Israel’s Primal Myth: The lies about the ethnic cleansing of Palestine

An excellent article on the ethnic cleansing of Palestine by Israel.

The myth goes like this: In 1948, when the Arabs attacked the newly declared state of Israel, the Arab population fled by the hundreds of thousands. They left not because of attacks by Israeli soldiers but because of the calls of their own Arab leaders, who guaranteed them a speedy return once the Arab armies had triumphed over the upstart Jewish state. Indeed, they fled despite the attempts of many Israelis—as was movingly portrayed in the film “Exodus”—to convince their Palestinian neighbors to remain. Why should such treacherous people have the right to return? Not to mention the fact that their return by the millions would spell the end of Israel as a Jewish state.

This is the story that Israel’s leaders and Jews throughout the Diaspora have clung to for more than half a century. But since the early 1990s a new generation of Israeli historians and investigative journalists—drawing on formerly classified documents as well as recollections of Israeli leaders of the War of Independence—has demolished the traditional Israeli position.

According to their research, the Palestinians fled their villages not in response to a call from Arab leaders but because of a concerted campaign of terror—including massacres and rape—perpetrated by military units of the newly declared Israeli state.

As Gideon Levy, a leading columnist from Haaretz, put it, “1948 was Israel’s finest hour, the culmination of a mad dream: the formation of an independent Jewish state.” At the same time he declared, “it was our darkest hour, in which we committed war crimes on a large scale. And did so in all good conscience.”


In 2004, Benny Morris wrote a new study concluding there had been far more “ethnic cleansing”—far more massacres and rapes than he had originally thought. The Israeli fighters had been given explicit orders “to uproot the villagers, expel them and destroy the villages themselves.” In October 1948 in the Galilee, he said, “There was an unusually high concentration of executions of people against a wall or next to a well in an orderly fashion. This can’t be chance. It’s a pattern.” The orders for expulsion followed the visit of Prime Minister Ben Gurion to the headquarters of the units that undertook them.


As if to destroy evidence of the Palestinian past, over the following years some 400 out of 500 Palestinian towns and ancestral villages were burned, dynamited and bulldozed, obliterated from the maps of Israel.

I highly recommend reading this article.

Text and images ©2024 Antony Loewenstein. All rights reserved.

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