It is said that most lies are “lies of omission.” This is when someone simply fails to mention critical facts about a particular situation, purposely misleading the reader to the wrong conclusion. The opinion submission “Palestinian ethnic cleansing from Israel is ongoing, must be stopped” that appeared in the Daily Bruin on May 16 certainly has more than its fair share of omissions. However, the piece is unique in the audacity with which it misrepresents the truth, venturing into the more blatant form of lying in which boldfaced fabrications about complex historical events are presented as undisputed fact.
The authors of the article tell us that the Palestinians were forcibly “driven from their homes during Israel’s 1947-1949 campaign of ethnic cleansing.” The serious charge of ethnic cleansing against Israel – a term used to characterize genocides in Rwanda and Armenia, mass atrocities in Congo and the Holocaust – is not just baseless. It is hateful and discriminatory, leveled in our university’s primary public forum, the Daily Bruin, to demonize Israel – and create a hostile environment for pro-Israel and Jewish students. It takes all meaning out of the term “ethnic cleansing,” disrespecting those communities who bear this awful legacy.
Shame on the authors for introducing this divisiveness, ignorance and hate to our campus. The editors of the Daily Bruin should have known better than to print offensive and ultimately false accusations without doing their due diligence beforehand.
The whole truth is that an estimated 726,000 Arabs fled their homes during Israel’s War of Independence. That war was instigated not by the Jews but by the Arabs, who rejected the United Nations’ plan partitioning the British Mandate of Palestine into two states, one Jewish and one Arab. Israel accepted that plan, but the Arabs chose war.
The vast majority of Arabs left their villages out of their own free will to avoid being caught in the crossfire of war. They were encouraged to do so by their leaders, who told the Arab public that they would soon remove the Jewish population by force and after which they could return to their homes.
“This will be a war of extermination and a momentous massacre which will be spoken of like the Mongolian massacres and the Crusades,” declared Arab League Secretary-General Abdul Rahman Azzam Pasha. “It does not matter how many (Jews) there are. We will sweep them into the sea.”
In the years that followed Israel’s establishment, more than an equal number of Jews were expelled from Arab countries. More than 850,000 Jews lived in Arab countries at the time of Israel’s establishment. These were ancient Jewish communities that had lived on their land for thousands of years. Less than 4,500 Jews live in the Arab world today.
Thriving Jewish communities that had existed since antiquity were destroyed overnight. Arab leaders murdered Jewish leaders, expelled Jewish communities, and stole Jewish property. About 100,000 square kilometers of land owned by Jews in Arab countries was confiscated by Arab leaders. This amounts to five times the size of the State of Israel.
Yet, there was a critical difference in how these two groups of refugees were treated. Israel integrated the Jews kicked out of Arab countries, making them an integral part of the country’s social fabric and future success.
No Arab country, with the exception of Jordan, has provided the opportunity for Palestinian refugees to earn citizenship. Throughout the Arab world, severe restrictions continue to be imposed on Palestinians. For instance, in Lebanon, Palestinians are not allowed to own land or enter certain professions, like medicine and law.
We have great compassion for the challenging situation facing the Palestinian people. We acknowledge their ongoing suffering. Yet, the route to peaceful coexistence on campus – and in the Middle East – lies not in leveling slanderous charges that seek to demonize other communities and misrepresent a very complex history.