February 14, 2011 at 8:42 am 2 comments

continued from The Arab Refugee Problem – 1

Different narratives and

real fears



Excerpt from his book “How to avoid Armageddon”

Available through Amazon

Click:  type: how to avoid armageddon

An undisputable fact regarding the 1947-49 war, is that when the tide of battle turned in favor of the Jews, hundreds of thousands of Arabs fled their homes and lands. Both sides agree on this, although there is some disparity in the numbers (usually present in the differing figures of the sides in any conflict).

But a major discrepancy between the Arab and the Jewish versions of the war lies in the reasons for the mass exodus of local Arabs from their homes and lands.

The Arabs use the term “Nakba,” (disaster or catastrophe) for the war. Indeed, for the Arabs of Palestine it was a colossal national disaster that reverberates until the present day. They lost their chance for national independence in a war against the lowly-regarded Jews. Furthermore, the majority of the Arab population within the Mandate borders of 1947 fled their homes and were never allowed to return. For most it was a time of terror, uncertainty and many days and nights without a roof over their heads as they herded together in tattered, anguished groups in search of an alternative, hopefully temporary domicile. It was a desperate time of terrible personal and national loss, of gnawing hunger, thirst, fatigue and utter despair. It was a collective nightmare that has been sanctified in their literature, art and music.

According to their narrative they had no alternative but to flee for their lives otherwise they would have all been butchered. This was an understandable response when they realized that the Jews were winning the war. After all, slaughter is what they expected would have been done to the Jews, and they naturally feared that this is what the Jews would now do to them. What is seldom if ever mentioned in any current Arab reference on the Nakba, is that it was the Arabs themselves who had launched the war. The onus for their misfortune is completely on the Jews. Unless this narrow, inaccurate perspective is changed, it is unlikely that real peace will ever come to the region.

*   *   *

The exodus of Arabs from Palestine began during the first weeks after the outbreak of hostilities, when thousands of the more opulent families in the main towns locked their homes and traveled with their families to less hazardous locales in Lebanon, Syria, Egypt and Europe, in order to avoid being caught in the crossfire. It’s something that happens in every war. The well-to-do pack up and leave, expecting to return to their homes when things quieten down. But among the folks in this first wave of departees were many of the local leaders. This drain of leadership eventually had a serious demoralizing effect on the rest of the local Arab population.

Documented evidence of the period also suggests that mixed signals from local and more remote centers of leadership, led to the departure of many more thousands. Among the reports by Arabs in the early days after the war, Habib Issa wrote on June 8, 1951 in the New York Lebanese daily newspaper Al Hoda: “The Secretary General of the Arab League, Azzam Pasha, assured the Arab peoples that the occupation of Palestine and of Tel Aviv would be “as simple as a military promenade … and that all the millions the Jews had spent on land and economic development would be easy booty, for it would be a simple matter to throw Jews into the Mediterranean. Brotherly advice was given to the Arabs of Palestine to leave their land, homes, and property and to stay temporarily in neighboring fraternal states, lest the guns of the invading Arab armies mow them down.”

Confirming this revelation, Edward Atiyah, the secretary of the Arab League Office in London, wrote in his book, The Arabs: “This wholesale exodus was due partly to the belief of the Arabs, encouraged by the boastings of an unrealistic Arabic press and the irresponsible utterances of some of the Arab leaders that it could be only a matter of weeks before the Jews were defeated by the armies of the Arab States and the Palestinian Arabs enabled to re-­enter and retake possession of their country.”

But a major reason for the large-scale exodus of Arabs from Palestine was due to genuine fear for their lives. This fear took on a strong new dimension after the Deir Yassin battle on April 9, 1948. The attack on Deir Yassin, an Arab village about two kilometers west of the outskirts of Jerusalem, with a population about 600, was part of the campaign to relieve the blockade of the Jewish part of Jerusalem and was to become known by the Arabs as the “Massacre of Deir Yassin.” In the Arab mind, to the present day, Deir Yassin has remained a symbol of Jewish depravity and malevolence.

Even while shooting was still going on, there were reports of a terrible slaughter, with over 250 people were said to have been killed. The Arab leadership heard these figures and inflated them even higher, embellishing them with horror stories, hoping they would infuriate their people and thus spur them into fighting with more determination.

Confirming this, Hazam Nusseibeh, the news editor of the Palestine Broadcasting Service at the time, in an interview to the BBC in 1998, spoke about a discussion he had with Hussein Khalidi, the deputy chairman of the Higher Arab Executive in Jerusalem, shortly after the battle: “I asked Dr. Khalidi how we should cover the story. He said, ‘We must make the most of this’.” So Nusseibeh wrote a press release, stating that at Deir Yassin there had been all sorts of terrible atrocities committed by the Jews. Children had been murdered and pregnant women raped.

Subsequent investigations by Israeli, Arab and British researchers found the figures were much lower than 250 dead. In 1987, Prof. Sharif Kanaana of the Palestinian Bir Zeit University, and clearly no sympathizer of Israel, interviewed survivors of the tragedy and concluded that 107 had died. Today this figure is generally accepted as being as close to the truth as possible.

But of immense importance is the direct result of the untruthful reports that had been released regarding the battle. Firstly, instead of motivating local Arabs to fight with more determination, the exaggerated accounts of brutality of the Jews spurred many Arabs throughout the country to abandon their homes and flee the country. On the other hand, it pushed the neighboring Arab states that had been undecided about joining their fellow Palestinian Arabs, into launching their combined invasion against the nascent Jewish state as soon as the British Mandate of Palestine came to an end within a few weeks, thus causing the whole conflict to escalate dramatically.

But before this invasion of the Arab countries, Jewish units, mainly of the Haganah, routed local Arab forces and insurgents in Tiberias, Haifa, Safed, Jaffa and Acre and took control of these cities as well as surrounding villages. Hundreds of thousands of Palestinian Arabs fled their homes during this stage. For the Jews it was an unexpected godsend. Having expected the Arabs to fight tooth and nail in every suburb, village and farmstead, in many places they found passivity instead. A few shots fired at the outskirts of the village were often enough to prompt a large-scale evacuation. To a large extent, it was the exaggerated account of what had happened at Deir Yassin that was responsible for this sudden uncharacteristic lapse in resoluteness and fighting spirit among a large part of the Arab population in Palestine. The earlier flight of many of the local leaders also contributed to this impulse to abandon their homes and property.

continued at the Arab Refugee Problem – 3

To order the book click:  type: how to avoid Armageddon

See also


Entry filed under: dangeous lies and halftruths, Solutions for Palestine, Things not mentioned in the press. Tags: , , , , , .


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