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    david barrett


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The first 13 years!


What is Palestine? Who are the Palestinians?
What is Palestine?
Who are the Palestinians?

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PostThu May 01, 2008 3:23 pm     1948, The True Story    

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1948, Israel, and the Palestinians:
The True Story

Efraim Karsh
May 2008

Sixty years after its establishment by an internationally recognized act of self-determination, Israel remains the only state in the world that is subjected to a constant outpouring of the most outlandish conspiracy theories and blood libels; whose policies and actions are obsessively condemned by the international community; and whose right to exist is constantly debated and challenged not only by its Arab enemies but by segments of advanced opinion in the West.

During the past decade or so, the actual elimination of the Jewish state has become a cause célèbre among many of these educated Westerners. The “one-state solution,” as it is called, is a euphemistic formula proposing the replacement of Israel by a state, theoretically comprising the whole of historic Palestine, in which Jews will be reduced to the status of a permanent minority. Only this, it is said, can expiate the “original sin” of Israel’s founding, an act built (in the words of one critic) “on the ruins of Arab Palestine” and achieved through the deliberate and aggressive dispossession of its native population.

This claim of premeditated dispossession and the consequent creation of the longstanding Palestinian “refugee problem” forms, indeed, the central plank in the bill of particulars pressed by Israel’s alleged victims and their Western supporters. It is a charge that has hardly gone undisputed. As early as the mid-1950’s, the eminent American historian J.C. Hurewitz undertook a systematic refutation,[1] and his findings were abundantly confirmed by later generations of scholars and writers. Even Benny Morris, the most influential of Israel’s revisionist “new historians,” and one who went out of his way to establish the case for Israel’s “original sin,” grudgingly stipulated that there was no “design” to displace the Palestinian Arabs.[2]

The recent declassification of millions of documents from the period of the British Mandate (1920-1948) and Israel’s early days, documents untapped by earlier generations of writers and ignored or distorted by the “new historians,” paint a much more definitive picture of the historical record. They reveal that the claim of dispossession is not only completely unfounded but the inverse of the truth. What follows is based on fresh research into these documents, which contain many facts and data hitherto unreported.


Far from being the hapless objects of a predatory Zionist assault, it was Palestinian Arab leaders who from the early 1920’s onward, and very much against the wishes of their own constituents, launched a relentless campaign to obliterate the Jewish national revival. This campaign culminated in the violent attempt to abort the UN resolution of November 29, 1947, which called for the establishment of two states in Palestine. Had these leaders, and their counterparts in the neighboring Arab states, accepted the UN resolution, there would have been no war and no dislocation in the first place.

The simple fact is that the Zionist movement had always been amenable to the existence in the future Jewish state of a substantial Arab minority that would participate on an equal footing “throughout all sectors of the country’s public life.”[3] The words are those of Ze’ev Jabotinsky, the founding father of the branch of Zionism that was the forebear of today’s Likud party. In a famous 1923 article, Jabotinsky voiced his readiness “to take an oath binding ourselves and our descendants that we shall never do anything contrary to the principle of equal rights, and that we shall never try to eject anyone.”[4]

Eleven years later, Jabotinsky presided over the drafting of a constitution for Jewish Palestine. According to its provisions, Arabs and Jews were to share both the prerogatives and the duties of statehood, including most notably military and civil service. Hebrew and Arabic were to enjoy the same legal standing, and “in every cabinet where the prime minister is a Jew, the vice-premiership shall be offered to an Arab and vice-versa.”[5]

If this was the position of the more “militant” faction of the Jewish national movement, mainstream Zionism not only took for granted the full equality of the Arab minority in the future Jewish state but went out of its way to foster Arab-Jewish coexistence. In January 1919, Chaim Weizmann, then the upcoming leader of the Zionist movement, reached a peace-and-cooperation agreement with the Hashemite emir Faisal ibn Hussein, the effective leader of the nascent pan-Arab movement. From then until the proclamation of the state of Israel on May 14, 1948, Zionist spokesmen held hundreds of meetings with Arab leaders at all levels. These included Abdullah ibn Hussein, Faisal’s elder brother and founder of the emirate of Transjordan (later the kingdom of Jordan), incumbent and former prime ministers in Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, and Iraq, senior advisers of King Abdul Aziz ibn Saud (founder of Saudi Arabia), and Palestinian Arab elites of all hues.

As late as September 15, 1947, two months before the passing of the UN partition resolution, two senior Zionist envoys were still seeking to convince Abdel Rahman Azzam, the Arab League’s secretary-general, that the Palestine conflict “was uselessly absorbing the best energies of the Arab League,” and that both Arabs and Jews would greatly benefit “from active policies of cooperation and development.”6 Behind this proposition lay an age-old Zionist hope: that the material progress resulting from Jewish settlement of Palestine would ease the path for the local Arab populace to become permanently reconciled, if not positively well disposed, to the project of Jewish national self-determination. As David Ben-Gurion, soon to become Israel’s first prime minister, argued in December 1947:

If the Arab citizen will feel at home in our state, . . . if the state will help him in a truthful and dedicated way to reach the economic, social, and cultural level of the Jewish community, then Arab distrust will accordingly subside and a bridge will be built to a Semitic, Jewish-Arab alliance.[7]


On the face of it, Ben-Gurion’s hope rested on reasonable grounds. An inflow of Jewish immigrants and capital after World War I had revived Palestine’s hitherto static condition and raised the standard of living of its Arab inhabitants well above that in the neighboring Arab states. The expansion of Arab industry and agriculture, especially in the field of citrus growing, was largely financed by the capital thus obtained, and Jewish know-how did much to improve Arab cultivation. In the two decades between the world wars, Arab-owned citrus plantations grew sixfold, as did vegetable-growing lands, while the number of olive groves quadrupled.[8]

No less remarkable were the advances in social welfare. Perhaps most significantly, mortality rates in the Muslim population dropped sharply and life expectancy rose from 37.5 years in 1926-27 to 50 in 1942-44 (compared with 33 in Egypt). The rate of natural increase leapt upward by a third.[9]

That nothing remotely akin to this was taking place in the neighboring British-ruled Arab countries, not to mention India, can be explained only by the decisive Jewish contribution to Mandate Palestine’s socioeconomic well-being. The British authorities acknowledged as much in a 1937 report by a commission of inquiry headed by Lord Peel:

The general beneficent effect of Jewish immigration on Arab welfare is illustrated by the fact that the increase in the Arab population is most marked in urban areas affected by Jewish development. A comparison of the census returns in 1922 and 1931 shows that, six years ago, the increase percent in Haifa was 86, in Jaffa 62, in Jerusalem 37, while in purely Arab towns such as Nablus and Hebron it was only 7, and at Gaza there was a decrease of 2 percent.[10]

Had the vast majority of Palestinian Arabs been left to their own devices, they would most probably have been content to take advantage of the opportunities afforded them. This is evidenced by the fact that, throughout the Mandate era, periods of peaceful coexistence far exceeded those of violent eruptions, and the latter were the work of only a small fraction of Palestinian Arabs.[11] Unfortunately for both Arabs and Jews, however, the hopes and wishes of ordinary people were not taken into account, as they rarely are in authoritarian communities hostile to the notions of civil society or liberal democracy. In the modern world, moreover, it has not been the poor and the oppressed who have led the great revolutions or carried out the worst deeds of violence, but rather militant vanguards from among the better educated and more moneyed classes of society.

So it was with the Palestinians. In the words of the Peel report:

We have found that, though the Arabs have benefited by the development of the country owing to Jewish immigration, this has had no conciliatory effect. On the contrary . . . with almost mathematical precision the betterment of the economic situation in Palestine [has] meant the deterioration of the political situation.[12]

In Palestine, ordinary Arabs were persecuted and murdered by their alleged betters for the crime of “selling Palestine” to the Jews. Meanwhile, these same betters were enriching themselves with impunity. The staunch pan-Arabist Awni Abdel Hadi, who vowed to fight “until Palestine is either placed under a free Arab government or becomes a graveyard for all the Jews in the country,”[13] facilitated the transfer of 7,500 acres to the Zionist movement, and some of his relatives, all respected political and religious figures, went a step further by selling actual plots of land. So did numerous members of the Husseini family, the foremost Palestinian Arab clan during the Mandate period, including Muhammad Tahir, father of Hajj Amin Husseini, the notorious mufti of Jerusalem.[14]

It was the mufti’s concern with solidifying his political position that largely underlay the 1929 carnage in which 133 Jews were massacred and hundreds more were wounded—just as it was the struggle for political preeminence that triggered the most protracted outbreak of Palestinian Arab violence in 1936-39. This was widely portrayed as a nationalist revolt against both the ruling British and the Jewish refugees then streaming into Palestine to escape Nazi persecution. In fact, it was a massive exercise in violence that saw far more Arabs than Jews or Englishmen murdered by Arab gangs, that repressed and abused the general Arab population, and that impelled thousands of Arabs to flee the country in a foretaste of the 1947-48 exodus.[15]

Some Palestinian Arabs, in fact, preferred to fight back against their inciters, often in collaboration with the British authorities and the Hagana, the largest Jewish underground defense organization. Still others sought shelter in Jewish neighborhoods. For despite the paralytic atmosphere of terror and a ruthlessly enforced economic boycott, Arab-Jewish coexistence continued on many practical levels even during such periods of turmoil, and was largely restored after their subsidence. [16]


Against this backdrop, it is hardly to be wondered at that most Palestinians wanted nothing to do with the violent attempt ten years later by the mufti-led Arab Higher Committee (AHC), the effective “government” of the Palestinian Arabs, to subvert the 1947 UN partition resolution. With the memories of 1936-39 still fresh in their minds, many opted to stay out of the fight. In no time, numerous Arab villages (and some urban areas) were negotiating peace agreements with their Jewish neighbors; other localities throughout the country acted similarly without the benefit of a formal agreement.[17]

Nor did ordinary Palestinians shrink from quietly defying their supreme leadership. In his numerous tours around the region, Abdel Qader Husseini, district commander of Jerusalem and the mufti’s close relative, found the populace indifferent, if not hostile, to his repeated call to arms. In Hebron, he failed to recruit a single volunteer for the salaried force he sought to form in that city; his efforts in the cities of Nablus, Tulkarm, and Qalqiliya were hardly more successful. Arab villagers, for their part, proved even less receptive to his demands. In one locale, Beit Safafa, Abdel Qader suffered the ultimate indignity, being driven out by angry residents protesting their village’s transformation into a hub of anti-Jewish attacks. Even the few who answered his call did so, by and large, in order to obtain free weapons for their personal protection and then return home.[18]

There was an economic aspect to this peaceableness. The outbreak of hostilities orchestrated by the AHC led to a sharp drop in trade and an accompanying spike in the cost of basic commodities. Many villages, dependent for their livelihood on the Jewish or mixed-population cities, saw no point in supporting the AHC’s explicit goal of starving the Jews into submission.[19] Such was the general lack of appetite for war that in early February 1948, more than two months after the AHC initiated its campaign of violence, Ben-Gurion maintained that “the villages, in most part, have remained on the sidelines.”[20]

Ben-Gurion’s analysis was echoed by the Iraqi general Ismail Safwat, commander-in-chief of the Arab Liberation Army (ALA), the volunteer Arab force that did much of the fighting in Palestine in the months preceding Israel’s proclamation of independence. Safwat lamented that only 800 of the 5,000 volunteers trained by the ALA had come from Palestine itself, and that most of these had deserted either before completing their training or immediately afterward. Fawzi Qawuqji, the local commander of ALA forces, was no less scathing, having found the Palestinians “unreliable, excitable, and difficult to control, and in organized warfare virtually unemployable.”[21]

This view summed up most contemporary perceptions during the fateful six months of fighting after the passing of the partition resolution. Even as these months saw the all but complete disintegration of Palestinian Arab society, nowhere was this described as a systematic dispossession of Arabs by Jews. To the contrary: with the partition resolution widely viewed by Arab leaders as “Zionist in inspiration, Zionist in principle, Zionist in substance, and Zionist in most details” (in the words of the Palestinian academic Walid Khalidi),[22] and with those leaders being brutally candid about their determination to subvert it by force of arms, there was no doubt whatsoever as to which side had instigated the bloodletting.

Nor did the Arabs attempt to hide their culpability. As the Jews set out to lay the groundwork for their nascent state while simultaneously striving to convince their Arab compatriots that they would be (as Ben-Gurion put it) “equal citizens, equal in everything without any exception,” Palestinian Arab leaders pledged that “should partition be implemented, it will be achieved only over the bodies of the Arabs of Palestine, their sons, and their women.” Qawuqji vowed “to drive all Jews into the sea.” Abdel Qader Husseini stated that “the Palestine problem will only be solved by the sword; all Jews must leave Palestine.”[23]


They and their fellow Arab abetters did their utmost to make these threats come true, with every means at their disposal. In addition to regular forces like the ALA, guerrilla and terror groups wreaked havoc, as much among noncombatants as among Jewish fighting units. Shooting, sniping, ambushes, bombings, which in today’s world would be condemned as war crimes, were daily events in the lives of civilians. “[I]nnocent and harmless people, going about their daily business,” wrote the U.S. consul-general in Jerusalem, Robert Macatee, in December 1947,

are picked off while riding in buses, walking along the streets, and stray shots even find them while asleep in their beds. A Jewish woman, mother of five children, was shot in Jerusalem while hanging out clothes on the roof. The ambulance rushing her to the hospital was machine-gunned, and finally the mourners following her to the funeral were attacked and one of them stabbed to death.[24]

As the fighting escalated, Arab civilians suffered as well, and the occasional atrocity sparked cycles of large-scale violence. Thus, the December 1947 murder of six Arab workers near the Haifa oil refinery by the small Jewish underground group IZL was followed by the immediate slaughter of 39 Jews by their Arab co-workers,[25] just as the killing of some 100 Arabs during the battle for the village of Deir Yasin in April 1948[26] was “avenged” within days by the killing of 77 Jewish nurses and doctors en route to the Hadassah hospital on Mount Scopus.[27]

Yet while the Jewish leadership and media described these gruesome events for what they were, at times withholding details so as to avoid panic and keep the door open for Arab-Jewish reconciliation, their Arab counterparts not only inflated the toll to gigantic proportions but invented numerous nonexistent atrocities. The fall of Haifa (April 21-22), for example, gave rise to totally false claims of a large-scale slaughter, which circulated throughout the Middle East and reached Western capitals. Similarly false rumors were spread after the fall of Tiberias (April 18), during the battle for Safed (in early May), and in Jaffa, where in late April the mayor fabricated a massacre of “hundreds of Arab men and women.” Accounts of Deir Yasin in the Arab media were especially lurid, featuring supposed hammer-and-sickle tattoos on the arms of IZL fighters and accusations of havoc and rape.[28]

This scare-mongering was undoubtedly aimed at garnering the widest possible sympathy for the Palestinian plight and casting the Jews as brutal predators. But it backfired disastrously by spreading panic within the disoriented Palestinian society. That, in turn, helps explain why, by April 1948, after four months of seeming progress, this phase of the Arab war effort collapsed. (Still in the offing was the second, wider, and more prolonged phase involving the forces of the five Arab nations that invaded Palestine in mid-May.) For not only had most Palestinians declined to join the active hostilities, but vast numbers had taken to the road, leaving their homes either for places elsewhere in the country or fleeing to neighboring Arab lands.


Indeed, many had vacated even before the outbreak of hostilities, and still larger numbers decamped before the war reached their own doorstep. “Arabs are leaving the country with their families in considerable numbers, and there is an exodus from the mixed towns to the rural Arab centers,” reported Alan Cunningham, the British high commissioner, in December 1947, adding a month later that the “panic of [the] middle class persists and there is a steady exodus of those who can afford to leave the country.”[29]

Echoing these reports, Hagana intelligence sources recounted in mid-December an “evacuation frenzy that has taken hold of entire Arab villages.” Before the month was over, many Palestinian Arab cities were bemoaning the severe problems created by the huge influx of villagers and pleading with the AHC to help find a solution to the predicament. Even the Syrian and Lebanese governments were alarmed by this early exodus, demanding that the AHC encourage Palestinian Arabs to stay put and fight.[30]

But no such encouragement was forthcoming, either from the AHC or from anywhere else. In fact, there was a total lack of national cohesion, let alone any sense of shared destiny. Cities and towns acted as if they were self-contained units, attending to their own needs and eschewing the smallest sacrifice on behalf of other localities. Many “national committees” (i.e., local leaderships) forbade the export of food and drink from well-stocked cities to needy outlying towns and villages. Haifa’s Arab merchants refused to alleviate a severe shortage of flour in Jenin, while Gaza refused to export eggs and poultry to Jerusalem; in Hebron, armed guards checked all departing cars. At the same time there was extensive smuggling, especially in the mixed-population cities, with Arab foodstuffs going to Jewish neighborhoods and vice-versa.[31]

The lack of communal solidarity was similarly evidenced by the abysmal treatment meted out to the hundreds of thousands of refugees scattered throughout the country. Not only was there no collective effort to relieve their plight, or even a wider empathy beyond one’s immediate neighborhood, but many refugees were ill-treated by their temporary hosts and subjected to ridicule and abuse for their supposed cowardice. In the words of one Jewish intelligence report: “The refugees are hated wherever they have arrived.”[32]

Even the ultimate war victims—the survivors of Deir Yasin—did not escape their share of indignities. Finding refuge in the neighboring village of Silwan, many were soon at loggerheads with the locals, to the point where on April 14, a mere five days after the tragedy, a Silwan delegation approached the AHC’s Jerusalem office demanding that the survivors be transferred elsewhere. No help for their relocation was forthcoming.[33]

Some localities flatly refused to accept refugees at all, for fear of overstraining existing resources. In Acre (Akko), the authorities prevented Arabs fleeing Haifa from disembarking; in Ramallah, the predominantly Christian population organized its own militia—not so much to fight the Jews as to fend off the new Muslim arrivals. Many exploited the plight of the refugees unabashedly, especially by fleecing them for such basic necessities as transportation and accommodation.[34]

Yet still the Palestinians fled their homes, and at an ever growing pace. By early April some 100,000 had gone, though the Jews were still on the defensive and in no position to evict them. (On March 23, fully four months after the outbreak of hostilities, ALA commander-in-chief Safwat noted with some astonishment that the Jews “have so far not attacked a single Arab village unless provoked by it.”) By the time of Israel’s declaration of independence on May 14, the numbers of Arab refugees had more than trebled. Even then, none of the 170,000-180,000 Arabs fleeing urban centers, and only a handful of the 130,000-160,000 villagers who left their homes, had been forced out by the Jews.

The exceptions occurred in the heat of battle and were uniformly dictated by ad-hoc military considerations—reducing civilian casualties, denying sites to Arab fighters when there were no available Jewish forces to repel them—rather than political design.[35] They were, moreover, matched by efforts to prevent flight and/or to encourage the return of those who fled. To cite only one example, in early April a Jewish delegation comprising top Arab-affairs advisers, local notables, and municipal heads with close contacts with neighboring Arab localities traversed Arab villages in the coastal plain, then emptying at a staggering pace, in an attempt to convince their inhabitants to stay put.[36]


What makes these Jewish efforts all the more impressive is that they took place at a time when huge numbers of Palestinian Arabs were being actively driven from their homes by their own leaders and/or by Arab military forces, whether out of military considerations or in order to prevent them from becoming citizens of the prospective Jewish state. In the largest and best-known example, tens of thousands of Arabs were ordered or bullied into leaving the city of Haifa on the AHC’s instructions, despite strenuous Jewish efforts to persuade them to stay.[37] Only days earlier, Tiberias’ 6,000-strong Arab community had been similarly forced out by its own leaders, against local Jewish wishes.[38] In Jaffa, Palestine’s largest Arab city, the municipality organized the transfer of thousands of residents by land and sea;[39] in Jerusalem, the AHC ordered the transfer of women and children, and local gang leaders pushed out residents of several neighborhoods.[40]

Tens of thousands of rural villagers were likewise forced out by order of the AHC, local Arab militias, or the ALA. Within weeks of the latter’s arrival in Palestine in January 1948, rumors were circulating of secret instructions to Arabs in predominantly Jewish areas to vacate their villages so as to allow their use for military purposes and to reduce the risk of becoming hostage to the Jews.

By February, this phenomenon had expanded to most parts of the country. It gained considerable momentum in April and May as ALA and AHC forces throughout Palestine were being comprehensively routed. On April 18, the Hagana’s intelligence branch in Jerusalem reported a fresh general order to remove the women and children from all villages bordering Jewish localities. Twelve days later, its Haifa counterpart reported an ALA command to evacuate all Arab villages between Tel Aviv and Haifa in anticipation of a new general offensive. In early May, as fighting intensified in the eastern Galilee, local Arabs were ordered to transfer all women and children from the Rosh Pina area, while in the Jerusalem sub-district, Transjordan’s Arab Legion likewise ordered the emptying of scores of villages.[41]

As for the Palestinian Arab leaders themselves, who had placed their reluctant constituents on a collision course with Zionism in the 1920’s and 1930’s and had now dragged them helpless into a mortal conflict, they hastened to get themselves out of Palestine and to stay out at the most critical moment. Taking a cue from these higher-ups, local leaders similarly rushed en masse through the door. High Commissioner Cunningham summarized what was happening with quintessential British understatement:

You should know that the collapsing Arab morale in Palestine is in some measure due to the increasing tendency of those who should be leading them to leave the country. . . . For instance, in Jaffa the mayor went on four-day leave 12 days ago and has not returned, and half the national committee has left. In Haifa the Arab members of the municipality left some time ago; the two leaders of the Arab Liberation Army left actually during the recent battle. Now the chief Arab magistrate has left. In all parts of the country the effendi class has been evacuating in large numbers over a considerable period and the tempo is increasing.[42]

Arif al-Arif, a prominent Arab politician during the Mandate era and the doyen of Palestinian historians, described the prevailing atmosphere at the time: “Wherever one went throughout the country one heard the same refrain: ‘Where are the leaders who should show us the way? Where is the AHC? Why are its members in Egypt at a time when Palestine, their own country, needs them?’”[43]


Muhammad Nimr al-Khatib, a Palestinian Arab leader during the 1948 war, would sum up the situation in these words: “The Palestinians had neighboring Arab states which opened their borders and doors to the refugees, while the Jews had no alternative but to triumph or to die.”[44]

This is true enough of the Jews, but it elides the reason for the refugees’ flight and radically distorts the quality of their reception elsewhere. If they met with no sympathy from their brethren at home, the reaction throughout the Arab world was, if anything, harsher still. There were repeated calls for the forcible return of the refugees, or at the very least of young men of military age, many of whom had arrived under the (false) pretense of volunteering for the ALA. As the end of the Mandate loomed nearer, the Lebanese government refused entry visas to Palestinian males between eighteen and fifty and ordered all “healthy and fit men” who had already entered the country to register officially or be considered illegal aliens and face the full weight of the law.

The Syrian government took an even more stringent approach, banning from its territory all Palestinian males between sixteen and fifty. In Egypt, a large number of demonstrators marched to the Arab League’s Cairo headquarters and lodged a petition demanding that “every able-bodied Palestinian capable of carrying arms should be forbidden to stay abroad.” Such was the extent of Arab resentment toward the Palestinian refugees that the rector of Cairo’s al-Azhar institution of religious learning, probably the foremost Islamic authority, felt obliged to issue a ruling that made the sheltering of Palestinian Arab refugees a religious duty.[45]

Contempt for the Palestinians only intensified with time. “Fright has struck the Palestinian Arabs and they fled their country,” commented Radio Baghdad on the eve of the pan-Arab invasion of the new-born state of Israel in mid-May. “These are hard words indeed, yet they are true.” Lebanon’s minister of the interior (and future president) Camille Chamoun was more delicate, intoning that “The people of Palestine, in their previous resistance to imperialists and Zionists, proved they were worthy of independence,” but “at this decisive stage of the fighting they have not remained so dignified.”[46]

No wonder, then, that so few among the Palestinian refugees themselves blamed their collapse and dispersal on the Jews. During a fact-finding mission to Gaza in June 1949, Sir John Troutbeck, head of the British Middle East office in Cairo and no friend to Israel or the Jews, was surprised to discover that while the refugees

express no bitterness against the Jews (or for that matter against the Americans or ourselves) they speak with the utmost bitterness of the Egyptians and other Arab states. “We know who our enemies are,” they will say, and they are referring to their Arab brothers who, they declare, persuaded them unnecessarily to leave their homes. . . . I even heard it said that many of the refugees would give a welcome to the Israelis if they were to come in and take the district over.[47]


Sixty years after their dispersion, the refugees of 1948 and their descendants remain in the squalid camps where they have been kept by their fellow Arabs for decades, nourished on hate and false hope. Meanwhile, their erstwhile leaders have squandered successive opportunities for statehood.

It is indeed the tragedy of the Palestinians that the two leaders who determined their national development during the 20th century—Hajj Amin Husseini and Yasir Arafat, the latter of whom dominated Palestinian politics since the mid-1960’s to his death in November 2004—were megalomaniacal extremists blinded by anti-Jewish hatred and profoundly obsessed with violence. Had the mufti chosen to lead his people to peace and reconciliation with their Jewish neighbors, as he had promised the British officials who appointed him to his high rank in the early 1920’s, the Palestinians would have had their independent state over a substantial part of Mandate Palestine by 1948, and would have been spared the traumatic experience of dispersion and exile. Had Arafat set the PLO from the start on the path to peace and reconciliation, instead of turning it into one of the most murderous terrorist organizations in modern times, a Palestinian state could have been established in the late 1960’s or the early 1970’s; in 1979 as a corollary to the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty; by May 1999 as part of the Oslo process; or at the very latest with the Camp David summit of July 2000.

Instead, Arafat transformed the territories placed under his control in the 1990’s into an effective terror state from where he launched an all-out war (the “al-Aqsa intifada”) shortly after being offered an independent Palestinian state in the Gaza Strip and 92 percent of the West Bank, with East Jerusalem as its capital. In the process, he subjected the Palestinian population in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip to a repressive and corrupt regime in the worst tradition of Arab dictatorships and plunged their standard of living to unprecedented depths.
What makes this state of affairs all the more galling is that, far from being unfortunate aberrations, Hajj Amin and Arafat were quintessential representatives of the cynical and self-seeking leaders produced by the Arab political system. Just as the Palestinian leadership during the Mandate had no qualms about inciting its constituents against Zionism and the Jews, while lining its own pockets from the fruits of Jewish entrepreneurship, so PLO officials used the billions of dollars donated by the Arab oil states and, during the Oslo era, by the international community to finance their luxurious style of life while ordinary Palestinians scrambled for a livelihood.

And so it goes. Six decades after the mufti and his henchmen condemned their people to statelessness by rejecting the UN partition resolution, their reckless decisions are being reenacted by the latest generation of Palestinian leaders. This applies not only to Hamas, which in January 2006 replaced the PLO at the helm of the Palestinian Authority (PA), but also to the supposedly moderate Palestinian leadership—from President Mahmoud Abbas to Ahmad Qureia (negotiator of the 1993 Oslo Accords) to Saeb Erekat to prime minister Salam Fayad—which refuses to recognize Israel’s very existence as a Jewish state and insists on the full implementation of the “right of return.”

And so it goes as well with Western anti-Zionists who in the name of justice (no less) call today not for a new and fundamentally different Arab leadership but for the dismantlement of the Jewish state. Only when these dispositions change can Palestinian Arabs realistically look forward to putting their self-inflicted “catastrophe” behind them.

1 J.C. Hurewitz, The Struggle for Palestine (New York: Norton, 1950).

2 Benny Morris, The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem 1947-1949 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987), p. 286; Morris, The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem Revisited (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004), p. 588.

3 Vladimir Jabotinsky, The Jewish War Front (London: George Allen & Unwin, 1940), p. 216.

4 Originally published in Russian under the title “O Zheleznoi Stene,” in Rassvyet, Nov. 4, 1923, the “Iron Wall” was reprinted several times, including in The Jewish Herald (South Africa), Nov. 26, 1937 (internet ed. http://www.mideastweb.org/ironwall.htm).

5 Jabotinsky, The Jewish War Front, pp. 216-20.

6 A.S. Eban, “Note of Conversation with Abdel Rahman Azzam Pasha, London, Sept. 15, 1947,” in Neil Caplan, Futile Diplomacy (London: Frank Cass, 1986), Vol. 2, pp. 274-76.

7 David Ben-Gurion, Bama’araha (Tel Aviv: Mapai Publishing House, 1949), Vol. 4, Part 2, p. 265.

8 Palestine Royal Commission, Report. Presented to the Secretary of State for the Colonies in Parliament by Command of his Majesty, July 1937 (London: HMSO; rep. 1946; hereafter Peel Commission Report), pp. 94, 157-58; Z. Abramowitz and Y. Guelfat, Hameshek Ha’arvi Be’eretz Israel Uve’artzot Hamizrah Hatichon (Tel Aviv: Hakibbutz Hameuhad, 1944), pp. 48-50.

9 A Survey of Palestine. Prepared in December 1945 and January 1946 for the Information of the Anglo-American Committee of Enquiry (reprinted 1991 in full with permission from Her Majesty’s Stationary Office by the Institute for Palestine Studies, Washington D.C.), Vol. 2, pp. 708-15.

10 Peel Commission Report, p. 93 (vii).

11 For early manifestations of Arab-Jewish coexistence see, for example, Colonial Office, Palestine. Report on Palestine Administration, 1923 (London: HMSO, 1924), p. 26; Colonial Office, Palestine. Report on Palestine Administration, 1924 (London: HMSO, 1925), pp. 28, 32, 50; Colonial Office, Palestine. Report on Palestine Administration, 1926 (London: HMSO, 1927), p. 33; Colonial Office, Palestine: Report of the High Commissioner on the Administration of Palestine 1920-1925 (London: HMSO, 1925), pp. 40-41; Chaim Weizmann, “Progress and Problems,” Confidential Report to Colonial Office, Feb. 15, 1922, The Letters and Papers of Chaim Weizmann. Vol. I, Series B, August 1898-July 1931 (New Brunswick & Jerusalem: Transaction Books & Israel Universities Press, 1983), p. 366; Frederick H. Kisch, Palestine Diary (London: Victor Gollancz, 1938), pp. 48-49, 54, 73.

12 Peel Commission Report, pp. 63, 271.

13 “Conversation with Awni Abdel Hadi,” June 3, 1920, Hagana Archive (hereinafter HA), 80/145/11.

14 Kenneth W. Stein, The Land Question in Palestine, 1917-1939 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1984), pp. 182, 228-39.

15 While in 1936, according to official British statistics, 195 Arabs were killed by their Arab brothers, compared with 37 Britishmen and 80 Jews, two years later these figures rose to 503 Arab fatalities, compared with 255 and 77 Jewish and British deaths respectively. Fatalities in 1939 remained on a similar level: 414 Palestinian Arabs murdered by Arab gangs, as opposed to 94 Jews and 37 Brits. Some Palestinian Arab sources put the number of murdered Arabs at a staggering 3,000-4,500.

In a letter to Abdel Qader Husseini on November 18, 1938, Hassan Saleme, styling himself “Leader of Jaffa, Ramallah, and Lydda Area,” informed his fellow gang leader that “complaints are being received from the villagers of the Jerusalem District as a result of pillaging, looting, killing, and torturing committed by some of the vile people who are wearing the clothing of the holy warriors [i.e., members of “the Holy Jihad,” as Abdel Qader’s force was called]. . . . I admit that there are among the murdered people some who have been sentenced to death, but what are the faults of the innocent whose money is stolen, whose cattle are looted, whose women are violated, whose jewels are pillaged, and who suffer in many other ways of which you have undoubtedly heard? Our rebellion has become a rebellion against the villages and not one against the Government or the Jews.”

See: A Survey of Palestine, Vol. 1, pp. 38, 46, 49; General Staff H.Q., Jerusalem, “History of the Disturbances in Palestine 1936-1939,” Dec. 1939, Public Record Office (hereinafter PRO), WO 191/88; Kenneth Waring, “Arab Against Arab: Evidence of Rebel Documents,” Times, Jan. 18, 1939. For an annotated Hebrew translation of a comprehensive collection of original documents of the Arab gangs see Ezra Danin (ed.), Te’udot Udmuyot Meginzei Haknufiot Ha’arviot Bemoraot 1936-1939 (Jerusalem: Magnes Press, 1981; first published in 1944).

16 Thus, for example, Arab purchases of Jewish wheat dropped dramatically in 1937 but rose sharply the following year owing to particularly poor crops, with some 70 percent of the Jewish wheat sold to the Arab sector. Conversely, prior to the 1936-39 violence, about a third of the Palestinian Arab agricultural output was sold to the Jewish sector. Even land sales to Jews continued apace, with the lion’s share of the 1,300-plus transactions in 1936-39 involving ordinary people. Likewise, when in December 1938 the Jewish workers of the port of Haifa refused service to a German ship after a German naval officer insulted a Jewish porter, their Arab colleagues swiftly followed suit.
See Abramowitz and Guelfat Hameshek Ha’arvi, pp. 99-105; Stein, The Land Question, p. 182; “Minutes of the Meeting of the Jewish Agency’s Executive,” Jan. 1, 1939, David Ben-Gurion Archive, Sde Boker (hereinafter BGA).

17 See, for example, Hashmona’i to Ben Yehuda, “Relations with Neighboring Villages, Dec. 24, 1947, Israel Defense Forces Archives (hereinafter IDFA) 1948/500/28; Hashmona’i to Shadmi, “The Suba Village,” Dec. 22, 1947, IDFA, 1948/500/32; 01104 to Tene, “Relations between Qatanna and Ma’ale Hahamisha,” Dec. 23, 1947, ibid.; Yavne, “Beit Hanina,” Jan. 2, 1947 & “The Qiryat Anavim-Abu Gosh Area” Jan. 7, 1948, HA 105/72, pp. 27-28; 01123 to Tene, “An Arab Peace Overture,” Jan. 14, 1948, ibid., p. 46; Segal to Ben Yehuda, “Peace with Maliha, Jan. 10, 1948, IDFA 1949/2644/402; Zafrira Din, “Interview with Josh Palmon on June 28, 1989,” HA 80/721/3; Noam, “Aqir’s Peace Overture,” Dec. 12, 1947, HA 105/72, p. 6; Tzefa, “Peace Offer by Ghuweir Abu Shusha,” Dec. 16, 1948, ibid.; Tiroshi, “Requests by Neighborhood Arabs for Peace with the Jews,” Dec. 18, 1947, ibid., p. 8; “01112 to Tene, “Kafr Qara and Kfar Glikson,” Jan. 25, 1948, ibid., p. 68; 01101 to Tene, “Meeting between the Ard Saris Mukhtar and Dr. Bihem, Head of the Kfar Atta Municipality,” Jan. 22, 1948, ibid., p. 71; “Tene News—Daily Summary,” Dec. 16, 1947, HA 105/61, p. 59; “For Our Members, Daily News Bulletin No. 19,” Dec. 31, 1947, ibid., p. 127; “Fortnightly Intelligence Newsletter No. 58,” issued by HQ British Troops in Palestine (for the period 2359 hrs 18 Dec. 47-2359 hrs 1 Jan. 48), PRO, WO 275/64, p. 2.

18 See, for example, Naim, “In the Villages,” Dec. 25, 1947, HA 105/22, p. 123; 00004 to Tene, “Qalandiya Opposes Gang Concentrations,” Dec. 30, 1947, IDFA 1948/500/28; Yavne, “Occurrences in Romema,” Jan. 2, 1948, HA 105/72, p. 27; Yavne, “Silwan-Ramat Rahel,” Jan. 1, 1948, ibid., p. 30; Yavne, “Dissatisfaction with Abdel Qader Husseini,” ibid., p. 32; Qiryat Anavim people to Yavne, “Qatanna Residents Expelled an Arab Gang from the Village,” Jan. 5, 1948, ibid., p. 32; 02104 to Tene, “Workers from Maliha and Qaluniya who Refuse to Attack Jews,” Jan. 7, 1948, ibid., p. 33; 00004 to Tene, “Meeting of Bani Hassan in Maliha to Discuss Attitude to Armed Gangs,” Jan. 14, 1948, ibid., p. 46; 02204 to Tene, “Maliha,” Jan. 14, 1948, ibid., p. 47; 02204 to Tene, “Qattana,” Jan. 17, 1948, ibid., p. 50; 02104 to Tene, “Anti-Gang Resistance,” Jan. 28, 1948, ibid., p. 72; 02104 to Tene, “Refusal to Provide Volunteers,” Feb. 1, 1948, ibid., p. 76; 02104 to Tene, “Villages’ Fear of Retaliation,” Feb. 1, 1948, ibid., p. 80; Yavne, “Battir and other Villages,” Feb. 4, 1948, ibid., p. 84; 02204 to Tene, “Opposition to Abdel Qader’s Operation by Qastel,” Feb. 6, 1948, ibid., p. 91; Yavne to Tene, “Shu’afat,” Feb. 24, 1948, ibid., p. 114; Hiram to Tene, “Shafa’amr,” Feb. 26, 1948, ibid., p. 116; “Tene News,” Dec. 31, 1947 & Jan. 2-4, 1948, HA 105/61, pp. 121-22, 158-59; “Annex to News Concentration No. 100,” Feb. 20 & 24, 1948, IDFA 1949/2605/2; “Maliha,” Jan. 1, 1948, IDFA 1949/2504/4; log of events in Suba, Mar. 2-Apr. 13, 1948, IDFA 1949/5545/114, p. 141.

19 “For Our Members. Daily Information Circular No. 12,” Dec. 21, 1947, HA 105/61, p. 70; “Tene New,” Dec. 31, 1947, ibid., p. 125; Avram, “Jammasin: News Items,” Jan. 9, 1948, HA 105/23, p. 114; Tiroshi, “Dispatch of Arab Merchandise,” Dec. 15, 1947, HA 105/72, p. 7; Naim to Tene, “Position of the Gaza Felaheen,” Feb. 15, 1948, ibid., p. 103; Naim to Tene, “Evacuation of the Wahidat Territory,” Feb. 22, 1948, ibid., p. 111; 00004 to Tene, “Moods in Sur Bahir,” Dec. 22, 1947, IDFA 1948/500/60; Avram, “The Miska Arabs,” Jan. 8, 1948, HA 105/54a, p. 19; Hiram to Tene, “Meeting between the Yehiam Mukhtar and Tarshiha’s Mayor,” Feb. 22, 1948, ibid., p. 31; Tiroshi to Tene, “Appeal for a Ceasefire and Good Neighborly Relations,” Apr. 7, 1948, ibid., p. 53; Tiroshi to Tene, “Peace Overtures by Baqa Gharbiya,” Apr. 20, 1948, ibid., p. 79; Grar to Tene, “Yasur,” Apr. 21, 1948, ibid., p. 84.

20 David Ben-Gurion, Behilahem Israel (Tel Aviv: Mapai Publishing House, 1951; third ed.), pp. 28, 43, 54; Ben-Gurion, Bama’araha, Vol. 4, Part 2, p. 284.

21 Meahorei Hapargod (Hebrew edition of an official report by an Iraqi parliamentary committee on the 1948 war, published in September 1949; Tel Aviv: Ma’arachot, 1954), pp. 9, 98-99; “Fortnightly Intelligence Newsletter No. 64,” issued by HQ British Troops in Palestine (for the period 2359 hrs 10 Mar.-2359 hrs 23 Mar. 48), PRO, WO 275/64, p. 4. Arif al-Arif, al-Nakba: Nakbat Bait al-Maqdis wa-l-Firdaws al-Mafqud (Beirut: al-Maktaba al-Asriya, 1956), Vol. 1, pp. 138-39.

22 Walid Khalidi, From Haven to Conquest: Readings in Zionism and the Palestine Problem Until 1948 (Washington, D.C.: Institute for Palestine Studies, 1987), p. lxix.

23 Ben-Gurion, Bama’araha, Vol. 4, Part 2, p. 260; Hebrew translation of Hajj Amin Husseini’s interview with Le Journal d’Egypt on Nov. 10, 1947, HA, 105/105a, p. 47; Radio Beirut, Nov. 12, 1947, in Foreign Broadcasts Information Service (FBIS), European Section: Near & Middle East and North African Transmitters, 13 Nov. 1947, II2, 5; “Fortnightly Intelligence Newsletter No. 64,” issued by HQ British Troops in Palestine (for the period 2359 hrs 10 Mar.-2359 hrs 23 Jan. 48), PRO, WO 275/64, p. 4; Arab Press Service (Cairo), FBIS, European Section: Near & Middle East and North African Transmitters, Dec. 16, 1947, II1; “Weekly Summary for the Alexandroni Brigade, Mar. 2, 1948,” HA 105/143, p. 105; “In the Arab Public,” Mar. 30, 1948, HA 105/100, p. 14.

24 Macatee to Secretary of State, Dec. 31, 1947, National Archives, Washington, D.C. (hereinafter NA), RG 84/800, pp. 1-2.

25 According to a report by the Palestine Post’s Haifa correspondent, the Arab workers in the refinery set upon their Jewish colleagues already before the IZL’s bombing (from Sakran to Tene, Dec. 31, 1947, IDFA 1949/481/62). This claim was amplified by an IZL radio broadcast on January 4, 1948, which pointed out that prior to the bombing Armenian workers at the plant had warned their Jewish friends of an imminent attack, and some Jewish workers took notice and left before the massacre. The broadcast also noted the pre-positioning of cold arms throughout the plant and the fact that the massacres ensued in the farthest corner of the refinery, some two miles from the bombing, where the explosion could not be heard. See, David Niv, Ma’arahot Ha’irgun Hatzva’i Hale’umi (Tel Aviv: Hadar, 1980), Vol. 6, pp. 19-20. For contemporary reports on the massacre, see: “Report of the Communal Commission of Inquiry on the Haifa Refinery’s Disaster (Dec. 30, 1947), Jan. 25, 1948, HA 80/460/11; “The Refinery Massacre,” HA 80/460/11; “Information Bulletin,” No. 30, Dec. 30, 1947, HA 105/61, p. 117; “To Our Members—Daily information Bulletin,” Dec. 31, 1947, HA 105/61, p. 126.

26 The IZL categorically denied any massacres, claiming that the casualties had been caused in the course of heavy fighting. The eminent Palestinian historian Arif al-Arif concedes the occurrence of heavy fighting. He claims that the villagers killed more than 100 Jewish fighters (the actual figure was four dead and 32 wounded), but alleges that only seven of the 110 Arab fatalities were killed in action and that the rest were peaceful civilians murdered in their homes (al-Nakba, p. 173). By contrast, a Hagana intelligence report issued three days after the event underscores the operational incompetence and disarray of the attacking forces, as well as their lack of discipline (manifested inter alia in acts of plunder), but makes no mention of a massacre. al-Nakba, p. 173; Yavne to Tene, “The Etzel and Lehi Operation in Deir Yasin,” Apr. 12, 1948, IDFA 1948/500/35; Irgun Command, “Statement on the Deir Yasin Affair” & “Statement” & “Condemn the Hypocrisy,” April 1948, Irgun Archive (hereinafter IA), K4-4/10. For mid-1950’s affidavits of battle participants denying any massacre see: IA, K4-1/10, 9/10. An extensive collection of press and scholarly writings can be found in IDFA 2004/26/70. See also: “Deir Yasin Occupied by the Irgun and Lehi” & “The Jewish Agency Condemns the Irgun and Lehi Operation in Deir Yasin” & “The Chief Rabbinate Strongly Condemns the Deir Yasin Incident,” Ha’aretz, Apr. 11, 12, 1948; “Battle Participant Evidence: 60 Hours in Deir Yasin,” Mivrak, Apr. 19, 1948, IA K4; High Commissioner for Palestine to Secretary of State for the Colonies, “Deir Yasin,” Apr. 13, 1948, Cunningham Papers, Middle East Center, St. Antony’s College, Oxford University; High Commissioner for Palestine to Secretary of State for the Colonies, “Weekly Intelligence Appreciation,” Apr. 17, 1948, Cunningham Papers; “An Arab from Deir Yasin Reveals on the Deir Yasin Anniversary: The Jews Didn’t Plan a Massacre but Conducted a Battle,” Herut, Jun. 3, 1953; “Prime Minister Menachem Begin in Interview with Lord Bethel: Deir Yasin–a tragedy in the Irgun’s history, but casualties were caused in the course of fighting; there was no massacre,” Yediot Aharonot, Jun. 22, 1979.

27 Dov Joseph, The Faithful City: the Siege of Jerusalem, 1948 (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1960), pp. 74-75; Harry Levin, Jerusalem Embattled. A Diary of the City under Siege, March 25, 1948 to July 18, 1948 (London: Victor Gollancz, 1950), p. 70; Jerusalem Headquarters, “Haddassah University, Feb. 17-Jun. 22, 1948,” IDFA 1948/500/44; “Conclusions of the Commission of Inquiry about the Sheik Jarah Disaster of Apr. 13, 1948,” Apr. 18, 1948 HA 57/95; “Report by Shalom Hurwitz on the Mount Scopus Convoy Disaster in Sheik Jarah on Apr. 13, 1948,” Jun. 6, 1948, BGA.

28 Cunningham to Creech-Jones, Apr. 25 & 28, 1948, Cunningham Papers, III/4/52 & III/4/117; Tzuri to Tene, “News Items about the Tiberias Exodus,” Apr. 21, 1948, HA 105/257, p. 347; “Tene News—Daily Summary,” Apr. 18, 1948, HA 105/62, p. 93; Kenneth W. Bilby, New Star in the Near East (New York: Doubleday, 1950), p. 30; Filastin, Apr. 13, 14, 16, 1948; al-Difa, Apr. 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 1948; Radio Jerusalem in Arabic to the Middle East, Apr. 13, 1948 & Radio Damascus, Apr. 14, 1948, in FBIS, Apr. 15, 1948, p. II4; Radio al-Sharq al-Adna (Jerusalem), Apr. 15, 1948, ibid., Apr. 16, 1948, p. II5; BBC Television Channel 2, “The Fifty Years War: Israel and the Arabs,” Program 1, broadcast on Mar. 15, 1998.

29 From Palestine (General Sir A. Cunningham) to the Secretary of State for the Colonies, “Weekly intelligence Appreciation,” Dec. 22, 1947, Cunningham Papers; from Palestine (General Sir A. Cunningham) to the Secretary of State for the Colonies, “Weekly intelligence Appreciation,” Jan. 24, 1948, PRO, CO 537/3869.

30 “Tene News—Daily summary,” Dec. 16, 1947, HA 105/61, p. 59; “For Our Members, Daily News Bulletin No. 19,” Dec. 31, 1947, ibid., p. 127; al-Ayam (Damascus), Dec. 21, 1947, as brought in “News on Arab Military Preparations,” Jan. 1, 1948, Central Zionist Archives (CZA), S25/3999.

31 Hashmona’i, “News Items: Economy,” Feb. 2, 1948, IDFA 1948/500/60; “In the Arab Camp: News Summary,” Feb. 29 & Mar. 28, 1948, IDFA 2004/535/479, pp. 3-4; “Yishuv Circular No. 16,” Jan. 31, 1948, K4-31/1/12, IA; Committee for Economic Defense, “News from the Arab Economy, Bulletin No. 6,” Apr. 17-19, 1948, HA 105/143, p. 240.

32 Hayogev, Jan. 5, 1948, HA 105/215a, p. 48; “Among the Arabs,” Feb. 22, 1948, IDFA 1948/500/60; 02204 to Tene, “The Lifta People’s Position,” Feb. 9, 1948, HA 105/32a, p. 61; Tiroshi to Tene, “Situation of the Refugees,” Apr. 12, 1948, HA 105/257; Tiroshi, “Summary of News for the Alexandroni Brigade,” Apr. 16, 1948, HA 105/143, p. 231; Director of Operations/Intelligence Directorate, “News Summary on the Eastern and Northern Fronts,” Jun. 3, 1948, IDFA 1975/922/1044; “Arab News Items,” Apr. 25, 1948, IDFA 1948/500/55; “Annexes to News Bulletin No. 205,” Apr. 29, 1948, IDFA 1949/2605/2.

33 “Annexes to News Bulletin No. 185,” Apr. 20, 1948, IDFA 1949/2605/2; “Deir Yasin,” Apr. 17, 1948, IDFA 1949/2605/6, p. 7.

34 Hiram to Tene, “Acre Inhabitants and Defenders Refuse to Receive More Refugees,” Apr. 27, 1948, HA 105/257.

35 Thus, for example, after an attack on Ramat Hakovesh (on April 19) by the neighboring village of Miska, the kibbutz mukhtar told the villagers to leave or bear the consequences of their aggression, which they did. Likewise, in the midst of a Jewish operation in the eastern Galilee, the secretary of kibbutz Genossar, together with the mukhtar of the Arab village of Majdal, convinced the Majdal inhabitants to vacate the village and surrender their weapons. In Khirbat Beit Lid and Khirbat Azzun, the villagers were advised to leave since the Jewish forces would not be able to ensure their safety. See: Tiroshi, “Summary of News for the Alexandroni Brigade, Apr. 27, 1948,” HA 105/143, p. 235; Tiroshi to Tene, “Vacation of Miska,” Apr. 27, 1948, HA 105/257, p. 79; Tzuri to Tene, “Arab Majdal,” Apr. 23, 1948, ibid., p. 4; Tiroshi to Tene, “Departure of Arabs from the Neighborhood,” Apr. 16, 1948, ibid., p. 89; Tiroshi to Tene, “Vacation of Khirbat Azzun,” Apr. 20, 1948, ibid., p. 3.

36 Ezra Danin, Zioni Bekhol Tnai (Jerusalem: Kidum, 1987), Vol. 1, pp. 216-17; Zafrira Din, “Interview with Josh Palmon on June 28, 1989,” HA 80/721/3.

37 I have documented the Haifa episode at some length in “Nakbat Haifa: the Collapse and Dispersion of a Major Palestinian Community,” Middle Eastern Studies, Vol. 37, No. 4 (October 2001), pp. 25-70.

38 A fortnight after the exodus, British High Commissioner Cunningham reported to London that the Tiberias Jews “would welcome [the] Arabs back” (High Commissioner for Palestine to Secretary of State, May 5, 1948, Cunningham Papers). See also: Tzuri to Golani, “News Summary: Tiberias,” Apr. 21, 1948, HA 105/143, p. 275; Hagana Operational Directorate, “Logbook of the War of Independence, p. 260; MacMillan, “Palestine: Narrative of Events,” Apr. 17/18, 18, 1948, p. 37.

39 See, for example, Qiryati-Dafna to all fronts, “Occurrences in Jaffa, [Apr.] 11, 1948-[Apr.] 20, 0740,” May 2, 1948, IDFA 1949/8275/162; Palestine (Cunningham) to the Secretary of State for the Colonies, May 1, 1948, FO 371/68547/E5665/4/71.

40 Tene to Dan & Hillel, Nov. 30, 1947, HA 105/61, p. 5; 00004 to Tene, “Report Summary, Dec. 7, 1947,” HA 105/61, p. 9; Yavne to Tene, “For Our Members in the Bases,” Dec. 9, 1947, ibid., p. 18; “For Our Members in the Bases,” Bulletin Nos. 15 & 16, Dec. 10 & 11, 1947, ibid., pp. 24, 37; Yavne, “Evacuation of Women and Children from Lifta,” Dec. 28, 1947, HA 105/215, p. 23; 00004 to Tene, “Arabs Erecting Military Posts in Lifta,” Dec. 14, 1947, IDFA 1949/5253/104; “The Old City,” Dec. 26, 1947, ibid.; “Families Leaving Lifta,” Jan. 1, 1948, ibid.; Hashmona’i, “Demographic Changes in Jerusalem,” Jan. 25, 1948, IDFA 1948/500/60; “In the Arab Camp,” Jan. 25, 1948, ibid.; “Anger in Beit Safafa over the use of the Village by Armed Gangs for Attacks on Mekor Haim,” Jan. 28, 1948, ibid.; “Beit Safafa” & “The Evacuation of Beit Safafa,” Feb. 15 & 18, 1948, ibid.; Yavne to Tene, “Deir Abu Tur,” Feb. 21, 1948, HA 105/215, p. 81; Hashmona’i, “Annexes to News Concentration No. 114,” Mar. 16, 1948, IDFA 1949/2605/2; 01204 (Hatzil) to Tene, Jan. 21, 1948, HA 105/72, p. 52; Yavne to Tene, “Complain by the Beit Safafa Mukhtar to the NC,” Feb. 16, 1948, ibid., p. 105; “In the Arab Camp: News Summary,” Mar. 14, 1948, p. 2, IDFA 2004/535/479; “In the Arab Camp: News Summary,” Mar. 29, 1948, p. 2, ibid.; Yavne to Tene, Feb. 15, 1948, HA 105/215, p. 41.

41 “Tene News,” Jan. 19, 1948, HA 105/61a, p. 85; 02117 to Tene, “In Wadi Hunein,” Jan. 5, 1948, HA 105/148, p. 195; Tiroshi to Tene, “Dannaba,” Feb. 17, 1948, ibid., p. 219; 01132 to Tene, “Vacation of Mir,” Feb. 8, 1948 & “The Evacuation of Jamala,” Feb. 8, 1948, HA 105/215, p. 44; Tiroshi to Tene, “Arab Hawarith,” Feb. 18, 1948, ibid., p. 14; Avram to Tene, “Reinforcement from Syria,” Feb. 11, 1948, HA 105/215a, p. 83; “Arab News Items,” Apr. 17, 1948, IDFA 1948/500/55; 02112 to Tene, “Arab al-Fuqara,” Feb. 9, 1948, IDFA 1949/6400/66; 02122 to Tene, “From Salim Abdel Rahman,” Dec. 12, 1947, ibid.; 01122 to Tene, “Assorted News Items,” Dec. 2, 1947, ibid.; “Annexes to News Bulletin No. 114,” Mar. 16, 1948, IDFA 1949/2605/2; “Annexes to News Bulletin No. 122,” Mar. 23, 1948, ibid.; “Annexes to News Bulletin No. 126,” Mar. 30, 1948, ibid.; “Urgent Arab News Items,” Mar. 29, 1948, IDFA 1948/550/55; Tzefa to Tene, “Vacation of Khisas,” Mar. 26, 1948, HA 105/257, p. 106; Tzefa to Tene, “Ulmaniya and Waddi Luz,” Mar. 5, 1948, ibid., p. 33; Tiroshi to Tene, “Bureika,” Mar. 6, 1948, ibid., p. 33; Yavne to Tene, “Isawiya,” Mar. 30, 1948, ibid.; Tzefa to Tene, “Vacation of Women and Children from Arab Villages in the Upper Galilee,” Feb. 25, 1948, HA 105/215, p. 20; Tiroshi to Tene, “Sarkas,” Feb. 19, 1948, ibid.; p. 14; Tiroshi to Tene, “Arab al-Nufeiat,” Mar. 30, 1948 & “Sarkas,” Apr. 20 & “Evacuation of Sarkas,” Apr. 22, IDFA 1949/6400/66; Alexandroni “Sarkas,” Mar. 11, 1948, ibid.; Yosef Weitz, Yomanai Ve’igroti Labanim (Tel Aviv: Masada, 1965), Vol. 3, pp. 257, 277; Yavne to Tene, “Deprature of Inhabitants and Entry of Foreigners,” Apr. 18, 1948, HA 105/257; Hiram to Tene, “Arab Propaganda Regarding Evacuations,” Apr. 30, 1948, ibid.; Tene, “Migration of the Palestinian Arabs in the Period 1.12.47-1.6.48. Annex 1: Vacated Arab Villages,” June 30, 1948, IDFA, 1957/100001/781, p. 4; Naim to Tene, “Evacuation of Arabs,” Apr. 8, 1948, HA 105/143, pp. 171, 185; Yavne, “Arab News Items,” Apr. 27, 30, 1948, ibid., pp. 309, 319; Tzuri to Tene, “Assorted News,” May 6, 1948, ibid., p. 343; Naim to Tene, “Vacation of Sarafand Kharab,” Apr. 8, 1948, HA 105/257, p. 290; Tzefa to Tene, “Vacation of Arab Villages,” Apr. 6, 1948, ibid., pp. 24, 53; Tiroshi to Tene, “Fajja Vacated of its Residents,” Apr. 14, 1948, ibid., p. 8; Tiroshi to Tene, “Partial Vacation of Qannir,” Apr. 29, 1948 & “The Qannir Residents Moved to Arara,” Apr. 29 & “Qanir,” May 3, 1948, IDFA 1949/7249/129; Yosef Weitz diary, May 4, 1948, CZA, A246/13, pp. 2373-74; Hiram to Tene, “Vacation of the Arab Zubeidat Tribe,” Apr. 16, 1948, HA 105/54a, p. 67; report by an Arab source on the Arab Legion’s order to vacate villages, May 12, 1948, IDFA 1949/5545/114, p. 11.

42 Cunningham to Secretary of State for the Colonies, Apr. 26, 1948, Cunningham Papers; “Fortnightly Intelligence Newsletter No. 67,” issued by HQ British Troops in Palestine (for the period 2359 hrs 19 Apr.-2359 hrs 3 May 48), PRO, WO 275/64, p. 1. See also: General Sir A. Cunningham to the Secretary of State for the Colonies, “Weekly Intelligence Appreciation,” May 1, 1948, PRO, CO 537/3869.

43 Arif, al-Nakba, p. 179.

44 Muhammad Nimr Khatib, Min Athar al-Nakba (Damascus: al-Matba’a al-Amumiya, 1951), p. 287.

45 Beirut Radio, May 4, 1948, FBIS, European Section: Near & Middle East and North African Transmitters, May 5, 1948, II2; “Summary of News for the Alexandroni Brigade,” Apr. 9, 1948, HA 105/143, p. 174; Philip Ernst (American Consul in Port Said) to Department of State, “Arrival of Palestine Arab Refugees,” Apr. 29, 1948 (dispatched May 11), RG 84, 800–Refugees; Beirut Radio, Apr. 25, 1948, SWB, No. 48, Apr. 29, 1948, p. 60; Campbell (Cairo) to High Commissioner for Palestine, May 1, 1948, Cunningham Papers.

46 Beirut Radio, May 7, 1948, in BBC Summary of World Broadcasts: Western Europe, Middle East, Far East, and Americas (SWB), No. 50, May 13, 1948, Part III, p. 57.

47 Sir J. Troutbeck, “Summary of general impressions gathered during week-end visit to the Gaza district,” June 16, 1949, PRO, FO 371/75342/E7816, p. 123.



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PostSun May 04, 2008 5:11 am        

Reply with quote

Israel's never-ending battle.

By Ted Belman

As the West ups the pressure on Israel to capitulate to Arab demands and return to the armistice lines, it is important to remember that all of Judea and Samaria were held in trust for the Jewish state from the singing of the Palestine Mandate in 1922, if not earlier from the time the San Remo Conference awarded these lands to the Jews.

Throughout the thirties and forties the Arabs, with the Support of Great Britain, the Mandatory Power charged with the responsibilities of holding the land for the Jews, tried to thwart the intent of the Mandate and prevent the Jewish state from coming into being. Even the US helped in this endeavour. In 1947, UNGA Resolution 181, recommended a detailed plan for the Partition of Palestine knowing full well that such a resolution was contrary to the sacred trust for the Jews set out in the Mandate. Ben Gurion, knowing, how the winds had been blowing, decided that a half a loaf was better than no loaf and went for the deal. The Arabs didn’t and invaded Israel instead. The War ended in an Armistice Agreement. Neither Res 181 nor this agreement vitiated the sacred trust and Jewish rights to Judea and Samaria and Gaza.

While the West maintained its policy of preventing Israel from expanding these lines by forcing Israel to retreat in ‘56 from Sinai and negotiating Res 242 in ‘67 requiring Israel to return from territories occupied to secure borders, the Arabs continued in their efforts to erase the Jewish state.

By accepting Res 242, many argue that Israel relinguished its rights to keep all the land described in the Mandate. Others dispute this interpretation and continue to argue that the Mandate still applies. Afterall, Res 242 was silent on the question of the Mandate and simply gave Israel the right to remain in occupation until they had negotiated “secure and recognized borders”. It is noteworthy that no restriction was put on Jewish settlement of these lands as permitted by the Mandate. Myths and Facts has produced a very important presentation “Mandate for Palestine: The legal Aspects of Jewish Rights” confirming Israel’s right to Judea and Samaria.

Be that as it may, the government of Israel chose not to claim all the land as was its right, with the exception of Jerusalem and The Golan which it annexed.

Nevertheless the west is not supporting Israel in any of its positions demanding that it share Jerusalem and return to “negotiated” borders near the armistice line. In time it will demand that Israel cede the Golan too.

Although Bush is on record of leaving it to the parties to negotiate borders, only Israel is pressed to capitulate and the PA is allowed to be as inflexible as it wants. Under these circumstances, if Israel isn’t allowed to say “no”, their right to negotiate is vitiated.

So now the West is getting ready to force Israel to accept the Arab demands. Unfortunately many Jews in Israel and the US support such a move. But the majority don’t.


In a fair world the refugees would have been resettled in the fifties when Jordan was in occupation. That was more of an occupation than that of the Israel’s because Jordan had no legal claim to the land. Did Jordan welcome back the refugees? NO. Did the west resettle them elsewhere? No. Thus the West was fully complicit in supporting the “right of return” as the solution.

At the Madrid Conference a Refugee Working Group was set up to try to resolve the plight of Palestinian refugees. The Arabs were adamantly opposed to resettlement of the refugees elsewhere. When Canada’s Minister John Manley, sat as Chair of the RWG, he announced that Canada would accept a certain number of refugees and had similar commitments from others. He said,

“We are prepared to receive refugees. We are prepared to contribute to an international fund to assist with resettlement in support of a peace agreement.”

The Palestinians burned him in effigy and said, “We refuse resettlement of refugees.” That was the end of the RWG.

An article in EretzYisroel.org, Palestinian Refugees, Invited to leave in 1948 clearly presents the history of this issue. The quote I like best is the one by Syria’s Prime Minister, Khaled Al-Azm, after the 1948 war.

Since 1948 it is we who demanded the return of the refugees… while it is we who made them leave…. We brought disaster upon … Arab refugees, by inviting them and bringing pressure to bear upon them to leave…. We have rendered them dispossessed…. We have accustomed them to begging…. We have participated in lowering their moral and social level…. Then we exploited them in executing crimes of murder, arson, and throwing bombs upon … men, women and children-all this in the service of political purposes …. [36

Commentary Magazine just published an article by Ephraim Karsh entitled 1948, Israel, and the Palestinians— The True Story

During the past decade or so, the actual elimination of the Jewish state has become a cause célèbre among many of these educated Westerners. The “one-state solution,” as it is called, is a euphemistic formula proposing the replacement of Israel by a state, theoretically comprising the whole of historic Palestine, in which Jews will be reduced to the status of a permanent minority. Only this, it is said, can expiate the “original sin” of Israel’s founding, an act built (in the words of one critic) “on the ruins of Arab Palestine” and achieved through the deliberate and aggressive dispossession of its native population.

This claim of premeditated dispossession and the consequent creation of the longstanding Palestinian “refugee problem” forms, indeed, the central plank in the bill of particulars pressed by Israel’s alleged victims and their Western supporters. It is a charge that has hardly gone undisputed. As early as the mid-1950’s, the eminent American historian J.C. Hurewitz undertook a systematic refutation, and his findings were abundantly confirmed by later generations of scholars and writers. Even Benny Morris, the most influential of Israel’s revisionist “new historians,” and one who went out of his way to establish the case for Israel’s “original sin,” grudgingly stipulated that there was no “design” to displace the Palestinian Arabs.

The recent declassification of millions of documents from the period of the British Mandate (1920-1948) and Israel’s early days, documents untapped by earlier generations of writers and ignored or distorted by the “new historians,” paint a much more definitive picture of the historical record. They reveal that the claim of dispossession is not only completely unfounded but the inverse of the truth. What follows is based on fresh research into these documents, which contain many facts and data hitherto unreported.

It makes for interesting reading.

The Arabs will never make peace with Israel. Why should they. With the use of the peace process and the support of the West, they keep chipping away at the state of Israel.

Israel must put an end to it.



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PostFri May 09, 2008 5:02 am     The BBC & Jeremy Bowen - by Melanie Phillips    

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Melanie Phillips at The Spectator:

"I've just caught up with Jeremy Bowen's documentary on the birth of Israel which was transmitted last Sunday evening.


Most of what I want to say about it is said in this critique by Honest Reporting.

I would just make a couple of additional points.
The first is that, like so much journalism about Israel, this programme failed to acknowledge the true perfidy of the British in reneging on the terms of the Mandate they were given to (re-)establish a Jewish National Home in Palestine. First, in 1921/2 Churchill unilaterally give away three quarters of Palestine to the Hashemites to create Jordan; then the UK sought to appease Arab terrorism (so what's new?) by reneging on its undertaking to encourage Jewish immigration into Palestine, even while the Holocaust was unfolding in Europe, and instead turned a blind eye to mass illegal Arab immigration; then it divided the quarter of Palestine that had been left for the Jews in 1922 and offered half of that to the Arabs — as a response to the terrorist attacks they were carrying out against both Jews and British to prevent the Mandate from being fulfilled. The notion peddled by the programme that the British tried to steer a middle course between the Arabs and the Jews is simply false, as Bernard Wasserstein's classic book, Britain and the Jews of Europe, makes all too shockingly clear.

The other point is that Bowen's view that the creation of Israel was a tragedy for the Palestinians - who he so erroneously seems to believe were the indigenous people of the land - was dated to the Balfour Declaration of 1917. He placed great emphasis on the fact that this foundation document, which committed Britain to establishing a Jewish national home in Palestine, also pledged that

nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine

which he declared constituted the fatal contradiction which lies at the heart of the whole impasse -- the implication being that a Jewish state by definition prejudiced those rights.
But this is simply and demonstrably wrong. The "civil and religious" rights of the Arabs of Palestine have indeed been safeguarded by Israel - far more so, in fact, than in most Arab countries. Bowen is confusing these "civil and religious" rights with political rights - which the Declaration pointedly did not afford to those non-Jewish communities. The reason for that was that it was recognised at that time that the Jews alone had a historic claim to Palestine, because they alone were the people for whom it had been their historic homeland and nation state.

The assertion that Palestinianism is a wholly fabricated national identity, created solely to destroy the Jewish state of Israel, creates apoplexy among the usual suspects who hate Israel. But it is true - and the Arabs themselves have said so time and again. Here are a few such quotes:
"There is no such country as Palestine. "Palestine" is a term the Zionists invented. [...]Our country was for centuries part of Syria. "Palestine" is alien to us. It is the Zionists who introduced it."
Auni Bey Abdul-Had, Local Arab leader to British Peel Commission, 1937

"There is no such thing as Palestine in history, absolutely not."
Professor Philip Hitti, Arab historian to Anglo-American Committee of Inquiry, 1946

"It is common knowledge that Palestine is nothing but southern Syria".
Ahmed Shukairy, United Nations Security Council, 1956

"The Palestinian people does not exist. The creation of a Palestinian state is only a means for continuing our struggle against the state of Israel for our Arab unity. In reality today there is no difference between Jordanians, Palestinians, Syrians and Lebanese. Only for political and tactical reasons do we speak today about the existence of a Palestinian people, since Arab national interests demand that we posit the existence of a distinct "Palestinian people" to oppose Zionism."
Zahir Muhsein, PLO March 31, 1977

"Jordan is Palestine and Palestine is Jordan."
King Hussein 1982

"Why is it that on June 4th 1967 I was a Jordanian and overnight I became a Palestinian? We did not particularly mind Jordanian rule. The teaching of the destruction of Israel was a definite part of the curriculum, but we considered ourselves Jordanian until the Jews returned to Jerusalem. Then all of the sudden we were Palestinians - they removed the star from the Jordanian flag and all at once we had a Palestinian flag. When I finally realized the lies and myths I was taught, it is my duty as a righteous person to speak out".
Walid Shoebat, former PLO terrorist.

These are the facts. When will the west realise the lies and myths? Helloooo, BBC? Is anyone out there??



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PostFri May 09, 2008 10:36 am     Israel Should Be the Plaintiff    

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Israel should be the Plaintiff, not the Defendant in the Court of Public Opinion

Barbara Kay, The National Post, May 6, 2008:

Anti-Zionists - in particular Arab anti-Zionists - have been very successful in convincing soft-hearted westerners that the "cycle of violence," as it is so often, and so erroneously referenced (the "cycle" would stop immediately if Arab terrorists would stop their violence toward Israel) is about land. It isn't about land. Israel is a hangnail-sized piece of land with no oil and no resources other than those produced by the sweat and brains of its inhabitants. Surrounding this minuscule plot, demonstrably the Jews' ancient homeland, are 22 Arab countries covering a tenth of the world's land mass, 640 times more land than Israel occupies.

No, this is not about land or formerly owned property. If it were, Arabs would have to admit that the almost a million refugees ousted from Arab countries and absorbed by Israel deserved to get their homes back too, but so far no Arab state has acknowledged the forced exile of Jews from Arab lands, let alone suggested the "right of return" for them. It is about Arabs' intolerance for any other people in their midst. In particular Jews.

Contrary to what Palestinian sympathizers like to imagine, Arab Jew hatred did not begin with Israel becoming a state, and if, sadly, Israel does not survive the next round of hate-fuelled Arab jihad, it will not end there. Jew hatred will still be necessary for Arabs to explain their cultural dysfunction and failure to contribute to the world's positive evolution, just as it was necessary for Germans to explain their military failures and economic implosion in the buildup to the Holocaust. For those who still believe that Arab antipathy to Jews began with the post-1967 settlements, or even with the formation of the State of Israel in 1948, Israel's 60th anniversary is an excellent time to take a stroll down Arab Anti-Semitism's Memory Lane. Here are some official statements made by Muslim organizations and imams and politicians and kings and prime ministers from the Arab countries within minutes of the UN's declaration of Israel's statehood.

From Cairo: "The Zionist invasion is like that of the Tartars. If the Jews dare to declare their independence on May 14, they shall be so ravaged that it will make Genghis Khan seem like a man of peace. There will be new pyramids of skulls...Jewish skulls."

From Baghdad: "Revenge and hatred of the Jews is just and legitimate. We shall proudly uproot this Zinist cancer from sacred Arab soil."

From Kuwait: "O Arab brothers in Palestine, take heart. We shall cause history to repeat itself. We have rejoiced over the devastation of the Jews, whose filthy economic cunning led to their massacre in Europe. We shall finish Hitler's work."

From Saudi Arabia: "May the greatest of Islamic dogmas light our way into the battle of the extermination of the Jews."

From Trans-Jordan: "The Jews are wild beasts, bloodsuckers, traitors, enemies of mankind. The world has scorned, rejected and expelled them. If they try to establish a Zionist state, it shall be eradicated by blood and victims."

From Libya: "We shall drench Palestine with rivers of Jewish blood. We shall crush Jewish bones and use them for fertilizer."

From Yemen: "We live and die with Arab Palestine" (even though we won't offer them a home). "We shall strew Jewish entrails over the land." From Tunis: "May the Prophet strike us blind, nay dead, if we permit a Jewish state in the midst of sacred Islamic soil."

From Lebanon: "Victory is ours! We shall throw every Jew and every Jewish baby into the sea with its mother."

There are Arab apologists who will actually say that this kind of thing is only rhetoric. They wish. These statements, so reminiscent of Nazi rabidity in the thirties, reflect the real feelings of - if not all Arabs - those Arabs in a position to influence, to educate, to set policy, to arouse emotion and to punish dissenting views. These feelings existed before the first Jewish settler arrived in the nineteenth century. Israel is not the cause of Arab terror any mor than homosexuals are the cause of stonings to death. What these statements and similar ones today should teach us, if nothing else, is that the real problem in the Middle East is not the state of Israel. The real problem is irrational, unbridled Arab hatred of Jews. Instead of defending Israel's right to exist, the court of public opinion should be prosecuting the Arabs' crime of relentless hate speech and incitement to violence.


Jerusalem Posts wishes Israel a happy 60th birthday



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PostTue May 27, 2008 3:27 pm     ARCHIVES OF NEW YORK POST **1947-8    

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A wealth of information in these wonderful archives...




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PostTue Jun 03, 2008 12:55 pm     The truth about the 1948 battle for Jerusalem    

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As many of you know, Sunday night and Monday are Yom Yerushalayim, Jerusalem Day, the 28th day of the Jewish month of Iyar. http://www.ou.org/chagim/yomye.....efault.htm

On this day in 1967, Israeli forces liberated the eastern half of Jerusalem, including the Old City and the Temple Mount.

The Old City of Jerusalem was occupied by Jordan from 1948-67. During that period, all of the Old City's synagogues were destroyed and the city's Jewish quarter was razed. But it didn't have to be that way.

During Passover, I wrote a post about a day our family spent in Jerusalem's Old City. In that post, I wrote:

We went to a museum which shows how the Jews in the Old City were defeated in 1948, and were expelled from the Old City.


Most of the history that you read about the 1948 War gives the impression that the Haganah - which is what eventually became the IDF - fought to retain the Old City. The movie presentation we saw in the museum today indicates that wasn't exactly the case. The Old City's defenders - mostly a ragtag group of kids - at one point captured the highest British lookout point in the Old City from which they could dominate it. The Haganah ordered them to give it up, because it was a church. Once it was given up, the situation of the Jews in the Old City deteriorated until their eventual defeat. That attitude continued in the 1967 War. In Michael Oren's seminal work Six Days of War, he describes how Defense Minister Moshe Dayan opposed capturing the Old City.

Dayan wasn't the only one. Much of the country's leadership did not want to have to 'deal with' the Holy City. But until today I did not know that the Haganah had actually ordered the City's defenders to worsen their position in 1948.
In honor of Yom Yerushalayim, Treppenwitz has published an amazing interview with Moshe Rusnak, who was the commander of the Haganah forces in the Old City. Rusnak passed away within hours after he gave the interview. But the story he tells is amazing. Here's a small excerpt.

Q: Can you explain what was happening? Didn't the Jewish leadership care what happened to the Jewish quarter of the old city? The commanders disappear, supplies and reinforcements don't get through, there is almost no contact between you and HQ, what gives ?

Your description is correct. There was no real intention to capture the old city by our leadership. Every effort was made not to succeed. I'll give some examples:

During the waiting period, I devised a three-stage plan to take over the old city. First stage was to take over all the fortified positions belonging to the British as soon as they withdrew. Second stage was to incorporate these positions with those we had constructed, to form an integrated defense line. The third stage was for forces from the new city to force their way into the quarter by making a decoy attack on Jaffa gate, while the main force entered via Zion gate.

The divisional commander, Shaltiel, only authorized stage one, he wouldn't allow stages two and three.

Even stage one wasn't allowed to succeed. One of the operations was to take control of the "Cross" position, this was the tower of the Armenian church which controlled the road between Zion gate and the Jewish quarter. This was the most important position in our area. We captured the position in the morning as planned, but shortly afterwards I received a cable from Shaltiel, which ordered me to evacuate the position by 1:00 that afternoon. I knew that as soon as we left the Arabs would take over, but I had no choice but to obey the order. Sure enough, within a half hour of our leaving, the Arabs took over, and used the position as a snipers lookout into the Jewish quarter.

Another example was the breakthrough into the old city by the Palmach on 2 Iyyar (May 11th, 1948). According to the plan of the divisional commander, the main force was to enter by Jaffa gate, while a decoy force attacked Zion gate. The main force at Jaffa gate was hit by superior fire and took heavy casualties. The small force, led by "Dado" Elazar and Uzi Narkis, attacking Zion gate met with no opposition, and walked into the Jewish quarter. We were completely surprised, we saw the arrival of Moshiach [ed. The Messiah]. After months of being outnumbered and outgunned by the Arabs, we saw the end of the suffering of the 1,800 residents and defenders of the quarter.

The Palmach commanders then informed me that they now intended to capture the whole of the Old city. Our happiness was beyond description. I personally went to each position to tell our fighters of the developments.

While I was making my way through the city I saw a river of Arabs leaving the city carrying their households in bundles, they were escaping the victorious Jewish army.

On my way back to the Palmachniks, I met Benny Marshak who told me that Shaltiel had ordered the Palmach force to withdraw from the city. They were going for R+R at kibbutz Ma'ale Hahamisha. After the war I found out that Shaltiel had called Abdulla E-Tal, the commander of the Jordan legion and told him that Israel didn't want to capture the old city, and he should persuade the fleeing Arab residents to return.

There were no words to describe our feelings, we had been betrayed.

For 60 years (or more), Israel's leftist politicians have been snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. Indeed, if Moshe Dayan had his way, they would have done so 41 years ago on this day with respect to Jerusalem and 41 years ago from a few days from now regarding the Golan Heights.

Read the whole thing.



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PostFri Jun 06, 2008 4:38 am     Robert Kennedy's 1948 Reports from Palestine    

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On the 40th Anniversary of His Assassination:

Robert Kennedy's 1948 Reports from Palestine

Lenny Ben-David

* In April 1948, one month before Israel declared independence, Robert Kennedy, then 22, traveled to Palestine to report on the conflict for the Boston Post. His four dispatches from the scene were published in June 1948. The newspaper closed in 1956, and for decades the reports were virtually forgotten.

* "Unfortunately for [the Jews, Jerusalem's water] reservoir is situated in the mountains and it and the whole pipeline are controlled by the Arabs. The British would not let them cut the water off until after May 15th but an Arab told me they would not even do it then. First they would poison it."

* The Arab responsible for the blowing up of the Jewish Agency on March 11, 1948, said "that after the explosion, upon reaching the British post which separated the Jewish section from a small neutral zone set up in the middle of Jerusalem, he was questioned by the British officers in charge. He quite freely admitted what he had done and was given immediate passage with the remark, 'Nice going.'"

* "The Jews informed the British government that 600 Iraqi troops were going to cross into Palestine from Trans-Jordan by the Allenby Bridge on a certain date and requested the British to take appropriate action to prevent this passage. The troops crossed unmolested....I saw several thousand non-Palestinian Arab troops in Palestine, including many of the famed British-trained and equipped Arab legionnaires of King Abdullah [of Trans-Jordan]. There were also soldiers from Syria, Lebanon, Iraq."

* "The Arabs in command believe that eventually victory must be theirs. It is against all law and nature that this Jewish state should exist. They...promise that if it does become a reality it will never have as neighbors anything but hostile countries, which will continue the fight militarily and economically until victory is achieved."

* "The Jews on the other hand believe that in a few more years, if a Jewish state is formed, it will be the only stabilizing factor remaining in the Near and Middle East. The Arab world is made up of many disgruntled factions which would have been at each other's throats long ago if it had not been for the common war against Zionism."

Sen. Robert F. Kennedy, brother of slain U.S. President John F. Kennedy and former U.S. Attorney General, was the leading Democratic candidate for president when he was gunned down at a primary victory celebration in California on June 5, 1968. His Palestinian assassin, Sirhan Sirhan, said he killed Kennedy due to his vocal support for Israel.

In April 1948, one month before Israel declared independence, Robert Kennedy, then 22, traveled to Palestine to report on the conflict for the Boston Post. His four dispatches from the scene were published in June 1948. The newspaper closed in 1956, and for decades the reports were virtually forgotten.

Kennedy arrived in a chaotic and dangerous land on the eve of the British departure. Jewish Jerusalem and the Jewish Quarter of the Old City were under Arab siege and regular Arab armies were pouring into the territory. The British authorities were hampering Jews' efforts to defend themselves and were even countenancing Arab attacks against Jews.

Kennedy was liberal in his praise of the Palestinian Jews (only one month later did the name "Israel" and the term "Israelis" come into being). "The Jewish people in Palestine who believe in and have been working toward this national state have become an immensely proud and determined people," Kennedy wrote. "It is already a truly great modern example of the birth of a nation with the primary ingredients of dignity and self-respect."

One of his dispatches was headlined, "Jews Make Up for Lack of Arms with Undying Spirit, Unparalleled Courage." In one of his accounts, Kennedy describes his traveling with Haganah fighters in a convoy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

The young reporter was critical of a temporary slippage of the American government's support for Jewish statehood. He feared that the U.S. was shifting towards Britain's negative policies and its aim "to crush" the Zionist cause. "If the American people knew the true facts," Kennedy wrote, "I am certain a more honest and forthright policy would be substituted for the benefit of all."

In his biography Robert Kennedy and His Times, historian Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. reported that during his visit to Palestine, Kennedy wrote to his parents that the Jews he met "are different from any Jews I have ever known or seen." As for the Arabs, he wrote, "I just wish they didn't have that oil." Kennedy's empathy for the Jews of Palestine was all the more remarkable considering his father's antipathy to Jews. As related by Schlesinger, Joseph P. Kennedy, Sr. opposed the United States entry into the war against Germany, and in the summer of 1942 complained to a friend, "There is a great undercurrent of dissatisfaction with the appointment of so many Jews in high places in Washington."

In the midst of the conflict, young Robert Kennedy expressed an amazing optimism: "The Arabs in command believe that eventually victory must be theirs. It is against all law and nature that this Jewish state should exist....The Jews believe that in a few more years, if a Jewish state is formed, it will be the only stabilizing factor remaining in the Near and Middle East....In many cases Jews and Arabs work side by side in the fields and orange groves outside of Tel Aviv. Perhaps these Jews and Arabs are making a greater contribution to the future peace in Palestine than are those who carry guns."

Photos of Robert F. Kennedy in Palestine in April 1948.

Photo 1. Kennedy outside of the King David Hotel striking a military pose.

Photo 2. Kennedy on King David Street in 1948. Behind him is a British military checkpoint at the intersection of what is today Agron Street.

Photo 3. Kennedy arrives in Lydda Airport.

* * *

Boston Post - June 3, 1948
British Hated by Both Sides
Robert Kennedy, Special Writer for Post, Struck by Antipathy Shown by 'Arabs and Jews'

By Robert Kennedy

Certainly if Arthur Balfour, Britain's foreign minister during the first World War, had realized the conflicting interpretations which were to be placed on his famous "declaration" calling for a homeland for the Jews, he probably would have drawn it with its meaning clearer and saved the world the bloodshed that its double promises have caused. In his attempt to conciliate both Jews and Arabs in a time of distress for the British empire, he conciliated neither.

No great thought was given to it at the time, for Palestine was then a relatively unimportant country. There were then not the great numbers of homeless Jews that we have now and no one believed then that the permission granted for Jewish immigration would lead 30 years later to world turmoil on whether a national home should mean an autonomous national state.

First let us consider the viewpoint of the Arabs in regard to the national homeland promised to the Jews in the Balfour Declaration.

The Arabs by word and deed leave no question in anyone's mind how they feel. They argue that the Balfour Declaration supports their point that no national state was promised, pointing to the clauses in the declaration that says the national home shall be set up subject to the civil rights of the people living in Palestine at this time. In recent years they have pointed to the United Nations charter and the Article dealing with the self-determination of nations. Let us adhere to that, the Arabs say, and let the people, that is the Arabs who are involved, decide the question by the democratic processes. If this policy of participation was truly adhered to they say, then why couldn't there be a partition with "the" partition set aside for the Arab minorities?

The Arabs are most concerned about the great increase in the Jews in Palestine: 80,000 in 1948. The Arabs have always feared this encroachment and maintain that the Jews will never be satisfied with just their section of Palestine, but will gradually move to overpower the rest of the country and will eventually move onto the enormously wealthy oil lands. They are determined that the Jews will never get the toehold that would be necessary for the fulfillment of that policy.

Always Will Attack

They are willing to let the Jews remain as peaceful citizens subject to the rule of the Arab majority just as the Arabs are doing in such great number in Egypt and the Levant states, but they are determined that a separate Jewish state will be attacked and attacked until it is finally cut out like an unhealthy abscess.

The Arabs believe they contributed greatly to making the Allied victory possible in the first World War. At the Paris peace conference they felt that they received nothing comparable to what they were promised for their fight under Lawrence against the Turks. Rather, due to power politics, British and French domination replaced that of the Ottoman empire. The Arab leaders attribute their country's backwardness to these 400 uninterrupted years of subservience to the Ottoman empire.

The Jewish people on the other hand believe that if it were not for the wars and invasions that racked Palestine and which sent them scattered and persecuted throughout the world, Palestine would today be theirs.

It would be theirs just as when Moses led them from Egypt into the Palestinian plains which they point out were unoccupied except for a few Bedouin tribes.

Set Up Laboratories

The [Jews] wish no other country, and in 1903 when Uganda was offered to them as a homeland, they were unanimous in their refusal. The Balfour declaration, when it was made, however, they felt was the answer to their prayers.

Under the supposition that, at the finish of the [British] mandate, this was to be their national state, they went to work. They set up laboratories where world-famous scientists could study and analyze soils and crops. The combination of arduous labor and almost unlimited funds from the United States changed what was once arid desert into flourishing orange groves.

Soils had to be washed of salt, day after day, year after year, before crops could be planted. One can see this work going on in lesser or more advanced stages wherever there are Jewish settlements in Palestine.

From a small village of a few thousand inhabitants, Tel Aviv has grown into a most impressive modern metropolis of over 200,000. They have truly done much with what all agree was very little.

The Jews point with pride to the fact that over 500,000 Arabs, in the 12 years between 1932 and 1944, came into Palestine to take advantage of living conditions existing in no other Arab state. This is the only country in the Near and Middle East where an Arab middle class is in existence.

The Jews point out that they have always taken a passive part in the frequent revolutions that have racked the country, because of the understanding that they would eventually be set free from British mandateship. They wished to do nothing to impair this expected action.

During the second World War they sent numerous volunteer Jewish brigades which fought commendably with the British in Italy. In addition to that, many Palestinian Jews fought as volunteers with Allied troops throughout the world and still others were dropped by parachute into German-held territory as espionage agents. They were perhaps doing no more than their duty, but they did their duty well.

The Jews feel that promise after promise to them has been broken. They can quote freely, for example, from speech after speech of Labor Party leaders in the election campaign prior to the victory of the Labor Party in England, to attest to the fact that one need not even refer back to the controversial Balfour declaration to learn Britain's attitude and promises toward a Jewish state, that was to be one of the first acts of the Labor government if it were put into power. The Jews, remembering this, have rather bitterly named the black bombed out [area] in the Ben Yehuda disaster, "Bevin square." [An Arab car bomb in Jerusalem in February 1948 killed some 50 people.]

It is an unfortunate fact that because there are such well founded arguments on either side, each grows more and more bitter toward the other. Confidence in their right increases in proportion to the hatred and mistrust for the other side for not acknowledging it.

Never Searched

When I landed at Lydda Airport I became immediately aware of it. I carried letters of introduction to both Arabs and Jews and at the airport where both sides intermingle it was explained to me by first one and then the other that I was taking a great risk. The Jew said it was all right for me to carry Arab papers in Jewish territory for I wouldn't be molested, but when I entered Arab territory I had better be rid of all letters to Jews for I would immediately be searched and, if they found anything, would be quickly shot. The Arab said exactly the opposite and I found both to be half right, in that I was never searched by either side.

Another fact I became immediately aware of was a basic violent hatred of the British by both sides. I talked to a British army sergeant who had been in Palestine for two years, and he placed the blame with the Palestine Colonial Police. Later I found many to be in agreement. He called them the "underpaid, uneducated dregs of society." They were evidently the most corrupt group of police in the world, firstly because they were so underpaid and, secondly, because when colonial police were sent to their posts the worst of the lot were invariably sent to Palestine.

The Arab bitterness and also fear toward the British had as its starting point the 1936-1938 revolution, which was crushed most ruthlessly by the British.

Increasing Bitterness

Leading Arabs in the higher committee speak in all sincerity of the Indian brought by the British into the country because of the great skill and knowledge that he possessed in being able to torture with fire while leaving no scar tissue. Many claim to have suffered by having their nails pulled out from their fingers and toes and others of having burning matches thrust beneath their nails. I found little evidence that these stories were true.

The Jewish attitude toward the British has been one of increasing bitterness. The Jews have looked upon the British civil administration, which some years ago took over from the army, as most unfriendly and uncooperative and which has therefore led to much mutual distrust. Jews received virtually no financial help for building schools and hospitals in Jewish settlements and the post office which was set up to serve Tel Aviv wasn't suitable for a village of several thousand inhabitants. I was forced to wait well over an hour in line in order to purchase stamps.

When told if they wanted a port they would have to build it themselves, the result was the port of Tel Aviv, which was constructed entirely through Jewish capital and labor. Nevertheless, it is taxed as high as the Arab port of Jaffa, which was built and maintained by funds raised by taxing both Arabs and Jews. These arguments are infinitesimal compared with the larger issues that have swept both sides during the last year, but they are mentioned to show that the hate that exists now is not something newly born and has a substantial background.

* * *

Boston Post - June 4, 1948
Jews Have Fine Fighting Force
Make Up for Lack of Arms with Undying Spirit, Unparalleled Courage - Impress World

The Jewish people in Palestine who believe in and have been working toward this national state have become an immensely proud and determined people. It is already a truly great modern example of the birth of a nation with the primary ingredients of dignity and self-respect.

Malca and her family to me are the personification of that determination. She is a young girl of the age of 23 and her husband and four brothers are members of the Haganah. She herself is with the intelligence corps and worked on the average of 15 hours a day, which evidently was not unusual. She had seen and felt much horror and told me the story of a case she had just handled.

A Jewish girl in her teens was picked up by some members of the Haganah on the road from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and, as she was injured, she was taken to the Hebrew Hospital in Jerusalem. They believed that she had somehow been separated from a Jewish convoy which had just gone through and which had had a scrap with the Arabs.

She was particularly noticed because of the strange people who were her visitors and by the fact that she insisted on being moved to the English hospital. Malca was sent to question her. She was turned away gruffly by the girl after the girl admitted that she had in reality been in a British tank with a boy friend and wanted nothing to do with the Jews.

The Jewish Agency offered to send the girl out on a farm in order to let her regain her health and give her a new start, but she just demanded her release which they were forced to give her. She continued consorting with the British police despite warnings from the Stern gang.

Brother Shoots Sister

One night the Stern gang followed the tactics of the underground forces in the last war. They shaved all the hair off the girl's head. Two days after Malca told me this story the sequel took place. The girl's brother returned for leave from duty with the Haganah up in Galilee and, finding her in such a state, shot her.

Malca's youngest brother is only 13, but every night he takes up his post as a sentry with the Haganah at a small place outside of Jerusalem.

His mother and father wait up every night until midnight for him and his older brother, 15, to return home. The other two brothers, both younger than Malca, give full time duty with combat troops.

An understanding of the institutions it contains, and of the persons that run these institutions, is most important if one would make up one's mind as to the worth of this "de facto" Jewish state.

I visited and inspected a community farm [kibbutz] through the kindness of a Jew who 40 years ago was in Boston making speeches for my grandfather, John F. Fitzgerald, when he was a candidate for congress. A third of the agricultural population live in such community farms which were set up originally to help newly-arrived refugees who had no money or prospects.

They are in reality self-sustaining States within a State and all the people in common undergo arduous toil and labor and make great sacrifices in order that their children might become heir to a home. An example of this is that when a child is one year old he is placed in a common nursery, with the result that all but the sick and infirm are able to devote their talents to the common cause. They get paid nothing for they need no money. Everything is financed by a group of elected overseers who get their money by selling what the farms produce. In our country we shrink from such tactics but in that country their very lives depend upon them.

The whole thing is done on a volunteer basis and one may leave the farm with his proportionate share of wealth at any time he chooses.

The one we visited was at Givat Brenner and, although no one paid attention to the firing going on in the plain below, one could see all around preparations being undertaken for the coming fight.

I talked to members of the underground organization Irgun. They were responsible for the King David Hotel disaster and told me proudly that they were responsible for blowing up the Cairo-Haifa train which had just taken place with the loss of 50 British soldiers.


They believed the time had long since passed for the Jewish people to expect anything but treachery and broken promises from the outside world. If they wanted an independent state they would have to fight for it, and before they could even do that, they had to rid the country of foreign troops. They believe unquestionably that if it weren't for their so-called terrorist activities the British would have remained on in their country. Bevin's recent speeches in the House of Commons, they argue, have been ample proof of that. The question, though, in other Jews' minds is whether this compensated for what they have lost in good will by such tactics.

I went to the training camp at Netanya, north of Tel Aviv, where for three weeks and with very little equipment, Jewish youths, trained mostly by former British officers, were attempting to learn the basic tenets of army life. We watch a first-week group attempt an obstacle course, and while maybe the flesh was weak, it emphasized all the more what can be accomplished when the spirit is willing. We watched a graduation class make its final round and they gave the appearance that they might well be whipped into a fighting force before much time has passed.

The security forces and Haganah are far more experienced. After landing at Lydda Airport, I was immediately taken to be questioned and my credentials examined by the Haganah. After being released and going to my hotel in Tel Aviv, I went for a walk around this city of 200,000 inhabitants. I wasn't out for 10 minutes before I was recognized as a foreigner and picked up by the Haganah, blindfolded and once again brought to headquarters for questioning.

I talked to a Haganah soldier who fled from Prague as the Germans were taking over the city and he and his brother, who was killed, fought with the British throughout the war. He received news that his mother and two sisters who he had left in Prague were killed by the Germans and that his home had been completely destroyed.

* * *

Boston Post - June 5, 1948
British Position Hit in Palestine
Kennedy Says They Seek to Crush Jewish Cause Because They Are Not in Accord with It

I was in Palestine over Easter week and even then people knew there was absolutely no chance to preserve peace. They just wanted the British out, so that a decision could be reached either way. An early departure of the British has been far more important strategically to the Jews than to the Arabs.

The City of Jerusalem has more Jews than Arabs but the immediate surrounding territory is predominately Arab. Through part of that hilly territory winds the narrow road that leads from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

It is by this road that the Jewish population within Jerusalem must be supplied, but it is fantastically easy for the Arabs to ambush a convoy as it crawls along the difficult pass. On my trip from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem I saw grim realities of the fact and while in Jerusalem the failure and destruction of another Jewish convoy made meat non-existent and lengthened food queues for other items.

The Arabs living in the old city of Jerusalem have kept the age-old habit of procuring their water from the individual cisterns that exist in almost every home. The Jews being more "educated" (an Arab told me that this was their trouble and now the Jews were going to really pay for it) had a central water system installed with pipes bringing fresh hot and cold water. Unfortunately for them, the reservoir is situated in the mountains and it and the whole pipeline are controlled by the Arabs. The British would not let them cut the water off until after May 15th but an Arab told me they would not even do it then. First they would poison it.

Orthodox Community

Within the Old City of Jerusalem there exists a small community of orthodox Jews. They wanted no part of this fight but just wanted to be left alone with their wailing wall. Unfortunately for them, the Arabs are unkindly disposed toward any kind of Jew and their annihilation would now undoubtedly have been a fact had it not been that at the beginning of hostilities the Haganah moved several hundred well-equipped men into their quarter.

This inability to make any long range military maneuvers because of the presence of the British has been a great and almost disastrous handicap to the Jews. If the brief but victorious military engagement on the Tel Aviv-Jerusalem road had not taken place, the Jewish cause would have suffered such a setback as to be virtually lost. If the Haganah had waited for May 15th and the withdrawal of British troops, there would be few alive in Jerusalem today. Strong units of that body had moved into the hills on either side of that strategic road and repelled Arab counterattacks long enough for several hundred truckloads to make the 40-mile trip into the city, and then, only after threats from the British commander to use force against them, had withdrawn from their positions. As a Jew said to me at the time, "This is our battle of the Atlantic." The maneuvers had to take place and took place despite the British.

Power Supply

The same basic difficulty that exists in relation to the water exists with regard to electric and power supply. Fortunately, an immediate danger is not yet present, but the Arabs have had months of preparations for a maneuver they know their opponents must eventually make.

The Jewish ghetto in the old city of Jerusalem would not have been in such an untenable position if it could have been periodically relieved, or if with a Jewish victory in that area it could have been connected with the main Jewish section in the new city.

The Jews have small settlements or community farms such as Givat Brenner in completely hostile territory. They take pride that, despite the great difficulties, they have not evacuated any of them. From the very tip of Galilee right down to the arid Negev these communities exist with such Jewish names as Zan, Safed, Yehsem, Mishmar Haemak, Ben Sheba, Laza. All have their supply problems. But no great military operation can be undertaken into Arab territory to relieve the increasing Arab pressure.

Need True Facts

In addition to these handicaps that the Jews suffered through the presence of the British, there are many more far-reaching aspects of British administration which unfortunately concern or, rather, involve us in the United States.

Having been out of the United States for more than two months at this time of writing, I notice myself more and more conscious of the great heritage and birthright to which we as United States citizens are heirs and which we have the duty to preserve. A force motivating my writing this paper is that I believe we have failed in this duty or are in great jeopardy of doing so. The failure is due chiefly to our inability to get the true facts of the policy in which we are partners in Palestine.

The British government, in its attitude towards the Jewish population in Palestine, has given ample credence to the suspicion that they are firmly against the establishment of a Jewish state in Palestine.

When I was in Cairo shortly after the blowing up of the Jewish Agency [March 11, 1948] I talked to a man who held a high position in the Arab League. He had just returned from Palestine where he had, among other things, interviewed and arranged transportation to Trans-Jordan for the Arab responsible for that Jewish disaster. This Arab told him that after the explosion, upon reaching the British post which separated the Jewish section from a small neutral zone set up in the middle of Jerusalem, he was questioned by the British officers in charge. He quite freely admitted what he had done and was given immediate passage with the remark, "Nice going."

British Markings

Just before I arrived in Palestine there was the notorious story of the foundry outside of Tel Aviv. It was situated in a highly contested area and the British accused the Jews of using it as a sniper post for the Jaffa-Jerusalem road. One day the British moved in, stripping the Jews of all arms and ordered them to clear out within 10 minutes. The British had scarcely departed when a group of armed Arabs moved in, killing or wounding all the occupants. The British government was most abject in its apologies.

I came in contact personally, however, with evidence that demonstrated clearly the British bitterness toward the Jews. I have ridden in Jewish armored car convoys which the British have stopped to inspect for arms. As always, there were members of the Haganah aboard and they quickly broke down their small arms, passing the pieces among the occupants to conceal them so as to prevent confiscation. Satisfied that none existed, the convoy supposedly unarmed was allowed to pass into Arab territory. If the arms had been found and confiscated and the Arabs had attacked, there would have been but a remote chance of survival for any of the occupants. There have been many not as fortunate as we.

British Informants

When I was in Tel Aviv the Jews informed the British government that 600 Iraqi troops were going to cross into Palestine from Trans-Jordan by the Allenby Bridge on a certain date and requested the British to take appropriate action to prevent this passage. The troops crossed unmolested. It is impossible for the British to patrol the whole Palestinian border to prevent illegal crossings but such flagrant violations should certainly have led to some sort of action.

Five weeks ago I saw several thousand non-Palestinian Arab troops in Palestine, including many of the famed British-trained and equipped Arab legionnaires of King Abdullah [of Trans-Jordan]. There were also soldiers from Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Trans-Jordan, and they were all proudly pointed out to me by a spokesman of the Arab higher committee. He warned me against walking too extensively through Arab districts as most of the inhabitants there were now foreign troops. Every Arab to whom I talked spoke of thousands of soldiers massed in the "terrible triangle of Nablus-Tulkarem-Jenin" and of hundreds that were pouring in daily.


When I was in Lebanon and asked a dean at the American University at Beirut if many students were leaving for the fight in Palestine he shrugged and said, "Not now - the quota has been oversubscribed." When journeying by car from Jerusalem to Amman I passed many truckloads of armed Arabs and even then Jericho was alive with Arab troops. There is no question that it was taken over by the Arabs for an armed camp long before May 15.

Our government first decided that justice was on the Jewish side in their desire for a homeland, and then it reversed its decision temporarily. [Editor's note: In March 1948 the State Department reversed its support for partition and called for a UN trusteeship.] Because of this action I believe we have burdened ourselves with a great responsibility in our own eyes and in the eyes of the world. We fail to live up to that responsibility if we knowingly support the British government who behind the skirts of their official position attempt to crush a cause with which they are not in accord. If the American people knew the true facts, I am certain a more honest and forthright policy would be substituted for the benefit of all.

* * *

Boston Post - June 6, 1948
Communism Not to Get a Foothold
Jews Guard against Red Agents in Guise of Refugees - Want No Part of Russian Tyrant

The die has long since been cast; the fight will take place. The Jews with their backs to the sea, fighting for their very homes, with 101 percent morale, will accept no compromise. On the other hand, the Arabs say:

Religious Crusade

"We shall bring Moslem brigades from Pakistan, we shall lead a religious crusade for all loyal followers of Mohammed, we shall crush forever the invader. Whether it takes three months, three years, or 30, we will carry on the fight. Palestine will be Arab. We shall accept no compromise."

The United Nations is scoffed at by both sides and the United States will never be able to regain the position of ascendancy she previously enjoyed with the Arab world. She lost the love of the Arabs when she supported partition. She lost their respect when she reversed that decision [in March 1948]. She lost it irreparably. For days on end Arab commentators drummed into their people that finally the power of the Arab world had been realized.

The Jews are bitter in disappointment. As one Jew said, "Britain let us down for 25 years but you bettered them in a week." The feeling stops at disappointment and there is none of the hatred that exists for the British. They can understand us not wishing to send troops and so become entangled in a war that does not immediately concern us, but they plead only for the right to make this fight themselves. They want arms and frankly admit that if they cannot get them from us they will turn to the East. "What else can we do?" They are fighting for their very lives and must act accordingly.

Won't Accept Communism

That the people might accept communism or that communism could exist in Palestine is fantastically absurd. Communism thrives on static discontent as sin thrives on idleness. With the type of issues and people involved, that state of affairs is nonexistent. I am as certain of that as of my name.

When I was in Tel Aviv, a group of refugees was landed and amongst them the Jewish Agency's "FBI" immediately picked up one of these agents. He was loaded down with money and papers, and all agreed that he must have been sent with the intention that he be captured to mislead the security forces into thinking that all the Russian agents would be as inept as this one and equally easy to capture. Lethargy would set in and it would be then that they would smuggle in their Mata Hari.

Demands Allegiance

Communism demands allegiance to the mother country, Russia, and it is impossible to believe that people would undergo such untold sufferings to replace one tyrant with another. Robert Emmet, the Irish patriot, on trial for his life before a British tribunal stated the principle. When accused of attempting to bring French forces into Ireland to help wrest it from the British, he said why would he, who loved and had been fighting for his homeland, deem it to his country's interests to replace a known tyrant by an unknown one. These people want a homeland of their own. That to them is the sole issue.

Vehemence and hatred between the Jews and Arabs increase daily. But in many cases Jews and Arabs work side by side in the fields and orange groves outside of Tel Aviv. Perhaps these Jews and Arabs are making a greater contribution to the future peace in Palestine than are those who carry guns on both sides.

The Arabs in command believe that eventually victory must be theirs. It is against all law and nature that this Jewish state should exist. They trace expectantly its long boundary and promise that if it does become a reality it will never have as neighbors anything but hostile countries, which will continue the fight militarily and economically until victory is achieved.

Stabilizing Factor

The Jews on the other hand believe that in a few more years, if a Jewish state is formed, it will be the only stabilizing factor remaining in the Near and Middle East. The Arab world is made up of many disgruntled factions which would have been at each other's throats long ago if it had not been for the common war against Zionism. The United States and Great Britain before too long a time might well be looking to a Jewish state to preserve a toehold in that part of the world.

Both sides still hate the British far more deeply than they hate one another. There was a British high commissioner who when attending the opera used to have his car parked directly in front of the main door, a place usually reserved for discharging passengers. An even more unpopular practice was the regulation that at the end of the opera everyone had to remain in their seats until the British high commissioner was out of the opera house and in his car.

But the British have left - and now the issue is to be resolved in a bitter war between Jew and Arab. I do not think the freedom-loving nations of the world can stand by and see "the sweet water of the River Jordan stained red with the blood of Jews and Arabs." The United States through the United Nations must take the lead in bringing about peace in the Holy Land.

* * *

Lenny Ben-David served as deputy chief of mission in Israel's embassy in Washington. He blogs at http://www.lennybendavid.com/



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    david barrett


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PostMon Oct 20, 2008 9:29 am     Philip Carl Salzman: Self-induced Nakba    

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Philip Carl Salzman: Self-induced Nakba

History News Network
October 15, 2008

[This has been a guest post contributed by Philip Carl Salzman, professor of anthropology at McGill University.]

The greatest Middle Eastern success in public relations opinion-shaping in the last forty years has been the Palestinian self-definition of themselves as a separate people and as victims of Israel and the West. The entire world, it appears, has been convinced. Europeans and many Americans, not to mention members of the Muslim umma, trip over each other offering sympathy and buckets of money to the Palestinians. The United Nations makes unique arrangements for the Palestinians, and numerous UN bodies devote themselves solely to the needs of the Palestinians. And those same Europeans and Americans, and the members of those UN organs, risk apoplexy in their violent denunciations of Israel—Israel the bully, the oppressor, the colonialist, the racist—for thwarting the Palestinians.

Palestinians and their partisans, such as those who will meet at the "Edward Said Conference" at Columbia University on November 7-8, explain their unfortunate situation as a result of Western imperialism and colonialism, which, they explain in terms of "postcolonial theory," are rationalized and encouraged by disparaging "orientalist" stereotypes of Arabs and Middle Easterners. The responsibility for any and all current disabilities of the Middle East, according to postcolonial theory, rests with Europe and America, whose interventions have only victimized and destroyed Middle Eastern society and culture.

There is a certain inconsistency in the Arab and Muslim narrative about imperialism and colonialism. About the period of the 7th to the 18th centuries, when the Arab Muslim Empire spread by the sword from Arabia across all of the Middle East and North Africa to Morocco in the west, to Sicily, Portugal, Spain, and France in the north, and to Central Asia and India in the East, followed by Ottoman conquests in Europe, the narrative of imperialism and colonialism is triumphalist. Endless slaughter, forced conversion, slavery, and wholesale expropriation of property were all for the glory to God, and all good. But the rise of the West, and its relatively brief and limited interventions in the Middle East, are viewed as the height of evil. Why? Because God choose Muslims as his True Followers, and as such, they have a right—no, a duty—to dominate.

The stagnation of the Muslim world in the 19th and 20th centuries, and its relative weakness in relation to the rising West, are today blamed by Palestinian and Arab partisans on Western intrusion in the region. But those directly facing the rising West at the time, the Ottomans and later the Persian Crown, knew that they had fallen behind, and sought Western civil and military technology and goods, and Western administrative and legal systems, in order to modernize and better face the challenge. This response is more consistent with our understanding of human life than the "postcolonial" argument that all is the fault of someone else, in this case, the West. One of the great Marxist students of imperialism, the anthropologist Eric Wolf, demonstrated that local peoples, at least those not murdered or enslaved, are not passive receivers of imperial and colonial culture, but shape their response according to their own culture and vision.

Narratives of victimization, such as the Palestinian one, neglect to account for the active Arab response to the Jews and to Jewish immigration. Explaining all by Western imposition robs the Arabs of Palestine of their agency, and infantalizes them. In reality, Palestinians responded actively: Elite landowners sold the Jews land, while the populace in general closed ranks against the Jews. Following the tribally-based principle of those closer uniting against those more distant, the opposition to the Jews was both organizational and religious. Jews were not kinsmen and, worse, were infidels.

Arab opposition to the Jews, expressed in riots and pogroms, was ratchetted up in the face of Jewish desires for national autonomy and independence. After all, it was believed that any part of the Dar al-Islam must remain under Muslim dominance forevermore. And for a thousand years, Jews under Islam had been a subservient and despised minority, cowering under the power of their Muslim masters. The Arabs in Palestine thought that the Jews could not and would not stand up to them, and they acted on that well established cultural principle. Honor would allow nothing less.

The Arabs acted according to their tradition, according to their lights. They refused compromise with inferiors; they refused to divide and share, rejecting a UN settlement. Instead, they strove for complete victory, as their ancestors had. However, the thousand-year-old conditions did not obtain. The Jews they faced were not dhimma, and they did not cower; against the odds, and with little outside help, they fought and won. The Arab states answered the call, but were ineffectual, and failed. The "Nakba" was self-induced by the Arabs. They demanded all or nothing, and got nothing. But they have continued to hold to the rejectionist position, taking an annihilationist stance toward Israel and the Jews. So in reality the self-induced "Nakba" is self-perpetuating. The successful agitprop that obscures this both to the world and to themselves is also a result of Arab agency. The Edward Said Conference will carry on in the same tradition.



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    david barrett


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PostSun Aug 30, 2009 2:11 pm     Life Magazine in Israel 1948    

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