Rojin-Sena Cantay

The Anti-Zionist Distortion of History to Justify Terrorism

Exeter PhD candidate, Zarefah Baroud, has a history of using emotionally charged language and historical revisionism to demonize Israel. It comes as no surprise that the same person who cheered Hamas’s massacre of Israelis on Oct. 7 and denounced Israel’s response, wrote an opinion piece for Al Jazeera in 2022 that relied on blatant historical distortions related to the 1948 war of Independence and the Palestinian Refugee crisis to argue that Israel is the cause of all Palestinian suffering. 

It’s sad to hear that some of her family members perished during the current Hamas-initiated war. However, her reliance on the outright lies that Israel forcibly expelled all Arabs during the 1948 war and is now legally obligated to allow the return of their descendants essentially justifies modern Palestinian terrorism.

For example, she uses the fact that her family was displaced from their town in northern Gaza during the 1948 Israeli-Arab war to characterize all Arab displacement as “ethnic cleansing.” What she omits is that the invading Arab military leaders used dishonest propaganda to either scare or persuade Palestinians into fleeing and ignore many Jewish communities’ pleas to stay. The vast majority did, setting the stage for the refugee issue that continues today. 

During the war, some Arab towns near Egypt’s borders (as well as the borders of the other invading Arab countries) were militarily occupied by Israel for strategic importance. The fear was that Egypt and local Arab militias would use such places to threaten nearby Israeli communities. The official Israeli defense plan instructed the military to only expel the population if they fired weapons at Israeli soldiers and allow peaceful communities to stay. Zarefah’s family was unfortunately in one of the non-peaceful towns. Still, two million Arabs currently live in Israel and enjoy equal rights.

Contrary to this, between 1948-1970, over 850,000 Jewish citizens of Arab countries were expelled in response to the Jews of Israel successfully repelling multiple invasions. Ancient communities ranging from thousands to hundreds of thousands have dwindled to less than 3000, many less than 100 due to this clear shared policy of antisemitic ethnic cleansing. To this day, Jews who remain are subject to arbitrary imprisonment and ostracism

Not only is it dishonest for Aboud to accuse Israel of such a crime, but she employs a clear double standard by ignoring the plight of those Jewish refugees and supporting the explicitly genocidal Hamas.

Next, Zarefah blames Israel for perpetuating the Palestinian refugee crisis by continuing to refuse the demand to repatriate all Palestinian refugees, widely known as the ‘right of return’. Contrary to its inaccurate title, there is no legal basis requiring Israel to do this.

The claim is based on a misinterpretation of a non-binding UN recommendation that Arab leaders actually rejected. The text states that all refugees (including Jewish Refugees from Arab countries) should be allowed to return and only for those who intend to live at peace with their neighbors. The long history of Palestinian terrorism and its long held popularity within their society clearly exempts Israel from this obligation and certainly doesn’t establish a “right” to return.  

On top of this, the Arab refugees from that war and the 1967 war are the only group in the world that passes down refugee status to their descendants. This means that the official number of refugees Israel is being pressured into accepting ballooned from hundreds of thousands in 1948 to millions now. If this was ever implemented, Jews would once again become a minority in an Arab dominated country, becoming more vulnerable to Palestinian attempts to destroy Israel by freeing Palestine “from the River to the Sea.” 

Further, there is no international law that allows Palestinians (or anyone else for that matter), to violate Israel’s right to territorial integrity or hinder its ability to protect its citizens.

For someone passionate about Palestinian rights, it seems odd that her article says nothing about the human rights abuses that Hamas inflicts on Palestinians. Does she believe that giving Palestinians more of Israel will stop terror groups from recruiting child soldiers and using innocent civilians as human shields, or is destroying Israel just more important?

Instead of advocating to improve the quality of life for Palestinians still forced to live in refugee camps, (some even in their own territories), Zarefah exploits their suffering. Her actions serve to perpetuate the anti-Israel legacy of those who are actually responsible. 

About the Author
Rojin is a 2023/24 CAMERA UK Fellow who studies at the University of Exeter.
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