In the American War of Independence, many thousands of Tory “Loyalists” fled the newborn country as “refugees." The American War of Independence was in reality a civil war. The local Tories opposed the creation of the newly declared independent state, sought to remain a part of the greater British Empire, allied themselves with the British forces trying to suppress the new state, participated in "terrorist" attacks and tried to destroy the American independence movement from within. The Tory refugees fled the 13 colonies to Canada, the Caribbean, and elsewhere because they wished to escape battle zones, feared reprisals, were expelled or simply did not wish to be part of the United States.
Those Tory refugees were absorbed by the countries to which they fled, mainly Maritime British Canada. They forfeited all the property left behind in the United States. The Patriot leaders opposed any sort of compensation or settlement for them. The most militant opponent of any sort of deal was Benjamin Franklin. They would never be granted any “right of return” to the territories they had left.
Flash forward to the twentieth century. In the late 1940s the world saw tens of millions of refugees created by the political upheavals in various parts of the world. World War II left behind large numbers of refugees and people displaced from the lands of their birth. Among these, the nations of Eastern Europe expelled millions of ethnic Germans from their territories, probably around 12 million in total. These were people who had collaborated with Nazi Germany and identified with it, people who had assisted Hitler in invading their own countries. Ethnic Germans were expelled from the Sudeten area of Czechoslovakia, where they had served as the pawns for Hitler’s opening gambit during World War II. They were also expelled from Hungary, Romania, Poland, Russia and Yugoslavia. (From the last, Moslems and others were expelled as well.) The ethnic Germans were expelled to their Fatherland, which had been the aggressor in the war. The same fate befell the Japanese Diaspora in Asia, especially in Manchuria and Korea.
But the ethnic Germans and Japanese were not the only refugees. Ethnic Hungarians were expelled from Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia to their “Mother Country.” There were millions of refugees created by the partition of the Indian subcontinent, especially in the Punjab. There followed population movements of disenfranchised peoples in South America and in Africa. Jewish survivors of World War II, Poles expelled from the areas of Poland annexed by Russia, Italians from Africa, the list of refugees goes on and on.
And amid this endless list of millions of human tragedies, a mini-tragedy took place in the Middle East. The United Nations proposed partitioning Mandatory Palestine into two new states, one Jewish and one Arab, in a manner that was similar to what was being proposed for the Indian subcontinent. There had never been any independent Palestinian Arab state ever, and no Jewish state since the time of Jesus. Palestine had been a colony of assorted outside invaders and colonialists, the most recent being the British and before them the Turks.
The Jews accepted the proposal. The Arabs, including the leadership of the "Palestinian" Arabs, rejected the proposal. The Arab countries illegally annexed the territories of the proposed Palestinian Arab state and then attacked the newborn Jewish state, in exactly the same manner as Britain and its Hessian allies attacking the newborn United States in 1776. The Israeli Arabs served as a fifth column, joining the invading forces and engaging in terrorist atrocities, just as the Tory Loyalists did in the United States. And like the Tory Loyalists, the Arabs lost.
During the course of the war, some of the Arabs living in the area that became Israel emigrated. The number of those who left has since been converted into a propaganda weapon by the Hate-Israel lobby. Based on demographic evidence, the range of reasonable numbers for the émigrés is between 400,000 and 700,000 people, with the former number much more likely than the latter, and in any case little more than a drop in the sea of refugees in the late 1940s. These people moved or fled to sister Arab countries, just as the Tory refugees moved to British territories. The exact reason for their leaving has long since been purposely obfuscated to allow the “refugee” issue to serve as an anti-Israel bludgeon. Some of the best analyses of this “refugee problem” have been by Prof. Efraim Karsh of the University of London, in Commentary Magazine (Commentary, July-August, 2000, and “The Palestinians and the "right of return" Commentary; May 2001; Vol. 111, Iss. 5; see also this website and “What Occupation?” Commentary; Jul/Aug 2002; Vol. 114, Iss. 1).
Probably the main reason for the outflow of Arab refugees from what became Israel was their understandable desire to get away from the battle zones. In most cases, the Jews went out of their way to dissuade the Arabs from fleeing. The leadership of the local Arabs and of the attacking Arab states repeatedly urged the local Arabs to flee the battle zones so they would not be in the way of the invading Arab juggernaut that would annihilate the Jews and perpetrate a new Holocaust.
The Arab countries and their anti-Jewish "amen chorus" claim that that Israel expelled the 400,000 or so “refugees." Even if it had, it was at least as justified in doing so as were the American patriots in expelling the Tory Loyalists, or the Eastern European countries that expelled ethnic Germans. The Arab states also conveniently “forget” that they attacked Israel in 1948 when there were absolutely no Arab refugees to be rescued, meaning Arab aggression produced the refugee problem and was not a reaction to Israel's creation. Be that as it may, even if there were some partial truth to the Arab accusations against Israel, it is little more that the pot calling the kettle black. Within a short period of Israel’s winning its War of Independence, the Arab and Moslem countries perpetrated one of the great ethnic cleansings of modern human history. They expelled around a million Jews from their territories, most of whom were resettled inside Israel, despite that fact that these Jews had lived in the territories of the Moslem world centuries before the birth of the Prophet Mohammed and a thousand years before the Arab Empire was created.
Thus by the early 1950s, the main refugee problem in the Middle East was the million Jews expelled by the Arabs, while a minor secondary problem was the 400,000 or so Arabs who had fled Israel after its creation. Not only were there far more Jewish refugees than Arab refugees, but the Jews had left behind far greater amounts of property. The Jews in the Moslem world had been largely educated and middle class, whereas most of the Arabs fleeing the newly born Israel had been impoverished serfs living and working on Arab feudal estates.
And that, in brief, is the entire story of the creation of the “Palestinian refugee problem.” It is not the story you will hear on the many anti-Israel media outlets, perhaps the latest being MSNBC. It is also not the story being proliferated by the apologists for the Arab aggressors and Jihadists, who invariably base themselves these days on Israel’s own far-left, pseudo-academic “New Historians,” a bit like basing an analysis of American mendacity on the scribblings of Noam Chomsky.
The Jewish refugee problem was resolved the same way other refugee problems were solved. They were absorbed and integrated into the country in which they obtained refuge, in their “Mother Country,” namely in Israel. In reality, the twin Middle Eastern refugee streams of the late 1940s and early 1950s were very similar to other twin streams of refugees, in which national conflicts were settled de facto via population transfer. This is how the India-Pakistani conflict of 1949 ended and how the Greek-Turkish and Cypriot conflicts reached cooled. It is how the countries of Eastern Europe ended the demographic disruptions from the aftermath of World War II. And it is even how the American War of Independence ended.
But the Arabs refused to absorb and resettle their refugees. Of the countless millions of refugees from the 1940s, the only ones not absorbed and resettled by their “Mother Countries,” by the countries in which they sought refuge, were the “Palestinian refugees.” The Arab world realized that they could be used as pawns and as weapons to continue the Arab jihad of annihilation against Israel. These refugees were kept in “refugee camps” run by the Arab world and financed by the United Nations and the world community (that is, mainly the United States). The camp residents were trained in terrorism and mass murder.
Meanwhile, since the world community was handing out free food and cash to those claiming to be “Palestinian refugees,” hundreds of thousands of other Arabs from the Arab countries of refuge for these people signed up as “refugees” in order to get the handouts. It was as if a new TV show were invented with generous prizes, called “Who Wants to be a Palestinian Refugee?” This pretence is the source of the absurd claims that the 400,000 refugees from 1949 have since morphed into 3.5 million refugees today.
Imagine that the British Empire had taken the Tory Loyalists who left America, set them up in terrorist training camps along the Canadian border, organized them into murderous legions and death squads, armed them with heavy firepower, bankrolled them, and all the while built up its own armies for the day of reckoning when the Americans would be annihilated and thrown into the sea. Imagine that the British Empire underwent nazification, by which its schoolchildren were taught that the greatest act of patriotism was to murder American children and bomb American schools and meeting houses. Imagine that for decades the British kept the Tory Loyalists who had fled the United States locked up in squalid camps for their public relations value.
And then imagine that the British Empire announced that it would never agree to recognize the existence of the United States until the Tory Loyalists had been granted the “Right of Return.” Imagine that the British insisted that until all property, real or imaginary, claimed by those Tory refugees were “returned,” the anti-American jihad would continue.
And if you can imagine such a thing, you have the entire story of the Palestinian “Right of Return.” Of the tens of millions of refugees from the 1940s, the only ones on the planet who are regarded as having an entitlement to the property and lands from which they left in the 1940s are the Palestinians. Certainly the Jewish refugees from the Moslem countries, who were twice the numbers of the Palestinian refugees, have never been granted any such right.
Let us state this even more clearly.: The Arab world and its apologists have demanded that the Palestinians be granted their own state, and insisting that anyone claiming now to be a Palestinian “refugee” - 55 years after the war launched by the Arabs - should be entitled to move to Israel and reclaim property. Obviously the true reason for this demand is to derail Israel demographically and turn it into the Rwanda of the Levant.
Israel has expressed willingness since 1949 to talk about some sort of financial settlement and resolution scheme for Arabs who did indeed become refugees in 1948-9 as part of any comprehensive peace agreement, unlike Benjamin Franklin and the Patriots of 1776. The Arabs have refused to negotiate peace. As a result, there has been no resolution. No such scheme should be unilateral, given the fact that the Jewish refugees from the Moslem world left behind property worth perhaps ten times as much as what was lost by the “Palestinians.”
But a “Right of Reurn”? One that allows anyone pretending to be a Palestinian “refugee” to move to Israel, even after erection of a Palestinian terrorist state? Nothing could be a more absurd idea. That is the recipe for converting Israel into Rwanda.
When the Czechs let the Sudeten Germans return, when Pakistan invites the Hindu Punjabis to return and India invites back the Moslems, when Turkey invites the Greeks to return to Anatolia, when the Greeks invite the Turks back to Athens and Cyprus, when the ethnic Japanese expelled from Korea and China are invited back, and when the United States agrees to allow all descendents of Tory Loyalists to reclaim lands in New England – only then should the world consider whether the Palestinians have any “Right of Return” to Israel.
The “Right of Return” for “Palestinians” is nothing more than an instrument of aggression being bandied about by the genocidal Jihadists and Islamofascists of the Arab world.
Plaut teaches at the University of Haifa, is author of The Scout http://184.108.40.206/shop/indi_scout.htm and maintains a Blog of his commentaries at http://stevenplaut.blogspot.com/