It’s long overdue. Alan Dershowitz is the most high-profile figure since Irwin Cotler to take up the question of refugees in the Israeli-Arab conflict. A visit to Morocco has prompted his Gatestone Institute call for Palestinians to end the deadly charade of being called ‘refugees’. Strikingly, he calls for Arab governments, not Israel, to compensate them for their losses. (With thanks: Simone, Eliyahu)
The Arab exodus from Israel in 1948 was the direct result of a
genocidal war declared against the newly established Jewish state by all
of its Arab neighbors, including the Arabs of Israel. If they had
accepted the UN peace plan — two states for two people — there would be
no Palestinian refugees. In the course of Israel’s fierce battle for its
survival — a battle in which it lost one percent of its population,
including many Holocaust survivors and civilians — approximately 700,000
local Arabs were displaced. Many left voluntarily, having been promised
a glorious return after the inevitable Arab victory. Others were forced
out. Some of these Arabs could trace their homes in what became Israel
hundreds of years back. Others were relatively recent arrivals from Arab
countries such as Syria, Egypt, and Jordan.
Moroccan Jews arriving in Israel
Approximately the same number of Jews were displaced from their Arab
homelands during this period. Nearly all of them could trace their
heritage back thousands of years, well before the Muslims and Arabs
became the dominant population. Like the Palestinian Arabs, some left
voluntarily, but many had no realistic choice. The similarities are
striking, but so are the differences.
The most significant difference is between how Israel dealt with the
Jews who were displaced and how the Arab and Muslim word dealt with the
Palestinians who had been displaced by a war they started.
Israel integrated its brothers and sisters from the Arab and Muslim
world. The Arab world put its Palestinian brothers and sisters in
refugee camps, treating them as political pawns — and festering sores —
in its persistent war against the Jewish state.
It has now been 70 years since this exchange of populations occurred.
It is time to end the deadly charade of calling the displaced
Palestinians “refugees.” Almost none of the neatly five million Arabs
who now seek to claim the mantle of “Palestinian refugee” was ever
actually in Israel. They are the descendants — some quite distant — of
those who were actually displaced in 1948. The number of surviving Arabs
who were personally forced out of Israel by the war started by their
brethren is probably no more a few thousand, probably less. Perhaps they
should be compensated, but not by Israel. The compensation should come
from Arab countries that illegally seized the assets of their erstwhile
Jewish residents whom they forced to leave. These few thousand
Palestinians have no greater moral, historic or legal claim than the
surviving Jewish individuals who were displaced during the same time
period seven decades ago.
In life as in law there are statutes of limitations that recognize
that history changes the status quo. The time has come – indeed it is
long overdue – for the world to stop treating these Palestinians as
refugees. That status ended decades ago. The Jews who came to Israel
from Morocco many years ago are no longer refugees. Neither are the
relatives of the Palestinians who have lived outside of Israel for
nearly three quarters of a century.