Friday, May 15, 2015

  • Friday, May 15, 2015
  • Elder of Ziyon
Saleem Haddad writes in Slate:

My grandmother remembers clearly the night her family left. They were woken up in the middle of the night by loud banging on the front door. My grandmother’s cousins, who lived in an Arab neighborhood of Haifa, had arrived to tell them that Haifa was falling. The British had announced they were withdrawing, and there were rumors that the country was being handed to the Zionists. At the time, the German Colony had been relatively insulated from the incidents of violence in the rest of the country, which included raids and massacres of Palestinian villages by Zionist paramilitary groups. Yet the Haganah, a paramilitary organization that later formed the core of the Israel Defense Forces, saw the British withdrawal from Haifa as an opportunity and carried out a series of attacks on key Arab neighborhoods where my grandmother’s aunts and cousins were living.

“That night our Jewish neighbors told us not to leave,” my grandmother remembers. “And my father wanted to stay, to wait it out. But my mother … well she had 11 children, and of course she wanted us to be safe. And her sisters were leaving because of the attacks in their neighborhoods.”

The family debated all night. In the morning, they reached a decision. They each quickly packed a small suitcase and left the rest of their belongings. “We hid the most valuable things we couldn’t take in a locked room in our house, thinking it would be safe until we came back,” she tells me, chuckling.

As the women of the family packed, my grandmother’s older brother, who had once been employed by the British forces, struck a deal, allowing them to leave on one of the last British vehicles withdrawing from Haifa. With what little they could carry, my grandmother’s family travelled to the Lebanese border, hiding in a British army vehicle.
Does this sound like they were "expelled," or that they fled?

But only a few paragraphs later:
My grandmother’s story is not a unique one. ... An estimated 750,000 Palestinians were expelled from their homes, and many who were unable to flee were massacred.
Two lies in one sentence. Relatively few were expelled, just like Saleem's family. And the idea that those that chose to remain behind were massacred is an outright lie.

Haddad notices the contradiction, and tries to reconcile it:
But as her memories made their way onto the page, I had a moment of self-doubt: In my grandmother’s recollection, she was clear that her family had made a decision to leave. Might this play into one of the myths used to justify the establishment of modern-day Israel on Palestinian land—the myth that, despite overwhelming historical evidence to the contrary, Palestinians left on their own free will?

Are you sure you left voluntarily?” I ask my grandmother. “There was a war,” she replies.

“But no one kicked you out, yes? No one was directly attacking you?” I continue.

“Not us personally, but my mother was worried by the reports. We thought we would be gone for a few weeks at most.”

Could my grandmother’s memory of the Nakba bolster the false narrative that Palestinians voluntarily left, given that her family had not been physically removed form their home? As I considered this, my thoughts began to coalesce ... What constitutes voluntary displacement? On May 15, 1948, in the face of growing hostilities and the threat of a regional war, my great-grandmother did the only thing she knew to protect her children: She left. Does running away from an imminent war, with a small suitcase and plans to return, constitute a voluntary departure? And if so, is the departed then unentitled to the land and belongings they left behind, and forbidden from ever returning?

Well, yes, it is voluntary. Because you can contrast it with the Jews - who fought because they had no place to go. The Jews' choice was to fight or die. The Arabs had the choice to fight or flee - or stay. No one was on the radio calling for Arabs to be thrown into the sea. Rewriting the definition of "expulsion" is not an intellectually honest way to approach the question.

As far as his second question, yes, if you leave a country that you are not yet a citizen of in support of those who are trying to destroy it, you cannot expect that its immigration rules will allow you to pretend as if nothing had happened when you want to go back. Israel was happy to let a significant number of the Arabs who fled in support of Israels' enemies to return, in the context of a peace agreement. That didn't happen. Israel remained in a state of war for decades, and the Arabs who fled supported Israel's enemies.

Haddad is giving a very accurate description of what happened to the Jews who lived in the Old City of Jerusalem and in Gush Etzion, however. Every single one of them were either expelled or massacred, and the illegally annexed West Bank became completely Judenfrei.

Here is what the Jewish Quarter looked like in 1948:



That is what ethnic cleansing looks like. And that was emphatically not the case where the 160,000 Arabs who decided not to flee became citizens of the Jewish state.

The real nakba was that the Arab world has treated these refugees like dirt for 67 years. 

Today, Lebanon and Iraq and Jordan are behaving admirably in accepting hundred of thousands of Syrian refugees, just as Arab nations accepted so many Iraqi refugees in the past couple of decades. But the exception to Arab hospitality has been the Palestinians - even today, they are putting refugees of Palestinian ancestry into separate camps and giving them fewer rights.

But you will be hard pressed to find any Palestinian Arab descendant mentioning how they were treated by their Arab brethren. Slate's bravery in publishing these stories doesn't extend to criticizing the so-called moderate nations of Lebanon and Egypt and Jordan concerning how they hate their Palestinian "guests." It won't even mention the small fact that there are "refugee camps" where tens of thousands live under Palestinian Arab rule. Because the commemorations of the "nakba" are not meant to improve the lives of Palestinians, but to be another weapon aimed at Israel.

And the actual stateless Arabs are treated by Arab nations as nothing more than cannon fodder.

(h/t @JedGalilee)

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