SIR – Bob Storey writes (September 21st) under the heading of ‘Israel flouts international laws’ that Israel ‘ethnically cleansed’ Haifa of its Palestinian Arab population and replaced them with Jews. He may be unaware that when the fighting stopped in Haifa, April 1948 and before a truce was signed, Mayor Levy, one of the Jewish leaders, pleaded with Arab notables not to evacuate the Arab residents of Haifa and begged them to reconsider leaving the city ‘where they had lived for hundreds of years’ but despite British and Jewish appeals, thousands of Arabs left Haifa.
‘Ethnic cleansing’ was never Israeli policy, in fact when the issue of ‘population transfer” was brought up during the Peel commission of enquiry 1936, Ben Gurion rejected it outright on moral grounds.
During the 1947-48 War of Independence, many Arabs fled from their embattled towns and villages which were destroyed in the fighting, but these operations were for strategic military purposes and not for political motives, sadly this is the nature of war.
The whole of Palestine was then a war zone, a war initiated by the Arabs of Palestine and joined by six Arab States whose intention was the destruction of the fledgling Jewish State; for the Jews it was an existential war foisted upon them.
Had the Arab representatives accepted either the 1937 or 1947 partition plans, there would be no Palestinian refugees, nor for that matter would there have been 850,000 Jewish refugees from Arab lands that were forced to leave, not because they were in a conflict zone or that they were connected with events in Palestine, but simply because they were Jews.
In December 1948 The UN adopted resolution 194 that sought to agree on a final settlement of the conflict and recommended the repatriation of refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbours, however, all six Arab States at the UN rejected that resolution.