Ralph Schoenman: The Hidden History of Zionism (4. Tragic Consequences)

Ralph Schoenman: The Hidden History of Zionism (4. Tragic Consequences)

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Hidden History of Zionism


Ralph Schoenman

The Hidden History of Zionism

Chapter 4

Tragic Consequences

3. Colonizing Palestine   |   5. Seizure of the Land


In 1947, there were 630,000 Jews and 1,300,000 Palestinian Arabs. Thus, by the time of the United Nations partition of Palestine in 1947, the Jews were 31% of the population. [38]

The decision to partition Palestine, promoted by the leading imperialist powers and Stalin’s Soviet Union, gave 54% of the fertile land to the Zionist movement. But before the state of Israel was established, the Irgun and Haganah seized three-quarters of the land and expelled virtually all the inhabitants.

In 1948, there were 475 Palestinian villages and towns. Of these, 385 were razed to the ground, reduced to rubble. Ninety remain, stripped of their land.

Removing the Mask

In 1940, Joseph Weitz, the head of the Jewish Agency’s Colonization Department, which was responsible for the actual organization of settlements in Palestine, wrote:

Between ourselves it must be clear that there is no room for both peoples together in this country. We shall not achieve our goal if the Arabs are in this small country. There is no other way than to transfer the Arabs from here to neighboring countries – all of them. Not one village, not one tribe should be left. [39]

Joseph Weitz elaborated upon the practical meaning of rendering Palestine “Jewish”:

There are some who believe that the non-Jewish population, even in a high percentage, within our borders will be more effectively under our surveillance; and there are some who believe the contrary, i.e., that it is easier to carry out surveillance over the activities of a neighbor than over those of a tenant. [I] tend to support the latter view and have an additional argument: … the need to sustain the character of the state which will henceforth be Jewish … with a non-Jewish minority limited to fifteen percent. I had already reached this fundamental position as early as 1940 [and] it is entered in my diary. [40]

The Koenig Report stated this policy even more bluntly:

We must use terror, assassination, intimidation, land confiscation and the cutting of all social services to rid the Galilee of its Arab population. [41]

Chairman Heilbrun of the Committee for the Re-election of General Shlomo Lahat, the mayor of Tel Aviv, declaimed: “We have to kill all the Palestinians unless they are resigned to live here as slaves.” [42]

These are the words of Uri Lubrani, Israeli Prime Minister David Ben Gurion’s special adviser on Arab Affairs, in 1960: “We shall reduce the Arab population to a community of woodcutters and waiters.” [43]

Raphael Eitan, Chief of Staff of the Israeli Armed Forces stated:

We declare openly that the Arabs have no right to settle on even one centimeter of Eretz Israel … Force is all they do or ever will understand. We shall use the ultimate force until the Palestinians come crawling to us on all fours. [44]

Eitan elaborated before the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee:

When we have settled the land, all the Arabs will be able to do will be to scurry around like drugged roaches in a bottle. [45]

Ben Gurion and the Final Aim

The territorial ambitions of Zionism were clearly spelled out by David Ben Gurion in a speech to a Zionist meeting on October 13, 1936: “We do not suggest that we announce now our final aim which is far reaching – even more so than the Revisionists who oppose Partition. I am unwilling to abandon the great vision, the final vision which is an organic, spiritual and ideological component of my … Zionist aspirations.” [46]

In the same year, Ben Gurion wrote in a letter to his son:

A partial Jewish State is not the end, but only the beginning. I am certain that we can not be prevented from settling in the other parts of the country and the region.

In 1937, he declaimed:

“The boundaries of Zionist aspirations are the concern of the Jewish people and no external factor will be able to limit them.” [47] In 1938, he was more explicit: “The boundaries of Zionist aspiration,” he told the World Council of Poale Zion in Tel Aviv, “include southern Lebanon, southern Syria, today’s Jordan, all of Cis-Jordan [West Bank] and the Sinai.” [48]

Ben Gurion formulated Zionist strategy very clearly:

After we become a strong force as the result of the creation of the state, we shall abolish partition and expand to the whole of Palestine. The state will only be a stage in the realization of Zionism and its task is to prepare the ground for our expansion. The state will have to preserve order – not by preaching but with machine guns. [49]

In May of 1948 he presented his strategic aims to the General Staff. “We should prepare to go over to the offensive. Our aim is to smash Lebanon, Trans-Jordan, and Syria. The weak point is Lebanon, for the Moslem regime is artificial and easy for us to undermine. We shall establish a Christian state there, and then we will smash the Arab Legion, eliminate Trans-Jordan; Syria will fall to us. We then bomb and move on and take Port Said, Alexandria, and Sinai.” [50]

When General Yigal Allon asked Ben Gurion, “What is to be done with the population of Lydda and Ramle?” – some 50,000 inhabitants – Ben Gurion, according to his biographer, waved his hand and said, “Drive them out!” [51]

Yitzhak Rabin, the current Defense Minister, carried out this edict. In Lydda and Ramle, no remnants of Palestinian dwellings remain. Today this area is occupied entirely by the Jewish settler population. Michael Bar Zohar, in his biography of David Ben Gurion, describes Ben Gurion’s first visit to Nazareth. “Ben Gurion looked around in astonishment and said, ’Why are there so many Arabs, why didn’t you drive them out?’”

The Palestinians were indeed driven out. Between November 29, 1947, when the United Nations partitioned Palestine, and May 15, 1948, when the State was formally proclaimed, the Zionist army and militia had seized 75% of Palestine, forcing 780,000 Palestinians out of the country.

The Butchery Begins: Deir Yasin

The process was one of sustained slaughter as village after village was wiped out. The killing was intended to cause people to flee for their lives.

The commander of the Haganah, Zvi Ankori, described what happened: “I saw cut off genitalia and women’s crushed stomachs … It was direct murder.” [52]

Menachem Begin gloated over the impact throughout Palestine of the Nazi-like operations he commanded at Deir Yasin. Lehi and IZL Commandos stormed the village of Deir Yasin on April 9, 1948, slaughtering 254 men, women and children.

A legend of terror spread amongst Arabs who were seized with panic at the mention of our Irgun soldiers. It was worth half a dozen battalions to the forces of Israel. Arabs throughout the country … were seized with limitless panic and started to flee for their lives. This mass flight soon developed into a maddened, uncontrollable stampede. Of the 800,000 Arabs who lived on the present territory of the state of Israel, only some 165,000 are still there. The political and economic significance of this development can hardly be overestimated. [53]

The implementation of this program was carried out in part by Menachem Begin and in part by his future successor as Prime Minister, Yitzhak Shamir, as military commanders of the Irgun and the Lohamei Herut Israel (Lehi), i.e., Fighters for the Freedom of Israel. Inhabitants were force marched in blood-soaked clothing through the streets of Jerusalem to jeering on-lookers, before disappearing.

Eyewitness Accounts

The eyewitness accounts of these events foreshadowed the fate of the Palestinian people.

It was noon when the battle ended and the shooting stopped. Things had become quiet, but the village had not surrendered. The IZL (Irgun) and Lehi (Stern Gang) irregulars left the places in which they had been hiding and started carrying out clean-up operations in the houses. They fired with all the arms they had, and threw explosives into the buildings. They also shot everyone they saw in the houses, including women and children – indeed the commanders made no attempt to check the disgraceful acts of slaughter. I myself and a number of inhabitants begged the commanders to give orders to their men to stop shooting, but our efforts were unsuccessful. In the meantime, some twenty-five men had been brought out of the houses: they were loaded into a freight truck and led in a ‘victory parade,’ like a Roman triumph, through to Mahaneh Yehudah and Zikhron Yosef quarters [of Jerusalem]. At the end of the parade they were taken to a stone quarry between Giv’at Shaul and Deir Yasin and shot in cold blood. The fighters then put the women and children who were still alive on a truck and took them to the Mandelbaum Gate. [54]

The director of the International Red Cross in Palestine, Jacques de Reynier, attempted to intervene as word of the slaughter spread. His personal testimony is as follows:

… The Commander of the Irgun detachment did not seem willing to receive me. At last he arrived, young, distinguished, and perfectly correct, but there was a peculiar glitter in his eyes, cold and cruel. According to him the Irgun had arrived twenty-four hours earlier and ordered the inhabitants by loudspeaker to evacuate all houses and surrender: the time given to obey the order was a quarter of an hour. Some of these miserable people had come forward and were taken prisoner, to be released later in the direction of the Arab lines. The rest, not having obeyed the order, had met the fate they deserved. But there was no point in exaggerating things, there were only a few dead, and they would be buried as soon as the “clean-up” of the village was over. If I found any bodies, I could take them, but there were certainly no wounded.

This account made my blood run cold. I went back to the Jerusalem road and got an ambulance and a truck that I had alerted through the Red Shield … I reached the village with my convoy, and the firing stopped. The gang (Irgun) was wearing uniforms with helmets. All of them were young, some even adolescents, men and women, armed to the teeth: revolvers, machine-guns, hand grenades, and also cutlasses in their hands, most of them still blood-stained. A beautiful young girl with criminal eyes showed me hers, still dripping with blood; she displayed it like a trophy. This was the “clean-up” team, that was obviously performing its task very conscientiously.

I tried to go into a house. A dozen soldiers surrounded me, their machine-guns aimed at my body, and their officer forbade me to move. The dead, if any, would be brought to me, he said. I then flew into one of the most towering rages of my life, telling these criminals what I thought of their conduct, threatening them with everything I could think of, and then pushed them aside and went into the house.

The first room was dark, everything was in disorder, but there was no one. In the second, amid disembowelled furniture and all sorts of debris, I found some bodies, cold. Here the “clean-up” had been done with machine guns, then hand grenades. It had been finished off with knives, anyone could see that. The same thing in the next room, but as I was about to leave, I heard something like a sigh. I looked everywhere, turned over all the bodies, and eventually found a little foot, still warm. It was a little girl of ten, mutilated by a hand grenade, but still alive … everywhere it was the same horrible sight … there had been four hundred people in this village; about fifty of them had escaped and were still alive. All the rest had been deliberately massacred in cold blood for, as I observed for myself, this gang was admirably disciplined and only acted under orders.

After another visit to Deir Yasin I went back to my office where I was visited by two gentlemen, well-dressed in civilian clothes, who had been waiting for me for more than an hour. They were the commander of the Irgun detachment and his aide. They had prepared a paper which they wanted me to sign. It was a statement to the effect that I had been very courteously received by them, and obtained all the facilities I had requested, in the accomplishment of my mission, and thanking them for the help I had received. As I showed signs of hesitation and even started to argue with them, they said that if I valued my life, I had better sign immediately. The only course open to me was to convince them that I did not value my life in the least. [55]

The Slaughter at Dueima

If the Deir Yasin massacre was carried out by the “rightist” Revisionist Zionist underground organizations, IZL and Lehi, like massacres occurred on a similar scale throughout the country. The massacre at Dueima in 1948 was perpetrated by the official Labor Zionist Israeli army, the Israel Defense Forces (Tzeva Haganah le-Israel or ZAHAL). The account of the massacre, as described by a soldier who participated in the horror, was published in Davar, the official Hebrew daily newspaper of the Labor-Zionist-run Histadrut General Federation of Workers:

… They killed between eighty to one hundred Arab men, women and children. To kill the children they [soldiers] fractured their heads with sticks. There was not one home without corpses. The men and women of the villages were pushed into houses without food or water. Then the saboteurs came to dynamite them.

One commander ordered a soldier to bring two women into a building he was about to blow up … Another soldier prided himself upon having raped an Arab woman before shooting her to death. Another Arab woman with her newborn baby was made to clean the place for a couple of days, and then they shot her and the baby. Educated and well-mannered commanders who were considered “good guys” … became base murderers, and this not in the storm of battle, but as a method of expulsion and extermination. The fewer the Arabs who remain, the better. [56]

The strategic value of the Deir Yasin massacre would be propounded widely over the years by Zionist leaders such as Eldad [Scheib] who, with Yitzhak Shamir and Nathan Yalin-Mor [Feldman], were in charge of Lehi. Speaking at a meeting in July 1967, his remarks were published in the well-known journal of opinion, De’ot, in Winter 1968:

I have always said that if the deepest and profoundest hope symbolizing redemption is the rebuilding of the [Jewish] Temple … then it is obvious that those mosques [al-Haram al-Sharif and al-Aqsa] will have, one way or another, to disappear one of these days … Had it not been for Deir Yasin, half a million Arabs would be living in the state of Israel [in 1948]. The state of Israel would not have existed. We must not disregard this, with full awareness of the responsibility involved. All wars are cruel. There is no way out of that. This country will either be Eretz Israel with an absolute Jewish majority and a small Arab minority, or Eretz Ishmael, and Jewish emigration will begin again if we do not expel the Arabs one way or another. [57]

Murder in Gaza

The program of massacre did not end with the formation of the state. Meir Har Tzion’s diary describes the massacres in the refugee camps and villages of Gaza during the early 1950s:

The wide, dry riverbed glitters in the moonlight. We advance, carefully, along the mountain slope. Several houses can be seen … In the distance we can see three lights and hear the sounds of Arab music coming out of the homes immersed in darkness. We split up into three groups of four men each. Two groups make their way to the immense refugee camp (Al Burj) to the south of our position. The other group marches toward the lonely house in the flat area north of Wadi Gaza. We march forward, trampling over green fields, wading through water canals as the moon bathes us in its scintillating light. Soon, however, the silence will be shattered by bullets, explosions, and the screams of those who are now sleeping peacefully. We advance quickly and enter one of the houses – “Mann Haatha?” [Arabic for “Who’s there?”]

We leap towards the voices. Fearing and trembling, two Arabs are standing up against the wall of the building. They try to escape. I open fire. An ear-piercing scream fills the air. One man falls to the ground while his friend continues to run. Now we must act – we have no time to lose. We make our way from house to house as the Arabs scramble about in confusion.

Machine guns rattle, their noise mixed with a terrible howling. We reach the main thoroughfare of the camp. The mob of fleeing Arabs grows larger. The other group attacks from the opposite direction. The thunder of our hand-grenades echoes in the distance. We receive an order to retreat. The attack has come to an end. [58]

Kibya and Commando Unit 101

Prime Minister Moshe Sharett (1954-55) gave the following account of the massacre at the village of Kibya in 1953 (October 18, 1953). Ariel Sharon personally commanded the action in which men, women and children were slaughtered in their homes.

[In the cabinet meeting] I condemned the Kibya Affair that exposed us in front of the whole world as a gang of blood-suckers capable of massacres … I warned that this stain will stick to us and will not be washed away for years to come.

It was decided that a communique on Kibya will be published and Ben Gurion was to write it. It is really a shameful deed. I inquired several times and each time I was solemnly assured that people would not find out how it had been done. [59]

Sharett noted in his Diary details of further massacres in Palestinian villages in 1955: “Public opinion, the army and the police have concluded that Arab blood can be freely shed. It must make the state appear in the eyes of the world as a savage state.” [60]

Kafr Qasim: The Slaughter Continues

The massacre at Kafr Qasim followed the Zionist pattern. In October 1956, Israeli Brigadier Shadmi, the commander of a battalion on the Israeli-Jordanian border, ordered a night curfew imposed on the “minority” [Arab] villages under his command. These villages were inside the Israeli borders; thus, their inhabitants were Israeli citizens. Shadmi told the commander of a Frontier Guard unit, Major Melinki, that the curfew must be “extremely strict” and that “it would not be enough to arrest those who broke it – they must be shot.” He added:

A dead man is better than the complications of detention. [61]

He [Melinki] informed the assembled officers that … their task was to impose the curfew in the minority villages from 1700 to 0600 [5 p.m. to 6 a.m.] … Anyone leaving his home, or anyone breaking the curfew should be shot dead. He added that there were to be no arrests and that if a number of people were killed in the night this would facilitate the imposition of the curfew during succeeding nights.

Lieutenant Frankanthal asked him: “What do we do with the wounded?” Melinki replied: “Take no notice of them.”

A section leader, then asked: “What about women and children?” to which Melinki replied: “No sentimentality.” When asked: “What about people returning from their work?” Melinki answered: “It will be just too bad for them, as the Commander said.”

The perpetrators of the Kafr Qasim massacre – a commando unit of Ariel Sharon-Commando Unit 101 – were all rewarded with medals and with promotions in the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF).

The genocidal methods needed to impose the colonial settler state within the pre-1967 borders of Israel are regarded as the model for dealing ultimately with the Palestinians in the post-1967 occupied territories. Aharon Yariv, former military intelligence chief and Minister of Information, stated at a public seminar in the Leonard Davis Institute for International Relations at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem that:

There are opinions which advocate that a war situation be utilized in order to exile 700,000 to 800,000 Arabs. These opinions are widespread. Statements have been voiced on the matter and also instruments [apparatuses] have been prepared. [62]

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Chapter 5


38. Hadawi, pp.43-44.

39. Joseph Weitz, A Solution to the Refugee Problem, Davar, September 29, 1967. Cited in Uri Davis and Norton Mezvinsky, eds, Documents from Israel, 1967-1973, p.21.

40. Davis, Israel: An Apartheid State, p.5

41. Al Hamishmar (Israeli newspaper), September 7, 1976.

42. Cited by Fouzi El-Asmar and Salih Baransi during discussions with the author, October 1983.

43. Sabri Jiryis, The Arabs in Israel (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1976).

44. Gad Becker, Yediot Ahronot, April 13, 1983, and The New York Times, April 14, 1983.

45. Ibid.

46. David Ben Gurion, Memoirs, Volume III, p.467.

47. Ben Gurion, from a 1937 speech cited in his Memoirs.

48. David Ben Gurion, Report to the World Council of Poale Zion (the forerunner of the Labor Party), Tel Aviv, 1938. Cited by Israel Shahak, Journal of Palestine Studies, Spring 1981.

49. Ben Gurion in a 1938 speech.

50. Michael Bar Zohar, Ben Gurion: A Biography (New York: Delacorte, 1978).

51. Ben Gurion, July 1948, as cited by Bar Zohar.

52. Brenner, The Iron Wall, p.52.

53. Ibid., p.143.

54. Meir Pa’il, Yediot Aharanot, April 4, 1972. Cited by David Hirst, The Gun and the Olive Branch (Great Britain: Faber & Faber Ltd., 1977), pp.126-127.

55. Jacques de Reynier, A Jerusalem un Drapeau Flottait sur la Ligne de Feu, pp.71-76. Cited by Hirst, pp.127-8.

56. Davar, June 9, 1979.

57. Eldad, On the Spirit That Was Revealed in the People, De’ot, Winter 1968. Davis and Mezvinsky, pp.186-7.

58. Meir Har Tzion, Diary (Tel Aviv: Levin-Epstein Ltd., 1969). Cited in Livia Rokach, Israel’s Sacred Terrorism (Belmont, Mass.: Association of Arab American University Graduates Inc. Press, 1980) p.68.

59. Rokach, p.16.

60. Ibid.

61. From the court records: Judgments of the District Court: The Military Prosecutor vs. Malor Melinki et. al., Rokach, p.66.

62. Ha’aretz, May 23, 1980.


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Ralph Schoenman: The Hidden History of Zionism (4. Tragic Consequences)