Issues In The Palestinian—Israeli Conflict
__ Refugees Forever __
Is Israel Guilty of Ethnic Cleansing?
Arab spokesmen, fluent in the use of standard cliches, attribute the refugee problem
to a program of 'ethnic cleansing' by the Jewish leadership. This is palpably false.
It was first and foremost at the urging of their leaders that the largest number of Arab refugees fled, with the promise of a swift victory over the weak Zionist enemy and an imminent return to their homes. Rumors of atrocities, highlighted by the tragic Deir Yassin episode, fanned a country-wide panic. Many Arabs did not heed the warnings to flee andstayed on, a wise decision they never regretted. There is peace between the Arab and Jewish communities in downtown Haifa today because of this choice, as is the case in nearby Acre. In Jaffa, a considerable number of Arabs remained to live under the joint Tel Aviv-Jaffa municipality. Although the Hassan Beq mosque was used asa sniper's nest against Jewish passersby in 1948, it still stands as a Muslim landmark in Tel Aviv.
Many of these Arab villages have developed into thriving townships. This applies even more dramatically to East Jerusalem, where the Arab population had increased from some 50,000 in 1948 to over 230,000 by the year 2000. It is true that some villages, mainly those who laid siege to Jerusalem, were destroyed and their inhabitants expelled. Their number was grossly inflated to a count of 400, according to Benny Morris, a forerunner of the school of "new historians" of Zionism. There is substantial evidence to corroborate these facts in the following citations:
Citations from Arab leaders:
"We will smash the country with our guns and obliterate every place the Jews seek shelter in. The Arabs should conduct their wives and children to safe areas until the fighting has died down." Iraqi prime minister Nuri Said, Sir Am Nakbah (The Secret Behind the Disaster) by Nimr el-Hawari, Nazareth, 1952
"Azzam Pasha assured the Arab peoples that the occupation of Palestine and of Tel Aviv would be as simple as a military promenade ... and that all the millions the Jews had spent on land and economic development would be easy booty, for it would be a simple matter to throw Jews into the Mediterranean ... "
- Habib Issa, secretary-general of the Arab League (Azzam Pasha's successor), Al Hoda, June 8, 1951 It is of summary importance to point out that while Jordan's British trained, fully equipped Arab legion was able to pummel Jewish Jerusalem with in excess of 10,000 artillery shells, the Hagana had to make do with scant and often makeshift weapons.
"As early as the first months of 1948, the Arab League issued orders exhorting the people
to seek a temporary refuge in neighboring countries, later to return to their abodes …
and obtain their share of abandoned Jewish property."
- Bulletin of The Research Group for European Migration Problems, 1957 "The Arab states succeeded in scattering the Palestinian people and in destroying their unity. They did not recognize them as a unified people until the states of the world did so, and this is regrettable."
- Abu Mazen from the official journal of the PLO, Falastin el-Thawra (What We Have Learned and What We Should Do), Beirut, March 1976 Leading American and British sources confirm the real cause of the flight:
Citations from the international media:
"The mass evacuation, prompted partly by fear, partly by order of Arab leaders,
left the Arab quarter of Haifa a ghost city.... By withdrawing Arab workers their leaders
hoped to paralyze Haifa." - Time Magazine, May 3, 1948, page 25
"[The Arabs of Haifa] fled in spite of the fact that the Jewish authorities guaranteed
their safety and rights as citizens of Israel."
- Monsignor George Hakim, Greek Catholic Bishop of Galilee, New York Herald Tribune, June 30, 1949 "Israelis argue that the Arab states encouraged the Palestinians to flee. And, in fact, Arabs still living in Israel recall being urged to evacuate Haifa by Arab military commanders who wanted to bomb the city."
Newsweek, January 20, 1963
Citations from British military sources:
Highly credible are the comments of the British commander of the Arab Legion, who, having bombarded Jewish Jerusalem and destroyed the Jewish Quarter of the Old City, cannot be suspected of a pro-Zionist attitude:
"The Arab civilians panicked and fled ignominiously. Villages were frequently
abandoned before they were threatened by the progress of war."
- General John Glubb "Pasha," The London Daily Mail, August 12, 1948 "Every effort is being made by the Jews to persuade the Arab populace to stay and carry on with their normal lives, to get their shops and businesses open and to be assured that their lives and interests will be safe."
- Haifa District HQ of the British Police, April 26, 1948, (quoted in Battleground by Samuel Katz). For decades, April 6, 1948 has been commemorated in the Arab world as "Deir Yassin Day," through sermons in mosques and lessons in schools, on stamps and posters, in books and songs. On that day, Deir Yassin, an Arab village at the entrance to Jerusalem, was captured by the Irgun Tzva'i Le'umi (known as the Irgun), defending the besieged Holy City. Arab leaders spread word that Jewish terrorists had stormed the peaceful village, raping the women and ultimately killing over 500 residents. There was even talk of aerial bombardment and tanks. The effect was
double- edged. Actually, it was a standard battle that took a tragic turn. The village harbored Arab guerrillas who had long exploited their strategic position, attacking Jewish mountain convoys trying to break the three-month siege of Jerusalem.
Iraqi irregulars dressed as women
During the house-to-house fighting women and children were mistakenly killed. Among the Arab fighters were Iraqi irregulars who were dressed as women. Years later, Palestinian researchers at Bir-Zeit University found that the death toll was 107. Murder and rape have always been an athema to Israel's military. Israel has never denied its role in the Deir Yassin massacre nor reserved remorse. Nonetheless, the Arab world refused to accept that what happened on April 6, 1948 was the exception, not the rule, and Deir Yassin became a crucial factor in creating, and a tool in fanning, anti-Israeli hatred for generations. An Arab revenge attack was quick to follow. Four days after Deir Yassin, the Jewish convoy on its way to Hadassah Hospital on Mount Scopus was ambushed. Seventy-seven people were killed, including doctors, nurses, patients, and the hospital director. Another 23 medical personnel were wounded.
This article appeared in the Jerusalem Post 1-15-2003 approximately,
and is reproduced solely for educational purposes.
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