Khirbet Khizeh, by S. Yizhar, Ibis Editions, 1949,translated from Hebrew by Nicholas de Lange and Yaacob Dweck.
One of those was S. Yizhar, author of the novella, “Khirbet Khizeh.”
One of the core issues in what is called the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the 1948 war in which hundreds of thousands of Palestinians either fled their villages or were expelled by the Israeli army and rightist militias.
President-elect Barack Obama’s Chief of Staff Rahm Emmanuel’s father, in fact, was a member of the Irgun militia, which perpetrated the infamous Deir Yassin Massacre on April 9, 1948, a month before Israel’s establishment.
The Irgun leader of the time – and future Prime Minister of Israel – Menachem Begin called it a great achievement, according to “The Life And Times Of Menachem Begin,” by Amos Perlmutter.
Numerous massacres occurred during the war, which the Israelis call the “War of Independence” and the Arab World refers to as the “Naqba,” or catastrophe. For years, Israeli propaganda insisted there was no plan to expel Palestinians from their homes. Instead, it was the call over the radio by Arab leaders to abandon their homes that displaced the population.
|S. Yizhar (Yizhar Smilansky)|
According to a British “eyewitness” in an article in The Economist dated Oct. 2, 1948, Jewish authorities that controlled Haifa urged the local Palestinians to stay. Despite that, the article read, the 62,000 Arab residents dwindled down to 5,000: “There is but little doubt that the most potent of the factors were the announcements made over the air by the Higher Arab Executive, urging the Arabs to quit.”
Yet according to British historian Erskine Childers, requests made during a visit to Israel in 1958 for the Israeli government to produce promised documentary evidence of Arab appeals to leave Palestine never materialized. According to his May 12, 1961 article in the London Spectator magazine, Childers studied all Arab radio broadcasts from 1948 monitored by the BBC, collected at the British Museum.
“There was not a single order or appeal, or suggestion about evacuation from Palestine, from any Arab radio station, inside or outside Palestine, in 1948,” he concluded.
Jewish broadcasts in Hebrew and Zionist newspapers reported on Arab appeals for Palestinians to stay in their homes at the time, according to Childers.
“None so much as hinted at any Arab evacuation orders,” he wrote.
Despite this, Israel and its allies continue to uphold this mythology, going so far as to actively silence critics like Professor Ilan Pappe in Israel and Norman Finkelstein here in the U.S. The expulsion of Israeli student Teddy Katz in November 2001 – backed by an Israeli court – from Haifa University for his thesis shedding light on the Tantura Massacre of May 22-23, 1948, revealed the extent to which Israel refuses to accept responsibility.
“Khirbet Khizeh” is the story of a Palestinian village destroyed, the residents expelled and sent into exile. Written in the first person, the book reads like a diary of an Israeli soldier as he moves about the Palestinian landscape with his unit, debating the morality of his army’s actions. Along the way, the book documents the racist and inhumane attitudes of the soldiers towards hapless Arab villagers. If this book was published in the U.S. by a major publisher and authored by an American, there’s no doubt the Anti-Defamation League, Simon Wiesenthal Center and other Zionist organizations would label the book “anti-Semitic” and a “blood libel.”
S. Yizhar – whose full name is Yizhar Smilansky – was not only an Israeli who served many years in the Knesset, but the book was first published in 1949. Such episodes as Deir Yassin and Tantura were recent events, and no doubt served as an inspiration for this book.
Israel may never acknowledge responsibility by accepting the Right of Return of Palestinian refugees or formally apologizing to those that were expelled in 1948 — even a South African-style Truth and Reconciliation Commission is highly unlikely.
All that’s left is a historical record, marked by books like “Khirbet Khizeh.”