Denying refugees their legal right to return to their homes after the war’s end was necessary for Israel to steal Palestine away from its inhabitants. As Ben-Gurion said, “We must do everything to ensure they [the Palestinians] never do return…The old will die and the young will forget.” Unfortunately for him and his Zionist followers ever since, they did not forget.
Following the massacre of Deir Yassin in April 1948 during which over 100 unarmed villagers were murdered by commandos of the Zionist terror groups Irgun and Lehi (The Stern Gang), journalist and author Jonathan Cook tells us that Ben-Gurion trained his sights on the Galilee, “where some 100,000 Palestinians, as well as tens of thousands of refugees from the fighting, were living on land that had been assigned to the Palestinian state under the Partition Plan. ‘Then we will be able to cleanse the entire area of Central Galilee, including all its refugees, in one stroke,’ he announced.”
In mid-July 1948, over 60,000 Palestinians were expelled from the twin towns of Lydda and Ramle at gun point and tank muzzle, upon the orders of future Israeli Prime Ministers Ben-Gurion and Yitzhak Rabin and under the direction of future IDF generals and Israeli politicians Yigal Allon (commander of the Palmach militia) and Moshe Dayan (commander of the 89th Armoured Battalion).
A few months later, the large village of al-Dawayma of about 3,500 residents, located northwest of Hebron, was invaded and captured by Israeli forces. The villagers were unarmed. Palestinian scholar Nur Masalha has revealed that the massacre of at least 80 Palestinians was carried out, “not in the heat of the battle but after the Israeli army had clearly emerged victorious in the war. Various evidence indicates that the atrocities were committed in and around the village, including at the mosque and in the cave nearby, that houses with old people locked inside were blown up, and that there were several cases of the shooting and raping of women.”
Despite the mythology perpetuated about Israel’s miraculous birth, Zionist fighters were not struggling against devastating odds for the survival of their nascent state. Not only had the Palestinian fighting forces been “decimated by the British in the 1936-1939 revolt,” during which over 10% of the Palestinian population had been killed, wounded, imprisoned or exiled, but the violent British repression also affected the Palestinians’ ability to resist further assaults in the future as Rashid Khalidi explains, a “high proportion of the Arab casualties include the most experienced military cadres and enterprising fighters.”
Scholars John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt have also pointed out that, “Israel is often portrayed as weak and besieged, a Jewish David surrounded by a hostile Arab Goliath. This image has been carefully nurtured by Israeli leaders and sympathetic writers, but the opposite image is closer to the truth. Contrary to popular belief, the Zionists had larger, better-equipped, and better-led forces” than their Arab opponents. In fact, “the Zionist/Israeli fighting forces outnumbered the Palestinians between December 1947 and May 1948, and they outnumbered the Arab armies from May 1948 to January 1949, when the fighting stopped.” As Israeli historian Benny Morris put it, “it was superior Jewish firepower, manpower, organization, and command and control that determined the outcome of battle.”
Nur Masalha has found evidence of further Palestinian expulsion from Israeli-controlled territory for years following the creation of Israel. For example, 2,000 inhabitants of Beersheva were expelled to the West Bank in late 1949, while 2,700 inhabitants of al-Majdal (now Ashkelon) were driven into Gaza a year later; as many as 17,000 Bedouins were forced out of the Negev between 1949 and 1953; several thousand inhabitants of the Triangle were expelled between 1949 and 1951; and more than 2,000 residents of two northern villages were driven into Syria as late as 1956.
In the early 1950’s, Ben-Gurion stated, in two separate state documents, his belief that that Israel was created “in a part of our small country” and “in only a portion of the Land of Israel,” later noting that “the creation of the new State by no means derogates from the scope of historic Eretz Israel.” These statements harken back to his 1937 declaration that “the boundaries of Zionist aspirations are the concern of the Jewish people and no external factor will be able to limit them,” as well as his 1948 proclamation that “We are not obligated to state the limits of our State,” thereby affirming the tenet of territorial expansion and compulsive land theft in Zionist doctrine and practice.
That the State of Israel exists almost exclusively on stolen Palestinian land is indisputable. In an article in Ha’aretz, Israeli scholar Dan Rabinowitz wrote, “What happened to the Palestinians in 1948 is Israel’s original sin… Between the 1950s and 1976, the state systematically confiscated most of the land of its remaining Palestinian citizens.” In 1969, Moshe Dayan was quoted in Ha’aretz:
Jewish villages were built in the place of Arab villages. You do not even know the names of these Arab villages, and I do not blame you because geography books no longer exist. Not only do the books not exist, the Arab villages are not there either. Nahlal arose in the place of Mahlul; Kibbutz Gvat in the place of Jibta; Kibbutz Sarid in the place of Huneifis; and Kefar Yehushua in the place of Tal al-Shuman. There is not a single place built in this country that did not have a former Arab population. [Edward Said, ‘Zionism from the Standpoint of Its Victims,’ Social Text, Volume 1, 1979]
According to the Israeli Custodian of Absentee Property, by exploiting the authority of the Absentee Property Law of 1950, the Jewish National Fund Law, through the establishment of the Development Agency and Israel Lands Authority, almost 70% of the territory of pre-1967 Israel consists of lands classified as ‘absentee property’ which had been confiscated from its Palestinian owners and residents. The Jewish National Fund, perhaps in an effort to brag, estimates as much as 88% was taken from Arab landowners.
The 22% of Palestine that remained was conquered in 1967 and remains occupied territory under international law. Following the Six Day War, several Israeli leaders refused to turn the armistice lines into permanent borders. Prime Minister Golda Meir said the pre-1967 borders were so dangerous that it “would be treasonable” for an Israeli leader to accept them. Israeli Foreign Minister Abba Eban said the pre-1967 borders have “a memory of Auschwitz.” Prime Minister Menachem Begin later described a proposal for a retreat to the pre-1967 borders as “national suicide for Israel.”
So, is the founding Zionist ideology, which the anti-BDS progressive left pines for and fears the demise of, really a legitimate form of self-determination and a functioning democracy to be maintained and treasured? Perhaps the “Yes to Israel” crowd, which so abhors the occupation and the settlements, would respond as Golda Meir did in 1971: “This country exists as the fulfillment of a promise made by God Himself. It would be ridiculous to ask it to account for its legitimacy.”