Mrabe tells the story of his youth growing up in the Arab Christian community in Palestine. Usually with Christian ministries and leaders, if a person puts the word "Christian" after his nationality, then it is assumed that person is telling the truth. In this case Mrabe is poor example of CRI's commitment to checking out the facts behind one of their writer's claims.
It is very common for Palestinian Christians who speak to Christian groups to emphasize how the Israelis expelled Palestinians from the land during the period of 1947-1949. But nothing could be further from the truth.
Let it not be forgotten if the Palestinians accepted the 1947 UN resolution, not a single Palestinian would have any need to become a refugee. An independent Palestinian state would now exist beside Israel. The actual responsibility of the refugee problem, as unpopular as this sounds, rests with the Arab peoples.
In fact, even the numbers of refugees Palestinian Christians commonly quote is highly dubious. They claim 800,000 to a million Palestinians became refugees during Israel's War of Independence. The last census taken by the British in 1945 found there were approximately 1.2 million permanent Arab residents in all of Palestine. A 1949 Government of Israel census counted 160,000 Arabs living in the country after the war. In 1947 a total of 809,100 Arabs lived in the same area. This means that no more than 650,000 Palestinians could have become refugees.
But Palestinians often forget the Jewish side of this story when it comes to refugees.
Palestinian Christians conveniently forget the large number of Jewish people who fled from Arab states. In fact, the number of Jewish people escaping Arab countries for Israel after the War of Independence was nearly double the number of Arabs leaving Palestine! In fact, Arab countries expelled over 820,000 Jews from their lands between 1948-1972. Of these refugees 586,000 settled in Israel without going to refugee camps like Palestinians.
What's even more astounding is that through November 2003, 101 of the 681 UN resolutions regarding the Middle East conflict solely concerned the Palestinian refugees. Not one mentioned the Jewish refugees who fled from Arab countries.
Christian Palestinians like Mrabe fail to mention that Jewish leaders prior to the War of Independence invited the Arabs to remain in Palestine and to become citizens of Israel. A few sentences from the Assembly of Palestine Jewry issued in October 1947 will suffice:
We will do everything in our power to maintain peace, and establish a cooperation gainful to both. It is no, here and now, from Jerusalem itself that a cal must go out to the Arab nations to join forces with Jewry and the destined Jewish State and work shoulder to shoulder for our common good for the peace and progress of sovereign equals (David ben Gurion, Rebirth and Destiny of Israel, pg. 220).In the weeks following the announcement of the UN partition resolution, the Arab exodus already started. The first to leave were roughly 30,000 wealthy Arab who anticipated the coming war and got out of Dodge to other Arab lands to wait out the war. Less affluent Arabs also left Palestine to live with relatives and friends.
I. F. Stone in This Is Israel recalls that by the end of 1948, the evacuation of Palestine by its inhabitants was so alarming that the Palestine Arab Higher Committee "asked neighboring [Arab] countries to refuse visas to these refugees" to stop the flow of abandonment.
When one reads the press reports during the War of Independence, there is no mention of any forcible expulsion of Arabs by Israeli forces. Rather, the press described the Palestinians as fleeing and evacuating their homes on their own recognizance:
Let us not forget Palestinian were also encouraged to leave their dwelling places to make way for the invading Arab forces.
In his memoirs, Haled al Azm, the Syrian PM in 1948-1949, also admitted the Arab role in persuading the refugees to leave:
Since 1948 we have been demanding the return of the refugees to their homes. But we ourselves are the ones who encouraged them to leave. (The Memoirs of Haled al Azm pp. 386-387)in recounting his story Mrabe tells how one of his brothers sought work in Jordan and was refused entrance to be reunited with his family in the West Bank by the Israelis. Since his brother could not come back to the land, he went to Lebanon during the 70s. The brother joined the PLO while in Lebanon "after suffering the loss of his homeland." Mrabe claims that his father believed his PLO gave his life for the cause of peace.
The PLO is a terrorist organization devoted to the destruction of Israel and whose aim is to expel the Jewish presence from the Holy Land.
The fact that Mrabe did not even refer to the terrorist nature of the PLO is disconcerting. This is especially true because in ending his article Mrabe, worship leader of a church in Sacramento, mentions Palestinian Christians play an essential role to bring "individuals closer to God" and provide "reason and hope for equality and reconciliation between the different groups in Israel/Palestine."
I'm not sure how useful Palestinian Christians can be if they refuse to recognize the terrorist nature of the PLO and find it useful to revise Middle East history for their own self serving aims.
Hank Hanegraff and the Christian Research Institute dropped the ball on doing their research in allowing a Palestinian Christian to get in his digs against Israel without checking out his facts.