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The plight of Palestinian ‘refugees’


Although I am not a Palestinian, I sympathize with the Palestinian lament of homelessness even if it is self-imposed. But as a historian, I must rely upon facts, not fantasies. Palestinians may fervently believe that they are being robbed of “their” land, but history—from antiquity to modernity—suggests otherwise.


Late in the 19th century, after nearly two millennia in exile, Jews began their return to the Land of Israel. Nearly 30 years before Theodor Herzl called for the revival of Jewish statehood, Hovevei Zion (“Lovers of Zion”) had built more than a dozen new communities in Palestine. During World War I, the Balfour Declaration called for a “national home for the Jewish people in Palestine.” There was no mention of Palestinians. Even when Colonial Secretary Winston Churchill reneged on that promise, gifting three-quarters of Palestine east of the Jordan River to Abdullah ibn Hussein for his own kingdom of Transjordan, there still was no recognized, or self-identified, “Palestinian” people.


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