Peace in our Time?

April 8, 2007

Israeli responsibility for the refugees

Filed under: Blogroll, Israel, Middle East, Palestine, Peace, Peace Now, Saudi, Uncategorized — angelajerusalem @ 3:30 pm

Letter to the IHT from Ambassador Erik Ader, Netherlands (see cv at end)

3rd April 2007

According to Steven Erlanger’s article in the Saturday/Sunday edition of the International Herald Tribune, PM Ehud Olmert stated categorically “… that Israel bore no responsibility for the refugees, whose plight resulted from an attack by Arab nations on the fledgling state”.

On a recent visit to Israel, to see people who found refuge in my parents’ manse in World War II, I wandered into the “Etzel Museum” in a park between Tel Aviv and Jaffa. From a plaque on the wall I quote “On Monday 25 April 1948 during the week of Passover an Etzel Force set out to conquer Jaffa… population 80,000… to remove the danger posed to the city of Tel Aviv and its residents… Etzel mortars, relentlessly bombarding the centre of the town, caused the mass flight of the Arab population”. Twenty tons of ordnance rained down on frightened citizens. This had already been preceded by the attack on mainly Palestinian Haifa, coordinated between the Irgun and Haganah, on 21 April 1948 and other Palestinian population centres.

Another plaque in this museum states “… Beyond the dispute over the number of casualties, it is universally agreed that the Deir Yassin operation was a key point in the War of Independence”. The numbers disputed are those of the casualties, ranging from 110 to 250. The Etzel attackers lost five men, it was a massacre of mainly unarmed civilians. The “key point” the plaque refers to is that “operations” like these were the main cause of the Palestinian exodus. The date was 10 April 1948. On 14th May 1948, the day Israel declared its Independence, 300,000 Palestinians had left the country, according to Israeli historian Benny Morris. All this, therefore, happened before Arab armies invaded the fledgling state to come to the rescue of the beleaguered Palestinians. The larger part of that exodus had been caused by acts of terror and intimidation as described above.

Israel would continue the expulsions, not only after the 14th May 1948 but even after the cessation of hostilities in 1949 and deny the refugees to return to their homes and lands, often within sight across barbed wire. All in all some 750,000 residents of Palestine were thus dispossessed.

I would suggest that all Israelis who suffer from similar bouts of selective amnesia read the publications by their own historians on the subject, like Benny Morris, Ilan Pappe and former deputy mayor of Jerusalem Meron Benvenisti, or contact the courageous Israeli NGO Zochrot.

One does understand that before negotiations tough positions are being taken, but overdoing it is counterproductive. In the longer run it is ruinous: for genuine peace and reconciliation between Israel and Palestine, justice and truth are preconditions.

D.A.V.E. Ader

On my background: I am a recently retired Dutch Ambassador (postings in Oslo, Hanoi and Beirut) and the son of a Dutch reverend who was shot by the Germans for saving hundreds of Jewish compatriots during the occupation in World War II. (Re. Yad Vashem).


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