I. Internationalization of the Palestine War, May 1948.
Five Arab states, Lebanon, Syria, Trans-Jordan, Egypt and
Iraq, warned the yishuv that if it declared a Jewish state they would attack.
It seems clear that from the viewpoint of morality the UN partition vote
of November 29, 1947, was an act of diplomatic aggression primarily because
it gave to the Jewish state so much Arab land and Arab people. The declaration
of Israel's statehood on May 14, 1948, did not specify its borders, but
it did not repudiate the areas allotted to it by the UN. Clearly Israel
intended to incorporate all of these areas, including those that were almost
entirely Arab. The statehood declaration thus ratified the diplomatic aggression
committed by the yishuv, and by America on its behalf, in the days leading
up to the partition vote on November 29. It would thus seem that the Arab
states' declaration of war on May 15 was a declaration of a defensive war
to the extent that it was intended as a protection against Israeli aggression.
As noted above, by that time the yishuv had already expelled many Arabs
from their homes while the British still theoretically controlled Palestine.
This situation strengthens the argument that the Arab states entered an
already existing war to defend other Arabs. However, if the Arab states
also intended to repossess land that Jews had legally purchased in a moral
manner, the moral issues become more difficult to unravel. It seems quite
clear that the yishuv at that time did not have a moral right to a state
that included so many Arabs and their land. It also seems clear that the
yishuv had a right to their own property. However, they did not have a
right to use it as a base for launching aggression against Arab Palestinians.
Moreover, the yishuv may have had a moral right to form a state on the
5-6 percent of Palestine that they owned. However, this would have been
such a checkerboard that it would have been impractical and perhaps would
also have interfered with the rights of their Arab neighbors.
Ben-Gurion had strong reasons for declaring statehood despite the Arab states' warning that such a move would precipitate a war with them. Moreover, he apparently thought war had advantages for the new state and was winnable. In early August 1948 he told Time, "I can quite imagine a Jewish state of ten million." Asked if that many Jews could live within the area the UN had allotted to the Jewish state, he replied, "I doubt it." Then he added the significant statement, "We would not have taken on this war merely for the purpose of enjoying this tiny state." Ben-Gurion thus seemingly indicated (a) that Israel could have avoided the 1948 war had it so chosen and (b) that it actually "took on" the war to expand its territory. This would seem to make it a war of aggression.
Although the five Arab states declared war on Israel they did not recognize it as a state. They immediately sent troops, including small contingents from Saudi Arabia and Yemen, into Palestine. It was hardly an all-out effort. The total Arab military sent against Israel was about 25,000-32,000 men, plus some poorly armed Pal-estinians. With the exception of Trans-Jordan's British-trained Arab Legion, most of the Arab troops were poorly armed, poorly trained, and poorly led. Most had no experience in modern war-fare. An Iraqi general was in nominal command of the whole operation but had almost no authority. The five states' leaders distrusted each other and therefore reserved to their own generals the effective command of their own troops. Four of the states allegedly entered the war not only to fight Israel but to keep the fifth state, Trans-Jordan, from dividing Palestine with Israel - an idea Emir Abdullah and yishuv officials discussed on several occasions, though nothing came of it.
Verbally the leaders of the five states entered the war wholeheartedly. However, their uncoordinated military probes certainly did not equal their rhetoric. Leaders of most of the states had severe economic and social problems at home. Saving Palestine was definitely not their top priority. However, their rhetoric was so bellicose that rescuing Palestine became a high priority and expectation among their own citizens. The Arab leaders were caught in their own propaganda. Moreover, Britain had warned Abdullah not to allow his Arab Legion to move beyond the line drawn by the UN partition resolution, that is, into the area allotted to Israel. This prohibition hurt the Legion militarily because it gave the IDF a safe base from which to operate, whereas the Legion's own area was subject to IDF attack. If the IDF was losing a battle it needed merely to retreat to the sanctuary behind the line, rearm, regroup, and attack again. Initially the Arabs were better armed than the Israelis, and Egypt had an air force. However, Britain prevented the Arabs from resupplying their armies, so that they lacked ammunition and replacement parts.
On May 15, 1948, Israel had 35,000-80,000 soldiers. They were soon joined by Jewish volunteers from other countries, including U.S. citizens. American law forbids fighting for a foreign country without U.S. permission. Israeli troops, except perhaps for new recruits, were usually more highly motivated, much better trained, and better led than Arab troops. Some 20,000-25,000 had military experience during World War II. Despite jealousies and disputes in the Israeli general staff, it was reasonably well coordinated. Initially many Israeli troops were poorly armed but shortly after statehood Israel purchased and smuggled large quantities of arms and substantially improved its equipment. It soon acquired its first warplanes. Thus from the beginning of the phase of the war that started May 15, the Arabs were outpersoned, outled, outtrained and outmotivated. Soon after that date they were out armed. Essentially they were beaten before they began, which may help explain why some of their leaders entered the war so reluctantly. Israel soon retook areas it had initially lost to Arab soldiers and captured much land that the UN had allotted to the Arab state.
II. The Dispute Over Why Refugees Left Their Homes.
Meanwhile, as noted in the preceding chapter, Arab civilians
were driven out of or were fleeing cities and towns in the area allotted
by the UN to Israel. This exodus started well before May 15; most refugees
originated from this earlier period rather than from post-May 14 fighting.
The yishuv, and later Israel, refused to let most refugees return home.
This refusal was not in accord with the Hague Conventions. (Cf. Appendix
Two.) Although Israel was not a signatory of the Hague Conventions, they
reflect some basic human moral rights in the conduct of warfare and are
looked to as international law. Israel tried to justify its refusal to
let the refugees return, by arguing that they had left voluntarily. Israel
maintained that because they left their homes they forfeited any moral
or legal right to them. At the same time, as noted in Chapter Two, Israel
argued that Jews, whose ancestors had left their homes centuries earlier,
had a right to come in and take the property.
Israel maintains that the Arabs left because they had been instructed by Arab leaders, on Arab radio stations, to leave the area allotted to Israel so that they would be out of harm's way when Arab armies invaded the area. Arabs deny that such broadcasts ever took place. They make four points to support this:
1. The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) monitored the Mideast stations; its records indicate no such broadcasts.
2. According to Sayigh, the first known source of the "Arab orders" charge was a pamphlet distributed by Israel's Information Office in New York City many months after the war's end. The allegation was later put into a statement "presented by 19 prominent Americans to the U.N." British writer Erskine Childers also investigated the charge that Arab leaders had broadcast instructions to Arabs to leave: "The charge, Israel claimed, was 'documented;' but where were the documents?....no dates, names of stations, or texts of messages were ever cited." Childers added that Israel's Foreign Office assured him in 1958 that the proofs existed and repeatedly agreed to provide them to him but as of April 1961 had not.
3. Sayigh maintains that there is evidence that the Arab Higher Committee in Damascus broadcast pleas to Arabs to remain in their homes and not to flee. According to Childers, in 1961 the British government still possessed "repeated monitored record of Arab [radio] appeals, even flat orders, to the civilians of Palestine to stay put." He then gave two examples from April 4 and 24, 1948. However, the impact of these leaders' directives was weakened because the leaders themselves were safely out of the war zone.
4. Only when Arab soldiers were about to retreat from an area did they warn Arab villagers that they were about to leave, in case the villagers wanted to flee while they still had military protection. "Only in the case of one or two cities, for instance, Haifa, could local Arab authorities be said to have 'ordered' flight by organizing evacuation. But in most of the country there was not even this slight degree of organization."
Many Arabs, aware of massacres at Deir Yassin and elsewhere, were extremely afraid of the Israeli military. The IDF produced a booklet in which Lt. Col. Rabbi Abraham Avidan (Zemel), Chief Rabbi of the Central Command, wrote an article, "An Army Rabbi Calls for the Killing of Civilians." In that article he stated that when Israeli forces encounter Arab civilians during the war the soldiers "may, and by Halachic [religious] standards even must... [kill them if] it cannot be ascertained that they are incapable of hitting us back." Rabbi Avidan added that an Arab should never be trusted "even if he gives the impression of being civilized." The rabbi justified this policy by citing a highly authoritative interpretation of the Babylonian Talmud, which is second only to the Bible as a source of Jewish moral law. He said that in the opinion of the Tosafot, when Israeli troops attack the enemy during war "they may, and by Halachic [religious] standards even must, kill conforming civilians," that is, "civilians whose conduct is proper." Rabbi Avidan cited the religious opinion that in such a case it is proper to "'Kill the best of the Gentiles.'" He contended that "no trust should be accorded a Gentile who will not bring harm to our troops" because in some phase of the fighting the Gentile may cause harm either by supplying resources or information to the enemy.
Israeli historian Arieh Yitzhaqi, for many years a researcher in the history section of the IDF, lists several Arab villages where the Israeli military seemingly followed this policy, at least to some extent. He claimed that the Palmach itself engaged in operations similar to those used by the Irgun and the Stern Gang at Deir Yassin: He cites the night attack by the Carmel Brigade on the village of Balad el-Sheikh, mentioned in the preceding chapter, in which more than sixty Arabs, mostly non-combatants, were killed in their homes. On the night of February 14-15, 1948, a force of the Third Palmach Battalion raided the village of Sa'sa' and blew up twenty houses while people were in them, killing some sixty Arabs, mostly women and children. On May 21, 1948, Israeli troops attacked al-Ghabisiya. They shelled the villagers as they fled, killing and injuring many of them. On July 12, 1948, in Lydda, where the IDF said the Arabs revolted, any Arab seen in the streets was fired on; Israeli troops entered homes and fired at every moving target; 250 Arabs were killed. One Palmach commander admitted firing into rooms containing women and children. In October 1948 some fifty to seventy men were herded into the mosque in the Lebanese border town of Hula and machine-gunned. The mosque was then blown up to entomb them. In Ed-Dawayimeh, near Hebron, some two hundred Arabs, mostly elderly who could not flee, took refuge in the village mosque, where the Israelis massacred all of them. Rosemary Sayigh notes that "mass killings" were also carried out by ordinary units of the Haganah in 'Ain al-Zeitouneh and al-Bina.
As noted above, the Israeli military played on Arabs' fear resulting from reports of these atrocities. Yigal Allon, a Palmach leader in 1948 and later a member of the Israeli cabinet and a deputy prime minister, is quoted as having written:
We saw a need to clean the inner Galilee and to create a Jewish territorial succession in the entire area of the Upper Galilee....We therefore looked for means which did not force us into employing force, in order to cause the tens of thousands of sulky (sic) Arabs who remained in Galilee to flee....We tried to use a tactic which took advantage of the impression created by the fall of Safed and the (Arab) defeat in the area which was cleaned by Operation Metateh - a tactic which worked miraculously well!
I gathered all the Jewish mukhtars, who have contacts with Arabs in different villages, and asked them to whisper in the ears of some Arabs, that a great Jewish reinforcement has arrived in Galilee and that it is going to burn all the villages of Huleh. They should suggest to these Arabs, as their friends, to escape while there is still time.
After May 14 the IDF continued to expel Arabs from the area allotted to Israel. In many cases it would start shelling a village late at night, without warning. Lt. Col. Yosef Tabenkin, the commander of Harel, one of three Palmach brigades, wrote a description of a typical plan for a night attack on a village by a Palmach unit during the 1948-49 war. According to the plan a detachment of sappers - explosives experts - joins the Israeli force attacking the village. As soon as the village is captured the sappers begin to destroy positions and buildings. "A unit specially chosen by the command, and no one else, begins to collect the booty." When the attack is finished the force completely withdraws. As examples of how the plan had worked in action, Col. Tabenkin cited the capture of the villages of Biddu and Beit Surik.
Thus, testimony regarding yishuv actions is given not only by Palestinians but also by yishuv. These villages were near Abu Gosh on the Jerusalem-Lydda road, an area of several strategic villages. Israelis sometimes destroyed strategic villages they could not hold because they did not want them reoccupied by Arab military. (But cf. pp. 158-59.)
Nafez Nazzal interviewed many eyewitnesses of yishuv and Israeli military actions. Although he perhaps did not always obtain corroborating witnesses of the same incidents, the experiences told by the refugees reveal a pattern of actions by members of the yishuv military and the Israeli military. For example:
On March 28, 1948, villagers from Kabri in western Galilee destroyed a yishuv armored convoy. On May 21, in the ensuing battle for Kabri itself, yishuv soldiers took Amina Musa and her husband, with other captured villagers, to an officer. The men were then led away and at least her husband was shot dead. The prisoners' wives were abandoned on the Kabri-Tarshiha road. The next morning Amina Musa found her husband's body; she and another woman buried him. She stayed in the village six days without eating and then left.
On the night of July 9/10 the IDF surrounded three sides of the village of Kuweikat, a few kilometers east of Acre, and attacked it with artillery. A villager recalled: "'We were awakened...shells exploding and artillery fire...the whole village was in panic. ...Most of the villagers began to flee with their pajamas on. The wife of Qassim Ahmed Sa'id fled carrying a pillow in her arms instead of her child.'" In the panic and confusion of fleeing, especially in the middle of the night, it was common for families to become separated and children to get lost. Interviewees told Nazzal that although old people were sometimes allowed to stay on in their villages or in nearby caves, this was not always true. In December 1948 Israelis ordered villagers, including the elderly, into an open truck and drove them in the rain to Zububa, near Jenin. "When they reached the border the Israelis ordered them to cross to the Arab side. Many of the villagers were too sick to walk and were left behind in the rain. No one knows what happened to Nimr's parents."
These are a few of many eyewitness accounts of atrocities. In what sense can one claim that these people left their homes and lands voluntarily?
Wealthier Arabs who fled to Lebanon during the early months
of the war, before they would have been driven out, found lodging. But
many people driven from their villages and forced to flee the new state
of Israel found themselves shelterless just beyond the Israeli-West Bank
frontier. An article in the Economist recorded that in the hills at Bir
Zeit, north of Jerusalem, about 14,000 destitute refugees were ranged on
terrace upon terrace under olive trees - a tree to a family. They were
forced to eat the bark and burn the wood of trees that had provided livelihood
for generations but were now being destroyed. Both at Bir Zeit and at Nablus,
the Economist reported, there was little milk for babies.
Count Folke Bernadotte, the UN mediator for Palestine, wrote:
I have made the acquaintance of a great many refugee camps; but I have never seen a more ghastly sight than that which met my eyes here, at Ramallah [a West Bank city north of Jerusalem and still the site of a refugee camp in 1995]. The car was literally stormed by excited masses shouting...that they wanted food and wanted to return to their homes. There were plenty of frightening faces in that sea of suffering humanity. I remember not least a group of scabby and helpless old men with tangled beards who thrust their emaciated faces into the car and held out scraps of bread that would certainly have been considered quite uneatable by ordinary people, but was their only food.
The fact that 7 percent of the Arabs remained in Israel was due in some cases to Jews urging them not to flee. For instance, Tuvia Arazi, a Jewish Agency official, urged Arabs not to flee Haifa. Was the expulsion and encouraged flight of 93 percent of the (non-Bedouin) Palestinian Arabs only a war measure to eliminate what a pro-Zionist referred to as a potential fifth column, or was it also intended to clear Israel of non-Jews permanently? In their dealings with Arab leaders, Zionist leaders stressed that their goals were peaceful and no threat to Palestinian Arabs. However, for many years they had discussed with British individuals and among themselves the possibility of deporting Arabs from Palestine. In 1940 Joseph Weitz, an official of the yishuv responsible for Jewish colonization, noted in his diary:
Between ourselves it must be clear that there is no room for both peoples together in this country....We shall not achieve our goal of being an independent people with the Arabs in this small country. The only solution is a Palestine, at least Western Palestine (west of the Jordan river (sic)) without Arabs....And there is no other way than to transfer the Arabs from here to the neighbouring countries, to transfer all of them; not one village, not one tribe, should be left.
Writing again in 1950, while head of the Jewish National Fund's department of land and afforestation, Weitz wrote more publicly:
The struggle for the redemption of the land means...the liberation of the land from the hand of the stranger, from the chains of wilderness; the struggle for its conquest by set-tlement, and...the redemption of the settler, both as a human being and as a Jew, through his deep attachment to the soil he tills.
Thus this high official wanted the land to be somehow transferred from Arab to Jewish ownership and use. Weitz sees the redemption of Jewish settlers through deep attachment to soil they have just acquired. Yet he seems oblivious to the deep attachment Arab farmers may have had to that same soil, which their families had tilled for generations. Weitz did not just show great concern for the redemption of Jews and seemingly none for the redemption of Arabs. He also envisioned the redemption of Jews at the expense of the Arabs. This double standard continually manifests itself in both Israeli literature and action. America, by its actions, loyally supported and continues to support this double standard.
In June 1948 Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion ordered that the government should "see to the settling of the abandoned villages." Thus, immediately after statehood, he moved to have Arab homes become occupied by Jews.
British Army Major Edgar O'Ballance, in his book, The Arab-Israeli War 1948, states that "Arab leaders...early in the war had ordered Arabs living on the edges of the 'mixed' areas to evacuate their villages so as to leave the field clear for the Arab Liberation Army to conduct military operations." But he also indicates that Zionist forces applied pressure to promote what he terms "an unusual feature" of the war, "the complete and voluntary evacuation of the Arabs from their towns and villages as the Jews advanced." He notes in passing that "as the Jews advanced and took Arab villages, they expelled the inhabitants, and blew up the place if they did not want to occupy it themselves...." This was hardly "voluntary evacuation" by the Arabs. O'Ballance emphasizes Zionist use of 'psychological' methods: "It was the Jewish policy to encourage the Arabs to quit their homes, and they used psychological warfare extensively in urging them to do so. Later, as the war wore on, they ejected those Arabs who clung to their villages." Concerning the suffering this created, O'Ballance blandly concludes:
This policy, which had such amazing success, had two dis-tinct advantages. First, it gave the Arab countries a vast refugee problem to cope with, which their elementary econ-omy and administrative machinery were in no way capable of attacking, and secondly, it ensured that the Jews had no fifth column in their midst.
One of the bitter ironies of this situation was that the Arabs, much against their will, had been allotted by the UN to the Jewish state. Then they were considered a threat to that state and forced to move out of it. The reverse side of this was that the Zionists demanded that the UN allot to the Jewish state territory that was heavily populated by Arabs. Once it was allotted, the Zionists expelled them as a threat to that state. This situation again raises the question: Had at least some highly placed Zionists long intended that somehow the Arabs would leave the Jewish state?
This much is clear: Some of the very people who wanted Amer-ica to solve Jewish refugee problems, at least knowingly created the Palestinian refugee problem. One is reminded of what Weiz-mann said at a March 1, 1943, rally at Madison Square Garden concerning the Holocaust:
When the historian of the future assembles the bleak record of our days, he will find two things unbelievable; first the crime itself, second the reaction of the world to that crime ....He will be puzzled by the apathy of the civilized world in the face of this immense, systematic carnage of human beings ....He will not be able to understand why the conscience of the world had to be stirred. Above all, he will not be able to understand why the free nations...required appeals to give sanctuary to the first and chief victim of that barbarism ....The world can no longer plead that the ghastly facts are unknown or unconfirmed.
The Truman Administration and Congress would not have known of all of the atrocities but they certainly were in a position to know of some of them from their own intelligence apparatus and the reports of the UN peacekeepers in the Holy Land. They were well aware of the refugees.
Arab villages which resisted IDF attacks soon depleted their meager ammunition - usually within a few hours. In some villages, for instance, al-Ghabsiyeh, the IDF directly fired on fleeing villagers. Palestinian casualties were high and medical resources in such circumstances were virtually non-existent. After occupying a village, IDF sappers would often blow up its houses. In al-Zib, for example, the remaining villagers "said that the Jewish soldiers had destroyed most of the al-Ramel area south of the village, and the eastern section." Thus the IDF continued Palmach policies.
Sometimes, after a village fell, some people tried to remain. Consequences varied. The villagers of Mi'ilya were permitted to return after they had fled; this was a rare case. Sometimes the elderly were allowed to remain or were removed to other villages. However, arrest, imprisonment, deportation or being killed were the lot of most individuals who attempted to stay or were caught trying to return to their homes. For example, in al-Bi'na, al-Bassa, Kabri, Mejd al-Kroon and Safsaf, mass killings were used to frighten everyone into fleeing. Mass deportation was common. After the war ended, only one of fifteen non-Bedouin Arabs (60,000) remained in Israeli-controlled territory.
As to whether Arabs left voluntarily or not, Nathan Chofshi, a Russian Jew who moved to Palestine in 1908, and who witnessed the Arabs' departure, wrote:
we Jews forced the Arabs to leave....Here was a people who lived on its own land for 1,300 years. We came and turned the native Arabs into tragic refugees. And still we dare to slander and malign them, to besmirch their name. Instead of being deeply ashamed of what we did and of trying to undo some of the evil we committed by helping these unfortunate refugees, we justify our terrible acts and even attempt to glorify them.
Erich Fromm, a Jewish author, wrote:
It is often said that the Arabs fled, that they left the country voluntarily, and that they therefore bear the responsibility for losing their property and their land. It is true that in history there are some instances - in Rome and in France during the Revolutions - when enemies of the state were proscribed and their property confiscated. But in general international law, the principle holds true that no citizen loses his property or his rights of citizenship; and the citizenship right is de facto a right to which the Arabs in Israel have much more legitimacy than the Jews. Just because the Arabs fled? Since when is that punishable by confiscation of property and by being barred from returning to the land on which a people's forefathers have lived for generations? Thus, the claim of the Jews to the land of Israel cannot be a realistic political claim. If all nations would suddenly claim territories in which their forefathers had lived two thousand years ago, this world would be a madhouse.
Erich Fromm added: "there is only one solution for Israel, namely, the unilateral acknowledgement of the obligation of the state toward the Arabs - not to use it as a bargaining point, but to acknowledge the complete moral obligation of the Israeli state to its former inhabitants of Palestine."
In its October 2, 1948, issue, the Economist urged sending humanitarian aid to the refugees. It did not ask for an inquiry into the causes of their exodus. Sayigh maintains that this became the principal Western response to the problem: give material aid to the refugees but ignore the political causes.
In that same article the Economist estimated that there were 360,000 refugees, but Sayigh contends that there were at least twice that many. She estimates that this was the approximate redistribution of Palestinian Arabs during 1948 and early 1949:
Table Two: Redistribution of Palestinian Arabs:
Arab population of Palestine early 1948: 1,400,000
Arabs in 77% of Pal. that became Israel: 900,000
Arabs in first Israeli census*: about 60,000
Total displaced from Israel: about 840,000
Prewar population of West Bank: 425,000
Refugees from Israel to West Bank: 360,000
Postwar population of West Bank: 785,000
Prewar population of Gaza: about 80,000
Refugees from Israel to Gaza: 200,000
Postwar population of Gaza: 280,000
Refugees to Lebanon: 104,000
Refugees to Syria: 82,000
Refugees to Trans-Jordan: 100,000
Refugees to other countries: 14,000
All Palestinians displaced from Pal.:some 300,000
Total Palestinian refugees: 860,000
Discrep. with all displaced from Israel: 20,000
Palestinians killed in 1948 war: 15,000
Some of these figures are disputed, especially by Israelis.
Bachi estimates that 614,000-626,000 Arabs left Israel. In addition
to these, of the approximately 60,000 non-nomadic Arabs who stayed
within the state of Israel, some were forcibly moved by Israeli authorities
out of their own homes and into houses of Arabs who had left. For example,
in 1972 Haj 'Ali Fayyad went to visit al-Birwa, which had been his home
village before it fell. He discovered that, like many other Arab places
taken over by the Israelis, it had disappeared. "When I arrived there,
there was no al-Birwa. The village was levelled and the few Arabs who remained
had been transferred to other villages. The Jews had built a new village
in place of ours."
America, especially through the UN, has helped provide food, clothing, housing and medical aid for the Palestinian refugees outside of Israel. But in his Memoirs, Truman expresses no feelings of compassion for them. He repeatedly expressed great concern for Jewish DPs, whose deplorable situation he had done nothing, or virtually nothing, to initiate. He expressed no concern, at least in his Memoirs, for the Palestinian refugees, whose deplorable situation he knew was developing but which arguably he allowed to transpire.
III. The Expulsion of Jews From Old Jerusalem, May 1948.
Jews had lived in Jerusalem's walled city during most of the time since Arabs conquered it in 638. On May 28, 1948, the Arab Legion captured its Jewish Quarter and safely escorted all its surviving residents through angry Arabs to the Jewish New City, a few blocks away. Ancestors of some of these residents had lived in the Jewish Quarter for generations. Probably most of the sur-vivors were anti-Zionists. They too were not allowed to return to their homes at the end of hostilities - a violation of the Fourth Hague Convention of October 18, 1907, because their homes were seized. (Cf. Appendix Two.) They returned only after Israel conquered the Old City in 1967. Thus Arabs were as unjust to these Jews as the Israelis were to the Arabs whom they either drove or frightened out of their homes.
IV. UN Truce, July; Bernadotte's Murder, Sept. 1948.
The UN arranged two truces, the second of which went into
ef-fect on July 19 (Palestine time), 1948. It left Israel with five hundred
square miles of land that had been allotted by the UN partition plan to
the Arab state. This included 112 Arab villages. Arab forces retained 129
square miles and fourteen sites that had been allotted to the Jewish state.
Thus Israel gained a net 371 additional square miles. However, both sides
in the truce agreed that the new truce line was not a permanent border
but only a cease-fire line. Some fifteen thousand Arab and six thousand
Israeli military personnel and civilians died in the war, one human life
for about every three hundred acres of Palestine's soil. Many more would
die in the decades to come.
Despite the truces, both sides committed frequent small, localized violations, such as sniper fire and looting. Many displaced Palestinians tried to return to their homes and shops - if they were still standing - to retrieve belongings. Cease fire lines cut through many Arabs' farms, so that their homes were on the Arab side but their fields on the Israeli side. These farmers tried to return to their fields to work them. Israel called these acts "hostile infiltration" and killed many "infiltrators." However, some Israelis, because of UN mediators, allowed Arab farmers to cross the cease-fire line to work their fields. But when harvest time came, Israelis often did not allow them to cross but harvested the fields for themselves. It is difficult to see how this was anything but outright robbery of civilian property, an action prohibited to signatories by Article 47 of the Annex of Hague Convention IV. (Cf. Appendix Two.) Between December 1, 1951, and November 30, 1952, four years after the Arabs fled, Israelis killed 394 Arabs who tried to return, injured 227 and captured 2,595. During that same period sixty-nine Israelis were killed, seventy-nine wounded and thirty-six kidnapped.
The UN mediator, Folke Bernadotte, reported on August 12 that in the Jerusalem area "the Jews have generally speaking though not on all occasions been the more aggressive party since the renewal of the truce." However, on September 16 he reported that Arabs had cut off Jerusalem's water supply, including water to its Jewish civilians; Arab irregular troops were suspected of blowing up a plant pumping water to the city. On August 19 the UNSC passed Resolution 981 sponsored by America, Britain and France. It forbade both sides (a) to break the truce on the ground of reprisals or (b) to gain military or political advantage through truce violations.
Bernadotte's lengthy September 16 progress report contained his recommendations to UNGA. He told it that the refugees' "unconditional right to make a free choice [between return and compensation for lost property] should be fully respected." He stated:
no settlement can be just and complete if recognition is not accorded to the right of the Arab refugee to return to the home from which he has been dislodged....It would be an offence against the principles of elemental justice if these innocent victims of the conflict were denied the right of return to their homes while Jewish immigrants flow into Palestine, and indeed, at least offer the threat of permanent replacement of the Arab refugees who have been rooted in the land for centuries.
There have been numerous reports from reliable sources of large-scale looting, pillaging and plundering, and of instances of destruction of villages without apparent military necessity. The liability of the Provisional Government of Israel to restore private property to its Arab owners and to indemnify those owners for property wantonly destroyed, is clear.
Bernadotte favored redrawing Palestine's map to change boundaries drawn by the UN partition plan so that it would be less of a patchwork. This would make areas allotted to the Jewish state more contiguous, and thus reduce the need to travel through areas allotted to Arabs. The same would be true for the Arab areas. Israel objected that there should be no change from the boundaries set forth in Resolution 181 of November 29, 1947. Israel stated that 181 "was a valid instrument of international law, while the conclusions in the Mediator's report were merely the views of a distinguished individual which were not embodied in any decision of a United Nations organ." As noted below, within a few months Israel reversed its position when a part of Resolution 181's allocation provision no longer suited its purpose.
Bernadotte urged UNGA to take prompt, firm action to execute his report's recommendations. On September 17, the day after he released them, he was gunned down - by Israelis, according to eyewitnesses - in the Israeli-held part of Jerusalem. Israel never apprehended his murderers. Both Israel and the Arabs opposed Bernadotte's plan; nothing came of it. Both sides reinforced their armies, so that by October 1948 Arab forces were about 50,000-55,000 and Israeli forces were some 75,000-120,000.
V. America's Support of Israeli Truce Violations, 1948-49.
A few days before Bernadotte's murder, Israel had planned
a major truce violation - an attack on the Arab Legion in West Bank. But
his murder created so much world opinion against Israel that it delayed
the offensive. A month later, politically protected by the U.S. presidential
campaign, Israel opened the first of three offensives. (Cf. Map Four.)
On October 14 it launched "Operation Ten Plagues" against Egyptian forces
in the Negev. It overran their lightly held positions and surrounded a
large Egyptian and Sudanese unit at Faluja. Ralph Bunche, an American
who had become acting UN mediator after Bernadotte's murder, blamed both
sides for the truce's breach. But, he asserted, the Israeli "military action
of the last few days has been on a scale which could only be undertaken
after considerable preparation, and could scarcely be explained as simple
retaliatory action for an attack on a [Israeli] convoy." Bunche ordered
Israel to stop its offensive and return to its pre-October 14 lines. Israel
refused, saying that it "stands by its claim to the whole of the Negev."
Thus Israel scrapped the truce pact it had signed less than three months
before the offensive.
Bunche and other UN leaders saw the issue as a test of UN authority. He asked the UNSC to order a cease-fire and the return of Israeli troops to their pre-October 14 positions. Britain and China sponsored a resolution demanding this under pain of possible sanctions. Marshall supported it. Truman, facing in a few days an election that many Americans thought he would lose, ordered the U.S. delegation at the UN not to support the resolution. Canada then entered a milder resolution which the UNSC passed on November 4. Although it threatened sanctions, both America and the Soviets indicated they would not support strong sanctions. Thus Truman undercut Bunche's authority and again reminded Israel, if it needed reminding, that while he was president it had little to fear from the UN. Truman's actions also undercut the UNSC's Resolution 981 of August 19, which America had cosponsored. That is the resolution which forbade both sides (a) to break the truce on the ground of reprisals or (b) to gain military or political advantage through truce violations. Truman thus used the power of his office and America's power in the UN in such a way that Palestinian rights would be continually violated in the future.
Meanwhile, on October 28, a few days before the elections, even as the UN debated how to react to Israel's Negev offensive, Israel launched its second offensive, to conquer western Galilee. Israel could not claim this area as its own because it had been allotted by the UN plan to the Arabs. Again Bunche ordered Israel to withdraw to the truce lines, but it refused. He also reported that Israeli troops were looting Arab villages. Israel continued its offensive until it conquered all of western Galilee and about 15 villages in southern Lebanon. The campaign spawned a new move-ment of refugees into Lebanon - and a new, ineffectual resolution passed by the UNSC on November 16.
Thus in its Negev offensive, Israel claimed it had a right to land assigned to it by the UN but which was in Arab hands at the time of the July 19 armistice. In its western Galilee offensive, Israel refused to recognize Arabs' rights to land assigned to Arabs by the UN. By this offensive Israel violated both its signed truce agreement of July 19 and its promise to honor the terms of the partition plan of UNGA Resolution 181 of November 29, 1947. In his Memoirs, Truman asserted that "all promises made by responsible, civilized governments should be kept." But when Israel repeatedly broke its truce agreements Truman was strangely less insistent. On the contrary, on November 29, in the wake of several truce violations by Israel, Truman wrote to Weizmann, who was by then Israel's first president: "how happy and impressed I have been at the remarkable progress made by the new State of Israel....you have more than made the most of what you have received, and I admire you for it." In that letter Truman talks approvingly of "a substantial long-term loan to Israel" then being arranged by the U.S. Export-Import Bank. He utters no criticism of the truce violations in which Israel had just been engaged.
Three weeks after Truman sent his letter, on December 22, Israel launched its third offensive. It was a second major offensive against Egyptian forces in the Negev. Israel said it was in response to a series of "provocations." Bunche rejected this, stating, "I have no knowledge of any incidents which could be claimed as a provocation for the fighting in the Negeb." He cited several ways in which Israel had not complied with UN resolutions or his directives. Israel also justified its offensive by claiming that Egypt had not entered into armistice negotiations, as required by the November 16 UNSC resolution. Bunche replied that he believed that Egypt was prepared to negotiate an armistice if Israel would resolve the condition of the Egyptian troops trapped at Faluja. Israel was refusing to allow Egypt to send them food and other non-military supplies even under close UN supervision. UN offi-cials claimed that as Egypt moved closer to negotiation, Israel kept increasing its demands. This delayed the start of negotiations and gave Israel more time to conquer land militarily. On December 29 America abstained as the UNSC passed Resolution S/1163, which was similar to its predecessors in content and lack of effect.
On December 1, 1948, Abdullah announced that Trans-Jordan was annexing the area it occupied, that is, West Bank, including East Jerusalem. This illegal action was strongly objected to by the other Arab states.
On December 10, 1948, UNGA approved the Universal Decla-ration
of Human Rights. Its thirty articles include these:
2: "Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in the Declaration, without distinction of any kind.... Furthermore, no distinction shall be made on the basis of the political, jurisdictional or international status of the country or territory to which a person belongs, whether it be independent, trust, non-self-governing or under any other limitation of sovereignty."
6: "Everyone has the right to recognition everywhere as a person before the law."
7: "All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law. All are entitled to equal protection against any discrimination in violation of this Declaration and against any incitement to such discrimination."
8: "Everyone has the right to an effective remedy by the competent national tribunals for acts violating the fundamental rights granted him by the constitution or by the law."
9: "No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile."
10: "Everyone is entitled in full equality to a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal, in the determination of his rights and obligations and of any criminal charge against him."
13: "1. Everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each State. 2. Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country."
17: "1. Everyone has the right to own property alone as well as in association with others. 2. No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his property."
28: "Everyone is entitled to a social and international order in which the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration can be fully realized."
30: "Nothing in this Declaration may be interpreted as implying for any State, group or person any right to engage in any activity or to perform any act aimed at the destruction of any of the rights and freedoms set forth herein."
As a UN member, America pledged beginning December 10, 1948, to uphold the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). But Truman's Administration, in its actions which impacted Palestinian Arabs, continued to support the violation of its articles. It did this knowing that they were being violated. The UDHR is not a moral code as such but embodies moral principles. It would seem that America repeatedly violated these moral principles by supporting the ongoing violation of the UDHR.
On December 11 UNGA passed Resolution 194, which in Para-graph
that the refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbours 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 authorities responsible.
Resolution 194 also established a Conciliation Commission and in Paragraph 11 instructed it "to facilitate the repatriation, resettlement and economic and social rehabilitation of the refugees and the payment of compensation." Because it was a GA rather than an SC resolution, 194 did not require compliance. Israel, both before and after becoming a UN member, refused to comply. In 1965 Israel unilaterally claimed that this Paragraph 11 of 194 "had long since been made obsolete by the course of events."
As part of Israel's Negev offensive, particularly its advance
toward the Gulf of Aqaba, it fought Trans-Jordan's troops south of the
Dead Sea. On February 8 Trans-Jordan agreed to enter armistice talks. Israel,
however, delayed signing even a preliminary cease-fire agreement until
after its troops reached the Gulf on March 10. Even after the two sides
signed an agreement on March 11, Israel continued to conquer more of the
area - in violation of the agreement it had just signed.
Israel's repeated violations of the July 19, 1948, truce agreement, especially its two major offensives in the Negev, its Galilee offensive, and its Negev warfare with Trans-Jordan, belie the image of a nation under siege. The war was advertized as one in which 600,000 Israelis were being attacked by 40 million Arabs. This was hardly the reality. The U.S. government knew the reality. Despite strong State Department objections, Truman chose to act according to the newly created myths. In doing so he sacrificed the basic rights of some 1.4 million Palestinians and their descendants. On January 20, 1949, Truman began his only full term as president.
VI. UN Armistices, 1949.
Early in 1949 the UN negotiated a series of separate armistices
between Israel and: Egypt February 24, Lebanon March 23, Trans-Jordan April
3, and Syria July 20. These left Israel in control of about 8,000 square
miles, 77.4 percent of Palestine's total of 10,435. Thus, through its violations
of the July 19, 1948, truce, Israel gained some 2,000 square miles, some
20 percent of Palestine's total. America first bullied through the UN partition
plan of November 29, 1947, which gave Jews 53.46 percent of Palestine even
though Jews then owned only some 5-6 percent of it. Then through its role
in the UN, America encouraged and helped Israel to take even more land
through truce violations. This left only 22.6 percent of Palestine under
Arab control; this was ruled by either Trans-Jordan or Egypt, not by Palestinians,
which was not directly due to U.S. action.
In theory the armistices formally ended the fighting but did not formally end the war. Each armistice agreement included this or a similar statement: "No provision of this agreement shall in any way prejudice the rights, claims and positions of either party hereto in the ultimate settlement of the Palestine question."
On March 10, Israel, thirteen days after it signed the armistice with Egypt, invaded Egyptian-held land in the Negev between the armistice line and the Gulf of Aqaba. It drove out the Arab vil-lagers of Umm Rasrash, confiscated their property and started the port city of Eliat. Thus Israel achieved its goal of an outlet on the Gulf. The UN did not even demand that Israel return to the armis-tice lines. Thus the UN again signaled Israel that it could scrap its agreements with impunity.
VII. America's Influence in the UN.
Conor Cruise O'Brien, author of The Siege: The Saga of
Israel and Zionism, was a member of Ireland's UN delegation from 1956 to
1961. He maintains that during the first Israeli-Arab war and for a long
time after, the UN Secretariat, as a whole, was far more influenced by
America than by any other country. This happened partly because of U.S.
economic dominance after World War II, partly because America was paying
for much of the UN's operation, and partly because the UN was headquartered
in America, where it received extensive U.S. media coverage. Americans
then had high hopes for the UN and tended to consider it humanity's moral
conscience. This situation, contends O'Brien, made the UN far more important
to the U.S. government than to any other government. America could use
the UN to make its own policies look good. The UN also gave Washington
opportunities to bring about a certain policy or situation without seeming
to be directly responsible for it. O'Brien adds that Americans who were
senior officials in the Secretariat were in a much better position than
non-Americans to talk confidently with State and White House officials.
They had a better idea of what Washington would accept or reject.
If his assessment is correct, UN actions and inactions, at least during
Israel's founding and early years, greatly reflected U.S. policy.
Eventually America became more isolated in the UN over its support of Israeli actions. Yet, because of U.S. veto power in the SC, America usually thwarted the will of the majority of SC members when this collective will was unfavorable to Israel. Meanwhile, the GA, which has no veto, repeatedly passed resolutions demanding that Israel change its actions. GA resolutions, unlike those of the SC, do not bind member nations, nor even the SC. Israel could therefore scorn GA resolutions with impunity. Thus the UN could exert little influence over the state it had helped bring into existence.
VIII. Israeli Reneging on International Zone, 1949.
UNGA Resolution 181 of November 29, 1947, which called
for Palestine's partition, stipulated that Jerusalem should not be part
of either the Jewish or the Arab state but under international control.
In March 1949 Israel began moving its government agencies into the part
of the city that it had occupied. By this time Israel had also reapplied
for UN membership. Its first request had been rejected in December 1948.
Several nations hesitated to admit Israel because it kept land conquered
outside the area allotted to it by the UN, because it refused to allow
refugees to return home, and especially because many UN members feared
that Israel would prevent the internationalization of Jerusalem. Israel
maintained that it "held no views and pursued no policies on any question
which were inconsistent with...the resolutions of the Assembly and the
Security Council." Israel indicated it would be somewhat cooperative on
these issues. Moreover, the Israeli representative, in December 1948,
gave the Columbian delegate to the UN "formal assurance in writing that
Israel would not oppose the internationalization of Jerusalem." The
GA then voted on May 11, 1949, to admit Israel as a member. However, the
resolution of admission, 273 (III), contained this preamble:
Recalling its resolutions of 29 November 1947 [#181 on partition] and 11 December 1948 [#194 on refugees] and taking note of the declarations and explanations made by the representative of the Government of Israel before the ad hoc Political Committee in respect of the implementation of the said resolutions, the General Assembly...decides to admit Israel to membership in the United Nations.
Within seven months Israel repudiated its promise regarding Jerusalem. Ben-Gurion stated that "Jews will sacrifice themselves for Jerusalem no less than Englishmen for London." On December 9, 1949, the GA voted for Resolution 303(IV), which requested the UN Trusteeship Council (a) to draw up a statute to internationalize the city and (b) to implement it. Despite Israel's promise not to oppose internationalization, it voted against the resolution. Israel also increased the movement of its government offices from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. On December 26 the Knesset began to meet there. Four weeks later the Knesset proclaimed that Jerusalem had been the capital of Israel since it declared independence. In December 1950 the GA again considered proposals to internationalize the city but nothing came of the discussion. Jordan, which then controlled East Jerusalem, also opposed internationalizing the city. As of August 1995 the issue was still unresolved. The entire city was still controlled by Israel, which has made numerous statements that it will never give it up. Moreover, Jerusalem has annexed several square miles of the surrounding area of West Bank and thus has expanded the area that Israel has stressed is a "non-negotiable" part of Israel.
IX. The Lausanne Protocol Regarding Refugees, May 12, 1949.
Meanwhile, again regarding Israel's admission into the
UN, the UN Conciliation Commission for Palestine, trying to carry out UNGA
Resolution 194 of December 11, 1948, regarding refugees, wrote the Lausanne
Protocol. It was based on the partition plan of Resolution 181. Israel
and the Arab states signed the protocol on May 12, 1949, a few hours after
Israel had been voted into the UN. By signing, Israel left the impression
(a) that it was willing to give up the areas, including Jerusalem, which
it had seized militarily but which were outside the area allotted to it
by the partition plan, and (b) that it would allow the return of the refugees.
As noted above, believing that Israel would soon agree to these two protocol
points, several nations that had not approved Israel's membership now voted
for it. They were soon disappointed. Israel later obliquely admitted that
it had cooperated during the talks leading up to the protocol signing because
it wanted to be accepted. Israel's own Government Yearbook 1950 stated:
Some members of the United Nations wished at this opportunity to test Israel's intentions with regard to the refugee, boundaries and Jerusalem issues, before approving its application for admission. In a way, Israel's attitude at the Lausanne talks aided its Delegation at Lake Success in its endeavour to obtain the majority required for admission.
However, within six weeks of signing the Lausanne Protocol regarding refugees and being admitted into the UN, Israel's delegation to the Conciliation Commission for Palestine indicated to it that the delegation "could not accept a certain proportionate distribution of territory agreed upon in 1947 as a criterion for a territorial settlement in present circumstances." Thus Israel repudiated the allocation provision of the partition plan of Resolution 181. This was the very plan that Israel, in arguing against the Bernadotte plan some seven months previously, had insisted "is a valid instrument of international law." Israel again used a UN resolution that it had agreed to, as long as it worked to Israel's advantage, but discarded part of it when it became disadvantageous.
Within six weeks of signing the Lausanne Protocol and being admitted into the UN, Israel also renewed its refusal to let the refugees return to their homes. The Conciliation Commission reported:
The Arab delegations continue to hold the view that the first step must be acceptance by the Government of Israel of the principle set forth in the resolution of 11 December 1948 concerning the repatriation of refugees who wish to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbours. The Commission has not succeeded in achieving the acceptance of this principle by the Government of Israel.
On August 12, 1949, delegates of seventeen nations signed four Geneva Conventions, including the Fourth Convention relative to protecting civilians in time of war. (Cf. Appendix Two.) Within six months sixty-one nations had signed the conventions. On October 21, 1950, they became a part of positive international law. By early 1956, fifty-two nations, including America and Israel, had either ratified or acceded to them.
On April 24, 1950, Abdullah's parliament followed his instructions that it formally ratify his December 1, 1948, proclamation annexing West Bank, including East Jerusalem, to Jordan.
Shortly after its declaration of statehood, the government
of Israel passed a development authority law. According to the Israel Yearbook,
1950/51, it specifically authorized the Jewish National Fund (JNF) "to
acquire abandoned Arab land on a large scale." This land was not
truly abandoned; the Arab owners had either fled or been driven off and
then kept at gunpoint from returning. The Yearbook article indicated that
largely because of that law, the JNF had acquired well over 405 square
miles of land just since statehood, and was in the process of acquiring
another 386 square miles of "abandoned land," a total of more than 791
square miles. The Yearbook added the significant phrase, "With the path
to land acquisition cleared ...," that is, the owners had been frightened
or driven off and the government had set up the legal machinery to confiscate
the land. With the land, Israel also acquired thousands of Arab homes which
the IDF had not blown up or bulldozed. Israel was thus able to provide
this ready housing to many of the 400,000 or so Jews who entered Israel
during the first two years after statehood, without the great expense
of building homes.
The U.S. government knew Israel was confiscating properties but continued to support it against the properties' owners, Arab Palestinians. It is hard to see how the Israeli acts were anything but outright thefts, at least in the meaning of objective, not subjective, morality, despite Israeli claims that the properties were "abandoned" and that the takeovers were the lands' "redemption." It is hard to see how America's actions were not cooperation in such thefts. For America aided and abetted them by protecting Israel in the UN and by its financial support, which were also signs of approval and practical aid in maintaining such thefts.
Israel, at least until August 1995, refused to either return the lands or otherwise make restitution. The moral obligation therefore seems to fall on America, as Israel's principal accomplice, either to persuade Israel to make full restitution or, failing that, to make restitution itself. The probability that America has gained nothing from its participation in such thefts does not change this. To argue against this position seems to require either (a) that Israel's takeover of Arab land without payment was not theft, at least in a moral sense, or (b) that America's actions did not make it an accomplice even in a moral sense, or (c) that nations do not have the same moral obligation to restitution that individuals have.
During the U.S. government's Fiscal Year 1951, which began July 1,1950, it sent $100,000 in economic grant aid to Israel. Thus began annual U.S. grants and/or loans, plus other aid, totaling some $60 billion, some of which has been repaid.
X. The Israeli Occupation of DMZs, 1950-51.
The 1949 armistices provided for four demilitarized zones
- three between Israeli and Syrian forces, and one between Israeli and
Egyptian forces. The two main purposes of the DMZs were to physically separate
opposing troops to minimize friction and incidents, and to restore normal
civilian life within the DMZs. Troops from neither side were to enter the
zones. By March 1950, however, Israeli troops occupied the Arab village
of Bir Qattar in the DMZ along the Egyptian frontier.
The UN chief of staff reported that on August 20 Israeli troops began forcing Bedouin out of Israeli-held land in the Negev and onto Egyptian-held land. Israelis then burned crops, tents and other possessions the Bedouin left behind. Israelis also killed thirteen Bedouin in the operation. On September 2, the UN chief of staff reported, Israeli soldiers rounded up some four thousand Bedouin living in and around the DMZ and drove them out of Israeli-controlled land into Egyptian-held land. Some of these Bedouin had been displaced two years earlier from the Beersheba area by Israeli pressure. Thus they were uprooted twice.
On December 14, 1950, two years after UNGA passed Resolution
194 regarding refugees, it passed Resolution 394, which stated in part,
noting with concern that...repatriation, resettlement, economic and social rehabilitation of the refugees and the payment of compensation have not been effected, recognizing that...the refugee question should be dealt with as a matter of urgency...directs the United Nations Conciliation Commission for Palestine to...continue consultations with the parties concerned regarding measures for the protection of the rights, property and interests of the refugees....
In other words, "keep talking." The resolution's mildness confirmed that the UN, dominated by America, either could not or would not do anything effective to ensure justice for the refugees. Israel was thus allowed by both the UN and America to continue its policy of refusing to grant either repatriation or compensation to the refugees. That policy was still operative and, in effect, sanctioned or at least tolerated by the U.S. government in August 1995.
Israeli efforts to take over DMZs surfaced again in March 1951. General Vagn Bennike, chief of staff of the UN Truce Supervision Organization in Palestine, reported to the SC that 785 Arabs had been removed (by Israel) from the DMZs between Israel and Syria. Israel, in violation of the armistice agreement, also prevented Arabs who had fled during the war from returning to their homes in the DMZ. Syria complained. The SC ruled that "Arab civilians who have been removed from the demilitarized zone by the Government of Israel should be permitted to return forthwith to their homes and that the Mixed Armistice Commission should supervise their return." The SC warned that "no action involving the transfer of persons across international frontiers, armistice lines or within the demilitarized zone should be undertaken without prior decision of the Chairman of the Mixed Armistice Commission." Despite this ruling, Israel continued to try to gradually take over the DMZs.
In 1951 the U.S. government increased its economic grants to Israel from $100,000 for FY 1951 to $86.4 million for FY 1952, an 86,300 percent increase. These were not military grants. However, they enabled Israel to allocate to the purchase of arms funds that it would otherwise have had to spend for non-military items.
On July 20, 1951, a Palestinian refugee killed Jordan's King Abdullah in Jerusalem. In 1953 his grandson succeeded him as King Hussein. In July 1952 young Egyptian army officers, led by Gamal Abdel Nasser, deposed the ineffectual King Farouk. Nasser became the unofficial leader of the new government and, in 1956, Egypt's president.
In 1952 the U.S. government allotted $73.6 million in economic grants to Israel for FY 1953, a 15 percent decrease. By the time Truman left office on January 20, 1953, Israel occupied everything in Palestine except Gaza Strip, West Bank, and the Arab section of Jerusalem. That situation continued until the June 1967 war.
XI. Truman on Truman.
Truman devotes forty pages of his Memoirs to the issues
of DPs and Palestine. In several places he reveals a great compassion for
Jews. However, he expresses no feelings, either positive or negative, toward
Palestinian Arabs. Except as a factor to be dealt with, they seem not to
exist. For example, he writes:
The question of Palestine as a Jewish homeland goes back to the solemn promise that had been made to them [the Jews] by the British in the Balfour Declaration of 1917 - a promise which had stirred the hopes and the dreams of these oppressed people. This promise, I felt, should be kept, just as all promises made by responsible, civilized governments should be kept.
Truman, says nothing, however, about that part of Balfour in which the British also state that "nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine." Should not that part of Balfour also have been kept?
When Secretary of Defense Forrestal pointed out to Truman the need for Saudi oil in case of war, Truman responded that he would handle the situation in the light of justice not oil. But justice for whom - the Palestinian Arabs, Jewish DPs, Jews already in Palestine, or all of them? The political history of the late 1940s leaves the impression that in the tension between Truman and those in his administration who questioned his Mideast policy, the focus of his critics was on safeguarding American interests in the region. These interests particularly concerned oil and the exclusion of Soviet influence. Justice for Palestinian Arabs seemingly was not an issue except in so far as injustice to them might harm American interests.
In a somewhat similar vein, Dean Rusk notes that Truman "agreed with Marshall that we needed a solution in the Middle East with which both sides could live, which would prevent a succession of wars between Arabs and Jews." The Administration wanted peace; it seemed less interested in justice. Rusk writes: "We were looking for any plan that would work. If the Jews and the Arabs had come up with one, we would have bought it." Failure to inexorably link America's search for peace with an equally fervent search for true justice seemingly doomed the former.