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May 21, 2003

Sarah Honig remembers

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 had been butchered in Tel Aviv and whose bloodied remains had been 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 had seen the dead and the incensed crowds were convinced that the absence of a corpus delicti 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 (The Catastrophe). They portray themselves as innocents struck by a monumental calamity, and continuously oppressed, through 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 has been no exception. Yasser Arafat has 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 an 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 Israel is 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 the above contentions are no more real than the 1936 corpses and likewise serve as tools of incitement.

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 plain, 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 did 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 "right 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 should.

This won't fly. There will be no peace until an Arab leader dares to tell his people that they have been brainwashed for more than a century, victimized by lies rather than by Jewish injustice. So long as the Arabs feel wronged they won't rest until they kill the last Jew in this land. (emphases throughout addad)

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.