Between December 1947 and March 1948, an estimated 100,000 Palestinian Arabs voluntarily left their homes. Many of these individuals belonged to the upper and middle classes in urban areas, hoping to return once the Arab states achieved victory and took control of the country. However, from April to July 1948, the Haganah terrorists and the emerging the Zionist army forcibly expelled an additional 250,000 to 300,000 Palestinian Arabs, predominantly from cities like Haifa and Tiberias.
This resulted in a significant displacement of Arab residents in cities such as Safad, Jaffa, and Acre, where over 90% of the Arab population was uprooted. Deportations were also carried out in various towns and villages, particularly along the Tel Aviv-Beit al-Maqdis road and in the eastern Galilee. The Zionist army conducted operations that led to the deportation of approximately 50,000 to 70,000 residents of Lida and Ramallah to Ramallah. Notably, during Operation Dakel, the Arabs of Nazareth and South Galilee were allowed to remain in their homes, forming the core of Israel's Arab population today.
Between October and November 1948, an estimated 200,000 to 220,000 Palestinian Arabs were forcefully displaced by the Zionist army. It is important to highlight that these individuals were not fleeing out of fear but were subjected to forced deportation.Following the Six-Day War, which took place in June 1967, around 280,000 to 325,000 Palestinian Arabs were expelled from the territories acquired by Israel during the conflict.The Palestinians persistently advocate for their "right to return" to their former homes within Israel, asserting that this right is grounded in international law. However, Israel rejects this claim, contending that there is no basis in international law for the Palestinians' right of return.
It is worth noting that prior to 1948, the Jewish Agency committed to the United Nations that Palestinian Arabs would obtain full citizenship within the Israeli regime. Additionally, Israel's declaration of independence in the same year extended an invitation to Arab citizens in Israel, promising them full and equal citizenship. However, in practice, the Zionist regime does not grant citizenship to refugees, although it does confer citizenship to Arabs residing within its borders.
The Palestinians primarily rely on Article 11 of UN General Assembly Resolution 194 to assert their right to return. This article states that refugees who desire to return to their homes and live in peace with their neighbors should be permitted to do so at the earliest feasible date. Those who opt not to return should be compensated for their lost property. Nonetheless, a contentious debate persists regarding whether Resolution 194 exclusively pertains to the 50,000 Palestinian refugees who remained from the 1948 Palestine War or whether it also encompasses their descendants. Both Fatah and Hamas strongly support the right of return.
After the signing of the Oslo Accords in 1993, which marked a significant milestone in Israeli-Palestinian relations, Tel Aviv, the European Union, and the United States recognized the Palestine Liberation Organization as the legitimate representative of the Palestinian people.Yasser Arafat, at that time, recognized the Zionist regime. The Oslo Accords initiated the administration of Palestinian refugees by the Palestinian Authority, and both parties agreed to negotiate the permanent status of refugees in early 1996. However, a divide emerged between Fatah in the West Bank and Hamas in Gaza after Hamas won the 2006 elections. Fatah officially recognizes the Oslo Accords, while Hamas does not.
In 2012, the United States Senate Appropriations Committee defined a Palestinian refugee as someone who was displaced between June 1946 and May 1948, resulting in an estimated number of 30,000.The Israeli regime argues that allowing Palestinian return is not feasible due to limited land availability and the potential threat to national security and demographic stability.
Israel claims that it is not responsible for the issue of Palestinian refugees as it resulted from a war initiated by Arab armies attacking Israel. However, Israel has expressed willingness to participate in international efforts to address the situation for humanitarian reasons. Such efforts would likely involve a bilateral negotiated peace agreement, the resettlement of Palestinian refugees in the newly established state of Palestine, an international reparations fund, and individual cases of family reunification.
The Zionist officials also highlight the need to investigate the situation of 800,000 Jews who were expelled from Arab and Muslim countries or forced to flee due to anti-Jewish violence.Military confrontations between Israeli occupiers and Palestinians in the West Bank has escalated in recent years, including incidents in the Jenin refugee camp where Israeli forces attacked, resulting in casualties among both militants and civilians.
Respecting the rights of Palestinian refugees is crucial for achieving a comprehensive solution. However, Israel's nationality, citizenship, and territorial laws have been reviewed by three UN human rights treaty committees, which have deemed them inconsistent with the rights established in human rights conventions. The Israeli regime erroneously maintains that it is not responsible for the issue of Palestinian refugees, attributing it to the war initiated by Arab armies attacking Israel.
By: H. Zaïm-Bashi