The Creation of the Arab Refugee Problem


"Those who don't know history are condemned to repeat it"

George Santayana

By Christopher C.L. Custer, M.D.

I am a great admirer of Israel and its age long persistent struggle against great adversity and patent discrimination. I appreciate its audacity in military actions while being heavily outnumbered. I do not blame the Israelis. Their traumatic experience at the hands of the Nazis was reason enough to act against the arabs. Maybe in their rage the Jews could vent their spleen on the target in a target right in front of them- the Arabs. However, most of the history of the cause of the Arab refugee "problem" has been written from the Israeli perspective which is inherently biased. A view one held by many U.S. citizens. This biased thinking( which until recently I also fell victim to) is due to the strong pro-Israeli sentiment many U.S. citizens and our government have. As a result Americans may interpret the problem from an Israeli point of view. I am attempting in a small way to present another perspective- the Arab one, told by Israeli citizens to find a more accurate opinion of the Arab refugee problem.

There are two reasons I will mention here for the refugee problem. The first reason occurred after the 1948 Israeli War of Independence and the Six Day War in 1967. The Israelis with their zeal of Zionism, sought to colonize their newly acquired territory with jews. They accomplished this by constructing illegal settlements on the land now occupied by Israel. The Israelis must have known the settlements were illegal, for they denied building permits to the settlers and didn't even officially acknowledge that the settlements were on sovereign Israeli land existed(1). The Israelis ignored the 4th Geneva Convention decision that the settlements were illegal, even though Israel was a signatory of the convention(2)(3). Yet the settlements, unofficially, were recognized by the Israeli government by giving Israeli settlers subsidized housing and financial backing. The US tax laws give incentives to US donors to give to Jewish funds for they are tax-exempt(4). The start of these illegal settlements was modest and were a directly a result of Zionism. By performing these illegal acts,, the jews were creating an adversarial atmosphere.As a result, the arab's resentment turned into violence. Israeli retaliation in response to Arab acts of violence against the jews, was somewhat an exaggerated response. Additionally, because of the disorganized Arab response to these retaliatory actions the Israelis thought this was a sign of Arab weakness. The Israelis fell victim to the phrase, " give an inch take a foot." The israelis were emboldened by the perceived Arab weakness, they started offensive actions against arabs in the areas conquered by Israel in 1948 and in 1967 six day war. They did this by forcibly expelling arabs who for years had live in relative peace with their Jewish neighbors. The jews showed utter contempt toward the lands they confiscated by erecting their own settlements on that ground.

A second cause found its origin in the Peel Commission Report in 1937. One of its recommendations was the transfer of populations of jews into land partitioned for the jews and transferring arab populations into land partitioned for the arabs. This was done to ease friction between the two cultures. The report did mention the transfer of population by," voluntary or other means (5)." The jews interpreted this as a way to establish a Jewish state composed completely of jews. To slightly altered Abraham Lincoln declaration during his Gettysburg Address, the jews wanted a country of the jews, by the jews, for the jews. They also viewed the words, " by other means,"as justification for the use of military force. Occasionally, use of military force did occasionally arise due to local situations by local commanders ( that's one reason atrocities have always been associated with war). The actual plan was a premeditated act by the formulation of Plan Dalet which was established in the," red house," in Tel Aviv by high Jewish officials such as Ben- Gurion( who's given name was David Gruen and in his youth was a socialist, Weitzman and military men(6). They used military force because they had used it successfully against the British, it was the quickest, and most expedient method of transfer. The Plan Dalet called for the expulsion of arabs by military force which often inevitability ended in massacres such as happened in Deir Yassim and Tanturas. Jews give a different version of the Deir Yassim incident. They say the number of fatalities was exaggerated, and the villagers were not peaceful. Certainly the villagers when faced with violence replied in kind. Israeli soldiers were surprised at the tenacity of the villagers (7).Other evidence of premeditation was the Jewish infiltration of Arab villages to gather names of arabs to execute and determine the best route of attack(8)). They passed a law keeping the arabs Israelis under martial law. The Jewish state arbitrarily kept some of its own citizens, Arab Israelis, under martial law until 1967(9)). This was done by the Israeli government ostensibly because the growing Arab population was a," security risk.They ignored the UN resolution 194, (resolutions were not binding and Israel was not yet a member of the UN) again by giving all the Arab land belonging to expelled arabs to the State and forbidding the arabs to return to their villages and lands from which they were expelled (10).

Zionism was the ultimate cause of ethnic cleansing, for its main goal was a reestablishing the Jewish homeland. The jews accomplish this goal by several methods of which two methods are mentioned here which resulted in expelling thousands of arabs from their homelands either in Israel or Israeli occupied lands. With these massive expulsions came the Arab refugee problem. The problem was two peoples, while both had a point, chose violence where the only requirement was to hate.

Both sides chose hate. If they looked at their similarities and not their differences both peoples fate would be very different. I think two valuable lessons can be gained from the refugee problem. The first lesson involved the Israelis by proving George Santayana dictum," those that do not know history are condemned to repeat it." has merit. History is full of examples of ethnic cleansing. Look at how the white europeans ethnically cleansing North American natives from their land, the fate of Australian aborigines,and the native inhabitants being treated as second class citizens.

The Ends do not always justify the means

The jews experienced ethnic cleansing first hand at the hands of the Nazis. Yet they didn't learn from history and repeated this act of ethnic cleansing. In fact they might have learned from the Nazis. The second lesson was ironic. In the attempt to create a democratic Israel, Israeli used decidedly un- democratic methods to achieve that goal. The ends do not always justify the means.


1) 7 Things to Know About Israeli Settlements, NPR,12/29/2016

2) Geneva Convention, Relative to the Protection of Civilians in Time of War, part 3, article 49, 8/12/1949.

3) List of Parties to the Geneva Convention, retieved from https://www. wikipedia> wiki> List_of_parties..., 3/4/2019.

4) Blau, U., Haaretz Investigation: US Donors Gave Settlements $200 million in Tax-Exempt Funds Over Five Years, Haaretz,12/7/2015.

5) Internet search, https://www. OHCHR> documents>

6) Karlin, M., Bomb in the Basement (2007), p 117)

7)Pappe, I. The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine (2006) p. 1937) retrieved 2/05/2021 from ttps:// Cleansing of Palestine, (2006), p. xii

8) Segev, T. etrieved 2/05/2021 from

10) retrieved 2/05/2021 from