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Pappe - The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine (2006) - Synopsis

Pappe - The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine (2006) - Synopsis


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Published by Mark K. Jensen
Synopsis of Ilan Pappe, The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine (Oxford: Oneworld, 2006; paperback 2007). -- Discussed at Digging Deeper (www.ufppc.org) on August 3, 2009.
Synopsis of Ilan Pappe, The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine (Oxford: Oneworld, 2006; paperback 2007). -- Discussed at Digging Deeper (www.ufppc.org) on August 3, 2009.

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Published by: Mark K. Jensen on Aug 03, 2009
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UFPPC (www.ufppc.org) — Digging Deeper LXXXIX: August 3, 2009, 7:00 p.m.

Ilan Pappe, The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine (Oxford: Oneworld, 2006; paperback 2007). [Thesis. Ilan Pappe argues that the history of Israel is not complex, but rather “not complicated at all,” a “simple but horrific story of the ethnic cleansing of Palestine, a crime against humanity that Israel has wanted to deny and cause the world to forget” (xviii); recovering that history is not only “a greatly overdue act of historiographical reconstruction or professional duty,” it is “a moral decision” (xviii). (Elsewhere, Pappe has written: “the Israeli claim of complexity and the Zionist time line as a whole have been exposed as propaganda at best.”)] List of Illustrations, Maps, and Tables. Acknowledgements. Friends and family; “this book . . . is written first and foremost for the Palestinian victims of the 1948 ethnic cleansing” (ix-x). Preface. Plan Dalet (“D” in Hebrew), a plan “for the ethnic cleansing of Palestine,” was completed on Mar. 10, 1948, in the “Red House” that was the HQ of Hagana, the Zionist underground militia (xi-xii). Six months later “more than half of Palestine’s native population, close to 800,000 people, had been uprooted, 531 villages had been destroyed, and eleven urban neighborhoods had been emptied of their inhabitants . . . [it was] a clear-cut case of an ethnic cleansing operation, regarded under international law today as a crime against humanity” (xiii; between 31 and 37 massacres took place [258]). This “crime” has been “erased almost totally from the global public memory” (xiii). Those who planned it and carried out are known; “All are familiar figures in the pantheon of Israeli heroism” (xiv). The “new history” debate in the 1980s did not go far enough because it used only official Israeli sources (xiv-xv). Walid Khalidi’s All That Remains [1992] is an almanac of destroyed villages and is an essential reference (xv-xvi). “In this book, I want to explore both the mechanism of the 1948 ethnic cleansing, and the cognitive system that allowed the world to forget, and enabled the perpetrators to deny, the crime the Zionist movement committed against the Palestinian people in 1948 . . . to make the case for the paradigm of ethnic cleansing and use it to replace the paradigm of war as the basis for the scholarly research of, and the public debate about, 1948” (xvi; xvixviii). This is a necessary first step toward reconciliation (xviii). Ch. 1: An ‘Alleged’ Ethnic Cleansing? Pappe accepts the Hutchinson encyclopedia’s definition of ethnic cleansing as “expulsion by force in order to homogenize the ethnically mixed population of a particular region or territory” and argues that it applies to Palestine in 1948 (1-9). Ch. 2: The Drive for an Exclusively Jewish State. “Zionism secularized and nationalized Judaism” by making Eretz Israel not something for the “end of times” but to be realized now (10-11). Palestinians began to sense the danger in 1905-1910 (11-12). Zionism’s aim to recreate the Jewish people’s “ancient homeland” was linked to European colonialism and 19th-century Christian millenarianism; socialism’s influence was weak (12-13). The Balfour Declaration of 1917 (13). Zionism’s “violent core” became clear in the 1920s and 1930s (13-15). Orde Wingate, a British officer, transformed the Hagana into “the military arm of the Jewish Agency, the Zionist governing body in Palestine that

in the end developed and then implemented . . . the ethnic cleansing of its native population” (15-17). Ben-Zion Luria’s proposal that all Arab villages be inventoried was carried out in the 1930s, with an “archive” of information with a view to attacking them developed and updated until 1947 (17-22). After 1942 the British were seen as the only obstacle and became the focus of the Zionist leadership (22-23). David Ben-Gurion was leader and policy architect, focusing on bitachon (‘security’ in Hebrew) (2327). When it was known in late 1946 that the British would be leaving, BenGurion’s aides began working on plans for the Palestinian population (27-28). Ch. 3: Partition and Destruction: U.N. Resolution 181 and Its Impact. When ethnic cleansing operations in Palestine began in early December 1947, indigenous Palestinians made up two thirds of the population; few Jews had settled in the countryside (29-31). The British, and then the U.N. Special Committee for Palestine (UNSCOP) pronounced in favor of partition, combined with placing Jerusalem under an international regime; this became U.N. General Assembly Resolution 181, approved on Nov. 27, 1949, which gave the Zionist movement 56% of the land when Jews actually occupied about 6% (31-33). The Palestinians rejected the partition concept and boycotted negotiations (33-35). The complex political structure over which Ben-Gurion presided “probably constitutes the only complex aspect of the history related in this book . . . and is beyond the remit of this book”; it allowed Ben-Gurion to decide on his own policies toward the outside world; he used Arab and Palestinian rejection of the plan to argue that the partition was a dead letter (3537). Beginning in June 1947, Ben-Gurion formed an unofficial and informal ad hoc group Pappe calls ‘the Consultancy’ that met in Ben-Gurion’s house or the Red House to resolve how to deal with the

Palestinians; the phrase ‘defending Our National Future’ was “a code for [changing] the demographic balance of the country” (37-38). Ch. 4: Finalizing a Master Plan. [Longest chapter.] Chronological overview of 1947-1948 (39-41). The Zionist leadership was committed to joining together all Jewish settlements and to colluding with Jordan, where the Hashemite king’s resentments made him a friend (41-43). A military force was built up and in May 1948 a large shipment of arms from Czechoslovakia and the USSR arrived; the newly formed Israeli army was assisted by Menachem Begin’s Irgun and its offshoot the Stern Gang (Lehi), and by the Hagana (44-46). Internal documents show that Zionist leaders were always confident of their military superiority (46-47). The Zionist ideological discussion used the term ‘the Balance’ in formulating its ethnic cleansing plan, referring to demography (48). Ben-Gurion believed that 80% Jews was a viable minimum and that expulsion was the best way to achieve it (48-49). The resignation of the Palestinians and their desire to return to “normality” was seen by Zionist leaders as a problem (5052). On Dec. 10, 1947, the Consultancy discussed the need to initiate violence against Palestinians (52-55). A campaign of aggression begin, starting with “violent reconnaissance” and proceeding to attacks on Palestinian neighborhoods (in Haifa) and on villages (Balad alShaykh), killing many (55-60). Irgun and the Stern Gang terrorized Arab neighborhoods in Haifa while the British turned a blind eye (60-61). In the ‘Long Seminar’ of Dec. 31, 1947-Jan. 2, 1948, the Consultancy decided to “turn every unauthorized initiative into an integral part of the plan, giving it their blessing retrospectively,” and there was a “shift at this point to systematic operations of take-over, occupation and expulsion” (61-72). Meanwhile, Ben-Gurion’s public speeches depicted Arabs and

Palestinians as Nazis (72-73). “[T]he Jewish army was now able to develop its own weapons of destruction” (73-74). Concerned that units of the Arab Liberation Army had taken up some positions in the Palestinian partition, operations in February were “part of a first attempt to link the concept of unhampered Jewish transport on Palestine’s main routes with the ethnic cleansing of the villages”; Qisarya was “the first village to be expelled in its entirety,” followed by Barrat Qisarya (its land now completely covered by “a Jewish development town, Or Akiva”), Khirbat al-Burj, Daliyat al-Rawha, Sa‘sa, and Qira (the last “very close to where I live today . . . Like so many other scenic sites in this area set aside for recreation and tourism, this one too hides the ruins of a 1948 village. To my shame it took me years to discover this” [79]) (74-80). February and March saw the final touches to Plan Dalet (the Yehoshua plan, named after the recently killed Yehoshua Globerman), “the master plan for the expulsion of all the villages in rural Palestine” (82); the official line that this was a period when Zionists faced annihilation is total propaganda (80-85). Ch. 5: The Blueprint for Ethnic Cleansing: Plan Dalet. Ben-Gurion’s private attitude during the April 1-May 15, 1948 period differed from his public attitude (86-87). The beginning of the execution of Plan Dalet was operation Nachson, “the first operation in which all the various Jewish military organizations endeavored to act together as a single army—providing the basis for the future Israeli Defence Forces (IDF)” (88). Palestinians were expelled from villages around Jerusalem ( 89-90). The massacre at Deir Yassin (90-91). The offensive against urban centers, beginning with Tiberias (92). In Haifa, the affluent left after the December terrorization and the population was violently assaulted beginning on Passover’s eve, Apr. 21, 1948 (92-96).

Safad (97-98). Jerusalem, beginning on Apr. 24, resulting in the ethnic cleansing of “eight Palestinian neighborhoods and thirty-nine villages . . . in the Greater Jerusalem area, their population transferred to the eastern part of the city” (98-99). Acre in early May, using typhoid infection of the water supply (100-01). Baysan (101-02). Jaffa, the last city to be taken, on May 13, two days before the end of the British Mandate (102-03). Then “the pace” becomes “hard to follow . . . Between 30 March and 15 May, 200 villages were occupied and their inhabitants expelled. This is a fact that must be repeated, as it undermines the Israeli myth that the ‘Arabs’ ran away once the ‘Arab invasion’ began. Almost half of the Arab villages had already been attacked by the time the Arab governments eventually and, as we know, reluctantly decided to send in their troops” (104). Sirin, a model of religious coexistence, occupied on May 12 despite good “connections” and the presence of Christians (105-06). More villages were emptied, but no press accounts gave a “full picture of events” (107-10). The massacre in Ayn AlZaytun, the subject of Elias Khoury’s [1998] epic novel Bab al-Shams (111-13). The Druze and the Circassians threw their support to the Jews as the winning side, discrediting the official Zionist myth” that destruction was narrowly averted (114-15). Arab leaders “procrastinated, and postponed [action], for as long as they could” (116; 115-18). Transjordan’s King Abdullah colluded with the Zionists (118-21). Palestinian leadership was in disarray (121-22). But Israeli and U.S. public opinion succeeded in portraying the Zionists as close to destruction and in demonizing the Arabs (122). The U.S. State Dept. took the position that the partition had failed, but Zionist lobbyists persuaded President Truman to recognize Israel (May 14, 1948, the day the British mandate ended (123-24). British knowledge of Plan Dalet seems likely though it is unproved (125).

After May 15, the U.N. abandoned the Palestinians (126). Ch. 6: The Phony War and the Real War over Palestine: May 1948. The Arab Legion’s attack was not completely ineffectual but never stopped the ethnic cleansing, which proceeded apace (12630). “It should be clear by now that the Israeli foundational myth about a voluntary Palestinian flight the moment the war started—in response to a call by Arab leaders to make way for invading armies—holds no water. It is a sheer fabrication that there were Jewish attempts, as Israeli textbooks still insist today, to persuade Palestinians to stay” (131). The Alexandroni brigade cleared the area north of Tel Aviv; only two villages were spared, when Jewish settlers insisted they needed the Palestinian unskilled laborers (132-33). The massacre at Tantura, a coastal village, May 22-23, 1948; hundreds killed in cold blood (133-37). The Golani brigade followed (138-39), then the Irgun and the Qiryati brigade (139-41). Zealous revenge attacks followed Palestinian resistance (141-42). By the end of May 1948 Ben-Gurion’s confidence in success was extreme (14345). Ch. 7: The Escalation of the Cleansing Operations: JuneSeptember 1948. In June ethnic cleansing escalated; Israeli troops were “[l]ike a ferocious storm gathering force” (146-48). Demolition activities continued during the first truce (Jun. 8-Jul. 8) (14849). The focus turned to the upper Galilee (149-53). The village of Mujaydil, near Nazareth (153-54). Operation Dekel (‘palm tree’) targeted Nazareth and surrounding villages, which were forested with pine trees (154-55). The truces had little effect on the ethnic cleansing (156). Count Folke Bernadotte, the U.N. mediator, was one of the few who took an interest in Palestinians; he was assassinated by the Stern Gang in

September 1948 (156-57). In July, Israel’s diplomats were made aware of the ethnic cleansing plan and helped devise a propaganda line for responding to criticism (Israel was a “liberal democracy” in the making) (157). Operations escalated after the first truce in the belief that this was a limited window of opportunity for ethnic cleansing (157-73). The second truce, on Jul. 18, 1948, was “violated the moment it came into effect” (173). There was increasing resistance; Iraqi officers were effective in the northern West Bank (17478). Ch. 8: Completing the Job: October 1948-January 1949. Some largely futile resistance was encountered in October in the Galilee, but operation Hiram, with air support, defeated it (17983). Massacres were carried out at Sa‘sa and Sassaf (183-85). “By 31 October, the Galilee, once an area almost exclusively Palestinian, was occupied in its entirety by the Israeli army” (185). “Mopping up operations” were efforts to tip the demographic balance in Jewish favor in the Galilee, whose Arab character was a preoccupation (185-87). In August 1948, the Israeli government decided “to destroy all the evicted villages and transform them into new Jewish settlements or ‘natural’ forests”; diplomatically, international pressure to allow the return of refugees was strenuously resisted; and a unit was created to discourage Palestinians from returning to villages that had not been destroyed (187-90). Israel had been so successful it contemplated expanding into the West Bank and southern Lebanon (191-93). The last front was the southern Negev, in November 1948 (19395). Massacre in Dawaymeh, between Beersheba and Hebron, the last by Israeli troops until 1956 in Kfar Qassim (19598). Ch. 9: Occupation and Its Ugly Faces. 8000 Palestinian refugees were held in

prison camps, others were harassed; some were executed (200-01). Three labor camps (202-03). Houses were ransacked in Jaffa (203-07). All Palestinians left in Haifa were forced to move to one neighborhood, i.e. ghettoized (207-08). Cases of rape (20811). The problem of the property left behind (211-14). For a short period, April-May 1949, the U.S. State Dept. pressured Israel (214). The Jewish National Fund (JNF) was assigned disposition of Palestinian property and devised a legal sleight of hand for selling off the property (214-15). The leftist kibbutz movement proved the most avaricious purchasers (215-16). Much urban destruction, including of holy sites, was designed to wipe out vestiges of Arab culture (216-19). The remaining ‘Israeli Arabs’ were put under a military regime (220). The JNF decided whether or not a settlement or forestation would cover particular villages (220-21). The JNF oversaw legislation preventing Palestinians from regaining ownership of their own land (222-24). Ch. 10: The Memoricide of the Nakba. New settlements were renamed with the help of a Naming Committee charged with “Hebraiz[ing] Palestine’s geography” (225). The “true mission” of the Jewish National Fund has been a sort of virtual colonialism, seeking to conceal visible remnants of Palestine with forests, parks, etc., while praising Israel for its ecological consciousness (226-34). Ch. 11: Nakba Denial and the ‘Peace Process.’ Zionist influence led to the establishment of the United Nations Relief and Work Agency (UNRWA) instead of involving the International Refugee Organization, which always recommended repatriation (235-36). Modern Palestinian nationalist is centered on the Right of Return, which has been consistently excluded from the peace process; Israeli negotiators are legally barred from discussing it (236-47).

Ch.1 2: Fortress Israel. Many racist Israeli laws are designed for demographic purposes (248-51). The Israeli mainstream now talks openly of its demographic obsessions, aided by post9/11 demonization of Muslims (251-52). Other aspects of Jewish sensibility have been overwhelmed in Israel (253-55). But the policy has failed, and Israel will have “willingly to transform itself one day into a civic and democratic state” (256). Epilogue. Israeli academics might have studied the ethnic cleansing of Palestine in depth by now, but they have not (25758). It is Jews in Israel who are not blind to what happened who “hold the key to reconciliation and peace in the torn land of Palestine” (259). But at present the ideology that accomplished it is still alive and achieving its inexorable effects (25960). No Palestinian is “free from the potential danger of future ethnic cleansing” (260). It is essential to “correctly identify[y]” the ideology; the problem with Israel “is its ethnic Zionist character”; the danger it poses at present “has never been so acute” (26061). Endnotes. 20 pp. Chronology. 6 pp. Maps and Tables. 8 pp. Bibliography. 5 pp. Index. 13 pp. About the Author. Ilan Pappe teaches history at the University of Exeter, and is the author of A History of Modern Palestine, The Modern Middle East, and The Israel/Palestine Question. [Additional information. Ilan Pappe (also Pappé) was born in 1954 in Haifa. He has been described by the London Guardian as “an amiable character with

an engaging grin” and identifies himself as a fan of 19th-century English novels, cinema, classical music, and the Liverpool Football Club. His parents fled Germany in the 1930s, where family members on both sides died in the Holocaust. He served on the Golan Heights during the 1973 Yom Kippur War. He graduated from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in 1978 and completed his Ph.D. in history at the University of Oxford in 1984 (Albert Hourani [19151993] directed his doctoral thesis, which became his first book, Britain and the Arab-Israeli Conflict). Pappe taught political science at Haifa University from 1984 to 2007 and chaired the Emil Touma Institute for Palestinian and Israeli Studies in Haifa from 2000 to 2008. He is also the author of A History of Modern Palestine: One Land, Two Peoples (2003) and The Modern Middle East (2005). His challenge to the standard Israeli narrative has made him an extremely controversial figure, particularly his claim that the Israeli expulsions of Palestinians in the 1948 Palestine War were part of an overall plan, and not merely ad hoc. He has been condemned in the Knesset; a minister of education called for his firing; he was shunned at the Univ. of Haifa, and he has received death threats. Pappe supports the One State Solution and has supported boycotts of Israel, including an academic boycott (this position led the president of the Univ. of Haifa to call on him to resign). Pappe’s supporters include John Pilger, Richard Falk, Ella Shohat, Walid Khalidi, Anton Shammas, George Galloway, Karma Nabulsi, and Nur Masalha. His detractors include Benny Morris (who charges him with “complete fabrication”), Efraim Karsh

(who says he tells of “events that never happened” and “political decisions that were never made”), and Seth J. Frantzman (who charges him with performing “a cynical exercise in manipulating evidence to fit an implausible thesis”). Pappe lives with his companion and their two sons. Pappe is currently working on a book on Palestinians living in Israel (The Forgotten Palestinians) and a book on day-to-day life in the Occupied Territories as managed by Israeli officials (The Bureaucracy of Evil); he is also editing a collection of essays comparing the Zionist system to apartheid in South Africa.] [Critique. The organization of Pappe’s shocking book is sometimes weak as he tends to ramble from topic to topic and repeat himself, but the subject is gripping. There is little attention to early Zionist ideology and surprisingly little direct criticism of the standard Israeli historical narrative that he is challenging and that he aspires to replace; the focus is on the 1948 expulsions. The last three chapters lack focus and seem superficial. Pappe writes well for an academic historian, but his work would be more effective if he presented more direct quotations, more extensive notes, and more discussion of the documentary evidence. Pappe now and then speaks of his own person; one wishes he had described the process by which he arrived at his conclusions and the personal cost to him of the positions he has taken. On that subject, see a recent profile in the London Guardian by Chris Arnot entitled “‘I felt it was my duty to protest’ (Jan. 20, 2009).]

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