For a long time the Israeli government has sought to perpetuate a myth that it did not expel the Palestinians out of their country, but that it was the Arabs that made them leave. This is how Israel justified and continues to justify the methods of its establishment, by denying what it has done to others.
The creation of the Palestinian Diaspora of 1948, in which over 750,000 people were forced to leave their homes, was made virtually at gunpoint. This year, as Israelis celebrated their 60th birthday, Palestinians remembered their Nakba of destruction and turmoil, signified by their uprooting from their land. This monstrous contrast has to be highlighted so that the world is educated about the crimes perpetuated against Palestinians.
Yet instead the Nakba of 1948 is remembered in passing. Death and destruction are treated like a casual event. Sure the Nakba is bemoaned, but the depth of the tragedy is not made apparent, as nobody has the right to question Israel.
Today Israel is seen as a a member of the world community, a nation with military and economic muscle, as well as a democratic state. Yet the facts of its creation are swept under the carpet.
Established Zionist politicians and military leaders understood there would come a day when the cat would be let out of the bag and the terrible reality of the massacres, transfers, expulsions, and destructions of whole villages would be broadcast to the whole world.
That’s why they’ve sought to legitimize themselves through literature and books written in English, targeting the hearts and minds of Western audiences and politicians. The Palestinians, the injured party, were secondary, peripheral, meaningless, as if they didn’t exist in all of this.
Over a 60-year period politicians such David Ban Gurion, Menachem Begin, Moshe Dayan, Golda Meir, Yitzhak Rabin, Ariel Sharon and Shimon Peres, have all sought to write a “history of their struggles” in Palestine/Israel and how they made it work.
The biographies and histories soon became powerful weapons and public relations tools to buy time and American support for Israel, despite the fact that the country was built on the blood of the Palestinian people, young and old, men and women, children and toddlers.
Through organizations and paramilitary groups like the Haganah, the Palmach (its strike force), the Irgun and the Stern gang, some of whom were trained and supplied by the British authorities, 13 massacres were committed in 1948 alone, and up to 100 massacres total. This is according to none other than Jewish historians.
Massacres like Dier Yassin in which around 245 women, men, children, old, young, and even pregnant women were slaughtered at point-blank are slowly being remembered for their ferocity. A ferocity that many Jews seem to be proud of.
It was 8 April 1948, a day that should be considered a black day not only for Palestinians and Arabs, but for the world and for Israelis themselves, whose establishment of a home cost another people so much.
Others massacres were ‘small’, as low as five people, but many went up to 50 and a 100. The massacres began as early as around 1946 when Zionist terrorists bombed the King David Hotel in which 91 people were killed. They continued in 1947 and increased through out 1948, so that as much land as possible could be taken.
Called their operation Plan Dalet, the Jewish paramilitary groups which, together with the reservists, were comprised of 100,000 armed men went against around an Arab army of 14,000 or so. They waanted to take as much land as possible, more than what was allocated to them by United Nations resolutions that divided historical Palestine into two states, one Arab and one Israeli.
Plan Dalet was an attempt to drive the Palestinians out through instilling fear into the local Palestinian villagers and town dwellers and force them to leave their land and their houses. People were panic-stricken, a mass-flight was induced, loudspeakers bellowed, telling people to leave for their own safety, sirens wailed.
Palestinians were made into refugees overnight. They left under bombardment. Of those captured many were killed as a lesson to others, that they too would be killed if they harbored any signs of resistance.
Despite the instructions of the Arab Higher Committee urging people not to leave, Palestinians ran to avoid being massacred and/or raped.
Palestinians left still hanging on to the keys to their homes, some at first sought refuge in nearby villages, some went over into neighboring countries into Lebanon and Syria where the idea of borders were still rudimentary. People genuinely believed it would be a matter of days and weeks before they could return to their lands, and they couldn’t that their exile would become permanent.
Survivors alive today said that when they were exiled to Jordan they tried to go back via a taxi, which was doubly difficult in those days, found that their homes had already become occupied by Jewish families.
These homeowners were ironically, the lucky ones. Other villages were quickly decimated soon after they were depopulated. To erase any memory of a prior Palestinian entity more than 500 villages were destroyed in 1948.
Meanwhile, a body of literature has built up over the years, examining just why the Palestinians were made into refugees and increasingly questioning the Israeli narrative claiming that the Arab countries told the people to leave.
Erskine Childers, an Irish journalist, wrote in the early 1960’s, in the Spectator in London, stating he found no evidence to suggest that it was the Arab countries that were responsible for the creation of the Palestinian exodus. On the contrary, he claimed that it was the Jewish paramilitaries that created the situation.
Palestinian academic Dr Walid Al Khalidi also sought to expose this Zionist myth, and so did Rosemary Al Sayigh, a British writer and academic who wrote extensively on the Palestinian uprooting. In the 1980’s Michael Palumbo also wrote about 1948.
These writings may have influenced Jewish academics that also begun to examine the creation of their own state. Dubbed as the “new historians”, they first gained prominence in the 1990s onwards. By examining state archives that were made available, many of them concluded that Israeli officials were indeed behind the Palestinian flight from their towns and villages and homes.
The author is the Responsible Chief Editor of Jo Magazine, a monthly produced in Amman. He worked previously as the Managing Editor of the Star, also in Amman between 1993 till 2003 and writes frequently on Arab and Palestinian affairs.