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Kapeliouk, New Light on the Israeli Arab Conflict

Kapeliouk, New Light on the Israeli Arab Conflict

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Published by: mister_fritz_del_mar on Jun 18, 2012
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06/18/2012

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NewLightontheIsraeli...ArabConflictandtheRefugeeProblemandItsOrigins
AmnonKapeliouk'"
ThepartialandlimitedopeningoftheIsraeligovernmentarchivesrelatingtothefirstyearsofthestate'sexistencehasresultedinanumberofsurprisesamongscholars,journalists,andtheIsraelipublicatlarge.
1
Eventhoughthedocumentationinquestionisincomplete-manyfilesarestillconsideredultra-secret-ithasbeensufficienttoshatterseveralofthemythsdearnotonlytotheIsraelisbuttowesternopinioningeneral.Onefinds,forexample,proofthattherewasapolicyfavoringnewimmigrantsfromtheWestovertheirbrethrenfromtheArabandIslamiccountries,thiscontrarytothepropagandaofthetime.ButitisthedocumentsinvolvingtheconflictwiththeArabworld,particularlythePalestinians,thathavearousedthegreatestinterestamongresearchers.ThevastmajorityofIsraelishavealwaysbelievedthatIsraelanditsleadershaveconsistentlydoneeverythingpossibletoachievepeacewiththeirArabneighbors.Intheirview,then,fullresponsibilityforthesuccessivewars,thePalestinianrefugeeproblem,thearmsrace,andsoon,
i
fallssquarelyontheArabs.Asforthe1948war,justicewastotallyandunquestionablyontheirside.Butnow,documentsoftheperiod-andIsraelidocumentsatthat-makeitimpossibletoviewthesequestionsinthesamelight.ItistruethattheoverwhelmingmajorityofthePalestinianswerestronglyopposedtothedismembermentoftheircountry.Nonetheless,itisnowclearthatlarge
•AmnonKapelioukisaMiddleEastspecialistwhowritesfor
YediotAharonot
and
Le
MondeDiplomatique.
 
REFUGEEPROBLEM17
numbersofthemdidnotparticipateinthefightingthatbrokeoutwiththeUN's29November1947adoptionofthePartitionPlan.Israelidocumentsemphasizethisfactinseveralplaces.On15December1947,forexample,DavidBen-Gurion,headoftheJewishcommunityinPalestine,wrotetoMosheSharett,headofthepoliticaldepartmentoftheJewishAgency:"The[Palestinian]peasantmassesarenottakingpartintheriots."Threemonthslater,Ben-GurionstatedinalettertoSharettandGoldaMeir:"The[Palestinian]Arabsintheirgreatmajorityarenotseekingwarwithus."InmostregionsofPalestine,especiallyinvillagesandinthecountryside,thelocalArableadershaddevelopedcontactsandinmanycasesevensignedpactswiththeirJewishneighborsinthehopesofavoidingageneralizedconflagration.
2
ThisfactdidnotalterthestrategyfollowedbytheHaganah,theundergroundarmyoftheJewishcommunity,tosaynothingofthedissidentterroristorganizationssuchasMenahemBegin'sIrgunandtheStemGang.Accordingtonumerousdocuments,allthesegroupsconsistentlysoughtwarthroughoutthecountrywiththeaimofdefeatingthePalestiniansanddrivingthemfromtheland.Theinevitableconsequencewastheextensionofthebattlefield:thesloganofthetimewas"Thefrontiseverywhere."ItwasthusthatBen-Gurion'sadvisorscounseledhimto"wageatotalwar,""tostrikethewholeofthe[Palestinian]transportandcommerce,""tostrikeruthlesslyandoveravastterritory,withoutanyotherconsiderations.")Asearlyasthebeginningof1948,duringthefirstphaseofthewar,Ben-Gurionwroteinhisdiary:"Duringtheassaultwemustbereadytostrikeadecisiveblow;thatis,eithertodestroythetownorexpelitsinhabitantssoourpeoplecanreplace
them.:"
The"goodneighbor"pactssignedbetweenJewishandArabvillagesdidnothelpthePalestiniansescapeexpulsionormassacre.ThepactsignedwiththeJewishvillageofGivatSha'ul,forexample,didnotspareDayrYasin,inthewesternsuburbofJerusalem,wherethetwodissidentterroristgroupsIrgunandStemslaughtered254inhabitants,mostlywomenandchildren,on4October1948.TheHaganah,latertobecometheofficialIsraeliarmy,alsocommittedatrocitiesduringthe1948war.Howevermostofthefilesrelatingtotheseatrocitiesremainunderlockandkey,onthepretextthattheiropeningcouldharmthenationalinterests.Awriterforthe
JerusalemPost,
BennyMorris,petitionedIsrael'sHighCourtofJusticetoorderthestatearchivestomakeavailablethefilesdealingwithanumberofmassacrescommittedin1948,buthisrequestwasrejectedinOctober1986.
 
18JOURNALOFPALESTINESTUDIES
Still,researchershavemanagedtorecordanumberofmassacrescommittedinPalestinianvillages,asforexampleinthevillageofNasral-DinnearTiberiasbeforethecreationofIsrael,andinthevillageofDuwaymah,westofHebron,inOctober1948.Inthelatter,scoreswerekilledbythesoldiersofthe89thbattalion.
5
Documentsfromthestatearchivesrevealthatasfarbackas1948Israelipolicyhadtwocomponents:totalwaragainstthePalestiniansontheonehandanda"Jordanianoption"ontheother.Accordingtothefiles,therewasanunderstandingofsortsbetweentheJewishleadersinPalestineandKing'AbdallahofJordanconcerningthedivisionofthecountrybetweenthem,althoughnopreciseanddefinitiveborderhadbeenagreedupon.FourdaysbeforetheproclamationoftheIsraelistate,NahumGoldmann,atthetimeamemberoftheJewishAgencyandpresidentoftheWorldJewishCongress,declaredthattheJewishAgencyhopedtheHashemitekingwouldrepresenttheArabcommunityinPalestineandwouldberecognizedasitsleaderbytheUnitedNations.Ontheotherhand,MosheSharett,foreignministerofthenewstate,favoredanagreementwiththePalestin-iansandatthebeginningof1949stillsupportedtheideaofanindependentPalestiniangovernment.Hewasintheminority,however,andsubse-quentlyabandonedthispreferencehimself.OntheeveofthecreationofIsrael,Ben-Gurion,withaneyetowardeventualexpansionbeyondtheNovember1947partitionplan,vigorouslyopposedallattemptstodrawtheboundariesofthefuturestate.Hisviewwasapprovedbyhiscolleagues,exceptforPinhasRosen(namedministerofjusticeseveraldayslater)whoaskedthatthefrontiersoftheemergingstatebeestablished.ThefollowingdialoguebetweenhimandBen-Gurionwasrecordedinthearchives:
Rosen:
Thereisthequestionoftheborders,whichwecan'tignore.Ben-Gurion:Everythingispossible.Ifwe[theprovisionalgovernment]decideherethatthebordersarenottobementioned,thatishowitwillbe.Nothingisapriori.
Rosen:
It'snotaquestionofapriori,butaquestionoflaw.
Ben-Gurian:
Thelawissomethingthatmendecide.
6
Threedaysbeforetheproclamationofthestate,Ben-Gurionexplained:"IftheArabsmakewar...wewilloccupyWesternGalileeandtheroutetoJerusalem,theseregionswillbepartofourstate.Sowhyshouldwetakeadecisionnow?"?Andindeed,inthecourseofthe1948warIsrael

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