Palestinian Arabs, headed by the militant ex-mufti of Jerusalem, Hajj Amin Husseini, wanted an all-out war against the Jewish people.
On Nov. 29, 1947, the UN General Assembly passed a resolution calling for the partition of Palestine into two independent states – one Jewish, the other Arab – linked in an economic union.
For Jews all over the world, this was the fulfillment of a millenarian yearning for national rebirth in their ancestral homeland. For Arab political and intellectual elites, it was a shameful surrender of (a however minute) part of the perceived pan-Arab patrimony to a foreign invader.
The response of the Arab Higher Committee, the effective «government» of the Palestinian Arabs, headed by the militant ex-mufti of Jerusalem, Hajj Amin Husseini, was an all-out war.
Nowhere at the time was the collapse and dispersion of Palestinian Arab society ,«the catastrophe» as it would come to be known in Palestinian and Arab discourse, described as a systematic dispossession of Arabs by Jews.
To the contrary:
With Arab leaders throughout the region being brutally candid about their determination to subvert the partition resolution by force of arms, there was no doubt whatsoever as to which side had instigated the bloodletting and the attendant defeat and exodus.
As Sir John Troutbeck, head of the British Middle East Office in Cairo and no friend of Israel or the Jews, discovered to his surprise during a fact-finding mission to Gaza in June 1949:
«While [the refugees] express no bitterness against the Jews, they speak with the utmost bitterness of the Egyptians and other Arab states. We know who our enemies are,’ they will say, and they are referring to their Arab brothers who, they declare, persuaded them unnecessarily to leave their homes».
It was only from the early 1950s onward, as the Palestinians and their Western supporters gradually rewrote their national narrative, that Israel, rather than the Arab states, became the Nakba’s main, if not sole, culprit.
If it is understandable for leaders and politicians, culpable for their nation’s greatest ever disaster, to revert to hyperbole and lies in their quest for personal and collective exoneration, it is inexcusable for future generations of scholars and intellectuals to substitute propaganda for incontrovertible facts.
They reveal that there was nothing inevitable about the Palestinian-Jewish confrontation. Let alone the Arab-Israeli conflict; that the claim of premeditated dispossession is not only baseless but the inverse of the truth. And that far from being the hapless victims of a predatory Zionist assault, it was Palestinian Arab leaders who launched a relentless campaign to obliterate the Jewish national revival which culminated in the violent attempt to abort the UN partition resolution. The Palestinian Arabs leaders started this fight early 1920s onward, and very much against the wishes of their own constituents.
Had these leaders, and their counterparts in the neighboring Arab states, accepted the resolution, there would have been no war. Neither would there have been a dislocation in the first place. The Zionist movement was amenable both to the existence of a substantial non-Jewish minority in the prospective Jewish state on an equal footing, and to the two-state solution, raised for the first time in 1937 by a British commission of inquiry and reiterated by the partition resolution.
The Middle East that Could Have Been – If Only Arab Leaders Hadn’t Opted for War, by Professor Efraim Karsh. He is Head of Mediterranean and Middle Eastern Studies at King’s College, University of London.