The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine is a book about the 1948 Palestinian exodus authored by Israeli historian Ilan Pappé and published in 2006 by One World.
Ilan Pappé is one of the New Historians. He strives through his book to prove that a planned ethnic cleansing of Palestinian Arabs occurred during the 1948 Palestine War, or as he puts it in the preface of this book:
Ιn other words, I want to make the case for the paradigm of ethnic cleansing and use it to replace the paradigm of war as the basis for the scholarly research of, and public debate about, 1948.
He considers that this objective was implemented by the Zionist movement leaders, mainly Ben Gurion and the other ten members of his "consultancy group" as referred to by Pappé, and that the forced move of Palestinians to the Arab World was an objective of the Zionist movement, and a must for the desired character of the Jewish State. The book says that this planned ethnic cleansing was put into effect through systematic expulsions of about 500 Arab villages, as well as several terrorist attacks executed mainly by members of the Haganah ((an Israeli militia) and the Irgun (another Israeli Militia).
According to Ilan Pappé, the 1948 Palestinian exodus consisted of the forced relocation of close to 800,000 Palestinians. This was more than half of the Palestinian population at that time. It also involved the destruction of 531 Palestinian villages, and the emptying of 11 entire Palestinian urban neighborhoods. The event is referred to, by Palestinians, as the Nakba, the catastrophe. The thesis that Pappé presents is that the Nakba was a calculated and intentionally executed ethnic cleansing perpetrated by Zionist Israelis. He states, with emphasis, that there is no room for ambivalence in this matter. His references include Zionist quotations and writings, military and political archives, and the diaries of David Ben-Gurion. His intent is also to explore how the denial of the Nakba has been so successful for so long. His views are in direct opposition to mainstream Israeli versions of the relocation, which claim that the relocation was ‘voluntary.’ In his preface, Ilan Pappé says, ‘such a painful journey into the past is the only way forward if we want to create a better future for us all.’ Pappé states that the ethnic cleansing idea was first expressed in early Zionist writings. For example, in 1917, Leo Motzkin stated ‘the colonization of Palestine has to go in two directions, Jewish settlement…and the resettlement of the Arabs.’ In 1938 David Ben-Gurion stated, ‘I am for compulsory transfer; I do not see anything immoral in it.’ Then in 1948, according to Ilan Pappé, the ethnic cleansing was implemented by David Ben-Gurion, Yigal Yadin, Moshe Dayan, Yigal Allon, Yitzhak Sadeh, Moshe Kalman, Moshe Camel, Yitzak Rabin, Shimon Avidan, Rehavam Zeevi, Yitzhak Pundak, and others. The ideological drivers of the campaign were Ben-Gurion’s close advisers whom Ilan Pappé calls the ‘Consultancy group.’ The implementers were officers who lead attacks executed by the Haganah and the Irgun, the Stern Gang (another Israeli militia), and the Israeli Defense Force. The details of the "ethnic cleansing strategy" are fully described in an Israeli military/government document entitled Plan Dalet. Plan Dalet, according to Pappé, spells out, in writing, the clear directives of the operation. It included ‘bombarding villages…setting fire to homes, properties and goods, expulsion, demolition and planting mines among the rubble to prevent any of the expelled inhabitants from returning.’ Pappe catalogues actions such as poisoning of the water supply of Acre with typhoid, numerous cases of rape, atrocities, and dozens of massacres.
An 'Alleged' Ethnic Cleansing?
This chapter focuses on the definition of ethnic cleansing in terms of ethics and international law and international agreements. Pappé refers to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, the United States Department of State, and the International Criminal Court for sources of discussion. He also describes the short-lived support that the U.S. gave to the Palestinians by endorsing United Nations General Assembly Resolution 194, which calls for the return of the displaced Palestinian refugees. Pappé states that, ‘Later on, the expelled are then erased from the country’s official and popular history and excised from its collective memory.’ He concludes that there is no denying that this alleged ethnic cleansing has been most successfully erased from conventional Israeli history.
The Drive for an Exclusive Jewish State
Pappé states in this chapter that a key ingredient in the Zionist creation of an Israeli state was such that it would be created exclusively for Jews. The Muslim control of Palestine had lasted for 1300 years prior to the British Mandate. Zionism emerged in the 1880s largely through the writings of Theodore Herzl. The Zionist movement had been growing steadily by the time that Britain took control of Palestine after World War I. On October 31, 1917 the Balfour Declaration occurred. ‘Lord Balfour gave the Zionist movement his promise…to establish a national home for the Jews in Palestine.’ Palestinians made up 80-90 percent of the population of Palestine in the 1920’s. As a result of the Balfour Declaration, Yosef Weitz began a remarkably thorough demographic study of the Palestinian villages. His study is called the Village Files. It was later used for key strategic information needed to implement the ethnic cleansing of Palestine. This chapter also includes a history of the impact of the British military operations in suppressing the Palestinian uprisings in 1929 and in 1937. The uprising in 1937 was particularly significant in that, according to Pappé, the British so thoroughly defeated the Palestinians that their future ability to fight for their rights to their homeland was strategically impacted. Britain provided key training for the Haganah and the Irgun. David Ben-Gurion stated, ‘The Arabs will have to go.’ Ben-Gurion’s strategy for the creation of the Israeli State included very specific offensive military steps. They are described in Plans A, B, C, and D. ‘The purpose of such actions would be to deter the Palestinian population from attacking Jewish settlements, and to retaliate for assaults on Jewish houses, roads, and traffic. Plan C spelled out clearly what punitive actions would entail, such as; Killing the Palestinian leadership. Killing Palestinian inciters and their financial supporters. Killing Palestinians who acted against Jews. Killing senior Palestinian officers and officials. Damaging Palestinian transportation. Damaging the sources of Palestinian livelihoods: water wells, mills etc.. Attacking nearby Palestinian villages likely to assist in future attacks. Attacking Palestinian clubs, coffeehouses, meeting places, etc..’ Plan Dalet (Plan D) called for the systematic and total expulsion of Palestinians from their homeland.
Partition and Destruction: UN Resolution 181 and Its Impact
Here Pappé recalls that in 1947 the United Nations Special Committee on Palestine called for the creation of two states and the United Nations General Assembly passed Resolution 181 stating so. The Palestinians immediately rejected this. Then David Ben-Gurion’s group of close advisors, that Pappé calls the Consultancy, began its planning to deal with the Palestinian resistance.
Finalising a master plan
Plan D (Plan Dalet) was adopted on March 10, 1948. It called for, amongst many things, the initial uprooting of 250,000 Palestinians. This initial uprooting represented the beginning of the actual execution of Plan Dalet. Key negotiations between Israel and Jordan had led to the Jordanian promise to not join any all-Arab military operations against the Jewish state. The agreement ‘neutralized the strongest army in the Arab world.’ The British departed Palestine on 15 May 1948. Haganah had 50,000 trained troops. The implementation of Plan Dalet continued in earnest. The Deir Yassin massacre occurred. In it, 93 Palestinians were killed. Soon after, four more villages were taken. They were Qalunya, Saris, Beit Surik, and Biddu. The United States offered a scheme to stop the bloodshed by first establishing a three-month cease-fire and then developing a trusteeship plan in five years. Both ideas were rejected by the Israelis. Ben-Gurion had stated "Only a state with at least 80% Jews is a viable and stable state" and that Palestinians ‘can either be mass arrested or expelled; it is better to expel them.’ Pappé states that many Palestinian villages such as Dayr Ayyub, Beit Affa, and Khisas had virtually no defense mechanism of any kind. The attack on Balad al-Shaykh occurred leaving 60 Palestinians dead. The Hawassa neighborhood in Haifa was evacuated. The Sarraya house in Jaffa was bombed leaving 26 dead and the Samiramis Hotel in Qatamon was bombed leaving many others dead. Pappé refers to Yosef Weitz again, a member of the Consultancy. Weitz had stated, ‘The only solution is to transfer the Arabs from here to neighboring countries. Not a single village or a single tribe must be left off.’
The Blueprint for Ethnic Cleansing: Plan Dalet
In this chapter, Pappé describes various cities, and villages, and the operations to cleanse them. Operation Naschon was the first operation of Plan Dalet. It specifically called for the destruction of Palestinian villages in April 1948. It was the first time that the various Israeli militias would operate together as a unit and become the Israeli Defense Force. Pappé states ‘the Arab governments did little beyond airing their inflammatory war rhetoric in all directions so as to hide their inaction and unwillingness to intervene on behalf of the Palestinians.’ The United Nations plan had allocated Haifa, the only port of the country, to be granted Jewish control. The De-Arabization of Haifa involved the expulsion of 75,000 Palestinians from Haifa. The 2000 members of the Israeli Carmeli Brigade quickly defeated the 500 members of a poorly equipped Lebanese force. Mordechai Maklef as the operation officer of the Carmeli Brigade, issued orders to ‘Kill any Arab you encounter; torch all inflammable objects and force doors open with explosives’ Crowds of defenseless Palestinians ran down the streets of Haifa to the port to escape on any boat they could find. ‘Many [boats] turned over and sank with all their passengers’. The next cities to fall were Acre, Nazareth and Safad. Pappé states that the Arab Liberation Army was never a match against the well organized Israeli forces. According to Pappé, there was never serious Arab Liberation Army strength, so ‘the falsity of the myth of a Jewish David facing an Arab Goliath’ was very clear. As Jerusalem was cleansed, ‘British inaction was the rule.’ In April 1948 the cleansing of Jerusalem began. ‘All in all, eight Palestinian and thirty nine villages were ethnically cleansed in the Greater Jerusalem area.’ On 13 May, Jaffa was the last city to be taken. It was taken after a two-week battle between 5000 members of the Haganah militia and 1500 members of the Arab Liberation Army. This was the largest effort of the Arab Liberation Army. After the battle was won by the Israeli Haganah, 50,000 Palestinians were forced to leave Jaffa. Pappé states that ethnic cleansing occurred before any Arab Liberation Army soldiers arrived in Palestine. By 15 May 1948 200 Palestinian villages were occupied and their people expelled. Another 90 villages were destroyed by 11 June 1948. At the time, Egypt and Iraq were embroiled in the final stages of the own wars of liberation…and Syria and Lebanon were young countries that had just won independence.’
The Phony War and the Real War over Palestine: May 1948
This chapter discuses the dual nature of the 1948 conflict particularly during May 1948. On one hand there was the Arab Israeli war and on the other hand there was the ethnic cleansing. In a letter that David Ben-Gurion sent to the commanders of the Haganah brigades he stated, ‘the cleansing of Palestine remained the prime objective of Plan Dalet.’ Pappé states that the Arab war efforts were ‘ineffective’, and ‘pathetic’. This was true for Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, and Iraq. And Jordan had agreed to not attack Israel. The Arab weapons were scarce and their supply lines were ineffective. The most intensive Arab efforts occurred in the first three weeks of the war. Ethnic cleansing was conducted in at least 64 villages by the Israeli Alexandria brigade according to Pappé. They were also part of the massacre at Tantura, per Ilan Pappé, on May 2, 1948. He quotes from various witnesses that as many as 230 were massacred there. Various other brigades such as the Golani Brigade, Carmeli Brigade, Kiryati Brigade, Harel Brigade, Bulgarian Brigade, Yiftach Brigade, and Givati Brigade also conducted cleansing operations.
The Escalation of the Ethnic Cleansing Operations: June-September 1948
Pappé, in this chapter, discusses June through September 1948. The ethnic cleansing continued despite the passage of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights through the United Nations General Assembly Resolution 217A (III) David Ben Gurion’s diary June 5, 1948 states, ‘the cleansing operation continues.’ Eliezer Kaplan, the minister of finance authorized the confiscation of all Palestinian properties already taken. The First Truce was declared on June 8, 1948. And according to Pappé the Israelis continued the destruction of villages that had already been taken. The truce ended on July 8, 1948. Fighting continued with the Israelis showing the upper hand against the various Arab forces. The Israelis took Itarun, Amqa, Tel-Qisan, Saffuriyya, Kfar Yassif, Abu Sinan, Judeida, and Tabash. Pappé states that numerous Palestinian villages had been peacefully occupied by Muslim, Druze, and Christians for centuries. On July 18, 1948 another truce was organized by the U.N. mediator Count Folke Bernadotte. Pappé states, ‘In less than two weeks, hundreds of thousands of Palestinians had been expelled from their villages, towns, and cities.’ Count Folke Bernadotte was murdered in September, ‘for having dared to put forward a proposal to re-divide the country in half, and to demand the unconditional return of all the refugees.’ Pappé in this chapter talks about various Israeli operations such as Operation Palm Tree, Operation Kippa, Operation Broom, Operation Scissors, Operation Cyprus, Operation Policeman, Operation Autumn and Operation Dani. Pappé quotes from Keith Wheeler of the Chicago Sun Times that in one operation ‘Practically everything in their (Israeli Forces) path died.’ He also quotes from the London Economist that, village ‘inhabitants were forced to start marching after their houses had been looted, their family members murdered and their city wrecked.’
Completing the Job: October 1948-January 1949
Pappé begins this chapter with quotes from the Badil Resource Center. ‘In 1948, 85% of the Palestinians living in the areas that became the state of Israel became refugees.’ ‘It is estimated that there were more than 7 million Palestinian displaced persons at the beginning of 2003.’ He talks about Operation Hiram, War Crimes During the Operation, Moping Up Operations, Israel’s Anti-Reparation Policy, Final Cleansing of the South and the East, and The Massacre in Dawaymeh. Pappé states ‘I have no illusion that it will take more than this book to reverse a reality that demonizes a people who have been colonized, expelled, and occupied, and glorifies the very people who colonized, expelled and occupied them.’
Occupation and Its Ugly Faces
Pappé starts this chapter with another set of quotes about ethnic cleansing, including, ‘Since 1967, Israel has detained 670,000 Palestinians.’ Sections of this chapter are entitled Inhuman Imprisonment, Abuses Under Occupation, Ghettoizing the Palestinians of Haifa, Rape, Dividing the Spoils, Desecration of Holy Sites, Entrenching the Occupation, and The Land Robbery:1950-2000.
The Memoricide of the Nakba
This chapter, like others, starts with provocative quotes. ‘Over 700,000 olive and orange trees have been destroyed by the Israelis. This is an act of sheer vandalism from a state that claims to practice conservation of the environment.’ The sections of this chapter include; The Reinvention of Palestine, Virtual Colonialism and the J.N.F., The J.N.F. Parks In Israel, The Forest of Birya, The Ramat Menahse Park, and Greening of Jerusalem. Pappé states that ‘the Israeli Land Authority, the army, the government and the Jewish National Fund’ have all been ‘involved in establishing new Jewish settlements on the lands of the destroyed Palestinian villages.’ ‘The dispossession was accompanied by the renaming of the places it had seized, destroyed and now recreated.’ ‘This mission was accomplished with the help of archaeologists and biblical experts who volunteered to serve on an official Naming Committee whose job it was to Hebraize Palestine’s geography.’ He goes on to state, ‘The true mission of the J.N.F., in other words, has been to conceal these visible remnants of Palestine not only by the trees it has planted over them, but also by the narratives it has created to deny their existence.’ As an example, Pappé refers to the Forest of Birya, which is the largest man made forest in Israel. It conceals the land of six Palestinian villages; Dishon, Alma,Israel, Qaddita, Amqa, Ayn al-Zaytun, and Biryya. Also the Ramat Menashe Park covers the ruins of Lajjun, Mansi, Kafrayan, Al-Butaymat, Hubeza, Daliyat al-Rawha, Sabbarin, Burayka, Al-Sindiyana, and Umm al-Zinat. The Jerusalem forest is another example.
Nakba Denial and the 'Peace Process'
Here Pappé states that the creation of the United Nations Relief and Work Agency was not committed to the return of the refugees as resolution 194 was. There were one million Palestinian refugees and U.N.R.W.A. was created to meet their daily needs as refugees. He states that international peace brokers consistently sidelined the Palestinian cause and there ‘was the categorical refusal of the Israelis to acknowledge the Nakba and their absolute unwillingness to be held accountable, legally, and morally, for the ethnic cleansing they committed in 1948.’ In the first attempts at peace, the U.N. held a peace conference in Switzerland. There, the U.S., the U.N., the Arab world, the Palestinians, and the Israeli foreign minister, Moshe Sharet, accepted a plan for a two-state solution wherein a right of return was guaranteed. But, according to Pappé, David Ben-Gurion along with King Abdullah of Jordan, defeated those efforts. For the following two decades there was a lull in international interest. Then, ‘The June War (1967) ended with total Israeli control over all of ex-Mandatory Palestine.’ Israel then established three important axioms/guidelines for defining the debate over the Palestinian issue. One, the conflict had its origin in 1967 and the solution would be defined by an agreement on what to do with the West Bank and Gaza. Pappé points out that the West Bank and Gaza make up only 22% of Palestine. Two, the West Bank and Gaza could be further divided. Three, nothing that occurred prior to 1967 could ever be negotiated. As a response, for four decades, Yassar Arafat conducted a campaign to get the world to recognize that an ethnic cleansing had occurred in 1948. And according to Pappé, this task for the Palestinians continues to today. Pappé mentions that the Knesset had even gone to the extent of passing a law that prohibited Israeli negotiators from discussing the right of return. He also speculates that if Israelis were to acknowledge the Nakba that it would be akin to recognizing ‘that they have become the mirror image of their own worst nightmare.’
This chapter is about various measures Israel has taken to protect itself. As an example, Pappé starts this chapter by describing a law the Knesset passed on 31 July 2003. This law states that any Palestinian who marries an Israeli will not be granted Israeli citizenship, permanent residency, or temporary residency. He also discusses the advent of the Apartheid Wall. He states, ‘None of this is new.’ because Theodore Herzl wrote in 1895, ‘We shall endeavor to expel the poor population across the border unnoticed, procuring employment for it in the transit countries, but denying it any employment in our own country.’ In 2003 Benyamin Netanyahu said, ‘If the Arabs in Israel form 40% of the population, this is the end of the Jewish State. But 20% is also a problem. If the relationship with these 20% becomes problematic, the state is entitled to employ extreme measures.’ The demographic problem remains serious today in the minds of many Israelis. ‘There are 2.5 million Palestinians sharing the state with six million Jews. There are also another 2.5 million Palestinians in the Gaza strip and in the areas Israel does not want in the West Bank.’
Here, Pappé states that the Faculty Club of Tel-Aviv University is called the Green House. It is built upon the remains of the Palestinian village, Shaykh Muwannis. It is the epitome of the denial of ethnic cleansing according to Pappé because there is no mention of its true history.Pappé goes on to say, furthermore, that the university does not have a record of looking into the Zionist history of ethnic cleansing whatsoever in any of its disciplines. He concludes by saying ‘We end this book as we began: with the bewilderment that this crime was so utterly forgotten and erased from our minds and memories. But we now know the price: the ideology that enabled the depopulation of half of Palestine’s native people in 1948 is still alive and continues to drive inexorable, sometimes indiscernible, cleansing of those Palestinians who live there today.’
Some praise the work and the man as noted on his cover page, such as John Pilger who writes that "Ilan Pappé is Israel's bravest, most principled, most incisive historian" and historian Walid Khalidi who writes that "[the book is] a dazzling feat of scholarly synthesis and Biblical moral clarity and humaneness".
Raphael Israeli of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, disagrees. Commenting in his review Alice in Ethnic Cleansing Land, he notes, "When we advance beyond the title of this eye-catching volume of one-sided 'History,' whose author has been called 'Israel's bravest, most principled and most incisive historian,' the picture becomes more nuanced and can be argued either way." He goes on to accuse Pappe of falsification of the facts. "The most blatant falsification of history may be found in the distorted presentation of otherwise irrefutable facts," he says.
Ian Black, the Guardian's Middle East editor writes, "Emphasis apart, it is hard to say what is new in his account." He calls the book "a catalogue of intimidation, expulsion and atrocity," and notes that Pappe "does historical understanding a disservice by all but ignoring the mood and motives of the Jews, so soon after the end of a war in which six million had been exterminated by the Nazis."
"He fights the "power of deletion" over the fate of the Palestinians. But he does historical understanding a disservice by all but ignoring the mood and motives of the Jews, so soon after the end of a war in which six million had been exterminated by the Nazis. Ben-Gurion's public rhetoric about the dangers of annihilation or a second Holocaust, Pappe argues, was matched by private confidence about the outcome of an unequal fight. That does not mean the shadow of the Holocaust can be airbrushed out of the story. The Jews were fighting, as they saw it, with their backs to the wall, for survival. To ignore that perception - a huge factor in western sympathy for Israel in 1948 and for so long afterwards - is to misrepresent reality."
David Pryce-Jones, writing in the Literary Review calls Pappe "an Israeli academic who has made his name by hating Israel and everything it stands for."
"To him, Israeli politicians and soldiers, one and all, are so many murderers. Forests have been planted only to cover up the past. Houses are ˜monstrous villas and palaces for rich American Jews". Everything Israeli is ugly, everything Palestinian is beautiful.For evidence of Israeli monstrosity, he relies on quotations from his own previous works or from Palestinian polemicists, and above all on the oral testimonies of Palestinian refugees. Over half a century of military and ideological conflict has passed since their exodus, but Pappe declares his faith that whatever they now say is true."
Reverend Tony Higton, (of Paradox Ministries), writer and past rector of a church in the Old City of Jerusalem, says there are "valid reasons for posing questions about the reliability of Pappe's book." In his 6 page review he lists the following:
1. Pappe's extreme left political position
2. His subjective approach to history that denies historical truth
3. Pappe is alleged to have fabricated evidence
4. Pappe depends too much on oral testimony
5. His work "shows a lack of careful attention to facts and includes many factual errors