Ilan Pappe

History and Power in the Middle East: A Conversation with Ilan Pappe

Q: What is your background and how do you see your own development as a historian? Pappe: I was born in 1954 to a German Jewish family in Haifa where I lived in blissful ignorance about the world beyond the comfortable and safe mount Carmel until I reached the age of 18. At that age I began my military service which introduced me to other groups and to the host of social problems facing Israeli society. But it was only in the 1970s, at Hebrew University, that I was exposed to the plight of the Palestinians in Israel as an undergraduate in the department of Middle Eastern History. It was then and there that I found my love for history and developed my belief that the present cannot be understood and the future changed without first trying to decipher its historical dimensions. It was clear that this could not be done freely inside Israel-especially if its own history was to be my subject matter. This is how I found myself at Oxford in 1984 as a D. Phil student under the supervision of two great supervisors, the late Albert Hourani and Roger Owen. The thesis was on the 1948 war in Palestine, a subject that has engaged me ever since my career as a professional historian began. This is still a subject that haunts me and I regard the events of that year as the key to understanding the present conflict in Palestine as well as the gate through which peace has to pass on the way to a comprehensive and lasting settlement in Palestine and Israel. Intimate and strong friendships with Palestinians and the newly declassified material in the archives produced my new look at the 1948 war. I challenged many of the foundational Israeli myths associated with the war and I described what happened in Palestine in that year essentially as a Jewish ethnic cleansing operation against the indigenous population. This conviction informed not only my work as a historian but also affected significantly my political views and activity. I also ventured, in between my forays in the1948 story, into the exciting-but always productive for me-world of historiosophy and hermeneutics. I do think, in retrospect, that much of what I had read and discussed influenced my attitude to historiography in general. I treat history from a much more
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Ilan Pappe

relativist point of view than many of my colleagues and I was also highly impressed by the need-which informs my work in the last few years-to write more a history of the people and less a history of the politicians, and more a history of the society and less of its ideology and elite politics. Q: You have often been associated with “revisionist history” and the emergence of a “postzionist” discourse: what do these terms mean and how have they affected the political climate in Israel? Pappe: Revisionist history means those books written by Israeli historians about the 1948 war that question the essential foundational Israeli myths about that war. First among them is that it was a war between a Jewish David and an Arab Goliath. The new historians described an advantage for the Jewish military side in most stages of the war. They also pointed to the prior agreement between the Jewish state and the strongest Arab army-the Arab Legion of Transjordan-that neutralized the Palestinian force and limited its activity to the Greater Jerusalem area. This prior understanding divided postMandatory Palestine between the Jews and the Hashemites of Jordan at the expense of the Palestinians. As for post-Zionism, this adjective is usually associated with critical research in Israel on various chapters in the history of Zionism and Israel. It includes sociologists who view Zionism as colonialism, historians who doubt the sincerity of the Zionist effort during the Holocaust, and it also criticizes the manipulation of Holocaust memory within Israel. Among them you can find scholars identifying with the fate of the Mizrachi Jews in Israel and who deconstruct the attitude of the state, especially in the 1950s, toward these groups employing paradigms of research offered by Edward Said and others in postcolonial studies. Palestinian Israelis have done the same in looking at the attitude of the Jewish state toward the Palestinian minority and feminists have critically analyzed the status of women and gender relations as they developed through time in the Jewish State. In the 1990s, when most the works of the revisionist and post-Zionist historians and scholars appeared, there seemed to be some impact on the general public. You could see it in documentary films on television, in op-eds in the printed press and in some textbooks and curricula in the educational system.

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Ilan Pappe

But after the outbreak of the second intifada in October 2000, not much was left of the previous readiness of Israeli society to hear critical voices on the past. The electronic media loyally towed the official line; the printed press silenced critique in general; and revisionist textbooks were taken out of the school system. One could probably say that it never affected the political system, but it seems to have taken root in Israeli civil society and its impact will, I think, be felt in years to come. Q: Your last book dealt with 1948 and you suggest that Israel is still living with the consequences of choices made then. Could you elaborate on this? Pappe: This was not my last book. My last book was A History of Modern Palestine, published by Cambridge University Press. My last book on 1948 is The Making of the Arab-Israeli Conflict, 1947-1951 published by I. B. Tauris. Indeed, I think that the ethnic cleansing in 1948 will never allow Israel to reconcile with the Palestinians and the rest of the Middle East, nor to live in peace with its own Palestinian minority unless Israel boldly faces the past. The ethnic cleansing included the destruction of more than 400 villages, 11 towns and the expulsion of 750,000 Palestinians. The Israeli state, as a political entity, has to acknowledge the ethnic cleansing. Until today it had failed to do so and it should be made accountable for its deeds and offer compensation for the people it wronged. This should be done on the basis of UN Resolution 194 that allowed the refugees to choose between compensation and return. Q: The plight of the Israeli Arabs and those Arabs living in the occupied territories is often underestimated: they are seen as poor and exploited but, if I can put the matter this way, not particularly more than any number of other peoples. Is there something systematic here that is reminiscent of apartheid or even ethnic cleansing? Pappe: There are of course differences in the way Israel treats the Palestinians living under occupation and those whom it regards as citizens. But there are also common features of that policy. Let us begin by charting
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Ilan Pappe

the common ground. It is beyond the scope of this interview to present the emergence of Zionist attitudes and perceptions about the indigenous population of Palestine. What suffices in this context is to point to the final formulations of this process: a dehumanization of the Palestinians, their exclusive depiction as a security problem and the wish to have a pure Jewish state, empty of any Arabs or Arabism. The wish to retain the façade of a democracy complicated the translation of these attitudes into actual policy toward Palestinians inside Israel, those who are officially regarded as citizens. Until 1966, in the name of security, the rights of these Palestinians were removed and they were subjected to cruel military rule. But when, after 1967, the U.S.-Israeli alliance became the central source for the Jewish State’s existence, one of the more democratic features developed among them was the abolition of that military rule. Racism and apartheid-which were official policy under military rule-now became illicit and in a way more dangerous because it was more difficult for human and civil rights organizations to expose them. In the years since 1967, as a Palestinian citizen you could never know where the racism and discrimination would hit you. It meant that at any given minute, without prior knowledge, you were likely to encounter de facto segregation, discrimination, abuse of basic rights and even death. This is still the state of affairs today, and in many ways it has worsened since the outbreak of the second intifada. On top of all of this, Palestinian citizens in Israel suffer from a de jure discrimination as well. There are three laws in the country that define most of the cultivated land as belonging exclusively to the Jewish people and hence cannot be sold to, or transacted with, non-Jews, namely Arabs. Other qua apartheid laws are the law of citizenship that demands naturalization processes for the indigenous population while the law of return grants it unconditionally to unborn yet Jewish children everywhere in the world. There are clear policies of discrimination in the welfare system, in the budgeting of public services and in the job opportunities, especially in industry, of which 70 percent is termed “Arab Free” as it is strongly connected to the military and security sector. But I think it is the daily experience-as I described it above-of the license for everyone who represents the state to abuse you at will that is the worst aspect of living as a Palestinian in the Jewish state. To this has lately been added the fear of ethnic cleansing and expulsion.
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Ilan Pappe

The situation in the occupied territories is far worse. House demolitions, expulsions, killings, torturing, land confiscation and daily harassment at will of the population has been going on from the first day of occupation in 1967: it did not start because of the suicide bombs which appeared for the first time in 1995 as a very belated Palestinian response for more than 25 years of occupation. The situation has only become worse in the last four years. There are several spheres of brutality that should be mentioned: the collective punishment, the abuse of thousands of detainees and political prisoners, the transfer of people, the economic devastation, the slaying of innocent citizens and the daily harassment at checkpoints. Lately to this was added the fence that is ghettoizing thousands of people, separating them from their land and their kin and/or destroying their source of living and their houses. Q: This wall is being termed a “wall of separation.” Perhaps you can offer some reflections on this symbol of oppression and its implications. Pappe: I think the wall fits well into older Zionist notions of how to solve the problem of Palestine while taking into account realpolitik such as the need to maintain Israel’s external image and keep a cordial relationship with the West and the United States in particular. The aim has always been, and it still remains, to have as much of Palestine as possible with as few Palestinians in it as possible. Only very unique historical circumstances, such as those that existed in 1948, allowed for mass expulsions of the Palestinians on the way to realize the vision of a totally de-Arabized Palestine. In the absence of, or while waiting for such circumstances, more gradual means have been employed. The first is an internal Israeli decision on how much of historical Palestine is needed for sustaining the Jewish State. The consensus between Labor and Likkud today is that the Gaza strip is not needed and that half of the West Bank as well can be given up. The half of the West Bank that is left to the Palestinians, however, is not a contiguous territory: it is bisected by areas in the West Bank deemed necessary for Israel’s survival, because they include water resources, historical sites, strategic positions and large post1967 Jewish settlements. The drawing of this new map can either be done with the consent of a Palestinian leadership or without it. The second device is a set of operations meant to cleanse the indigenous population of those areas that were annexed to Israel from the West Bank.
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Ilan Pappe

Today there are about a quarter of a million people inhabiting these regions. As in 1948, the issue is not just expulsion, but also anti-repatriation. So the wall that is being built demarcates the eastern border of Israel (so that the Jewish State will consist of 85 percent of original Palestine) and is meant to draw a clear demographic line between the Jewish and Palestinian populations. People who have already been chased out of their houses while the wall and security zone around it was constructed, and those who are in danger of being evicted in the future, will be blocked from coming back by the wall. The third step is an Israeli willingness to define the Gaza strip and what would be left of the West Bank as a Palestinian state. Such a state cannot be a viable political entity and would be akin to two huge prison camps-one in the Gaza Strip the other in the West Bank-in which many people would find it difficult to find employment and proper housing. This may lead to immigration and de-population that may raise the appetite of Israel for more land. Two final points: the wall would leave the Palestinians citizens of Israel, as a “demographic” problem inside the wall. Zionist policies in the past and present Sharonite plans raise severe concerns for the fate of these people, presently still citizens of Israel who number more the one and a quarter million today. The second point is that the wall will also turn Israel into a prison hall-wardens and inmates are quite often both prisoners-which means that the siege mentality that lies behind some of the most cruel and aggressive Israeli policies inside and outside the country will continue. Q: The Geneva Accords have raised the hopes of many: critics have attacked their advocates, however, and emphasized the need for a bi-national state rather than a “twostate” solution to the current crisis. Where do you stand? Pappe: First, I do support a bi-national state and find it a far better solution than the two-states solution offered by the Accords. In fact, I will even go further than that and claim that only a secular democratic single state will, at the end of the day, bring peace and reconciliation to Palestine. It is the only political structure that allies with the demographic composition on the ground-the absence of any clear homogenous territorial communities, the need to repatriate the refugees, and the danger of the politics of identity on both sides if they are to become state identities and the need to cater to
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crucial and urgent agendas such as poverty and ecological problems that cannot be dealt with by a national structure in either Israel or Palestine alone. The Geneva initiative is, like so many other peace plans in the past, an Israeli dictate that seeks, and quite often finds, Palestinian partners. This present peace plan, like the previous one, has three assumptions that have to be deconstructed. The first is that the ethnic cleansing of Palestine in 1948 is irrelevant to the making of peace. The second is that peace excludes any solution for the refugee question based on the right of return and Israeli accountability for the catastrophe of 1948. The third, is that the Palestinians are not entitled to a state, but a dependency over roughly 15 percent of historical Palestine and for that they should declare the end of the conflict. My point is that indeed everything possible should be done to end the occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza strip and liberate it from Israeli control and pass it to Palestinian hands. But this can only be a first step, because such a withdrawal does not solve the predicament of most of the Palestinian people, who live in refugee camps or are citizens of Israel. The end of the occupation is not equivalent to the end of the conflict, as is stated in the Geneva document, it is a precondition for peace. Israel has first to acknowledge the ethnic cleansing of 1948 and make itself accountable by implementing UN resolution 194. In the meantime, given the realities surrounding the return of refugees and the presence of so many Jews in Palestinian areas, there will be a need to look for the appropriate political structure that can carry this reconciliation. For me, the best is the one state structure. Q: What would you say to those who claim that the current policies of the Sharon regime are in reality necessary in order to assure the security of Israel from terrorist fanatics? Pappe: There are two answers. The first is that these policies were in tact from 1967, long before the first suicide bomber was even born. The second is that we should say to them what we say to those who claim that the neocons in Washington planned the occupation of Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and Iran because of 9/11. I think we all know that 9/11 was a pretext for a strategy born in a certain American school of thought of what America is all about and how it should control the world politically, militarily and economically. The suicide bombers are a pretext for implementing a harsher
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version of policies of collective punishment meant to enable the territorial enlargement of Israel and the de-population of further parts of Palestine. Q: Israel is often depicted as the lone outpost of democracy in the Middle East. How legitimate is this claim? Or, further, is a redefinition of democracy taking place in your country? Pappe: I think that one of the major tests for a democracy is the treatment of minorities. If this is accepted as a principal test case than it is ludicrous to define Israel as a democracy, let alone as an outpost of democracy. There are official and formal characteristics which justify the definition of Israel as a democracy, but it is so flawed in the field of maintaining basic civil and human rights, that notwithstanding these attributes, one can still cast severe doubts about the definition of the state as a democracy. As I have tried to show in the analysis of the Israeli attitude to Palestinians as citizens or under occupation, the basic Israeli policy is a mixture of apartheid practices and colonialist attitudes. But also the role of religion in the state and the consequent violation of basic rights as a result are additional reasons to look for a different definition for Israel, rather than search a new definition for democracy. Q: What do you make of what has been termed the “new anti-Semitism”? Pappe: I do not think there is a new anti-Semitism. There is anti-Semitism, rooted in the extreme right in Europe and the United States. It has been silenced to a great extent since 1945 and it is still a marginal phenomenon. There are strong sentiments against Israel and Zionism both on the Left and among the communities of Muslim immigrants. Some of the actions taken are reminiscent in form and tone of the old anti-Semitism, but for the most part, these actions have been taken against Jews who chose to represent Israel in their own countries and thus became targets for legitimate and illegitimate actions against them. Particularly appalling is the use by the Israeli government and its supporters of the anti-Semitism card in order to silence any criticism on its policies in Palestine.

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Ilan Pappe

Q: Do you see any sources of change and hope? Pappe: Alas, not in the near future, but I am quite hopeful about the long term. I think there are signs that elements of civil society both in Israel and in Palestine are willing to take the issue of resolving the conflict away from the politicians who hijacked it for their own personal and narrow interests. Such actions on the part of civil society, however, will unfortunately not prove effective or assume a mass character unless there is strong external pressure on, and condemnation of, the Israeli state and its policies. A more hopeful scenario cannot materialize unless that occurs and more blood will be shed in another round or two of violence. Q: Arab critics have described Zionism as a form of racism: how would you deal with that assessment? Pappe: Zionism is both a national movement and a colonialist project. Most national movements have an inherent racist element in them. They differ in how significant this element in the national discourse and practice actually is. In Zionism, it is a particularly meaningful signifier of self-identity. Colonialism is also very closely associated with racism and there are many features of Zionism in the past and the present that are purely colonialist in character. The only thing I would object to in identifying Zionism and racism is the tendency to neglect other vital aspects of Zionism such as its importance for creating a Hebrew culture, a new nation state, and a safe haven for some Jews.

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This article, excerpted and adapted from the early chapters of a new book, emphasizes the systematic preparations that laid the ground for the expulsion of more than 750,000 Palestinians from what became Israel in 1948. While sketching the context and diplomatic and political developments of the period, the article highlights in particular a multi-year “Village Files” project (1940–47) involving the systematic compilation of maps and intelligence for each Arab village and the elaboration—under the direction of an inner “caucus” of fewer than a dozen men led by David Ben-Gurion—of a series of military plans culminating in Plan Dalet, according to which the 1948 war was fought. The article ends with a statement of one of the author’s underlying goals in writing the book: to make the case for a paradigm of ethnic cleansing to replace the paradigm of war as the basis for the scholarly research of, and the public debate about, 1948. ON A COLD WEDNESDAY AFTERNOON, 10 March 1948, a group of eleven men, veteran Zionist leaders together with young military Jewish officers, put the final touches on a plan for the ethnic cleansing of Palestine.1 That same evening, military orders were dispatched to units on the ground to prepare for the systematic expulsion of Palestinians from vast areas of the country.2 The orders came with a detailed description of the methods to be used to forcibly evict the people: large-scale intimidation; laying siege to and bombarding villages and population centers; setting fire to homes, properties, and goods; expelling residents; demolishing homes; and, finally, planting mines in the rubble to prevent the expelled inhabitants from returning. Each unit was issued its own list of villages and neighborhoods to target in keeping with the master plan. Code-named Plan D (Dalet in Hebrew), this was the fourth and final version of vaguer plans outlining the fate that was in store for the native population of Palestine.3 The previous three plans had articulated only obscurely how the Zionist leadership intended to deal with the presence of so many Palestinians on the land the Jewish national movement wanted for itself. This fourth and

ILAN PAPP´, an Israeli historian and professor of political science at Haifa University, is E the author of a number of books, including The Making of the Arab-Israeli Conflict, 1947–1951 (I.B. Tauris, 1994) and A History of Modern Palestine: One Land, Two Peoples (Cambridge University Press, 2004). The current article is extracted from early chapters of his latest book, The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine (Oneworld Publications, Oxford, England, forthcoming in October 2006).
Journal of Palestine Studies Vol. XXXVI, No. 1 (Autumn 2006), pp. 6–20 ISSN: 0377-919X; electronic ISSN: 1533-8614. C 2006 by the Institute for Palestine Studies. All rights reserved. Please direct all requests for permission to photocopy or reproduce article content through the University of California Press’s Rights and Permissions website, at



last blueprint spelled it out clearly and unambiguously: the Palestinians had to go. The plan, which covered both the rural and urban areas of Palestine, was the inevitable result both of Zionism’s ideological drive for an exclusively Jewish presence in Palestine and a response to developments on the ground following the British decision in February 1947 to end its Mandate over the country and turn the problem over to the United Nations. Clashes with local Palestinian militias, especially after the UN partition resolution of November 1947, provided the perfect context and pretext for implementing the ideological vision of an ethnically cleansed Palestine. Once the plan was finalized, it took six months to complete the mission. When it was over, more than half of Palestine’s native population, over 750,000 people, had been uprooted, 531 villages had been destroyed, and 11 urban neighborhoods had been emptied of their inhabitants. The plan decided upon on 10 March 1948, and above all its systematic implementation in the following months, was a clear case of what is now known as an ethnic cleansing operation.

Ethnic cleansing today is designated by international law as a crime against humanity, and those who perpetrate it are subject to adjudication: a special international tribunal has been set up in The Hague to prosecute those accused of ethnic cleansing in the former Yugoslavia, and a similar court was established in Arusha, Tanzania, to deal with the Rwanda case. The roots of ethnic cleansing are ancient, to be sure, and it has been practiced from biblical times to the modern age, including at the height of colonialism and in World War II by the Nazis and their allies. But it was especially the events in the former Yugoslavia that gave rise to efforts to define the concept and that continue to serve as the prototype of ethnic cleansing. For example, in its special report on ethnic cleansing in Kosovo, the U.S. State Department defines the term as “the systematic and forced removal of the members of an ethnic group from communities in order to change the ethnic composition of a given region.” The report goes on to document numerous cases, including the depopulation within twenty-four hours of the western Kosovar town of Pec in spring 1999, which could only have been achieved through advanced planning followed by systematic execution.3 Earlier, a congressional report prepared in August 1992 for the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee had described the “process of population transfers aimed at removing the non-Serbian population from large areas of Bosnia-Hercegovina,” noting that the campaign had “substantially achieved its goals: an exclusively Serb-inhabited region . . . created by forcibly expelling the Muslim populations that had been the overwhelming majority.” According to this report, the two main elements of ethnic cleansing are, first, “the deliberate use of artillery and snipers against the civilian populations of the big cities,” and second, “the forced movement of civilian populations [entailing] the systematic destruction of homes, the looting of personal



property, beatings, selective and random killings, and massacres.”4 Similar descriptions are found in the UN Council for Human Rights (UNCHR) report of 1993, which was prepared in follow-up to a UN Security Council Resolution of April 1993 that reaffirmed “its condemnation of all violations of international humanitarian law, in particular the practice of ‘ethnic cleansing.’ ” Showing how a state’s desire to impose a single ethnic rule on a mixed area links up to acts of expulsion and violence, the report describes the unfolding ethnic cleansing process where men are separated from women and detained, where resistance leads to massacres, and where villages are blown up, with the remaining houses subsequently repopulated with another ethnic group.5 In addition to the United States and the UN, academics, too, have used the former Yugoslavia as the starting point for their studies of the phenomenon. Drazen Petrovic has published one of the most comprehensive studies of ethnic cleansing, which he describes as “a well-defined policy of a particular group of persons to systematically eliminate another group from a given territory on the basis of religious, ethnic or national origin. Such a policy involves violence and is very often connected with military operations.”6 Petrovic associates ethnic cleansing with nationalism, the creation of new nation-states, and national struggle, noting the close connection between politicians and the army in the perpetration of the crime: the political leadership delegates the implementation of the ethnic cleansing to the military level, and although it does not furnish systematic plans or provide explicit instructions, there is no doubt as to the overall objective. These descriptions almost exactly mirror what happened in Palestine in 1948: Plan D constitutes a veritable repertoire of the cleansing methods described in the various reports on Yugoslavia, setting the background for the massacres that accompanied the expulsions. Indeed, it seems to me that had we never heard about the events in the former Yugoslavia of the 1990s and were aware only of the Palestine case, we would be forgiven for thinking that the Nakba had been the inspiration for the descriptions and definitions above, almost to the last detail. Yet when it comes to the dispossession by Israel of the Palestinians in 1948, there is a deep chasm between the reality and the representation. This is most bewildering, and it is difficult to understand how events perpetrated in modern times and witnessed by foreign reporters and UN observers could be systematically denied, not even recognized as historical fact, let alone acknowledged as a crime that needs to be confronted, politically as well as morally. Nonetheless, there is no doubt that the ethnic cleansing of 1948, the most formative event in the modern history of the land of Palestine, has been almost entirely eradicated from the collective global memory and erased from the world’s conscience.

When even a measure of Israeli responsibility for the disappearance of half the Arab population of Palestine is acknowledged (the official government



version continues to reject any responsibility whatsoever, insisting that the local population left “voluntarily”), the standard explanation is that their flight was an unfortunate but unavoidable by-product of war. But what happened in Palestine was by no means an unintended consequence, a fortuitous occurrence, or even a “miracle,” as Israel’s first president Chaim Weitzmann later proclaimed. Rather, it was the result of long and meticulous planning. The potential for a future Jewish takeover of the country and the expulsion of the indigenous Palestinian people had been present in the writings of the founding fathers of Zionism, as scholars later discovered. But it was not until the late 1930s, two decades after Britain’s 1917 promise to turn Palestine into a national home for the Jews (a pledge that became enshrined in Britain’s Mandate over Palestine in 1923), that Zionist leaders began to translate their abstract vision of Jewish exclusivity into more concrete plans. New vistas were opened in 1937 when the British Royal Peel Commission7 recommended partitioning Palestine into two states. Though the territory earmarked for the Jewish state fell far short of Zionist ambitions, the leadership responded favorably, aware of the signal importance of official recognition of the principle of Jewish statehood on even part of Palestine. Several years later, in 1942, a more maximalist strategy was adopted when the Zionist leader David BenGurion, in a meeting at the Biltmore Hotel in New York, put demands on the table for a Jewish commonwealth over the whole of Mandatory Palestine.8 Thus, the geographical space coveted by the movement changed according to circumstances and opportunities, but the principal objective remained the same: the creation in Palestine of a purely Jewish state, both as a safe haven for Jews and as the cradle of a new Jewish nationalism. And this state had to be exclusively Jewish not only in its sociopolitical structure but also in its ethnic composition. That the top leaders were well aware of the implications of this exclusivity was clear in their internal debates, diaries, and private correspondence. BenGurion, for example, wrote in a letter to his son in 1937, “The Arabs will have to go, but one needs an opportune moment for making it happen, such as a war.”9 Unlike most of his colleagues in the Zionist leadership, who still hoped that by purchasing a piece of land here and a few houses there they would be able to realize their objective on the ground, Ben-Gurion had long understood that this would never be enough. He recognized early on that the Jewish state could be won only by force but that it was necessary to bide one’s time until the opportune moment arrived for dealing militarily with the demographic reality on the ground: the presence of a non-Jewish native majority. The Zionist movement, led by Ben-Gurion, wasted no time in preparing for the eventuality of taking the land by force if it were not granted through diplomacy. These preparations included the building of an efficient military organization and the search for more ample financial resources (for which they tapped into the Jewish Diaspora). In many ways, the creation of an embryonic diplomatic corps was also an integral part of the same general preparations aimed at creating by force a state in Palestine.



The principal paramilitary organization of the Jewish community in Palestine had been established in 1920 primarily to defend the Jewish colonies being implanted among Palestinian villages. Sympathetic British officers, however, helped transform it into the military force that eventually was able to implement plans for the Zionist military takeover of Palestine and the ethnic cleansing of its native population. One officer in particular, Orde Wingate, was responsible for this transformation. It was he who made the Zionist leaders realize more fully that the idea of Jewish statehood had to be closely associated with militarism and an army, not only to protect the growing number of Jewish colonies inside Palestine but also—more crucially—because acts of armed aggression were an effective deterrent against possible resistance by local Palestinians. Assigned to Palestine in 1936, Wingate also succeeded in attaching Haganah troops to the British forces during the Arab Revolt (1936–39), enabling the Jews to practice the attack tactics he had taught them in rural areas and to learn even more effectively what a “punitive mission” to an Arab village ought to entail. The Haganah also gained valuable military experience in World War II, when quite a few of its members volunteered for the British war effort. Others who remained behind in Palestine, meanwhile, continued to monitor and infiltrate the 1,200 or so Palestinian villages that had dotted the countryside for hundreds of years.

Attacking Arab villages and carrying out punitive raids gave Zionists experience, but it was not enough; systematic planning was called for. In 1940, a young bespectacled Hebrew University historian named Ben-Zion Luria, then employed by the educational department of the Jewish Agency, the Zionist governing body in Palestine, made an important suggestion. He pointed out how useful it would be to have a detailed registry of all Arab villages and proposed that the Jewish National Fund (JNF) conduct such an inventory. “This would greatly help the redemption of the land,” he wrote to the JNF.10 He could not have chosen a better address: the way his initiative involved the JNF in the prospective ethnic cleansing was to generate added impetus and zeal to the expulsion plans that followed. Founded in 1901 at the fifth Zionist Congress, the JNF was the Zionists’ principal tool for the colonization of Palestine. This was the agency the Zionist movement used to buy Palestinian land on which it then settled Jewish immigrants and that spearheaded the Zionization of Palestine throughout the Mandatory years. From the outset, it was designed to become the “custodian” on behalf of the Jewish people of the land acquired by the Zionists in Palestine. The JNF maintained this role after Israel’s creation, with other missions being added to this primordial task over time.11 Despite the JNF’s best efforts, its success in land acquisition fell far short of its goals. Available financial resources were limited, Palestinian resistance was fierce, and British policies had become restrictive. The result was that



by the end of the Mandate in 1948 the Zionist movement had been able to purchase no more than 5.8 percent of the land in Palestine.12 This is why Yossef Weitz, the head of the JNF settlement department and the quintessential Zionist colonialist, waxed lyrical when he heard about Luria’s village files, immediately suggesting that they be turned into a “national project.”13 All involved became fervent supporters of the idea. Yitzhak Ben-Zvi, a historian and prominent member of the Zionist leadership (later to become Israel’s second president), wrote to Moshe Shertock (Sharett), the head of the political department of the Jewish Agency (and later Israel’s prime minister), that apart from topographically recording the layout of the villages, the project should also include exposing the “Hebraic origins” of each village. Furthermore, it was important for the Haganah to know which of the villages were relatively new, as some of them had been built “only” during the Egyptian occupation of Palestine in the 1830s.14 But the main endeavor was mapping the villages, and to that end a Hebrew University topographer working in the Mandatory government’s cartography department was recruited to the enterprise. He suggested preparing focal aerial maps and proudly showed Ben-Gurion two such maps for the villages of Sindyana and Sabarin. (These maps, now in the Israeli State Archives, are all that remains of these villages after 1948.) The best professional photographers in the country were also invited to join the initiative. Yitzhak Shefer, from Tel Aviv, and Margot Sadeh, the wife of Yitzhak Sadeh, the chief of the Palmah (the commando units of the Haganah), were recruited as well. The film laboratory operated in Margot’s house with an irrigation company serving as a front: the lab had to be hidden from the British authorities who could have regarded it as an illegal intelligence effort directed against them. Though the British were aware of the project, they never succeeded in locating the secret hideout. In 1947, this whole cartographic department was moved to the Haganah headquarters in Tel Aviv.15 The end result of the combined topographic and Orientalist efforts was a large body of detailed files gradually built up for each of Palestine’s villages. By the late 1940s, the “archive” was almost complete. Precise details were recorded about the topographic location of each village, its access roads, quality of land, water springs, main sources of income, its sociopolitical composition, religious affiliations, names of its mukhtars, its relationship with other villages, the age of individual men (16–50), and much more. An important category was an index of “hostility” (toward the Zionist project, that is) as determined by the level of the village’s participation in the 1936–39 Arab Revolt. The material included lists of everyone involved in the revolt and the families of those who had lost someone in the fight against the British. Particular attention was given to people alleged to have killed Jews. That this was no mere academic exercise in geography was immediately obvious to the regular members of the Haganah who were entrusted with collecting the data on “reconnaissance” missions into the villages. One of those who joined a data collection operation in 1940 was Moshe Pasternak, who



recalled many years later: We had to study the basic structure of the Arab village. This means the structure and how best to attack it. In the military schools, I had been taught how to attack a modern European city, not a primitive village in the Near East. We could not compare it [an Arab village] to a Polish, or an Austrian one. The Arab village, unlike the European ones, was built topographically on hills. That meant we had to find out how best to approach the village from above or enter it from below. We had to train our “Arabists” [the Orientalists who operated a network of collaborators] how best to work with informants.16 Indeed, the difficulties of “working with informants” and creating a collaborationist system with the “primitive” people “who like to drink coffee and eat rice with their hands” were noted in many of the village files. Nonetheless, by 1943, Pasternak remembered, there was a growing sense that finally a proper network of informants was in place. That same year, the village files were rearranged to become even more systematic. This was mainly the work of one man, Ezra Danin,17 who was to play a leading role in the ethnic cleansing of Palestine. In many ways, it was the recruitment of Ezra Danin, who had been taken out of his successful citrus grove business for the purpose, that injected the intelligence work and the organization of the village files with a new level of efficiency. Files in the post-1943 era included for each village detailed descriptions of the husbandry, cultivation, the number of trees in plantations, the quality of each fruit grove (even of individual trees!), the average land holding per family, the number of cars, the names of shop owners, members of workshops, and the names of the artisans and their skills.18 Later, meticulous details were added about each clan and its political affiliation, the social stratification between notables and common peasants, and the names of the civil servants in the Mandatory government. The antlike labor of the data collection created its own momentum, and around 1945 additional details began to appear such as descriptions of village mosques, the names of their imams (together with such characterizations as “he is an ordinary man”), and even precise accounts of the interiors of the homes of dignitaries. Not surprisingly, as the end of the Mandate approached, the information became more explicitly military orientated: the number of guards in each village (most had none) and the quantity and quality of arms at the villagers’ disposal (generally antiquated or even nonexistent).19 Danin recruited a German Jew named Yaacov Shimoni, later to become one of Israel’s leading Orientalists, and put him in charge of “special projects” in the villages, in particular supervising the work of the informants.20 (One of these informants, nicknamed the “treasurer” (ha-gizbar) by Danin and Shimoni, proved a fountain of information for the data collectors and supervised the collaborators’ network on their behalf until 1945, when he was exposed and killed by Palestinian militants.21 ) Other colleagues working with Danin and



Shimoni were Yehoshua Palmon and Tuvia Lishanski, who also took an active part in preparing for the ethnic cleansing of Palestine. Lishanski had already been busy in the 1940s orchestrating campaigns to forcibly evict tenants living on lands purchased by the JNF from present or absentee landlords. Not far from the village of Furiedis and the “veteran” Jewish settlement, Zikhron Yaacov, where today a road connects the coastal highway with Marj Ibn Amr (Emeq Izrael) through Wadi Milk, lies a youth village called Shefeya. It was here that in 1944 special units employed by the village files project received their training, and it was from here that they went out on their reconnaissance missions. Shefeya looked very much like a spy village in the cold war: Jews walking around speaking Arabic and trying to emulate what they believed were the customs and behavior of rural Palestinians.22 Many years later, in 2002, one of the first recruits to this special training base recalled his first reconnaissance mission to the nearby village of Umm al-Zaynat in 1944. The aim had been to survey the village and bring back details of where the mukhtar lived, where the mosque was located, where the rich villagers lived, who had been active in the 1936–39 revolt, and so on. These were not dangerous missions, as the infiltrators knew they could exploit the traditional Arab hospitality code and were even guests at the home of the mukhtar himself. As they failed to collect in one day all the data they were seeking, they asked to be invited back. For their second visit they had been instructed to make sure to get a good idea of the fertility of the land, whose quality seemed to have highly impressed them: in 1948, Umm al-Zaynat was destroyed and all its inhabitants expelled without any provocation on their part whatsoever.23 The final update of the village files took place in 1947. It focused on creating lists of “wanted” persons in each village. In 1948, Jewish troops used these lists for the search-and-arrest operations they carried out as soon as they had occupied a village. That is, the men in the village would be lined up and those whose names appeared on the lists would be identified, often by the same person who had informed on them in the first place, but now wearing a cloth sack over his head with two holes cut out for his eyes so as not to be recognized. The men who were picked out were often shot on the spot. Among the criteria for inclusion in these lists, besides having participated in actions against the British and the Zionists, were involvement in the Palestinian national movement (which could apply to entire villages) and having close ties to the leader of the movement, the Mufti Haj Amin al-Husayni, or being affiliated with his political party.24 Given the Mufti’s dominance of Palestinian politics since the establishment of the Mandate in 1923, and the prominent positions held by members of his party in the Arab Higher Committee that became the embryo government of the Palestinians, this offense too was very common. Other reasons for being included in the list were such allegations as “known to have traveled to Lebanon” or “arrested by the British authorities for being a member of a national committee in the village.”25 An examination of the 1947 files shows that villages with about 1,500 inhabitants usually had 20–30 such suspects (for instance, around the southern Carmel mountains, south of Haifa,



Umm al-Zaynat had 30 such suspects and the nearby village of Damun had 25).26 Yigael Yadin recalled that it was this minute and detailed knowledge of each and every Palestinian village that enabled the Zionist military command in November 1947 to conclude with confidence “that the Palestine Arabs had nobody to organize them properly.” The only serious problem was the British: “If not for the British, we could have quelled the Arab riot [the opposition to the UN Partition Resolution in 1947] in one month.”27

As World War II drew to a close, the Zionist movement had obtained a much clearer general sense of how best to go about getting its state off the ground. By that time, it was clear that the Palestinians did not constitute a real obstacle to Zionist plans. True, they still formed the overwhelming majority in the land, and as such they were a demographic problem, but they were no longer feared as a military threat. A crucial factor was that the British had already completely destroyed the Palestinian leadership and defense capabilities in 1939 when they suppressed the 1936–39 Arab Revolt, allowing the Zionist leadership ample time to set out their next moves. The Zionist leadership was also aware of the hesitant position that the Arab states as a whole were taking on the Palestine question. Thus, once the danger of Nazi invasion into Palestine had been removed, the Zionist leaders were keenly aware that the sole obstacle that stood in the way of their seizing the country was the British presence. As long as Britain had been holding the fort against Nazi Germany, it was impossible, of course, to pressure them. But with the end of the war, and especially with the postwar Labor government looking for a democratic solution in Palestine (which would have spelled doom for the Zionist project given the 75-percent Arab majority), it was clear that Britain had to go. Some 100,000 British troops remained in Palestine after the war and, in a country with a population under two million, this definitely served as a deterrent, even after Britain cut back its forces somewhat following the Jewish terrorist attack on it headquarters in the King David Hotel. It was these considerations that prompted Ben-Gurion to conclude that it was better to settle for less than the 100 percent demanded under the 1942 Biltmore program and that a slightly smaller state would be enough to allow the Zionist movement to fulfill its dreams and ambitions.28 This was the issue that was debated by the movement in the final days of August 1946, when Ben-Gurion assembled the leadership of the Zionist movement at the Royal Monsue hotel in Paris. Holding back the more extremist members, Ben-Gurion told the gathering that 80 to 90 percent of Mandatory Palestine was plenty for creating a viable state, provided they were able to ensure Jewish predominance. “We will demand a large chunk of Palestine” he told those present. A few months later the Jewish Agency translated Ben-Gurion’s “large chunk of Palestine” into a map which it distributed to



the parties relevant to deciding the future of Palestine. Interestingly, the Jewish Agency map, which was larger than the map proposed by the UN in November 1947, turned out to be, almost to the last dot, the map that emerged from the fighting in 1948–49: pre-1967 Israel, that is, Palestine without the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.29 The major topic on the Zionist agenda in 1946, the struggle against the British, resolved itself with Britain’s decision in February 1947 to quit Palestine and to transfer the Palestine question to the UN. In fact, the British had little choice: after the Holocaust they would never be able to deal with the looming Jewish rebellion as they had with the Arab one in the 1930s. Moreover, as the Labor party had made up its mind to leave India, Palestine lost much of its attraction. Fuel shortages during a particularly cold winter in 1947 drove the message home to London that the empire was soon to be a second-rate power, its global influence dwarfed by the two new superpowers (the United States and the Soviet Union) and its postwar economy crippled. Rather than hold onto remote places such as Palestine, the Labor party saw as its priority the building of a welfare state at home. In the end, Britain pulled out in a hurry, and with no regrets.30 By the end of 1946, even before Britain’s decision, Ben-Gurion had already realized that the British were on their way out and, with his aides, began working on a general strategy that could be implemented against the Palestinian population the moment the British were gone. This strategy became Plan C, or Gimel in Hebrew. Plan C was a revised version of two earlier plans. Plan A was also named the “Elimelech Plan,” after Elimelech Avnir, the Haganah commander in Tel Aviv who in 1937, at Ben-Gurion’s request, had set out possible guidelines for the takeover of Palestine in the event of a British withdrawal. Plan B had been devised in 1946. Shortly thereafter, the two plans were fused to form Plan C. Like Plans A and B, Plan C aimed to prepare the Jewish community’s military forces for the offensive campaigns they would be waging against rural and urban Palestine after the departure of the British. The purpose of such actions would be to “deter” the Palestinian population from attacking Jewish settlements and to retaliate for assaults on Jewish houses, roads, and traffic. Plan C spelled out clearly what punitive actions of this kind would entail: Striking at the political leadership. Striking at inciters and their financial supporters. Striking at Arabs who acted against Jews. Striking at senior Arab officers and officials [in the Mandatory system]. Hitting Palestinian transportation. Damaging the sources of livelihood and vital economic targets (water wells, mills, etc.). Attacking villages, neighborhoods, likely to assist in future attacks. Attacking clubs, coffee houses, meeting places, etc.



Plan C added that the data necessary for the successful performance of these actions could be found in the village files: lists of leaders, activists, “potential human targets,” the precise layout of villages, and so on.31 The plan lacked operational specifics, however, and within a few months, a new plan was drawn up, Plan D (Dalet). This was the plan that sealed the fate of the Palestinians within the territory the Zionist leaders had set their eyes on for their future Jewish State. Unlike Plan C, it contained direct references both to the geographical parameters of the future Jewish state (the 78 percent provided for in the 1946 Jewish Agency map) and to the fate of the one million Palestinians living within that space: These operations can be carried out in the following manner: either by destroying villages (by setting fire to them, by blowing them up, and by planting mines in their rubble), and especially those population centers that are difficult to control permanently; or by mounting combing and control operations according to the following guidelines: encirclement of the villages, conducting a search inside them. In case of resistance, the armed forces must be wiped out and the population expelled outside the borders of the state.32 No village within the planned area of operations was exempted from these orders, either because of its location or because it was expected to put up some resistance. This was the master plan for the expulsion of all the villages in rural Palestine. Similar instructions were given, in much the same wording, for actions directed at Palestine’s urban centers. The orders coming through to the units in the field were more specific. The country was divided into zones according to the number of brigades, whereby the four original brigades of the Haganah were turned into twelve so as to facilitate implementing the plan. Each brigade commander received a list of the villages or neighborDocuments from the IDF hoods in his zone that had to be occupied, destroyed, archives show clearly that, and their inhabitants expelled, with exact dates. Some contrary to claims made by commanders were overly zealous in executing their orhistorians such as Benny ders, adding other locations as the momentum of their Morris, Plan Dalet was operation carried them forward. Some of the orders, handed down to the on the other hand, proved too ambitious and could brigade commanders not not be implemented within the expected timetable. as vague guidelines, but as This meant that several villages on the coast that had clear-cut operative orders been scheduled to be occupied in May were destroyed for action. only in July. And the villages in the Wadi Ara area—a valley connecting the coast near Hadera with Marj Ibn Amr (Emeq Izrael) and Afula (today’s Route 65)—somehow succeeded in surviving all the Jewish attacks until the end of the war. But they were the exception. For the most part, the destruction of the villages and urban neighborhoods, and the removal of their inhabitants, took place as planned. And by the time the direct order had been issued in March, thirty villages were already obliterated.



A few days after Plan D was typed out, it was distributed among the commanders of the dozen brigades that now comprised the Haganah. With the list each commander received came a detailed description of the villages in his field of operation and their imminent fate—occupation, destruction, and expulsion. The Israeli documents released from the IDF archives in the late 1990s show clearly that, contrary to claims made by historians such as Benny Morris, Plan Dalet was handed down to the brigade commanders not as vague guidelines, but as clear-cut operative orders for action.33 Unlike the general draft that was sent to the political leaders, the instructions and lists of villages received by the military commanders did not place any restrictions on how the action of destruction or expulsion was to be carried out. There were no provisions as to how villages could avoid their fate, for example through unconditional surrender, as promised in the general document. There was another difference between the draft handed to the politicians and the one given to the military commanders: the official draft stated that the plan would not be activated until after the Mandate ended, whereas the officers on the ground were ordered to start executing it within a few days of its adoption. This dichotomy is typical of the relationship that exists in Israel between the army and politicians until today—the army quite often misinforms the politicians of their real intentions, as Moshe Dayan did in 1956, Ariel Sharon did in 1982, and Shaul Mofaz did in 2000. What the political version of Plan Dalet and the military directives had in common was the overall purpose of the scheme. In other words, even before the direct orders had reached the field, troops already knew exactly what was expected of them. The venerable and courageous Israeli fighter for civil rights, Shulamit Aloni, who was an officer at the time, recalls how special political officers would come down and actively incite the troops by demonizing the Palestinians and invoking the Holocaust as the point of reference for the operation ahead, often planned for the day after the indoctrination had taken place.34

In my forthcoming book, I want to explore the mechanism of the ethnic cleansing of 1948 as well as the cognitive system that has allowed the world to forget and the perpetrators to deny the crime committed by the Zionist movement against the Palestinian people. In other words, I want to make the case for a paradigm of ethnic cleansing to replace the paradigm of war as the basis for the scholarly research of, and the public debate about, 1948. I have no doubt that the absence so far of the paradigm of ethnic cleansing is one reason why the denial of the catastrophe has gone on for so long. It is not that the Zionist movement, in creating its nation-state, waged a war that “tragically but inevitably” led to the expulsion of “parts of the indigenous population.” Rather, it is the other way round: the objective was the ethnic cleansing of the country the movement coveted for



its new state, and the war was the consequence, the means to carry it out. On 15 May 1948, the day after the official end of the Mandate and the day the State of Israel was proclaimed, the neighboring Arab states sent a small army—small in comparison to their overall military capability—to try to stop the ethnic cleansing operations that had already been in full swing for over a month. The war with the regular Arab armies did nothing to prevent the ongoing ethnic cleansing, which continued to its successful completion in the autumn of 1948. To many, the idea of adopting the paradigm of ethnic cleansing as the a priori basis for the narrative of 1948 may appear no more than an indictment. And in many ways, it is indeed my own J’Accuse against the politicians who devised the ethnic cleansing and the generals who carried it out. These men are not obscure. They are the heroes of the Jewish war of independence, and their names will be quite familiar to most readers. The list begins with the indisputable leader of the Zionist movement, David Ben-Gurion, in whose private home all the chapters in the ethnic cleansing scheme were discussed and finalized. He was aided by a small group of people I refer to as the “Consultancy,” an ad-hoc cabal assembled solely for the purpose of planning the dispossession of the Palestinians.35 In one of the rare documents that records the meeting of this body, it is referred to as the Consultant Committee—Haveadah Hamyeazet; in another document the eleven names of the committee appear.36 Though these names were all erased by the censor, it has been possible to reconstruct them. This caucus prepared the plans for the ethnic cleansing and supervised its execution until the job of uprooting half of Palestine’s native population had been completed. It included first and foremost the top-ranking officers of the future state’s army, such as the legendary Yigael Yadin and Moshe Dayan. They were joined by figures little known outside Israel but well grounded in the local ethos, such as Yigal Alon and Yitzhak Sadeh, followed by regional commanders, such as Moshe Kalman, who cleansed the Safad area, and Moshe Carmel, who uprooted most of the Galilee. Yitzhak Rabin operated both in al-Lyyd and Ramleh, as well as in the Greater Jerusalem area. Shimon Avidan cleansed the south; many years later Rehavam Ze’evi, who fought with him, said admiringly that he “cleansed his front from tens of villages and towns.”37 Also on the southern front was Yitzhak Pundak, who told Ha’Aretz in 2004, “There were two hundred villages [in the front] and they are gone. We had to destroy them, otherwise we would have had Arabs here [namely in the southern part of Palestine] as we have in Galilee. We would have had another million Palestinians.”38 These military men commingled with what nowadays we would call the “Orientalists”: experts on the Arab world at large, and the Palestinians in particular, either because they themselves came from Arab lands or because they were scholars in the field of Middle Eastern studies. Some of these were intelligence officers on the ground during this crucial period. Far from being mere collectors of data on the “enemy,” intelligence officers not only played a major role in preparing for the cleansing, but some also personally took part in some of the worst atrocities that accompanied the systematic dispossession of the



Palestinians. It was they who were given the final authority to decide which villages would be ground to dust and which villagers would be executed.39 In the memories of Palestinian survivors, they were the ones who, after a village or neighborhood had been occupied, decided the fate of its peasants or town dwellers, which could mean imprisonment or freedom or spell the difference between life and death. Their operations in 1948 were supervised by Issar Harel, who later became the first head of Mossad and the Shin Bet, Israel’s secret services. I mention their names, but my purpose in doing so is not that I want to see them posthumously brought to trial. Rather, my aim here and in my book is to humanize the victimizers as well as the victims: I want to prevent the crimes Israel committed from being attributed to such elusive factors as “the circumstances,” “the army,” or, as Benny Morris has it, “la guerre comme la guerre,” and similar vague references that let sovereign states off the hook and give individuals a clear conscience. I accuse, but I am also part of the society that stands condemned. I feel both responsible for, and part of, the story. But like others in my own society, I am also convinced that a painful journey into the past is the only way forward if we want to create a better future for us all, Palestinians and Israelis alike.

1. The composition of the group that met is the product of a mosaic reconstruction of several documents, as will be demonstrated in my book, The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine (Oxford: Oneworld Publications, 2006). The document summarizing the meeting is found in the Israel Defense Force Archives [IDFA], GHQ/Operations branch, 10 March 1948, File no. 922/75/595, and in the Haganah Archives [HA], File no. 73/94. The description of the meeting is repeated by Israel Galili in the Mapai center meeting, 4 April 1948, found in the HA, File no. 80/50/18. Chapter 4 of my book also documents the messages that went out on 10 March as well as the eleven meetings prior to finalizing of the plan, of which full minutes were recorded only for the January meeting. 2. The historian Meir Pail claims, in From Haganah to the IDF [in Hebrew] (Tel Aviv: Zemora Bitan Modan, n.d.), p. 307, that the orders were sent a week later. For the dispatch of the orders, see also Gershon Rivlin and Elhanan Oren, The War of Independence: Ben-Gurion’s Diary, vol. 1 (Tel Aviv: Ministry of Defense, 1982), p. 147. The orders dispatched to the Haganah brigades to move to State D—Mazav Dalet—and from the brigades to the battalions can be found in HA, File no. 73/94, 16 April 1948. 3. On Plan Dalet, which was approved in its broad lines several weeks before that meeting, see Uri Ben-Eliezer, The Emergence of Israeli Militarism, 1936–1956 (Tel Aviv: Dvir, 1995), p. 253: “Plan Dalet aimed at cleansing of villages, expulsion of Arabs from mixed towns.” 4. State Department Special Report, “Erasing History: Ethnic Cleansing in Kosovo,” 10 May 1999. 5. The Ethnic Cleansing of Bosnia-Hercegovina: A Staff Report to the Committee on Foreign Relations,” U.S. Senate, August 1992, S.PRT. 102–103. 6. United Nations, “Report Following Security Council Resolution 819,” 16 April 1993. 7. Drazen Petrovic, “Ethnic Cleansing: An Attempt at Methodology,” European Journal of International Law 5, no. 3 (1994), pp. 342–60. 8. On Peel, see Charles D. Smith, Palestine and the Arab-Israeli Conflict (Boston and New York: Beford/St. Martin’s Press, 2004), pp. 135–37.

20 9. Smith, Palestine, pp. 167–68. 10. Ben-Gurion Archives [BGA], Ben-Gurion Diary, 12 July 1937. 11. “The Inelegance Service and the Village Files, 1940–1948” (prepared by Shimri Salomon), Bulletin of the Haganah Archives, issues 9–10 (2005). 12. For a critical survey of the JNF, see Uri Davis, Apartheid Israel: Possibilities for the Struggle Within (London: Zed Books, 2004). 13. Shabtai Teveth, Ben-Gurion and the Palestinian Arabs: From Peace to War (New York: Oxford University Press, 1985). 14. Teveth, Ben-Gurion. 15. HA, File no. 66.8 16. Testimony of Yoeli Optikman, HA, Village Files, File 24/9, 16 January 2003. 17. HA, File no. 1/080/451, 1 December 1939 18. HA, File no. 194/7, pp. 1–3, given on 19 December 2002. 19. John Bierman and Colin Smith, Fire in the Night: Wingate of Burma, Ethiopia, and Zion (New York: Random House, 1999). 20. HA, Files no. S25/4131, no. 105/224, and no. 105/227, and many others in this series, each dealing with a different village. 21. Hillel Cohen, The Shadow Army: Palestinian Collaborators in the Service of Zionism [in Hebrew] (Jerusalem: Hozata Ivrit, 2004). 22. Interview with Palti Sela, HA, File no. 205.9, 10 January 1988. 23. Interview, HA, File no. 194.7, pp. 1–3, 19 December 2002. 24. HA, Village Files, File no. 105/255 files from January 1947. 25. IDFA, File no. 114/49/5943, orders from 13 April 1948. 26. IDFA, File no. 105.178. 27. HA, Village Files, File no. 105/255, from January 1947. 28. Quoted in Harry Sacher, Israel:

The Establishment of a State (London: Wiedenfels and Nicloson, 1952), p. 217. 29. On British policy, see Ilan Papp´, e Britain and the Arab-Israeli Conflict, 1948–1951 (London: St. Antony’s/ Macmillan Press, 1984). 30. Moshe Sluzki interview with Moshe Sneh in Gershon Rivlin, ed., Olive Leaves and Sword: Documents and Studies of the Haganah [in Hebrew] (Tel Aviv: IDF Publications, 1990), pp. 9–40. 31. See Papp´, Britain. e 32. Yehuda Sluzki, The Haganah Book, vol. 3, part 3 [in Hebrew] (Tel Aviv: IDF Publications, 1964), p. 1942. 33. The English translation is in Walid Khalidi, “Plan Dalet: Master Plan for the Conquest of Palestine,” Journal of Palestine Studies 38, no. 1 (Autumn 1988), pp. 4–20. 34. See discussion of State D (Mazav Dalet)—that is, the transition from Plan D to its actual implementation—in chapter 5 of Papp´, Ethnic Cleansing. e 35. The plan distributed to the soldiers and the first direct commands are in IDFA, File no. 1950/2315 File 47, 11 May 1948. 36. The most important meetings are described in chapter 3 of Papp´, Ethnic e Cleansing. 37. “From Ben-Gurion to Galili and the Members of the Committee,” BGA, Correspondence Section, 1.01.1948–07.01.48, documents 79–81. The document also provides a list of forty Palestinians leaders that are target for assassination by the Haganah forces. 38. Yedi’ot Aharonot, 2 February 1992. 39. Ha’Aretz, 21 May 2004. 40. For details, see Papp´, Ethnic e Cleansing. The authority to destroy can be found in the orders sent on 10 March to the troops and specific orders authorizing executions are in IDFA, File no. 5943/49 doc. 114, 13 April 1948.

The Tantura Case in Israel: The Katz Research and Trial Ilan Pappe Journal of Palestine Studies, Vol. 30, No. 3. (Spring, 2001), pp. 19-39.
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This article examines the academic and legal controversy that has arisen in Israel over a graduate thesis using oral history-the taped testimonies of both Arab and Jewish witnesses-to document a massacre carried out by Israeli forces against the Palestinian coastal village of Tantura in late May 1948. Though the researcher, Teddy Katz, is himself a Zionist, the case sheds light on the extent to which mainstream Zionism is prepared to go in discouraging research that brings to the fore such aspects of the 1948 war as "ethnic cleansing." The article also discusses the research itself and summarizes the actual massacre as it can be reconstructed from the available sources. It is followed by excerpts from some of the transcripts.
ON21 JANUARY 2000, the Israeli daily Ma'ariv published a long article on the massacre of Tantura. Written by journalist Arnir Gilat, the article was based mainly on a master's thesis by Teddy Katz, a student in the department of Middle Eastern History at Haifa University. The thesis, entitled "The Exodus of the Arabs from Villages at the Foot of Southern Mount Carmel," had been awarded the highest possible grade for a master's thesis several months earlier. (It had been submitted in March 1998, but for complications having nothing to do with the case itself, was examined only at the end of 1999.)' The thesis is microhistorical research on the 1948war focusing on five Palestinian coastal villages between Hadera and Haifa, particularly on the villages of Umm Zaynat and Tantura. The testimonies reproduced by Katz in his fourth chapter tell a chilling tale of brutal massacre, the gist of which is that on 22-23 May 1948, some 200 unarmed Tantura villagers, mostly young men, were shot dead after the village had surrendered following the onslaught of Haganah troops.

The basic idea behind Katz's thesis is that even works focused exclusively on the 1948 war, such as Benny Morris's Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem, 1947-1949,~have not dealt in detail with the fate of individual villages. At the heart of the thesis are the oral testimonies Katz obtained, for

ILAN PAPPI!is a professor in the department of political science at Haifa University and the f author of a number of books, including 7he Making o the Arab-Israeli Conflict, 1947-1951 (London: I. B. Tauris, 1992).
Journal o Palestine Studies XXX, no. 3 (Spring 2001), pp. 19-39. f

microresearch of this kind could not have been carried out relying solely on archival material, which for individual villages is exceedingly scant. Certainly, Katz was aware of the pitfalls of oral history, but his supervisor guided him, rightly in my opinion, to treat oral history as a significant and vital component in the historical reconstruction of the Nakba (the Palestinian Catastrophe of 1948). Especially with the advent of electronic recording, oral history has gained increasing recognition in the past decades in the academic community worldwide: there are more than a thousand oral history programs under university auspices in the United States alone.3 Nor is written documentation still seen as necessarily more authentic or reliable than oral history. This is particularly m e with regard to Israel Defense Forces (IDF) documents concerning the 1948 war, which are mainly reports or correspondence by military men whose aim is at times less to report than to conceal. This means that historians must often use as much guesswork and imagination in reconstructing what happened from the documents as they would in working with oral testimonies. (If one thinks ahead fifty years and imagines the contrast between official IDF reports concerning the latest intifada and the ocular testimony of witnesses, one has some idea of the problem.) Oral history is not a substitute for written evidence, but it is particularly important in validating and filling in the gaps in the documentary evidence, which gives us the "bare bones." Thus, what is in the official Israeli record (the History o the ~ a g a n a hfor example) a brief reference to the act of f ,~ occupying a village-or "cleansing" it, to use the actual term of the Jewish texts5-becomes in Palestinian history a detailed account of assault, expulsion, and in some cases massacre. Indeed, in the case of Tantura, the massacre might not have come to light at all had it not been for oral testimony on the Palestinian side-later corroborated by Jewish testimony-because the piecemeal evidence currently available in the Israeli archives is too fragmentary (as we shall see) to more than hint at what happenedGIn this case, then, it is the documents that fill out the oral history, rather than the reverse. Recently, the Israeli historian Omer Bartov wrote very movingly about the value of oral history. He was writing about its use in the reconsmction of the Holocaust, and though no comparison between the Holocaust and the Nakba is intended, one of his passages serves to remind us of the value of oral history as a legitimate tool in reconstructing past traumas: The memory of trauma is often murky, unstable, contradictory, untrustworthy. . . . What we learn from [memoirs of camp survivors in this case] are not the fine details of camp administration, train schedules, ideological purpose and genocidal organization. These are matters far better left for historians. What we learn is the infinity of pain and suffering that makes the memory of those years into a burden whose weight stretches far beyond the ephemeral human exis-

tence, a presence that clings to the mind and inhabits the deep recesses of consciousness long after it should have been cleansed and washed away.' In writing his thesis, Katz was well aware of the "murkiness"of the picture derived from the memories of participants and survivors so long after traumatic events. But he was not interested in fine details; he wished to learn the overall picture, leaving behind, perhaps forever, certainties about exact chronology and names and precise numbers. He wished to learn the pain and suffering as it was experienced by people in the midst of war and to show the kaleidoscope of perspectives from the various testimonies. Into these he wove the published and unpublished sources at his disposal-yet another perspective. And despite the inevitable discrepancies in the details, the broad picture he found is remarkably consistent. It is important to mention that he uses the same research technique for Umm Zaynat, with witnesses, Palestinian and Jewish, Katz was able to overcome each from their own vantage point, telling how they the delegitimization saw the village's occupation and the expulsion. Yet in applied to Palestinian oral the case of Umm Zaynat, there is no mention of histoy only because he massacre. also obtained testimonies Katz was able to overcome the suspicion and, infrom Jewish soldiers who deed, delegitirnization that is usually applied in Israel had participated in to Palestinian oral history (and, indeed, to Palestinian the events. history in general) only because he succeeded in obtaining testimonies about the massacre not only from Palestinian witnesses but also from Jewish soldiers who had participated in the events. Had there not been corroborating Jewish testimonies on the Tantura affair, even the article in Ma'ariv would not have been taken so seriously. Katz interviewed 135 persons for his thesis. The Tantura chapter is based on the testimonies of forty witnesses, by coincidence twenty Arabs and twenty Jews, all of them taped. Tracking down the Palestinian survivors was more difficult than finding the Jewish soldiers:Tantura had been captured by the 3 r d Battalion of the Alexandroni Brigade, and the names of the veterans were readily obtainable. The Palestinians he interviewed, on the other hand, most of whom live in Furaydis and Jisr al-Zarqa, villages near Tantura, as well as Tulkarm in the West Bank, had to be found by word of mouth through Jews who knew them or through the intervention of Palestinians from Tantura living abroad. Moreover, while Jewish soldiers are accustomed to being sought out to talk about their war experiences, the Tantura survivors still living in Israel were reluctant to participate in a project in which they were asked to shed light on Jewish barbarism during the war. The thesis is not without its faults. When he wrote it, Katz was not aware of some important material (which in fact add confirmation to the story, of which more later), and he failed to address the important issue of why, in contrast to many other massacres of the 1948 war, knowledge of this one

had apparently not gone beyond the immediate circles of the survivors: neither Walid Khalidi's seminal work All That ~ e m a i n s 'nor the exhaustive for example, mentions it. Other relatively minor Palestinian ~ n c ~ c l o p e d i a , ~ methodological deficiencies, typical in theses of this level and kind, later became the basis for the prosecution's case in the libel suit brought against Katz, which will be described below. Nonetheless, Katz's thesis is a solid and convincing piece of work whose essential validity is in no way marred by its shortcomings. Much of the subtlety of the academic work was lost in the bald summary of the Ma'ariu article, which made no mention of the methodological complexities involved. Still, the gist of the story was accurately conveyed. The article also includes positive and negative evaluations by a number of scholars. Among those praising the work were Professor Asa Kasher, a philosopher from Tel Aviv University and the author of the IDF's ethical code; Meir Pail, a military historian of the 1948 war; and this writer. These scholars were more categorical than Katz in characterizing the Tantura events. Thus, while Katz had not used the word "massacre" either in his thesis or in interviews about his work, they did not shrink from the term, and Professor Kasher called what happened in Tantura a "war crime." Three historians with negative assessments were also cited in the article. Only one of the three, Yoav Gelber, had actually read the thesis, but the others did not hesitate to join him in condemning it as, at best, the product of unfounded rumors or, at worst, a work written with the intention of weakening Israel's image and position in the peace negotiations. Gilat also succeeded in tracking down some of the witnesses Katz had interviewed. The Palestinians repeated what they had said to Katz, but some of the Jews recanted. Several of them even joined the lawsuit against him, submitting affidavits denying their testimony-despite the fact that their testimonies are on tape and very clear. One of those who recanted, Shlomo Ambar, affirmed in his affidavit that he did not recall anything he said to Katz.

Since the thesis was written, several other pieces of evidence have come to light that reinforce Katz's findings. Four documents were extracted from the IDF archives. One was a report mentioning twenty Palestinians killed in the battle,'' followed by a report a week later from IDF headquarters complaining that the unburied corpses in the village could lead to the spread of epidemics and typhoid.'' In the third document, the Israeli general chief of staff inquired about reports that had reached him "about irregularities in Tantura" and received the response that "overenthusiasm because of the victory" had led to some damage inflicted "immediately after our people entered the place."12 Finally, a document from the Alexandroni Brigade to IDF headquarters in June notes: "We have tended to the mass grave, and everything is in order."13

Another piece of evidence Katz had not been aware of was a passage in a 1951 Palestinian memoir that includes a graphic description of the massacre. It is brought by Marwan Iqab al-Yihya, a survivor who had reached Haifa after the massacre and described to the author what he had seen with his own eyes.'* Additional testimonies were recently collected from Tantura survivors living in refugee camps in Syria by a Palestinian researcher, Mustafa al-Wali, and published in the Palestinian journal Majalkat al-Dirasat alSome of these testimonies are reproduced in the current issue ~ilastiniyya.'~ of this journal. The Jewish and Palestinian testimonies, in combination with the few written sources we have, including the official history of the Alexandroni Brigade,'6 give us a clear overall picture of what happened in Tantura on 22-23 May 1948, though many details are still obscure and probably will remain so. On the eve of the occupation, Tantura was a large village with a harbor-fit for boats, not ships-on the coast thirty-five kilometers south of Haifa and a few kilometers west of the main road linking Haifa to Jaffa and Tel Aviv. From the evidence, it transpires that after the battle ended and the village had surrendered to the Alexandroni Battalion, some 200 more people were killed. The IDF documentation, as noted above, refers to about twenty Arabs killed during the battle itself, and the commander in charge of the operation affirmed in his interview with Katz that no more than thirty Palestinians had been killed in the fighting. Yet one of the Jewish witnesses Katz interviewed, who personally supervised burials, testifies having counted 230 Palestinian corpses himself. According to the witnesses, the killings took place in two stages. The first phase was a rampage. From Katz's interviews with the soldiers, it was unleashed by the soldiers' anger caused by shots fired at them after the village had officially surrendered. It appears that one or two snipers were still active and that they killed or wounded one, two, or even eight Jewish soldiers (the testimonies differ on the numbers) following the surrender. One of the Jewish eyewitnesses said that a particularly popular soldier had been killed in that fire. The rampage phase left about 100 people dead. The second phase was more premeditated. It was carried out by intelligence units and people belonging to logistical units, most of whom lived in the nearby Jewish settlements of Atlit, Binyamina, Maayan Zvi, and Zichron Yaacov. These units systematically executed men suspected-often unjustifiably, it seems-of concealing personal weapons in their homes or of belonging to the Arab volunteers who had come to assist the Palestinians. These executions were finally stopped by people from Zichron Yaacov, who accused the soldiers of killing the wrong people. Another 100 or so victims, according to the witnesses, were dispatched in this phase. After the rampage, the people of Tantura had been rounded up and led to the beach, where the men were separated from the women and children (up to twelve or thirteen years old). Aided by lists of names, the intelligence and logistics soldiers selected groups of seven to ten or even more and took

them back to the village, either to the graveyard or a place near the mosque. They were either seated or made to stand against a wall and were shot at the back of the head. Those executed were between the ages of thirteen and thirty. Those within that age range who were spared were held in detention camps for a year and a half, separated from the women and children and old people who had been transported after the massacre to the nearby village of Furaydis. This village, by the way, along with Jisr al-Zarqa, were the only two out of sixty-four villages on the road between Haifa and Tel Aviv that were not wiped out by the Jewish forces. This was because men from these villages had traditionally worked in the nearby Jewish settlements, which pressed to have them spared so they could continue to benefit from the cheap labor. Most of the men of Tantura were expelled to the West Bank after their detention, where they were joined by their families. Most of those who remained in Israel were able to do so through the intervention of Jews who knew them. In general, the ethnic cleansing in Palestine as a whole and in the area between Hadera and Haifa in particular was carried out against a background of vague instructions from above, as is testified by the commander of the battalion occupying Tantura. According to these instructions, every commander occupying a village had full authority to do with the inhabitants as he saw fit, whether they surrendered or were taken prisoner. The usual practice followed by Alexandroni in occupying a village-the brigade also captured the villages of Hayriyya, Kafar Saba, Qaysariya, Sakiyya, Umm Zaynat, and (later) 'Ayn Ghazal, Ijzim, and Jaba', among others-was to expel the inhabitants while the battle was in progress. Villages were purposely not fully encircled, and one of the flanks would be left open so that the inhabitants could be put to flight through this "open gate." But in Tantura, due to lack of coordination during the battle, the village was completely surrounded; with Jewish boats offshore blocking the sea route and the Alexandroni units on land, there was no "escape gate." The concentration of so large a village in the hands of the occupier-Tantura had about 1,500inhabitants-produced the rampage, the massacre, and the executions. From the testimony of the perpetrators, it would appear that some saw the executions as being in the service of the Zionist security apparatus (killing young men they saw as soldiers of the enemy), others as part of a personal vendetta. The pattern must have been similar in the almost forty other places where massacres occurred. Getting testimonies from both sides was sometimes painful. Those who actually witnessed the acts of killing during the execution phase, aside from the perpetrators, were generally young children or people who either worked with Jewish intelligence or were about to be killed and were saved at the last minute by Jews from nearby settlements. An air of uneasiness accompanies many of the testimonies. Mustafa Masri, who as a young child had witnessed the killing of his entire family before his very eyes, concludes a

particularly chilling interview with Katz by uttering "But believe me, one should not mention these things. I do not want them to take revenge against us. You are going to cause us trouble. I made a mistake in giving you the name of the person [a local Jew] who handed my family over." I think it is even clearer why the Jews did not talk about the massacre. As one of the Jewish witnesses, Joel Solnik, said to Katz "There were shameful things there, very shameful. It was one of the most shameful battles fought by the IDF. . . they did not leave anyone alive." The resistance to talking about what happened came out clearly in an interview with a veteran Israeli general, Shlomo Ambar, who had been a young officer in the battle. He tells Katz that he had never gone back to Tantura and that he had seen things he does not want to talk about. Pressed by Katz, he says, "I associate [what had happened in Tantura] only with this. I went to fight against the Germans who were our worst enemy. But when we fought we obeyed the laws of the war dictated to us by international norms. They [the Germans] did not kill prisoners of war. They killed Slavs, but not British POWs, not even Jewish POWs-all those from the British army who were in German captivity survived." Katz prods him further: "Come on, we are fifty years later, you'll go to heaven and they'll say that you had a chance to talk and didn't." Ambar: "I had sinned so much in my life. . . . On this I would be questioned in heaven?" Ambar looks at Katz's tape recorder: "Why are you using that?" Katz: "Because I can't remember everything." Ambar: "If I don't want to tell, it means I'm hiding something. It means that the occupation [of Tantura] was not one of our most successful battles." Katz: "You talk about Tantura, and you mention what even the Germans did not do." Ambar: "That's right. They did not kill Western prisoners, only Russians." A few minutes later, he adds, "Let me tell you, I do not recall too well. The intention was to empty the village, and people died in the process. . . . People naturally are attached to their home place and do not want to go, so under the pressure of an occupying army, they were made to leave, toward the east. Period. Ask me something else."

A few days after the affair was publicized by Ma'ariv, the veterans of the Alexandroni Brigade sued Katz for libel, asking for more than one million shekels in damages. One would have assumed that Haifa University would stand behind Katz. Given the high grade he had received, any discredit of his work-especially in so public a way-could only reflect poorly on the university's standards, but the moment the legal process began, the university began acting as if he were already guilty of incompetence at best or fraud at worst. Spearheading the crusade against Katz within the university were senior members of the Department of Erez Israel Studies, which has always been in the forefront of providing scholarly scaffolding for the Zionist narrative. As a result of the campaign, the university refused to offer Katz any

legal, moral, or practical support in facing the suit. It was a Palestinian legal NGO in Israel, Adalah, that provided assistance on a pro bono basis. Katz was in disgrace. His name was summarily removed from a list of those to be honored for their work at a special ceremony. (Since the list had already been printed, his name had to be erased with tippex.) His status at the university was equivalent to that of an employee suspended, and his hopes of pursuing an academic career were shattered, at least for the time being. Before the trial began, Katz tried to persuade the court not to take the case, arguing that it was a scholarly debate that should be determined not in court but within the university. If the university had supported this effort, he may have succeeded in avoiding a trial, but the university refused, and the trial opened as planned. The trial began on 13 December 2000, with Katz being called to the witness box by the prosecuting attorney. The crux of the prosecution's case rested on six references-out of 230-in which Katz either misquoted or interpreted too freely what the witnesses said. In Ambar's testimony, Katz substituted the word "Germans" for "Nazis." In another, he summarized the testimony of a Tantura survivor, Abu Fihmi, as describing a killing, where the witness did not say this directly (though in fact, this is clearly what he meant). In four other instances, Katz wrote something that does not appear in the tapes but only in his written summaries of the conversations. No discrepancies were found in any of the remaining 224 references concerning Tantura. The presentation of these discrepancies consumed the first two days of the trial. When the court broke for the day at the end of the second day, a member of Katz's team of three lawyers (which had also checked through every reference against the tapes) exulted in a private conversation that the prosecution had exhausted its entire case.'' The cross-examination by the defense concerning this material, and the defense's case, was to begin the following day. None of the Jewish soldiers had agreed to appear in court, but since it was expected to be a long trial it was expected that they would be forced to testify. The defense and some of Katz's supporters were looking forward to a trial that would mark the first time in Israel's history that, in effect, Israel's role in the Nakba was on trial. That night, however, for reasons Katz himself cannot explain even today, he signed an agreement that in essence repudiated his own academic research. Weakened by a stroke several weeks earlier and subjected to enormous pressures by his family, friends, and neighbors in the kibbutz where he lived, he acquiesced on the advice of one of his lawyers (a cousin of his) to bring an end to the whole affair; he was likewise assured by the university lawyer, an unomcial member of his legal team, that signing the agreement would be for his own good, appearing to hint that it would enable him to continue his studies at Haifa University. The agreement Katz signed took his other two lawyers totally by surprise. Titled "An Apology," the agreement is so sweeping as to bear an uncornfort-

able resemblance to a police "confession" extracted under dubious conditions. The section relating to his research reads as follows: I wish to clarify that, after checking and re-checking the evidence, it is clear to me now, beyond any doubt, that there is no basis whatsoever for the allegation that the Alexandroni Brigade, or any other fighting unit of the Jewish forces, committed killings of people in Tantura after the village surrendered. Furthermore, I wish to say that the things I have written must have been misunderstood [by the press] as I had never intended to tell a tale of a massacre in Tantura. . . . I accept as truth [only] the testimonies of those among the Alexandroni people who denied categorically the massacre, and I disassociate myself from any conclusion which can be derived from my thesis that could point to the occurrence of a massacre or the killing of defenseless or unarmed people. Twelve hours later, Katz formally regretted his retraction and wanted to continue the trial, but the judge refused. The judge's ruling made no reference to the merits of the case, but only to the court's ability to accept Katz's retraction of his retraction. As this report is written, the matter now rests with the High Court, which will decide by April 2001 whether the trial can resume. The Israeli press, which had given front-page coverage to Katz's retraction, barely mentioned his efforts to rescind it. He was depicted in the three major newspapers-both in the news sections and, later, in op-eds-as a fabricator, a pseudohistorian who had invented a nonevent for ideological reasons (a ridiculous allegation given that Katz, like the lawyer for the prosecution, is a member of Meretz). Because Katz had given in so early on, after two days of testimony wholly taken up with undeniable discrepancies, it was assumed that the six discrepancies were representative of the entire work. From there it was all too easy to conclude that there had been no massacre and probably not really a Nakba in 1948. The national radio and television exulted in Katz's "exposure." Even left-wing journalists like Tom Segev remarked that there may have been a massacre, but it met the wrong historian.'' Haifa University did not accept his retraction of his denial either and acted as if the agreement with the prosecution were valid. On 26 December 2000, the prosecutor urged the university to strip Katz of his title. The university set up two committees, one to check the tapes against the quotations in the thesis, the other to investigate whether there had been failures of the supervision process. The fact that Katz's academic adviser was a Druze and that one of his examiners was rumored to be a Palestinian (in Israel the examination process is anonymous) was the subtext that nobody openly talked

about. Nonetheless, these additional factors undoubtedly made it easier for the university to move ahead with the unprecedented procedure of stripping Katz of his title. His own department, the Department of Middle Eastern History, stopped it just in time, demanding that some of the measures be frozen until the court issues a verdict. As a faculty member of Haifa University, I posted on the university's internal Web site some of the more important transcripts of the more than sixty hours of Katz's tapes, most of which had not been After reading the referred to in court. They include horrific descriptions of execution, of the killing of fathers in front of chiltranscrzpts, a number of people, even i they had f dren, of rape and torture. They come from both the resewations about the Jewish and the Palestinian witnesses. As a result of quality of Katz's research, these transcripts, a number of people, even if they no longer had any doubts had reservations about the quality of Katz's research, about what happened no longer had any doubts about what happened in in Tantura. Tantura, which is after all the important issue. I also published an open letter accusing the university of moral cowardice. A lecture of mine at the School of History, scheduled long before, was abruptly canceled without explanation. Only two of my colleagues, in a university with hundreds of faculty members, openly protested this basic violation of free speech. But then again, this was in January 2001, the same month that Israel's famed technical university, Technion, took a decision giving its president the authority to expel students and lecturers involved in political activity on campus. Without doubt, the response to the Tantura case reflects the hardening of attitudes in Israel that has followed the outbreak of the al-Aqsa intifada and especially the October events involving the Palestinian citizens of Israel. Since then, the moral voice of Jews in Israel has been all but silenced. "Prophets of Peace" such as David Grossman, Amos Oz, and A. B. Yehoshua, have publicly stated in various radio interviews that they were wrong to trust the palestinians19 and, far more important, signed a petition published on the front page of Ha'Aretz on 2 January 2001 emphasizing their unequivocal opposition to the Palestinian right of return. It is probable that had the Katz case begun before the outbreak of the present intifada, or even better during the more optimistic days of the Oslo process, the public and academic reaction would have been somewhat more moderate. Poor Katz, himself a Zionist, could not have chosen a worse time to bring evidence of a massacre, raising the spectre of Israeli responsibility in crimes of war in 1948. All is not bleak, however. Before the trial opened, an association organized to help Katz convened an impressive conference in November 2000 in Tel Aviv, where for the first time old-timers in the Israeli peace camp, including Shulamit Aloni and Uri Avineri, talked openly about the 1948 ethnic cleansing. The event included screening of the film 1948 by Muhammad Bakri, itself an impressive piece of oral history in which Jews and Palestinians testify about the ethnic cleansing in 1948. Indeed, this was one of the first

public gatherings where the term "ethnic cleansing" was freely used and where the central question was not whether collective crimes had been committed in 1948, but rather their current implications with regard to a peaceful settlement of the Palestine conflict. Many speakers wondered how research in Israel on the Nakba could be furthered and protected. More recently, on 2 February 2001, a group of highly respected academics from Tel Aviv University and the Hebrew University organized a day of study on the relationship between the legal system and academia. Among the participants, surprisingly, were the presiding judge in the Katz affair and the rector of Haifa University. The general tenor of the meeting seemed to be against any interference by the legal system in academic research; more concretely, many participants criticized Haifa University for its conduct in the Katz affair. Professor Asa Kasher and Meir Pail reiterated their support for Katz's research, specifically stating that the inaccuracies uncovered by the prosecution did not significantly undermine the quality of the dissertation.

Thus far, the Katz affair sheds light on and raises issues in three areas: the place of Palestinian oral history in the historiography of 1948 and the relationship of the Israeli judiciary and academia to the Nakba. Concerning the first, one of the most noteworthy elements of the debate over the Katz affair was the way in which Palestinian oral testimony was treated. Traditionally, Palestinian oral history-and indeed written works in general by Palestinians concerning 1948-have been branded in Israel as sheer propaganda and wild flights of "Oriental"imagination.Yet the legal challenges to Katz's thesis centered not on the truthfulness of the Palestinian testimonies per se or on the validity of oral history as a tool in research, but on Katz's mishandling of the testimony. Furthermore, several historians in dismissing Katz's findings used as evidence to support their case the fact that the massacre is not men-a tioned in Walid Khalidi's All That ~ e r n a i n s ~ ~work not treated in Israel as an authority before. This is not to say that a "revolution" in Israeli attitudes toward Palestinian history has occurred, and it is obvious that the Palestinian sources were considered reliable only insofar as they did not mention the massacre. Still, if the trial resumes, the oral testimonies by Palestinians on the Nakba-like the testimonies of Jews on the Holocaust in the Eichmann and Demanjuk trials-will have to be treated as a legitimate source, both in court and in scholarly debate. The second issue raised by the case is the attitude in principle of the judicial system on the question of the Nakba. Zionist historiography on 1948 has been almost universally accepted in Israel; even the "new historians" have refused to use the term "ethnic cleansing" in reference to 1948 and with few exceptions have been unwilling to concede that there was a "master plan" of It expulsion or conque~t.~' is thus that the concept of war crimes in relation to the 1948 war has never been raised. Yet it is difficult to see in any other

terms the expulsion (direct and indirect) of some 750,000 Palestinians, the systematic destruction of more than 400 villages and scores of urban neighborhoods, as well as the perpetration of some forty massacres of unarmed Palestinians. Criminal suits are unlikely to be brought by Palestinians, which legally speaking would face the principle of obsolescence (only grandchildren who can prove direct harm can sue, at least theoretically). This is why the Tantura case is so important. It is the only case so far in the history of Israel in which the Nakba has been discussed in court. By not allowing the trial to continue, the judge prevented Palestinian survivors from telling their story in court. It also indirectly preempted future research on 1948 that does not subscribe to Zionist ideology by giving future scholars reason to worry about the legal consequences of taking on the struggle over the past. This becomes a particularly sensitive field of research in that it deals with issues of the past that are relevant to the nature of a future comprehensive settlement of the Palestine question. The third issue is Israeli academia's approach to the Nakba. A number of members of the academy were only too happy to swoop down like vultures on the methodological defects in the work of a historian just starting out on his academic career-easy prey by all accounts. One could speculate that the motivation was not simply denial of the massacre-in fact the Nakba-but a kind of recognition that if Katz had won the case, Israeli academia's role for more than fifty years in suppressing the truth about the Nakba would itself be on the dock. Jewish participants in the 1948 war were surprised when approached by a Jewish researcher who did not, as is usually the case in Israel, want to hear about their heroism in 1948 but rather confronted them with their barbarism. The more honest among them were not afraid to tell what they had seen, because they were confident, given the reigning ideology that is not opposed to killing Arabs, that even such acts would be protected as exceptional or legitimate. For some, the opportunity to confide in Katz helped to alleviate personal guilt and remorse. Zionist scholars of 1948, it would appear, are less in need of such alleviation and have lived comfortably enough with their role in covering these crimes. One can perhaps find extenuating circumstances in the actions of the perpetrators, but not for the deniers. It is difficult to predict the final results of the Katz case, but based on reactions so far, one can assume that the Jewish academic establishment will continue to try to prevent the legitimization of oral history for 1948 and that it will be more vigilant in making sure that fresh historians confirm the broad lines of the Zionist narrative on 1948.Admittedly, certain foundational myths, such as the "few against many" and "Arab voluntary flight," have already been shattered, but the overall narrative has survived these setbacks. The argument now runs as follows: yes, some Palestinians were expelled during the war, but it was simply a byproduct of the fighting, certainly not because of any plan of mass expulsion. Hence, such expulsions as did take place

were an integral part of any conventional war and have nothing to with ethnic cleansing and war crimes.22 The only way to confront this reality is to encourage independent NGOtype research institutions in Palestine and in Israel entrusted with the task of expanding research on the Nakba. The first priority is to establish a bank of oral testimonies, before there is no one left to interview. It should be clear by now that no true reconciliation between Israelis and Palestinians can ever take place without full awareness of what happened in the Nakba. It is for this reason that research on the Nakba by Jewish scholars has to be part of a public campaign based on clear positions vis-2-vis the conflict and its solution. The questions of compensation, the Palestinian right of return, and Israeli moral responsibility are anyhow already in the public mind of both Israelis and Palestinians as negotiable issues. Finally, research on the Nakba requires some kind of international protection. The historical research, the public campaign, and the legal defense should be part and parcel of the same political action in Palestine, Israel, and abroad.

Dan Vitkon, a soldier in Alexandroni Vitkon: In Tantura, someone who later was a big shot in the Israeli Ministry of Defense was an officer in Tantura, and he killed with his own pistol, one Arab after the other, because they did not disclose where they hid their weapons. . . . He shot them one after the other in his Parabelum and he killed there [the name and identifying details are given]. Yosef Graf, a guide from Yaacov Zichron who accompanied the units Graj The Arabs raised the white flags, the kuffiyya, the hatta. . . . Katz: Wait a minute. There was no battle going on? Graj Before that, there were clashes, sure. Skirmishes. Our guys had taken cover and shot back at the Arabs who then raised the white flags. . . . I called to our guys: "Don't advance!" They did not heed and were shot at, and then they [the soldiers] assaulted and killed them all. Katz: That is, in response to the shooting at them, they stormed? Graj Yes. And killed almost everyone. Katz: How many, roughly?You remember a figure-twenty, fifty? Graj No. I think they counted in the end 140 or 150, all young men. Katz: Were these people killed in the battle? Graj While occupying the village, there were many dead who were shot while staying in their homes in the village. Katz: After the surrender, actually?

Translated from the Hebrew by Ilan Pappe.

Graj There was no surrender. It was occupation.
[Later in the conversation/
Graj I am telling you these [Alexandroni] people, they massacred.
Katz: In an amok attack?
Graj Yes.

Salih 'Abd al-Rahman (Abu Mashayiff), from Tantura Katz: How were people killed in Tantura? Abu Mashay8 There was fighting between them. In the end, they caught them on the coast, in Tantura, and took them near a huge building and killed them like this. Katz: Which building? Abu Mashay8 Houses near the coast. The sea was next to the village. Katz: Killed them after they surrendered? Abu Mashay8 After they had caught them. Katz: How many, roughly? Abu Mashayifj Eighty-five. Katz: You were there and saw it with your own eyes? Abu Mashayifj Yes. Katz: Ilow did it go? Only eighty-five were standing there, or the whole village was standing there? Abu Mashayifj No. Eighty-five stood. You know how it works. They came to the villagers as a whole who were all seated on the beach, and on the spot they said to this one and that one: "Get up! You, you. . . ." Katz: According to what? Abu Mashayifj They had names. [Later in the conversation] Katz: Shimshon Mashvitz stopped killing after he was stopped by Rehavia Altshuler? Abu Mashay8 Yes. He agreed after he had killed eighty-five people. Katz: He alone killed eighty-five people? Abu Mashayifj Yes. Katz: What was he using? Abu Mashay8 A Sten. He killed them. They stood next to the wall, facing the wall, he came from the back and killed them all, shooting them in the head.
Katz: Every time he placed several of them next to the wall?
Abu Mashayifj Yes.
Katz: Groups of eight, five-how many?
Abu Mashayifj Every group twenty or thirty people.
[Later in the conversation/
Abu Mashayifj Twice or three times he changed magazines.
Katz: That is, one bullet per person?
Abu Mashay* Yes.
[Later in the conversation]

Katz: With all the bodies? Sokoler: With the bodies for two days. Then I brought people from Furaydis and buried them. Katz: It means that the family members stayed in the village. . . . Sokoler: Another day or two. Katz: With all the bodies? Sokoler: Yes, yes. [Later in the conversation] Katz: How many people of Tantura surrendered with their hands over their head? Sokoler: Two hundred and thirty. Katz: Two hundred and thirty-is that an accurate number? You counted them? Sokoler: No, I evaluated them, but after they were killed, we counted them. Katz: And how many were there? Sokoler: The same number. Katz: Two hundred and thirty? Sokoler: Yes. Katz: How many were killed in the battle? Sokoler: They were all killed in the battle. The sniper hit one of the soldiers in the leg, shooting began. And then they were killed, all hell broke out. They did not know who was shooting. Katz: For killing 230 people, it takes time. Sokoler: pughing] They were concentrated in one spot. [Later i n the conversation] Katz: So you have counted and reached 230? Sokoler: Yes. Katz: From this you say only a few, maybe ten were killed in the battlefield? Sokoler: Only ten [gives the names of the people of Tantura he knew who died in the battle]. [Later i n the conversation]
Katz: The only question I still have is about where you personally were, so
that I can know what you saw with your own eyes.
Sokoler: The worst things I didn't see. I had not seen the end of the battle. I
left the place. All and all, I was there one day and a half, mainly busy with
Katz: You were involved personally with the burial . . .
Sokoler: I and Arabs from Furaydis laid [in the grave] one Arab after the
other, closed their eyes with the hatta, row on top of row, and that was it.
Katz: I understand that only their eyes and heads were covered [with the
Sokoler: Only the heads, we buried them with their clothing and all . . .
Katz: And this was two days after the fighting.

Sokoler: After eight days, I came back to the place where we buried them,
near the railway. There was a big mound, for the bodies had inflated. After
two or three days, the mound had gone down.
Katz: Two or three days later?
Sokoler: Yes.
Katz: I understand that later they added soil and spread it over the graves.
Sokoler: This 1 do not know.

A l l 'Abd d-Rahman Dekansh (Abu Fihmi), from Tantura
Abu Fihmi: They entered the village, stood us in a row next to the beach,
positioned a Bren [a submachine gun] from here and from there, and
brought our boats, twelve in number, in order to shoot us. . . . Then came
three people from Zichron Yaacov who said, "Why are you doing this? Why
are you killing [these] people?" They [the soldiers] said to them, "These are
Iraqis and Syrians." They [the people from Zichron] said, "These are the
people of Tantura, and in the summer we visit them. They give us their
houses, and they sleep outside. We spend the summer here. Why are you
doing this?" So they made us sit [and stopped the shooting].
[Later in the conversation]
Abu Fihmi: Shimshon Mashvitz gave me two notebooks and two pencils,
gave me ten people and two stretchers to pick up the dead from the streets
and take them to our graveyard. He told me to write down the names of all
of them. He asked me, "Are you a native here? And I said, "This is my vil-
lage, and this is my housev-our house was near the harbor. . . . I wrote
down ninety-five men and two women.
[Later in the conversation]
Abu Fihmi: The person who was with me knew Hebrew. He overheard
them saying that after they [the diggers] finish the first mass grave, let them
dig another one and kill them and put them in it [an action ended by the
arrival of people from Zichron Yaacov].
[Later in the conversation]
Katz: You told us that you surrendered. What does it mean?
Abu Fihmi: We raised the white flag.
Katz: Alright, and afterwards they killed, after you raised your hands. How
many did they kill?
Abu Fihmi: We have not seen, they collected us together.
Katz: Roughly how many?
Abu Fihmi: According to the announcement made by their army, they said
they had killed two hundred and fifty.
Katz: This is all in all. But how many were killed after you raised your hands?
Two, four, how many?
Abu Fihmi: This I cannot tell you.
Katz: Roughly?
Abu Fihmi: This I do not know.
Katz: Did you count them? Many or few?

Abu Fihmi: I am telling you their military announcement said they had killed two hundred and f ' i . It is a war military announcement, it was broadcast.

Najiah Abu Amr, from Tantura Katz: What do you remember from the day of the occupation? Abu Amr: They entered the village and killed people. They entered from all directions and killed the guards who watched the village and then collected us and took us from the center of the village toward the east. Katz: On the beach? Abu Amr: Yes. First to the beach. Katz: How long were you there? Abu Amr: From 0500 to 1400 on the beach. Katz: All the women? Abu Amr: All the men and the women, and they were separated. Women on one side, men on the other. And then they took us near the graveyard, brought buses, and took the women and children out of the village. Katz: What time was this? Abu Amr: 1500. Katz: On the way to the graveyard, what did you see? Abu Amr:. Corpses of the dead begins to list names]. Katz: Did you see men or women? Abu Amr: I saw one woman killed, and four or five other corpses [gives names]. Katz: But did you see from afar other bodies? Abu Amr: I have not seen with my own eyes, but I was told there were many dead and that they brought people from Furaydis to bury them [gives names]. But I have not seen them, I was told about them. Katz: For instance, did you know that the Abu Safiyya family was murdered? How many were they? Abu Amr: There were [gives ten names of members of the family]. These ten names I remember, but there were thirteen of this family. They were all murdered at the prime of their youth. Katz: Do you know how many dead were there? Abu Amr: I know that many people were killed, but I do not know how many. I estimate that there were about 100 dead [again begins listing names]. There were so many dead in this village, between 100 and 150. . . . Katz: When you reached the graveyard, what did you see? Abu Amr: I saw the soldiers trying to harass the women, but they were pushed away by the women. And when they saw the women not succumbing, they stopped. When we were on the beach, they took two women and uy to undress them, claiming they have to check their bodies. They took a lot of gold from the women. I also saw them tying one young man, Salim Abu Shaqr, and killing him in the house of Ihsan al-'Abd. Katz: I want to understand this. They took him with his hands tied behind his back?

Abu Amr: No. They took him from within the groups of the young men, tied

him with his jacket, and took him to a faraway house and shot him.

Katz: Why?
Abu Amr: They claimed that he brought weapons into the village. People

informed on him. He was very unlucky. His wife, Hayat, is my aunt, a sister
of my mother.

F a d Mahmoud Tanj (Abu Khalid), from Tantura Katz: And what happened on the beach? Abu Khalid: They took a group of seven to ten young men, each time, took
them to the streets and shot them.
Katz: Only the young men? Abu Khalid: Yes. Katz: Where did it happen? On the beach? Abu Khalid: No. They took them to the village. Katz: They took seven and killed them? Abu Khalid: Yes. They shot them and came to take another group. [Later in the conversation] Katz: How many times they did it? Abu Khalid: They killed ninety people. Katz: It means they came and took ten times? Abu Khalid: Yes. Katz: How many soldiers came? Abu Khalid: Many soldiers. Katz: But with each group? Abu Khalid: Ten to twelve. Katz: The same soldiers? Abu Khalid: No, each group took a group. Katz: And the village is watching? Abu Khalid: Yes, and then they took the men away to the graveyard. Katz: And, tell me, how the people of Zichron stopped it. Abu Khalid: Wait a minute, I will get there. They brought us to the Katz: That is, those who remained? And you saw . . . Abu Khalid: We saw the bodies. Katz: After killing ninety, they took those who remained? Abu Khalid: Yes, to the graveyard. Katz: And what happened there? Abu Khalid: They took us there, seated us, aimed the weapons at us, and


wanted to kill us. [Then] the people of Zichron came and said, "These don't [kill]. You have killed enough."
[Later i n the conversation]
Katz: Were you present in the digging?
Abu Khalid: Yes.
Katz: The same day?

Abu Khalid: The same day they took them and dug a big hole.
Katz: How many were killed in the battle itself?
Abu Khalid: Four or five.

Mustafa Masri (Abu Jamil), from Tantura Katz: After they occupied the village?
Abu Jamil: An officer took the family-we were fourteen people-and
started counting us. [He] says to me, "Come here." "What do you want?" I
ask. "You sit with the kids." [Abu Jamil was thirteen at the timed I said OK.
He began questioning each young man: "Were you in the war?"This and that
said no. I and the [other] person who was released, we walked twenty me-
ters, and then he kills my father and the whole family.
Katz: This person knew your father from before?
Abu Jamil: No, the person who knew my father handed him to another per-
son. I said to the person we knew, "We know you. We know your wife, your
children. You know my father. How could you do this?" He says to me, "In
the war, I do not recognize anyone."
Katz: In fact, he saved you and another one?
Abu Jamil: But they killed fourteen members of my family.
Katz: You were the youngest?
Abu Jamil: Yes.
Katz: So it was our luck you were thirteen?
Abu Jamil: No, it was from God. He also killed an old man, I think he was
100. And he killed someone seventeen years old-every man and his fate.
Katz: It means you left, and then heard the shooting?
Abu Jamil: No, we were close. Fifteen meters, no more. I said to him, "Why
did you do it?" He said to me, "I was told to kill them. What can you do in a
(Later i n the conversation]
Abu Jamil: There was a senior officer from Givat Ada, but not in the army.
Katz: You remember his name? I was told something like Shimshon.
Abu Jamil: Yes, Shimshon.
Katz: Shimshon what?
Abu Jamil: I do not remember. After he took them, he shot them directly in
the eyes. Then he took two, he had such a whip, and lashed them just for
fun. . . .
(Toward the end of the conversation]
Abu Jamil: But believe me, one should not mention these things. I do not
want them to take revenge on us, you are going to cause us trouble. I made a
mistake in giving you the name of the person who handed my family
over. . . .

1. Theodore Katz, "The Exodus of the Arabs from Villages at the Foot of Southem Mount Carmel in 1948" (University of Haifa, 1998). 2. Benny Morris, The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem, 1947-1949 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988). 3. University of California, Los Angeles, Oral History Program, "Introduction to Oral History," available online at
ohp/ohpintro.htm. 4. Yehuda Slutsky, ed., Sefer haHagana, vol. 3, parts 2 and 3 (Tel Aviv: Am Oved, 1972). 5. The Hebrew tiher literally means "to purify." 6. It has recently been learned that a file containing reports on massacres and atrocities in 1948 exists, but it remains sealed. According to Ha'Aretz, Benny Morris appealed to the government to open the files in February 2001, but he was refused. 7. Omer Bartov, "An Infinity of Suffering," Times Litera y Supplement, 15 December 2000, p. 6. 8. Walid Khalidi, ed., All That Remains: The Palestinian Villages Occupied and Depopulated by Israel in 1948 (Washington: Institute for Palestine Studies, 1992). 9. Al-Mawsu 'a al-Filastiniyya (The Palestine Encyclopedia), 4 vols. (Damascus: Hayat al-Mawsu'a al-Filastiniyya, 1984). 10. A report from Tantura, 23 May
1948, IDF Archives, 922/75.
11. Correspondence from Commander of the Naftali Region (coastal area) in Zichron Yaacov to Alexandroni, 29 May 1948 and 31 May 1948, IDF Archives, 69/ 585. 12. See the internal memo titled "The Robbery of Tantura," 1 June 1948, IDF Archives, 69/374. 13. IDF Files 57/4663/1949, Alexandroni to HQ, 9 June 1948.

14. Nimr al-Khatib, Nakbat Filastin, (Damascus: n.p., n.d.). 15. Mustafa al-Wali, "Majzarat Tantura fi al-Siyaq al-Tarichi li-Tahawid Filastin," Majallat al-Dirasat al-Filastiniyya, no. 43 (Summer 2000), pp. 101-17. 16. Gershon Rivlin and Zvi Sinai, eds., The Alexandroni Brigade in the War of Independence (Tel Aviv: IDF Publications, 1964). 17. At a stormy public meeting about the Tantura case on 15 March 2001 held under the auspices of Tel Aviv University's faculty of law, the lawyer for the defense cited the same six discrepancies he had analyzed at the trial. When asked to provide additional examples, he said he did not have time to go into them; when pressed further, he demurred. During that same meeting, suggestions that permission be sought to excavate the sites of the mass graves at Tantura were shouted down by Alexandroni veterans present. 18. Ha'Aretz, 27 December 2000. No one in the mainstream press defended Katz. M own letters in defense of his y work, sent to Ha'Aretz, were never published. 19. Amos Oz expresses this view on behalf of his group in an article published in the Guardian on 13 October 2000. 20. Mordechai Naor, Ha'Aretz, 2 January 2001. 21. See Walid Khalidi's "Plan Dalet: Master Plan for the Conquest of Palestine," first published in November 1961 in Middle East Forum and reprinted in JPS 28, no. 1 (Autumn 1988), pp. 4-19; and Nur Masalha, Expulsion of the Palestinians: The Concept of "Transfer" in Zionist Political Thought, 1882-1948 (Washington: Institute for Palestine Studies, 1992). 22. See Ilan PappC, "Were They Expelled? The History, Historiography and Relevance of the Palestinian Refugee Problem" in The Palestinian Exodus, 1948-1998, ed. Ghada Karmi and Eugene Cotran (London: Ithaca Press, 1999), pp. 37-62.

A Critique of Benny Morris Nur Masalha Journal of Palestine Studies, Vol. 21, No. 1. (Autumn, 1991), pp. 90-97.
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Since the publication in 1988 of The Birth ofthe Palestinian Refirgee Problem, Benny Moms has come to be seen as the ultimate authority on the Palestinian exodus of 1948. And indeed, his work has contributed to demolishing some of the long-held (at least in Israel and in the West) misconceptions surrounding Israel's birth. His newly published collection of essays, 1948 and After: Israel and the Palestinians, revisits the ground covered in Birth, bringing to light new material he discovered or which became available only after completion of the first book. Morris's work belongs to what he calls the "New Historiography." He does not like the term "revisionist" historiography, in part because it "conjures up" images of the Revisionist Movement in Zionism, and thus causes "confusion." He further eschews the term because "Israel's old historians, by and large, were not really historians, and did not produce real history. In reality they were chroniclers, and often apologetic." (1948, p. 6 ) Moms examines this "oldW--orthodox and official-historiography in the opening essay of his new volume, refemng to the historians who produced it over three decades since 1948 as "less candid," "deceitful," and "misleading." (p. 2) As examples, he cites the accounts provided by Lieutenant-Colonel (ret.) Elhanan Orren, a former officer at the Israel Defense Force (IDF) History Branch, in his Baderckh el Ha'ir (On the Road to the City), a detailed account

Nur Masalha, who holds an M.A. from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and a Ph.D. in political science from the University of London, is the author of the forthcoming book Expulsion ofthe Palestinians: The Concept of "Transfer" in Zionist Political Thought, 1882-1948 (Institute for Palestine Studies, Autumn 1991).

of Palestine Studies X X I , no. 1 (Autumn 19911, pp. 90-97.



of Operation Dani, published by the IDF Press in 1976, and Toldot Milhemet Hakomemiyut (History of the War of Independence), produced by the General StaffIHistory Branch, as well as Ben-Gurion's own "histories" Mideinat Yisrael Hamehudeshet and Behilahem Yisrael. (pp. 2-5) The "new" histories, on the other hand, include the works of Avi Shlaim, Ilan Pappe, Simha Flapan, Uri Milstein, Michael Cohen, Anita Shapira, Uri Bar-Joseph, and others. (p. 8) Clearly those histories thoroughly demolished a variety of assumptions which formed the core of the "old" history. And although those who argue the case of "revisionism" are a fringe group in Israel, they are an important one. Two remarks are in order in this regard; first, having myself examined many of the "old" and official Hebrew chronicles, it is quite clear that Moms does not always live up to his claim of using this material in a critical manner and as a result this casts doubts on his conclusions. For instance, in Birth, Morris quotes uncritically the "major political conclusion" Ben-Gurion drew from the Arab departure from Haifa and makes little effort to reconcile the "deceitfulness" of such a chronicle with uncritical reliance on it. And, generally speaking, having based himself predominantly, and frequently uncritically, on official Israeli archival and non-archival material, Moms's description and analysis of such a controversial subject as the Palestinian exodus have serious shortcomings. Second, Moms's description of the works by the "new" Israeli historians-while ignoring the recent works by nonZionist scholars on 14 -ie 9%g s v rise to the impression that these discourses are basically the outcome of a debate among Zionists which unfortunately has little to do with the Palestinians themselves. Moms central thesis, as first expounded in Birth, is summed up in the following passage from his new collection:
What occurred in 1948 lies somewhere in between the Jewish "robber state" [i.e.,a state which had "systematically and forcibly expelled the Arab population"] and the "Arab order" explanations. While from the mid1930's most of the Yishuv's leaders, including Ben-Gurion, wanted to establish a Jewish state without an Arab minority, or with as small an Arab minority as possible, and supported a "transfer solution" to this minority problem, the Yishuv did not enter the 1948 War with a master plan for expelling the Arabs, nor did its political or military leaders ever adopt such a master plan. What happened was largely haphazard and a result of the War. There were Haganah/IDF expulsions of Arab communities, some of them at the initiative or with the postfacto approval of the cabinet or the defense minister, and most with General Staff sanctions. . . But there was no grand design, no blanket policy of expulsion. (p. 17)

In other words, only in "smaller part" were HaganahIIDF expulsions carried out and these were impromptu, ad hoc measures dictated by the military circumstances, a conclusion that deflects serious responsibility for the 1948 exodus from the Zionist leadership. But can his claim that there was no transfer design and expulsion policy in 1948 be sustained? Does the fact that there was no "master plan" for expelling the Palestinians absolve the Zionist



leadership of responsibility, given, inter alia, its campaign of psychological warfare (documented by Moms) designed to precipitate Arab evacuation? How can Moms be so categorical that there was no Israeli expulsion policy when his own work rests on carefully released partial documentation and when much of the Israeli files and documents relating to the subject are still classified and remain closed to researchers? Is it inconceivable that such a "transfer" policy was based on an understanding between Ben-Gurion and his lieutenants rather than on a blueprint? Morris himself writes in an article in Ha'Aretr, (entitled "The New History and the Old Propagandists," 9 May 1989) in which he discusses the transfer notion and Ben-Gurion's role in 1948: "One of the hallmarks of Ben Gurion's greatness was that the man knew what to say and what not to say in certain circumstances; what is allowed to be recorded on paper and what is preferable to convey orally or in hint." Ben-Gurion's admiring biographer Michael Bar-Zohar states: "In internal discussions, in instructions to his men [in 19481 the Old Man [BenGurion] demonstrated a clear position: It would be better that as few a number as possible of Arabs should remain in the temtory of the Uewishl state." (Bar-Zohar, Ben-Gurion [in Hebrew], vol. 2, p. 703) Moms claims (1948, p. 16) that it "was the Arab contention. . .that the Yishuv had always intended forcible 'transfer'." Is this merely an "Arab contention," or perhaps, a figment of Arab imagination? Yet the evidence Morris adduces points to a completely different picture. In his 9 May 1989 article in Ha'Aretr, Moms traces "the growth of the transfer idea in Ben-Gurion's thinking" from the second half of the 1930s. "There is no doubt," Moms writes,
that from the moment [the Peel proposal was submitted]. . .the problem of the Arab minority, supposed to reside in that [prospective Jewish] state, began to preoccupy the Yishuv's leadership obsessively. They were justified in seeing the future minority as a great danger to the prospective Jewish state-a fifth political, or even military, column. The transfer idea. . .was viewed by the majority of the Yishuv leaders in those days as the best solution to the problem.

In Birth (p. 25) Moms shows that Ben-Gurion advocated "compulsory" transfer in 1937. In his Ha'Aretz article he writes of "the growth of the transfer idea in Ben-Gurion's thinking" and that in November 1947, a few days before the UN General Assembly's partition resolution, a consensus emerged at the meeting of the Jewish Agency Executive in favor of giving as many Arabs in the Jewish state as possible citizenship of the prospective Arab state rather than of the Jewish state where they would be living. According to Moms, Ben-Gurion explained the rationale in the following terms:
If a war breaks out between the Jewish state and the Palestine Arab state, the Arab minority in the Jewish state would be a "Fifth Column"; hence, it was preferable that they be citizens of the Palestine Arab state so that, if the War breaks out and, if hostile, they "would be expelled" to the Arab state. And if they were citizens of the Jewish state "it would (only) be possible to imprison them."



Does not this show that the Yishuv's leaders entered the 1948 war at least with a transfer desire or mindset? Moms argues that a new approach emerged in 1948 among the ruling Mapai Party leaders, presided over by Ben-Gurion, in support of a transfer "solution" to the "Arab demographic problem."
Ben-Gurion. . .understood that war changed everything; a different set of "rules" had come to apply. Land could and would be conquered and retained; there would be demographic changes. This approach emerged explicitly in Ben Gurion's address at the meeting of the Mapai Council on 7 February: Western Jerusalem's Arab districts had been evacuated and a similar permanent demographic change would be expected in much of the country as the war spread. (1948, pp. 39-40)

Other prominent Mapai leaders such as Eliahu Lulu (Hacarmeli), a Jersualem branch leader, and Shlomo Lavi, an influential Kibbutz movement leader, echoed the same approach. In an internal debate at the Mapai Centre on 24 July 1948, held against the background of the expulsion of Lydda and Ramle, Shlomo Lavi stated that "the. . .transfer of Arabs out of the country in my eyes is one of the most just, moral and correct things that can be done. I have thought this. . .for many years." (1948, p. 43) Lavi's views were backed by another prominent Mapai leader, Avraham Katznelson: There is nothing "more moral, from the viewpoint of universal human ethics, than the emptying of the Jewish State of the Arabs and their transfer elsewhere. . .This requires the use of force." (1948, p. 44) Contrary to what Morris claims, there was nothing new about this approach of "forcible transfer," nor did it emerge out of the blue merely as a result of the outbreak of hostilities in 1948. The Yishuv's leaders "obsessively" pursued transfer schemes from the mid-1930s onwards. Transfer Committees were set up by the Jewish Agency between 1937 and 1942 and a number of Zionist transfer schemes were formulated in secret. (A thorough discussion of these schemes will be found in my forthcoming book on the transfer concept.) Shortly after the publication of the Peel Commission report, which endorsed the transfer idea, Ben-Gurion wrote in his diary (12 July 1937): "The compulsory transfer of the Arabs from the valleys of the proposed Jewish state could give us something which we never had. . .a Galilee free of Arab population." (Ben-Gurion, Zichronot vol. 4, 12 July 1937, pp. 297-99) Already in 1937, he believed that the Zionists could rid themselves of "old habits" and put pressure on the Mandatory authorities to carry out forced removal. "We have to stick to this conclusion," Ben-Gurion wrote,
in the same way we grabbed the Balfour Declaration, more than that, in the same way we grabbed Zionism itself. We have to insist upon this conclusion [and push it] with our full determination, power and conviction. . .We must uproot from our hearts the assumption that the thing is not possible. It can be done.

Ben-Gurion went on to note: "We must prepare ourselves to carry out" the transfer. (ibid., p. 299) Ben-Gurion was also convinced that few, if any, of



the Palestinians would be willing to transfer themselves "voluntarily," in which case the "compulsory" provisions would eventually have to be put into effect. In an important letter to his 16-year-old son Amos, dated 5 October 1937, Ben-Gurion wrote: "We must expel Arabs and take their places. . .and if we have to use force-not to dispossess the Arabs of the Negev and Transjordan, but to guarantee our own right to settle those places-when we have force at our disposal." (Shabtai Teveth, Ben-Gurion and the Palestinian Arabs. Oxford, 1985, p. 189) It is explicit in the letter of 5 October that the transfer had become clearly associated with expulsion in Ben-Gurion's thinking. In reflecting on such expulsion and the eventual enlargement and breaking through of the Peel partition borders, Ben-Gurion used the language of force, increasingly counting on Zionist armed strength. He also predicted a decisive war in which the Palestinian Arabs aided by neighboring Arab states would be defeated by the Haganah. (ibid.) From the mid-1930s onwards he repeatedly stated his advocacy of transfer. The debates of the World Convention of Ihud Po'alei Tzion-the highest political forum of the dominant Zionist world labor movement-and the Zurich 20th Congress in August 1937 revealed a Zionist consensus in support of transfer. Eliahu Lulu, for instance, had this to say at the debate of the Ihud Po'alei Tzion convention: This transfer, even if it were to be carried out through compulsion-all moral enterprises are carried out through compulsion-will be justified in all senses. And if we negate all right to transfer, we would need to negate everything we have done until now: the transfer from Emek Hefer [Wadi al-Hawarith] to Beit Shean, from the Sharon [coastal plain] to Ephraem Mountains, etc. . . .the transfer. . .is a just, logical, moral, and humane programme in all senses.' During the same debate, Shlomo Lavi expressed a similar view: "The demand that the Arabs should move and evacuate the place for us, because they have sufficient place to move to. . .in itself is very just and very moral. . . ."l There were, of course, Zionist leaders who supported "voluntary" transfer, but to suggest as Moms does that the notion of "forcible transfer" is merely an "Arab contention" or that it was only in 1948 that Mapai leaders such as Ben-Gurion adopted the radical new approach of using force to transform Palestine's demographic reality is a misrepresentation of the facts, of which Moms must be aware. Is Morris's conclusion that a Zionist transfer/expulsion policy was never formulated borne out by the evidence he adduces in Birth and in 1948? In Birth, Moms describes how the Yishuv military establishment, presided over by Ben-Gurion, formulated in early March 1948 and began implementing in early April Plan Dalet in anticipation of Arab military operations. According to Moms, the essence of Plan Dalet "was the clearing of hostile and potentially hostile forces out of the interior of the prospective temtory of the Jewish State. . .As the Arab irregulars were based and quartered in the villages and as the militias of many villages were participating in the anti-Yishuv hostili-



ties, the Haganah regarded most of the villages as actively or potentially hostile." (Birth, p. 62) Moms goes on to explain that Plan Dalet "constituted a strategic-ideological anchor and basis for expulsions by front, district, brigade and battalion commanders. . .and it gave commanders, post facto, a formal, persuasive covering note to explain their actions." (Birth, p. 63) In 1948 (p. 211, Morris states: In conformity with Tochnit Dalet (Plan D), the Haganah's master plan. . . .The Haganah cleared various areas completely of Arab villagesthe Jersualem conidor, the area around Mishmar Haemek, and the coastal plain. But in most cases, expulsion orders were unnecessary; the inhabitants had already fled, out of fear or as a result o Jewish attack. In several f areas, Israeli commanders successfully used psychological warfare ploys to obtain Arab evacuation (as in the Hula Valley, in Upper Galilee, in May). He further notes: "if the denial of the right to return. . .was a form of 'expulsion', then a great many villagers-who had waited near their villages for the battle to die down before trylng to return home-can be considered 'expellees'." (Birth, p. 343, note 7) Even if we do accept that Plan Dalet was not a political blueprint or a "master plan" for a blanket expulsion of the Arab population, and even if the plan "was governed by military considerations," how can Moms square his own explanations with his conclusion that there existed no HaganahIIDF "plan" or policy decision to expel Arabs from the prospective Jewish state? Furthermore, in the context of "decision-making" and "transfer" policy, Moms shows in his essay "Yosef Weitz and the Transfer Committees, 194849," how Weitz, the Jewish National Fund executive in charge of land acquisition and its distribution among Jewish settlements and an ardent advocate of mass Arab transfer since the 1930s-he was on the Jewish Agency's Transfer Committees between 1937 and 1942-"was well placed [in 19481 to shape and influence decision-making regarding the Arab population on the national level and to oversee the implementation of policy on the local level." (1948, p. 91) From early 1948, Weitz began to exploit the conditions of war to expel Arab villagers and tenant-farmers, some of whom cultivated lands owned by Jewish institutions. He personally supervised many local evictions during the early months of war, frequently with the assistance of local Haganah commanders. (1948, pp. 92-98) Moreover, Moms explains: Everyone, at every level of military and political decision-making, understood that a Jewish state without a large Arab minority would be stronger and more viable both militarily and politically. The tendency o local milif tary commanders to "nudge" Palestinians into flight increased as the war f went on. Jewish atrocities. . .(massacres o Arabs at Ad Dawayima, Eilaboun, Jish, Safsaf, Majd a1 Kumm, Hule (in Lebanon) Saliha, and Sasa, besides Dayr Yasin and Lydda and other places-also contributed significantly to the exodus. (1948, p. 22)

I cannot see how the above explanation regarding "decision-making" can be reconciled with Morris's denial of a transfer policy. And does it matter in the end whether such a policy was actually formulated, or whether it was just de



facto and clearly understood at every level of military and political decisionmaking? On the basis of the revelations, documentation, and factual findings brought to light by Moms (and other "new" historians), the traditional Palestinian contention that there was a Zionist consensus on the question of finding a "solution" to the "Arab demographic problemv-the Arabs, even in 1948, still constituted two-thirds of the population of Palestine-through "transfer" of Arabs to areas outside the prospective Jewish state and bamng their return to their villages and towns, is corroborated. Zionist parties of all shades of opinion-with the exception of muted, internal criticism from a few members of the Mapam and Mapai parties-were in basic agreement about the need and desirability of utilizing the 1948 War to establish an enlarged Jewish state with as small an Arab population as possible. Yosef Sprinzak, the relatively liberal secretary general of the Histadrut, a critic of the forcible transfer policy, had this to say at the 24 July 1948 meeting at the Mapai Centre, some ten days after the Lydda-Ramle expulsion: There is a feeling thatfaits accomplis are being created. . .the question is not whether the Arabs will return or not return. The question is whether the Arabs are [being or have been] expelled or not. . .This is important to our moral future. . .I want to know who is creating the facts? And the facts are being created on orders. . .[There appears to be] a line of action. . .of expropriation and of emptylng the land of Arabs by force. (1948, pp. 42-43) It is difficult, using Moms's own evidence, not to see on the part of the leaders of mainstream labor Zionism a de facto, forcible transfer policy in 1948. Moms's analysis of the events of 1948 is also flawed by his treatment of the Arab exodus largely in an historical and political vacuum, without any intrinsic connection with Zionism. Although he does refer to the Zionist consensus emerging from the mid-1930s in support of transferring the Arab population, he sees no connection between this and the expulsions of 1948. This brings us to the explanatory framework underlying Moms's work: the Zionist leadership's ideological-political, disposition for transferringlexpelling Arabs resulted from the "security" threat (the "fifth column") the Arab population posed to the Jewish state. The facts presented earlier, on the other hand, show that the "voluntary/compulsory" transfer of the indigenous Arabs was prefigured in the Zionist ideology a long time before the 1948 war broke out and advocated "obsessively" by the Zionist leadership from the mid-1930s onwards. Consequently, the resistance of the indigenous Arab population to Zionism before and in 1948 emanated from precisely the Zionist goal of establishing a Jewish state that would, at best, marginalize the Palestinians as a small, dependent minority in their own homeland, and, at worst, eradicate and "transfer" them. The "security" threat posed by the "transferred" inhabitants of the Palestinian towns and villages resulted from the Zionist movement's ideological premise and political agenda, namely the establishment of an exclusivist state.



From the perspective of Moms's "new" historiography, there was no inherent link between the "transfer" of the Arabs and the acquisition of their lands on the one hand and Zionism's long-advocated imperative of accommodating millions of Jewish immigrants in the Jewish state on the other. The nearest thing he says which provides a hint regarding such a connection is the following: The war afforded the Yishuv a historic opportunity to enlarge the Jewish state's borders and, as things turned out, to create a state without a very large Arab minority. The war would solve the Yishuv's problem of lack of land, which was necessary to properly absorb and settle the expected influx of Jewish immigrants. (1948, pp. 39-40) Would Zionism have succeeded in fulfilling its imperative of absorbing the huge influx of Jewish immigrants while allowing the indigenous population to remain in situ? If not, could the Zionist objective of "transferring" the Arabs from Palestine have been camed out "voluntarily" and peacefully, without Arab resistance or the destruction of their society in 1948? Moms's findings constitute a landmark and are a remarkable contribution to our knowledge because they show that the evacuation of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians was a result of direct attacks, fear of attacks, intimidation, psychological warfare (e.g., the whispering campaign), and sometimes outright expulsions ordered by the Haganah/IDF leadership. Yet a wider explanatory and theoretical framework within which the exodus can be properly understood must be sought elsewhere.
1. 'A1 Darchei Mediniyotenu: Mo'atzah 'Olarnit Shel lhud Po'alei Tzion (c.s.1, Din Vehisbon Male 21 July-7 August (1937) [A Full Report about the World Convention of lhud Po'alei Tzion]. Tel Aviv, 1938, p. 122.

2. Ibid., p. 100

The Saga of Deir Yassin:
Massacre, Revisionism, and Reality


Daniel A. McGowan and Matthew C. Hogan

The Saga of Deir Yassin: Massacre, Revisionism, and Reality


Daniel A. McGowan and Matthew C. Hogan

Published by: Deir Yassin Remembered 4078 Scandling Center Geneva, New York 14456

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system without written permission from the publisher, except for brief quotations for a review or a thesis/dissertation. Inquiries should be addressed to Daniel McGowan, 4078 Scandling Center, Hobart and William Smith Colleges, Geneva, New York 14456 (USA). Copyright © 1999 by Daniel A. McGowan and Matthew C. Hogan Printed in the United States of America


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To Alfred M. Lilienthal, Jr.


Board of Advisers . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . iii Dedication . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . v Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 Landmark, Symbol, and New Revisionist Fantasy . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 Our Approach in this Monograph . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6 Chapter 1 The Mystery of the Deaths of Residents of Deir Yassin . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9 Background . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9 Photographs of the Scene . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11 Witness Testimony . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12 Ascertaining Facts . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 19 Massacre Contention Grows Stronger . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 22 The Death-by-Combat Explanation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 26 The Demeanor of the Accused . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 30 Admission by the Attackers . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 33 Motives for Massacre . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 36 Chapter 2 Reconstructing the Event . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . The Beginning . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . The Selection of the Target . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . An Early Cover-Up? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Comedy of Terrors . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . The Massacre in Hot Blood . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . The Massacre in Warm Blood . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . The Massacre in Cold Blood . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Afterwards . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Challenges to Pa'il's Credibility . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Why Pa'il's Credibility is Unrefuted . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Other Atrocities . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 41 42 42 48 50 52 58 63 64 65 68 69

Chapter 3 Conclusion . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 71 Sources . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 75 Sources are indicated in parentheses with number reference to page or section. Abbreviations and precise nature of references are provided in this section.


Landmark, Symbol, and New Revisionist Fantasy “How could you have done it?” berated Natan Friedman-Yellin, joint supreme commander in 1948 of the Lehi (Stern Gang), a Jewish nationalist guerrilla group in the Palestine Mandate. “It was inhuman.” The subordinate he addressed had taken part in the organization's April 9 takeover of the Arab town Deir Yassin (Kr 149). An experiment in military cooperation between his group and a larger allied militia, the Irgun (Etzel), had turned into “a landmark of the Israeli-Arab conflict and a symbol of the horrors of war,” in the words of Israeli historian Tom Segev (Sg 25). “I am and was repelled by the fact,” the Lehi chief reflected later, “that the Deir Yassin massacre was a turning point in the history of the 1948 war” (Pr 217). The moral, historical, and political significances of the Deir Yassin massacre continue to be examined and debated. The tragedy symbolized and continues to affect issues at the heart of the unresolved Arab-Israeli conflict. These include the hazards of war, the suffering of Palestinians, conflicts within Israeli political identity, and American foreign policy interests. In the Deir Yassin incident, each viewpoint offers an occasion for reflection, a case for argument, and a slogan for propaganda. What has not been a focus of serious debate is whether the massacre actually occurred. It is a sad and indisputable fact that over a hundred Palestinian men, women, and children, most or all nonresistant at the times of their deaths, were deliberately slaughtered by units of Irgun and Lehi fighters on April 9, 1948. The slaughter is as immune to serious historical doubt as are such atrocities as the My Lai massacre, the Bataan Death March, and the Holocaust. Sadly, however, fraudulent revisionism lives in the form of revisiting an event with the aim of altering or amending an original truth. And it has now touched Deir Yassin, armed with all revisionism's defects of blaming the victim, excusing the guilty, and twisting the facts. It appeals to the partisan's desire to feel that “our side doesn't do that” and “those other people are lying.” Harry Levin, a Jewish journalist in Jerusalem at the time of the massacre, recorded that the reports of the massacre were direct, fresh, and convincing, but “some still refuse to believe it” (HL 59). A tract published in 1998 by the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA), “Deir Yassin: History of A Lie” is itself dishonest in its attempt to reignite that old and discredited refusal to believe. The arguments in the tract are self-defeating but vigorously put forth. The ZOA Tract. In “Deir Yassin: History of A Lie” (ZOA tract), author and organization president Morton Klein insists that the massacre of Deir Yassin did not happen. Instead, he asks us to believe that the scores of victims—old men, women, and children scattered throughout the town—died from repeated combat accidents that killed unintended victims, oddly with a lethal efficiency virtually unparalleled in military history. And it occurred, we are told, when a force of 120 untested troops with insufficient ammunition and inadequate weaponry successfully managed to storm fortified stone houses but who miraculously suffered only 5 percent lethal casualties. Then we are asked to believe that a vast conspiracy instantaneously sprouted among the International Red Cross, the Haganah, Arab villagers, Palestinian leaders, and British colonial



police to smear the guerrillas with the charge of massacre. In the end, however, we are to conclude that the entire massacre story was manipulated by a Jewish Communist spy in search of a job. Serious debate about Deir Yassin may not be affected by the ZOA tract, but such efforts can affect popular discussion and understanding. Columnist Sydney Zion wrote a piece in the New York Daily News on March 23, 1998, commending the tract as a great research exposé. The article was no doubt read by hundreds of thousands of people. Our purpose here is to set the record straight with information and analysis for those who are sincerely interested. The ZOA's revisionist effort is fed by the fact that few institutions or persons who esteem the concept of Zionism have denounced the tract issued in the ideology’s name. One significant exception is the herculean research of Ami Isseroff of Rehovot, Israel, who studied the issue independently and with original skepticism. Inspired by his identification with Zionist, Israeli, and Jewish values, he sought the published record and new witness information and made important material available in English. He eventually came to the only realistic conclusion possible: A largescale deliberate massacre had occurred at Deir Yassin. His work is published on the Internet’s World Wide Web at


The Saga of Deir Yassin

Fraudulent Scholarship and Self-Defeating Reasoning. The ZOA tract is demonstrably fraudulent and frequently ridiculous. The tract concludes there is no evidence of prisoner mistreatment or excess at Deir Yassin, all the while basing that conclusion primarily on the research of an Israeli historian (Uri Milstein) who calls the Deir Yassin affair a “massacre” in which Irgun and Lehi forces “murdered Arabs” (Ml 273, 276). It is difficult to call the ZOA anything but dishonest when it informs its readers of this alleged lack of evidence of prisoner atrocity while its major source provides many specific examples of prisoner executions, a number of which are admitted to unambiguously by the Lehi and Irgun guerrillas themselves (Ml 263, 267, 276). The tract also conveniently omits numerous other direct testimonies of reliable evidence of a massacre (Ml 275-277). Beyond that, the ZOA tract engages in selective quotation by cutting the most incriminating parts of witness testimony it cites. It ignores the many perpetrators who have admitted “liquidating prisoners,” “eliminating every Arab,” and witnessing a fellow fighter machine-gun a surrendering family. It cites witnesses who find no evidence of excesses like rape and mutilation and omits their clear testimony of mass murder. It also appears that the tract simply creates facts to manipulate emotion, as when a dead Yugoslav Muslim fighter is described as a former S.S. member even though the original source makes no such claim (Ml 263). A great many examples of this form of self-serving omissions and selective quotations are set forth throughout this monograph. Ultimately, however, there is good news. Revisionism is self-defeating despite its attempts to rob victims of the dignity of their suffering. Because revisionists need to visit reality from time to time to shore up their case, the absurdity of their arguments and conclusions are forced to the surface despite best efforts to conceal them. One example is the ZOA's endless focus on the difference between the figure of 254 victims in the massacre—which has been reported in most standard histories—and the lower figure of 110 discerned from closer research. This is a central theme of the ZOA tract. How can we trust the claims of massacre, the ZOA asks, when the writers who claim it repeat such an incorrect figure (ZOA 153)? To repeat that false figure renders one's credibility on Deir Yassin fundamentally flawed (ZOA 153). In an ironic twist, the same tract says that the exaggerated 254 figure was originally arrived at by the attackers themselves. By the ZOA's main standard, the very people they are defending stand convicted of the biggest fabrication in telling the history of Deir Yassin. Thus, we need not go beyond the ZOA tract itself to perceive its problems. This is valuable because those in denial should not be able to force established history to meet the revisionists' burden of proof. That would mean victims almost literally reliving horrors as they revisited their own and their loved ones' agony. Instead, it is the revisionists who should have the burden of validating their views by independent witnesses, objective evidence, or significant retractions. In that direction the ZOA fails miserably. They produce not a single independent (i.e., nonIrgun or non-Lehi) eyewitness to Deir Yassin or its aftermath who has concluded that anything other than a massacre happened. And there were hundreds of such witnesses present. Similarly, the ZOA provides no independent witness to corroborate the intrinsically unlikely hypothesis that an unusually heavy battle caused the deaths. Reality further erodes their tract when the ZOA admits that the perpetrators seriously contemplated massacre even before attacking Deir Yassin and that there are irrefutable admissions of atrocities by the perpetrators. These points will be discussed in greater detail. We shall mention the ZOA tract many times in this monograph as it confirms or fails to provide corroborating evidence regarding particular issues. Also, we cite the ZOA document directly as a source in an effort to illustrate how a critical reader could invalidate the ZOA tract even without additional research. This emphasizes the self-defeating nature of such fraudulent revisionism.
The Saga of Deir Yassin 3

Our Approach in This Monograph In the next chapter, we approach the issue exactly as the ZOA tract defines it—a murder mystery. The historical debate comes down to a simple question of criminal responsibility: Were the dead men, women, and children of Deir Yassin primarily the victims of massacre or were they accidentally killed in the hazards of active battle? Following the logic of that formulation, we proceed in an investigative fashion by following an imaginary detective puzzling a mystery involving the discovery of those who have died violently. While traveling with our investigator, we shall visit the scene, take observations from witnesses, and formulate theories and conclusions. This structure allows logic and linearity, and not revisionism, to frame the questions that evaluate the evidence. We shall see rather quickly that the evidence that a massacre occurred is overwhelming. It is so strong that, even before consulting independent observers, our investigator has no doubt that the victims were primarily killed deliberately and outside the exigencies of combat. The circumstantial evidence, the scene of the incident, the confessions and behaviors of the participants demonstrate a massacre beyond all reasonable doubt. However, our investigator examines all evidence to take the case full length and settle the matter through facts and not preferences.


The Saga of Deir Yassin

Chapter 1


The Mystery of the Deaths of Residents of Deir Yassin
Background Let us follow an imaginary detective, one who is trained to investigate historical crimes. This investigator is brought to the task 50 years later to perform an “autopsy” of the incident. Like any criminal investigator, he begins from the moment word arrives that the dead have been found. He takes great pains to search for all relevant forensic evidence and evaluate it fairly. The place and time is Deir Yassin village in the Palestine Mandate, mid-afternoon, Friday, April 9, 1948. Two guerrilla groups called the Lehi and Irgun attacked the village in the morning. They were in control of the town as reports of the dead began to enter public consciousness. History books have called it a massacre. But the detective read a recent ZOA pamphlet saying the dead were unintended casualties resulting from a tough battle to capture the village in a time of increasing warfare. Our investigator first fills his notebook with general background information: British rule in Palestine was set to end the next month, May 1948. At that time, the official Jewish Agency for Palestine was to declare a Jewish state called Israel on the strength of a November 1947 United Nations resolution recommending the partition of Palestine into one Jewish and one Arab state. Jerusalem was to be internationalized. Arab leaderships in Palestine and elsewhere forceably opposed the plan. Our detective knows that Arab-Jewish fighting broke out right after the U.N. resolution. The departing British made no serious efforts to stop the violence. Arab states began to infiltrate armed units detached from the Syrian and Iraqi armies, joined by some Yugoslavs. Around Jerusalem, these forces were led by Palestinian Arab Abdel Khader Husseini, and many Palestinian Arab villagers joined the effort. The Jewish Agency, led by the Labor Zionist movement, opposed them with its own armed force called the Haganah and its elite strike force, the Palmach. The detective first seeks to identify the forces who took control of Deir Yassin on April 9, 1948. They were small Jewish guerrilla forces. One was the Irgun (National Military Organization) and the other was Lehi (Fighters for the Freedom of Israel, sometimes called the Stern Group or Stern Gang). The two operated independently from the Jewish Agency, especially around Jerusalem. Politically, they were right-wing Zionists (Jewish nationalists) who felt partition was insufficient. They believed all of Palestine and Transjordan (now Jordan) should be included in Israel. They were thus political and military rivals of the Jewish Agency. Our investigator next turns to Deir Yassin, a Muslim Arab village of stone houses with villagers whose chief activity was quarrying and cutting stone. It was located a few hundred meters to the west of the Jewish settlement known as Givat Shaul. Population estimates varied from the middle hundreds to over a thousand.


The Saga of Deir Yassin

The detective then examines the immediate military situation. By April 1948, Arab forces had cut off Jewish Jerusalem from the coast by ambushing traffic on the main highway. An armed offensive by the Palmach and Haganah began the first week of April to protect Jewish convoys along the highway. A vital chokepoint was Kastel, an Arab town not very far west of Deir Yassin. The detective looks for consensus about the events of April 9 and finds that the Irgun and Lehi groups, in a united operation, attacked Deir Yassin in the morning. They met resistance. By the mid afternoon, however, they were in control. There were a great many dead villagers. The question facing our imaginary investigator is: Did they die in massacre or combat? Did they die in mass murder or wartime misfortune?

Photographs of the Scene The most helpful investigative tool, our detective reflects, would be photos of the event or its scene. This would allow less reliance on conflicting testimony of witnesses who may be biased, dishonest, or confused. In this regard, the ZOA tract has promising news: There are indeed photos of Deir Yassin from April 9, 1948 (ZOA 55). Although photographs of Deir Yassin on the day of the incident exist, they have been kept hidden and are currently held in the Archives of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), and (as the ZOA tract confirms) they have never been made public. Indeed, and suspiciously, they have been denied to even in-house inspection by academic researchers (ZOA 55-56, Ml 275), even though it has been over 50 years since the event. Opening the case notebook, our investigator records his first impressions: “Suspicious. Why are these photos still not available? Is there something to hide? A massacre?” Strong suspicion that there was a massacre at Deir Yassin is warranted. Common sense provides the reason: If an institution is concerned about some aspect of an event, and that institution then conceals photographic evidence of the event, it is reasonable to suspect that the photos support the concern. Regarding Deir Yassin, the concern for Israel is the allegation of a massacre. The ZOA confirms this, noting that the charge of massacre at Deir Yassin is often used against the State of Israel (ZOA 1). A closer look only increases suspicion. This secrecy has continued through Israeli government administrations run by the Likud party. The Likud are political descendants of the same guerrilla movements accused of the Deir Yassin massacre (ZOA 4). In fact, one Likud Prime Minister was Menachem Begin, a former Irgun chief who adamantly denied the charge of massacre at Deir Yassin. Yet in all his years as Prime Minister, the photos remained secret. Surely, if they supported his viewpoint, he would have released them. Even more incriminating material appears in the ZOA tract. At the IDF Archives, the photograph custodians have commented on the cause of death in some pictures. Interestingly, they did not exclude intentional massacre as the cause of death of bodies in the photos (ZOA 56).
Witness Testimony Our detective realizes that without photographs, witnesses are sorely needed. The investigator needs independent witnesses so he can compare what they say to what the attackers and their advocates say. The investigator assembles testimonies about the victims and the apparent causes of their deaths. He finds statements made by nine people, including Haganah officers, who came upon Deir Yassin just after its conquest. There are also statements by several survivors and Haganah intelligence officer Meir Pa'il, who witnessed the event. Now let us explore our
The Saga of Deir Yassin 7

detective's findings from the statements of the nine who arrived at Deir Yassin immediately after its capture. Findings from statements by survivors and the Haganah officer will be examined in the next chapter. What do the nine independent witnesses of the scene say? Account 1: Mordechai Gihon, Haganah. Mordechai Gihon was a Haganah intelligence officer in Jerusalem, code name Elazar. He provided cover fire in the morning so that the guerrillas attacking Deir Yassin could remove their wounded. He later became a general in Israeli army intelligence and a university professor. He was a British Army veteran as well. The ZOA cites him extensively, always favorably, and at one point narrates events through his eyes. However, all of the following statements were omitted from the ZOA tract. Gihon entered the village on the afternoon of April 9. Before we got to the village we saw people carrying bodies to the quarry east of Deir Yassin. We entered the village around 3:00 in the afternoon. . . . In the village there were tens of bodies. The dissidents got them out of the roads. I told them not to throw the bodies into cisterns and caves, because that was the first place that would be checked. . . . At the time I had just been through British Army service and had met Holocaust survivors in the camps. The visit to Deir Yassin was a moral shock for me. Before then I had never seen so many bodies. The dead were lying in the houses and the fields without burial . . . I didn't count the dead. I estimated that there were four pits full of bodies, and in each pit there were 20 bodies, and several tens more in the quarry. I throw out a number, 150. (M1 274, Lv 343) It is not clear if Gihon's counting of the dead occurred on the first inspection or later. But in an intelligence report at the time, his summary assessment of the Deir Yassin incident is straightforward: “the murder of falachim [Arab peasants] and innocent citizens” (Lv 343). Account 2: Eliahu Arbel, Haganah. Eliahu Arbel was Operations Officer B of the Haganah's Etzioni Brigade. He was an officer in Israel's armed forces in subsequent wars. He entered the village on Saturday, April 10. On the following day, after the operation, I inspected the village, in accordance with the order of Colonel Shaltiel. Accompanied by an officer of the attacking unit, I saw the horrors that the fighters had created. I saw bodies of women and children, who were murdered in their houses in cold blood by gun fire, with no signs of battle and not as the result of blowing up the houses. From my experience I know well, that there is no war without killing, and that not only combatants get killed. I have seen a great deal of war, but I never saw a sight like Deir Yassin and therefore I cannot forget what happened there. (YA-5-2-72) Account 3: Jacques de Reynier, Red Cross. De Reynier, a French-Swiss, was Representative of the International Red Cross. He had been with that humanitarian organization in World War II. Before the Deir Yassin incident, he took part in an intervention to save the lives of Jewish fighters trapped by Arab guerrillas. He came to the village on Sunday, April 11. Finally the [Irgun] Commander tells me . . . for now I can visit some houses and the situation is as follows: a total of more than 200 dead, men, women, and children. About 150 cadavers have not been preserved inside the village in view of the danger represented by the bodies' decomposition. They have been gathered, transported some distance, and placed in a large trough (I have not been able to establish if this is a pit, a grain silo, or a large natural excavation). Impossible to visit because it's under fire. . . . About 20 bodies are located in the no-man's-land between the Arab and Irgun troops. About 50 bodies are in the village. . . .
8 The Saga of Deir Yassin

I . . . enter the house. The first room is dark, everything is in disarray, but no one is there. In the second, I find among the ripped-open furniture, blankets, debris of all sorts, some cold bodies. Here the cleaning-up was done by submachine guns, then by grenade; they finished it off with knives, as anyone could tell. The same thing in the next room. . . . In the neighboring house and so on . . . it is the same hideous spectacle. . . . The houses visited by me presented an appearance of the most complete disorder, everything is broken, and bodies litter the floor. . . . [One body was] a woman who must have been eight months pregnant, hit in the stomach, with powder burns on her dress indicating she'd been shot point-blank. (DeR 74, RC, CLP 278) De Reynier concluded that the villagers had been “deliberately massacred” (DeR 74). Account 4: Dr. Alfred Engel, Magen David Adom (Red Shield of David, Jewish medical organization). Alfred Engel went to Deir Yassin with de Reynier. He had extensive medical experience in wartime. The ZOA endorses him as a sober witness but omits the last two sentences of his recollection. We got into the village easily. There were only dissidents [Irgun and Lehi members] there, and they were putting bodies on trucks. . . . In the houses there were dead, in all about a hundred men, women and children. It was terrible. . . . It was clear that they (the attackers) had gone from house to house and shot the people at close range. I was a doctor in the German army for 5 years, in World War I, but I had not seen such a horrifying spectacle. (Ml 270) Account 5: Two Haganah Photographers. Haganah broadcaster Harry Levin, later an Israeli consul in the United States, published a recollection from his diary of the period. He related that two unnamed photographers from the Haganah reported entering Deir Yassin with the Red Cross representative. He met them after their visit and refers to them only by initials “I.” and “H.” I spoke with two, I. and H., who went [to Deir Yassin] with the Red Cross as Haganah photographers. I. was too shaken to say anything. H. told me he saw a large pile of burned and half-burned bodies in a pit; another pile of children's bodies, about 16 of them. In a room of one house were the bodies of a woman and a child; in a second room the bodies of two villagers and two uniformed Syrians. . . . Most Jews I have spoken with are horrified. Some still refuse to believe it. (HL 59) Account 6: Drs. Avigdori and Druyan, Histadrut Medical Committee. These doctors visited while the Haganah was taking over the village. The ZOA endorses their information but omits the following account (ZOA 78). By the invitation of the Jewish Agency, on April 12, 1948, we visited the village before noon. The village was empty. Looted houses. The commanders of the Haganah showed us bodies in different places. A mother and her children that were killed by gunfire, two bodies of women who were killed by shooting. In the quarry five bodies [killed] by shooting, and two youths of 13 or 14 [killed] by shooting; in the Wadi 25 bodies, one over the other, uncovered, children and women. . . . We did not check each body, all were dressed. Limbs were whole. . . . They were not buried. . . .
The Saga of Deir Yassin 9

Piles of smoking bodies. There were 12 bodies, and 6 burnt children. We asked for more bodies. . . . There are other bodies in the houses. The Haganah commanders did not inspect the houses. (Ml 271) Irgun officer Yehuda Lapidot later said the two had reported 90 bodies (Ml 271). Account 7: Yehoshua Arieli, Haganah. Yehoshua Arieli was a commander of the Haganah's paramilitary youth group, the Gadna. He had also been a World War II veteran of the British Army. He would become a distinguished Israeli professor of American history. He supervised the burials of the bodies and describes the scene (in a recollection omitted by the ZOA) and its scope. Absolutely barbaric. All of the killed, with very few exceptions, were old men, women, and children. The dead we found were all unjust victims and none of them had died with a weapon in their hands. . . . The 116 figure [of bodies] makes sense. I don't think we could have buried more than 12040. (CLP 279, Sl 96) Arieli saw “several men” lying dead in a quarry (Sl 94). Account 8: Yeshurun Schiff, Haganah. Schiff was adjutant to Haganah Jerusalem chief David Shaltiel. He was in Deir Yassin on April 9 and present to review the burial scene on April 12. His impressions are provided below (again, omitted by the ZOA). [The attackers chose] to kill anybody they found alive as though every living thing in the village was the enemy and they could only think ‘kill them all.’ . . . It was a lovely spring day, the almond trees were in bloom, the flowers were out and everywhere there was the stench of the dead, the thick smell of blood, and the terrible odor of the corpses burning in the quarry. (CLP 280) Account 9: Yair Tsaban, Gadna Youth Organization. Yair Tsaban, later an Israeli peace activist, was one of several youths in the burial team at Deir Yassin on April 12. He describes some things he observed. When we buried the bodies, I saw no evidence of killing by knives. . . . What we saw were [dead] women, young children, and old men. What shocked us was at least two or three cases of old men dressed in women's clothes. I remember entering the living-room of a certain house. In the far corner was a small woman with her back towards the door, sitting dead. When we reached the body we saw an old man with a beard. My conclusion was that what happened in the village so terrorized these old men that they knew being old men would not save them. They hoped that if they were seen as old women that would save them. (Sl 93, 95) Ascertaining Facts Our investigator notes that the ZOA tract does not produce even one independent witness who reports a conclusion different from massacre. The witnesses, meanwhile, are highly credible. Still, the first thing the detective must do is separate the facts from the emotions and conclusions. Doing so, our historical sleuth finds that there is actually quite a bit of agreement on basic issues. The investigator opens his notebook and begins to address objective questions of Deir Yassin. How Many Actual Dead Were There? Our investigator reasons a fair estimate is about 110. The ZOA endorses a figure between 107 and 120 (ZOA 91). Except for de Reynier, the eyewitnesses
10 The Saga of Deir Yassin

provide a range from 70 to 150. (De Reynier's figure of over 200 appears to be based not on direct count or observation but indirect information from the guerrillas.) The ZOA's low-end estimate of 107 is based upon villager recollections. No source claimed to be totally precise, so 110 is a fair approximate number (BZ 57 et seq.). (This figure does not include the four guerrillas killed on the scene who were removed.) Historian Uri Milstein also suggests the 110 figure (Ml 274). Who Were the Dead? Almost all, if not all, were Deir Yassin villagers. The 107 figure is based entirely on villager casualties (BZ 6, 57). Repeated, and uncontradicted, emphasis from the testimonies our detective examined is on the large number of women, children, and old men among the dead. The ZOA-endorsed Arab study lists victims as women, children, and elderly (BZ 57-60). There are no direct independent source reports of Arab soldiers among the dead (Levin's account is second-hand), except for a few dead soldiers claimed in the ZOA tract (ZOA 32-33). In any event, it is clear from the witnesses and the breakdown of villager dead that almost all were Deir Yassin villagers, the bulk being old men, women, and children. Where Were the Dead? Perhaps the clearest thing that can be said is that they were not found in one place. It is not clear where all of them died, as many bodies appear to have been moved quickly. The reports place large numbers of bodies inside several houses. (Many were burned afterwards.) Some also appear to have been in one of the quarries or in the Wadi, the valley south of the village. Whose Firepower or Lethal Force Killed Them? There is little debate that most of the dead were killed by the Lehi and Irgun. Those who contend a massacre occurred attribute all or most deaths to the guerrillas. The ZOA, although describing general crossfire and the use of firepower by the Haganah, does not allege that Arab firepower was responsible for most deaths (ZOA 31-45, 114). The ZOA also does not accuse the Arab forces of executing the civilians of the town. The only issue is whether the lethal force was the product of the chaotic violence of close, intense combat or the deliberate killing of persons who were not in a threatening position when they were killed. While he is on the subject of objective data, our investigator pursues other areas of agreement regarding casualty statistics. He discovers some range of agreement exists here as well. How Many Villagers and Village Defenders Were Wounded or Captured? For wounded, our detective finds a range of 12 to about 50; for prisoners, a range of 50 to 150. Captured and wounded were mostly removed from the scene by the time Gihon and other witnesses arrived. The ZOA seems to accept a figure of 12 wounded based on an Arab study. A contemporary Red Cross report says 50 wounded were turned over to the British after the capture of the village (RC). As to prisoners, the ZOA is vague and even contradictory, stating 40 plus “a small number” (ZOA 47). On the ZOA Website (, however, a version of the ZOA tract published there as of September 1, 1998, reported over 100 prisoners. Another reference in the printed version says several dozen (ZOA 42). What Were the Attackers' Casualties? The ZOA reports four dead and “several dozen” wounded attackers on the scene (ZOA 65). Generally, sources place a figure of wounded at about 36. One more appears to have died later (Lv 344). Massacre Contention Grows Stronger As our historical detective ponders the objective figures, his earlier suspicion of massacre (originating with the missing photos and prodded by the powerful witness testimonies) grows to near certainty. He continues to add to his notebook:
The Saga of Deir Yassin 11

How Does the Number of Dead Argue a Massacre? One hundred ten dead, predominantly civilians, in a single village battle is a huge red flag that there was deliberate killing. Ground combat in a peasant village, even with modern weapons, does not usually cause that high a number of civilian deaths. Common sense says that civilians do not want to be near the battle, and neither side—usually—wants to kill them or have them in the way. Civilians hide, they surrender alive, or they run away. Some illustrations follow. In the bloodiest battle of the U.S. Civil War, over 100,000 soldiers with massed artillery fighting in and around the town of Gettysburg cost only one noncombatant civilian death. A casualty toll of 180 civilians in one day in one town during the Civil War caused national shock, and that massacre was the deliberate killing of most males in Lawrence, Kansas, by Quantrill's raiders (Hs). In Vietnam, a civilian death figure of about 20 in a rural village battle was considered “abnormally high,” requiring special investigation by a command-level officer (SH 131). Deir Yassin's death toll of 110 was thus as much as 5 times the number of civilian deaths considered disturbingly excessive in bloodier village combat (helicopter gunships, artillery barrages, search and destroy, etc.) where much greater firepower was typically brought to bear against flimsier dwellings. Our detective knows that the death rate inflicted at Deir Yassin is also atypical and wholly inconsistent with normal combat-induced casualties. For example, a deliberate massacre of a Jewish convoy over a period of hours by Arab fighters at Mt. Scopus, Jerusalem, in retaliation for Deir Yassin had fewer deaths than Deir Yassin, about 75, a figure that included many noncivilian fighters (CLP 291). Nonetheless, that incident generated world headlines for its exceptional scope (NYT 4-14-48). Some months before, an Arab massacre of Jewish refinery workers in Haifa (in retaliation for an Irgun bombing of Arab refinery workers) had less than half the death toll of Deir Yassin (Fl 95). The day after Deir Yassin was captured, more powerful Arab artillery pounded Jewish neighborhoods in West Jerusalem, hitting a Talmud school. The total dead from a barrage of 40 shells: 3 (NYT 4-11-48). In the 1948 war, all Israeli civilian casualties (about 2,000) inflicted by Arab forces averaged five civilians killed per day (approximately 400 days) (NL 450). At Deir Yassin therefore, the inflicted death rate exceeded by as much as 20 times all forms of anti-civilian violence by the Arab side, including airstrikes, artillery bombardments of urban areas, all hazards of combat, and all deliberate atrocities. (Total Arab civilian casualty figures for the 1948 war are uncertain because of the dislocation of the Arab population.) Clearly, Deir Yassin was an exceptionally lethal event by any military standards. Deliberate excessive slaughter of the civilians is thus powerfully indicated. (It is not surprising that the ZOA does not attempt to provide evidence that the casualties inflicted at Deir Yassin were typical of village ground combat.) Famous deliberate massacres by armed militias—where obviously the civilian death toll would be higher than just the accidents of battle—often involve figures less than or comparable to Deir Yassin. For example, Racak, Kosovo, 40 (January 1999) (NYT 3-18-99); Mountain Meadows, Utah, 120 or less (September 1857) (JBr); Wounded Knee, South Dakota, 140 (December 1890) (JG). The observation by Deir Yassin eyewitness and military physician Alfred Engel, cited above, supports the notion that civilians do not normally die in such large numbers in regular ground combat. Deir Yassin was more horrible than anything he had seen in the entirety of World War I. In sum, the 110 or so deaths are an additional major indication that deliberate slaughter occurred. How Does the Small Number of Wounded Demonstrate a Massacre? At Deir Yassin, the dead outnumbered the wounded. As one professional historian has explained, the careful deliberateness of the killing in the massacre at Lawrence, Kansas, by Quantrill's raiders in the U.S. Civil War was evidenced by the fact that the dead civilians outnumbered the wounded, which is the reverse of normal combat casualties (Hs). The standard ratio in ground combat is three
12 The Saga of Deir Yassin

wonded for one dead (TF 126). The statistics on the attackers at Deir Yassin also indicate a massacre because the attackers, who were shot at deliberately, suffered more wounded than dead. This is the normal result of combat even for fighters: There are usually larger numbers of wounded than dead. Common sense reigns again. Even in deliberate killings, it is often hard to kill someone who does not want to be killed. Shooting and explosions are generally inaccurate and do not make a direct path for vital organs even when they manage to hit a person. The person may be partly protected by obstacles or other persons, and when the battle stops, the wounded are usually helped or at least left alone. But when one has the opportunity and will to kill deliberately without resistance or restraint as in a massacre, the wounded become fewer and fewer until only a few or none are left. In massacres like Lidice in World War II Czechoslovakia, no surviving wounded were reported among the casualties; it was entirely systematic (JB). In others, a few survive (e.g., by being mixed among the dead) as at My Lai (ABC). At the massacre of Wounded Knee, South Dakota, the Sioux Indian dead also outnumbered the wounded with a ratio of 140 dead to 50 wounded. The massacre there ran out of steam before all could become among the dead (JG). The high ratio of 110 dead to 12 wounded at Deir Yassin is provided by the ZOA. The number of wounded may have been as high as 50, but in either case the dead outnumber them (RC). A systematic slaughter is powerfully indicated by this remarkable statistic alone. We would otherwise have to believe a group of ill-trained and poorly equipped fighters repeatedly scored a miraculously high rate of lethal wounds on persons they say they did not intend to hit. How Does the Lack of Captives Fail to Challenge the Charge of Massacre? Even at the famous Lidice massacre of Czechs, captives were taken (JB). At the battle of the Alamo, prisoners were also taken despite the call for “no prisoners” (LT). People were taken alive after Wounded Knee. There were different reasons in each case. Some persons were not targeted for massacre (e.g., women and children) or the massacre was undertaken for only a certain length of time.

The Saga of Deir Yassin


The Death-by-Combat Explanation Although our investigator has become virtually convinced of a massacre based on the casualty figures, the testimony of witnesses, and the concealment of the photos, he still must satisfy any lingering doubt. Strange things do happen, so it is important to get the story from the accused. Our historical sleuth turns to the ZOA tract and learns of a firefight during the village takeover. According to the ZOA, the attackers reported meeting stiff, accurate resistance from armed soldiers inside and outside the houses. Women and men dressed as women fought and used deceptive tactics of false surrender; women ran about giving assistance to village fighters; parts of some houses were blown up or blown open as they were stormed and captured; guerrillas had to advance and enter houses while firing wildly for fear of resistance (ZOA 35-46). There was also some mortar fire against one house by the Haganah, and some hand grenade use, but the ZOA alleges that by then most of the carnage had already occurred (ZOA 44). Absorbing the new information, our detective draws a further conclusion: A massacre can no longer be seriously doubted. Even assuming the ZOA description of the combat is accurate (which is highly questionable, as shall be shown later), it still leads to a conclusion of massacre. The notebook comes out again. Why Is the Combat Explanation Inadequate to Explain the Dead? There is no set of combat incidents that could explain the extreme carnage. As already discussed, 110 dead, largely if not exclusively civilian noncombatants, is profoundly unusual for village ground fighting. Yet the only explanation provided for this freakish outcome is a normal, unexceptional battle. That does not fit. There is nothing unusual about the battle reported by the ZOA. Defending soldiers sniping effectively from houses is a normal part of every war. Deception tactics like men disguised as Arab women to fight or escape, fake surrenders, etc., are as old as war itself. Women do fight. There were armed women in the Irgun, for example (Ml 265). Houses are stormed in all resisting villages in all wars, but storming houses is one thing and executing the inhabitants is an entirely different thing. Most important is the fact that the greatest destructive acts reported—blowing up houses, or parts of them—is also nothing unusual. The New York Times' correspondent of the period recalls that villages being raided and houses in them being blown up was standard for the period (DS 3-4). According to Aryeh Yitzhaki, an official historian of the Haganah, civilians were often in houses when blown up in ordinary operations by regular Jewish forces (Fl 94). Also, a letter from the Haganah commander to the guerrillas before the action at Deir Yassin advises against blowing up the houses, as if that practice was already an established, standard battle tactic (ZOA 7). Furthermore (in the ZOA tract or anywhere else), there are no reported airstrikes, heavy artillery fire, chemical weapons, suicide charges, or other powerful interventions that might explain an egregiously high civilian death toll. It is as if we are expected to believe that the untrained Irgun and Lehi guerrilla fighters spontaneously invented a new and lethal village ground-combat method never before conceived in warfare, and they did so while under fire. The death-in-combat explanation fails by trying to explain an extraordinary civilian death toll by describing a very ordinary battle. But more important, as discussed next, the heavy-battle explanation is not supported by the evidence. How is the Account of Combat Deaths in Heavy Fighting Contradicted By Evidence? One reported eyewitness has said that aerial photos of Deir Yassin, if taken, would have shown no significant difference before and after the fighting (McG 39). The reports of house demolitions at Deir Yassin (accounts that appear in most conventional reconstructions of the incident) are not
14 The Saga of Deir Yassin

supported by independent evidence of the scene. The ZOA cites no independent observer who recalls houses being destroyed or concluding that such destruction had taken place. Aftermath eyewitness Eliayhu Arbel, a veteran of several Middle East conflicts, who is cited above, insists that houses being blown up were not the cause of the deaths. None of our detective's independent eyewitnesses report demolished houses, partly demolished houses or structural signs of heavy combat. De Reynier's description of a disordered house of damaged furnishings makes no mention of stone rubble or crushed bodies. He describes the causes of death as knives, bullets, and hand grenades, not large bombs or structural collapse. In fact, the most detailed examination of the bodies (by the Histadrut doctors) repeatedly says the deaths of women and children occurred by bullets. There are intact limbs, suggesting no strong explosions. Dr. Engel specifically says the deaths in the houses were primarily by gunfire at close range. The two Histadrut doctors and Dr. Engel are all endorsed by the ZOA. An additional point of note is that most of our detective's eyewitnesses were experienced observers when they made their observations. And none of the independent eyewitnesses report any Arab or other soldiers among the dead, except for a second-hand report of two soldiers. This further strongly argues that there was little or no professional military resistance from inside the village. The claim of heavy resistance is also contradicted by evidence. The ZOA does not report even a single hand grenade thrown by the village fighters. There is also no mortar fire, land mines, or extensive hand-to-hand combat. Although there are reports of a soldier body here and there in the ZOA tract, our detective finds a lack of significant numbers of reported professional-soldier bodies. Nor is there a record of any specific number of captured guns to indicate the presence of enemy fighters. (A secret Haganah postbattle assessment categorically concluded that there had been no foreign Arabs in the village [Lv 343].) The decisive question presents itself: How is it that there came to be so many dead among those presumably not targeted (women and children) but so few, if any, of those supposedly targeted (soldiers)? If scores of civilians were hit by indirect fire at Deir Yassin while soldiers were the actual targets, should we not expect to find many more soldiers or even young male fighters among the dead? Further, we learn that only 5 out of 130 attackers died. This ratio (1 in 26) is slightly lower than the normal ratio of dead to total Jewish fighters in the 1948 war (1 in 25; 4,000 out of 100,000). Using the more precise figure of total nonreserve Israeli soldiers in front-line combat—25,000—the casualty rate at Deir Yassin of 1 in 26 falls well below the average 1 in 6 casualty rate for combat units (NL 450, Fl 198-199). Considering that the Deir Yassin attackers had little experience or training in regular combat, one would expect instead that they would suffer higher than average casualties in their first combat. Thus, by the most generous objective calculation, the attackers at best met average village resistance; by the more accurate combat-troop ratio, they met feeble resistance, not tough house-to-house fighting. Either way, the ZOA claim of an unusually heavy fight is contradicted. Irgun commander Mordechai Raanan himself recalls that the Haganah commander spoke to him with a tone of ridicule about their performance, hardly the way even a rival would act if green troops on the same side successfully overcame tough enemy resistance (ZOA 45). The explanation of heavy combat and house-to-house fighting is not only inadequate to explain the deaths, it is also contradicted by the evidence to this point. Deliberate killing of most of the victims is the explanation consistent with the evidence to this point. Our historical detective has found conclusive indirect evidence of massacre. Now he needs to track down the accused to examine their demeanor after the terrible carnage. This would provide evidence of their intentions regarding civilians. Did they act in candid moments as if the deaths
The Saga of Deir Yassin 15

were welcome or unwelcome? Doing so, our detective finds new evidence supporting the conclusion that a massacre occurred. The Demeanor of the Accused How is the claim of unintentional killing refuted by the behavior of the guerrillas? Our detective found no one to dispute that there were over a hundred corpses, including large numbers of women and children, in Deir Yassin's aftermath. The ZOA argues that the guerrillas did not intend to massacre them or even harm them substantially. Yet not a single expression of horror from the attackers about those results emerges in the ZOA tract. In fact, the broader record repeatedly indicates reactions that show the slaughter was quite intentional. Our detective searches for at least one guerrilla who stepped away from self-justification to say how horribly the massive carnage affected him. He looks for someone like one of his independent witnesses, many war-hardened professionals, some endorsed by the ZOA, and most engaged also in warfare against Arabs, who used phrases like “horror” and “moral shock” to describe the scene. He finds the reaction of the guerrillas, however, different. The guerrillas reveal no regrets or guilt but rather indifference and even pride about the carnage that included women and children. From the beginning, their behavior reflects a consistent theme of profound satisfaction with the grisly slaughter. One of their first observed actions after the fighting was to sit down among the corpses . . . and have lunch. “I was shaken,” Mordechai Gihon remembered, “by the sight of some of the [guerrillas] eating with gusto next to the bodies” (Ml 268). A few days later, when the burial party arrived, one of the buriers broke down in tears at the sight. A guerrilla jeered, “Why are you crying, boy?” (Ml 272). When the guerrillas were asked to assist in the burial, Yeshurun Schiff says they scoffed and cracked, “We're fighters, not pallbearers” (Kr 147). On the night of the attack, as the ZOA tract confirms, the leader of the Irgun consciously exaggerated the death toll to 254 in a public statement that has become the source of the most commonly reported figure by all sides. Such willingness to make a tragedy appear worse indicates the result was desired and that the fight was not gruesome enough for them. De Reynier, the Red Cross representative, gave the most dramatic recollections of the behavior of the attackers amidst the carnage. He described them as appearing “half-mad” (CLP 278). In a recollection not challenged by the ZOA, he finds a wounded child left untended two days after the village came into the hands of the attackers (DeR 73; ZOA 65). In his contemporary memo to the Red Cross in Geneva, he recalls a leader of the guerrillas telling him that when the “cleaning up” is finished, there would not be a single Arab left alive in Deir Yassin (RC). In his memoirs de Reynier recalls an Irgun commander saying that the villagers who did not surrender “got the fate they deserved” (DeR 72). De Reynier is attacked in the ZOA tract. It is imputed that he is on some mission to “expose Jewish savagery” to the world and that he was hostile to “the Jewish side.” The attacks on de Reynier are in such desperate and demonstrable bad faith that it raises questions of slander. For example, the ZOA implies he fabricated an incident that occurred when he arrived at Deir Yassin, and then they cite Dr. Engel's testimony that reports the incident differently. What they fail to tell is that it is quite clear from de Reynier's account that these are two different stories (DeR 70-73; ZOA 61, 66). In a dishonest appeal to partisan emotions and fears of bias, the ZOA accuses de Reynier of wanting to expose the world to “Jewish savagery.” However, contemporary reports indicate de Reynier consulted the Jewish Agency staff prior to making statements; and he insisted that Arab authorities mention the risks taken by Jewish medical personnel to help his mission (ZOA 63; RC).
16 The Saga of Deir Yassin

A member of the Jewish paramilitary youth organization commented that the attackers appeared proud of what they had done as they carried the bodies about (Ml 271). Shimon Monita, a Haganah informant in Lehi, found an old crippled man hiding in one of the houses on April 10; another guerrilla casually told Monita to shoot the man (Ml 267). A final image de Reynier took with him is telling. It is of one guerrilla holding up a large dagger, wet with blood, and waving it about like a trophy (RC). Natan Yellin-Friedman, Lehi supreme commander, encapsulated the postbattle attitude to the carnage by Lehi fighters. Rebuking them at a conference on the subject of Deir Yassin some time later he said, “Who asks you to come and boast about it?” (Lv 345). The lack of sorrow or revulsion among the guerrillas at Deir Yassin in the face of a rare war horror, and the apparent pride of the killers, even to a ghoulish degree, argue definitively that the carnage was not an unintended misfortune but the grisly aftermath of a deliberate massacre. Our historical investigator is now fully convinced of the culpability of the Irgun and Lehi guerrillas in a massacre at Deir Yassin. The concealment of the photos, the large number of casualties, the disproportionately low number of wounded, the grisly conclusions of experienced eyewitnesses to the carnage, the death-by-combat excuse, and the lack of regret shown by the killers provide, separately and together, an indisputable case of massacre. Our detective must now assemble the case. Having assembled the overpowering circumstantial evidence, he turns to direct evidence of guilt. It does not take long. Knowing that culprits often can be caught boasting of their deeds in private, the sleuth's goal now is to find admissions of massacre. Although there has been no criminal prosecution about Deir Yassin to force testimony, admissions of intentional killing still readily surface. Admissions by the Attackers Have the attackers of Deir Yassin admitted to intentional killing and planning a mass murder? Yes, and often. In a public statement, Irgun commander Mordechai Raanan recalled that the villagers of Deir Yassin stopped surrendering after they saw one of his men machinegun surrendering prisoners. “A young fighter [from our side] holding a Bren machine gun in his hands took up a position,” Raanan remembered. “Having seen what happened to the inhabitants of the other houses, [the residents of the house] came out to us with their hands up. There were nine people there, including a woman and a boy. The chap holding the Bren suddenly squeezed the trigger and held it. A round of shots hit the group of Arabs. While he was shooting he yelled ‘This is for Yiftach!'” (YA 4-4-72). Yiftach was the nickname of an Irgun officer who had been shot earlier. It bears repeating here that the ZOA claims there is no evidence of prisoner mistreatment. The ZOA cannot conceal the enormous record of confession, although it ignores and omits most of it. Still, it quotes Israeli author Uri Avneri's claim that he learned from Irgunists that the massacre began when a local commander lost his head when the Irgun suffered casualties (ZOA 70). The ZOA also concedes that journalist Dan Kurzman wrote in his book on the 1948 war that some attackers admitted that they “cold-bloodedly shot every Arab they found—man, woman, or child” (ZOA 145; Kr 148). In a similar revelation, Raanan implied to journalist Ned Temko that “excesses” were performed by his forces at Deir Yassin (NT 368). Raanan describes one such killing in the passage just quoted. But the ZOA denies to its readers even the mention of these Raanan admissions. The existing confessions and revelations are extensive in scope. Private recollections of the incident were collected in the Jabotinsky Archives, the institution named after the Irgun founder. Much of this was discovered and published by Israeli journalist Yisrael Segal in 1983 (Sl 262). Irgun member Yehoshua Gorodenchek declared that, as the attackers considered retreat, his unit “had prisoners, and before the retreat we decided to liquidate them. We also liquidated the wounded.”
The Saga of Deir Yassin 17

In one place, Gorodenchek learned, “about eighty Arab prisoners were killed after some of them had opened fire. . . . [Male] Arabs who dressed up as Arab women were found, and so they started to shoot the [surrendering] women also” (Sl 93). Detailed reports can be found of atrocities and atrocity plans from the perpetrators. Yehuda Marinburg of the Lehi told the Jabotinsky Archives of the execution of one group of male prisoners after capture (Pl 52). Uri Milstein, whose work is the basis for the ZOA tract, tells of the execution of two prisoners taken alive, a fact he drew from a key Lehi officer's own recollections (Ml 263). Another account is of the cold-blooded execution in Givat Shaul in front of numerous witnesses of a man from Deir Yassin found disguised as a woman (Ml 267). Ben-Zion Cohen, Irgun commander for the operation, informed the Jabotinsky Archives that, at some point at Deir Yassin, “We eliminated every Arab that came our way” (Pr 216). The ZOA does not report any of these accounts but instead insists that there is no evidence of prisoner mistreatment at Deir Yassin. The same commander also related the preplanning of the operation. There, a debate occurred and “The majority was for liquidation of all the men in the village and any other force that opposed us, whether it be old people, women, or children” (Sl 90). The evidence of a massacre mentality is so strong that the ZOA, despite its pattern of concealment, cannot avoid discussion of the murdermindedness. From an attacker source, it tells of a Lehi proposal to massacre the inhabitants of Deir Yassin (ZOA 28-30). The admissions of deliberate atrocity from participants are numerous and broad. There are also repeated admissions of cold-blooded contemplation of mass murder in the village. No fair-minded person can reasonably doubt that the carnage of Deir Yassin was simply the result of anything other than a massacre. Motives For Massacre Our historical investigation now has more than enough evidence to demonstrate a massacre at Deir Yassin. There is circumstantial evidence and there are repeated confessions. Now the detective asks the obvious next question: Why? Murder usually has one or more motives. Perusing the record, the detective finds several reasons, many straight from the killers' own words. From the outset it should be noted that the guerrillas were young people, teenagers even, most on their first military encounter (ZOA 28; NT 368). The Irgun district commander was only 25 (Kr 140). They encountered deadly resistance. They were armed and in a violent situation. The analysis of motive begins with the most obvious emotional factors and proceeds to the more systematic ones. Fear. The guerrillas encountered fire that killed four of them and left many wounded. They advanced into an unknown situation without training. The most likely reaction was fear. Ben-Zion Cohen stated that one reason his group “eliminated every Arab” who came their way was “fear of the battle starting up behind us” (Pr 216). Fear can also be an excuse for willful acts. Fear as a motive loses emphasis as other motives are clearly discovered. Revenge. Inflicting a retaliatory punishment was a central motive. “Their feelings of revenge were unrestrained,” assessed the Haganah intelligence chief of the time (Pl 50). Ben-Zion Cohen independently confirmed this in his Archives testimony. “In view of Deir Yassin's resistance, [we] felt a desire for revenge” (Pr 216). The attacking groups had suffered 4 dead and 36 wounded in the action. This was their first time in pitched combat and this seemed enormous. The desire for revenge was also for older grievances. The Irgun operations officer, Joshua Goldshmidt, was the son of a Jewish fighter from the 1929 Arab-Jewish violence in which Deir Yassin had participated. Goldshmidt's father had sworn him never to forget Deir Yassin's violent
18 The Saga of Deir Yassin

hostility of the earlier period. It was Goldshmidt who apparently suggested Deir Yassin as a target (Lv 340). Attacks and atrocities by Arabs in the growing warfare between Jews and Arabs played a part. The Irgun's Yehuda Lapidot specifically noted that, in planning its attack on Deir Yassin, the group was inspired by anger over the atrocities (including mutilation of bodies and take-no-prisoners fighting) committed by Arab irregulars at Atarot and Gush Etzion (Nebi Daniel convoy attack of March 30) (Sl 90). Ben-Zion Cohen corroborated this in his testimony when he said that the desire for revenge that influenced those who eliminated every Arab came “especially after the enemy [had] hit us hard in Gush Etzion and Atarot” (Pr 216). A less explicit basis for revenge may have been the organizational humiliation engendered by the village resistance. Before the attack on Deir Yassin, the attackers had planned to make a major show of their organizational strength. “If we, the IZL and Lehi are finally going to do a joint operation, the Arabs should know it” (ZOA 30). Instead of the great showing, however, overcoming final resistance in Deir Yassin required help from the Palmach fighters, who were military and political rivals. “They achieved in one hour what we could not accomplish in several hours,” observed one guerrilla commenting on the superior performance of a much smaller unit (ZOA 46). A Palmach member who rated the guerrillas' fighting performance as poor reported an angry exchange in Deir Yassin over the relative fighting obligations of the guerrillas and the Palmach (Ml 266). Militarism: Violence, Terror, and Prisoner Abuse. Most fighters in most actions in most wars feel fear and a desire for revenge. That is not enough to explain the large scope of the massacre. An additional factor was the militaristic cult of violence among the attackers. A common chant among the Betarim, a nationalist group once led by Irgun chief Begin, promised that as Judea was destroyed by blood and fire so it shall be restored (Bl overleaf). The emblem of the Irgun organization was a map of Palestine and Transjordan with a bayoneted rifle superimposed above the words “Only Thus” (NT 364). After the Deir Yassin operation, Irgun chief Begin issued a statement exulting, “God, God, thou hast chosen us for conquest” (Sl 88). In planning the attack on Deir Yassin, the guerrillas seriously contemplated massacre of the villagers in order to display the fearsomeness of the two guerrilla groups (ZOA 30). About the time of the attack The New York Times correspondent in Jerusalem interviewed an Irgun spokesman in Tel Aviv who told him that terror, bombs, and assassination were the only weapons they had to fight the Arabs (DS 4-5). Violence against civilians and prisoners was an operational tactic in this regard. British Mandatory headquarters at the King David Hotel were bombed by the Irgun, and almost a hundred civilians were killed. The Irgun threw bombs into civilian bus stops, public squares, and workplaces. On one occasion, they kidnapped two British soldiers and hanged them publicly. The ZOA passes over this as “retaliatory hanging” (ZOA 79). In a ghoulish twist, they set up a booby trap for those who retrieved the bodies. On another occasion, captured British soldiers were publicly flogged (CLP 116). Well before Deir Yassin, the attackers had an established mode of operation that included acts of demonstrative violence in which civilian casualties were sought and prisoners were abused and killed, sometimes publicly. Communal Warfare. The fighting between Palestinian Arabs and Jews was often especially cruel, a form of deeply fierce ethnic warfare. The mentality grew paranoid and racist such that no one of the “enemy,” no matter how innocent, was deemed immune, even children. Every action had some degree of excess associated with it. Israeli historian Uri Milstein, the main source for the ZOA tract, observed that

The Saga of Deir Yassin


Even before the establishment of the State, each battle ended with a massacre. In the [1948] war . . . most of the action happened between Jews and Palestinians. The education in the Yishuv at that time had it that the Arabs would do anything to kill us and therefore we had to massacre them. [Many were] convinced that the most cherished wish of say, a nine-year old Arab child, was to exterminate us. (GE) Harry Levin reflected on the atrocities of Deir Yassin and related the existence of “cultured, kindly people . . . who condone it, [and] say the Arabs started it, and this is the only kind of reply they understand” (HL 59). Yehuda Lapidot of the Irgun said that a main motive for the attack on Deir Yassin was lifting morale after Arab victories and atrocities (Sl 90). With this kind of mentality every Arab man, woman, or child was a potential “legitimate” victim. Ethnic Ideology. More than popular wartime prejudice, the attacking groups in particular had cultivated an ideological ethos of hostility to an Arab presence. The Irgun's founder, Vladimir Jabotinsky, said that Islam, the primary religion of Arab society, “must be broomed out of Eretz Israel.” The founder of Lehi, Avraham Stern, declared that “Arabs are not a nation but a mole that grew in the wilderness of the eternal desert. They are nothing but murderers” (Pr 212). Logically, what one is permitted to do to murderers is kill them in self-defense. Journalist Dan Kurzman describes the thoughts of Lehi member Menashe Eichler, whom he interviewed about his experience at Deir Yassin. The latter considered the Arabs to be “thieves” since they were enemies of Zionism. It was permissible to kill them in the act of theft, defined to mean the opposition of Arabs to (in Eichler's religiously-oriented nationalism) a divinely ordained Jewish state (Kr 143). Inflicting high civilian casualties by massacre thus served the ideological motive of stampeding panicked Arabs into submission or flight. The effect of a high casualty figure in causing mass panic was apparent to Irgun district chief Mordechai Raanan when he exaggerated the already horrendous death toll at Deir Yassin to 254. “I told the reporters that 254 were killed so that a big figure would be published, and so that the Arabs would panic not only in Jerusalem but across the country, and this goal was accomplished” (Ml 269).


The Saga of Deir Yassin

Reconstructing the Event
This chapter is the story of the massacre from the available record of the events. It deals foremost with the issue of mass murder; other alleged crimes are treated briefly and peripherally and only where they are relevant to the main picture. Much of the story relies on the recollections of a witness to round out Arab testimonies and attacker admissions. That witness is Meir Pa'il. He retired from the Israeli armed forces as a colonel in the early 1970s. He has spoken often of his experience at Deir Yassin (PAI). Pa'il (then Pilevsky) was an intelligence agent in 1948 who monitored the Irgun and Lehi for the Haganah. He infiltrated the attackers on the day of the Deir Yassin raid. His presence at the scene as an eyewitness is invaluable because he saw much of the event on April 9th and saw it from the attacker side (PAI). The following account is more detailed and critical in content than most other accounts. It is information from up-to-date research and includes a breakdown of the massacre in stages, a resolution of significant discrepancies such as the death toll, and a rejection of the common view that demolition of houses occurred in the course of the operation. The Beginning On April 5, 1948, the Palmach began its Operation Nachshon to force open the road to besieged Jewish Jerusalem. On April 6, a convoy of supplies made it through tough resistance from Arab fighters along the road. Meanwhile, Arab leader Abdel Khader Husseini came to the area to take personal command after the Haganah captured the strategically situated roadside town of Kastel earlier in the week (CLP 261). The Irgun and Lehi guerrillas had not been part of this fighting. They were not cooperating with Haganah in Jerusalem because they opposed the internationalization of the city. On his own initiative, Yeshurun Schiff of the Haganah invited the Irgun and Lehi guerrillas to join the battle of Kastel. They declined (CLP 255-256), but they wanted to perform some action of their own. By April 7, they had closed in on the choice of a town they wished to attack: Deir Yassin (Kr 141). The Selection of a Target Deir Yassin was a curious choice for a target for several reasons. Months before, the elders of Deir Yassin agreed not to allow the village to become a base for attacks against the neighboring Jewish areas of West Jerusalem. The agreement was supervised by the Haganah (Lv 130; ZOA 19). In turn, Deir Yassin would not be attacked. The village was not situated on a main road; it was located on the other side of a hill and was over a kilometer away (AIP, BZ 6). Documents from the time indicate that some villagers were sources for Haganah military intelligence (ZOA 20). There has been much debate and recrimination since the 1948 incident about why Deir Yassin was selected and who suggested it. One thing, however, is clear. No one, in planning the attack, considered it to be a center of active hostility in the growing conflict. Nowhere in the ZOA's entire
Chapter 2 21

discussion of the selection of Deir Yassin, for example, is there information from any source that the guerrillas felt the village needed to be taken to quell ongoing attacks on Jewish targets emanating from there, nor is such consideration reported in any of the guerrillas' planning discussions (ZOA 5-15). Arab villages had a great deal of autonomy because of strong personal and family loyalties and because of lack of modern transportation and communication facilities. Additionally, territorywide political organization of Palestine’s Arabs had often been officially repressed by the British. As the British departed, the breakdown of central authority enhanced the already powerful local leadership (BZ 49-52). Deir Yassin had been a hostile village to Jews and to the British in the 1929 Palestine violence and the Arab revolt of the late 1930s. By the late 1940s, however, the village had developed a good working relationship with the nearby Jewish settlement, Givat Shaul (Kr 138). Deir Yassin made its own decisions in the 1948 conflict. Having chosen mutual nonaggression with their Jewish neighbors, the village elders stuck to the deal. The Lehi, in a publication a few weeks before the attack, described the village as one that remained steadfast in honoring its nonaggression agreement (Lv 340-341). Of course the villagers did not trust their neutrality to fate or the good will of either side. They purchased smuggled weapons and set up a system of guard watches to patrol the village perimeter (BZ 50). On one occasion, Iraqi detachments fighting on the Arab side attempted to set up a base around the village. The village leadership insisted on their departure; the confrontation grew violent, and a young man from Deir Yassin was killed (Lv 340). Treading carefully, they kept up contact with both the Haganah in Jerusalem and the Arab paramilitary base in neighboring Ein Kerem (Ml 257). Fighting in the area grew intense as March ended, and the Kastel battle and Operation Nachshon swung into gear. Pressure increased on Deir Yassin. On March 30, a large number of Syrian and Iraqis were seen entering the village (Lv 340). They departed soon after, according to the same report (the departure unmentioned by ZOA). In an independent account, a villager recalls an elder inviting the leader of a foreign Arab force to a meal about that time and politely but firmly convincing him to abandon the idea of staying in Deir Yassin (Kr 139). Soon after fighting began at Kastel, violence increased around the West Jerusalem Jewish districts. Some of these neighborhoods were hit by sniper fire coming from the wast, a general area that includes Deir Yassin (Ml 257). As fighting spread from Kastel to Motza, some Arab professional troops came from the south and cut through Deir Yassin, assembling there on the way to Motza (ZOA 22). Despite open warfare looming closer and closer, Deir Yassin remained an oasis of stability. The shooting in the area and movements of armed formations did not affect the basic quiet of the village. The elders refused a request from one Arab guerrilla leader, Erekat, to allow troops to move into Deir Yassin (Ml 257). Dov Joseph, the Jerusalem area Military Governor for the Jewish Agency and later Israel, recalled the town as “a quiet village, which had denied entry to the volunteer Arab units from across the frontier and which had not been involved in any attacks on Jewish areas” (Js 71). Irgun leader Raanan reconnoitered the village and, although he maintained years later that it served as an Arab militia logistical position of sorts, nevertheless admitted at the time that the town did look “quiet” (Ml 256, 260). Popular Arab militia leader Abdul Khader Husseini was reported missing on April 7 at Kastel. But only a handful of individuals left Deir Yassin to join the huge stream of Arab villagers that stormed Kastel and took it back from the Haganah on April 8 (CLP 263, BZ 49). (This did not violate the agreement between Givat Shaul and Deir Yassin because Jews from Givat Shaul could also fight elsewhere without violating the agreement.)
22 The Saga of Deir Yassin

The village elders' policy to prevent attacks on Jewish West Jerusalem from Deir Yassin was so well-maintained that the Haganah commander in nearby Givat Shaul, Yona Ben-Sasson, stated unequivocally that in the 1948 conflict there had not been a single incident between Deir Yassin and the Jewish community before the town was captured (Ml 257). Ben-Sasson is mentioned favorably as a source by the ZOA, although this particular statement is omitted in the tract. Mordechai Gihon of Haganah intelligence inspected Deir Yassin after it was captured and reviewed movements of armed men he observed before the attack to determine if this was bad faith on the part of the villagers. The ZOA cites Gihon extensively and always favorably but omits the following. In a secret memorandum after the incident, Gihon concluded that the villagers had been “faithful allies of the western [Jerusalem] sector” who had “kept faith” even during a Jewish offensive to take a nearby ridge (Lv 343). The main reason for the selection of Deir Yassin by the guerrillas had nothing to do with Deir Yassin being an actual or potential military threat. In private testimony, Irgun officer Yehuda Lapidot revealed that “the reason was mainly economic . . . to capture booty” for bases of the guerrilla groups (Sl 90). The siege of Jerusalem had created severe shortages. Lapidot also mentioned a desire to improve morale by taking a village, especially in light of recent hits taken by Jewish forces (Lv 340). A Haganah commander recalled that the guerrillas also told him the raid was “punitive” in character (Ml 258). Some dissent was heard within the guerrillas' ranks. David Siton of the Lehi organization protested that hitting a friendly Arab village would endanger western Jerusalem (Ml 257). In the guerrillas' discussions, another reason entered; namely revenge. Irgun operation commander Joshua Goldschmidt had been sworn by his father, who grew up in Givat Shaul, never to forget Deir Yassin's hostility in the violence of the previous decades. When the suggestion of an attack by the guerrillas was brought to the Haganah, District Commander David Shaltiel tried to dissuade them from it and suggested the town of Kolonia instead (Ml 259). Finally, he gave in and issued a cover letter that did not exactly approve the attack but stated that an eventual Jewish takeover of Deir Yassin was a long-term goal, in order to set up an airfield. It cautioned against blowing up houses and causing the population to flee because Shaltiel feared that foreign troops would use blown-up houses as a base. Shaltiel also stressed the need to hold the town after taking it for fear it could be taken over by hostile forces (ZOA 7). The Irgun's Mordechai Raanan claimed that the town had been a protection point for a supply route from Ein Kerem to Arab troops at Kastel. A separate Lehi reconnaissance was made. Its excursion is said by a Lehi member to have reached the conclusion that Raanan's claim was false and that the village was not a threat (Ml 256). Attackers would also say that the Deir Yassin raid was requested by the Haganah to assist a Jewish attack on Kastel and to support the movement of a road convoy (Ml 260). The Haganah sources do not support this, and concerns about what was happening in Kastel or on the road do not appear in attacker recollections of the actual battle (ZOA 31-45). Meir Pa'il of the “antidissident” intelligence unit learned of the attack after meeting a Lehi member on April 7 or 8. The Lehi member was unaware of Pa'il's espionage duties. The Lehi member told Pa'il of the raid and invited him to join it. Pa'il did not like what he heard. He protested to David Shaltiel that permitting the guerrillas to attack Deir Yassin was in violation of the agreement with the village, but Shaltiel said he did not want to risk a fight among Jewish forces at that time (PAI). The Haganah's spy agency chief in Jerusalem, Yitzhak Levi, also opposed the plans and suggested to Shaltiel that they at least advise Deir Yassin that the truce was off. Shaltiel refused, saying he would not alert Arabs to a possible Jewish action (Lv 341).

The Saga of Deir Yassin


The guerrillas held meetings to plan the operation. They adopted a password: Achdut Lochemet. It meant “Fighting [in] Unity” and signified the fact that this was the Irgun and Lehi's first joint operation. Efforts were made to gather weaponry, much of which was illegally and poorly made in underground factories. The commanders also knew their fighters had not been trained for regular warfare (Ml 258, 261). A natural question soon asserted itself. What is to be done about captives from the village? Since this was the guerrillas' first regular military operation, it was a novel question. According to the Irgun's Yehuda Lapidot, a proposal came from the Lehi side to slaughter any inhabitants of the village who did not flee (ZOA 28-30; Ml 258). Ben-Zion Cohen of the Irgun reported that the majority of his group favored killing all the men and any others who resisted (SI 90). Revenge for a late March Arab militia ambush of Jewish fighters and subsequent mutilation of the dead bodies was put forth. It was also urged that a fearsome showing had to be made in a combined Lehi-Irgun operation. Sending a loud message of terror to the Arabs appealed to the members (Ml 258). A debate ensued and Irgun commander-in-chief Menachem Begin in Tel Aviv was apparently consulted. He is said to have ordered the Irgun to honor the Geneva Convention's rules for honorable treatment of prisoners and to have suggested that the raid begin with a loudspeaker announcement telling the villagers to flee to Ein Kerem (Ml 258). How effectively this warning was conveyed to the members before the battle is unclear. Leaders of both groups and Meir Pa'il have said instructions were indeed given, but Raanan of the Irgun said that Lehi Jerusalem district chief Joshua Zettler admitted to him that he thought it unwise to give prebattle instructions that called for minimizing casualties and respecting captives (Kr 139, McG 37). Further, as the guerrillas were getting ready on the night before the attack, fighters were observed by a Jerusalem family candidly and excitedly discussing their hopes to do things in Deir Yassin that would send a message so frightening that the Arabs throughout the country would panic and flee (Sh 36). An Early Coverup? Just after midnight on April 9, the raiders began to assemble. The total number of participants appears to have been around 130 (ZOA 16). Infiltrated among the Lehi group was Meir Pa'il and a photographer. Pa'il had decided to spy on the guerrillas to get an idea of their military performance (PAI). The groups proceeded in two main prongs. The Lehi came from Givat Shaul and traveled down the main road into eastern Deir Yassin, accompanied by a small vehicle equipped with a loudspeaker. A Haganah squad under Mordechai Gihon was present in Givat Shaul (Ml 260; Lv 343). In the same early hours, the Palmach began an assault to retake Kastel after its fall to Arabs the previous day. David Shaltiel made an odd entry in his operations log at about 2:40 a.m. He recorded that he sent a cable to Operation Nachshon's Palmach commander Shimon Avidan that the Arabs in Deir Yassin had set up a mortar to shell a convoy on the highway (Ml 259). This information is quite inconsistent with the Deir Yassin incident and is almost certainly false. There is no report or suggestion anywhere else by anyone else (including attackers and villagers) of a mortar or even mortar shells being used by the Arabs, all very valuable weapons. Nor is there any account of a mortar being discovered, concealed, sought, observed, used, or in any other way involved with the action at Deir Yassin. Nor is there any published reference to such a message being received by Avidan. The anomalous notation is thus not likely to be true. An explanation may be simple error: a misstatement from another village because the impending attack on Deir Yassin was on Shaltiel's mind. (The timing of the incident coincides with the attack on Kastel.) Or it may represent an attempt by Shaltiel to concoct a justification to the
24 The Saga of Deir Yassin

leftist Palmach for his toleration of the controversial Deir Yassin raid by the hated “right wing.” In any event, it stands as an oddity inconsistent with the facts and much more consistent with a mistake or a deception. (The Deir Yassin massacre became a very controversial affair afterwards, and Shaltiel and the Haganah command proved capable of issuing false statements regarding their role in the raid [ZOA 72-73].) Allowing the politically unpopular “dissidents” to betray a peace pact during a vital offensive made the Deir Yassin action controversial even before the more infamous massacre that followed. In those early hours, the residents of Deir Yassin had their guards on watch as they did every night. There had already been some movement in the area as fighters and peasants who had gone to Kastel headed eastward during the night towards Jerusalem, where Abdul Khader Husseini's funeral was scheduled for the morning (Kr 138). About 3:00 a.m., the Irgun began to move into position from Jerusalem's southwest suburbs. The Lehi prepared to move directly down the path from Givat Shaul. The village guards met some advancing guerrillas, apparently Irgunists, and fired warning shots. About 4:45 a.m., the battle began (Lv 342). Comedy of Terrors One of the Middle East's most enduring tragedies, the massacre at Deir Yassin, began as a black comedy. Two sets of ill-trained fighters suddenly met each other when neither was ready. The start of the attack did not go as planned because a villager shouted an Arabic word or name that was similar to the attacker's password. Thinking he heard his password, an advancing fighter shouted a response, thus exposing the attackers (Ml 262). Then, the warning loudspeaker's transport fell into a ditch and the crew began broadcasting from the ditch, its ultimate effects uncertain (PAI; ZOA 31). The Irgun also failed to keep the high ground in front of the village, which would have allowed direct suppression of village fire (Lv 342). Meanwhile, the village guards fled in confusion and panic as fire came from all around (Lv 342). Alerted by the attack in the east, the town's population began to flee toward Ein Kerem in the southwest. The Lehi units made some progress into the lower eastern part (McG 36; PAI), but progress was hampered as the frightened townspeople began to reorganize and resist. A village teacher, Hayat Balabseh, started a first-aid area and began to retrieve weapons from dead villagers (BZ 53, 54). The Irgun's failure to hold the rise allowed some village men to return from Ein Kerem and take up positions (Lv 342). The Irgun began experiencing casualties (Lv 342). Mordechai Gihon swung into action with the Haganah unit in Givat Shaul. Uninformed of the full extent of Haganah approval of the action, he obtained limited authorization to protect the guerrillas' retreat from the rise and to retrieve the wounded. He set up a machine gun on the Sharafa ridge (now Mt. Herzl), fired at fleeing residents, and also hit some of the guerrillas in the confusion. For a while, Haganah firing blocked the return of the rallying Deir Yassin villagers and any assistance they might obtain from Ein Kerem (Lv 343). The Lehi members' more successful advance into the village also became stymied as some of the rallied townsmen assembled in the mukhtar's (village head) house, a multi-storied residence at the highest part of the village. From this vantage, the defenders commanded much of the town (PAI). The terrible black comedy continued. Many of the guerrillas' homemade weapons simply did not work. Lack of training was also evident. And many of the attackers did not know how to use their weapons. Some threw hand grenades without pulling the pins. In addition to the possibility that Irgun men got hit by friendly fire from the Haganah, one Lehi unit commander was accidentally shot by his own men (Ml 263). More significant, central command control was lost quickly. Units went off on their own and failed to obey orders. Most proved incapable or unwilling to help fellows who were injured (Ml 262; Lv 342).

The Saga of Deir Yassin


The Irgun decided to retreat from its positions south of the town. The equally ill-trained villagers did not press their advantages and launch a counterattack. One of the men of the town recalled shooting in the hopes the attackers would run away. “We expected the fighting to last two or three hours, after which they would retreat” (GN). But they did not pull out. The Lehi suggested the Irgun join them among the houses and buildings in the east of the village. During this period of advance, confusion, and frustration, which constituted much of the morning, the “Deir Yassin massacre” took shape. The Massacre in Hot Blood After the initial advance, the village counter-fire from the Muktar's house caused many attackers to hide. Meir Pa'il and others remained pinned in an empty house (PAI). Some who were more organized and less exposed had begun early to move among the houses to take prisoners. Still, “the conquest was carried out cruelly,” as historian Uri Milstein summarized, involving the killing of whole families (Ml 274). Early on, any orders inhibiting the massacre appear to have lost their force under the lack of central control and the fear and rage engendered by the resistance. Eyewitnesses reported several gruesome stabbings of unresisting villagers that occurred in the morning. Two men are said to have been thoroughly slashed with a very large knife. A pregnant woman was shot and stabbed (CLP 275). Although Pa'il says that the attackers he saw had no knives (PAI; McG 43), there are many reports of knife-killings (BZ 56, McG 51, CLP 275, DeR 74). It is possible that units he did not observe had knives, or that knives and other implements were retrieved from captured houses. Pa'il's movement was hindered in the morning, and he could not see everything (PAI). Several fighters among the ill-armed guerrillas planned to acquire weapons from casualties, either Jewish or Arab. Further, with ammunition low and a part of the force unable to operate their weapons (because of poorly trained fighters or poorly manufactured weapons), it is quite likely the attackers resorted to other weapons. Weaponry was so scarce, in fact, that the units' medics were crudely armed with clubs (Ml 261). The bloody-minded prebattle plans seem reflected in the takeover of one house and the killing of those who were inside. The murders echoed planning-stage proposals to kill the men first and any others who put up opposition, where “opposition” could simply mean a cry of protest or horror. Village resident Fahimi Zeidan was about 12 years old the day of the raid. She recalls the attackers blowing open the door of her house where she, her family, and several relatives hid in a storeroom. “They . . . entered and started searching the place; they got to the storeroom, and took us out one-by-one.” They started with one man. “They shot the son-in-law, and when one of his daughters screamed, they shot her, too. They then called my brother Mahmoud and shot him in our presence, and when my mother screamed and bent over my brother (she was carrying my little sister Khadra who was still being breast fed) they shot my mother too.” The children began crying and screaming. They were told that “if we did not stop, they would shoot us all” (BZ 55). The children did not stop crying. So the attackers “lined us up, shot at us, and left.” She was wounded but not killed. “I looked around to see who was still alive: my uncle, his children and his wife were all dead, my sister Soumia who was only four, and my brother Mohamad, were alive” (BZ 55). She and her injured siblings were taken alive later by other fighters. Their restraint was not much less than those who killed her family. “We walked with some other women from the village, then came across a young man and an older man, with their hands up in the air, under guard.” The group with the two surrendered males and hers met. “When they reached us, the soldiers shot them.” The mother of the younger man was with Fahimi Zeidan's group of gathered captives.
26 The Saga of Deir Yassin

“She attacked the soldiers and started hitting them,” she remembered. So “one of them stabbed her with a knife a few times” (BZ 56). It was in the early morning, while retreat was being considered, according to confirmation by the Irgun's Gorodenchik, that one Irgun unit executed its Arab prisoners and Arab wounded. He also said that Arab women were compelled to function as human shields to carry wounded guerrillas out of the village; the women were then hit by fire from the villagers (Sl 93, Ml 266). A Trigger Event? The above account, along with others, suggests a possible trigger event for many of these killings, although this is speculation. Desire for revenge over a particular man's death and the use of disguise tactics by some villagers played a significant part in setting off the attackers on a murderous rampage, shooting everyone in sight. One villager's impression was that the attackers were not going to harm the townspeople until after an Irgun commander was shot (ZOA 111). Many survivors told an undercover Haganah agent that the massacre began after a concealed weapon was found on a man dressed as a woman (Ml 267). These accounts may find reconciliation in Irgun leader Raanan's similar story of a group execution prompted by a key commander's mortal wounding. Irgun vanguard commander Yehuda Segal was shot and mortally wounded on the steps of a house in the morning fighting. When people in the house surrendered, a guerrilla gunned them down with a machine gun, shouting “This is for Yiftach!” (Yiftach was Segal's nickname.) The victims of the revenge execution included at least one woman and child. According to Raanan's account, one of the men was dressed as a woman and had a gun. Raanan concedes that after this mass killing the villagers became terrified (Lv 344). The version from the undercover Haganah agent also indicates that villagers believed that after a man dressed as a woman shot an Irgun commander, the guerrillas began killing everyone they saw (Ml 276). Thus, there is evidence from separate sources that the shooting of Irgun officer Yehuda Segal by a person or persons disguised in women's clothing set off a pattern of general slaughter. Whether this was indeed a trigger, or whether there was a single trigger for the hot-blooded massacre, remains speculative. What is not speculative is that needless slaughter kept happening during the fighting and taking of prisoners. Villager recollections indicate one attacker set up a machine gun and mowed down all who passed (Ml 275). Reports from survivors also tell of family members being shot as they attempted to aid fallen relatives (Ml 275, GN). Gorodenchek of the Irgun said that surrendering women who did not move fast enough were also killed (Sl 93). A woman named Thoraya, at the time a young girl, recalled that her aunts protected her with their bodies as they were stabbed to death in a house. She survived by cowering beneath their stiffening bodies while covered in their blood (McG 51). The deaths were murderous excesses, not accidents of combat. Houses were not blown up. “No house in Deir Yassin was bombed,” Pa'il confirms emphatically (McG 39). The Rescue of the Guerrillas Many guerrillas were in trouble—wounded were hard to reach and sniper fire from the townspeople was deadly (Lv 342; PAI). They could move among the houses, killing and capturing, but they proved unable to advance decisively. Some of the attackers ran to get help. What is clear is that by late morning a decisive difference was made when 17 members of a Palmach unit with official authorization presented itself. This was Company D of the Palmach's Harel 4th Brigade commanded by Mordechai Weg, better known by his nickname Yaacov or Yaki. Studying the situation, he brought a two-inch mortar and 17 “Palmachniks” (Lv 344, PAI). Pa'il discovered the unit's presence when he heard the mortar firing. It was now about 11:00 a.m. Three shots were directed at the mukhtar's house and all significant resistance was stopped. The Palmach troops rapidly went through the village and suppressed hostile fire (Lv 344).
The Saga of Deir Yassin 27

The real victory had been won not by the guerrillas but by a much smaller number of rival Palmachniks. Kalman Rosenblatt of the Palmach unit later expressed his dismissal of the military performance of the guerrillas. “The [guerrillas] did not fight” (Ml 266). The Palmach did not suffer a single injury in subduing the village. “They operated quickly and efficiently,” the Lehi's David Gottlieb said, unfavorably comparing his own group's performance (Ml 266). Raanan recalled Shaltiel exhibiting “a certain ridicule” about his group's fighting performance (ZOA 45). Pa'il summarizes the earlier battle succinctly. “The fighting was not that heavy. If they had been good soldiers, they could have conquered the whole village in about an hour” (McG 42). The Irgun and Lehi immediately lost four men and one who would die later. The 5 guerrilla dead out of 130 and the lack of injury to the small Palmach unit members also attests that the resistance had not been professional or particularly tough. Most of the wounded were said by the guerrillas to be “lightly wounded” (NYT 4-10-48). No Outside Help for Villagers There were few or no foreign soldiers involved in fighting in the village (Lv 343). Certainly there were none who had any significant effect. The only independent report of outside soldiers is an unusual and second-hand account reporting two dead Syrians (HL 59). If true, they may have been visitors or persons who managed to come from Ein Kerem after Deir Yassin was attacked. It is also conceivable that uniforms were later put on civilian bodies by the attackers, a technique used to bolster claims of a tough fight. Villager recollections are a chorus of frustration over the inaction of Arab forces in the area (Kr 144; GN). “We had no aid or support from any party,” recalled Abu Mahmud (GN). Some of the guerrillas claim that a Transjordanian deserter and a Yugoslav were found in the village (Ml 263). There are scattered reports of other soldiers (Ml 263). The ZOA omits a subsequent admission in the same source that the alleged deserter and Yugoslav were executed after capture. More concrete is the report from Palmach personnel of a mysterious Arab man from outside the Jerusalem area, though there is no explicit claim of a military affiliation. A Palmach man executed him after capture, apparently causing protest from other members (Ml 276). Though there may have been military deserters or guests in the village, or a few fighters who managed to slip in during the attack, no one has shown they were a sizeable group or part of any systematic presence or defense. An internal Haganah assessment concluded categorically that no foreign Arabs were present and Weg's report also says nothing in regard to encountering foreign troops (Lv 343). Nor is the presence of any outside fighters reported by any other Palmach men present or any other independent observer. The ZOA produces no independent witness to corroborate any claims of a presence of foreign troops. The Massacre in Warm Blood Pa'il assessed the overall capabilities of the Lehi and Irgun at Deir Yassin in the following manner: “They didn't know how to fight, but as murderers they were pretty good” (McG 40). His observations were based on what he witnessed. “I started hearing shooting in the village,” he recalls. “The fighting was over, yet there was the sound of firing of all kinds from different houses.” Were they suppressing new pockets of resistance in the homes, doing a “clean-up” operation? This was different, it was “sporadic firing, not like you would hear when they clear a house” (PAI). The Palmach unit had already left by this time and Pa'il may have had something to do with that. Late in the morning, perhaps close to noon, Pa'il revealed himself to Palmach Commander Weg after the village was subdued. As a key intelligence man, Pa'il had some authority (PAI). He urged Weg to take his unit and leave. “Yaki,” he addressed the Palmach commander, “you know we have a saying in Yiddish, ‘varf sich avek'—get away from here! Don't get mixed up with the Irgun and Stern Gang” (Pl 50). Pa'il profoundly regretted his action afterwards. He would feel that
28 The Saga of Deir Yassin

had Weg and his people remained, they would have been able to prevent what the new sounds of shooting represented (McG 40). After the Palmach left, Pa'il relates, “the Stern Gang and Irgun began what I'd call an uncontrolled massacre performance” (Pl 50). A village boy named Mohammed Jaber was one of the few to survive and describe as an eyewitness the “massacre performance.” About noon, the attackers broke into his family's home. They “[drove] everybody outside, put them against the wall, and [shot] them.” This group was his entire family. One woman victim, he remembered, “was carrying a three-month-old baby” (CLP 276). The enraged killings of the morning exploded into the entire village. The town had resisted, some had failed to leave or surrender, and as the Irgun's Ben-Zion Cohen later described the mentality of his men, “We wanted revenge” (Pr 216). To Pa'il, the violence appeared spontaneous, not a result of a direct order. He considered this observation confirmed when postaction recriminations were leaked by an informant in Lehi (McG 43). The demeanor of the guerrillas stunned Pa'il as well. They appeared “mad with a desire to kill.” He followed after them with his photographer. The eyes of the guerrillas made a memorable impression. “People were going around there, as I wrote in my [subsequent] report, with their eyes rolled about in their sockets” (PAI). “Their eyes were glazed,” is how he explained his meaning years later to Eric Silver. The Irgun and Lehi appeared “mentally poisoned” as if “in ecstasy” (Sl 94). The attackers of Deir Yassin, by the accounts, had degenerated into unrestrained murderers. Most Arabs unfortunate enough still to be at large in the town were being shot dead. Some were gunned down as they tried to run away. Others found in the houses, women and children primarily, were crowded into the corners of rooms and executed (Ml 274, PAI). The attackers also threw hand grenades at people huddled inside the houses (Sl 94). Pa'il's own emotions were a mix of stunned outrage and fear. “I saw this horror, and I was shocked and angry, because I had never seen such a thing, murdering people after a place had been conquered.” As he and his assistant went about he “didn't say anything. I did not know their commanders, and I didn't want to expose myself, because people were going around there . . . full of lust for murder.” Pa'il felt himself in “a psychological trap” (McG 40). “I didn't know what to do” (PAI). Pa'il described the postcapture event as “a massacre in warm blood.” The term seems to describe a situation where, although there was no combat pressure, a spontaneous action arose immediately after the stress of combat. It appeared to Pa'il to be a sort of cold-blooded, mechanistic killing but driven by an unplanned, hot-blooded stimulus. Pa'il and his photographer took pictures as they went through the houses where the guerrillas had been. “It was terrible,” he related. “I could see people dead in the corners—an old man, a wife, and two children, here and there a male” (McG 40). The victims were the slowest and most vulnerable—people least likely to resist or escape, but those who were taken alive while they tried to escape were also at risk. “They also shot people running from houses, and prisoners. Mostly women and children.” The young men had mostly been driven off. “Most of the Arab males had run away. It is an odd thing, but when there is danger such as this, the [more] agile ones run away first” (PAI). Young Mohammed Jaber who had seen his family rounded up and killed recalled his mother screaming for a long time before she died (McG 51). Pa'il's memory of the event is the same. “You could hear the cries from within the houses,” he said. The screams came from “Arab women, Arab elders, Arab kids” (Sl 94). Pa'il called the guerrillas “pogromists,” using a term for violent police
The Saga of Deir Yassin 29

terrorist gangs in Tsarist Russia. “But this time it was not just a pogrom to loot; it was a massacre” (McG 40). Looting and robbery soon followed, however. One woman was taken alive about this time, along with her brother. Zeinab Akkel recalled that “my husband had given me $400. I offered it . . . and said, 'Please leave my brother alone, he is so young.'” The guerrilla took the money. “Then he just knocked my brother over,” she remembered, “and shot him in the head with five bullets" (Dn 4-11-98). The frenzy now extended to the prisoners who had already been taken alive. “The Irgun and the Stern Gang,” Pa'il has recalled, “put them in the school building.” Then “they surrounded the building claiming they would bomb this schoolhouse on their heads” (McG 43-44). There are many reports of various types of physical and psychological abuse of prisoners throughout the day. Pa'il saw no explosives but recalled that the guerrillas were dissuaded from further violence when a group of civilian Jews from Givat Shaul entered Deir Yassin and shouted at the guerrillas to stop, angrily calling them “You bastards, you murderers” (McG 39). The surviving captive villagers who were rounded up over the day (up to 150) were loaded onto trucks (RC). Young Fahimi Zeidan was part of the transport. “They . . . put us in trucks and drove us around the Jewish quarters, all the while cursing us” (BZ 56). Thousands saw this triumphal display of terrified massacre survivors (Lv 344, Ml 267). Harry Levin recorded in his diary on April 9 that “at 2 o'clock this afternoon I saw three trucks driving slowly up and down King George Avenue bearing men, women, and children, their hands above their heads, guarded by Jews armed with sten-guns and rifles.” In the front truck, he saw “a young boy, a look of anguished horror bitten into his face, his arms frozen upright.” The people watching with him “looked revolted” (HL 57). One Jewish Haganah soldier, Gavriel Stern, had a similar reaction. “I watched from my position on Neviim Street, when they took the survivors of the massacre on a revolting victory parade” (Ml 267). The decision to parade the prisoners was taken, according to the Haganah's informant in the Lehi, in order to boost civilian morale in the besieged city (Ml 267). Among the terrorized prisoners, Levin saw an old man he believed to be the father of the young man killed in Deir Yassin weeks earlier when the town had honored their agreement and forced Arab militiamen to leave (HL 57). Most prisoners were eventually released in East Jerusalem. Some prisoners appear also to have been taken to a Lehi base in a warehouse. One Deir Yassin woman taken there had her baby murdered in front of her and when she fainted, she was also shot according to a Haganah intelligence report from the time (MI 267). This account given in Milstein is omitted in the ZOA tract.


The Saga of Deir Yassin

The Massacre in Cold Blood Part of the parading of prisoners was the beginning of a cold-blooded execution in one of the quarries while the warm-blooded slaughter continued in the town itself. Pa'il saw a truckload of prisoners containing captured males leave the town around noon and come back less than an hour later (PAI). The Lehi's Yehuda Marinburg testified about this in the Jabotinsky Archives. “Our appearance [in Jerusalem] encouraged the people very much and they received us with applause” (Pl 52). Then, after that parade, “we executed the prisoners” (Pl 52). Pa'il remembers seeing those male prisoners executed in a quarry. His photographer took pictures. Pa'il has estimated about 25 victims. “They put them up against the wall” and shot them (McG 37). Marinburg's admission suggests his unit shot to death eight prisoners (Pl 52). The ZOA confirmed that plans for a quarry execution took place. Yona Ben-Sasson, the Haganah commander in Givat Shaul, said he encountered the guerrillas preparing a prisoner execution in the quarry but was able to talk them out of it (ZOA 58). It is not clear when this happened or if he was watching all the quarries at all times. In any event, Yehoshua Arieli, head of the burial crew, later did observe “several men” lying dead in a quarry (Sl 94). The quarry firing squad was apparently the final large-group killing at Deir Yassin, and the most cold-blooded. It was done in an organized fashion, away from the combat area and combat circumstances and with deliberation. Another individual killing is claimed by an Arab militia leader who says that when the main prisoner transport arrived near the Arab part of the city, an adolescent boy was pulled away as he was being released and shot to death in front of his mother (Jr).

The Saga of Deir Yassin


Afterwards Pa'il left Deir Yassin in the mid-afternoon as the final prisoner trucks departed (PAI). When he wrote a report of the incident that evening for the Haganah, he started by quoting Chaim Nachman Bialik's poem about a Russian pogrom: “Arise and go to the city . . . and with your eyes you will see . . . on the trees and on the stones and on the plaster the congealed blood and battered brains of the slain” (Sl 93). His report—along with two rolls of developed film—went to Haganah Commander Shaltiel and then on to headquarters in Tel Aviv. Pa'il never saw the photos. He instructed his photographer only to develop the negatives, for fear the pictures might circulate (McG 40). His report and photographs remain classified. By about 3 p.m. on April 9, Shaltiel had sent Yeshurun Schiff and Mordechai Gihon to Deir Yassin. Both expressed shock and horror by what they saw in and around the dozens of houses. About 110 Deir Yassin residents had been killed, almost all in outbursts of murderous violence. Most were killed by close range gunfire, some by stabbing, a few in combat, and some while fleeing. Most of the victims of the massacre, as the burial chief later lamented, were old men, women, and children, who died with no weapon in their hands. There was no combat chaos or circumstances necessitating their deaths, despite the early fighting. They were intentionally murdered. It was an act of violence that was proposed and discussed in advance. The guerrillas' lack of restraint after meeting resistance caused many to follow through on plans to murder regardless of instructions to inhibit them. Their leaders proved unwilling or unable to stop them. Afterwards, they proved quite willing to benefit from the fear effect and embellish the bloody outcome. That evening, Irgun chief Raanan met with the international press in a tea-and-cookies party in Givat Shaul and told them that 254 Arabs had been killed (NYT, 4-10-48, 4-13-48). The massacre and the 254 figure soon entered the history books and the verbal warfare of the Middle East (ZOA 109-110). The massacre was a real event. The figure was exaggerated; but because it came from the source with the best access, it has become the conventional figure. In the 1980s, authors like Eric Silver began to make efforts to correct the figure, documenting both the more correct number killed and additional evidence confirming the murderous nature of the atrocity. Palestinian Arab researchers of the same period published similar findings in a report on the village. The ZOA agrees with that detailed research and lower number but omits that same report's voluminous testimony of mass murder (ZOA 90-91; BZ 50-59). Challenges to Pa'il's Credibility Taking a final look at the now discredited ZOA tract, the investigator sees that the ZOA challenges Pa'il's credibility as an eyewitness, alleging that he might not even have been there on the day of the raid. The investigator easily dismisses the objections to Pa'il's credibility, which he sees as weak and minor. (See the general discussion at ZOA 46-59.) Statements made over many years are alleged to be wrong or contradictory. For example, Pa'il also reported the 254 death figure. But Pa'il relied on the Irgun for the final figure, as did most historians. He did not count the dead himself and never said he did. Pa'il also claimed that the photos he produced showed a massacre in progress but the Israeli Defense Forces archives allegedly said that they only show bodies, not an execution (ZOA 56). This discrepancy could be resolved by releasing and tracing the photographs. In any event, Pa'il never saw the developed pictures. On one of several occasions describing the incident, Pa'il said the attackers entered houses and killed people found “sleeping” (ZOA 51). This is alleged to be a problem to his credibility. But the attack began in the early morning and the context is unclear.


The Saga of Deir Yassin

The ZOA claims that Pa'il's report of an execution of prisoners in a quarry is “denied” by the Haganah commander in Givat Shaul, Yona Ben-Sasson (ZOA 58). However, Ben-Sasson's account merely says that he stopped a group of guerrillas from performing an execution in the quarry. He does not say that he monitored the quarries throughout the day, nor that he stopped every group. Other alleged challenges to Pa'il's credibility are also strained and questionable. For example, his credibility is challenged because he said that the village had no strategic value and was not situated on any important route (ZOA 50); but Deir Yassin was not on the main highway and did not overlook it. Pa'il is also chided for not identifying the photographer with him, saying he is fearful (ZOA 53). Our investigator reasons that an eyewitness to a mass murder who provided evidence might have reason to be fearful. Testimonies about the Deir Yassin incident from several Haganah officials (Shaltiel, Meret, Eldad, and Schiff) fail to mention Pa'il (ZOA 52). This insinuation that he was not there is argued to be a significant challenge to his credibility. But Pa'il was a spy among Jewish organizations. It is not hard to imagine that his activity would be kept secret; he himself did not reveal publicly for over 20 years (PAI). Since we do not know what issues the testimonies cover, his absence in illdefined testimony about secret matters carries little weight. Finally, we come to allegations of bias, a tactic of revisionists. Pa'il is alleged to have been “out of work” just before the Deir Yassin incident and in search of a budget to continue an operations unit to monitor the Irgun and Lehi (ZOA 48). Apparently, we are to conclude that in order to win favor for his own spy unit in 1948, he would fabricate a massacre by fellow Jews at a critical moment in the formation of the state. Our detective wonders in this scenario how Pa'il would expect to gain stature as an intelligence officer by concocting false reports embarrassing to his side of the conflict and challengeable by numerous independent Jewish witnesses from his own faction. And why would he persist decades later to present information that damages the state he fought to found and in whose army he served for years as a high-level officer? We are further led to ask how Pa'il could then coordinate a incident instantaneously among Arab villagers, Haganah High Command, the British Criminal Investigation Department, the Magen David Adom, the Red Cross, and numerous Jewish observers, none of whom fail to challenge him on the main picture over several decades. We also need to ask how he did all this when the ZOA offers that he was not even in Deir Yassin (ZOA 55-56). This kind of conspiracy thinking, ironically, parallels Holocaust revisionism. One point also needs to be stressed. It is almost inevitable that atrocities of a political nature will be reported by political or ethnic “opponents.” Any criminal act is most likely to be reported by people who do not like the criminal and do not belong to his group. To illustrate, imagine insisting—as Holocaust revisionists do—that the only valid Holocaust evidence must come directly from non-Allied, non-anti-Nazi, and non-Jewish sources. That would put an enormous and needless strain on demonstrating the events. In its tract, the ZOA engages in those kinds of demands. In a brutal irony, the ZOA tract is an eerie echo of Holocaust revisionism in that the ZOA is implicitly challenging atrocity information because it came from a Jewish Communist. Why Pa'il's Credibility is Unrefuted Pa'il has enormous credentials for his personal recollections of Deir Yassin. First, no witness has placed him any place but the action. No independent witness whom he claimed to have encountered at Deir Yassin has said he did not see Pa'il there. Yisrael Galili, head of the Haganah in the 1948 war, gave a written endorsement of his credibility about the incident (PAI). Even the ZOA does not challenge that Pa'il produced photos of the incident (ZOA 56). That is very good corroboration of his claim that he was there. Pa'il's report on the massacre remains classified, which indicates it is a significant document in the eyes of the government of Israel (PAI).
The Saga of Deir Yassin 33

Pa'il's recollections of the incident are essentially that it was a minor, incompetently fought battle that degenerated into a general massacre after the attackers suffered casualties. This matches the circumstantial evidence, the villagers' testimonies, and admissions by the guerrillas. His recollections on the killings also match those of the surviving villagers (except on the use of certain methods of killing). Pa'il's account of the main developments is sound, generally consistent with other evidence, and well attested. Our investigator has pieced together what happened that fateful time at Deir Yassin by using direct eyewitness sources like Meir Pa'il, the villagers of Deir Yassin, and others. It is a tale of a raid on a nonhostile target that goes awry and is transformed by personal history, emotion, attitude, incompetence, and ideology into a mass murder that would permanently scar the face of the Middle East. Other Atrocities There were certainly other excesses committed at Deir Yassin. In this monograph, we have studied only the mass murder. Some accusations against the killers (e.g., rape, mutilation) are more controversial and elusive than others (e.g., general looting, prisoner exhibition). Focusing on other discrepancies in details of the event in an effort to confuse the issue is standard revisionism and a regular feature of the ZOA tract. We can find similar and more clear examples of this in Holocaust revisionism: Conventional debates over whether the Nazis made soap from human beings or scholarly controversy over which facilities were used as gas chambers are used maliciously to call into question the entire genocide program. In any widely witnessed traumatic event, confusion and rumor alone can cause different recollections. For example, half the survivors of the Titanic thought the ship broke up before sinking; the other half did not (Ps 235). Additionally, there can be motives to conceal and fabricate among both victim and aggressor and their political champions. Nonetheless, the overwhelming consistency of the evidence of Deir Yassin not only shows that a massacre took place but gives us a fair idea of its inception, progression, and scope.


The Saga of Deir Yassin

Chapter 3


The massacre of Deir Yassin is neither lie nor exaggeration, despite the claims of the Zionist Organization of America. The only significant exaggeration is the estimated death toll of the mass murder, which was created by the perpetrators themselves for the admitted purpose of inciting mass terror. Nor can the massacre be said to be “in serious dispute” or “controversial.” There is no room to invoke “balance” here; there can be no balance between clear truth and clear falsehood. Those who demand such balance are acting with a hidden agenda or out of fundamental ignorance. As this monograph has shown, the casualty numbers alone tell an honest and informed commentator that the dead villagers of Deir Yassin—largely women, children, and old men—were primarily killed deliberately and outside the necessities and incidents of combat. The explanations given by the perpetrators' excusers—blown-up houses, very tough resistance—do not justify such an extraordinarily high figure nor are they supported by the evidence. In addition to this are the admissions by the perpetrators themselves of deliberate murder along with the testimony of numerous independent witnesses who corroborated a scene of exceptional horror. Finally, there are the photos concealed for over half a century, suggesting something to hide far more terrible than ordinary war. The massacre of Deir Yassin is also not “Arab revisionism.” Many of the primary sources of information on the massacre—witnesses to the scene and event—were non-Arabs. Several were Jewish soldiers and humanitarians; some were the attackers themselves. The conventionally cited number of casualties, likely exaggerated, was also not concocted by Arabs. The ZOA notes that the exaggeration was actually corrected by Arabs (ZOA 91). Labeling the Deir Yassin massacre “Arab revisionism” is simply an appeal to those who are concerned because Arabs have gained sympathy from the massacre. Saying it did not happen (or cannot be said to have happened) is a sad method to keep blame from the Jews and sympathy from the Arabs. “Loyalty is involved,” as George Orwell observed, “so pity ceases to function” (Or). In a 1945 essay that also included one of the earliest warnings about Holocaust denial, Orwell described this partisan mentality regarding truth in the past. “Those who rewrite history do probably believe with part of their minds that they are actually thrusting facts into the past. . . . They feel that their own version was what happened in the sight of God, and that one is justified in rearranging the records accordingly. . . . One has no way of verifying the facts, one is not even fully certain that they have happened, and one is always presented with totally different interpretations from different sources. . . . Since nothing is ever quite proved or disproved, the most unmistakable fact can be impudently denied” (Or). Describing the Deir Yassin massacre as false, exaggerated, or in dispute, is to indulge in the same impudence as Holocaust Revisionism. The same applies to alleging a false origin of the reports of massacre. Ironically for partisans of Israel, by implicitly challenging the moral and factual honesty of so many Jewish witnesses of the event and its results, one slanders patriotic Israelis who risked their lives to build the state.


The Saga of Deir Yassin

In that regard, it is interesting that the ZOA also relies on mutually contradictory pamphlets from the 1960s and 1970s by the Israeli Foreign Ministry. Of course, government statements about controversial events have no value whatsoever as direct evidence of the event (ZOA 110-112). The same point applies more strongly to the ZOA's use of an Israeli veteran's benefit hearing for wounded raiders of Deir Yassin. Years after the massacre and on legal appeal after initial rejection, an interested government ruled that the raid had involved fighting against hostile forces. Even if the decision could amount to credible direct evidence, the judgment nevertheless did not deny a massacre (ZOA 1-2). Since the time of these propaganda pamphlets, Yitzhak Levi, former Haganah intelligence chief in Jerusalem, wrote a book called Nine Measures, showing that the military record does indeed reveal a terrible massacre at Deir Yassin. This serious work was published by the Israel Defense Army Press (Lv). Meanwhile, Meir Pa'il, the chief eyewitness of the Deir Yassin massacre is today the author of the official history of Jewish military organizations in pre-Israel Palestine disseminated by the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA). If the government of Israel had serious credibility questions about Pa'il, the massacre, or its witnesses, it has obviously been a passing phenomenon. However, few, if any, of the more established American organizations identifying themselves with the label “Zionist” have distanced themselves from the ZOA's revisionism. For 50 years no serious controversy surrounded the claim of mass murder at Deir Yassin, and the ZOA has not created one. It is thus only right that those organizations that align themselves with Zionism dissociate themselves from the ZOA tract, “Deir Yassin: History of a Lie.” A broader question asserts itself nonetheless. It is one that may put a silver lining to the cloud of the ZOA tract. That question is how the Deir Yassin massacre ought to be remembered for the betterment of all the peoples of the region. The real area of challenge and debate lies there. Searching for and understanding the evidence, as our detective did, can lead to better performance, not worse. But insofar as the ZOA may have helped call attention to that issue, its diatribe against reality may yet serve some good. Certainly it has taught us that wishing something doesn't make it so.

The Saga of Deir Yassin


(All number references in the text are to page numbers of printed text unless otherwise indicated.) ABC — vietnam_mylai.html Bl — J. Bowyer Bell, Terror Out of Zion: The Fight for Israeli Independence (Transaction Publishers, 1996) BZ — Sharif Kanani & Nihad Zitawi, “Deir Yassin, Monograph No. 4,” Destroyed Palestinian Villages Documentation Project (Documentation Center of Bir Zeit University, 1987) (translation by Maha Mansour) CLP — Larry Collins & Dominique Lapierre, O Jerusalem! (Simon & Schuster, 1972) DeR — Jacques de Reynier, A Jerusalem un drapeau flottait sur la ligne de feu (Histoire et Societe d'Aujourd'hui, 1950) Dn — Dawn (Karachi) (citations are to date of issue) Fl — Simha Flapan, The Birth of Israel: Myths and Realities (Pantheon, 1987) DS — Dana Adams Schmidt, Armageddon in the Middle East GE — Guy Ehrlich, "Not Only Deir Yassin," Ha'ir, May 6, 1992 (translation by Elias Davidsson) GN — Elias Zananiri, Gulf News, April 9, 1997 HL — Harry Levin, Jerusalem Embattled (Victor Gollancz, 1950) Hs — “Quantrill's Raiders”, In Search of History, History Channel (March 22, 1999) JB — J. F. N. Bradley, Lidice: Sacrificial Village (Ballantine, 1972) JBr — Juanita Brooks, The Mountain Meadows Massacre (University of Oklahoma Press, 1991) Jr — Badil Resource Center and Leone Films & Video, Jerusalem 1948: Yoom Ilak, Yoom Aleik (Arab Film Distribution, 1998) (video) Js — Dov Joseph, The Faithful City (Simon & Schuster, 1960) LT — Lon Tinkle, 13 Days to Glory: The Siege of the Alamo (Texas A&M University Press, reissue edition, 1996)


The Saga of Deir Yassin

Lv — Yitzhak Levi, Nine Measures (Israel Defense Army Press 1986) (translation by Ami Isseroff) McG — Daniel McGowan & Marc Ellis, eds., Remember Deir Yassin: The Future of Israel and Palestine (Olive Branch Press, 1998) MFA — Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs Website (as of March 16, 1999) at Ml — Uri Milstein, The War of Independence: Out of Crisis Came Decision (Zmora-Betan, 1991) NL — Netanel Lorch, The Edge of the Sword: Israel's War of Independence, 1947-1949. (G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1961) NT — Ned Temko, To Win or Die: A Personal Portrait of Menachem Begin (William Morrow & Co., 1987) NYT — The New York Times (date of edition cited in text) Or — George Orwell, “Notes on Nationalism,” May, 1945 (Ian Angus, ed.) The Collected Essays, Journalism and Letters of George Orwell (Harcourt Brace, 1968) PAI — Meir Pa'il & Ami Isseroff, Meir Pa'il's Eyewitness Account (PEACE Middle East Dialog Group 1998) (available on line at Pl — Michael Palumbo, The Palestinian Catastrophe (Quartet Books, 1987) Pr — Amos Perlmutter, The Life and Times of Menachem Begin (Doubleday, 1987) Ps — Gerald Posner, Case Closed, Lee Harvey Oswald and the Assassination of JFK (Random House, 1993) RC — Letter of de Reynier, I.C.R.C. Jerusalem to I.C.R.C. Geneva, April 13, 1948, (AICRC.G3/82) (translation by Matthew Hogan) Sg — Tom Segev, 1949: The First Israelis (Henry Holt & Co., 1986) SH — Seymour Hersh, Cover Up, (Vintage Press, 1973) Sh — David K. Shipler, Arab and Jew: Wounded Spirits in a Promised Land (Times Books, 1986) Sl — Eric Silver, Begin (Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1984) TF — Thomas Fleming, Liberty! The American Revolution (Penguin Group, 1997) YA — Yediot Ahronot (particular date edition cited in text) ZOA — Morton Klein, Deir Yassin: History of a Lie (Zionist Organization of America, 1998). All number citations are to the text between the footnote number that corresponds to the number given and the footnote before it. For example, ZOA 13 means the text between footnotes 12 and 13.

The Saga of Deir Yassin


Nakba Eyewitnesses



Narrations of the Palestinian 1948 Catastrophe

Nakba Eyewitnesses

Ala Abu Dheer Palestine Media Unit (Zajel) Public Relations Department An-Najah National University Nablus - Palestine

Prepared by

Liam Morgan & Alison Morris Ala Abu Dheer * “Al-Aqsa Uprising in Cartoons”, Palestinian Perspective, 2003 * “The Image of the Palestine Question in the American Cartoons”, American Perspective, (Arabic) 3 * The Image of Iraq in the American Cartoons, American Perspective, (Arabic) * Narrations of the Survivors of 1948 War (Arabic).

Edited by Also by

Also by Ala Abu Dheer * “Al-Aqsa Uprising in Cartoons”, Palestinian Perspective, 2003 * “The Image of the Palestine Question in the American Cartoons”, American Perspective, (Arabic) * The Image of Iraq in the American Cartoons, American Perspective, (Arabic)


Dedicated to

my father and all refugees



Here We Shall Stay As though we were twenty impossibilities In Lod, Ramla, and Galilee Here we shall stay like a brick wall upon your chest and in your throat Like a splinter of glass, like spiky cactus And in your eyes A chaos of fire. Here we shall stay Like a wall upon your chest Washing dishes in idle, buzzing bars Pouring drinks for our overlords Scrubbing floors in blackened kitchens To snatch a crumb for our children From between your blue fangs. Here we shall stay A hard wall on your chest. We hunger Have no clothes We defy Sing our songs Sweep the sick streets with our angry dances Saturate the prisons with dignity and pride Keep on making children One revolutionary generation After another As though we were twenty impossibilities In Lydda, Ramla, and Galilee! 7

Here we shall stay. Do your worst. We guard the shade Of olive and fig. We blend ideas Like yeast in dough. Our nerves are packed with ice And hellfire warms our heart. If we get thirsty We'll squeeze the rocks. If we get hungry We'll eat dirt And never leave. Our blood is pure But we shall not hoard it. Our past lies before us Our present inside us Our future on our backs. As though we were twenty impossibilities In Lydda, Ramla and Galilee O living roots hold fast And--still--reach deep in the earth. It is better for the oppressor To correct his accounts Before the pages riffle back "To every deed..."--listen Tto what the Book says.

Tawfiq Zayyad

Preface Introduction Narrations Abu Anees Al-Fakhouri Abu Khaled Al-Refaee Abu Bassam Al-Arda Huda Abu- Dheer Muhammad Ahmad Abu Kishek Shaheir Dadosh Sadiq Anabtawi Saleem Abu Dheer Muhamad Saleh Abu Leil Abdul Ghani Ismail Doleh Abu Raed Barakat Abu Saleem Jibril Abu Salem Katooni Mahmoud Barakat Mohammad Ahmad Abu Eisha Om Issa Abu Sereyyeh Abdul Qader Yousef Al-Ha Abu Khader Hamdan Fatmeh Daoud Abdul Rahman Khalid Rashid Mansor Hafiza Abdullah Muhamad Radwan Nasoh Wafi Jawdat Ali Issa Abu Serreyeh Om Hasan Al-Abed Radeyeh Husein Meri` Rushdeyeh Awad Jabaji 13 17 21 30 35 43 49 54 58 64 69 73 77 87 96 100 105 109 112 117 119 122 126 128 131 135 137 140 142 9

Shaker Mahmud Darwish Abed Abdul Rahman Awad Abu Omar Lidawi Muhamad Ahmad Huwaidi Abu Abdallah El-Halaq

145 150 152 156 160 171 176 178


Questionnaire about oral narrations of the 1948 war Bulfor Declaration UN Resolution 194, Right to Return


1-United Nations Partition Plan. Rhodes Armistice Line, 187 iiiiii1949 2-Land Ownership and UN Partition Plan. Palestinian 185 iiiiiivillages depopulated in 1948. 186 3-Population Movements 1948-1951 187 4-Palestinian Refugees: UNRWA Refugee Camps, 2001




The situation of the Palestinian refugees is one of the largest and most enduring refugee problems in the world. Discussions on allowing them to return to their former homes within what is now the State of Israel, on granting the refugees compensation, and on resettling the refugees in new locations, have yet to reach any definite conclusions. The number of Jews in Palestine was small in the early 20th century: most residents of Palestine at that time were Arabicspeaking Muslims and Christians. Beginning in 1914, with the outbreak of World War I, Britain promised independence for the Arab lands under Ottoman rule, including Palestine, in return for Arab support against the Ottoman Empire, which had entered the war on the side of Germany. In 1916 Britain and France signed the Sykes-Picot Agreement, which divided the Arab region into zones of influence. Lebanon and Syria were assigned to France, Jordan and Iraq were assigned to Britain, and Palestine was to be internationalized. In 1917, as stated in the Balfour Declaration, the British government decided to endorse the establishment of a Jewish homeland in Palestine. Jewish immigration into Palestine saw an immediate and dramatic increase. In 1919 the Palestinians convened their first National Conference, expressing their opposition to the Balfour Declaration. 13

After WWII, at the 1920 San Remo Conference, Britain was granted a mandate over Palestine. The mandate was in favor of the establishment of a homeland in Palestine for the Jewish people. The terms of the Balfour Declaration were included in the mandate, which was approved by the Council of the League of Nations in 1922. By that year Palestine was effectively under British administration, and Herbert Samuel, a declared Zionist, was sent as Britain’s first High Commissioner to Palestine. In 1936 the Palestinians organized a six-month general strike, to protest the confiscation of their land, and Jewish immigration to Palestine. In 1939 the British government published a new White Paper restricting Jewish immigration, and offering independence for Palestine within ten years. This proclamation was rejected by the Zionists, who then organized terrorist groups, and launched a bloody campaign against the British and Palestinians. Their aim was to drive out both the Palestinians and the British, and to pave the way for the establishment of a Zionist state. In 1947 Britain decided to leave Palestine, and called on the United Nations to make recommendations. In response the UN convened its first special session in May of 1947, and on November 29, 1947 it adopted a plan calling for the partition of Palestine into Jewish and Arab states, with Jerusalem as an international zone under UN jurisdiction. The population balance in the new state of Israel was drastically altered during the 1948 war. The armistice agreements extended the territory under the Jewish state’s control beyond the UN partition boundaries. 14

Historically, Palestinians consider a refugee to be a citizen from Palestine who was deported or fled from his or her own country during the Zionist movement’s attacks launched against Palestinians after November 29, 1947. The Palestinian’s call this the Nakba, meaning “disaster” or “catastrophe”. The United Nations definition of a “Palestinian refugee” is a person whose “normal place of residence was Palestine between June 1946 and May 1948, and who lost both their homes and means of livelihood as a result of the 1948 ArabIsraeli conflict. About two thirds of Palestinians fled or were expelled from Palestine as it came under Jewish control. This deportation continued until after the armistice that ended the war: these refugees were generally not permitted to return to their homes. The Israeli government passed the Absentee Property Law, which cleared the way for the confiscation of the property of refugees. The government also demolished many of the refugees’ villages, and resettled Jewish immigrants in many of the Arab’s homes in urban communities. Whereas most of the world’s refugees are the concern of the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), most Palestinian refugees come under the older body of the UNRWA, established in the aftermath of the Nakba. The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) is a relief and human development agency, providing education, healthcare, social services and emergency aid to over four million Palestinian refugees 15

living in the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria. On December 11, 1948, UN Resolution 194 was passed in order to protect the rights of Palestinian refugees. The Palestinian refugees believe in the “right of return”, based on Article 13 of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights: “Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country”. ***


While the Israeli assaults continue against the Palestinian communities, cities and homes, Palestinian heritage becomes nothing more than a memory. Many places have been destroyed during the last few years. To have a more comprehensive understanding of the present, we must look back to the past. We must learn from the experiences of our elders, who suffered through difficult circumstances that forced them to leave their homelands, farms, cities and villages. Their presence inspired the present generations, the children and grandchildren of those who suffered during that first expulsion, to be steadfast in the face of occupation. The experience of the 1948 Nakba had a profound influence on the development of Palestinian political awareness, and has made Palestinians cling to their lands and learn from the mistakes made during the earlier war. With the 1967 Israeli occupation of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, the Palestinians stood firm on their lands, refusing all attempts by the Israelis to drive them out, as had happened in 1948. It is necessary to re-open the file on the Palestinian Nakba, to help the coming generations understand the importance of studying this crucial period in Palestinian history. The critical years began with the Balfour Declaration of 1917, continuing up to the decision by the United Nations to partition Palestine, on November 29, 1947. The consequence of this decision was the deportation of hundreds of thousands of Palestinian people, who fled to refugee camps across the region, including the West Bank, Gaza Strip, Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon, as 17

well as to Europe, and North and South America. The documentation of oral narrations is not an easy task. Some narrations are missing important information due to either the advanced age of the narrators, or their fears about revealing their role in the resistance movement during the British Mandate. All of the narrators, however, agreed on the mandate’s historical, political, and moral responsibility for the Nakba: the departure of the Palestinians and the occupation of their lands by the Zionists. The number of elderly narrators is small, and most of them suffer from health problems and failing memory. The process of verifying the information they have shared has been made more difficult by the deaths of a number of the narrators, as well as the difficulty of interviewing refugees living outside of Palestine. We insisted on documenting the largest number of oral narrations as many of our narrators had passed away a short while after being interviewed. In the Arabic version of this book the documentation was made in the narrator’s colloquial language. This was done both to maintain the accuracy of the information, and to preserve the old vocabularies used by the narrators. These colloquial dialects of the West Bank, Gaza, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and other areas, are now infrequently used, even among the grandchildren of the refugees, who are most familiar with them. In this book we have aimed to document the historical dimensions of the events of 58 years ago. In editing the narrations we strove to maintain the essence and coherence of the original ideas as much as was possible, while presenting the information in the narrators’ own words. The interviews 18

which were the basis for the oral narrations followed a questionnaire in the style used by Dr. Shareef Kana’na, a Palestinian professor with the longest and best known history of collecting oral narrations. Dr. Saleh Abed Al-Jawad of Bir Zeit University, who trained us in administering it while we studied for our Masters degrees, developed the questionnaire. In conducting the interviews, we attempted to obtain answers to all of our questions, while taking into consideration the individuality of each single narrative. I thank and do appreciate the efforts of the volunteers of the Public Relations Department, the volunteers of the Zajel Youth Exchange Program, Dr. Nabil Alawi, Kima Avila, Nour Kharraz, The Administration of An-Najah National University and the Social Development Centre at Askar Refugee Camp, who helped us coordinate the interviews and bring that project to success.
Ala Abu Dheer Palestinian Media Unit (Zajel) Public Relations Department An-Najah National University Nablus-Palestine


Abu Anees Al-Fakhouri Born in 1938 Original home: Lydda 20

Abu Anees Al-Fakhouri Born in 1938 Original home: Lydda Current address: Ras Al-Ein, Nablus It was a tragic situation and people lived in the mosques and schools.
Like the majority of people from Lydda, my father worked in Jaffa. My uncle was living in Jaffa until he was deported, then he came to Lydda to live with us. There was a group of fighters who formed a committee in Lydda which prohibited the people from leaving; they used to ask those who wanted to leave not to do so as this is what the Jews wanted. We would hear many stories of how the Jews reached Tierah in Haifa and Deir Yassin near Jerusalem, and that they killed many people. This permitted the horror to spread throughout the rest of the country and consequently forced people from many cities to flee. However this was not the case of the people of Lydda who preferred to stay and resist the Jews. For this reason, Lydda was called “state No. 8.” The people of Lydda tried to liberate Palestine but they did not find any supporters. The Jews came to Lydda three days before Ramadan from all four sides. They came from the south through Ennabah, Abu Shusheh, Deir Tareef, and Al-Abbasyah; they came along the mountains through Jemzo, Al-hadethah and camped in Beit Nabala that was used by the Jordanian army which had withdrawn to Bodrus. They closed every road and started to shell the city using Mortar cannons. They delivered a leaflet 21

asking the people to surrender because there were no Arab states to protect them. The Jews bombed the vegetables markets in Lydda, Jaffa and other places to scare the people. We were not deterred as Lydda was more fortified than any other town and we had many young men guarding it. They were united together and they worked in shifts so that somebody was always on guard. Lydda had the biggest agricultural land in Palestine. People grew wheat, barley, corn and sesame. When they were driven out, they left their crops behind them. When we heard about the atrocity in Deir Yassin, we stood fast and we were prepared to resist because we felt strong. If the Arab armies had not helped the Jews, Lydda would never have fallen under occupation. The committee held a meeting in their headquarters. My uncle had become a leader working alongside Abdul Qader Al Husseini, the leader of the resistance in Jerusalem. Apparently his attendants had told him that the Arab countries had decided to send their armies to liberate Palestine. However Al Hussaini had responded by saying, “Palestinians do not want armies; we want people who provide us with financial support and weapons.” At which point another one of those attendants said that it was too late as Palestine had already fallen in the hands of Jews. We were living in the old city of Lydda in a place called al Moraba`a, where there was a market, Grand Mosque, Al22

Saraya (government house) and the mini Bazaar. There was a colony called Hazboon on the road between Jaffa and Lydda. There were Jewish gunmen there who targeted passersby with their guns. Those who passed this road had to move as fast as they could so that they would not be killed. Many young Palestinians attacked the colony of Hazboon in retaliation. There were many British military Camps in the area. Some of these camps were given to the Jews by the British. The camps which were on the Arab side were evacuated of weapons, but the British camp that was not directly on either side was not given to any party. The British people said to us, “Whoever wants the camp can take it.” Following this a battle took place between the Arabs and the Jews. The Arabs won this battle and therefore took control of the camp. During the night, the Arabs attacked the Jews in Wadi Al-Khyaar and many Jews were killed there. When the Arab Rescue Army arrived they told the fighters, “We’ll guard the camp at night and you will guard it during the day. Go home.” They fighters were a little simple and so each one of the fighters returned home. The next day, the fighters returned to the camp to find the machine guns shooting at them. The Rescue Army had given it to the Jews and had been driven out of the Wadi. At this time the Egyptian army was not actually too far away from the camp and because of this the idea of a truce arose. The Jews suggested a truce for 28 days, which would give them more time to buy heavy artillery from abroad. In contrast we as resistance fighters had to pay for our bullets with our own money which meant we were able to buy very little. When 23

the Jews were rearmed they were able to put their hands on the whole region and they forced the Egyptian army to retreat. This ultimately led to the fall of Lydda, Jaffa and the Negev. The Arabic Rescue Army also helped in the fall of Lydda. I am completely sure of this. The citizens used to say, “Be patient, an Iraqi and Jordanian Army are coming to help you.” The Jews did not have enough forces to occupy Palestine and that is why the British and Arab armies helped them. The Arab armies were in charge of protecting Palestine. The Iraqi army was in what is now the north of the West Bank, camping in Huwwara and Nablus. The Jordanian army was in the village of Ain Az-zarqa and the Egyptian army was in the south. There was competition between all three to see who could get the most territory. The Jordanian army, which was camping in Yalu and Emwas villages, by mistake, attacked the Egyptian army which was based nearby. The English officers who were leading the Jordanian army ordered the Jordanians to shoot the Egyptians until they finished them. The Jordanian army then arrived in Lydda but they did not stay long. Following their departure the Jews arrived to occupy the city. Everybody took what they could to fight with to resist the onslaught. The Jews were too strong though and the fighters had to withdraw to the Jordanian police station. Many people also managed to hide in the Dahmash mosque and the church opposite it. The Dahmash mosque was the scene of a massacre as the Jews shot many of the people who were hiding inside. The next day, the Jews asked the children and those who were 24

more than seventy years old to leave. The Jews asked us to leave to Parphelia, a village near Lydda which they had came to occupy. Then the Jews entered houses and killed some of the inhabitants. They would stop the people in the streets and if they had a nice jacket, a watch, money or jewelry they confiscated it; they took almost everything. When we left, people walked as if they were in a demonstration. If someone had a goat or a cow, the Jews would take it. If the Jews saw a cart driven by a horse they would try to take it. If the owner put up a fight, they would shoot the horse dead. The road to Lydda was strength sapping as it was very hot and we did not have enough water. Many people were dying from dehydration and dead bodies littered the path. My cousin went down an old well, filled a jug with water and when he came back up he found a girl who was about to die out of thirst, “Do me a favor and let me have a sip of water” she said. He let her drink even before his mother. Another man swore that he would have jumped at a lizard in order to eat it out of thirst, hunger, and detestation. We walked until we reached Bodurs village and at this point we began to split up. Some people went towards Na’ileen and the villages to the west of Ramallah such as: Deir Abu Mashael, Kufur Ad-Deik, Deir Balloot, Jammalah and Beit Allo. Deporting the people of these villages took place on the third day of Ramadan. We reached Bodrus in the evening, and then we moved to Jammalah, Shoqba, and Jafnah near Beir Zeit where we found tents pitched under trees. We were not ready for such a situation; everybody had arrived without belongings and I remember trying to buy a straw mat to sleep 25

on. After Jafnah, we moved to Huwwara on foot. We were very lucky since we had some farm animals with us including goats, sheep and cows. When we reached Huwwara, we found the Iraqi army there. It was a big army with many weapons and I am sure it could have defeated the Jews if it had had the will to do so. One of the Iraqi officials in the engineering forces told me that he wanted to sell some of his bullets so that he could buy what he needed. He also told me that they did not come to protect Palestine and save the Palestinians, but to help the Jews settle and create their state. Following a short stay at Huwwara we moved on to Nablus. This meant we had walked the whole way from Lydda to Nablus. Many people had died; I saw an old woman dead with her baby sitting on her body trying to wake her. Some people died out of subjugation, others from thirst and hunger and some were simply killed by the Jews who chased them. We went to our relatives in Nablus who were living in the AlYasmeenah neighborhood. There was a Samaritan Church there, where some people wanted us to stay. However we were stubborn and told them that we would rather stay in the refugee camp than live there. When we arrived in Nablus, we had two Liras. We were naive enough to believe the promises of the Arab countries that Israel was only an illusion and that it would withdraw within the next few days. Unfortunately what happened was the opposite and therefore we remained in Nablus, I was very despondent. 26

The reason that we came to Nablus was because we had some relatives there who we were able to stay with. God bless those who were forced to live in refugee camps during the winter; it snowed heavily and they suffered a lot. Their tents were pitched in the old market during miserable conditions and sometimes the tent posts were blown away. It was a tragic situation and people fought each other for water. They lived in the mosques and schools, people suffered from mange (itch), others suffered from lice, and some people suffered from lack of food and drinking water. Life improved gradually especially when UNRWA came and built small houses. During the Jordanian era, life was still very difficult and most people were struggling to get enough food. After the people had left their cities and villages, some of them returned to collect some of their belongings such as the gold they had buried, their cows or their crops of oranges. The borders were closed, but some people still managed to reach their lands. The Arabs used to punish those whom they caught as they accused them of collaboration with the Jews. Whenever someone left to bring back his cows, the Jews used to call the Arabs who started to look for them in Nablus. His descriptions were given to them by the Jews, and if the Arabs found him they used to imprison him. After the Nakbah, I returned to Lydda and I found the experience very depressing. I traveled there with my brothers and some of my friends via Jerusalem. When we reached Lydda, we went to the airport in the south. It was a big airport built by the British and I knew it well. Beside it there were 27

Kufor Annah and Kufor Jinnis; the two villages that fell into the hands of the Jews. The southern part of Lydda was still the same and the church and one of the mosques remained untouched. However the Jews had damaged the old city and the stores. Dahmash Mosque, where the massacre had taken place had been turned into a workshop. The Jews had also pulled down all of the trees and changed many features of that area. Everything had gone, including the olive trees, the vineyards, and the almonds. I thought I remembered the land well but those who were with me knew it better, they said, “This is our house and that is yours.” We knocked at the door but we did not enter because the Jews inside did not answer the door. Some Jews allowed us see our houses while others did not. We used to have a piece of land called “Abdaat” in the south near the station but the Jews had built many buildings there now. Some squares were still the same, but about half the area was destroyed. I went past Lydda again a few years later and this time I closed my eyes. I did not want to see anything as I did not want to get upset. During 1970s, the Red Cross negotiated with the Jews about the refuges right to return and the Jews agreed to a small amount of families returning to Lydda. The Red Cross chose the Hajjah Family that we knew well to return. The Hajjah family used to have an orange farm near the airport and their family was very fortunate to be selected. The Red Cross chose nearly 20 families in total. The Jews allowed these refugees to live in a place called Nawader in Al-Minqa’e Square neighborhood in Lydda. 28

The Arabs handed the Jews what was known as Al-Muthalath (The Triangle). When the people living in the Al-Muthalath went to bed, the Arab flag was there, but when they woke up, they found it had been replaced by the Israeli flag. The Arabs said that they had negotiated a border modification. “The Triangle” was handed to the Jews. King Abdullah was subsequently killed I believe by the British who, in turn, accused Mustafa Eshoo of killing him. It is my belief that Glubb Pasha who was one of the British officers commanding the Trans-Jordanian Arab Legion urged Eshoo to kill King Abdullah. Consequently, the outcome of this was that the Palestinians were blamed for the King’s death. ***


Abu Khaled Al-Refaee Born 1941 Original home city: Yaffa City Current address: Askar Refugee Camp, Nablus Many families forgot their children; some others died from thirst; people walked for tens of kilometers without anything to drink; many of them went without even shoes
We lived in a coastal area called Ras El Ein, very close to Kufor Qasim town. We had a shop where we used to sell products to the Palestinian, Jewish, and English people living in and around the British Ras El Ein train station. The train station was the main one for trains coming to the country. We had a grove about 49 dunum in size; when we were kids we used to go there to play. Our area was popular with people from Yaffa City – they would come here for a break, staying for 20 days in springtime to enjoy the vast green lands. It was an inspiration to see those green lands and pigeons when you woke up in the morning. The Al-Oja River ran through Ras El Ein. The river water was treated before being sent on to Jerusalem. Every night Jewish militiamen would come to Ras El Ein. Between 10 and 15 armed people would station themselves in a fortification there, and every night around 100 Jewish militia man would come and shoot at them. We knew that the Jews attacked in great numbers and when we would go to the banana grove on the following day we would find some tactics written in the ground, and in the places where we used to store our oranges. 30

We used to have armed guards protecting us when we went to collect wheat from our land, to protect us from the Jewish settlers. One time, when I was young, I saw a snake and I started to scream. The Jewish people in the grove next to ours heard my screams and they started shooting at us. Luckily we were able to escape. We went back later and this time we were able to collect our wheat. We left after the Arab Rescue Army, which had taken our weapons from us so we didn’t have the ability to defend ourselves any more, left town. One afternoon, at 4pm, I saw the vehicles carrying the Arab army out of town. My father was disappointed as he had stocked his shop with goods, thinking that the Arab Rescue Army would use them while they were protecting us. We asked them where they were going and they answered that they had been ordered to leave. Abd Al Kareem Qasem, who became the Iraqi President, was in the Iraqi contingent and he wanted to blow up the water pump in Ras El Ein because the water was used by the Jewish colonies in Jerusalem, but an order was sent to him not to do that and to leave every thing as it was. In 1948, three or four members of the Tette family that worked in our land were killed, and the whole family fled with us to Majdal Sadeq. We stayed in Majdal town for two months but then the Jewish militia started shooting at us from a colony. We fled to the west of the town. We walked and it was a long way, especially as we had no water and food. Then we went to Lydda City, where we lived for six months. We didn’t take anything with us. My father, who was always careful, closed the door of the 31

house and put a piece of wood against the door to make sure nobody could get in to attack us. The people of Lydda fought hard to defend their city, but the Jewish assault was intense and prolonged. The Arabs weren’t well equipped; they didn’t have mortars, for example. All they had were simple guns and bullets and home-made Molotov cocktails. One gun cost the same as four or five cows. And weapons were hard to obtain, too – the British military controlled all the borders between Palestine, Syria, and Egypt and it was hard to get contraband weapons through these borders. Before the British military left, they gave everything they held in the country to the Jews. We’d see the British soldiers on the trains, going to Haifa and then to their ships. While we were in Lydda we bought some new things. When we were leaving Lydda we wanted to take our new possessions with us, but the Israeli soldiers prevented us from doing so. We hitched a ride on a tractor. The driver told us he was going to Deir Ghassaneh village, near Ramallah. When we arrived there the mayor, Saleh Al-bargothi, told us we could stay in his house until the situation improved. The house had a small garden planted with pine trees. That very night, Lydda fell into the hands of the Jewish militia. And the following day, my mother, who had stayed on a farm near Majdal and so was not with us, gave birth to a baby boy. The Jewish militia left one of their army cars on a road near Lydda, at Der Al Letron- Lydda, and turned it into a landmark. It’s still there, between the pine trees, and they paint it every year. I’d say the arrival of the Arab Rescue Army was a disaster for us, as the soldiers took the guns and bullets from us and 32

left us empty handed. When Lydda City collapsed, my father sent me off, early in the morning, to visit my mother in Majdal and collect some pots and plates. He said I should stay the night there. I went on foot. I arrived in the afternoon, exhausted from having climbed up mountains. I collected the pots and the other essential household items. I told my mother I would like to sleep two nights instead of one because I was very tired. I thought about getting a donkey to help me carry our belongings back. I woke up at around three o’clock in the morning to the sound of missiles. My mother told me the Iraqi cannons were shooting from Kofor Qasim at the Jewish militias. We had to leave quickly. Two of my siblings were staying with us; I carried one, while my mother carried the other. This made escaping even more difficult. We arrived at Deir Ballot village in the region of Salfit. The villagers of Deir Ballot used to visit us in Ras El Ein, so we had good relations with them. They welcomed us and looked after us, but the conditions were horrible. We had nowhere to stay except with the cows and sheep, and the mosquitoes attacked us in the evening. Then we arrived at the village of Deir Ghasaneh and after this we went on to Nablus. I always remembered the good life we had in Yaffa. Such memories would come to mind when we were working as carriers or street sweepers. People couldn’t really afford to buy trolleys to carry things so we carried goods for people on our backs. I remember Khadir Salem, who carried wheat sacks on his back from the Eastern part of Nablus city to the 33

West. We also worked in the ice factory, and we delivered ice to houses and shops and hospitals. I would see refugees in Nablus sheltering in mosques, caves and schools; the sanitation facilities were not good. I visited Ras El-Ein in the 1970s. The train station buildings were still there, and when I visited Abu Sameer Nageb Nasser’s house near the railway station, I found it pretty much as I remembered it, it had a distinctive fence around the garden, it made me remember how we used to play with his children there when I was young. We may have had some support from the UNRWA, but it doesn’t compensate for the land we lost in Jaffa and other cities and towns in Palestine. We left our green lands to the Jews and became refugees. I don’t want the United Nations assistance; I want to go home to my land, and I am living here in the Refugee Camp of Askar only temporarily. George Bush is not our envoy and he has no right to speak about us or on behalf of us. He does not have the right to speak about our right to return, or to cancel our right to return! I hope people of the world will wake up one day and discover the truth. ***


Abu Bassam Al-Arda Born in 1930s Original home: Yazoor village/ Jaffa Current address: Al-Ein Refugee Camp-Nablus

In the winter nights, we used to go out in the mud with or without boots to fix the pegs of the tent.
It was 1948 and I was barely 13 years old, I remember that I started to get an understanding of the conflict at this point. One of my first memories was of some activists who used to visit us at our school. They would encourage us to hold strikes against the British occupation who they claimed was depriving us of everything and executing our fighters. Our generation used to consider the British soldiers as deceptive. I was also involved in the conflict despite the fact of my young age and that I was unable to carry a gun. I recall an incident that happened in my village of Yazoor which was 4 km from Jaffa. The British guards used to come in tanks that were called troop carriers, and we would run behind them in the main road. The British soldiers were targeting Yazoor with heavy shooting from the western side. Our village had four families and each family had its own Mukhtar or Head. Hajj Othman Jibril was one of the four heads and he went and talked to the British guards about them apparently firing at Yazoor. He told us he touched the submachine gun that had been used to fire at us and he discovered that it was hot. He raised his hand and said that this was clear proof that the British were the ones who were shooting at us. Hajj Jibril was wise and very alert. 35

Moreover this incident proved to us that the British were collaborating with the Jews and inciting conflicts. From this point I can remember the story and begin to analyze it. First of all they said, “Let’s divide Palestine into areas.” Of course, our people refused assuming that we were capable of fighting the Jews and insisting that we were able to carry weapons. At this time I was with adults who were much more involved than me. They were almost 25 while I was only 13 years old. Even though I was young, I like many others in my age managed to stay in Yazoor with the fighters even when my family was deported. When we were in Yazoor many battles took place elsewhere such as that of the Al-Qastal Mountain in Jerusalem. They announced on the radio while we were in the café that the famous Palestinian leader, Abd Al-Qader Al-Husseini was killed in Al Qastel. Apparently the Jews had occupied Al Qastal and slaughtered the women and the children there. The story had affected everybody in the town including senior citizens, women and children. Following this people from towns and villages near us started to be deported. The Jews began to occupy the outskirts of our village. Many Jews used to come at midnight from the orange orchards and fire at Yazoor. People who lived in the western part of town and in the extended areas would come and live in the center as it was safer. We were living in the southern part of town that was one kilometer from the town center. Few Jewish houses were close to us, the nearest being 2 km away. The Jews were the owners of a factory in Sawafi Al36

Raml that was part of Yazoor’s lands but it was like a desert. To my knowledge, I think that somebody from Jaffa sold some of those lands to the Jews illegally. Somebody had faked the ownership of those lands claiming that he bought them from the families in Yazoor. After this he started to sell the land to the Jews. The people prepared themselves to fight and families bought weapons. Men were selling their wife’s jewelry so they could buy guns. They chose some people to be responsible for acquiring weapons while others had to build trenches. To dig a trench, one had to remove the sand with a shovel and put it in some sand bags. One of those men responsible for organizing the work was Abu Mahmood Barakat, who had a strong character. They made battlefields and appointed a person to be responsible for each site. The fighters were told to stay awake during the night and Abu Mahmood used to go to check whether they were sleeping or not. The fighters were responsible people but their lack of training let them down. Actually, we didn’t have a regular army but freedom fighters. I recall that while the skirmishes were taking place between our fighters and the Jews, the owners of the orange orchards, were going with guards to the orchards in order to continue picking oranges. During the skirmishes, one member of the Jadallah family was killed, as well as Abu Raíd’s uncle and a man from Abu Safeyyah’s family was killed near the railway, others lost their lives too. In addition the mukhtar’s father, Abu Raid Barakat, was injured and another man from the Jabir family lost his hand. 37

If the Jews knew that there was a base in a certain house, they would shoot heavily at it. They would also sneak into that house and plant mines and bombs. There were some other houses that they destroyed since these houses caused trouble for them. They also destroyed another factory that they believed, was a place the fighters were using as a base. We thanked God that we were in excellent condition before the interference of the Arab Rescue Army. I recall when the Syrian Rescue Army came to Yazoor; it was the reason behind our fall. I remember this well because I stayed in Yazoor to near the end. I first heard that they had brought a cannon or something similar and had started to fire at Tel Aviv and other areas. They said to the people of the town, “You can leave with your women and children in order to save them and we will stay here to protect your village. We can safeguard your village; Jews are nothing.” Actually, only a few of the Rescue Army members came. People were comfortable when they saw them because this regular army was an Arab army who had cannon. On the other hand, it wasn’t a regular army, it consisted of just 12 inexperienced soldiers many who were originally policemen. In the end the Rescue Army decided to leave while many of us were still in Yazoor. They pulled out, and we stayed with some of the young men carrying weapons in order to defend ourselves. I think as young men, who used to listen to the news and analyze it, we believed it was a conspiracy that the Arab Rescue Army had just arrived to try and remove the fighters peacefully. 38

A serious allegation at the time was that the Jews raped women and killed them but at the time we did not know if this was true. However, when the Arab radios kept repeating the crimes Jews were committing in other towns, one would feel ever more afraid. The villages of Al-Khayriyah and Salama had fallen before Yazoor, but it seemed the Jews were afraid of occupying Yazoor. What actually affected us most was the situation in Jaffa. People were leaving carrying their furniture on cars and trucks whilst we could only watch on. This situation, of course, made people very fearful. Following the deportation of many citizens from Jaffa there was hardly anybody left in the district, except us. The old generation considered honor the most important value in life. Despite the fact that we were positioned closer to the Jews than the people of Beit Dajan, they had left but we were still in Yazoor. Nevertheless we finally had no choice but to depart from Yazoor as we believed a Jewish attack was imminent. There were still people leaving in cars from Jaffa. We were asking them to give us a ride, but they refused. Later, one of the young men I was with started shooting his gun in the air until the cars stopped. Finally, we got in a car that loaded with furniture and we headed for the city of Lydda. I still recall that our neighbor, Muhammad Ashawafi, had returned to Yazoor with a horse and cart after we had all left. He discovered that the Jews hadn’t occupied Yazoor, since they were not sure that it was safe. We stayed in Lydda for 2 months and life was bearable but 39

my family decided it was time to move on. At this point we were divided into two groups. My mother left with her brother to a town near Salfit called Qir, for we had some relatives there, while some of my brothers and I left for Tulkarem, where we also had family. We stayed in Tulkarem for few months. Then in harvest time we met up with the rest of our family and moved to Nablus. I was empty-handed when I was driven out while there were some people who managed to leave with their cattle along the railway. Some people would sneak back to Yazoor to collect their belongings. Altogether it took us one year to get from Yazzor to the Al-Ein refugee camp in Nablus. People in the city welcomed us and helped us and the relationship between all was good. Some of us stayed in mosques, others at schools. In Nablus, we had met up with the Barakat’s family and we fortunate to be able to live together in Abu Asu’ud house that was very kind to us. We didn’t go to school since the situation, after 1948, was very difficult; there was hunger and there was hardly any work. If a man could find work, he would work the whole day for a shilling or six pennies. God helped us to overcome those difficult times. In the year when it snowed, we were in the house and the camp was being built. The Red Cross was erecting tents which the people started to come and sit in. In the winter nights, we used to go out in the mud with or without boots to fix the pegs of the tent. We would fix the pegs whenever the wind removed or broke them, it was real misery. How else can I describe it? 40

UNRWA gave us a refugee house and I myself developed this house to live in. I returned to Yazoor on foot, for I worked near it after the war of 1967 which enabled us to visit the land we had been forced from. What I noticed first was the difference in the construction of the roads. The Jews were guarding these roads that were exclusively used by the Jews. The school where I received my education had not changed. They removed some houses from the quarter where we used to live because they built factories instead. The small hill that we still consider as our quarter remained as it was and there were sycamore trees which I recognized. On the other hand, the orange orchards were removed to build factories instead. Yemani and Iraqi Jews had settled in our houses. Some people dared to knock on the doors of the houses where they used to live and talked to the Jews there saying, “This house was ours”. The Iraqi Jews offered them water and coffee. The Iraqi Jews used to say, “We hope we can live in peace some day when we are able to return to Iraq and you may be able to return here.” It was extremely difficult for me to see my house with other people living it, but what can I do? I have to bear this situation since we were in need of work there. They want to compensate us, how I ask? In addition to the psychological compensation, I want them to compensate me for all the years where they used the land. They have been using the land and taking its crops for 50 years. I can prove with documents that this land is mine and that I never wanted to sell it. 41

Lately, we concluded; having been deported, after Lydda had fallen, after the West Bank had been taken completely, that this was a long of events in which Arab kings, Arab princes, Arab leaders and educated Palestinians interfered and ultimately achieved nothing. Actually, Arab countries as well as our leaders were the reason behind our Nakba and deportation. Moreover, our leaders were not as responsible as they should have been. They kept talking about the Mufti of Jerusalem, Amin Al-Husayni as the only one who was able to solve our problem. They really deceived us. Our families of Yazoor were dispersed all over the world, and ultimately, we became refugees. Originally they told us that it would take only two weeks to return, then two months, but we are still here today hearing such promises. We now found ourselves under occupation and we have no land. One, who does not have a land, does not have dignity. ***


Huda Abu - Dheer 13 years old in 1948 Original home: Al- Manshiya neighborhood/ Jaffa Current address: Old City/ Nablus

At this time the relationship between Jews and Palestinians was peaceful. We were friends and neighbors and there were no problems between us.
When we departed from Jaffa I was thirteen years old. We did not have a radio in our house, so my father would listen to the radio in the local cafe. When he returned home he would relay the stories to everyone. At this time the relationship between Jews and Palestinians was peaceful. We were friends and neighbors and there were no problems between us. We lived in the neighborhood of Al-Manshiya between Tel Aviv and Jaffa, beside Hasan Beik Mosque and near Al-Carmel market. We would always have to go to the Al-Carmel market to buy vegetables for my mother. My father used to work in the market, and my sister and I used to visit him. He was normally sat down reading the newspaper. Palestinians used to build tents and put flags on them on the occasion of Prophet Robin that lasted forty days. I went on this occasion many times. It was just as a feast. There were camel races and we used to ride on them and eat many sweet products. Once my brother Mahammed came from Tel-Aviv and said, “The Jews are going to divide Palestine and they are having 43

celebrations where they sing and dance.” We did not know anything about this despite living so close together. We had a Jewish neighbor who came and sat with us, she told us, “You Arabs know nothing, we want to take Palestine and you will have nothing.” We told her that she was lying but she responded, “You will see tomorrow.” After two or three days, celebrations were held in the streets of Tel-Aviv and the partition plan was issued. My brother, Mohammad, worked as a mechanic in a Garage owned by Jews in Tel-Aviv. In Tel Aviv the relationship between Arabs and Jews was a lot more volatile. On one occasion I had the misfortune of witnessing a Jew being murdered in Al-Manshiya. I immediately rang my brother and he left his job to come and investigate. When he arrived on the scene, British soldiers took my brother and incredibly accused him of the murder. At the time of the murder my brother had been working in the garage and after interrogation by the British soldiers they accepted his alibi and released him. Following his release he returned to his place of work at the garage. By some bizarre twist of fate, a Jew that worked at the garage was killed when the car he was working on collapsed on top of him. The jack had slipped while he was repairing the underside of the car and he had been crushed to death. My brother was once again accused of killing him, and he was detained for forty days. During this time he was thoroughly interrogated before he was finally released without charge. My brother Khalid worked in Tel-Aviv for a Jewish man. He was selling vegetables using a horse. When the war started, between Jaffa and Tel-Aviv, Khalid insisted on returning the 44

horse to his employer. We tried to tell him that there were great clashes but he was adamant and insisted to return the horse to his Jewish employer. As the situation intensified we were forced out of Al-Manshiya to the neighborhood of Al-Ajami. Fighting was taking place a lot more frequently now. Arab fighters were opening fire on Jews and they were retaliating with equal force. The people from the neighborhood would support the fighters by sending them food. In these days of intensive fighting, we would usually sleep early. We would frequently wake up in the morning to find bombs in the streets. When we had departed from Al-Manshiya we had left all our furniture behind. Therefore my father decided he would sneak back to the house to retrieve our belongings. He would bring with him one piece of furniture each time he went. On one occasion he took my sister, Nada, with him. My sister told me she was very nervous as a cat kept meowing while my father was playing with his prayer beads. My sister demanded that my father stopped doing this in case the cat meowing would alert the Jews to come to our house. My sister said she was very afraid and she was counting the minutes until my father had finished. We remained living in Al-Ajami until the massacre of Deir Yassin occurred. We heard that the Jews had raped the girls and killed many pregnant women. My father and my uncle said that they had to move their daughters far away as he was very concerned for our safety. My father had four daughters including me and so did my uncle. They decided to send all of us with our mothers to Nablus where we had relatives while 45

the male members of the family remained in Jaffa. My father and my uncle didn’t want to leave Jaffa, neither did I. When my mother stayed in Jaffa, I asked her, “How could I leave Jaffa and you behind?” I asked her to give us some clothes but she said, “You want to stay for a long time in Nablus; it is just a short time and you will return.” our neighbors were Jews. They left before things went bad and told us to leave because the situation would be very bad. We traveled from Jaffa to Nablus in a truck. My mother was sat above the truck and there was a canister of gasoline behind her back. There was a leak in the canister which allowed oil to pour out onto the road and also down my mothers back causing her skin to burn. When we arrived in Nablus I was intrigued to see if it was as beautiful as many people had told me. My initial opinion was that Jaffa was more beautiful as it was by the sea. The first thing I did when I arrived in Nablus was to go to the Al-Khadra Mosque beside my grandfather’s house. My father, uncle and brother had remained in Al-Ajami where the situation was deteriorating and the electricity and water were now out of service. On one occasion my brother went out to buy some bread, but he could not find any. When he was returning he had been shot in the leg and this story was reported in the newspaper. My brother was concerned that my mother would find out from the newspaper, so he decided to come to Nablus to calm her fears. My uncle and my father remained in Jaffa until all hope was lost and they arrived in Nablus not long after we had arrived, without bringing anything with them. 46

We stayed in my grandfather’s house in Al-Yasmina neighborhood in the old city. We lived there with the Alam Addin family as my uncle and his family slept elsewhere. There were eight of us in the same room and we had no bed, chairs or wardrobe. We went to borrow some bed sheets from the house my uncle was staying at but they only had one blanket and his family was already using it. Bit by bit we bought furniture for our one room where we lived for our first few years in Nablus. We managed to eat there, clean our clothes and even turn part of it into a small bathroom. We used to bring water from the spring source in Al-Yasmina. There was no electricity so we used to have lamps with us. When radios became available, we used to listen to the plays that would be broadcast. There were many of us who would all sit around and listen to the radio. We had been offered a room in the refugee camp but my father declined it as despite the difficulties we were happy where we were. Many more people now arrived in Nablus on foot especially from Lydda and Ramleh. Some of them were allowed to stay in the mosques, schools or the refugee camps. By coincidence, my brother Mohammad recognized the An-Nakib family who were our neighbors in Jaffa. A woman from this family, whose husband had been put in prison, had arrived in Nablus with three children and no blankets or clothes. My brother Mohammad went to many shops to collect some money to buy clothes for the children. He also asked our father for some extra thyme, cheese, a blanket or anything to give to this poor woman who had nothing. My mother provided some thyme, cheese and a blanket. My cousin was able to bring a blanket, two cushions beside and even some clothes. Life was very 47

difficult but we were surviving. After An-Naksa in 1967, it came to my mind to go to Jaffa to see what had changed. I always said that I did not want to stay in Nablus. I went with my uncle and aunt. When we arrived we found nothing, there were some new buildings where our houses used to stand. We visited the Al-Carmel public market which was now being used by Russian and Iraqi Jews. I noticed that a part of Hasan Beik Mosque was demolished and we only stayed in Al-Manshiya long enough to pray. I often reminisce about our trips to the beautiful orchards of Salama village which was near Al-Mansheya. It was a lovely environment where Jews and Palestinians relaxed in harmony together. The Jews of Salama were good people and we had a good relationship with them. We used to turn the lights on for them on the Sabbath when it was forbidden for them to do so. In hindsight people left Jaffa relatively peacefully in comparison with people from Lydda. Some people had stayed in Jaffa, and in hindsight I wish we had done this and never came to Nablus. Life had been good in Jaffa as people were able to earn a good living. It is difficult to have a good quality of life when one is a refugee. ***


Muhammad Ahmad Saleh Abu Kishek Born 1935 Original home: Abu Kishek, Yafa Current address: Askar Refugee Camp, Nablus City

We are passing the story of our deportation from our generation to the next so that the “Question of Palestine” will never be forgotten.
Our village belonged to the Abu Kishek tribe, although we did have other tribes in the village with us, such as Quran, Araysheh, Khatatra, Labadeh and Mawalha. There were 5,000 citizens living in our village and our tribe consisted of more than 50 families. Our main form of work was farming: planting wheat, vegetables and raising animals. People lived in peace; life was good enough and we wanted for nothing. But Jews were buying lands from rich Turkish officials who were appointed as leaders during the Ottoman rule. Those officials imposed taxes on poor farmers, and the farmers were too poor to pay these taxes so the Turkish officials took parts of the farmers’ lands instead. They did not appreciate the importance and the value of the land as they were not the ones who worked on it, so it was easy for them to sell it to Jews after the collapse of the Turkish Empire. When Palestinians started to be aware of the danger of Zionism on their lands they started to resist and stopped selling their lands to Jews. In the 1920s, Sheikh Shaker Abu Kishek, the head of our tribe, led a campaign against the newly-built Jewish colony on our land, Beitah Tikfa, which was called Emlabes by the Palestinians. However, the British 49

occupation troops supported the Jews and tried to put down our revolution. When I was a child, people talked about the Alburaq Revolution of 1929, as well as the three revolutionists who were hanged by the British occupiers: Muhamad Jamjum, Ata Zeir and Fouad Hijazi. I had also heard about the Revolution of 1936 and the six months strike when all the shops were closed and nobody went to work. The strike was a Palestinian protest against the Jewish migration from Europe to Palestine. The Iraqi leader became involved, convincing Palestinians to suspend their strike after he got some promises from the British mandate, but nothing changed over the immigration issue. More and more immigrants were entering Palestine, and there were clashes between Palestinians, Jews and British troops. Palestinians tried to buy weapons, but it was very difficult as the Palestinians were not permitted to have arms by the British. Every Palestinian revolutionist had to buy his own gun secretly with his own money. Sheikh Abu Kishek, was the last one who left the village; he did not leave the village until he was sure that everybody had gone; he was doing his utmost for the cause. The wheat spikes were tall when we fled, as we left in spring. I truly believe that Jews occupied our lands by force; we did not leave them voluntarily. I remember that the British troops were supporting the Jewish militia when they attacked Palestinian villages; they helped them get stronger and become entrenched in the newly-occupied villages. If Palestinians tried to support each other if one of their villages came under attack they were prevented from doing so by the British, who barred the way for the Palestinian support groups. 50

We didn’t leave immediately though. We tried to continue with our normal life, but we were surrounded: Jewish colonies were built on three sites around the village and there was only one road to Yaffa city. We were scared when the citizens of Yaffa fled. We were isolated from the Palestinian villages that were on the western side of our village. The Jewish militia did not allow supplies to reach the village and there were negotiations between both sides. There were some clashes between our resistance and the Jewish militia two nights before our deportation and both sides lost fighters. We had prepared ourselves to resist, but we could not continue the resistance without supplies. We were surrounded, it didn’t matter how long we were prepared to continue fighting we just couldn’t go on. The head of the Palestinian fighters in our village had brought three guns from Egypt but he was unable to enter the village as it was surrounded. We agreed to leave our village and our weapons and were given safe passage through an opening in the eastern entrance to the village. After we left the village everyone was angry with the Arab leaders who had lied to us. We had been told the Arab armies were coming and we would be able to return to our villages after one week. We heard their propaganda from the British Near East Radio Station, and we believed it. The Jewish militia destroyed our village after we left it. We could hear the explosions from our shelter in the village of Jaljolya. We saw the smoke with our own eyes. We went to Jaljolya region, which was not that far from our village, in order to be as close as possible to our lands. We stayed there for few months, until they signed the truce between the Arab states 51

and the Jewish militia that became the so-called “Israel”. We lost our fertile lands and our homes, but we were lucky in comparison to our neighbors in nearby villages – we were allowed to take our clothes but they weren’t. We had time to gather possessions during the negotiations before we were deported. Other villages, though, were cleared under fire so the residents had no time to gather their belongings. Our family ended up traveling to Nablus, while some other families went to Jordan and other countries. Some families from Tulkarem and Qalqilya owned some farms in the Muthalath region, which was occupied by Israel; they would sneak back to their farms in order to gather oranges. Many of these farmers were killed by Jews when they sneaked back to their farms. The clearance of Lydda City increased significantly the population of the refugee camp we were in. Everyone had to fend for themselves when it came to getting food for their children, but it was very difficult to get any sort of employment. Each family had one room to live in, although some families lived in caves. The Arab armies recruited the Palestinian militants into their units for four months after the 1948 war, and then they discharged them and confiscated their guns. The Iraqi Army left the West Bank, while the Egyptian Army was in the Southern part of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. After the 1967 war, Israel occupied the rest of Palestine; both parts of Palestine were united under one occupation, so we 52

could travel with the so-called “Israel” in order to see our homes, which we had not been able to see since the war of 1948. We saw our village had been converted into an industrial zone where many factories had been built. I saw my village occupied by Jewish immigrants from Europe. It was so painful to see my village and land occupied by strangers. Many villagers returned to visit after 1967 and many were overcome with emotion. My sister did not stop crying when she saw her village and she remembered her childhood there. Every Palestinian is eager to go home to their original village and leave the refugee camps. We are passing the story of our deportation from our generation to the next so that the “Question of Palestine” will never be forgotten. We will continue until the refugees get back their rights. The refugees will not give up; this conflict started in 1917 and has continued until now and nobody has been able to solve it. It will never be solved if they continue to ignore the right to return of the Palestinian refugees. Even if I wanted to accept compensation in lieu of my land, my children wouldn’t let me take it. Even if the whole world decides our right to return should be cancelled, I will never accept it. Even though it seems like an impossible dream, we will keep demanding our right to return, and we will not give up on this. If somebody accepts the cancellation of this right it will not be a decision that comes from heart. ***


Shaheir Dadosh Born in 1933 Original home: Om Alfahim Current address: Old City/ Nablus

Shame on the country that meets civilian resistance with tanks!
In 1947 I was working in an ice cream shop on Hadar Mountain on the outskirts of Haifa. I lived with my uncle, who also worked there. My father was a butcher and one of his brothers was a shepherd. Another brother of mine was working in Haifa, in a shop owned by a British man. Haifa was a vital city for the Palestinians, and we had a population of 100,000, compared to a Jewish population of only 20,000. Life was good and there were plenty of job opportunities. But then my life was disrupted by the clashes that erupted in the city. The villagers of Om Alfahim lost their village after May 15 1948, when the state of Israel was declared. The Rhodes Agreement was a treaty signed between the newly-founded state of Israel and Arab that delivered villages and towns situated near the border of the West Bank. This agreement obliged Israel to give these lands back after five years. Israel did not respect the agreement and has kept possession of these lands even until now. The reason for this agreement was that Israel needed a larger piece of land between the coast and the West Bank. This is one of the reasons behind the presence of Palestinians living in towns and villages in Israel. In 1948 I joined the Jordanian Army and after war broke out 54

we were promised that we could continue fighting with them. Unfortunately, they changed their minds and discharged around 400 of us because we had family inside Israel. I was staying in Baqa village when Jews took up a position very close to the village. We had heard that they had killed soldiers, so we escaped to the West Bank to avoid being slaughtered. When we arrived in the West Bank we found that the Iraqi Army was stationed there. The Iraqis were glad to have our service and we were given Iraqi uniforms. There were still around 400 of us and we worked with them for a time. Then Iraq and Jordan agreed that Jordan would take control of the West Bank region. The Iraqis left in 1951 and this meant we were unable to continue our service. Even though I was born in Om Alfahim village and my family still lived there I was unable to obtain residency because I was in the West Bank when citizenship was granted. In 1967, when Israel occupied the rest of Palestine, I was the first one to return to Om Alfahim, although I had revisited my village before then because I had been sneaking across the border once or twice a year to visit my family ever since the early 1950s. I knew this country very well as I am a son of its land. I would travel secretly through the mountains alone and at night. It was a great feeling whenever I reached my village, as I was able to see all the members of my family that I had been separated from, and they gave me money, as there were no jobs in the West Bank at this time. My mother was raising goats and hens, which she would sell to raise money for me. I did not like relying on my family and so I came up with a 55

way of making money for myself. This involved smuggling goods across the border. There were no Palestinian clothes available in Israel, the only clothes you could buy there were of Western origin. Therefore, there was a substantial market for Arab clothes among the Arabs still living there. I would buy the clothes from Amman and smuggle them into Israel, where I would sell them to a friend who would distribute them. I usually made five Jordanian Dinars on each trip. Once, my friends asked me to help them smuggle a cow across the border. I did not like the idea as I preferred smuggling clothes and I told them that I was not interested. I had already been arrested twice by the Jews; once I was detained for one-and-a-half years in Shata Prison and the other time I was detained for a month. Once I went secretly to Haifa after the war of 1948 in order to work in construction and earn some good money. I did this for two years and I saved a lot of money, which enabled me to return to Nablus and open up a shop. Before the Diaspora of 1948, my mother told me that if I got stuck in the West Bank I should go and live with my aunt, who lived in the village of Yabad near Jenin in the north of the West Bank. This is exactly what happened and I ended up living with my aunt for 17 years. In fact, when I was 21 years old I married this aunt’s daughter, my cousin. More than 20,000 refugees found themselves in Nablus. I witnessed the poverty and the hunger; I saw the refugees’ tents in the village of Janzoor on the way to Jenin – there was only one meter between each tent. People were enduring incredibly tough living conditions and it made for a tragic scene. Then they moved them to different refugee camps 56

and gave every family one room – while the Jews who were coming from Europe found Palestinian houses waiting for them in Haifa. Today we are an unarmed people while Israel has nuclear weapons. Israel invades us every day while we offer resistance by throwing stones. Shame on the country that meets civilian resistance with tanks! They have taken our lands for free and want us to leave the region. ***


Sadiq Anabtawi Born in 1942 Original home: Lydda Current address: Nablus

All the money in the world will not compensate the Palestinian for his loss; the financial compensation is an easy thing, but the psychological compensation is something else.
We had a battery radio at home that my father used to sit and listen to at certain times of the day. I remember its shape and the fact that it did not produce a clear sound. It was the Near East Radio Station but I remember that the whole concept of the radio seemed something quite bizarre. My father had high status in Lydda; he was married to the chief justice’s daughter, and he had a good office job. My father worked in an office for Farid Al-Anabtawi. I was a little boy then and remember going to the office to run errands for him. My major concern at the time was to go to Saa’doo’s shop and buy a bottle of sweet lemonade which I liked very much. I used to hear the word “committee”, uttered by different people who came to see my father. It was called the national committee and it aimed at keeping the people on their lands and staying in Lydda. At this time some people had begun to make the pre-eminent move of leaving Lydda, as they feared deportation. Many people though did want to stay fight for their land, and you could feel that a momentous event was taking place. I heard about the desire of people to have weapons. However, there was no money, so people were forced to sell everything 58

they had in order to buy them. The main problem was the lack of real leadership to unite the people despite the intentions of the Grand Mufti, Haj Ameen Al-Husseini. My uncle, Bahjat Tibara, was an important official in the Jordanian army. I remember when he came to see us he arrived in an army car. He told my father that he should leave Lydda with the whole of his family. I still recall the conversation between them, with my father insisting on staying. However, in April 1948, much to the surprise of the National Committee, my family, including my father decided to leave Lydda. There was one member of my family who did not want to go and that was my grandfather. My grandfather was very emotional and very stubborn and he was adamant that he would not leave. My mother was very worried about my grandfather especially as he was blind and she wanted to make sure that he was alright. The next morning, a car came for us, driven by a Jordanian officer who was a friend of my uncle. There was eight of my family in total who crammed into the car. This did not include my grandfather who could not be persuaded to leave and he stayed in his house. We left Lydda without taking anything with us except the clothes we were wearing. My father’s uncle, the late Haj Muhamad Anabtawi arranged for two trucks so that our furniture and belongings could be taken to Nablus. However as soon as my father found out, he refused this offer out of pride and because he really believed that we would be able return in the near future. His uncle told him that Lydda would be conquered but my father did not want to hear this. 59

I remember as we were leaving there was some disorder in the town. We were traveling in a big black car that slowly pushed its way through the commotion. Some people came and tried to stop the car, and so my father spoke with them. As we drove off my father told us that he had been talking to some of the committee members. My father had told them that we were leaving but we would be back soon if God wills, and they replied that God knows best. The Jordanian officer told us that the Jews were close to occupying Jaffa. This prompted me to realize that the commotion was caused by the Arabs fleeing from there as Jaffa was very close. Once we had escaped the chaos circulating Lydda the rest of the journey to Nablus was quite smooth. Shortly after we had arrived a truce was declared meaning that we might be able to return. This caused some people to return to Lydda, but my family decided to wait in Nablus to see what would happen. This proved to be an excellent decision, as the infamous deportation events took place not long after. We had been fortunate that we were able to take a car as many people had no choice but to walk. This is what my blind grandfather had to do once the city had been occupied. It took my grandfather a long time before he reached Nablus and my family was greatly relieved when he arrived. He was in good spirits although he had obviously suffered a lot on the way. We were informed that five Arab armies had entered Palestine and accomplished nothing. The Palestinian people guessed that the battle would be lost as there seemed to be a serious lack of real effort from the neighboring Arab countries. We were told that despite the massacre in Lydda some Arabs had actually managed to stay there. 60

In Nablus, we lived in many houses. First, we went to my aunt Um-Thabet’s where life was difficult as we had no possessions of our own. Then a kind family let us use an apartment which is now where Adel Zu’aiter School is built. There was nothing in the apartment, but people donated mattresses and beds. Nablus was poor because of the state of its economy which did not help the already dire situation. In the winter, I remember the family that was allowing us to stay in their apartment brought a jacket for me. I remember my mother crying because I had neither boots nor even sandals during those desperately cold times. Since we arrived in Nablus, my mother had not stopped crying, and when we asked her why this was she replied, “Your uncles where are they? The family is scattered; where are my brothers and my friends whom I miss so much? She used to bring us to An-Najah University area, then an empty square piece of land and let us play. There was only one other family living in our street and two of the women from that family came and said to my mother, “Sister, we always see you crying, what is the matter.” My mother gave them the same answer she had given to us. One of my uncles worked with the UN in Jericho, and he thought it was best for my grandfather to live with him. This scattered the family further making my mother more upset. I thank God for having educated parents. My mother had graduated at The Arab College in Jerusalem before we were deported, and my father had earned a Diploma in Agriculture. My father started working with his cousin and they started a small business. At this time the Iraqis were in control and 61

the economy was stable. This situation changed when the Jordanians took control and the economy took a turn for the worse. This downturn in the economy led to my fathers business not succeeding. My father then became a teacher and after two or three years my mother worked in the same profession. Before 1967, I traveled to Lebanon to study there. When I graduated, my father asked me to return to Nablus. At that time, it was under occupation and I wondered how I would cope with such a situation. Nevertheless in 1968, I returned to Nablus after finishing my studies as I desperately wanted to see my family. After a week in Nablus, my brother asked me if I wanted to go with him to Jerusalem, which I agreed to. In Jerusalem I met up with some old friends who we stayed with. The following day, they suggested that we drive to Lydda. Just hearing its name rekindled some childhood memories and I got quite excited at the prospect of seeing the place we were forced to leave. When we reached there I was shocked to see the huge airport which now existed there. This provoked me to shout, “For God’s sake, where is Lydda?” The entrance to the city looked very different and I could not recall which street was which. My friends informed me we were on the main street and I then recalled the café, where I used to play outside with my friend. I told my friend to stop as I wanted to see it and he actually stopped under the balcony of my home, which was a little further down the street. Hardly anything had changed on this street one small exception was that Saa’doo’s shop now had a door of iron instead of a glass 62

one. My friends wanted to leave soon after but I managed to get them to stay a little longer as I was really fascinated to see what had happened there. We looked at what was left of the old city after it had been destroyed. Then we came across our school which was still intact, which was heartening, and following this we decided it was time to leave. My father refused resolutely to go to Lydda. The only time he went was when he went to Lydda airport. When he went he closed his eyes all the way from Nablus to the airport. I actually returned once more to Lydda and it was mainly by chance. I had got lost driving back from Tel Aviv after I had bought some goods. The first sign that I saw was that of Lydda and I decided to go there to take another look. I entered our old street and stopped in front of my front door. I felt a desire to knock but I was afraid of who I might encounter living there. So I walked around the quarter, and looked at the buildings and the people, and then I got back in my car and drove off. I never went to Lydda again. All the money in the world will not compensate the Palestinian for his loss; the financial compensation is an easy thing, but the psychological compensation is something else. When I went to Lydda, the first thing I looked for is the place where I used to play. I searched for the place where Samir Zlatimo and I used to play in the dust, to rekindle my memories. What psychological compensation would I have? We do not own any property in Lydda anymore, but we do have real memories there. ***


Saleem Abu Dheer 10 years old in 1948 Original home: Al- Manshiya/ Jaffa Current address: Nablus

…They also found a hairdresser with his hand over the head of his client on the chair and both of them were dead.
I was nine years old when we left Jaffa, but I still remember it very clearly. I used to go to the market with my father, and I still remember many events that took place at that time. My first memories were of happy times and but the atmosphere started to change. I recall that because of the rising hostilities my brother decided to stop working for his Jewish employer. My father supported his decision and gave him a cart full of almonds to sell, from which he made a lot of money. Once my brother had done this his next job was to go in his lorry to the farms to collect oranges that he would then sell. On one occasion he was stopped when returning through the Jewish colony of Niter. The British soldiers who arrived on the scene allowed him to return to Jaffa but without his lorry. The following day he returned through a closed road in an attempt to retrieve it. However, much to his distress he found that his lorry had been burnt out. As the situation deteriorated British soldiers would come to our neighborhood of Al-Manshiya and open fire at some of the Arabs. They did this to deceive us into thinking that it was the Jews who were firing at us. They wanted to stir up hostilities between us in order to quicken our departure. There was another occasion where the British soldiers invaded the 64

orphanage with snuffer dogs for an unknown reason. When the Rescue Army arrived we were very excited. It was led by an Arab commander called Fawzi Al-Kowikji and we clapped very enthusiastically when he led his army into town. Our spirits were dampened when we heard the terrible news that Abed Al-Qader Al-Husseini, the leader of the Palestinian resistance had died. My sister brought the newspaper and she was crying and shouting, “Father, look at the paper and read what is in there.” The paper was black to mourn the death of Al-Qader Al-Husseini. Despite the appearance of the Rescue Army people had started to flee mainly because out of fear from many of the rumors that were flying around. Nevertheless, there were many people who would simply not leave. Some people had the attitude that they would rather die in their town than be forced to leave. I recall the family of Abu-Laban who had placed a canon on top of the mill they owned in order to defend it. We did not leave Jaffa until the last moment. When we finally did leave we certainly did not anticipate that we would become refugees. My father brought the house key with him when we left. He also brought his nail clippers and a copy of the Holy Quran. All our remaining belongings we put into bags that we intended to come back for in the next few days. My father put two pieces of wood over our door in order to prevent the Jews from getting in. As we did not want to go too far from home we stayed in the Al-Ajami neighborhood for a while with my uncle. After two weeks we returned in a lorry to Al-Manshiya to pick 65

up our belongings that we had left behind. I stayed in the lorry in order to keep watching for any Jews that were approaching who may wish to disturb us. When we had collected all our belongings and started driving away, we were shocked to see that some armed Jews had spotted us. They started firing at the electricity wires, some of which dropped down on the road. Fortunately we avoided them and we were able to escape unharmed back to Al-Ajami. Once a lorry passed by Al-Azaz café’ in Jaffa, as the lorry passed by some barrels rolled out of the back of it. We thought that those barrels had just accidentally fallen off and started to wave for them to stop and get their barrels back. However, when the barrels impacted with anything object they exploded. Every one in the café was injured. The same thing happened in the market and in the orphanage. In the orphanage people found a dead woman there with her baby alive beside her. They also found a hairdresser with his hand over the head of his client on the chair and both of them were dead. After An-Naksa in 1967, two of my friends and I decided that we would visit to Jaffa. First we traveled down to Jerusalem and from there we caught a bus to Tel-Aviv. We decided to walk along the coastal path from Tel-Aviv to Jaffa which is not very far. In fact this coastal path actually goes directly past our front door, as Al-Manshiya was situated on the coast. The Municipality had constructed something that reduced the strength of the waves and this prevented them from reaching our doorstep. Walking along the coast reminded us of how we used to swim in the sea at night. It was impolite for the girls to swim during 66

the day, therefore many of my female relatives would come to our house in the evening, and we would all swim together. When we reached my house I was pleased to find it the same as I remembered it. We walked to the next street where my Aunts and cousins had lived and this street was also unchanged. When we reached the Hasan Beik Mosque I became very disillusioned. It had been neglected and had it was being used for acts of fornication as there were now nightclubs nearby. We entered Al-Derhali and al-Balabseh markets where we ate some fish and then we went to visit Al-Ajami. After that we went to Beit-Yam which we used to call Al-Jabaliya neighborhood where my uncle Abu Ali AshSharqawi was living. At a later date I returned with my father and my father-in-law. We went to visit our old house and then we visited the AlMadfa Cafe. Here we sat and reminisced about how our life used to be here. I took my brothers, Khalid and Abdulghani again to Jaffa. We found Al-Manshiya upside down. There was a place called Irsheid; we found it destroyed except for the mosque and the hill of Beidas Family. When we reached Al-Manshiya, we found no homes on the left or the right. Beidas house was a beautiful one with some tiles on its roof, the family of Beidas was very wealthy. They had a square and a Cornish. My deaf brother, Khalid, started to remember the days of his youth, while Abdulghani was only three years old when we were driven out, he did not remember anything but the porch and the stairs. 67

During the first Intifada, I took my son, Ali, and my daughter, Aida, with me to visit Jaffa so that they could see al-Manshiya neighborhood. Afterwards, I took them to the house of my uncle, Al-Hajj Asaad Abu Dheer, in the Al-Ajami neighborhood. We knocked at the door and entered the three storied house. We asked the workers who were painting there if we could see our house and they agreed. While we were entering, I told my children that here was the kitchen, there was the living room; the wooden doors were decorated in a beautiful way. The whole house was still the same. The Jews who now owned it wanted to rent it to other people. My son noticed the name of uncle that was still engraved in stone at the front of the house. We then traveled through Al–Balabseh neighborhood, passed Al-Dajani Hospital, Al Hamra Cinema, the Monastery, AlDarahalli Market, Abu Nabbout Public Fountain and Dar Alsiksek Mosque. We visited everywhere, and I used to tell my children how great it was to live there. My late mother used to say, “If I die, please take me to Jaffa, I do not want to die here in Nablus.” ***


Muhamad Saleh Abu Leil Born in 1936 Original home: Jamaseyen/ Yaffa Current address: Balata Refugee Camp, Nablus

It has been half-a-century now and still we are dreaming about going back to our homes
We lived within walking distance of Yaffa city. We grew watermelons, tomatoes and peas and would walk to Yaffa and sell our produce in the main groceries market there. We listened to the news on the radio, and read it in the newspaper. There was a British radio station that we listened to and the newspapers we read were Aldefa and Falastein – I remember they cost one-and-a-half pennies. People were desperate to hear about what was happening because they were so frightened: we had neither tanks nor guns and the Jews were shooting and shelling our village. We were peasants, but some people tried to buy guns; each one cost around 40 Palestinian Pounds, which was very expensive. The British turned a blind eye as the Jews committed their crimes against Palestinians. The Jews massacred 12 members of the family of Aldabas, who had been living and working at the farm of Haj Hamid Abu Laban. We went to see the bodies in the early morning; they included children, who were killed while they were sleeping. A member of my own family was killed as he went to Yaffa to sell his vegetables; another villager, from the Ishtiwi family, was also killed by the Jewish gangs. I remember Abdul Latif Ayash, who was also murdered, as he was one of the resistances. Somebody else from Sheikh Emwanes Village was also killed in our village 69

and we buried him near Al-Oja River. We were poorly prepared for war and we had no military training. We managed to dig some underground tunnels and we had some guns but they were of poor quality and only housed 11 bullets. But the Jews had automatic guns with never-ending magazines of bullets. We had heard that there was some smuggling of guns and weapons from Egypt and Syria, but British soldiers executed any Palestinian who owned a gun – while Jews were permitted to have whatever they wanted. They detained my brother, Saber, and sentenced him for four years’ hard labor because they found he had an old gun in his house. We used to visit him in jail. We had some militants in our village, and eight of the militants of Hasan Salameh`s group were killed there. We lost the villages of Salameh and Yazoor as well as the farms of Yaffa city. Abdul Latif Abu Ayash and another six fighters were defending our village, but in the end they gave up their guns to another group from Abu Kishek village. We were told we should leave our village before the Jewish militia arrived, so we left – otherwise we might have been killed. Even though we had documents to prove we owned the land, we were scared. People left because they were frightened and had no weapons with which to defend themselves. I remember members of my family crying and screaming and asking our father about where we were going. He said it would be for just one month and then we would come home. It has been half-a-century now and still we are dreaming about going back to our homes. The Arab Armies did nothing to 70

help us go back, while the Jews took Palestine from us. We left at night and went first to Abu Kishik village, where we stayed for six days, until we went to Qalqilia. The citizens of Qalqilia town cried when they saw the terrible state we were in. We had lost everything and we were homeless, and we suffered a lot over the winter. We spent two years in Qalqilia town. The Iraqi Army was there at this time. The soldiers were fighting the Jewish militia, and they managed to arrest some militants – we clapped when we saw the Jewish gang members be arrested by the army. Then the Iraqi soldiers went off to defend Jenin, where many of them were killed. After two years in Qalqilia we had spent most of our money, and we decided to move to Nablus. In Nablus we were given shelter in a zone called Rafidya; we lived in tents. Then more refugees arrived from Lydda City. They told us the Jews had slaughtered many people there in a mosque and many innocent children had been killed. The Red Cross was supplying us with basic necessities, but then UNRWA took over this responsibility. We built our homes in the refugee camps, although we used the term “units” instead of “houses”. My mother died here in the camp, as well as my wife; we have been dying in the refugee camps and in the Diaspora. After the war of 1967 I went to work in Hartzilya city. Many Palestinians were there to work in industry and farming. I told my boss that this land was ours. He replied that I was just a worker here and that this was no longer Palestine but Israel. We went on trips to Yaffa after the war of 1967 and I was able 71

to see my village and my house. My village had changed, but I could still easily recognize my house. The people living in my house “allowed” me to go inside. During our trips to Yaffa we would pray in the Sidi Ali shrine and we would offer sacrifices of goats. I remembered our past and the nice memories we had before our Diaspora. The land we owned was relatively small and I wouldn’t accept any compensation in return of it. At the time the Jews had offered a lot of money to buy our land but many of us had refused to sell it. We escaped from the fear and terror, but if we had known that we would become refugees we never would have left. It would have been better if we had stayed there; it was a lovely place that was near to the beach and also near to a river. I always wonder how we ended up in this mountainous area of the West Bank. I wish I could return to my village right now and stay there for the rest of my life. ***


Abdul Ghani Ismail Doleh Born in 1941 Original home: Yaffa City Current address: Nablus City

Some villagers sneaked back to their farms to pick up some fruit, such as oranges, or property or animals, but the Jews killed all those they caught
Before the Diaspora, life was very good. We could move around the country freely, there was no fighting. We could go to the beach and go swimming, we could look after ourselves – and we even had a car. At the Al-Ajami coffee shop, though, we would hear the stories of people who had fled their homes. They told us about leaving their property, even their clothes. When we asked them why they had left, they told us that the war would reach us, and that the Jews wanted to occupy the entire country. We were among the last to leave Yaffa city; it made us sad to see the city lose its people. I had begun to expect that we would have to leave, as the only preparations had made for war were building some tunnels and buying some guns and food. There were some men who had military training – my brother was one of them – but the British Mandate had a policy of executing all those with any military association. There were obstacles on the roads and people faced roadblocks on their way to their farms. The Jews were also digging tunnels of their own. 73

We moved to Lydda City, but it surrendered while we were there. People’s spirits had been lifted when they saw some kind of military group coming towards Lydda, because they thought it was support for the Palestinians. But then we realized it was the Jewish militia of Hagana. The Hagana had no respect for the law and they butchered people without fear of punishment by the British authorities. My two brothers were involved in the resistance; one of them was killed when the Hagana arrived in Lydda. We were scared when we saw the Jews because we knew they were killing Palestinians in the other villages. The support we had from the other towns was minimal, probably because they were under attack at the same time. We were devastated when the Arab forces withdrew, and then we had the trauma of seeing our town destroyed. That’s when we fled; we knew what would happen if we stayed: then Jewish militia had been scattering leaflets warning us that if we did not leave we would be killed. After they had taken control of the town the Hagana militants came to our house and took my two brothers and five of our neighbors to help them carry some weapons to their cars. After doing this – coming under fire in the process – the commander told the militants to send the Palestinian men back to their homes. But on the way home, one of the Hagana militants pointed his rifle at them and ordered them to put their faces against a wall and raise their hands. It looked likely he was going to shoot them, but the commander saw what he was doing and stopped him. “I told you to take them to their homes and not to kill them,” the commander said, and he 74

cursed the militant. Then all the young men were told to go to Dahmash Mosque. We really thought they would be killed there. My brother told me we should all face the same destiny together – if it was our fate to be killed there, and then we would be killed there. We went together. I was very young. We passed men and elders with their hands on top of their heads. The mosque was full of people. One of the Hagana leaders came and told us that anyone who had a knife must throw it away. In this mosque there was a yard and a wall; the Hagana militants were on the roof of the mosque pointing their arms and rifles towards us. Then another commander came and said that all the young men should leave the mosque and only the elders remain there. We left the mosque. We had walked less than 100 meters when I heard the sound of automatic weapons coming from the mosque. And one hour later, the militants came and ordered us to leave Lydda. We owned a truck. The Hagana tried to tow it away with a bulldozer. My brother was so angry he went into the house and picked up a knife, intending to threaten those trying to take the truck. But my mother wouldn’t let him leave the house. She told him: “Money can be compensated for but your life cannot.” Our city surrendered when the resistance realized there was no point fighting any more. The Jews came to people’s houses and shouted: “Go to Abdallah [the West Bank under Jordanian rule]!” That very day we walked to Nileen village. It was the first day of Ramadan, a hot day in July 1948. Some members of my family stayed behind – two of my aunts and 75

my sister – but my other brother is still missing today. Some villagers sneaked back to their farms to pick up some fruit, such as oranges, or property or animals, but the Jews killed all those they caught. My aunt did not want to leave because she was sick, but on the departure day everybody was scared. Everyone was rushing. Some forgot their babies and children because they were panicking so much. We thought we would stay here [Nablus] for a few days or weeks and then we would return home. We came through the mountains, where there was no Jewish militia, and we were welcomed by the citizens of Nablus city. The Nablusi citizens sheltered us and took care of us. We lived in Balata refugee camp, although some family members later left for Amman in Jordan. There were no job opportunities here; we did have some money, but others had no money at all. I visited my home after the war of 1948. I found Jewish strangers living there. They invited me to visit my home. They told me they had rented the flat from the Government. Then they offered me some coffee – in my own home. ***


Abu Raed Barakat Born in 1937 Original home: Yazoor/ Jaffa Current address: Al-Ein Refugee Camp/ Nablus

My wife and children were with me picked the pomegranate and said, “This is ours.” I told them, “This pomegranate was planted by your grandfather.”
When I left Yazoor I was in the sixth grade. We used to listen to the news on the radio in the Café. In those days, radios were not widespread and the news concentrated on the Second World War. However there was an increasing amount of news regarding the situation in our own country. The British soldiers were supporting the Jews; they constituted a corps for them in the British army. We saw the British training them at night, holding sticks like scout leaders. In contrast if the British army found any Arab in possession of a weapon or even a bullet they would demolish his house and execute him. We did not imagine that things would progress as far as they did. In fact, I didn’t imagine that one day I would become a refugee. Our people expected a lot from the Arab Armies. It started with sporadic skirmishes and then the Jews started to attack the towns to weaken its inhabitants and force them to leave. The Deir Yassin massacre had a great psychological influence on us. The Arab radio broadcasts from Egypt, Jordan and Syria were greatly hyped in order to frighten people and get them to leave the land open for the Jews. One was ready to sell his wheat to buy a gun and some bullets and stay to 77

defend his property. Every house had its own provision of wheat, lentils and onions. All were grown on one piece of land. My father was an official of the Military Committee at Yazoor. He was responsible for arranging the guarding shifts. My father organized the young men to guard the town in shifts. They were armed with worn out guns to such an extent that you needed to use a skewer to adjust them. These poor quality guns were sent to our house and my father taught me how to clean them. There was about twenty or thirty guns and two or three machine guns and bombs. Our people were not trained to use the weapons properly and they used them haphazardly. People used to fear going into the farms to pick fruit for fear of getting shot at. The Jews used to attack Yazoor at night, never in the morning, and the British army was supporting them. Each one of us had the necessary amount of kerosene for boiling water and there was no serious food shortage. Most of the families were gathering inside the town; we were living near the orchards and we were close to the colony of Moledet. It was armed and it used to overlook the whole area. The Jews did not dare to come in to the town at night. During the day they would travel in groups when they were driving on the main street. We used to shoot at them and this led to them getting tanks to escort them on the main road. The country was divided into two parts; the left and the right. In the middle of the country there was a main road. On this main road there was a strategically positioned house between 78

Yazoor and Beit Dajan that acted as a base for the Jewish militia. It was called Hezbon and they dug tunnels under the ground from there that led them to E’yoon Kara. The young men of Yazoor had decided to bomb Hezbon which they managed to do successfully. The next day, the Jews were sitting on a pile of rubble. My uncle, Haj Sa’dallah became a martyr the day he asked my father’s permission to guard the town at night. He proceeded to a region which was near Moledet, carrying a short Italian gun. It was of poor quality and when it fired it produced enough light to give the location of the shooter. Consequently this enabled the Jews to determine my uncles position after he had fired, and they shot him dead. His family was living with us after they had been driven out from their house in the orchard. Uncle Sa’dallah was supposed to hand over his shift at mid night. Since he did not return my father and some friends went to search for him. They found my uncle sitting on his knee, with his hand still holding his gun. They thought that he might still be alive so one of the men carried him on his back. When I saw him, I told them that there was some blood on my uncle’s hand. They examined his body and discovered that a bullet had entered his left shoulder and passed through his heart. I also remember that Abdel Hameed ‘Abu Zubaidah’ and Haj Abu Safieh, who were from Yazoor, became martyrs. My father-in-law, Haj Abdel Hadi Jaber, was wounded. His hand was cut when a Suliban bomb, which was like a Mortar bombs, was blown up. It killed the person who was standing next to him, Abdel Hamid Abu Zubaidah. The Jews then bombed the Spinning Factory that was called Shanata and 79

the Ice Factory. When things became worse, we, the children, were driven out to Lydda. Everybody who was able to carry weapons stayed in the town to defend it hoping that the Arab armies would come and help with the resistance. We only had English and Canadian guns in good enough condition to fight with. Those who had Canadian guns would get the best results since they had field glasses that helped with targeting. When the Rescue Army finally arrived we thought that this would instigate the demise of the Jews. Fawzi Al-Kawukjy introduced himself as the leader of the Rescue Army; he said to my father, we are responsible for defending the town. Take the armed men out and we say goodbye.” My father agreed to leave the Rescue Army in charge which was a mistake as they did not stay very long. Yazoor had been steadfast and it only fell after we had handed over to the Rescue Army. My father decided to gather the militants that had left Yazoor and lead them to Lydda where I was at the time to aid the resistance. Sadly, they only reached the village of Safreyeh, where the Jews were sitting ready in the trenches so they returned back. One day shortly after we had arrived in Lydda a friend and I decided to return to Yazoor to pick up our bicycles which we had left behind. We went on foot and when we entered the town we were surprised to find it completely deserted; there was no rescue and no Jews. We had a dog in Yazoor that we were unable to take with us. Incredibly when I called his name, “Max”, he appeared, climbed on my shoulders, and 80

was trying to kiss me. I looked at our house and I went inside and I took just a mattress and a blanket. The furniture had not been moved from its place. As I looked through the key hole of the shed I could see the bicycles and I felt happy. I brought a metal bar to open the lower lock so that I could open the door. Suddenly the latch came free and fell on Mohammed’s hand causing him to shout loudly. I then heard something else in the distance so I said to Mohammed, “They are coming, and I can hear them.” We left everything and fled through the side streets in an area called Al-Bobareyeh, crossed the ancient ruins and arrived at the school. To be honest I just heard a sound but I didn’t see anything. When we reached the school we met a man called Mohammed Al-Akel. We helped him push his car so it would start and he told us he was going to Jaffa. We asked him, “How can you go there? The Jews have invaded it. Take us with you instead to Lydda.” He replied adamantly, “No, I want to go to Jaffa,” and this was the direction he drove off in. We reached our agricultural school and we looked at our quarter called the Nawabilseh neighborhood. We had a fifty square meter plot of land which was part of our store-cropping rights. The wheat that was growing there was ready to harvest as it was as tall as a man. In 1947 someone who lived near our village claimed this was his land and sold it to the Jews. He had no right to do this and my father told the police about this matter. The police official in charge Salah Nazer agreed and ruled that the land must be returned to my father. 81

Mohammed and I came from behind the sweet factory on foot and there we found that the Jews were stopping the cars. So we took a detour through the orange farms. As we were walking we met a man from Yazoor called Mohammed Abu Hamdeh, who was deaf and driving a carriage. I asked him loudly, “Where are you going Abu Al-Abed?” He replied, “To Yazoor, as I want to bring back some coal oil.” He wanted to bring back some kerosene from a barrel in his orchard. The gallon of kerosene, which used to cost one shilling, had become too expensive and so this made Abu Al-Abed return to Yazoor to get a barrel of it. We kept walking and we came to the village of Beit Dajan. We heard a shooting sound coming from the direction of the police station. We didn’t know the reason and we did not want to find out. Next we came to the Safreya region where we met someone from our town from the Ass’oad family and he had a big Cyprus donkey with him. We said to him, “How about picking us some good oranges from the top of the trees. The oranges have stopped growing in these orchards, but there are a few oranges at the top of the trees.” He left the donkey with me while he climbed the tree for us. I quietly said to Muhammad, “We are tired! Sit behind me!”We harshly left the man who was picking us some oranges, and fled, riding on his donkey’s back, all the way across the Safreya region. When we reached the Lydda railway, the man was still running behind us. We tied the donkey to the rail, jumped the fence and walked the rest of the way until we reached Lydda in the early evening. My family had been searching for me, and I apologized but I did not tell them I had been to Yazoor. 82

The Jews then came to take Lydda approaching from the eastern side. Coincidentally or more likely on purpose the Arab Rescue Army who had come to Lydda left the night before the Jews invaded. Some people hid in Lydda’s mosques but the Jews entered one of them and killed the people hiding there. Following this a big fight broke out, but it was futile; the Jews were abundantly armed with weapons left by the British. The Jews shouted at the raging people, “Go to Abdallah, the prince of Jordan, Go to Abdallah.” We fled with my brother, my uncle and his wife. It was like doomsday. We were fleeing from Lydda during Ramadan and it was too hot. Women and children were struggling to continue; since there was hardly any water to drink. I was able to drink from a basin in which there was dirty water that contained some creatures and moss. We finally came to a place where we found a well and this caused me to dance with joy. We were extremely thirsty at this point. In order to get water from the well we tied our hettahs (head scarf) together and lowered them into the well. We would then bring them up, wring them out and drink the water. When we reached Qibya village, there were some tractors coming towards us. People of Qibya mistook them for the Jews and started to run. We jumped over the roofs of the houses and apparently a woman forgot her baby and in the ensuing panic. Then somebody shouted, “Come back! Come back! They are not the Jews.” They were Arabs who had come to help us. After that, we went to Deir Ammar to be far away from the confrontations. We stayed there for two days, and then we 83

went to Nablus. We were in the lower Refugee Camp, which was close to a source of water. We were putting the sacks on to the trees in order to protect us from heat and we stayed a few weeks in these conditions. The people of Nablus sympathized with us and they would always offer their help. The schools and the mosques were opened for all the refugees. In the mosques, they used to bring food and blankets. The mosque was partitioned out with each family having its own area. When winter was close upon us, we left the camp and rented a house that belonged to Abu So’ud family. After the winter we returned to the refugee now named, Camp Al-Ein where the Red Cross was distributing tents although some people decided to remain in the caves. When my father finally reached Nablus he and found out his family was living in the refugee camp he was dumbfounded. The people of the camp had heard a lot about my father and knew that he was one of Yazoor’s notables, so they assigned him their Mukhtar, (Head), and the Jordanians at that time approved this. This helped my father come to terms with the fact that he was living in a refugee camp. The following winter we spent the whole season in the camp. It was a very tough experience, as sometimes the tent would fall on us. People used to remove the snow on their tents to prevent this from happening. We also had communal toilets which was uncomfortable for us. We continued living in the camp until 1958. The Iraqi army used to bring their cars to Camp Al-Ein for us to wash and they paid us some money for that service. In return people used to go to the Iraqi army camps and bring 84

food, rice and dates. While some other people went there to beg. I was fortunate to be able to return to school. I studied at the new national college before the Jews demolished the center of the city. When they destroyed the college, I studied at AnNajah College and got my diploma in accounting. I worked as a clerk before I got a job with UNRWA. My father and I visited Yazoor after the war in 1967. It is too difficult for one to describe his feelings the moment he sees his birthplace destroyed. I found my house damaged but there were still the pomegranate and sycamore trees. My wife and children were with me picked the pomegranate and said, “This is ours.” I told them, “This pomegranate was planted by your grandfather.” We had a piece of land which was called Abu Al-Maiz. When my father saw our hometown, he got confused; he couldn't recognize the location of our land. He asked me, “Where is our land?” I said, “Isn't this Muhammad Abu Fudeh's water pump? Therefore this must be Abul Maiz.” My father agreed with my conclusion. We didn't stay long at Yazoor. My father lost his house, his land, and his money there. I did not want him to see and suffer anymore. In Yazoor, we found many Iraqis, and Yemenis who would say that it was not their fault what had happened. The people occupying our house refused to let us look around it and this prompted us to leave. When we went back to Nablus, my father suffered a heart 85

attack. I looked at his face which was blue and said to him, “Our condition is much better than many others,” Tragically this heart attack took his life and this was a terribly sad time for our family. I was working at the time in the Green Market in Nablus, and I used to go to Tel-Aviv to buy some goods. Whenever I was traveling through Yazoor, I hid my head between my legs so as not to see it. I didn't want to glance at the land in which we used to grow corn, cucumber, tomatoes and eggplants. I swear to God even if they gave me Nablus and the West Bank, I would not agree to this as compensation for my home land. I would prefer to live in a tent in Yazoor and I wish to be buried there. ***


Abu Saleem Jibril 74 years old Original home: Yazoor village/ Jaffa Current address: Al-Ein Refugee Camp / Nablus

It snowed over us and we used to go out from the tents in order to remove the snow by our hands in order to keep the tents from falling down.
We used to listen to the News Broadcasting Station which came from Cyprus. The broadcast was British and it spoke in particular about our area. However, we were so close to Jaffa that we did not need to hear the news about it from the radio. We were practically one of the suburbs of Jaffa and we could see any explosions that took place there. We were building our hopes on the Rescue Army but they let us down. They said that they had come to liberate Palestine. When the news was announced that the Rescue Army was arriving, everybody’s spirits was raised as we thought they would save us. In general, when you are in trouble and people come to help, you naturally feel better. I expected the war would reach us because Yazoor was on the main road between Jaffa and Jerusalem. In addition, there were Jewish colonies such as Niter and Moleedit that were only 2km from us. The Palestinian village of Salama was on the southern side and Hazboon was on the western side. Jaffa, Salama, and Yazoor were almost occupied at the same time. However, I did not expect to become a refugee. I did not think about that at all because we knew that the Zionists were 87

gangs while the Arab armies should exceed them in number. It is incredible! We had seven Arab armies and we relied on them, but they let us down. Before they arrived, the youth of the village guarded Yazoor in shifts. If any trouble happened, they defended and fought. The intensity of the situation increased the level of good will and the facilities provided by the citizens. Every one paid everything they owned to buy a gun. Despite all the troubles, the people went to their lands to work. They devoutly believed that they would not have to leave their country. I saw the Jews several times while they were passing into the village. They did not fire at us as they were only passing by on the main road. The story of the seven Hagana members who were killed by the old people showed that not only the young fought. They attacked a car of seven Hagana men and killed them at the entrance of Yazoor. The prices of the fuel oil and kerosene rose. The price of a 50-piaster tin had become 10 pounds which was a significant amount of money. Most children sacrificed themselves and some even lost their lives. Some youth who owned tractors and cars tried to help and would attempt to bring back fuel which was very difficult. Many battles took place, on one occasion I saw a Jewish gang get out of their car and run after a group of Arab youth. They caught them and killed them at the door of Al-Haj Khamis. My God, I was still a boy when I saw this. The Jewish gangs were wicked people and they did not want any truce. They wanted 88

to take control of the whole country. I still recall Abu Ali who became a martyr and Al-Haj Abu Safiah who was killed at night by an act of deception. They tricked them by saying that they were Arabs and they killed him near the irrigating mill of his farm. Around this time they bombed the orchards of Al-Dracherma which caused many more deaths. There were many people from our village who were working in Jaffa. When the government house was bombed there, two or three people from our village lost their lives in that explosion. I was scared of being shot by a careless bullet from the machine guns whilst I was waking my dad who was sleeping on the roof. Everybody was seized with fear. The fighting continued and Beit Dajan village was occupied before us while we were practically blockaded in the village. We wanted to escape but it was not easy. My family left almost one week before me as the situation was getting worse and everything was confused. I heard that no one remained in Beit Dajan which was concerning. My mother did not take anything with her when she left except some money. My father carried some furniture and some friends helped take our sheep. The fighting was getting more severe and the Jews bombed the ice factory in Yazoor. One night, another attack was launched against the village and we believed the British had been involved in this attack. My cousin Al-Haj Othman Jibril was Mukhtar, (Head of the village), and he went to speak to the British people. Al-Haj Othman had touched the British 89

machine guns and felt that they were hot. So he said to the British, “You are the ones who are attacking us with the Jews.” They said to him, “Get out from here or we will kill you.” We were convinced they were collaborating with the Jews. The Jews used to come into the orchards at night where they would fire bombs and shoot at us. We found cartridges and bombs on the ground in the morning. What could a person say? One wished he was dead at that time. One day I found they had left a new type of bomb and I decided to defuse it. I pulled it apart from the back and removed the capsule, then I closed it and threw it away and it did not explode. Every village was autonomous as we were unable to coordinate with other villages and towns. We were told about that the Rescue Army was arriving which we believed was excellent news. When they arrived they started shelling Tel Aviv with a manual canon that they had. However after they had fired a few rounds they packed up and left. Then it was like hell that night because of what they had done earlier in the day. We did not give up though and I think that Mohammad Alarddah and I were the last people who left Yazoor. We were so exhausted when that day came. Our village surrendered in the same way as many of the other villages in the area. It meant that we left Jaffa in a worst position once Yazoor had surrendered. We departed to Lydda during the harvest time shortly before Ramadan. At this time of the year, if anyone walked among the plants, they would not be seen. We did not spend a long time in Lydda. We had relatives in Nablus including the second wife of my father, and so we decided to go there. When we were driven out, my mother was asked to go with her brothers and 90

sisters to Gaza, but she refused and said, “How can I leave my children in Nablus?” This meant that she was separated from the rest of her family who remained in Gaza. When we reached Nablus, we entered from the side of the dark old city, Al-Yasminah Quarter. I could not believe we had left from the sea shore to this dark, depressing place. I used to ask my mother why there were no roofed streets like the ones in Jaffa. We lived in Algazaliah School at the beginning and we met some people from Jaffa there. We stayed in the school for a while but it was very crowded. So my brothers and I agreed to leave the school. Originally we were a group of 8 and we were the first people who went into the refugee camp. We set up tents and we stayed in them for two or three years. It snowed over us and we used to go out from the tents in order to remove the snow by our hands in order to keep the tents from falling down. Later on the rest of the people started to follow us and others joined us from the north. Many people had buried their money back in Yazoor and some people returned some time later to retrieve it. I returned to my village after the occupation of 1967. Our twostorey house had been demolished and they had turned it into a garden. There was an archeological site behind our house, called Al-bobareyiah in which Moshe Dyane fell down and broke his hand while they were excavating the ruins. It was said that it was a street, 40 meters in length under the ground. It even had shops and it still exists until today. I found the school as it was but they had demolished a large part of our graveyard. My family were buried their, and half 91

of their graves had broken tomb stones. There were some tombs had survived unscathed and I found the mosque in its place but it was in bad condition. It broke my heart to see my village in such a situation. I felt as though I had been punched in the gut after I had seen that three quarters of my village had been demolished and that I was now a stranger amongst the foreign people living there. My brother came from Europe and visited me for thirty days. He told me that he wanted to visit Yazoor, so we traveled there every day for the whole of his stay. On one such day we came into contact with one of the Iraqi Jews living there, and he asked us in Arabic, “Why do you come here every day? I have built two floors on this house and I am going to build another one. So what are you doing here?” I told him that Yazoor was our village and I pointed at the garden where our house used to stand and said, “This where I used to live”. The Jew responded, “Two days ago, another man came and also said that”. I told him he had been an older brother of ours who had come to visit the house earlier in the week. On a different day a relative came with us so he could see his old house. When we were in Yazoor he thought he recognized his house but I told him that this was not his, I told him, “This is the house of Haj Abed Alaziz Tyim. If you want to see your house, come with me. I think I can remember where your house used to be.” I walked with him and my memory started to return. We entered into a corridor and I said to him, “Come here, this is your house. Here is Beit Glood, which is the square that overlooks the Al-bobareyiah.” The man looked carefully at a palm tree of our neighbors. He said, “My God! 92

You have a good memory. It is true that this is the palm tree of our neighbors.” While we were talking, the Iraqi Jew and his wife came out and welcomed us by saying “Hello my friend.” My relative told him that he was living in his house. The Jew responded by asking him what he was talking about. This led to my relative saying, “You are living in my house. Come! I can describe the house without entering it.” He told the Jew about every thing in the house and even the color of the marble. He described what was drawn on the ceiling, as they had decorated the ceiling in the past. The Jew said, “My God you are telling the truth.” He let us enter our house and said to us, “I agree that this is your house, I admit it. However, where is my house in Baghdad? Take me back to it.” He was a very hospitable man. Our taxi driver, who was with us, had previously been a taxi driver to Baghdad. His name was Haj Mohammad and he asked the Jew “Can you tell me where you are from in Baghdad?” Haj Mohammed began to name some streets and roads in Baghdad until the Jew suddenly told him, “Stop my friend this is the name of my neighborhood. How is Baghdad?” The Jew’s eyes were filled with tears while his wife started to cry. He repeated, “How is Baghdad my friend? I was living there, I miss it. By God, you can have your country; just let us return to Baghdad. God will punish both Arabs and Jews who caused this situation.” After we had left his house we managed to lose our way, so we stopped a car to ask for directions. We asked a man about the road to Natania and Tulkarem. He was also an Iraqi Jew and he said, “Welcome my friends; it is not possible for you 93

to leave because you are my guests.” We replied, “Thank you very much but we must leave so can you show us the way.” He said, “No way, my father was a sheik in Iraq, I cannot leave you.” Finally, he agreed to show us the way. Every time I returned, I felt as if my heart was bleeding. The deserted streets of Jaffa only highlighted the vibrant past that I still recall. Jaffa was busy and crowded just like a beehive, now the shops are closed and deserted. We used to go into Al-Shabab beach, where the youth would meet from all over Palestine. We found it empty and sad. My God, It was like a nightmare! I do not regret that I saw it because it would have been a big mistake if I had not. One has to come back and visit his village in order to remind his children of it. I still have the registration papers for the land but the Jews have built houses on it now. Nevertheless, the shop of my father is still there and so is the shop of my cousin, Ahmad Jibril. There were some houses that the Jews decided to take for themselves, but the rest of the houses they had demolished. They had even uprooted many of the trees from the farms and I had the misfortune of witnessing some people urinating there now. The graves of my father, family, cousins and ancestors were all at Yazoor. They were there, not here in Nablus. We are the branches that belong to these roots. When we went back to our town, we recited some verses of the Holy Qur’an on the remaining graves. It was enraging to know that even al Imam Ali’s shrine was closed and the Jewish rabbis were staying there. 94

The last time I visited Yazoor, I still remember the spinning factory which was owned by a Syrian man called Sulatah. It is still working but currently run by Jews. Not only did we have agriculture but we also had industry. It’s impossible to forget the landmarks of the country. Now when I visit Yazoor, I let my memory reel back fifty years and I quickly remember all the paths which I’ll never forget. ***


Abu Salem Katooni 10 years old in 1948 Original home: Al-Khayreyya village/ Jaffa Current address: Al-Ein Refugee Camp/ Nablus

I remember my grandmother moaning, “They will take the fertile valley and give us the mountain.”
There were hardly any radios in the village, so people went to the café to sit and listen to the news. I remember that the Jews would come from the north and shoot at the village. To counter this we were told that all the men should acquire guns in order to defend the village. Despite most people having had no military training everybody was willing to fight. My father was one of the fighters and one of the first decisions they made was to get all the women and children out of the village. Rumors at that time were very dangerous; it was said that the Jews would open fire at us if given the opportunity. However the Jews sent letters to al-Mukhtar (Head) saying, “Do not leave, we want to live with you.” Al-Mukhtar did not believe them as he knew our town was strategically positioned. The Israeli soldiers had airplanes, tanks and weapons whereas in our village we had only old guns that were of poor quality. I had heard about the Rescue Army, but I had never seen them. I remember the day that Abd Al-Qader Al-Husseni was killed. It was reported by my uncle who used to read the paper out loud to many people in the village square. My uncle walked from Al-Khayria to Jaffa to bring us the newspaper as it was very important that we knew what was happening in the 96

region. My uncle died during the war, his name was Said Al-Katoni. He fought until he was captured and killed. Hassan Salameh took the responsibility of defending our village and other neighboring communities like Salama village and Jaffa. Unfortunately our village ended up being captured very easily. I did not see the Jews the moment they entered the village because I had already left the village with my family, although my father had stayed. My father said the Jews had distributed pamphlets by planes the moment they entered the village, which meant the village was surrounded. When the Jews entered our village, my father said he ran to the closet, took everything from it and left immediately. Few fighters stayed the moment the Jews entered the village; a number of them met martyrdom and the rest fled. I remember a man called Abu-Omar, who lost one of his children in the confusion created by the departure. Fortunately the child was found by some kind people who took him with them to Amman. In Amman they managed to find out the name and place of his family and sent him to meet up with them. We also left our grandfather in the village as he was old and very stubborn. When the Jews came they captured him and ordered him to leave. The Jews put him on the back of a donkey and told him to leave. They gave him his wooden slippers to take with him. My grandfather decided to bury them in a nearby field and he anticipated on retrieving them when he returned. 97

After Al-Khayria had been captured we went to the village named Bedia. On our way to this village we rented a van to carry our personnel belongings and household items. I remember my grandmother moaning, “They will take the fertile valley and give us the mountain.” We chose Bedia because we had a relative there who helped us. We then traveled to the village of Al-Zawia and stayed there for one month before heading to Nablus. In Nablus we bought a burlap cloth and prepared makeshift tents for us to live in. The weather was cold and it started snowing, so we were sent along with many other refugees to a place called Yakhor. This happened to be a large store that belonged to Sheikh Helme Al-Edresei and it served the purpose of protecting us from the harsh winter elements. After a while we ended up in a neighborhood in Nablus called Ein Mera. We settled there and built a house out of stones. The door was made of tin which was closed using of a piece of wire. In 1954 we left this house and lived in Al-Ein Refugee Camp. I was the first one in our family to get a proper job in Nablus. I worked in the Soap Factory for a while and after this I sold yogurt. We visited our village after 1967 with one of my uncles and his wife. When we arrived at our farm we found an animal farm in its place. I told the Jews there that this used to be our orchard but they were not interested. Do you know how our village looks like now? They bring their garbage and throw it there. They only place of importance that remains is the cemetery. What do you expect me to say 98

when I see our village like this? My sons know that they are from Al-Khayria. Our village was captured on the 28th of April 1948 and I always remind them of this. ***


Mahmoud Barakat 20 years old in 1948 Original home: Yazoor / Jaffa Current address: Al-Ein Refugee Camp-Nablus

I have not returned to Yazoor and I will never do that. How could I go back to my land and house to find that my enemy is still there?
I was only 20 years of age and still not married in 1948. We used to follow the news the traditional way and were not in need of radios. We were situated on the main road that ran from Jaffa through Jerusalem to Gaza and divided the town into two parts. The road went from Yazoor to the village of Beit Dajan, then to Lydda, Ramlah and Bab al Wad. Heading further south it passed through the colonies and reached Gaza. Originally the Jews from the neighboring colony sent messages to the families of Yazoor to accept us as neighbors asking for a ceasefire. We too wanted to cast aside any problem between us. However we also knew that they were compelled to ask for a ceasefire with us in order to pass through Yazoor so that they could bring in supports and reinforcements. When they asked why we didn’t accept we told them it was because of this reason. From the moment the English people started to talk about partition and their intention to pull out, skirmishes started to take place. I still recall that skirmishes between us began as early as 1936. However I never expected that things would lead to Nakba. The Jews would pass through on the main 100

road near us. We were firing at each other throughout the night. Not a single day would pass without skirmishes. Almost fifteen or twenty persons from Yazoor lost their lives during the skirmishes, including my uncle. The rebels said that they wanted 25 pounds from each family to buy weapons. People were buying the weapons from their own savings. The cartridge clip was about five pounds. Some people sold the jewelry of their women to buy weapons. They bought the remains of some German guns from the First World War. When one fired, the bullet would either kill its shooter or fail to explode. It was all staged. It was a British, Arab plot and all Arabs were colonized then. From the beginning of the Arab revolt in 1936 until 1948, the British used to shoot any Arab if they had arrested him carrying any sort of gun cartridge. In contrast the Jews were trained on how to use the weapons with the attendance of the British. The first high commissioner who came to Palestine was a Zionist. Working on the land was still continuing until the last moment. Everybody went to their land with a gun on their shoulder. Every town was self-sufficient in defending itself. The situation was just fine, as long as working on the land continued. The Jews had no opportunity to enter; they would get engaged in skirmishes and shooting at us from Tel- Aviv and Niter colony. The Jews did scare people, particularly, when the massacre of Deir Yassen happened. We were not frightened In Yazoor, even when we heard the news of Deir Yaseen. On the contrary, we remained for two or three weeks in our village 101

after the massacre. A group of people came from the neighboring villages in order to help us; but they were merely individuals. We kept fighting until the Arab Rescue Army arrived. Apparently the Rescue Army had come to rule the area and fight for us. The whole Rescue Army, which came to our village, consisted of just four people in a jeep. They said, “Show us the high areas of the town.” Later on, the rest of them came and this made us feel safer. I remember a woman from our village started to sing and utter thrilling cries of joy. Unfortunately, the Rescue Army was useless. My father was a leader and when the Rescue Army came to the town, they inquired about his name. He told them that his name was Abu Saleh. They demanded that my father show them the high places, which he did since they would take ambush positions there. They told him that he needed to take all the inhabitants outside the town. My father suggested that they would let the children and the women leave while the armed men would stay. They said, “We don’t want any armed person to stay here. We order you to leave and we will manage.” My uncle, Jaber used to say during the exit, “If any one decides to go out, I will shoot him dead. All of you should stay here. You have to protect your land and honor.” Nevertheless we had no choice and we left as the Rescue Army instructed. The Rescue Army did not come to liberate a country; the local people were the only ones who carried out the resistance. After we had left a senior person who stayed behind said that the Rescue Army stayed only two more days, shelled three bombs on Tel Aviv and then left. 102

Someone from Lydda rented a piece of land in Yazoor for cultivation purposes. He irrigated his plants by using our own irrigating mill. When the Rescue Army came and told us to leave, half of my family went with that man. Some people went up to Lydda, and others to Ramlah. First, we went from Yazoor to Lydda by foot and stayed there for a short time. It was the summer when a friend of my father came and told him “Abu Saleh, we have a farm of cactus in Qibbia. You can take your family and stay there for two months. Afterwards, you can come back to Lydda if you wish.” There were no skirmishes in Lydda and Qibbia at this time and the situation was good. We were then told that the Jews had come at night and had occupied Yazoor and they had cut off the supplies to the village of Salama as they both were on the main road. Later, the Jews occupied Lydda and so we remained in Qibbia as guests. We had left all our furniture, clothes, and other belongings in Lydda. We did not take anything because we were told that we would return. Therefore we lost all our possessions when Lydda was occupied. All the people of Yazoor were scattered and every one managed the situation according to their own circumstances. We spent two months in Qibbia, before leaving to the village of Deir Ammar and then we moved on to Nablus. When we came to Nablus, my father refused to live with any of his friends there or even with his uncles in the village of Alzawiah, such was his pride. Therefore, we made a housing unit and stayed in it for a period. Later on, when the tents 103

were made, people started to go to Balata refugee camp and others to Jericho. Some people lived for ten years in the tents of the refugee camp. The first year in the tents there was heavy snow. The people of Nablus were incredibly hospitable and they helped to accommodate many of us. People lived in schools and mosques for almost five or six months. The more wealthy people could afford to rent houses in Nablus. Many stories were narrated in the camp about the panic that took place when the people were deported from Lydda. We were told that every one tried to escape in any way they could from Lydda. It was said that a woman carried a pillow with her instead of carrying her baby from utter panic and confusion. Some people were killed while they were escaping and others died because of thirst. Parents had to leave their children. In other words, the battle of Lydda sounded just like doomsday. When the Jews invaded again in 1967, which meant we could now work in Israel, the Head of our family gathered all the people of the camp to speak to them. He told them if any woman wanted to work in Israel, they must leave the camp immediately and they would not be allowed to live here. The males were the only ones who were allowed to work in Israel. One woman ran away and she did not dare come back. I have not returned to Yazoor and I will never do that. How could I go back to my land and house to find that my enemy is still there? I would stand at the door of my house like a stranger. My father went there and saw it and when he returned he died from a heart attack. *** 104

Mohammad Ahmad Abu Eisha 18 years old in 1948 Original home: Al-Sufsaf village/ Safad Current address: Al-Ein Refugee Camp/ Nablus

My children and I were waiting eagerly at the taxi rank. When she arrived, I found myself embracing her in the street and crying.
In the last few days before our departure, it was difficult to get a newspaper and there were no radios in our village. I anticipated that the war would turn into a catastrophe. This view was reinforced after the city of Safad, which was just 6 kilometers away, was captured. We lived in the village of AlSufsaf and were told that every family should buy a gun and cartridges. We organized shifts so somebody was always guarding at night and we dug many tunnels. The fighters once detained a Jewish woman who spoke Arabic. Most people had no idea how to use a gun and because of this one man accidentally shot his own brother. There was no training in place on how to use them which was a major problem. The Jews did not approach us at this time because they were preoccupied in Safad. After Safad was captured, the Rescue Army came to our village and they brought a canon with them. Some of the fighters in the village were allowed to fight alongside the Rescue Army. In all there were more than one hundred fighters attempting to defend our village. The presence of the Rescue Army gave us a real sense of safety and security. The relationship between the fighters and the Rescue Army was strong. 105

The main reason the Rescue Army had come to our village was because it was strategically important for the Jews. During this time we continued to live as normally as possible; we continued planting tobacco, grapes, figs, olive trees and wheat. One day the shepherds found some empty bottles of beer and weapons; it was evidence that the Jews had been on our territory. The Rescue Army placed markers every few meters in the west to highlight the places where the Jews had been walking. We fought bravely to defend our village and we were determined to stop any forces from entering. We felt well prepared as we constructed many trenches and barriers. On one occasion the Jews kidnapped two girls from the village but thankfully they returned them unharmed. The fighting had now begun to take place daily and the Jews managed to kill one or two of our fighters hoping that this would force us to evacuate. Unfortunately this prompted the Rescue Army to leave our village and when they left our hope went with them. The Jews had now started firing mortars at us from Safad. In the final battle the Jews used modern planes which fired missiles at us, and we had no anti aircraft missiles to defend ourselves with. The village was finally captured after a strong defense. We gathered and hid in two houses in the north of the village with about three hundred citizens gathered in each house. It was said that to die with people is much more merciful. We stayed there till sunrise; a person came to us and said that the village was captured and that the Jews had took it. We raised white clothes and covers above our heads as a sign of surrender; three Jewish militia soldiers came close to us and 106

said, “Go back inside.” We managed to escape through the windows and ran across the fields until we reached the village of Yaroon. When we were fleeing from the village, I had my niece with me who was just a little girl. During the total bedlam that developed she tragically slipped from my grasp and she became lost among the people running out of fear. We spent a long time looking for her but without any success. I felt terrible about this and it was one of my biggest regrets in life. We stayed in Yaroon for one day where we told the shocking news that fifteen people had been killed in our village. We were told that the Jews had ordered fifteen people to stand in a row and then opened fire on them. After the execution the Jews dragged the corpses to a hole called Al-Ain that was a huge whole, 70 meters in length that was to be used as reservoir for irrigation purposes. The old people in our village then had to bury the bodies. The following day we were told the Jews had gathered another fifteen men and killed them and also did this on the third day as well. Once the Jews had finished they had turned 49 people into Martyrs. They had killed every one who they believed was able to carry a gun. After leaving Yaroon our next destination was the village of Bent Jebail. After an extremely long walk with a few more stops along the way we finally ended up in the Al-Borj refugee camp in the southern suburbs of Beirut. Life was difficult there as the salary of a Palestinian worker was one fifth that of his Lebanese counterpart. Due to this discrepancy I decided to return to the West Bank. That is 107

how I turned up in Nablus and now live in the Al-Ein refugee camp. To reach Nablus I had to travel through Jordan and this journey took me a long time. Many years had passed when one day the Palestinian Authority called me and said that there was a woman who had contacted them and wanted to speak with me. I told them to put her on the line to me and I was immediately greeted by the woman who said, “How are you uncle?” and she started to cry, immediately afterwards. I could not believe it, I was so happy. She continued, “I married someone who works for the Palestinian Authority and I returned to Palestine with him. Now I am living in Gaza and I desperately want to see you. We decided to meet each other in Qalqilya city because this is the town where the taxis stop when bringing people from Gaza. My children and I were waiting eagerly at the taxi rank. When she arrived, I found myself embracing her in the street and crying. It was a fantastic feeling as she told about everything that had happened to her since we split. In 1983, I returned to the village to find it demolished. My house, my property, and every thing were gone. I stumbled around without being able to speak a single word. I wanted to find out what had happened in my village. Some strange people were living there now and I felt uncomfortable taking photos. I could not believe that they had even chopped down the trees. Everything in my village was destroyed. My village had suffered the same fate as every other village that had resisted and been destroyed. ***


Om Issa Abu Sereyyeh Born in 1916 Original home: Shekh Emwanes, Yafa District Current address: Askar Refugee Camp, Nablus City

I do have hope that I will be able to go home to my village and this thought does not leave my mind
We owned a 100-dunum farm, which we planted with wheat and other cereals and vegetables, but we were forced to leave it without harvesting our crops. For a time the Palestinians and Jews were like one people, There was a sizeable Jewish minority but we lived together in peace, as these were not the same as the Jews who came from the West. Those who came from abroad were militants and racists. They formed the Hagana and Stern militia gangs in Palestine, which started killing us and forced us to leave our homes. We did not bring the title deeds to our land with us, as we were afraid that we would lose them on the way and we were certain that we would be returning soon. So we hid the contracts in the ground and covered them with sand and soil. We did not take anything with us – I didn’t even take my slippers. Some people collaborated with the British occupation. They came with the British soldiers. They would sit in the soldiers’ armored vehicles with their faces covered and they would identify activists for the soldiers. The people they singled out would be detained by the British. 109

All the members of our family left our village. Jews were killing people indiscriminately. We left with our children, in the rain and with the Jews shooting at us. We headed for Qalqilya town; everybody had to look after themselves as there was nobody to organize us. After Qalqilya we went to Salfit town and after that to Nablus city. In Nablus we lived in caves surrounded by snakes and hyenas; we didn’t sleep properly because we were afraid of them. While we were living in the caves, UNRWA built a camp for the refugees. We moved there after living in the caves for three years. We were given one room to shelter six people. Once my sons were able to earn money we were able to improve our room by adding more rooms and installing electricity and a water supply. Many people were slaughtered as they fled from their villages, and many became lost and separated from their families. Many went to Jordan or Kuwait, even though they had nowhere to live there. All anyone could think about was escaping from the Jewish militias, because of what we had heard about them. But if I had known I would become a refugee and unable to return home, I would have stayed in my village, regardless of what might have happened to me. I would like to go back to my home village and to die there. My son took me to visit our village after the war of 1967. I remember I had been building a new house before the deportation of 1948; I had been fixing the windows and applying the finishing touches. I went to see my house; I found new Jewish immigrants living there, who had moved from Iraq. I told the lady there that this was my house and she 110

let us enter and offered us some Coca Cola and cold water. Since then I have not wanted to see my house again. When I went to my village I also went to the sea at Yaffa. I smelled the sea and remembered what I had been missing all these years so I spoke out loud “I have missed the smell of the sea.” A Jewish man was fishing nearby. He heard my words; he had good command of Arabic and he said to me: “This is not your land, go to Jordan, there is your country,” he stared at me and he looked very serious. I got upset and did not want to continue the tour of our country. I told my sons that I would like to return home to Nablus; I did not enjoy any part of the trip. I do have hope that I will be able to go home to my village and this thought does not leave my mind. If the whole world was given to me as compensation I would not agree to forget my land. Even though I am a very old woman I still have hope, especially for the younger generation of refugees: they are determined to keep their rights; I keep telling them about our land. Our land was not empty as the Jews claim. It was not an empty land for a homeless Jewish nation. I’m not prepared to accept compensation in lieu of my land. I have lost more than one hundred dunums and I demand my right to return to my land so that I can live with Jews in peace. ***


Abdul Qader Yousef Al-Ha Born in 1938 Original home: Qaqon village, Tulkarem Current address: Askar Refugee Camp, Nablus

Some of the villagers had built new homes but they didn’t get chance to enjoy them, as they had been living in them for only one or two years when they left
I fled with all my family members, my parents and the rest of the villagers. Our village had fertile land and we had a field next to it; the Mediterranean Sea was just eight kilometres away. We had troubles with Jews for over five years before the deportation. We tried not to flee, but in the end they brought armed militia with tanks and a large number of armed people and launched a sustained attack on our village; they wanted to clear all the people from our village. They wanted our village in particular because it was in an important location strategically. We thought about what we should do and we decided we had to evacuate the women and children; only the young men stayed behind. We had some military support from neighbouring villages, but we couldn’t really do much against the Jewish militia, as they were so well-armed. So in the afternoon we left our village and went to stand in the fields around the neighbouring village, waiting to see what would happen. We already knew that the Jewish militia was coming to attack us with a view to occupying our land. So during the night, around Midnight in fact, the men of the armed resistance left the village too. By the way, we had lost around 50 members of 112

the Iraqi army and Palestinian resistance by this stage. These men had been defending the village while the Jewish militias shelled it. We had had more than 100 Iraqi soldiers in our village, and we had built tunnels around the village as well. The resistance had been buying weapons in Syria and smuggling them into the country. One single rifle cost 100 pounds – and that was without ammunition. The Palestinian pound was worth quite a lot of money then: one pound was worth around four or five US dollars. So we would share the cost of the rifle with another family; we had to defend our village within our limited budget. We expected that the situation we lived in the five years before 1948 would lead to the deportation, because we had had conflict, clashes, and many other troubles with the Jewish militia. They would build a colony with a checkpoint, they would kill some people and we would avenge the deaths by doing the same. The British mandate allowed Jews to strengthen their positions; through the Balfour Declaration, the British made it possible for the Jews to settle in Palestine. The Jews did their best and used all manner of tricks to displace us from our country. The British gave the Jews their national home in our homeland. The Jews are still using the same strategy and trying to deport us from the West Bank – they settled here through force and murder. The first missile to hit our village did no damage – it landed outside the town. But when people went there to see the damage, the Jewish militia shelled them, killing and wounding 113

almost 50 people. This forced people to flee. We did not see the Jews when they entered the village, but the men in the resistance did. We had been living in peace in our village; the land was fertile and we had been able to live well off it. Some of the villagers had built new homes but they didn’t get chance to enjoy them, as they had been living in them for only one or two years when they left. I did not go back to my village, but some people did – they would sneak back in at night to collect some of their possessions. We did not carry anything with us of our clothes—we left everything. We left our money and land. Many refugees lived in caves and tents. The tents were hot in summer and miserable in winter. There was no water, electricity, or toilets; the sewers were open. People got rained on in winter and sometimes it snowed. Then the UNRWA built some units for refugees… each family had one unit but we didn’t get an electricity supply until 1963. Some donations came to the camps from westerners but we didn’t have a piped water supply – we had to struggle carrying water until one was installed. Even when we got an electricity supply, people were too poor to pay for it, or for medical treatment. After the war of 1967, I went to work in Israel, which was Palestine, but I did not go to visit my village. My parents also did not visit it after the deportation. I did not like to see it occupied and until this day I dream of going there and seeing it liberated from occupation. I would be prepared to walk it there – it wouldn’t take more than a day. I know the road; it 114

would take only a few hours to get there. We keep in touch with our neighbors who became refugees. They went to different places – some went to Kuwait, others to other places in the Gulf and Jordan. As for us, well, when we first left we went to Shweikeh village near Tulkarem. Then we went to Burqa village and we stayed there for two years. People there supported us, but there were no jobs. We stayed with friends of my father’s for seven months. They took care of us, but we had to continue looking for work. We moved to Tulkarem for three years. Life was hard: there was no farming there. We existed but we didn’t live; we had to rely on the UNRWA for food, and we only survived because of what we got from them. Then we moved to Nablus and we stayed there until 1960. We stayed in the Old City where there was no electricity and we couldn’t really afford the rent of the flat. We had to wait till 1955 for jobs in the city, after people started to move to the Arab Gulf to work. Many died in the desert, but those who managed to get to Kuwait were able to provide their families with a monthly allowance. This enabled people to build houses and improve their living conditions in the West Bank. The situation continued in this way while we were under the rule of Jordan, even until 1967; when we saw the Jewish militia that became the Israeli army occupies the rest of Palestine. In 1967, the Israeli occupation authority opened its civil administration and imposed taxes on us. They attacked the commercial businesses, companies, shops, and stores and this affected life under occupation. Many people were 115

detained, then people started to work in Israel as employees. They went to work in their lands, but not as owners, as employees. ***


Abu Khader Hamdan Born in 1928 Original home: Salameh, Yaffa District Current address: Askar Refugee Camp/ Nablus

We fled immediately, taking to the mountains. It was very hot on the mountains and many Palestinians died there
I lived and worked in my home village, Salameh, which was less than six kilometers from Tel Aviv. There was just a field separating us from the outskirts of Tel Aviv, but the relationship between us and the Jews was fine. The Jews were expanding Tel Aviv. Tel Aviv is a relatively new city, it was built on Palestinian land called Tel Al-Rabe, and it was part of Yaffa city. Things started to change after November 1947, when the UN decided to devide Palestine between Palestinians and Jews. This caused conflict between the residents and the British Mandate’s policy, which was biased in favor of the Jews, did nothing to make things better. For five months we resisted the Jewish militia, from November until the spring of 1948. But the Jews were getting more and more weapons from Czechoslovakia. It meant that we were fighting with just guns while they had mortars and missiles. The Jewish militia shelled Salameh. As they were committing massacres in the villages, we decided to flee – on foot. The Jewish militia did not close the exit from our village and we left on 17th April 1948. It was during the orange season and we had managed to harvest our oranges for a month before we were deported. Our village was far from the truce line so it was 117

so hard for us to sneak back in order to continue collecting our oranges. We went first to the town of Sarafand, which was on the border. But then the Jews occupied Sarafand too, even though it was supposed to lie outside the border of their state. So we went to Lydda city, where the Jews committed an atrocity in July 1948. [Gathering older men at the mosque and opening fire on them]. On our third day in Lydda we heard Jews announcing on the speakers: “Get out of the city immediately”. We fled immediately, taking to the mountains. It was extremely hot on the mountains and many Palestinians died there. But the Jews would not allow us to use the main street; they drove us into the mountains to die there. We went from village to another, a long, long journey. I visited Yaffa city after the occupation of the West Bank in 1967. Some refugees were afraid of visiting their villages or seeing them. Many refugees died after they saw their villages – they got sick or had heart attacks. My village became one of the neighborhoods of Tel Aviv. I could visit Yaffa but I did not visit Salameh village. My friends who did visit it told me Salameh is not there any more – it has been removed from the map. ***


Fatmeh Daoud Abdul Rahman Original home: Mzera`, Lydda City Current address: Askar Refugee Camp, Nablus

The Jewish militia invaded our village in armored vehicles and destroyed homes causing people to flee
I used to get news each day from my husband, Who would go to the coffee shop where there was a radio then come back to update us on the latest developments. We knew that some sort of evacuation was planned under the British mandate. We thought we would end up with our independence but we were wrong – our land was given to Jews instead. We cried and prayed to God for that not to happen. We were looking for independence from the British and we were frustrated when they were replaced by the new colonizers. Before the Jews arrived in our village an English soldier arrived and told us that we should leave for another place and that they would stay long enough for this to happen safely. An old man stopped some of the people who were leaving and told them not to leave as it was a trick that the British wanted to empty the village to allow the Jews to occupy it. He managed to convince some of them not to leave. My husband was one of these and because of this he decided to stay longer. The Jews put bombs inside barrels and exploded them in the Palestinian streets and neighborhoods to scare us and force us to leave; people stayed in their homes, and many of them did not had enough food for days. Somebody called Muhammad Salah was wounded in the field 119

and he was stranded alone there. He managed to reach the farm and was taken to the hospital in Ramleh town. Another person called Abed was killed when he was climbing over a tank and a Jewish female soldier shot him in the chest. I saw the Jewish troops invading our village; they did not leave the tanks as they were afraid to leave them. Some fighters came from Deir Ghassaneh village and Majdal and Quliah towns to help us. They were fighting on the mountain but people were afraid because they were listening to the rumors spread about the Deir Yassin massacre. Somebody called Abu Kayed was warning those planning to emigrate against leaving, but I gathered my children and took with me some pieces of bread and a gallon of water and went to my father’s house, which was downtown. The Jewish militia invaded our village in armored vehicles and destroyed homes causing people to flee. We escaped while they were shelling and surrounding the village. The scene of the shelling was horrible; people were scared, especially after what they have heard about the massacre of Deir Yassin. People were trying to carry some of their belongings and fled to the neighboring villages of Marj Ubaid and Ras Tananeh. We stayed without shelters for hours and hours, at a time when we were fasting because it was the holy month of Ramadan. It was too hot and we were extremely thirsty so the Sheikh told us to break our fast in order to survive. We would shelter under the trees, because of the heat but also because of the shelling. The Jews would follow us and shoot at us. We stayed in these conditions of horror and fear for three days. We went to Deir Ghassaneh, where we lived for nine years in a wooden hut. People from other villages gave us bread 120

and sheltered us for a while, but many of our neighbors fled to different parts of the country; I moved three times before I arrived in the refugee camp of Askar. ***


Khalid Rashid Mansor Born in 1932 Original home: Ejzim, Haifa Current address: Jenin Refugee Camp, Jenin

A woman was crying and screaming because she realized she was carrying a cushion instead of her baby when she had to flee
I was born in the village of Ejzim and I was 16 at the time of the Nakba. I studied at the Arab School of Haifa, which suffered a lot of damage and has now been converted to a bar. It was located in a street called Albasha. My family left the village to work in Haifa in 1938 and stayed there until April 21 1948. My family went to work in Haifa because the job opportunities were good there: there were factories and economic associations, and companies such as the cement factory and the oil filtration factory. We fled to Akka city during the war, but we left there when we had no more guns with which to fight. I kept up with the news through the Head of the village who got the news from the radio. I’ll never forget hearing about the massacre at Deir Yassin. We were very sad about what had happened, but we were very scared, too. I expected the war would turn out as it did because we were informed by our teacher that Jews would like to occupy our land and establish their Jewish state here. The peasants of Ejzim village had a big role in resisting the Jewish militia in Haifa city, as well as in the village. They bought 122

guns and rifles from Egypt and Syria. The British Mandate authorities facilitated the emigration of the Palestinians; around 50 families from our village left from the port of Haifa. We went to Akka and then to Sor and Saida in Southern Lebanon, before reaching Syria. Then we went back to Tantorah village, near Haifa, and back to Ejzim Village to continue the resistance for four more months. The Iraqi Army provided us with guns but they stopped that once the Rhodes Ceasefire was signed, so we were forced to leave. 15 days later the Jewish militia entered the village. The colonies neighboring our village tried to make agreements with us, but we refused. The Jewish militia occupied Tantorah village and killed around 250 of its people in one of the well known massacres; they also stole their money and gold. Abdul Rahman Qasim, our relative, was killed during the clashes; his house was very close to the Jews' homes, they killed him at night while he was in his house. We did not see the Jewish militia in our village before we withdrew; they attacked us every night but we were ready to defend our village and kick them out. They would hit us, we would hit them; it went on for some time like this. The neighboring villages helped us too. A Syrian man came to help us too; he had a Haown cannon, but the Jews killed him and destroyed his cannon. Many volunteers came from Lebanon and Syria, but they left when the village fell. We left because we were afraid because of the massacres the Jews were committing in every village and city. We had no option but to flee in order to protect our families. 123

We all left the village, except a man called Mahmud Almadi; he did not like to leave the village because he had much land and refused to leave it. Most of the village was damaged. I visited it a few years ago; I found the school still there but a synagogue was built next to it. We left and went to Arah village. We arrived there the following day. Local people gave us food, and then the Iraq Army took us, in their trucks, to the town of Jenin. From there people scattered in the Diaspora. I will never forget one incident that happened to us while we were escaping from Haifa, a story that seems like fiction but is true; I saw it with my own eyes. A woman was crying and screaming because she realized she was carrying a cushion instead of her baby when she had to flee. This shows how scared we were of the Jews’ massacres. Many people took their gold and money when they fled, but the Jews stopped some people and took their gold from them. My mother hid our money and gold in the baby's clothes. We were hoping that we would be back after a few days or weeks, but our itinerant life lasted a long time and even now we still live in hope of returning to our farms. I worked in farming when we stayed in Jenin; there were some farms around. I had to do any work I could get in order to get food my family needed. I worked for five pennies a day. The UNRWA supported us and provided us with food. I then went to Amman in Jordan to work in the sweets industry. After that I worked in Germany for four years and then I came back to the West Bank. 124

After the war of 1967, I and my seven sons were arrested by the Israeli occupation authorities. I was sentenced to six months in jail, and then I went to look for a job in Haifa. I like Haifa. I spent my childhood there, I have good memories of there, so I went to work there and luckily I found a job there. ***


Hafiza Abdullah Original village: Kanon/ Tulkarem district Current address: Shweikeh/ Tulkarem

For one summer we lived under the trees, waiting for tomorrow. Then we discovered it was all just lies
We lived off what we grew on our farm – watermelons, cucumbers, corn and wheat for example. Our lives were enjoyable. We got our news from listening to the radio. I remember hearing the news about the Germans and Hitler and people were talking a lot about the Second World War. We did not think for a moment that war would reach us; we talked about it but it never occurred to us that it would lead to deportation. The people of my village were only simple farmers and did not have any weapons when we were driven out during the wheat and watermelon picking season of 1948. Around 27 people from our village were killed before we fled, including men, women and children. My brother Samer was one of those that were killed and my father would not leave the village until he had buried him in the house. Two bombs fell on separate places in the village killing two families. I still remember some of those who died: there was wife of Alhayet, as well as the Shumali family, the daughters of Abu Sabah and the son of Abdul Rahem was killed and buried in the village too. Our village lands were taken and I can still remember the sizes: Alkhuwar, 30 dunum; Nareyeh, 27 dunum, and Aljereh, 15 dunum. Our trees were uprooted, we lost our home; we had no more wheat, no more corn and no more farm. Even today, 126

the image of what the wheat fields looked like is as fresh in my mind as if I had seen it yesterday. They damaged them and left nothing for us. We did not leave of our own accord: we were forced to flee from the terror and the murders; we were afraid because of what we had heard about the massacres. We went to Shweikeh village, next to Tulkarem city. We lived there because we were told that Shweikeh was close to our village, so we would not have to walk far when we were able to return. Days passed, and then years and we are still waiting to return. It is now more than fifty years since we left and still we wait for and dream of the day of our return. We did not carry anything with us when we left our village. When we arrived to Shweikeh village we could not find work to help us to survive. We spent the money we had saved in the past up until we had no more money. We lived for one summer season living under the trees, waiting for tomorrow. Then we discovered that it was all just lies. I went to my village after the war of 1967 to visit. I saw strange people living there; I saw those who had deported us in 1948 living on our lands and planting in our farms. They had made us a homeless and sad nation. ***


Muhamad Radwan Born in 1931 Original home: Wadi Hawartheh Current address: Tulkarem Town

It still depresses me today that Jews can come from all over the world to live in my village while I am not allowed to live there.
We followed the progress of the war through the radio; we didn’t read newspapers at that time. We had been living in peace with the people living in the Jewish colonies nearby; we’d go to the same coffee shops and everything. But then the Jews started to establish their own militia; they were having military training and drilling and acquiring equipment. Then they attacked us. We didn’t have any weapons, but they still attacked us. Life was difficult, but it was bearable; we could still go to our farms, for example. But then the Jewish militia started to attack people as they made their way to their farms, so we were too afraid to go. Naturally, people were worried about their farms, their crops and their cattle; this situation lasted for around three months. Food and other goods became very expensive. The village was attacked several times; some houses were shelled. One day, a militia group of Jews called Hagana came to the neighboring zone of Tulkarem. They captured six Arab militants there. They executed four of them and released the other two. This caused chaos and a feeling of terror within the Palestinian community; we were scared and many people 128

started to flee. Somebody was shouting: “Go back”. Some of us did go back, but the Jewish militia attacked us again, so we headed for Tulkarem, which was nearby. We were very upset; English troops evacuated us, using their military vehicles to accompany our caravan. We left our village in the wheat season; we left early in the morning, everybody taking his own property by car. We left for Tulkarem town. The Arab Rescue Army came after we fled. The English troops facilitated the deportation of our people in order to transfer the lands to the Jews. We dreamt about returning to our villages; we never thought we would be away from them all this time. We were homeless and poor when we arrived in Tulkarem; there wasn’t much employment in the refugee camps. We just sat listening to the news and waiting for Palestine to go back to how it was. We heard that the Jewish militia attacked Deir Yassin village and committed a massacre there; we later heard worse news about Lud City and Ramleh Town. We thought that the deportation would not last for a long time; we thought it might only take a few days until the war ended and that we would be back. We did not expect the war to reach us. We were afraid when we heard about the Jews committing crimes in Haifa, where many people were killed. The Jews entered the Palestinian villages and began killing women and children in order to scare the rest of the village into fleeing. The English mandate had not allowed us to build up our military infrastructure; any Palestinian who had a rifle or a weapon was executed, although Haj Amin, the Head of the Palestinian Committee, managed to provide some guns. 129

At first we lived in tents, then later we moved to houses, or what I will call “home units”. It still depresses me today that Jews can come from all over the world to live in my village while I am not allowed to live there. ***


Nasoh Wafi Born in 1936 Home city: Yafa Current address: Askar Refugee Camp, Nablus

It is hard to speak of those beautiful days as they bring back memories of the childhood that was taken from us.
We followed the news on the Near East and Al-Quds radio stations and in the newspapers. I still remember the names of many of the journalists who gave us the news: Mohammad Abu Dla’aene, Hazem Al-Shanty, Sami Al-Shanty, George Dahboor, Raje Sohyoony and Hosam Hamad. Moosa Al-Dajne and Kosay Hashem, who worked at the Near East Station, and Essa Al-Esaa, the Editor of the Falasteen newspaper, and his cousin Dawood Tamer Al-Eleh. In the last months of 1947 the news was about the League of Nation’s Partition Plan, 181, and the British Withdrawal, which was to take place on 15 May 1948. Our reaction was the same as anyone who had heard such news: great fear and anxiety. We expected war to break out anywhere in Palestine. Six months before the League of Nation's Partition Plan 181, Bessan Town and Taybarah city were invaded. After this, many more cities were invaded – Haifa, Safad, Acre, Nazareth, Ramleh, Lud, Yaffa and Beer-Sabe. On 9 April 1948, the Jewish militias carried out a massacre at Deir Yassin. Al-Muthalath, a very fertile area of Palestine covering between 10 and 15 towns, was given to the other Jewish State and was 131

lost because Israel did not respect the Rhodes Agreement. The international imperialists, led by the United States of America, needed a base from which to protect their interests within the region. If America didn’t have Israel as a base in the Middle East the Arab countries could become a united power, one capable of challenging America, so posing a threat to the wellbeing of America. The news scared us a lot because seven Arab countries and their armies couldn’t stop the Stern and Irgun Jewish militia gangs. We were hoping that the Palestinian leader, the Grand Mufti Haj Amin Al-Huseini would work with our Arab neighbors to help with the liberation of Palestine. But they let us down. And we are still suffering the consequences today: despite hundreds of projects and initiatives, the Arab leaders have still not been able to convince subsequent Israeli administrations to acknowledge the rights of the Palestinians. They have been unable to establish a Palestinian state, with Jerusalem as its capital, and give the refugees the right to return even to the land they lost 20 years later, on 4 June 1967. In 1948, we started to stockpile food and ammunition because there were rumors that the Arab armies were advancing towards us. Weapons had to be smuggled in and people were smuggling them in from Syria and Egypt. At the same time, the British were arresting and torturing people, and all areas of life came to a standstill because of fear and the difficulties encountered in trying to get to work. Many people were killed and injured. I may not be able to give their individual names, or those of people who distinguished themselves defending the town, but everyone did more than 132

was expected of them. I saw the Jewish militia orders people out of their houses. As I remember it, some people went to help their brothers in nearby towns, while many volunteers came from the east of Jordan. They brought weapons with them, but their weapons were not enough to face down the army. The volunteers got on well with the local residents, and when the moment came for the volunteers to withdraw, we felt scared. Nobody told us what to do, so we did what we thought well. The city wasn’t totally destroyed, but a few buildings collapsed. The Arab leaders didn’t advise us to leave, but as the radio stations spread stories about towns being destroyed and we heard about the killings and what the Zionists used to do with the children and women and we became really scared about what they might do to us and we left. Haifa city fell into the hands of the Jews after a struggle. Lud city, Ramleh, Latroun and Deir Yassin fell after ferocious battles and severe resistance. The Jews gathered all the residents of these cities in one place and made them leave along just one route. Deir Yassin was completely destroyed, but the city where we are now was partially demolished. I remember that many were arrested and many others were injured. This wasn’t the first time I had left the city. I left with my parents, my mother, brothers and sisters; we didn’t leave any of our children behind, although some people left their relatives behind thinking that they would come back soon. I 133

don’t remember who left the city after we did. We went to Lebanon for six months, then Syria – we stayed there for eight months – then Jordan and, finally, Nablus, where we have been ever since. I can’t put into words what we went through and had to bear during our wanderings, what things we lacked. The Syrians and Lebanese welcomed us warmly and sympathized with us but we couldn’t work there. After 1967 war, I visited my old house; it was half-ruined. I was really emotional and I wished I hadn’t been to see it. I remembered the happy days I had spent there in my childhood. It is hard to speak of those beautiful days as they bring back memories of the childhood that was taken from us. ***


Jawdat Ali Issa Abu Serreyeh Born in 1942 Original home: Sheikh Emwanes, Yafa District Current address: Askar Refugee Camp, Nablus

We have the right to have our land given back. We will keep demanding to get it back: a right will never be forgotten as long as somebody speaks of it to his children.
When we left our village we did not take any pots, plates or even a glass. We were sure we would be back after the war between the Arab armies and Jewish militia. We lived in caves for three years, until UNRWA built the refugee camps. I remember in 1950 when it was snowing in Nablus city and we were living in a cave. The snow was very heavy at that time and it was so cold. The snow actually covered the entrance of our cave and we were stuck inside until some citizens of Nablus came and rescued us by shoveling out the snow blocking the entrance. There were no jobs in the West Bank after the Nakba in 1948. Life was hard. The conditions were unbearable and people were even struggling to get bread. The UNRWA gave us sugar and wheat and they had opened some schools for Palestinian children. I attended one such school in 1949, as they were accepting students from the age of seven. They gave us pencils and books but I did not feel like a proper student as I did not even have a pair of shoes to wear to school. We were very deprived and I was suffering terribly from the cold in the winter. I am afraid that the UNRWA will count each piece of medicine 135

it gives to us in order to discount it from the compensation that people speak about. They might also count the sugar, wheat and education they offered to the Palestinian refugees over the past decades. I would like to mention that our land has been producing great vegetables since 1948 for the benefit of Jews who are working it, even though it is our land that was stolen in front of the United Nations. However, who do you complain to if the judge is your enemy? We have the right to have our land given back. We will keep demanding to get it back: a right will never be forgotten as long as somebody speaks of it to his children. I will tell the story to my children, and they will pass the story of their lands in Yafa to their children. I won’t accept millions of dollars in return for my family's lands. The struggle is going to be very long but we are patient enough to keep waiting. ***


Om Hasan Al-Abed Born in 1942 Original home: Yazoor village, Yafa District Current address: Al-Ein Refugee Camp, Nablus city

Where is the democracy and justice in this situation? I am living under occupation; why do I have to accept this?
Even though I was only six years old in 1948, I remember my village of Yazoor well. We left it to go to Beddo village, where we stayed for three months until the Jewish militia followed us there and occupied it. We were then deported to Naleen village, where we stayed for a while, and then we moved for Deir Ammar village. While we were homeless and traveling from place to another looking for a better life we heard about somebody from the League of Nations called Count Bernadotte, who was the League of Nations`s mediator. He was sent to Palestine to check whether Israel was respecting the Partition Plan, Resolution No 181. He wrote in his report that Jews were enlarging their state and had occupied more land than they should have, forcing Palestinian citizens to flee. He was assassinated in Jerusalem by members of the Lehi group. When we first left our village, an Iraqi commander told us that we would be able to return home soon. More than 57 years have passed since then, and we are still waiting… If anything the opposite has happened, as the Jews occupied the rest of Palestine in 1967 – the West Bank, Gaza, the Golan Heights and even East Jerusalem – and they still continue with their aggression today. 137

We lived in the village of Deir Ammar for a while. The League of Nations gave each family a tent and we ended up living in ours for 10 years. The UNRWA gave us wheat, sugar, sardines and oil every month to exist on. Then the UNRWA built a room for every family; we added to our room to make it more comfortable to live in. In 1967, after the Six Days War, I went to visit the village of Yazoor; in fact, I have visited it seven times now. It was nearly empty and most of the cemetery had been removed; we found only one tomb still standing. There were some Israeli factories, and some homes that were now ruins. Most of the villages that were around Yazoor were removed totally from the map. We did not find our house at all; we found what was left of the police station, while the rest of the village had disappeared or was in ruins. I felt I needed to cry in order to release the sadness in my heart. I sat on the ground and cried with my cousin who had come with us from Jordan. He took some sandy soil of Yazoor village home with him. A few days ago, a group of international volunteers visited me to hear my testimony about what happened in 1948, I asked them: “What are you doing for justice? Your countries claim they are democratic, the countries of fairness and freedom. You can make the needed change in your countries, but I would like to ask you why international law has allowed Israel to deport Palestinian people from their villages? You saw how we are treated by the Israeli occupation at the roadblocks.” They told me that Israel has power and influences most of the western media in order to distort the truth. They continued that they themselves could see that the truth they had witnessed 138

was different to that which they had been subjected to through the media. They promised me that they will protest in front of the European Union to condemn the Israeli occupation. Then I told them that I wondered how the western media could fabricate links between the Palestinian resistance and the terror attacks organized by Osama Bin Laden. I don’t understand how they can fool the people so much. Where is the democracy and justice in this situation? I am living under occupation; why do I have to accept this? Why do the Israelis have the right to hit us with F16s? Where are our human rights? My home is occupied by the Israeli troops and I am astonished by those who are fabricating stories about ties between our struggle for freedom and international terror. This comparison is ridiculous. This is the age of power, Jews have power, but that land remains mine. I don’t forgive and I don’t grant my right to Jews. They occupied my village by force and terror. We did not leave so that they could leave it empty, and we only left it because of the massacres they had committed. We should not remain refugees for ever, there should be a solution. The USA and Europe should solve this tragedy that affects the Palestinians. Who gave Europe and USA the right to give our land to the Jews? We did not discriminate against the Jews; it was Europe that discriminated against them. Why then can Israel still be allowed to occupy our lands while the international community does nothing against it? There must be an end to these double standards; the international community should force Israel to withdraw from the occupied lands exactly as they forced Iraq to withdraw from Kuwait. This is the only way to approach peace in the Middle East. *** 139

Radeyeh Husein Meri` Born in 1942 Original home: Almansye village/ Haifa Current address: Jenin Refugee Camp/ Jenin

We took some sand from our village and returned to our refugee camp in Jenin. I often smell the sand. It reminds me of the soul of my village and farm
I was afraid when I heard the sound of bullets and the shelling of Haifa city. We were thinking of leaving our village before the arrival of the Jews; we had heard what had happened to the other neighboring villages. The people in my village did not resist or be involved in any way with the resistance; they were just ordinary working people. We kept up with what was happening every day through the updates on the radio. Everyone fled when we heard the Jewish militia was heading to the village. Nobody stayed there, everybody left. They left secretly at night, taking none of their property with them, neither clothes nor furniture. We went to Lajon village because we had some friends there, then we left for the village of Zulfa. Our people asked the head of our village to form a good relationship with the Jews so we could remain in our village but he refused. So we left our village, intending to come back later. One of the women fleeing with us was pregnant. She gave birth while we were on the move. She suffered a lot. She had no clothes for the child and no food either. She put the baby under her dress and cuddled him until we arrived at Lajon, where the women helped her and looked after the baby. Our 140

village was occupied by the Jewish militia the day after we left; we heard that it was mostly destroyed and that they had uprooted its orchards. After staying in Lajon for a while we went to Zulfa village, where we lived in makeshift homes. We stayed there almost a month. Some people from my village tried to go home to collect fruit and other food, to gather some of their crops, But the Jews had laid mines to prevent us from reaching our farms. My cousin was one of those who tried to reach the village, but he was caught and murdered. Then we went to Rumaneh village, and then Taybeh village. We moved from village to another until we arrived in the town of Jenin, where we settled in the refugee camp. We lived in tents. My father worked on a nearby farm to get money for food and other necessities. Everyone else who left my village ended up in different villages, where they had relatives and siblings. I visited my village a few years ago, in the 1990s, when I went with some other women and men from my village to see what had happened to it. We saw the village had been comprehensively destroyed. We saw some rubble and many newly-built settlements and convoys of new Jewish immigrants, who had come from Russia to live on our land. I cried along with the others. We took some sand from our village and returned to our refugee camp in Jenin. I often smell the sand. It reminds me of the soul of my village and farm. This was the first and the last time I visited my village. ***


Rushdeyeh Awad Jabaji Born in 1929 Original home: Lydda Current address: Askar Refugee Camp, Nablus

We were sure that we would return. We had a lamb at the time of our deportation and I remember leaving him some food then closing the door on him.
I was 19 years old in 1948 and I can remember what happened very well. There were clashes between Palestinians and Jews and there were some Arab troops in our region. We didn’t have many weapons and some men even sold their wives’ gold to buy weapons so they could defend themselves. We weren’t able to harvest our crops before we left; we left them in the fields. After the Jews declared independence in May there was meant to be a two-month ceasefire, but the Jews didn’t respect this and continued to occupy our city, commit crimes against us and deport us during this period. A Jewish militia group entered Lydda from Beit Shemel Colony and started to shoot randomly in the city. My family, along with many others, hid in the mosques while other families hid in the churches. The Palestinian resistance struggled to defend the city. We spent three days in the mosque, and then, when the resistance was subdued, they kicked us out of the city. It was at this time that the Jews gathered many people in the main mosque and opened fire on them. My husband was in a different mosque to us and we were unable to find out how he was, but, thankfully, we were reunited in the village of Naleen after the deportation. 142

We were deported while we were fasting during the holy month of Ramadan. I had a one-year-old child at the time, and this made things even more difficult. It was too hot and we were thirsty, and we found nothing on the way that we could eat or drink. We remained hungry for two days as we had absolutely no food. We were walking and dreaming of water when trucks arrived to transport us to different destinations. We were taken to Naleen. We stayed there for 12 days, and then somebody suggested we go to Jericho. We decided this was a good idea, but when we got there it was too hot. We stayed out in the sun for a few days then some people brought us something similar to tents. There was one cover for every three families and it was uncomfortable, so people started to move elsewhere. Some of them went to Jordan, but we stayed where we were for 16 years, although we did spend two years away from Jericho, in Gaza. My husband had no work in Aqabet Jabr Refugee Camp in Jericho, so he went to work in Jericho town as a carter, but he was sick and this prompted us to come to Nablus after 16 years. I went with my husband to Lydda after the war of 1967, I went to see my city and we still had relatives living there. We cried when we saw it; many streets were still as they were when we left them in 1948. I was so sad when I saw the shop of anyone I had known; the tears would not stop rolling down my face. One of my relatives was with us and I said to her: “This is the shop of Ahmad Alhafi, and this is the shop of Abu Hasan Jabber”. The shops of Alqudsi and Abdul Halim Huso were also still there as I remembered them. My parents died during the Diaspora in Jordan and that is 143

where my brothers live now. We took the keys of our house in Lydda with us when we left, as we were sure that we would return. We had a lamb at the time of our deportation and I remember leaving him some food then closing the door on him. I still wish I could return to live in Lydda, but it does not look as though this will be possible anytime soon. ***


Shaker Mahmud Darwish Abed Born in 1936 Original home: Al-Faloja Town Current address: Askar Refugee Camp, Nablus

We had to collect water on foot from a spring in another village, and we would go there once a week to wash ourselves.
Al-Faloja was on a main road and people would come from all over to use the weekly market. We did not have a radio so we were unable to listen to the news at home; we would go to the coffee shops to get a daily news update. I was a school pupil in the 4th grade at that time and I still recall the names of the coffee shops – Abu Alabed Altayeb and the Tammam Coffee Shop. The Radio Station of the Near East was transmitting for the benefit of the British Mandate and encouraging Palestinians to leave. My father decided we should leave, although he told us that it would only be for a short time. I had heard my father speaking about the amount of time we would spend out of the village, which he said would be less than a week. For this reason we did not take our belongings. My father had a library and he read a lot, but we took none of his books when we left. Nobody in our village had really been trained to use guns; people didn’t choose to become fighters, they did it out of necessity. They got their weapons from Bir Sabi. At the time people not involved in the fighting would not leave their homes. After we left, my uncles remained in Al-Faloja as resistance fighters; it was under siege for six months. The Egyptian Army entered the town while the Jewish Israeli troops were 145

surrounding it. My uncle and seven comrades were hit by a Jewish shell. Luckily, he was not killed and he fled to Hebron. One of the Egyptian commanders during the siege went on to become the President of Egypt. He was Jamal Abdel Nasser, who took control after the revolution of 1952. Israeli fighters continued to shell the Al-Faloja resistance until October 1948. We were told that the Egyptian commander Taha had ordered his soldiers to open a tunnel so they could surprise the Israelis. However, the Israelis used six fighter aircraft against the resistance and so the resistance surrendered. Many people were killed that day, many were injured; people tried to shelter in the mosque but they were not safe there as the Israelis bombed them. Then the fake weapons scandal erupted in Egypt, contributing to the revolution of 1952. The guns would fire backwards, killing the person shooting the gun rather than the person they were aiming at. After that, the citizens left in Al-Faloja for the Gaza Strip. The Jewish militia, which became the Israeli Army after the British withdrew, destroyed the wheat mill and the water mill then they destroyed the rest of Al-Faloja. We had left Al-Faloja at the beginning of the conflict, to stay in the village of Yazoor, where my father had been working. When the time came for the British Army to withdraw, they told the Arab forces to come and take the military camp of Tel Hshomer. But the Jews had already taken it over, and when the Arab forces arrived, they were easy targets for the Jewish militiamen. The British betrayed the Palestinians all the time, but protected and supported the Jews. For example, there was always a British armored vehicle to assist the Jewish 146

caravans on the main road from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv. Once, the Palestinian resistance of Yazoor put a mine on this road, the mine exploded and killed three Jewish people. The day after, Jews came and bombed the ice factory that was at the entrance of Yazoor. The leader of our village complained to the Jews but they told him that they might bomb the whole village too. Soon the Jews were attacking us every night and then they invaded the village, which caused chaos. Take the mother of Saleh Abdul Nabi, for example. She was terrified by the shelling and she was running, trying to escape, She gave birth to twins. She managed to carry one but she forgot the other, who was Saleh. It was a terrible situation, with the Jews killing people randomly. Fortunately, her sister remembered Saleh and ran to get him, even though she came under fire as she did this. This heroic act saved Saleh and enabled him to have a good life, to get married and have children. But there was a tragic end to this story, as Saleh was shot and killed by the Israelis during the first Intifada. Once the war started we headed for Lydda city, where we stayed for three months. The troubles followed us to Lydda and we had more traumatic experiences there. The Jewish militia gathered people in Dahmash Mosque, where they slaughtered them. The Jewish militia was well-armed and they yelled that we should go to Jordan. They stole gold from Palestinian women and detained anybody they wanted to. My uncle, Abed, was detained by them. He told us after he was released how he was tortured in the detention camp. Once we had been deported we went to the village of Deir Abu Mishal, near Ramallah. 147

We lived for four months in Deir Abu Mishal; our suffering continued. We had to collect water on foot from a spring in another village, and we would go there once a week to wash ourselves. We decided this life was too difficult so we came to Nablus, where we stayed in the municipal park. Just when it seemed things could not get any worse we became infected with smallpox and we had to be kept in quarantine until we were cured. Finally, after all this, we ended up settling in Balata Refugee Camp in Nablus. While living in Balata I worked in Nablus. During this time, I taught myself Hebrew, and this meant I was able to work in Haifa in the 1990s. I returned to Al-Faloja after the 1967 war. It was a shocking sight – there was nothing left of the village apart from a mosque. But the Israelis had built a new colony there, Quryat Qat. I also visited Yazoor village, as well as many other Palestinian villages and towns in what is now called “Israel”. My mother came with me when I went to see our house in Yazoor. As we were fleeing from Yazoor my mother had hidden some gold next to the fence of the place where we had been staying. We found the house was now occupied by Jewish people, and we asked them if we could see inside our house. They told us that it was not our house and that they had bought it from the government. We told them that my mother had buried something next to the fence and asked if we would be able to look for it. They said yes, but, unfortunately, my mother could not identify exactly where she had buried the gold because all the trees had been uprooted and the fence removed. 148

I wish I could die in Al-Faloja. If I was given the choice, I would be prepared to leave my house here in the refugee camp and live in a tent at Al-Faloja. At one point I worked in Saudi Arabia but I could not carry on doing this as I could not bear my life outside Palestine. There is no place like home – as I keep repeating this to my sons and daughters. ***


Abdul Rahman Awad Born in 1936 Original home: Lydda city Current address: Askar Refugee Camp, Nablus

They took my home and my land, drove out my family, made us refugees
We owned some land in the Lydda region, around 10 dunums (around 10,000m²). We planted it with olives, okra and cactus. There was no fighting in our area; we were driven out of our home after the ceasefire. The Jews turned up with armored vehicles and other craft; we had nothing. It took us completely by surprise – we didn’t even have time to think, let alone organize any resistance. All we had was 12 ordinary guns and four automatic ones. Anyway, guns weren’t that much use against the Jewish troops who became the Israeli army. There was an imbalance of power between us; we had some Palestinian fighters, but what could we do against well-armored Jews, and, anyway, what is the point of having well-trained men if there are no guns for them? And the Jews were able to operate with even more impunity after the British withdrew from Palestine. All the cities and villages around Lydda were cleared. We walked from Lydda to the village of Naleen, where we lived for two years before moving to Nablus. We fled with the citizens of Ludda, which was cleared at the same time. I was in my father’s house when the Jews invaded our city. They drove us out like cattle and treated us very badly; women, children and elderly people were forced to leave Lydda immediately. I was the one who locked the front door of our house. I still have the 150

key today. We did have some money with us when we were forced out, so we were able to rent flats wherever we went, but when the money ran out we had to go to the refugee camp. None of us had any work during the first four years we were there. I have a cousin in Lydda; she is married and has children. My other family members, though, are scattered around this region - Jordan, Jerusalem, Egypt, the West Bank, all over the place. I’ve been back to Lydda twice since the 1967 war. I was afraid the whole time I was there, and the memories of that day in 1948 were uppermost in my mind the whole time. I couldn’t spend more than an hour there because of these feelings. The worst thing of all is that there is nothing we can do. It made me really sad to see Israelis living in my city. They took my home and my land, drove out my family, made us refugees. What do the Jews expect from me? I would love to go home, but I feel there’s nothing I can do to help me go back: if I did, I am afraid they would either kick me out again or kill me. ***


Abu Omar Lidawi Born in 1930 Original home: Lydda Current address: Askar Refugee Camp, Nablus city

The Jews rounded up many people into the Dahmash Mosque then killed around 80 of them
I remember the British occupation of Palestine very well. I believe the British are responsible for the current plight of the Palestinian people as they were ones who brought the Jews from Europe and gave them power in our lands. Before 1948 we had good living conditions, although even then we were concerned about the presence of the Jewish immigrants from Europe. Yet even though they were settling here, we didn’t fight them – in fact, there was a Jewish colony called Beit Shemel next to our village. By 1948, though, the Jews were well-armed and well-prepared for war, while we had no guns, because of the restrictions imposed under the British mandate. I was living in the city of Lydda when the Jewish militia attacked the city on an afternoon in July. I was on my way back from work and heading for the coffee shop, when I heard shooting. There was supposed to be a truce at that time but the Jews broke it. The Jews rounded up many people into the Dahmash Mosque then killed around 80 of them. They squeezed many citizens into that mosque, but thankfully we were not among them as we managed to escape through a field. The Jews announced on loudspeakers that the Lydda citizens should leave the 152

city immediately. People were panic stricken as they tried to escape. Some people forgot to carry their babies as everybody was rushing in order to be safe. There was no time to look for your wife or your children. The Jewish militias were shooting randomly at people and many fell to the ground as they tried to escape. As I was near the coffee shop I could not reach our house. The Jewish militia did not allow me to reach it to see my father and my family. A man pointed a gun in my face and told me to leave or I would be killed. Fortunately, I managed to meet my family in a village as we were fleeing. In order to escape, people had to negotiate the treacherous thorn bushes that surrounded the village. There were many thorn bushes that were too high to climb and people had to find an uncomfortable way through. The Jews were still shooting at us as families attempted to climb the mountain; it was a terrible scene. To make matters worse, people were fasting as it was the month of Ramadan. It was too hot, our throats were dry and there was no water. Lydda city was the last city to fall into the hands of the Jews. The Jewish militia had announced on the loudspeakers that we should go to the village of Parfilya. However, I knew this village was low on water so we decided to head for the village of Naleen instead. We were instructed not to walk down the main road that we must leave through the mountains. At Naleen we found some cars that were taking people to Jordan, the Gaza Strip or Ramallah. We went to Ramallah and settled there. 153

We were able to occupy an empty house in Ramallah that was owned by a Palestinian family working in the USA. Another person allowed us to use their farm in order to get our food, while other refugees stayed in the camps. After one year we went to Nablus city, where we rented a flat. Nablus was a poor city when we came to it, and there were no jobs. I went to Jordan and worked there as goods distributor, I was selling products in the Arab Gulf and Lebanon. I went to Lydda City after the war of 1967. I was very sad when I saw it. The first time I went there I saw a Jewish man living in my house; I could easily recognize my house even after 20 years. I told the owner that this was my house and he told me to go away otherwise he would shoot me. He would not even allow me to see my house from the inside to allow me to recall my memories. Two years later, I went back to visit my city again. I found that my house was gone and a new building stood in its place, a larger building, to house the increasing number of Jewish immigrants. I could recognize all of the neighborhoods of Lydda city, I remembered it very well. I couldn’t stop crying when I saw what had happened to my house and other parts of the city. I went to the cemetery of Lydda and read some verses of the Holy Quran. The Jews had displaced the people and the buildings, so I was concerned that they would remove the two cemeteries as well. The mosque was still standing, as was the church, but the Jews were not allowing the Palestinian citizens still living in the city to renovate either. I suspect this is so they will collapse by themselves. 154

Some Palestinians have been able to return through the Red Cross, and I met some of them. There are only around 50 families now, compared with 70,000 or so people before the Diaspora. The Jews have occupied my land and my father’s land, and they want to cheat us out of adequate compensation. I have a “Right of Return”, recognized by the United Nations. The Jews have taken our lands by force and power, and taken them for free as well. They came from Europe and Russia in order to occupy our lands, and now they want us to shut our mouths. I don’t expect to get a home in paradise in return for my house in Lydda City. My country is so dear to me, and we would like to live in our land in peace. ***


Muhamad Ahmad Huwaidi Born in 1930 Original village: Abu Kishek Village, Yafa Current address: Askar Refugee Camp, Nablus

I don’t want compensation for the loss of my land – I want to go home to my village, and to visit the Shrine of Sidi Ali; I know how to go there but the Israelis won’t let me go to it.
I got married in 1948 in Hableh village near Qalqilya town, where we owned a farm. I heard about the Jewish project in Palestine; the Balfour Declaration and then the partition Plan. The Jews didn’t have so much power in the beginning, but they did get more powerful later, when they formed the militias of Stern and Hagana. They were arming themselves while cursing at us when they saw us going to our work. We had no weapons – only one gun for every ten men – because it had not been easy to smuggle weapons in. somebody called Sheikh Shaker went to Egypt to buy guns but they were not very good. The English mandate troops had been detaining the armed Palestinian citizens and sentencing them to around 15 years for having a gun and five years for having a bullet. We used to plant everything we needed for our daily life. As we had no mosque nearby we had to travel for one hour to Sheikh Emwanes Mosque. Jews were living next to our village. One of our Jewish friends came to us and said, “Don’t leave your village because if you do that and flee to the mountains (West Bank) you will not be able to come back again. You will not defeat the Jews because they are very strong and they have obtained many weapons from the British.” We asked him what we have to do then. He 156

said, “You can raise the white flags of surrender.” However, we did not trust them and we left when other villagers started to flee. The people of Yaffa left first, then those from Salameh village, and then the residents of Sheikh Emwane’s village left too. Jews were shooting on Palestinians randomly; some Palestinians fought back, with the poor-quality weapons that were available. We were not trained for war; we had done no military training or exercises compared to the Jews. Many people were killed there in Salameh and Yazoor villages because they resisted. Five people were killed in the Shawabkeh area, which was very close to us. Once, some Palestinians from the Al-Shobaki family went to the British Administration and informed them about the Jewish militia growing in Hertselia Colony and their increasing military power there. However, the British told the Jews about this family. The Jewish militia attacked the family and slaughtered five of its members; we buried them in the village. This incident caused us to become scared, and we decided it was time to leave. We had been producing milk and butter, which we would store in jars, but my father, did not let us bring them with us when we left. He hid them under the ground, covering them with sacks in order to protect them, believing that we would soon return. We also left our wheat and hay, but we did take the house key with us. Jews laughed at us and sang while we were leaving. They didn’t shoot at those who left voluntarily, because they wanted 157

to encourage us to leave our homes. And we all left – nobody remained in the village. My father brought some sacks and we sewed them together in order to make a tent, or something that looked like one. We had had 75 dunum of fertile lands; we had cows and sheep. My father was married to three women; all three of them, and their sons and daughters, became refugees in Jordan, Kuwait and the USA. I myself left for Qalqilya, and then went to Nablus City. We owned a camel so we put some of our essential belongings on it; we left our goats and sheep. We sold our cows before the deportation. My father bought a gun from Egypt; he sold it when we went to Qalqilya so he could feed his children. People were using donkeys and camels to carry their furniture or mattresses; the people of Yaffa used their cars, while the poorest people had to carry their belongings as they went by foot. We lived in tents in Qalqilya and we had no jobs. We rented a piece of land in order to plant it with vegetables and fruits, and then we left for Nablus and rented land and farmed there. Some people went through occupied Palestine after 1948 in order to pick oranges they didn’t have chance to pick before the deportation. Some of them were detained and others were killed by the Israeli soldiers on the border. I worked in a farm in Nablus City for 15 years. We got some supplies from UNRWA. I managed to do well enough to send my sons to university. I went to work in Israel after the Occupation of 1967. I worked in construction, and I worked in Tel Aviv until the late-1990s. 158

Some of my relatives, who had been in Lydda in 1948 and didn’t leave there, have Israeli residency now. Some of my brothers went to see our village next to Yaffa and they told me that it was completely destroyed. On one occasion I went to visit them and told them that I would like to visit Sidi Ali shrine in Yaffa. We went there and prayed; it was one of the holy sites that we used to pray in. Then we went to visit my village. I was shocked when I was not allowed to get in to the village because it had been converted into a military camp. I don’t want compensation for the loss of my land – I want to go home to my village, and to visit the shrine of Sidi Ali; I know how to go there but the Israelis won’t let me go to it. ***


Abu Abdallah El-Halaq Born in 1938 Original home: Sha’ib Village / Acre Current address: Al-Ein Refugee Camp / Nablus

The fighting meant that life stopped in the land; wheat was not harvested, and olives and corns were not cultivated. There was genuine fear, the prices rose.
The first outbreaks of fighting started at the end of 1947, and the news about deportation and emigration was quickly spread by the Jerusalem and Cairo radio stations. We heard news about how the Haganah had forced their way into Jaffa and were confronted by Arab revolutionists. Despite the Arab resistance Jaffa had fallen, and was quickly followed by Yazoor and Salama. Shortly afterwards both the cities of Haifa and Acre fell, with the volunteers unable to do anything in response. They were waiting for the Haganah to come and face them, instead of going to confront them. There was no real military confrontation, just guerilla wars. When the city of Acre fell, my village of Sha’ib, along with the village of Majd El-Krum became the next line of defense. Arab resistance fighters and their leadership had gathered in Sha’ib village after the state of Israel had been declared. This prompted the young people from all the surrounding villages of the Galilee to assemble in Sha’ib to protect the leadership. I remember one of them called Abu Es’aaf, who went to Syria to bring weapons back for them. 160

We were afraid that due to so many Arab towns being captured we would be unable to have a state of our own. We desperately wanted a state, and this was the reason behind the people of Sha’ib not wanting to leave. Although we did not actually think that the war would reach as far as Sha’ib. We were optimistic about independence especially if the Rescue Army was to come to our aid. We did not expect that things would turn out the way they did and we assumed people would be able to return home in a couple of months. Regarding preparations, people were collecting money from each family in order to buy weapons. There were nearly 400 volunteers present in Sha’ib but they were not trained in using weapons during the British Mandate. The local volunteers and the volunteers from outside were fighting without any direction whatsoever. The Rescue Army brought us hope but they turned out to be total fakes. When they first came they coordinated with the leaders of the resistance and took up strategic military positions. A war took place between the Rescue Army, with the support of the fighters and the Haganah. I attended one of the battles with some friends and was amazed to see the women supporting the volunteers by joyously shouting encouragement and carrying water on their heads to give them. They managed to take back the village of Al-Barwah on the outskirts of Haifa. It was a happy day, apart from the fact that three volunteers became martyrs. At this stage the Rescue Army had given us a certain amount of confidence. There next move though was to ask the fighters to pull out from Al-Barwah, so they could replace them, and 161

the fighters agreed to this. Shortly afterwards the Rescue Army gave it up to the Jews, causing a great deal of pain to the resistance fighters. In Sha’ib I have one of my most clear memories as I was attacked. I was with a group of about 12 youth who were walking on the outskirts of the village. Suddenly we heard gunfire and one of my friends shouted, “Lie down”. It was true that the bullets were fired in our direction and some of them passed between us, we were very lucky. Although the Rescue Army remained in Sha’ib there was a significant lack of trust between them and the resistance fighters. This led to a severe lack of coordination with the resistance groups operating autonomously. One of the local resistance groups reminded me of a scout group and they were called Najjadah. I can still recall the words to a special song that they would sing,

We the Najjadah, glory seekers… all of us, all of us Every one of us represents hope for the country… all of us, all of us And for the fluttering of the flag… all of us, all of us And for the sword and the pen…all of us, all of us My homeland, by the proud youth, If a foreigner does harm to you, We, the Najjadah, the glory seekers will fight for you.
We actually had our own song that my friends and I would use to sing. We had been taught it before at school as The Department of Education was keen on disseminating the national spirit. This is what we used to sing, 162

Anybody else may love beautiful women But for me, I love my homeland only. How beautiful, my country, you are! How dear you are! I sacrifice my life for you Your soil is more sublime than the stars I protect your glory as long as I live If any hardship afflicts you, without being protected by us, Then we would not be worthy of being your sons.
The fighting meant that life stopped in the land; wheat was not harvested, and olives and corns were not cultivated. There was genuine fear, the prices rose, and the people had to live on low supplies. We stayed in Sha’ib for a month before my family decided to move on to the village of Majd Al-Krum. After we had left, Sha’ib fell because once again the Rescue Army had surrendered. The old people of the village stayed for two months, before cars came to collect them and take them to the region of Marj Ibn-Amer. The Jews even brought some Bedouins from Al-Huleh, and made them settle down in Sha’ib; in fact two thirds of Sha’ib’s people were now not originally from Sha’ib. We walked to Majd Al-Krum during Ramadan with many other people and we were all still fasting. I remember the sun setting as we walked over the hills. For large parts of the journey I was carrying my brother who was very troublesome. We had taken nothing with us, not even food or blankets. Fortunately there were many friendly people in Majd Al-Krum who helped us. We were able to sleep relatively comfortably for twenty days under the olive trees. 163

Despite the Rescue Army surrendering Sha’ib they were still in the area and in Majd Al-Kruom we felt relatively safe. However this all changed when one night when we heard shooting on Al-Layat Mountain that continued until midnight, which we assumed was between the Rescue Army and the Jews. Al-Layat was clearly visible from Sha’ib and so the following morning we could see that the Rescue Army had disappeared. The belief at the time was that the Rescue Army had faked the shooting incident in order to escape without protest. This meant the defense lines were now vacant as some believed the Rescue Army planned, and the village had no form of protection. Therefore, the people of the village decided to climb to the top of Al-Layat Mountain and raised the white flags. The Jews took over Majd Al-Krum captured the remaining resistance fighters and sent them to Lebanon. We knew that the Rescue Army had apparently left for Syria. Once the Jews entered Majd Al-Krum, they participated in acts of terrorism against its inhabitants. They entered Majd AlKroom at ten o’clock in the morning, and they went on shooting sporadically for two days. The village was besieged, and they used this same plan on many villages to terrorize people in order to leave. The people, who now resided in Majd AlKrum, included many people who had fled from neighboring villages. All the males in the village were forced to go to the Hanana café on the main street, where they were all forced inside. At which point the Jews selected seven or eight young people to go and stand outside. They were lined up on the pavement 164

and blindfolded and then they decided to shoot one of them from Al-Ghrabi’s family. Following this they chose a new group, of seven to eight young people to line up outside. Then an Arab came and talked to the Jews in English and they were released. This incident looked very suspicious and I suspect that this Arab was acting for the Jews. During that night, people were deported to Lebanon without their belongings. Half of the people did manage to remain in Majd Al-Krum but the Jews continued to occupy the village day and night. Most of us were still gathered in the Hanana Cafe which they allowed us to leave for two hours a day so we could get water. It was uncomfortable and the Jews were harassing the women near the well. After a week, the Jews departed but they returned two weeks later, besieged the village and demanded all the remaining males gather in the yard. They sorted the people into groups according to their villages: Al-Barwah, Sha’ib, Adamoon and Majd Al-Kroom. The men from Sha’ib lied about where they were from because they were afraid to tell the truth. They knew this may antagonize the Jews as there had been a Palestinian militant base there. I sat on the floor with my family. They asked my father for his identification papers which the Jews had given to some of the Arabs after they had declared their state, but he did not have it with him. This meant that my father was arrested. As he was being taken away he told us to remain in Majd Al-Krum and he would come back for us. Many families were being led away by Jewish soldiers to be transferred from the village in large trucks. They were being deported to places like Jenin and 165

even as far as Amman. We were very fortunate that we were able to avoid being expelled as we were able to stay with a friend of my mother in the village. After two months my father was released and returned to Majd Al-Krum for us. He was very tired and said we would go to Acre with our ID papers to prove we had been allowed to stay. However when we reached Acre and explained the situation we were told, “Go to King Abdallah”. They put us on the military trucks and we were transported to the village of Romanah near Jenin. My father was old, and he died three months after the shock of the deportation. ***


Conclusion and recommendations: After our reading of the oral narrations published in the pages of this book, we realized the nature of the Palestinian issue and Palestinian-Israeli conflict that lie in removing the Palestinian people and settling Jews in their homeland instead. Palestine was not a barren land, or a land without a nation, as the Jews still claim today; on the contrary, it was a fertile land that was exporting almonds and fruit daily to Europe, through the Yafa and Haifa harbors. If Palestinian land had not been rich, the invading forces would not have made such efforts to occupy it, and drive its people away. Palestinian farmers did not leave their lands willingly and quickly. When they were driven out, they thought that their leaving would be only for a few days. It did not enter their minds that their departure would be forever. Media propaganda, no doubt, played a negative role in the departure of residents by not reporting on the massacres and crimes committed against the land and the Palestinian people. This does not negate the fact, however, that there were massacres committed. The illiteracy of many of the people contributed to the immigration. If the Palestinian people had been better informed about the goals of the occupation and the 1948 war, they would have refused all attempts to drive them away from their lands and homes. Perhaps the deciding factor was the lack of political and military proficiency of the Arab and Palestinian leaders during the 1948 war. The Palestinian people had suffered a lot, having been occupied many times over the years. After the Ottoman age, 167

Palestine was ruled by the British mandate, leaving no era of independence in which to foster a scientific and cultural rebirth of the Palestinian people. After our reading of the oral narrations in this book, I offer the following recommendations, hoping to encourage other researchers to study the Palestinian oral history of the 1948 war, and other important events in the history of the Palestinians. In addition, I encourage other researchers to document the daily sufferings of the Palestinian community, and the daily military siege on the Palestinian cities and villages, including the attacks and humiliation. My recommendations could be summarized as follows: * Teaching oral Palestinian history in the Palestinian universities as a general course for students, not only for the students of history and political science. * Translating oral narrations from Arabic into English, to make it possible for the Palestinian issue to reach the external and non- Arab world. * Conducting additional interviews with narrators as soon as possible, to benefit from those who are still alive. Many of the narrators passed away soon after being interviewed, due to their advanced age. * Broadcasting oral narrations as they were written, in colloquial language, through television and radio. * Focusing on the period of the Palestinian Nakba in any negotiating process, stressing the importance and continued 168

relevance of this event. The refugees’ issue shouldn’t be forgotten. We have a moral duty to raise these issues in political, diplomatic and media conferences. * Producing translated televised and documentary programs about the Palestinian Nakba, to ensure that the international community knows the facts of this issue, and the nature of Middle East conflict. 7. Demanding that the British government formally apologize to the Palestinian nation for its abrupt departure from the region, the crimes that they committed against the Palestinian people during the British mandate, the resulting occupation, and deportation of the Palestinian people from their lands in 1948. Moreover, we have to pressure the British civil community to do their best to compensate the Palestinian people for the historical injustice they were exposed to as a result of the tendentious policies of the British government. Overall, the international community and the British government are responsible for the atrocities committed, and that continue to be committed daily in Palestine, since the British mandate in 1917. Successive generations of British citizens, and the international community, should know that the crimes committed against the Palestinian people, both in the past and today, are the result of taking the largest portion of the Palestinian’s lands, and giving it to the Jews fleeing from the discrimination, anti-Semitism, and crimes committed against them in Europe. The Palestinian nation did not commit these crimes against the Jews. They did not deserve to be driven from their lands, forced to pay the price for the crimes committed by Europeans. The problems created for the Jewish people should have been solved at the expense of 169

the Europeans who created them, through their hate for the Jews in their countries. The Palestinian nation did not have a hand in these European crimes, and should not have had to pay for them with their lives and their lands. Ala Abu Dheer Media Unit (Zajel) Public Relations Department An-Najah National University Nablus-Palestine


Appendix 1 A questionnaire about oral narrations of the 1948 war * The name of the narrator: * The age of the narrator: * Name of the village or the city: * The date of the interview: * The place of the interview: * How did you follow the news of the war? Was it through the radio, newspapers, or conversations with people in cafés? * What did you hear in the news? What was your reaction? * Did you expect that the war would reach your village and lead to the Nakba? * Were there any preparations for war in your city or village, such as buying ammunitions and weapons, digging trenches, stockpiling food, or making contact with leaders? * Had there been any military professionals in your village who knew how to fight? Was there weapons’ trafficking from Egypt or Syria? What was the reaction of British against that? * What had the British done to armed people? * Did your village experience disruption to daily life before the residents were forced to leave, such as difficulty in getting to fields? * Was there anarchy or a sharp rise in the cost of foodstuffs? * Were you ever subjected to bombing, occupation, military attacks, starvation, or to car bombs? * Do you still remember the date of departure? (You 171

can help the witness to remember the date by using agricultural seasons or plants that were in season during immigration.) * Did you flee at dawn, or after prayer? * Had there been any attempts to contract an oral agreement between the head of the village and with the head of the Israelis settlement? * Did you ever hear about such agreements? * Were you offered such agreements and you refused? Why? * In case of approval between the two sides, did the Israeli side abide by the agreement? * Do you know any one that was killed or injured during the war from your relatives or village? Do you remember the circumstances of the incident? * Did any citizen from the city or village distinguish themselves while defending the village? * Did you see Israeli forces in your village? If the answer is no, what did you hear about them? If the answer is yes, where and when did you see them and what was the situation like? * Did the Head of the village help you during the Israeli attacks? * Did the rescuing army give you a hand? * Did any foreign or Arab volunteers from East Jordan or Yugoslavia help you? Did they come in time or too late? Were there many of them? Were their weapons enough to fight the Israeli gangs? Did their presence give you security and hope? * How was their relationship with citizens generally and with city and village leaders in particular? * Did you have to provide them with food and 172

accommodation? * Were they fighting for your village and the neighboring areas? * In case of their withdrawal from the village before its occupation by Israeli gangs, did that lead to decrease of citizens’ morale before immigration? * Did any one give you instructions in case you were attacked? * Was there any destruction to your village during Israeli attacks? * Were you advised to leave by any Arab or Palestinian leaders or in radio broadcasts and if so why? * When did you leave your village? * Can you tell us about killing and horror stories? * have you heard about women being abused? * Were you subjected to psychological warfare such as air attacks and rumors? * When and how was your village occupied? * Was it occupied after a prolonged battle or after simple armed clashes? * Was it occupied after being besieged or after the Israeli gangs reached the village when the resistance had decided that it was useless to continue fighting? * Did the Israelis enter the village while the residents were still present? If the answer is yes, how did they deal with people? * Did any elderly people remain in the village or city after other residents had fled? * Was the village damaged immediately after occupation or after a short or a long period of time? * Did the Israelis use the village as a military camp? * Have you returned to your village since you left? When 173

and why? * Did any of your neighbors or relatives return, and why? * Did villagers try to return in groups? * Was any one arrested or injured when he tried to come back in 1948? * Do you know any stories about villagers secretly attempting to harvest oranges or fetch sheep and other livestock? * Was this the first time you had left your home? * Did you flee alone? If the answer is no, who left with you? * Did you and the other refugees leave any of your relatives or family members, such as one parent or both, behind? * Do you know anyone who forgot their infant or child because of the sudden departure? * Did any one leave the village before you? * Do you know any one who is still in the village now? * When did the head of the village leave? Was he the first or the last to leave the village? * Had any one encouraged you to leave? * Did you take with you money, food, clothes, furniture, bed sheets, animals or sheep when you left the village or not? Why? * What did other take, and why? * Where did you go at first? * How many times did you have to move before you reached stability? (You have to narrate the story of departure). * Why did you choose that place? * Was it far away from your house? * How long did it take you to reach that place? * How long did you spend in that place? * How were you received as a refugee in the places you went to? 174

* Did the people of your village move to the same places? * Were you able to find a job quickly after your departure? Tell us about employment/unemployment in general and finding shelter. * Did you visit your house after the West Bank was occupied in 1967? If the answer is yes: Did you talk to the Israelis living in your house? What did you talk about? Did they allow you to enter your house? ***


Appendix 2 The Balfour Declaration 2nd November, 1917 The British government decided to endorse the establishment of a Jewish home in Palestine. After discussions within the cabinet and consultations with Jewish leaders, the decision was made public in a letter from British Foreign Secretary Lord Arthur James Balfour to Lord Rothschild. The contents of this letter became known as the Balfour Declaration. *** Foreign Office November 2nd, 1917 Dear Lord Rothschild, I have much pleasure in conveying to you. On behalf of His Majesty’s Government, the following declaration of sympathy with Jewish Zionist aspirations which has been submitted to, and approved by, the Cabinet His Majesty’s Government views with favor the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavors to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine or the rights and political 176

status enjoyed by Jews in any other country. I should be grateful if you would bring this declaration to the knowledge of the Zionist Federation. Yours, Arthur James Balfour



Appendix 3 UN Resolution 194, Right to Return General Assembly, A/RES/194 (III), 11 December 1948 194 (III). Palestine -- Progress Report of the United Nations Mediator

The General Assembly, Having considered further the situation in Palestine,
1. Expresses its deep appreciation of the progress achieved through the good offices of the late United Nations Mediator in promoting a peaceful adjustment of the future situation of Palestine, for which cause he sacrificed his life; and Extends its thanks to the Acting Mediator and his staff for their continued efforts and devotion to duty in Palestine; 2. Establishes a Conciliation Commission consisting of three States members of the United Nations which shall have the following functions: (a) To assume, in so far as it considers necessary in existing circumstances, the functions given to the United Nations Mediator on Palestine by resolution 186 (S-2) of the General Assembly of 14 May 1948; (b) To carry out the specific functions and directives given to it by the present resolution and such additional functions and directives as may be given to it by the General Assembly or by the Security Council; 178

(c) To undertake, upon the request of the Security Council, any of the functions now assigned to the United Nations Mediator on Palestine or to the United Nations Truce Commission by resolutions of the Security Council; upon such request to the Conciliation Commission by the Security Council with respect to all the remaining functions of the United Nations Mediator on Palestine under Security Council resolutions, the office of the Mediator shall be terminated; 3. Decides that a Committee of the Assembly, consisting of China, France, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, the United Kingdom and the United States of America, shall present, before the end of the first part of the present session of the General Assembly, for the approval of the Assembly, a proposal concerning the names of the three States which will constitute the Conciliation Commission; 4. Requests the Commission to begin its functions at once, with a view to the establishment of contact between the parties themselves and the Commission at the earliest possible date; 5. Calls upon the Governments and authorities concerned to extend the scope of the negotiations provided for in the Security Council’s resolution of 16 November 1948 1/ and to seek agreement by negotiations conducted either with the Conciliation Commission or directly, with a view to the final settlement of all questions outstanding between them; 6. Instructs the Conciliation Commission to take steps to assist the Governments and authorities concerned to achieve a final settlement of all questions outstanding between them; 179

7. Resolves that the Holy Places - including Nazareth religious buildings and sites in Palestine should be protected and free access to them assured, in accordance with existing rights and historical practice; that arrangements to this end should be under effective United Nations supervision; that the United Nations Conciliation Commission, in presenting to the fourth regular session of the General Assembly its detailed proposals for a permanent international regime for the territory of Jerusalem, should include recommendations concerning the Holy Places in that territory; that with regard to the Holy Places in the rest of Palestine the Commission should call upon the political authorities of the areas concerned to give appropriate formal guarantees as to the protection of the Holy Places and access to them; and that these undertakings should be presented to the General Assembly for approval; 8. Resolves that, in view of its association with three world religions, the Jerusalem area, including the present municipality of Jerusalem plus the surrounding villages and towns, the most eastern of which shall be Abu Dis; the most southern, Bethlehem; the most western, Ein Karim (including also the built-up area of Motsa); and the most northern, Shu’fat, should be accorded special and separate treatment from the rest of Palestine and should be placed under effective United Nations control;

Requests the Security Council to take further steps to ensure
the demilitarization of Jerusalem at the earliest possible date;

Instructs the Conciliation Commission to present to the fourth

regular session of the General Assembly detailed proposals

for a permanent international regime for the Jerusalem area which will provide for the maximum local autonomy for distinctive groups consistent with the special international status of the Jerusalem area; The Conciliation Commission is authorized to appoint a United Nations representative, who shall co-operate with the local authorities with respect to the interim administration of the Jerusalem area; 9. Resolves that, pending agreement on more detailed arrangements among the Governments and authorities concerned, the freest possible access to Jerusalem by road, rail or air should be accorded to all inhabitants of Palestine;

Instructs the Conciliation Commission to report immediately

to the Security Council, for appropriate action by that organ, any attempt by any party to impede such access; 10. Instructs the Conciliation Commission to seek arrangements among the Governments and authorities concerned which will facilitate the economic development of the area, including arrangements for access to ports and airfields and the use of transportation and communication facilities; 11. Resolves that the refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbors should be permitted to do so at the earliest practicable date, and that compensation should be paid for the property of those choosing not to return and for loss of or damage to property which, under principles of international law or in equity, should be made good by the Governments or 181

authorities responsible; Instructs the Conciliation Commission to facilitate the repatriation, resettlement and economic and social rehabilitation of the refugees and the payment of compensation, and to maintain close relations with the Director of the United Nations Relief for Palestine Refugees and, through him, with the appropriate organs and agencies of the United Nations; 12. Authorizes the Conciliation Commission to appoint such subsidiary bodies and to employ such technical experts, acting under its authority, as it may find necessary for the effective discharge of its functions and responsibilities under the present resolution; The Conciliation Commission will have its official headquarters at Jerusalem. The authorities responsible for maintaining order in Jerusalem will be responsible for taking all measures necessary to ensure the security of the Commission. The Secretary-General will provide a limited number of guards to the protection of the staff and premises of the Commission; 13. Instructs the Conciliation Commission to render progress reports periodically to the Secretary-General for transmission to the Security Council and to the Members of the United Nations; 14. Calls upon all Governments and authorities concerned to co-operate with the Conciliation Commission and to take all possible steps to assist in the implementation of the present resolution; 182

15. Requests the Secretary-General to provide the necessary staff and facilities and to make appropriate arrangements to provide the necessary funds required in carrying out the terms of the present resolution. ***


Maps United Nations Partition Plan, Rhodes Armistice Line, 1949


Land Ownership and UN Partition Plan, Palestinian villages depopulated in 1948.


Population Movements 1948-1951


Palestinian Refugees: UNRWA Refugee Camps, 2001


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