The hideous Israeli Apartheid Week (IAW) was in full swing on campuses throughout the world recently, deriding the Jewish state as an illegitimate entity built on the ruins of "Arab Palestine". It is worth noting that nowhere during the 1948 war was the collapse and dispersal of Palestinian Arab society (called al-Nakba, the Catastrophe, by the Palestinians) described as a systematic dispossession of Arabs by Jews. On the contrary: with Arab leaders considering the UN partition resolution of November 1947 (which called for the establishment of two states in Palestine) a Zionist triumph, and thereon being brutally candid about their determination to subvert it by force of arms, there was no doubt whatsoever as to which side had instigated the bloodletting and the attendant defeat and exodus. A senior British official visiting Gaza at the time was told by the refugees that "they have no quarrel with the Jews...and are perfectly ready to go back and live with them again". By contrast, they spoke "with the utmost bitterness of the Egyptians and other Arab states...who, they declare, persuaded them unnecessarily to leave their homes".
The refugees knew what they were talking about. Not only had the Zionist movement always been amenable both to a substantial non-Jewish minority existing on an equal footing with others in the prospective Jewish state, and to the two-state solution, but it went out of its way to foster Arab-Jewish co-existence. In the 30 years from the end of the First World War to the proclamation of the state of Israel on 14 May 1948, Zionist spokesmen held hundreds of meetings with Arab leaders at all levels, while ordinary Jews lived side by side with their Arab neighbours, who for their part were eager to take advantage of opportunities created by the evolving Jewish national enterprise. Consequently, throughout the Mandate era of British rule (1920-48) the periods of peaceful co-existence far exceeded those of violent eruptions, and the latter were the work of only a small fraction of Palestinian Arabs.
The breakdown of this co-existence was the result of a relentless campaign to obliterate the Jewish national revival waged from the early 1920s onward by the corrupt and extremist Palestinian Arab leadership headed by the militant ex-Mufti of Jerusalem Hajj Amin al-Husseini. This culminated in the violent attempt, supported by Arab leaders, to abort the partition resolution.
Had the Arab leaders accepted the UN resolution, there would have been no war and no dislocation. Unfortunately for both Arabs and Jews, these leaders were far less interested in the promotion of Palestinian Arab independence than in the destruction of the nascent Jewish state and the division of the spoils of war among themselves. As the Arab League's Secretary-General, Abdel Rahman Azzam, privately revealed: "[Transjordan] was to swallow up the central hill regions of Palestine, with access to the Mediterranean at Gaza. The Egyptians would get the Negev. [The] Galilee would go to Syria, except that the coastal part as far as Acre would be added to the Lebanon."
This fact, as we have seen, was fully recognised at the time by ordinary Palestinians, who would rather have co-existed with their Jewish neighbours but had to pay the ultimate price for their leaders' folly: homelessness and statelessness. One can only hope that these reckless decisions are not re-enacted by the present Palestinian leadership, for only by accepting the two-state solution and eschewing their genocidal designs on the Jewish state will the Palestinians be able to look forward to putting their self-inflicted "catastrophe" behind them.