In the ‘Scotsman’ newspaper recently (Wednesday 19 December 2012) there was an analysis by Matthew Day about the Czech Republic and ethnic cleansing which occurred in eastern Europe in 1945 onwards in the wake of the collapse and final destruction of Nazi Germany, including within the then Czechoslovakia and in Poland. He referred to the mass expulsion of 2.4 million ethnic Germans from Czechoslovakia under the Benes Decrees, and the expulsion of millions more Germans from Poland. In addition to the mass expulsions of millions, there were thousands more who died either as the result of violence or suffering caused by indifference. The expulsions and violence were ‘excused’ and ‘justified’ by the view that the Germans had brought it upon themselves. So much for these Germans who soon began new lives in the then West Germany and East Germany, or abroad in the USA and elsewhere.
Barely two years later in 1947, millions of Moslems and millions of Hindus and hundreds of thousands of other people of other religious faiths moved across the newly drawn borders between independent India and independent Pakistan. In addition to the mass migrations of millions, tens of thousands died in ethnic violence as the new states were founded. So much for these refugees too who soon settled into new lives in their new states of Pakistan and India.
Around the same time and until the end of the War of Independence, many hundreds of thousands of Arabs in lands previously administered by the UK under the League of Nations and then United Nations Mandate of Palestine were encouraged to leave their homes by hawkish Arab leaderships (the Arab League). They were encouraged to leave so that Arab armies could annihilate the Jewish population of the region and strangle the nascent State of Israel during its birth. Their combined armies failed to do this fortunately, and as Israeli forces established the new lines of their state, the previous Arab population could do nothing other than stay in the areas to which they had fled – in Gaza, in Judea and Samaria, in Lebanon, in Jordan, and in Syria. Unlike the Germans of Europe, and the Moslems and Hindus of India and Pakistan, they were prevented from settling permanently by the leaderships of their new countries. Meanwhile in the new State of Israel, Arab Christians and Moslems who had remained and ignored the urgings of their leaderships during the war that established Israel were able to stay in the new country and build lives as full citizens of the State of Israel.
At the same, and until the early years of the 1950s, Jews of the Arab and Moslem world – across North Africa, in Syria and Jordan, in Iraq and Iran and elsewhere –were expelled from countries in which their families had lived for centuries. They were expelled in most cases with only the clothes they stood in and what they could carry. Financial resources were confiscated, as was property. Many hundreds of thousands of those Jewish people settled in the State of Israel and established new lives for themselves there. Many thousands of others settled in North America and elsewhere.
Those who ‘lament’ over the plight of the people now called Palestinians, ought to spend a little time researching and analysing other instances of mass movement of populations in the mid- to late-1940s. They might be a bit more circumspect in their attitudes towards Israel and Israelis.