How it really really happened

Uri Avnery has grown old. Unfortunately, an old Jewish activist, who was hoping for peace, has turned to explain history in his way. That’s How It Happened is a description of his impressions during the Nakba. The problem is, that he calls it, the candid, clear, only true account of the things that happened those days.

This is the full article:

My notes follow in italics the citations in versal.

Uri Avnery: That’s How It Happened – A telling example for the the well-known distortion of facts

Since I took part in the events… it is my duty to describe what really happened

you may describe what you yourself experienced, no question. But “what really happened”? Who could pretend to know exactly what is happening in one country in peacetime, let alone in all those participants involved in a war?

Spontaneously, all the thousands of young men and women stood up and broke into the National Anthem with such vigor that the echo resounded from the mountains around us.

A very disturbing element in a pretended clean account of facts: Romanticising one’s own party right from the onset.

Though the territory allotted to the Jewish state was small,

the Jewish population realized the immense importance of statehood.

The entire Arab world opposed the resolution.

Yes, there was a war – but far from such a clear and fast decision of all the Arab states. And: no mention of Palestinians.

The day after the resolution, a Jewish bus was shot at. That was the beginning of Phase 1 of the war.

as if this sole incident had been the cause; as if no other trespass had happened

The two populations on the country were closely intertwined.

Sure they were. But is this the accurate way to describe a population superseded by a new, colonialist one?

Every Jewish village was surrounded by Arab ones. … the highroads, which were dominated by Arab villages. … The British were still nominally in charge, but tried to get involved as little as possible.

Well, what a special way to look at it: The Jewish settlements settled in the midst of Palestinian territory – what else do you expect than being surrounded? And why not call the other reality into mind: No Palestinian villages were secure from Jewish neighbours?

The underground Jewish paramilitary organization, called Haganah (“Defense”), was responsible for keeping the roads open.

as if this was a legal task, the haganah the arm of a real state

Jewish traffic moved in convoys, defended by Haganah members, male and female. The females were needed, because they could hide the illegal weapons under their clothes.

instead of serious or dangerous this makes it sound lightly, close to a joke

Since some of these fellahin were quite primitive, atrocities happened. Our side retaliated the same way. As a result, this became a very bitter struggle.

retaliate in kind – that is what a soldier is to do, well justified

One group of Haganah fighters, composed of university students, who rushed to the defense of a Jewish settlement bloc, was ambushed and killed to the last man.

  1. students – innocent young promising lads
  2. rushed to the defense: all heroes
  3. ambushed: a crime
  4. to the last man: would he ever qualify an operation of “his” side this way? No, he’d just call it elimination or so.


We saw photos of their severed heads paraded through the streets of Arab Jerusalem.

the picture stays in his mind. somebody has put it there on exactly this purpose. it happened in the Arab part of Jerusalem – of course.

The inevitable strategy of the Jewish side was to remove the Arab villages along the highways.

so, inevitable – not to be questioned; call it a strategy and it becomes a reasonable procedure. but it is pure aggression, ethnic cleansing if you “remove” the population from where they have been living. And this just to secure your roads?

“remove” does not sound as bad as what it was: expelled, all Palestinian homes along the roads were cleared

Why not “our”side? – Genau, weil es nicht so schön ist, auch wenn es beschönigt gesagt wird.

In February, 1948, the British evacuated a Tel Aviv area,

no comment on how this came about

and this became the nucleus of the Jewish state. The British left at the same time some compact Arab areas, too.

always trying to say, they (Arabs) had the same opportunities. And why always evading to call them Palestinians? – Right. Arabs are outside, Palestinians used to live in Palestine.

The Jewish quarters of Jerusalem were cut off by the Arab villages on the road. Our operation, the first big one of the war, was to open the road.

“They… cut off the Jewish quarters” is insinuating “they” were the enemy to be fought. But it was only villages along the road to Jerusalem.

What is NOT said by calling the operation “to open the road”?

masses of religious Jews left the synagogues and received us with immense joy, it resembled de Gaulle’s entry into Paris. (By chance, a photographer took my picture there.)

no wonder, he feels a liberator

In preparation for the battle, the Israeli army “cleared” large stretches of land of their Arab inhabitants, so as not to leave Arab concentrations behind our lines. This could still be justified by tactical necessity.

By pretending not to be partial, he puts the clearing into quotation marks. But he does attempt to justify it by 1. not to leave a danger, 2. calling it a tactical necessity.

On paper, the Arab side enjoyed a huge superiority….

making them dangerous and the poor self-defender a hero, David against Goliath

But we … knew that we were fighting for our lives,

Which makes them 1. morally superior 2. completely innocent and 3. gets sympathy

… And third (advantage): the Arabs had a profound contempt for us. Who has ever heard of Jews fighting?

So this is overtly no unbiased remark: Why should he know or have known that? There is no possibility to prove such a thing. And: It makes Arabs Anti-Semites.

Let me be unscientific as well: My suggestion is, that this impression has been formed during decades of recounting the events to fellow soldiers.

I saw battles in which almost all our fighters were killed or wounded … standing our ground.


But our side scented victory. It was then that the mass expulsion of the population of Arab towns and villages became obviously conscious government policy. At that point in time I was severely wounded and left the front.

Again, pretending to recount the truth, once it is unavoidable and overtly known. But why is it followed immediately by the account of his wounding? – Turning the attention to this grievance and making himself oh, so innocent.

When everybody on both sides was exhausted, the war ended with a set of armistices, which defined the recognized borders of Israel.

Making the whole outcome legal, recognized, and just.

Within these borders, very few Arabs were left. But an almost forgotten fact is

Each account of a terrible crime is followed by a hint to similiar (and for most of his readers probably, worse) troubles for “his” side.

that not a single Jew was left in the areas conquered by the Arab side. Fortunately for us, these areas were few and small compared to the large areas conquered by our side. The term “ethnic cleansing” was not yet invented.

I am speechless. Very intentionally he names this term after evocation of endangered Jews inside the areas of the “other” side.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s