Wednesday, July 01, 2009

The Fourth of July Nakba

Subject: The Fourth of July Nakba

Patriots, Refugees, and the Right of Return

By Steven Plaut


The American government, in a sudden leap onto
the PLO "refugee suffering" bandwagon, has come
out for some kind of solution for the Palestinian
refugees. The only problem? Obama now seems to
think this is somehow the responsibility of Israel.

He might be better off looking at the U.S. model of solving refugee problems.

Consider the following: 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, which 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 those territories still 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 the new
political entity on principle. In some cases,
they refused to live as a religious minority
under the rule of those practicing an alien
religion. And, 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 and terrorist atrocities. When
the fighting ceased, most of the refugees who had
fled from the new state were refused permission to return.

The previous paragraph is not about the
Palestinians. The events described did not
transpire in 1947-49, but rather in 1775-1781;
and the refugees in question were not Arabs, but
Tory "loyalists" who supported the British
against the American revolutionists seeking
independence. During the American 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 13 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 refugee rights, are in
fact clearly in the same political bed as were
King George's allies, who fought against America democracy and independence.

Like all wars of independence, both Israel's and
America's were in fact civil wars. In both cases,
religious sectarianism played an important role
in defining the opposing forces, although for the
Americans, taxation was even more important.
(Israelis suffered under abominable taxation only
after independence.) One cause 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 ­ as were Palestinian Muslims ­
although in both cases, other religious and
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 Palestinian
Muslims hoped to establish themselves with the
armed support of their coreligionists across the
borders. New England was the center of patriotism
largely because of the mistrust felt toward the
Anglican Church by the Puritan and
Congregationalist majorities there. And the later
incorporation into the Constitution of the
separation of church and state was largely
motivated by the memory of Anglican would-be
establishmentarianism. Among the leaders of the
Tory cause were many Anglican parsons, perhaps
the most prominent being one Samuel Seabury, the loyalists' Arafat.

In both wars, 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 who feared for their future
living under the rule of the local political
majority ­ among them Indians, Scots, Dutch, and
Negroes. Tory sympathy was based on ethnic,
commercial, and religious considerations. Where
loyalist sentiment was strong enough-namely, in
Canada ­ the war produced partition, as in
Mandatory Palestine, 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
wars. In Palestine in 1947, there were about
750,000 people on each side. 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. The
number of colonists fighting actively alongside
regular British forces is estimated at about half
the number fighting under Washington.

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
Sheikh Yassin of the struggle, conducting
massacres of patriot civilians. Tory and
anti-Tory mob violence became common. General Sir
Henry Clinton organized many guerrilla 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 and 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 could be 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
traveling without special documents. General
Wooster engaged in wholesale incarceration and
expulsion of New York Tories. The Continental
Congress called for disarming all loyalists, and
for locking up the "dangerous ones" without
trial. New York loyalists were exiled to
Connecticut and other places; some were used in forced labor.

Loyalists were kidnapped and held hostage. In
some colonies, expressing opposition to the
Revolution was grounds for imprisonment.
Loyalists could be excluded from certain
professions, such as law; frequently, they were
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 destiny
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 often
fled to areas under the control of their
political allies. However, some who opposed
independence nevertheless stayed put. After the
war ended, these generally found the devil was
not as bad as they'd feared, and were permitted
to live as tolerated political minorities, with
their civil rights restored and protected. (This
was in spite of the fact that many refused to
recognize the legitimacy of the new state, sometimes for decades.)

The American colony-states that had banished
loyalists refused to allow their return, even
after a peace treaty was signed. There was a 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 eventually took place, in
1812.) Like Israel, the newly independent country
initially resolved many of its strategic problems
through an alliance with France.

The Tory refugees were regarded by all as
Britain's problem. 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," and in
most cases, they would never even be granted
compensation for property. (Benjamin Franklin was
among the leading opponents of any such compensation.)

At this point, of course, 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 played no
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 begin a ceaseless wave of incursions and
invasions of the independent states, mainly from
bases along the Canadian frontier. The British,
Hessians, and their allies would begin a global
diplomatic campaign for self-determination for
the loyalist Americans. They would set up an
American Liberation Organization (ALO) that would
hijack whalers and merchant marines, crashing
them into harbor facilities, and assassinate
diplomats of the United States. Perhaps Benedict
Arnold would be chosen the chairman and
president-in-exile, and would write the Tory
National Charter, incorporating parts of the
Stamp Act, under the nom de guerre of Abu Albion.
The British would organize underground terrorist
cells among the loyalist population that had not fled.

The Tories would then declare an Anglican jihad.
Britain and her empire would boycott the new
country commercially, pressuring others to do the
same. She would assert that the national rights
of the loyalist people were inalienable and
eternal, no matter how many years had passed
since the refugees fled. Britain would accumulate
arms in astronomical quantities, awaiting the day
of reckoning. International pressure would be
exerted on the United States to give up much of
its territory, and to internationalize Philadelphia.

The American administration now insists that the
Palestinian refugees should be granted the "right
to return" in some form, and that Israel is
liable for the suffering of the refugees and
should be responsible for their resettlement. The
state department is exhibiting loyalist Tory
sympathies. Perhaps a large portrait of Benedict
Arnold should grace the offices of every "Arabist" in Foggy Bottom.

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