34 thoughts on “When Israel’s Early Leaders Pondered the “Arab Question,” Ben Gurion Called Them “Donkeys” – Tikun Olam תיקון עולם إصلاح العالم
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  1. Expected to see an articles that will be one sided in your regular fashion but then read the passage “Though no Palestinians within Israel offered any resistance to Israeli forces during the War…” and had to stop and ask in a comment- SERIOUSLY???

    1st of all, how do you even separate between the Palestinians at that point? You mean to say they didn’t help one another?
    2nd I still hear my grandparents telling me about the risks from Akko Arabs to the nearby Jewish towns. That is just a personal example but you really chose to ignore so much in order to whitewash the Arabs part of the war.

    1. there was no serious resistance to the Zionist militias by the Arabs in Palestine as witnessed at Deir Yassin and the dozens of other massacres. There were Arab irregulars from Syria and the armies eventually but this comment in essence is correct.

      I note that the Zios here don’t challenge the main thrust of the article, the discrimination, the theft, the transfer but quibble about pettifogging details

    2. ‘… That is just a personal example but you really chose to ignore so much in order to whitewash the Arabs part of the war…’

      That reminds me of pointing out the rather massive flaws in pre-1939 Poland — and indeed, her behavior during the brief campaign — as a device to justify Germany’s attack on it.

      Poland really was just more or less sitting there, and whatever her blemishes, it wasn’t HER idea that she and Germany should go to war.

      Similarly, whatever criticisms can be made of the Palestinians, they really were just hanging around, inhabiting Palestine, and not causing their neighbors any problems. Zionism wasn’t THEIR idea, and their reaction to it can hardly serve as justification for it. If Palestinians left something to be desired as neighbors, then the appropriate course of action would have been to not move in with them — not move in and then rationalize driving them out.

    1. He lived in Palestine.
      (And he did not like the Zionist policies so he was murdered on the orders of a later prime minister of Israel. They spread rumors at the time though, trying to divert suspicion, that he was murdered by an Arab because of homosexual contacts.)

      1. So killinging him was part of ethnical cleansing?
        Don’t be silly, living somewhere for several years doesn’t make anyone a local. Not to the point you can legitimately call him Palestinian Jew.
        This plays into hands of Israelis who claim that most Palestinians immigrated to Israel during the 100 years before its independence and therefore cannot be considered ‘Indigenous‘.

        1. @ Ginger: Ben Zvi was a murderer. He ordered the first political execution of a Palestinian Jew. That is pertinent to his political career. His moral qualms about how the Yishuv and new state treated Palestinians should be weighed against his earlier crimes.

          I didn’t say de Haan’s murder had anything to do with ethnic cleansing.

    2. @ Ginger: He made aliyah and lived in Palestine for the last decade or more of his life. He was a Palestinian Jew. Are you saying that olim who live in Israel for a decade or more aren’t Israeli Jews?

      1. [comment deleted: comments must have substance and an argument. Saying you won’t offer an argument in your comment means by definition that you’re refusing to follow the comment rules. Respect them if you wish to comment here.]

  2. @Richard

    “Though no Palestinians within Israel offered any resistance to Israeli forces during the War, Israel still viewed them with suspicion. ”

    Offered no resistance?
    That’s an affront to the of thousands of Palestinian irregulars who fought the Jews in battle in 1948.
    The Army of the Holy War, not to mention the Arab Liberation Army, continued to fight the Jews even after the Arab States attacked Israel.


    1. Perhaps the key phrase there is ‘within Israel.’ Did Palestinians within the territory actually assigned to the Jewish state resist, or did most of the fighting occur as the Jews began seizing the territory assigned to the Palestinians?

      One suspects the line was muddled, and that there was fighting on both sides of it — but it would be interesting from a legalistic point of view to look at what fighting actually occurred within the territory actually assigned to the Jews.

    2. ‘…even after the Arab States attacked Israel.’

      I think I’ll also differ with that.

      In a certain sense it’s true, just as it’s true France and England declared war on Nazi Germany and attacked it rather than the reverse.

      However, and perfectly obviously, the usual point of view is that it had become clear that Nazi Germany was embarked on a course of unbridled aggression, and so Britain and France found themselves out of options. They could either frankly accept it, or declare war. They chose the latter, and they are usually blamed not for doing so, but for taking so long to do it.

      In the first months of 1948, Israel had started driving out the Arab population in the area assigned to her with fire and sword — in complete disregard of the partition agreement whose terms she herself had accepted. There were already literally hundreds of thousands of these refugees, and they were flooding into Arab capitals with their tales of massacre and terror.

      Naturally, the peoples of the Arab states concerned were outraged, and naturally, they demanded their governments respond. So, when Israel’s formal independence arrived, the Arab states did ‘invade’ — though that usually consisted mainly of advancing into the territory assigned to the Arabs in the first place and then attempting to resist Jewish advances into that territory — though, to be fair, the Syrians at least did enter into the territory assigned to the Jewish state and mounted an abortive attack on one kibbutz.

      However, the point is that while formally, the ‘Arab states attacked’ just as formally it was Britain and France that declared war on Nazi Germany, it can also be argued that both in the case of Britain and France, and in the case of the Arab states, they were reacting to a larger pattern of lawless and intolerable aggression. Israel was not just sitting there being all innocent and peaceful — any more than Nazi Germany was sitting there, being all innocent and peaceful.

      1. @ Colin Wright: Your point is well-taken. I too believe, and have written so here, that Ben Gurion wanted war and his declaration of statehood he knew woudl be the equivalent of a causus belli in the Arab view. By saying the Arab states attacked Israel I wasn’t saying that Ben Gurion didn’t precipitate the attack by his actions.

          1. ‘Wow. We are on two different planets.

            The Arab States didn’t invade on the declaration of Israel’s independence, they invaded on the termination of the British Mandate of Palestine, and, in collusion with His Majesty’s Government.’

            Lol. In point of fact, the British immediately halted arms shipments to the Jordanians, making it impossible for them to pursue an aggressive war against the nascent Jewish state.

            As to your link, I’m afraid I’ve fallen for that once already. You post links to sources that turn out not to support your claims.

        1. ‘… By saying the Arab states attacked Israel I wasn’t saying that Ben Gurion didn’t precipitate the attack by his actions.’

          I was responding to Ed’s reference to ‘the Arab states attacking Israel,’ but that’s secondary.

          I do think the paradigms we accept are important, and if we repeat the Zionist formulation that ‘the Arab states attacked Israel,’ we are conferring a spurious legitimacy on the Zionist argument.

          If I see a piece that refers without qualification to France and Britain starting World War Two, I’ve got a good idea where we might be headed. The same is true of descriptions of 1948 as a matter of ‘the Arab states attacking Israel.’ Yes, that did happen — but when, and why, and after what?

          It really is just like Britain and France’s declaration of war in 1939. Placing it in context makes a difference — and to accept the usage without qualification is to make Israel into an innocent victim when it wasn’t.

          Evidently and apparently, the Arab states were just to accept, not merely the UN’s creation of an alien state in their midst, but also that state’s immediate and flagrant disregard of the terms under which it had been established.

    3. @ Ed
      I think Richard meant the Palestinians who remained in what became the State of Israel and became citizens.

        1. @ Ed: The problem once again is one noted in Raz’s Haaretz article. To Israeli Jews there was no difference between an Israeli Palestinian and any Arab anywhere in the region. Of course this is quite racist and simply wrong. But Israeli Palestinians were not Egyptian or Jordanian fedayeen. They were simply Palestinians seeking to live inside Israel. They were not fighting a war with anyone. So conflating them with these other events was perverse and wrong. There is and was no justification for punishing Israeli Palestinians for the alleged “sins” of others. And you are wrong to continue the fallacy.

          1. It’s fine when scholars cull the Knesset and Mapai party archives and inform the present.
            But, it is unfair and wrongheaded to form an opinion and base conclusions solely on these Israeli archives without examining the archives of the Arabs.

            What did the Arab leaders say about the Jews? What did the Arab war plans include about how to deal with the defeated Jews if the Arab Armies had succeeded?


          2. @ Ed: Stop with the lame Hasbara deflection techniques. They’re tired & old. I care about what Israelis did, said & wrote. You can become an expert in the “other side” if you wish.

          3. [comment deleted: Read the comment rules carefully & respect them. Comments must be on-topic & directly related to the post. I only do this a few times before I consider moderating or banning. So keep your comment directly on-topic. Also, you are permitted to publish three comments in any 24 hour period.]

          4. @Richard

            Okay. Just what did Ben Gurion say about the Arabs being ‘donkeys’?
            First off, he wasn’t calling any Arabs ‘sub human’. Being Gurion spent close to his whole life among Arabs; workers as well as effendis, and nowhere in his many writings does he come close to calling any Arabs ‘sub human’. Ben Gurion spent a good part of the 1930’s in secret dialogue with Arab leaders, including the Mufti. See Ben Gurion and the Arabs, by Shabtai Teveth.

            The ‘donkeys’ remark was made in the context of a political discussion about whether to lift martial law restrictions off the Arabs of Israel. Some MK’s were for the removals, Ben Gurion opposed them.
            I think what Ben Gurion was saying is that some MK’s believed that the Arabs in Israel had been beaten down into quiescence, like ‘donkeys’, and that the martial law restrictions could now be removed.
            Ben Gurion seems be saying the opposite, that the Arabs in Israel are not beat down ‘donkeys’, loyal to the State. That the Arabs were resentful and vengeful and would violently rise up against the State the moment the restrictions are removed. Not donkey like behaviour at all.
            I see donkeys every day, and they are placid beasties.

        2. ‘What Richard leaves out of his article, is context.
          From 1949 to 1956, Israel was involved in a simmering, bloody border war with her Arab neighbours.

          Wasn’t that ‘context’ that Israel had immediately advanced beyond the borders assigned to her by the UN, and that she persisted in mounting bloody and indiscriminate raids into the territory of her neighbors?

          You would seem to be demanding that the Arab states adjoining Israel should have accepted not merely her abuse of those Arabs and coreligionists unfortunate enough to fall under her control, and not merely her prompt seizure of additional territory, but also her continuing cross-border attacks and raids. Only then would there not have been the ‘simmering, bloody border war’ you refer to. All the Arab states would have had to do would have been to acquiesce in everything Israel did, and there wouldn’t have been a problem.

          ‘Context’ isn’t an automatic blank cheque. The Holocaust occurred in the ‘context’ of total war. It didn’t somehow thereby become okay.

          1. “Wasn’t that ‘context’ that Israel had immediately advanced beyond the borders assigned to her by the UN, and that she persisted in mounting bloody and indiscriminate raids into the territory of her neighbor ”

            Israel wasn’t ‘assigned’ borders. The UN recommended borders, which Israel agreed to in 1947 and which borders the Arabs rejected. After November 28, 1947, a civil war occurred in Mandatory Palestine, and in May, 1948, Arab States invaded Palestine for reasons we can only guess at. Territorial expansion. A rescue of their Arab brethren. National pride. Who really knows?
            In exchange for recognition of her independence, Israel promised President Truman to respect the UN 187 borders. With regards to the UN itself, Israel was vague as to what her borders were. Remember the context. The Zionists looked at their war of independence as a life and death struggle, one in which 6,600 Jews died, That was 1% of the Jewish population of Palestine, which is a high number of fatalities in a war.
            Right after the war, Arab refugees began infiltrating Israel, sometimes for benign reasons, sometimes for less benign reasons. Israel often retaliated. When Arab infiltrators kidnapped, raped, mutilated and murdered a Jewish girl, Israel retaliated against the village where the murderers lived. This tit for tat, low intensity border war continued until the Arab states began organising and arming bands of fedayeen to cross the border and attack Israel with greater effect. Were Israel’s retaliatory raids often indiscriminate? Yes.
            Did the Arab States want to sit down and negotiate a lasting peace? No.

  3. ” …. the Absentee Property Law which both forbade expelled Palestinians (“infiltrators”) from returninf home and reclaming their houses ….”
    The Absentee Property Law also concerns the internally displaced Palestinians, or the Present Absentees as they are also called, they were about one-quarter of the Palestinians who managed to stay within the borders of the new State of Israel, forinstancte the inhabitants of Kafr Birim and Iqrith, some were forcefully relocated to other villages whose inhabitants were exeplled to Libanon. It also concerns many inhabitants from Safuriyya who were displaced to Nazareth, many people from Jaffa were relocated to Lydd etc

  4. ‘Called them donkies’
    nothing original on Ben Gurion’s part. already stated in Midrash Rabah well over 1,000 yrs ago compiled by Rashi’s teacher ״עם הדומה לחמור״ which may even date before the inception of Islam.
    Not taking sides just noting the fact.

  5. [comment deleted: off topic. Not DO NOT deflect from the main topic. DO NOT use the tactic: whatever the Israelis did, the “Arabs” did worse. It’s stale, old, & a waste of time.]

    1. There is a bit of a difference though, if a revered leader and founder of a nation says such things.
      Don’t you think, Ginger?
      Not embarrassed?

    2. Oh yes!! The great fighter for transparency, censor comments he dislikes.
      You make a headline of something that was said behind close doors over half a century ago but erase a comment about Israel’s enemies doing so on public tv less then a decade ago.
      It is amazing how much you’re willing to stomach in order to not face reality.

  6. With regard to the purported plans of the Arab states if they did defeat Israel, aside from various other points that could be made with regard to that, it’s worth noting out that two wrongs don’t make a right; German apologists, for example, have attempted to justify their treatment of Russian P.O.W.’s in World War Two by pointing to Russian atrocities perpetrated against German prisoners.

    It doesn’t work. If that’s the best you can offer in defense of Israel’s actions, I think we can go ahead and consider the case closed.

    1. I have even read the rape of Palestinian women in detention camps in 1948 rationalized by Israelis because “they (the Arabs) would have done worse”. It is always the same: Imaginary Arab crimes as rationalization for actual Israeli ones.

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