It was written “Imagine that not so long ago, in any given country you are familiar with, half of the entire population had been forcibly expelled within a year, half of its villages and towns wiped out, leaving behind only rubble and stones.
Imagine now the possibility that somehow this act will never make it into the history books and that all diplomatic efforts to resolve the conflict that erupted in that country will totally sideline, if not ignore, this catastrophic event.
“Imagine, that is, trying to understand what’s happening between Israel and Gaza today without taking into account how the conflict began.”
The quote is from the introduction to Ilan Pappe’s ‘The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine’. Pappe, a senior lecturer in political science at the University of Haifa until 2007, is currently a professor at the University of Essex and director of its European Centre for Palestine Studies. He is foremost among Israeli ‘New Historians’ who, since the publication in the 1980s of Israeli and British documents from the period, have radically rewritten the history of the Jewish State’s foundation and the flight of 700,000 Palestinians from its territory.
Pappe argues that the exodus was not a mere by-product of terror and chaos but the result of a deliberate strategy designed to facilitate the consolidation and expansion of the new Jewish State. The key document which he and others cite is Plan Dalet (Dalet is the Hebrew letter D).
Plan Dalet was drafted and distributed to leaders of the Hagannah in March 1948. Its formal adoption reflected the transformation of the clandestine organisation into the core element of a regular army. The drafting “commission” included about a dozen military and political leaders under the chairmanship of Israel’s “founding father” and first Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion.
Four months earlier, in November 1947, the UN General Assembly had voted to divide Palestine into a Jewish State covering 56% of the territory and a Palestinian State on 42% — with the remaining 2%, Jerusalem, designated an “internationalised zone”. The scheme was plainly unfair to the Palestinians. But, backed by the US, the Soviet Union and the other major powers, it was handed down as the consensus view of what’s now called “the international community”.
However, it is clear from the material which has subsequently become available that Zionist leaders of the time saw the UN plan not as a compromise settlement but as a stepping-stone towards their objective of a state based on Jewish religious identity to include all of the “Land of Israel” — the West Bank, Gaza and Jerusalem as well the territory allocated to Israel. Which meant clearing the Palestinians out.
Pappe quotes Ben Gurion on December 3, 1947: “They can either be mass arrested or expelled; it is better to expel them.”
It is a striking aspect of contemporary accounts that Zionist military leaders were more open and honest about their intentions than diplomacy might have dictated. Hagannah commander Yigael Yadin told other Zionist groups in January 1948 to give over with the rhetoric about “retaliation”: “This is not what we are doing: this is an offensive and we need to initiate preemptive strikes; no need for a village to attack us (first)”.
Plan Dalet, then, represented not a new path but the codification and strengthening of a practice already well under way. Anyone wanting to inform their own views of the rights and wrongs of what’s afoot in Gaza today should read Plan Dalet. An English-language text is easily accessible on the internet. The Plan does not call for massacre in so many words. And it can be read (although some of us regard this as rather implausible) as a contingency plan rather than an order for immediate implementation.
Nevertheless, the strategy is clearly outlined and describes with chilling accuracy what, in the event, was about to unfold.
Under the heading, ‘Mounting operations against enemy population centres located inside or near our defensive system in order to prevent them from being used as bases by an active armed force,’ the Plan calls for the “destruction of villages (setting fire to, blowing up, and planting mines in the debris), especially those population centres which are difficult to control continuously”.
(Who might be the target of mines buried in the debris of previous attack?)
Under ‘Mounting search and control operations’, the Plan recommends “encirclement of the village and conducting a search inside it.
In the event of resistance, the armed force must be destroyed and the population must be expelled outside the borders of the state”.
It all happened back then exactly as Planned. It’s happened since, again and again and again and again.
It is happening in Gaza today.
The problem does not have to do with “ancient hatreds”, with the belligerence of this side or that or both, or with something wicked in Judaism or Islam or both. The problem is the state of Israel.
More on Ilan Pappe
ABDEL MONEIM ABUL FOTOUH, ABDELFATTAH MOROU, AMIN AL-ALI, DINA OMAR, EYAD BURNAT, HATEM BAZIAN, JAMAL BADAWI, JAMAL SAID, JANAAN NAJEEB, JOSH RUEBNER, KRISTIN SZREMSKI, MAX BLUMENTHAL, MICHAEL FIGURA, MOHAMMAD AL-HANOOTI, MOHAMMAD SHAHID ALAM, NADIA WASFI HIJAB, NAEEM BAIG, OMAR BARGHOUTI, OSAMA ABUIRSHAID, OTHMAN ATTA, RABBI BRANT ROSEN, REMI KANAZI, REV. DONALD WAGNER, SAFAA ZARZOUR, ZAID SHAKER, SHAKER ELSAYYED, YAMAN SALAHI
Ilan Pappé was born in 1954 in Haifa, Israel is an Israeli historian and socialist activist. He is currently a professor with the College of Social Sciences and International Studies at the University of Exeter in the United Kingdom, director of the university's European Centre for Palestine Studies, co-director of the Exeter Centre for Ethno-Political Studies. He was formerly a senior lecturer in political science at the University of Haifa (1984–2007) and chair of the Emil Touma Institute for Palestinian and Israeli Studies in Haifa (2000–2008). He is the author of The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine (2006), The Modern Middle East (2005), A History of Modern Palestine: One Land, Two Peoples (2003), and Britain and the Arab-Israeli Conflict(1988). He was formerly a leading member of Hadash and was a candidate on the party list in the 1996 and 1999 Knesset elections.
Pappé is one of Israel's New Historians who, since the release of pertinent British and Israeli government documents in the early 1980s, have been rewriting the history of Israel's creation in 1948, and the corresponding expulsion or flight of 700,000 Palestinians in the same year. He has written that the expulsions were not decided on an ad hoc basis, as other historians have argued, but constituted the ethnic cleansing of Palestine, in accordance with Plan Dalet, drawn up in 1947 by Israel's future leaders. He blames the creation of Israel for the lack of peace in the Middle East, arguing that Zionism is more dangerous than Islamic militancy, and has called for an international boycott of Israeli academics. Pappé supports the one-state solution, which envisages a binational state for Palestinians and Israelis.
a Common Archive / Filmed Testimonies by Zionist Fighters in 1948
A joint project by Zochrot, the filmmaker Eyal Sivan & the historian Prof. Ilan Pappé
Opening: October 2, 2012, 8pm; Closing: December 31, 2012
Zochrot's Visual Research Lab, 34 Yitzhak Sade St. Tel Aviv, 4th floor, Room 400
Curator: Eyal Sivan; Scientific Curator: Prof. Ilan Pappé; Asst. Curator/Producer: Debby Farber
For organized visit and discussion at the exhibition please write to: firstname.lastname@example.org
The exhibition includes more than 30 testimonies of Jewish fighters filmed especially for this project, clips form documentaries by Israeli filmmakers with fighters' testimonies, Nakba representations from feature films which constitute testimonies in their own right, testimonies by second- and third-generation descendants of fighters, and a demo screening of the online Common Archive - Palestine 1948 project, which enables users to view Palestinian and Zionist testimonies side by side.
Related events will include tours to Lod (Al-Lydd) and other sites referred to in the testimonies, as well as four screening nights hosted by the filmmakers, as well as a training workshop on filming testimonies.
"They found a little hole, 120 people snuffed it. One hundred and twenty people were in this mosque. This I knew. They talked about it. They fled to the mosque because they thought that was the safest place - that there they wouldn't kill them. Because they knew Israelis would not destroy a mosque."
On the Dahamsh Mosque Massacre (from the filmed testimony of a Palmach-Yiftach Brigade fighter)
Toward a Common Archive / Video testimonies of Zionist Fighters in 1948
Exhibition opening event with the curator Eyal Sivan, Prof. Ilan Pappe and Raneen Jeries.
Moderator: Areej Sabbah-Khoury
At Zochrot's Visual Research Laboratory on Tuesday, October 2nd, 2012
To me, as an historian who’s studied these topics, the interviews presented here represent a second round. I believe in oral history, and when I conducted research on the nakba I used testimonies extensively, but I regret that I wasn’t able to induce the Zionist combatants to talk. They responded stereotypically, repeated the usual narrative. I couldn’t shake the feeling that something must have been wrong about the story I was telling if they were so convinced of what they were saying. Add to this the huge effort still underway in the academy, among the political leadership, etc., arguing that whoever claims there had been ethnic cleansing is a self-hating Jew, etc. Nakba denial stemmed in large measure from the inability to obtain confirmation of the truth from those who carried it out. I usually gave up when they didn’t tell me anything, but Eyal persisted even when the witnesses who took part in the fighting told him to go home, that they won’t talk about what happened. He stayed and created an entire body of testimonies presented here for the first time. They spoke of these things for the first time, in part probably because they’re approaching the end of their lives, and perhaps also because they no longer feel this is their country. This exhibit supplements what we know in a way that no archive possibly could. One day it will also help us in the process of reconciliation. Reconciliation isn’t possible without also hearing from the criminals themselves, not only from the victims. I’m also part of the criminality. We’re all part of it, and it doesn’t matter how much we’ve invested in Zionism or in protesting against it – we’re part of the crime and must purify ourselves, for our own sake and for future generations.
Unlike Eyal, I am interested in regimes of justification, because justification is what built the Zionist left, and the opposite may also be true – the Zionist left constructed the justification. These witnesses represent the Zionist left. They know that the Zionist left, not the Zionist right, carried out the nakba. The right isn’t busy justifying itself; it’s “right.” The left is busy justifying itself; that’s what the “peace process” is built on. In English you call this a “Common Archive”, which in English means “shared,” but also “ordinary” as in “a common man.” The accounts of these ordinary men aren’t necessarily only local stories, but the justification and self-righteousness of the left are unique – they combine the need to weep with the need to be right. You can hear and see that in the testimonies of these witnesses, though not in all.
Immediately following the Deir Yassin massacre, Ben Gurion apologized to King Abdullah, for two reasons: to show that the perpetrators were marginal, right-wing extremists, and to publicize the massacre so other Palestinians would flee. Recently Zochrot publicized proclamations which the Haganah issued and distributed in the villages; Deir Yassin figured in them prominently to frighten the residents and make them flee. Ben Gurion understood that ethnic cleansing wouldn’t be possible without massacres, so they used Deir Yassin, which served the purpose very well.
Next week I’m going to the “Russell Tribunal” in New York, to testify before judges who will address the nakba and its continuation. The forum also hears testimony in the field during its visits. The state of Israel is the defendant, not specific individuals. There’s a very important activity by human rights judges in Britain, Australia and the United States as a result of which Israeli generals can’t travel abroad because they could be arrested. There are efforts to transform this energy into judicial activity. But there must be a thorough legal consideration of the subject of crimes against humanity – ethnic cleansing is a crime against humanity; that Israel carried out ethnic cleansing is undeniable.
The argument isn’t over whether people were expelled, but whether the expulsions were planned in advance. Because if it was a result of the war, then it’s “OK” from the standpoint of international law, because during wartime people are expelled, but if the testimonies contain additional information proving that there were systematic plans it becomes a crime against humanity second only to genocide. I insist on the term “ethnic cleansing” because what involved isn’t just a catastrophe, a disaster, something terrible that happened, but ethnic cleansing, a term that identifies a perpetrator and a victim. A national struggle can address the Nakba. But only a judicial system can address ethnic cleansing, which is why we must not abandon a judicial discourse. These witnesses have finally provided systematic information about the chain of command from David Ben Gurion on down. That’s something no archival document can provide, as with the holocaust. Once you hear it from the combatants, that’s proof Ben Gurion planned it. That’s the most significant part: we’re talking about a plan, a project, an undertaking, and it’s continuing. One that from a moral and legal standpoint is completely illegitimate.