Hal Draper


Israel’s Arab Minority:
The Beginning of a Tragedy

(Summer 1956)

From New International, Vol. XXII No. 2, Summer 1956, pp. 86–106.
Transcribed by Tex Crawford.
Marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

Transcriber’s Note: Numbers mark reference notes, which are collected at the end of the article and give source data only, footnotes had been marked by asterisks, are now marked by letters. – ERC


The self-imposed ground rules for this article require that all important statements be documented from Zionist or pro-Zionist sources, including Israeli sources; and, in any other case, at least from sources that Zionists would recognize as being pro-Jewish rather than pro-Arab. Any exceptions or qualifications are clearly labeled in the text or reference notes, wherever the character of the source might not be immediately obvious. The sole purpose of this purely artificial limitation is to neutralize the typical Zionist’s automatic reflex that any unpleasant truth about Zionism or the Israel government is by definition biased, pro-Arab, anti-Semitic, or fabricated. All sources used, therefore, are in fact biased in a pro-Israel direction, unless otherwise noted.

Where the Ichud is mentioned, it should be kept in mind that this is the only wing of the Zionist movement (a small group in Israel) which still consistently stands for Jewish-Arab cooperation.

Place names in Palestine often have variant spellings in English; hence the variation in quoted passages.


Israel’s Arab Minority
The Beginning of a Tragedy

Tell it not in Gath, publish it not in the streets of Askelon; lest the daughters of the Philistines rejoice, lest the daughters of the uncircumcised triumph. – 2 Samuel 1 : 20.

It is never agreeable to pick flaws in the things we love, and it is frequently thankless .... But what should a reporter do about the faults that do exist? I think he should do his job – and report them .... When the truth finally comes out, as it must, those who have been misinformed will not be grateful to the purveyors of fables.

There is another reason for telling the whole truth clearly. Israel is new. Israel is malleable, like a little child with soft and delicate bones. The evils of older states are the accretion of age, the slow hardening of youthful tendencies into ancient ritual. There is still time in Israel. But in Israel the bad, like the good, is aging quickly. – Hal Lehrman, Commentary, July 1949.

All well-wishers of Israel, including the official Zionists themselves, are accustomed to the platitude that its peace and security depend upon normal relations with the Arab world which surrounds it. Instead, there has been increasing hostility, in a vicious circle of reciprocal hatred, which threatens to embroil the region, perhaps the world, in war. It is to be feared that the outcome of the Zionist “fulfillment,” so far from being the solution to the Jewish problem that was heralded by Zionism, may mean a new act in the tragedy of the Jewish people.

The tragedy is not inevitable. The vicious circle has a break-out point. The pity of it is that precisely this point is blocked up by deep-rooted aspects of the official Zionist ideology which dominates the leaders of Israel.

To break out of the vicious circle requires an attempt to win the support and friendship of the Arab masses away from and against the Arab rulers, from below, toward the goal of a binational state. For Israel this program begins at home: Israel will never be peace with the surrounding Arab world, even if it makes a deal with the Colonel Nassers, as long as it is at war with its own Arab minority. This is the place to start. [a]

The very existence of an Arab minority is shadowy in the minds of most Americans – some say, also in the minds of most Israelis – in spite of the fact that it is over one-tenth of the nation, like the Negro minority in the United States.

When the Israeli Arabs are not ignored, they are often labeled en bloc, as “fifth-columnists” and suspect agents of the foreign Arabs who are foes of Israel; for they are all Arabs, aren’t they? They are spoken of as the “remnant of the enemy defeated in 1948” in spite of the fact that they were not defeated in 1948 since they did not fight against Israel.

Israel’s Arab problem, of course, goes back to the beginnings of Zionist colonization. It is not true that the Zionists came into Palestine as “agents of British imperialism” with the creation of the Mandate after the first World War. What is true is that they came as conscious junior partners of British imperialism: they would ensure continued British domination of the country, they proposed, if they were in turn given a free hand to take it over from the indigenous Arabs. Chaim Weizmann, who became Zionism’s world leader and later first president of Israel as the shrewd architect of this symbiotic relationship, is quite candid about this in his autobiography. [1] It was not his fault, or that of the Zionists, if this policy foundered after 1945, when the British government under Bevin made a sharp turn to the Arabs.

The Zionist infiltration into Palestine, therefore, took place before Arab eyes as the entrance of an alien and hostile force, under the umbrella of another alien and hostile force. Unfortunately the Zionist movement and the Israel government, despite frequent bows to the ideal of Jewish-Arab friendship, have never ceased to give nourishment to this feeling.

At least ever since Dr. Weizmann blurted out in 1919 that Zionism aimed to make Palestine “as Jewish as England is English,” the Arabs have feared that this aim could not be achieved without driving out or otherwise getting rid of the population that was in the way. The Zionists countered with arguments supplemented by promises and pledges. Deeds are always more important.

Today we find that, in truth, the setting up of the Zionist state coincided with a process whereby the large majority of the Palestinian Arabs found themselves separated from their land and homes. How did this happen?


And it shall be, when the Lord thy God shall have brought thee into the land which he sware unto thy fathers ... to give thee great and goodly cities, which thou buildedest not, and houses full of good things, which thou filledst not, and wells dipped, which thou diggedst not, vineyards and alive trees, which thou plantedst no ... – Deuteronomy 6 : 10–11.

This is the nearest good starting point for an investigation of the current situation of the Arabs in Israel, as well as of the Arab refugees around Israel. It is a story enveloped in a fog of propaganda on both sides.

On November 29, 1947 the UN General Assembly adopted its resolution for the partition of Palestine. When the British Mandate ended next May, the Zionists declared the establishment of the State of Israel, and the Arab states invaded Palestine to forcibly annul the partition by aggression.

When the fighting broke out in 1948, even before May, there began a great flight and displacement of the Palestinian Arab population, a veritable exodus from their homes and farms. Out of 700,000 Arabs, there were only about 170–180,000 left within the enlarged borders of Israel when it was over.

The official Zionist version is that this flight took place in cooperation with the invading armies of the foreign Arab states. The official Israel government pamphlet The Arabs in Israel asserts:

It began on the express orders of the Arab commanders and political leaders, who assured the [Palestinian Arab] people that their evacuation to the neighboring Arab countries would only be of short duration and that they would soon return in the wake of the victorious Arab armies and receive a handsome share of the booty. [2]

In addition, according to the same official version, the Palestinian Arabs had thought the invasion would be a walkaway, but when the Arab armies were defeated, “they panicked and stampeded across the frontiers ... Knowing what they had intended to do to their neighbors, they now expected the victorious Jews to mete out similar treatment to them.” [3] A mass guilty conscience. The Jews, on the other hand, according to this same account, vainly tried to convince these Arabs to stay and keep the peace.

This official version, therefore, provides the moral and even juridical justification for three aspects of Israel policy:

  1. Israel claims little responsibility for or to the hundreds of thousands of Arab refugees from its territory who are now living across its borders in misery and seething hatred.
  2. The government used the Arab flight to justify a series of laws which have stripped these refugees, as well as many Arabs who never left Israel, or are still in Israel, of their lands, groves and property.
  3. This version of the Arab flight, with its accompanying view of Arab disloyalty, is also the justification for the maintenance, up to today and for the indefinite future, of military-government rule over the large majority of Arabs still in Israel. Eighty-five per cent of the Arab minority in Israel live under political conditions which often resemble that of a conquered enemy under army occupation by its foe. This is not exactly a help to Jewish-Arab friendship.

How important this version of the Arab flight is to the Zionists can be realized only by indicating its economic meaning. In the following summary, the legal terms “absentee property” or “abandoned” property refer to property seized from Arabs who had left their homes during the fighting for any reason:

Of the 370 new Jewish settlements established between 1948 and the beginning of 1953, 350 were on absentee property. In 1954 more than one-third of Israel’s Jewish population lived on absentee property and nearly a third of the new immigrants (250,000 people) settled in urban areas abandoned by Arabs ... Most of the Arab groves were taken over by the Israel Custodian of Absentee Property ... In 1951–52, former Arab groves produced one and a quarter million boxes of fruit, of which 400,000 were exported. Arab fruit sent abroad provided nearly 10 per cent of the country’s foreign currency earnings from exports in 1951. In 1949 the olive produce from abandoned Arab groves was Israel’s third largest export ranking after citrus and diamonds .…

The CCP [UN’s Conciliation Commission for Palestine] estimated that the amount of Israel’s cultivable abandoned Arab land was nearly two and a half times the total area of Jewish-owned property at the end of the mandate [1948] ...

In 1951 abandoned cultivable land included nearly 95 per cent of all Israel s olive groves ... [4]

The government’s Custodian of Absentee Property was in 1953 “one of the largest employers in Israel, and perhaps the largest single landlord. renting over 65,000 housing and business units of Arab absentee property ...” [5]

This will give a preliminary idea of the role played by the flight of the Palestinian Arabs in the establishment of the State of Israel. Much is at stake when the Zionists insist that the flight represented an act of hostility to the State of Israel.

But suppose it was only the normal reaction of people trying to get out of the way of flying bullets? Suppose it was not in cooperation with the Arab invaders, but out of fear of them? Suppose it was also out of fear of Israeli atrocities? Suppose it was also due in part to the ouster of peaceful Arabs by Israeli troops?

Let us investigate three forces at work in precipitating the flight: the Arab states’ invasion; the Zionist forces, regular and irregular troops; and the British who were departing the country in bitterness in the twilight of their power.


Two nations are in thy womb, and two manner of people shall be separated from thy bowels ... – Genesis 25 : 23.

A couple of things about the social structure of the Arab community in Palestine should be mentioned for background.

When the British ended the mandate and withdrew, the Jewish communities had a whole quasi-government, or shadow government, ready to take its place and carry on all essential government functions and social services. Not so the Arabs.

When the British administration evacuated ... there was no organized Arab body to manage the services of government essential for communal organization. With the breakdown of all functions of government necessary to maintain public law, order, and well-being – Water, electricity, posts, police, education, health, sanitation, and the like – Arab morale collapsed. [6]

This provided the context, not the cause, for the flight.

Besides, mass flight was not uncommon in the history of the Middle East, in similar cases where a population had reason to fear the waging of a war over their soil.

It was not only governmental services that collapsed, but also the social structure. As we shall see, it was the Arab upper class which fled first.

The upper class consists, as a rule, of a few great families whose members occupy key positions in the economic, professional and other occupational fields in the country ...

It was this small but extremely wealthy and influential class which represented Arab Palestine in practically every manifestation of social, civic, economic and political life ... It was common knowledge that their interests were often diametrically opposed to those of the fellahin who constituted three-quarters of the Arab population of Palestine but were illiterate, inarticulate and unable to voice any opinion. [7]

This thin upper-class layer was highly nationalistic but also socially and politically reactionary. Though it did not represent the interests of the peasant masses, yet when it fled, the whole Arab community became structurally unstable. This was even more true in the Arab urban communities, like Jaffa and Haifa.

According to the official Zionist and Israeli version (for example, the government propaganda pamphlet Arabs in Israel) not only did the Palestine Arabs support the invasion by the foreign Arab states but, even before the May invasion, Palestine Arabs formed the majority of the bands of Arab irregulars who harassed Jewish settlements in the first months of 1948. [8] This may or may not be so, but how many such Palestine Arabs were there? On the other hand, what was the attitude of the mass of Palestine Arabs?

Arthur Koestler, a lifelong Zionist (Revisionist) who was then in Palestine as a correspondent, writing of this early 1948 period, reports:

Ragged strangers kept appearing in increasing numbers in Arab villages and towns ... As the Palestine Arabs showed little willingness to fight, most of the sniping, ambushing and guerrilla warfare was done by the foreign volunteers ... after the first serious clashes had occurred between Arabs and Jews in Tiberias ... the heads of the two communities arranged a truce, the Arab delegates stating that the attackers of the Jewish quarter were “strangers who had forced their way into the town.” [9]

The Jewish ethnologist Raphael Patai writes:

The majority of the Israeli Moslem Arabs, however, chose not to become involved in the Arab-Jewish fights. On the Jewish side there was never any pressure exercised on them to take up arms against their own brethren; and they themselves tried hard to escape the demands of the Arab armies and guerrillas for active help or financial support. [10]

David Ben-Gurion himself, in a magazine article published at the beginning of 1948, [11] testified that

Indeed, the vast majority of the Palestinian Arabs still refuse to join in this war despite the combined pressure of the Mufti and his gangs, of the Arab rulers and potentates who support him and of the Mandatory Power [Britain] whose policy aids and abets Arab aggression.

... the Arab villages have in their overwhelming majority kept aloof from the struggle. Were it not for the terrorization by the Arab bands and the incitement of their British supporters, the Arab people of Palestine would have soon resumed peaceful relations with their Jewish neighbors.

This was written before the land-grab had begun. It was only later that. Israeli propagandists started putting forth a different version- i.e., after the land-grab was under way.

In the same issue of the same Zionist organ from which we have quoted Ben-Gurion, the same picture was drawn by another Arab expert of the Zionists, Yaakov Shimoni. [12] Among other things he stresses that

the fact remains that the bulk of the Arab population has so far kept aloof from attacks on the Jews. Up to the present, the instigators of the disorders have been unable to enlist the mass of either the fellahin or the urban Arabs ...

And after a detailed account of the people’s reaction, he concludes:

The hopes of the Mufti and the AHE [Arab Higher Executive] have thus far been disappointed because although they instigated and initiated the attack, they have been unable to deliver the goods: the mass of the Arab people of Palestine have failed to rise at their orders and have proved reluctant and incapable of fighting the Jews.

The interested reader can find testimony to the same effect in several other Zionist sources. [13]

Now, as mentioned, the Zionist story is that the Arab Higher Executive called on the Palestine Arabs to flee their homes, come over the border, and wait till they could return triumph to a conquered land. [b] Now, if we assume for the sake of argument that it was indeed the policy of the AHE to issue this call, it still does not tell us whether or not the Palestinian Arabs did in fact heed the call. For that, the testimony we have just cited is more relevant.


What mean ye that ye beat my people to pieces, and grind the faces of the poor? – Isaiah 3 : 15.

What is agreed upon by virtually all sides, however, is the class differentiation in the flight. This may also serve to explain a kernel of truth in the Zionist version of the flight.

It is to the well-to-do Arab upper class (a small minority) that part of the Zionist story does apply, not to the Arab masses. In the first phase of the flight – i.e., before the start of heavy fighting, also before the Deir Yassin massacre, for example – it was these elements, the rich leaders of Arab society, who fled of their own free will.

Even the Israel government propaganda pamphlet takes note of the class distinction:

During the earlier phases of the fighting, the movement [of mass exodus] was on a small scale. Approximately 30,000 Arabs, mostly of the well-to-do classes, left for the neighboring states to await the outcome of the struggle, as they had done during the troubles of 1936–39. [14]

But this is relatively grudging admission compared to the abundant evidence on this point from Zionist sources. The Israel Digest in April 1949 said that “The well-to-do ones departed before May 14th in pursuance of a deliberate plan” (the plan being the AHE strategy previously quoted from the Zionist story, but the significant thing to note is that it is here ascribed only to the few rich Arabs) but “The poorer classes did not flee until the first month of Israel’s existence ...” [15] According to this, the “poorer classes” did not join in the flight until after the Deir Yassin massacre and many other things had happened. What then happens to the now-official Zionist story of an AIIE plot for a mass exodus as the justification for Israel’s refugee policy, land policy, and military government over the Arab minority?

Exactly the same statement is made in the January 1949 issue of the Tel-Aviv journal Israel & Middle East. [16]

Yaakov Shimoni wrote a few months later that “the educated and wealthier people ... were among the first to run away, in contrast to the poorer strata of the community ... “ [17] As early as February 4, 1948, the British High Commissioner reported that “panic continues to increase ... throughout the Arab middle classes, and there is a steady exodus of those who can afford to leave the country.” [18]

A Zionist writer reported: “In the town it was the workers and the poor who remained, together with a thin layer of middle-class families.” [19] The well-known journalist Hal Lehrman, writing in Commentary for December 1949, summed up:

The imams fled from the mosques, the kadis from the courts, the doctors, the teachers, practically all the intellectuals. Only workers and peasants remained. [20]

A great understanding can be gained if one remembers that the Israeli Arab minority problem as we know it today concerns the treatment of these workers and peasants who remained, in spite of all.


For they fled from the swords, from the drawn sword, and from the bent bow, and from the grievousness of war. – Isaiah 21:15.

”In spite of all” covers a great deal. Even if the Arab invaders’ contribution to the flight was not that given in the Zionist version (the call to an exodus, etc.), still it played a big role. This role, however, was usually just the opposite of that which is commonly used to justify Israeli policy.

The Palestine Arab population did not flee out of sympathy with and in cooperation with the Arab invaders, but out of fear of them and of the war. This is easy to understand, but for the Zionists to admit this is to stamp their subsequent Arab minority policy with a certain brand.

Yet it creeps into even the Israel propaganda pamphlet which puts forward the official story; there we learn incidentally that time and again the foreign Arab commanders had to use force to prevent the local Arabs from making truces with the Israel forces. [21] It creeps into the book by the Revisionist leader Schechtman where, as a matter of fact, we get the theory (by Schechtman) that the very reason why the AHE called for a mass exodus was “to prevent the possibility of establishing normal relations between the Jewish authorities and the Arab minority; for once this occurred, it might lead to Jewish-Arab cooperation and ultimately to Arab acquiescence in the existence of Israel.” [22] For a chauvinist like Schechtman, this already confesses a great deal.

Pierre van Paassen, a well-known pro-Zionist of the Christian-mystic fellow-traveling type, is anxious to prove in his book [23] that the Arabs did not flee out of fear of Israeli atrocities. No, he argues, they fled out of fear of being murdered by the Mufti’s henchmen if they stayed and refused to cooperate. He seems quite unaware that he is giving the lie to the official Zionist version and condemning its policy.

The ardent Zionist historian Harry Sacher likewise gives us this truth: he remarks that “the Arab commandants ordered the Arabs on the fringes to evacuate their villages” (italics added. [24]

An Israeli writer told in 1949 of the village of Tarshiha, whose Arabs did not flee. The villagers described how Kaukji, the Syrian leader of the Arab irregulars who had undertaken guerrilla operations even before the formal invasion,

ruled this district for several months and quickly brought it towards destruction and death ... One hears the same story throughout the whole of Western Galilee, in dozens of villages along the Lebanese frontier, the same tale of the despotic rule of Kaukji’s brigands. They would carry people from their homes in the darkness of the night – never any questions asked. It was enough to “be on the list” on the slightest suspicion, a single word from one of the brigands. They removed them from their families to places outside the village, a few shots were heard in the darkness, and once more the population was reduced by a couple of villagers. [25]

This is hardly the description of a population which was so sympathetic to the invader that it deserves, today, to be robbed, discriminated against, and slandered as “fifth columnists” en masse.

Chaim Weizmann, speaking to US Ambassador McDonald in 1948, talked “of the flight of the Arab population from Israel – a flight at times so panicky that coins were left on the tables of huts in the Arab villages ...” [26] This also scarcely fits the official story about a planned exodus at the call of the foreign Arabs.


But this is a people robbed and spoiled; but they are all of them snared in holes, and they are hid in prison houses: they are for a prey, and none delivereth; for a spoil, and none saith, Restore. Who among you will give ear to this? who will hearken and hear for the time to come? – Isaiah 42 : 22–23

A similar picture emerges from war news items of the time in the Palestine Post, semi-official Zionist English language daily in Jerusalem. When Iraqi invading forces took over the Ramallah area, which was and is Arab, they had to proclaim martial law and a curfew

and the population was warned that violators would be shot at by the Iraqis ... Houses of Arabs who try to run away in the future will be blown up, the PBS [radio] announced. Mukhtars and elders of villages in the Ramallah area were ... threatened with severe punishment in the event of panic or chaos. [May 7, 1948]

This is a population under foreign occupation, not a population cooperating with invaders. Or take the report on Tiberias, quoting a Jewish Agency spokesman, which appeared in the Palestine Post on April 21, 1948: The local Arab leaders there had always been friendly, opposed to the anti-Jewish policies of the AHE; Kaukji’s irregulars had occupied their houses “against the wishes of the inhabitants” –

A number of clashes occurred between the local and foreign Arabs, and local Arabs asked the British authorities for help to get rid of the invaders, but none was given.

Then, when the invaders were defeated by Jewish forces, they forced the local Arab families to evacuate. “This measure was meant to rouse the neighboring Arab States and induce them to send help.”

In the same issue, the Zionist daily editorializes on the fact that the entire Arab population of Tiberias “were forced to leave by the Arab command ... In fact, the gangs were resisted as far as possible by those whose interests they had come to ‘protect.’”

The nearly five months of fighting in Palestine has proved that the Arabs of the country – the ordinary townsmen, the fellahin and the Bedu [Bedouins] of the South – have no heart in the struggle. They did not want it to begin and they have no wish for it to continue.

But many of these Arabs, forced to abandon their land, were later robbed of it through the “abandoned land” and “absentee property” laws rigged up for the purpose by the Israelis.

Or if they wound up across the border in refugee camps, they became willy-nilly part of the hapless hundreds of thousands who were reviled as “enemies” and “fifth-columnists” while their property was being stolen.

How could non-hostile Arabs wind-up across the border? Read, for example, a feature article in the Palestine Post of May 12, 1948, written sympathetically by Dorothy Bar-Adon: she describes how

the “displaced” Arabs seeking refuge in the Emek unburden their hearts to the Jews whom they meet at roadblocks or in the fields. It is the familiar, timeworn complaint – “they,” the outsiders, are responsible for all this.

And she describes how “The refugees are driven from pillar to post. There is simply no room and no food.” They go to Nazareth; then despairingly have to move on to Jenin; to Beisan; nowhere can they be provided for.

So the refugee crosses to Trans-Jordan. From here he may be deported back again. And where does one go then?

Dorothy Bar-Adon prefaces this account with the appealing remark: “And who can understand this bewildered running better than the Jew who has been doing it on and off for a few thousand years?

A Revisionist-Zionist writer who minces no words about his aim of squeezing all the Arabs out of Palestine – even this chauvinist found it possible to report honestly in 1950:

I truly sympathize with the great pain of those tens of thousands of Arabs who fled from Israel under pressure of the Mufti’s bands, although they themselves wished to continue to live in neighborliness with the Jews and find work and their livelihood among them. I know of villages which defended themselves with arms against the forced entry of hired Mufti soldiers, and subsequently “evacuated” the villages for fear of military courts which threatened them. [27]

He mentions about a dozen that he knows of “personally.”

Or take the case of the Jawarish (or Arab el-Guarish) tribe, as it came to light after they were finally resettled. This tribe had been such firm allies of the Zionist colonizers that they had been trusted to guard the Jewish settlements at Gedera; they had helped Jews get around British regulations and Arab hostility against Jewish purchase of land by lending their own names for the deals. Yet, when the fighting began, they had to flee simply to live, winding up in one of the refugee camps of the Gaza strip. [28] They were not repatriated until years later – even these Arabs, who were quislings from the point of view of the nationalists – and even they never got their own land back, but were resettled on new land provided by the state with a well-publicized ceremony in 1953.

Perhaps the most notable case of a tribe that was friendly to and supported the Jews, but which fled across the border during the fighting, was that of the village of Abu Gosh, which we will not document here since it is a longer and more important story which will fit better into a subsequent article on Israel’s Arabs since 1948.

But in most cases it did not matter whether Arabs were friendly or hostile; it did not matter why they had to flee; it did not matter whether their flight was due to fear of the foreign Arab “liberators” or of Israeli atrocities like Deir Yassin; many were impartially stripped of their land and property, or relegated to the miserable refugee camps if that was where they landed, or subjected to military rule inside Israel – on the pretext that they had fled in order to answer the call of Israel’s enemies!


Thou makest us a byword among the heathen, a shaking of the head among the people. – Psalms 41 : 14.

If the foreign Arab invaders are the first force to be considered that precipitated the flight, then the second that must be taken up is the British.

The attitude of the British imperial power in giving up the mandate was a vicious snarl of spite: “We wash our hands of this mess, and may you all bog down in it ...” And if the resulting disordered tangle were to become bad enough, who knows but that the British might be called back? They were not sorry to see themselves followed by chaos. And more than one observer has charged that they helped chaos along a bit.

The sharpest indictment of the British role as a precipitant of the Arab flight was made by E.N. Koussa, a prominent Israeli Arab attorney, in a letter to the Palestine Post of February 2, 1949. [c] Koussa testifies how the British authorities, before departure, encouraged and often initiated Arab evacuation, worked “to create all atmosphere permeated with fear and alarm,” etc. “When conditions in Tiberias, where the friendly relations between Arabs and Jews formed a bright illustration of the possibility of the two communities cooperating, became acute, the British authorities forcibly transported the Arab inhabitants en masse to Transjordan,” he charged (as quoted by Schechtman).

The Greek Catholic bishop of Haifa, Msgr. Hakim, also ascribed much responsibility to the British. [29] A World Jewish Congress leader, N. Barou, wrote that the British helped the flight along “by spreading atrocity stories ... They also provided transport, convoys, etc.” [30] and he repeats the accusation about Tiberias. When British authorities told Arabs (in Haifa, for example) that the Jews would cut them to pieces if they stayed, [31] some may really have thought so or they may have been motivated by guile, but in either case our own investigation has only the following question before it:

Insofar as the British role was a factor in causing the flight, how can one justify the draconic punishments imposed by Israel on the Arab minority as well as the refugees for what was not their own doing? How in good conscience can even the paid Israeli propagandists claim that the harsh refugee policy, or the land-grab, or the military government, is justified because these Arabs who were displaced were “enemies of Israel”?


Now go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not; but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass. – 1 Samuel 15 : 3.

All this might be enough in itself to confute the Zionist version; but when we find further that the Zionist-Israeli forces themselves played a prominent role in causing and intensifying the flight, then a darker and more sinister shadow falls over the harsh penalties which they later imposed on the Arab victims of their own actions.

The first sector of this question concerns the Zionist terrorist group, the Irgun Zvei Leumi, the military outgrowth of the Revisionist wing of Zionism – i.e., the most chauvinistic, most anti-Arab, most reactionary wing, which shaded into fascist tendencies (today organized in Israel in the Herut party, now the second strongest in the country). These extreme chauvinists always had, as compared with the other Zionists, the most consistent perspective of a Palestine which would not only be “as Jewish as England is English,” but which would also be as Araberrein as Hitler wanted Germany to be Judenrein.

From early in the fighting; it seems clear, the Irgun oriented toward utilizing the war to achieve this objective, well in advance of the official Zionists’ uneasy drift toward this same end. They struck their big blow on April 9, 1948 against Deir Yassin, an Arab village near Jerusalem on the highway to Tel-Aviv. [d]

Why against Deir Yassin? The distinguished British Zionist editor Jon Kimche writes:

Deir Yassin was one of the few Arab villages whose inhabitants had refused permission for foreign Arab volunteers to use it as a base of operations against the Jewish lifeline into Jerusalem; they had on occasions collaborated with the Jewish Agency. [32]

Deir Yassin had to be the victim because its Arabs were friendly with the Jews. In Labor Action Al and Ed Findley gave more details culled from the Jewish press:

It was the only village in the Jerusalem area that had not appealed to any Arab authority as being in danger from the Jews. The villagers lived under an agreement of non-aggression with Jewish settlements surrounding it. In the winter of 1947 (long before the Dir Yassin massacre in April 1948) Abba Hushi, Jewish labor leader, cited a number of Arab villages in which the villagers had fought off Arab bands attempting to infiltrate and occupy them as positions against the Jews. Dir Yassin was prominently noted. Its villagers had successfully repelled an armed Arab band which attempted to entrench itself in the village mill. These Arab villagers ... faithfully carried out their obligation to exclude strangers and to maintain peaceful relations, despite the partition fighting ... [33]

This was the village chosen by the Irgun for their planned massacre of (writes Kimche) “some 250 innocent Arabs, among them more than a hundred women and children.” [34] The International Red Cross representative who visited the scene of the outrage, Jacques de Reynier, reported that the bodies of some 150 men, women and children had been thrown down a cistern while some 90 other bodies were scattered about. [35] The houses were destroyed. The few villagers who were not slaughtered were paraded by the Irgun through the streets of Jerusalem – in triumph.

Deir Yassin resounded through the land, indeed through the world, and with the desired effect. Even a record of friendship for the Jews was no protection, no insurance. It was after this that the Arab flight became general.

There is no question about the fact that there were also atrocities committed by the Kaukji and Mufti armed forces against Jews; the invaders had their Deir Yassins too, even if on a smaller scale. There is an abundance of testimony on this. But this would be relevant only in a debate on a subject which is not ours: namely, which side was worse in the Palestine war?


Such is the way of an adulterous woman; she eateth, and wipeth her mouth, and saith, I have done no wickedness. – Proverbs 30 : 20.

But didn’t the Jewish Agency condemn the Deir Yassin massacre and apologize for it? It did. Even if that were the whole story, few people would wonder why the mass of Arabs, already confused and panicked by Arab invaders and British, decided that flight held greater safety than trusting in the regrets of Ben-Gurion, But there are two other facets to this story.

  1. The official-Zionist army, Haganah, repudiated the massacre, undoubtedly sincerely, but also went on to claim that the Irgun had attacked Deir Yassin without any military justification and without the agreement of the official forces. The Irgun countered by releasing the exact text of the letter from the regional Haganah commander agreeing to the attack (not to a massacre, of course). [36] This has not really been refuted. The friendly village was not supposed to be turned into an abattoir, naturally, but it was supposed to be assaulted and invested as a military operation, in cynical violation of any non-aggression obligation to it. [e]
  2. The official-Zionists righteously deplored and condemned – but did absolutely nothing to take any effective steps against the repetition of Irgun atrocities. On the contrary, the relations between the official Zionists and the Irgun were now closer than ever.

Only seven months before, on September 18, 1947, the Haganah had raked the Irgun and Sternists with the denunciation: “these organizations gain their livelihood by gangsterism, smuggling, large-scale drug traffic, armed robbery, organizing the black market, and thefts;” and announced measures to root out terrorism. [37] But partition changed all that in November. By December the Haganah had overcome its moral sensibilities and was negotiating with Irgun for an agreement on cooperation. Such an agreement was reached in April, the very month of the Deir Yassin massacre.

The prominent Zionist historian Harry Sacher uneasily limits his comment on this to: ... much is still obscure as to the relations between the Haganah or the Government and the Irgun. For comprehensible reasons the Government does not think the time yet come to tell its story fully and frankly ... [38]

Among the obscure relations is undoubtedly the role of the other official-Zionist armed force, the Palmach. The Palestine Post reported four days after the massacre:

The Haganah statement denied IZL [Irgun] claims that Palmach units had cooperated in the attack, and pointed out that it was only after urgent appeals for help that the Palmach had provided covering fire, to enable the administration of first aid to the wounded dissidents [Irgunists] in the village. [April 13, 1948]

It is not easy to see what, according to the official story, the Palmach was doing there in the first place.

So it is not quite true that the Deir Yassin massacre was simply the uncontrollable act of mavericks for whom the official Zionists were not responsible, as it is represented by all good Zionist writers who duly express their horror at it. They do not express any horror at the idea that the government and Haganah at this time made their alliance with these perpetrators of this “Lidice,” and continued it. (It was not Arab-exterminationism which moved them to break with the terrorists; it was the assassination five months later of the UN mediator, Count Bernadotte, by Sternists.)


Is there yet any portion or inheritance for us in our father’s house? – Genesis 31 : 14.

The Deir Yassin massacre “was a turning point,” says Sacher quite accurately. The foreign Arab invaders trumpeted its horror far and wide, no doubt with the aim of stimulating anti-Israel militancy on the part of the anti-war Palestine population; the actual result of their propaganda was to convince all strata, poor as well as rich Arabs, that the best thing to do was to get out of the war zone – to flee until the hostilities were over.

The massive effect of Deir Yassin on the flight is testified to from all sides. [39] The flight for the first time became general. The matter of chronology is very important; for it proves that the flight cannot be explained away as due to some previous call by the Arab invaders, as is done by Zionist party-liners and the official history-rewriters of Israel.

Another thing has to be noted about the impact of Deir Yassin. Like others we have used the term “official Zionists” as distinct from the terrorists. But this was the month before the establishment of the state. As far as the Arab people knew, was the Irgun really less “official” than the Haganah?

Jon Kimche’s book provides an important bit of background here. He explains at length how the Irgun set about convincing the British, the world press and the Arabs that it, not Haganah, was the decisive power in the Zionist community, that it was “taking over,” etc. The British passed this on to the Arab governments.

It had the desired effect among the Arabs. It swayed many who had been hesitating on the brink of decision, whether to flout the United Nations and go to war against the Palestine Zionists or not. For though it has become a habit among Israelis and pro-Zionists to assume that there was nothing but evil hatred behind the Arab decision to go to war against Israel, and that the Arab explanation that they came to save their brethren from attack by the terrorists was a cheap excuse for the benefit of those who cared to believe it, it must be stressed that there was great and very real Arab concern for the fate of the Palestine Arabs. This concern reached fever heat when the British information was passed on that the terrorists were becoming the decisive factor in the Jewish armed forces. [40]

Kimche notes that this belief was reinforced when the Irgun took it upon itself in April to attack Jaffa, the Arab twin city to Tel-Aviv.


Woe to him that buildeth a town with blood, and establisheth a city by iniquity! – Habakkuk 2 : 12.

Deir Yassin was fresh in the minds of all when later in April the Zionist forces got ready to attack the Arab city and port of Haifa in anticipation of the withdrawal of the British troops. The Haifa situation requires special attention because it is the big show-piece for the Zionist contention that, far from pushing the Arabs out, the Jews pleaded with them to stay. As in some other cases, there is a kernel of truth here which the Zionist apologists pretend is the whole story.

Menachem Begin, the Irgun commander, stresses in his book that the effect of Deir Yassin was decisive for the flight from Haifa:

The legend of Dir Yassin helped us in particular in the saving of Tiberias and the conquest of Haifa ... [And after describing the assault on Haifa:] All the Jewish forces proceeded to advance through Haifa like a knife through butter. The Arabs began fleeing in panic, shouting: “Dir Yassin!” [41]

In this period there were indeed cases where official Zionists tried to persuade the Arabs not to flee. Haifa was one of these [f]; in this commercial city Jewish-Arab relations had been particularly friendly. It was the terrorists and their chauvinist ilk who realized earlier than the others that the Zionists had an exceptional opportunity to “solve the Arab problem” within the Jewish state-to-be by the expedient of getting rid of the Arabs themselves. Friendly relations stood in the way of this aim. Hence the year before, in this very port city, the Irgun had tried out a “Deir Yassin” on a small scale:

The Irgun picked an area in Haifa that, was known for friendly Jewish-Arab relations and threw a bomb at the entrance of a factory employing 1,800 Arabs and 400 Jews, killing six Arabs and three British workers. Their provocative act resulted in the massacre of 42 Jews. [42]

As we have seen, the Arab Higher Executive too reserved its choicest hatred for those Arabs who tried to maintain friendly relations with the Jews. In the middle was the Arab leadership of the Haifa community, who opposed the AHE and wanted to make a truce with the Zionist authorities. [43]

If there was an Arab community in Palestine that had no sympathy at all for the war against Israel, it was the Haifa Arabs, who stood to lose – were indeed losing – their whole livelihood and existence. Their evacuation of the city was due to threats from the Arab invaders and panic fear evoked by the Irgun atrocity, reinforced and encouraged by the British. [44]

This feeling of panic was also reinforced by the tactics of the beleaguering Haganah, in spite of the fact that Zionist authorities urged the populace to stay. This was a species of psychological warfare waged against the population with the intention of producing demoralization. Koestler insists that this demoralization was an important reason for the Haifa flight, and furthermore:

By that time Haganah was using not only its radio station, but also loudspeaker vans which blared their sinister news from the vicinity of the Arab shuks. They warned the Arab population to keep clear of the billets of the foreign mercenaries who had infiltrated into the town, warned them to send their women and children away before the new contingents of savage Iraqis arrived, promised them safe conducts and escorts to Arab territory, and hinted at terrible consequences if their warnings were disregarded. [Italics added] [45]

Kimche, who was there, also describes the “psychological blitz” launched on the Arab quarters, and concludes: “The Arab nerve broke shortly after dark, and the flight from the town assumed panic proportions even before general fighting had started.” [46] (He does not say anything about a warning to send away the women and children.) It was particularly after this that the Jews tried to persuade the remaining Arabs to stay. The latter were anxious to agree and come to a truce, but, according to Kimche’s personal account, it was the threats of the Arab League authorities which finally convinced the Haifa Arabs that flight would be safer. Only 5000 remained out of about 65,000.

But though they had left in a panic, there was a strangely unpanicky atmosphere in the port area. The departing Arabs meekly allowed themselves to be searched by the Haganah. They exchanged greetings and farewells with Jewish port workers, with many of whom they had worked for years. [47]

These are among the Arabs whose flight, according to the latter-day Zionist hack version, was due to sinister enmity against the Jews.

Whatever weight anyone chooses to give to the various cruel pressures on these Arabs pushing them toward flight, not one of the real reasons for the flight justifies the later merciless Israeli punishment of these victims, for the “crime” of fleeing.

Moreover, in the case of Jaffa, there were two additonal factors: (1) As mentioned, this attack was launched by the Irgun itself, the very perpetrators of Deir Yassin; and (2) “The desire to get out of the range of Arab bombs which were soon to fall on Tel-Aviv was as potent an incentive as the fear of the Jews,” explains a Zionist writer. [48]


By little and little I will drive them out before thee, until thou be increased, and inherit the land …. for I will deliver the inhabitants of the land into your hand; and thou shalt drive them out before thee ... They shall not dwell in thy land ... – Exodus 23 : 30–33.

But the blackest part of the true story is still to come. It was only in the first period that it was official Zionist policy to frown on the flight. They were still under the influence of the lip-service which they had been used to giving to the idea of Jewish-Arab friendship; the flight had been unexpected; but they were not too slow in reorienting. Within three months after Deir Yassin, the official Haganah forces themselves were driving the Palestine Arab population out of their native villages, towns and cities, like cattle.

Referring to the flight, “Dr. Weizmann …. spoke to me emotionally of this ‘miraculous simplification of Israel’s tasks’ ...” reported US Ambassador McDonald (an active Zionist propagandist) in his book. [49] The flight was greeted as a “miracle” by more than Weizmann; and like other pious people, they had no objection to helping the miracle along.

By August 1, Foreign Minister Sharett was saying that “the Palestinian Arab exodus of 1948 is one of those cataclysmic phenomena which, according to the experience of other countries, changes the course of history.” While Israeli soldiers were driving innocent Arabs out of their homes, the government was already making clear that it would be a long while before any of the refugees were allowed back.

The New York Herald Tribune’s war correspondent Kenneth Bilby, in a book remarkable for the general impartiality of its tone, says, after relating that at Haifa the Zionists urged the people to stay:

Not until the war had swung noticeably in favor of the Jews and the pressure of the Jewish immigrant inflow had begun to exert itself did Israeli government policy change. Then those civilian Arabs who fell into the army net were not only permitted to depart: they were encouraged. And the borders of Israel closed to the refugees, except for a few family categories. [50]

Likewise Jon Kimche, in the British Zionist organ which he edits:

But after the first period of fighting, the Palestine Arabs were no longer encouraged to stay; on the contrary: they were “encouraged” to leave Lydda and Ramleh, and later, towns like Beersheba. [51]

The quote-marks around “encouraged” give way to a franker formulation in Kimche’s book:

Ramleh and Lydda fell on the 13th [July]; and a flood of 60,000 panicky Arabs were compelled to take the road to the nearby Arab lines. This was no Haifa. The Jews no longer hoped the Arabs would stay. They had tasted the benefits which the earlier Arab policy of evacuation had bestowed upon them. [52]

Which means that the 60,000 people were expelled. There had not even been a pitched battle with Arab forces (let alone the civilians), because the Arab Legion had withdrawn without a fight. The people were simply driven out, to make the towns Araberrein and provide property for incoming Jews to expand into. Among the people expelled were refugees from Haifa and Jaffa. This was done by the Haganah, not by Irgun. [g]

But although the Arab Legion had already withdrawn, here is Bilby’s description of how the Israeli troops entered Lydda. It is the only such passage in Bilby’s book, which has been favorably cited by Zionists as source to disprove other Arab charges of atrocities:

The ring around the twin cities [Lydda and Ramleh] was now complete.

At dusk one evening an Israeli jeep column took off from the Lydda airport and raced into Lydda, with rifles, Stens, and submachine guns blazing. It coursed through the main streets, blasting at everything that moved. The town toppled in panic. I went into Lydda the following day with Major Yeruhant Cohen, brigade intelligence officer, and the corpses of Arab men, women, and even children were strewn about the streets in the wake of this ruthlessly brilliant charge. Civilians who had been trapped by the Jewish encirclement cowered behind shuttered windows; white flags were draped from every home. [53]

The reader must keep in mind that many Arab inhabitants who survived the submachine guns, and were merely driven out onto the open road, are among those who were punished for becoming “absentees” by laws which stripped them of their “abandoned” property.

In 1949 Hal Lehrman wrote in Commentary (December):

Now that I’ve traveled every corner of this country [Israel], it has become clear that the Israeli troops must have been decidedly tough even with non-combatant Arabs during the war. There are, for instance, too many dynamited, desolated native villages where little or no fighting ever occurred. The Jews simply came in and smashed the place, often sparing only the mosques ... it is obvious, too, that the Israelis – themselves surprised by the scope and speed of the Arab exodus – did an extra-thorough job of destruction to make sure that the Arabs would have nothing to come back to. There is no evidence that this was official government policy, but it certainly must have been in the minds of many local commanders ... Looting was not too zealously repressed either. No less an authority than the present Speaker of the Knesset, Joseph Sprintzak, has been quoted as saying that the looting of Arab homes and shops was a major defeat for the new government of Israel.

Then, after referring to the Deir Yassin massacre, Lehrman asks “Were there other outrages?” and quotes a UN observer as saying, yes. [h] And he continues:

I am more shaken by the expressions of grief and shame I have privately received from non-political but prominent Israelis whose personal integrity is beyond question. “The Israeli soldier has looted, burned, and slaughtered,” I have been told, “and it is no comfort for us that soldiers of every other army do likewise.” It is even hinted that certain officers actually ordered their troops to let themselves go. The best evidence that there were atrocities – and, I suppose, the best apology for them, if such things can be apologized for – came to me from a high-ranking veteran of the Jerusalem siege. “Our soldiers,” he said, “were no worse than the Americans or British. They were even better ...”

But the question we are interested in here is not the moral superiority of the Haganah looters and perpetrators of atrocities over Americans or British, or vice versa, but in a far simpler one: Many Arab peasants against whom the looting and atrocities were committed, and who were driven out or who fled in fright, were later robbed of property and land and had a military government imposed over them because they fled or were driven out – i.e., because they left their habitations as a result of or in fear of such atrocities – and this was done not by Haganah soldiers but by the parliament and government of Israel. This was the real atrocity.


My father made your yoke heavy, and I will add to your yoke: my father also chastised you with whips, but I will chastise you with scorpions. – 1 Kings 12 : 14.

Besides, the looting was not mere looting for its own sake; at least in part it was committed in the Zionist cause; that is, as a means of driving out the Arabs. Jon Kimche explains with heavy heart, in his book, speaking of the Haganah and the Jewish Agency:

... the Irgun practice of looting Arab homes and shops was soon explained away and later justified as ministering to the needs of Jewish evacuees who had lost their homes and their all as a result of the four months of attack from Jaffa. It was perhaps natural, though it was certainly detestable, that before long the rest of the Jewish soldiers of the Haganah and the Palmach should join in the orgy of looting and wanton destruction which hangs like a black pall over almost all the Jewish military successes. It could have been stopped by firm action at the outset. But it soon became a practice for which there was always a material incentive, a sophisticated justification, and an excuse. [54]

The fact that the “detestable” practice was initiated by the Irgun is significant. lrgun was the arm of a movement which consciously and systematically aimed at making Palestine Araberrein. Looting and “wanton destruction” was a political means. As in so many other cases, the Revisionist-Irgun-Herut movement showed the way to consistent Zionist practice, and the official Zionists followed with more or less reluctance, consistency and heartburning.

But it would be a mistake to think that the ousting of Arabs by official Israeli forces was a matter only of massacres or unofficial looting. The strange thing about the official-Zionist version of the flight is that one of the most important contributions of the Israelis to the ousting of Arab peasants was – in 1948 – public, overt, and reported in the Zionist press as military news. This was the dynamiting of villages, and evacuation of their population, on grounds or pretext of military necessity, when foreign Arab invaders had used or might use them for a base. There is also involved the barbarous practice, introduced by the British, of collective punishments for a whole village in case of sniping.

Thus Arthur Koestler recorded in his diary on June 6, 1948 as he drove along the road from Haifa to Tel. Aviv, observing some peaceful Arabs still tilling their fields:

But not for long. A few weeks later some Arab lads will start sniping from these villages at Jewish trucks on the road; the Jewish army will herd the villagers together, dynamite their houses, and put the young men into concentration camps; while the old ones will tie a mattress and a brass coffeepot on the donkey, the old women will walk ahead leading the donkey by the rein and the old man will ride on it ... [55]

At this point, the official Zionist apologist will inform us that this is military necessity, and cannot be helped. Before commenting, let us see some more military necessities. We quote from the military news published as a matter of course by the Palestine Post in 1948:

... Kolonia village overlooking Motza was destroyed by a Haganah striking force ... Most of the houses in Kolonia, occupied by Arab gangs [Kaukji’s foreign Arab guerrillas] that had been attacking Castel, were blown up on Saturday night, and in a short but sharp fight the Arab unit in the village was wiped out ... Yesterday, Haganah men completed the destruction of the village by blowing up the remaining houses ... ‘The village had been evacuated by most of its residents during the past week ... [April 12, 1948. Italics added]

The next day the paper reported, in a similar news item, that three villages had been “pounded into desolation” and “reduced to rubble” after being deserted by their residents and occupied by “Arab gangs.” It adds matter-of-factly:

Abu Shusha village ... was recaptured by the Haganah this morning, and is being blown up. [April 13, 1948]

The fact is, then, that Arab villages were systematically dynamited and razed not, or not merely, in the course of fighting but after capture. The military necessity was presumably to prevent their use by hostile forces. No doubt, the system of destroying these villages down to their foundation stones had a real convenience for the Israeli forces from this point of view, though other civilized armies seem to have gotten along in various wars without this practice. For present purposes we will also assume for a moment that the Zionist authorities never gave a moment’s thought to the fact that this convenient custom had the additional advantage of scorching the earth for the Arab inhabitants and contributing to the “purity” of an Araberrein Palestine. We only ask readers to remember, once again, that even if we accept the plea of military necessity at face value, the question which is at issue in this study is the subsequent fate of the innocent Arab peasants who were driven out and despoiled out of this alleged military necessity, and not because of their alleged offense in taking flight at the call of the Arab invaders.

But it would take great willpower to convince oneself that military necessity was the answer. Kenneth Bilby wrote, for example, summing up the 1949 picture:

Israel ruled three-quarters of Palestine, and scores of Arab villages deemed uninhabitable had been razed as insurance against their owners’ return. [Italics added] [56]

Harry Sacher, a prominent British Zionist leader, is very delicate in the following remarks:

... for strategic purposes the Jews began to blow up the Arab villages, which they occupied ... The massacre at Deir Yassin by the Irgun on the 9th April, 1948, was a turning point ... It became the rule that, when the Jewish forces advanced, the Arab inhabitants of the occupied territory fled; nor was the flight always without stimulation or encouragement from the Jews. [Italics added] [57]

An internationally known professor and author at Hebrew University, Norman Bentwich, remarks regarding the injustice of the later Absentee Property Law:

Many [Arab residents of Israel] were driven out for a time from their villages by the Jewish military forces in the course of the campaign, and are now living in adjacent villages, and are prevented from recovering their properties which are vested in the Custodian. [58]

Hal Lehrman – writing about an entirely different topic, the widespread prejudice by Israeli Jews against the new immigrant Oriental Jews – quotes an Israeli friend who complained to him, “not entirely in sour jest, that ‘we drove out our good Arabs, and now look at what we have in their place!’” [59] The alleged half-jest is about the Oriental Jews; the remark which slips out incidentally about having driven out the Arabs is not part of the sour jest.


And it came to pass, when Joram saw Jehu, that he said, Is it peace, Jehe? And he answered, What peace, so long as the whoredoms of thy mother Jezebel and her witchcrafts are so many? – 2 Kings 9 : 22.

As a matter of fact, the infamous land-grab, which after the war was carried through systematically by special laws and ordinances, got started during the war itself under the umbrella of military operations. Dr. Don Peretz writes:

When Israel’s military and paramilitary forces first occupied abandoned Arab areas military field commanders improvised policy on the spot, often turning property over to the secretaries of Jewish agricultural settlements or local security officers. [60]

In a series of articles on Israel’s Arabs which appeared in the leading Israeli paper Ha’aretz, we read that

Every piece of land which had been abandoned for any reason whatever – whether in the whirl of war, or during the truces, or soon after the Israeli occupation – was at once seized by the nearby [Jewish] settlement or settlements and attached to their estates. [61]

This grab was not a matter of individual lawlessness merely; it was organized and stimulated by Zionist authorities for Zionist aims. Dr. Don Peretz describes it for this period:

Squatters [on seized Arab property] often received semi-official sanction for their occupation of empty buildings. Even before the status of the abandoned Arab areas was determined, the Jewish Agency was directing the flow of new immigrants toward the vacant Arab settlements. The military also participated in this unauthorized mass-requisitioning. In one instance, a group of army officers supported by tanks seized large areas of absentee [Arab] property in Jaffa. [Peretz’s footnote here refers to the January 9, 1949 issue of Ha’aretz]

When the first Custodian of Abandoned Property was appointed, in July 1948, all of Jaffa had been occupied ...

In one of his early reports the Custodian claimed that nearly all absentee houses had been occupied and that their seizure by the Jewish Agency for the use of new immigrants would be recognized. Nearly all movables in these houses, which had not been looted or destroyed, were sold to the army before the Custodian arrived. [62]

The role of the Jewish Agency in this grab was attested to in November 1949 when Finance Minister Kaplan (the cabinet member in charge) made a Knesset speech replying to charges of government laxness. He “accused institutions like the Jewish Agency, which were responsible for the settlement of new immigrants, of causing the greatest difficulties in management of absentee property.” [63]

At this time, the callous robbery of the Arabs was not yet being justified officially by reference to the needs of the new immigrants. The conception had not yet taken root in all circles committed against European Jewry by bestial anti-Semites were sufficient reason for the wronged Jews in turn to commit injustices and crimes against the native Palestinian Arab population. It was being done, but only officially unofficially. When the first Custodian made his report to the Knesset, such robbery was condemned at least in words, though nothing whatsoever was done against it. The government washed its hands; so did Haganah.

In his April 18, 1949 report to the Knesset Finance Committee, the Custodian maintained that the “moral feelings” of the Jewish community had “prevented the despoliation of the enemy,” but he did admit this much:

Feelings of revenge, moral justification and material temptation did, however, overcome many.

In such conditions, only extreme measures by the military, civil and legal authorities could have saved, not only the property, but many individuals and institutions from moral degeneration.

Such action was not forthcoming and was, perhaps, impossible in the prevailing conditions, and affairs in many areas degenerated without restraint. [64]

Note that this official lists “material temptation” – i.e., looting for the sake of the loot – only third; and note his reference not only to individuals but to “institutions,” which means the Zionist agencies and organizations.

The leading newspaper Ha’aretz – then, as now, a Zionist voice that was deeply conscience-stricken over it all – spoke out. Its columnist, the Hebrew author Moshe Smilanski (of the Ichud), agreed with the Custodian’s report that a large part of the public was responsible for the theft of Arab property. [65] “Towns, villages and agricultural property were robbed without shame, and lawless individuals of the masses as well as the intelligentsia enriched themselves from occupied property.” He called for measures against those responsible, but that was naive.

Smilanski also wrote: “Some time we will have to account for its theft and despoliation not only to our consciences but also to the law.” There he was quite wrong. The same people who tolerated the robbery devised a whole series of laws which not only legalized the grab but permitted its systematic extension; but that is for another article on the story of the Israeli Arab minority.


Now ye may see this, as we have declared, not so much by ancient histories, as ye may if ye search what hath been wickedly done of late through the pestilent behavior of them that are unworthily placed in authority. – Esther (Apocrypha) 16 : 7.

While the robbery could always be reconciled with law, given the power of a state, it could not be reconciled with conscience by those Israelis who hold out against the tide of chauvinism in the little country. The intellectuals of Ichud or Ha’aretz are wont to lament the moral degeneration exhibited when a people, themselves so recently persecuted and despoiled in Europe, visit such wrongs upon a minority which is under their own newly acquired power.

Without in the least derogating this moral indignation at the treatment of the Arab minority, which is richly justified, one aspect of the denunciation misses the mark. The moral indignation should not be visited in the first place against the miserable, harassed, driven Jewish DPs from Europe who, in their fear and need, were used as pawns to grab the land and property of the dispossessed Arabs. They were steered and pushed into this position by those who knew what they were doing – Zionist arms like the Jewish Agency, Zionist authorities in the armed forces and government, both by design and by toleration.

Zionism – the ideology of Jewish chauvinism – showed that it was and is one of the deeply reactionary conceptions of the political world. The child of anti-Semitism, it became the father of another form of ethnic oppression; if genocide means the murder of a people as such, then there should be a word for the robbery of a people as such.

What Zionism created in Palestine in 1948 was the first act of a tragedy.


a. For a fuller explanation of this viewpoint – which is also the real introduction for the present article – see my To Break the Vicious Spiral in Labor Action for March 5, 1956.

b. For quotes purporting to show this, see the Israel government pamphlet The Arabs in Israel (ref. n2), pp. 9–10. None of the quotes is from the AHE or its leaders. Another question not satisfactorily handled is why, from their own standpoint, the Arab leaders should have issued such a general sweeping call. A quite different explanation for the flight is given in the book by McDonald, first US ambassador to Israel (ref. n26) who was and is more pro-Zionist than the Zionists, and who is undoubtedly merely retailing what he was told in Tel-Aviv in 1946 (p. 175). See also the different explanation in the propaganda book by the Revisionist Schechtman (ref. n8), pp. 6–7. For an Arab rebuttal of the charge, see F.A. Sayegh (official of the Arab Information Center in New York), The Palestine Refugees, Amara Press (Wash D.C.), 1952. A pro-British historian recommends that the Zionist story about the AHE call for a mass exodus at this time “should be treated with reserve in the absence of positive evidence to corroborate it ...” (George Kirk, Royal Institute of International Affairs, anti-Zionist from British imperial angle, The Middle East 1945–1950, p. 263).

c. Although Koussa is Arab (Christian, not Moslem), it is within my ground rules to cite him here because, on this matter, he is also cited as an approved authority by the Revisionist propagandist J.B. Schechtman ref. n8) pp. 12–13, and by Bayou (see ref. n30). The same applies to Msgr. Hakim. I may add also that Koussa, who is perhaps the leading Israeli Arab defending his people’s rights within the state as a loyal citizen, is a collaborator with Ichud and its organ Ner.

d. According to the Bulletin of the Council on Jewish-Arab Cooperation (a then-existing US group based on Ichud’s type of Zionist ideology), as quoted in Labor Action, Aug. 23, 1948, the terrorists worked up to it during the preceding days:

“On April 4 Irgun Zvei Leumi stole 1,000 head of cattle from Arab villages in the coastal plain; Haganah pursued them and succeeded in returning part of the loot to the Arabs. On April 5 terrorists hijacked an Arab truck laden with citrus fruit. On April 6 the Stern group blew up the deserted Arab village of Bir Adas, when the Arabs began to return by day to work in their fields.”

e. For example, at the time the Palestine Post (April 12, 1948) editorialized that “No good reason can be given for the action as a military operation” – i.e., even aside from the massacre aspect. It went on to say that the Irgun “scored a cheap victory, ‘capturing’ a village which was peaceable and constituted no menace, even if some few Iraqis or other armed Arabs were in it against the wishes of its inhabitants.”

f. Zionist sources like to quote the British police reports on Haifa: “Every effort is being made by the Jews to persuade the Arab populace to stay …” See Schechtman (ref. n8), pp. 7–9. In M. Pearlman’s The Army of Israel, these British reports are reproduced in facsimile. The effect is to make it appear as if this applied to the Arab flight in general.

g. Kirk (see fn. on p. 90) adds that expulsions also took place of the Arab population of Acre, Beersheba and Western Galilee (p. 264). The UN Mediator, Count Bernadotte, in July 1948 reported to the Security Council on Israel’s expulsion of 8,000 Arab inhabitants of three villages south of Haifa and the destruction of their homes.

h. Arab sources charge other massacres (by Haganah), though none as bad as Deir Yassin: e.g., at Nasr-el-Din. Regarding this village, see Palestine Post Apr. 13, 1948 for the official Zionist report, which says that “Before the Haganah counterattacked, the women, children and older inhabitants were warned to leave the place.” It does not go on to say what happened to them. The next day the same paper reported, without comment, the charge by the British colonel in the area (Tiberias) that “twenty Arabs, including women and children, were killed and the houses set on fire.” The Ichud’s organ Ner has stated that one cause of the Arab flight was “the Jewish leaders, who took advantage of Dir Yassin and similar deeds, not all perpetrated by ‘dissident’ (Jewish) forces, to spread terror among the Arab masses and to drive them away.” (May 1954, as published in Freeland, May–July 1954. Emphasis added.)

Reference Notes

1. Chaim Weizmann, Trial and Error; see especially pp. 149, 170, 177–9, 182, 191–3, 205. 223, 324, 366, 393, 396, 435.

2. The Arabs in Israel, Israel Office of Information, N.Y., 1955, p. 9.

3. Ibid., p. 11.

4. Don Peretz: Israel and the Arab Refugees, vol. II,) p. 232–3, 237. This is an unpublished Ph.D. thesis (Columbia), 1954, available in mimeographed form; it is the most authoritative work on the subject in English. Peretz writes from the Ichud viewpoint.

5. Ibid., vol. II, p. 240, 270.

6. Ibid., vol. I, p. 9.

7. Raphael Patai: Israel Between East and West, Jewish Pub. Soc., Phila., 1953, pp. 242–3.

8. Arabs in Israel (n2), p. 7. For this version, see also Joseph B. Schechtman, The Arab Refugee Problem, Philosophical Libr., N.Y., 1952, p. 1–2. (Schechtman is the present leader of the world Revisionist group and his book a straight Zionist party-line argument.)

9. Arthur Koestler: Promise and Fulfillment, Macmillan, N.Y., 1949, p. 155. In the pages following, Koestler details activities of the foreign irregulars without in any way indicating Palestinian cooperation.

10. Patai (n7), p. 256.

11. David Ben-Gurion, The Fight for Freedom, Palestine and Middle East (Tel-Aviv), Jan.–Feb. 1948.

12. Y. Shimoni, Inside the Arab Camp – Arab Masses Unwilling to Fight Jews, ibid.

13. Harry Sacher: Israel, the Establishment of a State, British Book Centre, N.Y., 1952, p. 149. Rufus Learsi: Fulfillment, the Epic Story of Zionism, World Pub. Co., N.Y., p. 371. Misha Louvish, Arab Minority in Israel, Zionist Newsletter (Jerusalem), Apr. 7, 1952. Special Correspondent, What Is Happening in the Arab Camp?, Zionist Review, (London), March 19, 1948.

14. Arabs in Israel (n2), p. 9. Likewise in Schechtman (n8), pp. 3–4.

15. Facts and Figures on Israel’s Arab Citizens, Israel Digest (Los Angeles, Isr. Off. of Info.), Apr. 5, 1949.

16. Michael Arnon, Arabs in Israel, Israel & Middle East (Tel-Aviv), Jan. 1949.

17. Y. Shimoni, The Palestine Arabs – The Breakdown of a Community, Zionist Newsletter (Jerus.), Aug. 9, ’49.

18. J.C. Hurewitz: The Struggle for Palestine, Norton, N.Y., 1950, pp. 313–4. See also the similar observation by the American Mid-East scholar C.B. Richardson of Columbia, in his paper The Refugee Problem, Proceedings of the Academy of Political Science, Jan. 1952 (standpoint not known to me; tone academic).

19. Dvorah Metlinsky, New Deal for the Arab, Jewish Standard (Montreal), June 1951.

20. Hal Lehrman, The Arabs of Israel, Commentary, Dec. 1949.

21. Arabs in Israel (n2), p. 10.

22. Schechtman (n8), p. 6.

23. Pierre van Paassen: Jerusalem Calling! Dial Press, N.Y., 1950, pp. 177–8.

24. Sacher (n13), p. 149. See also Patai (n7), pp. 256–7.

25. Gideon Weigert, The Arabs of Western Galilee, Youth Horizon (Jerusalem), Oct.–Nov. 1949.

26. James G. McDonald; My Mission in Israel, 1948–1951, Simon & Schuster, N.Y., 1951, p. 29 (See footnote on p. 90).

27. Dr. W. von Weisl, Hard Facts About Israel’s Arabs, Jewish Herald (Johannesburg), Feb. 17, 1950.

28. M. Bligh-Grotto & E. Koigen, These Arabs Came Back, American Zionist (N.Y.), Nov. 1955. Their story was also summarized in the N.Y. Times, Feb. 12, 1953, with some varying details, at time of resettlement.

29. N.Y. Herald Tribune, June 30, 1949, cited in Schechtman (n8), p. 13.

30. Congress Weekly (N.Y.), Apr. 4, 1949.

31. For example, see Hal Lehrman (n20).

32. Jon Kimche: Seven Fallen Pillars – The Middle East 1945–1952, Praeger, N.Y., 1953, p. 227.

33. Labor Action, Dec. 27, 1948.

34. Kimche (n32), p. 227.

35. Labor Action, Apr. 19, 1948.

36. Text of letter given in Menachem Begin, The Revolt, Story of the Irgun, Schuman, N.Y., 1951, p. 163.

37. Sacher (n13), p. 192.

38. Ibid., pp. 193–4.

39. For example see: Koestler (n9), p. 160; Hurewitz, (n18), p. 814: M. Begin (n36), pp. 164–5. Richardson (n18); McDonald (n26), p. 175.

40. Kimche (n2), p. 233.

41. M. Begin (n36), p. 165.

42. Labor Action, Jan. 12, 1948.

43. Ben-Gurion (n11); Shimoni (n12), a lower account of their efforts will be found in Kimche (n32).

44. For the British role, see n29 and n31.

45. Koestler (n9), p. 207.

46. Kimche (n32), p. 229.

47. Ibid., p. 230.

48. Arnon (n16).

49. McDonald (n26), p. 176.

50. Kenneth W. Bilby: New Star in the Near East, Doubleday, N.Y., 1950, p. 31. (Bilby was the N.Y. Herald Tribune reporter in the war; his book freely criticizes both sides; no evident bias either way.)

51. Jon Kimche, The Arabs in Israel, Jewish Observer & Middle East Review (London), Feb. 15, 1952.

52. Kimche (n32), p. 265.

53. Bilby (n50), p. 43.

54. Kimche (n32), p. 234.

55. Koestler (n9), p. 199.

56. Bilby (n50), p. 3.

57. Sacher (n13), p. 149.

58. Norman Bentwich: Israel, Benn, London, 1952, p. 158.

59. Hal Lehrman: Israel, The Beginning and Tomorrow, Sloane, N.Y., 1951, p. 66.

60. Peretz (n4), vol. II, p. 242.

61. Yaakov Aviel, The Arabs Among Us, Article III, Ha’aretz (Tel-Aviv), Jan. 7, 1955.

62. Peretz (n4), vol. II, pp. 257–8.

63. Ibid., vol. II, p. 256.

64. Quoted in Peretz, vol. II, p. 242.

65. In Ha’aretz (Tel-Aviv), July 26, 1949; quoted in Peretz, vol. II, p. 254.

Last updated on 24 October 2019