrion publicly deplored the incident and they in any case disliked the Irgun whom they regarded as an illegal organisation.  Whatever the truth is behind the massacre, there is no doubt that its story, fanned by Arab propaganda, induced many Arabs to flee from their homes in other parts of Palestine.  While in no way wishing to excuse this act, it is only right to point out that it was more than matched by Arab atrocities upon Jewish communities.

The overwhelming reason however for the Palestinian leaving the country was simply that of Arab hostilities and propaganda.  There would have been no refugee problem if the leaders of the Arab states, notably Egypt, Syria, and Jordan, had not declared war on the new state of Israel and then urged their Palestinian kinsmen to either join in the battle, or to evacuate Israel and return after the Arab armies had destroyed the Jews.  A good example of the effect it had is seen in Haifa.  Due to Jewish immigration, the city had grown and prospered enormously and was the major port in the land.  Outside of Jerusalem, Haifa was the biggest Jewish-Arab community in Palestine and the two communities lived in security and harmony until 1948.  The Arab states then broadcast to them to leave prior to the Arab invasion and intimated that those who stayed accepting Jewish protection would be regarded as renegades.  On the other hand the leaders of the Jewish municipality pleaded with them to stay and serve as an example throughout the land that Jews and Arabs could continue to live together in harmony.  However, of the 62,000 Arabs who formerly lived in Haifa not more than 6,000 remained.  It was essentially Arab propaganda and Arab hostilities that put it into the minds of the Arabs of Palestine to leave that land.

The Arab case is the simple yet deceptive argument that the Jews deliberately drove out thousands of Palestinians from their homes in a campaign of ruthlessness and brutality.  Even the most moderate Arab spokesmen accept this explanation.  Apart from Deir Yassin, the evidence however does not bear them out, neither do their own admittances in 1948 and onwards.  For example:

  • "The fact that there are these refugees is the direct consequence of the act of the Arab states in opposing partition and the Jewish state.  The Arab states agreed upon this policy unanimously and they must share in the solution of the problem" [Emile Ghoury, Secretary of the Palestinian Arab Higher Committee, in an interview with the Beirut Telegraph, Sept. 6, 1948].

  • "The Arab states which had encouraged the Palestinian Arabs to leave their homes temporarily in order to be out of the way of the Arab invasion armies, have failed to keep their promise to help these refugees" [The Jordanian daily newspaper Falastin, Feb. 19, 1949].

  • "Who brought the Palestinians to Lebanon as refugees, suffering now from the malign attitude of newspapers and communal leaders, who have neither honour nor conscience?  Who brought them over in dire straits and penniless, after they lost their honour?  The Arab states, and Lebanon amongst them, did it" [Kul-Shay, Moslem weekly, Beirut, Aug. 19, 1951].

  • "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. Oct. 12, 1963].

  • "For the fight and fall of the other villages it is our leaders who are responsible because of their dissemination of rumours exaggerating Jewish crimes and describing them as atrocities in order to inflame the Arabs ... By spreading rumours of Jewish atrocities, killings of women and children etc., they instilled fear and terror in the hearts of the Arabs in Palestine, until they fled leaving their homes and properties to the enemy" [The Jordanian daily Al Urdun, April 9, 1953].

No wonder even the Soviet delegate in the Security Council on March 4th, 1949, said in the debate on the Arab refugee problem, "Why should the state of Israel be blamed for the existence of that problem?" ...

What is the Present [NB. as at 1976] Plight of the Palestinian Refugee?

The generally held Arab view now is that all Palestinian refugees, their children and their offspring have the right to return to the old homes, since the whole of Palestine including the state of Israel, is the property of the Palestinian people.  Only those Jews whose families had been settled in Palestine before 1917 should really be allowed to remain.  The Israeli view is that any general repatriation of the refugee (they have already allowed thousands to return) is dependent upon the establishment of peace.

The Arab Governments have deliberately maintained the miserable plight of the refugee as a propaganda weapon against Israel.  Approximately two-fifths of the refugees have settled in Jordan, one-fifth in Syria and Lebanon and one-fifth are in Israel, seventy per cent of whom are no longer in camps.  The rest have been assimilated throughout the Arab world as well as in Europe and America.  Generally speaking the worst off refugees are those still living in the camps of Jordan, Syria and Lebanon.  The civil wars in Jordan in 1970 and [subsequently] in Lebanon have centred around these camps for they have been the centre of terrorist activities.  In Syria many are recruited into their para-military force for guerrilla activities along Israeli Borders.  Refugee children have been systematically taught to hate Israel and its people and U.N.R.W.A. has been unable to prevent this political indoctrination.  Today something over one and a half million Palestinian Arabs claim refugee status and about 800,000 of these draw U.N.R.W.A. food rations.  Over 400,000 still live in camps and often in miserable conditions.  The Arab countries' contribution towards the financing of U.N.R.W.A. has been pitiable.  The United States has contributed seventy per cent of the funds, Britain's contribution is second largest and France and Canada have also made substantial contributions together with Sweden.  Israeli contributions have been on a higher scale than any of her Arab neighbours.  The Soviet Union and the Soviet bloc have contributed nothing at all.  So whereas the six Western powers, chiefly the United States, have given three hundred and fifty million pounds up to 1972, the total contribution from the five richest Arab oil states was four million pounds and the nineteen Arab states together managed only thirteen million pounds or under five per cent of U.N.R.W.A's regular expenditure.  The Arab Governments have consistently rejected any move to resettle these refugees anywhere in the Arab world.  With a reasonable degree of cooperation from the Arabs as many as 400,000 refugees could have been resettled in the 1950s.  Human needs have been subordinated to political considerations, so preventing any genuine progress towards the solution of a problem that has caused and is still causing, unnecessary human suffering.

The Problem in Focus

The Arab exodus from Palestine is only the 12th largest movement of refugees to take place since the end of World War II.

  • The India-Pakistan conflict, for example, led to 2,388,000 Moslems moving from India into Pakistan and 2,644,000 Hindus moving from Pakistan to India.

  • Official West German statistics show that by September 1950 almost exactly three million Sudeten Germans had been expelled from Czechoslovakia.  Of these 916,000 had settled in East Germany and the remainder in West Germany and Austria.

  • The total number of refugees from East Germany is more than three and a half million, and six and three quarter million Germans left their homes in the provinces annexed by Poland.

  • [W]e have had the refugees of the Nigerian civil war.  Although figures are less precise, there were at least two million Ibo refugees.

  • When Vietnam was partitioned, 800,000 North Vietnamese moved to the South.

  • In Korea the same thing happened with approximately the same numbers involved.

  • The ... settlement of the refugees from South Vietnam into other parts of the world ran into thousands.

  • The number of refugees from China that have come to Hong Kong are reckoned to be over one million, although little is said about this for obvious diplomatic reasons.

  • Today we have still to learn the full number of refugees as a result of the war in Angola.

Furthermore we do well to remember that the exodus of Jews from Arab lands since 1948 has been even larger than the flight of Arabs from Israel or Palestine.  In 1948 there were almost 850,000 Jews in Arab lands, from Morocco to Iraq.  By 1973 there were less than 50,000.  Many of them came to Israel with only the clothes they stood up in.  In Baghdad alone the Iraq Government in 1951 confiscated thirty-five million pounds in cash from Jewish accounts in banks.  In Egypt an estimated three hundred and fifty million pounds of property was left behind by Jewish refugees.  Yet all these refugees have been absorbed into Israel, despite the many thousands of Jewish immigrants from elsewhere.  Israel has solved her Jewish refugee problem from Arab lands despite having less wealth and resources and with other enormous problems to solve.  Moreover she has settled and re-housed seventy per cent of the Arab refugees within her borders.  She would welcome home the remaining 50,000 Jews in Arab countries were they all to come.

Whereas every one of the non-Arab countries that received a flood of refugees did their best to settle the new arrivals, the strenuous efforts of the Arab countries has been to prevent or limit such resettlement.  The reason for this callousness is simple and is avowedly political.  If the Arab refugees were to find new jobs and homes in Syria, Lebanon, Jordan [Bayith Note: which anyway, please note, is precisely the Palestinian State for which the Arabs are clamouring; having been created from a massive seventy-seven per cent of the land originally designated by the Balfour Declaration as the desperately needed homeland for the Jews] and Egypt, they might too easily settle down and lose their sense of Palestinian identity and yearning for their old homes, which has been kept alive through continuing lies and propaganda.  For this reason alone the Arab Governments have denounced and thwarted all international attempts to resettle the refugees in lands away from Israel's borders.