The Israeli ministry of Hasbara (propaganda), recently started a campaign to reach out to Israeli travelers abroad and expatriates, and provide them with resources for “explaining Israel”. They are recruiting citizen ambassadors, if you will. Supposedly, if you are a Hebrew speaker boarding an El Al plane in Israel, they will actually hand you a resource pamphlet that will help you make friends abroad and somehow justify Israel’s abominable behavior.
I finally bit the bullet, and visited the ministry’s resource site.
The first section I perused was titled “Israel Abroad: Myth vs. Reality”. The first 4 myths were benign, things like “Israel is a large country” or “People only eat falafel and hummus in Israel”. It’s these amusements that get you sucked in, it is also the myths that they highlight in the televised campaign. I scrolled quickly down to find something a bit more controversial than hummus and camel riding.
One supposed myth is that “Israelis don’t really want peace”. First off, by saying Israelis and not Israel, they are off the hook from explaining government policies, and could get away with a vague (and arguable) public sentiment. By following links under that “myth” I got to a page dedicated to the green line. The initial facts were mostly accurate, but then later in the page it digressed into legalistic interpretations of resolution 242 and cherry-picked quotes of Lyndon Johnson.
Did you guys ever wonder what Israel’s official perspective is regarding Palestinian refugees? I know I did. So I was delighted to find a page dedicated to the refugee topic on the site. The refugee issue is seen as a topic with the potential of undermining Israel’s legitimacy, so it is often not touched with a ten foot pole.
Anyway, on the top of the page, they offered the following itemized list:
Arab Refugees: Facts and Figures
- 800,000 Arabs lived in pre-state Israel before the war of ’48-’49.
- 170,000 Arabs remained after the war.
- 100,000 were permitted to return to Israel for family reunification.
- 100,000 middle and upper class people were absorbed in their host Arab countries.
- 50,000 foreign workers returned to their countries.
- 50,000 Bedouins were absorbed by tribes in Jordan and Sinai.
- 10,000 – 15,000 were killed in the war of ’48 – ’49.
- Total refugees: 320,000.
Wait, what?? If you were reading that like I was and got to item number 8, you probably didn’t understand this as a subtraction exercise either. Did they just take some 8th grader’s homework and post it on the site? UNRWA alone reported aiding 711,000 Palestinian refugees back in 1950, and today has over 4 million beneficiaries – descendants of refugees from 1948.
Also, what is with the 50,000 foreign workers? Who are they talking about?
Before we explain the issue of the refugees of ’48, it’s important you understand this basic fact: Israel’s Arabs from before the war settled in the country as refugees from other Arab countries.
They go on and talk about Egyptian draft dodgers who came in 1831 to Acre, and cite British geographers from the 19th century. I don’t really feel like translating all of this disinformation, sorry.
To the point, I’ll paraphrase Israel’s excuse in a nutshell: We only displaced 340,000 Palestinians. It’s not us who told them to leave, their leaders did. They weren’t really Palestinian anyway.
Good luck with that message, citizen ambassador! I hope you find out sooner rather than later that students on foriegn campuses know full well that you don’t ride camels at home. Growing up in Israel does not provide you with innate historical knowledge, you are confusing that with the indoctrination you received your entire life.