This article by Robert Fisk was commissioned by the ‘New Yorker’, who subsequently declined to publish it on the grounds that it was too ‘polemical’
Selma Tawil brought the fifty-year-old keys into the room, sat down in her corner armchair and let them spill out of her hands onto the floor: heavy store-room keys, rusting cupboard keys, keys shaped like backbones for office safes, car keys for an old British-made Hillman, and one larger steel key with a three-and-a-half inch shaft, gun-metal grey with an elegant knot at one end and a broad, worn blade. Aunty Selma picked this key up in a hand spotted with age. She is 90 now and her facial skin hangs in folds, but her grey hair is pinned back in a neat bun and though her hearing is impaired, her memory is as sharp as it was the day she left Palestine. The key in her hand was the front-door key of her home in Haifa.
She looked at it for a long time in silence as the roar of the Beirut traffic seeped into the little apartment, watched by Samir and Fayez, two of the five nephews who preceded her into Lebanese exile. They have all the family documents to prove that the three-storey house on the corner of Mukhaless and Shabatai Levy streets was theirs, along with the British mandate deeds showing that Jad Tawil – Selma’s brother, Samir and Fayez’s father – bought the house from another Palestinian Arab in 1938. On the top of the deeds is the British coat of arms, a lion and a unicorn on hind legs on either side of a crown, standing on the words Dieu et Man Droit. The same animals rampant are embossed on the front of Aunty Selma’s British mandate passport – No 256959 with the word ‘Palestine’ in gold on the top, issued 12 November 1947 – and inside is a photograph of Selma Tawil just before she left her home for ever, a handsome woman of 34 with large sensitive eyes and thick black hair that falls over her earrings.
An architect’s design of the house shows that Jad Tawil had added the third storey for his brother George in 1947 because George was planning to marry. Aunty Selma lived on the second floor with Jad and his wife Nada and their five boys, including Samir and Fayez. Aunty Esma lived on the ground floor with her husband Andreas. The Tawils were Greek Orthodox Arabs, grain merchants, people of property, Freemasons who knew the local British magistrates and the Haifa Assistant District Commissioner, who had sent their children to the expensive National Evangelical School in Beirut to avoid the growing anarchy in Palestine.
Samir and Fayez have heard the story of the family’s tragedy before, but they let Aunty Selma repeat it to them in the high, unnerving monotone of the deaf as she weighs the key in her right hand. It is a kind of ritual, a purging of the past, the key representing the last physical hope of ever returning to the land that was Palestine and is now Israel. ‘Your Uncle George locked the front door,’ she said. ‘You see, we thought we would only be leaving for fourteen or fifteen days, until the fighting died down. So we took a few clothes with us and left everything else behind. The Jewish forces had surrounded our part of Haifa but there was a ceasefire and we thought it was the last chance to escape the war and reach the Lebanese border at Naqqoura. We thought we could come back when it was over. Your father Jad drove us away in the Hillman and I remember looking back at the house. We didn’t realise then that Haifa had already surrendered to the Jewish forces. We could have stayed.’ Aunty Selma put her hands to her face. Palestinians call this period their ‘catastrophe’. Israeli as well as Palestinian historians now accept that up to 750,000 Palestinian Arabs fled their homes in what was to become Israel, fearful of being massacred; these refugees and their descendants now number at least three million, 350,000 of whom live in Lebanon, mostly in squalid camps, a few – like Aunty Selma and her nephews – in modest comfort. Those Palestinians who stayed behind were subjected to years of restrictions but are now citizens of Israel. Aunty Selma had cousins who stayed; one became a member of the Israeli Knesset. It makes the tragedy of her own exile all the more painful. ‘We were born in Palestine. We lived there and we should have stayed there. Lebanon is not our land. This is not our home.’
Aunty Selma and her family did not involve themselves in politics – neither in pre-Israel Palestine nor in exile. Their Christian religion separated them from the Palestinian Muslim majority and Samir says his parents were neutral in the Jewish-Arab war. The conflict between the Arab nations who refused to accept the partition of Palestine and the nascent Israeli Army was not their battle. But they were punished for running away because the Israelis would never allow those who fled to return.
So what did Aunty Selma feel when she watched Yassir Arafat shake hands with Yitzhak Rabin on the White House lawn over a year ago? Her eyebrows arched suddenly. ‘I thought: “Oh God, what a world.” I thought: “Halas, it’s finished, it’s over. Now I will never be able to go back.” What it needs is for the British to make a decision to let us return and we can all go home.’ There is an embarrassed silence in the room at this astonishing statement. Aunty Selma’s memory is so acute that time has stood still for her. Samir leans forward. ‘You have to understand,’ he says, ‘that Aunty Selma still thinks the British are a superpower.’
There are few others in the Middle East who doubt the identity of the superpower which now drives the ‘peace process’, nor the unique nature of its relationship with Israel. But at least Selma Tawil understood the implications of the Declaration of Principles which the PLO signed on 13 September 1993 to the applause of President Clinton and almost the entire Western world. Until then, Yassir Arafat had promised the Tawils and the other Palestinian refugees that they would somehow ‘return’. However unrealistic this pledge may have appeared through the long decades spent in the refugee camps, it remained the focus of their lives and the purpose of their suffering. Driven by this pledge, thousands of young fighters were to die in Jordan in 1970 and in Lebanon between 1975 and 1990. The very existence of the PLO was an assurance to these Palestinians that they were not forgotten, that they would somehow be compensated for their tragedy. In all the fetid camps across Lebanon, the refugees – and the growing population of children whom they bore in exile – were encouraged to plan for this ‘return’. Palestinians from Um al-Faraj in northern Galilee were thus settled together in the same street in the Rashidiyeh camp; refugees from Haifa lived in the same alleyways in the Chatila camp.
All this may seem irrelevant today; Western journalists – especially American reporters – now prefer to ignore this vast mass of dispossessed people in favour of the ‘miracle of peace’ which, to our acclaim, Arafat, Rabin, Shimon Peres and now King Hussein are supposedly bringing about. What hope, anyway, did these Palestinians ever have of recovering homes they left almost half a century ago? Israeli historians like Benny Morris, Israeli authors like David Grossman and Amos Oz, have written eloquently of their catastrophe. But in 1950, the Israeli government passed the Absentee Property Law which still forbids Selma Tawil and the other 750,000 Palestinians from ever returning – if they left their homes in what is now Israel before 1 September 1948. Under this law, an ‘absentee’ includes anyone who was ‘a legal owner of any property situated in the area of Israel’ who ‘left his ordinary place of residence in Palestine for a place outside Palestine before 1 September 1948’ and who found himself in countries which were then at war with Israel. The law applies even if the refugees were in no way involved in the conflict. Selma Tawil left Haifa in July 1948, and sought refuge in Lebanon. Lebanon was at war with Israel. So Selma Tawil, her nephews and brothers were effectively dispossessed of their home.
Despite this, Palestinian refugees clung to a largely forgotten UN General Assembly resolution of 1948, No 194, which demanded their ‘return’. Because it was not a Security Council resolution, Israel refused to regard 194 as binding, but it was on this UN demand that the Palestinians based the legitimacy of their struggle to go back to Haifa and Jaffa, to the Galilee and Acre and all the other cities and villages in which they or their parents once lived. Arafat’s Declaration of Principles, however, has abandoned even this legitimacy. Instead, the Palestinians who lost their homes are dismissed in a single word, buried deep in Article Five of the agreement, which states that ‘permanent status negotiations’ – to begin ‘as soon as possible’ – will cover ‘remaining issues: Jerusalem, refugees, settlements, security arrangements, borders, relations and cooperation with other neighbours, and other items of common interest’. Squeezed between Jerusalem and Jewish settlements, the ‘refugees’ are a ‘remaining issue’.
Living in the Middle East but listening to those who support the ‘peace process’, it sometimes seems to me as if America and its allies in the region – Administration spokesmen in Washington, pro-Israeli columnists and television reporters, CNN above all – are participating in a unique form self-delusion. For the ‘peace process’ is being depicted as something mystical, almost holy, a shaft of light in a darkening world that will unite Muslim, Jew and Christian, a transfiguration in which the Arabs suddenly decided through some form of divine intervention that they preferred peace to war.
If this were true, it would certainly provide an alternative to the humiliation of Somalia, the wickedness of Rwanda and the shame which the West must share for Bosnia. But the Arabs were not blessed with some new form of spiritual generosity towards their old enemies. What happened was far more prosaic: the Soviet Union self-destructed and left them helpless. The superpower which survived was the one which supported Israel and which would be in a position to decide the kind of peace that might be made in the Middle East, a peace which – because of its special relationship with one country in the region – was bound to be an American-Israeli peace.
The full text of this essay is only available to subscribers of the London Review of Books.
Vol. 17 No. 6 · 23 March 1995
Aunty Selma is not the only one living in never-never-land; the LRB should have taken a cue from the New Yorker and refused to publish such an array of misinformation and just plain bias as Robert Fisk’s ‘Remaining Issues’ (LRB, 23 February). It is not a matter of censorship, it is a matter of providing an accurate account of events. Have we become so insensitive to wholesale slaughter whether in an Israeli bus station, a New York office building, a French airliner or the streets of Cairo, that merely deleting the terms ‘Islamic’ or ‘Islamic terror’ from reports of suicide bombings will make them appear more objective? The Arab-Israeli conflict has gone on for too long; any attempt to resolve it, however limited, ought to be encouraged – unless, of course, one assumes that only one of the participants can (or ought to) emerge from the slaughter. It is a well-known fact, a platitude almost, that at the end of any war there are no victors; this much should have been learned from past history. The State of Israel, like the Kingdom of Jordan, is a 20th-century creation intended to resolve a problem and provide people with their own territory; just as a State of Palestine can be one, if they so choose. Is it a matter of bias to hope that peace in the Middle East is not an impossible dream? In the meantime, while I recognise the LRB’s right to publish as they see fit, I see no reason to support such scurrilous tracts as Mr Fisk’s and request that my subscription be terminated because I can no longer rely on its accuracy or objectivity.
Vol. 17 No. 9 · 11 May 1995
Recent articles in the LRB by Ian Gilmour (LRB, 22 December 1994), Avi Shlaim (LRB, 9 June 1994) and Robert Fisk (LRB, 23 February) focus on the Arab-Israeli conflict. Unfortunately, several inaccuracies can be found in these articles. To mention two: Fisk quotes Lebanese sources as ‘acknowledging that, without Assad’s stewardship, their country would have been eaten up with unacceptable concessions by the peace process.’ Israel has repeatedly made it clear that she has no territorial claims on Lebanon and will withdraw her forces when the Lebanese Government disbands the terrorist organisations that pose a threat to Israel. What is so unacceptable about this? Fisk further claims that the Christian Lebanese militiamen who perpetrated the massacre of Palestinians at the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps in Beirut were sent by the Israelis. To the contrary, when it became apparent to Israeli commanders what was happening, they stopped the massacre, saving untold Palestinian lives. Palestinian propagandists turned the story around, blaming the Israelis.
My father, Arthur Ruppin, was a Zionist leader from 1907, when he came to Palestine as the representative of the Zionist Organisation. He founded Brit Shalom, a society to further peace between Jews and Arabs. The basis of Brit Shalom was that neither group should seek political dominance. Thus, each people would elect half the members of a common Parliament. Jewish and Arab immigration would continue, but not to the detriment or displacement of the existing population. Many, although not all, Zionist leaders agreed with these principles. No Arab leader ever did. Expulsion of Jews from Palestine was an integral part of Arab policy. The Palestinians, aided by armies from Egypt, Transjordan, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon, tried to expel the Jews in 1948. Expulsion still figures in the PLO charter, which notwithstanding Arafat’s obligation to abrogate it under the Oslo agreement, is still in force because a majority of the PLO’s leadership is not willing to part with the dream of evicting the Jews from Israel. Given the tension between Arabs and Jews before 1948, and the Arab desire to evict Jews from Israel, it is hardly surprising that similar dreams were evoked among some Jews for removal of the Arabs. Some translated these dreams into a plan modelled on the Graeco-Turkish population exchange after the Graeco-Turkish War in the early Twenties. The transfer idea was never adopted by the Zionist Organisation.
The contention that the Jewish leadership engineered the exodus of Palestinians in 1948 is quite ludicrous. After the UN Partition Resolution, the Palestinian Arabs perpetrated country-wide attacks upon Jews. Arab leaders decided to invade the Jewish state following the British withdrawal and promised the annihilation of Palestine’s Jewish population. Arabs living in predominantly Jewish areas were advised to leave their homes and move to Arab areas temporarily until the victorious Arab armies liquidated the Jews. The Jewish Agency tried to stem the exodus. I can attest to this from personal experience. I lived in the village of Michmoret in a predominantly Jewish area. Nearby was an Arab village, A-Nufiat, with which we had good relations. In April 1948 we were informed that the Arab villagers were preparing to flee. Following a Jewish Agency directive to counter the Arab exodus, I went to A-Nufiat to talk with the village head. He said they had been told to flee by an emissary of the Mufti, who warned that the Jews were planning to kill them. I reassured them that no Jew intended them harm. However, two weeks later they disappeared. One old man who stayed behind recounted that an emissary came to A-Nufiat and announced that by midnight the Jews would arrive slaughtering all the inhabitants. When the villagers repeated my assurances, the emissary retorted that this was a Jewish trick – to catch the unsuspecting. Had they heeded my advice, they would still be in their village.
In Robert Fisk’s article, the story recounted by Selma Tawil, who left her home in Haifa for Lebanon three months after the occupation of the city by Jewish forces in April 1948, is another example of misguided action. The story of the Arab exodus from Haifa, where the Jewish mayor begged the Arabs not to flee, is amply documented. Mrs Tawil obeyed the advice of the Arab leadership to leave, despite the fact that she had three months to see that no Arabs were harmed after the Jewish victory. Unfortunately she, like the villagers of A-Nufiat, was badly used by the Arab leadership, and they have paid dearly in consequence. Many Arabs did stay in their homes and villages, where they have lived peacefully to this day. Indeed, Arabs constitute almost 20 per cent of Israel’s current population.
Though the overwhelming majority of the Palestinian refugees left because of directives by the Arab leadership, some, during the 1948 war, were forcibly expelled. This occurred when the Arab population posed a strategic threat, as, for example, in Lydda and Ramla – two Arab towns on the road linking Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. These towns were taken by the Israeli Army and the towns’ leadership capitulated. A few hours later the townspeople opened fire on our forces, entailing a costly reconquest followed by the expulsion of most of the Arab population.
It is to the credit of the Israeli public that notwithstanding widespread Arab terrorism, the Kach Party – which advocates expulsion of Palestinians from Israel – got only about 1 per cent of the vote in the elections in 1984. The Party has since been outlawed. Contrary to Shlaim’s allegations, the political party Moledet does not advocate mass expulsion of Palestinians. ‘Transfer’ in Moledet’s definition is persuasion of Palestinians, by money and other positive inducements, to emigrate. The Israeli public has rejected transfer in any form. Moledet has never received more than 3 per cent of the vote.
Avi Shlaim, reviewing Benny Morris’s book on Israel’s Border Wars 1949-56, describes Arab refugees infiltrating into Israel ‘looking for relatives, returning to their homes, looking for their possessions, tending their fields’. He cites Morris as showing that ‘the governments of the neighbouring Arab states were opposed to the cross-border forays into Israel for most of the period under discussion.’ The Palestinian exodus took place in 1948. Armistice agreements were signed in 1949, forbidding cross-border incursions. Heavy Arab infiltration started in the early Fifties when there were no possessions left to retrieve. At first the infiltrators concentrated on theft of Jewish property – mainly livestock and farming equipment. Afterwards came sabotage, then murder.
Arab states, except Lebanon, never opposed infiltration into Israel, though they tried to document opposition to avoid accusations of breaking the armistice agreement. Later they (predominantly Egypt) aided infiltrators. Israel’s border contains no natural impediments to infiltration. To protect its citizens, the Israeli Government retaliated. At first, retaliatory raids moved Nasser to intensify feyadeen activity. Only after Suez, Israel’s biggest retaliatory act, did Nasser change course, and infiltration stopped. Similarly, retaliatory raids stopped terrorist infiltration from Jordan. To call Israel’s only possible line of defence ‘dirty’ is mere name-calling.
Ian Gilmour, Robert Fisk and Edward Said (LRB, 20 October 1994) criticise the Oslo agreement, which is described as badly negotiated, humiliating and unfavourable. Israel is accused of delaying and not implementing its commitments to the Palestinians.
The basis of the Oslo agreement is the ending of terrorism, to be replaced by co-operation and reconciliation. Arafat and his PLO have failed completely in this basic aspect. Arab terrorism has increased since Oslo. Gaza and Jericho have become safe havens for terrorists, murderers and thieves. The PLO police does little to apprehend these criminals. Indeed, many of the cars used by the Palestinian police have been stolen in Israel. Hate propaganda continues under the guise of freedom of speech. The Palestinian Autonomy teems with armed gangs belonging to organisations rejecting the notion of peace. Arafat does little to curb their activities. When suicide bombers exploded buses in Hadera, Afula, Tel Aviv and Netanya, Gazans danced in the streets. Arafat only accused television crews of misleading the public. In his speeches he has compared the current agreements to Mohammed’s agreement with the Kureish Tribe. Mohammed signed a peace treaty with the Kureish only later to turn on them and slaughter them all. The Oslo agreement was a test of Palestinian resolve to turn a new page in their relationship with their Jewish neighbours. They failed in that test. The Israeli Government, mindful of the security of Israel’s population, cannot be expected to withdraw from other Arab regions, creating new safe havens for terrorists. Recently, under intense Israeli pressure, Arafat took steps to curb terrorist activity based on Gaza, but his effort fell short of disarming the out-spoken terrorist movements Hamas and Islamic Jihad and has so far produced no tangible results.
Gilmour quotes Shlaim accusing Israel of being responsible for Arab violence by insisting on the continuation and increase of the settlements. But Palestinian terrorism did not abate even during the first days following Oslo. Hamas and Islamic Jihad declare that their aim is to scuttle the peace process and continue their war against Israel’s very existence. For them there is no difference between a West Bank settlement and Tel Aviv. Said’s accusation that ‘the Israelis deliberately destroyed the infrastructure’ of the occupied territories is far from the truth. Israel invested much more than any previous occupying power in infrastructure and economic development. Income per capita has risen dramatically, and were it not for Palestinian violence, would have risen further. Reporting on Hebron, Said criticises the security measures enforced on visitors to the Hebron mosque. The arrangement, designed to allow both Jews and Muslims to pray at the site, he describes as ‘one monotheistic faith intruding itself on the religious practices of another’. He forgets that this ‘mosque’ is a converted synagogue, built by King Herod over the tomb of the Patriarchs, only one of whom (Abraham) is claimed by the Arabs as their ancestor. He also forgets to mention that this site, holy to the Jews, was closed to them from the Arab conquest in the seventh century to 1967, when the IDF occupied Hebron. Said also mentions the existence of a ‘small rabbinical school located at the back of the mosque that had been unused for generations’. He fails to mention that the rabbinical school was used until 1929, when the Arabs in Hebron massacred the Jewish community that had lived in the city for centuries. In all, it would seem that the monotheistic faith intruding itself on the practices of another was Islam.
All the above-mentioned authors are clearly opposed to the current peace process but fail to propose a realistic alternative. Fisk, for example, berates the Israelis and others for their changed attitudes toward Arafat after the Oslo agreement. Arafat’s sins have not been forgotten. But he is the only recognised Palestinian leader who has been willing to work for peace, however flawed. This is something that calls for a changed attitude. The Oslo agreement is depicted as unjust because many difficult issues (settlements, the status of Jerusalem, the status of refugees) were postponed to a later stage in the negotiations. It was not unreasonably hoped that solution of these issues would be easier after an interval of peaceful relations.
The Palestinians seem to have forgotten that their real weapons in the conflict with Israel are peace, friendship and reconciliation. Pressure on Israel does not work and usually backfires. The Palestinians would be well advised if, instead of blaming Israel for their every misfortune, they were to concentrate their efforts on constructively tackling their problems, and building positive bridges with the Israelis. This will be the only route to achieving their goals of prosperity, independence and dignity.
Vol. 17 No. 11 · 8 June 1995
It is a pity that, before criticising the book reviews written by Avi Shlaim, Robert Fisk and myself, Rafael Ruppin (Letters, 11 May) did not take the trouble to read the books we were reviewing. Had he done so, he could not have allowed himself to serve up to your readers such large portions of hopelessly out-of-date Israeli propaganda: for instance, the canard, repeated by Mr Ruppin, that most of the Palestinian refugees left their homes at the behest of their own leaders was exploded by Erskine Childers as long ago as 1961.
According to Mr Ruppin, ‘the contention that the Jewish leadership engineered the exodus of Palestinians in 1948 is quite ludicrous.’ In a recent interview in Yediot Ahronot Benny Morris, one of the Israeli historians implicitly criticised but not read by Ruppin, had this to say about the eviction of the Arabs: ‘The Jewish generation of 1948 knew the truth and deliberately misrepresented it. They knew there were plenty of mass deportations, massacres and rapes … The soldiers and the officials knew, but they suppressed what they knew and were deliberately disseminating lies.’ Ruppin is also disseminating lies, though he is not, of course, doing so deliberately but because he is content to be uninformed. Morris went on to say: ‘True, in 1948 a transfer was not officially adopted as a policy. There was no central plan to force Arabs to run away. But there were eye-winks to the commanders of forces in the field and a clear policy of impunity for those who ordered deportations and transfers. The same was the case with the commanders who perpetrated or tolerated atrocities against the Arabs in order to prompt them to flee. Ben-Gurion was hypocritical to the core.’ So much for ‘the quite ludicrous contention’. Much the same could be said of what Ruppin writes about Arab ‘infiltration’ after the war. That subject is dealt with in Morris’s excellent new book. Should Ruppin read it, he will learn a lot.
Ruppin is no luckier with his claim that the Israeli occupation has economically benefited the Palestinians. In fact it has been wholly malign economically as well as politically. One of Israel’s most respected journalists, Danny Rubinstein, wrote in Haaretz earlier this year:
a comparison between the standards of living of Palestinians residing in Jordan and that of the residents of the West Bank and Gaza arouses sad thoughts regarding the actions and neglect of almost thirty years of Israeli rule … Whatever Jordan has done for its residents, including Palestinians, is much more than the Israeli Government has done, or more accurately has not done for the subjects of the military government. The differences exist in every area of public government investment … Most of the roads in the West Bank and Gaza remained in the same state as they were in 1967. Not even one traffic light is to be found … The Israeli rule never granted any government assistance for investments in building factories. Except for two small hotels in Bethlehem, not one hotel has been built in the territories, nor one large factory … The result is that the backward and poor Jordanian Kingdom did much more for the Palestinians who lived in it than Israel. The comparison with Jordan shows in an even more glaring form how badly we treated them.
Even if Ruppin is not prepared to read Israeli historians, it should not be too much to ask him to read Israeli newspapers.
Since he has uncritically accepted all the past Israeli propaganda, we cannot be surprised that he now uncritically accepts Israel’s current version of events. Accordingly, Ruppin puts all the blame for the current failure of the peace process on Yasser Arafat and Palestinian ‘terrorism’. Certainly Arafat is open to heavy criticism, though not for the reasons given in Ruppin’s letter. Yet his letter contains not even a whiff of criticism of such Israeli actions and breaches of the agreements as their accelerated stealing of Arab land to enlarge their illegal settlements in Jerusalem and the rest of the West Bank, their refusal to release thousands of Palestinian prisoners, their failure to redeploy their army, and their postponement of elections. Similarly he says nothing about Israeli ‘terrorism’ or the Hebron massacre.
As I have already expressed my views on this subject in the LRB, I will not inflict them again on your readers. But perhaps I may quote another journalist, this time an Arab, Muhammad Hallaj: ‘The peace process has degenerated into a scheme to persuade the Arabs to live in peace with Israel without persuading Israel to live in peace with the Arabs.’ It is that Israeli attitude – well illustrated by Mr Ruppin’s letter – together with the Clinton Administration’s craven and contemptible support for every Israeli action and pronouncement, however indefensible, which stands in the way of a fair and lasting peace.
House of Lords
I don’t think one should let Rafael Ruppin’s historical revisionism go unchallenged. He states that I claimed ‘that the Christian Lebanese militiamen who perpetrated the massacre of Palestinians at Sabra and Chatila refugee camps in Beirut were sent by the Israelis.’ And continues: ‘To the contrary, when it became apparent to Israeli commanders what was happening, they stopped the massacre, saving untold Palestinian lives. Palestinian propagandists turned the story around, blaming the Israelis.’ This is factually, historically untrue. The Israelis sent the Christian militiamen into the Sabra and Chatila camps on 16 September 1982, allegedly to ‘flush out’ two thousand ‘terrorists’ who, Ariel Sharon claimed (totally wrongly, as it turned out), had remained behind in the camps after the PLO evacuation. Israel’s own Kahan Commission report records how a joint liaison office was set up between the Christian militia and Israeli intelligence officers. I myself saw the military markers which the Israelis had placed around Beirut Airport to guide the Christian militiamen on their way to the camps.
The Kahan Commission, which held an official inquiry on the massacre, states that Israeli troops, contrary to what Ruppin says, knew very well what was going on in the camp from an early stage – but did nothing. Their official report, which was published by the Israeli Government, records how Lieutenant Avi Grabowski, deputy commander of an Israeli tank company, witnessed the murder of five women and children shortly after the massacre began. The report says that he was discouraged from complaining and was informed that his unit’s battalion commander had already been informed of the massacre but had replied: ‘We know, it’s not to our liking, and don’t interfere.’ At noon on the 17th – more than twenty-four hours before Ruppin claims the Israelis discovered what was happening – Grabowski’s tank crew asked a Christian militiaman why he and his men were killing civilians and were told: ‘Pregnant women will give birth to terrorists; the children when they grow up will be terrorists.’ And still the massacre continued.
Of the Arab village of ‘A-Nufiat’ (correct name:’ Arab al-Nufay’ at) which adjoined Ruppin’s settlement, he says that, had the Arab villagers heeded his advice not to flee in 1948, they would still be in this village ‘to this day’. Ruppin must know this is incorrect. The Arab villagers were ordered to leave ’ Arab al-Nufay’at by the Haganah on 10 April 1948; the village was bulldozed by Israeli forces less than three weeks later. Today – as Ruppin must be all too well aware, since he lives there – only a single house and a mulberry tree remain.