The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine

Tony Richardson reviews this classic analysis of the Palestine question written by Ilan Pappe and published by Oneworld Press (2006).

 

I have just re-read this book and believe it is essential reading for what is happening in Palestine today.

As Israel moves to force the population of Gaza into the Sinai desert, alongside the drive against the Palestinians in the West Bank, one can see they are moving to complete the project they had from the days before the Zionist State was founded.

Nakba is the term used by the Palestinian people to describe their brutal removal from their land in 1947/8 by the Zionist armed forces of the Israeli state. In the days towards the end of that stage of the Nakba, they had plans to move on to the West Bank but figured they were not ready to take on Jordan.

This book is about the Nakba, but you see, all the arguments used now about today’s conflict were used in 1947/8.

Ben Gurion, the Zionist leader, argued that they were in an existential battle, but Pappe shows they were never in any danger of losing. They had a massive supply of arms from the Czech Republic, negotiated through the Israeli Communist Party. At the same time, Britain and France embargoed any arms going to the Palestinians.

The Palestinians themselves had seen many of their leaders killed or exiled by the British after the 1936 revolt against colonial rule. The Zionist forces had been trained by the British. There were also British officers in leading positions in the Arab armies, but they made no real moves to support the Palestinians until it was too late. Support was provided, but only in relation to the parts of the country allocated to the Palestinians, by the United Nations.

During the expulsion of 750,000 out of 900,000 Palestinians, the UN took no action to defend them. Despite the fact that the UN resolution contained guarantees for minorities in the new configuration of national territories.

1948 expulsion of the Tantura women and children to Furaydis
1948 expulsion of the Tantura women and children to Furaydis

Similarly, during the process of ethnic cleansing carried out by the Zionist militia, the British troops, which controlled many areas, stood by. For example, when the huge Palestinian community in Haifa was driven down to the port, they appealed to the British, who did not intervene as the unarmed civilians were shelled.

So from the beginning, the international community either stayed out of it or, in the case of Russia, helped the Zionists.

So the book details the ethnic cleansing, nearly half of which was done before the declaration of the state of Israel, before a single Arab soldier had been involved.

Pappe describes the various versions of Plan Dalet and how they came about. The instructions were quite clear: to eliminate or drive out the Palestinians.

“Pappe describes the various versions of Plan Dalet and how they came about. The instructions were quite clear: to eliminate or drive out the Palestinians.

Each military division was given a list of villages to clear. In many instances, they gathered the unarmed men of the village, ages 10–50, took them away in groups, and executed them. Often forcing them to dig their own graves. They then drove out the rest. Other times they came into the village in the middle of the night and blew up houses with the families inside; other times they set fire to them.

Pappe bases his descriptions on interviews with Palestinians, but much of it uses internal Israeli army documents or reports by their own soldiers. There was a brief period when these files were opened to selected historians.

The massacres were sometimes on a mass scale, as in one mosque, where 150 civilians had taken refuge and were all slaughtered. The massacres were all that was required for some people to evacuate nearby villages. Villages that had spent centuries developing their land and building  homes were given 12 hours to get out. They were forced into Lebanon or other bordering countries like Jordan, or into the West Bank or Gaza.

Not only was all their property taken with no compensation, but their houses were looted and valuables taken from them.

In some of the massacres, rapes took place, as in the famous Deir Yassin massacre, which one soldier describes. He includes seeing babies with crushed heads.

“In some of the massacres, rapes took place, as in the famous Deir Yassin massacre, which one soldier describes. He includes seeing babies with crushed heads.

There is a section on rapes used in the ethnic cleansing process, some of which were reported to Ben Gurion, who put them in his diaries. One incident, close to Gaza, concerning the gang rape of a 13-year-old  and her execution, was removed.

Everything that the Zionists accuse Hamas of was done in the Nakba, sometimes against the grandparents of the people in Gazan camps.

The people driven out in the Nakba are in refugee camps all around the region, and they are being looked after by UNWRA (United Nations Works and Relief Agency) in its schools and medical facilities. They are registered because, under international law, they have the right of return. This is why Israel is so hostile to UNWRA.

This book needs to be read for the real background on Gaza today.


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