The Nakba - What really happened?

Though the Nakba dates  back to May 15, 1948, it is not merely a one-time occurance. Actually, the Nakba - or Catastrophe - is the plan calling for the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians from Palestine and it is still going on today.

Here is some vital background

The Deir Yassin massacre of April 9, 1948, was not the first massacre perpetrated by the Zionists who were enacting their plans to ethnically cleanse and take control of the Holy Land. But the event has been memorialized in the collective Palestinian consciousness. It is the enduring symbol of the beginning of the dispossession of the Palestinian people.

That diaspora became a reality for Palestinians is not surprising considering the land became a mandate territory of Great Britain after the fall of the Ottoman Empire at the end of World War I. Under British rule, the number of Jewish settlers continued to grow as did the pressure to realize the Zionist plan of creating a Jewish homeland in Palestine. On Nov. 29, 1947, the United Nations General Assembly – under heavy pressure from the U.S. government – adopted Resolution 181, which effectively carved Palestine into two states; one Arab and one Jewish.

At the time of the partition plan, there were approximately 1.2 million Arabs and 608,000 Jews living in in Palestine, according to historian Walid Khalidi. Partition gave 54 percent of Palestine and the nearly 500,000 Palestinians living in that area to the Jews, many of whom had been living in the area for less than 10 years, according to Richard Curtiss, former U.S. diplomat to the Middle East and a co-founder of the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs. Not only did it create internal strife, but many Palestinians – even whole villages – were cut off from their major livelihood: Agriculture.

Jaffa, the Palestinian state’s major Mediterranean Sea port was cut off from the country’s interior, and Gaza lost its connection to the wheat fields of the Negev, according to Khalidi, who is also a professor and co-founder of the Institute for Palestine Studies, and author of “All That Remains: The Palestinian Villages Occupied and Depopulated By Israel in 1948.” (Institute for Palestine Studies, 1992)

The Palestinian state also lost direct access to both the Red Sea and to Syria.

During the months leading up to the Nakba and until the armistice agreement was signed in January 1949, more than 750,000 Palestinians were forced from their homes and 13,000 Palestinians were killed. The Zionists eradicated more than 500 villages and towns, completely erasing some of them from the face of the earth.

“By the end of the war, hundreds of entire villages had not only been depopulated but obliterated, their houses blown up or bulldozed. While many of the sites are difficult to access, to this day the observant traveler of Israeli roads and highways can see traces of their presence that would escape the notice of the casual passerby: A fenced-in area – often surmounting a gentle hill – of olive and other fruit trees left untended, of cactus hedges and domesticated plants run wild. Now and then a few crumbled houses are left standing, a neglected mosque or church, collapsing walls along the ghost of a village lane, but in the vast majority of cases all that remains are a scattering of stones and rubble across a forgotten landscape.” Khalidi wrote in “All That Remains.”

The number of villages and hamlets completely destroyed by the Haganah, Irgun and the Stern Gang differ. The book “All that Remains,” which is a comprehensive report on the depopulated villages undertaken by the Institute for Palestine Studies in Washington D.C ., Birzeit University in the West Bank, and the Galilee Center for Social Research in Nazareth, put the count at 418 while the Web site Palestine Remembered counts 531 such villages. The discrepancy is due to the different methodologies used to determine whether a village existed and was populated by Arabs before 1948.

By January 1949, the new state of Israel had conquered 78 percent of Palestine.

Policy of Ethnic Cleansing

Each year on May 15, Palestinians and those in solidarity with the cause, commemorate al-Nakba or “The Catastrophe,” which is also the day the state of Israel was born. The commemoration is important because in the remembrance of the catastrophe also lies the hope that Palestine one day will be whole again and its rightful inhabitants will once again people the blessed land.

But the Nakba is not just one historical event. It’s a process that began with the formation of Zionism in the late 19th century and still continues today.

“The Nakba is a process that developed the systematic dispossession of Palestinians; it’s the destruction of a civil society for the intended purposes of a colonial enterprise to be set in its place,” said Dr. Hatem Bazian, professor of Near Eastern and Ethnic Studies at the University of California, Berkeley and chairman of the American Muslims for Palestine. “The Nakba is not an historical event but an ongoing event. Gaza is an actual direct link to a process started in the latter part of the 19th century that culminated in 1948 and is continuing today.”

Bazian was referring to Israel’s three-week offensive against Gaza that began on Dec. 27, 2008, and which resulted in the deaths of more than 1,400 civilians and the wounding of more than 5,300. Israeli officials have said the bombardment and invasion were in response to rockets being fired into southern Israel from Gaza. But statements from Israeli leaders themselves speak not about retaliation but of advancing a policy of ethnic cleansing, which has been in effect for decades and that includes transferring Arabs out of Palestine and even murder.

Consider these quotes

“When 2.5 million people live in a closed-off Gaza, it's going to be a human catastrophe. Those people will become even bigger animals than they are today, with the aid of an insane fundamentalist Islam. The pressure at the border will be awful. It's going to be a terrible war. So, if we want to remain alive, we will have to kill and kill and kill. All day, every day ... If we don't kill, we will cease to exist ... Unilateral separation doesn't guarantee "peace" - it guarantees a Zionist-Jewish state with an overwhelming majority of Jews ...” ~ Professor Arnon Sofer, head of the Israeli army's National Defense College, as quoted in an article in the Jerusalem Post on May 24, 2004.

"I believe that it should have been even stronger! Dresden! Dresden! The extermination of a city! … I am not talking about rockets - not even a stone will be thrown at us. Because we're Jews. ... I want the Arabs of Gaza to flee to Egypt. This is what I want. I want to destroy the city, not necessarily the people living within it." ~ Reserve Colonel Yoav Gal, an Israeli Air Force pilot, told Army Radio during the Gaza offensive on Jan. 11, 2009.

(Source: Electronic Intifada)

These chilling accounts echo earlier statements - some made more than 100 years ago - by the men who founded Zionism and the state of Israel.

“We shall try to spirit the penniless population across the border … both the process of expropriation and the removal of the poor must be carried out discretely and circumspectly.” ~ Theodor Hertzl, the founder of political Zionism, 1895.

“The concept of ‘transferring’ European Jews to Palestine and ‘transferring’ the Palestinian people out is central to Zionism.” ~ David Ben-Gurion, Israel’s first prime minister, 1944.

“It must be clear that there is no room in the country for both people … the only solution is a Land of Israel … without Arabs. There is no room here for compromise … there is no way but to transfer the Arabs from here to the neighboring countries … not one village to be left, not one tribe.” ~ Yosef Weitz, director of the Jewish National Fund’s land department and founder of the Transfer Committee, 1944.

According to Donald Neff, a former Time magazine Jerusalem bureau chief, ethnic cleansing was at the core of Zionism, whether it was the ultranationalist Revisionist Zionists under founder Vladimir Jabotinsky and later Menachem Begin or the "mainline" Zionists headed by David Ben-Gurion.

"While the two major factions of Zionism disagree on tactics, their ultimate aim of maintaining a Jewish state free of non-Jews was the same. ... In the Revisionist's vocabulary the goal was the same, if more expansionist and expressed in more pugnacious words. Former Defense Minister Ariel Sharon, a leading spokesman of Zionism's right wing, commented in 1993: 'Our forefathers did not come here in order to build a democracy but to build a Jewish state," Neff wrote in an essay titled 1948: Zionism and Jewish Terrorism. The essay is included in a collection of Neff's work in the book, "Fifty Years of Israel." (American Educational Trust, 1998)

Plan Dalet and the Transfer of Palestinians

The Zionist plans for transferring Palestinians out of their homeland was made clear in the Plan Dalet, the master defense plan of the army, the Haganah, dated March 10, 1948. The manifesto outlined how the Jewish conquest of Palestine should be carried out. A major portion of the plan outlined how Jewish fighters were to secure and take control of villages and areas outside the boundaries the United Nations had set for the state of Israel.

“Zionism’s responsibility for the Palestinian exodus and diaspora is an integral part of the genesis of the State of Israel,” Khalidi wrote in a 1961 article titled, “Plan Dalet: Master Plan for the Conquest of Palestine.”

According to Khalidi’s article, the idea of transferring Arabs out of Palestine predated the Nakba by decades. Herzl, for instance, in the late 1800s, promoted the idea of the “lesser evil.” That is, “any hardship inflicted on the indigenous population of the land chosen by them was outweighed by the solution that the Zionist possession of the land offered to the Jewish problem,” Khalidi wrote. “The yardstick of the lesser evil became the moral alibi of the Zionist movement, dwarfing and finally submerging the anguish of its victims. Thus Herzl could say with little qualms of conscience of the indigenous population of the land to be possessed: ‘We intend to work the poor population across the frontier surreptitiously by providing work for them in transit countries but denying them any employment in our own land.’”

More quotes

“Under present circumstances Zionism cannot be realized without a transition period during which the Jewish minority would exercise revolutionary rule … during which the state apparatus, the administration, and the military establishment would be in the hands of the minority.” ~ Chaim Arlosoroff, director of the Political Department of the Jewish Agency, 1932.

"It is the duty of Israel to explain to public opinion, clearly and courageously, a certain number of facts that are forgotten with time. The first of these is that there is n o Zionism, colonization, or Jewish State without the eviction of the Arabs and the expropriation of their lands." ~ former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, quoted in the Agence France Presse, 11/15/1998.

“If it is clear that a substantial amount of land would be made available for the Jewish area, the most strenuous efforts should be made to obtain an agreement for the exchange of land and population. … It should be part of the agreement that in the last resort the exchange (transfer of Palestinians) would be compulsory.” ~ Royal Peel Commission report, 1937.
(Source: Khalidi, “Plan Dalet”)

Khalidi writes that the idea of transfer resurfaced near the end of the World War II, both in Britain and the United States. In 1944, the British Labor Party Executive said the Arabs should be encouraged to move out as the Jews move in. And ex-President Herbert Hoover advocated transferring Palestinians to Iraq in order to accommodate immigrant Jews, an idea the American Zionist Emergency Council applauded.

These statements and reports as well as studies conducted by academic scholars – including Israeli academics - refute the propagandized theory that Arab leaders told Palestinians to leave their homeland as the Zionists have asserted for more than 60 years. Neither Khalidi nor British writer Erskine Childers, who examined the back files of the Near East monitoring stations for both the British and American governments, found any evidence that Arab leaders encouraged mass evacuation of Palestine. To the contrary, Arab leaders told the Palestinians to stay put.

“Not only was there no hint of any Arab evacuation order, but the Arab radio stations had urged the Palestinians to hold on and be steadfast whereas it was the Jewish radio stations of the Haganah and the Irgun and the Stern Gang, which had been engaged in incessant and strident psychological warfare against the Arab civilian population,” Khalidi writes.

Israeli historian Benny Morris wrote in his book "The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem Revisited" (Cambridge Middle East Studies, 2004) that he found no evidence suggesting Arab leaders encouraged evacuation.

"I have found no contemporary evidence to show that either they (Arab leaders) or the Mufti ordered or directly encouraged the mass exodus of April-May (1948). As to the Palestinian leaders, it may be worth noting that for decades their policy had been to hold fast to the soil and to resist eviction and displacement of communities."

Sometimes the orders to evacuate came from top Jewish officials. On July 13, 1948, the Haganah turned its attention to the Palestinian villages of Lydda and Ramleh, "forcefully compelling the entire population of as many as 70,000 men, women and children to flee their homes," Neff wrote in "Fifty Years of Israel."

"That same day, Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion ordered all the Palestinians expelled. The order said: 'The residents of Lydda must be expelled quickly without attention to age.' It was signed by Lt. Col. Yitzhak Rabin, operations chief of the Lydda-Ramley attack and later Israel's military chief of staff and its prime minister in 1974-77, and from 1992 until his assassination in 1995. A similar order was issued for Ramleh," Neff wrote.

Plan Dalet showed intention and planning to rid Palestine of its indigenous population, Bazian said. “It was a deliberate act to empty the land of its original inhabitants.”

It’s important to recognize that policies for ethnic cleansing already were in place before Israel became a state, Bazian said, because it clarifies the issue of responsibility when it comes to the Palestinian question. Many view both Israel and Palestine as innocent victims of events beyond their control. That view leads to the erroneous conclusion that neither is responsible for the situation in Palestine today, and as such both have equal narratives, Bazian said. But when one acknowledges that Zionism has at its core a plan to force the dispossession of the Palestinian people, it is possible then to assign responsibility to the oppressor and hold them accountable, making compensation to the injured party possible. “Eviction and dispossession were actual events and as such we can hold Israel or the Israeli society responsible,” Bazian said.


The Nakba in 1948 resulted in the expulsion of more than 750,000 Palestinians from their homeland. Several thousand more were displaced within the newly created state of Israel. After Israel’s Six Day War in June 1967, in which it illegally occupied the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, another 350,000 Palestinians were forced from their homes.

Palestinian refugees and those internally displaced (IDP) represent the largest and longest-standing case of forced displacement in the world today, according to Badil Resource Center for Palestinian Residency & Refugee Rights.

About 4.6 million refugees registered with the United Nations Relief and Works Agency in 2008. Nearly one-third of them live in 58 recognized refugee camps in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

Dispossession continues today through a variety of programs and policies that deny Palestinians their human rights in violation of international law. What’s happening today is the direct result of the Nakba and the racist policies inherent in Zionist ideology.

“We (our government has been) playing a role in the Palestinian dispossession,” Bazian said. “The American public is involved and has been a partner with Israel from 1948 to the present.”
Today, the policies of cleansing the Holy Land of Palestinians can be clearly seen. Low-intensity transfers have been ongoing, according to Badil. Those living in the Occupied Territories have been most severely affected. For instance, between 1967 and 1986, some 21,000 Palestinians per year were displaced from their homes. Sources of direct and indirect transfer include revocation of residency rights, expulsion, home demolition, land confiscation as well as mass detention, torture, military closure and curfews.

And the policies are affecting Muslim and Christian Palestinians alike.

In “Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid,” former President Jimmy Carter writes the Apartheid Wall on the south side of the Mount of Olives, where Christians believe Jesus delivered the Beatitudes, has cut off thousands of Christian worshippers from their church, Santa Marta Monastery. The house of worship now lies on the Israeli side of the 30-foot concrete barrier, and its parishioners cannot get permits allowing them to enter.

“For nine hundred years we have lived here under Turkish, British, Jordanian and Israeli governments, and no one has ever stopped people coming to pray. It is scandalous. This is not a barrier. It is a border. Why don’t they speak the truth?” Santa Marta's priest, Father Claudio Ghilardi, asked.

The Apartheid Wall that has displaced and isolated hundreds of thousands of Palestinians, Carter writes. The 170,000 citizens of Bethlehem, for instance, are not surrounded by the Wall, which has trapped another nearly 400,000 Palestinians on the Israeli side, cutting them off from their farmlands, gardens, jobs, schools and families, Carter writes.

“The Wall and disengagement plan are the culmination of 70 years of Zionist policy. The Palestinian ghettos that exist today serve a dual purpose: To exert severe economic and social pressure on the Palestinian population in order to force them to leave; and to allow complete control of the Palestinian population who remain in order to facilitate the expansion of the Jewish settlements onto their confiscated land.

Perhaps Ariel Sharon summed it up best when he said:
“You don’t simply bundle people onto trucks and drive them away … I prefer to advocate a more positive policy … to create, in effect, a condition that in a positive way will induce people to leave.” ~ former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, quoted in the article "Forcible Removal of Arabs gaining support in Israel” (The London Times, Aug. 24, 1988.

Israel has never recognized the right of refugees to return home, against the dictates of the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights and UN Resolution 194. So while Israeli law will give instant citizenship to any Jew regardless of nationality, Palestinians who were born and raised in the Holy Land cannot return to live in their homeland. People who want to regain residency status after Israel revoked it for one reason or another or those wishing to get residency for a nonresident spouse must apply for family reunification. The process is limited by quotas and lack of transparency, according to Badil. In fact, between 1967 and the early 1990s, Israel approved fewer than 10 percent of all reunification applications, the agency reported.

Israel also uses home demolitions not only as collective punishment but also as a means to force Palestinians to leave. According to Badil, Israel has demolished more than 24,000 homes since 1967. The Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions puts that number at just over 20,000 demolished homes. However, the figure doesn’t take into account the nearly 2,500 homes the IDF completely destroyed in the January 2009 Gaza offensive, according to the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights.

The genocidal attack on Gaza is another example of Zionist policy to ethnically cleanse Palestine. A report submitted on March 27, 2009, to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs says “the recent indiscriminate and disproportionate Israeli military attacks against Gaza resulted in unprecedented forcible mass displacement.”

Though the exact number of displaced people is not known, the report estimates at least 90,000 people – including 50,000 children – were displaced. Most of these people already were refugees from 1948.

Despite the dire news, Bazian thinks it still could be possible to redress the issues facing Palestinians today. After all, UN Resolution 194 gives Palestinians the right to return to their homeland and to be compensated for their lost properties. But nothing can be done without an immediate end to the occupation of the West Bank, Jerusalem and Gaza, Bazian said. “There must be justice and fairness in how to articulate a solution amenable to those who were injured in the process in the last 60 years.”

~ American Muslims for Palestine, April 2009 (Excerpted from "Preserving our Narrative"