Why Palestinians were driven off their homes?

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. (N.a., :The Arab Refugees,” The Economist, 10.2.1948 p.540)

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. (Folke Bernadotte, To Jerusalem, p.200)

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. (Larry Collins & Dominic Lapierre, O Jerusalem! P.561).

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 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." (Davar 9.29.1967)

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 settlement, and...the redemption of the settler, both as a human being and as a Jew, through his deep attachment to the soil he tills. (Joseph Weitz, The Struggle for the land, p.6)

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." (Collins, p.561) 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." (Edgar O’balance, The Arab-Israeli War 1948, p.63) 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.' (Same sources). 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...." (same sources).

 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.( Same sources p.64).

Concerning the suffering this created, O'Ballance blandly concludes:
"This policy, which had such amazing success, had two distinct advantages. First, it gave the Arab countries a vast refugee problem to cope with, which their elementary economy and administrative machinery were in no way capable of attacking, and secondly, it ensured that the Jews had no fifth column in their midst?" (Same sources)

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 America to solve Jewish refugee problems, at least knowingly created the Palestinian refugee problem. One is reminded of what Weizmann 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."( Walter ZEEV Laqueur, A history of Zionism, p.551)

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 I.and. They were well aware of the refugees.