"The radio stations of the Arab regimes kept repeating to us: 'Get away from the battle lines. It's a matter of ten days or two weeks at the most, and we'll bring you back to Ein-Kerem [near Jerusalem].' And we said to ourselves, 'That's a very long time. What is this? Two weeks? That's a lot!' That's what we thought [then]. And now 50 years have gone by." [PATV, July 7, 2009]
With these words an Arab resident of a refugee camp recounts the reason why his family left Israel in 1948, in an interview broadcast on PA TV this month.
Click here to view the interview on PA TV
In recent years, Palestinian leaders, writers and refugees have spoken out in the Palestinian media, blaming the Arab leadership for the creation of the Palestinian refugee problem. According to these accounts, and contrary to the Palestinian myth that hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were deported by Israel in 1948, the vast majority of the Arab exodus from Israel was voluntary, and the result of orders by the Arab leadership.
Furthermore, the fact that this information has been openly discussed by public figures and refugees in the Palestinian Authority media itself suggests that awareness of this responsibility may be widespread - even though Palestinian leaders continue to blame Israel for "the expulsion" for propaganda purposes.
The following statements in the PA media shed significant light on the events of 1948 and counter the attempts by the Palestinian Authority to hide this part of history.
1. Arab resident of refugee camp:
"This picture was taken a week before we left Ein-Kerem [near Jerusalem] in June 1948, in front of our house. The radio stations of the Arab regimes kept repeating to us: 'Get away from the battle lines. It's a matter of ten days or two weeks at the most, and we'll bring you back to Ein-Kerem.' And we said to ourselves, 'That's a very long time. What is this? Two weeks? That's a lot!' That's what we thought [then]. And now 50 years have gone by."
[PATV, July 7, 2009]
2. Jawad Al-Bashiti, Palestinian journalist in Jordan:
"Remind me of one real cause from all the factors that have caused the 'Palestinian Catastrophe' [the establishment of Israel and the creation of the 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. The Arabs fought as if intending to cause the 'Palestinian Catastrophe'."
[Al-Ayyam, May 13, 2008]
3. Mahmoud Al-Habbash, Palestinian journalist in PA official daily, Al-Hayat Al-Jadida:
"The leaders and the elites promised us at the beginning of the 'Catastrophe' in 1948 that the duration of the exile would not be long, and that it would not last more than a few days or months, and afterwards the refugees would return to their homes, which most of them did not leave only until they put their trust in those "Orkubian" 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..."
[The term "Orkubian" invokes Orkub, a figure from Arab tradition who was known for breaking his promises and for his lies.]
[Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, Dec. 13, 2006]
4. Asmaa Jabir Balasimah, woman who fled Israel in 1948:
"We heard sounds of explosions and of gunfire at the beginning of the summer in the year of the 'Catastrophe' . They [Arab leaders] 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 [those 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."
[Al-Ayyam, May 16, 2006]
5. Ibrahim Sarsur, Head of the Islamic Movement in Israel: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, Ibrahim Sarsur, now Arab Member of Israeli Parliament Knesset, then Head of the Islamic Movement in Israel, cursed those Arab leaders, thus acknowledging Israel's historical record.
Viewer: "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."
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."
[PA TV April 30, 1999]
Click here to view this interview on PA TV
6. Fuad Abu Hajla, senior Palestinian journalist:Fuad Abu Hajla, then a regular columnist in the official PA daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, wrote an article before an Arab Summit, criticizing Arab leaders. One of the failures he cited, in the name of a prisoner, was that an earlier generation of Arab leaders had "forced" them to leave Israel in 1948.
"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?"
[Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, March 19, 2001]