Saturday, May 31

Unjustifiable Shortsightedness with a Xenophobic Touch

While PM Ehud Olmert is wallowing in his legal problems because of his love of good living and millionaires who can feather his nest of influence, there are certain injustices happening in the south of Israel. It is not only the Qassam rockets that Hamas terrorists are firing into Israel which is in itself despicable and justifies retaliation, but also the way the retaliation is being carried out.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu (a Nobel Prize Laureate and ex Archbishop of Cape Town) was appointed to head the special committee by the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva to investigate the deaths of 19 Palestinians in Bet Hanun in November 2006 killed by Israel fire. The Israeli authorities refused to grant him a visa for this purpose. In the end he arrived with his team via the Rafah crossing from Egypt. Had Israel granted him a visa for this purpose, it would have proved that Israel had nothing to hide and that there is a desire for openness of what really happened on that fateful day. By refusing to grant permission, Israel is held suspect of hiding information on this incident in the eyes of the world. Apart from that, Tutu also intended to pay a visit to Sderot to see the damage done by Qassam rockets and to interview the victims. This was also denied him. This is unfortunate and Tutu was unable to see both sides of the conflict in an impartial fashion. Apart from gaining entry into Gaza and interviewing Gazan families in Bet Hanun about the incident in question, he was unable to see the Sderot side of events. Surely this must be viewed as a tactical blunder on the part of Israel. It serves no purpose apart from denting Israel’s credibility in the eyes of the world.

According to an Agence France Press Report, a tearful Palestinian family recounted losing loved ones in an Israeli attack and the ruling Hamas movement expounded its hard-line stance.

Archbishop Tutu listened to members of the Assamna family tell of a 2006 Israeli shelling of their village that killed 19 civilians, including eight children, while they were sleeping.

"I was here with my son. I was holding his hand when he died. Can you imagine a mother holding the intestines of her own son," said Tahini al-Assamna through her tears, describing the scene after the attack.

Tutu commented that the purpose of the visit was to gather information to write a report for the UN Human Rights Council, "but we wanted to say that we are quite devastated."

The Palestinian woman told Tutu and his UN team that she also lost three brothers-in-law in the attack. And her husband was killed two days before the bombing during an Israeli army operation against rocket firings from Gaza.

Imad Okal, a UN representative in northern Gaza, looked around the Assamna house and commented that it was "very evident that this building was a residential home."

Leaning against a scorched wall of the house, Saad Abdallah Assamna, 52, said he only hoped that "there will be an inquiry and those responsible will be judged before an international tribunal.

It appears that what happened on that fateful day, was conveniently swept under the carpet like many other incidents that should not have occurred. After an internal investigation, Israel concluded that shelling the civilians' homes was "a rare and grave technical error of the artillery radar system."

Another incident disconnected with the UN Human Rights Council investigation under Archbishop Tutu, is Israel’s refusal to allow 8 Palestinian students who had received prestigious Fulbright Fellowships from US academic institutions to study in the US.

It is unjustifiable to prevent Gaza students who have received scholarships to further their studies in the US. Students are the potential leaders of their people in the future. If they are denied the right to study because of the Hamas regime, this is a form of xenophobia. Students who have the ability must be given every opportunity. It does not serve the interests of Israel or the Palestinians if all doors are closed to them. It will further encourage extremism and hate. Denying a student the right to study overseas will not end terrorism or result in Hamas recognizing Israel’s right to exist. It will take away Palestinian hopes of a better life and will exacerbate the relationship between Israel and the Palestinians even further. Everything must be done to allow these Gaza students to receive their Fulbright Scholarships to study. This is typical of Israel’s self righteous shortsightedness and fears.

According to a report in Haaretz 30th May 2008, The U.S. State Department said Friday it was pressing Israel's government to allow eight Palestinians who live in the Gaza Strip to travel to the United States to study on coveted Fulbright fellowships.

"We are trying to revisit this issue with the Israeli government," State Department spokesman Tom Casey told reporters, referring to Israel's failure to grant exit visas for the students.

"Frankly, a decision to let people that have been vetted for what is perhaps the most prestigious foreign educational program run by the United States ... it ought to be [as easy as] falling off a log for them to be able to do this."

Earlier Friday, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said she would investigate a report that the State Department had withdrawn Fulbright Scholarship grants to the Palestinian students because they were denied exit visas by Israel.

Hadeel Abu Kawik, 23, a computer engineering student, received her scholarship after a lengthy process that included interviews, exams and an English test.

"I was building my hope on this scholarship," she said Friday.

Israel has sealed off the Gaza Strip in an effort to protect bordering Israeli towns and punish the Hamas militants who took over Gaza last June. Israel controls movement in and out of the territory as well as utilities for about 1.3 million Palestinian residents in Gaza.

Abdulrahman Abdullah, one of the eight Gazans who received the letter, was shocked.

"If we are talking about peace and mutual understanding, it means investing in people who will later contribute to Palestinian society," he said. "I am against Hamas. Their acts and policies are wrong. Israel talks about a Palestinian state. But who will build that state if we can get no training?"

Some Israeli lawmakers, who held a hearing Wednesday on the issue of student movement out of Gaza, expressed anger that their government was failing to promote educational and civil development in a future Palestine. This is an encouraging sign that not all in Israel agree with the policy to prevent Gaza’s students from studying in the US.

"This could be interpreted as collective punishment," said Rabbi Michael Melchior, chairman of the Education Committee in Parliament, during the hearing. "This policy is not in keeping with international standards or with the moral standards of Jews, who have been subjected to the deprivation of higher education in the past. Even in war, there are rules." Melchior is a member of Meimad, a small party allied to the Labor Party.

Saturday, May 24

Jewish Refugees and Palestinian Refugees – both are Victims!

Some of my friends approached me stating that I should write about Jewish refugees as I always seem to be laying emphasis on the plight of the Palestinian refugees in my writings. I have decided to follow their advice and attempt to give a sense of balance to both sides within my severe limitations. It is very difficult to maintain 100 per cent objectivity as this subject is very emotional and is bound to upset many people.

When the State of Israel was declared on 15th May 1948, Jewish Communities in Arab lands were persecuted even though they were not instrumental in Israel’s declaration of independence. Jewish communities had lived in the Arab countries even before the advent of Islam in the 7th Century A.D. Until the 10th Century A.D, 90 per cent of world Jewry lived in Arab countries. There has been an uninterrupted presence of large Jewish communities in the Middle East from time immemorial. The ancient Jewish communities of the Middle East and North Africa (including in the Land of Israel) has existed for over 2,500 years before the birth of the modern Arab states.

When the United Nations resolution on the partition of Israel and Palestine in November 1947 was passed with an overwhelming majority Arab riots broke out against many Jewish communities in the Arab world. Jewish shops, homes and synagogues were burned and looted; hundreds of Jews were murdered, thousands were imprisoned, their movement was restricted, emigration to Israel banned and many Jews were deprived of their citizenship. Jews who at one time were influential in commerce suddenly lost their holdings; bank accounts belonging to Jews were frozen, and property valued at millions of dollars was confiscated. As in previous centuries, Jews were further removed from government agencies and their admission to public office was severely restricted. They lost their means of survival and became hostages in their own countries of birth and origin. Consequently, they could no longer remain there. Where once Jewish communities flourished and thrived, their traces have been erased as Jews in large numbers were compelled to uproot and displace themselves and to leave all their property behind. This resulted in a large Jewish refugee problem.

In 1948 there were over 850 000 Jews living in the Arab countries of the Middle East and North Africa. When the State of Israel was declared as an independent Jewish state in 1948, there was an intensification of anti-Jewish measures against the ancient Jewish communities in many Arab countries.


Date of Jewish Community


1st-2nd century CE



6th century BCE


1st century BCE


3rd century BCE


1st century CE


1st century CE


200 CE


3rd century BCE

From Justice for Jews Website.

As one can see from these tables, there are hardly any Jews left in the Arab countries today.

In order to understand the origins of the Palestinian – Israeli conflict, it is important to see both sides of the conflict and acknowledge that both peoples were victims of injustices.

Much research has been done on the plight of Palestinian refugees but very little has been researched on the Jewish refugee problem. The former has come to world attention because of research done by the “new historians” such as Dr. Ilan Pappe, lecturer at Exeter University, England (formerly of Haifa University), Benny Morris of University of the Negev, Beersheba, Israel, Professor Avi Shlain and Tom Segev, a writer for Haaretz newspaper. This is a positive development as certain truths about the Palestinian Refugee problem and a greater understanding of it has been the result. At the same time, acceptance of the Jewish refugee problem is also very important as what happened to the one side is a result of what happened to the other side.

A more objective and balanced approach to the tragedies of both Jews from Arab countries and Palestinians could have a moderating effect on both populations. Jews from Arab countries would have their history and heritage restored and would become more open to a peaceful arrangement. In turn, the Palestinians would realize that they are not the only ones who have suffered, making them more prone to reconciliation. This conciliatory effect could provide a key to a peace treaty between Israel and the Palestinians whether it be a two-state solution or a binational state solution depending on the will of both peoples in a plebiscite. I have dealt at length on this subject in previous articles and do not intend to discuss this here.

The Arab states that had sizeable Jewish communities must be held responsible for the creation of a Jewish refugee problem as well as increasing the flow of Jewish refugees into Israel. This Jewish refugee problem would not have occurred had the Arab states not created a situation whereby the Jewish citizens of their respective countries were forced to leave. The Arab leadership should never have adopted discriminatory measures against their Jewish communities and made them into “personae non gratae”. The Arab states in 1948 were responsible for the increase of the population of Israel by default. They were also against partition into a Jewish state and a Palestinian state. Perhaps a parallel to the destruction of the two-state solution was also caused by the illegal settlers many years later in the occupied territories captured in the 1967 June War. Somehow the tactics on the Israeli, Palestinian and Arab sides have been disastrous and ill timed. Many Jewish refugees were absorbed into Israel and the Jewish refugee problem was solved. Also many Jewish refugees were also absorbed in other countries such as the US, Canada, England and France where many of them built flourishing Jewish communities and became citizens of their adopted countries.

The Palestinian refugee problem was never addressed and these unfortunate Palestinian refugees remained in refugee camps for at least three generations in the most appalling sub-human conditions. There was no motivation on the part of the neighbouring Arab states to absorb the Palestinian Arab refugees into their countries. They felt that by not solving the tragic Palestinian refugee problem, they could continue to delegitimize Israel’s right to exist and blame Israel for Palestinian suffering.

The tragic history of Palestinian suffering is never forgotten because this history is spread by word of mouth from generation to generation by elders in the Palestinian community, many of whom still have the keys and title deeds to their original homes before they were evicted.

The only way that this conflict can be solved is by engaging in grass roots reconciliation between Palestinians and Israelis. A gross injustice has been inflicted on both sides. Both sides must acknowledge these injustices towards each other. Both sides are victims of these injustices which have resulted in the stronger side oppressing the weaker side and causing the occupation.

Jewish Populations of Arab Countries: 1948 and 2001/2008

Country or territory

1948 Jewish

Jewish % of total
population, 1948

Estimated Jewish
population 2001[9]

Estimated Jewish
population 2008












around 30 people. See [13].





Less than a hundred remain. See[14]





20 in Baghdad and fewer than 100 remain. See [15].





around 40 in Beirut. See [17]









less than 7,000. See [18]





a few Jews are reported. See [19]





fewer than 30 remain. See [20]





in 2004 estimated 1,500 remain. See [21]





a few hundred remain. See [22]


758,000 - 881,000



Jewish Populations of non-Arab Muslim Countries: 1948 and 2001

Country or territory

1948 Jewish

Estimated Jewish
population 2001

Estimated Jewish
population 2008





70,000-120,000,[24] 100,000, 140,000–150,000


less than 40,000 remain. See [25].







From Wikipedia

Tuesday, May 20

After Israel’s first 60 years, where do we go from there?

Israel’s history since 1948 has been a turbulent one. It resulted in the re-birth of the remnants of the Jewish People who were almost decimated by Hitler and the Nazis during the Holocaust. The Jewish people had been a persecuted minority for centuries in the Diaspora. Before Israel was established in 1948, many Jews, who survived the Holocaust, were displaced after the war. Those who were liberated from the Nazi concentration camps finally had a home where they could go. Israel’s establishment arose from the ashes of the many concentration camp victims who did not live to witness the event.

Israel has hardly known a day of peace since its establishment. The reason for this is that the indigenous people - the Palestinians - paid a very heavy price! Many of them were displaced and were forced out of their homes to make way for Jewish immigration from Europe and the Arab countries. The Jewish people’s joy was counterbalanced by Palestinian sorrow and suffering! No matter how one looks at this, the fact remains that Israel’s establishment had created a very severe Palestinian refugee problem that remains unsolved to this day.

Israel was faced by many problems. It had absorbed so many Jewish immigrants from all over the world. The education gaps and cultural differences between the different Jewish communities created many absorption problems. No country in the world faced such social problems because of absorbing so many different immigrants of differing cultures as Israel in such a short space of time. In addition to this, Israel was surrounded by hostile Arab states that refused to recognize Israel’s right to exist and seized every opportunity to declare war on Israel in order to destroy the fledgling state.

Despite all these problems, Israel had made incredible progress in many scientific fields, including medicine, technology, computer science and agriculture. It could have achieved more had Israel not had such high security expenditure.

If one were to examine the history of Israel’s establishment and the effect that it had on the Palestinian population, it is obvious that both Palestinians and Israelis are right. This is what makes the conflict so difficult to solve. Israel had not gone far enough in trying to encourage coexistence between the two peoples. Allow me to illustrate this point by a simple anecdote even though it may be viewed as an over simplification of a very difficult problem. A person A takes over another person B’s home and says, “This home is big enough for both you and me to live. B, you are invited to stay here with your family, but this is now also my home! If you do not accept this, I shall throw you out!” It is quite natural that B would not be prepared to share his home with A. Why should B accept the presence of A, who has come to displace him because of the suffering of A and his people under Nazi occupation? B feels that he has to pay the price for Jewish suffering under Nazi Germany and in much of the Diaspora. If one were to see the problem in this perspective, it is understandable why the Arab nations did not agree to the UN partition plan of 29th November 1947. They felt that the Jews had stolen their land. It somehow does not seem right that their stolen land should be divided into two states – a Jewish State and a Palestinian state.

Israel had fought many wars of survival. The Zionists maintained that there was no Palestinian nation in 1948 when Israel was established. If this is true, then how does one explain the existence of many Arab villages prior to 1948? There is documentation of this. Perhaps the terminology used is controversial. The Palestinians view this as “ethnic cleansing” of Palestine in order to make way for Jewish immigration. The Zionists view Israel as the legitimate homeland of the Jewish People and those Palestinians who fled did so because they were encouraged or forced by their leaders to flee. There is much controversy as to what really happened to the Palestinian refugees of 1948. This is a very emotional issue for the Palestinians and is the core of the Palestinian – Israeli conflict that defies solution. Benny Morris has researched this and contrary to the Zionist version of events he wrote the following:

Why 700,000 people became refugees was disputed between Israel and its supporters and the Arabs and theirs. Israeli spokesmen--including "official" historians and writers of textbooks-- maintained that Arabs had fled "voluntarily," or because the Arab states' leaders had urged or ordered them to leave [click here to read our response to this claim], to clear the ground for the invasion of May 15, and enable their spokesman to claim that they had expelled the refugees systematically and with premeditation. Documentation that surfaced in massive quantities during the 1980s in Israeli and Western archives has demonstrated that neither "official" version is accurate or sufficient.
The creation of the [refugees] problem was almost inevitable, given:

  • the geographical intermixing of the population
  • the history of the Arab-Jewish hostility since 1917
  • rejection of both sides of a binominal solution
  • The depth of Arab animosity that existed toward the Jews and fears of coming under Jewish rule.

The structural weaknesses that characterized Palestinian society on the eve of the war made it especially susceptible to collapse and flight. It was

  • poorly organized, with little social or political cohesion,
  • there were deep divisions between rural and urban population, and
  • between Muslims and Christians, and
  • Between various elite clans.
  • The absence of representative leaders, and
  • National institutions [such as labor unions, health care, defense, tax collections, etc.]
  • Because of economic and social processes that had begun in the mid-nineteenth century, large parts of the rural population had been rendered landless by the 1940s. In consequence there was a constant, growing shift of population from the countryside to urban shantytowns and slums; to some degree this led to both physical and psychological divorce from the land. Moreover, 70 or 80 percent of the people were illiterate [reader should note that the public educational system available to Palestinians before 1948 was limited to 25%-30% of total eligible Palestinian student population]. In some measure, this resulted in and was mirrored by a low level of political consciousness and activism. The "nationalism" of the urban elite was shared little; if at all, by the urban poor and peasantry.
  • And finally, the Arab economy in Palestine had failed to make shift from primitive, agriculture economy to a reindustrialize one--as the Yishuv had done. Equally relevant, in towns very few Arab workers were unionized; none, except the small number in British government service, enjoyed the benefit of unemployment insurance. Effectively ejected from Jewish enterprises and farms when Arab factories and offices closed down, they lost their means of livelihood. For some, exile may have become an attractive option, at least until Palestine calmed down.

It was also during this period that there was talk of transferring the Palestinian population from Israel to the neighbouring Arab states by force if necessary. Leaders of the yishuv (Jewish settlements) saw this as legitimate:

Another crucial precondition was the penchant among Yishuv leaders to regard transfer as a legitimate solution to the "Arab problem." Recently declassified Zionist documents demonstrated the virtual consensus emerged among the Zionist leadership, the wake of the publication in July 1937 of the Peel Commission recommendations, in favor of the transfer of at least several hundred thousand Palestinian Arabs--if not all of them-- out of the areas of the Jewish state-to-be. The tone was set by Ben-Gurion himself in June 1938:

"I support compulsory [Palestinian Arab population] transfer. I do not see in it anything immoral."

Ben-Gurion's views did not change--though he was aware of the need, for tactical reasons, to be discreet. In 1944, at a meeting of the Jewish Agency Executive discussing how the Zionist movement should deal with the British Labor Party decision to recommend the transfer of Palestinian Arabs, he said:

"When I heard these things. . . I had to ponder the matter long and hard ....[but] I reached the conclusion that this matter [had best] remain [in the Labor Party Program] . . . Were I asked what should be our program, it would not occur to me to tell them transfer . . . because speaking about the matter might harm [us] . . . in world opinion, because it might give the impression that there is no room in the Land of Israel without ousting the Arabs [and] . . . it would alert and antagonize the Arabs . . ."

Ben-Gurion added,

"The transfer of Arabs is easier than the transfer of any other [people]. There are Arabs states around . . . And it is clear that if the [Palestinian] Arabs are transferred this would improve their situation and not the opposite."

None of the members of the Executive opposed or questioned these views; most spoke in favor. Moshe Sharett, director of the Jewish Agency's Political Department, declared:

"Transfer could be the crowning achievements, the final stage in the development of [our] policy, but certainly not the point of departure. By [speaking publicly and prematurely] we could mobilizing vast forces against the matter and cause it to fail, in advance."

And he added:

"[W]hen the Jewish state is established--it is very possible that the result will be transfer of Arabs."

On February 7, 1948, three months into the war, Ben-Gurion told Mapai's Central Committee that in Jerusalem's Western neighborhoods, from which the Arabs had fled or been expelled, he had seen:

"no strangers [Palestinian Arabs]. Not since Jerusalem's destruction in the days of the Romans has it been so Jewish. . . . I do not assume this will change. . . . And what happened in Jerusalem . . . could well happen in great parts of the country. . If we hold one, it is very possible that in coming six to eight or ten months of the war there will take place great changes. . . . Certainly there will be great changes in the composition of the population of the country."

[Click here for more "transfer" (Ethnic Cleansing) Zionist quotes]

Refugees Flight: In Four Stages

These "great changes" took place in four stages. The first was between December 1947 and March 1948, when Yishuv was on the defensive and upper-and middle-class [Palestinian] Arabs--- perhaps as many as seventy-five thousand--- fled, mainly from mixed cities, or sent their dependents to the West Bank, Lebanon, Egypt, Syria, or Transjordan. In this context there can be no exaggeration the detrimental effect on the Arab morale of the IZL and LHI bombing campaigns in big towns.
These families had the wherewithal to settle comfortably in Cairo, Nablus, Amman, or Beirut, and in any case most viewed their exile as temporary. As in the exodus of 1936-1939, they expected to return once the hostilities had ended. Many notable families also resented or feared the domination of the Husseinis, and indeed may have feared a Husseini-ruled Palestine as much as they did life under Jewish rule. It was at this time that many of the political leaders and/or their families left the country--- including most members of the AHC [Arab Higher Committee] and of the Haifa National Committee. Jewish-Arab hostilities were only one aspect of a more general breakdown of law and order in Palestine after UN [General Assembly] Partition Resolution. There was also a gradual collapse of public services and a withdrawal of British authority, and an influx of both urban and rural districts of Arab irregulars, who extorted money from prosperous families and occasionally abused people in the streets.

Arabs also abandoned a number of villages in areas earmarked for Jewish statehood and with Jewish majority, such as the coastal plain. In villages on the edge of Jewish urban centers, a combination of fear of the Jews and actual intimidation, principally by the IZL and LHI, prompted flight. In at least one case there was also outright expulsion by the Haganah---on February 20 at Caesarea, midway between Tel Aviv and Haifa.

The flight of the upper and middle classes entailed the closure of schools, clinics and hospitals, businesses, and offices, and in turn engendered unemployment and impoverishment. This was the background of the second stage, the mass flight from urban neighborhood and rural areas overrun by the Jewish forces during spring 1948. The earlier flight of the elite sapped popular morale and gave the masses an example to emulate.

The principle cause of the mass flight of April-June was Jewish military attack, or fear of such attack. Almost every instance---exodus from Haifa on April 21- May 1; from Jaffa during April-early May; from Tiberias on April 17-18; from Safad on May10- was the direct and immediate result of an attack on and conquest of Arab neighborhoods and towns. In no case did a population abandon its homes before an attack; in almost all cases it did so on the very day of the attack and in days immediately following. And flight proved to be contagious. The fall of, and flight from, the big cities---principally Haifa and Jaffa---radiated pessimism and despair to surrounding villages. In the countryside flight by one clan led to that neighborhood clans and flight from one village to flight from neighboring villages.

Haganah documents described "a psychosis of flight" griping the Palestinian population during this period. The echo of the slaughter on April 9 of the village of Deir Yassin, augmented by Arab atrocity propaganda regarding what happened there, both reinforced and symbolized this. Fear that the same fate might befall them propelled villagers to flight, and this "atrocity factor" was reinforced periodically during the months of fighting by other Jewish massacres, especially in October [such as Safsaf, Sa'sa', 'Ayn al-Zaytun, Etc.]. Residents of a small number of villagers---more than a dozen---were expelled before the start of the first truce (June 11) by Jewish troops; and some were intimidated by propaganda disseminated by Haganah agents. In most areas there was no need for direct expulsion. Villagers and townspeople usually abandoned hearth and home at the first whiff of grapeshot.

In some areas Arab commanders ordered the villagers to evacuate to clear the ground for military purpose or to prevent the surrender [or collaboration, examples are too many to list]. More than half a dozen villages---just north of Jerusalem and tin the lower Galilee--- were abandoned during those months as a result of such order. Elsewhere, in East Jerusalem and in many villages around the country, the commander ordered women, old people, and children to be sent away to be out of harm's way.

Indeed, psychological preparations for the removal of dependents from the battlefield had begun in 1946-47, when the AHC and the Arab League had periodically endorsed such a move when contemplating the future war in Palestine. Altogether about two to three hundred thousand [Palestinian] Arabs fled their homes during the second stage of the exodus.

During the first stage, there was not Zionist policy to expel the [Palestinian] Arabs or intimidate them into flight, though many Jews, including Ben-Gurion, were happy to see the backs of as many [Palestinian] Arabs as possible. And without a doubt, Jewish-both Haganah and IZL- retaliatory policies and the IZL/LHI terror bombings were precipitants. There was no Arab policy, aside from sporadic AHC efforts, to stem the tide of the upper-and middle-class departures.

During the second stage, while there was no blanket policy of expulsion, the Haganah's Plan D [Dalet] clearly resulted in mass flight. Commanders were authorized to clear the populace out of the villages and certain urban districts, and to raze the villages if they felt a military need. Many commanders identified with the aim of ending up with a Jewish state with a small [Palestinian] Arab minority as possible. Some generals, such as [Yigal] Allon, clearly acted as if driven by such a goal [especially in the Galilee panhandle and central region].

On the Arab side there was general confusion at this time about everything concerning the exodus. The governments appear simply not to have understood what was happening and, initially, did not try to stop it. Indeed, Arab Higher Committee [AHC] agents instructed the population of Haifa, after the flight from the town had begun, to continue to leave. But the exodus, as far as the evidence goes, not initiated---as Jewish spokesmen later claimed---by an order from the AHC. It is quite possible that both Arab states and Palestinian leaders were happy to see it happen in order to have a good cause to intervene once the British departed. By early May, some Arab states and the AHC began to take action [to stem the flight]. Transjordan, the AHC, and the ALA [Arab Liberation Army] repeatedly cautioned the inhabitants to stay put and tried to pressure those who had already fled the country to return, to no avail. Meanwhile the Haganah, certainly from mid-May on, adopted a policy of preventing refugees from returning to their homes, using live fire when necessary.

The pan-Arab invasion of May 15 clearly hardened Israel's resolve regarding the Palestinian civilian population, for good military and political reasons. On June 16, the cabinet, without formal vote, resolved to bar the return of refugees. The IDF general staff ordered its units to stop would-be returnees with LIVE FIRE. At some time the army, the settlements, and the JNF [Jewish National Fund] Lands Department took a number of initiatives designed to obviate a return. Abandoned villages were razed or mined or, later, filled with new Jewish immigrants, as were abandoned urban neighborhoods; fields were set alight, and landowners still in place were urged to sell out and leave; and new settlements were established on Arab sites and began to cultivate the abandoned fields.

In the third and fourth stages of the exodus, in July and October-November 1948, about three hundred thousand more [Palestinian] Arabs became refugees, including the sixty thousand inhabitants of Lydda and Ramla who were expelled by IDF troops [based on the orders of Ben-Gurion and Yitzhak Rabin]. However, many of Nazareth's [Palestinian] Arabs were allowed to stay, apparently to avert the prospect of negative reactions by Western Christian states [For the same reason Nazareth was the ONLY place where Ben-Gurion gave clear orders to shoot to kill any Jewish looter].

Palestinian Resistance to Expulsion Policy

Israel's readiness to expel the [Palestinian] Arabs was to some degree counterbalanced by a newfound [Palestinian] Arab desire to stay put. By October, villagers in the Galilee had understood that their return was far from imminent. So, during the second half of the war, there was far less "spontaneous" flight. Most of this time was due to clear, direct cause, including brutal expulsion and deliberate harassment.

Ben-Gurion clearly wanted as few [Palestinian] Arabs as possible to remain in the Jewish state. But there was still no systematic policy; it was never as far as we know, discussed or decided upon at the Cabinet or IDF general staff meetings. Yet Israeli troops, both in the "Ten Days" in July and during Operation Yoav and Hiram in October-November 1948, were far more inclined to expel Palestinians than they had been during the first half of the war. In Operation Yoav, [Yigal] Allon took care to leave almost no Arab communities along the lines of advance. In Operation Hiram, in the north, where Moshe Carmel commanded the Israeli forces, there was confusion and ambivalence. Despite Carmel's October 31 guideline "to assist the Arabs to depart," some units expelled villagers, others left them in place. And while in general the attitude towards Muslim villages was more severe, there were expulsion and massacres of Christians and many Muslim villagers, such as Majd al-Kurum, were allowed to stay. During November, when the IDF cleared the strip from five to fifteen kilo metered deep along the border with Lebanon, for security reasons, both Christians and Muslims were transferred [such as Tabrikha, Kafr Bir'im and al-Mansura]. (From Critical Analysis of the Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem by Benny Morris)

As we can see, the activities of the Zionists in those days certainly did much to lay the foundations of hate between Palestinians and Israelis. The Palestinians viewed Jewish immigration into Palestine as a threat to their welfare and existence. Zionist historians made many attempts to hide the truth. They refused to acknowledge the existence of Arab towns prior to 1948. All this was swept under the carpet and statements of a malarial swamp where there were no inhabitants were accepted as truth.

In order to find a solution to this conflict, it is important to be aware of the roots of the conflict and both sides must learn to come to terms with the history of the conflict. The two versions of what happened in 1948, the Israeli version and the Palestinian version, are flawed and both sides see the truth in a different way. Those leaders of good will on both sides of the conflict have a large responsibility to their respective peoples in trying to find a solution to this conflict that has remained a festering sore for more than 60 years. The tendency is to harp on this history ad nauseam which has resulted in total lack of progress to reach a just settlement by which both sides can live side by side in peace.

Many attempts have been made by various scholars in Israel to research the Palestinian refugee problem and they began to ask painful questions about the treatment meted out to the Palestinians by the Hagana, Irgun Zvei Leumi (I.Z.L) and the Sterne Gang. The original Zionist version of events which was considered the truth was under threat of being nullified by the “New Historians”. They questioned the official Zionist historical view of the establishment of Israel and came to conclusions that were unacceptable by the Israeli mainstream.

The Six Day War of June 1967 further complicated the Palestinian refugee problem as more Palestinians escaped from the Israeli occupation in the territories. Israel had become a colonizing power because of this war. Israel’s lightening victory over her opponents was overwhelming. Israel had gained territory. These territories were referred to as “liberated territories” by P.M. Menachem Begin when the Labour Party lost the elections in 1977. A huge settlement programme was initiated and Israelis were encouraged to settle in the occupied territories. They were given financial help by the government. Nobody thought then that this was a grave mistake which only complicated the issue and lead to a situation whereby the Palestinians were further deprived of their agricultural lands.

The settlers in the occupied territories built themselves palatial homes and encroached further onto Palestinian lands. Palestinian agricultural lands were destroyed to make way for aggressive housing projects for illegal settlements. This resulted in Palestinian farmers losing their livelihood and of course with that, increased frustration and hate for Israel. A new generation of Palestinian was born that never knew any other life apart from misery, poverty and squalor. Israel had evaded its responsibility towards the Palestinian people that it had conquered and ruled. Zionists were never prepared to accept that their settlement policies had created a ticking time bomb that would eventually explode into violence and this would spill within the green line.

Despite all the progress that Israel had made in many scientific fields, the Palestinian people had never benefited from it. Their situation was hopeless economically and this became a breeding ground for the creation of radical Palestinian groups such as Hamas, Islamic Jihad and various splinter groups too numerous to mention. Their attitudes towards Israel were uncompromising and their hate for Israel increased with every army retaliatory action.

The Palestinian plight became a breeding ground for other regimes to take advantage. The main player here is Iran under Mohammed Ahmadinajad. He is exploiting the Palestinian suffering for his own gains. This Iranian dictator is not interested in the Palestinians at all. He is making use of them in order to increase his influence and power in the Middle East. If Iran does become a nuclear power, it will be a threat to all the nations of the Middle East. Nuclear weapons destroy everybody and make no distinction between Palestinians and Israelis. The fall out would go beyond these two peoples and effect the Arab world no less.

The Palestinian dream of the right of return of refugees has always been at the helm of any discussion concerning peace between the two peoples. Israel refused to discuss this issue honestly even though it is really the core of the conflict. Israel would never accept the right of return of the refugees as they viewed them as a threat to Israel’s existence and its Jewish character.

As Israel enters the next sixty years, peace is still as evasive as ever. There are now more players involved. There is Hezbollah on Israel’s northern border and Hamas in Gaza and it will only be a matter of time before Hamas takes over the West Bank as well. The two-state solution which is gaining acceptance even by the Israeli mainstream will be unattainable while there is expansion of existing settlements and creation of new settlements in the West Bank. In a previous article I mentioned that in order to create an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel there would have to be massive disengagement and a withdrawal of the settlers to Israel within the green line. This is highly unlikely. The West Bank is not the Gaza strip. The settlements there are more established and the settler population is much higher and logistically it will be a greater problem to solve. The present Palestinian leadership under Mahmoud Abbas is weak and ineffectual and this will strengthen Hamas in the end.

The future of peace between Israel and the Palestinians is very bleak and there does not seem to be any change of attitudes towards finding a peaceful solution to this conflict.

The binational state solution will return for discussion as that is the only alternative to a two-state solution that has been destroyed before it even started due to the settlement policies of previous Israeli governments.

Israel will be involved in higher military expenditure to prevent terrorism as well as the launching of Qassam missiles into its territory. These missiles will be further developed by Iran and their range will increase with time. This will threaten Israel’s main population centres. The situation between Israel and the Palestinians will deteriorate even further while the refugee problem of 1948 and 1967 will always remain a focal point to justify Palestinian militarism and terror against Israel.

Another very disturbing phenomenon in Israel is the snowballing corruption in high places. PM Ehud Olmert is being investigated by the police for corruption and bribery. His ex-Finance Minister Hirschson is also under investigation for similar acts. Added to this, we have a very special phenomenon known as Gaydamakism. A Russian multimillionaire, Arkadi Gaydamak, became involved in “helping distressed communities” by donating large sums of money. He is now buying out the Pensioners Party in order to get a foothold in the Knesset (he calls it “Knesset shmesset”) where he can have the most influence. Gaydamak is a dangerous man and he is a threat to democracy in Israel. He is also under suspicion of money laundering and has been cross examined by the police. If this buying of influence in the Knesset is not stopped, Israel’s democracy will be threatened. Power and money is a very unhealthy combination which is gaining popularity in Israel.

President Bush was in Israel for its 60th Anniversary. He gave a speech in the Knesset which was very sympathetic to Israel. He had attended the Economic Summit in Sharm-el-Sheikh, where he upset many Arab nations with his paternal pontifications. Bush’s record at solving the problems in Iraq speaks for itself. The US destroyed Saddam Hussein and created a tragic chaotic situation there with violence and strife between Shiites and Sunnis gaining the upper hand. The US has botched up Iraq totally. It is a case of a president living in a glass house and throwing stones. His vision of peace between Israel and the Palestinians before the end of 2008 when his term ends is the height of naivety if not downright stupidity.

Hamas is an essential component which has to be taken into account in a future peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians. If Israel continues its military policies of trying to weaken Hamas in Gaza, they are bound to fail in the end. The next 60 years are critical for Israel and the Palestinians. Failure to reach a peace agreement will result in further 60 years of violence, an increased military expenditure to prevent the violence as well as the introduction of further players such as Iran into the region including nuclear weaponry which will threaten all the nations in the Middle East including the Palestinians.