Why Did The Palestinians Run Away in 1948?





Mr. Gelber is a professor in the Department of Land of Israel Studies at the University of Haifa. He also serves as the chairman of the university's School of History.

Since the abortive talks at Camp David in July 2000, the Palestinian refugee problem has re-emerged as the hard core of the Arab-Israeli conflict. For five decades, the Israelis have swept the problem under the carpet, while the Palestinians have consistently developed their national ethos around their"Right of Return." Assisted by a few Israeli relativist historians, they have composed a false narrative of deliberate expulsion, stressing the role of Deir Yassin and Plan Dalet in their exodus. Unfortunately, saying it endlessly does not make it so. The Palestinian refugee problem has been a result of Israel's War of Independence - the equivalent to the Palestinians' Al-Nakbah. That war consisted of two separate and different campaigns: The first was an inter-communal civil war between Jews and Palestinians that took place under British sovereignty and in the presence of British troops. The second contest began with the invasion of Palestine by Arab armies on 15 May 1948 and lasted until the conclusion of armistice agreements in 1949. This was a war between Israel and a coalition of Arab states, fought by armies using methods of modern warfare.

The war started because the Palestinians promptly rejected the UN partition resolution of 29 November 1947. The Arab states backed them from the beginning and joined in the fighting upon termination of the mandate, invading the newly established Jewish State. The Arabs dismissed any compromise that provided for a Jewish State of any kind, and objected to UN resolutions 181 (Partition) and 194 (among other clauses: the refugees). Only in the wake of their military defeat, the Arabs have engaged in moral acrobatics by making these resolutions a cornerstone of their case.

The Palestinians' subsequent suffering should not be isolated from their role in that war. As victims, their conduct gives adequate cause to deny them the adjective"innocent." Truly, they have paid a heavy price in 1948 - and ever since. They have been victims - but of their own follies and pugnacity, as well as of their Arab allies' incompetence.

Mass flight accompanied the fighting from the beginning of the civil war. In the absence of proper military objectives, the antagonists carried out their attacks on non-combatant targets, subjecting civilians of both sides to deprivation, intimidation and harassment. Consequently, the weaker and backward Palestinian society collapsed under a not-overly-heavy strain. Unlike the Jews, who had nowhere to go and fought with their back to the wall, the Palestinians had nearby shelters. From the beginning of hostilities, an increasing flow of refugees drifted into the heart of Arab-populated areas and into adjacent countries.

The Palestinians' precarious social structure tumbled because of economic hardships and administrative disorganization. Contrary to the Jews who built their"State in the Making" during the mandate period, the Palestinians had not created in time substitutes for the government services that vanished with the British withdrawal. The collapse of services, the lack of authority and a general feeling of fear and insecurity generated anarchy in the Arab sector.

... the documentary evidence clearly shows that the Arab leaders did not encourage the flight. On the contrary, they tried in vain to stop it.

When riots broke out, middle-class Palestinians sent their families to neighboring countries and joined them after the situation deteriorated. Others moved from the vicinity of the front lines to less exposed areas in the interior of the Arab sector. Non-Palestinian Arabs returned to Syria, Lebanon and Egypt to avoid the hardships of war. First-generation rootless emigrants from the countryside to urban centers returned to their villages. Thousands of Palestinian government employees - doctors, nurses, civil servants, lawyers, clerks, etc. - became redundant and departed as the mandatory administration disintegrated. This set a model and created an atmosphere of desertion that rapidly expanded to wider circles. Between half to two-thirds of the inhabitants in cities such as Haifa or Jaffa had abandoned their homes before the Jews stormed these towns in late April 1948. Dependence on towns that had fallen, the quandaries of maintaining agricultural routine and rumors of atrocities exacerbated mass flight from the countryside. Many hamlets that the Haganah occupied were empty. No premeditated deportations had taken place, and the use of intimidation and other methods of psychological warfare were sporadic.

The progress of the British evacuation enabled the adversaries to modify their tactics. Early in April, the Haganah launched several large-scale operations across the country. By contrast, the Arab forces remained dispersed and disarrayed. Under the new circumstances, their traditional patterns of warfare and organization became anachronistic. Unaware of the difference between anti-colonial insurrection and a national war, the Palestinian leaders preferred to conduct the struggle from safe asylum abroad as they had done during their rebellion against the British in 1936/9. The Arab states contributed to the chaos by being able neither to determine Arab Palestine's political future nor to let the Palestinians shape their own destiny.

In the last six weeks of the British mandate, the Jews occupied most of the area that the UN partition plan allotted to their State. They took over five towns and 200 villages; between 250,000 to 300,000 Palestinians and other Arabs ran away (so far, they were not driven out) to Palestine's Arab sectors and to neighboring countries. This rapid and almost total collapse astonished all concerned. It was unbelievable that plain defeatism lacking any ulterior motives had prompted this mass flight. The Jews suspected the flight was nothing but a conspiracy - concocted by the Palestinian leadership - to embroil the Arab states in the war. Later, this guess would become the official line of Israeli diplomacy and propaganda. However, the documentary evidence clearly shows that the Arab leaders did not encourage the flight. On the contrary, they tried in vain to stop it. The old Israeli narrative is as wrong as the new Palestinian one, and the historical picture is far more complex.

Unlike the pre-invasion period, certain Israeli Defense Force (IDF) actions on the eve of and after the invasion aimed at driving out the Arab population from villages close to Jewish settlements or adjacent to main roads. These measures appeared necessary in face of the looming military threat by the invading Arab armies. The Israelis held the Palestinians responsible for the distress that the invasion caused and believed they deserved severe punishment. The local deportations of May-June 1948 appeared both militarily vital and morally justified. Confident that their conduct was indispensable, the troops did not attempt to conceal harsh treatment of civilians in their after-action reports.

Instead of saving the Palestinians, the Arab armies' invasion doubled their territorial losses and the number of refugees. Later waves of mass flight were the result of the IDF's counter offensives against the invading forces. The position of these new escaping or expelled Palestinians was essentially different from that of their predecessors of the pre-invasion period. Their mass flight was not the result of their inability to hold on against the Jews. The Arab expeditions failed to protect them, and they remained a constant reminder of the fiasco. These later refugees were sometimes literally deported across the lines. In certain cases, IDF units terrorized them to hasten their flight, and isolated massacres - particularly during the liberation of Galilee and the Negev in October 1948 - expedited the flight.

After the conquest of Galilee, the feasibility of the West Bank's occupation depended to a large extent on the likely reaction of the civilian population in this region. Ben-Gurion pondered on whether the inhabitants would run away as their predecessors had done before the invasion, or stay put and encumber Israel with countless political, economic and administrative problems. The lessons of the campaigns in Galilee and the Negev implied that the Palestinians might not run away of their own will. Mass flight meant, therefore, either plenty of atrocities - provoking domestic and international repercussions - or a large Palestinian population under Israeli domination, which was equally dreadful. Mainly to avoid these unattractive options, Ben-Gurion decided to give up the conquest of the West Bank and to embark on negotiations with Transjordan.

When they ran away, the refugees were confident of their eventual repatriation at the end of hostilities. This term could mean a cease-fire, a truce, an armistice and, certainly, a peace agreement. The return of escapees had been customary in the Middle East's wars throughout the ages. When the first truce began in June 1948, many tried to resettle in their hamlets or at least to gather the crops. However, they were fated for a surprise.

Their Jewish adversaries belonged to an alien European civilization whose historical experience and concepts of warfare were different. Three years after the end of the Second World War, it was inconceivable that Germans who had been expelled by the Czechs, Poles and Russians would ever return to the Sudeten, to Pomerania, to Silesia or to East Prussia. The mass repatriation by the allies of millions after the war concerned their own nationals. Refugees or deportees of defeated belligerents resettled to begin anew life elsewhere. People still remembered the exchange of populations between Turkey and Greece in the early 1920s. Europe was full of White Russians who had left their homeland after the revolution and the subsequent civil war. The vast majority of Israelis did not think that the Palestinians should fare better and wanted to apply this principle to the Middle East, naively ignoring its different cultural concepts and historical experience.

In the summer of 1948, Israel decided to object to any repatriation of refugees before peace. Truces and armistices were considered a part of the war, not of a peace settlement. Subsequently, Israel took several steps to prevent the return, primarily the resettlement of evacuees from places that were occupied or destroyed by the Arabs, demobilized soldiers and new immigrants in the abandoned Arab towns, neighborhoods and villages. Thus, the presumably temporary flight turned into a permanent, almost eternal problem of refugees.

Blaming the Arab League for the refugees' fate, Israel expected the Arab governments to resettle the Palestinians in their countries as Germany had absorbed Volksdeutsche after the Second World War and Israel itself absorbed refugee-immigrants from the Arab countries. However, the Arab world has insisted on the refugees'"right of return" as a precondition for any reconciliation with Israel. The implied message has been unequivocal: First, the Palestinian refugees are Israel's creation and responsibility, and it should not expect the Arab world to help solving the problem or share the responsibility for their ultimate fate. Secondly, the Arabs have not been able to crush Jewish statehood, but Israel should not expect them to comply with its alien code of behavior. Unlike Europe, the pattern in the Middle East has been that war refugees return to their homes when hostilities end, and hostilities do not end until they return. Israel has to reckon with this twofold message. Yet, unless the Jewish State is ready to commit national suicide - it is difficult to foresee how the problem can be solved.



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Aragorn - 1/29/2003


The publishers of the book recently conducted a limited sale of the book for paperback price, to test the market. If you could convince enough people to agree to buy the book, maybe they would expand the sale.

Aragorn


Ryan - 12/10/2002

Yoav Gelber does a good job in this article of showing the real reasons for the Arab flight during the 1948 war. His book is even better. Everyone interested in the truth should definitely read his book. It's far better than Benny Morris...but to bad Mr. Gelbers book is $75 I would have loved to add it to my (mini) library but the cost is to high. Hopefully a paperback will arrive soon?


Gus Moner - 8/28/2002

After mulling over the article and comments, I can make the following observation. Why should Palestinians accept the inmigration of hundreds of thoudsands of unsolicited illegal immigrants, who then partition their land and declare their own nation? UN resolutions aside, (most of which are ignored by Israel)since the UN hasn't the right in its charter to declare a nation from the soil of another.

It would be tantamount to having the Mexican government allow the emigration of a few million people into, say, Texas, having these immigrants partition the state and declare a new nation, whilst getting the UN to agree.

Come to think of it, isn't that what the USA did to Mexico in Texas in the 1830's and 40's?

No wonder the USA backs Israel.......


Charles Barton - 7/26/2002

Israeli Jews took the offensive before the invasion, before the Arabs realized that it was a 'national war'.
This was hardly the case. Prior to April 1948 the Palestinian had placed numerous Jewish communities in Israel under siege. Early Israeli military operations were directed toward lifting sieges, and reestablishing communications between different parts of the country. There can be little doubt that the Palestinian Arabs initiated the intra-communal violence.


achbarmaus - 6/21/2002

I do not believe that accepting the historical fact that most Palestinians who became refugees in 1948 left out of fear also requires one to reject the legitimacy of the State of Israel. I happen to consider myself a Zionist (albeit a leftwing one), but that doesn't mean I have to delude myself with self-serving myths about my past.

Do you believe that acknowledging that individual Palestinians suffered during the War of Independence either diminishes Jewish suffering during the War or the right of Jews to continue to live in Israel?

The first step towards reconciliation is seeing the grievances of the other. Yes, in this time of incredible violence and bloodshed this is very difficult to do. Yes, this task would be much easier of there was a significant movement on the other side reciprocating. Nonetheless, I do believe that ultimately there will be reconciliation (I also believe in the coming of the Messiah), and even in this dark hour we can prepare ourselves for it by honestly confronting the past.


Chris Messner - 6/21/2002

THe point is that the US and EU provide more assistance to the PA than all the Arab countries combined (outside of payments to bomber families, that is). If you dispute this, please provide the detail.

Hmm, I don't recall any pro-Sharon comments in the post though?

Nice switch over to Israeli funding though, should we start with the comparisons to funding to Egypt as well? Or the M1 tanks we've sold them? Or the troops we provide for protection of the Saudis? The Kuwaitis? Lets talk about the Israeli economy vs the various Arab ones. Not a fair comparison, you say? That Israel exports hi tech commercial goods, argicultural products, software? How about the comparisons of Arab economies to those of South Korea and Singapore over the last 30 years? Oh my, not fair again? Let me guess, lets just compare Syria to Egypt, that would be fair, yes?

Chris


Chris Messner - 6/21/2002

Had the Arab countries (Jordan, and Egypt in particular) allowed the creation of an Arab country in 1948 on what is now Gaza and the West Bank, Israel at the time wouldn't have been able to do anything to stop it. The UN called for such an act, and the Israelis had not begun to be supplied extensively by the French enough to take on the UN and the Arabs in 1948 (an the US would certainly have acted against the Israelis, as they did in the seizing of the Suez canal in the 50's). So please tell me again that a two state solution wouldn't have been possible if the Arabs had allowed it in 1948. In 67 the Israelis wanted to maintain peace with Jordan, asking for a don't attack agreement in the 6 day war. Jordan was pressured by Egypt, began artillery bombardment, and the Israelis took the West Bank. Had Jordan not joined in the battle, the West Bank would still be Arab.

BTW, you do know that Sharon himself is a "non-European Jew", don't you? I think the point I made was that Israel was willing to take in their fellow Jews, no questions or money asked; the Palestinians on the other hand are the pariahs of their fellow Arabs outside of the refugee camps funded by westerners. Only recently has Saudi money started to offset western contributions.

Please tell me anytime in history, in any area in the middle east, europe or america, where the victor of a war was forced to return the land it took in prosecution of the war to the loser? Not the best justification, but certainly interesting to note that the Israelis are always held to a higher place, while the Palestinians are always treated as the downtrodden underdog. Look to the Palestinian leadership, and Arafat's 5.1 million bank account (among others) to know why the Palestinians are an ecomonic and civil basket case.

Chris


CDunn - 6/21/2002

Everytime I read the arguement of Isreal taking immigrants but not the Arab countries, I always kind of wince at the blatent racism in it. Israel is a country of immigrants, almost only immigrants.

The government of Israel, before it's creation and continuing today, has always called for immigration. In the years before Isreal existed, forced illegal immigration was a major factor in the destabilization of the region. It was in defense of this forced immigration that jewish terrorist groups began attacking the British, who kept pleading again and again that the area and situation couldn't take such large numbers of immigrants in such a short period. Hundreds of innocent immigrants were killed by the Haganah protesting attempts to reroute their ships to other regions ( http://www.us-israel.org/jsource/History/irgunill.html esp. The Patria Affair) Even now, Sharon is calling for One million more Jewish immigrants--since, as we all know, there aren't enough people crammed into that area yet, being a man of peace, he must assume the additional million will help.

The people who use this arguement are exposing the fact that they consider there to be a difference in Jews. It is a big deal for them that Israel didn't just take in European Jews, but they also took in arab Jews. Why should there be a difference?

And why should their still be a difference? Arab Jews arrived in Israel, were forced to live in seperate camps with more people per room than European Jews, were given harder jobs, which led to shorter life expectancy. And as time goes on, the differences between life styles and expectency has gotten worse, not better. http://www.iyba.co.il/98/ethgap.htm The continued existence of hostility towards non-European Jews was demonstrated recently when Sharon kicked Shas out--I was amazed at the bitterness in the media, some comments being just plain mean, towards Shas, not to mention the discussion of how the country rejoyced at seeing them kicked. (Shas is the party of the Sephardic and North African Jewish communities.)

It's worth noting that the Arab Jewish immigration did not take place until the 50's--long after the majority of Palestinians had been forced out (though they were still being transferred even then) it is also worth pointing out that there is some credible discussion that the Israeli secret police had a hand in 'helping' inspire the immigrants move to Isreal.

Arab countries have not been calling for immigration--and on top of this, recognizing that the surrounding countries did not feel that Israel had a right to transfer the immigrants, it is not surprising that they didn't legitimize the transfer by trying to integrate the forced immigrants into the country. Face it, every new Jewish immigrant to Israel is a sort of victory for the government, it shows Israel living up to it's stated dream-- even if treatment for different types of Jews was different. This is not the case for the Arab countries--every Palestinian that is forced to realize that they will never get to return or be compensated for the land that they and their parents and grandparents lived on and owned is seen as a failure.

I would like a bit more proof from you that Israel at some point accepted and took steps to work towards a two state solution--everything I've seen reflects Sharon's view now--the only Palestinian state acceptable is Jordon.


Frank Lee - 6/20/2002

Now that we've heard your pro-Sharon propaganda blast, how about some substantiation for your unusual claim:

"the Palestinians are funded by the US"

I was under the impression that the U.S. funding and subsidy of Israe'si militaristic economy far outweighed any meagre humanitarian aid to given to Palestinians.


Chris Messner - 6/20/2002

SO, if we accept your estimate that 85% to 95% of the refugees were driven out by the Jews, or by fear of the Jews, does that mean that the 100% of the Jews driven out by the Arab countries after the formation of Israel and the various wars will be given a safe right of return, or compensation? Why do I find that hard to believe?

The UN asked for 2 states, the Arabs refused, the arab countries didn't take in the refugees when they lost, all the while that Israel took in all those Jews expelled from the Arab countries with NO compensation, in numbers that equal or exceed the Palestinian refugees of 1948-1967. Egypt and Jordan refused the Palestinians a home, not Israel, and while the Saudi's and the other Arab oil thugocracies sit in luxury the Palestinians are funded by the US and EU and kept in 'refugee' status to try to make Israel look bad. Guess what, its starting to wear thin, starting with Arafat's dictatorship and embezzlement and the UN's oversight (or lack thereof) of the camps turned into martyr centers and the EU funded education of future terrorists and murder-bombers.

Chris


achbarmaus - 6/19/2002

In reading through both the original piece as well as the subsequent thread, it seems to me that all concerned have been obscuring an essential problem in discussing the origin of the Palestinian refugees. We are presented with a choice between two conflicting narratives: did the Palestinians leave voluntarily or were they forced out? Such a choice conceals the fact that most Palestinians left out of terror.

I don't think that people who flee their homes in fear of their life as enemy troops advance on them can fairly be termed "voluntary refugees." At the same time, though, this is not an example of "ethnic cleansing." I have recently reviewed several recent works of scholarship on the origins of the Palestinian refugees, and in particular Benny Morris's work, and they all agree that most of the Palestinians who became refugees during the 1948 war (about 55-60%) left out of fear and terror either immediately before or after their areas were captured by Jewish/Israeli forces. The second largest cause was being forced out by the IDF, amounting to about 30-35% of those who became refugees.

Until we can be honest about why Palestinians became refugees we don't stand a chance of resolving the consequences of their fate.


Richard Kurdlion - 6/19/2002

Why did the Palestinians run in 1948 ?
One could as usefully ask why did Jews run in 1938 ?

No doubt there were a myriad of varying circumstances in both episodes of forced migration as well as historical differences between Israeli terrorists and Nazi thugs.

But the solution that was appropriate post-Holocaust - a sovereign homeland with recognized borders for Jews in Palestine, is also appropriate for Palestinian Arabs today: a state for Palestinians on the West Bank and in Gaza. That's what Rabin, Clinton, Barak, and Arafat were trying for in the 1990s. Nothing Sharon or Palestinian terrorists have done since then changes that. And the lesson of 1948 - that both sides should accept two states, peacefully coexisting side by side, still holds.


William Heuisler - 6/19/2002

CDunn, are you reading this interchange or just emoting? Three E-mails ago I named a "fighter" (Ribhi Atiyyeh) at Deir Yassin who was dressed as a woman by members of his family to protect him. He evidently continued shooting and was killed. Two other Nakbah eye-witness accounts tell the same story. As to your web site, why would I bother to go through a long ID stream that misspells Deir Yassin? Bill Heuisler


CDunn - 6/18/2002

It's obvious that any website set up specifically to whip up emotions over a site is not going to have the best information.

Consider it the counter to the type of information that you can get on an 'all Israeli acts must be good somehow' site like this one: http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/myths/mf14.html#f

Who go so far to say: "At least some of the women who were killed became targets because of men who tried to disguise themselves as women." Yea right.

That's why I posted the far better reference article in the last post. It's long, but it works to be objective, and it confirms that Dier Yassin was a non-hostile village that was set upon by Irgun and the Stern gang at the cost of over 100 villagers.

For more information on the offensive troop movements of pre-Israeli forces you can go to the IDF's own site http://www.idf.il/english/history/independance.stm they explain their logic of why they were taking over so many towns and expelling so many Arabs from the Arab section from the moment Partition was announced (it even states that the offensive was pre-planned). Logic that worked for them, but clearly doesn't work on any humanitarian grounds.


William Heuisler - 6/18/2002

Look up www.deiryassin.org - a Pro-Palestinian site. Their strongest arguments all begin with the statement that most people admit to the massacre. Not true. The section supposedly rebutting the massacre denials states baldly that "The burdon of proof rests with the massacre deniers." This ridiculous proposal then compares deniers of a Deir Yassin massacre with deniers of the holocaust. Sorry, but, wishing Deir Yassin was a bloody shirt does not make it one. Reliance on actual witnesses who lived in Deir Yassin as in Haj Muhammed Nimr Al-Khatib's report is the strongest evidence...and it fails all but wishful tests.
Bill Heuisler


CDunn - 6/18/2002

Better information on Dier Yassin can be found at:
http://www.findarticles.com/cf_0/m2082/2_63/72435149/p1/article.jhtml?term=dier+yassin


William Heuisler - 6/18/2002

Talk about propaganda! A careful read of Haj Muhammad Nimr Al-Khatib's report, Min Athar Al-Nakbah, (consequences of the catastrophe) is revealing. First he cites Deir Yassin killings at either 14 or 40 - depending on which eye-witness account you believe. Second, these victims were supposedly either thrown in a well or a quarry - depending on which eye-witness account you believe. Third, according to eye-witness, Abu Mahmud, at least one armed fighter (Ribhi Atiyyeh) was dressed as a woman during the latter part of the engagement that lasted from 0230 to 1530 4/9/48. Fourth, according to eye-witness Abu Mahmud, speaking of himself and other fighters, "We had our guns on us...". 100 deaths? Innocent Palastinians? Maybe, but the evidence is not in the Nakbah report. Those nepotistic, confused and contradictory witness accounts are the basis for nearly every account of Deir Yassin in 4/48 and should be examined by anyone who cares about truth (or propaganda). Look on the internet under Nakbah. The report was written by a Muslim cleric who lived in Haifa during the '48 war, but was only published in Damascus, Syria about 15 years later - right before another war. Serendipitous? Bill Heuisler


CDunn - 6/18/2002

All of the talk of the Arabs rejecting the partition plan--yet no discussion of the fact that the pre-Isreali leadership didn't accept it either.

"Early in April, the Haganah launched several large-scale operations across the country. By contrast, the Arab forces remained dispersed and disarrayed. Under the new circumstances, their traditional patterns of warfare and organization became anachronistic. Unaware of the difference between anti-colonial insurrection and a national war, the Palestinian leaders preferred to conduct the struggle from safe asylum abroad as they had done during their rebellion against the British in 1936/9....."

Translation: Israeli Jews took the offensive before the invasion, before the Arabs realized that it was a 'national war'.

"In the last six weeks of the British mandate, the Jews occupied most of the area that the UN partition plan allotted to their State. They took over five towns and 200 villages; between 250,000 to 300,000 Palestinians and other Arabs ran away (so far, they were not driven out) to Palestine's Arab sectors and to neighboring countries. This rapid and almost total collapse astonished all concerned. It was unbelievable that plain defeatism lacking any ulterior motives had prompted this mass flight. The Jews suspected the flight was nothing but a conspiracy - concocted by the Palestinian leadership - to embroil the Arab states in the war. Later, this guess would become the official line of Israeli diplomacy and propaganda. However, the documentary evidence clearly shows that the Arab leaders did not encourage the flight. On the contrary, they tried in vain to stop it. The old Israeli narrative is as wrong as the new Palestinian one, and the historical picture is far more complex."

How, how is it possible to discuss April 1948 without talking about the massacres conducted by Begin's Irgun and the Stern Gang in the Arab villages of Dier Yassin (over 100 civilians, including children, killed and the rest driven out) that combined with the implimentation of "Plan Dalet" which was aimed: "at gaining control of the areas of Jewish settlement and concentration which are located outside the borders" by force gives a pretty strong reason why villagers would run rather than find out if they were next on the list to massacre. http://www.mideastweb.org/pland.htm

If the roles were reversed, and the Arab armies had instantly started marching and 'liberating' Jewish controlled cities in the Jewish area, including the massacre of an entire village of Jewish residents--one would hope for outside assistance. It amazes me that 'historians' have done such a good job at rewriting what happened then to make it seem like Arab aggression (and cowardice, since we are now told that everyone just ran for no reason) was the only factor involved in the events of 1948.






Kent Huffman - 6/18/2002

Although the author may be an Israeli scholar, the facts of history do not change, regardless of the nationality of the historian. His account of the failure of Palestinian leaders toengage in nation-building during the British Mandate is an accepted fact of history, and I know of no scholar of the Middle East who would deny it. Even those scholar who accept the Palestinian accounts of a massacre at Deir Yassin do not argue that the event at Deir Yassin were characteristic of what happened in other villages.

The creation of the Palestinian refugees were the direct result of the Arab nation's refusal to accept any partition of Palestine into two nations. They would accept only a single nation with Muslims forming the vast majority of the population. And there is incortovertable evidence (flyers distributed to Palestinian Arabs, transcripts of radio broadcasts, the recollections of Palestinian Arabs) that the invading Arab nations did indeed urge Palestinian Arabs to move out of the path of attack and to await the victory that would drive the Jews into the sea.

As an aside, one might compare the treatment of Jewish refugees with that of Arab refugees. Almost 650,000 Jews were driven (or fled) from their homes in Arab lands as a result of Arab hostility during and immediately following the War of Independence in 1948-49. All were welcome to emigrate to Israel. Arab refugees were shunted into camps by Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon and the other Arab nations who failed to destroy Israel. Arab refugees were not integrated into other Arab nations.

In short, Mr Gelber may be an Israeli historian, but his conclusions are well documented and generally accepted by other professionally trained historians, regardless of their nationality.


aisha sobh - 6/18/2002

I have to say that I'm really disappointed with the HNN. Why is it that by far the majority of articles discussing Israel-Palestinian history are done by Israeli scholars promoting the propaganda of the Sharonista government? I thought this was supposed to be a "history" network that promoted diverse points of view. Yet, prominent articles published by real historians who are recognized by their peers don't seem to find their way in here. HNN is doing academia a disservice with such polemical trash. If I want to read this, I'll go to the AIPAC website. Maybe you should go back and read your Walid Khalidi. Or perhaps authentic historical documentation isn't HNN's cup of tea.

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