Previously Published in The Times of Israel
A common misconception in the realm of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is who generated and catalyzed the Palestinian Refugee Crisis. Today, the United Nations boldly claims that there are about 4.8 million Palestinian refugees living throughout the Middle East, including the West Bank, Gaza, Syria, Jordan, and Lebanon. While the existence of the Palestinian refugees is undeniable, the humanitarian blame that is placed upon Israel for creating, and accelerating, this problem is utterly unfair and untrue. Here is why:
In 1947, the United Nations Special Committee on Palestine (UNSCOP) was created due to the British desire to establish a governing power in the region. That same committee drafted and presented the Partition Plan that created both a Jewish and Arab Palestinian state. This plan was widely accepted by Zionist leaders, yet vehemently denied by the Arab High Committee and the League of Arab Nations.
In response to the adoption of this agreement on November 29th, 1947, Arabs within the land known as Mandated Palestine launched a civil war. When Israel became officially recognized in the May of 1948, the neighboring Arab nations, excluding Jordan, launched an assault on Israel’s Jewish/Zionist communities, resulting in the creation of refugees.
Refugees are a common byproduct of war. In most situations, internal and external regional conflicts create refugees. Today, the Syrian Civil War has created millions of refugees. The Iraq War, the African Civil Wars, the Holocaust, the Lebanon Civil War, etc all have resulted in refugees fleeing the area of conflict. Contrary to the belief of the United Nations, Arab governments, and the global populous, the Palestinian Refugee Crisis was simply a result of a war. A war launched by Arab nations, solely because they believed that the Jews had no right to a homeland.
If the Arab nations, along with Arab Palestinians, accepted the 1947 Partition Plan, and wanted coexistence, there would never be a refugee crisis. Sadly, because of the war, hundreds of thousands of Palestinians fled to escape the fighting and to avoid advancing Arab armies. Additionally, Arab propaganda about fake Israeli atrocities further motivated Arabs to leave. The current President of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, phrased it perfectly: “The Arab armies entered Palestine to protect the Palestinians…but instead they abandoned them, and forced them to emigrate.”
Not only was the mass exodus by Arab Palestinians stimulated by Arab intervention in Israel’s Independence War, but the Arab refusal of Palestinian refugees further exaggerated the issue. The neighboring Arab nations, minus Jordan, refused to allow fleeing Palestinians to enter their respective nations and become absorbed into their societies. They forced them to leave, and then shut them out when they desperately sought refuge.
Furthermore, when Egypt and Jordan controlled Gaza and the West Bank respectively (pre-1967), neither nation dedicated those lands to creating a sovereign Palestinian state. Even more profoundly, Israel has been the only entity in the entire world to establish internationally recognized and 100% Palestinian controlled lands. However, they are still blamed for causing, and worsening the Palestinian Refugee Crisis.
The obvious absence of the Arab desire for peace fabricated a massive dilemma. It left Palestinians displaced and homeless, and widened the gap between peace and the sad reality of the conflict. If the Arab militaries did not betray their own, maybe there would be two states, living side-by-side in peace.