By David Meir-Levi
2nd part of 3
The Eight Stages of the Creation of Arab Refugee Problem
There were eight stages to the flight of Arabs from what would soon become Israel:
One. As early as the Fall of 1947, months before the UN partition plan of 11/29/47, it was clear that there would be a war no matter what course of action the UN took. In anticipation of this war, many of the well-to-do Arabs (the Effendi) of Western Galilee, from Haifa to Acco and villages in between, closed down their houses and went to Beirut or Damascus, where with their wealth and connections they could wait out the war in safety. They thought that they would be out of the way of danger, and when the war was over (no one imagined that Israel would win) they would come back to their homes.
Current estimates by objective observers (Conan Cruise O'Brien, in his book "The Siege", being perhaps the most objective) is that about 70,000 fled.
Two. These refugees caused a sudden absence of political and social leadership among the Arabs of Galilee, and thus as the hostilities developed in the Winter of 1947, many of the Arab peasantry (Felahin) fled as well, following their leaders' example. They lacked the money and connections to make a comfortable trip out of the way of danger, as their Effendi had done. So many of them simply walked with whatever they could carry, to Lebanon or Syria. Their main motivation for leaving was that since their leadership had fled, things must be pretty bad, so they had better leave too. They too were sure, based upon documentation from Arab press at the time, that when the war was over and the Jews were all dead or driven from Israel, they would come back to their homes.
There are no solid numbers for this exodus, but estimates range around 100,000 people. There were so many exiting that the Arab states had a special conference in Beirut to decide how to handle all the Arabs that were pouring across the borders. They set up special camps...later to be known as refugee camps.
Note: Well!! These Arabs were fleeing of their own free will. No one, neither Israel nor Arab states, were encouraging, frightening, or ordering them to do so. The war had not yet even begun.
Three. After 11/29/47, warfare between the Israeli Haganah (not yet called the IDF because the local British Mandatory forces were stalwartly pro-Arab and routinely arrested Haganah soldiers and took their arms...so the Israeli army was still an underground army) and para-military Arab volunteers numbering in the tens of thousands (trained and armed in Syria and Lebanon, with the aid of both ex-NAZI and British officers) began in earnest.
The Arab press and public speeches made it clear that this was to be a war of annihilation...like the great Mongol hordes killing all in their path. The Jews would be either dead or out. Israel was fighting not a war of independence, but a war of survival.
In order to defend some areas where Jews were completely surrounded by Arabs (like the Jews of Jaffa, Jewish villages or kibbutzim in parts of Galilee and the central hill country, and in Jerusalem), the Haganah adopted scare-tactics that were intended to strike terror into the Arab population of those areas, so that they would retreat to safer ground, and thus make it possible for the Hagana to defend those Jews who would otherwise be inaccessible and thus vulnerable to genocidal Arab intentions.
Many Arabs in parts of western Galilee, Jaffa, and parts of western Jerusalem, fled because of these tactics (rumors that a huge Jewish army from the West was about to land on the coast, hand-grenades thrown on front porches of homes, jeeps driving by and firing machine guns into the walls or fences of houses, rumors circulated by Arabic-speaking Jews that the Haganah was far bigger than it really was, and was on the verge of surfacing with a massive Jewish army, etc.).
Here it is important to note that Jews were responsible in this part of the Arab flight. But it was not because they wanted to ethnically cleanse the country, or to wipe out the Arabs. It was because they knew that Jews undefended in Arab enclaves would be slaughtered (as in fact was the case of Jews in the Gush Etzion villages and in the Jewish Quarter of the Old City in Jerusalem, and as had happened in Hebron in 1929). It was the exigency of their fighting a war of survival against a bigger and better armed enemy that drove them to the tactics described above.
It is also important to note here the following two facts:
a. Had the Arab leadership accepted the UN partition plan, there would have been a state of Palestine since 11/29/47, for the Arabs, alongside of Israel.
b. Had the Arab armies not invaded, there would have been no refugee problem.
In light of these two facts, it is clear that the total onus of culpability for the start of the refugee problem rests squarely and solely upon the Arab states that invaded, in clear disregard for the UN resolution 181 and international law.
Four. Arab leadership from among the para-military forces and the forces of Syria were vociferous in their announcements that they wanted Arabs to leave so that the armies would have a clear field in which to perpetrate their genocide of the Jews (see appendix below). When the war was over (Arab newspaper articles suggested about 4-6 weeks before all the Jews were driven out or killed), the Arab residents could come back and have both their own lands and those of the Jews.
We cannot know how many Arabs fled because of these announcements; but since a number of Arab spokespersons after the war admitted to having done this, and wrung their hands publicly in painful repentance of having created the refugee problem, it is clear that the Arab leadership's own message to many Arabs in the area was a major factor in the Arab flight.
It is also important to point out at this time that there were a number of cases where Jewish leaders got out in public and pleaded with Arabs not to leave. The mayor of Haifa is the best example of this. At the risk of his own life, he drove through the Arab section of Haifa with a loudspeaker on his jeep, and in Arabic called out to the residents of his city to disregard the Arab propaganda.
Nonetheless, tens of thousands fled. The incredulous British officers who witnessed this (don't forget, the British had not yet left) documented it in a variety of sources (some mentioned in the appendix below). Those Arabs who stayed were unharmed and became citizens of Israel.
The British also documented for the world a similar phenomenon in Tiberius (a town in which the Arab population vastly outnumbered the Jewish), where the Arabs quite literally chose to leave even though they were under no direct threat from the Jews, and asked the British to assist them. Tens of thousands left under British guard, while the Jews, both civilian and Hagana, looked on.
In a slightly different twist, the Arabs of Safed (Tzefat) fled before the Haganah attack, even though the Arab forces in Safed outnumbered the Jews about 10 to one.
Wherever Arabs chose to stay, they were unharmed and later became citizens of Israel.
There have been a number of essays written by later historians contesting the truth of the assertion that Arab leaders told their people to flee. But Conan Cruise O'Brien's "The Siege" and Mitchell Bard's "Idiot's Guide to the Mid-East conflict" and "Myths and Facts" offer irrefutable proof of just such pronouncements.
Five. Deir Yassin: The events that took place at Deir Yassin are still hotly disputed. But by their own admission, Arab leadership today acknowledges that the lies created by the Arabs then about the fictitious "massacre" were concocted in order to shame the Arab armies into fighting against the Jews, and to frighten the Arabs and encourage them to flee.
The village sits near Jerusalem, overlooking the road from Tel Aviv. Jewish Jerusalem was under siege, and its lifeline was this one road to Tel Aviv. A contingent of Iraqi troops had entered Deir Yassin on 3/13/48. Some sources suggest that they were asked to leave. Apparently they did not, since their armed bodies were numerous among the dead after the battle. It was obvious that they were going to try to cut off that road. Doing so would spell the end of Jewish Jerusalem. So on 4/9/48, a contingent of the Irgun (a para-military splinter group) entered the village. This operation was completely legitimate in the context of rules of engagement, since the Iraqi presence made the village a legal military objective.
Their intent, to capture the village and drive out the Iraqis, was completely clear from the onset, because they entered with a jeep and loudspeaker telling the civilian population to flee the village (unfortunately, this jeep slid into a ditch, so some of the villagers may not have heard the message; but many did, because they fled before the Irgun got into the village), and rather than surround the village and bar escape, they left several routes open for the civilians to flee, which hundreds of villagers used. However, the Iraqis had disguised themselves as women (easy to hide weapons beneath the flowing robes of the burqa) and had hidden themselves among women and children in the village. So, when the Irgun fighters entered, they encountered fire from women!
When the Irgun fighters fired back, they killed many innocent women because the Iraqis were hiding behind them. After suffering more than 40% casualties to their forces, the Irgun succeeded in killing or capturing the Iraqis. Then, while they were in a group, still dressed as women, having surrendered and agreed to be taken prisoner, some of the Iraqis opened fire again with weapons
concealed beneath their women's clothing. Irgun fighters were caught off guard, more were killed, and others opened fire into the group. Iraqis who had indeed surrendered were killed along with those who had only pretended to surrender and had then opened fire.
When the Hagana arrived they found the dead women and other civilians and thus incorrectly accused the Irgun of murder and massacre. But the Red Cross, which was called in to assist the wounded and civilians, found no evidence of a massacre. In fact, even the most recent review of the evidence (7/1999), by Arab scholars at Beir-Zayyit university in Ramallah, indicates that there was no massacre, but rather a military conflict in which civilians were killed in the crossfire. The total Arab dead, including the Iraqi soldiers, according to the Beir Zayyit calculation, was 107.
So where did the idea of a massacre come from? The same Arab sources that confess to having urged the Arabs to flee have also acknowledged that Arab spokespersons at the time galacticly exaggerated the Deir Yassin fight, making up stories of gang rape, brutalizing of pregnant women, killing unborn children cut from their mothers' wombs by blood-thirsty Jews, and massive murders with bodies thrown into a nearby quarry. These same Arab sources admit that their purpose in these exaggerations and lies was to shame the Arab nations into entering the conflict with greater alacrity, so that the Jews would be destroyed by the overwhelming numbers of Arab invaders.
The plan backfired. The Arab armies invaded, but only with a fraction of their total military capacity. But as a result of these exaggerations and lies, Arab civilians panicked upon hearing these stories, and fled by the tens of thousands. This is documented on television by a 1993 (revised 2001) PBS program (50 Years of War) in which Deir Yassin survivors were interviewed in 1991. They unabashedly proclaimed that they begged Dr. Hussein Khalidi, director of Voice of Palestine (the Palestinian radio station in East Jerusalem) to edit out the lies and fabrications of atrocities that never happened. He told them: "We must capitalize on this great opportunity!"
Note well!! The flight of Arabs had begun many months before Deir Yassin. So Deir Yassin cannot account for those hundreds of thousands of Arabs who sought refuge prior to 4/9/48. Moreover, while current Arab propaganda asserts that Deir Yassin was one of many examples of Jewish massacre and slaughter, there is not one other documented example of any such behavior by the Jews. Deir Yassin was not an example; it was the exception.
In sum, it was not what happened at Deir Yassin that caused the flight of tens of thousands of Arabs; it was the lies invented by the Arab High Command and Dr. Hussein Khalidi of the "Voice of Palestine" radio news channel that caused the panic. One can hardly blame Israel for that.
Moreover, we have from an unimpeachable source, Yassir Arafat himself (his authorized biography, by Alan Hart, "Arafat: Terrorist or Peace Maker") that the Deir Yassin lies were spread "like a red flag in front of a bull" by the Egyptians. Then, having terrorized them with these stories, the Egyptians proceeded to disarm the Arabs of the area and herd them into detention camps in Gaza (today's Gaza refugee camps). Why did the Egyptians do this? According to Arafat, it was to get the Arabs out of the area because the Egyptians wanted a free hand to wage their war. Egypt had every intention of conquering the Negev and southern part of the coastal plain. They wanted no interference from the locals.
So the lies about Deir Yassin were spread in order to shame the Arab armies and cause panic among Arab civilians.
Bottom line, Deir Yassin was not a massacre; nothing even vaguely akin to what the Jews are accused of ever happened. The lies were made up by Arabs, and spread by Arabs. The further flight of refugees after 4/9/48 was caused not by the Deir Yassin battle, but by the Arab lies about the Deir Yassin battle. And this from Yassir himself, and from Beir Zayyit University.
We don't know how many Arabs fled as a result of the "Voice of Palestine" exaggerations. Several hundred thousand is a good estimate. Most of them ended up in the Egyptian detention camps in Gaza.
Six. There were two more incidents (in addition to the actions noted above in #3) of Arab refugees being forced to flee by Israeli army actions: Lydda and Ramle.
Both villages sat astride the road from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. As the siege on Jerusalem tightened, the Israeli forces knew that in order to save the Jews of west Jerusalem from defeat and possible annihilation, they had to keep that road open. So one night they entered both villages and forcibly drove out the Arab residents. They rousted them from bed and sent them walking across the fields to the area that was under Jordanian control (some kilometers away).
Note...none were killed. There was no massacre. But they were driven out. However, they were driven out because their villages sat astride the road to Jerusalem, and the only way to guarantee the survival of 150,000 Jews in Jerusalem was to control this one road.
Seven. By 5/15/48, the British had evacuated their forces from all of British Mandatory Palestine, and the Jews had a free hand in using their Haganah, which now became the IDF. And the Arab countries had a free hand in attacking. And attack they did. Armies from 8 Arab nations poured into the area from Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Iraq and Egypt (volunteers and soldiers from Saudi
Arabia, Yemen and Morocco came too - hence 8). They outnumbered the Hagana (now IDF) about 5 to one. For the next month or so the Israelis were fighting a terribly difficult defensive war, just barely able to keep the invaders out. There were about 63,000 IDF volunteers, but weapons for only 22,000.
In June of '48 the UN imposed a cease-fire. By July when the Arabs re-initiated hostilities, the Israelis had been able to use the cease-fire to import arms and planes from Russia and Germany via Czechoslovakia. Now better armed, the IDF numbered 65,000 and the odds were reduced to about 2-1. Good odds for the determined Jewish fighters.
When the fighting resumed in July, the IDF went on the offensive and succeeded in driving the Arab armies out of both the Jewish areas and large parts of the areas that the UN had intended to be the Palestinian state (western Galilee, and southern coastal plain north of Gaza). When this offensive began, more Arabs fled. As noted above, the Arabs that stayed were not harmed, and became citizens of Israel.
Contrary to revisionist and mendacious Arab propaganda, there was never any intent to massacre Arabs. Many civilians died in the cross fire, and the overwhelming majority of Arabs who fled did so needlessly, at their own initiative, or because of the Arab leadership that lied and intimidated them. Some Arabs were driven out by the IDF, but as part of a defensive measure. Not as part of any plan to ethnically cleanse the land or massacre/genocide the Arabs. These accusations are all new revisionism aimed at exonerating the Arabs from their heinous and brutal role in creating the Arab Refugee problem, and at transferring the guilt to Israel.
Perhaps the most revealing considerations in the conclusion that Israel NEVER set out to put into action a plan to genocide the Arabs of Palestine or to drive them from their homes are:
The complete absence of any coverage in any world press, including Arab press and western press openly hostile to Israel, about any such actions of which Israel is today accused. The complete absence of these accusations from any Arab spokespersons during this time, even at the very height of the flight (post-Deir Yassin), and for many years thereafter. The fate of the Arabs who stayed. They became Israeli citizens and enjoy more freedom, democracy, political representation, high standard of living, education, and economic opportunities, than any Arabs anywhere in the Arab world today.
Finally, after the 2/49 cease-fire, when the war was over, there was still a continued flight by tens of thousands of Arabs. The Jews did absolutely nothing to encourage or force this flight.
The above are the 7 stages of causation. The next stage recounts on-going Arab obduracy in the maintenance of the refugee problem and refusal to seek any solution.
Eight. As noted above, the Arabs caused the problem by starting the war, and by encouraging Arabs to leave during the war. Even worse, although Israel offered on several occasions to repatriate refugees, the Arab states refused.
During the Rhodes armistice talks in 2/1949, Israel offered to return to the Arabs the lands that the Jews had conquered that were meant to be part of the Palestinian state, in exchange for a peace treaty. This would have allowed hundreds of thousands of refugees to return to their homes. The Arabs said no, because, as they themselves admitted, they were momentarily going to mount a new offensive. They had lost round one. There would be more and more rounds, until the Arabs won. Their new offensive was the 9000 terrorist attacks mostly from Egypt that the Arabs perpetrated against Israel from 1949-1956 (part of the cause of the '56 war).
At the Lausanne conference in 8-9/49, Israel offered to repatriate 100,000 refugees even without a peace treaty. The Arab states said NO, because that would involve a tacit recognition of the state of Israel.
Thus, despite Israel's offers of repatriation, the Arabs insisted on maintaining the refugees in their squalor and suffering. Arab spokespersons in Syria and Egypt were quoted in their newspapers as saying: we will maintain the refugees in their camps until the flag of Palestine flies over all of the land. They will go back home only as victors, on the graves and corpses of the Jews.
Moreover, as some Arabs were candid enough to announce in public, the refugee problem would serve as "a festering sore on the backside of Europe", as moral leverage to be used against Israel in order to win the emotional support of the West against Israel.
Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.