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That's How It Happened

By       Message Uri Avnery     Permalink
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From Gush Shalom

Arab-Israeli War
Arab-Israeli War
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AFTER MY last article, in which I mentioned that the Arabs started the 1948 war after the partition resolution of the UN, I received several furious messages.

The writers, who (I suppose) were born after the events, accuse the Zionists of starting the war in order to expel the Arab population.

Since I took part in the events -- I was 24 years old at the time -- I feel that it is my duty to describe what really happened, as truthfully as possible. (I have written two books about it, one during the war and one immediately after.)

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TO DESCRIBE the atmosphere in the country just before the war, let me recount one of the great moments of my life.

In the late summer, an annual folk dance festival took place in a natural amphitheater in the Carmel mountains. About 40 thousand young men and women were assembled, a very large number given that our total population was only about 635,000.

At the time, a commission of the United Nations (UNSCOP) was touring the country in order to find a solution to the Jewish-Arab conflict.

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We were watching the dance groups -- among them one from a neighboring Arab village, who danced the Debka with such enthusiasm that they just couldn't stop -- when the loudspeakers announced that members of the UN commission were visiting us.

Spontaneously, all the thousands of young men and women stood up and broke into the National Anthem with such vigor that the echo resounded from the mountains around us.

It was the last time that my generation was assembled. Within a year, thousands of those present were dead.

FOLLOWING THE recommendation of that commission, the General Assembly of the UN resolved on November 29, 1947, to partition Palestine between a Jewish and an Arab state, with Jerusalem as a separate unit under international rule.

Though the territory allotted to the Jewish state was small, the Jewish population realized the immense importance of statehood. It was just three years after the end of the Holocaust. The entire Arab world opposed the resolution. As they saw it, why should the Arab population of Palestine pay the price for the Holocaust committed by Europeans?

A few days after the resolution, a Jewish bus was shot at. That was the beginning of Phase 1 of the war.

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To understand the events, one must consider the situation. The two populations on the country were closely intertwined. In Jerusalem, Haifa and Jaffa-Tel Aviv, Arab and Jewish quarters were situated close together.

Every Jewish village was surrounded by Arab ones. To exist, they needed use of the highroads, which were dominated by Arab villages. By now, shootings broke out all over the country. The British were still nominally in charge, but tried to get involved as little as possible.

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Uri Avnery is a longtime Israeli peace activist. Since 1948 has advocated the setting up of a Palestinian state alongside Israel. In 1974, Uri Avnery was the first Israeli to establish contact with PLO leadership. In 1982 he was the first Israeli ever to meet Yassir Arafat, after crossing the lines in besieged Beirut. He served three terms in the (more...)

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