News From Within, 5 December 1991
Israeli President Reveals the “Willing Transfer” of 1967
The President of the State of Israel, Haim Herzog, confirmed at the beginning of November that he and the present Mayor of Tel Aviv, Shlomo Lahat, organized a mass transfer of Palestinians from the West Bank to Jordan after the 1967 War, whn he was the Governor of the West Bank, and Lahat was the officer in charge of Jerusalem. In an interview for the local Haifa paper Kolbo (8.11.91), he takes pride in the success of the operation in the organization of which he took part:
“The buses lines were running continuously for weeks from the Damascus Gate [in Jerusalem] to the Allenby Bridge [over the Jordan]…During this period a total of 200,000 Palestinians left Judea and Samaria [sic] of their [own free] will, among whom were 100,000 refugees [from 1948] whose camps were in the Jericho area.”
The President of the State of Israel is careful to emphasize that the Palestinians “left of their own free will,” that is, “everyone who wanted to leave, and signed a statement before getting on the, left…”
Of course, there was no connection at all between this massive transfer which Herzog carried out and any directive stemming from Israeli policy at the time. The President only carried this out at the time for humanitarian reasons, and in response to the request of Mr. Anwar al-Hatib, who was the Jordanian government of the Jerusalem region. According to Herzog, al-Hatib came to him on Friday, 9 June 1967, in the Ambassador Hotel in Jerusalem, and during this meeting “raised, among other issues, the problems of the families of the Arab consuls in Jerusalem, and the problem of the families of the Jordanian officers who were left empty-handed, cut off from the heads of their families who had escaped or retreated, and asked permission for all these families to leave Jerusalem and cross the Allenby Bridge to Jordan.” One cannot believe the speed and efficiency with which this request was carried out: Herzog informed Anwar al-Hatib that
Herzog’s reasoning was that
Nevertheless, the President feels that for the sake of “exactness? or in order to convince the reader, it is not possible to leave this idyllic picture of a coincidental matching of interests which occurred at this rare historic moment between the conqueror and the conquered. He feels he has no choice but to try and explain a bit the meaning of the “will? to leave. So. Yes, there were also other factors:
But, of course, this fear had no basis, and the evidence for this, according to Herzog, is that, after some time “the flow stopped.” And this former military governnor adds, in all seriousness: “It seems that (it stopped) when it became clear to the Arabs that the bogeyman wasn’t so bad.” (Kol Ha’ir, 8.11.1991).
What is amazing in this matter is the pathetic pretended innocence of the best of the Israeli historians who were pressed for a response to this announcement of the President of the State, and who had previously completely ignored this topic.
Dr. Joseph Neve, Chairman of the Department of History of the Middle East, University of Haifa:
Notice the abuse of language by these scholars.
Dr. Ilan Pappe, lecturer in the Department of History of the Middle East, University of Haifa:
The Orientalist Yossi Amitai, University of Haifa:
Once again, we are witness to the collaboration between the Israeli academics and intellectuals and the political establishment, which brings them to the point of betraying both the norms of the field in which they specialize and the universal values of human rights. The prominent historians quoted above desperately seeking excuses which would justify their “not knowing? about the transfer until Herzog’s revelations, look like nothing other then freshman students with no research skills, who waited until someone would present to them on a silver platter all the documents and publications concerning the organization of the mass transfer of Palestinians which occurred in 1967. But what could have been easier for them than to use the simple method of gathering testimonies from Palestiians and their families who experienced the expulsions, or from Israeli soldiers who took part in the activity of expulsion?
How easily they could have revealed these facts long ago is witnessed by the swiftness of the responses to the revelation in the newspapers: the above-mentioned Anwar al-Hatib called a press conference a few days later, in which he denied Herzog’s statements that it was he who had requested the organization of transportation to Jordan. At his meeting with Herzog in the Ambassador Hotel, he only asked for the release of the Egyptian, Syrian, Lebanese, Saudi and Iraqi Consuls who were in the Armx’s hands, and to alow 15 Jordanian clerks, who worked in Jerusalem and whose families lived in Jordan, to unite with their families. A few days later he was amazed to discover that the military government had organized trucks and busses to bring residents over to Jordan.
The second witness to contradict the story of the “willing transfer? was a soldier who took part in it, in 1967. In an interview with Naomi Cohen-David (Kol Ha’ir, 15.11.1991), he appears under the assumed name “Dani? since he is today a businessman working with various government offices and does not want to be identified:
“I was there for four months after the Six-Day War, almost up until the Corame Operation. My job was to see to it that all those going out across the Allenby Bridge would sign. I had to take their thumb, dip it in ink, and sign them on a declaration of exit. They all signed. There were some who signed a transit paper, that is, that they were going out only for a visit. Most signed a declaration of exit.”
What was written on this declaration?
“I don’t remember the exact wording, but from what was written it was understood that coming back to the country would be impossible. It was stated there something like “I am leaving the country willingly, and I give up my citizenship, the consequences of my action are known to me and I have no claims against the State.”
Everyone signed with his thumb?
“Yes, even those who knew how to write. It was the most reliable evidence for the system. It is impossible to forge fingerprints.”
“At your estimate, how many people left”?
“I never stood and counted, but dozens of buses arrived every day. There were days when it seemed to us that thousands were leaving. My table was the last stop before getting on the buses. Among those leaving were certainly those who left willingly, but there were also not a few who were simply expelled.”
Also the ones who were expelled signed that they were leaving of their own free will?
“Correct. We forced them to sign. I?ll tell you exactly how we did it: A bus would arrive and only men got off, I emphasize ” thatly men, from 20 to 70 years old, accompanied by Border Guards. They told us they were terrorists, Fedayeen, and it would be best if they were out of the State.
They didn’t want to go, and were dragged from the buses with blows from the end of the rifles and kicks. By the time they reached my table, they were generally half-conscious by this stage. Most of them attached no importance to the signing. It just seemed to them to be part of the process. I would take their thumb and sign them. Very frequently the violence used against them would bring about the best results from our point of view. The distance between the border and bridge was about 100 metrs, and they would run across out of great fear.”
What did you do if someone refused to sign?
“A gang of Border Guards and paratroopers was always around. When anyone refuse to give me his hand, they would come and start to beat him. Afterwards, I would take his finger by force, dip it in ink and sign him. That’s how they got rid of the ones who refused.”
How many were expelled in this way?
“I have no doubt that tens of thousands of people were forced out.”
What were you thinking at the time?
“I thought that it was good we were getting rid of them. I was a young soldier then, like todax’s soldiers, forced to take orders. I broke up demonstrations with force, I took part in horrible interrogations, things which drive me crazy today. But you have to remember that we are talking about the IDF after the Six-Day War, an Army which was considered of the highest value in our education, within our entity.
These things were taken for granted. We didn’t investigate and we didn’t ask for explanations or rationalizations. This is obvious from the fact that it never occurred to me to even talk about it, it was something belonging to history which was internalize deep within the soul. Only after I read the statements of the President did I decide to respond, so that what happened could be used as a warning for the future.”