I had the privlidge of taking courses taught by Prof. Avineri at Hebrew U and, now as then, his depth of knowledge and understanding is facsinating. I would, however, add one more point to the mix. It is impossible to understand and appreciate the historical significance of the '48 Arab refugee issue without putting it into a broader historical context. First of all, those who accuse Israel of "ethnic cleansing" need to acknowledge that in EVERY instance during '48 in which Arab forces were successful in capturing Jewish civilian population centers, the Jewish civilians (men, women and children) was immediately expelled by the Arab forces and not allowed to return. Examples include Gush Etzion, the Jewish Quarter of of the Old City of Jerusalem and Yad Mordechai. If the numbers of Jewish refugees was smaller than the number of Arab refugees it is only due to the Arab lack of success on the battle field. We need to also recall that population exchanges were common at the end of WWII and the early post colonial period. Millsions of ethnic Germans who's ancestors had lived for generations throughout central and Easter Europe in what are today Poland, the Czech Republic, etc... were unceramoniously expelled by the Red Army. The partition of India into Pakistan and India resulted in population exchanges of millions of civilians. And yes, even though the Jews of muslim countries were ultimately received and integrated into Israeli society (albeit not without difficulties), that does not take away from the fact that in many cases they fled the Muslim countries in which their ancestors had recided for many centuries (often from long before the advent of Islam) as a result of opression and descrimination they suffered at the hands of their Arab neighbors.
from the article: Zionism does not need propaganda