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Revisiting the Right of Return By: Steven Plaut
FrontPageMagazine.com | Friday, June 18, 2004

Try to imagine what the world would be like if Israel had granted the "Palestinian refugees," who fled from Israel in 1948-49, the right to return to Israel.  Not to the West Bank.  Not to the Gaza Strip -- but to Israel within its pre-1967 borders.

Imagine a situation in which Israel agreed to allow tens of thousands of Arabs who fled from the battle zones of the Israeli War of Independence the possibility of returning to Israel, in many cases to the very homes they had abandoned during the fighting.  Imagine how the same world, currently obsessed with achieving a "right of return" for "Palestinian refugees," would be forced to acknowledge that Israel had already granted the possibility for tens of thousands of these refugees to return to Israel, in many cases decades ago.   How then could the world continue to bash Israel?   What ammunition would anti-Semites have left? And what about the crowd claiming to be "anti-Zionists but not anti-Semites" or the self-hating leftist Jewish anti-Semites?

Well, hold on to your hat, because I have a whopper of a revelation to make to you.   Israel DID grant the "Palestinian refugees" the right to return to Israel!


Let us back up a bit.  In 1947-48, the UN proposed partitioning "Palestine" into a Jewish and an Arab state of approximately equal sizes.  The Jews accepted the plan, and the Arabs rejected it.  When the UN ended the British Mandate over "Palestine," the Arab states attacked the newborn state of Israel, tried to annihilate it and its population, and at the same time gobbled up most of the territory that the UN had allotted to become a Palestinian Arab state.  The territory that became Israel had NEVER been a Palestinian Arab state.  Most of the Arabs in "Palestine" had migrated there from neighboring Arab countries after the 19th Century start of the Zionist Jewish immigration, taking advantage of the influx of capital and the availability of jobs and services, like hospitals.  In other words, the Arabs of "Palestine" in 1948, just like the Jews, were by and large people from families who had been in the country for three generations or less. 


During the fighting in the 1948-49 war, thousands of Arabs living in the territory that became Israel fled.  The main reason they fled was that they understandably wanted to put some distance between their families and the battle zones.  At the same time, they were ordered by the Arab political leadership to leave the territory of Israel.  Why take my word on this?  Listen to Arab sources:


"The Arab States encouraged the Palestine Arabs to leave their homes temporarily in order to be out of the way of the Arab invasion armies."
- Falastin (Jordanian newspaper), February 19, 1949.  


"The Arab governments told us: Get out so that we can get in. So we got out, but they did not get in."
- from the Jordan daily Ad Difaa, September 6, 1954.


""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" (emphasis added), Abu Mazen, erstwhile "Prime Minister" of the Palestinian Authority, in "What We Have Learned and What We Should Do,” published in Falastin el Thawra, the official journal of the PLO, of Beirut, in March 1976.


There are scores of other Arab sources confirming this.


So how many Arabs fled?  The number has become enormously distorted over time by the Bash-Israel lobby and by Arab propagandists and their apologists, who usually claim between 500,000 and a million.   A more realistic estimate is between 300,000 and 450,000, based in part on Arab and UNRWA sources themselves.  Most of these refugees ended up in some of the twenty-two sovereign Arab states, including those Arab countries from which they had migrated in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries in the first place.  In other words, the "refugees" went back to their earlier homelands in Lebanon, Syria, and Jordan.   It was a semi- "right of return."  At the same time, the Arab states carried out a near-total ethnic cleansing of around a million Jews, who had been living there since Biblical days and in many cases before these states had Arab populations.  The Jews from Arab countries left behind far more property than did the Palestinian Arab refugees.  Most of these Jewish refugees were resettled in Israel


In the years immediately following World War II, there were more than 50 million refugees: Poles, Germans, Indians, Pakistanis, Hungarians, Chinese, Japanese, Koreans, etc. etc.  They were all long ago resettled and forgotten, all except for the "Palestinian refugees".   How come?


Because for decades, the Arab aggressor states found it convenient to utilize the "refugees" as a political and military weapon against Israel, not only of propaganda and spin, but of terrorism.  "Palestinians" inside Arab states were trained as terrorists and sent out to murder.   At the same time, there was enormous incentive for the Arab locals in the countries into which the refugees had entered to pretend also to be "Palestinian refugees.” After all, the UN and other agencies were handing out free food and perks to anyone pretending to be a refugee from "Palestine".   


Unlike all those many millions of other people considered refugees in the late 1940s, the "Palestinians" were the only ones for whom the "right of return" to their previous homes was considered an entitlement.  The reason was not a selective affection for Palestinians, but a selective hostility towards Israel and Jews.  Those demanding the wholesale "return" to Israel of Palestinian "refugees", including the countless thousands of non-Palestinians pretending to be Palestinian refugees, had one goal in mind, the eradication of Israel. 


Israel would have been insane to allow itself to be inundated with real and make-pretend Palestinian "refugees", this in a tiny sliver of land the size of Maryland, at the same time that the 22 Arab states have territory-galore stretching from the Atlantic Ocean all the way to Central Asia!  The Palestinian Arabs and their sponsors had tried to annihilate Israel and failed.  Just like the infant United States, which refused to allow any of the tens of thousands of Tory Loyalists expelled by the patriots to "return" to the United States after the War of Independence, Israel was entirely in its rights to refuse to allow the "return" of masses of "Palestinians", whose migration was being demanded by those seeking to liquidate Israel via a demographic flooding.


There is just one little caveat though.


Israel DID let the Palestinian refugees return!  Tens of thousands of them were quietly allowed to return to Israel, in many cases to their original homes, once the fighting in 1949 subsided.   Many continue to be admitted today within the framework of "family reunification" agreements.


From 1948 until 2001, Israel allowed about 184,000 "Palestinian refugees" or their families to "return" to Israel proper (Jerusalem Post, January 2, 2001; see also Ha'aretz 28 December 2000).   These are in addition to about 57,000 Palestinians from Jordan illegally in Israel, towards whom the authorities are turning a blind eye (Ha'aretz, 4 April 2001).   Not the West Bank, not Gaza, but Israel inside its pre-1967 "Green Line" borders!  In the Camp David II meetings in 2000, Israeli leftist Prime Minister Ehud Barak rather insanely offered to allow another 150,000 "refugees" to enter Israel as part of a peace accord.  The PLO's response was to launch pogroms and four years of atrocities, because the number was finite.


The demand for a "right of return" by Palestinians to Israel is no doubt the most absurd political demand floating anywhere around the planet.  There is already an Arab state in two thirds of Mandatory Palestine, named Jordan, and most Palestinan Arabs make up most of its population.  The Oslo Accords and Israel's Camp David II offer would have created a second Arab state in Palestine, in the West Bank and Gaza, as part of a comprehensive peace settlement.  Any "Palestinian" from anywhere could have moved to "Palestine" or to Jordan, within the framework of such a peace, the same way any Jew who wishes to may immigrate to Israel, or any Armenian may immigrate to Armenia, and Greeks from the Greek Diaspora are automatically welcomed in Greece.


The PLO and the Islamo-Fascist states backing it demand that in ADDITION to establishing a second Arab state in Palestine within the framework of any peace settlement, Israel itself must ALSO be converted into a third Arab Palestinian state, via unlimited massive immigration of people claiming to be Palestinians.  Benjamin Franklin, who opposed granting even a dime in compensation to the Tory refugees expelled from the United States during the War of Independence, would be splitting his sides laughing.


But the most Orwellian absurdity of all is that Israel DID grant the "right to return" to tens of thousands of "Palestinian refugees" long ago.  Did this earn Israel the world's gratitude for its uniquely generous gesture?  Did the world denounce the Arab Fascist states that ignored this generosity and continued to seek Israel's destruction and the genocide of its population?  Do today's bleeding hearts and recreational compassion poseurs, pretending to feel uncontrollable pain and caring for Palestinian refugees, even know about the limited "right of return" granted by Israel over the past decades?


Hindus have never been returned to Pakistan, Muslems from Pakistan have not been returned to India, ethnic Germans were not returned to their pre-war homes in Czechoslovakia, Poland, Russia or Romania, Japanese have not been returned to Manchuria, Greeks have not been returned to Anatolia, Jews have not been compensated for the billions they left behind when ethnic cleansing of Jews in Muslem countries took place, and Tory Loyalists were never returned to New England. But tens of thousands of "Palestinian refugees" had their chance.


It is time to say enough is enough.  The only remaining reasonable plan regarding those still claiming to be "Palestinian refugees" is simply: Forget about it.

Steven Plaut is a professor at the Graduate School of the Business Administration at the University of Haifa and is a columnist for the Jewish Press. A collection of his commentaries on the current events in Israel can be found on his "blog" at www.stevenplaut.blogspot.com.

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