Today, you’ll see two versions of what happened when modern Israel began. In one version, you’ll see contemporary headlines published in May, 1948. You’ll see what the New York Times reported. You’ll see what the Palestine Post wrote.
Then, you’ll read what Mahmoud Abbas, leader of the Palestinian Authority, wrote about Israel's birth. He presented his own version of how Israel began in the New York Times.
In the end, you can compare the two versions. Only one version is true.
At 4pm, May 14, 1948, the State of Israel declared its independence. At that time, the-then Jewish Palestine Post (the precursor to today’s Jerusalem Post) used a banner headline to announce (in the next day’s paper, on May 15, 1948), “STATE OF ISRAEL IS BORN”. The words were writ large across the entire width of the paper, at the top of the front page.
On the same day Israel’s Post ran that 5-word headline, the New York Times ran a more elaborate Banner Headline across the top of its paper. Again, the date was May 15, 1948. The Times headline said,
“ZIONISTS PROCLAIM NEW STATE OF ISRAEL;
TRUMAN RECOGNIZES IT AND HOPES FOR PEACE;
TEL AVIV IS BOMBED, EGYPT ORDERS INVASION”
The next day, May 16, 1948, the New York Times main front-page headline declared:
“ARAB ARMIES INVADE PALESTINE;
REACH GAZA, BOMB TEL AVIV AGAIN;
US CONSIDERS LIFTING ARMS BAN”
63 years later, readers got a different version of that 1948 war. This version came from Mahmoud Abbas, today’s leader of the Palestinian Authority.
Many call Abbas Israel’s ‘peace partner’. He isn’t. He’s the public face of lies about the Jewish state.
For example, take an Op-Ed essay he wrote in May, 2011, on the occasion of Israel’s 63rd birthday. In this essay, he told lies (“The long overdue Palestinian State”, newyorktimes, May 16, 2011).
To see his treachery, read the following while keeping the above contemporary headlines in mind:
“…[in the months leading up to the 1948 Arab-Israel war,] Zionist forces expelled Palestinian Arabs to ensure a decisive Jewish majority in the future state of Israel, and Arab armies intervened. War and further expulsions ensued” (ibid).
This is an extraordinary lie. It turns an unprovoked Arab invasion into a deliberate ‘Zionist’ (Jewish) plot to commit ethnic cleansing against Arabs. That’s not what happened. Those headlines you saw above report what happened. Arab armies didn’t ‘intervene’ because of Jewish expulsions of Arabs. Those armies invaded with only one purpose in mind--to destroy the new-born Jewish Israel.
Yes, there were indeed Jewish headlines about ‘expelling Arabs’. But those stories weren’t about ethnic cleansing attacks to drive out Arab residents, as Abbas suggested. They were about Jews ‘expelling’ Arab invaders from highly-contested roads, villages and militarily important positions.
In the months leading up to Independence, Arab-Jewish clashes raged across Israel. There were no organized, national ‘expulsions of Arabs’. There was only war initiated by local Arabs against the Jews.
When Jews won an encounter, you might then read a headline calling for the ‘expulsion’ from that area of “all foreign Arab armed forces” [emphasis mine] (“Open roads, Expel Invaders”, Palestine Post, May 9, 1948). It is libelous—and unconscionable--to suggest that such military demands were some kind of premeditated public call for the ethnic cleansing of Arab residents in order to assure a Jewish majority.
Yet, that’s exactly what Abbas did in his 2011 Times op-ed piece. It is what Arabs continue to proclaim today.
Meanwhile, back in 1948—on May 17, 1948--two days after Israel’s birth, the Palestine Post didn’t publish headlines promoting the expulsion of Arab residents ‘for the greater good of Israel’. The Post didn’t call for ‘Arab expulsions’. Instead, the Post’s major headline that day was very different:
“TWO TEL AVIV RAIDERS [Arab planes] SHOT DOWN;
JERUSALEM OLD CITY BATTLE RAGES;
ARAB ARMIES ‘TAKE’ ARAB TOWNS”
The next day, May 19, 1948, the Post headline read:
“JEWS AT GRIPS WITH ARABS
IN GRIM FIGHT FOR OLD CITY”
Contemporary headlines weren’t agitating for a future Jewish majority (Abbas’ claim). Those contemporary news reports (above) were clear expressions of Jewish fears. Jews were writing about a potential defeat. They were writing about imminent destruction and death, not a future Jewish majority.
There are many arguments about who did what in 1948 to create an Arab refugee problem. In his Times Op-Ed, Abbas oversimplified and focused exclusively on just one argument, one that shows little evidence of an official Jewish public policy-making process.
At best, Abbas engages in a ‘fallacy of intent’, which posits that if things turned out a certain way, it had to have been planned that way (Gershom Gorenberg, “The mystery of 1948”, slate, November 7, 2011). At worst, he lies. Either way, he doesn’t get it right—and libels Israel in the process.
Abbas turns history on its head. He ignores what happened in those days in 1948. He makes it look like Jews had only one goal in 1948: to expel Arabs for Jewish supremacy. But the truth you see in those contemporary headlines was that Israel’s only goal was the desperate attempt to survive against invading Arabs intent upon Israel’s destruction.
Many nice, well-meaning people (to borrow a phrase from Mordechai Kedar) embrace Abbas’ fiction with no critical faculty. They accept his version of Israel’s birth as truth. They ignore contemporary 1948 published accounts of what actually happened: the new Jewish state was caught in a grim, terrifying fight for survival against first an open Arab armed rebellion that was then followed—on May 16, 1948--by invading Arab armies whose goal was not to ‘intervene’ on behalf of innocent, victimized Arab residents (Abbas' claim), but to complete a permanent destruction of the 'Zionist presence'.
Both of these versions of 1948 exist. Only one of them is true.
Which version will you choose to believe?
Which version will you choose to believe?