From the expulsion of the Arabs to the Six-Day War

From the expulsion of the Arabs to the Six-Day War

From our correspondent
Ashkelon – “What should we do with the Arab residents left in their homes?” asked Yigal Alon, Yitzhak Rabin and others among the young leaders of the newly formed Israeli army in Ashkelon. David Ben-Gurion. This was the height of the battles in Lydda and Ramla in July 1948. The Jewish forces were victorious, but still around the hills Jerusalem The Jordanian Legion resisted at the walls of the Old City and from the heights of Jenin, and its units reinforced by the Iraqi intervention force threatened communications with Haifa. From the south, the Egyptians remained well-known in the Negev.

The Arabs removed

One existence An enclave of hostile Arab residents On the strategically vital road linking Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, it could pose a danger. “Ben-Gurion made a decisive gesture with his hand, saying: Expel them…”“, Rabin noted in his memoirs. Within a few hours, more than 50,000 people, including the elderly and children, were forced to walk “forcibly” in the heat for about thirty kilometers to reach the hills of the West Bank. Until more than three decades ago, This was one of the most famous texts that spoke explicitly about a specific plan to expel the Arab population during the Israeli War of Independence. It was written by a highly decorated soldier who was at the head of the army, was to become prime minister twice, and was scheduled to be assassinated in 1995 on The hand of a Jewish extremist opposed to negotiations with Yasser Arafat in the name of dividing the land. An exchange for peace. But the first version in 1979 remained simple: For a long time in Israel, talking about the forced expulsion of Arabs was taboo. Official propaganda spoke of a hasty escape and widespread panic, with entire villages convinced, starting with the leaders of the local Palestinian resistance and the Arab armies, of the promise that “they will all return after victory.”

Run away

The phenomenon of so-called “new historians” could have arisen since the beginning of the 1980s – intellectuals such as Benny Morris, Tom Segev, Avi Shlaim, Meron Benvenisti and many others – who in some seminal books deconstructed one of Israel’s original doctrines. They prove this by working mainly in local archives (Arabic sources are generally closed). Since the end of 1947, the plan to limit the number of Arabs in the territories of the emerging Jewish state has increased. Today it is generally accepted that more than 700,000 Arabs were expelled from the territory of Israel. What facilitated the process, among other things, was the voluntary migration in the previous months of the upper middle classes towards Beirut, Damascus, Amman or Cairo. Doctors, engineers, lawyers, schoolteachers, landowners and a large part of the governing body of the Palestinian people, as it had developed since the collapse of the Ottoman Empire and under the British Mandate, and which had strengthened its national identity through the war against Zionism, in fact fled, preferring to find refuge abroad. the Falahim They were left to themselves and had little hope of resistance. But there is more: The Arab armies that gathered under the hypocritical slogan of supporting the Palestinians did not have any coordination among themselves. Indeed, they competed to occupy entire regions at the expense of the “Allies.” King Abdullah of Jordan had made secret agreements with Golda Meir, who disguised herself as a Bedouin and went to visit him at his headquarters. So much so that in 1950, he annexed the West Bank and East Jerusalem. It was a move the Palestinians opposed and paid for with their lives: he was assassinated the following year by a Muslim Brotherhood jihadist linked to the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem – Amin al-Husseini, who had led the Palestinian resistance since the 1920s – while he was praying at the Al-Aqsa Mosque in the Holy City.

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Historical allies

The United States was the first to de facto recognize Israel at the United Nations on May 14, 1948. But the Soviet Union recognized it de jure three days later. The new state focused above all on welcoming those who had fled Nazi wrathAny kind of help wherever it comes is welcome. From 1945 until the birth of the state, 100,000 people arrived, at least 70,000 survivors of extermination camps who had to defy the ban imposed by the English Mandate. However, a terrible truth has emerged: almost all of Europe’s would-be citizens perished in the Holocaust. Then it was decided to encourage the immigration of Jews from Arab countries. In the first four years of the state’s existence, the Ashkenazi leadership worked to welcome the Sephardic masses, who represented more than half of the immigrants. Strong social tensions arose that were destined to worsen.

Ben-Gurion reads the Declaration of Independence: It is May 14, 1948

Starting It was not even clear what choice Israel would make in the context of the Cold War. For some time the Soviet leadership viewed him as an ally. The arrival of Russian weapons via airlift from Czechoslovakia helped achieve victory. Many Zionist leaders came from the provinces of the Soviet Union, and the kibbutz (which never reached 6 percent of the population, but embodied collectivist values ​​for two decades) was inspired by socialist economic models. on the contrary, The Americans were attached to the conservative Arab monarchies and Washington did not show much enthusiasm for a long time. Only during the Korean War did Ben-Gurion unequivocally choose to remain in the Western camp.

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Nightmares and conflicts

Then I was born Two foundational myths The Jewish state and the Palestinian resistance, respectively: Holocaust and genocide. The Nakba, the catastrophe of expulsion from the land. Israel is the state created to defend all Jews. The nightmare of the Holocaust has become an excellent motivation for legitimizing muscle defense. This is a concept that was strongly repeated during the trial of Adolf Eichmann in 1961. Then the philosopher Hannah Arendt denounced the danger of exploiting the Jewish tragedy for political reasons. “There was no enemy Arab leader who was not likened to Hitler,” Tom Segev often claims. from here The Israeli concept of the “Ein Prairie” war, without an alternative, must be fought and won at all costs, at any cost, to avoid a repeat of the Holocaust..

– June 1956: Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser triumphant in the crowd after British soldiers withdrew from the main headquarters in Port Said.

Discord channel

Since then, for example, the 1956 war has become an example of the “prairie” option. Then Israel chose to ally with France and England against the Egyptian regime of Gamal Abdel Nasser. A colonial-style struggle for control of the Suez Canal, which ended in complete flop and saw Washington intervene to force Israel to give up Sinai and the newly occupied Gaza Strip. However, local historians still debate whether the Six-Day War was inevitable, an existential war like the 1948 war, or a war that could have been avoided. Nasser, at this point the charismatic leader of Arab decolonization and socialism, made Egypt a bridgehead for Soviet influence in the Middle East and the war against Israel. Prisoner of his speech, he closed the Suez Canal to the Israelis, and prevented access to Eilat from the Red Sea. It was a cause of war: At dawn on June 5, 1967, the Israelis suddenly attacked and destroyed the Egyptian Air Force, then moved to strike Syria.. They asked Jordanian King Hussein not to interfere. He responded by bombing West Jerusalem. Six days later The Israeli victory brought about a complete revolution in the Middle East.

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The article published here is the second part of a series of articles aimed at reconstructing the history of the State of Israel and the wars that have characterized its history, from independence until today.You can read the first episode here.

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