The other Exodus

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Above all, let me reiterate, the refugee problem was caused by attacks by Jewish forces on Arab villages and towns and by the inhabitants’ fear of such attacks, compounded by expulsions, atrocities, and rumors of  atrocities, and by the crucial Israeli Cabinet decision in June 1948 to bar a refugee return.

Benny Morris, “Revisiting the Palestinian Exodus of 1948

We came and turned the native Arabs into tragic refugees. And still we have to slander and malign them, to besmirch their name. Instead of being deeply ashamed of what we did and trying to undo some of the evil we committed…we justify our terrible acts and even attempt to glorify them”
Nathan Chofshi, Jewish Newsletter, New York, 9 February 1959, cited in Erskine Childers, ‘The Other Exodus’ in Spectator, London, 12 May 1961

After WW ll the world recoiled at the plight of European Jews. At that time there was no television, internet or instant graphic reproductions of human suffering. There were however radio newspapers and newsreels and all justifiably recorded the fact of the Shoah. It permeated Western consciousness and created waves of sympathy and compassion for the bedraggled remnant of survivors. It also paved the way for the creation of the Jewish state, Israel.

For all intents and purposes, the Palestinians became invisible. As Israel was declared a state on May 14,1948 and as 750,000 indigenous people were expelled from their homeland with their property confiscated, the world shed few tears for Palestinian refugees living in tents, wards of the United Nations. They seemed absolutely impotent in pleading their just cause as Zionists had for Jewish refugees.

Immediately the hasbara began. Hasbara a common Hebrew word meaning explanation,public relations or advocacy>the modern state of Israel is masterful at this, employing thousands particularly in North America to put the most positive spin on Israel’s actions. after the latest massacre in Gaza, israeli diplomats are fanning out and lobbying Canadian MPs.

In 1945, there was little competition to the hasbara.The Palestinians were stunned, unorganized, trying to survive after the Nakba, the Arabic word for catastrophe.

The world bought the line that Palestinians left of their own accord thinking they would return when Arab armies would liberate them. It took decades for the truth to emerge but with the rise of the new historians in the 70s and 80s the facts were clear. The Palestinians were terrorized into retreat and two of the biggest terrorists were former PMs Menachem Begin (Irgun) and Yitzhak Shamir (Stern Gang).

Just before the state was proclaimed in May, on April 9 1948 91 men, women and children were murdered i the small village of Deir Yassin. Most of the men were working in Jerusalem when the attack came and when Jacques de Reynier of the Red Cross arrived he found many bodies tossed into a cistern and about others thrown to the side. 30 babies wee among the murdered which today after much research is considered to be 93. The survivors were stripped and paraded in open trucks on King George V Avenue in Jerusalem. Further indignities awaited them.

So shocking was this brutal event that the future PM Ben Gurion apologized to King Abdullah of Jordan. “Now Jews too have behaved like Nazis and my entire being is shaken” said agriculture minister Aharon Cizling in November of that year. There was no doubt however of the psychological import of the massacre. According to the brilliant Hungarian-British writer Arthur Koestler this bloodbath was “the decisive factor in the exodus of Arab refugees.” Israel historian Ilan Pappe (The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine) reiterated the same analysis(The has meticulously recorded 31 massacres, from December 1947 to January 1949.

It would be many years before Palestinians recovered from their catastrophic expulsion from their homeland. It would be 30 years before the Israeli historians uncovered the lie of Palestinians voluntarily leaving their homes.

There seemed but one way out, one sure way that people would sit up and take notice. That was the age old tactic of all liberation movements:terror. the age old tactic of resistance to such an intolerable situation. Others of course called this terrorism. Palestinians were driven to neighbouring countries like Jordan (almost 1 million) the West Bank(700,000) and adjacent Arab countries. The USA so accommodating to Jewish refugees showed no interest in alleviating Palestinian suffering. There simply was no domestic counter valence to the fact of the holocaust and Jewish American political clout.

The powerful western media had virtually disappeared Palestinian suffering. Sadly the only force which makes people sit up and take notice is terror and that was what captured global media attention.

This next move was aptly phrased by a young Palestinian Maher Yamani who hijacked an airliner in Athens

What could we do? We tried all ways possible, until we found the way of the gun…we Palestinians cannot accept a piece of our own land as charity from another country.”

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