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A 75th anniversary in the Mideast, depending on how one marks it

The 75th anniversary of the displacement of Palestinians that occurred during the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948 was observed in the General Assembly Hall at the United Nations on May 15 in New York.Michael M. Santiago/Getty

Palestinians didn’t exactly flee — they were driven from their homes

In “The real origin of the Palestinian catastrophe” (Ideas, May 14), Jeff Jacoby ignores decades of historical scholarship and instead builds his case on historical distortions and misrepresentations. For example, he writes that Palestinian refugees “fled their homes.” Yet historians have long known that many Palestinian refugees were forcibly expelled by Zionist militias and, after Israel declared independence, by the Israeli armed forces. Other Palestinians who fled did so in part out of fear of further Zionist-Israeli massacres such as the one at Deir Yassin on the outskirts of Jerusalem.

Yitzhak Rabin, twice an Israeli prime minister, wrote that he helped drive out some 50,000 Palestinians from Lod and Ramle. That admission was printed in English in The New York Times on Oct. 23, 1979, and then again in a posthumous edition of Rabin’s memoir in 1996. And that’s just one person detailing one operation.

Jeremy Pressman


West Hartford, Conn.

The writer is a professor of political science and director of Middle East studies at the University of Connecticut.

Palestinians opted for terrorism over peace

Thank you for Jeff Jacoby’s column “The real origin of the Palestinian catastrophe.” Israel’s 75th birthday is a modern-era miracle that should be celebrated. From the ashes of the Holocaust, Jews revived a state in their ancestral homeland and created the Middle East’s only liberal democracy. Israel welcomed home the scattered remnants of a 2,000-year-old diaspora, including survivors of Nazi death camps and Jewish refugees from across the Arab world, Iran, Russia, and Ethiopia.

Since the very day of its rebirth, Israel has endured repeated pan-Arab wars aimed at annihilating the Jewish state. Against overwhelming odds, Israel has prevailed.

The Palestinians, too, could have had a state. Instead, they rejected peace and opted for terrorism — kidnapping and killing Israeli Olympic athletes; hijacking planes; massacring Israeli children in schools, buses, discos, and pizzerias; slaughtering entire families at a communal Passover Seder; and firing rocket barrages at Israeli cities — with the goal of destroying Israel. This has yielded grief on both sides and discredited Israel’s once-dominant peace camp, leaving the Palestinians even further from statehood.


Israel deserves our admiration and support. The Palestinians need leaders who are willing to make peace.

Stephen A. Silver

San Francisco

‘It’s no use being bitter. That was all yesterday.’

Jeff Jacoby’s piece on Israel was informative, rational, and calm, and it was especially timely in light of the UN resolution officially commemorating the “nakba,” or “catastrophe.”

A few years ago I was browsing in a gift shop in Manger Square in Bethlehem. The Palestinian proprietor, a very old man, took me back into his office. He pulled out a drawer in his desk and extracted a sheaf of crackling parchment documents. Spreading them out on the desk, he explained that they were deeds from the Ottoman Empire for properties in Jerusalem that had belonged to his family for generations before 1948. Pointing out the window, he said he could see some of them on the other side of the wall.

I asked him if he was bitter about the loss. He shrugged and said, “It’s no use being bitter. That was all yesterday. Bitterness just poisons today.”

Gary Kaplan