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The 1948 War of Independence

QUESTION:

What was Israel's War of Independence? Independence from whom?

ANSWER:

* On May 14, 1948, against all the odds, the modern state of Israel was reborn. At four o'clock that afternoon the members of the provisional national council, led by David Ben-Gurion, met in the Tel Aviv Art Museum. Ben-Gurion rose and read the following proclamation to the assembled guests:

The Land of Israel was the birthplace of the Jewish people. Here there spiritual, religious and national identity was formed. Here they achieved independence and created a culture of national and universal significance. Here they wrote and gave the Bible to the world.

Exiled from Palestine, the Jewish people remained, faithful to it in all countries of their dispersion, never ceasing to pray and hope for their return and the restoration of their national freedom....

Accordingly we, the members of the National Council, representing the Jewish people in Palestine and the Zionist movement of the world, met together in solemn assemble today, the day of the termination of the British Mandate of Palestine, by virtue of the natural and historic right of the Jewish people and the Resolution of the General Assembly of the United Nations, hereby proclaim the establishment of the Jewish state in Palestine, to be called ISRAEL....

With trust in Almighty God, we set out hand to this declaration, at this session of the Provisional State Council, in the city of Tel Aviv, on this Sabbath eve, the fifth year of Iyar, 5708, the fourteenth day of May, 1948.

* The key to this question is reflected In the behavior Of the British In 1947. When, in that year, the Arabs rejected the partition of Palestine and refused to set up the projected Arab state, the British administration, then still governing Palestine under the Mandate, refused to carry out the recommendations of the United Nations to implement the partition plan. The British government made it plain that it would do all in its power to prevent the birth of the Jewish state. Britain announced that she would not -- and indeed, she did not -- carry out the orderly transfer of any functions to the Jewish authorities in the Interim before the end of the Mandate on May 15, 1948. Everything was left In a state of disorder. This was Britain's first contribution to the burden of the nascent state.

When, immediately after the United Nations Assembly decision, the Palestine Arabs launched their preliminary onslaught on the Jewish community, the Britlsh Army gave them considerable cover and aid. Itobstructed Jewish defense on the ground; it blocked the movement of Jewish reinforcements and supplies to outlying settlements; it opened the land frontiers for the entry of Arab soldiers from the neighboring Arab states; it maintained a blockade in the Mediterranean and sealed the coast and ports through which alone the outnumbered Jews could expect reinforcements; it handed over arms dumps to the Arabs. When Jaffa was on the point of falling to a Jewish counterattack, it sent in forces from Malta to bomb and shell the Jewish force. Meanwhile, it continued to supply the Arab states preparing to invade across the borders with all the they asked for and made no secret of it.

- Samuel Katz, Battleground: Fact and fantasy in Palestine

* In 1948, after the UN voted to give Israel statehood, Jordan and 6 other Arab countries invaded the reborn Jewish homeland, despite the fact that those Arab states were not directly affected by Israel's rebirth. The stated purpose of this invasion was to "push the Jews into the sea", i.e. genocide. What Hitler didn't finish three years earlier, the Arabs would finish once and for all. This is not mere speculation; the Arabs of the former British Mandate of Palestine were led by a Nazi collaborator, Hajj Amin al-Husseini, who was up for charges at Nuremberg before escaping in 1946. Entire books have been written on how al-Husseini actively supported Hitler's aim to exterminate the Jews in WWII.

The Jews were able to secure weapons from one country only: Czechoslovakia. And through one of the greatest miracles of modern times, and a testimony to the will to survive, tiny Israel was not only able to survive intact - she was also able to capture territory from which the Arab aggressors attacked; this is the penalty for waging war (and losing), and it always has been. Unfortunately, both Jordan and Egypt were able to expand their territories; Jordan captured what is now refered to as the "West Bank" (their original Jewish names are Judea and Samaria) including the Jewish eastern half of Jerusalem (now known as "Arab East Jerusalem"), and Egypt captured what is now known as the Gaza Strip - both countries murdered and expelled EVERY Jew who was living there at the time. During the 19 years that Jordan and Egypt occupied those territories (now know collectively as the "Occupied Territories"), neither country thought to create independent states for the remaining Arabs (now known collectively as the "Palestinians") residing in those territories. Instead, those regions were plundered and allowed to rot; Jewish graves were desecrated and the gravestones were used to pave roads and build latrines, the Jewish homes were given to Arabs and mezzuzahs in the doorposts were either ripped out or just painted over (evidence of such can be found even today in "Arab East Jerusalem").

Another Antisemitic reprocussion of Israel's rebirth was that most of the Arab Muslim countries of the Middle East expelled EVERY single Jew living there and confiscated all their assets. Most of these Jewish refugees went to Israel, and in just a few years doubled Israel's population. Incidentally, the number of Jewish refugees and their posessions greatly outnumbers any claims by Arab refugees of the 1948 war. The next great miracle was the speed in which the primarily Ashkenazi Jews of Israel absorbed an equal number of their Arabic-speaking bretheren into society. By comparison, displaced Arabs were forced into refugee camps by their Arab bretheren and most remained there throughout the 19 years of Arab occupation. And contrary to popular belief, there was not a policy of expulsion of Arabs from Israel; if so it was not very successful, as 14% (and climbing) of Israels citizens are Arabs.


QUESTION:

Weren't both sides responsible for that war?

ANSWER:

* "We appeal ... to the Arab inhabitants of the State of Israel to preserve peace and participate in the building-up of the state on the basis of full and equal citizenship and representation in all its ... institutions.

"We extend our hand to all neighbouring states and their peoples in an offer of peace and goodwill, and appeal to them to establish bonds of cooperation and mutual help with the sovereign Jewish people settled in its own land."

- David Ben-Gurion in Israel's Proclamation of Independence, May 14, 1948

* How did protracted warfare first arise between Israel and the Arabs?. Not even militant Arab leaders or anti-Zionist historians could conceivably accept the view that the 1948-49 conflict was a war of Jewish origin. On February 16, 1948, the UN Palestine Commission reported to the Security Council: "Powerful Arab interests, both inside and outside Palestine, are defying the resolution of the General Assembly and are engaged in a deliberate effort to alter by force the settlement envisaged therein." The Arabs themselves were unambiguous in accepting responsibility for starting the war. Jamal Husseini informed the Security Council on April 16, 1948: "The representatives of the Jewish Agency told us yesterday they were not the attackers, that the Arabs had begun the fighting. We did not deny this. We told the whole world that we were going to fight." As for the British commander of Jordan's Arab Legion, John Bagot Glubb, he remarked candidly: "Early in January, the first detachments of the Arab Liberation Army began to infiltrate into Palestine from Syria. Some came through Jordan and even through Amman....They were in reality to strike the first blow in the ruin of the Arabs of Palestine." Israel came into being on May 14, 1948. The five Arab armies of Egypt, Syria, Transjordan, Lebanon and Iraq immediately invaded the new microstate. Their combined intention was expressed publicly by Azzam Pasha, Secretary General of the Arab League: "This will be a war of extermination and a momentous massacre which will be spoken of like the Mongolian massacres and the Crusades."
- Louis Rene Beres, Professor of International Law, Department of Political Science, Purdue University

* Damascus radio called on all Arabs to "undertake the liberation battle that will tear the hearts from the bodies of the hateful jews and trample them in the dust"
- quoted in TIME, June 2, p. 20

* "the surviving Jews would be helped to return to their native countries, but my estimation is that none will survive"
- Ahmed Shuqeiri (later to be PLO chief) quoted in Churchill and Churchill, p. 52

* "We were racists, admiring Nazism, reading its books and the source of its thought... Whoever lived during this period in Damascus would appreciate the inclination of the Arab people to Nazism, for Nazism was the power which could serve as its champion, and who is defeated will by nature love the victor".
- Sami al Jundi, leader of Syrian Baath party, "Al Baath" Beirut, 1961. From B. Lewis, "Semites and Anti-Semites" pp.147-148.

* "This will be a war of extermination and a momentous massacare which will be spoken of like the Mongolian massacares and the crusades"
- Arab League Secretary General Azam Pasha, May 15, 1948 (quoted in "New Dimensions" Jan. 1991).