Wednesday, May 15

65th Anniversary of the Palestinian Nakba: Quotes for Publication + Fact Sheet (Part 2)

DARWISH ADDASSI, Nakba survivor currently living in California:
“On July 11,1948, my family was expelled from my hometown of Lydda. We were forced to walk for two days to the nearest Arab village that was not under Israeli occupation. I was a 14-year-old boy. I, my father, my brother, and two uncles were taken as prisoners of war from the town of Ramleh. We were released in April 1949 to the Jordanian army. We lost everything: Our homes, our orange groves, and our land. We were never compensated for anything.” (See here for more of Mr. Addassi's story)
DR. EYAD SARRAJ, Nakba survivor, founder and president of the Gaza Community Mental Health Program:
"I was born in Beer Saba. Today I live in Gaza. All that I want is to go back home. But home is now part of Israel, and Gaza is occupied, besieged and bombed by Israel. If Jews are allowed to return to the promised land after three thousand years, why can't I return after seventy years? My father died waiting for peace and to return home. Will I be more lucky? I may not be, but justice will prevail one day."
NADIA HIJAB, Director of Al-Shabaka: The Palestinian Policy Network, and Senior Fellow at the Institute for Palestine Studies:
“For the Palestinian refugees created by Israel's expulsions in 1948, the sheer brutality of the Nakba has never stopped. Look at what's going on as a result of the Syrian situation today. Because Palestinian refugees do not have the same protection rights under international law as other refugees, their situation is even more precarious in times of conflict. Jordan and Lebanon are treating the Syrian refugees fleeing to their countries as they must under international law, but not the Palestinian refugees from Syria.

“Some Palestinian refugees from Syria are being sent back to conflict zones or denied entry, while others are being charged much higher fees for schooling and residence. Rosemary Sayigh, who has written widely about the Palestinian refugee community in Lebanon, has called for international action to end these human rights violations by all the countries concerned. The Palestinian refugees from Syria would not be in these desperate circumstances if Israel stopped blocking their right of return to their homes and lands, as it has done for six decades. Instead, it refuses to even allow them to seek shelter in the Israeli-occupied West Bank unless they give up their right of return.”
EITAN BRONSTEIN, Director of Zochrot (Remembering), an Israeli organization dedicated to raising public awareness of the Nakba amongst Israeli Jews:
“The Nakba has become known in Israel in recent years after more than ten years of activity by Zochrot and others, and by the government’s response to our efforts, the passing of The Nakba Law in 2011. This law created an atmosphere of fear around dealing with the Nakba in Israel, but also raised a lot of discussion and awareness about the formative events of 1948. Still, many Israelis don't really know what the Nakba is, thinking that it is just an Arabic word for the creation of Israel.

“The Nakba, the Israeli expulsion of most of the Palestinians in 1948, the prevention of their return, and the destruction of 678 localities in 1948, was the result of a political decision to create a Jewish state, and not a result of a war. Most of the destroyed Palestinian localities didn't defend themselves against the expulsion because they weren't ready or equipped for that. Therefore, "expulsion was easy" as Miki Cohen, a Palmach [Haganah] fighter in 1948, told Zochrot.

“Acknowledging and implementing the right of return of Palestinian refugees is an essential part of any real peace agreement between Israelis and Palestinians. It will not only be justice for the Palestinians, but also an opportunity for Israelis to live as equals and not as occupiers.”


Part Two: 
Creating Israel on the Ruins of Palestine
“We walked outside, Ben-Gurion accompanying us. [Commander Yigal] Allon repeated his question, ‘What is to be done with the Palestinian population?’ Ben-Gurion waved his hand in a gesture which said ‘Drive them out!’… I agreed that it was essential to drive the inhabitants out.” - Former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin
The United Nations Partition Plan (November 1947)
See here for maps of the distribution of Jewish settlements in 1947, the Arab and Jewish states called for under the 1947 Partition Plan, and subsequent Israeli expansionism
  • In February 1947, seeking to extricate itself from a steadily deteriorating situation on the ground, including the terrorist campaign being waged against British targets by the Irgun and Lehi, the British government announced that it would end its mandate and turn over responsibility for the future of Palestine to the newly-created United Nations.
  • After intense lobbying by Zionist organizations and their supporters, on November 29, 1947, the UN General Assembly passed Resolution 181 calling for the partition of Palestine into Jewish and Arab states. The final vote was 33 to 13, with 10 abstentions and 1 absent. Those voting in favor included both emerging superpowers, the United States and the Soviet Union. The British abstained.
  • The Partition Plan allocated approximately 55% of Mandatory Palestine to the Jewish state and just 42% to the Arab state, despite the fact that Jews made up only about one third of the population, many of whom were recent immigrants from Europe, and only owned about 7% of the privately owned land in Palestine. The city of Jerusalem was to be placed under international administration. (See here for map: Zionist and Palestinian land ownership in percentages by subdistrict, 1945)
  • The Arab Higher Committee rejected the Partition Plan outright, as well as the idea that Palestinians should give up more than half their country to newly arrived European immigrants who owned only a tiny amount of the land they were being given. For its part, the mainstream Zionist leadership under Ben-Gurion publicly welcomed the plan, as it constituted international legal recognition for a Jewish state in Palestine, while having no intention of being bound by its proposed borders. As Ben-Gurion put it, the borders of the new Jewish state, “will be determined by force and not by the partition resolution.” (Pappé,The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestinep. 37)

Beginnings of Civil War & Ethnic Cleansing (December 1947-May 1948)
  • Almost immediately after the passing of the partition plan, renewed violence broke out between Arabs and Jews and the large-scale dispossession of Palestinians began. As December progressed, the Irgun and other Zionist militias intensified their attacks against Palestinian civilians and the British, killing and wounding hundreds.
  • Within two weeks of the passing of the Partition Plan, more than 200 Arabs and Jews had been killed, and by the end of December almost 75,000 Palestinians had already been displaced by Zionist attacks. (Pappé, The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestinep. 40)
  • In early January, members of the Arab Liberation Army (ALA), a ragtag group of volunteers from neighboring Arab countries formed by the Arab League, entered Palestine to help the outnumbered and outgunned Palestinian defenders. The Arab volunteers were themselves disorganized, poorly armed and trained, and failed to coordinate with local Palestinian fighters due to hostility between the Arab League and Arab Higher Committee. The British High Commissioner of Palestine at the time, Alan Cunningham, later describedthe ALA as “poorly equipped and badly led.” Predicting an easy Zionist victory against the Arabs, Cunningham added: “In almost every engagement the Jews have proved their superiority in organisation, training and tactics.”
  • Surveying the situation, Ben-Gurion was also confident of an easy victory for Zionist forces as the country slid deeper into civil war. In February, in response to a letter from Moshe Sharett (who would become Israel’s second prime minister) complaining that Zionist forces were sufficiently armed for self-defense but not to “take over the country,” Ben-Gurion replied:
    “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. I am in no doubt of this. We can face all the Arab forces. This is not a mystical belief but a cold and rational calculation based on practical examination.” (Pappé,The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestinep. 46)
  • The same month, February, the Haganah began mobilizing for full-scale war. According to the historian Pappé, by May 1948 the Zionists had some 50,000 fighters under arms versus no more than about 10,000 Palestinian irregulars and Arab volunteers.

Plan Dalet
  • On March 10, 1948, the Zionist leadership under Ben-Gurion formally approved Plan Dalet (also known as Plan D), the blueprint for the ethnic cleansing of Palestine. The operational military orders of Plan Dalet specified which Palestinian population centers should be targeted and laid out in detail a plan for their forcible depopulation and destruction. It called for:
    “Mounting operations against enemy population centers located inside or near our defensive system in order to prevent them from being used as bases by an active armed force. These operations can be divided into the following categories:

    “Destruction of villages (setting fire to, blowing up, and planting mines in the debris), especially those population centers which are difficult to control continuously.

    “Mounting search and control operations according to the following guidelines: encirclement of the village and conducting a search inside it. In the event of resistance, the armed force must be destroyed and the population must be expelled outside the borders of the state.”
  • As Benny Morris observed in The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem: 1947-1949Plan Dalet was "a strategic-ideological anchor and basis for expulsions by front, district, brigade and battalion commanders" providing "post facto, a formal, persuasive covering note to explain their actions.”
  • The Haganah began attacks under Plan Dalet at the beginning of April 1948. Expulsions now accelerated and became more systematic, marking a new phase in the conflict in which Zionist and then Israeli forces went on the offensive.  According to Morris, “In the months of April–May 1948, units of the Haganah were given operational orders that stated explicitly that they were to uproot the villagers, expel them and destroy the villages themselves.”
  • On April 9, members of the Irgun and Stern Gang attacked the village of Deir Yassin outside of Jerusalem, massacring approximately 100 men, women, and children. News of the massacre spread quickly, fueling panic and the mass flight of Palestinians. (See below for more on the massacre at Deir Yassin and other atrocities carried out against Palestinian civilians.)
  • In late April, all but 4,000 of the 70,000 Arab inhabitants of the city of Haifa were expelled. The operation officer of the Haganah forces that conquered Haifa, Mordechai Maklef - who would later become chief of staff of the Israeli army - ordered his troops to “Kill any Arab you encounter; torch all inflammable objects, and force doors open with explosives.” (Pappé, The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestinep. 95) Crowds of Palestinians seeking safety in a marketplace near the port were deliberately shelled by Zionist forces, causing a panicked flight towards the waterfront as people rushed to evacuate by sea. Many drowned as overloaded boats sank attempting to shuttle people to safety. A witness recalled the terrible scene:
    “Men stepped on their friends and women on their own children. The boats in the port were soon filled with living cargo. The overcrowding in them was horrible. Many turned over and sank with all their passengers.” (Pappé, The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestinep. 96)
  • Many of the attacks carried out by Zionist forces during this period - prior to Israel’s declaration of independence and subsequent war with Arab states - were in areas outside of the borders of the Jewish state proposed in the UN Partition Plan. (See here for map of such operations carried out between April 1 and May 15)

British Withdrawal, Israeli Independence, & The Arab-Israeli War of 1948 
(May 15, 1948-March 1949)
  • By early May 1948, more than 200 Palestinian towns and villages had already been depopulated as people fled in fear or were forcibly expelled by Zionist forces, and between 250,000 and 350,000 Palestinians had been uprooted and made refugees.
  • On May 14, Ben-Gurion and the Zionist leadership declared an independent state of Israel. The next day, the British, who had stood by and done nothing to stop the expulsions of Palestinians in the preceding months, withdrew the last of their soldiers as armies from Egypt, Jordan, Syria and Iraq launched a half-hearted and ill-fated attack against the newly declared state. None of the Arab governments wanted to intervene, but were compelled to do so by the force of public opinion in their countries, which sympathized with the Palestinians. In addition to being preoccupied with domestic concerns, the leaders of these countries, most of which had only recently acquired nominal independence from European colonial rule, were in fierce competition with one another and failed to coordinate their efforts in any serious way, frequently working at cross purposes.
  • Crucially, since the end of World War II, the government of King Abdullah I of Jordan had been holding secret discussions with the Zionist leadership and had agreed to divide Palestine up between Jordan and the new Jewish state. Abdullah viewed the Palestinian national movement as a threat and wanted to expand the borders of his country to include parts of Palestine. In July 1946, a British diplomat sent a cable to the government about a recent meeting with Abdullah, reporting that he “is for partition and he feels that the other Arab leaders may acquiesce in that solution, although they may not approve of it openly.” As part of the agreement Abdullah pledged not to allow Jordan’s British-trained armed forces, the Arab Legion - by far the best Arab army at the time - to take part in joint operations with other Arab armies against Israel in the event of war, or to enter areas of Palestine designated for the Jewish state under the Partition Plan.
  • The Iraqi government also ordered its armed forces not to enter areas that were supposed to be part of the Jewish state under the UN plan. For its part, the Syrian army barely advanced, maintaining a defensive posture for most of the war. The Lebanese, who had also declared war on Israel, didn’t even send troops across the frontier. The Egyptian effort was also half-hearted and disorganized. As future Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser, who fought in the war, later wrote in his memoirs:
    “This could not be a serious war.  There was no concentration of forces, no accumulation of ammunition or equipment. There was no reconnaissance, no intelligence, no plans. Yet we were actually on the battlefield... The only conclusion that could be drawn was that this was a political war, or rather a state of war and no-war. There was to be advance without victory and retreat without defeat.”
  • As predicted by Ben-Gurion, the combined Arab armies were no match for the new Israeli army. According to Israeli historian Ilan Pappé, by the end of the summer the new Israeli army had about 80,000 soldiers at its disposal, while the opposing Arab states didn’t exceed 50,000 soldiers combined (Pappé, The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestinep. 45). Moreover, many Zionist and Israeli fighters were veterans of World War II, experienced with the weaponry and tactics of modern warfare, while most Arab soldiers were not.
  • On May 24, just ten days after declaring independence, things were going so well for the Israelis militarily that Ben-Gurion wrote in his diary:
“We will establish a Christian state in Lebanon, the southern border of which will be the Litani River. We will break Transjordan [Jordan], bomb Amman and destroy its army, and then Syria falls, and if Egypt will still continue to fight – we will bombard Port Said, Alexandria and Cairo. This will be in revenge for what they (the Egyptians, the Aramis and Assyrians) did to our forefathers during Biblical times.” (Pappé, The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine, p. 144)
The same day, the Israelis received a shipment of weaponry from Eastern Europe, ensuring the supremacy of Israeli artillery for the rest of the war. (Pappé, The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestinep. 144)
  • In late May, the Israeli government set up an unofficial body, the "Transfer Committee," to oversee the destruction of Palestinian towns and villages or their repopulation with Jews, and to prevent displaced Palestinians from returning to their homes. In a report presented to Prime Minister Ben-Gurion in June 1948, the three-man committee, which included the Jewish National Fund’s Joseph Weitz, called for the "destruction of villages as much as possible during military operations."
  • From June to September, the expulsions continued. In July, Israeli forces expelled 70,000 Palestinians from the cities of Lydd and Ramla. In his memoirs, which were censored by the Israeli military but leaked to The New York Times in 1979, the late Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin recalled a conversation he had in July 1948 with Ben-Gurion, when Rabin was an officer in the Israeli army, regarding the fate of the Palestinians of Lydd and Ramla. Rabin wrote:
    “We walked outside, Ben-Gurion accompanying us. [Commander Yigal] Allon repeated his question, ‘What is to be done with the Palestinian population?’ Ben-Gurion waved his hand in a gesture which said ‘Drive them out!’”
    Rabin added, “I agreed that it was essential to drive the inhabitants out.”
  • Expanding far beyond the proposed borders of the Jewish state delineated in the Partition Plan, which was allocated about 55% of Palestine, by the time Israeli forces stopped their advance they were in control of 78% of mandate Palestine. (See here for map of 1949 armistice lines) The remaining 22%, comprising the West Bank (including East Jerusalem) and Gaza, fell under Jordanian and Egyptian control, respectively. Sixty-five years later, Israel has yet to officially declare its borders as it continues to colonize the West Bank and East Jerusalem, conquered during the June 1967 War.
  • From 1947 to 1950, between 750,000 and one million Palestinians were expelled by Zionist and then Israeli forces from the newly created Jewish state. It’s estimated that about half of them fled under direct assault by Zionist forces.

Massacres & Atrocities Against Palestinian Civilians
  • During Israel’s creation, Zionist paramilitaries and the Israeli army carried out numerous massacres and atrocities against Palestinian civilians, including rapes, which were instrumental in spurring the mass flight of Palestinians that facilitated the establishment of a Jewish majority state. According to historian Benny Morris, there were two dozen such massacres.
  • The most notorious atrocity committed during Israel’s creation took place on April 9, 1948, in the village of Deir Yassin near Jerusalem (close to where Israel’s Holocaust Memorial now stands), where approximately 100 men, women, and children were murdered by members of the Irgun and Lehi. Seventy-five of the victims were women, children, or elderly people. According to eyewitness accounts from survivors and reportsfrom Zionist fighters, many of the victims were paraded in trucks through the streets of Jerusalem before being killed. One eyewitness, Fahim Zaydan, who was 12-years-old at the time and was shot and left for dead, recalled:
    “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 [of] us, and when my mother yelled, bending over him - carrying my little sister Hudra in her hands, still breastfeeding her – they shot her too.” (Pappé, The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestinep. 90)
  • Other notable atrocities against Palestinian civilians took place in the towns of Lydd (Lod), Dawayima, Saliha, Safsaf, and Tantura. Regarding the scope and nature of these massacres, in a 2004 interview with Haaretz newspaper, the historian Morris stated:
"In some cases four or five people were executed, in others the numbers were 70, 80, 100. There was also a great deal of arbitrary killing. Two old men are spotted walking in a field - they are shot. A woman is found in an abandoned village - she is shot. There are cases such as the village of Dawayima [in the Hebron region], in which a column entered the village with all guns blazing and killed anything that moved.
"The worst cases were Saliha (70-80 killed), Deir Yassin (100-110), Lod (250), Dawayima (hundreds) and perhaps Abu Shusha (70). There is no unequivocal proof of a large-scale massacre at Tantura, but war crimes were perpetrated there. At Jaffa there was a massacre about which nothing had been known until now. The same at Arab al Muwassi, in the north. About half of the acts of massacre were part of Operation Hiram [in the north, in October 1948]: at Safsaf, Saliha, Jish, Eilaboun, Arab al Muwasi, Deir al Asad, Majdal Krum, Sasa. In Operation Hiram there was a unusually high concentration of executions of people against a wall or next to a well in an orderly fashion.
“That can’t be chance. It’s a pattern. Apparently, various officers who took part in the operation understood that the expulsion order they received permitted them to do these deeds in order to encourage the population to take to the roads. The fact is that no one was punished for these acts of murder. Ben-Gurion silenced the matter. He covered up for the officers who did the massacres.”

Palestinian Refugees
  • From 1947 to 1950, between 750,000 and one million Palestinians were ethnically cleansed during the creation of the state of Israel. It’s estimated that about half of them fled under direct assault by Zionist forces.
  • To ensure that the newly created state retained a Jewish majority, two laws were passed: the Law of Return (1950), which grants Jews from anywhere in the world the right to immigrate to Israel and become a citizen, and the Entry into Israel Law (1952) which was designed to prevent the return of Palestinian refugees.
  • Today, the Palestinian refugee population is the largest and longest-standing population of displaced persons in the world. Reliable figures on their numbers are hard to find, however, a survey released in 2010 by BADIL, the Resource Center for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights, found the refugee and displaced population to be at least 7.1 million, made up of 6.6 million refugees and 427,000 internally displaced persons. It also found that refugees comprised 67% of the Palestinian population as a whole.
  • Most Palestinian refugees are Palestinians and their descendants who were expelled from their homes in the parts of historic Palestine that were incorporated into the newly created state of Israel in 1948. Other Palestinian refugee categories include Palestinians who fled their homes but remained internally displaced in areas that became Israel in 1948; Palestinians who were displaced for the first time after Israel occupied the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza Strip in the 1967 War; Palestinians who left the occupied territories since 1967 and have been prevented by Israel from returning due to revocation of residency rights, denial of family reunification, or deportation; and Palestinians internally displaced in the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip since 1967.

The Right of Return
  • Under international law, all refugees have a legal right to return to homes and property left behind during conflict, regardless of whether they left of their own volition or were forcibly expelled. Moreover, as noted by Human Rights Watch, the right of return “is a right that persists even when sovereignty over the territory is contested or has changed hands.”
  • In December 1948, the UN General Assembly passed Resolution 194 regarding the situation in Palestine/Israel. It states: "refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbours should be permitted to do so at the earliest practicable date, and that compensation should be paid for the property of those choosing not to return and for loss of or damage to property which, under principles of international law or in equity, should be made good by the Governments or authorities responsible." The Palestinian right of return has been endorsed repeatedly by the UNGA, including through Resolution 3236 (1974), which "Reaffirms also the inalienable right of the Palestinians to return to their homes and property from which they have been displaced and uprooted, and calls for their return."
  • Israel’s admittance as a member of the UN in May 1949 was conditioned on its acceptance of UN Resolution 194, which, 65 years later, it has yet to implement.
  • The Palestinian right of return has been recognized by major human rights organizations such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International. In 2001, Amnesty issued a policy statement on the subject, which called “for Palestinians who fled or were expelled from Israel, the West Bank or Gaza Strip, along with those of their descendants who have maintained genuine links with the area, to be able to exercise their right to return.”
  • The U.S. government supported Resolution 194, and consistently voted to affirm it until 1993, when the administration of President Bill Clinton began to refer to Palestinian refugee rights as a matter to be negotiated between the two parties in a final peace agreement.
See here for more on Palestinian refugees and the right of return

Palestinian Population Centers Systematically Destroyed or Repopulated with Jewish Immigrants, Theft & Destruction of Property

here for interactive map of Palestinian population centers destroyed during Israel’s creation)
  • Between 1948 and 1950, Zionist and Israeli forces ethnically cleansed more than400 Palestinian towns and villages, including homes, businesses, houses of worship, and vibrant urban centers, which were systematically destroyed or repopulated with Jews. Most of them were demolished to prevent the return of their Palestinian owners, now refugees outside of Israel’s pre-1967 borders, or internally displaced inside of them.

  • During the 1948 War and immediately afterwards, Israel expropriated approximately 4,244,776 acres of land belonging to Palestinians who were made refugees during the creation of the state.
  • In 1950, Israel passed the “Absentees’ Property Law,” which granted the government “custodianship” over lands and property belonging to Palestinian refugees, with no compensation for the owners. An “absentee” was defined as any Palestinian who left his or her home after November 1947, even if he or she remained within what became Israel’s borders.
  • The total monetary loss of Palestinians dispossessed during Israel's creation has been estimated at between of $100 billion and $200 billion (US) in today's dollars.
  • As Zionist and Israeli forces swept across the country, expelling Palestinians as they went,tens of thousands of Palestinian books were systematically "collected" by the Haganah and the Israeli army, in cooperation with the Israeli National Library.The books included priceless volumes of Palestinian Arab and Muslim literature, including poetry, works of history and fiction. Thousands of the books were destroyed and recycled for paper, while others were added to the library's collection. Today, many remain in the Israeli National Library, designated abandoned property.

See here for the rest of this fact sheet

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