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‘Violence on both sides’ — ‘New York Times’ erases the Nakba

Media Analysis
The New York Times has a potted summary of the modern history of Jerusalem — “The Conflict in Jerusalem Is Distinctly Modern” — and notice how Sewell Chan and Irit Pazner Garshowitz treat the expulsions in 1948.

“The Arabs rejected the partition plan, and a day after Israel proclaimed its independence in 1948, the Arab countries attacked the new state. They were defeated. Amid violence by militias and mobs on both sides, huge numbers of Jews and Arabs were displaced.”

In fact, the violence began in late 1947 between both sides and half the expulsions and the Deir Yassin masssacre of April 1948 took place before the Arab armies attacked.

And “huge numbers of Jews and Arabs were displaced” is meant to downplay the deliberate expulsion of the Palestinians, the Nakba. The borders of the Jewish state laid out by the U.N. Partition Plan contained only a slim majority of Jews; after the Nakba and the Palestine war/Israeli war of independence, those borders were greatly expanded, and 80 percent of the Palestinians who had lived there were gone, and not allowed to return. The numbers of Jews displaced from Hebron and Jerusalem and other parts of the West Bank were far smaller. (The Times’s use of the phrase “violence by… mobs on both sides” is eerily reminiscent of Donald Trump’s equivocation after Charlottesville.)

This is hasbara, or explanation of the conflict that serves Israeli claims. There is no comment section on the piece, of course.

Phil Weiss and Donald Johnson

Phil Weiss and Donald Johnson are NY writers and regular contributors to this site

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11 Responses

  1. pabelmont on December 6, 2017, 10:05 am

    There was, in fact, some violence on both sides, even before 1947. 1936-39 comes to mind.

    However, the reason for such Palestinian violence as there was was either the local problem of the eviction of farming families from lands they had been tenants on for generations and expected to remain on (the absentee landlords having sold the lands to Zionists) or the larger problem of the abundantly clear intention on the part of the more aggressive Zionists (such as Jabotinsky, Begin, Shamir) to create a more-or-less-Arab-cleared Zionist-majority state in most or all of Palestine — or even all of Palestine-plus-Jordan.

    No-one among the Palestinians invited the Zionists to imagine or plan for (or effectuate) this take-over. No-one among the Palestinians forced the Zionists to dream these dreams or to put them into action. This was all voluntary on the part of the Zionists and most of it was imagined and planned pre-holocaust, mostly on the basis of very real and very terrible Polish antisemitism.

    So the story is just as so many have described it: Zionists said, basically, we’ve had pain in Poland (and Russia) and so we are going to solve our problem-of-pain by evicting the Palestinians and giving them pain. A sort of trade, as it were.

    Here, you lucky Palestinians, you, take our pain from us. But don’t expect thanks or apologies. In fact, get off our land!

    Guess NYT couldn’t publish that!

    • Jerry Hirsch on December 6, 2017, 3:56 pm

      pabelmont, actually the Palestinian Arabs were responsible for instigating ALL major violent attacks in Palestine from 1920-1936. Before any checkpoints, before any walls, and before Israel became a nation.

      • gamal on December 6, 2017, 6:38 pm

        yes and while the British were busy oppressing Zionists, you are failing the Turing Test.

        I can remember when visiting the UK, in the late 60’s early 70’s, a TV report on nature in Israel,

        the Israeli ecologist was explaining that cheetahs (and hyenas) lived in the Naqab as the country was basically an empty un-peopled wasteland, when the BBC Johnny asked him why cheetahs had declined so much with out hesitation he solemnly told the world “The Palestinian shepherds shot most of them”, Palestinians invisible, till you need them.

        Trumps Jerusalem declaration is a declaration of war on the Arab people, their governments have always been supine before American dictates, but not the people, hence Americas unceasing attacks on them, which can now be spun as disorder resulting from Palestinian violent resistance, if you look closely you will note it is the Arabs who are being assaulted, in their home and that they are merely defending themselves.

        projection while initially comforting leads to madness and self degradation.

      • echinococcus on December 6, 2017, 9:22 pm

        Good for them! That’s enough to blow out of the water the myth of the happy-go-lucky Palestinian that sat on his hands while his country was being stolen and he was being screwed by pirates and robbers.
        Of course invaders are met with resistance, you d##[email protected]%! The English and their guns saved your thieving skin, meanwhile, and all you had as a thank you was murdering them, too.

      • Misterioso on December 7, 2017, 10:26 am

        @Jerry Hirsch

        “… actually the Palestinian Arabs were responsible for instigating ALL major violent attacks in Palestine from 1920-1936. ”



        1921 riots and Hebron 1929:
        On May 1, 1921, inevitable large scale violence broke out in Jaffa and elsewhere in which 90 Jews and 62 Arabs were killed and many more wounded. (Smith, Palestine And The Israel/Arab Conflict, p. 72) The clashes were ignited in Tel Aviv and spread to Jaffa when Jewish socialists began protesting against Jewish communists who were parading in support of a Soviet Palestine. These disturbances by a foreign minority that espoused alien ideologies and showed little respect for local customs and mores (e.g., Jewish women dressing immodestly in public) were an unacceptable affront to Palestinians. As they saw it, their country and way of life were under siege from within by interlopers who as the 1919 U.S. King-Crane Commission had asserted, intended to dispossess them. They could take no more and vented their rage by attacking Zionists in their midst.

        In 1925, Vladimir Jabotinsky, a Zionist zealot from Poland, founded the fascistic Betar or Brown Shirts along with the Revisionist Party (origin of today’s Likud) which advocated “revision” of the British Mandate to include forcible Jewish colonization of then Transjordan in addition to Palestine. Such Jewish extremism, along with the racist rants of Rabbi Kook and threats against the Dome of the Rock by Revisionist demonstrators led to the terrible and bloody riots of 1929, resulting in the deaths of 133 Jews in Hebron and elsewhere.

        Although never acknowledged by Israel and its supporters, hundreds of Hebron’s Jews were taken in and protected by Muslims. Tragically, 64 of Hebron’s Jews died, but 650 were saved. Throughout the country 133 Jews were killed and 339 wounded while Palestinians suffered 116 dead and 232 wounded (mostly at the hands of the British.)

        Vincent Sheean, an eminent American journalist who arrived in Palestine as a pro-Zionist just days before the riots erupted, was shocked at what he saw: As he later wrote: “I was bitterly indignant with the Zionists for having, as I believed, brought on the disaster…. [W]hy couldn’t the Zionists leave it [Palestine] alone, it would never hold enough Jews to make even a beginning towards the solution of the Jewish problem; it would always be a prey to such ghastly horrors as those I saw everyday and every night….” (Vincent Sheean, Personal History, New York: Doubleday, Doran & Company, Inc. 1935)

        Bitterly ironic is the fact that most Jews living in Hebron in 1929 were anti-Zionist. They were the descendants of the Sephardim who had founded the city’s Jewish Quarter near the tomb of the Patriarchs in the 1500’s after Jews were expelled from Spain and then welcomed and given sanctuary in the Arab world. Their numbers increased somewhat during the early 1900’s with the arrival of Hasidim from Poland who came to study. Many Muslims who were driven out of Spain by the Christians also moved to Hebron. Prior to Zionism, Jews and Muslims lived together harmoniously in Hebron for 400 years with the Jews always forming a small minority. There were very few if any Christians in the city.

        The friendship that existed between Muslims and Jews in Hebron was attested to by Israeli journalist Chaim Hanegbi, whose great grandfather was the city’s last Rabbi: “My grandfather lived very peacefully with his Arab neighbours…. His family joined the grape harvest every year, and the [Muslim] neighbours cooked kosher food so the Jews could share the feasts with them.” (Canada’s Globe and Mail, February 18, 1997)

        It should also be noted that in the spirit of reconciliation, Hebron’s mayor has stated publicly that he and his fellow Muslims would welcome the descendants of the city’s Jews if they chose to return and replace the Zionist fanatics who are presently there.

        BTW, in response to claims by Zionists today that properties of Jews in Hebron were illegally taken over by Arabs, it should be noted that evidence in the form of receipts for annual payments up to the year 1936 have been produced by Anwar Katib, former Jordanian governor of the District of Jerusalem which prove that much of the property they occupied was in fact leased. (Patricia Sellick, “The Old City of Hebron: Can It Be Saved?;” Journal of Palestine Studies, #92, Vol. XXlll, Summer 1994, p.75).

        In response to Palestinians’ expected angry response to the Partition Plan, on 5 December 1947, Ben-Gurion, leader of the Yishuv (the Jewish community in Palestine), ordered “immediate action to expand Jewish settlement in three areas assigned to the Arab state: the South West (Negev), the South-East (Etzion bloc) and Western Galilee.” (Political and Diplomatic Documents of the Jewish Agency, 1947- 48, no. 12). Thus, Ben-Gurion revealed that the Jewish Agency had no intention of abiding by the terms of the Partition Plan.

        In his December 13/47 dispatch to London, Sir Alan Cunningham, the British High Commissioner to Palestine blamed the Yishuv for the deteriorating situation and loss of life: “The initial Arab outbreaks were spontaneous and unorganized and were more demonstrations of displeasures at the UN decision than determined attacks on Jews. The weapons initially employed [by Palestinians] were sticks and stones and had it not been for Jewish resource to firearms, it is not impossible that the excitement would have subsided and little loss of life caused…. [T]here is reliable evidence that the Arab Higher Committee as a whole and the Mufti in particular, were not in favour of serious outbreaks.” (MEC: Cunningham Papers, box 2, file 3)

        Ben-Gurion agreed with Cunningham. In a letter dated 15 December 1947 to Moshe Sharett, head of the political department of the Jewish Agency, he stated: “The [Palestinian] peasant masses are not taking part in the riots.” (Three months later in a letter to Sharett and Golda Meir he observed: “The [Palestinian] Arabs in their great majority are not seeking war with us.”)

        On December 13, the Irgun carried out coordinated assaults in Jerusalem, Jaffa, and the village of Tireh near Haifa, killing 35 Palestinian civilians and wounding many more. The 14 December issue of the New York Times observed that “The hope for a decrease in tension, arising from Arab reaction to the United States decision on partition of Palestine, seemed destroyed by the Irgun Zvai Leumi terrorist bombings of Arabs yesterday.” (John Quigley, Palestine and Israel…, p. 41)

        Shortly after Britain’s announcement that it intended to withdraw from Palestine beginning 15 May 1948, Ben-Gurion directed the Irgunists, Sternists and Palmach to increase the ferocity of their strikes against Palestinian Arabs. He ordered that “in each attack, a decisive blow should be struck, resulting in the destruction of homes and the expulsion of the population.” (Ben-Gurion’s Diary-in Hebrew, vol. 1, 19 December 1947) The Zionists were implementing what they called Plans A, B and C or Tochnit May (Plan May), more commonly known as Plan Gimmel. Its objectives were to buy time for the mobilization of Jewish forces by seizing strategic points the British vacated and to terrorize the Palestinian population into submission. (Harvard Professor Walid Khalidi, Haven to Conquest, p.lxxix)

  2. Don on December 6, 2017, 10:57 am
  3. Don on December 6, 2017, 11:02 am

    “on the basis of very real and very terrible Polish antisemitism.”

    No offense, pabelmont, but could you provide some evidence or historically documented references for this statement?

    I am somewhat skeptical, given that today, “antisemitism ” seems to have no definition whatsoever. And if Poles were so terribly antisemitic, why did half the worlds Jewish population reside in Poland for centuries?

    • pabelmont on December 6, 2017, 11:21 am


      One thing to read about Polish antisemitism (and what I read) is “Jabotinsky’s Children”, a history of Zionism as it arose in Poland (as I recall, 1930s). [1] There’s a review here. [2] See also this.

    • CigarGod on December 7, 2017, 10:50 am

      Yes, can it not be in the form of single-sourced, self-serving diary similar to Rodchenkov (russian doping)?

  4. Boomer on December 6, 2017, 12:56 pm

    Thanks to Phil and pabelmont for saying what NYT didn’t. NYT’s spinning history seems particularly shameful to me because, at this point in history, the Zionists have won. They have nothing to fear from the historical truth. NYT could afford to live up to its asserted ideals of objectivity and honesty without any threat to Zionist dominion.

  5. on December 7, 2017, 11:00 am

    I stopped perceiving the NYT as anything but a rag tag newspaper delivering what its Zionist donors,
    management and contributors demand. How else can you explain the blatant bias on the I/P issue –

    They are nothing more than an instrument of the PEP crowd – liberal bigots – who believe in, defend and play cover for a settler colonial religious supremacist state that has and is systematically erasing a whole indigenous population from their native lands.

    The sooner we start treating their news coverage of the I/P issue as anything but propaganda the better. They live by and off their credibility – let’s at least rob them of that.

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