Two exoduses


Israel is preparing to demand compensation totaling a reported $250 billion from seven Arab countries and Iran for property and assets left behind by Jews who left those countries following the establishment of Israel.

On the flip side, however, there is the 1948 Palestinian exodus, the nakba, when more than 700,000 Palestinians fled or were expelled from their homes during the 1948 Palestine war after Israel was founded. Contrary to the Jewish narrative, there is no parallelism between the Jewish and Palestinian exoduses.

For the past 18 months, the Israeli government has been researching the value of property and assets that Jews left behind. It is now moving toward finalizing claims as the Trump administration prepares to unveil its Palestinian-Israeli peace proposal. A 2010 Israeli law reportedly provides that any peace deal must provide for compensation for assets of Jewish communities and individual Jews who left Arab countries and Iran.

The issue is being promoted to give Israel a bargaining card in negotiations with the Palestinians, to set against Palestinian compensation claims for property and assets left behind in what is now Israel. Because the Palestinians cannot retake Israel, the Palestinian Authority is seeking over $100 billion in compensation from Israel for assets Palestinians left behind.

But look at how much more Palestinians had to give up. Up to 600 Palestinian villages were sacked during the war, while urban Palestine was almost entirely extinguished. Then came a series of laws passed by the first Israeli government which prevented Palestinians who had left from returning to their homes or claiming their property, laws that legitimized both a continuation and a consolidation of the nationalization of land and property. One law excluded a landowner from his own land so that it could be judged as unoccupied, and then expropriated.

Other laws were enacted that enabled the further acquisition of depopulated lands. They were designed to establish Israel’s “legal” control over lands, and focused on formulating a legal definition for the Palestinians who had left or been forced to flee from these lands.

Absentee property played an enormous role in making Israel a state. In 1954, more than one third of Israel’s Jewish population lived on absentee property and nearly a third of the new immigrants (250,000 people) settled in urban areas abandoned by Arabs. Of 370 new Jewish settlements established between 1948 and 1953, 350 were on absentee property.

Whether the factors involved in the Palestinian exodus included Jewish military advances, destruction of Arab villages, the Deir Yassin massacre which caused many to leave out of panic, direct expulsion orders by Israeli authorities, Arab evacuation orders or an unwillingness to live under Jewish control, the sum result was that around 80 percent of the Palestinian inhabitants of what became Israel had to leave their land.

Again, because the Palestinians cannot recapture what is now Israel, they have sought the next best thing: demanding the right of return to Israel for the tens of thousands of surviving refugees and for their millions of descendants, a demand that has been dismissed by successive Israeli governments. Israel argues that Palestinian refugees would become citizens of a Palestinian state under a permanent peace accord. But this is just like Jews who left Arab lands to become citizens of Israel. Why is citizenry allowed for Jews but not Palestinians?

When Jews settled in Israel, their aim was to seize thousands of acres and properties of Palestinian lands. To facilitate its acquisition of such land, Israel transformed its control over the land into so-called legal ownership when in fact the entire occupation is illegal. The suggestion that there are strong ties between the two exoduses is patently false. The Palestinians gave up their entire land; the Jews $250 billion.