PA Perpetuates Myth on "Catastrophe Day"

Palestinian Authority Arabs are commemorating Catastrophe Day today: the establishment of the State of Israel. They vow not to forget their "national identity," which many experts say never existed.

, | updated: 14:50

The Arabs commemorate Catastrophe Day, known in Arabic as the Nakba, on the anniversary of the event that led to the establishment of the State of Israel. The British mandate ended on Saturday, May 15, 1948, and in order not to clash with the Sabbath, David Ben-Gurion convened the Jewish provisional government the day before to declare the new state.

The Nakba commemorations began at noon today with a minute-long siren wailing throughout the PA areas, reminiscent of Israel's Holocaust Day and Memorial Day sirens of the past two weeks. The theme of this year's commemorations: the refugees of 1948 and their assumed "Right of Return" to the Land of Israel.

"We will never forget our identity and we won't forget the refugees," PA chief Mahmoud Abbas' said today in a speech from Tokyo, Japan, where he is beginning a three-day visit. "We have a homeland called Palestine that belongs to our forefathers... Today is the day of the crime of the expulsion of our nation all over the world."

In fact, however, Palestinian "identity," "homeland," and "expulsion" are all concepts that have little basis in fact. The name "Palestinian" referred to Jews before 1948, the Land of Israel was historically a homeland only to Jews, and the Arabs who left Israel in 1948 did so, generally, at the behest of Arab countries, not Israel.

Palestinian Arab nationalist claims have often been called nothing more than a myth, and, as Boston Globe columnist Jeff Jacoby has written, "They have repeated it so often and so loudly that much of the world has come to believe it." Jacoby sums up:

"The truth is that there was never an Arab country of Palestine and that Palestinian Arabs were never a nation. The truth is that Jerusalem was never the capital of any Arab state or province. The truth is that in all of recorded history, only one people has ever made Palestine west of the Jordan a sovereign nation-state with Jerusalem as its capital: the Jews. So closely was Palestine associated with Jews, in fact, that in the years before Israel's birth, those who spoke of "Palestinians" were usually referring to the region's Jewish residents. Arab leaders rejected the notion of a unique Palestinian Arab identity, insisting that Palestine was merely a part of "Greater Syria." Not that they saw Palestine as much of a prize in any case. Until the Zionist enterprise got underway, Palestine was stagnant and mostly barren. Its Arab population was small and declining. With Jewish development, however, came economic opportunity and better living conditions, which, in turn, attracted huge numbers of Arab immigrants from beyond Palestine's borders.

"Yet, if the Arabs didn't consider themselves Palestinians, they nevertheless ended up with most of Palestine... Three-fourths of historic Palestine is sovereign Arab territory, and has been barred to Jews for 80 years. Arabs displaced by war from one part of Palestine have always had the rest of Palestine to resettle in - if only their Arab brethren would permit it.

"The Arab myth of an ancient homeland stolen by Jews is dramatic and affecting, but it is still a myth. The Jews, meanwhile - the real Palestinians - try to live on just the sliver of land that lies between the river and the sea. Yet even that is too much for their neighbors, who cannot abide a Jewish state of any size. On the day it was born, they tried to wipe it out. They have been trying ever since."

In "From Time Immemorial," author Joan Peters similarly shows that the concept of an Arab Palestinian people is a myth and that Jews did not displace Arabs here. She writes (p. 168-9), "The peoples who roamed the country in the 19th century were not... indigenous to the land. They did not stay on the land. Of the sparse population who were later counted as 'original' settled 'Arabs' in the 19th century when the arriving Jewish immigrants united with the native Palestinian Jewish population, many were in fact imported Muslim peoples from Turkey and other lands... Kurds, Turcomans, Naim, and other colonists arrived in Palestine around the same time as the Jewish immigration wave began. 18,000 'tents' of Tartars, the 'armies of Turks and Kurds,' whole villages settled in the 19th century of Bosnians and Moors and 'Circassians' and 'Algerians' and Egyptians, etc. - all were continually brought in to people the land called Palestine."

The Removal of the Arab Inhabitants Was Voluntary
Peters also quotes (p. 13) a research report by the Arab-sponsored Institute for Palestine Studies in Beirut finding that "the majority" of the Arab refugees in 1948 were not expelled, and that 68% left without seeing an Israeli soldier. On April 27, 1950, the Arab National Committee of Haifa stated in a memorandum to the Arab States: "The removal of the Arab inhabitants... was voluntary and was carried out at our request... The Arab delegation proudly asked for the evacuation of the Arabs and their removal to the neighboring Arab countries."

Speaking from Tokyo today, Abbas also said that the presence of the refugees in their current locations is "temporary," and that the PA "rejects all ideas of housing the refugees in their current locations... [Until a permanent solution is found], we hope that their present living conditions will be improved."

Arab Countries Perpetuate Refugee Camps
PA statistics show that 42% of the 3.76 million Arabs in the PA areas are "refugees," living in 27 refugee camps. Another 59 such camps exist in other Arab nations, with 900,000 people in camps in Lebanon and Syria. Israel has long criticized the Arab host-countries and UNRWA (United Nations Relief and Works Agency) for perpetuating the camps and their sub-human conditions, instead of finding permanent homes for the residents. "UNRWA remains the only refugee agency in the world whose apparent purpose is to perpetrate the status of refugees as refugees," wrote John Hagee for WorldNetDaily. "There is no intention of solving the problem, only creating perpetual suffering for the world media to criticize Israel for its abuse of the poor Palestinians."

Zuheir Muhsein, the late Military Department head of the PLO and member of its Executive Council, told the Dutch daily Trouw, March 1977, "The Palestinian people does not exist. The creation of a Palestinian state is only a means for continuing our struggle against the state of Israel for our Arab unity... Only for political and tactical reasons do we speak today about the existence of a Palestinian people... to oppose Zionism." Click here for other similar quotes.