It was written “Imagine that not so long ago, in any given country you are familiar with, half of the entire population had been forcibly expelled within a year, half of its villages and towns wiped out, leaving behind only rubble and stones.
Imagine now the possibility that somehow this act will never make it into the history books and that all diplomatic efforts to resolve the conflict that erupted in that country will totally sideline, if not ignore, this catastrophic event.
“Imagine, that is, trying to understand what’s happening between Israel and Gaza today without taking into account how the conflict began.”
The quote is from the introduction to Ilan Pappe’s ‘The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine’. Pappe, a senior lecturer in political science at the University of Haifa until 2007, is currently a professor at the University of Essex and director of its European Centre for Palestine Studies. He is foremost among Israeli ‘New Historians’ who, since the publication in the 1980s of Israeli and British documents from the period, have radically rewritten the history of the Jewish State’s foundation and the flight of 700,000 Palestinians from its territory.
Pappe argues that the exodus was not a mere by-product of terror and chaos but the result of a deliberate strategy designed to facilitate the consolidation and expansion of the new Jewish State. The key document which he and others cite is Plan Dalet (Dalet is the Hebrew letter D).
Plan Dalet was drafted and distributed to leaders of the Hagannah in March 1948. Its formal adoption reflected the transformation of the clandestine organisation into the core element of a regular army. The drafting “commission” included about a dozen military and political leaders under the chairmanship of Israel’s “founding father” and first Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion.
Four months earlier, in November 1947, the UN General Assembly had voted to divide Palestine into a Jewish State covering 56% of the territory and a Palestinian State on 42% — with the remaining 2%, Jerusalem, designated an “internationalised zone”. The scheme was plainly unfair to the Palestinians. But, backed by the US, the Soviet Union and the other major powers, it was handed down as the consensus view of what’s now called “the international community”.
However, it is clear from the material which has subsequently become available that Zionist leaders of the time saw the UN plan not as a compromise settlement but as a stepping-stone towards their objective of a state based on Jewish religious identity to include all of the “Land of Israel” — the West Bank, Gaza and Jerusalem as well the territory allocated to Israel. Which meant clearing the Palestinians out.
Pappe quotes Ben Gurion on December 3, 1947: “They can either be mass arrested or expelled; it is better to expel them.”
It is a striking aspect of contemporary accounts that Zionist military leaders were more open and honest about their intentions than diplomacy might have dictated. Hagannah commander Yigael Yadin told other Zionist groups in January 1948 to give over with the rhetoric about “retaliation”: “This is not what we are doing: this is an offensive and we need to initiate preemptive strikes; no need for a village to attack us (first)”.
Plan Dalet, then, represented not a new path but the codification and strengthening of a practice already well under way. Anyone wanting to inform their own views of the rights and wrongs of what’s afoot in Gaza today should read Plan Dalet. An English-language text is easily accessible on the internet. The Plan does not call for massacre in so many words. And it can be read (although some of us regard this as rather implausible) as a contingency plan rather than an order for immediate implementation.
Nevertheless, the strategy is clearly outlined and describes with chilling accuracy what, in the event, was about to unfold.
Under the heading, ‘Mounting operations against enemy population centres located inside or near our defensive system in order to prevent them from being used as bases by an active armed force,’ the Plan calls for the “destruction of villages (setting fire to, blowing up, and planting mines in the debris), especially those population centres which are difficult to control continuously”.
(Who might be the target of mines buried in the debris of previous attack?)
Under ‘Mounting search and control operations’, the Plan recommends “encirclement of the village and conducting a search inside it.
In the event of resistance, the armed force must be destroyed and the population must be expelled outside the borders of the state”.
It all happened back then exactly as Planned. It’s happened since, again and again and again and again.
It is happening in Gaza today.
The problem does not have to do with “ancient hatreds”, with the belligerence of this side or that or both, or with something wicked in Judaism or Islam or both. The problem is the state of Israel.