Wednesday 11 July 2007

The Birth of the Palestinian Refugees

Jewish villages were built in the place of Arab villages. You do not even know the names of these Arab villages, and I do not blame you because geography books no longer exist, not only do the books not exist, the Arab villages are not there either. Nahlal arose in the place of Mahlul; Kibbutz Gvat in the place of Jibta; Kibbutz Sarid in the place of Huneifis; and Kefar Yehushu’s in the place of Tal al-Shuman. There is not one single place built in this country that did not have a former Arab population.”

Moshe Dayan, Address to the Technion (Israel Institute of Technology), Haifa (as quoted in Ha’aretz, 4 April 1969)

The colonization of Palestine began in the early 1880’s and continues to this day. This represents the most remarkable colonizing ventures of all time and the most successful.

The demographics, socio-economic, cultural and political status have been revolutionized. Two developments occurred at the same time, the flux of Jewish immigrants and their desire to control over the natural resources of the country and the marginalization, dispersal, thinning out of the Palestinians who until 1948 was the vast majority of the population.

The 1948 war in Israel created three-quarters of a million Palestinian refugees. Over half of them were villagers who went into exile. A majority of the displaced Palestinians came from areas incorporated into Israel. Some 156,000 of the original inhabitants of the territory that became Israel remained in their towns and villages and 13,000 Palestinians were killed during the 1948 war.

The total of 418 villages were depopulated with a total of 383,150 Palestinians population. Palestinian inhabitants of neighboring villages that were spared also fled in the atmosphere of fear and chaos surrounding the military operations. In nine districts that were wholly incorporated into Israel where the military and psychological pressures were most intense were, some reasons for the volunteer exile from the villages with the promise of return, when things became “calmer”. They fled for their family’s safety. The total of volunteer exile is estimated at 6,994 totaling a refugee total of 390,144.

There were also urban areas incorporated into Israel and where subsequently depopulated the totals for the depopulation in the cities and towns is 241,016. In addition, an additional of 12,000 Arabs were not expelled until 1950 from urban centers adding the two urban numbers totals 254,016 Palestinian refugees.

The total refugee figure is estimated at 714,150 to 744,150 depending on the amount of the Bedouin exodus. (Khalidi, 1992 p.581-582)

Most of the villages were destroyed and left as rubble of stones. Many of the Palestinian homes in the larger cities, such as Jaffa, Haifa and West Jerusalem remain standing and occupied by the Jewish population.

It is important to note that 80% of the lands of the Palestinian/Israeli citizens, those who were not depopulated have been confiscated since 1948 and that number continues to increase especially since the building of the Israeli security wall.

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