The Second World War effectively broke the back of Britain’s ability to control its empire. Its will to resolve the bloody conflict that it had itself helped to create between the Zionist settlement and the indigenous population of Palestine had been sapped. The USA, the country least exhausted by the war effort, had emerged as the power in the world. And the Middle East was of vital importance to it. The region’s cheap and ever-expanding supplies of oil were now essential not only for the USA’s own domestic supplies but also the key role the US intended to play in investing in Europe’s post-war reconstruction.
So the prospect of a Jewish state, completely dependent for its survival upon American patronage and therefore inevitably devoted to US interests in the region, was extremely attractive to President Truman’s administration. Particularly at a time when there was no other reliable guarantor of US interests in the area.
Then in June 1946 the Zionists blew up the King David Hotel in Jerusalem, killing more than 80 British, Arabs and Jews. The action exposed the bankruptcy of British policy in the area and the Palestine question was passed hurriedly to the United Nations.
The United States was the most powerful voice at the United Nations. Its plans for Palestine could easily be manoeuvred through that flimsily-based organisation. A semblance of “fairness” to both sides was proposed in the US-backed UN scheme for partition.
Close inspection, however, immediately shatters any first impression of fairness. The partition plan granted 55 per cent of Palestine to the Jews who were 30 per cent of the population but owned only 6 per cent of the land (and this land, it should always be remembered, had been purchased before the war from Arab landlords by Zionists who then evicted the peasant farmers). Nearly 400,000 Arabs, a number nearly equal to the number of Jews, were to live in the area assigned to the Jewish state. The Arab state was to include 10,000 Jews and 725,000 Arabs in the remaining 45% of Palestine.
The plan for partition was approved with ease. All European governments approved. The Soviet Union approved. But only three African and Asian states agreed (under massive pressure from the USA).
And, of course, no Arab state agreed. Within days Syrian demonstrators attacked Western embassies. Thousands of Egyptians poured into the streets of Cairo, fighting the police and stoning the British consulate. Lebanese and Iraqis attacked American properties. As a Palestinian leader aptly put it: “We are fighting an advance guard of America.” 
In fact the partition agreement, signed in November 1947, was the legal figleaf which immediately triggered the Zionist hijack of Palestine. Partition signalled the end of British rule. Who, then, would oppose the Zionists’ military plans – which had been an open secret for years? Obviously not the Americans. The Arab governments? No, their half-hearted opposition was as spineless and corrupt as it had been since the earliest days of British rule.
The Palestinians were left to fight alone. They had neither the military machine nor, more importantly, the kind of leadership that could match the ruthless training of the Zionists. Nonetheless, as in 1936, many thousands of Palestinians fought back as courageously as they could.
At the heart of the Zionists scheme lay terror on a monumental scale. They would bounce the Palestinians out of their own country by creating such a climate of bloodletting and violence that a fever of fear would sweep the land.
On 9 April 1948, soldiers of the Irgun, a particularly fanatical Zionist militia commanded by Menachem Begin, who was to be Israeli prime minister at the time of the invasion of Lebanon in 1982, entered the Palestinian village of Deir Yassin and told residents that they had 15 minutes to abandon their homes. Then the soldiers attacked. In a few hours the Irgun, in scenes which would be repeated at Shatila and Sabra in Beirut 24 years later, murdered between two and three hundred men, women and children in cold blood. Jacques de Reynier of the International Red Cross went to the village shortly afterwards:
The first room was dark, everything was in disorder, but there was no-one. In the second, amid disembowelled furniture and all sorts of debris, I found some bodies cold. Here the cleaning up’ had been done with machine guns, then hand grenades. It had been finished off with knives, anyone could see that. The same thing in the next room but as I was about to leave, I heard something like a sigh. I looked everywhere, turned over all the bodies, and eventually found a little foot, still warm. It was a little girl of ten, mutilated by a hand grenade, but still alive; everywhere it was the same horrible sight ... there had been 400 people in this village; about fifty had escaped. All the rest had been deliberately massacred in cold blood for, as I observed for myself, this gang was admirably disciplined and acted only under orders. 
Begin himself has described the consequences:
Arabs throughout the country, induced to believe wild tales of “Irgun butchery”, were seized with limitless panic and started to flee for their lives. This mass flight soon developed into a maddened uncontrollable stampede ... The political and economic significance can hardly be overestimated. 
Two weeks later British troops were withdrawn from Haifa. At sundown on 21 April the Zionists hurled sixty pounds of explosives about 300 yards into the crowded Arab quarter. Barrel bombs, which were casks filled with gasoline and dynamite, rolled down the narrow alleys and crashed, creating an inferno of flames and explosions. Loudspeakers of the Haganah, the mainstream Zionist militia, broadcast “horror recordings” that filled the air with shrieks and anguished moans of Arab women, interrupted by a booming sorrowful voice that called out in Arabic, “Flee for your lives! The Jews are using poison gas and atomic weapons!” As the Palestinians fled Haifa only one phrase trembled on their lips: “Deir Yassin, Deir Yassin”. 
Within a week the same psychological blitz emptied the port of Jaffa, a city designated as part of the Arab state. From the fertile fields of Galilee to the fortress city of Acre, Palestinians fled their homes, their villages, their lands.
The above account of events, and particularly the account of the massacre at Deir Yassin, is well-established knowledge amongst Palestinians, and throughout the Arab world. For 40 years the Israeli state denied it. The official Zionist version claims that the Arab countries called on the Palestinians to leave in order to justify a subsequent invasion of the Jewish state by the Arab countries.
Early in 1986, however, an Israeli historian, Benny Morris, published a secret Israeli army intelligence report dated June 1948 that totally confirms the Palestinian version of these events. In an analysis of the intelligence document, Morris writes:
Rather than suggesting Israeli blamelessness in the creation of the refugee problem, the Intelligence Branch assessment is written in blunt factual and analytical terms and, if anything, contains more than a hint of “advice” as to how to precipitate further Palestinian flight by indirect methods, without having recourse to direct politically and morally embarrassing expulsion orders ...
On the eve of the UN Partition Plan Resolution of 29 November 1947, according to the report, there were 219 Arab villages and four Arab, or partly Arab, towns in the areas earmarked for Jewish statehood – with a total Arab population of 342,000. By 1 June, 180 of these villages and towns had been evacuated, with 239,000 Arabs fleeing the areas of the Jewish state. A further 152,000 Arabs, from 70 villages and three towns (Jaffa, Jenin and Acre) had fled their homes in the areas earmarked for Palestinian Arab statehood in the Partition Resolution, and from the Jerusalem area. By 1 June, therefore, according to the report, the refugee total was 391,000, give or take about 10-15 per cent.
The Intelligence Branch then gives a detailed breakdown and explanation of these factors, stressing that “without doubt, hostile [Haganah/Israeli Defence Forces] operations were the main cause of the movement of population”.
The wave of emigration in each district, explains the report, followed hard upon “the increase and expansion of our [Haganah/IDF] operations in that district”. May brought a major increase in large-scale Jewish operations; so it also witnessed the widespread mass emigration of Arabs. “The departure of the British ... of course helped the [Arab] evacuation, but it appears that the British withdrawal freed our hands for action more than it influenced the [Arab] emigration directly.”
The Intelligence Branch notes that it was not always the dimensions of a Jewish attack which counted: it was “mainly the psychological” factors which affected the rate of emigration. The report cites “surprise”, protracted artillery barrages and use of loudspeakers broadcasting threatening messages as factors which had a strong influence in precipitating flight.
An attack on one village or town often affected its neighbours. “The evacuation of a certain village because of an attack by us prompted in its wake many neighbouring villages [to flee]”, states the report. This was especially true of the fall of large villages or towns. “The fall of Tiberias, Safad, Samakh, Jaffa, Haifa and Acre engendered in their wake many waves of emigrants.”The psychological motive force in operation here was “im ba’arazim nafla shal-hevet” (“If the cedars caught fire ...”, a paraphrase of Kings I, 5/13).
Intelligence Branch cites the “special effect” of the dissident operation in Deir Yassin and of the “abduction [at the end of March 1948] of the five [Arab] notables at Sheik Muwannis [north of Tel Aviv]”.
“The action at Deir Yassin, especially, greatly affected the thinking of the Arab; not a little of the immediate flight during our [Haganah/IDF] attacks, especially in the central and southern areas, caused panic flights because of this factor, which can be described as a decisive accelerating factor.”
The report ends with a look at the manner in which the refugees (by June 1948) had been absorbed in the host countries or areas. The wealthier Arabs, by and large, had no absorption problems. But most of the emigrants were poor; most had left without the bulk of their belongings, and this had led to “severe absorption problems”, says the report ...
Some Israelis feared that the embittered refugees might be turned into soldiers who would return to fight against Israel. The Intelligence Branch analysis dismissed this danger: “The Arab emigrant did not turn into a fighter, his only interest now is in collecting money [philanthropy]. He has resigned himself to the lowest form of life, preferring it to mobilising for battle.” 
In a book to be published in Israel later in 1986, a former commander of the intelligence services confirms that Israeli Defence Forces were informed about the Irgun’s intentions to attack the villagers at Deir Yassin, who had in fact signed a peace pact with the local Jewish settlement. The author, Y Levi, requested permission from his superior officer to forewarn the villagers. This was refused. 
Could the surrounding Arab countries not have done more? Certainly they went through all the motions of declaring “war”. And the day after Ben-Gurion proclaimed the birth of the State of Israel on 14 May 1948, the Arab countries bound together through the Arab League “invaded”.
But it was a totally unreal exercise. There were military clashes – but key Arab governments were already in negotiations with the Israelis. The Arab League was still dominated by the British, who remained a decisive influence.
In any case the ruling feudal families had no stomach for a fight. King Abdullah of Trans-Jordan received Golda Meir as soon as the “war” began. His negotiations with her and later Moshe Dayan soon revealed his true intentions.  He was more than content to aid the Zionist sabotage of the UN partition agreement by grabbing the West Bank of the Jordan for himself. Abdullah’s army was the best-trained in the Arab League. His equivocation at the outset undermined morale for the rest.
The sheer depth of incompetence, incomprehension and paralysis in the Arab capitals at the time became only too clear to Musa Alami, a Palestinian leader who went to find out for himself what kind of support his people might expect:
“I am happy to tell you,” the Syrian president assured him, “that our army and its equipment are of the highest order and well able to deal with a few Jews, and I can tell you in confidence that we even have an atomic bomb”; and seeing Musa’s expression of incredulity, he went on, “yes, it was made locally; we fortunately found a very clever fellow, a tinsmith ...” Elsewhere he found equal complacency, and ignorance a little less crass. In Iraq he was told by the prime minister that all that was needed was a “few brooms” to drive the Jews into the sea: by confidants of Ibn Saud in Cairo that “once we get the green light from the British we can easily throw out the Jews”. 
Zionist propaganda has made much of the fact that 600,000 Jews were pitted against 40 million Arabs in the 1948 “War of Independence”. The facts, however, suggest a rather different interpretation. Arab League armed forces, representing five Arab countries, mustered a grand total of 15,000 men; their heaviest armour consisted of 22 light tanks and ten Spitfire aircraft. The Zionists had 30,000 fully-mobilised regular troops, at least 32,000 second-line troops, plus 15,000 settlement police and a “homeguard” of 32,000. In addition there were between 3,000 and 5,000 in the Irgun.
If there was any doubt about who would win a war between the Zionists and the Arab armies, the British colonial authorities certainly did not share it. Two years earlier, General D’Arcy, commander of British forces in Palestine, had summed up the position:
“If you were to withdraw British forces, the Haganah would take over all Palestine tomorrow,” he said flatly. But could the Haganah hold Palestine under such circumstances? “Certainly,” he replied. “They could hold it against the entire Arab world.” 
In the end the United Nations sent a mediator, Count Folke Bernadotte, to try to enforce the partition plan. He arrived to witness the stealing of Arab houses, Arab shops and Arab land on a spectacular scale: 80 per cent of the land, 50 per cent of the citrus groves, 90 per cent of the olive groves, ten thousand shops. Bernadotte did, in fact, try to stem the Palestinian exit. He documented some of the atrocities and challenged some of the Zionist propaganda. The Zionists rewarded him for his efforts. On 17 September he was assassinated by members of the Stern Gang, of which the current deputy prime minister of Israel, Itzhak Shamir, was then a member.
The assassination forced world-wide protest and this brought pressure on Israel to accept a ceasefire in January 1949. It was a little late. Israel now occupied 80 per cent of Palestine. As Weizmann said of the Palestinian exodus, it was “a miraculous simplification of our tasks.” 
That is to say, the expulsion of more than three-quarters of a million Palestinians formed the basis of the state of Israel.
1. Our Roots, p.66.
2. De Reynier’s observations are quoted at length in David Hurst, The Gun and the Olive Branch (London 1977) p.128.
3. Cited in Hurst, p.129.
4. Deir Yassin was partof “Plan Dalet”, a master-plan for the seizure of the whole or most of Palestine, see Hurst, p.138.
5. The full analysis appeared in Middle Eastern Studies, 21:1, January 1986.
6. See The Guardian, 26 May 1986.
7. A fuller account can be found in Nathan Weinstock, Zionism: The False Messiah (London 1979) pp.237-41.
8. Hurst, p.135.
9. Hurst, p.134.
10. Quoted in Our Roots, p.74.
Last updated on 4.8.2001