Yesterday's deaths at various demonstrations commemorating the Nakba remind us of one all-important fact: without a just resolution to the Palestinian refugee issue, the state of Israel will never be welcome or accepted in the region. Those killed highlight the importance of a 63 year-old issue which has yet to be resolved or properly addressed. But it is impossible for there to be any just solution to this issue without a candid discussion of history that many "pro-Israel" types do not want to have. (Image right: AP photo of Israeli soldiers yesterday making sure people inconvenient to an ethno-centric majoritarian state stay out. Kind of like what NY Times editors do to facts inconvenient to the Zionist narrative.)
The Zionist narrative on the Nakba goes something like this: Newborn and defenseless Israel was attacked by 5 Arab armies the day after its birth, and refugees may have been created during the fighting, but tough luck since the Arabs started the war and David defeated Goliath.
You can see this narrative uncritically repeated in the mainstream American press. Take for example this recent article by Ethan Bronner in the New York Times:
After Israel declared independence on May 14, 1948, armies from neighboring Arab states attacked the new nation; during the war that followed, hundreds of thousands of Palestinians fled or were driven from their homes by Israeli forces. Hundreds of Palestinian villages were also destroyed. The refugees and their descendants remain a central issue of contention in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The timeline begins at May 14th, 1948. There are a few rather significant historical facts which are inconvenient for this narrative that go unmentioned in the New York Times. Well, at least today's New York Times. You see, had Ethan Bronner or the editors of the Times actually read their own newspaper's reporting on this issue at the time, they likely would not have presented such a distorted representation of the facts. (This certainly isn't the first time the NYT contradicts itself either)
Two facts which torpedo the Zionist narrative are corroborated by reporting from the New York Times during this period.
1. Masses of Palestinian refugees were created before one Arab soldier 'attacked' the new state of Israel. In one story from March, 20th, 1947, the New York Times actually addressed the pre-1948 situation as one of colonization and describes it rather appropriately. Imagining such characterization in the NY Times today is fantasy. I urge you to read the whole article, titled "Palestine Jews Minimize Arabs: Sure of Superiority, Settlers Feel They Can Win Natives By Reason or Force," but here's an excerpt:
Whatever the degree of their superiority complex, however, the Jews are certainly confident of their ability to bring the Arabs to terms -- by persuasion if possible, by might if necessary. The program of the largest terrorist group, the Irgun Zvai Leumi, is to evacuate the British forces from Palestine and declare a Zionist state west of the Jordan, and "we will take care of the Arabs."
Despite this, the New York Times today repeats the ridiculous assertion commonplace in the Zionist narrative that the creation of the state was an innocent act that drew unprovoked and barbaric reaction from the Goliath Arab states. Here is another article, this one from April 16, 1948 and titled "Jews Press Arabs in Pitched Battle in North Palestine":
[Villages] taken yesterday were Dabiat er Ruha, Rihania and Kuteinat. Previously they had occupied Kufrin, Abu Sureik, Abu Shusha, Zerain, Naamieh, Ghubyat at Tahta and Ghubyat al Fauqha. Several bridges blown up by Haganah squads between Jenin and Lajjun are hampering Arabs [sic] communication.
But today's New York Times wants you to believe that the refugees created during the Nakba period, which is actually from 1947-1949, started only after Arab states attacked the newborn and sinless Israel. In reality, Zionist operations against Palestinian villages began well before the Arab armies crossed any borders. Half the total refugees created during the Nakba were created BEFORE May 15th, 1948.
Again, another New York Times story from May 2nd, 1948 titled "Dispair is Voiced by Arab Refugees: Evacuees from Palestine say Jews Crash Through Weak Resistance by Volunteers":
A stream of Arab refugees is moving eastward across the Jordan river. Many of the refugees passing Jericho en route to Trans-Jordan, a few miles away, are from Jerusalem and Jaffa. They say they fear that Jewish offensives are crashing through weakened Arab volunteer resistance. Haifa was described as almost a ghost town, with its population having dwindled to less than 20,000 from a normal figure at least five times that.
Another article appearing in the New York Times titled "Palestine Strife Creates DP Issue" is dated May 3rd, 1948 stating "200,000 Arabs are now listed as homeless":
It is believed that possibly 50,000 Arabs left Jaffa, thousands of them by sea. Other thousands have fled inland, large numbers of them to become cave dwellers in the historic caves of Beit Jibrin, northwest of Hebron...at least 40,000 Arabs left Haifa when the combined Haganah and Irgun Zvai Leumi force stormed the Arab market place and conquered all of the city except the British-held waterfront. From Jerusalem wealthy Arabs have fled to near-by countries, the poorer ones into the hills and villages.
Another New York Times story, this one from April 18th, 1948, tells of horror among refugees and massacres in the Galilee:
According to reports telephoned from Nablus, that town and Jenin are crowded with refugees, among whom the rumor is circulating that the Jews are driving on Jenin. The Haganah said it had killed 130 Druse [sic] tribesmen yesterday when it seized Usha, a village east of Haifa.
This information is important not simply because it illustrates how poorly the New York Times' current day reporting is on an issue it reported on thoroughly at the time (They can't even copy and paste), but also because it clearly rebuts the Zionist narrative people like Jeffery Goldberg incessantly repeat despite mounds of historic evidence to the contrary. In this post, Goldberg argues that the Nakba was "self-inflicted" because the Arabs "attacked the just-born Jewish state and then managed to lose on the battlefield." Setting aside the already morally corrupt notion that ethnic cleansing during war is somehow acceptable, history simply proves Goldberg wrong. For a detailed account of the patterns of depopulation, you can see this video of Salman Abu Sitta's recent lecture at the Palestine Center, starting around the 10 minute mark.
2. The pre-state Israeli forces were far greater in number and far better equipped than the combined forces of the "Goliath" Arab armies. This is another myth in the Zionist narrative. They want you to believe that the 5 Arab armies had genocidal intentions and wanted to destroy Israel. Why else would you send 5 armies against one? But if the 13 nation-states of the Caribbean attacked the United States we'd hardly consider the United States the 'David' facing a Caribbean Goliath. But the Zionist narrative wants to trick you with a faulty numbers game. In reality, the pre-state Israel forces were greater in numbers and far superior in training than the combined forces of the infamous 5 Arab Armies. Conveniently, the New York Times reported in an article from Feb. 29th, 1948 titled "The Army Called 'Haganah'" :
Nobody knows its full strength, let alone its membership rolls. But it is no amateur army. It has a nucleus of 30,000 men who served in the British forces. Three thousand of them served in the RAF, including more than forty pilots. More than 300 served in the Commandos and 4,000 in the Jewish Brigade in action in Italy. The British estimate Haganah's active membership at anywhere from 60,000 to 80,000.
David Ben Gurion's war diary notes that at every stage of the war Zionist troops outnumbered combined Arab armies. The Arab armies were disorganized having little combat experience prior to this with the exception of some of the Jordanian forces. Most Arab soldiers were using outdated arms from WWI or earlier which were inferior to the Zionist armies' WWII arms and artillery. But even though these are facts the New York Times told us back then, they don't want to remind you about it now. It makes you wonder; do the people that write the New York Times read the New York Times?
The depopulation of Palestine of its native inhabitants which took place from 1947-49 was commemorated this weekend and it was marked by Israel with the enforcement of ethnic cleansing. Palestinians seeking to return were shot down in the process. One reason that the Nakba is marked when the state of Israel was created is because the creation of this state meant that a political force would exist to enforce the exile of Palestinian refugees. 63 years later, we are reminded that that fear was very well founded.
Ironically, Israel is complaining to the United Nations that states like Syria and Lebanon would allow Palestinian refugees to come back to their native lands even though it is the UN which in General Assembly Resolution 194 required Israel to do just that.
Peace in the region will not come without an honest discussion of the events of this period, but it's a discussion the mainstream media doesn't seem to want to have.
Yousef Munayyer is Executive Director of the Palestine Center. This post originally appeared on the Center's blog Permission to Narrate.