Two Minutes with Dr. Yahya
Palestinians: Refugees in Their Homeland.
Hasan Yahya, P.Ds. Originator of the Arab American Encyclopedia, former professor of Comparative Sociology.
Is there a possibility of sharing the Land of Palestine with Israeli Jews? Why Palestinians moved out of Palestine?
Some commentators and biased sources, undermine what happened to Palestinians and fabricate the causes why Palestinians left their homes. From Israeli -Zionist records they claim that Palestinians fled their villages and towns in 1948 under orders from their , sold their homes, and fled voluntarily.
While the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, Article 13 states: “Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own and return, to his country.” Golda Meir statement to the Sunday Times, 15 June, 1969 denied that Palestinian population existed in Palestine. She said: “There is no such thing as a Palestinian people… It is not as if we came and threw them out and took their country. They didn’t exist.”. Israel actions in the last ten years reflects Golda Meir ignorance, arrogance mentality and attitude.
Mazin Qumsiyeh, an Associate Professor colleague at Yale University School of Medicine, is widely acknowledged as one of the top experts on Palestinian refugee rights. He is author of Sharing the Land of Canaan: a vision based on human rights for Israelis and Palestinians, which explores the history and current efforts towards creating a pluralistic democracy in Israel/Palestine. I support his efforts, and would like to see a peaceful solution through exchanged repatriation (for both Jews and Palestinians) and negotiation.
In this article I like to share some data about Israeli atrocities toward Palestinians who are considered by many just commentators and justice activists as refugees in their homeland. Let’s go back to history of Israel, and the Palestinian refugees issu. And show why Palestinian left their homes and lands. The Israeli newspaper Yediot Aharonot interviewing Israeli foreign Minister Shimon Peres (Oct. 5, 2001): Y.A.: “I was wondering, would [the Palestinian] dreams about Jaffa and Haifa suddenly disappear?” Peres: “On this issue I recommend to kill and annihilate.” Another mentality, an example still.
Recently, Israeli historians, such as Ilan Pappé, Benny Morris, Zeev Sternhall, Avi Shlaim, Simha Flapan, and Tom Segev, have debunked the established Israeli myths of Israel’s creation. Using Israeli archives and declassified material, they were able to discover much of the hidden history of Zionism and they reveal a factual account of the establishment of Israel. In the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) archives, a cable was discovered dated October 31, 1948, signed by Major General Carmel and addressed to all the division and district commanders under his command. In that cable he stated, “Do all you can to immediately and quickly purge the conquered territories of all hostile elements in accordance with the orders issued. The residents should be helped to leave the areas that have been conquered.” A detailed analysis of such declassified material is provided by Nur Masalha in his book Expulsion of the Palestinians: The Concept of ‘Transfer’ in Zionist Political Thought, 1882-1948. (Masalha 1992)
Yitzhak Rabin, the future Prime Minister and Noble Prize winner, wrote in his diary soon after Lydda’s and Ramla’s occupation:
After attacking Lydda and then Ramla…What would they do with the 50,000 civilians living in the two cities…Not even Ben-Gurion could offer a solution…and during the discussion at operation headquarters, he [Ben-Gurion] remained silent, as was his habit in such situations. Clearly, we could not leave hostile and armed populace in our rear, where it could endanger the supply route [to the troops who were] advancing eastward…Ben-Gurion would repeat the question: “What is to be done with the population?,” waving his hand in a gesture which said: “Drive them out!.” ‘Driving out’ is a term with a harsh ring… Psychologically, this was one of the most difficult actions we undertook.(Rabi….1)
Facts on Population in Palestine show the estimated population of Palestine in 1893, under the Ottoman Empire, was 469,000 (98%) Arabs, composed of a mixture of Muslims and Christians, and 10,000 (2%) Jews. In 1897, the population of Arabs was 563,000 and of Jews was 21,500, slightly shifting the population proportions to 96% and 4% respectively. In 1912, the estimated population of Palestine was 525,000 (93%) Arabs and 40,000 (6%) Jews. By 1920, the population of Arabs was 542,000 (90%) and of Jews was 61,000 (10%). Thus, in 23 years, only a small number of European Jews had chosen to come live in Palestine.
The total inhabitants removed from these localities were estimated previously at 750,000 and they represented 80% of the Palestinian people living in the land that became Israel. Numbers are easily calculated from village statistics conducted by the British in 1944-1945 and upgrading it to 1948-1949 by considering the known population growth rates per year (British Mandate measured: 3.8% for Muslims, 2% for Christians). By including the Bedouins of Beer Sheba, Abu Sitta calculated the actual number of refugees created (excluding internal refugees) to be 804,767 among a population of about one million that inhabited the area that became Israel by 1949. The land cultivated and used by these depopulated Palestinian villagers was the land that was to make today’s Israel. After the war, remaining lands owned by the Palestinians was 7% (1,474,169 dunums, a dunum is about a quarter of an acre), while Jewish owned or controlled lands went from 8% (1,682,000 dunums) to 85%. This land, which was allocated for use by Jews only, made the bulk of the “land of Israel.” (Abu Sitta, The Palestinian Nakba 1948)
Some commentators undermine what happened to Palestinians and fabricated the causes why Palestinians left their homes. From Israeli -Zionist records they claim that Palestinians fled their villages and towns in 1948 under orders from their leaders or sold their homes.
This allegation first surfaced in Zionist discourse in propaganda that was disseminated to the new Jewish immigrants who were handed much of the property (lands, homes, belongings) of the Palestinian refugees. According to Rosemary Sayigh (Palestinians: From Peasants to Revolutionaries, p. 75), a pamphlet distributed by Israel’s Information Office in New York City after the war also contained this allegation. From there it appears to have entered into Zionist thinking and writing in the West. This myth has been thoroughly refuted by facts.
Many researchers, including Walid Khalidi, Erskine Childers, Benny Morris, Tom Segev, Simha Flapan and Ilan Pappé, have investigated this myth and shown it to be without merit. British author Erskine Childers wrote, “The charge, Israel claimed, was documented but where were the documents?, no dates, names of stations, or texts of messages were ever cited.” (Erskine B. Childers, “The Other Exodus”, The Spectator, London, 5-12-61, p.672).
According to Israeli historians like Benny Morris, a very tiny minority of localities did have military notice (not necessarily orders) for residents regarding evacuations. When Arab soldiers were about to retreat from an area they might warn villagers that they were about to leave, in case the villagers wanted to flee while they still had military protection. According to Sayigh: “Only in the case of one or two cities, for instance, Haifa, could local Arab authorities be said to have ‘ordered’ flight by organizing evacuation. But in most of the country there was not even this slight degree of organization.” (Sayigh, p.64)
Many Palestinians became acutely aware of the massacres at Deir Yassin and 33 other localities (some like Tantura actually larger than Deir Yassin). That fear precipitated much of the exodus and was later highly praised by Israeli leaders as making their lives much easier.
Israeli historian Arieh Yitzhaqi, for many years a researcher in the history section of the IDF, lists several Arab villages where the Israeli military appeared to follow a policy similar to that carried out by Irgun and Stern forces at Deir Yassin. He cites the attack by the Carmel Brigade on the village of Balad el-Sheikh and the attack by the Third Palmach Battalion on the village of Sa’sa’, both resulting in dozens of civilians killed in their homes (The Journal of Palestine Studies, Vol. 1, no. 4, summer 1972, p.144, citing Yediot Aharanot, April 4, 1972).
One Palmach commander admitted firing into rooms containing women and children (Journal of Palestine Studies, Vol. 1, n.4, p. 145, citing Yediot Aharonot, April 4, 1972). In October 1948 some fifty to seventy men were herded into the mosque in the border town of Hula and machine-gunned. The mosque was then blown up to entomb them. (See Hadawi’s Bitter Harvest: A Modern History of Palestine, 4th ed., 1991 p. 89).
Zionist forces capitalized on fear resulting from reports of these atrocities. General Yigal Allon wrote:
“We saw a need to clean the inner Galilee and to create a Jewish territorial succession in the entire area of the Upper Galilee …We therefore looked for means which did not force us into employing force, in order to cause the tens of thousands of sulky Arabs who remained in Galilee to flee …We tried to use a tactic which took advantage of the impression created by the fall of Safed and the [Arab] defeat in the area which was cleaned by Operation Metateh – a tactic which worked miraculously well! I gathered all the Jewish mukhtars, who have contacts with Arabs in different villages, and asked them to whisper in the ears of some Arabs, that a great Jewish reinforcement has arrived in Galilee and that it is going to burn all the villages of Huleh. They should suggest to these Arabs, as their friends, to escape while there is still time.” (Yigal Alon, The Book of the Palmach, vol. 2, p.286; quoted in John W. Mulhall, America and the founding of Israel: an Investigation of the morality of America’s role).
Where these attacks or the fear of such attacks did not have the desired “cleansing” effect, the Israeli army was forced to take more direct measures. This was the case in the Ramle and Lydda area, where residents were asked to leave (at the point of the gun) after the hostilities ended. Residents on foot, in buses, in cars, and in trucks were herded east under the watchful eyes of officers and soldiers like Yitzhak Rabin (who became Israel’s Prime Minister later). Further detail from Israeli historians on the cause of the exodus is provided in the main text.
The above claims that Palestinians left their land and homes voluntarily, are refuted by historical records which deny this perception, and records of organized cleansing was documented in many historical and political (local and international, official and non-official) reports. Such records mention usually, the cleansing in Hebrew language (“Nikayon,” was the word used frequently in Israeli military communications at the time) was initiated by massacres. For example, Plan Dalet was started to conquer the area between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem and it commenced in earnest after the massacre of Deir Yassin on April 9, 1948.
Records also show, in the same line of systematic terror against Palestinians after Deir Yasin. Other documented massacres, which terrorized the Palestinians and force them to leaving their homes reaches the number of 33 massacres in total in 1948 alone began at the start of that year, for example, Mannsurat al Khayt (18 Jan ‘48),
In February 1948 the start of Israeli terror began with Qisarya (15 Feb ‘48), Wadi ‘Arah (27 Feb ‘48),
In April 1948, the most famous cleansing was Yassin (9 April ‘48), followed by Khirbet, Nasir ad Din (12 April ‘48), Hawsha (15 April ‘48), Haifa (21 April ‘48), Husayniyya (21 April ‘48), Al Wa’ra al-Sawda (18 April ‘48), Balad ash Sheikh (25 April ‘48),
In May: Ayn az Zaytun (2 May ‘48), Al Abbasiyya (4 May ‘48), Bayt Daras (11 May ‘48), Burayr (12 May ‘48), ), Khubbayza (12 May ‘48), Abu Shusha (14 May ‘48), Al Tantoura (21 May ‘48). Al Kabri (21 May ‘48),
In July 1948: Qazaza (9 July ‘48), Al Tira (16 July ‘48), Ijzim (24 July ‘48), Lydda (10 July ‘48),
In October: Beer Sheba (21 Oct ‘48), Isdud (28 Oct ‘48), Al Dawayima (29 Oct ‘48), Eilaboun (29 Oct ‘48), Safsaf and Jish (29 Oct ‘48), Majdal Kurum (29 October ‘48), , Sa’sa (30 Oct ‘48), Saliha (30 Oct ‘48), Arab al Samniyya (30 Oct ‘48).
In December: Al Khisas (18 Dec ’48).
Over half of these crimes were committed while the area was still under British mandate and presumed protection. Deir Yassin became the most famous massacre simply because of its ferocity and the fact that over 20 villagers were taken to a nearby Jewish settlement, paraded as game, and then killed to incite panic among the Palestinian natives. Menahem Begin, who later became a Prime Minister of Israel, gloated about the massacre in his book about this period: “The legend in Deir Yassin helped us in particular in the saving of Tiberia and the conquest of Haifa…All the Jewish forces proceeded to advance through Haifa like a knife through butter. The Arabs began fleeing in panic, shouting Deir Yassin…Arabs throughout the country were seized by limitless panic and started to flee for their lives.”
These were not acts of horror that occurred during combat (and there were many) but were instead a premeditated plan to cleanse and terrorize the indigenous Palestinian population. In December 20, 1940 Joseph Weitz, responsible for Jewish colonization, a senior Zionist official, and respected member of Ben Gurion’s inner circle wrote in his diary:
“…It must be clear that there is no room in the country for both peoples…If the Arabs leave it, the country will become wide and spacious for us…The only solution is a Land of Israel, at least a western land of Israel [i.e. Palestine since Transjordan is the eastern portion], without Arabs. There is no room here for compromises…There is no way but to transfer the Arabs from here to the neighboring countries, to transfer all of them, save perhaps for Bethlehem, Nazareth, and the old Jerusalem. Not one village must be left, not one tribe. The transfer must be directed at Iraq, Syria, and even Transjordan. For this goal funds will be found…And only after this transfer will the country be able to absorb millions of our brothers and the Jewish problem will cease to exist. There is no other solution.”
Joseph Weitz became chair of the Land and Forest department of the Jewish National Fund. In 1950 he wrote, “The struggle for the redemption of the land means…the liberation of the land from the hand of the stranger, from the chains of wilderness; the struggle for its conquest by settlement, and…the redemption of the settler, both as a human being and as a Jew, through his deep attachment to the soil he tills.”
The result of the massacres was, 213 Palestinian villages and towns (population 413,794, 52% of the refugees) were “cleansed” while under the “protection” of the British mandate; that is before the start of the Arab-Israeli war on May 15, 1948. 264 localities with 339,272 inhabitants (42%) were vacated during 1948 War. After signing the Armistice Agreements, 54 localities were ethnically cleansed (52,001 people or 6% of refugees).
In cconclusion , to answer the question: Why Palestinians moved out of Palestine?
Statements by Zionist leaders are logical though chilling in their correspondence to events on the ground. Yosef Weitz, Director of the Jewish National Fund Lands Department was very active as of March 1948, in planning for and implementing plans to expel the Palestinians, destroy their villages, and build new homes for the influx of new Jewish immigrants. These activities were given in detail by Morris and other authors. For example, Weitz narrates a conversation with Moshe Shertok (later renamed Sharret, Israeli foreign minister, and future Prime Minister of Israel):
Transfer-post factum; should we do something so as to transform the exodus of the Arabs from the country into a fact, so that they return no more?…His [Shertok’s] answer: he blesses any initiative in this matter. His opinion is also that we must act in such a way as to transform the exodus of the Arabs into an established fact. Certainly Ben-Gurion wanted as few Arabs as possible to remain in Israel. Certainly the majority of the country’s political and military leaders were happy to see the Arabs go. Certainly, many officers and officials did what they could to facilitate departure, including occasional expulsions (though, as I pointed out in Birth, in most towns and villages the Haganah ⁄ IDF had no need to issue expulsion orders as the inhabitants fled before the Jewish troops reached the site; the inhabitants usually fled with the approach of the advancing Jewish column or when the first mortar bombs began to hit their homes). But between what most people want and policy, there is, and was then, a line of demarcation.
In cconclusion , to answer the question: Why Palestinians moved out of Palestine?
Three books published by Benny Morris an Israeli historian, detailing the reasons for the Israeli ⁄ Palestinian conflict and the core issue the displacement of the Palestinians played in creating the present state of Israel:
- Israel’s Border Wars, 1949-1956: Arab Infiltration, Israeli Retaliation and the Countdown to the Suez War (1993)
- The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem, 1947-1948 (1987)
- Jews and Arabs in Palestine ⁄ Israel, 1936-1956 (2000)
Based on declassified and newly opened archives from Israeli government and military sources, these books detail the removal of many Palestinians villages to create room for the Jewish State and its intent to import millions of Jews.
Furthermore, according to Morris and other Israeli historians, the reasons Palestinians left these localities were:
- Expulsion by Zionist ⁄ Jewish forces – 122 localities
- Military assault by Zionist ⁄ Jewish forces – 270 localities
- Fear of Zionist ⁄ Jewish attack, or of being caught in the fighting, influence of the fall of neighboring town, and psychological warfare – 12 localities
- Abandonment on Arab orders – 6 localities
- Unknown – 34 localities
Can anyone deny the above facts, in Democratic Israel or the United States or Great Britain? If they do. They are blind and deaf, like most Israeli politicians. www.hasanyahya.com
Abu Sitta, Salman, Al-Haya, 1 February 2003, Israel was the first to develop and use biological warfare in the Middle East [in Arabic]
Abu Sitta, Salman, The Palestinian Nakba 1948, The Register of Depopulated Localities in Palestine, (London: The Palestinian Return Centre, 2000).
Begin, The Revolt: Story of the Irgun, (New York: Henry Shuman Inc., 1951.); Also cited in Fawaz Turki, The Disinherited: Journal of A Palestinian Exile, 2nd ed (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1974), p. 20.
Cohen, Michael J., The Origin and Evolution of the Arab-Zionist Conflict, (Berkeley: The University of California Press, 1989) p. 90.
Kurzman, Dan, Soldier of Peace: The Life of Yitzhak Rabin, 1922-1995, (New York: HarperCollins, 1998), pp. 140-141.
Masalha, Nur, Expulsion of the Palestinians: The Concept of ‘Transfer’ in Zionist Political Thought, 1882-1948 (Washington D.C.: Institute for Palestine Studies, 1992).
McCarthy, Justin, The Population of Palestine, (New York: Columbia University Press, 1980) p.10, quoting corrected Ottoman figures; Clifford A. Wright, Facts and Fables: the Arab-Israeli Conflict (London and New York: Kegan Paul International, 1989); Rashid Khalidi, ‘xxxx’ in Edward Said and Christopher Hitchens (ed.) Blaming The Victims, (London and New York: Verso Books, 2001)
Morris, Benny, ‘Response to Finkelstein and Masalha’, Journal of Palestine Studies, Vol. 21, No. 1 (1991), pp. 98-114.
Morris, Benny, ‘Revisiting the Palestinian Exodus of 1948’ in E. L. Rogan and A. Schlaim (eds.), The War for Palestine: Rewriting the History of 1948, (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2001), pp. 37- 59.
Morris, Benny, The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem, 1947-1949, (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1987).
Morris Benny, Israel’s Border Wars, 1949-1956: Arab Infiltration, Israeli Retaliation and the Countdown to the Suez War (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1993); Morris, The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem, 1947-1948 (Cambridge Middle East Library, 1987 & 1989); Benny Morris, Correcting a Mistake — Jews and Arabs in Palestine ⁄ Israel, 1936-1956, (Tel Aviv: Am Oved Publishers, 2000).
Morris, The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem 1947-1949, p. 27, and Masalha, Expulsion Of The Palestinians, pp. 131-132.
Read for the author: Arab Palestinians and Jews: Sociological Approach, 2009