Who Are the So- Called Palestinian Refugees in Gaza / DR.Rivka Shpak Lissak

Arab- Palestinian Refugees from the Southern Coast of Palestine (from Jaffa to Gaza)
June 1, 2011
Prof. Efraim Karsh, in his article, "How Many Palestinian Arabs Refugees Were There," Middle East Forum, April, 2011, brought listS of refugees from the different districts of British Mandate Palestine:
His list for the Jaffa District includes between 120,690 to 125,300 refugees.
His list for the Gaza district (which included parts of today Israel and parts of the Gaza Strip), included 58,850 – 61,400 refugees.

Prof. Karsh mentions in both districts villages included in Prof. M.Braver's article, "Immigration as a factor in the Growth of the Arab village in Israel" (Economic Review, 1975).

Prof. Moshe Braver of the Geography Faculty at the University of Tel Aviv, is a world-renowned geographer.

The topic of his research was the immigration of Egyptian workers during the Mandate period and their settlement mainly in the coastal plains. Although immigrants from other countries also settled along the coastal plains, this article focuses on those from Egypt.

According to Braver’s study, an immigration wave from Egypt into today Israel accompanied the British army as it conquered the land from the Turks in 1917-1918, and continued until the mid-1940’s (i.e., the end of World War II). Egyptian workers who were employed in service of the British army in Egypt followed it into Israel.

Egyptian immigration was also greatly influenced by the growth in the Jewish citrus agro-industry which expanded 10-fold in the 1920’s and 1930’s and required many workers.

The British military camps which were set up in the area, the Jewish construction works, and public works initiated by the Mandate Government and the Jewish Agency required workers as well.
Egyptian workers took advantage of the extensive employment opportunities these offered and settled in the Land of Israel on the coastal plains.

Prof. Braver claims that village population growth in the southern and central coastal plains cannot be explained by natural growth alone, when considering infant mortality rates, life expectancy, and the level of health care services available in the Arabic villages. Egyptian immigrants were significant contributors to this growth. Prof. Braver concluded that at least one-third of these villages’ population increase was due to immigrants from Egypt.
Prof. Karsh brought information on the number of refugees from villages included in Prof. Braver's article:
Bet Dajan (Beit Dajan ) – 3,840 refugees
Fajjah ( Fajja )– 1,200 – 1,570 refugees
Kubeiba (Qubeiba) – 1,720 – 1,870 refugees
Salame (Salama ) – 6,730 – 7,610 refugees
Sawalme (Swalima) – 800 refugees
Yabne (Yibna ) – 5,400 – 5,920 refugees
Yazour ( Yazur ) – 4,030 refugees

The population of these villages grew, according to Prof. Braver, during the British Mandate period (1922 – 1944 ) because of the immigration from Egypt:
Bet Dajan – 127%
Fajja – 630%
Kubieba – 211%
Salame – 476%
Sawalme – 1,040%
Yabne – 203%
Yazur – 214%

Prof. Fred M.Gottheil, in his article, "The Smoking Gun: Arab Immigration to Palestine, 1922 – 1931," Middle East Quarterly, Winter 2003, pp. 53 – 64, compared the annual income per capita in Egypt and Arab – Palestinians between 1932 – 1936. While the annual income in Egypt was 12 British pound sterling, the Arabs in Palestine enjoyed a 19 British pound sterling income. Prof. Gottheil explained the difference as result of the capital formation and infrastructure development in both countries. Palestine's economy had the advantage of Zionist and British investments.

Prof. Braver participated in the Mandate Government Survey of villages in 1941. The researchers interviewed the villages’ Mukhtars (leaders) who confirmed that villagers who did not own land in the village were Egyptian immigrants who settled in their villages. Yabne’s former Mukhtar, who fled to Gaza in 1948, testified in an interview held in Gaza that “in his village there were many Egyptians who settled in Yabne in the time of the British”.

The Egyptian workers, who, as mentioned, were land-less, used to live in their own separate housing blocks, and effectively established immigrants’ neighborhoods in those villages.

Prof. Braver refuted the claim that population growth in villages along the coastal plains was the result of natural increase, by comparing it with data on the natural population increase in villages in the Jennin district, which was completely Arabic(Western Bank today). Between the years 1922—1944, population growth there ranged from 50% to 80%, population movements were few and the number of leavers was similar to the number of arriving immigrants. This led to the conclusion that in the Jennin district, population growth was the result of natural increase at an average rate of 70% rather than 119% - 1040% (the rate along the coastal plains). The results were further compared to the population growth data in the areas of Nablus and Ramallah (Western Bank today) and the data for natural increase in Syria and Lebanon.

The study examined also the possibility that the villages in the coastal plains grew as a result of internal immigration of Arabs who left their villages in the Galilee and Samaria for the better employment prospects available in the coastal plains, and settled there. It was found that people from Samaria left to go abroad, or to the cities of Jerusalem, Haifa, and Jaffa, but only few moved to the coastal plain villages.

Conclusion: a considerable part of the refugees from these villages were Egyptian workers who immigrated illegally to Palestine because of the better job opportunities created in Palestine by Zionist and British investments.

B. Immigration from Egypt in the 19th century

Earlier immigration from Egypt into the Land of Israel was researched by Prof. Moshe Sharon, The Bedouins of the Land of Israel under Islam, 1988.
Suaad, Yusoph, "The rule of Bedouin Sheiks in the Northren part of the land of Israel", 1995, specialized in Bedouin history in Israel.He, studied the rule of Bedouin Sheiks.

According to their studies, the Naddi Tribe immigrated to the area of Gaza from Egypt in 1814, and this immigration contributed to the population composition of the Arabic villages and towns in the southern coastal plains during the Ottoman period. Akkal and his tribesmen served the Ottoman government and fought it alternately, taking over the Galilee for a certain period. From 1832 to 1840 the Land of Israel was ruled by Muhammad Ali, ruler of Egypt, and his son Ibrahim Pasha. During those years there was immigration from Egypt into various areas of Israel, including the coastal plains and the cities of Gaza and Jaffa.

In conclusion, based on all these studies it is reasonable to say that the Arabic population along the coastal plains of British Palestine included a considerable portion of people of Egyptian origin, and thus, many of the refugees from this district were Egyptian illegal immigrants.

The U.S expelled thousands of illegal Mexican work immigrants during the 1929 – 1939 economic depression. Should they be considered refugees with a claim to return to the U.S?

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