Exploring Why So Many Palestinians Become Refugees in 1948-49

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In this essay I am going to look at the reasons why many Palestinians
became refugees in 1948-49. I am going to look at it from both the
point of view of the Palestinians and the Israelis.

Violence on both Israeli, and Palestinian sides increased during
1947. By December, Palestinians began to flee Israel, to the Western
Bank. In the areas where the Jews where strong, the wealthier
Palestinians decided to move out. This caused the morale of the
Palestinians to begin to drop. Between December 1947, and January
1948, many other Palestinians, who were richer, also moved, to escape
from the fighting. Many of the British employed Palestinians left, as
they thought that there was no future for them in the Jewish state.
This caused the morale to drop further. During March and April, many
of the roads linking Jerusalem to the Jewish heartlands on the coast
were targeted for yet more fighting. Many Palestinian families in
Jerusalem began to move out, to escape the fighting. People living in
the places involved in the fighting where often driven out by the
Jewish force, however villages where there was no fighting where left
alone. By March 1948, a large-scale movement of all kinds of
Palestinian people, the rich and the poor, fled the country, as they
feared the fighting. At this stage it did not look good for the
Jews. Palestinians surrounded many villages, and cut off the Jews
form Jerusalem. The Jews then changed their way of fighting. They
now disarmed or destroyed all villages that showed any support for the
Palestinians. In April 1948, 250 Palestinian villagers were killed,
many of them children, in Deir Yassin, not far from Jerusalem. This
was because the Jewish force met strong resistance there. The news of
this spread quickly, and people began to panic, because they could now
see what extremes the Jews were willing to go to. In 8 days in April,
around 60,000 Palestinians fled from Haifa, when it was attacked. In
early May, 50,000 fled Jaffa, when it was attacked. During April and
May alone, 250,000 Palestinians left their homes. During July, a
further 100,000 left their homes when fighting again broke out. In
October, Jewish leaders decided that all Palestinian people should be
driven out of the war zone. The result, around 150.000 more refugees
left their homes. In November, 25,000 refugees where driven out, as
they lived close to the border of Israel.

Here you can see that the terror caused by the Israelis was the reason
why so many people fled their homes. The heard news from places
caught in the fighting, and decided to leave before they were
affected. The Israelis forced people to leave the villages, otherwise
they were killed. The Palestinians feared their lives, and felt that
fleeing the country was the safes option.

Also, the Jewish leaders decided that they were not going to let the
Palestinian refugees back into the country once they had left. They
felt that thousands of Palestinians coming back into the county would
mean that the country may become unstable, and the Jewish force
hindered during the war.

Therefore, you can see that the Palestinians where driven from there
homes, through terror from the Israelis. If they did not leave, they
would have been killed. So many of them remained refugees, because
they were not allowed back across the border.

However, the Israelis felt that this was not entirely the case. They
felt that many of the Israelis left by choice, and not because they
were driven out. After all, the Israelis did not force people to
leave until April 1948. Before then, people left because they felt
that they were safer to.

The Israelis also may argue that it was the Palestinians own fault in
the first place. They began the war, as they ignored the UN partition
plan, and invaded Israel in 1948. The Jews were defending their own
country, something that anyone would have done in their situation.

The Jews felt that because they were made to leave many Arab
countries, and emigrate to Israel, where they were resettled and given
new homes, other Arab countries should have done same thing. The Jews
did not think that it was wrong to treat the Palestinians in this way,
as they themselves had been treated like this. It was the
neighbouring Arab countries that were at fault for not helping the

The Jews also thought that the Arab leaders where to blame, as they
deliberately because it was good propaganda against Israel to see so
many people suffering. The Jews saw this as wrong, and not helping
the Palestinians at all, as the refugee problem could have been easily
sorted with all the Arab wealth.

It is clear to see that Israelis thought the Arabs did not make the
situation any better. The neighbouring counties could have helped
out, like the Jews received help, and it was the Arabs that started
the war in the first place. Also the Arab leaders made the situation
worse by leaving the refugees in the camps for as long as possible, as
propaganda against Israel.

My conclusion therefore, is that it is clear that the Arab and the
Israelis both have very different views as to why so many Palestinians
became refugees in 1948-49. However, I feel that a mixture of both
side’s actions was the cause of the problem. The Jews were at fault
because they drove innocent people from their homes, and terrorised
many more, sometimes killing a whole village, as in Deir Yassin, and
that it was unfair to stop refugees from returning to the country.
But, the Arabs did bring it on themselves, by ignoring the UN
partition plan, and invading Israel in the first place, which started
the war. If this had not happened, the problems would have never
occurred. The Arab countries in the region could have helped the
refugees out, and the leaders should have not forced the refugees to
stay in the camps for so long.

If both sides had acted differently, the problems that occurred may
have been avoided.

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