Nonetheless, tens of thousands fled. The incredulous British officers
who witnessed this, documented it in a variety of sources. Those Arabs who
stayed were unharmed and became citizens of Israel.2
The British also documented for the world a similar phenomenon in
Tiberius (a town in which the Arab population vastly outnumbered the Jewish).
The Arabs quite literally chose to leave even though they were under no direct
threat from the Jews and asked the British to assist them. Tens of thousands
left under British guard, while the Jews, both civilian and Haganah, looked
on. In a slightly different twist, the Arabs of Safed (Tzefat) fled before
the Haganah attack, even though the Arab forces in Safed outnumbered the
Jews about 10 to one. 1 See Appendix p 24. 2 See Appendix p 24.
Wherever Arabs chose to stay, they were unharmed and later became
citizens of Israel.
There have been a number of essays written by later historians contesting
the truth of the assertion that Arab leaders told their people to flee. But
Conor Cruise OBriens The Siege and Mitchell Bards Myths
and Facts of the Middle East Conflict offer irrefutable proof of the existence
of such pronouncements.
Five. Deir Yassin: The events that took place at Deir Yassin are still
hotly disputed. But by their own admission, Arab leadership today acknowledges
that the lies created by the Arabs about the fictitious massacre
were concocted in order to shame the Arab armies into fighting against the
Jews, frighten the Arabs, and encourage them to flee.3
The village sits near Jerusalem, overlooking the road from Tel Aviv.
Jewish Jerusalem was under siege, and its only lifeline was this one road
to Tel Aviv. A contingent of Iraqi troops had entered Deir Yassin on March
13, 1948. Some sources suggest that they were asked to leave. Apparently
they did not, since their armed bodies were numerous among the dead after
the battle. It was obvious that they were going to try to cut off that road.
Doing so would spell the end of Jewish Jerusalem. So on April 9, 1948, a
contingent of the Irgun (a para-military splinter group) entered the village.
This operation was completely legitimate in the context of rules of engagement,
since the Iraqi presence made the village a legal military objective.
Their intent, to capture the village and drive out the Iraqis, was
completely clear from the onset, because they entered with a jeep and loudspeaker
telling the civilian population to flee the village.
Unfortunately, this jeep slid into a ditch, so some of the villagers
may not have heard the message; however, many did and fled before the Irgun
got to the village. Rather than surround the village and prevent their escape,
the Irgun left several routes open for the civilians to flee, which hundreds
of villagers used. However, the Iraqis had disguised themselves as women
-- it is easy to hide weapons beneath the flowing robes of the burqa -- and
had hidden themselves among women and children in the village. So, when the
Irgun fighters entered, they encountered fire from women!
When the Irgun fighters fired back, they killed innocent women because
the Iraqis were dressed like women and hiding behind them. After suffering
more than 40 percent casualties to their forces, the Irgun succeeded in killing
or capturing the Iraqis. Then, while they were in a group, still dressed
as women, having surrendered and agreed to be taken prisoner, some of the
Iraqis opened fire again with weapons concealed beneath their womens
clothing. Irgun fighters were caught off guard, more were killed, and others
opened fire into the group. Iraqis who had indeed surrendered were killed
along with those who had only pretended to surrender and had then opened
When the Haganah arrived they found the dead women and other civilians
and thus incorrectly accused the Irgun of murder and massacre. But the Red
Cross, which was called in to assist the wounded and civilians, found no
evidence of a massacre. In fact, even the most recent review of the evidence
(July 1999), by Arab scholars at Beir- Zayyit university in Ramallah, indicates
that there was no massacre, but rather a military conflict in which civilians
were killed in the crossfire. The total Arab dead, including the Iraqi soldiers,
according to the Beir Zayyit calculation, was 107.
So where did the idea of a massacre come from? The same Arab sources
that confess to having urged the Arabs to flee have also acknowledged that
Arab spokespersons at the time cynically exaggerated the casualties of the
Deir Yassin battle, making up stories of gang rape, brutalizing of pregnant
women, killing unborn children cut from their mothers wombs by
blood-thirsty Jews, and massive murders with bodies thrown into a nearby
quarry. The same Arab sources admit that their purpose in these lies was
to shame the Arab nations into entering the conflict with greater alacrity,
so that the Jews would be destroyed by the overwhelming numbers of Arab
The plan backfired. As a result of this propaganda, Arab civilians
panicked and fled by the tens of thousands. This was confirmed in the 1993
PBS documentary called The Fifty Years of War in which Deir Yassin survivors
They testified that they had begged Dr. Hussein Khalidi, director
of Voice of Palestine (the Palestinian radio station in East Jerusalem) to
edit out the lies and fabrications of atrocities that never happened. He
told them: We must (4 ibid) capitalize on this great opportunity!
The flight of Arabs had begun many months before Deir Yassin. So Deir
Yassin cannot account for those hundreds of thousands of Arabs who sought
refuge prior to April 9, 1948. Moreover, while current Arab propaganda asserts
that Deir Yassin was one of many examples of Jewish massacre and slaughter,
there is not one other documented example of any such behavior by the Jews.
By any standard, Deir Yassin was not an example, but an exception.
In sum, it was not what happened at Deir Yassin that caused the flight
of tens of thousands of Arabs; it was the lies invented by the Arab High
Command and Dr. Hussein Khalidi of the Voice of Palestine radio
news channel that caused the panic. One can hardly blame Israel for that.
Moreover, we have information from a famous source, Yassir Arafat
himself (his authorized biography, by Alan Hart, Arafat: Terrorist or Peace
Maker) that the Deir Yassin lies were spread like a red flag in front
of a bull by the Egyptians. Then, having terrorized them with these
stories, the Egyptians proceeded to disarm the Arabs of the area and herd
them into detention camps in Gaza (todays Gaza refugee camps). Why
did the Egyptians do this? According to Arafat, it was to get the Arabs out
of the area because the Egyptians wanted a free hand to wage their war. Egypt
had every intention of conquering the Negev and southern part of the coastal
plain. They wanted no interference from the local Arabs.
Deir Yassin was not a massacre; nothing even vaguely akin to what
the Jews are accused of ever happened. We dont know how many Arabs
fled as a result of the Arab propaganda over Deir Yassin. Several hundred
thousand is a good estimate. Most of them ended up in the Egyptian detention
camps in Gaza.
Six. Besides Deir Yassin, there are two other incidents in which Arab
refugees are said to have fled because of Israeli army actions: Lydda
Both villages sat astride the road from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. As
the siege on Jerusalem tightened, the Israeli forces knew that in order to
save the Jews of west Jerusalem from defeat and possible annihilation, they
had to keep that road open. So one night they entered both villages and forcibly
drove out the Arab residents. They rousted them from bed and sent them walking
across the fields to the area that was under Jordanian control some kilometers
None were killed. There was no massacre, but they were driven out.
On the other hand, they were driven out because their villages sat astride
the road to Jerusalem, and the only way to guarantee the survival of 150,000
Jews in Jerusalem was to control this one road.
Seven. By May 15, 1948, the British had evacuated their forces from
all of British Mandatory Palestine, and the Haganah, which now became the
Israeli Defense Force(IDF), had a free hand. The Arab countries also had
a free hand in attacking, and attack they did. Armies from eight Arab
dictatorships poured into the area from Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Iraq and
Egypt (volunteers and soldiers from Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Morocco came
too). They outnumbered the IDF about five to one. For the next month or so
the Israelis were fighting a terribly difficult defensive war and were just
barely able to keep the invaders out. There were about 63,000 IDF volunteers,
but weapons for only 22,000.
In June 1948 the UN imposed a cease-fire. By July when the Arabs
re-initiated hostilities, the Israelis had been able to use the cease-fire
to import arms and planes from Russia and Germany via Czechoslovakia. Now
better armed, the IDF numbered 65,000 and the odds were reduced to about
2 to 1. Those were good odds for the determined Jewish fighters.
When the fighting resumed in July, the IDF went on the offensive and
succeeded in driving the Arab armies out of both the Jewish areas and large
parts of the areas that the UN had intended to be the Palestinian state (western
Galilee, and southern coastal plain north of Gaza). When this offensive began,
more Arabs fled. As noted above, the Arabs who stayed were not harmed and
became citizens of Israel.
Contrary to revisionist Arab propaganda, there was never any intent
to massacre Arabs, although the Arabs clearly intended to massacre the Jews.
Many civilians died in the cross fire, and the overwhelming majority of Arabs
who fled did so needlessly, at their own initiative, or because of the Arab
leadership that lied and intimidated them.
In at least two specific cases a few Arabs were driven out by the
IDF as a defensive measure. It was not part of any plan to ethnically cleanse
the land or massacre the Arabs. These accusations are all part of a new and
mendacious revisionism aimed at exonerating the Arabs from their culpability
as aggressors and from their role in creating the Arab Refugee problem. Their
agenda is to transfer the guilt from themselves where it belongs --
Proof that Israel never set out to ethnically cleanse the Arabs of
Palestine is to be seen in the following facts:
the complete absence of any coverage in any world press, including
the Arab press and the openly hostile western press in regard to any such
actions by Israel;
The complete absence of these accusations from any Arab spokespersons during
that time, even at the very height of the flight (post-Deir Yassin), and
for many years thereafter; and
The fate of the Arabs who stayed: They became Israeli citizens and
enjoy more freedom, democracy, political representation, high standard of
living better education, and economic opportunities, than many Arabs anywhere
in the Arab world today.
Finally, after the February 1949 cease-fire that signaled the end
of the war, there was still a continued flight by tens of thousands of Arabs.
The Jews did absolutely nothing to encourage or force this flight.
Eight. During the Rhodes armistice talks in February 1949, Israel
offered to return to the Arabs the lands it now occupied as a result of the
war and that were originally meant to be part of the Palestinian state if
the Arabs would sign a peace treaty. This would have allowed hundreds of
thousands of refugees to return to their homes. But the Arabs rejected the
offer because, as they themselves admitted, they were about to mount a new
offensive. They had lost round one but they were hoping for more and more
rounds until the Arabs achieved victory. Their new offensive took the form
of 9000 terrorist attacks by the fedayeen mostly from Egypt that were perpetrated
against Israel from 1949 to 1956.
At the Lausanne conference which took place from August to September
1949, Israel offered to repatriate 100,000 refugees even without a peace
treaty. But the Arab states rejected the offer because to accept it would
involve a tacit recognition of the state of Israel.
In other words, despite Israels offers of repatriation, the
Arabs insisted on keeping the Arab refugees in squalor and suffering. Arab
spokespersons in Syria and Egypt were quoted in their newspapers as saying:
We will keep the refugees in their camps until the flag of Palestine flies
over all of the land. They will go back home only as victors, on the graves
and corpses of the Jews.
Moreover, as some Arabs were candid enough to announce in public,
the refugee problem would serve as a festering sore on the backside
of Europe, as moral leverage to be used against Israel in order to
win the emotional support of the West against Israel.
The Arab refugee problem was created by the belligerent Arab dictators
who defied the UN, invaded Israel, encouraged the Arabs to flee, and then
purposely kept the Arab refugees in a state of wretched poverty for propaganda
purposes. Israels role in creating the refugee problem was a relatively
minor one restricted to legitimate military contexts. It tried to reverse
these after the war, but was rebuffed by the Arab states.
The refugee problem was then intentionally perpetuated by the Arab
states through their refusal to abide by the UN resolutions and the Geneva
convention, their refusal to integrate any refugees into under-populated
Arab countries (except for Jordan), their refusal to enter into peace
negotiations with Israel, and their refusal to countenance any steps toward
resolution by Israel or others.
By perpetuating the refugee problem, the Arab leaders sought to gain
pseudo-moral leverage against Europe and Israel, to keep a festering
human sore in the forefront of their propaganda war against Israel,
and to use the issue as a political weapon against Israel.
As late as 1979, when Egypt signed a peace treaty with Israel, the
Egyptians refused to deal with the refugee issue in the Gaza strip and instead
ceded all of the Gaza strip to Israel. A similar pattern was established
in Jordans 1994 peace treaty with Israel. Jordan had integrated thousands
of Palestinians into its economy and did not see any need or responsibility
to deal with the disposition of those on the West Bank.
The abuses, exaggerations, lies, and distortions perpetrated by Arab
governments, by the UN Refugee Agency, and the refugee spokespersons made
it impossible, even back in 1949, to identify a bona fide refugee populace.
In 1967, the Arab states again launched an aggressive war against
Israel and as a result Israel became the governing authority in the Gaza
Strip, Sinai Peninsula, the Golan Heights, and in the West Bank.
Under Israeli rule from 1967 to 1992, The Palestinian population of
the West Bank experienced the highest standard of living of any Arab country
with the exception of the oil states. The same is true of Arab Israelis.
The Arab population of the West Bank and Gaza has tripled since June 1967!
By contrast, since the transfer of authority in the West Bank to the
PLO in 1993, the condition of the Palestinian population under the Palestinian
Authority has declined precipitously. The standard of living of the West
Bank Palestinians has eroded, and GDP is one-tenth of what it was under Israeli
control. This is due to the mis-appropriation of more than $5.2 billion by
the rule of the Palestinian Authority into the personal accounts of Arafat
and his lieutenants for weapons stock-piling, neglect of the infrastructure,
and due to the continuous terror war, against which Israel must exercise
defensive controls and deterrents.
Justice for Jewish and Arab refugees could have been part of a peace
settlement if the Arab states had been willing. Today, solutions are possible,
but only if the Palestinian Authority will stop its new war of terror.
Sources confirming that Arab leaders told Arabs to flee and reports
related to the departure of the Arab refugees:
The first group of our fifth column consist of those who abandon their
At the first sign of trouble they take to their heels to escape
sharing the burden of struggle -- Ash-Shaab, Jaffa, January 30,
(The fleeing villagers)
are bringing down disgrace on us
by abandoning their villages -- As-Sarih, Jaffa, March 30,
Every effort is being made by the Jews to persuade the Arab populace
to stay and carry on with their normal lives, to get their shops and businesses
open and to be assured that their lives and interests will be safe.
-- Haifa District HQ of the British Police, April 26, 1948, (quoted in
Battleground by Samuel Katz).
The mass evacuation, prompted partly by fear, partly by order
of Arab leaders, left the Arab quarter of Haifa a ghost city.... By withdrawing
Arab workers their leaders hoped to paralyze Haifa. -- Time Magazine,
May 3, 1948, page 25
The Arab streets (of Palestine) are curiously deserted
following the poor example of the moneyed class, there has
been an exodus from Jerusalem, but not to the same extent as from Jaffa and
Haifa. -- London Times, May 5, 1948
The Arab civilians panicked and fled ignominiously. Villages were
frequently abandoned before they were threatened by the progress of war.
-- General John Glubb Pasha, The London Daily Mail, August 12,
The fact that there are these refugees is the direct consequence of
the act of the Arab states in opposing partition and the Jewish state. The
Arab states agreed upon this policy unanimously and they must share in the
solution of the problem. Emile Ghoury, secretary of the Palestinian
Arab Higher Committee, in an interview with the Beirut Telegraph September
6, 1948. (same appeared in The London Telegraph, August 1948)
The most potent factor [in the flight of Palestinians] was the
announcements made over the air by the Arab-Palestinian Higher Executive,
urging all Haifa Arabs to quit... It was clearly intimated that Arabs who
remained in Haifa and accepted Jewish protection would be regarded as
renegades. -- London Economist October 2, 1948
It must not be forgotten that the Arab Higher Committee encouraged
the refugees flight from their homes in Jaffa, Haifa, and Jerusalem.
-- Near East Arabic Broadcasting Station, Cyprus, April 3, 1949.
The Arabs of Haifa fled in spite of the fact that the Jewish authorities
guaranteed their safety and rights as citizens of Israel.- - Monsignor
George Hakim, Greek Catholic Bishop of Galilee, New York Herald Tribune,
June 30, 1949
The military and civil (Israeli) authorities expressed their
profound regret at this grave decision (taken by the Arab military delegates
of Haifa and the Acting Chair of the Palestine Arab Higher Committee to evacuate
Haifa despite the Israeli offer of a truce). The Jewish mayor of Haifa made
a passionate appeal to the delegation (of Arab military leaders) to reconsider
its decision. -- Memorandum of the Arab National Committee of Haifa,
1950, to the governments of the Arab League, quoted in J. B. Schechtman,
The Refugees in the World, NY 1963, pp. 192f.
Sir John Troutbeck, British Middle East Office in Cairo, noted in cables
to superiors (1948-49) that the refugees (in Gaza) have no bitterness against
Jews, but harbor intense hatred toward Egyptians: They say we
know who our enemies are (referring to the Egyptians), declaring that
their Arab brethren persuaded them unnecessarily to leave their homes
even heard it said that many of the refugees would give a welcome to the
Israelis if they were to come in and take the district over.
The Arab states which had encouraged the Palestine Arabs to leave their
homes temporarily in order to be out of the way of the Arab invasion armies,
have failed to keep their promise to help these refugees. The
Jordanian daily newspaper Falastin, February 19, 1949.
The Secretary General of the Arab League, Azzam Pasha, assured
the Arab peoples that the occupation of Palestine and of Tel Aviv would be
as simple as a military promenade...Brotherly advice was given to the Arabs
of Palestine to leave their land, homes, and property to stay temporarily
In neighboring fraternal states, lest the guns of invading Arab armies mow
them down. --Al Hoda, a New York-based Lebanese daily, June 8, 1951.
Who brought the Palestinians to Lebanon as refugees, suffering now
from the malign attitude of newspapers and communal leaders, who have neither
honor nor conscience? Who brought them over in dire straits and penniless,
after they lost their honor? The Arab states, and Lebanon amongst them, did
it. -- The Beirut Muslim weekly Kul-Shay, August 19, 1951.
We will smash the country with our guns and obliterate every
place the Jews seek shelter in. The Arabs should conduct their wives and
children to safe areas until the fighting has died down. -- Iraqi Prime
Minister Nuri Said, quoted in Sir An-Nakbah (The Secret Behind the
Disaster) by Nimr el-Hawari, Nazareth, 1952
The Arab Exodus
was not caused by the actual battle, but
by the exaggerated description spread by the Arab leaders to incite them
to fight the Jews.
For the flight and fall of the other villages it
is our leaders who are responsible because of their dissemination of rumors
exaggerating Jewish crimes and describing them as atrocities in order to
inflame the Arabs ... By spreading rumors of Jewish atrocities, killings
of women and children etc., they instilled fear and terror in the hearts
of the Arabs in Palestine, until they fled leaving their homes and properties
to the enemy. The Jordanian daily newspaper Al Urdun, April
The Arab governments told us: Get out so that we can get in.
So we got out, but they did not get in. A refugee quoted in Al Difaa
(Jordan) September 6,