Palestine Through History: A Chronology (I)

By Nizar Sakhnini


When the Zionists began to talk about creation of a state in Palestine, the number of Jews living in Palestine did not exceed 10,000.  Accordingly, creation of a “Jewish State” in Palestine required Ethnic Cleansing and Land Theft.  And this is exactly what started in 1948 and is still going on to this date.   

Indefinite: Stone Age: earliest pre-historic unidentified settlements.

10,000-5,000 BC: Establishment of settled agricultural communities.

3000 BC: The Cana’anites settled the land, which was named after them, the “Land of Cana’an”.

1850 BC: Abraham left his home in Ur of the Chaldees (Mesopotamia) and journeyed to the Land of Cana’an.

1700 BC: Abraham’s descendants immigrated to Egypt.  Their position in Egypt deteriorated so much around 1250 BC that they were mere slaves.  God told his prophet Moses to act and save his people. 

1200 BC: Moses died before reaching the ‘Promised Land’.  It was Joshua who led the Israelites into the Land of Cana’an and established the twelve tribes.

1154 – 1000 BC: Local rule: Cana’anites, Philistines and Jews.

1000 BC: King David conquered Jerusalem.

1000 – 927 BC: Israelites established a monarchy under David and then Solomon.

At about 927 BC, the northern tribes broke away from the southern kings in Jerusalem and formed their own kingdom, the Kingdom of Israel, which opposed the smaller Kingdom of Judea in the south.

722 BC: King Tiglath-Peleser III of Assyria conquered the Kingdom of Israel.  The ten northern tribes of Israel were deported, forced to assimilate and disappeared from history forever.

589 BC: Babylon destroyed Jerusalem and most of the inhabitants of Judea were deported to Babylonia, leaving behind only a few peasants and poor people.

Exile to Babylon was traumatic, but the Jewish deportees did not disappear like the ten northern tribes.

Some of the exiles lived in Babylon itself and others lived in a settlement on the banks of the Cheder in an area, which they called ‘Tel Aviv’.

538 BC: Following the Medes and the Persians conquest of the Babylonians, Cyrus, the King of Persia, gave the Jews permission to return to their homeland and rebuild the Temple.  Some Jews left Babylon and ‘Tel Aviv’ and began the long journey home.  However, most of the Jews remained behind in exile.  They no longer saw physical possession of the Holy Land as essential to the Jewish identity.

333 BC: Conquest of Persia by Alexander the Great brought Palestine under Greek rule.

323 BC: Death of Alexander led to alternate rule by Ptolemies of Egypt and Seleucids of Syria.

165 BC: Maccabees revolted against the Seleucid ruler and went on to establish an independent Jewish State.

63 BC: Incorporation of Palestine into the Roman Empire. 

70 AD: The Romans conquered Jerusalem and burned down the Temple.  The Roman Empires (Western and Eastern) ruled Palestine until 614 AD.

132-135 AD: Bar Kokhba revolt suppressed.  Jews were barred from Jerusalem and Emperor Hadrian built new pagan city of Aelia Capitolina on its ruins.

638 AD: Moslem Arabs under Caliph Umar captured Palestine from the Byzantines.  The Arabs settled in the land and mixed, intermingled and intermarried with its natives who were arabized and their majority converted to Islam.

Umar invited the Jews to return to the holy city and built a simple wooden mosque where al-Aqsa Mosque now stands.

661-750: Omayyad Caliphs ruled Palestine from Damascus.  Construction of the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem was done by Caliph Abd al-Malik (685-705) and construction of the al-Aqsa mosque was done by Caliph al-Walid I (705-715).

750-1258: Abbasid caliphs ruled Palestine from Iraq.

969: Fatimid dynasty, claiming descent from the Prophet’s daughter Fatima and her cousin Ali, ruled Palestine from Egypt.  They proclaimed themselves caliphs in rivalry to the Abbasids.

1071: Saljuqs, originally from Isfahan, captured Jerusalem and parts of Palestine, which remained officially within the Abbasid Empire.
1099: European Crusaders conquered Jerusalem and founded several states on the eastern coast of the Mediterranean including the Kingdom of Jerusalem.

1187: Saladin (Salah al-Din) defeated the Crusaders and recaptured Jerusalem.

1260: Mameluks succeeded Ayyubids, defeated the Mongols and ruled Palestine from Cairo.

1291: Mameluks captured the last Crusader strongholds of Acre and Caesarea and re-established Islamic rule in the area.

1492, January: King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella defeated the Muslim Kingdom of Granada.  The Jews of Spain were given the choice of converting to Christianity or leaving the country.  About 100,000 Spanish Jews left, but many were so attached to Spain and chose baptism.

For 800 years, Jews, Christians and Muslims had, for the most part, been able to live in Christian as well as in Muslim Spain quite amicably side by side and built a rich and dynamic culture.

1517: Ottoman Sultan Selim defeated the Mameluks and incorporated Jerusalem and Palestine into the Ottoman (Turkish) Empire, which ruled Palestine until WWI.

1831:  Mohammed Ali of Egypt occupied and ruled Palestine until 1840.

1841: Restoration of Ottoman Turkish rule in Palestine.

1862: Moses Hess called for the creation of a Jewish national state in Palestine.

1870: Mikve Israel, a Jewish agricultural school, was established north of Jaffa.

1878: Colony of Petach Tiqva, financed by Lord Rothschild, was established. 

1881: Czarist pogroms in Russia sparked Jewish migration and settlement in Palestine.

1882:  Leo Pinsker urged the Jews to settle in Palestine and founded the society of Hovevi Zion, which sponsored emigration of Jews to Palestine.

1882 – 1903: First wave of 35,000 Jewish émigrés arrived in Palestine.

1880’s: The first signs of Palestinian resistance were a direct and spontaneous reaction to the efforts of the pioneer Zionist settlers to dispossess and displace the Arab fellahin.

1891: German Jewish millionaire Baron Maurice de Hirsch founded the Jewish Colonization Association (JCA), which began its operations in Palestine in 1896.

1896:  Theodor Herzl, an Austro-Hungarian Jewish journalist and writer, published a pamphlet calling for the creation of a ‘Jewish State’.

Ottoman Sultan Abd-al Hamid II rejected Theodor Herzl’s proposal that Palestine be granted to the Jews.

1897: The first Zionist Congress (ZC) met in Basle, created the Zionist Organization (ZO) and adopted the Basle Program, which called for Jewish colonization in Palestine.

1898:  Herzl paid a visit to Palestine to meet with the Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany, who was visiting Jerusalem, to lobby for the Zionist project.

1901:  The Jewish National Fund (JNF) was founded to buy lands in Palestine for the exclusive ownership and use of the ‘Jewish people’.

1901-1902: Herzl tried in Constantinople to obtain a Charter for rights, duties and privileges of a Jewish-Ottoman Colonization Association for the Settlement of Palestine and Syria and grant the Jews with the right to deport the native population.

1903: The Anglo-Palestine Bank (later renamed as Bank Leumi) was established as the principal financial institution of the Jewish community in Palestine.

1903, December: The Anglo-Palestine Company, a subsidiary of the JCA, was established in Palestine to finance Zionist colonization.

1904 – 1914: A 2nd wave of 40,000 Jewish émigrés arrived in Palestine.

1908: The ‘Young Turks’ Revolution erupted in Constantinople and resulted in the freeing of party political activity and the growth of the press throughout the Ottoman Empire. Arabic-language papers began to reflect a mounting concern about the dangers posed by Zionist colonization.  A Palestinian journal, al-Karmil, was founded in Haifa with the purpose of opposing Zionist colonization.

1909: – The Palestine Land Development Co. was founded to coordinate land purchases.

– Tel Aviv, an all Jewish city, was founded north of Jaffa.

– Hashomer was founded as a countrywide organization that would assume responsibility for the security of as many Jewish settlements as possible.

1910: A series of land purchases by the colonial Zionists from absentee landlords, which led to expulsions of fellahin, brought important elements of the Arab urban elite to a realization the full import of Zionism.  Not only was land being purchased, but also its Arab cultivators were being dispossessed and replaced by colonial settlers aiming at domination of Palestine.

1911: Palestinian journalist Najib Nassar published first book in Arabic on Zionism entitled Zionism: Its History, Objective and Importance.

1911, May: In a memorandum to the Zionist Executive, Arthur Ruppin, the director of Zionist settlement in Palestine, proposed a limited population transfer by purchasing land near Aleppo and Homs in Syria to resettle the dispossessed Arabs.

1911, June 11: The Palestinian journalist, Najib Nassar, wrote in al-Karmil newspaper that what Palestine needed in opposing Zionism was “sincere leaders like Herzl who will forget their private interests in favor of the public good… We have many men like Herzl; all they lack is a realization of their own abilities, and the courage to take the first step.  Let such men appear, and not hesitate, and circumstances will favor them, for men’s ideas have matured and we are ready.”

1912, July 12: Leo Motzkin suggested that the Arab-Jewish problem was soluble if the Arabs would be willing to resettle in the uncultivated lands around Palestine.

1914: Another security organization, called the Jaffa Group, came into being during WWI providing security services for Tel Aviv and the Jewish community in Jaffa.

1914, 12 November: Chaim Weizman wrote a letter to C. P. Scott, the editor of the Manchester Guardian, stating “Should Palestine fall within the British sphere of influence, and should Britain encourage a Jewish settlement there, as a British dependency, we could have in twenty to thirty years a million Jews out there, perhaps more.  They would develop the country, bring back civilization to it and form a very effective guard for the Suez Canal…”

1915: A number of messages were exchanged between Sharif Hussein, ruler of Hijaz, and Sir Henry McMahon, the British High Commissioner in Egypt. In these messages, the Arabs were promised to have an independent state.

1916, 16 May: The Sykes-Picot agreement was concluded between Britain and France to share hegemony over the Middle East.

1917, 2 November: The Balfour Declaration, promising support for a ‘Jewish National Home in Palestine’, was issued by Balfour, the British Secretary of State.  The declaration was endorsed by the U.S. Congress in 1922 and was incorporated into the British Mandate in Palestine.

1917, 9 December: Ottoman forces in Jerusalem surrendered to the allied forces led by General Allenby.  A British military administration was established in Palestine.

1918: The Muslim-Christian Association appeared in Jaffa and Jerusalem in 1918 as a result of the anti-Zionist awakening following the Balfour Declaration.

1919, January: The Palestinian National Congress was held in Jerusalem and drew up demands for the Paris Peace Conference, which resolved that Palestine should be independent and part of Syria.

1919, 30 January: The Supreme Council of the Peace Conference decided that the conquered Arab provinces, including Palestine, were not to be restored to Turkish rule.

1919, May: The King-Crane Commission, which was wholly American in composition, set out to the Middle East to determine the wishes of its people.  France and Britain refused to participate in the Commission.  In its recommendations issued in August, the Commission called for “a serious modification of the extreme Zionist program for Palestine of unlimited immigration of Jews, looking finally to making Palestine distinctly a Jewish State… it can hardly be doubted that the extreme Zionist program must be greatly modified.  For a national home for the Jewish people is not equivalent to making Palestine into a Jewish State; nor can the erection of such a Jewish State be accomplished without the gravest trespass upon the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine.  The fact came out repeatedly in the Commission’s conferences with Jewish representatives that the Zionists looked forward to a practically complete dispossession of the present non-Jewish inhabitants of Palestine, by various forms…”

1919, 2 July: The Palestinians sent delegates to the all-Syria General Congress that was held in Damascus in June – July 1919.  The Resolutions of the Congress called for complete independence for all Syria including Palestine under American, or secondly, British tutelage; economic union with Iraq; and opposition to a Jewish commonwealth.

1919:  The Zionists asked the Paris Peace Conference to provide them with the territory outlined within a line running east from Sidon in Lebanon to a point South-East of Damascus.  The line then goes south along a line parallel to the Hijaz railway and ends in Aqaba in Jordan.  From there, the line goes northwest to Al Arish in Egypt.  This area included all of Mandate Palestine, the Golan Heights, both sides of the Jordan River, and southern Lebanon up to the Litani River.

1919 – 1923: A 3rd wave of 40,000 Jewish émigrés arrived in Palestine.

1920, 8 March: The Syrian National Congress voted for Syrian independence.  Faisal was proclaimed king of an independent Syria “in its natural boundaries, Lebanon and Palestine included”.  The resolutions were treated by the Syrian and Palestinian nationalists as the equivalent to an accomplished fact and precipitated enthusiasm in Palestine.  A mass demonstration in Jerusalem, headed by Aref-el-Aref, called for unity between Syria and Palestine and a stop to Jewish immigration.

1920, 4 April: A demonstration in Jerusalem exploded into some sort of an uprising, which was considered as a turning point in the struggle for Palestinian independence. The British withdrew police and soldiers from the Old City and after two days of rioting there were five Jewish and four Arabs dead.  Amin Husayni and Aref el-Aref had to flee to Transjordan after being accused by the British of having provoked the riots.

1920, 25 April: The Supreme Council of San Remo Peace Conference assigned the Mandate for Syria and Lebanon to France and for Palestine, Transjordan and Iraq to Great Britain.  The Balfour Declaration was incorporated into the mandate.  The League of Nations formally approved these mandates in 1922.

1920, May: The British Government relieved Allenby and appointed Sir Herbert Samuel, a British Zionist Jew, as the first civilian High Commissioner for Palestine.

1920, 1 July: A civil administration was established in Palestine, which included, in addition to the High Commissioner, a number of British Zionist Jews who were placed in key positions.

1920, December: The Arab Executive was elected at the 3rd National Congress in Haifa and led the Palestinian political movement until 1935.

1920:  The following Zionist institutions were founded in Palestine: The Histadrut (a General Federation of Labour), Keren Hayesod (financial arm of the ZO), The Haganah (a clandestine Jewish military organization), Asefat Hanivharim (an Elected Assembly to conduct Jewish community affairs), Va’ad Leumi (a National Council which in turn elects an executive to deal with political affairs, education, health, social welfare and other daily life aspects of the Jewish community).

1922, 24 July: A draft Mandate for Palestine was submitted by Britain to the Council of the League of Nations.  The Balfour Declaration was cited in the preamble of the Mandate.  Article 2 of the Mandate provided responsibility “for placing the country under such political, administrative and economic conditions as will secure the establishment of the Jewish national home.”  In Article 4, a provision was made for a ‘Jewish Agency’ to be recognized “as a public body for the purposes of advising and cooperating with the Administration of Palestine in such economic, social and other matters as may affect the establishment of the Jewish-national home.”

1922: By a Joint Resolution, the U.S. Congress proclaimed that “the United States of America favours the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people…”

1923, 29 September: The British Mandate in Palestine was confirmed by the Council of the League of Nations and came into force.

1924 – 1929: A 4th wave of 82,000 Jewish émigrés arrived in Palestine.

1929, 11 August: The Jewish Agency, as stipulated in the Mandate, was created and opened offices in Jerusalem.

1929, 15 August: The Revisionist movement organized a provocative demonstration at the Wailing Wall.  It exacerbated Jewish-Arab tense relations and riots broke out in Palestine.  Shaw Commission was sent to inquire into the immediate causes and to make recommendations for the future maintenance of peace between the Jews and the Arabs.

1930: The report of the Shaw Commission of Enquiry revealed the gravity of the problem of landlessness among Arab peasants.  The Commission’s report also attributed causes of the riots to fact that “the Arabs have come to see in Jewish immigration not only a menace to their livelihood but a possible overlord of the future.”

1931: A group of Haganah members seceded from the organization and established the Irgun Zvai Leumi (IZL) advocating a more militant policy against Palestinian Arabs.

1935: – Ben-Gurion was elected chairman of the Jewish Agency Executive (JAExec).

1929 – 1939: A 5th wave of 250,000 Jewish émigrés arrived in Palestine.

1936: An Arab Higher Committee (AHC) was founded to lead Palestinian struggle for national independence.

1937, August: The 20th ZC decided to accept the British Peel Commission proposal for partition of Palestine as a basis for negotiation with the British government.

A ‘Population Transfer Committee’ was appointed by the Jewish Agency (JA) to come up with plans to rid the ‘Jewish State’ of its Palestinian Arabs.

1938: The report of the British Woodhead Commission concluded that a voluntary ‘transfer’ is not going to happen and compulsory transfer of population was ruled out. 

The Zionist leadership believed that the Zionists had to exert pressure to force the British to act.  But if necessary, David Ben Gurion wrote in his diary, “We must ourselves prepare to carry out the removal of the Palestinians”.  In a report to the JAExec on 12 June 1938, Ben-Gurion stated “I am for a compulsory transfer; I don’t see anything immoral in it…”

1939 – 1948: A 6th wave of 150,000 Jewish émigrés arrived in Palestine.

1939, 17 May: Following the Arab revolution, the British Government announced its new policy in a White Paper.

The White Paper stated, “The Royal Commission and previous Commissions of Enquiry have drawn attention to the ambiguity of certain expressions in the Mandate… and they have found in this ambiguity and the resulting uncertainty as to the objectives of policy a fundamental cause of unrest and hostility between Arabs and Jews…  The proposal of partition recommended by the Royal Commission…of self-supporting independent Arab and Jewish States within Palestine has been found to be impracticable…”

Accordingly, the White Paper declared that “The objective of His Majesty’s Government is the establishment within ten years of an independent Palestine State…”  The State will be preceded by a transitional period during which both Arabs and Jews will have an opportunity to participate in the machinery of government, and the process will be carried on whether or not they both avail themselves of it.  Jewish immigration was to continue for another five years during which a total of 75,000 Jewish immigrants will be admitted to the country.

In response to the British White Paper, the JA issued a statement announcing that the Jews will never accept the closing against them of the gates of Palestine and would defend Jewish immigration, the Jewish home and Jewish freedom.”

1940: Yossef Weitz, head of the settlement department of the JNF, wrote the following: “Transfer does not serve only one aim – to reduce the Arab population – it also serves a second purpose by no means less important, which is to evict land now cultivated by Arabs and to free it for Jewish settlement”.  Therefore, he concluded, “The solution is to transfer the Arabs from here to neighbouring countries.  Not a single village or a single tribe must be let off”.

1940, Dec. 20: Yosef Weitz wrote in his diary: “It must be clear that there is no room in the country for both peoples…If the Arabs leave it, the country will become wide and spacious for us…The only solution is a Land of Israel, at least a western Land of Israel without Arabs.  There is no room here for compromises…There is no way but to transfer the Arabs from here to the neighboring countries, to transfer all of them, save perhaps for [the Arabs of] Bethlehem, Nazareth and old Jerusalem.  Not one village must be left, not one [bedouin] tribe.  The transfer must be directed at Iraq, Syria and even Transjordan.  For this goal funds will be found…And only after this transfer will the country be able to absorb millions of our brothers and the Jewish problem will cease to exist…”

1942, 9-11 May: The first national conference of American Zionists was held at the Biltmore Hotel in New York.   The conference adopted the ‘Biltmore Program’, which called for the establishment of a Jewish commonwealth in Palestine.

1944, 16 October: A report was submitted by Roberto Bachi, an expert in demography, to the Haganah and the JA proposing Arab ‘transfer’ to ensure ‘Jewish majority’.

1947, 18 February: The British Government realized that the Mandate in Palestine was unworkable and announced its intention of giving it up. 

This prompted Ben Gurion to hold regular weekly meetings with a group of Zionist leaders, the ‘Consultant Committee’, to discuss plans to rid Palestine of its Arabs.

The ‘Consultant Committee’ included, among others, Yigael Yadin, Moshe Dayan, Yigal Allon, Yitzhak Sadeh, Israel Galili and Yossef Weitz.

1947, 17 November: Golda Meir secretly met with Jordan’s King Abdullah who stated that he would not take part in any Arab attack against the Jews.  Meyerson signaled the king that the Jews would not interfere with his annexation of territory allotted to the Arab State of Palestine.

1947, 29 November: UN General Assembly Resolution # 181 (II), outlining a partition plan for Palestine, was adopted.

The Arabs rejected the resolution partitioning their country.  In protest, the Arab Higher Committee (AHC) proclaimed a three-day strike.

The Irgun used the Arab rioting as a pretext to launch a murderous campaign against Arab civilians in numerous towns and villages.  Irgun leader Menachem Begin later stated: “My greatest worry in those months was that the Arabs might accept the UN plan.  Then we would have had the ultimate tragedy, a Jewish State so small that it could not absorb all the Jews of the world.”

1947, 3 December: In a speech in a meeting at the Mapai center after the UN Partition resolution, Ben-Gurion pointed out that the ‘Jewish State’ would have a population of about one million, 40% of which would be non-Jews.  He made it clear that there can be no stable and strong Jewish State so long as it has a Jewish majority of only 60%, which requires ‘a new approach…new habits of mind’ to ‘suit our new future’.

1947, 31 December: Haganah stormed the village of Balad al-Shaikh.  A massacre took place leading to the deaths of hundreds of women and children, most of whose corpses were found inside the houses of the village.

1948, early March: Haganah prepared Plan Dalet and declared general mobilization.

1948, 23 March: The British Cabinet decided to accelerate the pace of withdrawal from Palestine and do nothing to oppose either an attempt by the Jews to set up a Jewish state before May 15 or by the armed forces of Jordan to enter Palestine.  All that the British did was to offer trucks and boats to the Palestinians fleeing in panic especially in Tiberias, Haifa and Jaffa during April and May.

1948, 30 March: Archbishop Hakim conveyed an Arab peace proposal to Mayor Shabtai Levy in Haifa.  The Haganah commander in the city, Ya’akov Lubliani, opposed a truce that might halt the Arab exodus.

1948, 30 March – 15 May:  Haganah Alexandroni brigade attacked and drove out almost all Palestinian communities in the coastal area between Haifa and Jaffa.

1948, 31 March: Weitz met with Israel Galili, Head of the Haganah National Staff, “to discuss the problem of new Jewish settlements and the question of the Arab villages”.  He demanded that a policy be decided upon and proposed the appointment of a committee to act.

An unofficial ‘self-appointed’ committee, headed by Weitz, started its ethnic cleansing activities as of the end of March 1948.  An official committee was appointed following the creation of Israel.

1948, 4 April: Operation Nachshon was launched by the Haganah.  Villages along the Tel Aviv-Jerusalem road were captured and their Arab residents were expelled.

Abdul Qadir al-Husayni, Palestinian commander in chief, was killed in the counter-attack at Qastel on April 8.

1948, 9 April: A brutal massacre was committed in Deir Yassin by the Zionist gangs.  Over 250 men, women and children were killed.

1948, 12 April: The élite Jewish troops, the Palmach, struck at midnight against Kolonia, a small Arab village several miles from Jerusalem.  Harry Levin, a pro-Zionist news correspondent joined the Palmach in its attack and gave the following story:

The attackers used “a medley of weapons, Sten-guns, rifles, machine guns and hand grenades”.  The battle did not last very long.  Levin noted that “Arab resistance, feeble from the start, soon crumbled.  When our men got to them, many of the houses were empty.  Others continued to spit fire but not for long”.  According to the Jewish correspondent, “In half an hour it was over.  Most of the Arabs had fled into the darkness”.

In Kolonia, as in hundreds of villages throughout Palestine, the Zionist forces would make sure that the population, which was expelled, could not return.  Levin witnessed the spectacle.  “When I left, sappers were blowing up the houses.  One after the other the solid stone buildings, some built in elaborate city style, exploded and crashed.  Within sight of Jerusalem, I still heard echoes rolling through the hills”.  With no houses to return to, the people of Kolonia were condemned to become permanent refugees.  But two miles away, the population of another village, Deir Yassin, had already suffered a far worse fate.  The tragic story of this town would come to symbolize the agony of the Palestinian people. 

1948, 16 April: The Old City of Tiberias was attacked.  The Arabs appealed to the British to lift the Haganah siege on the Old City and to extend their protection to the Arab areas.  The British said they intended to evacuate the city within a few days and hence could offer no protection to the Arabs beyond 22 April.  The Arab notables then decided to evacuate the city with British help.  A truce was instituted and the British brought up buses and trucks and took the Arabs to Nazareth and Transjordan.

1948, 18 April: An operation named Bi’ur Hametz (Cleaning the Leaven) was launched by the Haganah in Haifa.  The Carmeli Brigade’s full force was unleashed on a civilian population of about 75,000 crowded in an area no more than 1.5 square kilometers.  When the Haganah Command learned that the Arab authorities were calling upon the civilians to gather for shelter in the old market place, three-inch mortars were ordered to shell the market place.  A great panic ensued.  The crowd broke into the port, stormed the boats and began to flee the city.

1948, 25 April: The assault on Jaffa started by an offensive launched by the IZL.  When the news of the attack reached London, Bevin wanted to compensate for the wrong done in Haifa.  Accordingly, the British went into action and tried to stem the Arab exodus, but to no avail.  It was too little and too late. Part of the reason why the British were unsuccessful in persuading the Jaffa Arabs to stay put was Operation Hametz (Mivtza Hametz) launched by the Haganah during the same period against the Arab villages east of Jaffa, which cut Jaffa from all centers of Arab population and its rural hinterland. 

Most of the inhabitants of Jaffa left the city under British protection.

On 13 May, with the final British evacuation, the Jaffa Arab Emergency Committee, representing the 4,000-5,000 remaining inhabitants, signed a formal surrender agreement with the Haganah. 

1948, 26-30 April: Haganah Har’el and Etzioni brigades launched Operation Yevussi in and around Jerusalem.  West Jerusalem residential areas were captured and its Palestinian residents were driven out.

1948, 28 April: Operation Yiftach was launched to cleanse Eastern Galilee of its Arabs.  Safad and its surrounding villages were captured during the night of 11-12 May.

1948, 1 May: David Ben-Gurion paid a visit to newly occupied Haifa and spoke of his plan regarding the future of the Arabs in Haifa: Their number would not exceed 15,000; two-thirds would be Christians, one-third Moslems.  Christians would be concentrated in Wadi Nisnas and the Moslems would be concentrated in the Wadi Salib neighborhood.

1948, 4 May: Operation Broom (Mivtza Matate), designed to clear out the Arab population from the Jordan Valley was launched.  The order to the company commanders was: Arab villages of Zanghariya and Tabigha, and the area of Arab ash Sahamalina should be attacked, their inhabitants expelled, and their houses blown up.

Mortaring preceded the assault and the Arabs in the area fled eastwards, into Syria, with the approach of the Palmach columns.  The following day Palmach sappers methodically blew up more than 50 houses in Zanghariya and other villages in the area.

1948, 6 May: – Aharon Cohen, Mapam party’s Arab Department director, wrote a memorandum entitled ‘Our Arab Policy in the Midst of the War’.  In his notes for the memorandum, Cohen wrote, “a deliberate eviction [of the Arabs] is taking place…  Others may rejoice – I, as a socialist, am ashamed and afraid…  To win the war and lose the peace…the state [of Israel], when it arises, will live on its sword”. 

In a memorandum to the Political Committee of Mapam on 10 May, Aharon stated that: “There is reason to assume, that what is being done… [Is being done] out of certain political aims and not only out of military necessity….  In fact, what is called a ‘transfer’ of the Arabs out of the area of the Jewish state is what is being carried out…” 

1948, 8-9 May: Haganah Har’el and Giv’ati brigades undertook Operation Maccabi and captured remaining villages between Ramla and Latrun.

1948, 9 May: Operation Lightning (Mivtza Barak) was launched in the south and created a wave of panic and flight.  The attack on Beit Daras on 10 May prompted the flight of its inhabitants and affected neighboring villages.  The village houses were blown up.

Abu Shusha, southeast of Ramle, was mortared on the night of 13-14 May; its population fled.  Some of the houses were then blown up.  The nearby village of Na’ana was surrounded and given an ultimatum to hand over its arms.  Hostages were taken pending a hand-over of arms.  Arms were handed over and the village was then occupied and the villagers were ordered.

During the second stage of Operation Lightning, Givati troops captured Al Mughar (15 May), Sawafir ash Sharqiya and Batani Gharbi (18 May) and Al Qubeiba (27 May).  Most of the inhabitants of these villages had fled or expelled. 

Givati troops also occupied the large, semi-abandoned village of Zarnuqa and its houses were demolished. 

1948, 10 May: The final attack on Safad began at 21:30 hours on 10 May.  The Davidka mortar bombs, which made a tremendous noise on impact, accounted for a great deal of the panic that followed.  The Palmach “intentionally left open the exit routes for the population to ‘facilitate’ their exodus…” On 11 May, the Palmach troops moved into and secured emptying the Arab quarters of the city.

The Haganah finally captured Safad and surrounding villages during the night of 11-12 May.

1948, 11 May: Haganah launched Operation Gideon to occupy villages in the upper eastern part of the Galilee.

1948, 12 May: The Golani Brigade units mortared the town of Beisan and the mayor formally announced the town’s surrender.  An order was given to evict the inhabitants from the city and most of them were expelled across the Jordan.  About 250 – 300 inhabitants, mainly Christians, were left in place until 28 May, when they were given the choice of going to Transjordan or to Nazareth.  The majority preferred Nazareth.

1948, 13 May: – The Haganah launched Operation Mivtza Ben-Ami against Western Galilee up to the Lebanese border.  Acre and coastal area north of the city were captured during the night of 17-18 May.

–  Iraqi general Sir Ismail Safwat, chairman of the Arab league’s military committee, who had been appointed to lead the Arab armies in Palestine, resigned because there was no agreement on a precise plan for the war.  This was another indicator that Israel was not in a state of self-defense as claimed.  On the contrary, it was active in implementing a tacit agreement with Transjordan to frustrate the creation of the Palestinian State according to the UN partition plan.

– Count Folke Bernadotte was appointed by the UN as mediator to resolve the conflict in Palestine. 

1948, 14 May: – This was officially the last day of the British mandate administration in Palestine.  Proclamation of the state of Israel was declared in Tel Aviv at 4:00 P.M.  At 6:11 P.M. (about mid-night in Tel Aviv), the White House announced: “This government has been informed that a Jewish State has been proclaimed in Palestine, and recognition has been requested by the provisional government thereof.  The U.S. recognizes the provisional government as the de facto authority of the new State of Israel.”

– A massacre was committed in the village of Abu Shousha, not far from Deir Yassin and resulted in fifty victims, including men and women, elderly and very young. The soldiers of the Zionist Jaf’ati brigade who carried out the massacre opened fire on everything that moved. Not even the livestock survived the massacre.

1948, 15 May: British Mandate was ended and the Declaration of the State of Israel came into effect.

Egyptian, Transjordanian, Lebanese and Syrian regular troops crossed the borders into Palestine.  Total number of Arab forces operating in Palestine, was fewer than 25,000.  Their entry did not make any difference.  The Zionist forces, numbering 35,000 continued with their ethnic cleansing operations unabated.

The Israel Defense Force (IDF) was founded incorporating all the pre-state underground organizations.  By mid-July, the IDF mobilized about 65,000 under arms, and by December the number reached a peak of 96,000.

1948, 20 May: Count Folke Bernadotte was appointed as UN mediator in Palestine.

1948, 22 May: UN Security Council called for a ceasefire and a truce was held between 11 June and 8 July.

1948, 26 May: At the meeting of the Mapam’s Political Committee, Eliezer Prai, editor of the party’s daily newspaper, Al Hamishmar, charged that there were elements in the Yishuv carrying out a ‘transfer policy’ by ‘blood and fire’, aimed at emptying the Jewish state of its Arab inhabitants.  “It has already been said that Weitz gave an order to expel the Arabs from Western Galilee…This is the policy and thinking behind [the destruction of the Arab villages in the area]”, he said.   

1948, 28 May: Yosef Weitz met with Moshe Shertok (Sharrett), the newly appointed Foreign Minister, and proposed that the Cabinet appoint himself, Elias Sasson, head of the Foreign Ministry’s Middle East Affairs Department, and Ezra Danin “to hammer out a plan of action designed [to achieve] the goal of transfer”.  According to Weitz, Shertok congratulated him on his initiative.  Shertok’s “view also is that this momentum [of Arab flight] must be exploited and turned into an accomplished fact,” but the Foreign Minister wanted first to consult with Ben-Gurion and Finance Minister Eliezer Kaplan.
1948, 30 May: Weitz, Danin, and Sasson met to outline the ‘Transfer’ committee’s prospective work in spite of the fact that there was no official Cabinet appointment.

1948, 4 June: “The [transfer] committee that had appointed itself”, as Weitz referred to it in his diary, met in Tel Aviv to discuss ‘the miracle’ of the Arab exodus “and how to make it permanent”.  The committee concluded, “The return of the Arabs must be prevented”.  Weitz agreed to “allocate £ 5,000 to Ezra [Danin] in order to begin destruction and renovation activities in the Beit Shean Valley and in the Sharon [the Coastal Plain]”.  Destruction of Arab villages meant that the refugees would have nowhere to return to; renovation meant readying the sites for Jewish settlement.

1948, 5 June: Weitz met with Ben-Gurion and submitted to him a memorandum entitled “Retroactive Transfer, A Scheme for the Solution of the Arab Question in the State of Israel”.  The memorandum outlined proposals for action aiming at preventing the Arabs from returning to their towns and homes.

According to Weitz, “Ben-Gurion agreed to the whole line”, but thought there was an order of priority.  According to Weitz, Ben-Gurion wanted destruction of villages, settlement on abandoned sites, and prevention of Arab cultivation.  Weitz told the Prime Minister that he had already given orders to begin destroying villages.

Ben-Gurion proposed that a committee of three – composed of representatives of the JNF, the JA settlement department, and the Agency’s treasury department – be set up to oversee “the cleaning up of the [Arab] settlements, cultivation of their [fields] and their settlement [by Jews], and the creation of a labour battalion to carry out this work”.  Ben-Gurion, like Weitz, stressed that it would not be the government carrying out these activities, but they would be carried out by the ‘National Institutions’.

1948, 6 June: Weitz sent Ben-Gurion a detailed list of the abandoned villages and towns, with the appropriate population figures.  In a covering note, he confirmed the meeting held in the previous day as well as Ben-Gurion’s approval that the destruction of Arab villages and prevention of cultivation of Arab fields will begin immediately.  Weitz continued: “In line with this, I have given an order to begin [these operations] in different parts of the Galilee, in the Beit Shean Valley, in the Hills of Ephraim and in Samaria [meaning the Hefer Valley].”

1948, 7 June: Weitz spent the day talking with Danin about how to go about destroying the abandoned villages – where would the money come from, the tractors, the dynamite, the manpower?…

1948, 17 June: Bernadotte met with the Israeli Foreign Minister to discuss the situation of the refugees.  Sharett was evasive with regard to the return of the refugees.

1948, 7-18 July: The IDF captured the towns of Lydda and Ramle and committed a massacre in the Dahmash Mosque in Lydda.  Once the slaughter had come to an end, the unarmed civilians were led to the city’s sports stadium, where the young men were detained and the families were given a mere half-hour to leave the city for the area where the Jordanian Army was located.

Most of the inhabitants of Lydda and Ramle marched under the sun and hundreds lost their lives on the way through dehydration and sunstroke.

1948, 16 July: The town of Nazareth fell into Israeli hands.  A delegation of Christian clerics came out to meet the conquerors.  Their request that the civilian population should not be forced to evacuate was granted.  When Abraham Yaffe, an Israeli officer, entered Nazareth, he met a man whom he had driven out of another town in the Galilee. “Have you come to turn us away again?” the Arab inquired.  “No, not in Nazareth,” Yaffe answered, “Nazareth is a holy place, a holy town.  The world is watching us.  You are not going to be a victim here.” 

Israeli behavior in Nazareth was different from their behavior in the other Palestinian towns and villages.  They realized that expulsion of Christian Arabs in one of the holiest Christian locations would produce unfavorable headlines all over the Western world.  And so the 14,000 people of the town were allowed to remain.

There were clear orders to the Israeli forces to restraint in the hometown of Jesus.  Chaim Laskov, the Israeli commander, recalled, “We had specific instructions not to harm anything, which meant that we had to take Nazareth by stratagem”. 

Indeed, Ben-Gurion ordered that when the town was taken unauthorized soldiers should not be allowed into Nazareth and that the army should avoid ‘any possibility of looting and desecration of churches and monasteries.’ 

“Nazareth was the exception that proved the rule”.

1948, 20 July: Stolen Palestinian lands were distributed among Jewish settlements.  Arabs who did not leave the country were placed under Military Government, and their freedom to move freely outside their villages was severely curtailed.  The Military Government and local IDF units found it simplest to forbid in toto Arab cultivation of fields.  At the same time, Jewish settlements began to cultivate fields of Arabs who had remained in the State.

1948, 24 July: Ignoring the cease-fire ordered by UN Security Council Resolution # 54, Operation Policeman (mivtza shoter) was launched against the ‘little triangle’ of the three villages of Jaba, Ijzim and Ein Ghazal about 20 kilometers south of Haifa.  Small units of the Golani, Carmeli and Alexandroni brigades captured the three villages on 26 July, with almost all the inhabitants being forced to leave.

1948, 16 August – early October: Negev and Yiftach brigades attacked and expelled Bedouins and inhabitants of villages in the Negev.

1948, 24-28 August: Giv’ati brigade launched Operation Nikayon (cleansing) and occupied coastal area west of Yibna and North of Isdud.

1948, 15 September: Bernadotte submitted his report to the UN Security Council.

1948, 17 September: Bernadotte was assassinated by the Stern Gang.  The triumvirate that ordered the assassination of the UN mediator included Yitzhak Shamir, the future Prime Minister of Israel.  Bernadotte was replaced by his deputy Ralph Bunche.

1948, 20 September: Bernadotte’s proposals to end the conflict were published.  He made it clear that “no settlement can be just and complete if recognition is not accorded to the Arab refugee to return to his home”. 

1948, September: The AHC announced the establishment of an all-Palestine government in Gaza, which was later moved to Cairo and proved to be a complete failure.

1948, 15 October: Israel broke the cease-fire and launched an attack on the Egyptian forces in the south, which ended with Israel in control of the entire Negev.

1948, 29 October: Operation Hiram was launched to occupy the remaining parts of upper Galilee and drive out its inhabitants.  A massacre was committed in the Palestinian village of Safsaf were 70 civilians were killed in cold blood one after the other.  The Israeli forces conducted looting, rape, and forcible expulsion of women, children and the elderly.

1948, 30 October: The Israeli forces entered Eilaboun.  Its 750 people, all of whom were Christian, took refuge in the two local churches where yellow and white flags of submission were flown.  Marcos Daoud, the Greek Catholic priest, approached the Israelis saying “I put my village under the protection of the State of Israel”.  The Israeli answer was as follows: Thirteen young men were murdered, the surviving young men were taken as prisoners, the women and children were marched off to the Lebanese border under severe conditions that resulted in many casualties, and looting and desecration of the churches followed the evacuation of the village.

1948, 16 November: The Security Council resolution # 62 called upon the parties directly involved in the conflict in Palestine to seek agreement for an armistice. Accordingly, armistice agreements were concluded between Israel and Egypt on 24 February, Israel and Lebanon on 25 March, Israel and Jordan on 3 April, and Israel and Syria on 20 July1949. 

1948, 11 December: UN General Assembly resolution # 194 was adopted, which resolved that “the refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbors should be permitted to do so, and that compensation should be paid for the property of those choosing not to return”.  Moreover, the resolution established a Palestine Conciliation Commission (PCC) to assume the functions given to Bernadotte.

On 1 April 1949, the PCC set up a Technical Committee on Refugees to workout measures for implementation of the provisions of UN resolution # 194 and called for an international conference at Lausanne where, under the PCC chairmanship, the parties could discuss the whole range of issues – refugees, Jerusalem, borders, recognition – and hammer out a comprehensive peace settlement.

1948, 22 December: Operation Horev was launched to drive the Egyptian forces out of Palestine and to compel the Egyptian government to negotiate an armistice.  The Israeli troops surged forward, expelled the Egyptians from the southeastern flank of the Negev, brought strong pressure to bear on the Gaza Strip, but failed to liquidate the Egyptian enclave in Faluja.  Mass murder and flight of the civilians was repeated in this operation.  A massacre was committed in Dawayma where 100 – 150 people, including women and children, were slaughtered without mercy in the mosque of the village.

Read: Palestine Through History: A Chronology (II)

-Nizar Sakhnini contributed this article to

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