European Jewish Refugees

The 1936-9 Arab Revolt against the British Mandate had seen an intensification of anti-Jewish violence, leading to a belief in Palestine's immigrant, largely refugee, Zionist Jewish population that their autonomy would not be tolerated by the Palestinians. Many had no other possible destination. Mounting desperation before, during and, most importantly, after the Holocaust, when almost a million displaced European Jews were denied entry by the Great Powers sharpened a prevailing resolve among Europe's Jews to take charge of their own self-defence and to gain a state of their own. Isaac Deutscher (1968, p112) refers to Israel as a "historic necessity":

"From a burning or sinking ship people jump no matter where – on to a lifeboat, a raft, or a float. The jumping is for them an ‘historic necessity’; and the raft is in a sense the basis of their whole existence".

Israel's declaration of independence (Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 1948) resolved not to discriminate on grounds of religion or race and would "guarantee freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture.

Displacement of Palestinian Arabs

Between the UN Partition Plan of 1947 (which first ratified Jewish and Arab states in Mandate Palestine) and the 1949 Armistice which ended the first Israel-Arab War, 700,000-800,000 Palestinians left, were displaced or were driven out what is now Israel. Benny Morris (in Bose, 2007, p234), an early Israeli 'revisionist' or 'new' historian) summarises his findings, which are widely considered authoritative, as follows:

"The Yishuv did not enter the war with a plan or policy of expulsion… But if a measure of ambivalence and confusion attended Hagahan/IDF treatment of Arab communites during and immediately after conquest, there was nothing ambiguous about Israeli policy from summer 1948 towards those who had been displaced and become refugees, there was nothing ambiguous about Israeli policy from summer 1948 towards those who had been displaced and become refugees and those yet to be displaced in future operations. Generally applied with resolution and often brutality, the policy was to prevent a refugee return at all costs… In this sense it may fairly be said that all 700,000 or so who ended up as refugees were compulsorily displaced or "expelled"… The [Palestinian] urban masses and the fellahin [peasantry] had nowhere to go, certainly not in comfort. For most of them flight meant instant destitution; it was not a course readily adopted… In April-May and again in October-November the "atrocity factor" played a major role in flight from certain areas… Apart from the twenty or so cases of massacre, Jewish troppes often randomly killed prisoners of war, farm hands in the fields and the occasional villagers who stayed behind… There were also several dozen cases of rape… Ben-Gurion clearly wanted as few Arabs as possible in the Jewish state… He said so explicitly in meetings in August, September and October. But no explusion policy was ever enunciated and Ben-Gurion always refrained from issuing clear or written expulsion orders… In early March the prospect of pan-Arab invasion gave rise to Plan Dalet. It accorded the Haganah brigade and battalion-level commanders carte blanche to completely clear vital areas of Arab populations."

The atrocities surrounding the establishment of Israel should not be forgotten, and they should be remembered.

Who is a Palestinian refugee

Unique UN classification of Palestinian refugees as descendents of people originally displaced

Jordan, formerly part of Palestine, was the only state which naturalised these Palestinian refugees - there was consensus within the Arab League that they should remain as 'facts on the ground'

Jewish refugees from Arab countries


Refugees under the current peace plans

Taba affords the right to return for all '48er displaced Palestinians, and provision for family reunification, and has worked out packages and options for others.


Bose, S (2007). Contested Lands. Cambridge Massachusetts, Harvard University Press.

Deutscher, I (1968). The Non-Jewish Jew and other essays, London: Oxford University Press, pp 136-137

Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs (1947). The Declaration of the Establishment of the State of Israel. May 14 1947. Available from http://www.mfa.il.

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