Pappe Ilan - The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine

Author : Pappe Ilan
Title : The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine
Year : 2006

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The Red House. We are not mourning the farewell We do not have the time nor the tears We do not grasp the moment of farewell Why, it is the Farewell And we are left with the tears Taha Muhammad Ali (1988), a refugee from the village of Saffuriyya ‘I am for compulsory transfer; I do not see anything immoral in it.’ David Ben-Gurion to the Jewish Agency Executive, June 1938. The ‘Red House’ was a typical early Tel-Avivian building. The pride of the Jewish builders and craftsmen who toiled over it in the 1920s, it had been designed to house the head office of the local workers’ council. It remained such until, towards the end of 1947, it became the headquarters of the Hagana, the main Zionist underground militia in Palestine. Located near the sea on Yarkon Street in the northern part of Tel-Aviv, the building formed another fine addition to the first ‘Hebrew’ city on the Mediterranean, the ‘White City’ as its literati and pundits affectionately called it. For in those days, unlike today, the immaculate whiteness of its houses still bathed the town as a whole in the opulent brightness so typical of Mediterranean port cities of the era and the region. It was a sight for sore eyes, elegantly fusing Bauhaus motifs with native Palestinian architecture in an admixture that was called Levantine, in the least derogatory sense of the term. Such, too, was the ‘Red House’, its simple rectangular features graced with frontal arches that framed the entrance and supported the balconies on its two upper storeys. It was either its association with a workers’ movement that had inspired the adjective ‘red’, or a pinkish tinge it acquired during sunset that had given the house its name.2 The former was more fitting, as the building continued to be associated with the Zionist version of socialism when, in the 1970s, it became the main office for Israel’s kibbutzim movement. Houses like this, important historical remnants of the Mandatory period, prompted UNESCO in 2003 to designate Tel-Aviv as a World Heritage site. Today the house is no longer there, a victim of development, which has razed this architectural relic to the ground to make room for a car park next to the new Sheraton Hotel. Thus, in this street, too, no trace is left of the ‘White City’, which it has slowly transmogrified into the sprawling, polluted, extravagant metropolis that is modern Tel-Aviv. In this building, on a cold Wednesday afternoon, 10 March 1948, a group of eleven men, veteran Zionist leaders together with young military Jewish officers, put the final touches to a plan for the ethnic cleansing of Palestine. That same evening, military orders were dispatched to the units on the ground to prepare for the systematic expulsion of the Palestinians from vast areas of the country. The orders came with a detailed description of the methods to be employed to forcibly evict the people: large-scale intimidation; laying siege to and bombarding villages and population centres; setting fire to homes, properties and goods; expulsion; demolition; and, finally, planting mines among the rubble to prevent any of the expelled inhabitants from returning. Each unit was issued with its own list of villages and neighbourhoods as the targets of this master plan. Codenamed Plan D (Dalet in Hebrew), this was the fourth and final version of less substantial plans that outlined the fate the Zionists had in store for Palestine and consequently for its native population. The previous three schemes had articulated only obscurely how the Zionist leadership contemplated dealing with the presence of so many Palestinians living in the land the Jewish national movement coveted as its own. This fourth and last blueprint spelled it out clearly and unambiguously: the Palestinians had to go. ...

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