These types of arguments are very common in the anti Israel propaganda. But there is a very simple answer, which editor of MIFF‘s magazine Midtøsten i fokus, Odd Myrland, gives in this article, first published in Norwegian 20th of March 2002.
It is impossible to deal with all the facts in the many accusations against Israel concerning what they did before, during and after the state of Israel was established. Partly because it would require too much space, and partly because I do not have all the facts. But I do know that very much of the material is disputed. Scholars in the know have totally different viewpoints than those that Israel’s enemies bring out in many of these matters. And in many cases there are other facts that can cause the issue to be seen in a different light:
It is an entirely different type of material that decides the matter for me personally. I cannot recall ever to have seen an anti-Israel presentation where this is dealt with in a proper way. Here is a short version of this material:
The Jews fled
In all the Arab countries put together there are presently less than 10,000 Jews left, and most of them are older. Close to one million Jews fled from Arab countries in the 20th century, and hundred of thousands from other Muslim areas (such as Iran, the Muslim regions of the old Soviet Union). These are undisputed facts, even though the line between «escaping» and «moving» could be somewhat unclear.
It really is quite simple. The history of centuries have proven that Jews cannot live in freedom and dignity in the Muslim world and in Europe, therefore they need a place where they themselves are in control. They need a state where they are in majority.
More Jews have fled from the Arab countries than Arabs from Israel. If we include the rest of the Muslim world, this picture becomes even more clear. And if we also include Europe, then it becomes overwhelmingly clear that it is the Jews who stand to gain the most from a just compensation settlement.
Up till after World War II it was considered to be a reasonable solution to move populations when nations and groups were unable to live together. The best known cases the 1900s are:
Muslims fled from India and Hindus from Pakistan to «their own» countries in 1947, there were several millions who fled in both directions. After World War I there were Greeks who fled from Turkey, and Turks who fled from Greece. One of the reasons why Fridtjof Nansen received the Nobel Peace Price was that he organized the movement of people. This was also a movement in both direction, though more Greeks than Turks fled.
More than 10 million ethnic Germans fled from Eastern Europe after World War I (one direction only). About 400,000 Finns fled from Karelen when Soviet Union occupied that area during World War II. This was a movement in one direction only.
Jews have fled from Arab (and other) countries, and Arabs have fled from Israel. People escaped in both directions. More Jews fled from Arab countries than the number of Arabs who fled from Israel.
See the article: Israel as a harbor of refuge
In the world today there is this principle that minorities are forced to remain under the control of a majority which persecutes and to some degree kill them. Mr. Ketil Volden from «Norsk Folkehjelp» [a Norwegian aid organization] told the Norwegian newspaper «Dagbladet» on October 10, 2001 that 180,000 Kurds had been killed and 4,000 Kurdish villages had been destroyed by Iraq during 1987-1988. Hundred of thousands of non-Muslims have been killed in Sudan. Hundred of thousands Hutu people have been killed Tutsis.
According to the principles that dominate today, such minorities have two choices: Stay where they are under the «grace» of the majority, or try to escape to the West. I do not think that this is a clearly more moral principle than the one of former times. To the contrary, it would not surprise me if developments again force a return to the old principles.
Based on today’s thinking it would not have been possible to establish Israel. But I have never heard about people who seriously attempt to do population movements over again after more than 50 years, especially when the escape went in both directions. That was the thinking and legal mind of that time, and this has now been accepted as a fact. There are very good arguments proving that it must include Israel to an even greater degree, among other things since the Jews do not have anywhere else to be.
Jewish and Arab refugees
On numerous occasions the Jews have been considered lucky if they escaped with that which happened to the Arabs in 1948: A short escape within the same language and cultural area. Most of the Palestinian refugees do not live further away from their previous home in Israel than they can visit it on a weekend bicycle trip, or at any rate by car! In the history of the Jews such escapes are so common and so small that they are barely mentioned. The Jews in Europe have had it as a «rule of thumb» that they had to flee on average once every 40 years.
What happened to the unlucky Jews?
A high number of them were killed (also before the Holocaust).They were discriminated against and persecuted. Fewer were killed in the Arab countries than in Europe, but the discrimination was at least as consistent. There have been a large number of pogroms there too, with attacks on Jewish ghettos.
They were kept locked up for many years. In the 1900s this happened in for example Syria and Soviet Union. They wanted to escape, but had no place to go (before Israel was established).
They had to flee to places that were very foreign to them (new language, new occupations, new culture). During the last 120 years a large majority of the Jewish families have had experiences far worse than the escape of the Palestinians. The State of Israel has to a large degree solved this problem. One of the most important functions for Israel is to be a harbor of refuge for Jews who are the subjected to increased and new incidents of hatred against Jews.
Even though the situation for the Palestinian refugees basically was no more difficult than what many other refugees have experienced, there are matters that make the situation worse. They have deliberately been kept in refugee camps for more than 50 years. This is the result of decisions in the Arab League and later in PLO.
One of the greatest sins of the world against the Jewish people is that it has accepted that the Palestinians were kept in camps, and in that way has contributed to keeping alive the Arab demand of «returning». It should have been obvious, as late as when the Arab countries expelled and froze out all their Jews, that the game is now over. The Jewish refugees took the place of the Arabs in Israel, and the Arab refugees from 1948 can never return to that place. But they must be given a normal life somewhere else.
The tiny little area that makes up Israel (about 1/15th the size of Norway, less than 0.2% of the Arab area) is what the Jewish people have been given back after they had been driven away to a large number of countries.
The main picture and details
When the main picture has been presented, then we can discuss the many details. Another comparison: The vast majority believe that the Allies were on the right side in World War II. This does not stop us from realizing that the Allies acted in an unwise manner after World War I and planted hatred in Germany. There could also be many viewpoints regarding much of what the Allies did during the war itself. Two examples among countless others: British airplanes bombed and sunk peaceful, civilian Norwegian ships that sailed along the coast, and many Norwegian sailors and passengers died. The Allies terrorized Dresden and other German cities by heavy bombing and tens of thousands of people were killed, without this being of any particular importance for the development of the war.
In a similar way we, as friends of Israel, can certainly see and acknowledge that Israel makes mistakes in many areas. But we have to know what it is all about: The track record of Israel stands up very well in comparison to countries like USA, France, Great Britain and Belgium when they were at war. We saw that recently in Afghanistan. And Israel does not make anywhere near as many mistakes as the one-sided media in Europe insist they do.
At any rate, this must not make us forget the main picture. In my opinion, in that regard Israel and the Jewish people stand up extremely well.
See also the article: Israel as a harbor of refuge