excerpts from the book

The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine

by Ilan Pappe

Oneworld Publications, 2006, paperback


David Ben-Gurion to the Jewish Agency Executive, June 1938

I am for compulsory transfer [of Palestinians]; I do not see anything immoral in it.

On a cold Wednesday afternoon, 10 March 1948, a group of eleven men, veteran Zionist leaders together with young military Jewish officers, put the final touches to a plan for the ethnic cleansing of Palestine. That same evening, military orders were dispatched to the units on the ground to prepare for the systematic expulsion of the Palestinians from vast areas of the country.' The orders came with a detailed description of the methods to be employed to forcibly evict the people: large-scale intimidation; laying siege to and bombarding villages and population centres; setting fire to homes, properties and goods; expulsion; demolition; and, finally, planting mines among the rubble to prevent any of the expelled inhabitants from returning. Each unit was issued with its own list of villages and neighbourhoods as the targets of this master plan. Codenamed Plan D (Do/et in Hebrew), this was the fourth and final version of less substantial plans that outlined the fate the Zionists had in store for Palestine and consequently for its native population. The previous three schemes had articulated only obscurely how the Zionist leadership contemplated dealing with the presence of so many Palestinians living in the land the Jewish national movement coveted as its own. This fourth and last blueprint spelled it out clearly and unambiguously: the Palestinians had to go.' In the words of one of the first historians to note the significance of that plan, Simcha Flapan, 'The military campaign against the Arabs, including the "conquest and destruction of the 'rural areas" was set forth in the Hagana's Plan Dalet'.' The aim of the plan was in fact the destruction of both the rural and urban areas of Palestine.

... this plan was both the inevitable product of the Zionist ideological impulse to have an exclusively Jewish presence in Palestine, and a response to developments on the ground once the British cabinet had decided to end the mandate. Clashes with local Palestinian militias provided the perfect context and pretext for implementing the ideological vision of an ethnically cleansed Palestine. The Zionist policy was first based on retaliation against Palestinian attacks in February 1947, and it transformed into an initiative to ethnically cleanse the country as a whole in March 1948.

Once the decision was taken, it took six months to complete the mission. When it was over, more than half of Palestine's native population, close to 800,000 people, had been uprooted, 531 villages had been destroyed, and eleven urban neighbourhoods emptied of their inhabitants. The plan decided upon on 10 March 1948, and above all its systematic implementation in the following months, was a clear-cut case of an ethnic cleansing operation, regarded under international law today as a crime against humanity.

After the Holocaust, it has become almost impossible to conceal large-scale crimes against humanity. Our modern communication-driven world, especially since the upsurge of electronic media, no longer allows human-made catastrophes to remain hidden from the public eye or to be denied. And yet, one such crime has been erased almost totally from the global public memory: the dispossession of the Palestinians in 1948 by Israel. This, the most formative event in the modern history of the land of Palestine, has ever since been systematically denied, and is still today not recognised as an historical fact, let alone acknowledged as a crime that needs to be confronted politically as well as morally.

Drazen Petrovic, 'Ethnic Cleansing - An Attempt at Methodology', European Journal of International Law, 5/3 (1994), pp. 342-60

Ethnic cleansing is a well-defined policy of a particular group of persons to systematically eliminate another group from a given territory on the basis of religious, ethnic or national origin. Such a policy involves violence and is very often connected with military operations. It is to be achieved by all possible means, from discrimination to extermination, and entails violations of human rights and international humanitarian law... Most ethnic cleansing methods are grave breaches of the 1949 Geneva Conventions and 1977 Additional Protocols.

Wikipedia - "ethnic cleansing"

At the most general level, ethnic cleansing can be understood as the forced expulsion of an 'undesirable' population from a given territory as a result of religious or ethnic discrimination, political, strategic or ideological considerations, or a combination of these.

The ethnic cleansing of Palestine must become rooted in our memory and consciousness as a crime against humanity and that it should be excluded from the list of alleged crimes. The perpetrators here are not obscure - they are a very specific group of people: the heroes of the Jewish war of independence, whose names will be quite familiar to most readers. The list begins wit, indisputable leader o the Zionist movement, David Ben-Gurion, in whose private home all early and later chapters in the ethnic cleansing story were discussed and finalised. He was aided by a small group of people (I refer to in this book as) the 'Consultancy', an ad-hoc cabal assembled solely for the purpose of plotting and designing the dispossession of the Palestinians.

Leo Motzkin, one of the Zionist movement's most liberal thinkers, 1917

Our thought is that the colonization of Palestine has to go in two directions: Jewish settlement in Eretz Israel and the resettlement of the Arabs of Eretz Israel in areas outside the country. The transfer of so many Arabs may seem at first unacceptable economically, but is nonetheless practical. It does not require too much money to resettle a Palestinian village on another land.

It is the deep chasm between reality and representation that is most bewildering in the case of Palestine. It is indeed hard to understand, and for that matter to explain, why a crime that was perpetrated in modern times and at a juncture in history that called for foreign reporters and UN observers to be present, should have been so totally ignored. And yet, there is no denying that the ethnic cleansing of 1948 has been eradicated almost totally from the collective global memory and erased from the world's conscience. Imagine that not so long ago, in any given country you are familiar with, half of the entire population had been forcibly expelled within a year, half of its villages and towns wiped out, leaving behind only rubble and stones. Imagine now the possibility that somehow this act will never make it into the history books and that all diplomatic efforts to solve the conflict that erupted in that country will totally sideline, if not ignore, this catastrophic ever, for one, have searched in vain through the history of the world as we know it in the aftermath of the Second World War for a case of this nature and a fate of this kind. There are other, earlier, cases that have fared similarly, such as the ethnic cleansing of the non-Hungarians at the end of the nineteenth century, the genocide of the Armenians, and the holocaust perpetrated by the Nazi occupation against travelling people (the Roma, also known as Sinti) in the 1940s. I hope in the future that Palestine will no longer be included in this list.

Zionism emerged in the late 1880s in central and eastern Europe as a national revival movement, prompted by the growing pressure on Jews in those regions either to assimilate totally or risk continuing persecution (though, as we know, even complete assimilation was no safeguard against annihilation in the case of Nazi Germany). By the beginning of the twentieth century, most of the leaders of the Zionist movement associated this national revival with the colonization of Palestine. Others, especially the founder of the movement, Theodor Herzl, were more ambivalent, but after his death, in 1904, the orientation towards Palestine was fixed and consensual.

Eretz Israel, the name for Palestine in the Jewish religion, had been revered throughout the centuries by generations of Jews as a place for holy pilgrimage, never as a future secular state. Jewish tradition and religion clearly instruct Jews to await the coming of the promised Messiah at 'the end of times' before they can return to Eretz Israel as a sovereign people in a Jewish theocracy, that is, as the obedient servants of God (this is why today several streams of Ultra-Orthodox Jews are either non or anti-Zionist). In other words,

Zionism secularised and nationalised Judaism. To bring their project to fruition, the Zionist thinkers claimed the biblical territory and recreated, indeed reinvented, it as the cradle of their new nationalist movement. As they saw it, Palestine was occupied by 'strangers' and had to be repossessed. 'Strangers' here meant everyone not Jewish who had been living in Palestine since the Roman period.' In fact, for many Zionists Palestine was not even an 'occupied' land when they first arrived there in 1882, but rather an 'empty' one: the native Palestinians who lived there were largely invisible to them or, if not, were part of nature's hardship and as such were to be conquered and removed. Nothing, neither rocks nor Palestinians, was to stand in the way of the national 'redemption' of the land the Zionist movement coveted.

Until the occupation of Palestine by Britain in 1918, Zionism was a blend of nationalist ideology and colonialist practice. It was limited in scope: Zionists made up no more than five per cent of the country's overall population at that time. Living in colonies, they did not affect, nor were they particularly noticed by, the local population. The potential for a future Jewish takeover of the country and the expulsion of the indigenous Palestinian people, which historians have so clearly recognised in retrospect in the writings of the founding fathers of Zionism, became evident to some Palestinian leaders even before the First World War...

The moment British Foreign Secretary Lord Balfour gave the Zionist movement his promise in 1917 to establish a national home for the Jews in Palestine, he opened the door to the endless conflict that would soon engulf the country and its people.

The Zionist leadership had wasted no time in working out their plans for an exclusively Jewish presence in Palestine: first, in 1937, by accepting a modest portion of the land when they responded favourably to a recommendation by the British Royal Peel commission to partition Palestine into two states; and second, in 1942, by attempting a more maximalist strategy, demanding all of Palestine for itself. The geographical space it coveted may have changed with time and according to circumstances and opportunities, but the principal objective remained the same. The Zionist project could only be realised through the creation in Palestine of a purely Jewish state, both as a safe haven for Jews from persecution and a cradle for a new Jewish nationalism. And such a state had to be exclusively Jewish not only in its socio-political structure but also in its ethnic composition.

Beyond carefully charting rural Palestine in preparation for the future takeover of the country, the Zionist movement had by now also obtained a much clearer sense of how best to get the new state off the ground after the Second World War. A crucial factor in this was that the British had already destroyed the Palestinian leadership and its defence capabilities when they suppressed the 1936 Revolt, thus allowing the Zionist leadership ample time and space to set out their next moves. Once the danger of a Nazi invasion into Palestine was removed in 1942, the Zionist leaders became more keenly aware that the sole obstacle that stood in their way of successfully seizing the land was the British presence, not any Palestinian resistance. This explains why, for example, in a meeting in the Biltmore Hotel in New York in 1942, we find Ben-Gurion putting demands on the table for a Jewish commonwealth over the whole of Mandatory Palestine."

As the Second World War drew to a close, the Jewish leadership in Palestine embarked on a campaign to push the British out of the country. Simultaneously, they continued to map out their plans for the Palestinian population, the country's seventy-five per cent majority. Leading Zionist figures did not air their views in public, but confided their thoughts only to their close associates or entered them into their diaries. One of them, Yossef Weitz, wrote in 1940: 'it is our right to transfer the Arabs' and 'The Arabs should go! ' Ben-Gurion himself, writing to his son in 1937, appeared convinced that this was the only course of action open to Zionism: 'The Arabs will have to go, but one needs an opportune moment for making it happen, such as a war."' The opportune moment came in 1948. Ben-Gurion is in many ways the founder of the State of Israel and was its first prime minister: He also masterminded the ethnic cleansing of Palestine.


David Ben-Gurion led the Zionist movement from the mid 1920s until well into the 1960s...
When the British offered the Jewish community a state in 1937, but over a much smaller portion of Palestine than they had in mind, Ben-Gurion accepted the proposal was a good start, but he aspired to Jewish sovereignty over as much of Palestine as possible. He then swayed the Zionist leadership into accepting both his supreme authority and the fundamental notion that future statehood meant absolute Jewish domination. How to achieve such a purely Jewish state was also discussed under his guidance around 1937. Two magic words now emerged: Force and Opportunity. The Jewish state could only be won by force, but one had to wait for the opportune historical moment to come along in order to be able to deal 'militarily' with the demographic reality on ground: the presence of a non-Jewish native majority population.

Like generations of Israeli leaders after him, up to Ariel Sharon in 2005, Ben-Gurion found he had to hold back the more extremist Zionist members, and he told them that eighty to ninety per cent of Mandatory Palestine was enough to create a viable state, provided they were able to ensure Jewish predominance. Neither the concept nor the percentage would change over the next sixty years. A few months later the Jewish Agency translated Ben-Gurion's 'large chunk of Palestine' into a map which it distributed to everyone relevant to the future of Palestine. This 1947 map envisaged a Jewish state that anticipated almost to the last dot pre-1967 Israel, i.e., Palestine without the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

... The Zionist leadership was aware of the total collapse of the Palestinian leadership after the Second World War and of the hesitant position the Arab states as a whole were displaying on the Palestine question. The desperate situation of the indigenous population of Palestine becomes poignantly clear the moment we realise that those who had crushed their liberation movement, the British Mandatory authorities, were now the only ones standing between them and a coolly determined and highly motivated Zionist movement that coveted most of their homeland. But worse was to come as Europe prepared to compensate the Jewish people for the Holocaust that had raged on its soil with a state in Palestine, ignoring at the same time that this could only come about at the expense of the indigenous Palestinians.

Ben-Gurion had already realised by the end of 1946 that the British were on their way out, and with his aides began working on a general strategy that could be implemented against the Palestinian population the moment the British were gone. This strategy became Plan C, or Gimel in Hebrew.

... Plan C aimed to prepare the military forces of the Jewish community in Palestine for the offensive campaigns they would be engaged in against rural and urban Palestine the moment the British were gone. The purpose of such actions would be to 'deter' the Palestinian population from attacking Jewish settlements, and to retaliate for assaults on Jewish houses, roads and traffic. Plan C spelled out clearly what punitive actions of this kind would entail:

Killing the Palestinian political leadership.
Killing Palestinian inciters and their financial supporters.
Killing Palestinians who acted against Jews.
Killing senior Palestinian officers and officials [in the Mandatory system I.
Damaging Palestinian transportation.
Damaging the sources of Palestinian livelihoods: water wells, mills, etc.
Attacking nearby Palestinian villages likely to assist in future attacks. Attacking Palestinian clubs, coffee houses, meeting places, etc.

When the Zionist movement started its ethnic cleansing operations in Palestine, in early December 1947, the country had a 'mixed' population of Palestinians and Jews. The indigenous Palestinians made up the two-third majority... Almost all of the cultivated land in Palestine was held by the indigenous population - only 5.8% was in Jewish ownership in 1947.

An inexperienced UN, just two years old in 1947, entrusted the question of the future of Palestine's fate into the hands of a Special Committee for Palestine, UNSCOP, none of whose members turned out to have any prior experience in solving conflicts or knew much about Palestine's history.

UNSCOP too decided to sponsor partition as the guiding principle for a future solution. True, its members deliberated for a while over the possibility of making all of Palestine one democratic state - whose future would then be decided by the majority vote of the population - but they eventually abandoned the idea. Instead, UNSCOP recommended to the UN General Assembly to partition Palestine into two states, bound together federation-like by economic unity.

... It is clear that by accepting the Partition Resolution, the UN totally ignored the ethnic composition of the country's population. Had the UN decided to make the territory the Jews had settled on in Palestine correspond with the size of their future state, they would have entitled them to no more than ten per cent of the land. But the UN accepted the nationalist claims the Zionist movement was making for Palestine and, furthermore, sought to compensate the Jews for the Nazi Holocaust in Europe.

As a result, the Zionist movement was 'given' a state that stretched over more than half of the country.

The Zionist movement so quickly dominated the diplomatic game in 1947 that the leadership of the Jewish community felt confident enough to demand UNSCOP allocate them a state comprising over eighty per cent of the land. The Zionist emissaries to the negotiations with the UN actually produced a map showing the state they wanted, which incorporated all the land Israel would occupy a year later, that is, Mandatory Palestine without the West Bank.

... Partitioning the country - overwhelmingly Palestinian - into two equal parts has proven so disastrous because it was carried out against the will of the indigenous majority population. By broadcasting its intent to create equal Jewish and Arab political entities in Palestine, the UN violated the basic rights of the Palestinians, and totally ignored the concern for Palestine in the wider Arab world at the very height of the anti-colonialist struggle in the Middle East.

In October and November 1947 the Consultancy became Ben-Gurion's most important reference group. It was only among them that he discussed openly what the implications would be of his decision to disregard the partition map and to use force in order to ensure Jewish majority and exclusivity in the country.

The first step towards the Zionist goal of obtaining as much of Palestine as possible with as few Palestinians in it as feasible was to decide what constituted a viable state in geographical terms. The UN Partition Plan, formalised in Resolution 181, designated the Negev, the coast, the eastern valleys (Marj Ibn Amir and the Baysan Valley) and lower Galilee for the Jews, but this was not enough. Ben-Gurion had the habit of regularly meeting with, what he called his 'war cabinet', which was an ad-hoc group of Jewish officers who had served in the British army (under pressure from other Hagana members, he later had to disband it). He now set out to impress on these officers the idea that they should start preparing for the occupation of the country as a whole. In October 1947, Ben-Gurion wrote to General Ephraim Ben-Artzi, the most senior officer among them, explaining that he wanted to create a military force able both to repel a potential attack from neighbouring Arab states and to occupy as much of the country as possible, and hopefully all of it.

The Zionist leadership was committed to their collusion with the Jordanians. This meant that the Jewish leadership anticipated their future state to stretch over eighty per cent of Mandatory Palestine: the fifty-six per cent promised to the Jews by the UN, with an additional twenty-four per cent taken from the Arab state the UN had allocated to the Palestinians. The remaining twenty per cent would be picked up by the Jordanians.

This tacit agreement with Jordan in many ways constituted the second step towards ensuring the ethnic cleansing operation could go ahead unhindered: crucially it neutralised the strongest army in the Arab world, and confined it to battle with the Jewish forces solely in a very small part of Palestine. Without the Jordanian Army, the Arab Legion, the Arab world lacked all serious capacity to defend the Palestinians or foil the Zionist plan to establish a Jewish state in Palestine at the expense of the indigenous population.

All in all, on the eve of the 1948 war, the Jewish fighting force stood at around 50,000 troops, out of which 30,000 were fighting troops and the rest auxiliaries who lived in the various settlements. In May 1948, these troops could count on the assistance of a small air force and navy, and on the units of tanks, armoured cars and heavy artillery that accompanied them. Facing them were irregular para-military Palestinian outfits that numbered no more than 7000 troops: a fighting force that lacked all structure or hierarchy and was poorly equipped when compared with the Jewish forces!' In addition, in February 1948, about 1000 volunteers had entered from the Arab world, reaching 3000 over the next few months.

Until May 1948, the two sides were poorly equipped. Then the newly founded Israeli army, with the help of the country's Communist party, received a large shipment of heavy arms from Czechoslovakia and the Soviet Union, while the regular Arab armies brought some heavy weaponry of their own. A few weeks into the war, the Israeli recruitment was so efficient that by the end of the summer their army stood at 80,000 troops. The Arab regular force never crossed the 50,000 threshold, and in addition had stopped receiving arms from Britain, which was its main arms supplier.

... On the margins of the main Jewish military power operated two more extreme groups: the Irgun (commonly referred to as Etzel in Hebrew) and the Stern Gang (Lehi). The Irgun had split from the Hagana in 1931 and in the 1940s was led by Menachem Begin. It had developed its own aggressive policies towards both the British presence and the local population. The Stern Gang was an offshoot of the Irgun, which it left in 1940. Together with the Hagana, these three organisations were united into one military army during the days of the Nakba.

An important part of the Zionists' military effort was the training of special commando units, the Palmach, founded in 1941. Originally these were created to assist the British army in the war against the Nazis in case the latter reached Palestine. Soon, the Palmach's zeal and activities were directed against the Palestinian rural areas. From 1944 onwards, it was also the main pioneering force in building new Jewish settlements. Before being dismantled in the autumn of 1948, its members were highly active and carried out some of the main cleansing operations in the north and the centre of the country.

David Ben-Gurion, 1948, in a letter to Moshe Sharett the Jewish state's foreign minister designate

If we will receive in time the arms we have already purchased, and maybe even receive some of that promised to us by the UN, we will be able not only to defend [ourselves] but also to inflict death blows on the Syrians in their own country - and take over Palestine as a whole.

The village[of Lifta] was a fine example of rural architecture, with its narrow street running parallel to the slopes of the mountains. The relative prosperity it enjoyed, like many other villages, especially during and after the Second World War, manifested itself in the construction of new houses, the improvement of roads and pavements, as well as in an overall higher standard of living. Lifta was a large village, home to 2500 people, most of them Muslims with a small number of Christians. Another sign of the recent prosperity was the girls' school a number of the villages had combined forces to build in 1945, investing their joint capital.

Social life in Lifta revolved around a small shopping centre, which included a club and two coffee houses. It attracted Jerusalemites as well, as no doubt it would today were it still there. One of the coffee houses was the target of the Hagana when it attacked on 28 December 1947. Armed with machine guns the Jews sprayed the coffee house, while members of the Stern Gang stopped a bus nearby and began firing into it randomly. This was the first Stern Gang operation in rural Palestine; prior to the attack, the gang had issued pamphlets to its activists: 'Destroy Arab neighbourhoods and punish Arab villages."'

... The Hagana High Command at first condemned the Stern Gang attack at the end of December, but when they realised that the assault had caused villagers to flee, they ordered another operation against the same village on 11 January in order to complete the expulsion. The Hagana blew up most of the houses in the village and drove out all the people who were still there.

... in Jerusalem, sporadic retaliatory actions were systemised into an offensive initiative of occupation and expulsion. On 31 January, Ben-Gurion gave direct orders to David Shaltiel, the city's military commander, to assure Jewish contiguity and expansion through the destruction of Shaykh Jarrah, the occupation of other neighborhoods, and the immediate settlement of Jews in the evicted places. His mission was 'to settle Jews in every house of an evicted semi-Arab neighbourhood, such as Romema.

The mission was successfully accomplished. On 7 February 1948, which happened to fall on a Saturday, the Jewish Sabbath, Ben-Gurion came up from Tel-Aviv to see the emptied and destroyed village of Lifta with his own eyes. That same evening he reported jubilantly to the Mapai Council in Jerusalem what he had seen:

When I come now to Jerusalem, I feel lam in a Jewish (Ivrit) city. This is a feeling I only had in Tel-Aviv or in an agricultural farm. It is true that not all of Jerusalem is Jewish, but it has in it already a huge Jewish bloc: when you enter the city through Lifta and Romema, through Mahaneh Yehuda, King George Street and Mea Shearim - there are no Arabs. One hundred percent Jews. Ever since Jerusalem was destroyed by the Romans - the city was not as Jewish as it is now. In many Arab neighbourhoods in the West you do not see even one Arab. I do not suppose it will change. And what happened in Jerusalem and in Haifa- can happen in large parts of the country. If we persist it is quite possible that in the next six or eight months there will be considerable changes in the country, very considerable, and to our advantage. There will certainly be considerable changes in the demographic composition of the country

Ben-Gurion's diary also reveals how eager he was in January to move ahead with building a more effective assault force. He was particularly worried that the Irgun and the Stern Gang continued their terror attacks against the Palestinian population without any coordination from the Hagana command. David Shaltiel, the Jerusalem Hagana commander, reported to him that in his city, and actually all over the country, the Irgun often acted in areas where the other forces were not yet fully prepared. For example, troops belonging to the Irgun had murdered Arab drivers in Tiberias and were torturing captured villagers everywhere.

Israeli General Yigal Allon, 1948

There is a need now for strong and brutal reaction. We need to be accurate about timing, place and those we hit. If we accuse a family - we need to harm them without mercy, women and children included. Otherwise, this is not an effective reaction. During the operation there is no need to distinguish between guilty and not guilty.

The flame-thrower project was part of a larger unit engaged in developing biological warfare under the directorship of a physical chemist called Ephraim Katzir, later the president of Israel ... The biological unit he led together with his brother Aharon, started working seriously in February. Its main objective was to create a weapon that could blind people. Katzir reported to Ben-Gurion: 'We are experimenting with animals. Our researchers were wearing gas masks and adequate outfit. Good results. The animals did not die (they were just blinded). We can produce 20 kilos a day of this stuff.' In June, Katzir suggested using it on human beings.

The order to attack Sa'sa came from Yigal Allon, the commander of the Palmach in the north, and was entrusted to Moshe Kalman, the deputy commander of the third battalion that had committed the atrocities in Khisas. Allon explained that the village had to be attacked because of its location. 'We have to prove to ourselves that we can take the initiative,' he wrote to Kalman. The order was very clear: 'You have to blow up twenty houses and kill as many "warriors" [read: "villagers"] as possible'. Sa'sa was attacked at midnight - all the villages attacked under the 'Lamed-Heh' order were assaulted around midnight, recalled Moshe Kalman. The New York Times (16 April 1948) reported that the large unit of Jewish troops encountered no resistance from the residents as they entered the village and began attaching TNT to the houses. 'We ran into an Arab guard,' Kalman recounted later. 'He was so surprised that he did not ask "min hada?", "who is it?", but "eish hada?", "what is it?" One of our troops who knew Arabic responded humorously [sic] "hada esh!" ("this is [in Arabic] fire [in Hebrew]") and shot a volley into him.' Kalman's troops took the main street of the village and systematically blew up one house after another while families were still sleeping inside. 'In the end the sky prised open,' recalled Kalman poetically, as a third of the village was blasted into the air. 'We left behind 35 demolished houses and 60-80 dead bodies' (quite a few of them were children) . He commended the British army for helping the troops to transfer the two wounded soldiers - hurt by debris flying through the air to the Safad hospital."

The intelligence unit of the Hagana drafted the blueprint for the coming months. Codenamed Plan D, it contained direct references both to the geographical parameters of the future Jewish state (the seventy-eight per cent coveted by Ben-Gurion) and to the fate of the one million Palestinians living within that space:

These operations can be carried out in the following manner: either by ) destroying villages (by setting fire to them, by blowing them up, and by \ planting mines in their rubble), and especially those population centres that are difficult to control permanently; or by mounting combing J and control operations according to the following guidelines: encirclement of the villages, conducting a search inside them. In case of resistance, the armed forces must be wiped out and the population (.,.. expelled outside the borders of the state.

Villages were to be expelled in their entirety either because they were located in strategic spots or because they were expected to put up some sort of resistance. These orders were issued when it was clear that occupation would always provoke some resistance and that therefore no village would be immune, either because of its location or because it would not allow itself to be occupied. This was the master plan for the expulsion of all the villages in rural Palestine. Similar instructions were given, with much the same wording, for actions directed at Palestine's urban centres.

There was [a] difference between the draft handed to the politicians and the one the military commanders were given: the official draft stated that the plan would only be activated after the end of the Mandate; the officers on the ground were ordered to start executing it within a few days after its adoption. This dichotomy is typical of the relationship that exists in Israel between the army and politicians up to the present day - the army quite often misinforms the politicians as to its real intentions: Moshe Dayan did so in 1956, Ariel Sharon in 1982, and Shaul Mofaz in 2000.

... the Acting Chief of Staff, Yigael Yadin, summoned all the intelligence officers of the Hagana to a building that housed the headquarters of the Jewish public health service.

... Ya!din realised he needed to account for the gap between the public declarations the leadership was making of an imminent 'second Holocaust' and the reality that the Jewish forces clearly faced no real challenge in the scheduled depopulation of the territory they wished to turn into their Jewish state. Yadin, dramatic as ever, set out to impress upon his listeners that since they were going to be issued with orders to occupy, conquer and dispossess a population, they deserved an explanation of how they could afford to do so when, as they read in their newspapers and heard from their politicians, they themselves were facing the 'danger of annihilation'. The officer, whose tall and lean figure would soon become familiar to all Israelis, then proudly told his audience: 'Today we have all the arms we need; they are already aboard ships, and the British are leaving and then we bring in the weapons, and the whole situation at the fronts will change."

In other words, when we find Yigael Yadin's narrative depicting the last weeks of March 1948 as the toughest period of the war as a whole, we might instead conclude that the Jewish community in Palestine was not in any danger of annihilation: it was facing some obstacles on the way to completed its ethnic cleansing plan.

... Official Israeli historiography describes the next month, April 1948, as a turning point. According to this version, an isolated and threatened Jewish community in Palestine was moving from defence to offence, after its near defeat. The reality of the situation could not have been more different: the overall military, political and economic balance between the two communities was such that not only were the majority of Jews in no danger at all, but in addition, between the beginning of December 1947 and the end of March 1948, their army had been able to complete the first stage of the cleansing of Palestine, even before the master plan had been put into effect. If there were a turning point in April, it was the shift from sporadic attacks and counter-attacks on the Palestinian civilian population towards the systematic mega-operation of ethnic cleansing that now followed.

The systemic nature of Plan Dalet is manifested in Deir Yassin, a pastoral sand cordial village that had reached a non-aggression pact with the Hagana in Jerusalem, but was doomed to be wiped out because it was within the areas designated in Plan Dalet to be cleansed. Because of the prior agreement they had signed with the village, the Hagana decided to send the Irgun and Stern Gang troops, so as to absolve themselves from any official accountability. In the subsequent cleansings of 'friendly' villages even this ploy would no longer be deemed necessary.

On 9 April 1948, Jewish forces occupied the village of Deir Yassin. It lay on a hill west of Jerusalem, eight hundred metres above sea level and close to the Jewish neighbourhood of Givat Shaul. The old village school serves today as a mental hospital for the western Jewish neighbourhood that expanded over the destroyed village.

As they burst into the village [of Deir Yassin] the Jewish soldiers sprayed the houses with machine-gun fire, killing many of the inhabitants. The remaining villagers were then gathered in one place and murdered in cold blood, their bodies abused while a number of the women were raped ad then killed.

Fahim Zaydan, who was twelve years old at the time, recalled how he saw his family murdered in front of his eyes:

They took us out one after the other; shot an old man and when one of his daughters cried, she was shot too. Then they called my brother Muhammad, and shot him in front us, and when my mother yelled, bending over him - carrying my little sister Hudra in her hands, still breastfeeding her - they shot her too.

Zaydan himself was shot, too, while standing in a row of children the Jewish soldiers had lined up against a wall, which they had then sprayed with bullets, 'just for the fun of it', before they left. He was lucky to survive his wounds.

Recent research has brought down the accepted number of people massacred at Deir Yassin from 170 to ninety-three. Of course, apart from the victims of the massacre itself, dozens of others were killed in the fighting, and hence were not included in the official list of victims. However, as the Jewish forces regarded any Palestinian village as an enemy military base, the distinction between massacring people and killing them 'in battle' was slight. One only has to be told that thirty babies were among the slaughtered in Deir Yassin to understand why the whole 'quantitative' exercise - which the Israelis repeated as recently as April 2002 in the massacre in Jenin - is insignificant. At the time, the Jewish leadership proudly announced a high number of victims so as to make Deir Yassin the epicentre of the catastrophe -a warning to all Palestinians that a similar fate awaited them if they refused to abandon their homes and take flight.

Mordechai Makief, the operation officer of the Carmeli Brigade ... called the shots [in Deir Yassin]. Makief orchestrated the cleansing campaign, and the orders he issued to his troops were plain and simple: 'Kill any Arab you encounter; torch all inflammable objects and force doors open with explosives.' (He later became the Israeli army Chief of Staff.)

When these orders were executed promptly within the 1.5 square kilometres where thousands of Haifa's defenceless Palestinians were still residing, the shock and terror were such that, without packing any of their belongings or even knowing what they were doing, people began leaving en masse. In panic they headed towards the port where they hoped to find a ship or a boat to take them away from the city. As soon as they had fled, Jewish troops broke into and looted their houses.

When Golda Meir, one of the senior Zionist leaders, visited Haifa a few days later, she at first found it hard to suppress a feeling of horror when she entered homes where cooked food still stood on the tables, children had left toys and books on the floor, and life appeared to have frozen in an instant. Meir had come to Palestine from the US, where her family had fled in the wake of pogroms in Russia, and the sights she witnessed that day reminded her of the worst stories her family had told her about the Russian brutality against Jews decades earlier." But this apparently left no lasting mark on her or her associates' determination to continue with the ethnic cleansing of Palestine.

the Israeli foundational myth about voluntary Palestinian flight the moment the war started - in response to a call by Arab leaders to make way for invading armies - holds no water. It is a sheer fabrication that there were Jewish attempts, as Israeli textbooks still insist today, to persuade Palestinians to stay. As we have seen, hundreds of thousands of Palestinians had already been expelled by force before the war began, and tens of thousands more would be expelled in the first week of the war. For most Palestinians, the date of 15 May 1948 [the slaughter in the village of Deir Yassin] was of no special significance at the time: it was just one more day in the horrific calendar of ethnic cleansing that had started more than five months earlier.

One brigade, the Alexandroni, was entrusted with the mission of cleansing the villages to the east and north of Tel-Aviv and Jaffa. It was then ordered to move north and, together with other units, start depopulating the Palestine coastline, all the way up to Haifa.

The orders had come on 12 May [1948]. 'You must between the 14th and 15th occupy and destroy: Tira, Qalansuwa and Qaqun, Irata, Danba, Iqtaba and Shuweika. Furthermore, you should occupy but not destroy Qalqilya... Within two days the next order arrived in the Alexandroni headquarters: 'You will attack and cleanse Tirat Haifa, Ayn Ghazal, Ijzim, Kfar Lam, Jaba, Ayn Hawd and Mazar.'

Re-tracing the route the brigade followed, it appears the troops preferred to sweep the area systematically from south to north and accomplish the destruction of the villages in the order that seemed right to them, rather than according to the exact instruction of which village should be hit first. As completing the list was the overall goal, no clear priorities were mentioned. So the Alexandroni began with the villages north and east of Tel-Aviv: Kfar Saba and Qaqun, whose populations were duly expelled...

All in all, there were sixty-four villages within the area that stretched between Tel-Aviv and Haifa, a rectangle 100 kilometres long and fifteen to twenty kilometres wide. Only two of these villages were spared in the end: Furaydis and Jisr al-Zarqa.

... The Alexandroni's pace cleansing the coastal rectangle was horrific - within the second half of the month alone they cleansed the following villages: Manshiyya (in the Tul-Karem area), Butaymat, Khirbat al-Manara, Qannir, Khirbat Qumbaza and Khirbat al-Shuna. A small number of villages courageously put up strong resistance, and the Alexandroni Brigade was unable to take them; nevertheless, they were finally cleansed in July. That is, the ethnic cleansing operations in the central coastal plain developed in two phases: the first in May and the second in July. In the second half of May, the most important 'trophy' was the village of Tantura, which the Alexandroni captured on 21 May 1948.

David Ben-Gurion wrote in his diary on 5 June 1948

We occupied today Yibneh (there was no serious resistance) and Qaqun. Here the cleansing [tihur] operation continues...

Like a ferocious storm gathering force, the Israeli troops no longer spared anyone in their destructive zeal. All means became legitimate, including burning down houses where dynamite had become scarce and torching the fields and remains of a Palestinian village they had attacked.' The escalation of the Israeli army's cleansing operation was the outcome of a meeting of the new, reduced Consultancy, whose members had met on 1 June without Ben-Gurion. They later reported to the Prime Minister that villagers were trying to return to their homes, so they had decided to instruct the army to prevent this at all costs. To make sure that the more liberal-minded among his government members would not object to this policy, Ben-Gurion demanded prior approval, and was duly given carte blanche to proceed on 16 June 1948.

Badil Resource Centre: Facts and figures.

In 1948, 85% of the Palestinians living in the areas that became the state of Israel became refugees.

It is estimated that there were more than 7 million Palestinian refugees and displaced persons at the beginning of 2003.

Under the watchful eyes of UN observers who were patrolling the skies of the Galilee, the final stage of the ethnic cleansing operation, begun in October 1948, continued until the summer of 1949. Whether from the sky or on the ground, no one could fail to spot the hordes of men, women and children streaming north every day. Ragged women and children were conspicuously dominant in these human convoys: the young men were gone executed, arrested or missing. By this time UN observers from above and Jewish eyewitnesses on the ground must have become desensitised towards the plight of the people passing by in front of them: how else to explain the silent acquiescence in the face of the massive deportation unfolding before their eyes?

UN observers did draw some conclusions in October, writing to the Secretary General - who did not publish their report - that Israeli policy was that of 'uprooting Arabs from their native villages in Palestine by force or threat'. Arab member states attempted to bring the report on Palestine to the attention of the Security Council, but to no avail. For almost thirty years the UN uncritically adopted the rhetorical obfuscations of Abba Eban, Israel's ambassador to the UN, who referred to the refugees as constituting a 'humane problem' for which no one could be held accountable or responsible. UN observers were also shocked by the scope of the looting that went on, which by October 1948 had reached every village and town in Palestine. After so overwhelmingly endorsing a partition resolution, almost a year earlier, the UN could have passed another resolution condemning the ethnic cleansing, but it never did.

Official Declaration by the Arab League, 9 January 2006

Since 1967, Israel has detained 670,000 Palestinians.

Address by Ronnie Kasrils, Minister of Water Affairs and Forestry, South Africa, London, 30 November, 2002

Over 700,000 olive and orange trees [in Palestine] have been destroyed by the Israelis. This is an act of sheer vandalism from a state that claims to practise conservation of the environment. How appalling and shameful.

When it set out to create its national parks on the sites of eradicated Palestinian villages, the decision as to what to plant was totally in the hands of the JNF [Jewish National Fund]. Almost from the start the JNF executive opted mainly for conifers instead of the natural flora indigenous to Palestine. In part this was an attempt to make the country look European, although this appears nowhere in any official document as a goal. In addition, however, the choice of planting pine and cypress trees - and this has been overtly stated - was meant to support the country's aspiring wood industry.

The three aims of keeping the country Jewish, European-looking and Green quickly fused into one. This is why forests throughout Israel today include only eleven per cent of indigenous species and why a mere ten per cent of all forests date from before 1948.1 At times, the original flora manages to return in surprising ways. Pine trees were planted not only over bulldozed houses, but also over fields and olive groves.

The true mission of the JNF has been to conceal these visible remnants of Palestine not only by the trees it has planted over them, but also by the narratives it has created to deny their existence. Whether on the JNF website or in the parks themselves, the most sophisticated audiovisual equipment displays the official Zionist story, contextualising any given location within the national meta-narrative of the Jewish people and Eretz Israel. This version continues to spout the familiar myths of the narrative - Palestine as an 'empty' and 'arid' land before the arrival of Zionism - that Zionism employs to supplant all history that contradicts its own invented Jewish past.

Behind these draconian measures on the part of the Israeli government to prevent any discussion of the Right of Return lies a deep-seated fear visa-vis any debate over 1948, as Israel's 'treatment' of the Palestinians in that year is bound to raise troubling questions about the moral legitimacy of the Zionist project as a whole. This makes it crucial for Israelis to keep a strong mechanism of denial in place, not only to help them defeat the counterclaims Palestinians were making in the peace process, but - far more importantly - so as to thwart all significant debate on the essence and moral foundations of Zionism.

For Israelis, to recognise the Palestinians as the victims of Israeli actions deeply distressing, in at least two ways. As this form of acknowledgement means facing up to the historical injustice in which Israel is incriminated through the ethnic cleansing of Palestine in 1948, it calls into question the very foundational myths of the State of Israel, and it raises a host of ethical questions that have inescapable implications for the future of the state.

Recognizing Palestinian victimhood ties in with deeply rooted psychological fears because it demands that Israelis question their self perceptions of what 'went on' in 1948. As most Israelis see it - and as mainstream and popular Israeli historiography keeps telling them - in 1948 Israel was able to establish itself as an independent nation-state on part of Mandate Palestine because early Zionists had succeeded in 'settling an empty land' and 'making the desert bloom'.

Dov Weissglas, spokesperson for Ariel Sharon, Ha'aretz, 6 October 2004

The significance of the disengagement plan [from Gaza] is the freezing of the peace process. And when you freeze that process, you prevent the establishment of a Palestinian state, and you prevent a discussion on the refugees, the borders and Jerusalem. Effectively, this whole package called the Palestinian state, with all that it entails, has been removed indefinitely from our agenda. All with [US] presidential blessings and the ratification of both houses of Congress.

Arnon Soffer, professor of geography at Haifa University, Israel, The Jerusalem Post, 10 May, 2004

So, if we want to remain alive, we have to kill and kill and kill. All day, every day... If we don't kill, we will cease to exist.

Not all the Jews in Israel are blind to the scenes of carnage that their army left behind in 1948, nor are they deaf to the cries of the expelled, the wounded, the tortured and the raped as they keep reaching us through those who survived, and through their children and grandchildren. In fact, growing numbers of Israelis are aware of the truth of what happened in 1948, and fully comprehend the moral implications of the ethnic cleansing that raged in the country. They also recognise the risk of Israel re-activating the cleansing programme in a desperate attempt to maintain its absolute Jewish majority.

It is among these people that we find the political wisdom that all past and present peace-brokers of the conflict appear to lack so totally: they are fully aware that the refugee problem stands at the heart of the conflict and that the fate of the refugees is pivotal for any solution to have a chance of succeeding.

There are many Palestinians who are not under occupation, but none of them, and this includes those in the refugee camps, are free from the potential danger of future ethnic cleansing. It seems more a matter of Israeli priority rather than a hierarchy of 'fortunate' and 'less fortunate' Palestinians. Those today in the Greater Jerusalem area are undergoing ethnic cleansing as this book goes to print. Those who live in the vicinity of the apartheid wall Israel is constructing, half completed as this book is written, are likely to be next. Those who live under the greatest illusion of safety, the Palestinians of Israel, may also be targeted in the future. Sixty-eight per cent of the Israeli Jews expressed their wish, in a recent poll, to see them 'transferred'.'

The Israeli attacks on Gaza and Lebanon in the summer of 2006 indicate that the storm is already raging. Organisations such as Hizbullah and Hamas, which dare to question Israel's right to impose its unilateral will on Palestine, have faced Israel's military might and, so far(at the time of writing) are managing to withstand the assault. But it is far from over. The regional patrons of these resistance movements, Iran and Syria, could be targeted in the future; the risk of even more devastating conflict and bloodshed has never been so acute.

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