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Mapping the Palestinian villages erased and replaced with Jewish towns

A new map seeks to provide new information on the Palestinian cities, towns, and villages that were erased and replaced since the inception of the Zionist movement.

By Tom Pessah

On Easter Monday in the displaced Palestinian village of Iqrit, young and old dance around the town's church. Northern Israel, April 21, 2014. Iqrit's original inhabitants were forcibly evacuated in the Nakba of 1948. Though the Israeli high court granted the residents, who are Palestinian citizens of Israel, the right to return to their homes in 1951, the military destroyed the village and has since prevented their return. Only the village's church and cemetery remained intact, and are still used by village residents while they campaign for a full return.

On Easter Monday in the displaced Palestinian village of Iqrit, young and old dance around the town’s church. Northern Israel, April 21, 2014. Iqrit’s original inhabitants were forcibly evacuated in the Nakba of 1948. (Activestills.org)

Immigrants coming to Israel are unlikely to know the name “Mlabes,” but Israelis are more acquainted with it. After all, it is the name of a local newspaper, a young singer, a shawarma joint, and a chapter of the Israeli Scouts.

But all these have one thing in common: they are associated with the city of Petah Tikvah, northeast of Tel Aviv. According to the Petah Tikvah City Archive’s website, Mlabes was the name of a village that existed well before the establishment of the city. It appears on a map prepared for Napoleon’s invading army around 1799. There is archaeological evidence of settlement in the same spot during the Byzantine Era, as well as by the Crusaders. A famous song by iconic Israeli singer Arik Einstein mentions how the village was visited by Zionist pioneers in 1878.

There were no birds singing in this swamp, according to the song, but the pioneers persevered and founded Petah Tikva, the first Zionist “moshava” (Hebrew for “colony”). And Mlabes? The Petah Tikvah City Archive says that the landowners wanted to get rid of the place due to poor weather conditions, floods, and swamps. They sold it, says the site — and then Mlabes disappears from the narrative.

Fast forward to January 2017. Bedouin established the village of Um el-Hiran in 1956 just east of Beer Sheva, after being displaced from their original lands by the Israeli military government. Now Israel is once again trying to displace them in order to replace their village with a Jewish town. The police arrived at the village fully armed, shooting the village’s beloved math teacher, Yacoub Abu al-Qi’an, as he was reportedly attempting to rescue personal possessions from his soon-to-be demolished home. Al-Qi’an apparently lost control of the car after being shot, hitting a policeman. Both the police officer and al-Qi’an died — the latter after being denied medical treatment.

Thousands hold a funeral for Yacoub Abu al-Qi'an in the Bedouin village of Umm el-Hiran. Abu al-Qi'an was shot dead by police as security forces demolished homes in the village, January 24, 2017. (Keren Manor/Activestills.org)

Thousands hold a funeral for Yacoub Abu al-Qi’an in the Bedouin village of Umm el-Hiran. Abu al-Qi’an was shot dead by police as security forces demolished homes in the village, January 24, 2017. (Keren Manor/Activestills.org)

What do Mlabes in 1878 and Umm el-Hiran in 2017 have in common? Both are part of a gradual, long-term process of replacing Palestinian localities by ones designated for Jews, all within the framework of Zionism. Thanks to the activities of Israeli NGO Zochrot, which strives to raise awareness of the Nakba, Israelis are somewhat more aware today of a key part of this process that occurred during the 1948 War. Yet there is a tendency to view the Nakba as an isolated “catastrophe,” born of war, so that the long-term process of dispossession becomes obscured. Even Palestine Remembered — a website that provides details of Palestinian cities, towns, and villages that were cleansed of their Arab inhabitants — focuses almost exclusively on localities destroyed in 1948.

A new map, produced by the Israeli NGO De-Colonizer, aims to fill that gap.

The map includes several layers, each marked by different-colored points. In blue are the 57 Palestinian localities destroyed between 1878 and 1948, when Zionists bought up land and cleared it of its Palestinian tenant farmers in order to clear the way for Jewish settlers. Some of these farmers received compensation; many were driven off the land by state authorities after Zionist buyers made deals with non-local landowners. An additional group of blue sites marks the 18 Jewish localities destroyed in riots that broke out periodically in reaction to Zionist settlement, especially in 1920, 1929 and 1936. Thus, the map demonstrates that the destruction process affected Jews too, including members of pre-Zionist Jewish communities, such as the Jews of Hebron.

Palestinian artists paint artwork during a rally marking the Nakba anniversary in the West Bank city of Hebron, May 15, 2016. (Wisam Hashlamoun/Flash90)

Palestinian artists paint artwork during a rally marking the Nakba anniversary in the West Bank city of Hebron, May 15, 2016. (Wisam Hashlamoun/Flash90)

This layer also includes an intriguing series of arrows that mark another forgotten piece of history: the 46 non-aggression initiatives between local Jewish and Palestinian localities in 1947-1948.

These agreements were meant to protect both sides from conflict and displacement. For instance, the Shi’ite villagers of Hunin opposed the attack against their neighbors in Kibbutz Manara and refused to cooperate. The village, along with other towns and villages in the eastern Galilee, was nevertheless cleansed when Yigal Allon’s Palmach forces arrived in the area in May 1948. According to Israeli historian Benny Morris, the takeover of Hunin included massacre and rape.

Israeli soldiers in battle with the Arab village of Sassa in the upper Galilee, October 1, 1948. (GPO)

Israeli soldiers in battle with the Arab village of Sassa in the upper Galilee, October 1, 1948. (GPO)

Hunin’s story exemplifies the second layer in the map – the localities marked in red. These were 615 Palestinian localities destroyed between 1948 and 1952 by Zionist forces, in what came to be known as the Nakba, when most of the country’s Palestinian population of the country was driven out under the guise of war. This layer also includes 26 Jewish localities destroyed during the war by the invading Arab armies.

The localities marked in green, destroyed during the 1967 war and after, include a little known chapter of history: the 194 Syrian localities destroyed during the cleansing of the Golan Heights, days after their conquering in 1967. The resulting expulsion of 130,000 Syrians is today considered as taboo in Israel as the Nakba used to be. Few know the names of the villages whose ruins can still be seen today in the Golan.

This layer also includes 11 Palestinian villages destroyed during the war and after, as well as 54 Palestinian localities in the Jordan Valley and in the southern Hebron Hills that, according to Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem, are facing expulsion.

Another 64 Palestinian localities in the south and north of the country, including Umm el-Hiran, remain unrecognized by Israel. As a result, they do not appear on any official maps, lack basic infrastructure and utilities, and many of them are slated for destruction. De-Colonizer’s map can help us predict the future elimination of Palestinian localities.

Unlike Einstein’s song and the maps Israelis grow up with, which display the triumphant growth of Zionist settlement, De-Colonizer’s map exposes the dark side of history, the ongoing displacement of Palestinians (and Syrians) through the practice of designating land for the use of Jews only. Without significant international intervention, the map’s editors write, this is all too likely to continue.

De-Colonizer’s new map, Colonialism in destru(A)ction, is available here.

Tom Pessah is a sociologist and activist.

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    1. R5

      Right, because even when Jews BUY land, their presence is illegitimate, since tenant farmers had to leave. The argument here is that, even under the Ottoman system of land ownership which was created BY MUSLIMS, Jewish land purchases cannot be legitimate because “colonialism” (cough, Jews having rights) is immoral. I hope at least some of the leftists reading this can now see how deranged Pessah and his buddies are. Its crystal clear at this point that these trolls want Arab reconquest and Jews out of Palestine. SJP and BDS are liars, parasites, and a poison pill for any coalition of progressive movements. Liberal Democrats, wake up!!! Show them the door!!!!

      Reply to Comment
      • Bruce Gould

        @R5: This is Peace Now’s report on the methods Israel uses to confiscate land in the West Ban:


        Over the years, Israel has used a number of legal and bureaucratic procedures in order to appropriate West Bank lands, with the primary objective of establishing settlements and providing land reserves for them. Using primarily these five methods: seizure for military purposes; declaration of state lands; seizure of absentee property; confiscation for public needs; andinitial registration, Israel has managed to take over about 50% of the lands in the West Bank, barring the local Palestinian public from using them.

        Reply to Comment
        • R5

          @ Bruce: haha, dude, Pessah and Zochrot are in favor of chasing Jews off of land that was purchased BEFORE ISRAEL EXISTED. These “progressive” frauds have descended into full fledged Arab chauvanism and irredentism. Liberals are absolute idiots for allying with these anti-Semitic wackjobs.

          Reply to Comment
      • Ben

        What’s particularly funny about this diatribe is trying to imagine R5 doing anything but sneer at liberal democrats who, unarmed by the vigor and discourse-changing tactics of SJP and BDS, approached him on behalf of the human rights and property rights of the Jewish and Arab inhabitants of Israel and its occupied territories

        Reply to Comment
      • Duh

        R5, every European colonial regime has followed different policies (and different levels of genocidal conduct; by the way, this general classification includes but is not limited to the US, Canada, Latin America, Nazi Germany and Apartheid South Africa) but they all had one thing in common: They established a hierarchy where the natives were the most inferior. And as early as 1910 with the first settlements established by the Palestine office and recruitment of Jewish Yemenis, the Zionist movement showed an aptitude for such conduct.

        For starters, Yemenites were recruited for the express purpose of attempting to replace Arab Palestinians as workers in the First Aliyah settlements; they had special barracks built for them away from the settlements they worked at and occupied a middle tier of average wages between Arab Muslims and Jewish Europeans. The organized workers’ parties didn’t want them in the kibbutzim or training farms (Basically any new settlement established by the Palestine Office under Ruppin) and refused to go on strike with them. Yemenites were expelled from Kinneret and barred from Degania. (Detailed in “Land, Labor and the Origin of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict” by Gershon Shafir, 91-122)

        This is the point in its history where the Zionist movement outed itself as colonial and racial-segregationist. Total smoking gun.

        Reply to Comment
    2. Lewis from Afula

      What about 972 magazine’s new map showing the Jewish villages erased and replaced with Areab towns? You know the Jewish towns and villages ethnically cleansed in the Arab World?

      Where can I obtain a copy of this map?

      Reply to Comment
      • Ray

        The same place you can get a map of all the pagan Canaanite towns and cities the Hebrews plundered and massacred because God told them to.

        Reply to Comment
        • i_like_ike52

          You mean something like how the imperialist Muslim invaders came out of the Arabian peninsula after Muhammed and imposed by force or coercion their religion on the conquered populations and how they destroyed the ancient cultures that existed in the Middle East?
          When Pope John Paul II visited the Temple Mount during his visit in 2000, the Muslim Qadi demanded that he apologize for the Crusades. I wonder if the Pope demanded an apology from the Qadi for the earlier Arab/Muslim invasion that drove out the existing Christian rulers and communities?

          Reply to Comment
        • Lewis from Afula

          Who cares about alleged massacres that happened 3000 years ago?
          I am talking about my Uncle’s home in Baghdad. When will 972 magazine write an article about that?

          Reply to Comment
          • Ray

            Well, if you want to go and take it up with the Iraqi government, be our guest. Why you’d want to “go home” after all this time, compared with what you’ve got in Israel is unknown to me.

            Reply to Comment
          • Lewis from Afula

            Why is 972 Mag not bothered about that ethnic cleansing and theft of Jewish homes?
            Apparently, the 800,000 Jews don’t count.
            072 is the biggest racist of all!

            Reply to Comment
          • Duh

            Here’s an idea, Lewis. We can get an outside power, say the US, to invade Iraq and force that state to give back your uncle’s house.

            … oh right …

            Reply to Comment
          • Lewis from Afula

            So why no 972 mag article?

            Reply to Comment
    3. Ben

      Now it’s Tom’s turn to trot out the Iqrit nag, once a year, like clockwork.

      Reply to Comment
    4. i_like_ike52

      Tom is sure doing a lot to convince Israelis that the political Right is correct that the Palestinians are not interested in a compromise peace and that nothing less than the eradication of israel will satisfy them.

      Reply to Comment
    5. Ben

      It is striking how nervous the good Tom Pessah makes some folks. The venom gets extra strong. Yet, the same bunch sneer at the weakness of more conventional and less uppity liberal Jews. Looks like Israeli Tom Pessah has realized that it is long since past convincing the brain washed Israeli “consensus.” The premise is that somehow more polite “discussion” by nice American Jews is going to work (“And don’t forget to write the check!”) It didn’t work with the Branch Davidians at Waco and it won’t work now. Now the task is to get the cult from blowing up the place.

      Hey if you think Tom’s too radical for your taste it is up to you to redefine your notion of “compromise peace.” Time is short. The destruction of Israel will come at the hands of the Jewish Right, not from the Left.

      Reply to Comment
      • AJew

        Relax and stop salivating Benny. There won’t be any destruction of Israel.

        Your Arabs on the other hand are playing with fire. In fact, they are walking on a tightrope. We won’t be patient with them forever.

        Reply to Comment
        • Ben

          Another bulletin from Samson’s Grandson.

          Reply to Comment
          • AJew

            You better believe it Benny. Or don’t. It’s all the same to moi.

            Reply to Comment
    6. Lewis from Afula

      My message to the Idiots dancing in Iqrit.
      Now you know what its like to lose your village when you start a war of extermination. Don’t do it again!

      By the way, Mr Pessah, I await an article from you discussing the JEWISH NAKBA – when 800,000 Mizrachi Jews were ethnically cleansed from the Arab World?

      Reply to Comment
      • Duh

        Lewis, Herzl approached the Germans in 1901 to discuss a protectorate over Palestine. Pretending the Zionists were innocent victims of Arab violence don’t amount to no hunting dog with anyone who’s done their homework. Their intent of creating a Jewish state was belligerent.

        Reply to Comment
      • Duh

        It was 1898 that Herzl discussed a protectorate with the Germans (Though I would be amazed if anyone here cared enough to correct that).

        Reply to Comment
        • AJew

          “Their intent of creating a Jewish state was belligerent.”

          But creating an Arab state in the whole of Palestine is not belligerent?

          That sums you up. You are not a rational debater.

          Irrespective of your allegation about what Herzl may or may not have had in mind, what matters is what happened later.

          In 1947, following the UN GA vote (resolution 181) to partition Palestine into a JEWISH state and an ARAB state, the Jews accepted the resolution. The Arabs on the other hand rejected it and resorted to their well worn out, usual tactic, they resorted to violence!

          Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            In 2017, following the UN SC vote (resolution 2334)–

            –stating that all measures aimed at changing the demographic composition and status of Palestinian territories occupied by Israel, including construction and expansion of settlements, transfer of Israeli settlers, confiscation of land, demolition of homes and displacement of Palestinian civilians are in violation of international humanitarian law, Israel’s obligation as the occupying Power according to the Fourth Geneva Convention, and previous resolutions;
            –underlining that the UN Security Council “will not recognize any changes to the 4 June 1967 lines, including with regard to Jerusalem, other than those agreed by the parties through negotiations”; and
            –calling upon all states “to distinguish, in their relevant dealings, between the territory of the State of Israel and the territories occupied since 1967”–

            the Arabs accepted the resolution. The Jews on the other hand rejected it and resorted to their well worn out, usual tactic, they resorted to violence!

            Reply to Comment
          • Lewis from Afula

            The 4th Geneva Convention does NOT apply when the territory in question was designated by the UN’s predecessor (League of Nations) as a land to be settled by Jews (see San Remo Treaty of 1922). Article 80 of the UN charter binds the organisation to fulfill ALL League of Nations obligations. The UN CANNOT simply vote out this inherent constitutional right.

            The UN partition plan of 1947 is null and void because of major Arab League decisions and actions at the time. All Jordanian claims to the territory was abandoned by Jordan in 1988.

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            “The 4th Geneva Convention does NOT apply when the territory in question was designated by the UN’s predecessor (League of Nations) as a land to be settled by Jews …”

            Utterly false. This confusion of yours is covered clearly and well here by Daniel Steiman in the Jerusalem Post:

            The settlements are illegal under international law
            By DANIEL STEIMAN
            Sun, 29 Dec 2013, 01:13 PM
            It is abundantly clear to most observers that settlements built in the territories were always intended to eventually be permanent parts of the State of Israel.

            Reply to Comment
          • AJew

            “the Arabs accepted the resolution. The Jews on the other hand rejected it and resorted to their well worn out, usual tactic, they resorted to violence!”

            Really, Benny?

            Ok, let’s assume you are right (about the violence bit). Even then. Israel just followed the precedent previously set by your Arabs.

            Why do you expect Israel to be better than the Arabs, Benny? Are you a racist?

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            “Israel just followed the precedent previously set by your Arabs.”

            This is a false perspective. Everyone has their own narrative about what was fair and unfair about the wars and how they came about, based on their grievances. I’m not here to argue about that or to lecture you or them on “violence.” You think you are here to lecture us on violence but your premises are unsound. One of Israelis’ conceits is that “they are violent while we are not,” but this is false. Or that “they were violent but we were not.” That is false. So that it is false to say “Israel just followed the precedent previously set by your Arabs.” There is no easy order of precedent here because “they attacked us in 1947” is much too simple. (And BTW, stop calling them “your Arabs,” it is condescending and cheap.) Strategically, obviously, in hind sight, the Palestinians made a mistake in 1947, and they surely know that now. But they were back then hardly an advanced, powerful, heavily supported western nation with an educated and privileged populace. One of Israelis other time worn conceits is to say “they took advantage of us and attacked us” but it is as true to say that the incoming educated Jewish Europeans took advantage of the local Arab inhabitants’ lack of sophistication. There are no easy, simple, self-righteous truths in the origination of this conflict. But Israel today has no similar excuses for its current disastrous strategic mistake playing out before our eyes in 2017. It has, with an overwhelming power imbalance in its favor, with plenty of foresight and meticulous planning, and none of the chaotic rush of events poorly foreseen and understood back then, and against years of advice of every well-meaning friend, indulged in extremist nationalism and given in to extremist nationalism and to a bunch of fanatics it meticulously coddles, and these settlers are its proxies, not its “wild weeds.”

            Reply to Comment
          • AJew

            “One of Israelis’ conceits is that “they are violent while we are not,”

            You are such an expert on Israelis, aren’t you Benny?

            I am an Israeli and I don’t know too many Israelis who say what you claim.

            I and many (if not most) fellow Israelis say is that we give as good as we get and maybe with a bit of interest. We say that if they want to be violent towards us, we have to show them that we can play their game too.

            And funnily enough that sorta works for us.

            Reply to Comment
          • AJew

            “but it is as true to say that the incoming educated Jewish Europeans took advantage of the local Arab inhabitants’ lack of sophistication.”

            Yea. This type of accusation is straight out of the “protocols of the elders of Zion” or Mein Kampf.

            The sophisticated urbane clever cheating Jew taking advantage of the poor innocent unsuspecting non Jewish goldie locks type character.

            Your slips are showing again Benny!

            Now here is reality. It is true that the Jewish people have produced some very clever individuals. But we as a group, we the Jewish people are nowhere near as clever as some of our individuals. The Arabs, as a group, are much cleverer than us. Look at how successful they have been as a people. They swept out of the Arabian peninsula and they took over half the known world at the time and spread their religion even further. Very clever. Very impressive in my opinion. They are nowhere near as unsophisticated as you try to make them out to be.

            We on the other hand, for all our so called sophistication that you credit us with, what have we got to show for it? I’ll tell you what. We show an incredible propensity to shoot ourselves in our collective feet. We have our left wingers at the throats of our right wingers and vice versa. Instead of fighting our common enemies, we are fighting each other. Not very clever for “a sophisticated people” and this is not the first time in history when we behaved like this. Both our Temples fell because of this syndrome. And you the clever Arabs know this, you are banking on this happening again hence all your clever propaganda in publications like these. But hopefully we have learnt something from our past and we won’t let it happen again.

            Reply to Comment
          • AJew

            “in hind sight, the Palestinians made a mistake in 1947, and they surely know that now.”

            You make it sound like it was just a minor little teeny weeny mistake Benny. And that it was just in 1947. Not before and not after. But your attempt to just brush it off as a one off mistake does not stack up.

            1947 was not the first time that the Arabs made that mistake. They made it numerous times before and since. So what was their mistake, Benny? Their mistake was resorting to violence with the vain hope that it will make everything fall into their lap. That they can have it ALL. That they don’t have to compromise with the national aspirations of the Jewish people of Palestine.

            And what was the consequence of the mistake of the Arabs in 1947? Oh nothing much (SARCASM)

            1. Numerous subsequent wars in which hundreds of thousands of lives were lost, maimed and ruined on both sides.

            2. 700,000 Arab refugees and 1,000,000 Jewish refugees from Arab countries.

            3. And an ongoing dispute to this day which has held the Palestinian Arabs back as a people and is ruining the reputation of the Jewish people of Israel.

            Yet had the Palestinian Arabs accepted what they were offered in 1947, more than likely today the Arabs of Palestine would have had one and a half states instead of no state. Israel would have probably ended up a bi-national state and the Arabs would have also had a nearly ethnically pure Arab state alongside Israel (the Arab state would have had only about 10,000 Jewish inhabitants in 1947 had the UN partition plan been implemented).

            Violence! Violence instead of compromise was that mistake Benny. You could have actually spelt it out but you just brushed over it. I am not surprised. I am not surprised because on another thread, you demonstrated that despite your admission above that the Arabs made a mistake in 1947, even you don’t seem to have learnt from it. On another thread you claimed that violence works. That Israelis only understand violence and you virtually advocated (even if you did not spell that out) that the Arabs should keep on using violence as a persuader! With friends like you, Benny, the Arabs don’t need enemies. You and people like you are part of the problem, not part of the solution. Sad.

            Reply to Comment
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