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Was there ethnic cleansing in Palestine (Israel) in 1948?

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Here is an eye witness account by a Machal volunteer of the Arab-Israeli war of 1948 (Israel War of Independence) that refutes the claim of widespread massacres and ethnic cleansing by Israeli soldiers. Of course, what one or two soldiers saw is not the entire war. But there is specific testimony here to refute allegations of massacres in Operation Hiram and elsewhere. 

We do know of several instances of systematic ethnic cleansing. Most of them were committed by by the Arab side against Jews. In Jerusalem, the entire Jewish population of the the Old City was forcibly removed (see The Ethnic Cleansing of Jerusalem). In Gush Etzion, over a hundred people were massacred, and the rest were taken prisoner. In Mishmar Hayarden, all were killed or taken prisoner. In other places, Jewish inhabitants fled before the Arabs could kill them. Not one Palestinian Jew remained in the areas conquered by the Arabs in 1948.


The Arab Lie Whose Time Has Come--
Veteran of the 1948 War dissects the myth of Palestinian innocence

David Gutmann
FrontPageMagazine.com | April 21, 2004 | David Gutmann

Posted on 04/21/2004 5:29:30 AM PDT by S Jackson

An Israeli veteran of the 1948 War for Independence dissects the revisionist myth of Palestinian innocence

To back up its demands for full repatriation to Israel of Arab refugees and their descendants, the Palestinian leadership has for over fifty years busily spun the story of their "Nakba," their catastrophic flight from Palestine during 1947-48, in all the media available to them. This version of events replete with Jewish brutality and Arab victimization is a lie whose time has come, one now almost universally believed by Gentile and Jew alike.

It has become the latest Blood Libel against the People of the Book; and like the others it will never go away. Nevertheless, many Jewish Peaceniks both Israeli and American have signed on to the Nakba narrative, and Jewish authors and intellectuals now number among its leading proponents. One such piece of Jewish “Nakba” P.R. is “The Roots of the Palestine Refugee Problem–Revisited” by the Israeli Leftist Benny Morris. In the book, Morris focuses particularly on Operation Hiram, the Israeli campaign undertaken to clear the Galilee of the foreign fighters who had infiltrated the Arab villages there. He claims that these villages were the sites of multiple massacres, expulsions and rapes committed by Jewish forces.

Morris has recently turned somewhat to the Right, in that he justifies the expulsions that he reports: in his current view, the infant Israeli State could not have survived unless it was purged of a hostile Arab population. But realistically, it matters not whether Morris is Left or Right, Hawk or Dove. Whatever his politics, the Palestinian propagandists will cherry pick what they need from his report to substantially bolster their Myth of Nakba and their radical demands for repatriation of all refugees and their descendants into the heart of Israel.

I was a witness to the Nakba times, and am compelled to challenge such Israel-bashing by the Palestinians and their Jewish allies. As a trainee with the Palmach and then with the regular Israeli forces during the Independence War, I had neither military skills nor fluency in Hebrew, and was probably more trouble to my units than I was worth. My real usefulness to Israel may only become evident 53 years later. Because of that youthful service, I can now when the Palestinian myth is being legislated into hardened truth, even for Jews bear an elder's witness against the Nakba lie.

Some facts I can swear to:

A. The Palestinians initiated the war that led to their Nakba. Troops from Tel-Aviv eventually conquered Jaffa, but it was Arab fighters in Jaffa who, from the towers of their mosques, first fired into Tel-Aviv, and turned the intercity border areas into a battleground.

B. The first refugees were not Arabs but Yemenite Jews, from the Tel Aviv-Jaffa No-Man's Land that Arab aggression had created. Unlike the Palestinians, theirs was only a temporary refugee status. Instead of packing them away and forgetting them in squalid refugee camps, their Ashkenazi compatriots took them into their own neighborhoods. For the most part the Yemenites camped out in Tel Aviv apartment lobbies, and used the cooking and sanitary facilities of the permanent residents. When Jaffa fell to Irgun soldiers, they went back home.

. The Palestinians fled for many reasons and from many threats, both real and imaginary, and that thousands upon thousands fled when nobody pushed them. As an example, when my unit occupied the abandoned British police station at Sidn'a Ali in the Sharon Plain, British troops were still stationed in the vicinity, and we had to train and patrol with our few guns (antiquated or homemade) concealed. Nevertheless, the Arabs of Sidn'a Ali were long gone, way before we could have pushed them out, and while the Brits were still in place to protect them from us. Needless to say, in the absence of any Palestinian targets (save for some abandoned camels) we committed no rapes.

I don't know why the Sidn'a Ali people fled, but they did leave a caretaker in place, as a sign that they intended to return once those pesky Jews had been ethnically cleansed. They did not flee because they feared Jewish thugs, but because of a rational and reasonable calculus: the Jews will be exterminated; we will get out of the way while that messy and dangerous business goes forward, and we will return afterwards to reclaim our homes, and to inherit those nice Jewish properties as well.

They guessed wrong; and the Palestinians are still tortured by the residual shame of their flight. Their shame is so great because in their eyes running from Jews was like running from women; and because there were so many Sidn'a Alis. To relieve their shame they stridently and continually demand that their unsavory history be rewritten and reversed.

While I witnessed no Israeli atrocities in the coastal Sharon Plain, Ralph Lowenstein, an American volunteer in '48, and now a professor of Journalism at the University of Florida refutes [Benny] Morris' claims that Jewish troops, engaged in Operation Hiram, committed massacres and ethnic cleansings in the Galilean Hills. Prof. Lowenstein was a young half-track driver in the 79th Battalion of the 7th Brigade, the formation that spearheaded Operation Hiram. Like myself, he refutes Morris' allegations of Jewish war crimes:

“I never saw anything like this, either while it was allegedly going on or after it had transpired. After the mixed Christian/Muslim town of Jish, the first place we attacked, I did see virtually every Arab village on a line between Safad and Kadesh on the Lebanese border during Operation Hiram, and the pattern was: villages occupied by Christian Arabs unharmed; Muslim villages deserted, long before any Israeli troops got there.

There were rumors at the time that a massacre had occurred in one village, and a week after we had returned from combat a directive in English and Hebrew was distributed to each army post mentioning such rumors and warning of the dire consequences to any enlisted person or officer who could be convicted of engaging in such incidents. There were no rumors of rape or ethnic cleansing, only of one isolated massacre committed in the heat of battle.”

Parenthetically, the Israeli appetite for rape and slaughter that Morris discovers was not matched or fueled in '48 by any racist or demonizing language --none of the “Slap the Jap” stuff that we Americans indulged in during WWII. In fact, I was surprised by the neutrality and impersonality of the terms used to describe the enemy: only “Aravim” (the Hebrew plural of “Arabs”), and the like. The same terse understatement is the Israeli norm today.

Any misdeeds committed by IDF troops during the War for Independence came against the backdrop of the Holocaustic acts and appetites of the Arabs themselves. We were only a few weeks into the first, irregular phase of the war when the slaughters began: the wholesale murder by their Arab fellow workers of some 40 Jewish workers in the Haifa refineries; the massacre of Hebrew university medical faculty and nurses on the road to Mt. Scopus; the killing of many captured Palmach fighters and kibbutzniks in the Etzion Bloc; the decimation of the truck convoys to Jerusalem. And after the killing, the real fun began. The Arab way of war is to quite explicitly “feminize” the enemy. And in '47-'48, the Aravim castrated and mutilated, in ways that I will not describe here, the fallen or captured Jewish soldiers. Incidentally, the “portraits” of their Jewish victims both boys and girls were afterwards peddled in Arab Jerusalem.

The above may read like “Huns Rape Nuns” propaganda, and I myself never did see a mutilated Jewish corpse. But I have seen photographs; and I can say that our Palmach officers men given to understatement rather than hysteria instructed us, when in action, to always save a bullet or a grenade for ourselves, so as not to fall alive into the hands of Arab irregulars. Capture was not an option. Prof. Lowenstein gives independent confirmation: “All of us knew at the time that if we foreign volunteers were captured, our lives would be worth little. Arab atrocities were expected, as well as committed.”

In short, barely three years after the cessation of the Holocaust, the Palestinian Arabs, led by Hitler's Holocaust consultant, Haj-Amin Al-Husseini, Mufti of Jerusalem, gleefully promised a wholesale genocide not just population transfer, but genocide and showed us, quite dramatically, that his followers had the capacity and the appetite to carry it out.

The Jews of Palestine responded as an outnumbered and outgunned people should answer: they “cleansed” the Arab communities that had become or threatened to become the instruments of the revived Holocaustic enterprise. Some examples: They drove out the occupants of Tireh, who had the bad habit of shooting up Jewish traffic on the Haifa-Tel Aviv highway, and they drove out the occupants of Kastel and other villages that bloodied the Jerusalem-Tel Aviv road. So as to open up the sea roads to the arms markets and refugee camps of Europe, they took the seaport of Haifa; to free Tel-Aviv from continual gunfire, they took Jaffa; to cut the Palestinians off from their Lebanese and Syrian armorers, they conducted operation Hiram and took the Galilee.

The second great context enfolding Israeli action was of course war itself. In war, the power of the individual conscience is conceded to the state, which requires killing as a moral duty, while the pleasure in killing is reserved for the individual soldier. The upshot: one can slaughter with a clear conscience. That is the human rather than the Jewish recipe for the routine massacres of war. We have seen this scenario before. Thus, as WWII progressed, the RAF wreaked a hell on German cities that far outweighed everything that the Luftwaffe had ever done to London, to Rotterdam, to Coventry, to Warsaw, and to Guernica combined. No complaints though from the Brit population, not even from the Left. No frenzied rallies demanding an end to the fire-bombing of Hamburg, Dresden or Berlin. And why not? Because the war and the practice of terror-bombing had been started by Hitler, and the Bloody Germans were only getting what was coming to them.

By the same logic, the firebombed and atomized Japanese cities were accepted in the U.S. as partial payment for Pearl Harbor. This same grim context also underwrites Israeli “war crimes”: Our Palestinian Cousins started the '48 war, and in so doing released the warlike appetites of a nation of survivors, a people with no place to run, who had repressed their rage for millennia, and had now earned full title to it. Again, Prof. Lowenstein: “Many of our troops were recently Displaced Persons, Holocaust survivors, who had little respect for the niceties of civilization, if not for life itself.”

Finally then, it is not copping a plea to say that the ravim, who unleashed the war dogs in the first place, bear the ultimate responsibility for the killing on both sides. To ignore these contexts of the Independence War, while only deploring Jewish “war crimes,” is to demonize the Israelis. Absent these imperious contexts, the Israeli killings stand alone. As unique crimes, they dominate the historic landscape. They join the other Blood Libels: the Jew as Christ Killer, the Jew as the baker of bloody matzos, the Jew of the Protocols of Zion (“Heeeere's Shylock! And he's armed!”). But when we restore the contexts of war, what in their absence stand out as exclusively Jewish horrors, new murders of Christ, are reduced in scope, to become part of the generic human landscape, which is in all its parts slippery with blood.

Any people that enters history in an active role will dirty its hands. But the dirtiest hands belong to those Great Souls whose pristine consciences will not allow them to fight even their own murderers. Let them look to their own morality, and not burden the embattled Israelis with their twisted pieties..
Source


See also: An Encounter with Esther Cailingold: Zionist Martyr for Jerusalem

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