That Time Mahmoud Abbas Changed His Story About the Palestinian Refugees

We already know that PA President Mahmoud Abbas loves to change the palestinian narrative he puts forward. For instance, remember his claim at the UN the other day that the palestinians are “the descendants of the Canaanites that lived in the land of Palestine 5,000 years ago”? Well, he’s also claimed they descend from the Canaanites of 3,500 years ago, and the Philistines (a completely different people to the Canaanites) of 6,000 years ago. This all also contradicts a claim by his colleague Saeb Erekat, who claimed they are descended from Canaanites of 10,000 year ago.

Well, I’ve found another of his changing stories, this time regarding the palestinian refugees.

In 2014, Abbas told students in Ramallah:

Someone asked me: How [could we receive] Israeli citizenship? I said: You are returning to the state of Israel. After all, the refugees, numbered at five million, and their children – were all expelled from the 1948 territories. There is no refugee from Nablus or Ramallah. They are all from Tiberius, Acre, Safed, Nazareth, Jaffa or Beersheba. If you want to return to Israel and receive an Israeli citizenship or not – you are free [to decide].”

But almost 40 years earlier, he was quoted in the March 1976 issue of Falastine a-Thaura (then the official journal of the PLO in Beirut) as saying

“The Arab armies entered Palestine to protect the Palestinians from the Zionist tyranny but, instead, they abandoned them, forced them to emigrate and to leave their homeland, and threw them into prisons similar to the ghettos in which the Jews used to live.”

I think this is an example of Mahmoud Abbas realizing over the years that he better change the narrative to garner more sympathy for his cause. PLO members in Beirut in the 1970s were committed to Israel’s destruction anyway. Telling them the refugees were created because of actions of the Arab armies (and not expelled by Israel) wouldn’t change that. But students in Ramallah in 2014? Some might be more “enlightened”, and in need of some extra propaganda against Israel to generate more of that rage.

By the way, there’s another of his changing narratives in there as well. While he told the Ramallah students that the refugees “numbered at 5 million”, he mentioned 6 million during his recent UN speech.

Remember, if you have truth on your side, you don’t have to lie.


David Lange

A law school graduate, David Lange transitioned from work in the oil and hi-tech industries into fulltime Israel advocacy. He is a respected commentator and Middle East analyst who has often been cited by the mainstream media