No Pride in This Memorial: April 9th in Middle East History

Posted on Mon, Apr 08, 2013 @ 10:55 PM
 Map courtesy Wikipedia

An event the Palestinians recall every year is the massacre of 100110 Palestinian villagers at Deir Yassin on the city's western edge on April 9, 1948. It became the most significant aspect of Operation Nachshon, the Jewish campaign to open up the corridor between the Mediterranean coast and Jerusalem.

The attack on the village was carried out by two Jewish underground organizations, Irgun Z'vai Leumi (IZL) and Lohamei Herut Israel (Lehi; also known as the Stern Gang), with the apparent agreement of the Haganah in Jerusalem. The villagers had been friendly toward the Jews, refusing to allow Palestinian resistance fighters to stay there, but they had armed themselves against possible attack. The fighting went so badly for the Jewish attackers that they resorted to dynamiting houses, killing men, women and children. Though many younger male Palestinians escaped, others (women, children and old men) were humiliated by being trucked through Jerusalem in a kind of victory parade and then dumped in Arab East Jerusalem.

Along with many other sources, Benny Morris's 1999 book, Righteous Victimsdetails this confrontation. Deir Yassin's website contains much helpful information as does the associated documentary.

The immediate result of the massacre was such that a Palestinian refugee exodus began. This turning point in the Middle East conflict opened the way for Jewish successes in the days ahead. It also set the stage for fierce reprisal. Four days later, the Palestinians attacked a 10-vehicle convoy traveling to Jerusalem's Hadassah Hospital on Mount Scopus. During the six-hour fight, two armored buses were torched and more than 70 mostly unarmed Jewish doctors, nurses and lecturers died.

The State of Israel's first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, later apologized for the events at Deir Yassin.

Tags: palestinians, Ben-Gurion, 1948 war, Deir Yassin, Middle East Conflict

Identity, Ideology and Israel's Latest Election

Posted on Wed, Jan 30, 2013 @ 09:45 AM
Yair Lapid   portraitSm
 Yair Lapid, leader of Israel's new Yesh Atid party.

The secular mainstream in Israel scored in the recent elections with the success of the new party Yesh Atid (There is a Future), led by talk-show host Yair Lapid. Though Benjamin Netanyahu’s party won, Lapid emerged as a power broker. One of the planks in his platform is the demand that ultra-Orthodox students serve in the military or suffer sanctions. The Supreme Court has already nixed a law giving exemption to such students, but the government has not followed through on bringing them into the military.

This is only part of the battle that has been developing in Israel over the role of ultra-Orthodox religion in civil society. Other related issues include  gender equality, taxes and government aid. Though its adherents (Haredim) represent only about 10% of the Jewish population in Israel, they wield disproportionate political influence. The polity is split into many fragments such that no single party can gain a clear majority, but the ultra-orthodox parties have been present in most coalitions since 1977. This time around two Haredi parties have a combined seat total of 18 to Lapid’s 19. This suggests that if Lapid pursues an aggressive secular agenda at the expense of the ultra-Orthodox, he will face a lot of opposition and deepen a growing rift in Israeli society

His position on Jerusalem could also become an issue. In the campaign he took up the traditional Israeli election rhetoric of “undivided Jerusalem.” This wins votes. Yet his record shows a different side. In 2008 he gave an interview to Der Spiegel indicating support for the division of the city with the Palestinians. This past week one of his security advisors, Jacob Perry, answered a question about Lapid’s inviolability of Jerusalem stance indicating that it may be the starting point for negotiations. In other words, compromise may be necessary. 

There is much to be said on either side of the debate over Jerusalem. Both Israelis/Jews and Palestinians/Arabs/Muslims have staked a claim. Identity and ideology play vital roles for all concerned. Can ideologies be modified and identities change? Yes. But only with new perspectives on the human condition.

Tags: jerusalem, palestinians, identity, israel, Palestine

Latest Palestinian Census Figures

Posted on Sun, Feb 10, 2008 @ 04:37 PM

AP reports that Palestinian population has grown, but questions East Jerusalem numbers
Google BlogSearch
Details: Latest  Palestinian Census Figures
Palestinian Population Growth
The Associated Press reported on the latest Palestinian population figures in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem. The International Herald Tribune carried the account February 9.

Tags: mid east conflict, gaza, east jerusalem, palestinian population, palestinians, west bank, census

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

Interview with Knesset Defense Committee Chairman

Posted on Tue, Jul 31, 2007 @ 02:55 PM
New proposal focuses on potential cooperation between Israel, Jordan and Egypt in Middle East conflict
MK Effie Eitam

Effie Eitam, MK National Religious Party

On Monday I spoke with Effie Eitam, MK, following his meeting with the foreign ministers of Jordan and Egypt in Jerusalem. They were there to encourage further Israeli consideration of the Saudi-initiated peace proposal.  Eitam, in return, presented a proposal of his own relative to cooperation between Israel, Egypt and Jordan.

The full text of the interview can be found here.

Tags: jerusalem, palestinians, Jordan, Egypt, Saudi Peace Plan, israel, Effie Eitam