David Ben-Gurion, Israel’s first prime minister, gave an instruction aimed at preventing Haifa’s Arab residents who have fled the city during the 1948 War of Independence from returning to their homes as long as the fighting continued. This was revealed in a letter bearing Ben-Gurion’s signature, which will go on sale next week at the Kedem auction house in Jerusalem.
The letter was sent by Ben-Gurion on June 2, 1948, a month and a half after Haifa was captured and a few weeks after Israel’s independence was declared. It was addressed to Abba Khoushy, the secretary-general of the Haifa Workers’ Council, and later the city’s mayor.
“I hear that Mr. Marriot (Cyril Marriot, the British Consul in Haifa) is working to return the Arabs to Haifa. I don’t know how it is his business, but until the war is over we don’t want a return of the enemy. And all institutions should act accordingly” instructed Ben-Gurion.
The contents of this letter were published in 2002 in a book about Abba Khoushy that was written by Tzadok Eshel (“Abba Khoushy – Man of Haifa”). As with many of the letters that Ben-Gurion wrote to different people and institutions, this letter fell into private hands and is now up for sale. The opening bidding price is $1,800.
Ben-Gurion’s attitude to the Arab population that fled or was expelled from their homes during the war was not consistent. In Nazareth, he specifically instructed Israeli forces not to expel Arab residents: “Do not remove these residents from Nazareth,” he wrote. In Lod, however, there is one testimony according to which he instructed Yitzhak Rabin and other field commanders to expel the residents.
In her new biography of Ben-Gurion (‘Ben Gurion – Father of Modern Israel,” published in English by Yale University Press) historian Anita Shapira states that Lod is the only case in which there is testimony to an instruction given by Ben-Gurion to deport Arabs. Shapira describes consultations held by field commanders and Ben-Gurion concerning the fate of the city’s Arab inhabitants, after the city’s capture in Operation Danny. “Ben-Gurion listened and did not respond. He had an exceptional capacity to remain silent when he wanted to. Only at the end of the discussion, as the commanders were about to return to the battlefield, he made, according to Rabin’s account, a waving-off gesture with his hand, muttering ‘expel them.'”
– Read more: After Capturing Haifa, Ben-Gurion Gave Order to Stop Fleeing Arabs from Returning – Ofer Aderet, Haaretz