Tuesday, July 03, 2007

For July 4 - On Patriots, Refugees and the Right of Return

A July 4 Special Commentary: Patriots, Refugees And The Right of Return
By: Steven Plaut

When the War of Independence began, it quickly assumed the
nature of a civil war. Those opposing the declaration of statehood
fought alongside the organized armies of their kinsmen that invaded
the territory of the infant state from all directions. The fighting was
bloody, and the opponents of independence used terrorism against
the population defending statehood. The country was partitioned
between the areas of the new state and the territories remaining under
the rule of the foreign invaders.
When the War of Independence began, it quickly assumed the
nature of a civil war. Those opposing the declaration of statehood
fought alongside the organized armies of their kinsmen that invaded
the territory of the infant state from all directions. The fighting was
bloody, and the opponents of independence used terrorism against
the population defending statehood. The country was partitioned
between the areas of the new state and the territories remaining under
the rule of the foreign invaders.

As the fighting dragged on, the opponents of independence
began a mass exodus. In most cases, they left because they feared the
consequences of staying on as a political minority or because they
simply opposed on principle the new political entity. In some cases,
they refused to live as a religious minority under the rule of those
practicing an alien religion. In some cases, they were expelled
forcibly. They fled across the frontiers, moving their families to live
in the areas controlled by the armies of their political kin. From
there, some joined the invading forces and launched cross-border
raids. When the fighting ceased, most of the refugees who had fled
from the new state were refused permission to return.

The events described above did not transpire in 1947-49, but
rather in 1775-1781. The refugees in question were not Arabs, but
Tory "Loyalists" who supported the British against the American
revolutionists seeking independence. During the War of
Independence, large numbers of Loyalist refugees fled the new
country. Estimates of the numbers vary, but perhaps 100,000
refugees left or were expelled, a very significant number given the
sparse population of the thirteen colonies.

While there are many differences, there are also many
similarities between the plight of the Palestinians and that of the
Tory refugees during the first years of American Independence. The
advocates of Palestinian rights are in fact clearly in the same political
bed with King George's allies who fought against American
democracy and independence.

Like all wars of independence, both the Israeli and American
wars were in fact civil wars. In both cases, religious sectarianism
played an important role in defining the opposing forces, although
for Americans taxation was even more important. (Israelis suffered
under abominable

taxation only after Independence.) Among the causes of the
American revolution was the attempt to establish the Anglican
Church, or Church of England, as the official bishopric of the
colonies. Anglicans were the largest ethnic group opposing
independence in the 1770's, as were Palestinian Muslims in the
1940's, although in both cases other religious/ethnic groups were also
represented in the anti-Independence movement.

Those fearing the possibility of being forced to live as
minorities under the tyrannical religious supremacy of the Anglicans
and Muslims, respectively, formed the forces fighting for
Independence. The Anglicans and Muslims hoped to establish
themselves with the armed support of their co-religionists across the
borders. New England was the center of patriotism to a large extent
because of the mistrust of the Anglican church by the Puritan and
Congregationalist majorities there. The later incorporation of
separation of church and state in the U.S. Constitution was largely
motivated by the memory of would-be Anglican dominance.

Among the leaders of the Tory cause were many Anglican
parsons, perhaps the most prominent being one Samuel Seabury, the
Grand Mufti of the Loyalists.

In both wars of independence, the anti-independence forces
were a divided and heterogeneous population, and for this reason lost
the war. In the American colonies, the Tories included not only
Anglicans, but other groups -- including Indians, Scots, Dutch, and
Negroes -- who feared for their future living under the rule of the
local political majority. Tory sympathy was based on ethnic,
commercial, and religious considerations. Where Loyalist sentiment
was strong enough, namely in Canada, the war produced partition,
with territories remaining cut off from the newly independent state.

When Independence was declared, the populations of the
opposing forces were about even in both 18th century America and
20th century Palestine. The exact distribution of pro- and
anti-Independence forces in the American colonies is not known, but
the estimate by John Adams is probably as good a guess as any,
namely, one third patriot, one third Loyalist, and one third neutral.

When fighting broke out, civilians were often the first victims
in both wars. The Tories formed terrorist units and plundered and
raided the territories under patriot control. The southwestern frontier
areas of the colonies, like the southwestern border of Palestine, were
scenes of particularly bloody terrorism. In South Carolina the Tory
leader Major William Cunningham, known as ?Bloody Bill,? became
the Ahmed Jabril of the struggle, conducting massacres of patriot
civilians. Tory and anti-Tory mob violence became common. The
historian Thomas Jones documents many cases of Tories burning
patriot homes, but claims the patriots seldom did the same.

Terrorist raids were particularly common along the New
England coast and up the Delaware. General Sir Henry Clinton
organized many guerilla raids upon patriot territory. Loyalists also
launched assassination plots, including an attempt to murder George
Washington in New York in 1776. Among the terrorists participating
in that plot was the mayor of New York City.

There were Loyalist insurrections against the patriots in every
colony. Tory military

activity was particularly severe in the Chesapeake, on Long Island, in
Delaware, in Maryland, and along the Virginia coast. As violence
escalated and spread, the forces of the revolution took
countermeasures. Tories were tarred and feathered. Indiscriminate
expulsions sometimes took

place. Tory areas were sometimes placed under martial rule, with all
civil rights, habeas corpus, and due process suspended.

Queens County, New York, a Loyalist stronghold, was put
under military administration by Continental troops, and the entire
population was prohibited from travel without special documents.
General Wooster engaged in wholesale incarceration and expulsion
of New York Tories. The Continental Congress called for disarming
all Loyalists and locking up the "dangerous ones" without trial. New
York Loyalists were exiled to Connecticut and other places, and
sometimes used in forced labor.

Loyalists were sometimes kidnaped and held hostage. In
some colonies, expressing opposition to the Revolution was grounds
for imprisonment. In some colonies, Loyalists were excluded from
practicing law and from some other professions. Tories were
frequently stripped of all property rights, and had their lands
confiscated. In colony after colony, Acts of Banishment forced
masses of Loyalists to leave their homes and emigrate. The most
common destination was the Canadian maritimes, with others going
to the British West Indies, to England, and to Australia.

In both the Israeli and American Wars of Independence,
anti-independence refugees fled the country in order to live in areas
under the control of their political allies. Many who opposed
independence nevertheless stayed put. After the wars ended, these
generally found the Devil was not as bad as they had feared, and
were permitted to live as tolerated political minorities with civil
rights. (This in spite of the fact that many refused to recognize the
legitimacy of the new states, sometimes for decades.)

The colonies/states that had banished Loyalists refused to
allow them to return, even after a peace treaty was signed. In most
cases, property was never returned. There was fear that returning
Tories could act as a sort of fifth column, particularly if the British
took it into their heads to attempt another invasion. (Such an
invasion took place in 1812.) The newly independent country, like
Israel, initially resolved many of its strategic problems through an
alliance with France.

The Tory refugees were regarded by all as the problem of
Britain. The American patriots allowed small numbers to return.
Others attempted to return illegally and were killed. But most
languished across the partition lines in eastern British Canada,
mainly in what would become Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. The
refugees would never be granted the "right to return." In most cases
they would never even be granted compensation for property;
Benjamin Franklin was among the leading opponents of any such

At this point, the similarity between the Palestinian refugees
and the Tory Loyalists breaks down. The British, unlike the Arabs,
did a great deal to settle their refugees, rather than force them into
festering camps, and allotted $20 million for their resettlement. The
Tory refugees quickly became a non-problem, and never played any
subsequent role in

British-American relations.

Nevertheless, an interesting thought-experiment might be to
imagine what would have occurred had the British done things the
Arab way. Tory refugees would have been converted into terrorist
cadres and trained by British commandos. They would have begun a
ceaseless wave of incursions and invasions of the independent
United States, mainly from bases along the Canadian frontier. The
British, Hessians and their allies would have launched a global
diplomatic campaign for self-determination for the Loyalist
Americans. They would have set up an American Liberation
Organization (ALO) to hijack whalers and merchant marines and
assassinate U.S. diplomats.

Benedict Arnold would have been chosen ALO chairman and
would have written the Tory National Charter under the nom de
guerre of Abu Albion. The British would have organized
underground terrorist cells among the Loyalist population that had
not fled. Britain and her empire would have boycotted the new
country commercially and pressured others to do the same, asserting
that the national rights of the Loyalist people were inalienable and
eternal, no matter how many years had passed since the refugees
fled. International pressure would have been exerted on the U.S. to
give up much of its territory and to internationalize Philadelphia.

For more than fifty years the position of the American State
Department has been that Israel should grant the Palestinian refugees
the "right to return," that Israel is liable for the suffering of the
refugees and should be responsible for their resettlement. The State
Department also thinks the refugees should be represented at Middle
East peace talks. The State Department is sympathetic to calls for
recognizing the rights of the refugees to self-determination and
political expression.

The State Department, in other words, is exhibiting Loyalist
Tory sympathies. A large portrait of Benedict Arnold should grace
the office of every "Arabist" at Foggy Bottom.

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