“Dear Palestine” .. Snooping on the messages of Arab and Jewish soldiers in the time of the Nakba reveals a social history of the war

On May 15, 1948, the British government ended its mandate over Palestine. Simultaneously, the leaders of the Zionist movement announced the establishment of the State of Israel, and war broke out between Arab forces from the Egyptian, Jordanian, Iraqi and Saudi kingdoms, in addition to Syria and Lebanon, in exchange for Zionist organizations such as the Haganah, Palmach, Argon and Stern.

Tens of thousands of Jews from all over the world joined the military groups that later formed the Israeli army, which outnumbered the regular Arab armies that fought in Palestine combined, while volunteers from Yemen, Pakistan, Sudan and the Muslim Brotherhood participated in the Arab Liberation Army (Salvation) and the Holy Jihad Army. Palestinian.

The fighting lasted for more than 9 months, until March 1949, and resulted in the events of the Nakba, the displacement of the Palestinians, and Israel’s control of the area granted by the United Nations plan known as the Partition Resolution, in addition to nearly half of the lands allocated to the Arab state, while Jordan extended its influence over the West Bank and Egypt over Gaza.

In his book published by Stanford University Press entitled “Dear Palestine: A Social History of the 1948 War,” Shai Hazkany, historian and assistant professor at the University of Maryland, attempts to provide a historical and social reading of the 1948 war by tracing personal messages that were intercepted and preserved in the Israeli archives after fighters wrote them on the The (different) battle fronts to their loved ones in their home countries, describing in them details of their daily lives and different ideas about war and others, which represents a huge social archive dating to that era.

snooping on messages

Dear Palestine also traces military orders, army bulletins and magazines, and radio broadcasts, revealing, for example, how training officers tried to convince Ashkenazi (Western) Jews that organized violence was in keeping with Jewish values, while seeking to persuade the Sephardi (Middle Eastern Jews, many of whom came from Arab countries) ) that the Arabs are their enemies and that fighting the Arabs is revenge for their fathers who lived through the injustices of the Arab rule.

In the introduction to the book, the author reviewed the story of Abdullah Daoud, an Iraqi Jew who was one of the volunteer fighters in the Arab Liberation Army, who participated in the attack on the Jewish groups in the kibbutz south of Nazareth, before emigrating and living in Israel later and hiding his history of fighting alongside the Arabs, but with that He kept visiting Palestinian villages and befriending their residents, in an exceptional and strange form.

On the other hand, the Arab messages reveal the hopes of a near return after the displacement of the Palestinians from their villages, and are filled with condemnation of the Arab leaders and their hollow rhetoric and demanding accountability for their failures and failures. The most violent attacks were against them, and the letters reveal how some Arab leaders feared the volunteers and tried to force them to leave.

The messages also reveal unfamiliar stories such as Moroccan Jews’ disappointment with Israeli racism against them after they reached it.

The author says that 70% of them wanted to return to Morocco in the aftermath of the war; It is this feeling that established – a decade later – riots, demonstrations and vandalism in the Wadi al-Saleeb neighborhood in Haifa in 1959 after the Israeli police shot a Jewish immigrant from Morocco, and these events were considered a milestone in raising the issue of racial discrimination between Ashkenazi Jews and the “Mizrahi”, That is, Jews from the Middle East and North Africa.

The issue of racism and discrimination was not the only topic that insomniacs of these people. They also criticized the Israeli militarism and the totalitarian spirit, according to a letter conveyed by the author about a person named Marcel from Wadi Salib in Haifa to his friend Eli in Morocco.

Letters and surveys of “diaspora Jews” who volunteered with Israeli forces during the 1948 war reveal another group of “idealists”, in the author’s words, most of whom were shocked by the brutality and corruption they witnessed in the nascent Jewish state.

Based on a 1949 poll of American Jewish volunteers in the Israeli army, Hazkany reported that after the war about 55 percent of volunteers had “negative views of Israel and its citizens.”

The historian quotes a South African soldier, Richard, who wrote to his family that “I do not want to fight for the territorial and imperial ambition of the Mandarin Zionists, even if they call themselves socialists. The Zionist leadership is inciting war for the expansion of the borders of Israel. They have created a similar atmosphere By war on purpose… I don’t want to be involved in this game anymore.”

Military propaganda

Hazkany’s book also reveals the rivalry and tension between the Salvation Army (founded by the Military Committee of the Arab League) and the Holy Jihad Army (the Palestinian regular forces led by Abd al-Qadir al-Husayni), as well as differences between the officers and soldiers of the Salvation Army and the Palestinians, and shows how some Palestinians objected to the intervention of the Salvation Army in Private societal affairs While it lacks adequate military equipment and qualifications, some Arab army officers, on the other hand, mocked the Palestinians’ ability to liberate their own land.

The author compares the contents of the propaganda on both sides of the fighting, stressing that the propaganda of the Salvation Army was less violent and more rational and focused on universal values ​​and international law, and some messages included Arab nationalist expressions, such as considering that the struggle for Palestine is only a first step in a revolutionary anti-colonial plan The messages of the Arab fighters contained clear religious and nationalist meanings.

The author also deals with the story of the Syrian officer Fawzi al-Qawuqji, the leader of the Salvation Army who led many battles against the Israelis and benefited from Palestinian volunteers before he resigned after signing the 1949 armistice agreements between the Arabs and Israel.

By analyzing the religious content of the military propaganda materials on both sides, the author points out that the Salvation Army presented the Jews as people of dhimma who transgressed their borders. On the other hand, the book reveals a lot of propaganda and ideological indoctrination materials broadcast by the Israeli forces, which included a lot of bloody religious incitement and calls for genocide. Some of those propaganda materials were the 1948 war with the Biblical wars of annihilation, and compared the Arabs to the enemies of the Children of Israel in the Bible (the Amalekites and the peoples and countries of Canaan), which the Bible commanded to exterminate.

The Israeli forces obtained the letters of the Salvation Army volunteers during the war after taking control of military centers. All these materials were kept in the Israeli army archives, where the author could not access them until after a long legal battle.

In his presentation of the book, University of California Department of History academic David Myers wrote that it is strange that all of the sources Hazkany uses – whether Palestinian or Jewish – came from the Israeli archives.

This is explained by considering that the Israeli army not only kept the materials of its soldiers and the letters that it eavesdropped from its forces, but also kept letters from post offices in Arab towns and from the luggage of Arab soldiers who were killed in the war. ) Messages of soldiers on both sides of the Arab and Israeli conflict.

These sources reflect the asymmetry of power between the two sides of the conflict; The Jewish groups not only defeated their Arab counterparts in the fighting, but also seized records and evidence from the Arab side, and this practice continued for decades after the war. For example, the Israeli army looted the PLO research archives in Beirut in 1982, according to platform Los Angeles Books Shows (lareviewofbooks).

The writer points out that relying on the Israeli archive necessarily means receiving a richer view of the Israeli position than the Arab side. For example, the repeated claim by Israeli propaganda and its academic allies that the Palestinian fighters were instigated by their Arab brothers, motivated to fight with a jihadist motive to exterminate the Jews, was incorrect.

The writer adds that the (later Israeli) Jewish side had not only a qualitative advantage, but a quantitative advantage.

For example, historian Avi Shlaim concluded that by the last phase of the war, the Israeli forces outnumbered all Arab armies by a ratio of 2:1. This is in contrast to the prevailing Israeli narrative that depicted Israel facing formidable Arab armies to win sympathy in the West.

Refugee Messages

Tracing messages was not limited to Arab and Palestinian fighters in the Palestinian territories, but also expanded to include the investment of the Israeli intelligence services in tracking the lives and messages of refugees in the countries to which they were displaced “to make sure that they could not return.”

Some of the messages of Palestinian refugees abroad to their relatives inside included grief, sorrow, and nostalgia for their country and land. Iskandar wrote from Amman to an acquaintance, saying, “How are you and how are your oranges…You ask me why I don’t write…The heart is heavy and not free to write…There is nothing beautiful about me.” This world… Where are the good days? The laughter stopped and there was no sense of humor…”

Despite the clear sorrow in that letter and others like it, many letters contained a tone of optimism and awaited the imminent solution, as the refugees would return to their lands and villages from which they had been displaced. Close it and hire a guard to prevent looting of its contents. On the other hand, Habib from Acre wrote to his family abroad in 1949 that most of the buildings had been taken over by the Jews, and that the gardens and vegetables (fields) had been completely transferred into their hands; All this is the result of Arab men sitting in cafes and speaking empty words.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.