Ironic thoughts

          A common criticism leveled against Israel is that they stole the land from the Palestinians and expelled them during the creation of that nation in 1948.  The criticism is not reasonable, despite the case that about 700,000 Palestinians left the British mandate of Palestine during the 1948 Israeli War of Independence.  The bulk of those refugees ended up in the Gaza Strip (ruled by Egypt from 1949 until 1967) and the West Bank, (ruled by Jordan from 1949 until 1967).  The rest ended up in Jordan, Syria and Lebanon.  Although the Palestinians argue that they were forced from their homes by the Israelis, in fact the Arab nations which attacked the nascent state of Israel encouraged the Palestinian Arabs to flee their homes until after they had cleared out all the Jews.

            It is rarely mentioned that between 1948 and 1970 more than 800,000 Jewish people either fled their homes or were expelled from Arab and Islamic countries.  By the time of the Yom Kippur War in 1973, most of the centuries’ old Jewish communities throughout the Arab world, as well as in Pakistan and Afghanistan, had ceased to exist. 

            Another thing that seems to have been forgotten: the transfer of the Jewish and Palestinian Arab populations during this time was hardly unique.

            When British India gained its independence, the Muslim inhabitants insisted on having their own nation, so India was partitioned between the Hindus and the Muslims.  The non-contiguous territorial entities of Pakistan and East Pakistan were created for the Muslims (in 1971 East Pakistan became Bangladesh).  As a result of the creation of Pakistan more than five million Hindus and Sikhs were forced to move from what is today Pakistan into what is today India—and the same number of Muslims were forced from India into Pakistan.  It is estimated that about a million people died during this population transfer.

When World War II ended the borders of Europe were redrawn.  Millions of German nationals were expelled from areas that before the war had been German provinces for centuries, but after the war became parts of Poland and the Soviet Union.  East Prussia, for example, which had been German for centuries, was transferred to Poland.  The German port city of Danzig became the Polish city of Gdansk. Seven million Germans were forced to leave their ancestral homes, without compensation.

            By 1950 a total of at least twelve million Germans had fled or were expelled from east-central Europe.  It was the largest transfer of population in modern European history.  The confirmed death toll associated with this population transfer is about 500,000.  The German government, however, estimates that the death toll from the expulsions is actually somewhere between 2 and 2.5 million civilians.

            Of course, Germany had been guilty of starting the Second World War, had slaughtered millions, and had lost that war. Some might therefore say they got what they deserved.

            During the Second World War many Arabs became allies of the Nazis, hoping that they might gain their independence from their then rulers, France and England. Soon, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia and Libya came under Nazi control.  A pro-Nazi regime was formed in Iraq in 1941. Meanwhile Nazi propaganda targeted the Arab populations of the Middle East in order to incite them against British or French rule.  An Arabic translation of Mein Kampf was published and Radio Berlin  began an Arabic language broadcast.  Nazi propaganda built upon an already existing anti-Semitism in the Arab world.  To this day, Mein Kampf, remains a perennial bestseller in the Muslim world, along with the Czarist forgery, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.

            Between 1936 and 1939 there was an Arab revolt in Palestine against the British. The rebels  proclaimed pan-Arab nationalism and fostered and promoted anti-Semitism, borrowing from the Nazi propaganda.  They were led by the Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin al-Husseini, the Sunni Muslim cleric in charge of Jerusalem’s Islamic holy places

            All during World War II, the Mufti Haj Amin al-Husseini worked for the Axis powers as a broadcaster targeting Arab public opinion.  He also helped recruit for a Muslim Waffen-SS Unit in the Balkans.

            During the United Nations deliberations for the establishment of a Jewish State in 1948, it was documented that al-Husseini met and communicated extensively with Heinrich Himmler, Franz von Papen, Joseph Goebbels and even met with Adolf Hitler.  Both al-Husseini and many other prominent Arab politicians were photographed in the company of the Nazis and their Italian and Japanese allies.  It turned out that many of these same politicians were then requesting recognition at the UN in 1947 as representatives for the Palestinian Arab population, despite having made common cause during World War II with the German Nazis.  Unsurprisingly, these leaders were opposed to the establishment of a Jewish state.

            Although Egypt controlled the Gaza Strip from 1949 until 1967, and Jordan controlled the West Bank and East Jerusalem during the same period, there was no call by the Palestinians or anyone else to establish an independent Palestinian Arab state in those areas.  The Arabs did, however, launch wars and terrorist incidents against Israel then—and the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) was founded in 1964—three years before Israel gained control of the West Bank and Gaza after a combined attack by Egypt, Jordan, and Syria.

            I therefore wonder why the current situation facing the Palestinian Arabs is treated so differently from that of others who have lost their residences thanks to war and politics?  Why does no one talk about the millions of Germans, Pakistanis, and Indians who were forced from their homes?  Why does no one condemn the Arab world for the 800,000 Jews who were expelled from their homes—places they had lived in for centuries?  Why does no one bring up the fact that Nazi propaganda against the Jews continues to be promulgated in the Arab world to this day in their popular media, news, schools, and mosques?