As Israel celebrates its sixtieth anniversary of independence, and the Palestinians commemorate what they call the Nakba (the catastrophe), there are endless discussions about what caused the exodus of perhaps 700,000 Palestinians. Did they simply run away, were they ‘encouraged to leave’, or were they deliberately expelled? The truth, doubtless, is a mixture of all three.
It’s curious, and deeply regrettable, that two simultaneous campaigns of ethnic cleansing which also took place in the remains of the Ottoman Empire, and which preceded the events of 1948 (and may have inspired them), have been little written about, at least by Western historians. The forced transfer of hundreds of thousands of Greeks from what is today’s Turkey and the concomitant expulsion of Muslims from Greece in the aftermath of the First World War constituted one of the terrible crimes of the last century, a true Nakba both for the victims and for Europe as a whole.
Almost two million people were caught up in this humanitarian catastrophe, which took place with the full blessing of the Western powers under the Treaty of Lausanne in 1923. Greeks who had lived for centuries in Anatolia and Turkish-speaking Muslims in Europe were expelled and dumped in supposed ‘homelands’ of