Benny Morris ─ The Creation of the Palestinian Refugee Problem, 1947-1949

Benny Morris ─ The Creation of the Palestinian Refugee Problem, 1947-1949



I would like to introduce
to you today a distinguished Israeli scholar, professor
Benny Morris from Ben-Gurion University. He will talk today
on the creation of the Palestinian refugee
problem 1947, 1949. Professor Morris was
born in Israel in 1948. He grew up in
Jerusalem and New York. He served in the
Israeli Defense Forces, and did his first degree
at Hebrew University. And his PhD at
Cambridge University. He worked for several years as
a journalist in the Jerusalem Post between 1978 and 1990. And since 1970, he's been
a professor of history at Ben-Gurion
University in Beersheba. And since 2015 he's been
a visiting professor of Middle East History
at Georgetown University. He's published many
books, many articles on the Arab-Israeli
conflict, including 1948, A History of the First
Arab-Israeli War, in 2008, Righteous Victims in
1999, and The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee
Problem Revisited in 2003. And he has just completed
what I understand is a massive book on
Turkish Christian relations between 1878 and 1924. I should say that his
book on the origins of the Palestinian
refugee problem is a book that really
changed the [? parallel ?] of the discussion simply
by documenting the– and here we will get into a bit
of etymology of the expulsion and or fleeing of Palestinians– about 700 750,000
Palestinians, the vast majority of the [? percent of ?]
population from what was a mandatory Palestine. And I believe that this will
be the major topic of his talk today. So please help me welcome him. [APPLAUSE] Thank you. And then thank you [INAUDIBLE]
and the Brown University for inviting me. The creation of the Palestinian
refugee problem in the 1948 war was one of the two
important outcomes, important historically
outcomes of the War. One was of course the
creation of the Jewish state in the center of the Arab
Muslim world in changing the geopolitics of the region. And the second was the creation
of the Palestinian refugee problem, important and
historically significant because of its
persistence to this day and it still is one of the major
obstacles to any peacemaking, and one of the driving
forces in the Arab, the enmity towards and
campaign against Israel. It's well worth noting maybe
at the outset, which is not normally said about
the refugee problem, that in fact, the '48 war
created three refugee problems. Not one, but three. One was the creation
of Israeli refugees. 70,000 Jews were displaced
in the course of the '48 war from their homes. 70,000, you might think
is a small number, was actually 10% of
the Jewish community in Palestine at that time. Say 30 million
Americans were displaced in the war from their homes
in America, 10% of Americans, that would be a
significant problem. So 70,000 Jewish refugees
created in the '48 war in Palestine. It was a problem. It was solved because
most of the area earmarked for Jewish statehood,
plus some other areas, became the state of Israel. They returned these
70,000, almost all of them, to their former homes. And the problem vanished. There is no Israeli refugee
problem from the '48 war. The second refugee
problem, which is the one I'm going
to talk about here, is the creation of the
Palestinian refugee problem. But the '48 war created also
a third refugee problem, not in '48 itself, but
in between 1948 and 1964. And that was the
displacement to refugium in fact, of the Jewish
communities in the Arab lands from Morocco– stretching from Morocco
through North Africa through the Middle East,
Iraq, Yemen, Egypt, Syria. They all had large
Jewish communities. And all of these essentially
vanished or were displaced or were intimidated into flight. That's probably the right word. Some of them were expelled,
as in Egypt in 1956, but most of them were simply
intimidated into flight as a result of what had
happened in Palestine, and Israel in 1948. And a vast Jewish
refugee problem, probably amounting
to about 800,000 Jews who were displaced,
it was created as a result. That problem
incidentally, no longer exists as well because
these Jews were absorbed, most of them the poor– most of them were poor– and
the vast majority of them ended up in Israel
and were absorbed and became Israeli
citizens, however difficult the absorption was. And a small number of them were
absorbed in Western countries, in France primarily and Britain. And so that refugee problem
no longer exists either. It sort of vanished
almost at inception. So one refugee problem
remained, and that was of course the
Palestinian refugees. And the Palestinian
refugee problem– the creation of– was
it the major expression of the collapse of
Palestinian society in the course of the '48 war? Under the hammer blows of war,
and defeat in the '48 war, 700,000 people were displaced. About 700,000, there's an
argument about numbers. About everything
about the subject is in dispute, and
so is the number. The United Nations checked
the numbers in '49, '50, and came up with
711,00 or 726,000 Arabs uprooted from their
homes in the course of the war. Israel maintained that 520,000
in all had been displaced. Arabs said the number
was 900,000 to 1 million. Probably the number
of the United Nations offered was probably
more or less accurate. And that was the number. Today, it's worth noting– I'll just jump to the
present for a second– today there are over five
million Arab refugees, Palestinian Arab refugees, on
the rolls of the United Nations and its special agency
for Palestinian refugees called UNRRA. The five million
consist of those still alive from
the first 700,000, the original 700,000, plus
their children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren. That's how you get
the five million plus. The Arabs incidentally, maintain
the number is closer to six to seven million of
Palestinian refugees. The problem refugees
and certainly is in a number of
ways, problematic when applied to
Palestinian refugees, it's worth mentioning before
going into the origins. One is the second and third
and fourth generations are not normally seen in
the international community as refugees, as
recognized as refugees. Germans who were expelled
from the Sudetenland or were expelled from Eastern
Europe and other places, and ended up in Germany, their
children and grandchildren, great grandchildren were
not recognized as refugees. And the same applies to
Vietnamese or Poles, or others. Usually the descendants are not. In this case, the
world community, for political reasons, has
lots of Muslim and Arab states in the United Nations continue
to see them as refugees, which is a problem. The other major problem
with the term refugees is that if you
look at the Oxford dictionary or any
normal dictionary, you'll find that a
refugee is somebody was displaced from his
country as a result of war, persecution, religious
and whatever. In fact, 2/3 of the 700,000
displaced from their homes in Palestine weren't
displaced out of Palestine. They were displaced to
other places in Palestine. 2/3, in other
words about 500,000 of the 700,000 so-called
refugees or those uprooted in the course of the
war, moved to other places in Palestine. They were uprooted from Jaffa. They moved to [INAUDIBLE],
to [INAUDIBLE]. They moved to [INAUDIBLE]. They moved from one part
of Palestine to another. They weren't uprooted
from their country. And therefore by
normal definitions, they would not be
accepted as refugees. But, and of course,
this would certainly pertain to their
children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren
who still live in the West Bank
and the Gaza Strip and other parts of Palestine. But we won't go into that. That's a semantic problem. But that's how
the world sees it. These are called refugees. Those displaced in '48
and their descendants. There are two
traditional explanations of why they became
refugees, why they were uprooted from their homes. The Arab explanation
is very simple. The Arabs say that the Jews
intended, in the Zionist movement, to take over all
of Palestine to dispossess and uproot the Palestinians. And in 1948, given the
opportunity of war, they did just that,
systematically as a matter of policy, and throughout
most of the Palestinians from the areas which
became the Jewish state in the course of that war. It was an expulsion. For ordained, they
planned systematic, and this is what happened. That's the Arab explanation
of how the refugee problem occurred, basically. And you'll still hear it from
Arab commentators, politicians, and so on. That's what happened. The Jewish explanation's
a little more complicated. And it says that either
they left their homes on their own volition,
which is a silly word, but that's the one
used voluntarily. Meaning that they fled
because of the flail of war. War approached their threshold. It approached their
villages, their towns. They didn't want to be
caught up in the war. They didn't want to be
subject to Jewish atrocities. And they didn't want to
live under Jewish rule. And so they fled of their own
volition as the phrase went. Or the Arab leaders themselves
asked or ordered or appealed to them to live for various
reasons, one of which might be, according to the
Jewish explanation, they wanted to clear
the battleground for the future
Arab states army's invasion of Palestine,
which occurred in May 1948. So they told the
Arabs of Palestine before that, leave,
clear the area. We Arabs will be able
to conquer more easily without having to shoot
up Arabs along the way. We will be able to invade
the country more easily, and without harming Arabs. And you Palestinian
refugees who leave now will be able to come
back to your homes. And of course, to
get Jewish homes when we conquer and
throw out the Jews. That was the Jewish
explanation of why the Arab leaders
called them to leave, if there were such calls. But that was the
Jewish explanation. The records opened by
the Israeli state papers, a [INAUDIBLE] archives,
local authority archives, and so on in Israel– And the papers opened
by the United Nations, the American
government, the British were in charge of Palestine
up to the 14th of May 1948, so they were there. These various groups
of state and local and private papers which were
opened in the early 1980s give us a more complex
explanation of what happened. Though most of it in the end–
and I'll get back to this when I speak in detail
of the causes– and the most
important explanation for why the Arabs left,
was essentially battle. That is there was a war in 1948. The war launched by the
Palestinian Arabs in November, December 1947
launched a second time when the Arab states armies
invaded Palestine in May 1948. And as a result of this war,
the Arabs became refugees. On the fringes, there were
expulsions by Israeli troops. There were orders or appeals
by Arab leaders, local leaders, for Arabs to flee their homes. But the main cause
was the war itself which generated
the displacement. Now I would say going into
it a little more deeply, that there were several
preconditions which led or were necessary in
leading to the creation of the Palestinian
refugee problem. One was that there was a
conflict for the previous 50 years from the beginning of
Zionist settlement in Palestine until 1947. There was hostility and conflict
between the two populations for the 50 years leading up
to that war, which implanted hatred, enmity, distrust,
all the rest of it in both populations,
especially I would say, on the side of the Arabs. And it was much more
violence of course by Arabs against the
incoming Jewish settlers than there was by the settlers
against the Arabs up to 1947. This is not disputable. This is fact. But the Arabs of course,
regarded all the Zionist influx up to 1947 as an invasion. Even if wasn't carried
out by force of arms, it was invasion under British– in some way British auspices. But this Zionist settlement,
Arab antagonism to it, attacks on Jews, as
a result some Zionist retaliatory attacks on Arabs,
all of this caused enmity, hatred. And this was a
precondition to what was going to happen in '48. A second thing is
there was expulsionist thinking on this in
the Zionist camp, especially during the mid-1930s. Zionist leaders– and here
I would mention specifically Ben-Gurion and Weitzman, the
two leading Zionist figures, did gradually come to
understand or believe that it was necessary
to achieve transfer of some Arabs or all
Arabs from the area which would become the Jewish state. In other words, Zionist
immigration to Palestine was not going to be
sufficient to constitute a Jewish majority in
any area of Palestine which would become
a Jewish state. It would have to be supplemented
by some form of transfer of Arabs. Preferably voluntary,
preferably compensated, but a transfer of Arabs
out of area, which would become a Jewish state. The Peel Commission,
the British commission, which investigated the
Arab Revolt of 1936 had proposed partition of
Palestine into two states and had proposed
alongside that a transfer a voluntary preferable, but
even compulsory of the Arabs from the area of the
Jewish state to be. The Peel Commission incidentally
earmarked 17% of historic Palestine– that is, from
the river to the sea– 17% for Jewish statehood. The rest, almost all the
rest, for Arab sovereignty. But from that 17%,
the Peel Commission said Arabs, or
most Arabs, should be removed even compulsorily. And this of course, reinforced
Zionist thinking about– and made it sort of
even more public– if there's a Peel Commission,
the commission sent by the rulers of Palestine, the
British rulers who were also a democracy, and the fount
of democracy, if you like, and a liberal
enlightened thinking, if they could
endorse a transfer, we too can endorse transfer. It gave it a moral
underpinning, if you like. The Arabs, also of Palestine,
thought in terms of transfer. And we know this
certainly from the way their national leader,
Haj Amin al-Husseini, talked about what he envisioned
the future of Palestine to be. It should be all
under Arab rule, and it should have as
few Jews as possible. And when asked by
the Peel Commission what you would do with the
400,00 Jews who already live here who just came in the last
couple of decades, he said, well history will tell. And we're not going to
give them citizenship. History will tell
them, the commission understood he actually meant to
certainly disenfranchisement, but maybe just to expel
them or even slaughter them. The Peel Commission
wasn't clear about that. It actually compared–
the Peel Commission– what he said to what
Iraqis at the time were doing to Assyrians,
the Christians in Iraq, which was some
sort of slaughter. And he said maybe this is what
can be expected if Haj Amin al-Husseini takes
over in Palestine, it will happen to the Jews. So there was transfer thinking
on the Arab side, which fed Jewish transfer thinking. If they want to kick us
out, we'll kick them out. But the driving force
among the Jews wasn't this, those propounding
transfer were driven by the desperation and the
stress of the Jewish minorities in Europe, especially
in Germany, but also in Poland and other places where
anti-Semitism was on the rise, and what was expected. And they feared the worst. The word Shoah incidentally,
that is Holocaust, begins to appear in
Jewish newspapers relating to what is going to happen to
the Jews of Europe from 1933. From 1933, it appears in the
headlines, the word Shoah. That is, they had this sense
that terrible things were about to happen,
and therefore you needed space for
them in Palestine meaning a Jewish state. And if you had a
Jewish state which has a large Arab population
which is busy shooting up Jews, that's not a safe haven. So this also of
course pushed them into thinking in
terms of transfer as part of the solution to
the problem of a Arab minority in a Jewish state. A large Arab minority,
which doesn't want to live in a Jewish
state and might actually fight against the Jewish
rulers in that state. Third precondition
for the creation of the Palestinian refugee
problem in the '48 war was the weaknesses
of Arab society. Palestinian Arab society
had major faults, schisms major problems, it
didn't have any democracy. There wasn't any
elected leadership. There were a couple
of strong families which gained dominance. The Husseini family
and their allies gained dominance in the
Palestinian Arab national movement, but they weren't
legitimate in the sense of democratically
elected or supported. They terrorized their
opponents inside. So there was a fissure
between the Husseini factions and antagonistic factions, which
were called the opposition, led by the Nashashibi clan. And there were fissures
between Muslim Arabs. 90% of the Arabs of
Palestine and the 10% of Christians who didn't want
to live under the Muslims, and feared the Muslims. So there was that base. And the other Christians were
of course much better educated than the Muslims
and were favored by the British authorities. So there was a problem
there of that basic fissure. There was a problem between
towns and countryside. Townspeople often looking
down on the country people as primitive and whatever. The Bedouins in the
country, and there were a large
numbers of Bedouins, were of course not part of
regular Palestinian society and were regarded
skeptically or even worse. Bedouins usually stole things
from the neighboring villages, and so on. So there's a problem
between Bedouins sedentary and non-sedentary
populations in Palestine. But the main weakness of
Palestinian Arab society was an organization. That had a national movement,
but without the appropriate– not proper, appropriate
organizations which can hold
together a society and a national movement– not proper running,
functioning municipalities, no proper taxation system,
no self-defense force, no national self-defense force. Every village has
its militia, which meant 20 or 30 people with bad,
usually poor guns, but rifles. But they had no
national organization also in the military sense. And when they came
against the Jews in 1948, they were fighting with
different militias. In other words, 700 militias. The number of Arab villages
there were in Palestine against the united
Jewish National Militia, which turned into
an army called the Haganah. And so this lack of
organization was very important. As I say, no taxation, no
national military structure, and fissures in
the society itself. The last of,
course, precondition was the war itself. The 48th war itself
was a precondition for the creation of the
Palestinian refugee problem. Workers, people
fear, people flee. And a without a war,
one can't see how people would have become refugees. But a war made that possible. And in some way, even necessary. The refugee problem
occurred– and it's worth looking at that–
in four stages. I investigated the subject when
I wrote the first book, which came out in 1988, The Birth
of the Palestinian Refugee Problem. I investigated it a second time
in 2003, 2004, or in the years before that, when I published
the second version of that book called The Birth of the
Palestinian Refugee Problem Revisited, which is twice as
long as the first version, but much better. It's much better because
it's much richer in material. Not the conclusions
are exactly the same, but the material which I had
available in the second edition was much richer than
what I had in the first because the IDF had
opened its archive. The Israeli army and the Haganah
had opened their archives. The Israeli state an
archive had opened up the cabinet deliberations. So I had much better material
for the second version, which makes it a much better book. But as I say, a
much harder applaud. And from this material– and
as I say the material from England, from American archives,
United Nations archives, and so on– I reached the conclusion
that the refugee problem had been created in four stages,
had emerged in four stages. The first stage
was very important. When the Arabs began shooting–
the Palestinian Arabs began shooting at the Palestinian Jews
in November 1947, immediately after the UN had declared
or proposed a partition solution to the problem,
on the 29th of November, the partition resolution number
181, the Arabs began shooting. And from November '47 until
the end of March 1948, probably something like
75,000 Palestinians had fled their homes. This was the first
stage in the creation. It was very important
because the 75,000 included much of the
Palestinian middle class. As during 1936, '39,
when the Arabs rebelled against the British,
in 193, '39, something like 30,000 to 40,000
Palestinians of the wealthier middle class, upper class–
it's the same class in fact. There's no real
difference there– fled to Lebanon, Syria,
Jordan, and other places in that rebellion. And they did the same thing in
the beginning of the 1948 war. 75,000 fled, which essentially
left the Palestinian masses leaderless and headless. The middle class, the lawyers,
the doctors, the pharmacists, the police, most of the
politicians, all of them were out of the country within
weeks after in November 1947. And this left many of
the Palestinian masses fearful and leaderless. And they couldn't flee,
of course, as quickly because they didn't have money. They weren't going to
abandon their fields and go to a hotel in
Nablus or in Beirut, because they couldn't afford
a hotel in Nablus or Beirut, or a second apartment, and
the richer people could. So they stayed stay
put until the Hammer Blows of the Jewish
offensives, which began in the beginning of April 1948. It hit them town after town,
the Tiberius Haifa and so on. And they also began to
flee because then it wasn't a matter of a little
bit of money for rent. It was a matter of your life
and your daughter's lives, and your wives lives, and so on. So they began to flee. The first stage set the
stage for the second stage. And then the second
stage begins or occurs in April, May, June 1948, and
parallels the Zionist shift to the offensive at
the beginning of April. The Zionists had
been on the defensive until the fourth month,
the end of the fourth month in the Civil War's
part of the war. The first half of
the war, until May '48 was a civil war, as I
said, between the communities. Afterwards it's followed by
a conventional war, which starts with the Arab invasion,
the pan Arab invasion, of the country by the armies of
Jordan, Syria, Egypt, and Iraq. From beginning of April
1948, the Zionists go over to the offensive
partly because they know that in May
1948 the British are going to leave the country,
and the Arab states are going to invade. And they must finish and defeat
the Palestinian Arab militias before the invasion
from outside, otherwise they face
the enemy at the gates, on the borders, and the enemy
within shooting up their supply columns and so on,
the Palestinians. So they had to defeat
the Palestinians. And they go over
to the offensive in the beginning of April. And that offensive includes
capturing Arab neighborhoods, Arab towns, Arab
villages, which serve as the bases of the Arab militia
attacks on the Jews, which had been occurring for
the previous four months and involved attacks in which
Arab villagers and townspeople essentially fled. Here and there, there were
expulsions, but most of it was just flight as a
result of Jewish approach or Jewish attack on
particular villages and towns. And that was the mass flight. Those three months from
the beginning of April until the end of
June 1948, something like 250,00 to
300,000 Palestinians. The urban masses and
swathes of Arab villages in the countryside flee as a
result of Zionist offensives in one area after another. There's a third stage
in July in which the– by now we're not talking
about Zionist, but Israel. The Israeli army goes over to
the offensive in July 1948, and in 10 days conquerors
Lydda and Ramle, and the town of
Nazareth, lower Galilee. And there too, there is mass
Arab flight in Lydda and Ramle. That's the case of the
biggest of the expulsions in the 48th war. The Israeli troops expel the
population of Lydda and Ramle altogether. Something like 50,000
people are expelled. Altogether during
July, about 100,000 more Arab refugees are created. And the fourth stage
is in October, November '48 when the Israeli
army goes over to the number of offensives. In the south, the Negev, and
in the north, the Galilee. And another 200,000 or so
Arabs evacuate their villages. Some are expelled, most flee. Those are the four stages in
the creation of the problem. Let me add one more
important thing. And sometimes I
think that that's the most important
thing that happened to create the refugee problem. And that was that the Israeli
government from June 1948, it never decided on
expelling the Arabs. We have the cabinet
protocols, we have the protocols of the
Jewish agency executive, which ruled the Jewish community
in Palestine before May 1948. We have much of the
material of the IDF from 1948 itself, and the
Haganah general staff, and so on. At no place was there
a decision to expel the Arabs of Palestine. Just doesn't exist. It didn't happen. There was no such decision. Had there been such
a decision, there would have been a rift in
the Israeli government, between left and right. The left opposing
a such a decision, and Ben-Gurion didn't
want a split cabinet in the middle of a war. But what there
was from June 1948 was the decision by the
Israeli government reiterated in the following months in
August and September again, in official cabinet
decisions, not to allow the refugees
to return en masse. They said, well,
maybe some refugees can return at the end
of the war if there is a peace agreement between
Israel and the Arab states. That will be part of
the peace agreement. But there will be no
return of Arab refugees in the course of the war because
there will be a fifth column if they come back. Their people will be
fighting against us. If they come back,
they will again start shooting at the road, at
the convoys along the roads, shoot at our troops
as they're trying to fend of the Egyptians
and the Syrians and the Iraqis and
the Jordanians. We will not allow a mass
refugee return before wars end. And only as part
of a peace treaty if there is one, eventually. So that was an
important decision which is worth taking
note of, which in some way assured the perpetuation
of the refugee problem. You can say that the other half
of that cause of perpetuating the refugee problem was
that the Arab states did not absorb the refugees. The Jews wouldn't take them
back into their area which became the state of Israel. The Arab states
refused to absorb them as Germans had absorb German
refugees or Turks had absorbed Turkish refugees in
previous decades, or Greeks did absorb
Greek refugees. The Arab states did not absorb
their brothers from Palestine. In Lebanon they didn't
give them citizenship. In Syria they didn't
give them citizenship. In Jordan, eventually they
gave them citizenship, but kept them as second
class citizens and so on. So there was no proper
absorption in the Arab states. The reasons for it
are certainly quite– they're complex, but simple. If the Arab states
said, if we start absorbing Palestinian
Arab refugees, this will end the
refugee problem. And we want to maintain
the refugee problem as a battering ram against the
Israelis in the United Nations, in propaganda. And we can also
use Arab refugees as a potential terrorist
against Israel. So they had reasons to
perpetuate the refugee problem. Also they didn't want to absorb
Palestinian Arab refugees. They never liked the
Palestinians especially before that. They certainly didn't want
an embittered minority joining their countries
and destabilizing their own regimes,
which is what happened. Palestinian refugees
in Lebanon destabilized Lebanon in the 1970s
and '80s, leading to a civil war in Lebanon. They did the same
in Jordan in 1970 in the famous Black
September clash between the PLO,
the Palestinians and the Jordanian government. So the Arabs were
right in if they were taken in and
allowed to stay, they would destabilize
our regime. So they didn't want them. They want them to
go back to Israel. They also of course saw
going back to Israel, sending the refugees back to
Israel as the voice of justice. They should be allowed to return
to their homes in Palestine. And if we start absorbing
them, we'll take away, we'll reduce the power
of this claim of justice. That they should
simply be allowed to go back to their homes. So they didn't absorb
them and the Israelis wouldn't allow them in. These are the reasons for the
perpetuation of the problem. Now in terms of policy, what
was Israeli or Zionist policy before May 48th? Israeli policy from the
creation of the state of Israel and the Israeli government
in mid-May 1948. And what were Arab policies? Well, the Israeli said that
the Arabs then and later said the Arabs had
caused the refugee problem by their leaders
announcing on the radio, or calling on the radio
for the Arabs to leave. So they were the cause
of the refugee problem, apart from other explanations
such as voluntary flight and so on. The Zionist propaganda
said that Arab leaders have called on them to leave. This is untrue. That is this claim by Israel
and by Zionist spokesman from 48th onwards. And you can sometimes,
sometimes still hear it from Israeli
spokesmen that the Arabs cause the refugee problem by inviting
or appealing or ordering their people to leave. It's untrue. It doesn't have verification
in the documentation. There were places Arab leaders
told Arabs or appealed to Arabs or advised Arabs to
leave, as in Haifi on the 22nd of April 1948. The remaining leadership
told the Arab population of the town to leave. But most places there
wasn't such an appeal or such an order. And Arabs left, not as a
result as you say of an appeal. We do have documentation in
fact showing the opposite, that Haj Amin al-Husseini
and his people– the Arab higher committee
as it was called– did in certain places
in East Jerusalem and in Tiberius in March 1948,
appealed to Arabs to stay put. And in fact, there were
radio broadcasts in May from the Arab world, from Amman
and by the Arab Liberation Army from Ramallah,
ordering people to stay put or to go back to their homes
on pain of confiscation of their property. In other words, Arab leaders
telling Palestinian Arabs not to leave or to go back. There were such a
broadcasts, which is the opposite of what
the Israeli propaganda said at the time. But it wasn't consistent. And it's probably true
that in April, May, the leadership of
the Palestinian Arabs understood that
Arab flight would help to goad the Arab states
into sending in their armies. So let them flee because that'll
force the Arab states to send in their armies. The Arabs were very
hesitant about invading Palestine in 1948. And if they dumped a lot
of Arab refugees saying bring us back,
defeat the Jews, this would be a massive pressure on
the Arab states to intervene. So Haj Amin al-Husseini
and his people, and as they say, in April,
May have understood this. And so there's not
many appeals for Arabs to go back by
Palestinian leaders, or not to leave their homes. We don't have it. At least the record– I should have said something
at the very, very beginning of this talk. We have Israeli records. Every Israeli thought
he was participating in a great historical moment. They were all very literate. They're all what Israelis
call [INAUDIBLE]. That is, they're all mad
about writing things down. Every sergeant, every
lieutenant, every captain, every minor official writes
things down, sends reports up the chain of commands. He sends reports or orders
down the chains of command. We have the protocols of
the leadership and so on. We've got the material
on the Israeli side. On the Arab side we don't. Because the Arabs states
are all dictatorships. They were then and they remain
to this date all dictatorships. The dictators do not open
their archives to anybody. And who knows what's
in the archives? You don't know, because
you've never seen the archives because they're closed. So we don't know if the
Egyptians and the Jordanians and so on kept records. And the Palestinian
Arabs didn't keep records because they were disorganized
and they were not a state. And things also got destroyed. If there were some records,
they were destroyed. There's very little Palestinian
Arab material remaining. There's the protocols
or some sort of [INAUDIBLE] of discussions
of the leadership in Haifa in January to April. But there's very
little Arab records. Very little Arab records remain. So what I'm saying is it's
much more difficult to work out what exactly were Arab policies
and Arab intentions and so on. Also in the pan Arab
invasion of May 1948. And the Palestinians
going to war in November, December 1947, because we
don't have the records. And we do on the Israeli side. There's something which
has to be understood and should be understood
by anybody dealing with any of these subjects. Maybe things will change. Their historical picture
will change if and when all these records– if they exist–
become available. At the moment,
they're not available. So you have to take
that as a given. So what emerges from
this on the Arab policy is that the Palestinian
Arabs didn't seem to goad their people to leave. There wasn't this a policy of
getting the Arabs to leave. Though it's possible
that there was some silence on their part
towards the Arab invasion because they wanted
the Arabs to invade. The Arab states– their
records don't exist and they were confused. They didn't really know
what was happening. And when they suddenly
got this big refugee burden, hundreds of thousands
of Palestinian Arabs pouring into Jordan, Syria, and
Lebanon, it wasn't that many, but a certain
number by May 1948, they began to see there
was a problem emerging, but they didn't really
know what to do about it. And any how they were
involved in a war. They began to invade Israel. So the Palestinian refugees
were a minor issue for them. The problem became acute
by the end of the war when they were a
much larger numbers of Palestinian refugees. Then they began to pressure the
Western governments, America, the United Nations to
take back the refugees. But before that, they were
involved, as I say acutely, in a war. For them, it was a major
war against the Zionists, against Israel. So the refugee problem was
sort of very minor and not very important to them
through most of the war. On the Jewish side, policy
and implementation and intent are much clearer. As I said, there was no policy. And there's no evidence
of a policy of expulsion. Not before May 1948, not after
Israel was created in May 1948. And we have the cabinet
deliberations, as I said. We have the general staff. Some of the deliberations. We have the Jewish agency
executive protocols deliberations and so on. There was no such decision. There was though, from the
beginning of April 1948, when the Zionist forces go over
to the offensive, the Haganah, goes over to the offensive from
the beginning of April 1948, there's an atmosphere of
transfer in the country. This is clear that the
Zionist forces, the Haganah– alongside them the
IZL and the LHI, which are some minor dissident
groups, but have an influence, especially through the
attack and the propaganda about the attack in
[INAUDIBLE] on the 9th of April '48 where there is a massacre,
they had a minor influence. But in general, there's
an atmosphere of transfer. And why is there an
atmosphere of transfer? Because for four
months the Zionists have endured Arab attack. They've been on the
defensive, the Zionists. Now they go over to
the attack and they know there's a prospect
of Arab invasion of the country by the armies
of Jordan, Syria, Iraq, maybe Lebanon. Lebanon doesn't invade, but they
think it will Egypt and so on. They have to finish off the
Palestinian armed forces. And the local
commanders understand that they will have a
much easier time of it if they throw out the
Arabs from their sectors. If they leave a
village intact, you'll have to invest it
with a garrison force. You don't have the troops to
leave behind in every village. It's much better for you
to throw out the villagers or to see them leave and not
let them come back, to destroy, to level the villages. They'll never serve
again as bases for Arab attacks on your
convoys, on your troops. So the local
commanders by and large thought it was a good idea
for the Arabs to leave and were happy to
see their backs. This is clear. And there was an
atmosphere, which I think Ben-Gurion
also generated, that he would approve
of this if this is how the Arab, the
local commanders behaved. But as I say, it never
turned into policy. There's no document
which shows it, then we have people
who are dissidents. We know that in July,
for example 1948, when the Jewish troops– it's by now it's the IDF– conquers Nazareth, the
main town in lower Galilee, the local commander
there, [? Laskov, ?] wants to throw out the
Arabs from Nazareth. And he sends an
order to the troops to throw out, to expel the
population of Nazareth. And one of his
deputies, his name– can't remember his name. But he's the head of the 7th
brigade, a Canadian volunteer. A colonel from the Canadian
Army, from World War II, commands this Israeli
armored brigade. Ben Dunkleman, that's his name. Ben Dunkleman, he wrote
a memoir afterwards. He says to his
commander, [? Laskov, ?] no I'm not going to
expel the population. So he goes up the
chain of command– this argument between these two
generals or colonels as they are, but the function
of generals– the argument goes up
the chain of command. Then Ben-Gurion gets the
telegram to expel them. And from [? Laskov ?] and he
says no, don't carry this out. So in certain cases Ben-Gurion
doesn't endorse expulsion. Maybe he understands that once
it's spread around the network, in the army, he'll be identified
as an expeller or a supporter or endorser of
expulsion, and doesn't want to go down in history as
such a character in that role. But in general,
in most places he will endorse as he does in
July in Lydda and Ramle, he endorses the general's
desire to expel population. But there are generals do it,
and there are generals who don't. That's why in Israel
after the 1948th War, there are 700,000 Jews in the
area of the state of Israel as it emerges from the war. There are 700,000 Jews
at the end of the war, and 160,000 Arabs. There wouldn't be
160,000 Arabs, which is more than a fifth
of the population, if there had been a
policy of expulsion. All the generals would have
simply followed it and done it. Some were opposed. Some didn't do it. And we have records of various
Israeli government officials saying there's no policy. One general, one
colonel does this. One captain does that. And you're speaking
specifically of the Galilee. This guy called the [INAUDIBLE]
from the Foreign Ministry. He goes up to the Galilee. He sees that everybody's
doing different things. It's chaos. There's no policy. And as I say, there's a will
to see the back of the Arabs by local commanders. Probably most of the
Israeli population by now is fed up with the
Arabs who've been attacking them Palestinians. And in the Arab
states, it's better for the state in the
long term to have as few Arabs as possible,
but it's never a policy. It doesn't turn into policy. And it's not systematic. What else can I tell you
about the refugee problem? Let me just summarize,
and then we'll leave the floor
open for questions. From the records, Israeli,
American, British, and so on– but the Israeli and the
British are the important ones. The British certainly
until they leave in May, the major cause of Palestinian
refugium of displacement, is the war itself. And it's the fear of Israeli
encroachment an attack. And actual Israeli attack,
Zionist and then Israeli attack, and also fear of
living, staying put and living under Israeli rule. This is the major driving
force in the departure. Most Arabs
incidentally, probably think they are going to be
coming back to their homes. The Israelis will let them back. The United Nations will
engineer their return. The Arab states may
invade and win the war, and then bring them back. They expect to return. Nobody thinks he's going
into a 100 year refugium They think they're coming back. But the major reason
is the war itself, and the fear of being
harmed and theirs being harmed in the war itself. There's also a breakdown
of the administration. As Arab areas collapse, as
the militias are defeated, as in Jaffa we know in
late April, May 1948, people leave because
the place is in chaos. There's Arab volunteers who've
come and they rape people and they steal
things from houses. And the Jews are
on the outskirts, and the British are
leaving or about to leave, so nobody is going
to protect them. And they don't want to
live under Jewish rule. And there is the
occasional Jewish sniping. I'm talking about Jaffa in
this particular context. So they actually flee the town. They don't see any prospects
for continued existence there. There are Jewish expulsions. As I said in Lydda
and Ramle, there's an actual expulsion orders,
and the systematic expulsion of the population. There are Arab areas
where Arabs tell or advise their own people to leave. Haifa is a prominent example
of that, in April 1948. But along, in many of
the coastal villages, and in many of the villages in
the north, in the [INAUDIBLE] Valley, Arab militias
and male leaders, [? muktars ?] in
the villages, often send away their women and
children from villages. From December '47 they're
busy sending a way out of the country or out of harm's
way their women and children. The argument is women
and children here will be a burden on us if we
have to fight of the Jews. The problem is that
it cuts two ways. Once you send away
your women and children you have, less reason to
stay put and fight the Jews, because you're not
defending your children. So when they order
their women and children to live in dozens of villages,
and we have the documentation for this, is part of the reason
for the creation of the refugee problem. There's also an atrocity factor,
which shouldn't be belittled. Certainly from April
1948, when the IZL and LHI conquered the village
of Deir Yassin on the outskirts of Jerusalem,
and kill about hundreds of its people, some
of them combatants, but most of the noncombatants,
and then this atrocity is broadcast on Arab radio
stations and other Arab media, and inflated. The numbers inflated, the types
of atrocities are inflated. This causes a demoralization of
the Arabs in the Jerusalem area and in general around Palestine. And we know that Arabs are being
attacked by the LHI or the IZL, and even by the
Haganah, or the IDF, they hear the word
Deir Yassin and they start shouting the
word Deir Yassin and they become demoralized
and start fleeing. In other words, the fear of
atrocity is very important. And there are a series of
atrocities in the war by Arabs as well as Jews, but I'm talking
about Jewish atrocities, which certainly causes panic
and demoralization. There's the
occasional rapes even. And this is a factor
which plays heavily in Arab societies
for various reasons. And it causes fathers
and the elders to get their women and daughters
and so on out of harm's way. We'll leave it at that. Floor's open. Thank you. [APPLAUSE] –questions? Yeah, sure. Go ahead. –the concept of new
historians in Israel? I'm an historian, so
I deal with the past. So I don't have solutions. [INAUDIBLE] About the
new historians, well, in the 1980s, when the
archives were opening up in Israel and in
Western countries, about what had happened
in Palestine in '48, and a new generation
of historians sort of grew up, matured,
and I was among them, wrote a number of studies in
the mid 1980s, late 1980s, essentially revising
the history of what had happened in '48 on the
basis of this newly opened documentation, and if you
like, of their open minds, which were different from the
minds of Israeli historians in the 50s, 60s, and
70s who were essentially establishment historians
writing official history. And in 1988 I
published an article. At the end of 1988,
sort of summarizing some of the main points
of the new historiography as I called it, and of the new
historians, people like myself, [INAUDIBLE] Tom Segev and one
or two others, how what they had written changed
some of the basic tenets of Israeli historiography about
the 48th war and the period around it. And then new historians
in that article, I sort of set them again
against the old historians, the official
establishment historians. And perhaps they
exaggerated, perhaps it was a bit simplistic
that article, but in essence, I
think it got it right. That's why it
created such a stir. The article and this combination
of revisionist histories. And I think if I may say it,
I think it was successful. That is the new historiography,
the revisionist historiography was successful to the extent
that much of the things which we said had happened on
the basis of documentation, have been accepted by the
Israeli historiography community. Less so perhaps by the public. It takes a long time
for historiography to filter down to the public,
especially when you've got governments as we have
today, which don't actually insist on the truth
about the past. But I think it also had
another important impact, the new historiography
in that it forced other historians to write
more truthfully about the past. Other historians, we
didn't necessarily identify as left wingers or
anti-establishment or whatever, but they to be much more
careful about and much more comprehensive about the
things they covered. It wasn't just a matter
of what they wrote, but it was a matter of
what they wrote about. In other words,
the refugee problem was something which
people didn't write about before my book came
out, essentially, except for one exception. And now they were able to
write about atrocities. There was a man called– a mayor or a Colonel from
the Israeli army, retired. And then he decided to
become an historian. And there are some
good historians among retired
colonels in Israel. And he wrote a history of
this particular battalion, the 9th armored
battalion in '48. He wrote a history about this,
and was financed by the defense ministry. These sort of studies
of military units and their history,
financed by the ministry and published by the defense
ministry press, which is a very large press in the
Israeli publishing society environment. And in that history,
1994 this book came out, he wrote about the atrocities
committed by members of the ninth battalion
in [INAUDIBLE] and some– and this was unthinkable. 1994 was unthinkable
before that the IDF press would publish a book which
the detailed Israeli army atrocities in '48. So I think this was
sort of under the impact of the new historiography. It made people write
more truthfully and more comprehensively about things. Yeah? [INAUDIBLE] Thank you. Two small questions
and one larger one. Two small questions. Why didn't the Palestinian
leadership in '47 or '48, when the mandate ended,
why did they not declare a Palestinian state? Second question, how many
Jewish settlers in what we now call the West Bank
and Gaza Strip, were displaced from their homes
as a result of the '48, '49 war, and where did they go? The larger question is if
the three chairs to your left were filled by [INAUDIBLE] and
[INAUDIBLE] and [INAUDIBLE], and there's the wonderful
Palestinian who wrote Once Upon A Country. His name is escaping me. He spoke around– [INAUDIBLE] . [INAUDIBLE] If you were all sitting together
at this table discussing not solutions, not the present,
but '48, '49 and the refugee crisis, do you think there
would be five dead bodies by the end of the discussion? Or would you come
to some agreement? Why five? It's like that joke
about [INAUDIBLE] joke. It's a riddle. [INAUDIBLE] It's three snakes. Father snake, mother
snake, and baby snake look left, look
right and cross the road. And when they end up
crossing the road, baby snake says thank
god the four of us made it across safely. Why did why you say four? Sorry. It's because he can't count. [INAUDIBLE] So he asked you a question. [INAUDIBLE] Why didn't the Palestinians
declare statehood? The Palestinian
leadership in '48. Well, the Arab states
were against that. They wanted essentially
when they invaded Palestine in May 1948, they
didn't like Husseini and they didn't like the
Palestinians especially, especially the Jordanians
who wanted Palestine for themselves, not
for the Palestinians. They opposed
Palestinian statehood. And when they went in, they
wanted to share Palestine, the parts they were conquering
or about to conquer, they wanted them for themselves. The Egyptians wanted
the Negev, the south. The Jordanians wanted the
West Bank and East Jerusalem, which they managed to
conquer more or less, they occupied and conquer. And the Syrians
apparently wanted parts of the north and so on. So they opposed
Palestinian statehood. And the Palestinian
leadership was dispersed. It wasn't in Palestine. They didn't actually
stay around for the war. Most of the leaders lived it
out in Beirut and in Cairo. So they didn't really
have the opportunity to. And they didn't have the state– I talked about that before– the
mechanisms of creating a state. The Jews had prepared the
mechanism for statehood throughout the mandate. They'd worked at it. We have to establish this. If we want a state, we'll
have to establish it. And to do that, we've
got to make preparations. And they did it. The Palestinians didn't do it. So even if they had
declared a state, there wouldn't have
emerged any state because that was all on paper. Was nothing. Was nothing there. Well, I talked
about 70,000 Jews, having been displaced
from their homes in the course of the war, which
included- those 70,000 included some Jewish settlers who lived
in the West Bank at the time. There was a bunch of four
settlements, the Etzion bloc just south of Bethlehem. There were a few other
Jewish settlements just north of Jerusalem, the
[INAUDIBLE] so on. One or two along the Dead Sea. [INAUDIBLE] and so on. And all of these people
had been displaced or fled in the course of the war in. Those in the west,
in the Etzion bloc were in fact attacked and
conquered by the Arab legion with local irregulars
joining them. And they of course
never came back. And of course the Jewish
population in the old city of Jerusalem living in
the Jewish quarter– we're talking about over
1,000 people were essentially expelled by the Arabs– the Arab legion which
took over the old city and conquered the Jewish
quarter in the old city. So that's what happened to them. In 1967, we see the sons of
those displaced from the Etzion bloc going back and
resettling the West Bank. And these are some of
the initial settlers in the West Bank post 1967. You asked about what the Arabs
would say about the 48th war? No. [INAUDIBLE] [INAUDIBLE] [INAUDIBLE] Would they kill each other? Yeah, OK. Preferably them, but OK. Yeah. Or would you find yourself
in general agreement? Well, about 48th, I
would say that there would be a lot of agreement. But I would say that
Ilan Pappe would say that it was in the genes
of the Zionist movement to dispossess and
expelled the Arabs. That's what he would say. Even if there was no plan. Even if there is
no policy, it was inbuilt into the
ideology of the movement. The Arab might say– I don't think he would. [INAUDIBLE] wouldn't say that. [INAUDIBLE] wouldn't say that. But a lot of Arab
historians would say yes, there was a plan. It was preordained,
and it was systematic. And it was implemented according
to specific plan and so on. They might point to this thing
called planned [INAUDIBLE], which isn't actually
an expulsion plan, but they say it is. But they would say
it was planned. There would be a difference
between some of us. But I think Avi
[? Schliem ?] would agree that it just happened. It was war. And things nasty
things happen in war. And this is what happened. I don't think he would
disagree with me on this one. He's actually written very
favorably about my books, so I don't think he
would argue that. [INAUDIBLE] [INAUDIBLE] Rashid. Well, I don't think very
highly of Rashid [INAUDIBLE] as an historian. I think he would tailor
what he said according to the politics of the PLO
or the Palestinian leadership at the time. In other words, he wouldn't
give you his opinion. He would give you
an opinion, which would be very well
tailored according to the drift of opinion
in Arab political ranks. [INAUDIBLE] No, today. The Political ranks today. The political, the
official, the narrative of the Palestinian
side is Israelis intended to expel and
systematically and on a plan, expel. That's the official
Palestinian narrative. And he wouldn't diverged
from that in my view. Rashid [INAUDIBLE]. [INAUDIBLE] –people fled the
war but that some [INAUDIBLE] did intend to displace
wondering what the difference is between that concrete
policy of expulsion– like if in practice,
these generals were making targeted efforts or
just efforts in general to displace these people, what
is the difference between that and the policy? I think you have to remember
that there was a war in 1948. That's what happened. There was a war. They were certainly
attacking, and maybe trying to destroy the Jewish
community in Palestine, the Palestinian
Arabs to begin with, and the Arab states
armies afterwards. And that's how the Zionist
side the Jews, the settlers, the people, this is
how they saw things. So what happened to
the Palestinian Arabs in terms of the generals
wasn't that important. They were trying to win a war. And in the process,
also trying to carve out a little more
territory for the Jewish state, to enlarge it beyond what
the United Nations had earmarked in the partition
resolution of November 1947. That reminds me. When I was doing my study
the first time in the 80s, I went to see
[INAUDIBLE], who was the de facto commander of the
Israeli army in the 48th war. He was the head of operations. And since the
commander in chief, or the chief of
the general staff was mostly sick
at the time, a man called [INAUDIBLE]
actually ran the thing. [INAUDIBLE] later became a
famous archaeologist and so on. And I asked him, I remember– because I was looking
at a particular aspect of the 48th war, I asked
him about Lydda and Ramle. What happened in
Lydda and Ramle? Do you know what happened? Can you tell me? This was in the early 1980s,
when I went to interview him. And I never used interviews
at all after that. I thought it's a waste of time. Oral history is nonsense. It's not a basis for finding
out what happened anywhere. Maybe egregious
[INAUDIBLE] atmosphere, but it's certainly not
a basis for establishing reconstructing the past. [INAUDIBLE] said to
me, I don't remember. I don't remember. I asked him what had
happened in Lydda and Ramle where there was the
big expulsion on 12th, 13th July, 1948. And he say I don't remember. And I said to him, but
I've got the records. I've got the actual
written orders to expel signed [INAUDIBLE]
who was the Lieutenant Colonel at the time,
head of operations in that particular operation. And he says to me,
this may be true. I'm not saying what
you're saying is wrong, that there wasn't an expulsion,
I just don't remember. Why am I raising all that? Because you talked
about the generals. Why did he not remember what
happened in Lydda and Ramle? Because he was involved
in running a war. And a war for survival. And what was happening to
a few Arab villagers here, or thousands or
tens of thousands there was a minor thing
for him in a general war. Later, we historians,
propagandists, commentators will focus on what happened to
the Palestinians, the refugees, that is the civilians,
but they were running a war for survival. So didn't interest
them that much. Now generally as I said,
they preferred a front without Arab villages, without
having to worry about them, without having to invest
them with garrison troops. But they didn't care that much. Where they fled, they fled. And they wouldn't
allow them back. Occasionally they expelled them. And there were generals and
colonels who didn't expel. And that's why in the
Galilee to this day, you've got over a million
Arabs living there, or close to a million Arabs. Because the generals
in the north, or the colonels or the majors
or the captains in the north didn't want to expel them. And didn't expel them
and let them stay put. That's what I would say. I'm sure I can talk about it
much more, but that's good. In the beginning, you said
that recognizing the refugees now is a large part of the
refugee problem nowadays. I read the beginning
of your talk. I didn't say that. I said the refugee problem is a
major obstacle to peace making. No, you were talking about the
children of the refugees being recognized. Recognizing them as refugees. So recognizing the
refugees as refugees is a large part of the problem. No I didn't say it's
a part of the problem. I said there's a
problem with etymology, or semantics or
whatever you call it, about who is a refugee. That's what I said. And here we've got a
special, or rather unusual unique in fact a case in which
the world community recognizes second, third, and
fourth generations as refugees, when
it's a problem. They don't do it
with other people. That's what I said. Are they not actually refugees
or a displaced population? And is this problem mostly
logistical or legislative? That is like it's just how
you define who's a refugee? Or do you consider them to be
a displaced population or not at this point? It's up to you. I don't consider anything. No, I'm asking you
what you consider. It's not relevant. Look, many of the refugees
have made new lives, have settled down, have houses
and lands and so on in Jordan, for example. Are they refugees? They're not really refugees. They live as second
class citizens, but they have citizenship
and so on in Jordan. So are they refugees? No, they've got
passports and so on. In the West Bank
there are refugees. Are there our local
population, which isn't from refugee extraction. And they're not refugees. The refugees there are refugees. Are their descendants refugees? I don't know. It's a matter of perception. I don't really see the problem. I don't think
that's the problem. The problem is that many of them
consider themselves refugees and want to go back
to their home in what is today the state of Israel. Now that's the problem. Not whether I or
somebody else thinks they are refugees by
proper definition or not. I'm not answering your question. No, no, no, no. You are. I am. OK. Yeah, the back here. Initially you said there
were 700,000 roughly, the UN figure of refugees. And you also said that
500,000 were eventually resettled in Palestine. Did they ever leave? Did they ever leave Palestine? How many of them did leave
Palestine when they fled? Ah, now I see what
you're saying. There were 1.2 or 1.3 million
Arabs living in Palestine. The area of mandatory
British Palestine in 1947, 1.2 or 1.3 million. Of these, some 700,000 were
displaced from their homes. 500,000 were displaced to
other parts of Palestine. In other words, to the West
Bank or the Gaza Strip or East Jerusalem, and a few thousand
even remained in the Galilee, but under the
status of refugees. And about 200,000 maybe
250,000 were displaced out of Palestine. Ended up in refugee
camps in Lebanon, Syria, and trans-Jordan. Yes? Can you talk about how the
new historian's conclusions have been accepted by
the Israeli public? Or have not been acceptable
the Israeli public? And what's taught
in Israeli schools. And their influence on today's
Israeli politics and society. The truth– well, these are very
large questions, and to which I don't have answers necessarily. I've never studied it. It's something which
has to be studied. And it's not something
I've studied. I've never looked at
what the real impact was. I can tell you in some
impressionistic things. I think in the schools by and
large, teachers more or less are in charge of the curriculum. Not the state, not the
education ministry, but the teachers
more or less, tell students what happened on
the basis of certain books. And they select which books
they're going to teach. Which– not my books. But I mean school
books, school textbooks. Some school
textbooks I know have absorbed some of the new
historiography into their text. Usually they'll say
there's this version, which is the traditional
Zionist version, and there's this new version
by these historians who've recently– and then it depends on the
teacher what he'll teach and what he'll say is the truth. There are many schools
probably which only teach old historiography still. Certainly in the
religious schools, the state religious schools. In the ultra-orthodox
independent school system they don't teach anything. So they don't know
anything about anything. They don't care and it
doesn't interest them. They care about the Bible. Or the Talmud more accurately. I don't know. I can't assess the impact of the
new historiography on society. Some people at the time in '88
when the new books came out, and the first intifada
began, more or less simultaneously
from December 1987, some critics of the
new historians said, well they've now sort of helped
and reinforced Arab claims and then whatever. And they are in
some way responsible also for the new intifada,
for this first intifada. I think that's nonsense. I think it's Rabin
in his peace efforts after 1988, after the
first intifada, when he was defense minister, later
becomes a prime minister. He wasn't impelled by
the new historiography. He was impelled by facts on
the ground, the Arab uprising and other international factors. So I don't think it
affected policy on large. But I do know from somebody
like a Yossi Beilin who is then deputy foreign minister
during the Oslo process in the 1990s, the
Israeli Palestinian peace negotiations, he told me that
he had by his bedside a copy of my book with the
annotation and so on. And he told his people who are
going to deal with the refugee issue to read the book so
they'll know what actually happened, not just propaganda. So maybe on that
personal level, there's some people who took note of
what the new historians were actually writing. But I don't know how much
it permeated officialdom and society at large. Well, no. You had a question last time. I'll give it to
somebody else first. You'll appear, please. [INAUDIBLE] OK, OK. Thank you. So it's kind of long, so
I'm going to read it out. Say that again. I said it's a little long. So I'm going to
read it out loud. I wrote it down. Just ask the question. Sure, sure. So you consistently use the
American government society's actions as a positive
parallel to Israel's actions. You've said before that the
great American democracy- It's a misquote. You shouldn't quote it
because it's not true. I'll finish my question
and maybe then you can comment on it. What you're going to
quote is incorrect. It wasn't said. So that wasn't a quote. That's my interpretation. You're going to quote, no. I'm going to paraphrase. But the quote is wrong. I didn't say it. It's a misquote. OK, I'll finish my question, and
you can say that I misread it. So you've said before that the
great American democracy cannot have existed without the
annihilation of the Indians. Not because of that, the
cruel acts are justified. You've also called
Palestinian society sick. You said that
Palestinians should be treated like serial
killers, and that they should be contained. You've also gone as
far to say that there is a deep problem in Islam. This is my words. Now you've essentially
perpetuated acts of Islamophobia and
frankly racist remarks that also exist in America. I also don't know any
American historian who would say that the expulsion
of Native Americans was OK. That expulsion is justified. I think you've made your point. You've made your point. The quote you're quoting about
American Indians is a misquote. You can repeat it as
many times as you like. You'll actually
find my correction to that quote in the following
issue of [INAUDIBLE] when I wrote them an
article saying this was a misquote in that interview. But you're quoting
from an interview from 2002 or something. Most of it is accurate. That particular
quote's not true. It's not true. So you can quote
it as many times as you like as propaganda,
but it's nonsense. Because I didn't say it. There is a problem in
Islam, you're right. There is a basic
problem in Islam. No, no, I'm answering
your question. There is a basic problem. I do believe there is a
basic problem in Islam. Most Muslims are not
terrorists, but most terrorists in the world today are Muslims. That's a problem. That's a problem. There are certain tenets in
the Quran, certain passages in the Quran, which
promote anti-Semitism. They call Jews sons
of apes and pigs. That's in the Koran. Simple. So there is a problem in Islam. And you don't find many
Islamic preachers today who will say, well no, it
shouldn't have said that. It's wrong to say Jews
are sons of pigs and apes. But it says that. And many Islamists, like
Hamas and so on quote that. I wouldn't compare the American
case and the Israeli case in terms of the populations. What happened in
Palestine in 1948– and I've tried to say this over
the last hour in various ways, but you haven't absorbed that– there was a war between
two national groups over a piece of land. Two national groups were
fighting each other. The Arabs began that fight. If you count from
1947, you can do– you can also count from 1882
and the Zionist settlers began to come. But from 1947, the
Arabs began a war. The Arab national
group began a war against the Jewish
national group. And they lost the war. And they paid consequences. People pay consequences
unless they are Russia or China for aggression. There are consequences
to going to war. And unfortunately that
was the conditions under which a Jewish state
could emerge in 1947. In 1948 the Jews lost the war. Perhaps they would have been
giant massacres, perhaps not. But there wouldn't have
been a state of Israel. So in some way, the creation
of the refugee problem was necessitated
by the emergence of a Jewish state, given Arab
opposition to that partition resolution by the
international community. The international
community thought it's right to divide the
country between the two warring national
groups into two states. The Arabs said no
and went to war. And the Palestinians
ended up without a state and have been offered a
state a number of times since and have continuously
rejected those offers. That's the situation. It's very unfortunate. Wars cause a lot of suffering. Refugium is a
perpetual suffering. But that's how history works. I don't this answers any
of the things you said, but what can you do? Yeah? You mentioned that
during the war, Ben-Gurion was open to refugees
returning after the war. I didn't quite say that. I said Israeli
policy announced– officially enunciated was it
was open to some form of refugee return after the war as
part of a peace treaty. In the armistice negotiations,
to what extent was that part of the discussions? It wasn't. Had there been
peace negotiations, there would have been some
reference to refugee return. And Israel, at some point
in 1949, agreed to return, officially it said, of
100,000 of the refugees. Unofficially, I would say the
number was probably 65,000, because you had to deduct
from the 100,000 35,000 who had already returned. But Israel announced 100,000
we're willing to take back. The Arabs said no. And that was the end
of the whole subject. That was never really
broached again after '48. Yeah? There's a girl there– My question goes back more
to the mandate period. And I know you you've sort of
implied that the British had a strong party, basically
promoting Jewish migration into Palestine. But what was their role
in structurally depriving the Palestinians from a
leadership that could actually face the Jews? Because once were
coming to discussing the war before the
Palestinian expulsion, the Arabs were
already quite defeated in terms of having
established as a leadership within Palestine. So how did the
British play in that? This is one of
the things written in Rashid Khalidi's book
on the subject which I think is incorrect. He blames the British
for the frustration of Palestinian pre-state
development in Palestine. In other words, he
says the British were to blame for the
Palestinians not readying themselves for statehood. The British actually
invited the Palestinians to set up a Arab
agency for Palestine, like the Jews had a Jewish
agency for Palestine, which was the governing body
of the Jews in Palestine. They said to the Arabs,
do the same thing. Set up an Arab
agency for Palestine, which will look after
Arab education, Arab this, Arab that, in the
Arab population, among the Arab population. And the Arabs
refused to do that. In general, as I say, there
was a divide between the Arabs who supported Husseini and
the Husseini supporting clans, and the people who opposed them,
the clans who opposed them. And this in some
way frustrated– and it led to terrorism
by Arabs against Arabs, mostly Husseinis
killing Nashashibis. And this frustrated
Palestinian efforts to establish a
national leadership, a national structures. You can blame the
British if you like. I don't think the
British were to blame. I think the Palestinians
were to blame for their own lack
of preparation for statehood, which meant
that they were unready in '47 to take up what the
United Nations was offering, a Palestinian Arab state
alongside a Jewish state. The British were
supportive of Zionism in various degrees, not a
stimulating Jewish immigration to Palestine often, but they
were supportive of the Zionist enterprise until the mid 1930s. In 1937, '38, '39 they changed. And by 1939 they
were anti-Zionist, and helping the
Arabs, or wanting to help the Arabs become
the masters of Palestine. They began to take in Arabs
into their administration as a departmental heads
in the British mandate government in preparation
for them becoming the rulers of Palestine. But this was all frustrated. World War II occurred. After the war, the British
gave up on the whole thing. There was Jewish attacks
on British troops. The British threw in the towel,
and gave the problem over to the United Nations. But it's not wholly correct to
say that the British supported the Zionists. They did up to a point,
up to 1937, '38, '39, when they switched sides. And the Arabs didn't
prepare for statehood. This was really an Arab
problem, not a British problem. This is how I see it. I'm sure there's differences
about that, I'm sure. Yeah, please? So you've said a couple of times
that Israel has consistently and until end to
the present, been willing to accept partition. I was wondering how you can
reconcile that statement with religious
nationalist organizations like [INAUDIBLE], or the broader
settlement movement in whole? Well I didn't speak– or
haven't spoken until now about the present role. But you're saying– you're
implying I did, but I didn't. But what I would say
is that from 1937 on, the Zionist movement
in general, was willing to reach a partition
settlement of the problem. It's true that
from 1977 the Likud or whatever it was called
something else then, but 1977, the right took power in Israel. And the power of
the religious right grew demographically
and politically. And they are opposed to it. What I would say is this. They are opposed to partition. They want all of Palestine for
the Jews, the land of Israel, as they call it. I would say that in opinion
polls among the Israeli public to this day, most
Israelis would like a partition settlement,
a two-state settlement, most Israelis. But about 30% to
40% are probably opposed to it– that's my
estimate– would be opposed to a two-state settlement. They want all of the land
of Israel for the Jews. But I think the
majority still, there's still a majority for a
two-state settlement, in theory. I would say that
to add to that, I would say that most
Israelis have despaired of a two-state settlement. They may say theoretically they
want a two-state settlement, but they know it's
not going to happen. They don't believe
it's going to happen. And they don't think it's
realistic because the Arabs don't want it, because it's
the right in Israel is very strong for various reasons. The settlements being
part of the reasons. Yeah? So this is more of a question
about your methodology than anything else. You talked about
the sources they used being Israeli
sources, American sources, British sources. And then you briefly
mentioned your distrust of oral histories. Yes. It was stronger than distrust. Given your rejection– your
rejection of oral history– But given a lot of the Arab
and Palestinian histories come from those sort of
sources, do you not see using those Israeli,
American, British sources as sort of writing a
top-down history of sorts? And how do you reconcile that? I don't know what the
word top-down means. A historian should rely
on written sources. Oral history is
problematic, certainly in relation to a
ongoing conflict and talking about the events
which happened 40 years ago. People do not remember
anything, basically. After a year or two, people
don't remember anything accurately. 40 years on, they won't
remember anything. And they will add to that all
sorts of propaganda, which other people have told
them is what happened and they've come to believe
that's what happened. A year after– I'll just give an example. Citing an historian who actually
should know what's going on, and remember what went on. Somebody interviewed me in
1983 after the Israeli invasion of Lebanon and the
siege of Beirut, which I participated
in as a soldier, I was just a small soldier. And the interviewer asked me
things about the killing of– what was his name? Bachir– I don't remember. The guy who was supposed to be
the president of Lebanon who was assassinated. The Gemayel, Bachir Gemayel. And he asked me about
the PLO, when it left– and I couldn't
remember the sequence of events what happened. Was Bachir Gemayel
first assassinated, or did Arafat and
his PLO fighters leave on boats before
that or after that? I just couldn't
remember the sequence. And this is a few months later. And I am talking
about an historian. And what I'm saying is that
you cannot rely on memory. And certainly you can't
rely on people's memories about something which happened
40 years ago, which is still controversial that's
still an ongoing conflict within the people. So they have good reason
to remember things in a certain way, or
even to lie about what happened in a certain way. And in general, I
found also in relation to the conflict over
the years, that when you go to the archives
and you look sufficiently at the archives,
you'll find what you're looking for
in terms of material covering a certain event. Let me give you an example. A photographer once came to
my house and took pictures. And he said to me I have
one memory of the 48th war. He was a child of
about 10 or something. He'd grown up in
the Jezreel Valley, in some kibbutz in
the Jezreel Valley. And he said to me– this is 40 years on– and he says to me– or 30 years
on, whatever– he says to me I have one memory
of the 48th war. And that is that all the
men from my kibbutz one day went out of the kibbutz with
their guns and started killing. Killed all the
animals in the fields. There were lot of dogs
and stray donkeys. In other words, animals
would be left behind by the Arab neighbors who had
left their villages and fled or been expelled or whatever. They left all the
animals around. And the Israeli side organized– or they were ordered
the kibbutzim to go kill all
these stray animals, presumably because they
carried rabies or there was fear of contagion from
these animals and so on. And I thought here when this
is photographer told me this, I said ah. There is something
here which I've just learned, which I didn't
know about the 48th war, about these campaigns to
kill the animals around in during the truce days
around their settlements. I've learned something new. So I thought maybe there is
some value to oral history. But then I decided well, let me
go check the records of the IDF Medical Corps. And I went to look at the IDF
Medical Corps records from '48. And I find, lo and
behold, the orders from the regional
doctors in the IDF system telling the villagers,
ordering the Israeli villagers to kill the animal. In other words, I could
have gotten this information from written sources. You don't have to
depend on oral sources. Now there are here and there
are, things which happen, especially incidentally
massacres, where people don't write down things. Because those massacred
don't remember– you know, they're dead. And those who do
the killing, often don't write down the
details about what they did for various good reasons. So there are things
maybe where oral history can be of some help. But almost always, if you look
long enough and hard enough, you'll find written records
from the time, which you can rely on much more than
anything anybody tells you 40 years on. That's what I would say. So I avoid using oral history. And in my new book incidentally,
on Turkey and its Christians, Armenians, Greeks,
Assyrians and so on, when they massacred a number
of bouts of mass murder over the end of
the 19th century, early 20th century, we didn't
use any oral testimony. Also people from then
are sort of dead end. And what you talk
to was grandchildren of people what they heard
from their grandmothers or something. And it's not of real value. As opposed to written
records, which are– in the modern world
you find a lot. It probably would be
useful to take oral history if you're doing
classical history, if you're doing Roman
and Greek history. But unfortunately, there's
not that many people you can interview from then. Because they leave many records. Yeah? Hi. Thank you for coming. I just have a question about
you've mentioned before, your disdain for the way that
the international community and the United Nations kind of
defines a Palestinian refugee. Why do you think that the
international community has a special definition
for Palestine refugees, as opposed to refugees
from the former Soviet Union and other places? It's not disdain. I think it's a result of the
power of the political power of the Islamic and Arab
worlds in the United Nations and the various
international bodies. They have a lot of power. And they can say
we want them to be recognized as refugees to
get the subsidies of refugees and so on. And the international
community is willing to go along with that. So I used the
privilege of hosting you to answer last question. Two things, one on all history. I know that you've opposed
that for a long time. And I don't know if you want to
answer that specific question. But having thought
about it a great deal and having also been trained
as an empirical historian in Britain as well, I realized
over time that there are events in history and they
include war, genocide, ethnic, cleansing
displacement where if you don't use
oral history you are privileging the perpetrators. If you write the
history as has been done for many decades, the
history of the Holocaust only from the point of view
of the SS, of the gestapo, then you get their
view of what happened. If you use only
their photographs, you get their gaze of what
the victims look like. And so and people who
are victims of genocide, of ethnic cleansing, of
displacement, as you say, often do not have
access to documents. They don't have time
to write all of that. And so they are
victimized twice. First, when they are
displaced or killed. And secondly when they
disappear from history. So that's one question. But the second that
I've been thinking about during this
whole hour and a half is that I think there's
something implicit in what you say that you don't spell out. And I'm wondering if
you can think about it. That is what you're saying is
that the violence that happened in the war, the displacement,
expulsion of Palestinians was a result of the war. That the main cause
of it is that. And yet at the
same time, you say that despite the fact
that there was no plan and that there was no order
from above, people, most people, the majority chose to
participate or to encourage the displacement. That is there were
generals who didn't do it, but by and large, if
you look at the numbers, the vast majority
of Palestinians were gone by the end of the war. And you talk about the
mentality that's created there. That is that there was a
mentality of displacement long before that, right? That there was a notion
of it would be better if– Transfer. –of transfer, right? Now if you take that forward
to after the war, then that same dynamic that
created the displacement, that created the
expulsion continues. Not only are
Palestinian refugees not allowed back right away, but
all evidence of their existence is systematically eradicated,
which you didn't talk about. So the 400 villages that have
been emptied are then leveled. And the memory of that
group, and even the existence of there having been once
some kind of identity of Palestinians
disappears for decades. And it takes, indeed
until the '80s and '90s that it comes back. That is that there
is a kind of logic. And it's implicit in
everything that you say without you actually saying it. So I wonder if you
can comment on that? Yeah, so certainly you're
right about post '48. There has been a more
or less systematic destruction of villages
and the eradication of sign of Palestinian presence. Except of course you did have
150,000 Palestinians living there who today are a million
and a half Arab Israeli citizens who continue their
lives with their mosques, their culture, and so on. That still exists,
but you're right. There was some sort of more
or less deliberate effort to eradicate that
past, change that passed, to bury the
village under the trees, as the phrase goes, or what's
his name's story tells it. [INAUDIBLE] That's certainly true. And you're saying that
that's in some way a continuation of the expulsion
or transplantation or removal of the Palestinians. I'm not sure. I would say that
before '48, there was no effort to eradicate
the Palestinian presence. There was a Zionist
ideology regnant in the Zionist movement. It did not talk
about eradication of Palestinian culture,
removal, and so on. It just didn't happen,
even though there were people who supported
transfer of population, which they regarded as
dangerous to their well-being. That's for sure. But that didn't
exist before '48. The idea of eradicating the
previous owners in terms of the physical culture there. So I'm not sure there's a
consistency between the two things. Certainly after '48,
that was in place. But I wouldn't look at it as
a proof of what was before. Look, you can look at the
whole Zionist enterprise, and many Arabs do, from 1881
as an invasion of Palestine with the aim of transforming
a land which is inhabited by Arabs– was never
an Arab sovereignty– but Arab inhabitation
to change it into a land of Jewish
habitation, by and large, with a Jewish majority. That certainly is
true about Zionism. And in that sense, you can
talk about a Zionist invasion leading up to Arab resistance,
and various bouts of violence. And the biggest one
being of course '48, '47, '48 to resist
that invasion. But you can also look at
the Zionist enterprise as a way of setting up a
Jewish state, at least in part of Palestine. And the willingness
certainly from 1937 to partition the land. That is to have two states. To divide it between
the two peoples who have a legitimate claim
to it as the Zionist saw it. Even though the
Zionist might not say that at the time about
the Arab claim to legitimacy, but they did that accept it. Weitzman certainly did. And I think Ben-Gurion did,
at least in private talks. So you can look at the
enterprise in that sense and say they were willing
from a certain point on, bowing to the
realities of the situation to reach partition. And therefore not necessitating
eradication, or expulsion, et cetera. But the Arabs always said no. They said no in 1937th appeal. They said no in 1947
to the United Nations. They said no to a
Sadat Begin's plan in 1978 for autonomy for the
Arabs in West Bank and Gaza. They said no in 2000
to Barak's proposals for two-state solution. They said no to
Olmert's proposals in 2008 for a
two-state solution. There's a problem there. OK. Well, thank you so much.

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About the Author: Sam Caldwell

11 Comments

  1. A large share of Palestinians are themselves descendants of immigrants who came from in the century preceding Zionism (or during Zionism) from as far as Chechnya, Bosnia and Armenia to live in the Holy Land. Others came from surrounding countries like Jordan and Syria, while others came from farther away like Iraq or Kurdistan.

  2. Benny Morris is a Israeli government paid propagandonist who used Israeli material to describe an Israeli attrocity.

  3. In the memoirs of Khalid al-Azm (prime minister of Syria 1948-1949) he wrote: "Since 1948 we have been demanding the return of the refugees to their homes, when we ourselves were the ones who induced them to leave them."

  4. ben gurion and jabotinsky were clear about taking palestine from its people. they said, 'leave now, we will take it all,; "from the river to the sea." and jabotinsky tried to include jordan as well. ". As long as the Arabs preserve a gleam of hope that they will succeed in getting rid of us, nothing in the world can cause them to relinquish this hope, precisely because they are not a rubble but a living people." well, not so many of them are living now, and they are ghetto-bound prisoners of the idf.
    originally, anti-semitism and anti zionism were labels for different things, but jews have insisted all are anti-semitism, with the result that people who began with despising anti-zionism have come to despising jews in general, for refusing to allow the difference.
    none of which matters while politicians in the usa see their career bound up with the survival of israel. but that spring is tight-wound and may break soon.

  5. Benny Morris is historian who painfully looks at facts and real events. He does not place blame on anyone, as it is not the historian´s mission to do so, but rather explores the reality of events. Very different from other historian-activists who seek to blame only Israel for all the problems in the Middle East.

  6. This guy is a pro- Israel and nothing comes out of his mouth but what would be music to all Jews that support this invasion of land taking land that does not belong to you and displacing people from the homes involuntarily us wrong under all laws if a person who gives you a place to stay what audacity would zionist have to throw them out of their own home. And Britain should have stayed at their own doorstep and taken care of their own mat.

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