Monday, May 21, 2007

The first refugees in Palestine were Jewish

Palestinians have been marking the 59th anniversary of their Nakba, when up to 700,000 refugees fled what is now Israel in the 1948 War of Independence. But it is seldom remembered that the first refugees following the adoption of the 1947 UN Partition Plan were Jewish, not Arab. In an article (Midstream, July/Aug 2005) focusing on French policy towards the neglected Jewish 'Tomb of the Kings' in east Jerusalem Elliott A Green touches on a story of dispossession ignored by the Arab organisers of the Jerusalem music Festival at the site and neglected even by Israeli historians:

"(There were) three nearby Jewish residential quarters whence the Jewish residents were driven out in the early months of the War of Independence when the Arabs had the upper hand. Of course, (...) they are regularly forgotten even by Israeli historians, so a brief review is relevant. Mere hours after the UN General Assembly Partition Plan recommendation (29 November 1947), Arab irregular forces began shooting at Jewish civilian targets in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, and elsewhere in the country. Automobile travelers were murdered in Sh'khem (Nablus) that night; and an ambulance was shot at on its way to Hadassah Hospital on Mount Scopus. Throughout December 1947, the Shimon haTsadiq and Nahalat Shimon neighborhoods, close to the Tomb, on the way to Mount Scopus, came under attack, as did south Tel Aviv and elsewhere in the country.

"The Tomb is located in what became "East Jerusalem" after Israel's War of Independence. It is about 40 meters west of the Orient House compound, the erstwhile PLO headquarters in Jerusalem. The American Colony Hotel is some 60 meters to the north, whereas Nahalat Shimon is about 160 meters north of the Tomb, and Shimon haTsadiq less than a kilometer to the northeast. They are also in the area from which the Jews were driven out by Jordan early in the 1948 war, becoming Jewish refugees before there were Arab refugees. The Arab "squatters" who dispossessed the Jews and usurped their homes in 1948 have continued to live in them even though Israel took control of the eastern part of Jerusalem in 1967.

"Only about 50 meters to the west were the Siebenbergen Houses (where three new hotels are now located) along the Mt Scopus route. On their ruins to the west was built the later Mandelbaum Gate, the famous passage between Israeli Jerusalem and the Jordanian-held eastern sector in the armistice period between 1949 and 1967.

"Residents fled or were compelled by Arab and British forces to evacuate all three Jewish neighborhoods early in the war. Arab attacks with knives and guns were assisted, in the case of Nahalat Shimon, by British troops who forced the Jews to give up their weapons after the Jews had repelled an Arab attack. All but one of the Jewish families fled Shimon haTsadiq on the night of 29 December 1947. The remaining family fled on 7 or 8 January 1948 (exactly which day is missing from a diary shown to me by a family member). The British evacuated the now defenseless Jews from Nahalat Shimon on 17 January. Shimon haTsadiq became the first neighborhood in the country from which the population was driven out and did not return after the War. Jews had likewise fled south Tel Aviv in December 1947, but returned after the War, whereas Shimon haTsadiq remained under Arab control, as did Nahalat Shimon and the Siebenbergen Houses. Hence, precisely in the surroundings of the Tomb, Arabs and British dispossessed Jews from their homes in late 1947 and early 1948. This history does not appear among the suffering featured in the publicity of Yabous Productions, the Arab body organizing the music festival."

Read article in full


Anonymous said...

The dispossession of Jews living in East Jerusalem and Hebron started in 1929, when Amin el Husseini, with the support of British officials, organized massacres that drove Jews from much of these 2 cities. The Jerusalem neighbourhood of Romema was resettled with refugees from the Old City Moslem Quarter, which was almost entirely cleansed of its Jews. Hebron ceased to be home to any Jews.

Today these cities are routinely referred to as "traditionally Arab" by Western journalists. The Jewish presence and its violent termination are never mentioned, as if it had never existed. Instead, a "debate" about "Jewish control" of the media fills the pages and airwaves.

bataween said...

Indeed. Last night's C4 programme, Battle for the Holyland, was a case in point. Nowhere was the Jewish presence in Hebron pre-1929 mentioned,the massacre etc. I'm not saying that the settlements in the 'West Bank' are a good thing, but the Jews were characterised as 'wandering' before settling on 'illegally occupied Arab land'.The Arabs lived there since 'time immemorial.'And this from Rod Liddle, a journalist 'sympathetic to Israel.'

Anonymous said...

Rod Little's programme was the basis for an article, published in one of the Sunday newspapers, which was so full of errors and calumnies as to defy deconstruction. His major claim was that Jews had no moral or legal right to reside in the West Bank or East Jerusalem.

The exact opposite is true. Jews have the moral, legal and historical right to reside in these territories. The only question is whether it is wise politically for Jews to exercise those rights.

It is a fact that in every generation some try to dictate to Jews where they may and where they may not reside. Perhaps they are openly anti-Jewish because they can get away with it, and don't have to face any retribution.

Eliyahu m'Tsiyon said...

Anon's second comment here points to what I would call an effort to ghettoize Jews again. They are saying that Jews don't have a right to live in a certain area or zone. But that area just happens to be Judea-Samaria, what they call the "West Bank," the cradle of the Jewish people. This is ghettoizing Jews, saying that Jews don't have certain rights of residence, which were also denied by the Jordanian govt in that area before 1967. But it is more than ghettoizing Jews since this area was the heart of the Jewish homeland and has several Jewish holy places [Tomb of the Patriarchs, Rachel's Tomb, etc].

I would add two points to what anon said. 1) driving Jews out of their homes took place first in 1920 in the so-called Nebi Musa riots instigated by British officials. On this see Richard Meinertzhagen's book, Middle East Diary. Also see Samuel [Shmuel] Katz' book Jabo, a biography of Jabotinsky. There are some other sources in English and Hebrew on this event. I have seen a photocopy in a book of Meinertzhagen's report or telegram to the Foreign Ministry on the instigation by British officers of the Nebi Musa pogrom which killed 5 Jews in the Old City of Jerusalem in April 1920. I think that this book was a document collection edited by Isaiah Friedman and Michael Cohen and published by Arno Press in NY.

2) the British White Paper of 1939 entailed Land Purchase regulations which forbid Jews to buy land in most of the Jewish National Home [governed by the UK under the League of Nations mandate with the territorial name of Palestine]. Hebron was part of the zone forbidden to Jewish land purchase. In Jerusalem, however, Jews could buy real estate, although I'm not sure whether they could buy real estate from Arabs or only from non-Arabs, such as church bodies.
The White Paper was found to be in violation of the Mandate by the League of Nations Permanent Mandates Commission. This did not stop His Majesty Govt's from enforcing the White Paper which also meant reducing Jewish immigration to the Jewish National Home to a mere trickle, and this during the Holocaust. Funny, isn't it, that British policy today is back where it was in 1940?