The Origin of the Palestine-Israel Conflict
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As the periodic bloodshed continues in the Middle East, the search for an equitable solution must come to grips with the root cause of the conflict. The conventional wisdom is that, even if both sides are at fault, the Palestinians are irrational “terrorists” who have no point of view worth listening to. Our position, however, is that the Palestinians have a real grievance: their homeland for over a thousand years was taken, without their consent and mostly by force, during the creation of the state of Israel. And all subsequent crimes — on both sides — inevitably follow from this original injustice.
Contents:IntroductionEarly History of the RegionThe British Mandate Period: 1920-1948The UN Partition of PalestineStatehood and Expulsion – 1948The 1967 War and Israeli Occupation of the West Bank and Gaza[1973 War (Known in Israel as the Yom Kippur War) – Addendum by If Americans Knew]The History of Terrorism in the RegionJewish Criticism of ZionismZionism and the HolocaustGeneral ConsiderationsJewish Fundamentalism in IsraelIntifada 2000 And The “Peace Process”Views Of The FutureConclusion I For Jewish ReadersConclusion II
This paper outlines the history of Palestine to show how this process occurred and what a moral solution to the region’s problems should consist of. If you care about the people of the Middle East, Jewish and Arab, you owe it to yourself to read this account of the other side of the historical record.
The standard Zionist position is that they showed up in Palestine in the late 19th century to reclaim their ancestral homeland. Jews bought land and started building up the Jewish community there. They were met with increasingly violent opposition from the Palestinian Arabs, presumably stemming from the Arabs’ inherent anti-Semitism. The Zionists were then forced to defend themselves and, in one form or another, this same situation continues up to today.
The problem with this explanation is that it is simply not true, as the documentary evidence in this booklet will show. What really happened was that the Zionist movement, from the beginning, looked forward to a practically complete dispossession of the indigenous Arab population so that Israel could be a wholly Jewish state, or as much as was possible. Land bought by the Jewish National Fund was held in the name of the Jewish people and could never be sold or even leased back to Arabs (a situation which continues to the present).
The Arab community, as it became increasingly aware of the Zionists’ intentions, strenuously opposed further Jewish immigration and land buying because it posed a real and imminent danger to the very existence of Arab society in Palestine. Because of this opposition, the entire Zionist project never could have been realized without the military backing of the British. The vast majority of the population of Palestine, by the way, had been Arabic since the seventh century A.D. (Over 1200 years)
In short, Zionism was based on a faulty, colonialist world view that the rights of the indigenous inhabitants didn’t matter. The Arabs’ opposition to Zionism wasn’t based on anti-Semitism but rather on a totally reasonable fear of the dispossession of their people.
One further point: being Jewish ourselves, the position we present here is critical of Zionism but is in no way anti-Semitic. We do not believe that the Jews acted worse than any other group might have acted in their situation. The Zionists (who were a distinct minority of the Jewish people until after WWII) had an understandable desire to establish a place where Jews could be masters of their own fate, given the bleak history of Jewish oppression. Especially as the danger to European Jewry crystalized in the late 1930’s and after, the actions of the Zionists were propelled by real desperation.
But so were the actions of the Arabs. The mythic “land without people for a people without land” was already home to 700,000 Palestinians in 1919. This is the root of the problem, as we shall see.
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Early History of the Region
Before the Hebrews first migrated there around 1800 B.C., the land of Canaan was occupied by Canaanites.
“Between 3000 and 1100 B.C., Canaanite civilization covered what is today Israel, the West Bank, Lebanon and much of Syria and Jordan…Those who remained in the Jerusalem hills after the Romans expelled the Jews [in the second century A.D.] were a potpourri: farmers and vineyard growers, pagans and converts to Christianity, descendants of the Arabs, Persians, Samaritans, Greeks and old Canaanite tribes.”Marcia Kunstel and Joseph Albright, “Their Promised Land.”
The present-day Palestinians’ ancestral heritage
“But all these [different peoples who had come to Canaan] were additions, sprigs grafted onto the parent tree…And that parent tree was Canaanite…[The Arab invaders of the 7th century A.D.] made Moslem converts of the natives, settled down as residents, and intermarried with them, with the result that all are now so completely Arabized that we cannot tell where the Canaanites leave off and the Arabs begin.” Illene Beatty, “Arab and Jew in the Land of Canaan.”
The Jewish kingdoms were only one of many periods in ancient Palestine
“The extended kingdoms of David and Solomon, on which the Zionists base their territorial demands, endured for only about 73 years…Then it fell apart…[Even] if we allow independence to the entire life of the ancient Jewish kingdoms, from David’s conquest of Canaan in 1000 B.C. to the wiping out of Judah in 586 B.C., we arrive at [only] a 414 year Jewish rule.” Illene Beatty, “Arab and Jew in the Land of Canaan.”
More on Canaanite civilization
“Recent archeological digs have provided evidence that Jerusalem was a big and fortified city already in 1800 BCE…Findings show that the sophisticated water system heretofor attributed to the conquering Israelites pre-dated them by eight centuries and was even more sophisticated than imagined…Dr. Ronny Reich, who directed the excavation along with Eli Shuikrun, said the entire system was built as a single complex by Canaanites in the Middle Bronze Period, around 1800 BCE.” The Jewish Bulletin, July 31st, 1998.
How long has Palestine been a specifically Arab country?
“Palestine became a predominately Arab and Islamic country by the end of the seventh century. Almost immediately thereafter its boundaries and its characteristics — including its name in Arabic, Filastin — became known to the entire Islamic world, as much for its fertility and beauty as for its religious significance…In 1516, Palestine became a province of the Ottoman Empire, but this made it no less fertile, no less Arab or Islamic…Sixty percent of the population was in agriculture; the balance was divided between townspeople and a relatively small nomadic group. All these people believed themselves to belong in a land called Palestine, despite their feelings that they were also members of a large Arab nation…Despite the steady arrival in Palestine of Jewish colonists after 1882, it is important to realize that not until the few weeks immediately preceding the establishment of Israel in the spring of 1948 was there ever anything other than a huge Arab majority. For example, the Jewish population in 1931 was 174,606 against a total of 1,033,314.” Edward Said, “The Question of Palestine.”
How did land ownership traditionally work in Palestine and when did it change?
“[The Ottoman Land Code of 1858] required the registration in the name of individual owners of agricultural land, most of which had never previously been registered and which had formerly been treated according to traditional forms of land tenure, in the hill areas of Palestine generally masha’a, or communal usufruct. The new law meant that for the first time a peasant could be deprived not of title to his land, which he had rarely held before, but rather of the right to live on it, cultivate it and pass it on to his heirs, which had formerly been inalienable…Under the provisions of the 1858 law, communal rights of tenure were often ignored…Instead, members of the upper classes, adept at manipulating or circumventing the legal process, registered large areas of land as theirs…The fellahin [peasants] naturally considered the land to be theirs, and often discovered that they had ceased to be the legal owners only when the land was sold to Jewish settlers by an absentee landlord…Not only was the land being purchased; its Arab cultivators were being dispossessed and replaced by foreigners who had overt political objectives in Palestine.” Rashid Khalidi, “Blaming The Victims,” ed. Said and Hitchens
Was Arab opposition to the arrival of Zionists based on inherent anti-Semitism or a real sense of danger to their community?
“The aim of the [Jewish National] Fund was ‘to redeem the land of Palestine as the inalienable possession of the Jewish people.’…As early as 1891, Zionist leader Ahad Ha’am wrote that the Arabs “understood very well what we were doing and what we were aiming at’…[Theodore Herzl, the founder of Zionism, stated] ‘We shall try to spirit the penniless [Arab] population across the border by procuring employment for it in transit countries, while denying it employment in our own country… Both the process of expropriation and the removal of the poor must be carried out discreetly and circumspectly’…At various locations in northern Palestine Arab farmers refused to move from land the Fund purchased from absentee owners, and the Turkish authorities, at the Fund’s request, evicted them…The indigenous Jews of Palestine also reacted negatively to Zionism. They did not see the need for a Jewish state in Palestine and did not want to exacerbate relations with the Arabs.” John Quigley, “Palestine and Israel: A Challenge to Justice.”
Inherent anti-Semitism? — continued
“Before the 20th century, most Jews in Palestine belonged to old Yishuv, or community, that had settled more for religious than for political reasons. There was little if any conflict between them and the Arab population. Tensions began after the first Zionist settlers arrived in the 1880’s…when [they] purchased land from absentee Arab owners, leading to dispossession of the peasants who had cultivated it.” Don Peretz, “The Arab-Israeli Dispute.”
Inherent anti-Semitism? — continued
“[During the Middle Ages,] North Africa and the Arab Middle East became places of refuge and a haven for the persecuted Jews of Spain and elsewhere…In the Holy Land…they lived together in [relative] harmony, a harmony only disrupted when the Zionists began to claim that Palestine was the ‘rightful’ possession of the ‘Jewish people’ to the exclusion of its Moslem and Christian inhabitants.” Sami Hadawi, “Bitter Harvest.”
Jews attitude towards Arabs when reaching Palestine.
“Serfs they (the Jews) were in the lands of the Diaspora, and suddenly they find themselves in freedom [in Palestine]; and this change has awakened in them an inclination to despotism. They treat the Arabs with hostility and cruelty, deprive them of their rights, offend them without cause, and even boast of these deeds; and nobody among us opposes this despicable and dangerous inclination.” Zionist writer Ahad Ha’am, quoted in Sami Hadawi, “Bitter Harvest.”
Proposals for Arab-Jewish Cooperation
“An article by Yitzhak Epstein, published in Hashiloah in 1907…called for a new Zionist policy towards the Arabs after 30 years of settlement activity…Like Ahad-Ha’am in 1891, Epstein claims that no good land is vacant, so Jewish settlement meant Arab dispossession…Epstein’s solution to the problem, so that a new “Jewish question” may be avoided, is the creation of a bi-national, non-exclusive program of settlement and development. Purchasing land should not involve the dispossession of poor sharecroppers. It should mean creating a joint farming community, where the Arabs will enjoy modern technology. Schools, hospitals and libraries should be non-exclusivist and education bilingual…The vision of non-exclusivist, peaceful cooperation to replace the practice of dispossession found few takers. Epstein was maligned and scorned for his faintheartedness.” Israeli author, Benjamin Beit-Hallahmi, “Original Sins.”
Was Palestine the only, or even preferred, destination of Jews facing persecution when the Zionist movement started?
“The pogroms forced many Jews to leave Russia. Societies known as ‘Lovers of Zion,’ which were forerunners of the Zionist organization, convinced some of the frightened emigrants to go to Palestine. There, they argued, Jews would rebuild the ancient Jewish ‘Kingdom of David and Solomon,’ Most Russian Jews ignored their appeal and fled to Europe and the United States. By 1900, almost a million Jews had settled in the United States alone.” “Our Roots Are Still Alive” by The People Press Palestine Book Project.
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The British Mandate Period1920-1948
The Balfour Declaration promises a Jewish Homeland in Palestine.
“The Balfour Declaration, made in November 1917 by the British Government…was made a) by a European power, b) about a non-European territory, c) in flat disregard of both the presence and wishes of the native majority resident in that territory…[As Balfour himself wrote in 1919], ‘The contradiction between the letter of the Covenant (the Anglo French Declaration of 1918 promising the Arabs of the former Ottoman colonies that as a reward for supporting the Allies they could have their independence) is even more flagrant in the case of the independent nation of Palestine than in that of the independent nation of Syria. For in Palestine we do not propose even to go through the form of consulting the wishes of the present inhabitants of the country…The four powers are committed to Zionism and Zionism, be it right or wrong, good or bad, is rooted in age-long tradition, in present needs, in future hopes, of far profounder import than the desire and prejudices of the 700,000 Arabs who now inhabit that ancient land,’” Edward Said, “The Question of Palestine.”
Wasn’t Palestine a wasteland before the Jews started immigrating there?
“Britain’s high commissioner for Palestine, John Chancellor, recommended total suspension of Jewish immigration and land purchase to protect Arab agriculture. He said ‘all cultivable land was occupied; that no cultivable land now in possession of the indigenous population could be sold to Jews without creating a class of landless Arab cultivators’…The Colonial Office rejected the recommendation.” John Quigley, “Palestine and Israel: A Challenge to Justice.”
Were the early Zionists planning on living side by side with Arabs?
In 1919, the American King-Crane Commission spent six weeks in Syria and Palestine, interviewing delegations and reading petitions. Their report stated, “The commissioners began their study of Zionism with minds predisposed in its favor…The fact came out repeatedly in the Commission’s conferences with Jewish representatives that the Zionists looked forward to a practically complete dispossession of the present non-Jewish inhabitants of Palestine, by various forms of purchase…
“If [the] principle [of self-determination] is to rule, and so the wishes of Palestine’s population are to be decisive as to what is to be done with Palestine, then it is to be remembered that the non-Jewish population of Palestine — nearly nine-tenths of the whole — are emphatically against the entire Zionist program.. To subject a people so minded to unlimited Jewish immigration, and to steady financial and social pressure to surrender the land, would be a gross violation of the principle just quoted…No British officers, consulted by the Commissioners, believed that the Zionist program could be carried out except by force of arms.The officers generally thought that a force of not less than fifty thousand soldiers would be required even to initiate the program. That of itself is evidence of a strong sense of the injustice of the Zionist program…The initial claim, often submitted by Zionist representatives, that they have a ‘right’ to Palestine based on occupation of two thousand years ago, can barely be seriously considered.” Quoted in “The Israel-Arab Reader” ed. Laquer and Rubin.
Side by side — continued
“Zionist land policy was incorporated in the Constitution of the Jewish Agency for Palestine…’land is to be acquired as Jewish property and..the title to the lands acquired is to be taken in the name of the Jewish National Fund, to the end that the same shall be held as the inalienable property of the Jewish people.’ The provision goes to stipulate that ‘the Agency shall promote agricultural colonization based on Jewish labor’…The effect of this Zionist colonization policy on the Arabs was that land acquired by Jews became extra-territorialized. It ceased to be land from which the Arabs could ever hope to gain any advantage…
“The Zionists made no secret of their intentions, for as early as 1921, Dr. Eder, a member of the Zionist Commission, boldly told the Court of Inquiry, ‘there can be only one National Home in Palestine, and that a Jewish one, and no equality in the partnership between Jews and Arabs, but a Jewish preponderance as soon as the numbers of the race are sufficiently increased.’ He then asked that only Jews should be allowed to bear arms.”Sami Hadawi, “Bitter Harvest.”
Given Arab opposition to them, did the Zionists support steps towards majority rule in Palestine?
“Clearly, the last thing the Zionists really wanted was that all the inhabitants of Palestine should have an equal say in running the country… [Chaim] Weizmann had impressed on Churchill that representative government would have spelled the end of the [Jewish] National Home in Palestine… [Churchill declared,] ‘The present form of government will continue for many years. Step by step we shall develop representative institutions leading to full self-government, but our children’s children will have passed away before that is accomplished.’” David Hirst, “The Gun and the Olive Branch.”
Denial of the Arabs’ right to self-determination
“Even if nobody lost their land, the [Zionist] program was unjust in principle because it denied majority political rights… Zionism, in principle, could not allow the natives to exercise their political rights because it would mean the end of the Zionist enterprise.”Benjamin Beit-Hallahmi, “Original Sins.”
Arab resistance to Pre-Israeli Zionism
“In 1936-9, the Palestinian Arabs attempted a nationalist revolt… David Ben-Gurion, eminently a realist, recognized its nature. In internal discussion, he noted that ‘in our political argument abroad, we minimize Arab opposition to us,’ but he urged, ‘let us not ignore the truth among ourselves.’ The truth was that ‘politically we are the aggressors and they defend themselves… The country is theirs, because they inhabit it, whereas we want to come here and settle down, and in their view we want to take away from them their country, while we are still outside’… The revolt was crushed by the British, with considerable brutality.” Noam Chomsky, “The Fateful Triangle.”
Gandhi on the Palestine conflict — 1938
“Palestine belongs to the Arabs in the same sense that England belongs to the English or France to the French…What is going on in Palestine today cannot be justified by any moral code of conduct…If they [the Jews] must look to the Palestine of geography as their national home, it is wrong to enter it under the shadow of the British gun. A religious act cannot be performed with the aid of the bayonet or the bomb. They can settle in Palestine only by the goodwill of the Arabs… As it is, they are co-sharers with the British in despoiling a people who have done no wrong to them. I am not defending the Arab excesses. I wish they had chosen the way of non-violence in resisting what they rightly regard as an unacceptable encroachment upon their country. But according to the accepted canons of right and wrong, nothing can be said against the Arab resistance in the face of overwhelming odds.” Mahatma Gandhi, quoted in “A Land of Two Peoples” ed. Mendes-Flohr.
Didn’t the Zionists legally buy much of the land before Israel was established?
“In 1948, at the moment that Israel declared itself a state, it legally owned a little more than 6 percent of the land of Palestine…After 1940, when the mandatory authority restricted Jewish land ownership to specific zones inside Palestine, there continued to be illegal buying (and selling) within the 65 percent of the total area restricted to Arabs.
Thus when the partition plan was announced in 1947 it included land held illegally by Jews, which was incorporated as a fait accompli inside the borders of the Jewish state. And after Israel announced its statehood, an impressive series of laws legally assimilated huge tracts of Arab land (whose proprietors had become refugees, and were pronounced ‘absentee landlords’ in order to expropriate their lands and prevent their return under any circumstances).” Edward Said, “The Question of Palestine.”
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The UN Partition of Palestine
Why did the UN recommend the plan partitioning Palestine into a Jewish and an Arab state?
“By this time [November 1947] the United States had emerged as the most aggressive proponent of partition…The United States got the General Assembly to delay a vote ‘to gain time to bring certain Latin American republics into line with its own views.’…Some delegates charged U.S. officials with ‘diplomatic intimidation.’ Without ‘terrific pressure’ from the United States on ‘governments which cannot afford to risk American reprisals,’ said an anonymous editorial writer, the resolution ‘would never have passed.’” John Quigley, “Palestine and Israel: A Challenge to Justice.”
Why was this Truman’s position?
“I am sorry gentlemen, but I have to answer to hundreds of thousands who are anxious for the success of Zionism. I do not have hundreds of thousands of Arabs among my constituents.” President Harry Truman, quoted in “Anti Zionism”, ed. by Teikener, Abed-Rabbo & Mezvinsky.
Was the partition plan fair to both Arabs and Jews?
“Arab rejection was…based on the fact that, while the population of the Jewish state was to be [only half] Jewish with the Jews owning less than 10% of the Jewish state land area, the Jews were to be established as the ruling body — a settlement which no self-respecting people would accept without protest, to say the least…The action of the United Nations conflicted with the basic principles for which the world organization was established, namely, to uphold the right of all peoples to self-determination. By denying the Palestine Arabs, who formed the two-thirds majority of the country, the right to decide for themselves, the United Nations had violated its own charter.” Sami Hadawi, “Bitter Harvest.”
Were the Zionists prepared to settle for the territory granted in the 1947 partition?
“While the Yishuv’s leadership formally accepted the 1947 Partition Resolution, large sections of Israel’s society — including…Ben-Gurion — were opposed to or extremely unhappy with partition and from early on viewed the war as an ideal opportunity to expand the new state’s borders beyond the UN earmarked partition boundaries and at the expense of the Palestinians.” Israeli historian, Benny Morris, in “Tikkun”, March/April 1998.
Public vs private pronouncements on this question.
“In internal discussion in 1938 [David Ben-Gurion] stated that ‘after we become a strong force, as a result of the creation of a state, we shall abolish partition and expand into the whole of Palestine’…In 1948, Menachem Begin declared that: ‘The partition of the Homeland is illegal. It will never be recognized. The signature of institutions and individuals of the partition agreement is invalid. It will not bind the Jewish people. Jerusalem was and will forever be our capital. Eretz Israel (the land of Israel) will be restored to the people of Israel, All of it. And forever.” Noam Chomsky, “The Fateful Triangle.”
The war begins
“In December 1947, the British announced that they would withdraw from Palestine by May 15, 1948. Palestinians in Jerusalem and Jaffa called a general strike against the partition. Fighting broke out in Jerusalem’s streets almost immediately…Violent incidents mushroomed into all-out war…During that fateful April of 1948, eight out of thirteen major Zionist military attacks on Palestinians occurred in the territory granted to the Arab state.”“Our Roots Are Still Alive” by the People Press Palestine Book Project.
Zionists’ disrespect of partition boundaries
“Before the end of the mandate and, therefore before any possible intervention by Arab states, the Jews, taking advantage of their superior military preparation and organization, had occupied…most of the Arab cities in Palestine before May 15, 1948. Tiberias was occupied on April 19, 1948, Haifa on April 22, Jaffa on April 28, the Arab quarters in the New City of Jerusalem on April 30, Beisan on May 8, Safad on May 10 and Acre on May 14, 1948…In contrast, the Palestine Arabs did not seize any of the territories reserved for the Jewish state under the partition resolution.” British author, Henry Cattan, “Palestine, The Arabs and Israel.”
Culpability for escalation of the fighting
“Menahem Begin, the Leader of the Irgun, tells how ‘in Jerusalem, as elsewhere, we were the first to pass from the defensive to the offensive…Arabs began to flee in terror…Hagana was carrying out successful attacks on other fronts, while all the Jewish forces proceeded to advance through Haifa like a knife through butter’…The Israelis now allege that the Palestine war began with the entry of the Arab armies into Palestine after 15 May 1948. But that was the second phase of the war; they overlook the massacres, expulsions and dispossessions which took place prior to that date and which necessitated Arab states’ intervention.” Sami Hadawi, “Bitter Harvest.”
The Deir Yassin Massacre of Palestinians by Jewish soldiers
“For the entire day of April 9, 1948, Irgun and LEHI soldiers carried out the slaughter in a cold and premeditated fashion…The attackers ‘lined men, women and children up against the walls and shot them,’…The ruthlessness of the attack on Deir Yassin shocked Jewish and world opinion alike, drove fear and panic into the Arab population, and led to the flight of unarmed civilians from their homes all over the country.” Israeli author, Simha Flapan, “The Birth of Israel.”
Was Deir Yassin the only act of its kind?
“By 1948, the Jew was not only able to ‘defend himself’ but to commit massive atrocities as well. Indeed, according to the former director of the Israeli army archives, ‘in almost every village occupied by us during the War of Independence, acts were committed which are defined as war crimes, such as murders, massacres, and rapes’…Uri Milstein, the authoritative Israeli military historian of the 1948 war, goes one step further, maintaining that ‘every skirmish ended in a massacre of Arabs.’” Norman Finkelstein, “Image and Reality of the Israel-Palestine Conflict.”
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Statehood and Expulsion1948
What was the Arab reaction to the announcement of the creation of the state of Israel?
“The armies of the Arab states entered the war immediately after the State of Israel was founded in May. Fighting continued, almost all of it within the territory assigned to the Palestinian state…About 700,000 Palestinians fled or were expelled in the 1948 conflict.”Noam Chomsky, “The Fateful Triangle.”
Was the part of Palestine assigned to a Jewish state in mortal danger from the Arab armies?
“The Arab League hastily called for its member countries to send regular army troops into Palestine. They were ordered to secure only the sections of Palestine given to the Arabs under the partition plan. But these regular armies were ill equipped and lacked any central command to coordinate their efforts…[Jordan’s King Abdullah] promised [the Israelis and the British] that his troops, the Arab Legion, the only real fighting force among the Arab armies, would avoid fighting with Jewish settlements…Yet Western historians record this as the moment when the young state of Israel fought off “the overwhelming hordes’ of five Arab countries. In reality, the Israeli offensive against the Palestinians intensified.” “Our Roots Are Still Alive,” by the Peoples Press Palestine Book Project.
Ethnic cleansing of the Arab population of Palestine
“Joseph Weitz was the director of the Jewish National Land Fund…On December 19, 1940, he wrote: ‘It must be clear that there is no room for both peoples in this country…The Zionist enterprise so far…has been fine and good in its own time, and could do with ‘land buying’ — but this will not bring about the State of Israel; that must come all at once, in the manner of a Salvation (this is the secret of the Messianic idea); and there is no way besides transferring the Arabs from here to the neighboring countries, to transfer them all; except maybe for Bethlehem, Nazareth and Old Jerusalem, we must not leave a single village, not a single tribe’…There were literally hundreds of such statements made by Zionists.” Edward Said, “The Question of Palestine.”
Ethnic cleansing — continued
“Following the outbreak of 1936, no mainstream (Zionist) leader was able to conceive of future coexistence without a clear physical separation between the two peoples — achievable only by transfer and expulsion. Publicly they all continued to speak of coexistence and to attribute the violence to a small minority of zealots and agitators. But this was merely a public pose..Ben Gurion summed up: ‘With compulsory transfer we (would) have a vast area (for settlement)…I support compulsory transfer. I don’t see anything immoral in it,’” Israel historian, Benny Morris, “Righteous Victims.”
Ethnic cleansing — continued
“Ben-Gurion clearly wanted as few Arabs as possible to remain in the Jewish state. He hoped to see them flee. He said as much to his colleagues and aides in meetings in August, September and October . But no [general] expulsion policy was ever enunciated and Ben-Gurion always refrained from issuing clear or written expulsion orders; he preferred that his generals ‘understand’ what he wanted done. He wished to avoid going down in history as the ‘great expeller’ and he did not want the Israeli government to be implicated in a morally questionable policy…But while there was no ‘expulsion policy’, the July and October  offensives were characterized by far more expulsions and, indeed, brutality towards Arab civilians than the first half of the war.”Benny Morris, “The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem, 1947-1949”
Didn’t the Palestinians leave their homes voluntarily during the 1948 war?
“Israeli propaganda has largely relinquished the claim that the Palestinian exodus of 1948 was ‘self-inspired’. Official circles implicitly concede that the Arab population fled as a result of Israeli action — whether directly, as in the case of Lydda and Ramleh, or indirectly, due to the panic that and similar actions (the Deir Yassin massacre) inspired in Arab population centers throughout Palestine. However, even though the historical record has been grudgingly set straight, the Israeli establishment still refused to accept moral or political responsibility for the refugee problem it — or its predecessors — actively created.” Peretz Kidron, quoted in “Blaming the Victims,” ed. Said and Hitchens.
Arab orders to evacuate non-existent
“The BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation) monitored all Middle Eastern broadcasts throughout 1948. The records, and companion ones by a United States monitoring unit, can be seen at the British Museum. There was not a single order or appeal, or suggestion about evacuation from Palestine, from any Arab radio station, inside or outside Palestine, in 1948. There is a repeated monitored record of Arab appeals, even flat orders, to the civilians of Palestine to stay put.” Erskine Childers, British researcher, quoted in Sami Hadawi, “Bitter Harvest.”
Ethnic cleansing — continued
“That Ben-Gurion’s ultimate aim was to evacuate as much of the Arab population as possible from the Jewish state can hardly be doubted, if only from the variety of means he employed to achieve his purpose…most decisively, the destruction of whole villages and the eviction of their inhabitants…even [if] they had not participated in the war and had stayed in Israel hoping to live in peace and equality, as promised in the Declaration of Independence.” Israeli author, Simha Flapan, “The Birth of Israel.”
The deliberate destruction of Arab villages to prevent return of Palestinians
“During May  ideas about how to consolidate and give permanence to the Palestinian exile began to crystallize, and the destruction of villages was immediately perceived as a primary means of achieving this aim…[Even earlier,] On 10 April, Haganah units took Abu Shusha… The village was destroyed that night… Khulda was leveled by Jewish bulldozers on 20 April… Abu Zureiq was completely demolished… Al Mansi and An Naghnaghiya, to the southeast, were also leveled. . .By mid-1949, the majority of [the 350 depopulated Arab villages] were either completely or partly in ruins and uninhabitable.”Benny Morris, “The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem, 1947-1949.
After the fighting was over, why didn’t the Palestinians return to their homes?
“The first UN General Assembly resolution—Number 194— affirming the right of Palestinians to return to their homes and property, was passed on December 11, 1948. It has been repassed no less than twenty-eight times since that first date. Whereas the moral and political right of a person to return to his place of uninterrupted residence is acknowledged everywhere, Israel has negated the possibility of return… [and] systematically and juridically made it impossible, on any grounds whatever, for the Arab Palestinian to return, be compensated for his property, or live in Israel as a citizen equal before the law with a Jewish Israeli.” Edward Said, “The Question of Palestine.”
Is there any justification for this expropriation of land?
“The fact that the Arabs fled in terror, because of real fear of a repetition of the 1948 Zionist massacres, is no reason for denying them their homes, fields and livelihoods. Civilians caught in an area of military activity generally panic. But they have always been able to return to their homes when the danger subsides. Military conquest does not abolish private rights to property; nor does it entitle the victor to confiscate the homes, property and personal belongings of the noncombatant civilian population. The seizure of Arab property by the Israelis was an outrage.” Sami Hadawi, “Bitter Harvest.”
How about the negotiations after the 1948-1949 wars?
“[At Lausanne,] Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, and the Palestinians were trying to save by negotiations what they had lost in the war—a Palestinian state alongside Israel. Israel, however… [preferred] tenuous armistice agreements to a definite peace that would involve territorial concessions and the repatriation of even a token number of refugees. The refusal to recognize the Palestinians’ right to self-determination and statehood proved over the years to be the main source of the turbulence, violence, and bloodshed that came to pass.” Israeli author, Simha Flapan, “The Birth Of Israel.”
Israel admitted to UN but then reneged on the conditions under which it was admitted
“The [Lausanne] conference officially opened on 27 April 1949. On 12 May the [UN’s] Palestine Conciliation ,Committee reaped its only success when it induced the parties to sign a joint protocol on the framework for a comprehensive peace. . Israel for the first time accepted the principle of repatriation [of the Arab refugees] and the internationalization of Jerusalem. . .[but] they did so as a mere exercise in public relations aimed at strengthening Israel’s international image…Walter Eytan, the head of the Israeli delegation, [stated]..’My main purpose was to begin to undermine the protocol of 12 May, which we had signed only under duress of our struggle for admission to the U.N. Refusal to sign would…have immediately been reported to the Secretary-General and the various governments.’” Israeli historian, Ilan Pappe, “The Making of the Arab-Israel Conflict, 1947-1951.”
Israeli admission to the U.N.— continued
“The Preamble of this resolution of admission included a safeguarding clause as follows: ‘Recalling its resolution of 29 November 1947 (on partition) and 11 December 1948 (on reparation and compensation), and taking note of the declarations and explanations made by the representative of the Government of Israel before the ad hoc Political Committee in respect of the implementation of the said resolutions, the General Assembly…decides to admit Israel into membership in the United Nations.’
“Here, it must be observed, is a condition and an undertaking to implement the resolutions mentioned. There was no question of such implementation being conditioned on the conclusion of peace on Israeli terms as the Israelis later claimed to justify their non-compliance.” Sami Hadawi, “Bitter Harvest.”
What was the fate of the Palestinians who had now become refugees?
“The winter of 1949, the first winter of exile for more than seven hundred fifty thousand Palestinians, was cold and hard…Families huddled in caves, abandoned huts, or makeshift tents…Many of the starving were only miles away from their own vegetable gardens and orchards in occupied Palestine — the new state of Israel…At the end of 1949 the United Nations finally acted. It set up the United Nations Relief and Works Administration (UNRWA) to take over sixty refugee camps from voluntary agencies. It managed to keep people alive, but only barely.” “Our Roots Are Still Alive” by The Peoples Press Palestine Book Project.
The 1967 War and the Israeli Occupation of the West Bank and Gaza
Did the Egyptians actually start the 1967 war, as Israel originally claimed?
“The former Commander of the Air Force, General Ezer Weitzman, regarded as a hawk, stated that there was ‘no threat of destruction’ but that the attack on Egypt, Jordan and Syria was nevertheless justified so that Israel could ‘exist according the scale, spirit, and quality she now embodies.’…Menahem Begin had the following remarks to make: ‘In June 1967, we again had a choice. The Egyptian Army concentrations in the Sinai approaches do not prove that Nasser was really about to attack us. We must be honest with ourselves. We decided to attack him.’“ Noam Chomsky, “The Fateful Triangle.”
Was the 1967 war defenisve? — continued
“I do not think Nasser wanted war. The two divisions he sent to The Sinai would not have been sufficient to launch an offensive war. He knew it and we knew it.” Yitzhak Rabin, Israel’s Chief of Staff in 1967, in Le Monde, 2/28/68
Moshe Dayan posthumously speaks out on the Golan Heights
“Moshe Dayan, the celebrated commander who, as Defense Minister in 1967, gave the order to conquer the Golan…[said] many of the firefights with the Syrians were deliberately provoked by Israel, and the kibbutz residents who pressed the Government to take the Golan Heights did so less for security than for the farmland…[Dayan stated] ‘They didn’t even try to hide their greed for the land…We would send a tractor to plow some area where it wasn’t possible to do anything, in the demilitarized area, and knew in advance that the Syrians would start to shoot. If they didn’t shoot, we would tell the tractor to advance further, until in the end the Syrians would get annoyed and shoot.
And then we would use artillery and later the air force also, and that’s how it was…The Syrians, on the fourth day of the war, were not a threat to us.’” The New York Times, May 11, 1997
The history of Israeli expansionism
“The acceptance of partition does not commit us to renounce Transjordan; one does not demand from anybody to give up his vision. We shall accept a state in the boundaries fixed today. But the boundaries of Zionist aspirations are the concern of the Jewish people and no external factor will be able to limit them.” David Ben-Gurion, in 1936, quoted in Noam Chomsky, “The Fateful Triangle.”
Expansionism — continued
“The main danger which Israel, as a ‘Jewish state’, poses to its own people, to other Jews and to its neighbors, is its ideologically motivated pursuit of territorial expansion and the inevitable series of wars resulting from this aim…No zionist politician has ever repudiated Ben-Gurion’s idea that Israeli policies must be based (within the limits of practical considerations) on the restoration of Biblical borders as the borders of the Jewish state.”Israeli professor, Israel Shahak, “Jewish History, Jewish Religion: The Weight of 3000 Years.”
Expansionism — continued
In Israeli Prime Minister Moshe Sharatt’s personal diaries, there is an excerpt from May of 1955 in which he quotes Moshe Dayan as follows: “[Israel] must see the sword as the main, if not the only, instrument with which to keep its morale high and to retain its moral tension. Toward this end it may, no — it must — invent dangers, and to do this it must adopt the method of provocation-and-revenge…And above all — let us hope for a new war with the Arab countries, so that we may finally get rid of our troubles and acquire our space.” Quoted in Livia Rokach, “Israel’s Sacred Terrorism.”
But wasn’t the occupation of Arab lands necessary to protect Israel’s security?
“Senator [J.William Fulbright] proposed in 1970 that America should guarantee Israel’s security in a formal treaty, protecting her with armed forces if necessary. In return, Israel would retire to the borders of 1967. The UN Security Council would guarantee this arrangement, and thereby bring the Soviet Union — then a supplier of arms and political aid to the Arabs — into compliance. As Israeli troops were withdrawn from the Golan Heights, the Gaza Strip and the West Bank they would be replaced by a UN peacekeeping force. Israel would agree to accept a certain number of Palestinians and the rest would be settled in a Palestinian state outside Israel.
“The plan drew favorable editorial support in the United States. The proposal, however, was flatly rejected by Israel. ‘The whole affair disgusted Fulbright,’ writes [his biographer Randall] Woods. ‘The Israelis were not even willing to act in their own self-interest.’” Allan Brownfield in “Issues of the American Council for Judaism.” Fall 1997.[Ed.—This was one of many such proposals]
What happened after the 1967 war ended?
“In violation of international law, Israel has confiscated over 52 percent of the land in the West Bank and 30 percent of the Gaza Strip for military use or for settlement by Jewish civilians…From 1967 to 1982, Israel’s military government demolished 1,338 Palestinian homes on the West Bank. Over this period, more than 300,000 Palestinians were detained without trial for various periods by Israeli security forces. “Intifada: The Palestinian Uprising Against Israeli Occupation,” ed. Lockman and Beinin.
World opinion on the legality of Israeli control of the West Bank and Gaza.
“Under the UN Charter there can lawfully be no territorial gains from war, even by a state acting in self-defense. The response of other states to Israel’s occupation shows a virtually unanimous opinion that even if Israel’s action was defensive, its retention of the West Bank and Gaza Strip was not…The [UN] General Assembly characterized Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and Gaza as a denial of self determination and hence a ‘serious and increasing threat to international peace and security.’ “ John Quigley, “Palestine and Israel: A Challenge to Justice.”
Examples of the effects of Israeli occupation
“A study of students at Bethlehem University reported by the Coordinating Committee of International NGOs in Jerusalem showed that many families frequently go five days a week without running water…The study goes further to report that, ‘water quotas restrict usage by Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza, while Israeli settlers have almost unlimited amounts.’
“A summer trip to a Jewish settlement on the edge of the Judean desert less than five miles from Bethlehem confirmed this water inequity for us. While Bethlehemites were buying water from tank trucks at highly inflated rates, the lawns were green in the settlement. Sprinklers were going at mid day in the hot August sunshine. Sounds of children swimming in the outdoor pool added to the unreality.” Betty Jane Bailey, in “The Link”, December 1996.
Israeli occupation — continued
“You have to remember that 90 percent of children two years old or more have experienced — some many, many times — the [Israeli] army breaking into the home, beating relatives, destroying things. Many were beaten themselves, had bones broken, were shot, tear gassed, or had these things happen to siblings and neighbors…The emotional aspect of the child is affected by the [lack of] security. He needs to feel safe. We see the consequences later if he does not. In our research, we have found that children who are exposed to trauma tend to be more extreme in their behaviors and, later, in their political beliefs.” Dr Samir Quota, director of research for the Gaza Community Mental Health Programme, quoted in “The Journal of Palestine Studies,” Summer 1996, p.84
Israeli occupation — continued
“There is nothing quite like the misery one feels listening to a 35-year-old [Palestinian] man who worked fifteen years as an illegal day laborer in Israel in order to save up money to build a house for his family only to be shocked one day upon returning from work to find that the house and all that was in it had been flattened by an Israeli bulldozer. When I asked why this was done — the land, after all, was his — I was told that a paper given to him the next day by an Israeli soldier stated that he had built the structure without a license. Where else in the world are people required to have a license (always denied them) to build on their own property? Jews can build, but never Palestinians. This is apartheid.” Edward Said, in “The Nation”, May 4, 1998.
All Jewish settlements in territories occupied in the 1967 war are a direct violation of the Geneva Conventions, which Israel has signed.
“The Geneva Convention requires an occupying power to change the existing order as little as possible during its tenure. One aspect of this obligation is that it must leave the territory to the people it finds there. It may not bring its own people to populate the territory. This prohibition is found in the convention’s Article 49, which states, ‘The occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies.’” John Quigley, “Palestine and Israel: A Challenge to Justice.”
Excerpts from the U.S. State Department’s reports during the Intifada
“Following are some excerpts from the U.S. State Department’s Country Reports on Human Rights Practices from 1988 to 1991:
1988: ‘Many avoidable deaths and injuries’ were caused because Israeli soldiers frequently used gunfire in situations that did not present mortal danger to troops…IDF troops used clubs to break limbs and beat Palestinians who were not directly involved in disturbances or resisting arrest..At least thirteen Palestinians have been reported to have died from beatings…’
1989: Human rights groups charged that the plainclothes security personnel acted as death squads who killed Palestinian activists without warning, after they had surrendered, or after they had been subdued…
1991: [The report] added that the human rights groups had published ‘detailed credible reports of torture, abuse and mistreatment of Palestinian detainees in prisons and detention centers.” Former Congressman Paul Findley, “Deliberate Deceptions.”
Jerusalem — Eternal, Indivisible Capital of Israel?
“Writing in The Jerusalem Report (Feb. 28, 2000), Leslie Susser points out that the current boundaries were drawn after the Six-Day War. Responsibility for drawing those lines fell to Central Command Chief Rehavan Ze’evi. The line he drew ‘took in not only the five square kilometers of Arab East Jerusalem — but also 65 square kilometers of surrounding open country and villages, most of which never had any municipal link to Jerusalem. Overnight they became part of Israel’s eternal and indivisible capital.’” Allan Brownfield in The Washington Report On Middle East Affairs, May 2000.
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Addendum by If Americans Knew:1973 War (Known in Israel as the Yom Kippur War)*
Egypt and Syria continued to demand the return of the land taken by Israel in 1967. However, attempts at diplomacy failed, and eventually Egyptian President Anwar Sadat warned that war would come if Israel did not return Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula and Syria’s Golan Heights. But Kissinger and the Israelis dismissed him, as did the US media.
These were strategic errors and they contributed directly to the war that broke out on 6 October 1973 with coordinated attacks by Egypt and Syria against Israeli troops stationed on occupied territory. No fighting actually took place on Israeli territory, but the shock of the attacks often made it seem in the US media that Israel itself was under siege.
Israel had considered its position unassailable, but a brilliant strategy known as “Operation Badr” resulted in a stunning success. Egyptian planners had feared that the attack might cost as many as 30,000 casualties, but at the end of October 6, Egyptian losses were only 208 dead. As military historian Trevor N. Dupuy summed up: “The combination of thorough and efficient planning, careful security, the achievement of complete surprise, and the highly efficient execution of carefully prepared plans, resulted in one of the most memorable water crossings in the annals of warfare. As with the planning, no other army could have done better.”
Demands instantly arose for a massive supply effort by the United States to Israel. President Nixon at the time already was deeply involved in the spreading watergate scandal and much of the pressure from the Israeli lobby focused on Kissinger.
By 12 October, Israeli Ambassador Simcha Dinitz bluntly warned Kissinger that “if a massive American airlift to Israel does not start immediately then I’ll know that the United States is reneging on its promises and its policy, and we will have to draw very serious conclusions from all this.” Kissinger’s biographers, Bernard and Marvin Kalb, observed of this remark: “Dinitz did not have to translate his message. Kissinger quickly understood that the Israelis would soon ‘go public’ and that an upsurge of pro-Israeli sentiment could have a disastrous impact upon an already weakened administration.
That same day, US oilmen sent a joint memorandum to Prresident Nixon expressing their alarm at the dangerous possibility of steep oil production cuts and price rises if the US continued its protective policies toward Israel. Nonetheless, Nixon and Kissinger ignored the warning and openly launched a huge air operation to supply Israel on 13 October.
When on 18 October Nixon attempted to appease Israel’s clamoring supporters even further by requesting from Congress $2.2 billion in emergency aid for Israel, Saudi Arabia and other oil producing states finally imposed a total oil boycott agasint the United States in retaliation for its unlimited support of Israel. Kissinger estimated that the direct costs to the United States were $3 billion and the indirect costs, mainly from higher prices of oil, $10 billion to $15 billion. He added: “It increased our unemployment and conributed to the deepest recession we have had in the post war period.”
This was a high price to pay for a country that was supposed to enhance US interests.
* From FALLEN PILLARS: U.S. Policy towards Palestine and Israel since 1945 andWARRIORS AGAINST ISRAEL: How Israel Won the Battle to Become America’s Ally 1973, both by Donald Neff.
Donald Neff, author of five books about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, was a Middle East correspondent for the Los Angeles Times before becoming Jerusalem Bureau Chief and Senior Editor for Time magazine. His book Warriors at Suez, the first of his Warriors trilogy on America’s relations with the Middle East and Israel, was nominated for the American Book Award in 1981 in the history category and was an alternate selection of both the Book of the Month Club and the History Book Club.
More on the oil boycott.
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The History of Terrorism in the Region
Editor’s Note: We believe that the killing of innocent people is wrong, in all cases. Thus, we cannot condone the use of terrorism by some extreme Palestinian groups, especially prevalent during the 1970s. That being said, however, it is necessary to examine the context in which such incidents occurred.
We hear lots about Palestinian terrorism. How about the Israeli record?
“The record of Israeli terrorism goes back to the origins of the state — indeed, long before — including the massacre of 250 civilians and brutal expulsion of seventy thousand others from Lydda and Ramle in July 1948; the massacre of hundreds of others at the undefended village of Doueimah near Hebron in October 1948;…the slaughters in Quibya, Kafr Kassem, and a string of other assassinated villages; the expulsion of thousands of Bedouins from the demilitarized zones shortly after the 1948 war and thousands more from northeastern Sinai in the early 1970’s, their villages destroyed, to open the region for Jewish settlement; and on, and on.” Noam Chomsky, “Blaming The Victims,” ed. Said and Hitchens.
Terrorism — continued
“However much one laments and even wishes somehow to atone for the loss of life and suffering visited upon innocents because of Palestinian violence, there is still the need, I think, also to say that no national movement has been so unfairly penalized, defamed, and subjected to disproportionate retaliation for its sins as has the Palestinian.
The Israeli policy of punitive counterattacks (or state terrorism) seems to be to try to kill anywhere from 50 to 100 Arabs for every Jewish fatality. The devastation of Lebanese refugee camps, hospitals, schools, mosques, churches, and orphanages; the summary arrests, deportations, house destructions, maimings, and torture of Palestinians on the West Bank and Gaza..these, and the number of Palestinian fatalities, the scale of material loss, the physical, political and psychological deprivations, have tremendously exceeded the damage done by Palestinians to Israelis.” Edward Said, “The Question of Palestine.”
The U.S. Government and media bias on terrorism in the Middle East
“It is simply extraordinary and without precedent that Israel’s history, its record — from the fact that it..is a state built on conquest, that it has invaded surrounding countries, bombed and destroyed at will, to the fact that it currently occupies Lebanese, Syrian, and Palestinian territory against international law — is simply never cited, never subjected to scrutiny in the U.S. media or in official discourse…never addressed as playing any role at all in provoking ‘Islamic terror.’” Edward Said in “The Progressive.” May 30, 1996.
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Jewish Criticism of Zionism
“Albert Einstein — ‘I should much rather see reasonable agreement with the Arabs on the basis of living together in peace than the creation of a Jewish State. Apart from practical considerations, my awareness of the essential nature of Judaism resists the idea of a Jewish State,with borders, an army, and a measure of temporal power, no matter how modest. I am afraid of the inner damage Judaism will sustain’…
“Professor Erich Fromm, a noted Jewish writer and thinker, [stated]…’In general international law, the principle holds true that no citizen loses his property or his rights of citizenship; and the citizenship right is de facto a right to which the Arabs in Israel have much more legitimacy than the Jews. Just because the Arabs fled? Since when is that punishable by confiscation of property, and by being barred from returning to the land on which a people’s forefathers have lived for generations? Thus, the claim of the Jews to the land of Israel cannot be a realistic claim. If all nations would suddenly claim territory in which their forefathers had lived two thousand years ago, this world would be a madhouse…I believe that, politically speaking, there is only one solution for Israel, namely, the unilateral acknowledgement of the obligation of the State towards the Arabs — not to use it as a bargaining point, but to acknowledge the complete moral obligation of the Israeli State to its former inhabitants of Palestine’…
“Nathan Chofshi — ‘Only an internal revolution can have the power to heal our people of their murderous sickness of causeless hatred…It is bound to bring complete ruin upon us. Only then will the old and young in our land realize how great was our responsibility to those miserable Arab refugees in whose towns we have settled Jews who were brought here from afar; whose homes we have inherited, whose fields we now sow and harvest; the fruits of whose gardens, orchards and vineyards we gather; and in whose cities that we robbed we put up houses of education, charity, and prayer, while we babble and rave about being the “People of the Book” and the “light of the nations”’…
(Facebook / Federico Maximus Rosales / 19.03.2012)