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The violent roots of Israel's Labor party

The Labor party’s glory days included the Nakba, conquering and settling the West Bank and East Jerusalem and other affairs Israeli society has yet to begin processing.

By Tom Pessah

Senior Labor MK Shelly Yachimovich (Photo by Yotam Ronen/Activestills.org)

Senior Labor MK Shelly Yachimovich (Photo by Yotam Ronen/Activestills.org)

Senior Labor MK Shelly Yachimovich published the following status on her personal Facebook page a few weeks ago:

“Hi this is Shelly. Spot the differences: education minister and member of the diplomatic-security cabinet Yigal Allon moves apartments.”

In an attempt to criticize Prime Minister Netanyahu’s lavish expenditures, Yachimovich, number three on the Zionist Camp list, uploaded a photo of a letter written by Yigal Allon — one of Israel’s revered military leaders and a central figure in the historic Labor Party. The letter, which was written sometime in April 1969, is a request by Allon that the furniture for his new state-owned apartment be imported from his old one, so as to not to waste too much of the budget allocated to him as minister.

Like many in her party, Yachimovich is nostalgic for the “good old days” before Likud came to power in 1977, when Israeli leaders were known for their humility. But these days weren’t exactly good for everyone.

Allon, perhaps more than any other person, can be seen as the architect of the Nakba — the expulsion and dispossession of 750,000 Palestinians during the 1948 war and the establishment of the State of Israel. As the commander of the pre-state Palmach militia, he initiated a “whisper campaign” in April 1948 to terrify Palestinians into fleeing the eastern Galilee. Here is the plan in his own words:

I gathered the Jewish mukhtars [elders from local kibbutzim and villages – T.P.] who had connections with the different Arab villages, and I asked them to whisper in the ears of several Arabs that giant Jewish reinforcements had reached the Galilee and were about to clean out the villages in the Hula, [and] to advise them, as friends, to flee while they could. And the rumor spread throughout the Hula that the time had come to flee. The flight encompassed tens of thousands. The stratagem fully achieved its objective.

But this was just the beginning. Allon served in the Galilee, where he conquered the cities of Tiberias and Bisan; in the central area, where he attacked Lydda and Ramle; and in the south, fighting the Egyptian army. And in every place he went, as his biographer writes, he did his best “not only to conquer areas of Eretz Yisrael, but also to empty them from their Arabness.”

In October, for instance, he ordered transfer of Bedouin who were considered friendly to the Zionist forces from the heart of the Negev to an area close to the Egyptian border.

Prime Minister Levy Eshkol (left) and Min. Yigal Allon (second from left) in the Negev, May 25, 1967. (Photo: GPO)

Prime Minister Levy Eshkol (left) and Min. Yigal Allon (second from left) in the Negev, May 25, 1967. (Photo: GPO)

While documents from 1948 are beginning to be revealed, state archives still limit our knowledge of another central event in early Israeli history – the tragedy of the Yemenite children. Allon’s wife admitted that she and her husband went to a hospital and took one of the children for their friends in a kibbutz. We still do not know who is responsible for taking these children away from their biological parents, falsely claiming that they were dead, and passing them on to adoptive families.

Perhaps Yachimovich is ignorant of Israeli history, and that of her own party. But she must have read the letter that she herself posted. The letter mentions that Allon’s new government-subsidized apartment is located in the Old City of Jerusalem, which was conquered during the Six-Day War just two years prior. According to the architect who built the apartment, “there was a will to put symbols of government in the Old City, in order to represent our presence there.” Allon’s modest apartment was part of the strategy of annexing large parts of the West Bank, which he himself promoted after 1967.

The historical legacy of today’s “centrist” Zionist Camp is based on the expulsion of Palestinians and the repression of Mizrahim. As MK Jamal Zahlaka of the Joint List once said: “the Ashkenazim took Palestine from us, not the Mizrahim. It’s not the ones saying “death to Arabs” who took the land from us. It’s the ones who said, ‘we come in peace’ [‘Hevenu shalom aleichem’].”

Yigal Allon’s taste in furniture may have been admirable, but in glorifying him, Yachimovich is only whitewashing his crimes.

Tom Pessah is an Israeli sociologist and activist, currently residing in Tel Aviv.

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    1. Pedro X

      Wow the nerve of Allon to have taken up arms to defend the Jewish population of Mandate Palestine from extermination. Horrors of all horrors he used a whisper campaign to scare the Palestinians into fleeing their homes. If only the Mufti would have whispered his plans for genocide against the Jews. If only Jamal Hussieni would have whispered his promises to make the blood run in the streets of Mandate Palestine instead of shouting it out at UN meetings for all to hear. If only the leader of the Arab league had whispered his threat to cause a massacre of the Jews not seen since the crusades instead of telling it to reporters and attendees of an Arab conference.

      Is it not odd that the Jews faced with threats of genocide by the leaders of the Arabs, did not flee but fought for their country? They were out numbered 40 million Arabs to 600,000 Jews.

      The writer of this article might remember it was the Palestinian Arabs and their brethren who rejected peace and began an existential war aiming to abort the emerging Israeli state and commit a genocide against the Jews. It was the Palestinian militias from Arab communities which attacked Jewish communities and transportation routes to supply them with the necessaries of life. The Arabs began the killings pitting Jewish villages against their neighboring Arab villages which served as bases. At the same time 6-7000 Arab irregular soldiers from Arab countries were running around Mandate Palestinian carrying on war against Jewish villages and life. They used the Arab villages as bases for their operations.

      The Jewish commanders were right to conquer Arab villages in order to defend the Jewish population and to increase the chances of defending against attacks from the Arab armies who were and did invade immediately after the last British ship departed from Haifa harbor. Labor candidates having nothing to apologize for Allon’s military leadership.

      Reply to Comment
      • Bruce Gould

        Then there was the deliberate ethnic cleansing of Palestinian non-combatants in 1967 – 150,000? And there’s the ongoing ethnic cleansing – let’s say another 150,000 since 67 due to home demolitions alone. The Nakba isn’t the problem all by itself, it’s the inability of the “Jewish State” to come to grips with the magnitude of its “population transfers”.

        Reply to Comment
        • Whiplash

          Did any Palestinian Arab fight in the 1967 war or did they just flee? It is amazing that 150,000 of them could have fled in six short days when the fighting took place between Israel and the Arab armies.

          Israel invited all who fled back to the West Bank. So, Bruce’s allegations of ethnic cleansing fall short again. In fact Israel tried to give most of the West Bank and Gaza back to the Arabs after the 1967 war in return for peace, recognition and negotiations. At Khartoum the Arabs issued their three no’s, no peace, no recognition and no negotiations and pledged to prepare for and wage more war.

          One might also note that Jerusalem’s Arab population has grown five fold since Israel liberated the Old City from Jordanian control. Under Jordanian control the Arab population hardly grew since half of Jerusalem’s Christian under Jordan rule felt compelled to leave and look for a better life while Israel’s Christian population grew.

          The real ethnic cleansing happened when Jordan ethnically cleansed all of Judea, Samaria and the Old City of Jews and Egypt did the same in Gaza.

          Reply to Comment
      • The eternal rabbit

        I can’t see how the ethnic cleansing of Palestinian civilians helped “defend the jewish population of Mandate Palestine from extermination.” Nor can I understand how the threats of Al-Husaini legitimize this ethnic cleansing. Unless, of course, one thinks of the very existence of a Palestine as a threat to Jews – a position that tightly links to, say, views that were prevalent in central Europe of the 1930s, where the very existence of Jews was described as a threat to Germany.

        Go figure.

        Reply to Comment
      • Bryan

        Given a choice between urban myths (carefully cultivated by propagandists) and serious history (conducted by professional researchers scouring the archives) Pedro always takes the easy option. You have some pretty daft things at times, Pedro, but you have achieved new heights by portraying 1948 as a war of attempted Jewish extermination. In asserting that the Arabs attempted to finish off what Hitler had started you do great disservice to the memory of the Holocaust. Israel has some great historians who all contradict your absurd invention – go read Simha Flapan, Benny Morris, Avi Shlaim, not to mention Ilan Pappe, and they will all tell you that you are hopelessly incorrect.

        Reply to Comment
        • Pedro X


          The Jewish Agency submitted a memorandum on February 2, 1948, to the U.N. Palestine Commission, tasked with the implementation of the partition resolution, and again to the U.N. secretary-general on March 29, 1948.

          Describing the panoply of Arab threats of war and actual acts of violence aimed at aborting the partition resolution, the memorandum read:

          6) … The “practical and effective means” contrived and advocated by the Arab States were never envisaged as being limited by the provisions of the Charter; indeed, the Secretary-General of the Arab League was thinking in terms which are quite remote from the lofty sentiments of San Francisco. “This war,” he said, “will be a war of extermination and a momentous massacre which will be spoken of like the Mongol massacres and the Crusades.”

          The Arab League promise of genocide against the Jews appeared in an article published in an October 11, 1947 report on the pan-Arab summit in the Lebanese town of Aley, Lebanon by Akhbar al-Yom’s editor Mustafa Amin, which contained an interview he held with Arab League secretary-general Azzam, entitled, “A War of Extermination.”

          At Aley the Aley the Arab states approved of intervention of their armed forces into Mandate Palestine and to withdraw their troops following the destruction of the Jewish state and replacement with an Arab one. (UN record of the second session of the General Assembly, ad hoc committee on the Palestinian question, summary report Sept. 25 to November 25, 1947)

          A “war of extermination” is mighty clear what the Arabs intended. But just in case it was not, other Arab leaders made it abundantly clear. Qawuqji, the leader of the Arab Liberation Army sent into Mandate Palestine in January 1948, vowed “to drive all Jews into the sea.” Abdel Qader Husseini, leader of the Palestinian Arab forces, stated that “the Palestine problem will only be solved by the sword; all Jews must leave Palestine.”

          Jamal Hussieni the Chairman of the Arab Higher Committee in Mandate Palestine said the “fight would continue, as it had in the Crusades, until the injustice was completely removed.”

          When the partition plan vote passed the Arabs unleashed their violence against ordinary Jews. Robert Macatee to Secretary of State, Dec. 31, 1947 wrote that Jews

          “are picked off while riding in buses, walking along the streets, and stray shots even find them while asleep in their beds. A Jewish woman, mother of five children, was shot in Jerusalem while hanging out clothes on the roof. The ambulance rushing her to the hospital was machine-gunned, and finally the mourners following her to the funeral were attacked and one of them stabbed to death.”

          Efraim Karsh in his book Palestine Betrayed mentions and documents (note 29 to page 91) the standard threat in the Arab media at the time to “wipe the Zionists from the face of the earth.”

          So, I would say that the Arab intentions were clear.

          Reply to Comment
          • Bryan

            yes, myths! The fact that one or two fanatical Arab rabble-rousers spoke of a war of extermination does not prove that 1948 was an attempt to drive the Jews into the sea, anymore than the Israeli Declaration of Independence proved that Israel would “foster the development of the country for the benefit of all its inhabitants; it will be based on freedom, justice and peace … and it will be faithful to the principles of the Charter of the United Nations.” Both are works of propaganda, and you are incredibly naive if you believe otherwise.

            Reply to Comment
          • C.C. DeVille

            Hey guys! They were only joking. Bryan is privy to the truth. Unlike Hebron and other countless acts, in 1948 they were kidding! Too has Bryan was not around to prevent the Nakba. I guess that was before his coal-miner, drunken father raped Bryan’s mother and he emerged out of her infested uterus knowing everything, especially about Jews and what they should do. Ah, the irony. So now Bryan is here for us to mock.

            Reply to Comment
          • Bryan

            CCDV – my knowledge of the truth has nothing to do with my squalid origins, but comes from a reading of history. There is no reputable historian, Israeli or international, who any longer gives any credence to the myth of the 1948 War of Extermination. Perhaps your gut-instincts tell you otherwise, but even without any knowledge of history you must surely notice the incongruity of the myth. By 1945 the Haganah (and the other Jewish terror groups) had attained a level of recruitment, training and weapons acquisition that could defeat the British army and drive them out of Mandate Palestine. It is hardly likely that a few small, divided, ill-equipped, poorly-led Arab armies, intervening only after the creation of the state of Israel and the expulsion of large number of Arabs, and to protect Arabs in the areas outside the Jewish state which the Haganah was intent on extending, could have posed an existential threat (no matter what the propaganda issued by their leaders). Especially when the Jewish armed forces were rapidly augmented by foreign volunteers and massive resupply of arms from France and Czechoslovakia. Be proud of the superiority of the Zionist soldier over weak Arab forces, but do not give us the guff about being forced into the sea (which only happened to thousands of Jaffa refugees forced to flee by sea).

            Reply to Comment
    2. shula

      War is hell
      Israel was attacked by several Arab nations. Jews didn’t have a place where to run to. Sorry, my Iraqui-Jewish friend was dreaming of returning to Iraq, via Jordan and he was forced to stay in Israel. He was dreaming of being safe, in his Jewish-Bagdhadi neighborhood properly protected by Saddam et al…………………
      Yes, Sir. Poor fellow he was forced to stay in Israel……..because he had the temerity of believing the Arab slogan of Khartoum: No peace, no recognition, no negotiations……………………………….
      I remember an Arab friend of mine saying: “I don’t understand this ……before June 1967 I was a Jordanian. After the Six-day war I was a Palestinian”.
      Mr. Pessah you have to learn to compose better articles. This one is very poor in information, substance and whatever else……………….
      It doesn’t even qualify as a “tear jerquer”

      Reply to Comment
    3. Bar

      My guess is Shelly read the letter and said to herself, “What a miracle, that after the Arabs evicted every single Jew from areas they conquered in 1947-48, including the Old City of Jerusalem, that Jews once more had the privilege of living there, particularly since the Arabs did not allow ANY Jews to even enter the territory they controlled. And, of course, the Western Wall was among the many places that had been kept completely off limits until Israel conquered this area back from the Jordanians.”

      Reply to Comment
    4. Brian

      No amount of whitewash will fully obscure the stains here or cover up the fact that the historical record shows that the Jews coming into the land were intent not just on defending themselves but also on talking all of the land or as much as possible of it from the Arabs and that the trickery documented here was not unrehearsed and simply improvised or reactive but was the fulfillment of a premeditated, pre-hostilities ideological and operational plan.

      Reply to Comment
      • C.C. DeVille

        Brian, this post represents an intellectual and emotion low for you. Who the fuck are you to be yelling about “the Jews” and their plots. Has it occurred to you that most Jews moved to Israel becase life was unbearable or at best sub-optimal because they were Jewish? And you dare blame them for some bizarre plot that clearly only exists in your mind?
        I think you tricking us that you are some sort of liberal white American. But posts like this betray you as some sort of false-flag Arab.

        Reply to Comment
    5. Average American

      Brian is right on this one.

      Reply to Comment
    6. Progressive on Israel/Palestine; hater of anti-semites

      See the repulsive comments above by “Tony” and Joachim”: progressives on Israel/Palestine (whether anti-Zionist or two-staters) must thoroughly expel anti-semites like these two from their midst – just as Zionists must thoroughly expel anti-Arab racists from their midst.

      Reply to Comment