“We shall spirit the penniless population (Palestinians) across the border… the removal of the poor must be carried out discreetly and circumspectly.”
Theodor Herzl, father of Political Zionism (Diary, Vol. II, page 24, 1898)
“Palestine will be as Jewish as England is English.”
Chaim Weizmann, first President of Israel (From Trial and Error, his autobiography)
The high-ranking UN official could hardly believe his eyes. At least 35,000 Palestinian residents of the huge West Bank refugee camps of Aqabat Jabr and Fin Sultan near Jericho were missing. As he drove by the just-destroyed camps, he could see only a handful of people picking through the rubble.
Dr. Laurence Michelmore, the American Commissioner General of the United Nations Relief Works Agency (UNRWA), knew that refugees had poured from the West Bank into Jordan after the outbreak of the Arab-Israeli war on June 5, 1967. Still, it was bewildering only a week later, on June 12, to see the normally bustling camps silent and empty in the hot Jericho sun.
A Second Exodus
Michelmore already realized that UNRWA faced the staggering task of caring for more than 200,000 “new” refugees who comprised 1967’s “second exodus” from Palestine. More than one-fifth of the inhabitants had fled when Israeli soldiers seized East Jerusalem and the West Bank during six days of fighting. They joined the 750,000 refugees from the first exodus of 1948-1949, who were already overtaxing available UNRWA resources.
The brutal Israeli Army tactics which triggered the little-known “second exodus” from Palestine, emptying such camps as Aqabat Jabr and Ein Sultan, may be repeated in further mass expulsions in the 1990s. Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir has said publicly that Israel needs the West Bank for Soviet Jews. Does a third exodus to “cleanse” the West Bank and Gaza Strip entirely of Palestinians lie ahead? And then will Israeli extremists like Rabbi Meir Kahane have their way and set off a fourth exodus to “clean” 800,000 Palestinians from Israel proper, and finally realize the dream of Dr. Chaim Weizmann?
Israel’s tactics in expelling or terrorizing 750,000 Palestinians into fleeing their homes in the “first exodus” of 1948 and 1949 are by now fairly well known. The deliberate brutality employed to drive away another 200,000 Palestinians in 1967 is known to hardly anyone except the Palestinians themselves.
It began as soon as Israeli forces reached the Jordan Valley in June 1967. Israeli bulldozers immediately began destroying the camps there. Remaining residents had to flee to avoid being buried in the rubble of their homes. Israeli planes thundered over them at low level, contributing to their panic.
As Israeli loudspeakers boomed, “Go to King Hussein,” hundreds of trucks lined up to transport the terror-stricken refugees to the Jordan River’s shattered bridges.
Ruthless behavior by Israeli forces is documented by UNRWA sources in the monograph, “River Without Bridges,” by Peter Dodd and Halim Barakat, and an article by Barakat in International Migration Review (1973) entitled, “The Palestinian Refugees: An Uprooted Community Seeking Repatriation.”
Looting, destruction of houses, detention of male civilians, deliberate shaming of old people and women and the killing of “suspect” persons were all employed, not only in the Jordan Valley but elsewhere in the West Bank. Palestinian villages near the Latrun salient were treated with special ferocity. Villagers who left for a few hours to escape cannon fire came back to see red soil and departing Israeli bulldozers where their houses had been. One distraught woman scooped up a pillow and carried it away, thinking at first it was her small daughter.
A Repeat of 1948?
All of the new refugees of 1967 had heard of, and some had personally experienced, the cruel and ruthless behavior of Israeli forces in 1947 and 1948. Some feared the terrible fate of Deir Yassin, a village near Jerusalem where, in April 1948, after an artillery bombardment by the Haganah regulars who became the Israeli army after the state’s creation a month later, Jewish irregular forces of Menachem Begin’s Irgun Zvai Leumi and Yitzhak Shamir’s Lehi (Stern Gang) massacred 250 Palestinian men, women and children. The fears of mothers among the refugees fleeing such villages were so acute that they covered their children’s mouths to keep them from crying and being discovered and killed by the Israeli soldiers.
After the 1967 fighting ended, some 175,000 victims of the second exodus applied to return from their refuge in Jordan to their homes in the West Bank. To signal good intentions to the world, Israel readmitted 14,000. Such repatriations suddenly stopped, however, revealing the true intentions of an Israel unshakably determined to rid itself of all Palestinians.
A Study in Madness
A planned Palestinian Exodus III failed in 1982 when Israel’s war in Lebanon went awry. That war, a four-step study in madness, was “fathered” by General Ariel Sharon, already known as “The Butcher” for his earlier atrocities against Palestinians. Its purposes were to (1) defeat the Syrian Army, (2) terrorize the 400,000 Palestinians in Lebanon into fleeing across Syria to Jordan, (3) bring down King Hussein and (4) expel the (then) 900,000 West Bank Palestinians into Jordan to form what Israel would claimwas the Palestinian state.
But Syria managed to avoid defeat and held fast in the Beka’a Valley. Nor did the Palestinians flee, despite Israel’s massacre, using Maronite militiamen proxies, of an estimated 1,500 Palestinian men, women and children in Beirut’s Sabra and Shatila refugee camps.
Israeli forces also killed 20,000 Lebanese and Palestinians, in the course of linking up with Maronite militias to surround and besiege West Beirut. When they eventually pulled back from most of Lebanon, after suffering light losses in manpower and heavy losses in world opinion and self esteem, King Hussein was still on his throne, and the West Bankers were still in their ancient homeland.
Evidence abounds, however, that Israel still intends to make Palestine as Jewish as England is English. Inhuman expulsions of Palestinians in technical violation of Israel’s “residency” requirements for the West Bank continue.
Although these are still relatively small, mass expulsions will be an immediate danger if Ariel Sharon becomes Prime Minister of Israel. Not only does he share the determination of Israeli extremists to create an all Jewish Israel, his 1982 misadventure in Lebanon demonstrates that Sharon is fanatical enough to resort to genocide to carry it out.
Above article was published in March 1990. Mr. Andrew I. Killgore, a former US ambassador to the state of Qatar, is publisher of the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs.