Why do you say ‘expelled’? Didn’t their leadership tell them to flee?
Historical sources, including Israeli army documents, confirm that the displacement of most Palestinian residents took place during the first months of the war because of "military operations by Jewish fighting forces." The intimidation and expulsion of civilians was a deliberate Zionist tactic, along with forced deportations by foot or military trucks. The role of the Palestinian leadership was negligible.
Expelling people from their homes and lands and preventing their return is an extremely cruel practice that violates the most fundamental human rights, and it is therefore strictly forbidden by international law. The uprooting and dispossession of the Palestinian people, on the scale in which they were carried out, cannot be justified as a product of war. About 750,000 women and men became refugees in this war, and their property was expropriated. About half of them were driven out or expelled before Arab armies joined the war. The prevention of return is inexcusable and completely unrelated to the question of responsibility for the war.
The assumption that the outcomes of the 1948 war may be separated from everything that happened before and after it and that Israel can simply “move on” is based on the assumption of Jewish-Zionist supremacy that has no political, legal or moral justification. First, the deportation policy was not limited to wartime. Second, this notion completely erases the Palestinians: the catastrophe is far from over for Palestinians who are denied the right to visit the ruins of their village, for split families unable to rejoice or mourn together, for a Jaffaite whose sister is besieged in Gaza, or for a Hebronite prevented from wedding his Haifa sweetheart.
Palestinian refugeehood is often compared to other historical cases of ethnic cleansing throughout history in an attempt to excuse or justify it. No deportation is justified. Jews were also uprooted and deported with great cruelty, and this is one of the reasons the world recognized their right for a sovereign state. In several cases (including the present-day heirs of medieval Spain and Nazi Germany), the criminals have apologized after the fact, paid reparations, erected monuments, developed curricula, and enabled second- and third-generation victims to obtain citizenship and reclaim property. The same applies to Jews of Arab and Islamic countries who desire to return to their countries of origin. None of these steps have been implemented in the Palestinian context, and, moreover, the oppression continues apace.