Today saw the commemoration of what Palestinians call the Nakba, the catastrophe, which happens to be the anniversary of the Declaration of the State of Israel in 1948.
In scenes unprecedented in history thousands of people in Lebanon, Syria, Gaza, East Jerusalem and even Jordan have tried to cross the border into Israel apparently to demonstrate their so-called ‘Right of Return’. In Tel Aviv an Arab drove two kilometres trying to hit everything in sight and screaming ‘Death to the Jews’ (note ‘Jews’, not ‘Israelis’) killing one man and injuring several others.
Several people were apparently killed by IDF gunfire and at the border with Gaza tank rounds were used.
In Ankara, Turkey and even in Athens, Greece, where you’d think they would have other things to demonstrate about, protests have taken place and Israeli embassies targeted.
I did not intend to write about this particular event, as important as it is. However, it underlines the fact of continued Palestinian rejectionism. As Jonathan Tobin has pointed out :
Nakba Day should illustrate that it is not the eviction of the Jews from parts of the West Bank that has inspired Palestinian Arab nationalism but the notion that Jewish sovereignty anywhere in the country is unacceptable.
Estimates of the number of Palestinians who would claim a Right of Return (or compensation) vary, but it is somewhere between 4 and 7 million and, of course, growing.
The notion that somehow Israel could absorb 7 million people, let alone return them to their putative homes and property is absurd. That doesn’t matter. They are not interested in returning to No. 10 Habibi Street or 17a Jaffa Road.
No, their goal is the same as it has always been: destroy the State of Israel, kick out 5 million Jews and create a Palestinian State from ‘The River to the Sea’. A single, Islamist, authoritarian entity to replace Israel.
The ‘Return’ of a large number of Palestinians would result in Israel no longer being a state where the Jews remain a majority in charge of their own destiny. The goal of a single Islamic state, yet another in the region, would be achieved and the ‘Zionist Project’ would be history.
The sad fact is that so many on the Left in Europe believe that a one state solution will solve the problem and immediately result in the end of the Arab’s grudge against Israel and the West.
They are deluded.
The justification for the idea of a Nakba and a Right of Return comes from two false narratives.
The first is that Jews ‘stole the land’ from something called Palestine, a mythical Muslim state in cis-Jordanic Mandate Palestine. The Jews attacked the Arabs, driving them out and stealing their land forcing them to be refugees in surrouding countries and in Gaza and the West Bank.
This is a gross distortion of history. The Arab League rejected a two-state solution in 1947 and when the Jewish State was declared armies from surrounding nations attacked the nascent state.
Although many Arabs were driven out, many more left from fear or because they were encouraged to leave whilst the armies of the Arab League mopped up the Jews and drove them into the sea.
Unfortunately for these refugees the Arab league never delivered. Much of the land that had been offered as part of an Arab, Palestinian State was now in the hands of the Israelis.
Then something extraordinary happened; the UN created an Agency to deal only with refugees from the conflict of 1948. This is UNRWA or the United Nations Relief and Works Agency.
UNWRA’s own website tells us:
UNRWA’s services are available to all those living in its area of operations who meet this definition, who are registered with the Agency and who need assistance. The descendants of the original Palestine refugees are also eligible for registration. When the Agency started working in 1950, it was responding to the needs of about 750,000 Palestine refugees. Today, 4.8 million Palestine refugees are eligible for UNRWA services. (my emphasis)
Thus, uniquely, amongst all the millions of refugees in the world. descendants of Palestinian refugees are also given refugees status with no end date applicable. So in another 60 years there could be 100 million refugees and they would all claim that they have a right to live in Israel and claim back their putative property.
And these refugees were created as a result of an aggressive act by their own people (the Arab nation under the auspices of the Arab League as there was no idea of a separate Palestinian State in 1948).
Let us remember that Israel accepted the partition plan (UN General Assembly Resolution 181) that would have given them a small fraction of what they were promised (by the League of Nations under International Law in 1922), but the Arabs rejected it on behalf of the Palestinian Arabs, and then attacked Israel.
The second false narrative is that there is a Right of Return for these refugees based on UN resolution 194 Article 11:
Resolves that the refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbours should be permitted to do so at the earliest practicable date, and that compensation should be paid for the property of those choosing not to return and for loss of or damage to property which, under principles of international law or in equity, should be made good by the Governments or authorities responsible; Instructs the Conciliation Commission to facilitate the repatriation, resettlement and economic and social rehabilitation of the refugees and the payment of compensation, and to maintain close relations with the Director of the United Nations Relief for Palestine Refugees and, through him, with the appropriate organs and agencies of the United Nations;
As the Zionism-Israel website tells us:
UN General Assembly Resolution 194 called for return of refugees who were willing to live in peace with their neighbors. Jewish refugees, including refugees from Palestinian Arab areas and hundreds of thousands of others expelled from Arab lands, were absorbed into Israel and did not claim refugee status. Arab refugees were placed in camps.
Please point out to me a specific ‘Right of Return’ in Article 11, and where does it mention descendants in perpetuity are entitled to refugee status. In the Zionism-Israel article cited above the Right of Return was specifically excluded despite recommendations by Count Folk Bernadotte, the UN mediator murdered by Jewish extremists.
The cited article also points out that there was no specific mention of Arab refugees. It referred to all refugees included Jews who fled from the area now known as the West Bank which came under Jordanian control until 1967 and included East Jerusalem which was ethnically cleansed of Jews by the Jordanians.
And, most importantly, even if there were a Right of Return specifically for Arab refugees mentioned in Resolution 194 Article 11, General Assembly resolutions are not binding in international law. Israel has no obligation whatsoever to provide such a right.
For a full discussion of the putative Palestinian Right of Return I recommend you read the cited article.
But here is the point of the title of this article. There was a Jewish ‘nakba’ which no-one ever hears about very often if at all.
Estimates of Palestinian refugees vary from 450,000 to 750,000.
800-900,000 Jews were expelled from several Arab states and stripped of their property and assets in 1948, and immediately in the aftermath of the creation of Israel, for no other reason than they were Jews.
Many of these fled to Israel where they were absorbed.
Today, the inestimable Michelle Huberman of Harif organised an event in London “The Jewish Nakba, Remembering Jewish refugees from Arab Countries”. This organisation is dedicated to having the issue of Jewish refugees and their narrative recognised and acknowledged.
Communities right across the Arab world from Algeria to Iraq were wiped out; some of these communities could trace their roots back more than 2000 years.
I recommend that you read Sir Martin Gilbert’s fine history: “In Ishmaels’ House” which deals with the Jewish nakba in its final chapters.
This is why I believe those who suffered the enormity of these events deserve compensation; they attacked no-one, they may or may not have been Zionists, they were generally content to continue their tight-rope existence in Arab lands where many were successful, wealthy, educated, property owning and asset rich.
How did they deserve to be deprived of citizenship, stripped of their assets and their property? What crime did they commit? The crime of being a Jew. That eternal crime which has been punished for centuries.
And they want to punish us still.
That punishment is their version of justice. The perceived grievance of the original 750,000 bloated to 4.5 million or more. Yet the 800,000 or so Jews and their descendants are only now being recognised as the other half to this cruel equation. Indeed, the Israeli government has quite rightly stated that no final peace can be made with the Palestinians without compensation for the Arab Jews.
The compensation and the recognition of this injustice against Mizrachi and Arab Jews is long overdue; and it is a much stronger claim than the Palestinians, many of whom had only moved relatively recently from surrounding countries and fled, or were victims of Israeli action as a result of their own people’s aggression.
Yet, in this Looking Glass world we now live in, the Jews and their grievances are valued at nought whilst the Palestinians must be rewarded and compensating for 60 years of self-victimhood and an aggressive war of extermination.
OK, despite the title, no doubt, at some time in the distant future, hopefully, when there is a final settlement that does not involve the destruction of Israel, Palestinians will be rewarded for their extraordinary patience and, as George Galloway might say, their ‘indefatigability’. I do not wish to suggest that they have not suffered or that Israel is blameless, but unless and until they recognise their own guilt and allow Jews to live in their homeland on a sliver of land called Israel, they do not deserve any compensation at all.