60 Years Ago in Palestine: The Lead-Up to Israeli Independence

Posted on Thu, Jan 31, 2008 @ 04:11 PM
Jewish War Plan D[aleth] Accelerated
Abdel Qadir al-Husayni

In early April 1948, the Jewish leadership under Ben-Gurion gradually operationalized their offensive Plan D[aleth]. It was still several weeks before British withdrawal when the plan was originally to come into effect. Part of the accelerated program, known as Operation Nachshon, involved opening up a corridor from the coast to Jerusalem—a narrow road overlooked by Arab villages. This action came in response to the attacks of an Arab armed band that had formed along with others in December 1947-January 1948. One of the largest was led by Abdel Qadir al-Husayni, whose territory encompassed the hills around Ramallah and Jerusalem and who was known to be active in attacking the corridor road. According to Michael Hudson, Operation Nachshon also foresaw the annexing of "as much as the city as possible to the Jewish state."

Two critical events in April led to the subsequent Zionist capture of significant parts of Jerusalem.

On March 31 Ben-Gurion had met with Jewish underground (Haganah) leaders and ordered an attack on the Arab village of Kastel, which overlooked the Tel Aviv–Jerusalem road. The Palmach captured the village on April 2, only to be counter-attacked by Abdel Qadir al-Husayni's men. Believing that the village was in his hands, at dawn on April 8 Abdel Qadir mistakenly walked up to a Jewish sentry and was shot dead. Recapturing the hilltop of Kastel, Arab forces took the leader's body to the Haram/Temple Mount and buried him there next to his father. Husayni's death was a tremendously demoralizing moment for the Palestinians and a turning point in the war.

The second event was the infamous Jewish attack on the Palestinian village of Deir Yassin on the western edge of Jerusalem. We will come to that next time.

Tags: jerusalem, mid east conflict, palestinians, Ben-Gurion, 1948 war, abdel qadir al husyani

Jerusalem Continues to be Critical Issue in Mid-East Conflict

Posted on Mon, Jan 28, 2008 @ 04:14 PM
The future division of Jerusalem between Palestinians and Israelis stalls "core issues" negotiation
Image courtesy Jerusalem Shots

Israel's PM Ehud Olmert seemed to push Jerusalem off the table again today. He said that because the city's future is such a sensitive issue, other matters, such as borders, will be tackled first as this year proceeds toward George Bush's timetable for a Mid-East agreement before he leaves office in January 2009. Not without good reason have many observers noted that the city is really the heart of the century-long conflict.

In the opening chapter of Identity Ideology and the Future of Jerusalem (Palgrave 2006), I wrote:


"The problem of Jerusalem is one of the most emotional and explosive issues in the world," wrote Palestinian international jurist Henry Cattan in 1981. In the same year, prominent Israeli novelist and commentator "Aleph Bet" Yehoshua noted that "in a period of violent religious renaissance [Jerusalem] is a dangerous political explosive which could give rise to an uncontrollable conflagration." Fourteen years later, Palestinian scholar Ghada Karmi commented that "nothing in the history of the Arab-Israeli conflict has been so contentious as the issue of Jerusalem." And in 1999 the Israeli negotiator of the Oslo Agreements, Uri Savir, admitted, "The issue of Jerusalem . . . can easily become a public explosion . . . not just between Palestinians and Israelis, but between the Arab world and Israel, between the Islamic world and the Jewish world."

Explosive, contentious, capable of drawing in much of the world community—this is the pervasive nature of the problem.

Tags: jerusalem, Ehud Olmert, Ghada Karmi, Uri Savir, Middle East Conflict, Palestine, Henry Cattan

UN-sponsored Holocaust Day: January 27

Posted on Sun, Jan 27, 2008 @ 04:16 PM
Today's Middle East Crisis and the Holocaust
BBC Images: Memorial candle  outside Auschwitz-Birkenau on Holocaust Memorial Day, 27 January 2008
A memorial candle burning outside Auschwitz-Birkenau, Holocaust Memorial Day, January 27, 2008. Image courtesy BBC News.

The 1948 foundation of the State of Israel came in the wake of the Holocaust. Some have tried to deny the reality of that horrific period. But to their credit, the United Nations designated 27 January 2006, as the first projected annual International Day of Commemoration to honor the victims.

January 27 is also the the anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz death camp.

Could there ever be another holocaust? It's a question I put to three well-known historians and the creator of the award-winning documentary "Genocide." The answer is in Part One and Part Two of my series, Final Solutions.

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Tags: Genocide, International Day of Commemoration, the Holocaust, Auschwitz

February-April 1948: Moving Toward an Independent Jewish State as Britain's Mandate Ends

Posted on Fri, Jan 25, 2008 @ 04:18 PM
Sixty years ago, events in Palestine set in motion an inevitable coming clash of Arabs and Jews over refugees and Jerusalem—Part Two
Jerusalem in 1948

Jewish soldiers in an abandoned Palestinian house in Qatamoun, West Jerusalem, 1948. GPO/AIC photo.

In February 1948, Ben-Gurion gave orders to the Haganah (the Jewish underground) to take possession of more Arab areas in West Jerusalem and to populate them with Jews. 

In March, the Haganah agreed on offensive actions (Plan D[alet]) against the Palestinians, including the expulsion of the population of entire Arab villages.

On March 31 Ben-Gurion met with Haganah leaders and ordered an attack on the Arab village of Kastel, which overlooked the Tel Aviv–Jerusalem road. Several weeks before the official British withdrawal, the plan became operational, with a view to opening a corridor from the coast to Jerusalem (Operation Nachshon), and annexing "as much of the city as possible to the Jewish state" (Michael Hudson, "Transformation of Jerusalem," 258).

Though Ben-Gurion later claimed that the Negev was his first priority (Memoirs, 136-7), based on interviews with Yigal Allon, Yigael Yadin and Ben-Gurion, foreign correspondent Dan Kurzman wrote: "The full impact of his lifelong obsession with the Bible struck with blistering force when it appeared that Jerusalem would fall to the Arabs and perhaps be lost forever to the Jewish state. Whatever happened to any other Jewish areas, the Holy City must be saved. It was the soul of the Jewish people, the fount of the light to be cast unto the nations. He had agreed that it be internation­alized as a temporary concession. But an Arab flag over Jerusalem? Not for one minute!" (Ben-Gurion, 279).

The stage was set for a decades long clash over Jerusalem as well as the Palestinian refugee question.

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Tags: Ben-Gurion, British Mandate, operation nachshon, Independent Jewish State, Kastel, West Jerusalem

In Mandatory Palestine 60 Years Ago

Posted on Wed, Jan 23, 2008 @ 04:24 PM
Events that preceded the founding of Israel 60 years ago and why Jerusalem is still at the center of the Middle East conflict--Part One

The following comes from my "Identity, Ideology and the Future of Jerusalem" (Palgrave 2006).

Click to hear  vote audio
Listen to audio of the 1947 UN Vote
In April 1947 Britain requested the transfer of its Mandate responsibilities for Palestine to the United Nations. In November the UN passed Resolution 181 advocating the partition of Palestine, and the future of Jerusalem was in the balance. The resolution called for establishing both an Arab and a Jewish state with mutual economic interests, and for the internationalization of Jerusalem. There was a provision for a nonbinding referendum on Jerusalem’s future after ten years. For his part, the Jewish leader David Ben-Gurion was happy to agree with this in the hope that after a decade the Jews would find it easier to possess the city, even though the projected demographics of the area were not to the Jewish advantage. Despite the peculiarities of other terms of the resolution (there would be 500,000 Jews and 400,000 Arabs in the Jewish state), the Jewish community in Palestine would have a legitimacy it had never had before, in the form of its own independent state.

The Jewish Agency accepted the UN's partition proposal, though the internationalization of Jerusalem was a bitter pill. Their agreement was once again a matter of pragmatism; a state without Jerusalem was better than no state at all. The Arab League, however, rejected the plan on behalf of the Palestinian Arabs.

Ben-Gurion was in charge of defense from 1946 onward and had already concluded that an armed conflict with the Arabs would come. Accordingly he began an arms buildup. In November 1947, just before the UN partition resolution passed, Golda (Meyerson) Meir met secretly with King Abdullah of Transjordan on behalf of the Jewish Agency. They agreed that, following a very likely conflict between the Yishuv and its Arab enemies, the Jews would take the areas designated for them in the UN plan, Transjordan would take Arab Palestine, and the two sides would make peace. Jerusalem was never mentioned, however. Immediately following the passage of the UN resolution, Palestinians attacked the Jewish community. The Jewish forces retaliated, and by mid-January 60 years ago, Palestinians in sections of West Jerusalem were fleeing.

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Tags: jerusalem, Arab Palestine, Golda Meir, partition proposal, Middle East Conflict, West Jerusalem

Israel's 60th Anniversary Just Ahead

Posted on Mon, Jan 21, 2008 @ 04:27 PM

Current Israeli-Palestinian Impasse in Context of the 60th Anniversary

Ben  Gurion 1948

It's often noted that the ongoing Middle-East Conflict had its origins in two seminal eventsthe 1948 and 1967 warsand the effects they had on the Palestinian population. Last year saw the 40th anniversary of the Six-Day War/June 1967 War. I covered this in earlier posts on February 7, May 7, May 9June 6 and June 7, 2007. 

This year marks the 60th anniversary of the founding of the State of Israel (May 14) and the war that broke out immediately afterwards as Arab armies attempted to destroy the UN-sanctioned Jewish state at birth. In the next few days, we'll look at the events leading up to the 1948 war.



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Tags: 1948 war, 1967 War, 60th Anniversary of the State of Israel, Six-Day War

Bush Visit to Middle East Yields Little Progress on Palestine-Israel Front

Posted on Thu, Jan 17, 2008 @ 04:29 PM

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Details: Bush Visit to Middle East Yields  Little Progress on Palestine-Israel Front
Bush Visits Middle East

I have delayed comment on President Bush's only visit to Israel and Palestine during his two terms of office to be able to take a longer view.

Assessments of the visit are guarded at best.

At the beginning of the tour the Economist laid out the puzzle and the challenge in Israel and Palestine. At the end of the week long circuit, the same source summed up the prospects of success and the sub-text of the tour when it comes to arms supplies and who is providing what to whom.

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Tags: arms supplies, President Bush, conflict, israel, Palestine

B'Tselem Releases 2007 Report

Posted on Tue, Jan 01, 2008 @ 04:31 PM

B'Tselem, the human rights agency that reports on violations in the West Bank and Gaza, has released its 2007 year end report. While the number of Israelis and Palestinians killed has dropped, there is deterioration in other humanitarian sectors.

Tags: gaza, human rights violations, west bank