April 2017. Palestinian Canadian Fuad Abboud, now a retired lawyer living in Calgary, walks along the “Corniche” in Beirut, Lebanon. In 1948 his family escaped to Lebanon to avoid growing Zionist violence in Haifa. The new State of Israel never allowed any of the family to return to live in Haifa, and then confiscated all their family property, as it did to all Palestinian refugees who were declared to be ‘Absentees’ under Israel’s Absentee Property Act. Should he get his family property back? Read more and decide….
Those who defend Israel often like to say that the Palestinians were not “driven out”, they just “ran away”. Fuad Abboud’s family is one of those which did run away as Zionist forces took over more and more of mandate Palestine under the eyes of the British who were still nominally in control.
After the UN vote to partition Palestine into a “Jewish State” and an “Arab State”, in November 1947, Palestine was in chaos. Zionist forces, including the Irgun and the Stern Gang, were intent on seizing as much of the land of Palestine as they could. Attacks on Palestinian families were common, as were retaliatory strikes by Palestinian resistance groups.
As things got worse and worse, and as word of massacres spread, those Palestinians with money and connections decided to leave – at least temporarily. Fuad’s father was one of these. A moderately wealthy Christian businessman in Haifa, Palestine, Abboud decided to take his wife and kids to Lebanon until things settled down.
“I remember our last Xmas (1947) in Haifa was pretty grim. There was a lot of shooting, bomb explosions, all the window curtains were closed and we all had to stay indoors and away from the windows. Nobody knew if schools would open after the holidays. Britain was theoretically still in control but the British army did very little to protect civilians. The fatal shooting of a relative – he was a dentist and was shot while walking on the street in Haifa – was the event that triggered the flight of my family.”
In February 1948, Abboud senior closed up the family house, packed them all into a taxi for the 140 kilometre drive north to Beirut, Lebanon. Fuad, 9 years old at the time, remembers his father had even rolled up some of their family’s Persian carpets and put them on the roof of their taxi. Mr. Abboud expected to remain in Lebanon for several months and then return to his home and business in Haifa after the fighting had died down.
“My uncle and his family, who lived across the street from us, also fled to Lebanon, but my unmarried aunt who lived in the same house stayed behind. By April, she also had to flee. She related that two Zionist soldiers dressed in khaki shorts entered the house and started carting away the furniture. She tried to stop them so they threw her out. She first fled to a neighbouring Catholic convent and eventually joined the rest of the family in Lebanon.”
When the fighting ended, and an armistice was signed between Israel and Lebanon in May 1948, Israel closed the border. None of the Abbouds were ever allowed to return to recover any property left behind or to live in Haifa again.
Having denied their right to return, Israel then confiscated all the Abboud properties (along with the properties of tens of thousands of other Palestinian refugees.)
“The Government of Israel confiscated everything it could, not just land but everything it could lay its hands on – including furniture, personal belongings and my dad’s bank account with the British Barclays bank in Palestine, This made it very difficult for my dad who suddenly found himself nearly destitute overnight with 5 children to support.”
Fuad Abboud is now retired and living in Calgary Alberta. He still has the documentation which shows he is the rightful owner of a property in Haifa which his father had left him as an inheritance. It would now be worth several hundred thousand dollars.
Here he explains his situation in a short video.
AN ETHICAL QUESTION
What do you think? Should he get his property back? If not, why not? If yes, what about the tens of thousands of other Palestinians whose properties were confiscated by Israel? Did his father “leave of his own accord”? If so does this mean he forfeits the property? Legally? Ethically?
How is his situation different from that of German Jews, like Max Stern who had to sell off his art collection at bargain basement prices to be able to escape from Nazi Germany?Should we say Stern was “expelled” or did he just “run away”? In a recent article, the Globe and Mail seems to feel the Stern estate should get the art work back. I agree. But does this not apply equally to Fuad Abboud?
Your comments welcome.
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