Loyalists or Traitors

by Rabbi Philip Lefkowitz

We recently celebrated the 4th of July, the establishment of our nation. In the Maritime Provinces of Canada they celebrate another holiday albeit somewhat different from the 4th. It is called Loyalist Days, commemorating the "heroic" trek of American colonists loyal to King George to Canada to await the inevitable result of The American Revolution - the reestablishment of the Crown in the colonies - so that they might return to their homes. This is not unlike the Arabs living in Palestine prior to 1948 who, at the urging of the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem (Hitler's personal guest in Berlin throughout the Second World War), fled their homes awaiting the inevitable conclusion of the Israeli War of Independence which their leaders assured them would be the death of the Jews of Palestine and their return to acquire not only their own property but the property of the Jews as well.

In peace negotiations after the American Revolution, the British were adamant that colonists who had fled the colonies and sided with the British Crown should be allowed to return to their homes and reacquire their property. On October 18, 1782, Congress issued the following instruction to John Adams, who was serving as the U.S. plenipotentiary in the peace negotiations with Great Britain:

"That with respect to those persons who have either abandoned or been banished from any of the United States since the commencement of the War, he is to make no stipulations whatsoever for their readmitance; and as to an equivalent for their property, he may attend to propositions on that subject only on reciprocal stipulation that Great Britain will make full compensation for all wanton destruction which the subjects of that nation have committed on the property of the citizens of the United States."

On November 26, 1782, but a few days before the preliminary treaty, Benjamin Franklin wrote the following to Benjamin Oswald, the British negotiator:

"Your ministers require that we should receive again into our bosom those who have been our bitterest enemies and restore their properties who have destroyed ours; and while the wounds they have given us are still bleeding!"

The final peace treaty did include a statement from Congress that "recommended" that the States allow restitution of property, but there was no consideration given to repatriation. Historians observe that everyone in that period knew that this "recommendation" would never be acted upon.

In considering the demands of Arafat and the "Palestinians," Americans in particular, in light of our own country's history on the subject, should not embrace the Arab position so quickly. A far more exasperated situation than the one faced by our young nation, allowing the return of individuals who have demonstrated their unequivocal hatred of the State Israel and its Jewish citizens, supported and enflamed by clerics of the Muslim Faith, would make for the destruction of the Jewish State. Further, not one Arab state today is willing to consider the right of Jews, in some cases who lived in Arab lands for more than two and a half thousand years, to return to their homes which they were forced to abandon because of orchestrated attacks upon them by their Arab neighbors. Quite to the contrary, a number of Arab states have official laws prohibiting a Jew from residing within their borders. Compensating these Jews, numbering in the hundreds of thousands, for their losses has never been considered by even one Arab state.

As we celebrate the birthday of our Great Nation, we would do well to allow Israel to follow in the footsteps of the United States in dealing with the so-called Palestinian question, approaching this subject in much the same way as we did in reaction to the Loyalists issue.