Letter: Background on Refugee Issue

Dear editor:

I thought BJN readers might be interested in the history surrounding the “refugee” situation that Richard Sherman discussed in his letter (“Letter: The Antisemitic Perversion of “Palestinian Refugee”“, BJN 7/14/23).

Following the collapse of the Ottoman Empire during World War I, the League of Nations gave Great Britain the Mandate for Palestine, a region in the Southern Syrian administrative district of the defunct empire and also the site (Zion) of the Jews’ spiritual home. The British used 78% of their mandate to establish the Hashemite Kingdom of Transjordan as a reward to a Saudi clan which had helped the British during the war. In 1947, the United Nations (a successor to the League of Nations) proposed dividing the remaining 22% of the mandate into a Jewish state and a second Arab state. While the Yishuv (Zionist community in Palestine) accepted the proposal, Arab states rejected it and began threatening violence even before the General Assembly voted on its passage. As talk of the coming war began, everyday life in Palestine was disrupted. Wealthy people began moving to their summer homes, leaving the common people leaderless. Although some Arabs may have been driven from their homes after Arab armies began attacking the newly declared State of Israel in 1948, a 1970 paper published by the Beirut Institute of Palestinian Studies declared that two-thirds of the Arabs who fled Palestine in the 1940’s did so without seeing a Jewish soldier or hearing a shot fired.

But the Arabs who fled or were forced out of Palestine were not the only people who lost their homes as a result of Arab refusal to accept Jews having sovereignty in the Middle East. In the wake of Arab shame at having failed to prevent the Jews’ achieving statehood, some 1,000,000 Mizrachi Jews were driven from their homes in the Muslim countries of the Middle East and North Africa. While some of those Mizrachim moved to France or the US, the State of Israel, in the first three decades of its existence, absorbed and uplifted 800,000 of them. Those MIzrachim became the progenitors of the majority of Israel’s current Jewish population. Every position in Israel governance, except Prime Minister, has been filled, at one time or another, by someone with roots in the Mizrachi communities. Tiny Israel took the refugees in while also rehabilitating Holocaust survivors, recovering from damages inflicted by the Arab armies, and dealing with terrorist incursions from lands occupied by Egypt and Jordan between 1949 and 1967. This was long before Israel had become the Start Up nation; food was rationed into the 1950’s.

In contrast, Arab states, with vast land holdings and some with oil riches, refused citizenship to the Arabs who had fled Palestine and to their descendants. Of the fewer than 700,000 Arabs who fled or were displaced from Palestine, no more than 30,000 are still alive. Yet UNRWA has 6,000,000 “Palestine refugees” on its rolls as the UN abets Arab and Palestinian leaders who insist that Israel must give the “refugees” the homes they claim their parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, … lost when Israel was reborn. But the “refugees” (95% of them born in UNRWA camps) have grown up seeing people honored and rewarded for killing Jews. The “refugees” are being groomed to be a demographic force against Israel. Palestinian leaders’ idea of a “Two State” solution consists of a Palestinian state from which all Jews have been banished and a Muslim majority Israel in which Jews would be second-class citizens if they were tolerated at all.

If Palestinian leaders were actually interested in building the first-ever-to-exist Palestinian state, on land Israel offered to share with them by signing the Oslo Accords, the leaders should have worked on building the infrastructure needed by a viable state and invited the supposedly well-educated “Palestine refugees” to come home to participate in the building of that state.

Palestinian leaders are not working to build the state they claim to want. They are solely interested in destroying the nation-state of the Jews.

Toby F. Block
Atlanta, GA 

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