The Forgotten Palestinians: A History of the Palestinians in Israel [NOOK Book]


For more than 60 years, hundreds of thousands of Palestinians have lived as Israeli citizens within the borders of the nation formed at the end of the 1948 conflict. Occupying a precarious middle ground between the Jewish citizens of Israel and the dispossessed Palestinians of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, the Israeli Palestinians have developed an exceedingly complex relationship with the land they call home; however, in the innumerable ...
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The Forgotten Palestinians: A History of the Palestinians in Israel

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For more than 60 years, hundreds of thousands of Palestinians have lived as Israeli citizens within the borders of the nation formed at the end of the 1948 conflict. Occupying a precarious middle ground between the Jewish citizens of Israel and the dispossessed Palestinians of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, the Israeli Palestinians have developed an exceedingly complex relationship with the land they call home; however, in the innumerable discussions of the Israel-Palestine problem, their experiences are often overlooked and forgotten.

In this book, historian Ilan Pappé examines how Israeli Palestinians have fared under Jewish rule and what their lives tell us about both Israel's attitude toward minorities and Palestinians' attitudes toward the Jewish state. Drawing upon significant archival and interview material, Pappé analyzes the Israeli state's policy towards its Palestinian citizens, finding discrimination in matters of housing, education, and civil rights. Rigorously researched yet highly readable, The Forgotten Palestinians brings a new and much-needed perspective to the Israel-Palestine debate.
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Editorial Reviews

Arab Studies Journal - Ryvka Barnard

"The Forgotten Palestinians strings together fragments, events, documents, and interviews into a coherent and convincing narrative in a way that will certainly lend itself to advancing future studies. In this way, Pappé’s book is also a cornerstone study, and one that will certainly produce many more in the same tradition, making this book both overdue and timely."—Ryvka Barnard, Arab Studies Journal
Journal of Palestine Studies - Magid Shihade

". . . an essential contribution." — Magid Shihade, Journal of Palestine Studies
John Pilger

“Ilan Pappé is Israel’s bravest, most principled, most incisive historian.”—John Pilger
Haaretz - David B. Green
“Pappe, in highly readable prose, gives us details and perspective about the history of the Arab community in the state's early years.”—David B. Green, Haaretz
Review 31 - Matt Hill
“This is undoubtedly an important book.”—Matt Hill, Review 31
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780300170139
  • Publisher: Yale University Press
  • Publication date: 6/28/2011
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Sales rank: 1,081,794
  • File size: 808 KB

Meet the Author

The best selling author of The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine, Ilan Pappé is currently Professor of History at Exeter University, UK, and previously taught at Haifa University, Israel. He lives in the UK.
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Read an Excerpt


A History of the Palestinians in Israel
By Ilan Pappé


Copyright © 2011 Ilan Pappé
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-300-17013-9

Chapter One



The files about Palestinian villages compiled by the intelligence service of the Haganah, the Jewish underground during the British Mandate for Palestine, make a fascinating read. The intelligence officers prepared a file on every Palestinian village, all one thousand of them. The process of registering these villages began in 1940 and lasted for seven years. Every such file contained the most detailed information possible, from the names of the big families, through to the occupation of most of the villagers and their political affiliations, from their history to the quality of the land, the public buildings and even what grew on each of the trees in the orchards that traditionally encircled the villages.

They are an important source first and foremost since they expose the level and depth of the Zionist preparation for the takeover of Palestine. The files included aerial photographs of each village and its environs and indicated the access and entry points to each village, as well as assessing its wealth, and the number of weapons its men and youths held in their homes.

No less important however is the value of these files as a historical source for the social and economic conditions in rural Palestine during the British Mandate. Since the files were updated for the last time in 1947, they also provide a dynamic picture of change and transformation. When the information included in them is matched with other sources, such as the press from that period, including the official Palestine Gazette of the British Mandate government, rural Palestine, very much like urban Palestine, appears to be a society on the move, showing signs of economic expansion and social stabilization after years of economic depression and social upheavals.

Almost each village had a school, running water and proper sewage systems for the first time, while the fields were plentiful and old blood feuds – as the village files tell us – had been settled. In the cities and towns prosperity was also budding. The first graduates of the universities around the Arab world, including the American universities of Beirut and Cairo, began their professional careers in Palestine, forming a new middle class, which was so necessary for societies during the transition into the new capitalist world built by European colonialism and imperialism. Quite a few chose a public career in the British Mandate government as senior or junior officials – the latter even joining their Jewish colleagues in a strike for a better pay and conditions as late as 1946. The affluence was visible in the architectural expansion. New neighbourhoods, streets and modern infrastructure were also evident everywhere.

The urban as well as the rural landscape was still very Arab and Palestinian on the eve of the Nakbah – the 1948 catastrophe. Politically, however, there was a different balance of power. The international community was about to debate the future identity of the country as if there were two equal contenders for it. The United Nations accepted the mandate for deciding Palestine's future after British rule in the land ended in 1948. Already in February 1947, the British cabinet announced it would transfer the issue of Palestine to the UN, which in its turn appointed a special commission, United Nations Special Committee on Palestine (UNSCOP), to deliberate upon the fate of the Holy Land.

'It is not fair,' complained David Ben-Gurion, the leader of the Jewish community and later on Israel's first prime minister, in front of UNSCOP: 'The Jews are only one-third of the overall population and only have a very small share of the land.' Indeed there were 600,000 Jews and 1.3 million Palestinians; the Jews owned less than 7 per cent of the land, while most and, in some areas, all of the cultivated land was owned by Palestinians.

Ben-Gurion's complaint bewildered the Palestinians, and still enrages them today. Precisely because of this demographic and geographical balance, they deemed that any future plan which did not allow the vast majority of the people in Palestine to decide its future was unacceptable and immoral. Moreover, the majority of the Jews were newcomers and settlers – most of whom had arrived only three years before this, while the Palestinians were the indigenous and native population. But their views were ignored. It did not help that the Palestinian leadership decided to boycott UNSCOP and that the politics of Palestine were run mainly by the Arab League, which did not always have the Palestinian interest in mind.

The UN decided to appease Ben-Gurion: it opened the gates for an unlimited immigration of Jews and granted 55 per cent of the land to the Jewish state.

The principled Palestinian and Arab rejection of, and objection to, the partition plan was well known to the Jewish leadership, even before it was asked to respond to the UN plan. Therefore, when the Jewish community sent its agreement for the plan, it already knew that there was little danger of the plan being implemented due to the Arab and Palestinian resistance. Nonetheless, Israeli propaganda has ever since quoted Israel's acceptance of the plan and the Palestinian rejection as an indication of its peaceful intentions towards the intransigent Palestinians. More importantly, this Palestinian rejection was later used as an explanation by the Israeli government for its decision to occupy parts of the land accorded to the Palestinians in the UN partition plan.

The Arab world declared its intention to go to war against the implementation of this plan, but did not have the means or the will to stop it. Three months before the Arab armies entered Palestine in May 1948, the military forces of the Jewish community began to ethnically cleanse the Palestinians from their houses, fields and land. In the process the Jewish forces added another 23 per cent to that granted to them by the UN. By January 1950, Israel as a state covered almost 80 per cent of Palestine. In it those who were left became the 'Arabs in Israel', slowly building their life out of the ashes of their catastrophe.


The photographs from the early days of 1949 tell it all. Palestinians appear in them looking frightened, confused, disorientated and more than anything else traumatized. They woke up to a new geopolitical reality. Palestine as they knew it was gone and replaced by a new state. The visible changes were too clear for anyone to ignore. Many of their fellow countrymen, about 750,000 of them, were expelled in 1948 and not allowed to return. They became refugees or citizens of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, or lived under military rule in the Egyptian Gaza Strip. Out of the one million Palestinians who used to live within what became the state of Israel (78 per cent of the British Mandate for Palestine), 160,000 remained in 1949.

Photographs still remain of the small areas in the midst of urban centres, cordoned off with wires and fences, in which for days and sometimes weeks those who remained in the destroyed and deserted towns and cities were forced to dwell. These initial attempts to concentrate Palestinians who had lost their homes but remained within the boundaries of the hometown were supervised by Israeli officers, who called these confinement areas 'ghettos'. They disappeared by 1950 as a more humane geopolitical landscape emerged, but in the meantime they symbolized, more than any other image, the plight in which these Palestinians found themselves. No less dramatic was the picture of those expelled for trying to return back home once the fighting had subsided.

The new sights were augmented by the noise of the tractors and bulldozers operating on behalf of the Jewish National Fund ( JNF) and other Israeli governmental agencies ordered by the government to Judaize, as quickly as possible, the previously Palestinian rural and urban areas. The aim was not only to de-Arabize Israel but also to provide land and housing for the influx of new Jewish immigrants from Europe and the Arab world. The operation of demolition and destruction was designed and supervised by Yosef Weitz, the director of the JNF's Land Department. This body had attempted to purchase land during the British Mandate, and its basic failure to acquire more than 7 per cent of the cultivable land is one of the reasons the Jewish leadership opted to employ force to take over large parts of Palestine for its future state. On 19 July 1948, Weitz's boss, the first Prime Minister of Israel, David Ben-Gurion, wrote in his diary: 'abandoned Arab villages had to be removed'. Within two years, two million dunams (1 dunam is 3.8 acres) of Palestinian land would belong to the Jewish Agency, which meant they were exclusively for the benefit of Jewish citizens.

How individual Palestinians experienced the trauma depended on where they lived. Those dwelling in the major cities of Palestine where they had been the indigenous majority now became a tiny minority in them, living under a harsh military regime. All around them the familiar face of an Arab city was transformed dramatically: either demolished or taken over by Jewish immigrants. Most of the urban Palestinians were expelled and those remaining were quite often pushed into small ghettos in the poorer parts of Haifa, Jaffa, Ramleh and Lydda. If they lived in the rural areas, they belonged to a hundred and so villages left intact out of more than five hundred whose inhabitants were evicted and in 1949 were wiped out by the Israeli tractors, turning them into either recreation parks or Jewish settlements. Particularly devastating was the experience of those Palestinians who lived on the Mediterranean coast: scores of villages disappeared from the earth in 1948 and only two remained. And if they were nomads or semi-nomads, the Bedouin of the south, they found themselves standing in long queues to be registered as Israeli citizens, signing an oath of allegiance to a Jewish state.

The scenes in the cities of Haifa and Jaffa in those early days of statehood convey the enormity of the transformation and traumatization, felt especially by those who had belonged to the urban population, some of whom were expelled to nearby villages. When listening to the memories and reading the memoirs of these Palestinian citizens of how they fared in the early hours of Jewish statehood one can hear mostly tales of loss, panic and despair.

Some of those expelled to the countryside were later allowed to return, but by no means all. So one trauma was to leave, come back and see that your house was taken. A different one was to dwell for a year or so in your own house and then be evicted and forcibly moved to the countryside (at least as long as the military regime lasted, which was until 1966). 'My mother became hysterical, "Don't you know we are never going back? Not your book [I was reading a book in the midst of the chaos], not us, nothing,"' recalled Umm Muhammad, who was a third-grade pupil when they were evicted from the Halisa neighbourhood in Haifa to a nearby village. Many, like this mother, found out when they attempted to return in the 1960s that others had taken over their houses and their businesses – such as bookshops, law firms or grocery shops – in which they lived and worked for generations. No wonder that many of those who tried to return gave up the idea and had to reconcile themselves to living in the countryside in villages that could hardly sustain themselves, now that their fields had been confiscated by the Israeli authorities.

Worst was watching the loss at close hand in the cities, where properties and business were either turned into rubble or taken over by someone else. Some eyewitnesses still prefer not to be named. Hannan, not her real name, is today a retired citizen of Haifa. Her family lived in an apartment in a building they owned and her father ran a small factory for building materials nearby. The remnants of these two buildings can still be seen. Her family left in January 1948, as did some of the wealthier people of Haifa who had the means to travel and stay in Beirut or Cairo. This upper class did not wish to be in the midst of the impending fighting and hoped to come back later on; they left all they had in their homes. The vast majority of the people of Haifa of course could not afford such an exodus and stayed until they were expelled by the Jewish forces in April 1948. Upon return, Hannan's family found that both their home and their factory had been confiscated and that Jewish dwellers had taken over. Like so many others, the family was never compensated and, according to Hannan's recollection, they lived in constant fear of a new eviction and dispossession from their new abode in the city.

There were many others like Hannan who were the original inhabitants of Haifa but could not live in their own homes. They lived next to them, painfully watching them being occupied by invaders. Under strong international pressure, in particular from the United States, about 25,000 expelled Palestinians returned in the first year of statehood under the framework of family reunions. This took place throughout 1949 when the international community, and in particular the UN, wanted Israel to allow the unconditional return of the refuges to their homes (as articulated in UN General Assembly Resolution No. 194, from 11 December 1948). Israel refused adamantly to adhere to this resolution and as a compromise the government obliged the American administration by facilitating the return of a small number of refugees who were willing to swear an oath of allegiance to the Jewish state.

They came back, mainly from Lebanon, and found that in the short period of their absence their houses had been taken by Jewish immigrants, and thus notable families who had lived in relative luxury on Mount Carmel during the Mandatory Palestine years had to be content with shabby rooms in the dense, poor neighbourhoods of inner Haifa. The Haifa-born writer and later political leader Emil Habibi has recorded this particular aspect of the tragedy. When he came back after the fighting subsided he witnessed his furniture being thrown out from his flat on Abbas Street on the mountain's slopes. He asked the new dwellers why they were throwing out his belongings and they answered, 'This house is now our home.' With great effort he rented a house on the street. Many among the returnees had similar stories to tell.

Habibi lost more than his furniture. In an interview with Shimon Balas, one of the few Iraqi Jewish intellectuals in Israel who remained loyal to their Arab heritage and culture, he remembered: 'After 1948 I moved to Nazareth and there I was frightened to learn that my two daughters were afraid of talking to a boy in the street. We lived in Abbas Street before 1948, Christian and Muslim boys and girls, and we were all friendly with each other, going to the same parties, we had a different life then; we were not afraid of socializing and befriending others.'

For some it was not private property lost and confiscated that marked the new epoch, it was the desecration of everything that was holy and dear to their hearts, such as the churches and mosques in the cities and in the countryside. Father Deleque, a Catholic priest in Jaffa in 1948, recalled: 'Jewish soldiers broke down the doors to my church and robbed many precious and sacred objects. Then they threw the statues of Christ down into a nearby garden.' He was aware of the repeated promises by the government and the local military governors to respect the sanctity of mosques and churches but noted 'their deeds did not correspond to their words'. Churches as a rule were more respected than mosques, which disappeared in huge numbers from the Palestinian landscape in the new Jewish state of Israel.

The destructive transformation of the past into the new reality was particularly difficult to comprehend for the elite in the urban centres. In Haifa the leading Palestinians were called to a meeting with the city's Jewish military governor on the evening of 1 July 1948. These notables represented the few thousand Palestinians left after more than 70,000 other citizens had been expelled. The purpose of the meeting was to order them to facilitate the transfer of the Arabs in the city into one neighbourhood, in Wadi Nisnas, the poorest section of the city. Some of those ordered to move had lived for a long time on the upper slopes of Mount Carmel, or on the mount itself.

The citizens were ordered to complete the move by 5 July 1948. Their leaders were shocked. Many of them belonged to the Communist Party, which had supported partition, and hoped that now that the fighting was over they could begin normal life again. 'I do not understand: is this a military command?' protested Tawfiq Tubi, later a member of the Knesset for the Communist Party. 'Let us look on the condition of these people. I cannot see any reason, even a military one that justifies such a move.' He ended his speech with the words: 'We demand that the people will stay in their homes.' Another participant, Bulus Farah, cried, 'This is racism' and called the move 'ghettoizing the Palestinians in Haifa'.

Even the dry document cannot hide the reaction of the Israeli military commander: frosty and metallic.

'I can see that you are sitting here and advising me, while you were invited to hear the orders of the High Command and assist it! I am not involved in politics and do not deal with it. I am just obeying orders ... I am just fulfilling orders and I have to make sure this order is executed until the fifth ... If this is not done, I will do it myself. I am a soldier.'

After the commander's long monologue ended, Shehada Shalah asked: 'And if a person owns a house, does he have to leave?'

The commander: 'Everyone has to leave.'

Then came the question of expenses. The notables learned that the expellees would have to pay for the cost of their enforced removal themselves. Victor Hayat tried to reason with the commander that it would take more than a day for people to be notified, and that that would not leave them much time. The commander replied that four days was plenty of time. The person who transcribed the meeting recorded: 'All the Arab representatives cried out, "But it is a very short time", and the commander replied, "I cannot change it."'


Excerpted from THE FORGOTTEN PALESTINIANS by Ilan Pappé Copyright © 2011 by Ilan Pappé. Excerpted by permission of YALE UNIVERSITY PRESS. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents


Prologue: Hostile Aliens in Their Own Homeland....................1
1 Out of the Ashes of the Nakbah....................15
2 The Open Wound: Military Rule and Its Lasting Impact....................46
3 Military Rule by Other Means, 1967–1977....................94
4 Between the Day of the Land and the First Intifada, 1976–1987....................135
5 After the First Intifada: Between Palestinian Assertiveness and Jewish Uncertainty, 1987–1995....................170
6 The Hopeful Years and Their Demise, 1995–2000....................201
7 The 2000 Earthquake and Its Impact....................229
Epilogue: The Oppressive State....................264
Appendix: Note on the Scholarship....................276
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