Why did Arabs leave the new State of Israel?
The issue of Palestinian refugees sprang during the course of the 1984 War of Independence which is known in the Arab world as the Nakba (disaster). Some of the major factors behind such a huge replacement were the collapse of the Palestinian leadership, the panic and the fear of massacre like that of Deir Yassin, and unwillingness of the Palestinians to live under Jewish authority.
There is a conflict of opinions as to the exact number of Arab refugees who was forced out during the fighting; as Israel reported 520,000, UN reported 726,000 while Arabs reported over 800,000 refugees. This number was increased to add another 4.6 million people who were displaced. Refugees living in the camps were noted to live in poor conditions, overcrowded camps and abject poverty.
Apart from the population that fled from the Israeli territory, around 100,000 Arabs were forced to leave their own villages. Out of these, many left willingly to avoid war and probable massacres and were assured that the displacement is a temporary measure; however, they have not been allowed to return despite the rulings of the Israeli Supreme Court. A special committee was established to deal with the issue of allowing refugees back to their home lands but no progress has been made to resolve this issue.
It is noteworthy here that both Palestinians and Jews have different versions of what happened in 1948. Israel insisted that Palestinians attacked them and fled voluntarily, believing that Arab armies would get rid of them. On the other hand, Palestinians asserted that Zionists made them evict by force as a part of their plan of ‘ethnic cleansing’ they had preconceived. Israel viewed the refugees as hostile people and passed a law forbidding their return, assigning their lands to a custodian of absentee property. These displaced people and many of their descendents remain refugees to the present day, and they are located in Refugee camps of Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, the West Bank and Gaza.
Even after all these years, the status of refugees and the issue regarding their return remains unresolved, and Palestinians commemorate this sad event on May 15 every year as the Nakba Day. It is one of the main factors of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and by solving this issue; UNO can take a step ahead in ensuring sustainable peace in the Middle East. However, it seems that the super powers have a different agenda in hand, and their vested interests are depriving the refugees from their right to return to their homes in Israel.