Why did the Arabs run? Their mass flight from Tiberias, Haifa, Safed, Jerusalem, Jaffa and from the village in those areas, seemed to have little to do with the fighting itself. Anyhow, down the ages civilians have traditionally stuck to their homes and their land, through wars and alien occupations, surviving as best they could, waiting for the end of their troubles. Why should the Arabs have behaved differently, even those who had been on good terms with the Jews? Some blame it on the Mufti. Arabs told their Jewish neighbors that agents of the Mufti said they should go or they'd get their throats slit by the Israelis. Some professed not to believe this, but thought they'd better do as they were told. Other Arabs thought Jewish control would be temporary, a matter of weeks, and that their safest bet was to get out until the Arab forces came back; otherwise they might be regarded as collaborators and suffer at the hands of their own bosses. Others may have been merely defeatist, assuming Jewish victory and preferring to live under Arab rule: the sense of national boundaries is not strong in most of the Arab world. Another likely cause was the example of the wealthy Arabs. When the poor worker in the town or on the land saw his betters disappear with their belongings, he was likely to conclude that the same danger existed for him, too. A dozen reasons probably combined to create the vast epidemic of fear that drove some 500,000 Arabs out of Jewish Palestine into the already overcrowded ranks of homeless, penniless "displaced persons." Should Israel take them back if they want to come? No one I talked to believed they should be readmitted -- any of them -- before the war ends. Aside from those who are hostile and potentially under the orders of Fawzi el Kaukji or the Mufti, they would be an intolerable burden on the new state's already staggering economy. Besides, the Jews feel no responsibility for their flight and, consequently, little obligation to help them return. After the war the question of the refugees can be discussed on its long-range merits.
Six decades later, the discussion continues.