February 15, 2011 at 11:59 am 1 comment

Continued from The Arab Refugee Problem – 2

Unpleasant revelations and



Excerpts from his book “How to avoid Armageddon

Available through Amazon

Click:  type: how to avoid armageddon

Another pivotal event in the war was the capture of Lydda and Ramle during the month of July 1948. These towns were regarded as extremely important in preventing a renewal of the siege of Jerusalem and bolstering the defenses of the eastern approaches to the Tel Aviv area. Also, in the vicinity were large army bases, an airport and the main water sources to Jerusalem.

The towns were defended by less than 150 Jordanian Arab Legionnaires and about 1,500 local Arab militiamen. They were outnumbered by Jewish attackers and were soon overwhelmed in both towns.

But in Lydda, after the residents had surrendered, a few Arab Legion armored cars strayed into the town and the shooting started again. Some of the locals who were still armed, mistakenly believed that the Arab Legion had entered in sufficient numbers to repulse the Israelis. Worried about their ability to hold the town, expecting the arrival of more Jordanian forces, and coming under attack from local residents, the Israeli response was frantic and resulted in carnage. By the time the shooting had stopped, between 290–450 Arabs had been killed. Among the dead and wounded were many non-combatants – men, women and children. It was the worst massacre of the war.

In Ramle the civilian carnage was much less because the conquest there was accomplished more quickly. But the terrible nightmare for the people of Lydda and Ramle and other towns and villages was to continue. For many of them till the present day.

In both towns, an order was issued for immediate expulsion of all the residents. The order was subsequently changed due to pressure by a number of Jewish public figures. Prime Minister Ben-Gurion ordered the Israeli Army to offer the residents a choice between leaving the area, or staying in their homes, but without any help from the authorities regarding food, water or medical aid. Accordingly, women, children, elderly and sick residents were not to be forced out of the town. But the exodus had already begun and the majority of the people of Lydda and Ramle grabbed hold of whatever they could carry and left their homes.

Here too, regarding this seminal event there are different versions as to what happened during the actual fighting and its aftermath. Arab versions include accounts of rape, pillage and wanton slaughter, and claims that 1,700 people were killed in Lydda alone. Official Israeli sources gave the figure as 250 and admit to mass killing of non-combatants, pillage and causing residents to abandon their homes.

Among the Arab townsfolk, who were forced to evacuate their homes in Lydda and Ramle, and elsewhere in the region, some were transported in buses and trucks, while many were made to walk with their possessions for almost 20 kilometers to a transit camp in temperatures of up to 35°C. Some died from exhaustion and dehydration. There were also cases of Jewish soldiers robbing them of their possessions and valuables. There were even claims that some people were killed by Israeli soldiers for refusing to part with their valuables.

Among the Israeli leadership beforehand, there had been discussions about expelling the Arabs in conquered areas in what was called Plan Dalet. At first the attitudes were ambivalent because it was a morally reprehensible idea for many Jews, especially since they themselves had been made to suffer expulsion time and again throughout their history. In a number of places local Jewish leaders actually tried to persuade their Arab neighbors not to flee. A notable example was Haifa. But in the course of the war, many of those Jewish leaders who initially had been strongly against expulsion, changed their minds and adopted it as a wartime policy. The reason was that allowing the Arabs to remain as a very large minority (about 40% of the population of the Jewish allocation of the Partition Plan) while their fellow-Arabs from all the surrounding countries were engaged in a fearful invasion, which the Jews were still trying desperately to repulse, could have constituted a disastrous strategic blunder.

*   *   *

No country in time of conflict allows complete transparency regarding all official decisions and actions by security and armed forces. Some countries release official wartime documents after a generation or two. In Israel in the late nineteen eighties many official documents from the time of the 1947-49 War were made available for public scrutiny and Israeli historians and journalists were able to get a clearer picture of what had happened during those fateful times.

It must be mentioned that in Israel, until access in 1988 to government archival material from the early years of statehood, the general impression had been that the vast majority of Arab refugees had left voluntarily, mainly due to persuasion by their own leaders, who had promised that their departure would facilitate smoother conquest of the Jews and be temporary. But this politically expedient notion was discomfortingly challenged by a number of Israeli historians making use of the new sources of information. At first, most people in Israel were unwilling to accept these new revelations that cast the Israeli forces and government during its War of Independence, as very much less than fully morally upstanding. Research papers and books by Israeli scholars that exposed forced expulsion, pillage, mass killings and rape sounded like betrayal by self-hating Jews. But it eventually became clear that these things had indeed happened – as they happen in every war.

However, some of the Israeli researchers presented accounts, which gave very one-sided versions of the war, through the way that they discounted Arab intentions, proven brutal and merciless proclivities, while downplaying or totally ignoring Israel’s acute vulnerability, thereby casting it as the sole villain in the conflict and rendering a disservice to the cause of trustworthy historical scholarship. Whether it was because of the climate of radical liberalism so prevalent in modern academe or some other malaise, it is unfortunately this voice that has had such an impact on the college campuses of the Western World and on current intellectual attitudes and the media.

On the other hand, over the years many of the previously hidden and unpalatable facts have become more fully accepted by most Israelis who now have a more comprehensive picture of what really had happened during Israel’s first war of survival. That this is so, is due to a lot of painful research by a number of Israeli historians, needing to reach a level of intellectual honesty that is not easy to live with.

Until now, there seems to have been little evidence indicating a similar level of intellectual honesty on the part of Arab commentators, historians and journalists regarding the Arab-Israel conflict, nor among Arabs anywhere. However, there are gradually more and more cases of great courage in Arab society, with candid voices being heard, that are contrary to mainline perceptions. These people can face very dire consequences. But they offer hope for a better future through their brave pursuit of honest answers.

Continued at The Arab Refugee Problem – 4

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See also


Entry filed under: Solutions for Palestine, Stormier times ahead, Things not mentioned in the press. Tags: , , , , , , , .


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