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Jewish Refugees From Palestine/Israel


According to historian Nurit Cohen-Levinovsky, during the 1948 War 97 Jewish villages were attacked and damaged, 11 of these were destroyed and 6 were conquered, resulting in at least 60,000 Jews becoming refugees. Another historian, Benny Morris, estimated the number at 70,000.

While the Palestinian Arabs could move to another part of Palestine under Transjordan’s control, or a neighboring state, the Jews had nowhere to flee. They remained within the borders of Israel. Some lived in Israeli refugee camps – maabarot – where new immigrants were housed.

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) is associated with providing assistance to Palestinian Arabs; however, its mandate is to support “Palestine Refugees,” not Palestinian Arab refugees. The Agency defined a refugee as “a needy person, who, as a result of the war in Palestine, has lost his home and his means of livelihood.” According to the UN:

In Israel, the Agency has provided relief to two types of refugees, Jews who fled inside the borders of Israel during the fighting, and Arabs in most instances displaced from one area in Palestine to another. Jewish refugees at first numbered 17,000 but, during the current summer, all but 3,000 of these have been absorbed into the economic life of the new State.

Unlike the Arab states, which refused to solve the refugee issue by resettling the Palestinian Arabs, Israel willingly accepted refugees within its borders. In August 1950, the UN reported 27,000 people in Israel had claimed refugee status, but the Israeli government requested that relief distribution be discontinued because it was assuming responsibility for them.

Sources: David Shayne, “The forgotten Palestinian refugees,” Jerusalem Post, (September 12, 2018).
Deborah Moon, “Israel 360 explores the first Arab-Israeli War,” Jewish Federation of Greater Portland, (March 3, 2020).
“Assistance to Palestine Refugees,” United Nations, (October 6, 1950).