A WORK IN PROGRESS
(Information taken from the 1948.org.uk website on Plan Dalet)
Terrorist operations were first introduced in Palestine by the Jewish underground to demoralise the British Army. These operations were carried out by those Jewish elements trained by British Army in North Africa as an adjunct to their WWII effort against the Nazis. By 1939 this Jewish auxiliary force numbered 20,000 strong.
This force, which was given the innocuous name of The Jewish Settlement Force, employed terrorist tactics (the first to be carried out in the Middle East) against British troops inside Palestine supplemented by terrorist operations carried out by their underground brethren throwing bombs in bus stops, cafes and marketplaces. These bombs were hidden in milk cans, fruit baskets and similar ordinary containers. Parallel with these operations, terrorist innovations included the kidnapping of British officers, whipping them, hanging them and booby-trapping their hanging bodies which made shocking headlines back home in the UK.
In the last year of the British Mandate, the ratio of British officers dead to Jewish terrorists killed was 4 to 1. A very high ratio even in today’s standards. No wonder Britain wanted out of Palestine.
The Zionist plan to transfer Palestinians out of their land was headed by no lesser character than David Ben-Gurion himself. He plotted these schemes in his own home aided by a small ad hoc group of people referred to as The Consultancy. Its aim was to plot and design the disposession of the Palestinian people. As early as February 1947, when the British Cabinet voted to pull out of Mandatory Palestine, the Zionist leadership knew that the road ahead was clear for their aims to be achieved. The Consultancy first met (according to Ben-Gurion’s diary) on 18 June 1947 and continued to meet regularly during the months leading to October 1947 when it transpired that the UN will now issue its Resolution 181 to partition the land of Palestine.
The Zionist leadership and its Consultancy group knew that the Palestinians and the Arab leadership in general would reject the Partition Resolution. They also knew that this is the time not only to forge forward their plan to clear the Palestinian population from the UN-designated future Jewish state, but also from the areas accorded to the Palestinian state.
Prior to 1947, the Zionist agenda concentrated on building a political, ideological, cultural and economic enclave within historic Palestine. Now, during these crucial months leading to the UN Resolution 181, it was decided that the time has come to translate these ideologies into realities on the ground. The Zionist leadership openly declared that it intended to take over the land of Palestine and to expel its indigenous population. Their plan was called Plan Dalet, which was launched as soon as six weeks prior to the end of the British Mandate in Palestine.
On 10 March 1948, two months before the so-called Declaration of Independence, the Zionist leadership gathered in Tel Aviv and agreed on Plan Dalet calling for a military campaign against the Palestinians. Over 13 military underground operations were carried out (according to The History of the Palmach archives released in full in 1972) before the Arab forces entered the areas allotted by the UN to the Palestinians in their Partition Plan. Both Menachem Begin and David Ben-Gurion wrote extensively about their underground military campaigns to cleanse Palestinian villages of their indigenous inhabitants.
All this was taking place BEFORE Israel existed! The claim that Arab forces invaded Israel is hog-wash. When the Zionist leaders established Israel on 15 May 1948, they purposefully avoided declaring its boundaries in order to open the doors for future expansion, as has been happening since then.
At the end of the implementation of Plan Dalet, the Haganah set up “The Committee for Abandoned Arab Property” â The CFAAP â which was entrusted with the disposal of all Arab possessions into Yishuv hands. The intention was to obliterate any sign of âlifeâ in the abandoned Palestinian homes and villages.
The expulsion of the Palestinians re-examined
(from an article published in Le Monde in December 1997 and was reproduced in Palestine Remembered)
As regards the broad picture of the balance of power between Jews and Arabs in both 1947 and 1948, the results of revisionist historians contradict the generally-held picture of a weak and poorly armed Jewish community in Palestine threatened with extermination by a highly armed and united Arab world – David versus Goliath [click here to read our rebuttal to this argument]. Quite the contrary. The revisionists concur in pointing to the many advantages enjoyed by the nascent Jewish state over its enemies: the decomposition of Palestinian society; the divisions in the Arab world and the inferiority of their armed forces (in terms of numbers, training and weaponry, and hence impact); the strategic advantage enjoyed by Israel as a result of its agreement with King Abdullah of Transjordan (in exchange for the West Bank, he undertook not to attack the territory allocated to Israel by the UN); British support for this compromise, together with the joint support of the United States and the Soviet Union; the sympathy of world public opinion and so forth.
This all helps to explain the devastating effectiveness of the Jewish offensives of spring 1948. It also sheds new light on the context in which the mass departure of Palestinians took place. The exodus was divided into two broadly equal waves: one before and one after the decisive turning-point of the declaration of the State of Israel on 14 May 1948 and the intervention of the armies of the neighbouring Arab states on the following day. One can agree that the flight of thousands of well-to-do Palestinians during the first few weeks following the adoption of the UN partition plan – particularly from Haifa and Jaffa – was essentially voluntary. The question is what was the truth about the departures that happened subsequently?
In the opening pages of “The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem“, Benny Morris offers the outlines of an overall answer: using a map that shows the 369 Arab towns and villages in Israel (within its 1949 borders), he lists, area by area, the reasons for the departure of the local population (9). In 45 cases he admits that he does not know. The inhabitants of the other 228 localities left under attack by Jewish troops, and in 41 cases they were EXPELLED by military force. In 90 other localities, the Palestinians were in a state of panic following the fall of a neighbouring town or village, or in fear of an enemy attack, or because of rumours circulated by the Jewish army – particularly after the 9 April 1948 massacre of 250 inhabitants of Deir Yassin, when the news of the killings swept the country like wildfire.
By contrast, he found only six cases of departures at the instigation of local Arab authorities. “There is no evidence to show that the Arab states and the AHC wanted a mass exodus or issued blanket orders or appeals to the Palestinians to flee their homes (though in certain areas the inhabitants of specific villages were ordered by Arab commanders or the AHC to leave, mainly for strategic reasons).” (“The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem”, p. 129). On the contrary, anyone who fled was actually threatened with “severe punishment”. As for the broadcasts by Arab radio stations allegedly calling on people to flee, a detailed listening to recordings of their programmes of that period shows that the claims were invented for pure propaganda.
Military operations marked by atrocities
In “1948 and After” Benny Morris examines the first phase of the exodus and produces a detailed analysis of a source that he considers basically reliable: a report prepared by the intelligence services of the Israeli army, dated 30 June 1948 and entitled “The emigration of Palestinian Arabs in the period 1/12/1947-1/6/1948″. This document sets at 391,000 the number of Palestinians who had already left the territory that was by then in the hands of Israel, and evaluates the various factors that had prompted their decisions to leave. “At least 55% of the total of the exodus was caused by our (Haganah/IDF) operations.” To this figure, the report’s compilers add the operations of the Irgun and Lehi, which “directly (caused) some 15%… of the emigration”. A further 2% was attributed to explicit expulsion orders issued by Israeli troops, and 1% to their psychological warfare. This leads to a figure of 73% for departures caused directly by the Israelis. In addition, the report attributes 22% of the departures to “fears” and “a crisis of confidence” affecting the Palestinian population. As for Arab calls for flight, these were reckoned to be significant in only 5% of cases…
In short, as Morris puts it, this report “undermines the traditional official Israeli ‘explanation’ of a mass flight ordered or ‘invited’ by the Arab leadership”. Neither, as he points out, “does [the report] uphold the traditional Arab explanation of the exodus – that the Jews, by premeditation and in a centralized fashion, had systematically waged a campaign aimed at the wholesale expulsion of the native Palestinian population.” However, he says that “the circumstances of the second half of the exodus” – which he estimates as having involved between 300,000 and 400,000 people – “are a different story.”
One example of this second phase was the expulsion of Arabs living in Lydda (present-day Lod) and Ramleh. On 12 July 1948, within the framework of Operation Dani, a skirmish with Jordanian armored forces served as a pretext for a violent backlash, with 250 killed, some of whom were unarmed prisoners. This was followed by a forced evacuation characterized by summary executions and looting and involving upwards of 70,000 Palestinian civilians – almost 10% of the total exodus of 1947- 49. Similar scenarios were enacted, as Morris shows, in central Galilee, Upper Galilee and the northern Negev, as well as in the post-war expulsion of the Palestinians of Al Majdal (Ashkelon). Most of these operations (with the exception of the latter) were marked by atrocities – a fact which led Aharon Zisling, the minister of agriculture, to tell the Israeli cabinet on 17 November 1948: “I couldn’t sleep all night. I felt that things that were going on were hurting my soul, the soul of my family and all of us here (…) Now Jews too have behaved like Nazis and my entire being has been shaken (10).”
The Israeli government of the time pursued a policy of non- compromise, in order to prevent the return of the refugees “at any price” (as Ben Gurion himself put it), despite the fact that the UN General Assembly had been calling for this since 11 December 1948. Their villages were either destroyed or occupied by Jewish immigrants, and their lands were shared out between the surrounding kibbutzim. The law on “abandoned properties” – which was designed to make possible the seizure of any land belonging to persons who were “absent” – “legalized” this project of general confiscation as of December 1948. Almost 400 Arab villages were thus either wiped off the map or Judaised, as were most of the Arab quarters in mixed towns. According to a report drawn up in 1952, Israel had thus succeeded in expropriating 73,000 rooms in abandoned houses, 7,800 shops, workshops and warehouses, 5 million Palestinian pounds in bank accounts, and – most important of all – 300,000 hectares of land (11).
In “1948 and After” (chapter 4), Benny Morris deals at greater length with the role played by Yosef Weitz, who was at the time director of the Jewish National Fund’s Lands Department. This man of noted Zionist convictions confided to his diary on 20 December 1940: “It must be clear that there is no room in the country for both people (…) the only solution is a Land of Israel, at least a western Land of Israel without Arabs. There is no room here for compromise. (…) There is no way but to transfer the Arabs from here to the neighbouring countries(…) Not one village must be left, not one (bedouin) tribe.”
Seven years later, Weitz found himself in a position to put this radical programme into effect. Already, in January 1948, he was orchestrating the expulsion of Palestinians from various parts of the country. In April he proposed – and obtained – the creation of “a body which would direct the Yishuv’s war with the aim of evicting as many Arabs as possible”. This body was unofficial at first, but was formalized at the end of August 1948 into the “Transfer Committee” which supervised the destruction of abandoned Arab villages and/or their repopulation with recent Jewish immigrants, in order to make any return of the refugees impossible. Its role was extended, in July, to take in the creation of Jewish settlements in the border areas.