Friday, July 01, 2011
On Patriots, Refugees and the Right of Return
66 page booklet written by Steven Plaut now available free
2. Fourth of July Special:
July 4: 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.
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 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 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
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
1770s, as were Palestinian Muslims in the 1940s, although in both
cases, other religious/ethnic groups were also represented in the
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
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 Jibril 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 subject to
Loyalists were sometimes kidnapped 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
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 compensation.
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
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
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.
3. An open letter from the Im Tirtzu Student Organization:
June 28, 2011
Dear Friend of the University of Haifa,
As someone who supports and cares about the University, I am guessing
that you also support and care about Israel and all that it
represents. If I am right, then you need to be made aware of a highly
distressing situation at the University that demands immediate
attention and change.
Last week, during the graduation ceremony of the Law Faculty, the Dean
of that faculty deliberately had the Hatikvah, the Israel national
anthem, omitted from the ceremony's conclusion. Her rationale was that
the national anthem would be offensive to Arab students who do not
identify with the Hatikvah.
As a student at the University, as a Jew, as a Zionist, and above all,
as an Israeli, I find this decision to be shocking, offensive, and in
its small way, highly destructive for the prospects of civil
accommodation between Jews and Arabs in Israel.
Where was the consideration for the many Jews at the University and
their families for whom the Hatikvah represents the essence of being a
Jew in the Land of Israel? Where was the consideration for those Arab
students who understand that they are citizens of Israel, and that by
being made the pretext for disdaining the State, they only bring
resentment onto themselves?
As a new immigrant, a proud olah from the United States, I was crushed
and infuriated by this high handed and highly undemocratic decision.
The national anthem is played at all official ceremonies. For me and
for a great many of my fellow students, that anthem is everything- it
gives word and voice to the yearning that brought me here, and
provides inspiration for dealing with the many difficulties and
frustrations that come along with the challenge of making aliyah, and
of daily Israeli life in general.
Where was the sensitivity to us?
Sad to say, this presumptuous and destructive act is not an isolated
instance. If it were, I would not be writing to you now. Rather, it is
part of a corrosive pattern of eroding the ties of young Israelis to
their nation, in the name of a minority whose accommodation is a
higher priority than showing respect and attachment to the State of
which we are all citizens.
Playing the national anthem is not a policy decision. It is part and
parcel of citizenship. Should the Israeli flag be taken down because
it is thought to be provocative? Should Hebrew not be spoken on campus
because it is not the ancestral language of Arab students?
While these questions might seem absurd, they are but a hop, skip and
jump from the decision not to play the Hatikvah.
True sensitivity to Arab students would entail helping them to
normalize their status as citizens of Israel rather than marginalizing
them as disgruntled outsiders. True sensitivity to Arab students would
not make them the fall-guy for the inability of all Israelis to show
the proper respect and identification with the State in which they
I am proud to be a member, as well as the head coordinator of the
Haifa branch of Im Tirzu, the Zionist student organization. We are
seeking to call attention to acts and attitudes such as the Dean's in
order to promote change.
If you agree that this decision was wrong, and that the University's
attitude is wrong, then please write to the University, please voice
your concerns, and please help make a difference.
Your voice will matter. Your actions will resonate. Please support
keeping the University of Haifa a Zionist and democratic institution,
and a proud part of Israel.
Thank you for your support. Best regards.
P.S. If you would like to receive more information about Im Tirzu and
it activities on behalf of Zionism, please visit our website at
4. A Rightwing Beatle?