A History Lesson for CNN

Ron Cantor —  May 22, 2012 — Leave a comment

Yesterday during lunch, I tuned in CNN… clearly a mistake. They were doing a piece on Nakba Day or Catastrophe Day. This day comes once a year for Palestinians, where they mourn the birth of the State of Israel. Reporter, Sara Sidner spoke of the day when 700,000 Palestinians were forced from their homes.  In fact, she twice alluded to this, without giving any context.  You were left to assume that Jews forced them to leave.  Finally, towards the end of her report, she changed her story, edging closer to the truth by defining the day of Catastrophe like this, “when the state of Israel was formed, and many Palestinians fled their land in fear.” Only closer to the truth… but still not completely true.

Sidner takes a very complicated history and sums it up in a few sound bites, first by saying the Arabs were forced to leave and then saying they fled in fear.  I say Arab because at the time, there was no Palestinian national identity.

 

“There are no differences between Jordanians, Palestinians, Syrians and Lebanese. We are all part of one nation. It is only for political reasons that we carefully underline our Palestinian identity… yes, the existence of a separate Palestinian identity serves only tactical purposes. The founding of a Palestinian state is a new tool in the continuing battle against Israel.”

—Zuheir Muhsin, late Military Department head of the PLO and member of its Executive Council (Dutch daily Trouw, March 1977)

“There is no such country as ‘Palestine’; ‘Palestine’ is a term the Zionists invented! There is no Palestine in the Bible. Our country was for centuries part of Syria.”

—Auni Bey Abdul-Hadi to the Pell Commission in 1937

“It is common knowledge that Palestine is nothing but southern Syria.”

—Ahmed Shuqeiri, to the UN Security Council in 1949

Sidner is not the first to make use of this misleading narrative. The fictitious story goes like this: There was once a nation of peace-loving Arabs called Palestine. The Jews took it over by force, kicked them out and changed the name to Israel.

 

It is true that hundreds of thousands of Arabs left Israel in the days leading up to what the Arabs call The Day of Catastropheand what we in Israel call Independence Day. It is also true that Israel absorbed even more Jewish refugees from Iraq, Yemin, Morocco and other Arab nations.  So the question is simple. Why did the Arabs who lived in British Mandate Palestine (Israel) leave?

For that we actually have to look back in history. Unlike modern day reporters who simply parrot popular PLO propaganda they think will get them more views on YouTube; we will actually quote sources at the Cantor Comment.

PLAN YOUR WAR
In most cases, war breaks out spontaneously after some egregious act, as when the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand helped bring about World War I or the kidnapping of several soldiers along the Israeli/Lebanese border caused the Israel/Hezbollah war in 2007.

However, in the case of Israel’s War of Independence they were able to circle the date on their calendars: May 15th. Why? Because, contrary to the mythic takes of 2012, Great Britain, not Palestinian Arabs, governed all the land West of the Jordan River.

  • In 1946 Great Britain went to the UN and said, “Enough! We are leaving Palestine.” (And need I say it again, the word Palestine was the name the Romans gave to the region after they conquered it in 135 CE. It has absolutely zero connection with Arabs.)
  • In November 1947, the UN approved a plan that would take this land and create both an Arab state and a Jewish State, as the world recognized that in light of Hitler’s genocide of 6,000,000 Jews, these people needed their own defensible country.
  • The Jews accepted the partition plan, while the Arabs declared they preferred war, rather than a Jewish State.

And thus, they prepared to attack the new Jewish state as soon as the British went home.  Their plan was clear: Complete Annihilation of the New Jewish State.

Azam Pasha, the Arab League Secretary General, boldly proclaimed the intentions of five Arab nations[1] that would attack Israel on May 15, 1948.

“This will be a war of extermination and a momentous massacre which will be spoken of like the Mongolian massacres and the crusades.”

Citing Damascus radio, TIME (page 20, June 2, 1948) recorded Syria calling on all Arabs to 

‘undertake the liberation battle that will tear the hearts from the bodies of the hateful Jews and trample them in the dust.’

Ahmed Shuqeiri, later to head the Palestinian Liberation Organization, stated (quoted from Churchill and Churchill, page 52)

the surviving Jews would be helped to return to their native countries, but my estimation is that none will survive.’ [2]

The King of Jordan said,

“The only way left for us is war. I will have the pleasure and honor to save Palestine.”[3]

The goal was to destroy Israel before she ever lived. Fortunately, though being vastly outnumbered and having no nation willing to sell her arms (due to a UN embargo), Israel drove back the invading Arabs and won the war.

 

Palestinian boys dressed as soldiers in Nakba Day commemorations. (REUTERS/Abed Omar Qusini)

The Arabs Flee
However, before the war, the leaders of the surrounding Arab nations put out a call for the Arab’s to flee Palestine temporarily, while they fight the Jews. Then they could return to an all-Arab nation.  While propagandists often accuse Israel of making up this history, we don’t even need to quote Jewish sources—as there is a plethora of quotes from Arab leaders.  Read what the present Chairman of the Palestinian Authority himself said:

 

“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, and threw them into prisons similar to the ghettos in which the Jews used to live.

 —Abu Mazen in 1976

Three years after Israel became a nation, Habib Issa, secretary-general of the Arab League, “wrote in the New York Lebanese daily al-Hoda that in 1948, Azzam Pasha, then League secretary, had ‘assured the Arab peoples that the occupation of Palestine and of Tel Aviv would be as simple as a military promenade … Brotherly advice was given to the Arabs of Palestine to leave their land, homes and property, and to stay temporarily in neighboring fraternal states.’[4]

An Arab refugee told the Jordanian daily a-Difaa on September 6, 1954: “The Arab governments told us, ‘Get out so that we can get in.’ So we got out, but they did not get in.”

“Since 1948 it is we who demanded the return of the refugees… while it is we who made them leave…. We brought disaster upon … Arab refugees, by inviting them and bringing pressure to bear upon them to leave…. We have rendered them dispossessed…. We have accustomed them to begging…. We have participated in lowering their moral and social level…. Then we exploited them in executing crimes of murder, arson, and throwing bombs upon … men, women and children—all this in the service of political purposes….”

—Khaled Al-Azm, Syria’s Prime Minister after the 1948 war

The quotes are too numerous to list in this article.  It is clear that the Palestine Refugee problem was created by their Arab brothers—not Israel. We urged them to stay and join the new state:

“We appeal – in the very midst of the onslaught launched against us now for months – to the Arab inhabitants of the State of Israel to preserve peace and participate in the up building of the State on the basis of full and equal citizenship and due representation in all its provisional and permanent institutions.”

—Prime Minister David Ben Gurion in Israel’s Declaration of Independence

And despite the fact that these oil-rich nations could have absorbed the Palestinians, they kept them in refugee camps, treating them like second citizens all for political gain. Even King Hussein agrees.

“Since 1948 Arab leaders have approached the Palestine problem in an irresponsible manner…. they have used the Palestine people for selfish political purposes. This is ridiculous and, I could say, even criminal.”

—King Hussein of Jordan, 1960

A smaller minority of Arabs fled not only because they were asked, but because of the growing folklore of the brutal andbarbaric Jewish fighter.  When the Jews overtook the Arab village of Deir Yassin, the fleeing Arabs told their cousins in other villages tall tales of Jewish savagery, ranging from rape to cutting open pregnant women. There has never been any physical evidence of such crimes, but as is common in Arab culture, the truth was grossly exaggerated as it spread from village to village.  In fact, according to historian Uri Milstein, all the bodies examined died from gunshot wounds and there was no evidence of sexual abuse.

But perception is reality and despite having no air force and a ragtag army split in divisive factions, the image that the Arab villagers were spreading of the Jews was terrifying and many left in fear. However, a resident of Deir Yassin came clean in 1953:

“The Jordanian daily al-Urdun quoted a refugee, Yunes Ahmed Assad, formerly of Deir Yassin, as saying: ‘For the flight and fall of the other villages, it is our leaders who are responsible, because of the dissemination of rumors exaggerating Jewish crimes and describing them as atrocities in order to inflame the Arabs … they instilled fear and terror into the hearts of the Arabs of Palestine until they fled, leaving their homes and property to the enemy.’[5]

In summary:

  • The Arabs fled Israel not because they were forced to by Jews, but wooed by the leaders of the surrounding Arab nations who were preparing to attack Israel.
  • Rather than absorb the refugees, as Israel did Jewish refugees, the Arab nations kept Palestinians in Refugee camps.
  • The Arabs of Palestine were offered half of the land west of the Jordan River (as they were already gifted 100% of the land east of the river) to create a new Arab nation—Jordan—but they said, “No!”
  • The Jews invited the Arabs to stay and help build the new nation with equal rights. Many did stay, but many fled.

 


[1] Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Iraq and Lebanon

[2] Why did the Arabs Flee in 1948, Jock L. Flakson, May 1st, 2003, (all three quotes were taken from this article)

[3] Howard Sachar, A History of Israel, (NY: Alfred A. Knopf, 1979), p. 322.

[4] A Collection of Historical Quotations Relating to the Arab Refugees, Moshe Kohn

[5] ibid

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