Palestine Betrayed

Palestine Betrayed

Copyright Date: 2010
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 336
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Palestine Betrayed
    Book Description:

    The 1947 UN resolution to partition Palestine irrevocably changed the political landscape of the Middle East, giving rise to six full-fledged wars between Arabs and Jews, countless armed clashes, blockades, and terrorism, as well as a profound shattering of Palestinian Arab society. Its origins, and that of the wider Arab-Israeli conflict, are deeply rooted in Jewish-Arab confrontation and appropriation in Palestine. But the isolated occasions of violence during the British Mandate era (1920-48) suggest that the majority of Palestinian Arabs yearned to live and thrive under peaceful coexistence with the evolving Jewish national enterprise. So what was the real cause of the breakdown in relations between the two communities?

    In this brave and groundbreaking book, Efraim Karsh tells the story from both the Arab and Jewish perspectives. He argues that from the early 1920s onward, a corrupt and extremist leadership worked toward eliminating the Jewish national revival and protecting its own interests. Karsh has mined many of the Western, Soviet, UN, and Israeli documents declassified over the past decade, as well as unfamiliar Arab sources, to reveal what happened behind the scenes on both Palestinian and Jewish sides. It is an arresting story of delicate political and diplomatic maneuvering by leading figures-Ben Gurion, Hajj Amin Husseini, Abdel Rahman Azzam, King Abdullah, Bevin, and Truman -over the years leading up to partition, through the slide to war and its enduring consequences.Palestine Betrayedis vital reading for understanding the origin of disputes that remain crucial today.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-16945-4
    Subjects: History, Political Science, Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-vii)
  3. List of Illustrations and Maps
    (pp. viii-ix)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. x-x)
  5. Introducion
    (pp. 1-7)

    On November 29, 1947, the United Nations General Assembly passed a resolution calling for the partition of Palestine into two independent states – one Jewish, the other Arab – linked in an economic union. The city of Jerusalem was to be placed under an international regime, with its residents given the right to citizenship in either the Jewish or the Arab state. Thirtythree UN members supported the resolution, thirteen voted against, and ten abstained, including Great Britain, which had ruled Palestine since the early 1920s under a League of Nations mandate.

    For Jews all over the world, this was the...

  6. CHAPTER 1 Jews and Arabs in the Holy Land
    (pp. 8-38)

    More than any other conflict, the dispute between Arabs and Jews over the tiny piece of land on the eastern shore of the Mediterranean epitomizes the intricate linkage between past and present. The roots of this conflict date back to the Roman destruction of Jewish statehood, which had existed intermittently for over a millennium in the country that had subsequently come to be known as Palestine. Since then, exile and dispersion had become the hallmark of the Jewish people. Even in its ancestral homeland, it was progressively relegated to a small minority under a long succession of imperial occupiers –...

  7. CHAPTER 2 Pan-Arab Ambitions
    (pp. 39-59)

    Britain’s retreat from its mandatory obligation to facilitate the establishment of a Jewish National Home, which culminated in the Peel commission’s recommendation to drop the mandate altogether, was not merely a response to the deterioration of Arab-Jewish relations in Palestine. No sooner had the “Palestine question” developed into a pressing international issue than it was picked up by the nascent doctrine of pan-Arabism, which was to dominate Arab politics for most of the twentieth century, as its most celebrated cause.

    This, however, had little to do with concern for the wellbeing of the Palestinian Arabs, let alone the protection of...

  8. CHAPTER 3 “The Most Important Arab Quisling”
    (pp. 60-76)

    The outbreak of World War II threw the nascent struggle against the White Paper into disarray as the Zionist movement rallied to the Anglo-French call to arms. At the Twenty-First Zionist Congress, held in the Swiss city of Geneva in mid-August 1939, Ben-Gurion deplored the White Paper as driving the Jews into a ghetto, yet vowed that “the Jewish people would always remain on the side of Great Britain in an emergency, especially in time of war.” In a letter to Chamberlain on August 29, 1939, three days before the German invasion of Poland unleashed the deadliest conflict in human...

  9. CHAPTER 4 The Road to Partition
    (pp. 77-99)

    Britain’s anti-Zionist shift failed to impress the Arabs. Just as they had rejected the Peel plan of July 1937, which would have established Arab sovereignty over 85 percent of mandatory Palestine, and two years later rebuffed the White Paper, though its draconian restrictions on immigration and land sales meant the effective demise of the Jewish national revival, so they remained indifferent to Labour’s instantaneous transformation, after its rise to power, from a friend to a bitter enemy of Zionism.

    Having paid lip service to Bevin’s sensitivity to Arab rights in Palestine, the newly established Arab League attacked his proposed Aglo-American...

  10. CHAPTER 5 Kingdoms are Established over Dead Bodies and Skulls
    (pp. 100-123)

    In the early hours of November 30, as Jewish revelers were making their way home after celebrating the UN partition resolution, bus driver Arie Heller set out from the coastal town of Netanya on his way to Jerusalem. After an hour’s drive, as he approached the Arab village of Faja, near the town of Lydda, three men signaled him to stop. Mistaking them for passengers, Heller slowed down. When he saw to his horror a submachine gun concealed under the coat of one of them, he accelerated and the men opened fire and lobbed hand grenades at the bus. A...

  11. CHAPTER 6 Fleeing Haifa
    (pp. 124-142)

    From a marginal site containing some 1,000 people at the turn of the nineteenth century, the smallest of Palestine’s twelve significant towns, by 1947 Haifa had developed into a major center of some 145,000 residents – 70,910 Arabs (41,000 Muslims, 29,910 Christians) and 74,230 Jews – second only to Jerusalem in national importance, and in certain respects even superior to it.¹ The city constituted the main socio-economic and administrative center in northern Palestine for both Arabs and Jews. It was one of the primary ports of the eastern Mediterranean, the hub of Palestine’s railway system, the site of the country’s...

  12. CHAPTER 7 Why Don’t You Stay and Fight?
    (pp. 143-159)

    One of the world’s oldest existing cities and a key naval outlet for Palestine, Jaffa has enjoyed fortunes that have alternated dramatically throughout the ages in accordance with the vicissitudes in local and regional power. After a long period of stagnation and decline, the city was demolished in the early fourteenth century by its Mamluk rulers to prevent a possible landing by European Crusaders, and the Ottoman conquest of Palestine (in 1516) brought no respite; to the point that sixty years after the event a European traveler was unable to find a single house in Jaffa. As late as 1726,...

  13. CHAPTER 8 Jerusalem Embattled
    (pp. 160-175)

    Of all the partition’s failings, none was more galling for the Zionist movement and Jews worldwide than the UN decision to internationalize Jerusalem, or Zion. The city had been Judaism’s holiest site since biblical times and had become the focus of the millenarian Jewish yearning for a return to the ancestral homeland. Its exclusion from the territory of the prospective Jewish state placed in question not only the success of Zionism but also the historical Jewish attachment to Palestine to which the Balfour Declaration and the League of Nations mandate had granted international recognition. Besides, if existing population distribution were...

  14. CHAPTER 9 All Fall Down
    (pp. 176-189)

    Not everyone shared Azzam’s indifference to the loss of Arab villages. The renowned Palestinian intellectual Hisham Sharabi, who in December 1947 left Jaffa for the United States, viewed rural Palestine as the lifeblood of the country’s Arab nationalism and the standard-bearer of the anti-Jewish struggle. Three decades later he asked himself “how we could leave our country when a war was raging and the Jews were gearing themselves to devour Palestine.” His answer: “There were others to fight on my behalf; those who had fought in the 1936 revolt and who would do the fighting in the future. They were...

  15. CHAPTER 10 The Scramble for Palestine
    (pp. 190-209)

    The astounding Jewish victories of April and May 1948 in general, and the fall of Haifa, Jaffa, and Arab Jerusalem in particular, drew the reluctant Arab regimes ever more deeply into the conflict. As we have seen, the lack of genuine interest in the fate of the Palestinian Arabs, together with the fear of direct confrontation with Britain, on the one hand, and of the annexation of Palestine, or parts of it, to Transjordan, on the other, resulted in a wide gap between the Arab states’ rhetoric and their actual disinclination, in the words of a British intelligence report, “to...

  16. CHAPTER 11 Shattered Dreams
    (pp. 210-229)

    This was not quite the war of extermination and momentous massacre promised by Azzam. Rather than sweep the Jews into the sea as he had confidently predicted, the pan-Arab invasion confirmed the collapse of Palestinian Arab society, exacerbated the mass exodus, and allowed Israel to capture wider territories than those assigned to it by the UN resolution. Had the Arab states forgone the invasion, a Palestinian Arab state would have been established at the end of the British mandate alongside Israel and many of the 300,000–340,000 people who had fled their homes might have been able to return. Instead,...

  17. CHAPTER 12 A Self-Inflicted Catastrophe
    (pp. 230-243)

    Why did Palestinian Arab society collapse and disintegrate during the fateful five-and-a-half months of fighting that followed the passing of the partition resolution? Why did vast numbers of Palestinians take to the road while their Jewish adversaries, who were facing the same challenges, dislocation, and all-out war, and who paid a comparatively higher human cost, stayed put?²

    To many contemporary Arabs the answer was clear and unequivocal: the Palestinians were an unpatriotic and cowardly lot who had shamefully abdicated their national duty while expecting others to fight on their behalf. “Fright has struck the Palestinian Arabs and they fled their...

  18. Epilogue
    (pp. 244-257)

    On the afternoon of June 17, 1948, Count Folke Bernadotte and his senior aides called on Moshe Shertok in his Tel Aviv office. A truce between Israel and its Arab attackers had just entered into force and the UN mediator, who was about to submit his proposals for a lasting settlement, was seeking to sound out the foreign minister regarding his government’s position. Would Israel be prepared to discuss some frontier modifications, he asked. This would certainly be in its best interests as the present lines were militarily difficult to defend and possibly other boundaries might prove preferable from the...

  19. Dramatis Personae
    (pp. 258-263)
  20. APPENDIX: How Many Palestinian Arab Refugees Were There?
    (pp. 264-272)
  21. Abbreviations
    (pp. 273-273)
  22. Notes
    (pp. 274-334)
  23. Index
    (pp. 335-342)