Declassified documents have revealed that post World War II Jewish Zionists used ethnic cleansing in Palestine in the late 1940’s. Israeli soldiers imprisoned thousands of Palestinian civilians within at least 22 Zionist-run concentration and labour camps that existed from 1948 to 1955. The documents reveal some horrific information regarding the living conditions and health concerns of men, women and children who were forced into these concentration camps. This may not come as a surprise to many historians as the facts have been documented. However, historically many people who have attempted to bring these facts to light have been condemned as anti-Semitic conspiracy theorists. The release of these documents conclusively proves this (once taboo) portion of history has in fact been covered up.
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Almost 70 years ago Israel turned its forces on the all-Palestinian towns of Lydda and Ramleh. In July 1948 Israeli troops forcefully compelled the entire population of these two towns – of almost 60,000 Palestinian civilians, Including men, women, children and the elderly – to flee their homes in the middle of the hot Mediterranean summer. When many of the native inhabitants refused to leave or couldn’t, Israeli Prime Minister (at the time) David Ben-Gurion gave orders to ethnically cleanse both towns. The edicts to seize both cities were signed by Yitzhak Rabin (who later became Israel’s Prime Minister).
Israeli soldiers were commanded to strip Palestinians of their valuables after driving them out of their homes. Many of the refugees died from thirst, hunger, and heat exhaustion, according to the Palestinian historian ‘Aref al-‘Aref. Swarms of Jewish immigrants poured into Lydda and Ramleh and within days, these ancient Palestinian towns were transformed into part of the Jewish settlement. Around 750,000 Palestinian Arabs were displaced from their homeland during this period.
The official Israeli government explanation for the ‘disappearance’ of 750,000 Palestinian Arabs from the land (roughly half the Arab population in Palestine in 1948) was that they left ‘Voluntarily’.
“A partial Jewish state is not the end, but only the beginning. The establishment of such a Jewish state will serve as a means in our historical efforts to redeem the country in its entirety… We shall organize a modern defense force… and then I am certain that we will not be prevented from settling in other parts of the country, either by mutual agreement with our Arab neighbors or by some other means… We will expel the Arabs and take their places… with the forces at our disposal.” (David Ben-Gurion).
Yitzhak Rabin wrote in his diary soon after Lydda’s and Ramla’s occupation on 10th-11th of July 1948:
“After attacking Lydda and then Ramla, What would they do with the 50,000 civilians living in the two cities, not even Ben-Gurion could offer a solution …. and during the discussion at operation headquarters, he [Ben-Gurion] remained silent, as was his habit in such situations. Clearly, we could not leave [Lydda’s] hostile and armed populace in our rear, where it could endangered the supply route [to the troops who were] advancing eastward. Ben-Gurion would repeat the question: What is to be done with the population? Waving his hand in a gesture which said: Drive them out! [garush otam in Hebrew]. ‘Driving out’ is a term with a harsh ring … Psychologically, this was one of the most difficult actions we undertook”.(Soldier Of Peace, p. 140-141 & Benny Morris, p. 207).
For any settler colonies, as the Zionists were, there are roughly four conditions which have to met if they are to survive. Graham Usher, an Israeli journalist, wrote that:
“They [Zionists] must obtain a measure of political, military, and economic independence from their metropolitan sponsors. They must achieve military hegemony over, or at least normal relations with, their neighboring states. They must acquire international legitimacy. And they must solve their “native problem.” (Graham Usher, “Unmaking Palestine: On Israel, the Palestinians, and the Wall,” Journal of Palestine Studies (Vol. 35, No. 1, Autumn 2005), page 26.)
Most official and unofficial camps were situated within the borders of the UN-proposed Jewish state, which existed from 1948 to 1955 (twice as long as the ones run by Nazi-Germany). At least four unofficial camps were in the UN-assigned Arab state and one was inside Jerusalem “Corpus Separatum”. The number of Palestinian non-combatant detainees “far exceeded” those of Arab soldiers in regular armies or bona fide Prisoners of war. In a monthly report made by the International Committee of the Red Cross’s mission head ‘Jacques de Reynier’, in 1948, states, “the situation of civilian internees was ‘absolutely confused’ with that of POWs” and that the Jewish authorities “treated all Arabs between the ages of 16 and 55 as combatants and locked them up as prisoners of war.” In addition, the ICRC found among the detainees in official camps, that 90 of the prisoners were elderly men, and 77 were boys, aged 15 years or younger.
It should be noted the Zionist account of this war crime was intentionally suppressed until Yitzhak Rabin reported it in his biography and in a New York Times interview (which was censored in Israel at the time), however, it was later confirmed in the declassified Israeli and Zionist archives.
A study, which was published in an issue of the Journal of Palestine Studies – relied on almost 500 pages of ICRC reports written during the 1948 war that were declassified and made available to the public in 1996, and discovered by one of the authors in 1999. The importance of this study is multi-faceted. Not only does it reveal the numerous violations of international law and conventions of the age, such as 1907 Hague Regulations and the 1929 Geneva Conventions, but also shows how the event shaped the ICRC in the long run. Furthermore, testimonies of 22 former Palestinian civilian detainees of these camps were collected by the authors, through interviews they conducted themselves in 2002, or documented by others during different moments of time. With these sources of information, the authors, as they put it, pieced together a clearer story of how Israel captured and imprisoned “thousands of Palestinian civilians as forced labourers,” and exploited them “to support its war-time economy.” , , , .
One thing that comes to mind is the ironic promotion of the ‘Never Again’ hash-tags that have been doing the rounds on social media, aimed at raising awareness for the Jewish suffering which occurred in concentration camps run by Nazi Germany.
Whether you find this as hypocrisy or just history repeating itself, there can be no denial of the fact Jewish run concentration camps did exist. Much of the information is only now being released since the declassified documents very quietly became available to the public. I wouldn’t expect any justice to come for this, nor would I expect to see the likes of something similar to that of the Nuremberg trials which followed the end of World War 2.
The full extent of the suffering that Palestinians had to endure during the exodus has not been reported on by the mainstream media, nor have the uncovered documents been spoken of since the release. Regardless of this, I hope that people can come to respect this portion of history to be true.