Seth Frantzman: Ethnic cleansing in Palestine?





[The writer is in the doctoral program at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. His master's thesis was on the 1948 war.]

As negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority aimed at creating a Palestinian state willing to live side-by-side with Israel in peace resume, one of the major sticking points continues to be the Arab refugee issue. Bitter arguments among politicians and scholars continue to surround the creation of the refugee problem during Israel's War of Independence in 1948.

It has become fashionable in recent decades to frame the 1948 war as one in which the Arabs were victims of Zionist aggression. Anti-Zionist scholars such as Noam Chomsky, Rashid Khalidi and Ilan Pappe have presented the war as if the only important events were Deir Yassin and the flight or expulsion of Arabs from Haifa, Acre, Tiberias, west Jerusalem, Jaffa and numerous villages.

IN THIS context, Ilan Pappe's work deserves special attention. He was born to a German Jewish family in Haifa in 1954. The former senior lecturer in the University of Haifa's Department of Political Science recently announced he was moving to the UK because it had become"increasingly difficult to live in Israel" with his"unwelcome views and convictions."

These views are those of the"new historians" - leftist scholars who in the 1980s began to reinterpret Israeli and Palestinian history. He is the author of six works on the history of the Israeli-Arab conflict and the Middle East. In his recently released book The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine, Pappe claims that Israel prepared a special plan for the ethnic cleansing of Palestine's Arab population known as Plan D for dalet. Pappe's"evidence" is derived from his interpretations of files found in the Hagana and Israel state archives.

One of his most damning pieces of evidence is the village surveys carried out by the Hagana's intelligence units. These surveys go into minute detail about many Arab villages, including the number of armed men, the mukhtar and any anti-Jewish activity in the village. Pappe lends further evidence to his thesis by showing that Jewish forces, whether Hagana, Irgun or Lehi, attacked Arab villages even before the declaration of the state on May 15, 1948.

But Pappe makes one egregious mistake. He never bothers to ask the same question of the Arabs he does of the Jews: What about their lists, their intelligence reports and their ethnic-cleansing plans? What were Arab intentions in the five months between the passage of the UN partition plan on November 29, 1947, and the birth of Israel?v THE ARCHIVES of The Palestine Post, now The Jerusalem Post and then the newspaper of record of Mandatory Palestine, provide some of the answers and tell a very different story from the one presented by Pappe.

Sixty-two Jews were murdered by Arabs in the first week after the UN partition plan was passed, and by May 15, 1948, a total of 1,256 Jews had been killed, most of them civilians. These deaths were caused by Arab militias, gangs, terrorists and army units which attacked every place of Jewish inhabitation in Palestine.

The attacks succeeded in placing Jerusalem under siege and eventually cutting off its water supply. All Jewish villages in the Negev were attacked, and Jews had to go about the country in convoys. In every major city where Jews and Arabs lived in mixed neighborhoods the Jewish areas came under attack. This was true in Haifa's Hadar Hacarmel as well as Jerusalem's Old City....



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