I recently read an historic account of unethical behavior of our military forces in 1947-1948 prior to the independence of Israel. To put it in the mildest terms, I was deeply shocked and deeply disappointed.
Every one of us in Israel is familiar with what the Arabs call the “naqba”, the destruction of Palestinian lives and property before, during and after the birth of the independent State of Israel.
Now a new book has been published in Israel by an Israeli Jew who has spent years gathering up facts related to that tragedy of former Arab citizens in then Palestine.
Of course I knew of tragedies such as the massacres in Deir Yassin in order to “encourage” as many Arabs as possible to flee from their homes into refugee camps provided by their Arab “brethren”… filthy places where their “brethren” have kept them for 72 years without granting them rights of citizenship in the respective Arab countries to which they fled for their very lives.
Most of the hundreds of thousands of Arab refugees fled at the advice of their religious leaders supported by the Nazi Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin al Husseini.
They were advised to leave Palestine until the Arab armies of Jordan, Syria, Egypt, Lebanon and Iraq could wage war upon the Jews in Palestine, promising their people that once the Arabs were victorious in drowning the Jews in the sea all Arabs could return to their homes and could capture the properties of the dead Jews.
With the help of Almighty God and the powers and strengths of our newly organized military forces we were victorious. We did not drown in the sea but we rejoiced at seeing our roads crammed with fleeing Arabs carrying a few possessions on their backs as they abandoned their homes and cattle.
Only the city of Haifa had urged the Arabs to remain with equal treatment as the Jews. Haifa had always been a bi-national city and for the most part Arabs and Jews in the city lived in harmony thanks to the tireless effort’s of Haifa’s mayor, the beloved Abba Khoushy.
Soon, Israeli military units and civilians who joined them looted the abandoned Arab homes stealing whatever they could take. Members of the Palmach stole furniture, cattle, electrical appliances, refrigerators, hidden gold coins, jewelry and countless numbers of items left behind in the hurry of the fleeing Arabs. It has been documented in the newly published book.
The book gives specific details of how many Israel Jews enriched themselves by the booting out of Arabs and then by looting their homes and property. The documentation cannot be denied.
It was the looting that offended me and for the first time opened my eyes to the tragedies of what the Arabs call the “naqba”.
Since Jews have been refugees all over the world for many hundreds of years fleeing from pogroms and wanton anti-semitic destruction and frequent slaughters I now for the first time have become more intensely aware of the Palestinian losses and of the looted thefts by many of my fellow Israeli Jews.
It is time now to follow the German activity which began as a restitution to the Jews for their tragic losses of life and property.
If the Palestinian leadership could be brave enough and sincere to sit with us at the table, face to face directly and without aid from intermediaries, it might be possible to arrange for some measure of restitution from lost, stolen or destroyed Arab homes. But their leader, Mahmoud Abbas, lacks the courage and ability to sit with us at the table in open discussion to resolve some of the problems.
The discussions, on the Israeli part, will not and cannot permit a return of survivors of the 1947-1948 refugee crisis. Nor cannot even consider a partition again of any section of the holy city and eternal capitol of Jerusalem as the center of the breath, life and soul of the Israeli Jewish population.
We cannot correct the booting from those early years. But with goodwill we might be able to correct some of the immense pains of the unnecessary looting on our part.
That is a step that can be considered if Abbas surrenders his stubbornness and acts justly to aid his suffering Palestinian community.
To create an independent Jewish State, David Ben-Gurion, father of our country and its first prime minister, encouraged and totally supported the evacuation of Palestinian Arabs from their cities, towns and villages in order that the newly to be created Jewish State of Israel would be a great majority of Jews only.
He had no sympathy whatsoever for Arab losses. On the contrary, he praised the Jewish people for doing everything and anything possible to rid the land of the Arab population.
Terrible things happen in wars. Killings, murders, theft, looting and destruction of life and property… none of which can ever be returned.
But a possibility of some form of restitution of losses that can be certified with legal documents may be a hope of establishing peaceful relations between the “us” and the ”them”.
Who knows how the road to peace can begin to be built?