The majority of the refugees still live within 100 km of the borders of Israel, the West Bank, and the Gaza Strip where their homes of origin are located. More than one and a quarter million Palestinian refugees live in 59 official refugee camps located in the West Bank, Gaza Strip, Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria. There are a smaller number of unofficial refugee camps. A large number of Palestinians have remained in camps after more than 50 years of exile due to several factors: family and village support structure in the camp; lack of resources for appropriate accommodations outside the camp; legal, political, and social obstacles; and physical safety. www.badil.org/Refugees/facts&figures.htm
Historians have argued over the causes of the Palestinian exodus. Some “pro-Israel” historians tend to say that the Palestinians left because they were ordered to and deliberately panicked by their own leaders, who wanted the area cleared for the 1948 war. “Pro-Arab and Palestinian” historians charge that the Palestinians were evicted at bayonet-point and deliberately incited to hysteria by the Zionists. Since the 1980s, Israeli "New Historians" have presented another viewpoint suggesting the deliberate displacement of Palestinians was a coordinated plan. [The New Historians are Israeli historians of 1948 Palestine. Much of their primary source material is from declassified Israeli government papers. They include Benny Morris, Ilan Pappe, Avi Shlaim, Tom Segev, and Simha Flapan. Some hold conservative political views, supporting expulsions.]
[For an interview with Benny Morris: www.pij.org/details.php?id=597">http://www.pij.org/details.php?id=597">www.pij.org/details.php?id=597
For a debate on the topic by Benny Morris, Norman Finklestein and Saree Makdisi:
Israelis celebrated 60 years of independence the week of May 8th. They invited foreign dignitaries, including President Bush, who was more than pleased with his warm welcome. Jewish people from across the globe came to celebrate the foundation of the nation of Israel. These visiting Jews were enthusiastically received with signs along the highways inviting them to make their home is Israel/Palestine.
Throughout Palestine, Palestinians remembered Al Nakba on May 15th by demonstrations, dancing, music, and workshops. In several locations, Palestinians flew a total of 21,915 black balloons equal to the days since the Nakba took place. [www.imemc.org/article/54877] One man told the MPTers that because Palestinians were such wonderful welcomers they are no longer welcome in our own country.
MPTers went to two remembrances of Al Nakba in sites in or near Bethlehem. The first was near the wall in the Aida Refugee camp. Here several hundred black balloons were sent up.
In the second remembrance, located in Al Khadr, the men prayed nonviolently on the road near the land confiscated from the village and then marched toward the end of the road leading out of Bethlehem where they were met by armed Israeli soldiers and coiled barbed wire.