Foreign policy says:

In the course of the war that ensued, Israel implemented a policy of ethnic cleansing. 700,000 Arab Palestinians were either forced from their homes or fled out of fear of further massacres,

Is this true? Is the number correct?

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – Oddthinking
    Nov 6, 2016 at 21:44
  • 1
    Are you asking about the number, or whether they were forced out?
    – Golden Cuy
    Nov 7, 2016 at 2:06
  • @AndrewGrimm I am trying to tell the both.
    – Feralcat
    Nov 7, 2016 at 5:53

1 Answer 1


They are referring to the 1948 Palestinian exodus. There are different estimates about the amount of people who left their homes, ranging from 539000 to 935000. Here is the estimate by the UN:

The estimate of the statistical expert, which the Committee believes to be as accurate as circumstances permit, indicates that the refugees from Israel- controlled territory amount to approximately 711,000.

So yes, the number is approximately correct.

The reasons for the exodus are complex and not as clear as presented in the quote. The theory of a planned ethnic cleansing is disputed.

Historian Benny Morris for example says:

Most of Palestine's 700,000 "refugees" fled their homes because of the flail of war (and in the expectation that they would shortly return to their homes on the backs of victorious Arab invaders). But it is also true that there were several dozen sites, including Lydda and Ramla, from which Arab communities were expelled by Jewish troops.
There was no Zionist "plan" or blanket policy of evicting the Arab population, or of "ethnic cleansing".

Other historians such as Ilan Pappé disagree, for example in The 1948 Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine:

Yet when it comes to the dispossession by Israel of the Palestinians in 1948, there is a deep chasm between the reality and the representation. This is most bewildering, and it is difficult to understand how events perpetrated in modern times and witnessed by foreign reporters and UN observers could be systematically denied, not even recognized as historical fact, let alone acknowledged as a crime that needs to be confronted, politically as well as morally. Nonetheless, there is no doubt that the ethnic cleansing of 1948, the most formative event in the modern history of the land of Palestine, has been almost entirely eradicated from the collective global memory and erased from the world’s conscience.

Plan Dalet is often named as showing intent of ethnic cleansing by some historians, while others say that the plan was purely defensive.

  • 2
    Absolutely loved how you "fair-and-balanced" managed to discredit the latter, simply by not quoting it as you did with the first... BTW, an "ethnic cleansing" did happen, no matter what cause, the Arabs did leave (and are not allowed to return). Nov 6, 2016 at 20:50
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    @BaardKopperud I didn't cite it because it is an entire book, and the title really says it all. Still, I added a quote to balance my answer. I'm not saying that an ethnic cleansing did or didn't happen, I tried to give a broad overview over the differing opinions. But in general, ethnic cleansing does imply a systematic, planned and forced removal, so just stating that the Arabs did leave isn't really enough to point to ethnic cleansing (which is why historians using that term generally try to describe the exodus as systematically forced).
    – tim
    Nov 6, 2016 at 21:04
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    @MohammadSakibArifin well, Ilan Pappé is hardly a disinterested observer either, as a leader of a far-left anti-Zionist party in Israel. Overall I think the answer would be strengthened if it found sources more removed from the issue itself.
    – user11522
    Nov 7, 2016 at 7:38
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    @BaardKopperud leaving someone's house during a war doesn't immediately qualify as "ethnic cleansing", there should be an intent in order to qualify it as such. Many Arab's left their homes due to fightings taking place around them with hope to go back to them later, others obeyed leaders orders to leave and get back later into what will be areas occupied from Jews.
    – Rsf
    Dec 16, 2016 at 13:48

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