Ethnic cleansing of and in 'Arab lands': Who really did what?

This topic is the result of some comments on this blog Antisemitism Embedded in British Culture (JCPA -- 1 July 2008).

Here is the comment on that blog which triggered me to start this discussion: "Concerning Israel and 'ethnic cleansing' the first major statement here was made by David Ben Gurion in 1938 "I am for compulsory transfer, I do not see anything immoral in it". It seems obvious to me that 'compulsory transfer' is equivalent to 'ethnic cleansing so Ilan Pappe has a good title on his book 'The ethnic cleansing of Palestine', from 2006. In my opinion this book should be mandatory reading for everyone with a deeper interest in Israel/Palestine relations."

My response to that comment was: "Pappe has a certain appeal to a certain group of people. He has been quoted as saying "Facts are for pedants." Pappe certainly often (and probably deliberately often) ignores the whole of the factual context while he focuses on what he sees as the important political objective (of some people)."

The obvious facts are:
  • All Arabs lands, except what now is Israel, were for practical purposes ethnically cleansed of Jews.
  • What now is Israel was never ethnically cleansed of non-Jewish Arabs who continue to be one of the many (disadvantaged) minority groups of people in that less than perfect State called Israel.
I think that it is reasonable in the light of the really available facts to:
  • Ask about the:Ethnic cleansing of and in Arab lands (including Palestine), who really did what to whom?
  • Explore whether my response was reasoned and reasonable and justifiable
  • Ask whether Pappe really is a credible and academically ethical historian.
  • Ask whether even if what Pappe wrote about David Ben Gurion is explicity and implicitly accurate and is the whole of the relevant truth, how relevant and important this snippet about David Ben Gurion is now and regarding what happened in 1947 and 1948 to many non-Jewish Arabs in what then was British-administered Palestine and then became the State of Israel.
Please try to stick to this topic or ask me (as the initiator of this discussion) to restate it. Or, start another discussion if you want to introduce another topic. Thanks. :-)

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There is a copy of one review of Mr. Pappe's tome at

This review damningly begins with: Ilan Pappe's latest book, The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine, is apparently not different from his others. It invents new "facts" and fake quotes by Ben-Gurion and others that were never said. David Pryce-Jones has reviewed the book, in the Literary Review (at

Does anyone here disgree with these reviews or my introduction to this discussion?

Finn: You seem to believe and trust Pappe. Please invite Mr. Pappe here or to any sensible place he chooses to discuss the serious issues he raises and the serious accusations levelled against him by his many critics. The fabrication of evidence and thus lack of real personal ethics is the most serious charge.

Pappe does not need to be a member here to read any of this, though he does to comment.
In "Scars of War, Wounds of Peace- The Israeli-Arab Tragedy" by Shlomo Ben-Ami pge 26. 'I support compulsory transfer. I don't see in it anything immoral' Ben Gurion at a Zionist meeting in 1938. To charge Pappe' with fabrication of this is to charge Ben- Ami with fabrication, which is unsupportable.
Jack Berriault
Executive Director
The Israel Paletine Project

Hi Jack,

First, welcome. :-)

Two quotes alone do not prove that Ben Gurion actually said that. I do not have access to any of the original sources Pappe or Ben-Ami may have used. Please cite them.


  • The claims made about Ben Gurion's views are disputed. There are numerous examples on the web.
  • The formalization by the Jewish leadership of such a transfer policy has never been established. Even if the claims about Ben Gurion's views in 1938 are true, they are the views of just one man, in 1938. There is no proof that he had the same view in 1947 and 1948.
  • There are numerous documented reports of Jews asking the non-Jewish Arabs to not flee.
  • What became Israel was NEVER ethnically cleansed of non-Jewish Arabs. It probably could have been achieved had there been a coordinated policy to do so.
  • The ethnic cleansing intent of the Arab armies that attacked Israel in 1947/8 is well documented.
  • The 100% ethnic cleansing of Jews achieved by the Arab armies that attacked Israel in 1947/8 in Gaza, on the West Bank, and East Jerusalem is well documented.

So all the claims about Ben Gurion achieve is to divert attention from the 100% ethnic cleansing of Jews intended and achieved by the Arab armies that attacked Israel in 1947/8 in Gaza, on the West Bank, and East Jerusalem is well documented.

You simply accuse Jews of doing what the Arabs so successfully did in Gaza, on the West Bank.

And so, in my view, the pedantic claim about the relevance of what Ben Gurion may have said in 1948 is simply misleading propaganda.

Jack : You have NOT proven your case, here and now. All you have done so far is to try to claim the moral high ground by repeating misleading faction.
As I think I said if I see any disclaimers I will write Ilan about the review and perhaps also consult some Norwegian and other Israeli sources. Right now however I am preparing a talk about UBUNTU to celebrate a 200 year centennial for the Norwegian poet laureate Henrik Wergeland,
A no...

BTW Wigeland Park and the Munch Museum just blew my mind when I was in Olso many years ago. I knew nothing about them before that. Have been a Wigeland and Munch fan ever since.

I am time poor now. So I will not attempt rational responses. I hope that some others here will.

The answers are complex and do not always reflect well on Israel. Like all other countries Israel is not perfect. So?

Be well...



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