A recent report by a senior Palestinian Authority journalist in the PA daily Al-Ayyam documented the decision by masses of Arabs in 1948 to leave their homes in the hopes that they would return once Israel was defeated.
"The Arabs who became refugees in 1948 were not expelled by Israel but left on their own to facilitate the destruction of Israel," the senior PA journalist wrote, according to Palestinian Media Watch, which monitors the Arabic language PA media. "This plan to leave Israel was initiated by the Arab states fighting Israel, who promised the people they would be able to return to their homes in a few days once Israel was defeated."
PMW points out that the Al-Ayyam article's conclusion that Arab states are responsible for the Arab refugee problem undercuts a backbone of Arab propaganda claiming that Israel expelled hundreds of thousands of Arabs in 1948. "In recent years, PMW has documented an increasing willingness among Palestinians to openly blame the Arab states and not Israel," the report concludes, citing five sources and witnesses' accounts conveyed in the PA media to support the claim:
- Jawad Al Bashiti, PA Arab journalist in Jordan, writing in Al-Ayyam, May 13, 2008
"Remind me of one real cause from all the factors that have caused the "Palestinian Catastrophe" [the establishment of Israel and the creation of refugee problem], and I will remind you that it still exists... The reasons for the Palestinian Catastrophe are the same reasons that have produced and are still producing our Catastrophes today.
"During the Little Catastrophe, meaning the Palestinian Catastrophe, the following happened: the first war between Arabs and Israel had started and the "Arab Salvation Army" came and told the Palestinians: 'We have come to you in order to liquidate the Zionists and their state. Leave your houses and villages, you will return to them in a few days safely. Leave them so we can fulfill our mission (destroy Israel) in the best way and so you won't be hurt.' It became clear already then, when it was too late, that the support of the Arab states (against Israel) was a big illusion. Arabs fought as if intending to cause the "Palestinian Catastrophe"
- Mahmoud Al-Habbash, PA Journalist in PA-run daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, December 13, 2006
"...The leaders and the elites promised us at the beginning of the "Catastrophe" in 1948, that the duration of the exile will not be long, and that it will not last more than a few days or months, and afterwards the refugees will return to their homes, which most of them did not leave only until they put their trust in those 'Arkuvian' promises made by the leaders and the political elites. Afterwards, days passed, months, years and decades, and the promises were lost with the strain of the succession of events..." [Term "Arkuvian," is after Arkuv - a figure from Arab tradition - who was known for breaking his promises and for his lies."] "
- Asmaa Jabir Balasimah, Woman who fled Israel in 1948, Al-Ayyam, May 16, 2006
"We heard sounds of explosions and of gunfire at the beginning of the summer in the year of the 'Catastrophe' . They told us: The Jews attacked our region and it is better to evacuate the village and return, after the battle is over. And indeed there were among us [who fled Israel] those who left a fire burning under the pot, those who left their flock [of sheep] and those who left their money and gold behind, based on the assumption that we would return after a few hours."
- Son of man who fled in 1948, PA TV 1999
An Arab viewer called Palestinian Authority TV and quoted his father, saying that in 1948 the Arab District Officer ordered all Arabs to leave Palestine or be labeled traitors. In response, Arab MK Ibrahim Sarsur, then Head of the Islamic Movement in Israel, cursed those leaders, thus acknowledging Israel's historical record.
"Mr. Ibrahim [Sarsur]. I address you as a Muslim. My father and grandfather told me that during the "Catastrophe" [in 1948], our district officer issued an order that whoever stays in Palestine and in Majdel [near Ashkelon - Southern Israel] is a traitor, he is a traitor."
Response from Ibrahim Sarsur, now MK, then Head of the Islamic Movement in Israel:
"The one who gave the order forbidding them to stay there bears guilt for this, in this life and the Afterlife throughout history until Resurrection Day."
- Fuad Abu Higla, senior PA journalist, Al-Hayat Al-Jadidah, March 19, 2001
Abu Higla, then a regular columnist in the official PA daily Al Hayat Al Jadida, wrote an article before an Arab Summit, which criticized the Arab leaders. One of the failures he cited, in the name of a prisoner, was that an earlier generation of Arab leaders "forced" them to leave Israel in 1948, again placing the blame for the flight on the Arab leaders.
"I have received a letter from a prisoner in Acre prison, to the Arab summit:
To the [Arab and Muslim] Kings and Presidents, poverty is killing us, the symptoms are exhausting us and the souls are leaving our body, yet you are still searching for the way to provide aid, like one who is looking for a needle in a haystack or like the armies of your predecessors in the year of 1948, who forced us to leave [Israel], on the pretext of clearing the battlefields of civilians...
So what will your summit do now?"
PMW Director Itamar Marcus believes it is critical that the admission of PA Arabs to the root causes of the refugee issue be brought to light, as the matter is not only at the heart of negotiations, but has become a rallying point for anti-Israel activists seeking to flood the Jewish state with the descendants of those who fled originally. "It is clear from these statements that there is general acknowledgement among Palestinians that Arab leaders bear responsibility for the mass flight of Arabs from Israel in 1948, and were the cause of the 'refugee' problem," Marcus said. "Furthermore, the fact that this information has been validated by public figures and refugees in the Palestinian Authority media itself confirms that this responsibility is well-known - even though for propaganda purposes its leaders continue to blame Israel publicly for 'the expulsion.' "