Israel Conducted No Ethnic Cleansing in 1948

(Ha'aretz) Benny Morris - The Palestinians were the ones who started the 1948 war when they rejected the UN compromise plan and embarked on hostile acts in which 1,800 Jews were killed between November 1947 and mid-May 1948. Concern for the welfare of the Arabs in prestate Israel was not the main reason Arab leaders decided to invade Israel on the eve of May 15. Jordan's King Abdullah wanted to expand his country's borders, the Egyptian king wanted to deny the Jordanian king major territorial achievements, and the leaders of Syria, Iraq and Egypt feared the reaction at home if they did not invade. At no stage of the 1948 war was there a decision by the political or military leadership of the Jewish Yishuv or the state to expel the Arabs. Nor did any important party in the Yishuv, including the Revisionists, adopt such a policy in its platform. On March 24, 1948, Israel Galili, Ben-Gurion's deputy and the head of the Haganah, ordered all the Haganah brigades not to uproot Arabs from the territory of the designated Jewish state. Things did change in early April due to the Yishuv's shaky condition and the impending Arab invasion. But there was no overall expulsion policy and for the most part the Arabs simply fled. I don't accept the definition "ethnic cleansing" for what the Jews in prestate Israel did in 1948. Incidentally, Arab countries carried out ethnic cleansing and uprooted all the Jews, down to the last one, from any territory they captured in 1948. The Jews, on the other hand, left Arabs in place in Haifa and Jaffa, and in the villages along the country's main traffic arteries - the Jerusalem-Tel Aviv highway and the Tel Aviv-Haifa highway - a fact that does not conform with the claim of ethnic cleansing. Unfortunately, Benjamin Netanyahu is right when he says the main obstacle to peace is the unwillingness of the Arabs to agree to a compromise based on two states for two peoples, and their rejection of the legitimacy of the Zionist enterprise and the State of Israel. The writer is a professor of history at Ben-Gurion University.

2016-10-14 00:00:00

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