Most of the Arabs who fled their homes in 1948 left out of fear of war, before they saw a single Zionist soldier. Even the New Wave historians agree that the waves of Arab flight until June 1948 were prompted by fear of war and that there were no expulsions at that point.
The interesting thing is that the first wave of those leaving, in December 1947 and January 1948, were the wealthy; many of the leaders left by June. The entire social structure of Arabs in Palestine collapsed, and as the Arab people saw their leaders abandon them, they left as well.
According to Efraim Karsh in April 1948 “some 100,000 Palestinians, mostly from the main urban centres of Jaffa, Haifa, and Jerusalem and from villages in the coastal plain, had gone. Within a month those numbers had nearly doubled; and by early June, … some 390,000 Palestinians had left.”30,000 Arabs, mostly intellectuals and members of the social elite, had fled Palestine in the months following the approval of the partition plan, undermining the social infrastructure of Palestine. A 10 May 1948 Time magazine article states: “Said one British official in Jerusalem last week: ‘The whole effendi class has gone. It is remarkable how many of the younger ones are suddenly deciding that this might be a good time to resume their studies at Oxford….'”Although the question seems rhetorical, it should be…