Al-Ahram Weekly Special pages commemorating
50 years of Arab dispossession
since the creation of the
State of Israel
Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875

1948-1998
50 Years

David Ben-Gurion, one of the father founders of Israel, described Zionist aims in 1948 thus: "A Christian state should be established [in Lebanon], with its southern border on the Litani river. We will make an alliance with it. When we smash the Arab Legion's strength and bomb Amman, we will eliminate Transjordan too, and then Syria will fall. If Egypt still dares to fight on, we shall bomb Port Said, Alexandria and Cairo... And in this fashion, we will end the war and settle our forefathers' account with Egypt, Assyria, and Aram" *.

50 years after the Arab defeat in the1948 war, which resulted in the establishment of Israel, many of Ben-Gurion's stated aims can still be discerned in the language of Israeli and Zionist leaders. Some modifications have become apparent, in large part as a result of Arab resistance, but the biblical language in which Ben-Gurion chose to state his meaning starkly expresses the deeply-rooted nature of these violent fantasies of conquest and destruction.

Resistance, in this instance through a better comprehension of the history of the struggle, as well as the writing of our own version of it, becomes more necessary than ever. Israel cannot be allowed to write the history of the past fifty years unchallenged. It is in this conviction that Al-Ahram Weekly presents the first in a regular series of articles designed to document the history and nature of Arab-Israeli struggle, as well as that of Palestinian dispossession and exile.


(1 - 7 January 1998)
Documenting the catastrophe
The Palestinian yearning to return has been represented as a quixotic gesture, an impossible dream, in the face of Israel's efforts to obliterate the past and to massage history to make it serve Israeli interests. Yet for Salman Abu Sitta, a Palestinian, in exile, the true picture of the past must be preserved if it is to come to the aid of the present; the painstaking reconstruction of what happened in 1948 and since must be undertaken to ensure that the aspirations of the defeated live on, despite the brute facts of their exile and dispossession

(8 - 14 January 1998)
War by other means
Israeli policy since 1948 has, explicitly or implicitly, been designed to force the Palestinians into exile. Sometimes this has taken the form of war, sometimes of measures designed to make daily life for the Arab population as difficult as possible. Its single aim, however, has always been Palestinian "sociocide", writes Saleh Abdel-Jawad

(15 -21 January 1998)
The Challenge of Israel: Fifty Years On
There can be no erasing of the historical truth that the existence of Israel is predicated, indeed imposed upon, the obliteration of another society and people. Every Israeli knows this, as much as every Palestinian does: the question, writes Edward Said, is how long can an intolerable situation of proximity and injury be endured by the victims, and how long can it be deferred by the victors?

Unite and sacrifice everything
An eyewitness account of the days preceeding the eruption of the war in Palestine. By Ahmad Hussein, leader of Misr al-Fattah, from al-Ahram, January 2, 1948.

(22 - 28 January 1998)
I am from Ain Al-Helwa
Nagi El-Ali was one of the most prominent cartoonists in the Arab world. Sarcastic, poignant and perhaps too bold, El Ali's cartoons were drawn from his experience as a Palestinian refugee since childhood and clearly reflected his political stance, which was often critical of the Arab regimes.
The following extracts are drawn from an interview with Radwa Ashour, novelist and professor of English literature at Ain Shams University, during the summer of 1984 in Budapest.. It was published in the periodical Al Muwagaha in 1985, only two years before El-Ali was assassinated in London in 1987 at the age of 50
Memory for forgetfulness
This extract is taken from a memoir Mahmoud Darwish wrote during the 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon. In it, he remembs his first encounter with Beirut in 1948, before his family stole back into what has since become Israel, where Darwish remained until 1972
Jerusalem revisited
Edward Said returns home 45 years after the Naqba to find his family's house in Jerusalem occupied by a right-wing Christian fundamentalist and militantly pro-Zionist group.

(29 Jan. - 4 Feb. 1998)
Would I ever see my home again?
In these extracts from his controversial memoir, "Death March", Father Audeh Rantisi remembers the horrific scenes that confronted him, aged 11, when his family were brutally deported from their home of many generations to make what life they could for themselves in the refugee camps of Ramallah
Arabs, Muslims and the Nazi genocide of the Jews
In this extract from his recent book, Abdel Wahab El-Messeri reflects on the many mutations of anti-semitism in the Western mindset, and interrogates one of the strangest transformations in the history of the 20th century -- how, as death approached, the Jews in the Nazi camps became "muslims"
Cartoon by Fathi

(5 - 11 February 1998)
Israeli-Arabs: reading a fragmented political discourse
Azmi Bishara, member of the Israeli Knesset, reviews the manner in which the contradictions inherent in the position of Israeli-Arabs as supposed citizens of a democratic state are rationalised

(12 - 18 February 1998)
Portents and prophecies
Mona Anis recovers the wider Arab context from the pages of Al-Ahram

(19 - 25 February 1998)
Tragedy in context
Web review: The Khalil Sakakini Cultural Centre web site provides an insight into the past and present of Palestinian cuture
Treacherous memories: electronic return to Jaffa
Salim Tamari tours Jaffa, the town of his birth, accompanied by a young Arab woman resident, negotiating a path between the place of his memories and the city that is her home

(26 Feb. - 4 March 1998)
"I cannot visit my father's grave..."
Samia Abdennour recalls the diaspora of her family 50 years ago, its impact on her as a child and, later, as a mother

(5 -11 March 1998)
Fawzi Al-Qawuqji: Yesterday's hero [1948-1998]
To those who still remember him, today, his name is synonymous with the bitter taste of defeat: of hope deferred, then disappointed. But he was a hero, then, write Mona Anis and Omayma Abdel-Latif: the man who would liberate Palestine

(12 -18 March 1998)

Guerrilla warfare (Introduction)
Battles bewteen Arab guerrilla troops and the Haganah, aided by the Zionist gangs, intensified during the month of March. Five Arab villages around Jaffa, Tibyris and Safd were attacked and razed to the ground during that month, while a bomb, which killed 11 and left other 27 seriously injured, was planted in the Arab quarter in Haifa on March 3. Leader of the Arab volunteer guerrillas, Fawzi Al-Qawuqji, entered Palestine on March 7, and during the month the Arab resistance also intensified --read on--

Reasons of defeat
Some have the mistaken belief that guerrilla warfare, or war carried out by irregulars, is tantamount to anarchy. The experience of the Moslem Brothers, however, in Palestine may shed some light on how complimentary guerrilla warfare is to war by regular armies. It must be remembered, however, that Guerrilla warfare cannot be carried out except by men who firmly believe in the justice of the cause they are fighting for. To insure optimum results, those men must be highly trained and in possession of a high degree of intelligence, as they confront in their fight various difficult situations.

Brothers in arms
Book review: The Muslim Brotherhood in the Palestine War, Kamel Ismail El-Sherif, 1949, Cairo, 265 pages

(19 - 25 March 1998)
Who will listen to me now?
In these excerpts from his diares, Khalil Al-Sakakini records the conditions of life in Jerusalem in March 1948, and gathers reports of a great Arab victory when a Jewish convoy returning to Jerusalem was ambushed and destroyed

(26 March - 1 April 1998)
Scenes from Palestine
Edward Said, returning to Palestine for a BBC documentary to be shown in England to coincide with Israel's 50th anniversary, finds the once small, compact city -- Jerusalem -- in which he grew up overwhelmed by continuing, unrelenting Judaisation

(2 - 8 April 1998)
One event, two signs
On the one hand, "calamity" on the other, "liberation". How can two contradictory narratives be reconciled in a common destiny? Hassan Khader investigates the semiotic sleights-of-hand which serve to obscure the historic responsibilities -- and to obstruct the creation of a future. Hasan Khader deals with Palestinian & Israeli narratives of the Nakba, exploring the relationship between the past & the present, and the shifting concepts of numerical majorities & minorities as they are dealt with in these narratives.

(9 - 15 April 1998)
April is the cruelest month
Exactly fifty years ago today, thousands of Arab guerrilla fighters assembled at Al-Aqsa Mosque to honour their charismatic leader, Abdel-Qadir Al-Husseini, who had been shot the day before at the battle of Al-Kastel. There would be more burials to come. As the men prayed over the body of their dead commander, a full-scale carnage was unfolding barely three miles from the spot where he had died -- the massacre of 254 Arab civilians at the village of Deir Yassin. At the beginning of April, the Haganah launched Plan Dalet, seeking first to occupy and demolish villages along the Jerusalem road and, later, to occupy major towns which would become part of the state of Israel. By the end of the month, Tiberius, Haifa, Jaffa and West Jerusalem had all been taken, and their Arab residents driven out.

 Many of the atrocities that took place in Deir Yassin, including the parading of hostages, can be better understood in light of the death of Al-Husseini the previous day. Raji Sahioun, describing the atmosphere in Jerusalem during the funeral, recounts: "Sitting in my flat in Upper Baqa [West Jerusalem], surrounded by petrified friends, we could hear bullets, explosives, automatic rifles, machine guns. It was like everyone had gone mad. The Arabs were firing in the air in mourning and honour of Al-Husseini, and the Jews were also firing in the air, some to terrorise the Arabs, others in jubilation and spiteful glee at the death of the hero who had terrorised them more than all the Arab armies combined. The Irgun Zvai Leumi seized this opportunity -- the absence of most men from all the neigbouring villages of Jerusalem -- to commit their crime against the old people, women and children of Deir Yassin."

'It's difficult to count'
Few survived the massacre of Deir Yassin 50 years ago, and of them, even fewer are alive today to recount its horrors. Amira Howeidy reviews the carnage through their words

The making of a martyr
When Abdel-Qader Al-Husseini fell at Al-Kastel, his death seemed to mark the beginning of the end for the Arabs in Palestine. Some historians even claim that had the Arabs not lost this battle, there might be no Jewish state today. Omayma Abdel-Latif reflects on the career of a great warrior

This is the place
Where the village of Deir Yassin once stood there is now a mental hospital, originally established to care for Holocost survivors. Nidal Rafa, a Palestinian citizen of the state of Israel, ventured into the follies of the past capturing these photos.

(16 - 22 April 1998)
History with Arabs
An Israeli television series has provoked widespread controversy after it recognised the fact that Palestinians were deliberately expelled from their land in order to create the Zionist state. Graham Usher reports from Jerusalem
Remembering Deir Yassin
Fifty years after Deir Yassin, and in the midst of a dying peace process, the Zionists of America are denying historic facts so as to continue to deny justice to the Palestinians, writes James Zoghby

(374)
The hour of our going
On 18 April the first Arab town-- Tiberias-- fell to the hands of the Haganah. Four days later Haifa's Palestinian population had to flee under the Haganah's combined shelling and ground offensives. Amira Howeidy recounts the story the Palestinian exodus By Amira Howeidy

(30 April - 6 May)
Operation Chametz
Tiberias fell on 18 April, Haifa on the 23rd; then it was the turn of Jaffa, a city which was not included in the UN partition plan as part of the would-be State of Israel. Between 23 April and 13 May, the people of Jaffa fought desperately to save their town from the land grab of Plan Dalet and Operation Chametz to take over the city. Chametz means yeast in Hebrew. The Zionist offensive to occupy Jaffa, launched on 22 April 1948, coincided with the Jewish feast of Pesach (Passover). During the month preceding the Pesach, Jewish housewives are obliged to rid their households of any remnants of yeast (chametz) products. It was no coincidence, therefore, that the Haganah dubbed its drive to expel the Arab inhabitants of Jaffa "Operation Chametz". The codename signified exactly what the operation intended: an ethnic cleansing of the Arabs.

 The Arab inhabitants of Jaffa numbered around 70,000. The Arab fighters trying to hold back the Jewish attack were 450 of the city's inhabitants, beside another 300 fighters from the Arab Liberation Army formed by the Arab League. Jaffa was in a most vulnerable position because of its proximity to Tel Aviv, where the largest Jewish population (170,000) was based. Tel Aviv was also the base for the Haganah's Kiryati Brigade, with its 3,000 fighters; 15 km south-east of Jaffa the Haganah's Givati brigade, with an equal number of fighters, was stationed. The Arabs fought desperately for 10 days, but on 3 May, the Arab commander in charge of the defence of the city, Michel Al-Issa, cabled to the Arab League Military Committee in Damascus: "There are no forces left to defend the city. All the inhabitants have already left. The British authorities advise that Jaffa is declared an open city." A few days later, there were only 500 Arabs left in Jaffa.

After the matriculation
At first it seemed that the Zionists' assault on Jaffa could not succeed. But, as Ibrahim Abu Lughod, then a student in his final year of high school, recalls, the Palestinian population was soon forced to realise that the enemy had got the upper hand
Ghost city
Abdel-Qader Yassin, veteran Palestinian political activist, recounts his last sight of Jaffa in 1948

Tiberias: Sea of miracles
By Anis Sayigh

Jaffa: Land of oranges
By Ghassan Kanafani

Haifa: Wadi Al-Nisnass & Abbas Street
By Emile Habibi

(7 - 13 May)

Fifty years celebrations
Israel's 50th anniversary celebrations were in full swing last Thursday, the day when, according to the Jewish calendar, the state of Israel was established. The celebrations, held in major Western capitals, were attended by leading public figures and heads of state. Hollywood joined in the jamboree with a special programme hosted by Michael Douglas and Kevin Costner, featuring luminaries such as Arnold Schwarzenegger, Kathy Bates, Winona Ryder and President Clinton, all of whom paid tribute to Israel's greatness. Common to all the celebrations, as Edward Said notes, was the attempt to project the old-fashioned image of Israel as a haven of enlightened liberalism in a sea of Arab fanaticism and to obliterate the fact that half a century has gone by without Israeli restitution or acknowledgement of Palestinian human rights and without connecting the abnegation of those rights to Israel's official policies

Edward Said:
Fifty years of dispossession
In the United States, celebrations of Israel's fifty years as a state have tried to project an image of the country that went out of fashion since the Palestinian Intifada (1987-92): a pioneering state, full of hope and promise for the survivors of the Nazi Holocaust, a haven of enlightened liberalism in a sea of Arab fanaticism and reaction. --read on--

'Real Jews'
How does Israel defend its interests abroad? In the first of an occasional series, Peter Snowdon in Paris calls round for a cup of coffee and a chat with the young Zionists of the Betar-Tagar

Swimming against the Seine
It was a great 50th birthday party for Israel in France, writes Hosni Abdel-Rahim, where anti-Zionism is now tantamount to anti-Semitism

(4 - 20 May)

Fifty years of struggle
This supplement attempts to capture, in word and pictures, the mood of the Arab world on the eve of the first Arab Israeli War, document events leading to the war and highlight the main stations of a struggle that will not end so long as Israel continues to pursue its dreams of conquest and destruction

The Arabs divided
When the League of Arab States came into existence on 22 March, 1945, there were only seven independent nations to join: Egypt, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Transjordan, Saudi Arabia and Yemen. All the Arab League state members, however, had for decades been languishing under British and French colonialism, accorded a degree of autonomy inadequate to allow them to function as modern states. --read on--
On the eve of war
In the first of a series of interviews with senior politicians and political analysts who lived through the 1948 Arab-Israeli war, Mohamed Hassanein Heikal, who covered the war from the battlefield, talks to Amira Howeidy and Omayma Abdel-Latif about the genesis and development of a struggle that still rages 50 years later
Chronology
Main events leading to the first Arab-Israeli War
January 1947 - 15 May, 1948

(21 - 27 May)
Edward El-Said:
New history, old ideas
'Yes, we want peace with the Palestinians, but no, there was nothing wrong with what we had to do in l948': this seems to be the gist of much of the writing of Israel's new historians. Edward Said, back from a Paris seminar on the topic, discusses the profound contradiction, bordering on schizophrenia, which makes the new historians reluctant to draw the inevitable conclusions from their own evidence
In the chains of theocracy
In this essay on state and society in Israel, 50 years after its founding, Tikva Honig-Parnass traces the roots of the new populist authoritarianism emerging under Netanyahu. Based on the marriage of Zionist colonialism and aggressive clericalism, the new regime is the logical expression of the Zionist project

Facts, lies and videotapes
Thomas Gorguissian reports from Washington on the "hate campaign" led by pro-Israeli groups to prevent the American public from hearing a different voice

(28 May - 3 June)
More than a thousand citrus trees
Land or an education: this choice was at the beginning of it all. Then the Zionists moved in on Palestine, and the war was on: a war in which the scales were tipped from the start. On one side, a powerful, organised and well-equipped colonial army. On the other, uneducated peasants, a corrupt king, and a divided leadership. Haidar Abdel-Shafi talks to Mona Anis about guerrilla warfare, the rabbi's daughter and the orders that never came

(4 - 10 June)
Bonfire of the vanities
Despite immense sacrifices, and extraodinary cases of heroism, all the efforts of Palestinians and the Arab armies were in vain. But why? Kamal Al-Sherif, speaking to Amira Howeidy, recounts his experiences in 1948, his feelings on the ground, as an active participant in the struggle, and in retrospect, as a supporter of ongoing Palestinian resistance.

(11 - 17 June)
Slinging out the David-Goliath myth
A few resilient settlers heroically facing the massed forces of all the Arab countries that surrounded and threatened to swallow them. The official Israeli version of the 1948 War, carved, by now, on tablets of stone, could hardly be further from the truth.

Fifty years to the day that the first UN sponsored cease-fire, mediated by Count Bernadotte -- a Swedish aristocrat subsequently assassinated by a Jewish gang -- came into effect, Mona Anis assesses the situation on the ground between the combatants after just 26 days of fighting.

On paper, though, the Arab forces may well have appeared to have the upper hand. But they were overstretched. Their supplies of arms were exhausted, and they had no access to more. The Jewish forces, on the other hand, were determined and had the support to use the truce to reinforce their positions, to re-arm, recruit and train yet more soldiers for an arena in which they had never ceased to outnumber their Arab opponents by a ratio of two to one
By Mona Anis

(25 June - 1 July)
Palestinian history, Israeli terms
Arab historical writing may have successfully exploded the founding myths of Zionism. But, writes Maher Al-Sherif, it still follows an agenda set by the conquerors

(2 - 8 July)
Soweto on the Jordan
In the first of a two-part series on the lessons for the Palestinian struggle to be drawn from black liberation struggles in the US and South Africa, Elaine C. Hagopian explains why identifying Israel as an apartheid regime will not be enough to set international public opinion against the Zionist project

(9 - 15 July)
From Black America to Palestine
Are there lessons to be learned for the post-Oslo struggle from the Black liberation movement in the United States? Drawing on the work of two prominent Afro-American political theorists, Elaine C. Hagopian argues that only a reunited Palestinian people with an inclusive democratic secular state vision and leaders who can transcend ethnicity will help the Palestinians break out of the straightjacket of the peace process

(23 - 29 July)
One problem, one solution
As the prospect of a viable independent state in the West Bank and Gaza recedes, As'ad Ghanem argues that only a binational state can ever hope to meet the needs of the whole Palestinian people

(13 - 19 August)
The incidental fruit of Oslo
A stalemate preserving the status quo was the inevitable outcome of the Oslo process, writes Naseer Aruri

(20 - 26 August)
'He died a hero'
The name of Ahmed Abdel-Aziz, for many Egyptian schoolchildren today, is associated principally with a large street in Mohandessin. But everyone knows he was a hero. Why? The war against Israel, the battle of Al-Faluja, the dusty, violent confusion of the 1948 War, when everything was not yet lost... These things hold the key. A man with a family and a brilliant career -- an ordinary man. 23 August 1948: Dead. A hero.
The hand of fate
Salah Salem was at the wheel that dark night -- the night Ahmed Abdel-Aziz was tragically struck down by "friendly fire". In 1953, he wrote his recollection of the hero's death in Al-Tahrir magazine
A legacy of remembrance

Remembering little, but aware of his father's legendary status, the son of Palestine war hero Ahmed Abdel-Aziz talks to Amira Howeidy about his father's legacy

So many prophets
The last entry in Ahmed Abdel-Aziz's diary

(3 - 9 September)
War of night and day
Down the long roads of exile, memory becomes a nation peopled by the ghosts of fear, sacrifice, loss and generosity. Faysal Hourani remembers 1948, and the long flight into Gaza

(24 - 30 September)
To each his Via Dolorosa
Why should one of England's leading playwrights choose to write, and then perform, a dramatic monologue on the Arab-Israeli conflict? Sir David Hare speaks to Aleks Sierz about the reasons behind the choice of subject of his latest play

(1 - 7 October)
For a shared Jerusalem
Revered by Muslims, Christians and Jews, this beautiful city is holy and cursed, drowned in blood yet still magnificent. Last year, the Arab ministers of information designated 26 September as Jerusalem Day. Rashid Khalidi unravels modern myths and ancient passions in his search to locate the united heart of this torn and worshiped place

(15 - 21 October 1998)
Time to meet the Mizrahim?
In reply to a recent article in Al-Ahram Weekly by Fawzi Mansour, Shiko Behar speaks out on behalf of the "uncommon sense" of the Middle East's own Jews

(5 - 11 November 1998)
Those Are My Brothers:
A portrait of Felicia Langer
Ostracised by Israeli society and repeatedly threatened with death at the hands of her own people, Felicia Langer has not flinched since the day in 1967 she adopted the Palestinian cause as her own. Faiza Rady met her in Jerusalem
The mountain to climb
A Harvard University report based on a simulated negotiation exercise denies the Palestinian right of return and demands that Arab governments compensate Arab Jews for emigrating to Palestine. Salman Abu-Sitta deconstructs the dry run

(3 - 9 December 1998)

A longer view
Edward Said sees hope in such examples of dogged determination and resistance as are offered by Bir Zeit University

'Our house'
For three decades Gabriel Baramki was vice-president of Bir Zeit University. Now he plays a leading role in raising international awareness about the dispossession of the Palestinians but, as Mariz Tadros found out, his conversations often lead him back to "our house" 

(17 - 23 December 1998)
Securing Occupation:
The real meaning of the Wye River Memorandum

Paradoxically, the fruit of Oslo will perhaps be that the Palestinian struggle for justice will "return to the source," writes Norman G Finkelstein

(31 December 1998 - 6 January 1999)
A right to return
Palestinian refugees in Lebanon continue to suffer twice: for their expulsion from their homeland, and from the inhuman conditions in which they live. In this anniversary year of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Rosemary Sayigh argues, we must challenge Israel's absolute refusal to repatriate the Palestinian diaspora -- the condition on which it was admitted to the UN 50 years ago
Photo gallery courtesy of :
United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East



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