- It was not the founding of the modern state of Israel that caused the Palestinian refugee problem. Rather, it was the subsequent invasion of Israel by five Arab states and the ensuing war that led to the displacement of Arab and Jewish civilian populations.
In the 1948-1949 war, Arab armies and militias overran Jewish communities, killed civilians and fighters alike, ambushed Jewish traffic on the country’s roads, and expelled Jews from their homes wherever they could.
Had the Arabs not attacked and killed Jews, neither Jews nor Arabs would have lost their homes. Instead, about 700,000 Arabs became refugees as a result of the war launched by the Arabs. The reasons for the Arab displacement are complex. But military archives show there was no Israeli plan or strategy to displace the Arab population.1
- In the aftermath of the Arab invasion of Israel and the subsequent war (1948-1949) about 820,000 Jews were violently expelled or forced to flee surrounding Arab countries.
In several Arab countries Jews were stripped of citizenship, attacked and killed by government-sponsored mobs and police, taxed for being Jewish, imprisoned, and physically expelled. Arab officials and mobs robbed these Jews of their homes, businesses, land, and personal possessions, including wedding rings, family heirlooms and watches. The great majority of these Jewish refugees settled in Israel.
Israel’s Arab neighbors have pushed virtually all the Jews of the Middle East into Israel, a nation that inhabits a narrow strip of land smaller than the State of New Jersey.
- Palestinian refugees are the only group displaced in the post-Second World War period that has not been resettled.
The Second World War and subsequent events led to the displacement of about 60 million people worldwide.3 Of all these refugees, only about one percent were Palestinians. Many Palestinians continue to be refugees because Arab countries have refused to resettle them (with the exception of Jordan).
- International law supports the right of Israel to exist as a sovereign nation.
In 1922 the League of Nations granted what is today Israel, Gaza, the West Bank and Jordan to the Jewish people for the reestablishment of a Jewish home.4 (Jordan was later separated and granted statehood.) This provision was adopted by the United Nations when it superseded the League in 1945. It has never been rescinded.
- Jews are the sole surviving indigenous people of what is today Israel. At the time of the Arab invasion and colonization of Palestine in the seventh century, Jews had already lived in the area for over 1,000 years.5,6
- Israel is not a colonialist state nor is it the only nation to have a state religion.
The modern state of Israel was founded by Jews who, far from being colonialists, were subjects of the British colonial power and who fought the British to secure independence. Those who accuse Israel of being a colonialist state, never name the country from which the Jewish “colonists” presumably came.
Israelis who have their origins in surrounding Arab countries and their descendants make up half of the country’s Jewish population.7
Israel is the nation-state of the Jewish people. Today there are 50 majority-Muslim countries and 25 countries that are officially Muslim states.8 At least seventeen countries officially identify themselves as Christian states or have state churches.9 Worldwide, more than 20 per cent of countries have official state religions.10
- Jews have always had a presence in the area that is today the modern State of Israel.
During the harsh 600-year rule of the Ottomans, the area was partially depopulated. Both Jews and Arabs resettled the area beginning in the first part of the 20th century. Jews came for nationalist reasons. Arabs followed to take advantage of jobs created by Jewish development of the land and cities. Jews have lived in Jerusalem, without interruption, for three thousand years. Jews have been a plurality in Jerusalem since the 1840s and today are a majority of the city’s inhabitants. 11
- Israel is the only country in which the rights of every religion and ethnic group are respected.
It is the only country in the Middle East where the Christian population has grown and where LGBT people are safe from widespread imprisonment, torture, honor killings and the death penalty.
- Palestinian leaders have repeatedly rejected all of Israel’s offers to make peace.
For example, in 2000 Israel offered to withdraw from Gaza, and almost all of the West Bank (with compensating land swaps). Israel’s 2008 offer also included Israeli withdrawal from East Jerusalem.
- Israel bears no resemblance to white-ruled apartheid South Africa.
The apartheid government of South Africa placed many restrictions on the movement of non-whites.
Within the West Bank of Israel, Israeli authorities have had to introduce a few restrictions of movement due to relentless, murderous terrorist attacks. When West Bank Arabs travel to Israel they must cross checkpoints. Within Israel itself there are no restrictions of movement of any kind for anyone (although it can be dangerous for Jews to venture into Arab areas).
Under apartheid, people of color were segregated in every aspect of daily life, such as schools, restaurants, train stations, beaches, and restrooms.
In Israel everyone is free to go where he would like without restriction.
Under apartheid, the rights of Blacks to vote and hold political office were severely restricted.
In Israel, the Arab minority has full civil, political and voting rights. Many Arabs serve in the Knesset (national legislature), in the highest levels of government, in the court system, and the military.
It is no wonder then, that in repeated public opinion surveys, a large majority of Arab Israelis say they prefer to live under Israeli rather than Palestinian Authority rule.
- The number of Arabs who fled or were expelled from Israel during the 1948-1949 war is hotly disputed. Wikipedia cites a figure of 720,000. The Middle East Forum estimates the number at 583,000 to 609,000. Some refugees who fled their homes in Israel returned to them after the fighting. See: Karsh, E. How Many Palestinian Arab Refugees Were There? Middle East Forum, April 1, 2011. Retrieved July 26, 2018 from: https://www.meforum.org/articles/2011/how-many-palestinian-arab-refugees-were-there
The causes of the Palestinian refugee problem are complicated and multi-faceted. The actions of both Jews and Arabs contributed to the Palestinian exodus.
Arabs fled for a variety of reasons. Some fled because Arab leaders advised them to vacate their homes so that invading armies could freely slaughter the Jews. Others fled to escape active military operations. Some villagers fled because they observed their village leaders leaving.
Others fled because they believed a false radio report about a supposed massacre in the village of Deir Yassin (Arab leaders created this false report in the hope it would spur surrounding Arab countries to invade and kill the Jews. There was a battle at Deir Yassin, where Iraqi troops were housed, and some civilian deaths, but no massacre.)
Some Arabs fled because they heard news about real Israeli massacres, pillaging, rape and execution of prisoners of war.
Some Arabs fled because they feared Jewish reprisals. In select situations, individual Israeli commanders expelled local Arabs where they constituted a threat.
Noted historian Benny Morris analyzed extensive written documentation from this period, including declassified military archives. He concluded that the Arab population “had not been expelled by the Israelis in compliance with a preset master plan or in line with a systematic policy, as the Arabs, in their demonization of Israel, have been taught.” Morris, B., For the Record. Guardian, January 13, 2004. Retrieved July 27, 2018 from: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2004/jan/14/israel; See also: Morris, B., Righteous Victims: A History of the Zionist-Arab Conflict 1881-2001. Vintage: New York, 2001.
Should the victorious Israelis have permitted the Arabs who fled to return to their homes? Those who argue they should have done so must consider that in defending their nation, the Jews lost one per cent of their population. This was a devastating loss, comparable to a loss of 3.5 million Americans today, were America to lose one per cent of its population to invading armies. Allowing those who fled to return would have been an act of suicide.
- Wikipedia places the number of Jewish refugees from Arab countries at 820,000. See: Fact Sheet: Jewish Refugees from Arab Countries. Jewish Virtual Library. Retrieved July 26, 2018 from: https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jewish-refugees-from-arab-countries
- Rothman, L. & Ronk, L. This is What Europe’s Last Major Refugee Crisis Looked Like. Time Magazine, September 11, 2015. Retrieved July 26, 2018 from:
- The San Remo Resolution (April 25, 1920). Office for Israeli Constitutional Law. Retrieved July 26, 2018 from: http://www.israellegalfoundation.com/sanremo.html
The San Remo Resolution called for the “establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people.” At the time, Palestine included all of today’s Israel, Gaza, the West Bank and Jordan. Although the San Remo Resolution was drafted in 1920 it was formally approved by the League of Nations in 1922.
- Pre-State Israel: Jewish Claim to the Land of Israel. JewishVirtual Library. Retrieved July 26, 2018 from: https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jewish-claim-to-the-land-of-israel
The Twelve Tribes of Israel formed the first constitutional monarchy in Palestine about 1000 B.C. The second king, David, first made Jerusalem the nation’s capital. Although eventually Palestine was split into two separate kingdoms, Jewish independence there lasted for 212 years. This is almost as long as Americans have enjoyed independence in what has become known as the United States.
Even after the destruction of the Second temple in Jerusalem and the beginning of the exile, Jewish life in Palestine continued and often flourished. Large communities were reestablished in Jerusalem and Tiberias by the ninth century. In the 11th century, Jewish communities grew in Rafah, Gaza, Ashkelon, Jaffa and Caesarea.
- Ancient Jewish History: The Two Kingdoms (c. 920 B.C.E. – 597 B.C.E.). Jewish Virtual Library. Retrieved July 26, 2018 from: https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/the-two-kingdoms-of-israel
- Israelis. Wikipedia. Retrieved July 26, 2018 from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Israelis
See also: Ancient Jewish History: Jews of the Middle East and North Africa. Jewish Virtual Library. Retrieved July 27, 2018 from: https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jews-of-the-middle-east
- Muslim World. Wikipedia. Retrieved July 26, 2018 from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Muslim_world#Islamic_states
The following six countries are Islamic states, that is, they “have adopted Islam as the ideological foundation of state and constitution”: Afghanistan, Iran, Mauritania, Oman, Saudi Arabia, and Yemen.
“The following 19 Muslim-majority nation-states have endorsed Islam as their state religion: Algeria, Bahrain, Brunei, Comoros, Djibouti, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Libya, Maldives, Malaysia, Morocco, Pakistan, Qatar, Sahrawi Republic, Somalia, Tunisia and United Arab Emirates.”
- Christian State. Wikipedia. Retrieved July 26, 2018 from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christian_state
10. More Than 20% of Countries Have Official State Religions-Survey. The Guardian. Retrieved July 26, 2018 from: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/oct/03/more-than-20-percent-countries-have-official-state-religions-pew-survey
- Bard, M.G. Myths and Facts: A Guide to the Arab-Israeli Conflict. American-Israeli Cooperative Enterprise, Chevy Chase, MD, 2012, p. 189.
- Ibid. p. 225
Palestinian Arabs have had numerous opportunities to create a Palestinian state, but they have rejected all offers. These offers included: the 1937 Peel Commission partition offer; the 1939 British White Paper proposed creation of a Palestinian state; the 1947 United Nations Partition Plan; the 1979 Egypt-Israel negotiations that offered the Palestinians autonomy that would have led to full independence; the 2000 offer by Israel to create a Palestinian state in Gaza and 97 per cent of the West Bank; and the 2008 Israeli offer to cede almost the entire West Bank and East Jerusalem. (In 2005 Israel withdrew entirely from the Gaza Strip.)
- Apartheid South Africa vs. Democratic Israel. Stand With Us, 2010. See: www.standwithus.com
The participation of Israeli Arabs in higher education illustrates the absurdity of claims that Israel is an apartheid state.
Arab students are well represented in Israeli universities and the Israeli government funds programs to encourage higher education among the Arab population. Arabs, who are about 20 per cent of Israel’s population, also make up twenty per cent of students at the Technion, Israel’s flagship high-tech university. Other Israeli universities are quickly catching up to achieve proportional Arab representation in enrollment.
Lieber, D. Number of Arab Students in Israeli Universities Grows 78% in Seven Years. Times of Israel, January 25, 2018. Retrieved July 26, 2018 from:
Lieber, D. At Israel’s MIT, Education, Not Affirmative Action, Triples Arab Enrollment. Times of Israel, December 16, 2016. Retrieved July 26, 2018 from:
- Poll: Arabs Prefer to Live in Israel, Not ‘Palestine.’ United With Israel. December 22, 2014. Retrieved July 27, 2018 from: