Tuesday, April 24, 2007

April, 1948: How the Arabs left Tiberias

In March, 1948, on the eve of Israeli independence, the Jews and Arabs of Tiberias forged a cease-fire:

Unfortunately, the truce was short-lived. Within weeks, Arabs started firing at the Jews, and the Haganah fought back:

Soon, the Jewish forces were proven superior again. And after the Jews defeated the Arabs, details emerged about what had happened earlier.

It seems that the Tiberias Arabs didn't want to fight the Jews, but Arabs from the outside infiltrated and attacked the Jews from the local Arab homes. Local Arabs even fought against the invading Arabs, but in the end they were forced to leave - by the invaders. Not for the first time, the larger Arab community cynically used the local Arabs who had no real quarrel with the Jews in order to achieve a political gain - that ended up hurting the Arabs themselves.

Evidence of this can be seen by the immediate aftermath of the Jewish victory, where the Jews themselves safeguarded the abandoned Arab homes from Arab looters. See also how the Jews, protecting the homes of their Arab neighbors, clearly want to see those neighbors return to their homes:

An opinion piece in the Palestine Post elaborated on how Tiberias' Arabs had turned into pawns as well as how the Jews, as a whole, had no interest in kicking out the Arabs from their nascent state.

In 1949, a very articulate Haifa Arab wrote a remarkable letter to the Palestine Post (2/6/49) in which he laid the greatest share of the blame for the Arab refugee crisis on the British, and he claimed that the British were the ones who forcibly moved the Tiberias Arabs to Transjordan:
The Editor, The Palestine Post
Sir, — Mr. Bevin appears to
hold the Jews responsible for
the flight of the Palestine Arabs.
Although the Israel military
forces destroyed certain Arab
villages and carried out wholesale
transportation of their occupants,
yet the primary responsibility
for the panicky
flight of the Arabs is the British
Government's. Whether intended
or not, there can be no
doubt that the mischief originat -
ed from the conduct of the
British, and not from the attitude
of the Israeli Government.

There is ample evidence
for this statement.

The sequence of occurrences
showed that the British Government
had no intention or
desire to enforce law and order,
and that Palestine Administration
was labouring to create an
atmosphere permeated with fear
and alarm. No effective measure
was adopted by the authorities,
civil and military, to ensure
safety. On the contrary, they
encouraged disorder and disobedience
of the law, and countenanced
insubordination. They
allowed a large force of armed
Arabs to infiltrate into the country,
and to roam about with
impunity. Palestine was virtually
converted into two antagonistic
armed camps under the
eyes and nose of the Mandatory
Power. Huge quantities of arms
and ammunition were openly
smuggled in, and recruiting and
drilling of combatants became
conimonplace events. ...

Secondly, the idea that the
Arabs should quit their homes
was advanced, sponsored and
propagated by the British. The
Government of Palestine granted
its officers three months' pay
in advance, and facilitated the
departure on leave of Arab of -
ficers to adjacent territories.
British companies, such as the
Iraq Petroleum Company, and
Steel Bros. & Company, unnecessarily
transferred a part
of their offices and the majority
of their Arab employees to the Lebanon.
And generally, the at -
titude of the responsible British
authorities was such as to infuse
into the minds and hearts of the
Arab population a feeling of
consternation and the belief that
their departure was a logical
necessity , or, at least, a prudent

Thirdly, it was the British, and
not the Jews, who first put into
effect the dislodgement and deportation
of the Arab popula -
tion. When conditions in Tiberias,
where the friendly relations
between Arabs and Jews formed
a bright illustration of the
possibility of the two communities
co-operating, became acute,
the British authorities forcibly
transported the Arab inhabitants
en masse to Trans-Jordan. They
did not take any action
toward pacification and restoration
of peace and order. It was
their evident duty to do so;- but
instead of discharging their obligation
with honesty and dignity
they discarded it with
ignominy, and compelled the
Arabs to abandon their homes
and belongings and seek refuge
in the contiguous Arab territory.

Yours, etc.
I don't know how accurate Mr. Koussa's claims are, but they make a certain amount of sense. Even so, the British didn't act in a vacuum, and they were almost certainly acting in ways that their Arab allies wanted them to.

What is clear, though, is that (as in Haifa,) the Jews did not drive out the Arabs of Tiberias and the people who claim a pre-meditated ethnic cleansing are simply liars.