IV. The Palestine War And The Nakba

IV. The Palestine War And The Nakba

Period
IV. The Palestine War And The Nakba
2 April 1947 to 1 January 1950

The years 1947–1949 were among the most decisive in modern Palestinian history, and their outcome was catastrophic for the Palestinian people. By the time the British referred the question of Palestine to the United Nations in April 1947, they had already helped to create a shift in the local balance of power in favor of the Zionists and at the expense of the Palestinians. Relying on the diplomatic and political assets provided by the UN Partition Resolution of November 1947 and on strong U.S. support, the Zionists embarked on an offensive to conquer as much land as possible beyond the recommended partition lines, to destroy and empty whole Palestinian villages and towns, and to transform most of the Palestinians into refugees. Arab military and political support, not nearly commensurate to the scope of the sustained Zionist existential threat, could not prevent the Palestinian Nakba.  

British policy in Palestine since the 1917 Balfour Declaration, and the ensuing struggle between the Zionist movement and the Palestinians for control over the future of the country, left Britain incapable of managing the situation politically and militarily, and finally led it, in April 1947, to refer the problem of Palestine’s future to the UN. By that time, the population of Palestine was one-third Jewish and two-thirds Palestinian Arab Muslim and Christian. On 15 May 1947, the UN created the United Nations Special Committee on Palestine (UNSCOP) to devise a plan for post-Mandate Palestine. After touring both the Middle East and displaced persons camps in Europe that held thousands of Jewish Holocaust refugees, UNSCOP arrived at a plan to partition Palestine into a Jewish state, an Arab state, and an international zone in and around Jerusalem. The borders seemed unworkable—each state consisted of three major parts only barely connected with one another—and the Jewish state was larger than the Arab state, yet its population would be only about one-half Jewish. UNSCOP also issued a minority plan that rejected partition in favor of a federal Palestine. The UN General Assembly voted to adopt the UNSCOP majority proposal on 29 November 1947. The Zionists publicly accepted partition; neither the Arab states nor the Arab Higher Committee (AHC), the de facto Palestinian leadership, did.

Arab-Jewish fighting in Palestine broke out almost immediately after the UN partition vote. Jewish forces were larger and much better organized. They consisted of the Haganah militia and its full-time strike force, the Palmach, plus two smaller militias: Irgun Tzva’i Le’umi (National Military Organization; also called Irgun and Etzel) and the Lohamei Herut Yisra’el (Fighters for the Freedom of Israel; also called LEHI and the Stern Gang). There was no national Palestinian fighting force. The major armed group was the Jaysh al-Jihad al-Muqaddas (Army of Holy War), formed by the AHC and led by ‘Abd al-Qadir al-Husayni. It operated only in the Jerusalem area. In northern Palestine, an Arab League–sponsored army called the Jaysh al-Inqadh al-‘Arabi (Arab Liberation Army) operated. It was made up of volunteers from surrounding Arab countries and led by a Lebanese officer, Fawzi al-Qawuqji. Various villages also formed their own militias for defense. By May 1948, Zionist forces were on the offensive and had captured several major towns such as Jaffa, Haifa, and Tiberias, as well as large areas of the proposed Arab state, particularly in Galilee. Tens of thousands of Palestinians had already fled as refugees, especially after news of Zionist atrocities like that at Dayr Yasin—where on 9 April, Zionist paramilitary forces killed more than 100 Palestinian villagers—spread through the population.

On 14 May 1948, the day that the last British soldiers and administrators left Palestine, Zionist leader David Ben-Gurion declared the establishment of a Jewish state called Israel. During the years of the Mandate, the Zionist movement had carefully prepared for independence and had created a network of institutions ready to begin the process of governing. By contrast, there were no real national Palestinian institutions for governance or defense. On 15 May, units of the armies of Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia entered the country to protect the Palestinian community and fight the Israelis. Despite being nominally coordinated by the Arab League, these armies generally acted independently of one another. Within two weeks, Arab forces had fought the Israeli army to a standstill. Israeli-Jordanian fighting in Jerusalem’s Old City was particularly fierce. After a short truce arranged by the UN on 11 June, the fighting resumed from 8 to 18 July. Israeli forces captured the towns of Nazareth, al-Ramla, and Lydda. By that time, the Israeli army had received a massive shipment of weapons from Czechoslovakia. Newly arrived Jewish immigrants and foreign Jewish volunteers swelled the Israeli army, and aircraft purchased from Czechoslovakia and smuggled from the United States helped create a formidable air force. A second cease-fire held from 19 July until 15 October. Thereafter, the Israeli army went back on the offensive, capturing the rest of Galilee and the Negev, and winning the war.

By early 1949, the proposed UN partition boundaries had become irrelevant. Israeli forces controlled 77 percent of pre-1948 Palestine, including large areas of what was designated in the UN plan as part of the Arab state. Of the other 23 percent of Palestine, Egyptian forces controlled Gaza while Jordanian and Iraqi troops held onto the West Bank and East Jerusalem. No Palestinian state emerged. Although the Arab League endorsed the formation of the AHC-led All Palestine Government in Egyptian-controlled Gaza on 20 September 1948, this body never exercised any real power, even in Gaza. In the West Bank, a gathering of Palestinian notables in Jericho on 1 December 1948 called for Jordan to annex the West Bank.

Palestinians call the war the Nakba—the catastrophe. By far, the most disastrous consequence of the war was the massive depopulation of Palestine’s Arabs. More than 725,000 Palestinians had fled their homes or were expelled by Zionist forces, only to become refugees in Gaza, the West Bank, and surrounding Arab countries. Israel categorically refused to allow them to return. The approximately 150,000 Palestinians who stayed, a large number of whom were also internally displaced homeless refugees, were subjected to martial law in the new Jewish state.

The UN intervened to bring an end to the fighting, dispatching the Swedish diplomat Folke Bernadotte as UN Mediator for Palestine. After several months’ effort, Bernadotte was assassinated in Jerusalem on 17 September 1948 by members of LEHI. He was replaced by an American, Ralph Bunche. After the fighting ended, Bunche gathered delegations from the warring sides and brought them to the island of Rhodes to arrange for final armistice agreements. Starting in February 1949 and lasting until July, he arranged armistices between Israel and Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria. Iraq never signed an armistice and simply withdrew its forces from the West Bank.

Although the armistices ended the bloodshed, no peace treaties emerged from Rhodes. On 11 December 1948, the UN General Assembly adopted Resolution 194, which created the United Nations Conciliation Commission for Palestine (UNCCP), whose three members were France, Turkey, and the United States. The UNCCP convened the Lausanne Conference in April 1949 to achieve a final peaceful end to the conflict. The conference, which included delegations from Israel and four Arab states—the Palestinians had no official representation—failed to produce an agreement by the end of the conference in September 1949. Resolution 194 also called for the refugees to be allowed to return to their homes or, for those choosing not to, to be compensated for their losses. One year later, on 8 December 1949, the UN General Assembly established an agency specifically for the refugees—the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA)—to provide relief services such as food rations and health services, as well as social services such as education.

Thus, the uneasy status quo that emerged after the war left the significant issues facing Palestinians—including the situation of the Palestinian refugees and the question of political representation of the Palestinian people—largely unresolved. This lack of resolution only compounded the scale of the disastrous loss of Palestine.

MF           

 

Selected Bibliography

The Arab-Israeli Armistice Agreements, February-July 1949: UN Texts and Annexes. Beirut: Institute for Palestine Studies, 1967.

Masalha, Nur. Expulsion of the Palestinians: The Concept of “Transfer” in Zionist Political Thought, 1882-1948. Washington, DC: Institute for Palestine Studies, 1992.

Morris, Benny. The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem Revisited. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2004.

Pappé, Ilan. The Making of the Arab-Israeli Conflict, 1947-1951. New York: I.B. Tauris, 1994.

Rogan, Eugene L., and Avi Shlaim. The War for Palestine: Rewriting the History of 1948.  Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2001.    

Shlaim, Avi. Collusion Across the Jordan: King Abdullah, the Zionist Movement, and the Partition of Palestine. New York: Columbia University Press, 1988.

Shlaim, Avi. “The Rise and Fall of the All-Palestine Government in Gaza.Journal of Palestine Studies 20, no.1 (Autumn 1990): 37-53.

IV. The Palestine War And The Nakba
E.g., 2018/11/13
E.g., 2018/11/13

The Palestine War And The Nakba

1947

1948

1949

Reverberations Of 1948 Palestine War And The Arab-Israeli Conflict

1950

1951

1952

1953

1954

1955

1956

1957

1958

1959

Diplomatic

British Refer Palestine to the UN
2 April 1947

Violence

Continuation of Zionist-British Confrontation
16 April 1947 - 26 April 1947

Diplomatic

UN General Assembly Session on Palestine
28 April 1947 - 9 May 1947

Diplomatic

General Assembly Resolution 106 (S -1)
15 May 1947

Violence

Casualties of Zionist Anti-British Attacks
16 May 1947

Violence

Zionist Attacks Against Palestinians
21 May 1947 - 15 August 1947

Violence

Stern Gang Letter Bombs Against Officials in London
5 June 1947

Diplomatic Policy/program

UN Special Committee on Palestine Prepares its Proposals
15 June 1947 - 3 September 1947

Sanctions Violence

Irgun Kidnaps and Murders Two British Sergeants
11 July 1947 - 31 July 1947

Diplomatic

Arab League Meeting on Palestine, in Sofar, Lebanon
16 September 1947 - 19 September 1947

Diplomatic Policy/program

Ad Hoc Committee on the Palestinian Question
23 September 1947 - 25 November 1947

Diplomatic

British to Terminate Palestine Mandate
26 September 1947

Diplomatic Policy/program

Palestinians and Zionists on UNSCOP Partition Plan
29 September 1947 - 3 October 1947

Diplomatic

Arab League Meeting on Palestine in Aley, Lebanon
7 October 1947 - 15 October 1947

Diplomatic Policy/program

US and USSR Endorse Partition
11 October 1947 - 13 October 1947

Diplomatic Policy/program

General Assembly Resolution 181 (II)
29 November 1947

Violence Policy/program

The Haganah Implements Plan Gimmel
29 November 1947 - 1 December 1947

Popular action Violence

Palestinian Strike Against Partition Plan and Palestinian-Zionist Clashes
2 December 1947

Violence

Series of Zionist Attacks on Palestinians
6 December 1947 - 31 December 1947

Diplomatic

Britain Recommends Date of Mandate Termination
8 December 1947

Diplomatic

Arab League Rejects Partition Plan
8 December 1947 - 16 December 1947

Institutional Violence

Arab Liberation Army Organized
1 January 1948 - 9 January 1948

Violence

Series of Zionist Attacks
2 January 1948 - 26 January 1948

Violence

Palestinian Attacks
14 January 1948 - 19 February 1948

Violence

Zionist Military Preparations
14 January 1948 - 20 February 1948

Violence

Contingents of ALA Volunteers
21 January 1948 - 28 January 1948

Violence

British Break Arab Attacks
6 February 1948 - 10 February 1948

Violence

Zionist Attacks
14 February 1948 - 5 March 1948

Violence

Fawzi al-Qawuqji Enters Palestine
5 March 1948

Policy/program Violence

Plan Dalet Finalized by the Haganah
10 March 1948

Violence

Haganah Operations
11 March 1948 - 31 March 1948

Violence

Palestinian Operations
11 March 1948 - 31 March 1948

Diplomatic Policy/program

US Apparent Hesitancy Toward Partition
18 March 1948 - 30 March 1948

Policy/program

Early Responses to Truce and Trusteeship Ideas
19 March 1948 - 20 March 1948

Diplomatic Violence

Security Council Resolutions S/RES/43 and S/RES/44
1 April 1948

Violence

Plan Dalet Launched.
1 April 1948

Violence Diplomatic

Arms for the Zionist Forces
1 April 1948 - 14 May 1948

Violence

Operations Nachshon and Harel to Open Tel Aviv - Jerusalem Road
2 April 1948 - 21 April 1948

Violence

The Battle for Haifa and Its Surroundings
4 April 1948 - 23 April 1948

Violence

Unit of Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood Attacks Kfar Darom
10 April 1948

Policy/program Institutional

General Zionist Council Decides to Proclaim Jewish State on 16 May
12 April 1948

Violence

Fighting Around Jerusalem
12 April 1948 - 23 April 1948

Diplomatic Violence

Security Council Resolution S/RES/46
17 April 1948

Violence

Fall of Tiberias
18 April 1948

Policy/program

Trusteeship Plan for Palestine
20 April 1948

Diplomatic Violence

Security Council Resolution S/RES/48
23 April 1948

Violence

Operation Chametz and the Fall of Jaffa
24 April 1948 - 13 May 1948

Violence

Operation Jevussi for the Conquest of Jerusalem
26 April 1948 - 30 April 1948

Violence

Zionist Conquest of Eastern Galilee
28 April 1948 - 12 May 1948

Diplomatic Violence

Arab States (Reluctantly) Prepare for Intervention in Palestine
30 April 1948 - 12 May 1948

Violence

Arab Gains in Gush Etzion
3 May 1948 - 14 May 1948

Violence

Operation Maccabi and the al-Latrun Area
8 May 1948 - 13 May 1948

Violence

Operation Barak Toward the South
9 May 1948 - 13 May 1948

Violence

Control of Coastal Plain Haifa - Tel Aviv
13 May 1948 - 23 May 1948

Diplomatic

GA Resolution A/RES/186 (S-2)
14 May 1948

Legal Institutional

State of Israel is Proclaimed in Tel Aviv at 4:00 P.M.
14 May 1948

Violence

Operation Ben Ami in Western Galilee
14 May 1948 - 17 May 1948

Violence

Operations Shfifon and Kilshon in Jerusalem
14 May 1948 - 28 May 1948

Diplomatic

The British Mandate Ends. The US Recognizes the State of Israel on a de facto Basis.
15 May 1948

Violence

Arab Armies Cross Palestine Borders
15 May 1948 - 19 May 1948

Diplomatic Violence

Security Council Resolution S/RES/49
22 May 1948

Diplomatic Violence

Security Council Resolution S/RES/50
29 May 1948

Diplomatic Violence

1st Palestine Truce, Destruction of Palestinian Villages
11 June 1948 - 8 July 1948

Biographical

Ahmad Hilmi Abd al-Baqi Is Appointed Military Governor of Jerusalem
16 June 1948

Colonization Legal

Abandoned Areas Ordinance
24 June 1948

Diplomatic Policy/program

Count Bernadotte's Palestine Plan
28 June 1948

Diplomatic Policy/program

Responses to Bernadotte's Plan
2 July 1948 - 5 July 1948

Diplomatic Violence

Security Council Resolution S/RES/53
7 July 1948

Violence

Israeli Military Operations at End of 1st Truce
7 July 1948 - 18 July 1948

Diplomatic Violence

Security Council Resolution S/RES/54
15 July 1948

Diplomatic Violence

Second Palestine Truce
19 July 1948 - 15 October 1948

Violence

Ethnic Cleansing During the Second Truce
24 July 1948 - 26 October 1948

Cultural Policy/program

Constantine Zuraik publishes Ma'na al-Nakba (The meaning of al-Nakba) in Beirut.
August 1948

Diplomatic Policy/program

Bernadotte's New Plan
16 September 1948

Violence

UN Mediator Count Folke Bernadotte is Assassinated by Lehi in Jerusalem.
17 September 1948

Diplomatic Policy/program

US in Favor of Bernadotte's New Plan
21 September 1948

Policy/program Institutional

Establishment of All-Palestine Government in Gaza
22 September 1948 - 2 October 1948

Institutional Popular action

Pro-Jordanian Amman Conference
1 October 1948

Diplomatic Institutional

Arab Responses to Formation of the All-Palestine Government
5 October 1948 - 14 October 1948

Legal Colonization

Emergency Regulations Regarding the Cultivation of Fallow Lands and Unexploited Water Sources
11 October 1948

Violence

Israeli Operations in the South Ending 2nd Truce
15 October 1948 - 29 October 1948

Violence

Operation Hiram in the North
24 October 1948 - 31 October 1948

Cultural Policy/program

George Hanna publishes Tareeq al-Khalas (Path of Deliverance).
November 1948

Diplomatic Violence

Security Council Resolution S/RES/61
4 November 1948

Diplomatic Violence

Security Council Resolution S/RES/62
16 November 1948

Diplomatic Institutional

GA Resolution 212 (III)
19 November 1948

Popular action Institutional

Pro-Jordanian Jericho Conference
1 December 1948 - 28 December 1948

Legal Colonization

Emergency Regulations Regarding Absentee Property
2 December 1948

Diplomatic Institutional

GA Resolution 194 (III)
11 December 1948

Popular action Institutional

Arab Nationalist Movement Formed
11 December 1948

Violence

Operation Horev Against Egyptian Forces
22 December 1948 - 6 January 1949

Diplomatic Violence

First Arab-Israeli Armistice Talks Commence Under UN Supervision in Rhodes.
12 January 1949

Diplomatic

France Recognizes Israel on a de facto Basis.
24 January 1949

Diplomatic

The US Recognizes Israel on a de jure Basis.
31 January 1949

Diplomatic Violence

Egypt-Israel Armistice Agreement
24 February 1949

Cultural Policy/program

Musa Alami Publishes 'Ibrat Filasteen (The lesson of Palestine).
March 1949

Violence

Palestinians Are Expelled from al-Faluja Pocket
March 1949

Diplomatic Institutional

Security Council Resolution S/RES/69
4 March 1949

Institutional

Jordan Sets up Civil Administration in Palestine Areas under its Military Control.
17 March 1949

Popular action

General Refugee Congress Meets in Ramallah
17 March 1949

Diplomatic Violence

Lebanon-Israel Armistice Agreement
23 March 1949

Popular action

Palestinians Testify Before the UNCCP
24 March 1949

Diplomatic Violence

Jordan-Israel Armistice Agreement
3 April 1949

Diplomatic

UN Conciliation Commission on Palestine Convenes the Lausanne Conference
27 April 1949 - 12 September 1949

Diplomatic Institutional

General Assembly Resolution 273 (III)
11 May 1949

Diplomatic Violence

Syria-Israel Armistice Agreement
20 July 1949

Institutional Legal

Gaza's Egyptian Administration
8 August 1949

Diplomatic Institutional

General Assembly Resolution 302 (IV)
8 December 1949

Diplomatic Policy/program

General Assembly Resolution 303 (IV)
9 December 1949