It was the Arab military that warned Arab civilians to “get out” and declared that those who remained would be considered traitors to the Arab cause. Nevertheless, they are the only “refugees” in the Middle East, as far as the world is concerned, and to whom all the sympathy is given. No thought is given to the Jewish refugees who, in far larger numbers, were either expelled or managed to flee Muslim countries in 1948.
On April 22, 1948 (three weeks before Israel declared itself a nation), Aubrey Lippincott, US Consul-General in Haifa, stated that “local mufti-dominated Arab leaders [were urging] all Arabs to leave the city, and large numbers did so.” 1 About the same time, Haifa’s British police chief, A. J. Bridmead, reported, “Every effort is being made by the Jews to persuade the Arab population to remain.” A foreign visitor reported: “In Tiberias I saw a placard affixed to a sealed Arab Mosque that read, ‘We did not dispossess them [and] the day will come when the Arabs will return to their homes and property in this town...let no citizen touch their property.’ It was signed by the Jewish Town Council of Tiberias.” 2
…A Jordanian newspaper reported, “The Arab States encouraged the Palestine Arabs to leave their homes temporarily in order to be out of the way of the Arab invasion armies.” 3 Another Jordanian newspaper quoted a complaining refugee: “The Arab government told us: ‘Get out so that we can get in. So we got out, but they did not get in.’” 4 …Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Said declared: “We will smash the country with our guns and obliterate every place where the Jews seek shelter. The Arabs should conduct their wives and children to safe areas until the fighting has died down.” 5 Syrian Prime Minister, Khaled al Azm, later admitted, “Since 1948 we have been demanding the return of the refugees.... But we ourselves are the ones who encouraged them to leave.” 6 Jordan’s King Hussein stated in 1960: “Since 1948, Arab leaders have approached the Palestine problem in an irresponsible manner. They have used the Palestine people for selfish political purposes. This is ridiculous and I could say even criminal.”
The New York Times reported that “The mass evacuation, prompted partly by fear, partly by orders of Arab leaders, left the Arab quarter of Haifa a ghost city....” 7 The Arab National Committee in Jerusalem, following instructions of the Arab Higher Committee, ordered women, children, and the elderly in various parts of Jerusalem to leave their homes and warned, “Any opposition to this order...is an obstacle to the holy war...and will hamper the operations of the fighters in these districts.” 8
Emil Ghory, secretary of the Palestine Arab Higher Committee, admitted, “The fact that there are those refugees is the direct consequence of the action of the Arab states in opposing partition and the Jewish state. The Arab states agreed upon this policy unanimously....” 9 Arafat’s successor, the Palestinian Authority’s current prime minister, Mahmoud Abbas, admitted in writing, “The Arab armies, who invaded the country in ’48, forced the Palestinians to emigrate and leave their homeland and forced a political and ideological siege on them.” 10 According to a British report, “Of the 62,000 Arabs who formerly lived in Haifa not more than 5,000 or 6,000 remained...the most potent [factors in the Arab flight]...were the announcements made over the air by the Higher Arab
Executive urging all Arabs to leave...[and] that those Arabs who remained in Haifa and accepted Jewish protection would be regarded as renegades.” 11
While visiting Palestinian Arab refugee camps in Lebanon and Jordan, Carl Hermann Voss was told by the refugees themselves that “the Arab High Command ordered them out of Palestine during the 1948 war…told [them] that the Jews in Palestine would be annihilated within a few weeks and that the Arab Liberation Army did not want to worry about any fellow Arabs getting in the way of such a devastating Arab jihad. Those Palestinian refugees were bitter at their Arab compatriots who had left them homeless…. [But] four decades later he would be reading about the intense hatred harbored toward the Jewish people by the grandchildren and great-grandchildren of those refugees…. Accounts of Arab negligence and Arab miscalculation during the 1948 war had been forgotten, having been replaced with stories of Jewish ‘atrocities.’” 12
Islam's Record of Oppression and Slaughter
The hatred against all Jews, which comes not from being an Arab but specifically from Islamic teaching, was reflected in the inhumane treatment of Jews in Arab countries ever since Islam took over. Prior to the seventh century and the advent of the prophet Muhammad and Islam, as…Joan Peters points out from her exhaustive research in her book, From Time Immemorial , “Jews and Arabs did have harmonious relations, and words of praise regarding the noble virtues of the Jews may be found in ancient Arab literature. Indeed, Muhammad himself in the early years, as he was seeking recognition as a prophet, looked with favor upon both Jews and Christians and cultivated their friendship.” But that turned to hatred when they rejected him as “the prophet of Allah.”
Though Muhammad continued to call Christians and Jews “the people of the book,” the fierce hatred that had begun when they rejected him continued to grow. The Qur’an declares, “O ye who believe! Take not the Jews and the Christians for friends.” 13 Muhammad’s dying words were, “May Allah curse the Christians and Jews!” What a contrast to Christ’s teaching that we are to love all mankind as ourselves, 14 and to His dying words spoken specifically of those who had tortured and crucified Him—but also of all mankind: “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.” 15
The oppression of Jews and Christians in Arab countries throughout the centuries after the birth of Islam was at times almost beyond description. Hundreds of books have been written about this evil, but thousands could not contain the full record….
In A.D. 1012, one Caliph in Egypt, al-Hakim of the Fatimids, furious at failing to convert Jews and Christians to Allah despite threats and humiliation, destroyed Cairo’s Jewish quarter along with its residents. 16 A new community eventually grew in its place. They had no country of their own. There was never a way of escape and nowhere to go.… In early nineteenth-century Egypt, Jews were “held in the utmost contempt and abhorrence by the Muslims in general...detested by the Muslims far more than Christians...jostled in the streets of Cairo...beaten merely for passing on the right hand of a Muslim...dared not utter a word of abuse when reviled or beaten unjustly by the meanest Arab or Turk; for many a Jew has been put to death upon a false and malicious accusation of uttering disrespectful words against the Qur’an or the Prophet...[or has been] sacrificed to save a Muslim....” 17
In the 1940s, organized anti-Jewish riots injured or killed many Jews in Egypt. Egypt passed a law that made it nearly impossible for a Jew to find employment, the government confiscated much Jewish property, and within a few months Jews were reduced to financial ruin. After the UN partitioned Palestine on November 29, 1947, “Jews in Cairo and Alexandria were threatened with death, their houses were looted, and synagogues were attacked.” 18
The Forgotten Jewish Refugees
In 1948, as soon as a national Jewish homeland was created, more than 850,000 Jews fled (most of them to Israel for refuge) from Muslim lands where they had lived for 2,000 or more years, leaving behind virtually everything they had possessed. This was far more than the number of Arab refugees who fled from Israel during the War of Independence. Beginning in 1947 and accelerating in 1948 and thereafter, there has been an aggressive effort on the part of the international community to assist the “Palestinian” refugees. Many programs have been put into action and billions of dollars expended for their assistance. During the same period, no concern has been expressed by the United Nations for the plight of some 856,000 Jewish refugees who fled severe persecution in (or were forcibly expelled from) Arab lands. There have been more than 680 UN General Assembly resolutions dealing with every aspect of the Middle East Arab-Israeli conflict. More than 100 have dealt specifically with the “plight of Palestinian refugees.” In none of these, nor in any others, has the slightest concern been expressed for the even larger number of Jewish refugees from Arab lands.
This has not been due to ignorance. On many occasions, the Israeli government, the World Organization of Jews from Arab Countries (WOJAC), and other agencies, have brought to the attention of the UN and its affiliates the numbers of and circumstances creating the far larger number of Jewish refugees, and have appealed for help. Numerous times, the mistreatment of Jews in Muslim countries…has been brought to the attention of the UN: by Golda Meir on November 27 and 30, 1956; on December 21, 1956, by Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr., as US Representative to the UN; on December 2, 1968, to then UN Secretary General U-Thant by the International League for the Rights of Man (non-Jewish), and on many other occasions. The appeals fell on deaf ears.
…How could more than 850,000 refugees be overlooked by the United Nations and the world? Yet these Jewish refugees who fled the unbelievably inhumane persecution and slaughter they and their forebears had endured for centuries are ignored at the UN and in the media….Here is anti-Semitism in raw form!... [This] violates everything the United Nations is supposed to stand for [and] has no rational explanation. It can only be a continuing manifestation of the Satanic hatred against God’s chosen people foretold by His prophets—a hatred and persecution that would dog the steps of Jews worldwide until Israel’s national repentance. The prophets foretold both Israel’s persistent rebellion through the centuries and the resulting punishment that would not be finished until Armageddon had drained the last bitter drop of the cup of God’s judgment.
...It should be infuriating to anyone with even a minimal sense of fairness…that in the continuing concern expressed in repeated international conferences that discuss the plight of the Palestinian refugees, no concern is expressed, nor is any mention made, regarding the far greater number of Jewish refugees from Muslim lands. Of course, they are no longer refugees, having been absorbed into normal life in Israel. Nor would there be any “Palestinians” remaining in that category had the Arab nations, with their vast wealth and resources, accepted them—but they refused….
The One Exception!
In the last 100 years, there have been about 100 million displaced persons who have fled from violence in their former homelands to be taken in as refugees by neighboring countries…. No one has called for their return to the homes from which they fled—nor for a return of any of the other 85 million. This is the rule and practice.
Ah, but there is one exception—the “Palestinians.” In March 1976, Matthew Mitchell, then director of the United States Committee for Refugees, declared in all seriousness in an interview that in contrast to “the world situation…Arab refugees are a special case.” 19 These exploited victims of Arab hatred against Israel, deliberately kept on display in squalid camps, must be received back to Israel in order to destroy her—so says world opinion…. If justice demands that the “Palestinians” return to Israel, why isn’t there an equal cry of justice for the even larger number of Jews to be allowed back into Muslim lands? The answer to that question, as we are emphasizing, is indisputable proof of the pervasive anti-Semitism that the Bible prophesied the Jews would suffer until the Messiah returns at Armageddon to rescue them.
In contrast to the favored treatment of Arab refugees, the full story of the inhuman treatment of Jewish refugees during World War II (let alone throughout the centuries) would fill a library. One seldom-mentioned crime was the deliberate drowning of hundreds in the Black Sea. On December 12, 1941, the Struma left Constanta, Romania, bound for “Palestine.” The 769 Jewish refugees aboard (including 103 children and infants) were fleeing the Nazi Holocaust and had paid exorbitant fees, only to find themselves escaping Hitler on a dilapidated Greek cattle barge with only one bathroom, an engine that kept breaking down, and scarcely room for 100 people. The fare was supposed to have included entry visas to be picked up in Istanbul.
When the disabled vessel was finally towed into Istanbul with a dead engine, the Struma was anchored in a quarantine section of the port and no one (including the crew) was allowed ashore. There the passengers endured a living hell for seventy-one days. The only water and food was supplied by Jewish benefactors. It was then that the refugees learned that they were victims of a hoax more cruel than they had imagined—the promised “immigration certificates” in Istanbul did not exist.
The British, who controlled “Palestine” under a mandate to make it the Jewish national home but kept Jews out, forbade the Turkish government to allow the Struma through the Bosphorus Strait to the Mediterranean—a needless prohibition because all efforts to repair the engine failed. To return to Romania—even if possible—would have meant death. Finally, on February 23, 1942, under British pressure, Turkish police forcibly came aboard, cut the anchor chains, and towed the helpless vessel, with its occupants, far into the Black Sea. The Struma was blown apart and sunk early the next morning by a Russian sub, for which the sub’s commander, Lieutenant Denezhko, was given a medal. The lone survivor (except for one pregnant woman allowed ashore to have her baby) was 19-year-old David Stoliar, who, though near death and unable to walk, was confined to a Turkish jail. He is presently a resident of Bend, Oregon, and was interviewed by the author.
- Foreign Relations of the U.S . 1948 , Vol. V. (GPO, 1976) 838.
- The New York Times , April 23, 1948.
- Filastin , February 19, 1949.
- Ad Diofaa , September 6, 1954.
- Myron Kaufman, The Coming Destruction of Israel (The American Library Inc., 1970), 26-27.
- Khaled Al-Azm, Memoirs [ Arabic ], 3 volumes (Al-Dar al Muttahida lil-Nashr, 1972), vol. 1, 386-87, cited in Joan Peters, From Time Immemorial, 16.
- The New York Times , May 3, 1948.
- Middle Eastern Studies, January 1986.
- The Beirut Daily Telegraph , September 6, 1948.
- PLO journal Palestine a-Thaura , March 1976.
- The Economist , October 2, 1948.
- David A. Rausch , The Middle East Maze (Chicago: Moody Press, 1991), 75-76.
- Surah 5:51.
- Saul Friedman, “The Myth of Arab Toleration,” Midstream , January 1970, 58.
- Edward William Lane, Manners and Customs of the Modern Egyptians 1833-1835 (London, 1890), 512-17.
- Peters, Immemorial, 48, comments in fn 120-21.
- Ibid., 27.