by Sarah Honig

April 19, 1936 was pivotal in the annals of this country. It began like any
other workday, except that simultaneously in different quarters of Jaffa men
spread reports about four Arabs – three men and one woman – who were
butchered in Tel Aviv and whose bloodied remains were brought to the local
government hospital. Within minutes, as if by a meticulously orchestrated
maneuver, thousands descended menacingly on the British mandatory
headquarters. Officials sought to calm tempers by escorting a delegation
through the hospital to prove that no bodies were there.

But proof wasn’t in demand. Facts were immaterial. The agitators swore they
saw the dead and the incensed crowds were convinced that the absence of a
corpus delecti doesn’t belie the crime. It could only mean that the police
had hidden the corpses. Ferocious cries of “itbach el-yahud” – slaughter the
Jews – resonated through the streets. The roused rabble was on the warpath
to wreak vengeance on Tel Aviv.

Thus started the great, three-year Arab revolt that cost thousands of lives
and paradoxically fortified the embryonic Jewish state which would be born a
dozen years later.

The Arab aggression against the Jews was based on an outright lie but no one
sought truth. The lie, if believed, becomes reality. Fraudulent reality then
takes on a life of its own. If nurtured, it grows, multiplies and becomes an
axiomatic premise for a searing sense of injustice and inflamed passions.

The lie binds. Spurious grievances confine and scourge those they ensnare.
The Arabs were the victims of their own revolt. They murdered their own
brethren and ruined their own economy. It was a self-produced disaster, a
precursor of the greater one which would follow the onslaught by seven Arab
states on the day-old Israel. The Jewish State would be blamed for surviving
and would fill its thwarted would-be destroyers with yet more frustration
and festering rage. Instead of abating, genocidal hate would intensify and
magnify for 55 years.

Since the failed attack, Arabs annually mark the Gregorian date of Israel’s
birth, May 15, as al-Nakba (catastrophe). They portray themselves as
innocents struck by a monumental calamity, and continuously oppressed, for
no fault of their own. They clamor for another chance, for a return to
Square-One, presumably to recoup the losses of the unsuccessful aggression
and carry on where they left off.

This year was no exception. Yasser Arafat all but crumpled the wispy “Road
Map” to peace. Like Jaffa’s rumor-mongers who attested to never-committed
murders, Arafat, ever-relevant, delivered a fiery speech to hammer home the
message that the Jewish state was conceived in sin -“hatched in an
imperialist plot” and “born on accursed day” - and is hence illegitimate. He
promised that “every last refugee would return to his rightful home.”

The masses were again reminded that they are the injured party, that Israelis culpable for their suffering and owes them redress. Again, truth was
besides the point.

Hanan Ashrawi’s Miftah Organization (The Palestinian Initiative for the
Promotion of Global Dialogue and Democracy) dispatched press releases to
mark Al-Nakba, asserting that “five and a half decades ago Israel forcibly
and illegally expelled ...900,000 Palestinians.” Today, it maintains, “there
are more than five million Palestinian refugees.” One paragraph down the
figures dwindle to “close to 800,000”refugees in 1948, and “close to 5
million” today. According to another communique, a couple of days later,
737,000 refugees were dispossessed in 1948, but their present numbers rise
dramatically to 6.5 million!

But why quibble over obviously malleable statistics. All above contentions
are no more real than the 1936 corpses and likewise serve as tools of

An estimated 1,200,000 Arabs lived west of the Jordan in 1948 and those of
Judea and Samaria stayed put (some 600,000), as did 140,000 inside Israel.
It’s therefore impossible that there ever were as many refugees as claimed.
But even numbers which don’t add up can be methodically inflated.

Not even all recognized refugees were bona fide Palestinians. UNRWA
conferred refugee status on any transient Arab worker from anywhere in the
Middle East who said he was employed in this country between 1946-48.
Laborers were attracted from far-flung corners of the Arab world by
Jewish-generated “prosperity,” and were particularly numerous on the coastal
plains, from which most refugees fled. Yet Jews from Arab countries,
resident there long before the first Arab conquest, were never regarded as
refugees. They left behind immeasurably more property than Arabs in Israel.

Moreover Palestinian refugees are indistinguishable from their kin in the
three-fourths of Palestine that became Transjordan in 1922 and then Jordan.
They weren’t exiled but just moved a few kilometers to the next village.

Insistence on the “right of return” is a euphemism for inundating Israel
with millions of hostile Arabs to bring Jewish independence to an end. There
is no telling how many would claim the right. Elastic estimates assume that
no refugee ever died or emigrated.

Washington rendered its own “Map” a waste of time when it charted the “
of return” on it. No state can agree to outside dictates about whom it must
admit and how many, especially Israel for which this is a matter of life and
death. Israel is asked to do so not because it thinks it right, but because
sanctimonious Europeans and like-minded guardians of conscience, deem it

This won’t fly. There will be no peace till an Arab leader dares tell his
people that they were brainwashed for more than a century and victimized by
lies rather than Jewish injustice. So long as the Arabs feel wronged, they
won’t rest till they kill the last Jew in this land.
Arafat, who summons his premier several times daily to show who’s boss,
continues to fan the flames of falsehood and Abu Mazen won’t put them out.
Both keep fabricating grievances like the man who finally supplied the 1936
Jaffans with conclusive evidence of the Jewish crime. He dipped his hands in
the blood of two slain and mutilated Jews and ran shouting: “here’s the
blood the Jews spilled.” Furious frenzy ensued.

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