13 AUGUST 1948, Page 15


SIR,—" Middle East Observer" is right in calling attention to the unfor- tunate plight of the Arab refugees from Palestine, but wrong in attribut- ing it to Jewish "military and political action." As a Middle East observer, he must surely know that the course of events was quite different. The fighting in Palestine was begun by the inclusion of thousands of armed Arab guerrillas from the neighbouring countries only a few weeks after the United Nations' decision. By March there were already about 6,000 armed Arabs in the district of Nablus, part of them under the leadership of Fawzi el-Kawukji, who was in Germany with the ex-Mufti during the war as allies of Hitler. The Jews did not begin any military action until after the organised invasion by the armies of the Arab States, which started immediately after the termination of the British Mandate. But for that invasion there would probably have been very little fighting, and perhaps hardly any in the area allotted to the Jewish State, as the Palestinian Arabs have shown all along that they had no liking for war. In so far as their mass flight was not voluntary, prompted by the desire to find safety elsewhere, it was due to the sug- gestion of the Arab commanders who made them believe that the fight- ing would soon be over and they would be able to return without diffi- culty. The misfortunes of the Palestinian Arabs were thus brought upon them by the unjustified aggression against the Jews by the Arab States, and it is these States that should be primarily responsible for alleviating the lot of the victims of their unattainable ambition.

The Jews always declared that they desired the fraternal co-operation of the Arabs in the building of their State, and took no military or political action against civilians. Indeed, those Arabs who remained have nothing to complain of, not even those of military age who have been interned, and who are looked after by the Jewish authorities much better'than the refugees are in the neighbouring States. There are Arab members of the Haifa Municipal Council working in friendly associa- tion with their Jewish colleagues, and Arab dockers and stevedores are working harmoniously with their Jewish comrades—and at the same ,rates—in the port of Jaffa.

In view of the apparent inability of the Arab States to solve the refugee problem satisfactorily unaided, it is certainly necessary for the United Nations to take immediate action. Your correspondent admits that the refusal of the Provisional Government of Israel to permit the return of the refugees is "understandable enough," and points out the danger threatening the Jewish communities in the Middle East. These communities have been subjected to systematic persecution, including pogroms, for months past, and there cannot be the least doubt that the Israelite Government, which is fully acquainted with the facts, will do its utmost to achieve a peace settlement which will have regard not only to the plight of the Arab refugees but also to the future safety and welfare of the Jews in the Arab States. But, meanwhile, the United Nations should certainly act without delay.—Yours faithfully, ISRAEL COHEN.

29 Pattison Road, N.W.2.