On December 20th, 1997 President of Egypt Anwar Sadat makes a historic trip to Jerusalem and offers the Israelis a complete peace in exchange for their full withdrawal from Sinai. A year later a peace agreement is signed at Camp David. President Sadat is called a traitor by an Arab League and eventually assassinated by Muslim Brotherhood in 1981.




Right of Return & a Just Solution

At the time when Israel celebrates the Day of Independence the Palestinians and the rest of the Arab world commemorate the event by mourning the birth of the Jewish state. There is word for it in Arabic called Nakba or Catastrophe. Every year the Palestinians are reminded of that event as a planned ethnic cleansing perpetrated by the Jews. This Arab version of history is also brought up every time the question comes up about the right of return of Arab refugees and their descendants, numbering around four million people, back to Israel.       

Israelis are adamant that it can never happen as an influx of over 4 million hostile Palestinians into Israel with population of around 7 million, 20% of whom are Arab, would inevitably lead to the end of Israel as we know it. Yet the Arabs would not sigh off on any peace agreement that does not include a “just solution” for Palestinian refugees. We are all for a just solution but what that just solution is needs to be examined by looking at the events that took place right after the state of Israel was formed.

 There are different accounts of exactly what triggered the exodus of over half a million of Palestinians in 1948. To sift through conflicting Arab and Israeli accounts in order to get to an absolute truth is almost impossible. What is indisputable is that the Arabs did not want Jews in Palestine and often resorted to violence in order to drive them out.

Palestinia Refugees 
Palestinian Refugees in 1948

 The Arab revolts of 1920, 1929 and 1936 that claimed a lot of lives on the both sides are good examples of that. In fact the Arabs already began using terrorism against the Jews in 1930s, more then a decade before the State of Israel was born. In the 1940s there was a substantial rise in Arab nationalism and in Palestine it was fueled even more by the Jewish presence. Leading up to U.N. partition of Palestine on November 29 of 1947 there was already a de-facto civil war going on as both sides were arming themselves preparing for an inevitable conflict. The U.N. Resolution 181 tried to deal with that problem by dividing the land between the Jews and Arabs and settling the problem once and for all. But the Arabs were vehemently opposed to conceding even an inch of Palestine to the Jews.   

On May 14th 1948 the Jews proclaimed their Declaration of Independence and the creation of the state of Israel on the territory that was allocated to them by the United Nations. Israel’s independence was only a couple of years removed from the end of the World War II. The Jewish population of Europe just went through Holocaust that took six million Jewish lives and as much as some Europeans were ashamed of the horrible events that took place on their continent they did not mind if the Jews just left. Not having too many choices available to them many European Jews chose to join their brothers and sisters in Palestine. At last they had a place they could call home and get on with their lives.                                                                                                

But the Jews did not have a lot of time to celebrate their freedom as the armies of Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Iraq and Lebanon converged on the fledgling state. The Arab leaders were vowing to clear Palestine from the Jews once and for all. Here were the Jews, many of whom barely survived the European Holocaust, and they were already facing another one in the hands of oncoming Arab armies. As many people, both Jews and Arabs, were fleeing the areas of conflict, chaos ensued and the rumors were running rampant.    

Palestinians claim that many of them were forced out by the Jews from some areas which given the dire situation that Israelis were in is quite conceivable. The Jews firmly believed that they were facing annihilation. Their history if full of examples of unimaginable cruelty that their enemies have inflicted on them and yet they were expected to be humanitarian and merciful to their enemies who would accept nothing less then driving all the Jews into the sea.  

Many Arabs fled in fear of retributions while others were encouraged to do so by their own leaders who were so convinced of an easy victory that the fleeing Arab population was assured that they would be able to return to their homes just within a few days. While the Arabs could run to Arab half of Palestine, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon and countless other Arab speaking countries the Jews were stuck in tiny Israel as they had no place else to go.  

The attacking Arab armies were competing with each other for the right of being called the liberator of Palestine. There was no coherent military plan devised by the Arab commanders and there was very little communication between the allied armies. They believed that the rag-tag Israeli forces had no chance against their superior numbers and armament. But things did not go their way. Israelis proved to be a lot more resilient then Arabs expected. Not surprising as Jews knew full well what would happen to them if they lost. Miraculously Israel had survived but it came at the high cost as they lost over 1% of their population in the conflict, a huge number for such a small country.  

The biggest losers though were the Palestinians who now had to start a new life instead of going back to what was expected to be a unified Arab Palestine. The Arab leaders who failed them never took responsibility for their mistakes and instead created an entire industry out of the misery of the Palestinian people that is still going strong after 60 years.   

But the mistakes of Arab leaders did not end on the battlefield. Following the War of Independence of 1948 the defeated Arab governments took their frustration on defenseless Jewish populations of their respective countries. Angry mobs were allowed to engage in pogroms all around the Arab world. Many Jews were killed, their homes and businesses expropriated or torched. Hundreds of thousands had to flee leaving behind all their worldly possessions.  

Over 800.000 Jews were either forced out or fled their homes from from 1948 until the early 1970s.While many scattered around the world the majority have settled in Israel. Israel did a great job absorbing hundreds of thousands of people with different cultural backgrounds while the Arabs did a great job of erasing the history of the Jewish communities that lived in those lands for over two millennia. How many people today would even know about the Jewish exodus out of Arab countries. And yet when you look at the demographic statistics of Jewish population before 1948 and today broken down by countries the results are staggering:

                                1948           Today


Algeria            140.000             100

Egypt               80.000             500

Iran                 100.000        25.000

Iraq                 150.000              40

Lebanon            50.000              30

Libya                30.000                0

Morocco          150.000           7000

Syria                30.000             100

Tunisia            105.000           1500


The above numbers represent nothing short of ethnic cleansing. The methods used by Arabs to get rid of Jews varied from Russian type pogroms that only required rampaging mobs, drunk on anti-Semitic propaganda, to do the killing and raping to more sophisticated methods like government approved public hangings and firebombings of ancient synagogues. In countries like Egypt, thousands of families were ordered to leave but were allowed only one suitcase and forced to sign declarations "donating" their properties to the Egyptian government. Many Jews were forced to turn their businesses over to Muslims and ended up working for their former employees.

Jewish Refugees from Yemen 
Jewish Refugees from Yemen in 1950

How was all this much different from what Nazis did to Jews during the the Night of Broken Glass, an anti-Jewish pogrom in Nazi Germany and Austria on 9 to 10 November 1938 that started off the tragedy of the European Jews. While the German government today openly admits the role on Nazi Germany in the Holocaust, the Arab governments never took the responsibility for their role in the expulsion of hundreds of thousands of Jews of the Middle East. Their plight is conveniently forgotten in order not to disturb the narrative of the tragedy of the Palestinian refugees.  

When the dust had settled and the Arabs looked around they found that their actions actually made their enemy stronger as the population of Israel almost doubled as almost 600.000 Jewish refugees ended up in Israel. Israel absorbed them without a second thought while many of the Palestinian refugees were languishing in the refugee camps scattered around Arab countries and mostly dependent on the handouts from U.N. and International community. Their fate was sealed. They have become a sideshow that has inspired the generations of Arab nationalists and jihadists around the world. .  

So how is it a catastrophe for Palestinians Arabs and not for the Jews from Arab countries who were never involved in Arab-Israeli conflict but were forced into exile none-the-less? How is it that a tiny Israel was able to absorb hundreds of thousands of survivors of European and Arab persecution and build a thriving society while the best the Arab countries, with their vast territories and oil resources, could do is keep their Arab brothers in refugee camps, give them no rights or citizenships and keep reminding them that some day will have their own state on the land that is called Israel.  

Because Israel made a commitment that every Jew in need of a shelter could find one in Israel. Jewish refugees have accepted their new lives, learned new skills and become productive members of the Israeli society. The world has quickly forgotten about them as their lives no longer were the festering wound that the lives of their Palestinian counterparts become. The Palestinian refugees never got a shot at the normal lives as their miserable existence has become a weapon for the Arabs, stronger then any military equipment Israel may have in its arsenal.    

The image of a Palestinian throwing a stone at Israeli soldiers is ingrained in the collective conscience of the world. If there is one thing that Palestinians have accomplished beyond anybody’s expectations was to reach the status of victimhood that can not be surpassed by anybody. The deaths of hundreds of thousands of fellow Muslims killed by Saddam Hussein was  not considered a catastrophe. On the contrary, Saddam was a celebrity in Palestinian territories. The atrocities going on in Congo and Darfur that claimed hundreds of thousands of lives get only occasional coverage. The plight of non-Muslim communities in Irag does not get even a mention.  

The Palestinian question on the other hand is always on the forefront. Pundits from Jimmy Carter to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, from the U.N. to the Arab League and countless others in between make sure that they all get a chance to take a swipe at Israel for mistreating the Palestinians. Even the cruelest of the crimes committed by Palestinian terrorists are vigorously defended. There is always a readily available answer for any situation no matter how indefensible. So much so that one sometimes needs to step back and admire it as some sort of sick art form.  

But what tops all of the above is when Nakba is compared to the Holocaust. While many Arab historians deny that it ever took place and argue that it was part of the Zionist plan to take over Palestine, they have no problem using the word when describing the plight of Palestinians. While every human life is important and should not be taken without regard the comparison is disingenuous and historically not accurate. During the 1948 war Israelis lost around 6500 people while Arabs casualties, majority of which were the invading armies, lost around 10,000 people.  

During the Holocaust six million Jews were brought to concentration camps from all around Europe to be gassed, burned and buried in mass graves. The gold teeth of dead prisoners were melted and placed into Swiss banks for the benefit of the Nazis and their supporters. Their hair, skin and other body parts were used to produce soap, pillows and other products. Jewish children were paraded into the gas chambers expecting candies as a reword. I will not go into more gruesome details but these so called historians should be ashamed of themselves for even bringing up the subject.  

So here are the Arabs who refused to share the land with the Jews, kept attacking them with the full intention of ridding Palestine of every last Jew, lost the military confrontation, made refugees out of 800.000 Jews most of whom had to be absorbed by Israel, forced the generations of Palestinians to live in refugee camps without allowing them to be integrated into Arab societies and now they want Israel to absorb over 4 million people who for 60 years dreamed about ending the existence of the state they are trying to return to?  

That does not sound like a just solution. In fact that kind of solution would be catastrophic not only for Jews but also for Arabs as the inevitable civil war that it will produce can engulf the entire Middle East and many countries beyond. Arabs and Israelis already swapped their populations. Leave them be!

 Bring as many Palestinians to West Bank and Gaza as you want once the peace agreement is signed and Palestinians have their own state. In the meantime practice the peace making by trying to resolve the disputes between Hamas and Fattah. Placing completely unreasonable demands on Israelis sounds good for the Arab street but is not going to resolve the problem. A just solution must be just for all parties involved in order to work. When Arabs will finally accept that concept we may have a chance for peace.