Saturday, April 5, 2008

Whatever Happened to Moqtada?


"I have failed to liberate Iraq, and transform its society into an Islamic society."
-- Moqtada al-Sadr, Asharq Al Awsat newspaper, March 8, 2008

Moqtada al-Sadr -- the radical cleric dubbed "The Most Dangerous Man in Iraq" by a Newsweek cover story in December 2006 -- has just unilaterally extended the ceasefire he imposed on his Mahdi Army militia last summer. And on the eve of the Iraq War's fifth anniversary, Sadr also issued a somber but dramatic statement.
He not only declared that he had failed to transform Iraq, but also lamented the new debates and divisions within his own movement. Explaining his marginalization, Sadr all but confessed his growing isolation: "One hand cannot clap alone."

What happened? Over the past five years, Sadr has been one of the most persistent and insurmountable challenges for the U.S. Leveraging his family's prestige among the disaffected Shiite underclass, he asserted his power by violently intimidating rival clerics, agitating against the U.S. occupation, and using force to establish de facto control over Baghdad's Sadr City (named after his father, and home to two million Shiites on the east bank of the Tigris) and large swaths of southern Iraq.

The story of his rise, and fall, illustrates the complex relationship between security and political power that drives the fortunes of the U.S. mission in Iraq.

Sadr's postwar ascent caught the U.S. Government completely off-guard. Iraqi society was impenetrable in the 1980s and 1990s. Neither our intelligence community nor our diplomats, who had left Iraq in 1990, knew anything of significance about Sadr. The western press and punditry had never reported on him before the war (a Nexis search reveals not a single news article mentioning Sadr's name in the year leading up to the war). The oft-cited "Future of Iraq Project," produced by the State Department, failed to warn about Sadr in its thousands of pages of projections and scenarios. Few knew he existed, let alone anticipated the influence he would one day wield.

That influence was vast: Moqtada al-Sadr came very close to establishing a state within a state inside Iraq, much like Hezbollah had done in Lebanon.

It began in 2003, when Sadr's followers orchestrated the murder of Majid al-Khoie, a moderate Shiite cleric whom the U.S. government had hoped could play a pivotal role in building a democratic Iraq. It continued with a series of armed uprisings across the south in April 2004, which took the lives of scores of American troops, and led to the collapse of Iraq's fledgling security forces. These culminated in a dramatic standoff against the Iraqi government and U.S. forces at the Holy Shrines in August 2004. In 2005 and 2006 Sadr expanded his territorial reach, using his militia to expel Sunnis from their Baghdad neighborhoods and massively infiltrating the Iraqi police forces.

In areas under his control, Sadr set up extrajudicial Sharia courts to administer justice against Iraqi Shiite "heretics." Large numbers of citizens found guilty were punished by death. The Mahdi Army militia also established its own security checkpoints in Baghdad and across the south -- supplanting Iraq's weak national army and lightly deployed U.S. forces.

This militia took over petrol stations, skimming funds to finance its own operations. And it had practically halted many of the civic society initiatives launched by the coalition, NGOs, and many Iraqis in Shiite towns. For example, in 2004 our U.S. colleagues Fern Holland, Robert Zangas and their Iraqi translator, Salway Oumaishi were assassinated by Shiite militiamen, just as they had courageously helped a group of Shiite women to build a successful program to train them in advocacy for their rights.

The principal reason for Sadr's ability to augment his power during these years was the absence of security in Baghdad. This vacuum left the Shiite community completely vulnerable to an unrelenting wave of terror attacks from the Sunni insurgency and al Qaeda. With the U.S. Government's failure to engage in serious counterinsurgency and make it a priority to provide basic safety for Iraqi civilians, Sadr and his Mahdi militia moved quickly to fill the void.

As one Sadrist militant told the International Crisis Group last year: "The Mahdi Army's effort to conquer neighborhoods is highly sophisticated. It presents itself as protector of Shiites and recruits local residents to assist in this task. In so doing, it gains support from people who possess considerable information -- on where the Sunnis and Shiites are, on who backs and who opposes the Sadrists and so forth." By the end of 2006, U.S. military officials had concluded that sectarian violence by Shiite militants had surpassed al Qaeda and the insurgency as the principal threat to Iraqi stability.

In retrospect, that assessment marked the high point of Sadr's influence. While his empire had expanded, it had generated its own resentments. Ordinary citizens chafed at the harsh version of Islamic law imposed by Sadr's lieutenants, not to mention the corruption and brutality of functionaries manning checkpoints and patrolling the streets. Sadr's hold on the broader Shiite community was actually quite tenuous, cemented chiefly by fear of the insurgency and al Qaeda.

In 2007, the U.S. military shifted approach, putting in place for the first time a comprehensive counterinsurgency strategy backed by a surge of troops to support it. The new strategy paid large dividends against al Qaeda and Sunni insurgents, as attacks dropped to 2005 levels and Iraqi deaths due to ethno-sectarian violence declined 90% from June 2007 to March 2008. As Sunni attacks against Shiite civilians declined, so did the rationale for Sadr's authority.

As the International Crisis Group concluded, one "net effect" of the surge "was to leave the Sadrist movement increasingly exposed, more and more criticized and divided, and subject to arrest."

Other factors also contributed to Sadr's marginalization. But the increased security provided by more U.S. forces was essential in removing an underlying rationale for the Sadrist movement. Newsweek's 2006 profile had predicted that "the longer the American occupation lasts, the less popular America gets -- and the more popular Sadr and his ilk become." But as a recent ABC News poll of Iraqis makes clear, Shiite support for local militias has plummeted over the past year. The full implementation of the surge helped weaken Sadr, not make him more popular.

To be sure, Sadr's diminished capacity to stir up trouble may not last forever. While he has not appeared in public in close to a year, he still has his family name and a base of support among the Shiite underclass, particularly in Baghdad. He may be biding his time, hoping a U.S. withdrawal will leave him with a weaker opponent in the fledgling Iraqi security services. And as this week's deadly suicide bombing of a Shiite shrine in Karbala indicates, the security threats that enabled the Mahdi Army's rise to power have not yet been fully defeated.

So while the progress made against Sadr has been remarkable, it may also be fragile. Sustaining it means recognizing that political progress depends fundamentally on security. This basic insight of counterinsurgency warfare -- which has driven our progress against Sadr's militants, the Sunni insurgency, and al Qaeda over the past year -- is the central lesson America has learned in its five years of war in Iraq.

Messrs. Senor and Martinez were foreign policy advisers to the Bush administration. They were based in Baghdad in 2003 and 2004.

Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

The Bombers Who Weren't.

By Michael Jacobson

On Dec. 10, 2001, after completing his al-Qaeda training in Afghanistan and Pakistan, Sajid Badat returned home to Britain. Badat, a 22-year-old Muslim born in Gloucester, had an associate, a gangly man named Richard Reid, and the duo were now ready to carry out their mission: blowing up two separate aircraft traveling from Europe to the United States. Badat and Reid had been given identical explosive devices, specially designed to evade airport security and destroy an aircraft in mid-flight. On Dec. 22, Reid -- now infamous as the "shoe bomber" -- was jumped by his fellow passengers when he tried to light his device on an American Airlines flight from Paris to Miami. He got further than Badat, who simply bailed on the plot, leaving his dismantled bomb in his parents' house.

Badat is now serving a 13-year sentence in a British prison. He told prosecutors that he decided to "get away from danger and introduce some calm in his life."

Badat's case sheds some light on a rarely considered question: Why do some terrorists drop out? We rightly think of al-Qaeda and other jihadist groups as formidable foes, but the stories of would-be killers who bail give us some intriguing clues about fault lines that counterterrorism officials should exploit. The reasons for a change of heart can be strikingly prosaic: family, money, petty grievances. But they can also revolve around shaken ideology or lost faith in a group's leadership.

It's become a truism of counterterrorism that we must understand how and why individuals become jihadists in the first place. But almost nobody is studying the flip side of radicalization -- understanding those who leave terrorist organizations. We'd do well to start. Figuring out why individuals walk away from terrorist groups can help governments predict whether an individual -- or even a cell -- is likely to go through with a plot. Understanding the dropouts should also make it easier for governments to determine which terrorists might be induced to switch sides, help stop radicalization and craft messages that could peel away people already in terrorist organizations. The more we know about why terrorists bail, the better we can fight them.

So where to start? Despite al-Qaeda's reputation for ferocity and secrecy, plenty of wannabes wind up dropping out from it and its affiliates -- not just the hapless Badat.

Consider the Sept. 11, 2001, plot. Even in Osama bin Laden's greatest triumph, not all of his recruiting efforts paid off. Two Saudis who were selected for the plot -- Mushabib al-Hamlan and Saud al-Rashid -- decided not to participate in the attacks after leaving the training camps in Afghanistan. And in the summer of 2001, Ziad Samir Jarrah, who became the hijacker pilot on United 93, agonized about whether to withdraw from the operation. In an emotional conversation, Ramzi Binalshibh -- the Hamburg-based liaison between the plotting cell and al-Qaeda's senior leadership in Afghanistan -- persuaded Jarrah to stay.

Al-Qaeda prides itself on its esprit de corps, but key members have turned against the group from its earliest days. These include Jamal Ahmed al-Fadl, a Sudanese radical who was one of al-Qaeda's first members and helped work (unsuccessfully) in the early 1990s to procure uranium for the organization; Essam al-Ridi, an Egyptian veteran of the 1980s jihad against the Soviets who later purchased an airplane in the United States to help ship Stinger missiles from Pakistan to Sudan; and L'Houssaine Kherchtou, a Moroccan who trained to serve as bin Laden's personal pilot. (All three became prosecution witnesses in the trial of the bombing of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in August 1998.)

Looking at al-Qaeda dropouts, some clear patterns emerge. Some left after becoming disillusioned with the group's tactics and strategy. Probably the unkindest cut from any former member was delivered by bin Laden's fourth son, Omar bin Laden, who had spent nearly five years living in Afghan training camps. After 9/11, Omar quit al-Qaeda, calling the attacks "craziness," according to the journalist Peter Bergen. "Those guys are dummies," bin Laden's son said. "They have destroyed everything, and for nothing. What did we get from Sept. 11?"

Another factor driving jihadists to drop out is a general lack of respect for the group's leadership. Ridi testified during the embassy bombings trial that he resented having to take battlefield orders during the Afghan jihad from bin Laden and others who lacked military experience. For Ridi, the final straw was a battle in which many jihadists died -- in his view needlessly -- thanks to inept leadership, but that al-Qaeda nonetheless declared a victory. Jarrah, the 9/11 pilot, felt cut out by ringleader Mohamed Atta's leadership style.

Another reason bad guys bail out is money. Like the rest of us, some terrorists see inadequate compensation as a sign of unfair treatment. Fadl, the Sudanese radical, fumed over his salary while al-Qaeda was based in Sudan and began embezzling funds -- stealing approximately $100,000 from bin Laden, according to his testimony in the embassy bombings case. (When bin Laden got wind of Fadl's theft, he ordered Fadl to repay the money; after forking over about $30,000, Fadl fled, fearing retribution.)

Don't forget the role of petty slights, either. Kherchtou grew bitter after a bin Laden aide turned down his request for $500 to cover the costs of his wife's Caesarean section -- and grew livid when al-Qaeda subsequently paid the expenses of a group of Egyptians sent to Yemen to renew their passports. "If I had a gun," Kherchtou later testified, "I would shoot [bin Laden] at that time."

The final factor seems to be good old family ties. Terrorists who maintain contact with friends and family outside their cell or organization seem more likely to drop out. This may be why Atta forbade the 9/11 hijackers to contact their families to say goodbye. The wobbliest of the hijackers, Jarrah, resisted al-Qaeda calls to cut his ties with his fiancee in Germany and his family in Lebanon, souring his relationship with Atta, according to the 9/11 commission.

Something similar happened to two would-be 9/11 plotters, Rashid and Hamlan. Both men bailed out when they left the fanatical, insular atmosphere of the Afghan training camps and returned home to Saudi Arabia. After getting a visa to enter the United States, Hamlan contacted his family, despite clear al-Qaeda instructions to the contrary. He found out that his mother was ill and decided not to return to Afghanistan, despite intense pressure from his handlers. Hamlan later moved back in with his parents and returned to college. Similarly, Badat, the would-be shoe bomber, appears to have decided to abandon the plot once he returned to Britain and resumed contact with his family.

There's no obvious silver bullet here, of course. But the tales of the terrorists who weren't are of more than academic interest. Counterterrorism officials have spent a great deal of effort trying to understand the process of radicalization that turns ordinary people into killers. But strikingly little work has been done on the flip side of the coin: on the factors that can turn a fanatical would-be killer into a somewhat chastened citizen. We'd do well to spend some time trying to understand how Mr. Hyde turns back into Dr. Jekyll. It might help us beat back a rising tide of radicalization -- and win a war that is clearly not going well.

Michael Jacobson, a former staff member of the 9/11 commission, is a senior fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

How al Qaeda Will Perish.

By BRET STEPHENS Do minors require their parents' consent to become suicide bombers? Believe it or not, this is the subject of an illuminating and bitter debate among the leading theoreticians of global jihad, with consequences that could be far-reaching.

On March 6, Al-Sahab, the media arm of al Qaeda, released a 46-minute video statement1 titled "They Lied: Now Is the Time to Fight." The speaker is Mustafa Ahmed Muhammad Uthman Abu-al-Yazid, 52, an Egyptian who runs al Qaeda's operations in Afghanistan, and the speech is in most respects the usual mix of earthly grievances, heavenly promises and militant exhortations. It's also an urgent call for recruits.

"We call on the fathers and mothers not to become a barrier between their children and paradise," says Abu-Al-Yazid. "If they disagree who should first join the jihad to go to paradise, let them compete, meaning the fathers and the children. . . . Also, we say to the Muslim wives, do not be a barrier between your husbands and paradise." Elsewhere in the message, he makes a "special call to the scholars and students seeking knowledge. . . . The jihad arenas are in dire need of your knowledge and the doors are open before you to bring about the virtue of teaching and jihad."

These particular appeals are no accident. Last year, imprisoned Egyptian radical Sayyed Imam Al-Sharif, a.k.a. "Dr. Fadl," published "The Document of Right Guidance for Jihad Activity in Egypt and the World." It is a systematic refutation of al Qaeda's theology and methods, which is all the more extraordinary considering the source. Sayyed Imam, 57, was the first "emir" of the Egyptian Islamic Jihad, many of whose members (including his longtime associate Ayman al-Zawahiri) later merged with Osama bin Laden and his minions to become al-Qaeda. His 1988 book, "Foundations of Preparation for Holy War," is widely considered the bible of Salafist jihadis.

Now he has recanted his former views. "The alternative" to violent jihadism, he says in an interview with the pan-Arab daily Al-Hayat (translated by Memri), "is not to kill civilians, foreigners and tourists, destroy property and commit aggression against the lives and property of those who are inviolable under the pretext of jihad. All of this is forbidden."

Sayyed Imam is emphatic on the subject of the moral obligations of the would-be jihadist. "One who lacks the resources [to fight jihad] is forbidden to acquire money through forbidden means, like [burglary]," he says, adding that "Allah does not accept martyrdom as atonement for a mujahid's debts." As for a child's obligations toward his parents, he adds that "it is not permitted to go out to fight jihad without the permission of both parents . . . because acting rightly with one's parents is an individual obligation, and they have rights over their sons."

"This has become pandemic in our times," he adds in a pointedly non-theological aside. "We find parents who only learn that their son has gone to fight jihad after his picture is published in the newspapers as a fatality or a prisoner."

These "Revisions," as Sayyed Imam's book is widely known in Arab intellectual circles, elicited a harsh and immediate response from unreconstructed jihadists. "What kind of guidance does the 'Document' offer?" asked al Qaeda commander Abu Yahyha Al-Libi in a March 9 Internet posting. "Is it guidance that tells the mujahadeen and the Muslims: 'Restrain yourselves and [allow] us [Arab regimes] to shed your blood'?"

Even more sarcastic was Zawahiri himself. "Do they now have fax machines in Egyptian jail cells?" he asked. "I wonder if they're connected to the same line as the electric-shock machines." Zawahiri then penned a 215-page rebuttal to Sayyed Imam, whom he accuses of serving "the interests of the Crusader-Zionist alliance with the Arab leaders."

The gravamen of the hardliners' case against Sayyed Imam is that he has capitulated (either through force or persuasion) to the demands of his captors, and has become, in effect, their stooge. The suspicion seems partly borne out by Sayyed Imam's conspicuous renunciation of any desire to overthrow the Egyptian regime. One Turkish commentator, Dogu Ergil, notes that "in prison many jihadist inmates were encouraged by the Interior Ministry and security apparatus to engage in religious dialogue with clerics from al-Azhar," a Sunni religious university overseen by the state. Mr. Ergil calls this part of a deliberate "counter-radicalization program" by the Egyptian government.

But whatever Sayyed Imam's motives, it is the neuralgic response by his erstwhile fellow travelers that matters most. There really is a broad rethink sweeping the Muslim world about the practical utility -- and moral defensibility -- of terrorism, particularly since al Qaeda began targeting fellow Sunni Muslims, as it did with the 2005 suicide bombings of three hotels in Amman, Jordan. Al Qaeda knows this. Osama bin Laden is no longer quite the folk hero he was in 2001. Reports of al Qaeda's torture chambers in Iraq have also percolated through Arab consciousness, replacing, to some extent, the images of Abu Ghraib. Even among Saudis, a recent survey by Terror Free Tomorrow finds that "less than one in ten Saudis have a favorable opinion of Al Qaeda, and 88 percent approve the Saudi military and police pursuing Al Qaeda fighters."

No less significant is that the rejection of al Qaeda is not a liberal phenomenon, in the sense that it represents a more tolerant mindset or a better opinion of the U.S. On the contrary, this is a revolt of the elders, whether among the tribal chiefs of Anbar province or Islamist godfathers like Sayyed Imam. They have seen through (or punctured) the al Qaeda mythology of standing for an older, supposedly truer form of Islam. Rather, they have come to know al Qaeda as fundamentally a radical movement -- the antithesis of the traditional social order represented by the local sovereign, the religious establishment, the head of the clan and, not least, the father who expects to know the whereabouts of his children.

It would be a delightful irony if militant Islam were ultimately undone by a conservative, Thermidor-style reaction. That may not be the kind of progress most of us imagined or hoped for. But it is progress of a kind.BRET STEPHENS

Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

The Arab Boycott of Israel: Failure and Vengeance.


By Ben Cohen,

The economic and cultural boycott of the State of Israel actually predates the creation of the State itself. From the 1920s onwards, a movement to boycott the Jewish community in Mandate Palestine emerged in the Arab world. This movement was formalised by the Arab League Council in 1945, which declared a boycott of "Jewish" and "Zionist" goods.

In 1948, the Arab League launched a separate office based in Damascus to enforce an economic boycott of the State of Israel. This boycott functioned upon three levels: targeting Israeli companies; foreign companies working in Israel; and foreign companies conducting business with those companies with an operational base in Israel.

From its inception, then, the Arab League boycott was a form of economic warfare against the Jewish state. Its purpose was to suffocate and isolate Israel's economy. And, just like the Arab attempts to defeat Israel on the battlefield, the economic boycott turned out a spectacular failure.

Check the World Economic Forum's Global Competitiveness Index for 2007-08 and you'll find that Israel ranks 17th out of 131 states. The first Arab country - Kuwait - appears at number 30.

Comparisons between Israel and Singapore or Silicon Valley in California are commonplace. A recent report by Moody's, the ratings agency, judged that Israel was more akin to an advanced global economy than an emerging market.

One should avoid being overly glib about Israel's economic success. Poverty remains a big problem in the country. On the security front, while Israel has so far wowed analysts with its resilience, a truly credible threat, like an Iranian announcement of successful weaponization of its nuclear program, could have a nasty economic impact.

Still, the overriding point remains that Israel today has won the confidence of investors, in sectors ranging from technology to financial services. Boycotting Israel, therefore, has about as much relevance to the contemporary global economy as a Soviet Five Year Plan.

All of which is very upsetting to a group in Bahrain called "The Bahrain Society Against Normalisation with the Zionist Enemy." They are protesting the decision of the Bahraini authorities to close, in 2006, the local anti-Israel boycott office as a consequence of the free-trade agreement which the Gulf state concluded with the US. That stipulation stemmed from robust US legislation against the Arab League boycott as well as a more basic realization that free trade and boycotts aren't really compatible.

According to a spokesman for Anti-Normalizers, Abdulla Abdulmalik, closing the boycott office means the following:

"Israeli products won't rush into the country as soon as the office is shut, but closing it is the first step in building Zionist trade and diplomatic relations and soon we'll see Israelis living among us…The Bahraini public is trying its best to fight this Zionist cancer, but our weak Arab governments are caving in to America's requests and agreeing to its every demand."

Revolting as Abdulmalik's sentiments are, we should be grateful to him for providing clarity on exactly the point where his mealy-mouthed equivalents in the west equivocate. This is the purpose of boycotting: to make the boycotter feel clean. The fact that Abdulmalik expresses himself in terms that would be familiar to a Nazi rag - we don't want them living among us, they are a cancer - merely underlines his honesty.

Which brings me to Britain's University and College Union. As in 2007, the 2008 boycott motion apparently includes a line which deems that criticism of Israel can never be antisemitic. Abdulmalik's statement and, indeed, the whole sorry history of the Arab boycott demonstrates that when such "criticism" is expressed in the form of a boycott, it invariably is antisemitic, both in intent and in effect.

Let me conclude with a quote from Eve Garrard, in her Z Word essay on the academic boycott. Because this says it all:

"Any boycott is a call for ostracism, exclusion and punishment. The boycott proposal encouraged antisemitic views and attitudes partly because this content - the demand for ostracism and exclusion - mapped so neatly onto traditional antisemitic goals and practices. (And here, perhaps, we do find some truth in the claim that Israel is being selected for boycott because it's most likely to work with her. Insofar as the aim of a boycott is to encourage hostility to and rejection of its target, then this is indeed most likely to be effective with Israel, since there is already a space in our culture for just that rejection of and hostility towards Jews.)"

Ben Cohen,


Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.


More on the "Palestinian Refugees"


Why did Arabs leave the new State of Israel?

The vexing question of the "Palestinian Refugees"  is one of the perennial open sores of the conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Arabs. The Palestinians left their homes in 1947-48 for a variety of reasons. Thousands of wealthy Arabs left in anticipation of a war, thousands more responded to Arab leaders' calls to get out of the way of the advancing armies, a handful were expelled, but most simply fled to avoid being caught in the cross fire of a battle. Tragically, had the Arabs accepted the 1947 UN resolution, not a single Palestinian would have become a refugee and an independent Arab state would now exist beside Israel.

There are now claims from Arab sources that millions of Palestinians were pushed off their land by the Zionists, then expelled by the new State of Israel in the War of Independence in 1948, followed by similar Israeli policies that continue today. What is the truth of these claims?

The Palestinian tragedy is primarily self-inflicted, a direct result of the vehement Palestinian Arab rejection of the United Nations resolution of November 29, 1947 calling for the establishment of two states in Palestine, and the violent attempt by the Arab nations of the region to abort the Jewish state at birth. Palestinian Arabs have tried to rewrite the history of the 1948 war in a manner that stains Israel politically and morally. Their objective is to 1) extract from Israel a confession of the allegedly forcible dispossession of "native Palestinians" by "an act of expulsion," and then 2) to ensure the return of refugees to parts of the territory that is now Israel and/or to compensate the Palestinian Arabs monetarily for their sufferings.

But this cannot actually happen, however fervently Arabs may believe in it, because historical fact is not what they claim. Arabs left Israel in 1948 in large numbers, it is true, but not for the reasons that Palestinian Arabs put forth. Fortunately for history, during the past decade Israeli and other state archives have declassified millions of records, including invaluable contemporary Arab and Palestinian documents, relating to the 1948 war and the creation of the Palestinian refugee problem. These make it possible to establish the truth about what happened in Palestine.

A good example is events of the War of Independence period in the city of Haifa. When hostilities between Arabs and Jews broke out in 1947, there were 62,500 Arabs in Haifa; by May 1948, all but a few were gone, accounting for fully a tenth of the total Palestinian dispersion.

The first thing the documents show is that Arab flight from Haifa began well before the outbreak of hostilities, and even before the UN's November 29, 1947 partition resolution. On October 23, over a month earlier, a British intelligence brief was already noting that:

  • ... leading Arab personalities are acting on the assumption that disturbances are near at hand, and have already evacuated their families to neighboring Arab countries.

By November 21, as the General Assembly was getting ready to vote, not just "leading Arab personalities" but "many Arabs of Haifa" were reported to be removing their families. And as the violent Arab reaction to the UN resolution built up, eradicating any hope of its peaceful enforcement, this stream of refugees turned into a flood. Thus it was that, by mid-December 1947, some 15,000-20,000 people, almost a third of the city's Arab population, had fled, creating severe economic adversity for those remaining who found essential services disrupted, causing both unemployment and shortages in basic necessities. As 1948 wore on, looting, infighting between rival Arab groups, and other disturbances made Haifa increasingly uninhabitable. The Arab leaders of Haifa dispatched an emergency delegation to Cairo in late January, warning that, if terrorist activity did not cease, the result would be the eventual disappearance of the entire Haifa community. Their warning had no effect.

There is an overwhelming body of evidence from contemporary Arab, Jewish, British, and American sources to prove that, far from seeking to drive the Arabs out of Haifa, the Jewish authorities went to considerable lengths to convince them to stay. During the fighting in the city in April 1948, The Hagana's truce terms stipulated that Arabs were expected to "carry on their work as equal and free citizens of Haifa." In its Arabic-language broadcasts and communications, the Hagana consistently articulated the same message. On April 22, at the height of the fighting, it distributed a circular noting its ongoing campaign to clear the town of all "criminal foreign bands" so as to allow the restoration of "peace and security and good neighborly relations among all of the town's inhabitants." On April 29, even Farid Saad of the [Arab] National Committee was saying that Jewish leaders had "organized a large propaganda campaign to persuade [the] Arabs to return."

As the Jews were attempting to keep the Arabs in Haifa, an ad-hoc body, the Arab Emergency Committee, under orders from the Arab Higher Committee, was doing its best to get them out. Scaremongering was a major weapon in its arsenal. Some Arab residents received written threats that, unless they left town, they would be branded as traitors deserving of death. Others were told they could expect no mercy from the Jews. Sheikh Abd al-Rahman Murad of the National Committee, who had headed the truce negotiating team, proved particularly effective at this latter tactic: on April 23, he warned a large group of escapees from the neighborhood of Wadi Nisnas, who were about to return to their homes, that if they did so they would all be killed, as the Jews spared not even women and children. On the other hand, he continued, the Arab Legion had 200 trucks ready to transfer the Haifa refugees to a safe haven, where they would be given free accommodation,clothes, and food. Sir Alan Cunningham, the British high commissioner for Palestine, wrote in an official communication to London:

  • British authorities in Haifa have formed the impression that total evacuation is being urged on the Haifa Arabs from higher Arab quarters and that the townsfolk themselves are against it.

Syria's UN delegate, Faris el-Khouri, interrupted the UN debate on April 22, 1948 on Palestine to describe the seizure of Haifa as a "massacre" and said this action was "further evidence that the 'Zionist program' is to annihilate Arabs within the Jewish state if partition is effected." The following day (April 23, 1948), however, the British representative at the UN, Sir Alexander Cadogan, told the delegates that the fighting in Haifa had been provoked by the continuous attacks by Arabs against Jews a few days before and that reports of massacres and deportations were erroneous. The same day, Jamal Husseini, the chairman of the Palestine Higher Committee, told the UN Security Council that instead of accepting the Haganah's truce offer, the Arabs "preferred to abandon their homes, their belongings, and everything they possessed in the world and leave the town."

Palestinian Arabs bemoan "the uprooting of the Palestinian people in one of the worst crimes of modern history." But were they uprooted, and if so by whom? In Haifa, one of the largest and most dramatic locales of the Palestinian exodus, not only had half the Arab community fled the city before the final battle was joined, but another 5,000-15,000 apparently left voluntarily during the fighting while the rest, some 15,000-25,000 souls, were ordered or bullied into leaving against their wishes, almost certainly on the instructions of the Arab Higher Committee. The crime was exclusively of Arab making. There was no Jewish grand design to force this departure, nor was there a psychological "blitz." To the contrary, both the Haifa Jewish leadership and the Hagana went to great lengths to convince the Arabs to stay.

The well-documented efforts, indeed, reflected the wider Jewish attitude in Palestine. All deliberations of the Jewish leadership regarding the transition to statehood were based on the assumption that, in the Jewish state that would arise with the termination of the British Mandate, Palestine's Arabs would remain as equal citizens. Israel's Proclamation of Independence, issued May 14, 1948, invited the Palestinians to remain in their homes and become equal citizens in the new state:

  • In the midst of wanton aggression, we yet call upon the Arab inhabitants of the State of Israel to preserve the ways of peace and play their part in the development of the State, on the basis of full and equal citizenship and due representation in all its bodies and institutions....We extend our hand in peace and neighborliness to all the neighboring states and their peoples, and invite them to cooperate with the independent Jewish nation for the common good of all.

In the country as a whole, just as in Haifa, the first Arabs to leave were roughly 30,000 wealthy Arabs who anticipated the upcoming war and fled to neighboring Arab countries to await its end. Less affluent Arabs from the mixed cities of Palestine moved to all-Arab towns to stay with relatives or friends. All of those who left fully anticipated being able to return to their homes after an early Arab victory, as Palestinian nationalist Aref el-Aref explained in his history of the 1948 war:

  • The Arabs thought they would win in less than the twinkling of an eye and that it would take no more than a day or two from the time the Arab armies crossed the border until all the colonies were conquered and the enemy would throw down his arms and cast himself on their mercy.

The fabrication can probably most easily be seen in that at the time the alleged cruel expulsion of Arabs by Zionists was in progress, it passed unnoticed. Foreign newspapermen who covered the war of 1948 on both sides did, indeed, write about the flight of the Arabs, but even those most hostile to the Jews saw nothing to suggest that it was not voluntary. In the three months during which the major part of the flight took place -- April, May, and June 1948 -- the London Times, at that time openly hostile to Zionism, published eleven leading articles on the situation in Palestine in addition to extensive news reports and articles. In none was there even a hint of the charge that the Zionists were driving the Arabs from their homes.

More interesting still, no Arab spokesman mentioned the subject. At the height of the flight, on April 27, Jamal Husseini, the Palestine Arabs' chief representative at the United Nations, made his long political statement, which was not lacking in hostility toward the Zionists; he did not mention refugees. Three weeks later -- while the flight was still in progress -- the Secretary General of the Arab League, Azzam Pasha, made a fiercely worded political statement on Palestine; it contained not a word about refugees.

Throughout the period that preceded the May 15 invasion of the Arab regular armies, large-scale military engagements, incessant sniping, robberies and bombings took place. In view of the thousands of casualties that resulted from the pre-invasion violence, it is not surprising that many Arabs would have fled out of fear for their lives. The second phase of the Arab flight began after the Jewish forces started to register military victories against Arab irregulars, as in the battles for Tiberias and Haifa. Arab leaders were alarmed by these developments:

  • On January 30, 1948, the Jaffa newspaper, Ash Sha'ab, reported: "The first of our fifth column consists of those who abandon their houses and businesses and go to live elsewhere....At the first signs of trouble they take to their heels to escape sharing the burden of struggle."
  • Another Jaffa paper, As Sarih (March 30, 1948) excoriated Arab villagers near Tel Aviv for "bringing down disgrace on us all by 'abandoning the villages."
  • John Bagot Glubb, the commander of Jordan's Arab Legion, said: "Villages were frequently abandoned even before they were threatened by the progress of war" (London Daily Mail, August 12, 1948).

More than 200,000 Arabs had left the country by the time the provisional government declared the independence of the State of Israel on May 14, 1948. When the invasion by Arab armies began the next day, most Arabs remaining in Palestine left for neighboring countries. The Palestinian Arabs chose to flee to the safety of the other Arab states, still confident of being able to return, rather than remaining in Israel to act as a strategically valuable "fifth­column" in the war. A leading Palestinian nationalist of the time, Musa Alami, revealed the attitude of the fleeing Arabs:

  • The Arabs of Palestine left their homes, were scattered, and lost everything. But there remained one solid hope: The Arab armies were on the eve of their entry into Palestine to save the country and return things to their normal course, punish the aggressor, and throw oppressive Zionism with its dreams and dangers into the sea. On May 14, 1948, crowds of Arabs stood by the roads leading to the frontiers of Palestine, enthusiastically welcoming the advancing armies. Days and weeks passed, sufficient to accomplish the sacred mission, but the Arab armies did not save the country. They did nothing but let slip from their hands Acre, Sarafand, Lydda, Ramleh, Nazareth, most of the south and the rest of the north. Then hope fled. (Middle East Journal, October 1949)

As the possibility of Arab defeat turned into reality, the flight of the Arabs increased, exacerbated further by the atrocity stories following the attack on Dir Yassin. More than 300,000 departed after May 15, leaving approximately 160,000 Arabs in the State of Israel. Although most of the Arabs had left by November 1948, there were still those who chose to leave even after hostilities ceased. One survey concluded that sixty-eight percent left without ever seeing an Israeli soldier.

The research done by Benny Morris in Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem is, despite occasional inaccuracies, more detailed and accurate than anything that preceded it. If we consider the facts Morris presents, it is reasonably clear that the flight of much of the Arab population from the territory that became Israel stemmed from battles between Arab and Jewish forces, and from the fears of Arab civilians of getting caught in the fighting. The Zionist leadership, Morris' research shows, correctly understood the danger that the Palestinian Arabs posed to the nascent Jewish state, and therefore did little to prevent their departure, at times encouraging or even precipitating it through political or military actions. In fact, Morris' own research does much to disprove the claims of his recent writings that what happened during the War of Independence was "ethnic cleansing."

The role of Arab leaders in urging the Arab population to leave is similarly well-documented. Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Said, declared:

  • We will smash the country with our guns and obliterate every place the Jews seek shelter in. The Arabs should conduct their wives and children to safe areas until the fighting has died down.

The Secretary of the Arab League Office in London, Edward Atiyah, wrote in his book, The Arabs:

  • This wholesale exodus was due partly to the belief of the Arabs, encouraged by the boastings of an unrealistic Arabic press and the irresponsible utterances of some of the Arab leaders that it could be only a matter of weeks before the Jews were defeated by the armies of the Arab States and the Palestinian Arabs enabled to re­enter and retake possession of their country.

In his memoirs, Haled al Azm, the Syrian Prime Minister in 1948­49, also admitted the Arab role in persuading the refugees to leave:

  • Since 1948 we have been demanding the return of the refugees to their homes. But we ourselves are the ones who encouraged them to leave. Only a few months separated our call to them to leave and our appeal to the United Nations to resolve on their return.

Monsignor George Hakim, a Greek Orthodox Catholic Bishop of Galilee told the Beirut newspaper, Sada al­Janub (August 16, 1948):

  • The refugees were confident their absence would not last long, and that they would return within a week or two. Their leaders had promised them that the Arab armies would crush the 'Zionist gangs' very quickly and that there was no need for panic or fear of a long exile.

One refugee quoted in the Jordan newspaper, Ad Difaa (September 6, 1954), said:

  • The Arab government told us: Get out so that we can get in. So we got out, but they did not get in.

Habib Issa said in the New York Lebanese paper, Al Hoda (June 8, 1951):

  • The Secretary-General of the Arab League, Azzam Pasha, assured the Arab peoples that the occupation of Palestine and Tel Aviv would be as simple as a military promenade. He pointed out that they were already on the frontiers and that all the millions the Jews had spent on land and economic development would be easy booty, for it would be a simple matter to throw Jews into the Mediterranean....Brotherly advice was given to the Arabs of Palestine to leave their land, homes and property and to stay temporarily in neighboring fraternal states, lest the guns of the invading Arab armies mow them down.

And Jordan's King Abdullah, writing in his memoirs, blamed Palestinian leaders for the refugee problem:

  • The tragedy of the Palestinians was that most of their leaders had paralyzed them with false and unsubstantiated promises that they were not alone; that 80 million Arabs and 400 million Muslims would instantly and miraculously come to their rescue.

In a few, exceptional cases accounting for only a small fraction of the Palestinian refugees, The Haganah did employ psychological warfare to encourage the Arabs to abandon a few villages. This insignificant element of the issue has been magnified by pro-Palestinian Arab advocates as if it were the whole problem.

The fate of these Arab refugees from Israel, a problem created by the Arabs themselves.


What happened to the Arab refugees from Israel?

In the wake of the War of Independence in 1948, when Israel was invaded by the armies of five of its Arab neighboring countries, 860,000 Jewish refugees fled from Arab countries to Israel, and, at about the same time, about 70% of the Arab population of Mandatory Palestine fled to Arab states from the portion of Palestine that is now Israel. The Arab exodus was almost entirely because of the actions of Arab leaders and not because of anything the Israeli Jews did. Estimates of the total number who left range from 540,000 to 720,000. Not all of those who fled their homes departed Mandatory Palestine itself. By some estimates, 45% of them simply crossed into the eastern sector of the country occupied by Jordan's Arab Legion. Around 5% crossed the Jordan River and entered the Hashemite Kingdom itself. About 30%, who originally had encamped in the south, fled toward the Gaza area. Nearly 15% sought refuge in Lebanon, another 5% in Syria, with smaller groups traveling on to Iraq and Egypt -- and later to the Persian Gulf sheikhdoms.

This population exchange mirrored far larger population movements following the end of World War II, which involved millions of Hindus and Muslims in India and Pakistan, as well as Poles, Germans and many other nationalities in Central and East Europe. These population exchanges were resolved through the integration of all refugees into the host states. While Israel absorbed the Jewish refugees, the Arab states refused to allow such resettlement and integration of their Palestinian brethren, preferring instead to exploit the Palestinian refugees to serve their own political agendas. Since there has been no integration of the refugees with the populations of the countries to which they fled, the current "refugees" are the children and mostly grandchildren of those who left Israel during the 1948 War of Independence.

In 1949, Israel offered to admit 100,000 Arab refugees, with the understanding that their repatriation would be linked to meaningful peace negotiations. Although 35,000 Arabs eventually returned under a family reunification plan, further implementation of the offer was suspended in the 1950's, after it became clear that the Arab states steadfastly refused to consider Israel's peace overtures, preferring instead to maintain a state of war with and economic boycott against Israel. In contrast, as a gesture of goodwill, Israel unilaterally released the frozen bank accounts and safe deposits of Arab refugees.

In 1973, Khaled al-'Azm, who served as Prime Minister of Syria in 1948 and 1949, published his memoirs in Beirut. He includes the following:

  • We have brought destruction upon a million Arab refugees, by calling upon them and pleading with them to leave their lands, their homes, their work and their business, and we have caused them to be barren and unemployed though each one of them had been working and qualified in a trade from which he could make a living. In addition, we accustomed them to begging for hand-outs and to suffice with what little the UN organisation would allocate them.

Following the war, the Arab countries consistently refused to take steps necessary to improve the lives of the Palestinian refugees. In early 1950, the UN General Assembly established the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, with a budget of $54 million. UNRWA was charged with the task of employing the Palestinians on projects in the Arab states in which they resided. It was an explicit expectation of the program that within 18 months most of these refugees would be as self-supporting as their Arab neighbors, and relief handouts could be ended. However, when UNRWA officials initiated talks with the Arab governments, they encountered an uncompromising refusal to cooperate with any plan designed for economic integration.

Arab leaders argued that Paragraph Eleven of General Assembly Resolution 194 of December 1948 guaranteed the refugees the right to return to their homes, and that they could not participate in any scheme that might compromise such a right. In fact, the Arab states themselves had voted unanimously against the resolution, since it envisaged peace negotiations with Israel. The refugee issue accordingly served as a useful obstacle to future discussions and as an effective lien on the world's conscience. By the end of 1950, as a result, no more than 10,000 of the refugees were employed.

Throughout the 1950's, UNRWA put forward additional plans to resettle and rehabilitate the Palestinian refugees. Like the earlier plan, these too were rejected by the Arab countries, individually and through the Arab League. By 1959, UNRWA was obliged to report that its rehabilitation fund, created in 1950 to provide homes and jobs for Palestinian refugees outside the camps, had been boycotted by the Arabs. The fund had set a goal of $250 million, but after three years only $7 million had been spent, and a further $28 million lay unused in the fund. Thereafter, a small part of the money was used on agricultural development; the rest of the money was used to augment UNRWA's general reserves.

Some of the Palestinians were formulating their own solution by then. In 1952, UNRWA observed that a good number of the Arab refugees had recently found homes and livelihoods in neighboring countries, in Iraq and the Persian Gulf states. At least 280,000 refugees had established themselves in Jordan and, by their own efforts, had become an integral part of that country's economy. For others, however, the situation was different.

In January 1951, the "Committee of Palestine Refugees" in Lebanon wrote the Arab League political committee, observing that a return to their homes was less than imminent for most of the Palestinians. Until a political solution could be found they could hardly be left to rot in Arab countries without decent food, shelter or means of providing a livelihood. The letter suggested that the Arab states should at least provide those refugees willing to settle outside Palestine with the opportunity to do so. Yet the single affirmative response to this appeal was King Abdullah's decision to confer Jordanian citizenship on the 200,000-odd refugees of the West Bank. Of these, 100,000 found employment; the rest continued to live in camps on UNRWA's dole.

By contrast, the refugees in Gaza were confined as virtual prisoners within the Strip. With the exception of perhaps 20,000 who managed to secure jobs in Iraq and the Persian Gulf area by 1951, they were denied employment or citizenship in Egypt itself.

As a result of this situation, UNRWA relief aid became a fixture in the lives of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians. The "advantages" of refugee status were not unsubstantial. The refugees had access to health services. The incidence of sickness and death accordingly was lower among them than among the surrounding Arab populations. Some 45% of their children of school age received free education. While their rations were meager, they did not suffer from malnutrition. By the end of 1956, only 39% of registered refugees actually lived in UNRWA camps; yet nearly all of them drew UN rations. Israel, therefore, cannot be held solely responsible for the socio-economic problems of the Gaza refugees, which were created by deliberate Arab neglect before 1967.

In 1959, UN Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjold personally investigated the possibility of a comprehensive resettlement scheme in the Middle East. Such a scheme would, like the earlier recommendations of the UN Palestine Conciliation Commission, have been based on the general principle of resettling Arab refugees in Arab countries; as a result, it encountered Arab opposition and was dropped.

Since UNRWA's inception, Arab countries have made totally inadequate contributions to its funding. UNRWA's annual budget, and deficits, have been covered almost entirely by Western countries; Arab states have made only token contributions, amounting to about 5% of the total budget. As a major contributor to international relief funds and the United Nations, the United States has made up for a large share of Arab neglect of their own people.

Over the years, Arab governments have placed a higher priority on the destruction of Israel than on the welfare of the Palestinian refugees. They perceived it as their interest to keep the bitterness and anger of the Palestinian refugees alive. For decades, in fact, Arab leaders used the Palestinians' misfortune to promote their efforts to undermine Israel, linking a return of refugees to Israel's destruction. In an interview to the Cairo journal "Al-Masri" on 11 October 1949, Egyptian Foreign Minister Muhammad Salah A-Din said:

  • In demanding the return of the Palestinian refugees, the Arabs mean their return as masters, not slaves; or, to put it quite clearly -- the intention is the termination of Israel.

This motif was repeated in later years, with President Nasser of Egypt saying, in a 1965 speech, that:

  • Our aim is to restore the national rights of the Palestinian people, namely to destroy Israel.

The refugee issue remains unsolved. Arab governments have made no attempt to assist their own people to resettle or integrate with their host countries, in marked contrast to the outcome for the Jewish refugees in Israel or, indeed, refugees in every other world trouble spot. Only the Palestinians remain refugees because only the Palestinians have been enslaved to the Arab political agenda against Israel. This exploitation of the Palestinian Arab refugees by huge and wealthy Arab countries happened in the same time period as tiny Israel absorbed millions of Jewish immigrants who fled persecution in Arab countries and from Nazi or Soviet Europe.

By 2002, many of the refugee camps were still in operation and the inhabitants were still being politically manipulated by radical Palestinian Arabs. During Israel's Operation Defensive Shield the camps were entered by the Israeli military and were found to be centers of terrorist activity with bomb factories, illegal arms caches, and schools for terrorist fighters.


Congress Passes First Ever Resolution on Jewish Refugees from Arab Countries.


Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Today the House Res 185 vote concerning Jewish Refugees from Arab Countries just passed the House. The efforts of the Justice for Jews from Arab Countries Organization, for the past few years, are beginning to bear the proverbial fruit.

 We gratefully acknowledge the efforts of many for this type of acknowledgement to reach that stage in the political process; we hope that continued efforts will also be as successful with regards to the Senate and the UN resolutions, as well as similar initiatives being undertaken with the EU & Russia.

Israel Bonan

U.S. Government Recognizes Palestinians Not
the Only Middle East Refugees

Congress Passes First Ever Resolution
on Jewish Refugees from Arab Countries

WASHINGTON, DC (April 1, 2008) - In what may be the beginning of a dramatic shift in United States policy, the U.S. Congress passed House Resolution 185, which grants first-time-ever recognition to Jewish refugees from Arab countries.

Prior to the adoption of H.Res.185, all Resolutions on Middle East refugees referred only to Palestinians. This Resolution affirms that the U.S. government will now recognize that all victims of the Arab-Israeli conflict must be treated equally. It further urges that the President and U.S. officials participating in Middle East discussions to ensure that any reference to Palestinian refugees must: "also include a similarly explicit reference to the resolution of the issue of Jewish refugees from Arab countries."

The Resolution was introduced by Reps. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Joseph Crowley (D-NY) and Mike Ferguson (R-NJ). With the passing of this Resolution, Rep. Nadler stated, "We believe that as a member of the Quartet, and in light of the U.S. central and indispensable role in promoting Middle East 'just peace', the U.S. must reaffirm that it embraces a just and comprehensive approach to the issue of Middle East refugees."

Rep. Joseph Crowley said, "The world needs to understand that it is not just the Arabs and it's not just the Palestinians in the Middle East, but also Jewish people who themselves were dispossessed of their possessions and their homes, and were victims of terrorist acts. These are people who lived in Middle Eastern communities not for decades, but for thousands of years." Rep. Crowley added that the Resolution will, "bring light upon an issue that has been swept under the carpet."


"Discussions of Middle Eastern refugees invariably focus exclusively-and shortsightedly-on the plight of those of Palestinian descent," said Rep. Ros-Lehtinen. "Far fewer people are aware of the injustice faced by Jewish refugees from Arab lands and Iran. Many Jews saw their communities, which had existed vibrantly for centuries systematically dismantled. They lost their resources, their homes, and their heritage sites, fleeing in the face of persecution, pogroms, revolutions and brutal dictatorships."


Rep. Mike Ferguson said that there was very strong bi-partisan support for this issue which recognizes, "the plight of hundreds of thousands of Jewish refugees who were displaced from countries in the Middle East, Northern Africa and all around the Persian Gulf." Congressmen Ferguson acknowledged that the U.N. has never recognized Jewish refugees, and that this,"is completely unacceptable and long over due, and this is one of the things this Resolution seeks to address."

Malcolm Hoenlein, Executive Vice-President of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations commented, "the failure during all these years to recognize other refugees, compounded the indignation and the suffering and the deprivation of Jews in Arab countries. There was a systematic process of expulsion which the Arab governments engaged in." He added that the Resolution is not an obstacle to peace. "It is a distortion to talk only of one refugee population, as that would undermine the ultimate outcome of any negotiations. The Congressional action will educate a generation that know too little about the other refugees."


The passing of this Resolution is the strongest U.S. declaration on the rights of Jewish refugees that were displaced from Arab countries. H.Res.185 underscores the fact that Jews living in Arab countries suffered human rights violations, were uprooted from their homes, and were made refugees.

Stanley Urman, Executive Director of Justice for Jews from Arab Countries stated that, "Congress has restored truth to the Middle East narrative, by recommending equitable treatment of all Middle East refugees. Only in this fashion can there be movement from truth to justice, from justice to reconciliation, and from reconciliation to peace - between and among all peoples and states in the region."


Underscoring the importance of the Resolution, Rep. Nadler added, "When the Middle East peace process is discussed, Palestinian refugees are often addressed. However, Jewish refugees outnumbered Palestinian refugees, and their forced exile from Arab lands must not be omitted from public discussion on the peace process. It is simply not right to recognize the rights of Palestinian refugees without recognizing the rights of Jewish refugees."