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War of Independance - 1948 - History

War of Independance - 1948 - History


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IDF Halftracks of the 8th Brigade

From the moment the State of Israel came into being Arab Armies invaded. All were repulsed and when the war ended Israel had expanded on the original borders of the partition plan. However the price was high 6,000 Israelis died.

With the declaration of Independence, came the invasion of Israel by the armies of all the surrounding Arab states. On that day, the Israel army consisted of 30,000 troops with no armor or other heavy equipment. Its air force was but a few Piper Clubs. Though this would all change in the coming weeks, in those first days of the war the regular Arab armies held an overwhelming advantage in terms of men and materiel.

The Arab armies invaded on all fronts. In the North, the Lebanese army seized the border crossing of Malkiyah. The Syrians attacked the area around the Sea of Galilee and advanced on Kibbutz Degania, where they were turned back. The Iraqis attacked across the Jordan River near the town of Besian but were forced to retreat. They then moved their troops into Samaria, where they took up defensive positions.


The most dangerous advance was that of the Egyptians. That army divided itself into two columns; one headed into the Negev Desert and up through the Hebron Hills towards Jerusalem. The brigade heading for Jerusalem was stopped on the Southern approach to the city at Kibbutz Ramat Rachel. The second column advanced along the coastal road toward Tel Aviv. For five fateful days, that army was delayed by the courageous defense of Kfar Mordechai. Next, they encountered Kibbutz Negba, which they eventually bypassed. The Egyptian forces continued on to where Ashdod is located today and paused. On May 29, the Israelis launched a counter-offensive which ended the Egyptian advance and the threat to Tel Aviv.


One other army invaded: the Arab Legion of Jordan. The Arab Legion was the best-equipped and trained Arab army; the Legion was commanded by experienced British officers. Fortunately for Israel, the Legion was relatively small, with 4,500 troops. It had been hoped that the Legion would stay out of the war completely. Secret negotiations had been taking place between the Jewish Agency and the Hashemite King Abdullah. But the King ultimately decided that not joining the other Arab states would make his position in the Arab world untenable. On the day that IsraelÕs independence was declared, the Arab Legion captured the Jewish settlements in the Etzion Bloc, located between Hebron and Bethlehem. But the critical battle was for Jerusalem. On May 28, the outnumbered and outgunned defenders of the ancient Jewish Quarter surrendered. The western portion of the city, however, was successfully defended. But it remained under virtual siege. As a result, grave problems faced Western JerusalemÕs Jewish inhabitants: hunger, thirst, and lack of arms. The road from the coastal plain to Jerusalem had been blocked since the beginning of the war when the Arab Legion occupied the Latrun fortress (having received it from the British.) Latrun stood on an especially strategic elevation that overlooked the road to Jerusalem at the point where the road began the initial ascent from the plain up through the mountains. Whoever controlled Latrun, controlled access to the Jerusalem road. Beginning on May 25, repeated attempts were made by the Israelis to capture the fortress, only to end in failure. Fortunately, Colonel David Marcus, an American member of Machal (Òvolunteers from overseasÓ) helped uncover another narrow path to Jerusalem. Under his direction, the path was hastily widened into a crude road, just in time to relieve the siege of Jerusalem before a first truce went into effect.
The truce took place when both sides were exhausted. Under the terms of the cease-fire, neither side was supposed to reinforce their forces. The Swedish Count Bernadotte was appointed as a mediator. But as was expected, the cease-fire agreement was violated and both sides substantially reinforced their positions. During the cease-fire, a ship full of arms purchased by the Irgun arrived off Israel's coast. When the Irgun insisted on retaining some of the arms for its use, Ben-Gurion ordered the army to seize the ship by force. Though the incident nearly caused a civil war, its ultimate effect was to make the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) the only legitimate arms-bearing force in Israel.


The truce was soon to expire. Aware of this, the Egyptians launched another assault against Kibbutz Negba. The attack was repulsed and during this period, the IDF achieved minor gains in the Negev region. The major activity included the capture of the Arab cities of Ramla and Lod in the heart of the new nation. While earlier in the war Israel's policy towards the local Arabs was a mixed one, in these two cities the Arab residents were encouraged to board trucks and were transported to Legion lines. The IDF also captured Nazareth and the Galilee areas that had been in Arab hands.


During a second cease-fire, Count Bernadotte proposed a settlement that would give the whole Galilee to Israel while giving the Negev desert to the Arabs; Jerusalem was to be internationalized. Both the Arabs and the Israelis categorically rejected the Bernadotte plan and the unlucky mediator was assassinated in Jerusalem by Jewish extremist on September 17, 1948
The second cease-fire ended with an Israeli attack on Egyptian positions. By this juncture, the Israelis were equipped with more modern aircraft and armored vehicles. Israeli forces quickly seized key Egyptian positions and captured the Negev city of Beersheva and soon opened the road to Eilat, at the southern tip of the country. A large Egyptian army was surrounded but refused to surrender. In the final stage of the war, Israeli troops advanced as far as El Arish in the Sinai desert. At that point, the British threatened to intervene, especially after Israel shot down 5 Egyptian planes during a single dogfight. Under British pressure, Israeli troops pulled back.


The Arab-Israeli War of 1948

The Arab-Israeli War of 1948 broke out when five Arab nations invaded territory in the former Palestinian mandate immediately following the announcement of the independence of the state of Israel on May 14, 1948. In 1947, and again on May 14, 1948, the United States had offered de facto recognition of the Israeli Provisional Government, but during the war, the United States maintained an arms embargo against all belligerents.

On November 29, 1947, the United Nations General Assembly adopted Resolution 181 (also known as the Partition Resolution) that would divide Great Britain’s former Palestinian mandate into Jewish and Arab states in May 1948. Under the resolution, the area of religious significance surrounding Jerusalem would remain under international control administered by the United Nations. The Palestinian Arabs refused to recognize this arrangement, which they regarded as favorable to the Jews and unfair to the Arab population that would remain in Jewish territory under the partition. The United States sought a middle way by supporting the United Nations resolution, but also encouraging negotiations between Arabs and Jews in the Middle East.

The United Nations resolution sparked conflict between Jewish and Arab groups within Palestine. Fighting began with attacks by irregular bands of Palestinian Arabs attached to local units of the Arab Liberation Army composed of volunteers from Palestine and neighboring Arab countries. These groups launched their attacks against Jewish cities, settlements, and armed forces. The Jewish forces were composed of the Haganah, the underground militia of the Jewish community in Palestine, and two small irregular groups, the Irgun, and LEHI. The goal of the Arabs was initially to block the Partition Resolution and to prevent the establishment of the Jewish state. The Jews, on the other hand, hoped to gain control over the territory allotted to them under the Partition Plan.

After Israel declared its independence on May 14, 1948, the fighting intensified with other Arab forces joining the Palestinian Arabs in attacking territory in the former Palestinian mandate. On the eve of May 14, the Arabs launched an air attack on Tel Aviv, which the Israelis resisted. This action was followed by the invasion of the former Palestinian mandate by Arab armies from Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, and Egypt. Saudi Arabia sent a formation that fought under the Egyptian command. British trained forces from Transjordan eventually intervened in the conflict, but only in areas that had been designated as part of the Arab state under the United Nations Partition Plan and the corpus separatum of Jerusalem. After tense early fighting, Israeli forces, now under joint command, were able to gain the offensive.

Though the United Nations brokered two cease-fires during the conflict, fighting continued into 1949. Israel and the Arab states did not reach any formal armistice agreements until February. Under separate agreements between Israel and the neighboring states of Egypt, Lebanon, Transjordan, and Syria, these bordering nations agreed to formal armistice lines. Israel gained some territory formerly granted to Palestinian Arabs under the United Nations resolution in 1947. Egypt and Jordan retained control over the Gaza Strip and the West Bank respectively. These armistice lines held until 1967. The United States did not become directly involved with the armistice negotiations, but hoped that instability in the Middle East would not interfere with the international balance of power between the Soviet Union and the United States.


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To describe the atmosphere before the war, I will relate one of the greatest experiences of my life. At the end of the summer of 1947, the annual folk dance festival was held in a natural amphitheater on the Carmel mountain chain. About 40,000 young people were there, a large number considering that the entire Yishuv, the Jewish community in Palestine, numbered around 635,000. A delegation from the UN Special Committee on Palestine, which had been appointed a few months earlier to find a solution to the Israeli-Arab conflict, was traveling around Palestine.

We watched the troupes, including one from an adjacent Arab community, dance the debka with such verve that it could barely be induced to leave the stage, when it was announced over the loudspeakers that members of UNSCOP had come to visit. Spontaneously, all those thousands rose to their feet and sang “Hatikva,” the national anthem, with such enthusiasm that the song rang among the hills. It was the last time our generation was to convene. Within a year, thousands of them were dead.

Following the UNSCOP recommendations, on November 29 of that year the UN General Assembly approved a plan to create independent Jewish and Arab states, with Jerusalem to remain a separate entity, under UN control. Although the area designated for the Jewish state was small, the Jews realized that independence was the most important thing. It was one of the lessons of the Holocaust, which had ended just three years earlier. On the other hand, the entire Arab world objected to the solution. Why, it asked, should the people of Palestine pay the price for the Holocaust that had been perpetrated by peoples of Europe?

A few days after the UN resolution was passed, shots were fired at a Jewish bus. That is how the first stage of the war began.

To understand the events, the situation bears describing. The two populations in Israel were geographically intertwined. Jerusalem, Haifa and Tel Aviv had Jewish and Arab neighborhoods next to one another, within touching range. Practically every Jewish village was surrounded by Arab villages. Their existence depended on roads that were controlled by Arab villages. After the UN resolution, gunfire erupted throughout the land. True, formally the British still controlled it, but they endeavored not to get involved.

The Haganah Jewish militia, which was still underground, got Jewish traffic moving, in convoys that were commanded by the organization’s young men and women. The women were especially important, because they could conceal weapons in their clothes.

On the Arab side, on the other hand, there was no central command. The attacks were being perpetrated by villagers, often armed with old rifles. Since some of these villagers were primitive, there were atrocities. Our side responded in the same coin, and thus the confrontation became more vicious. A group of 35 Haganah fighters, most of them students at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, was ambushed on the way to delivering supplies on foot to the four besieged kibbutzim of the Etzion Bloc, south of Jerusalem. All of them were slaughtered. We saw photographs showing their severed heads being paraded through the Old City of Jerusalem.

The inevitable strategy of the Jewish side was to expel the Arabs from around the roads. The Jewish communities were ordered to stay put, at any cost. Only a handful of isolated settlements were evacuated. In February 1948, the British withdrew from the area of Tel Aviv, which became the core of the Jewish state. At the same time, the British also withdrew from the Arab areas.

By late March, both sides were suffering terrible losses. On April 1, we received the order to scramble to Tel Aviv’s makeshift port to receive a large shipment of Soviet arms. A year before, the Soviet bloc, in an astonishing turnabout, supported the Zionist side in the conflict. Joseph Stalin, who had been anti-Zionist, apparently decided that a Jewish state in Israel would be better for him than an American-British base.

Jewish fighters in the War of Independence. Kluger Zoltan

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We spent the day cleaning off the grease in which the rifles and submachine guns had been packed. They had been manufactured in Czechoslovakia for Adolf Hitler’s army (but arrived too late for World War II). Thus the second phase of the war began.

Jerusalem’s Jewish neighborhoods were separated from the rest of the Yishuv by the Arab villages that controlled the road. The aim of the war’s first big campaign, Operation Nahshon, was to regain control. For several kilometers, the road traversed a narrow pass between steep hills. Bab al-Wad (Sha’ar Hagai) terrified all our soldiers. When we were shot at from above, we had to get out of our vehicles, climb the hillsides under fire and fight on the slopes. Not a cheery prospect.

A huge convoy, with 135 trucks and cars, came together, and we were assigned to bring it to Jerusalem. My squad got a truck loaded with crates of cheese. We tried to shelter between the crates. Happily, we were not attacked. We entered Jerusalem at midday on Shabbat, and were greeted by hordes of religious Jews who came out of the synagogues to welcome us with fervor. It was like Charles de Gaulle entering Paris during World War II. We returned to the coastal plain without trouble, but our convoy was the last one that got through to Jerusalem safely. The next was attacked and had to turn around.

In subsequent battles to open the road, the Yishuv failed and suffered terrible losses, especially at Latrun, where the road was held by irregular foreign Arab forces. The fighters of the Palmach, the elite strike force of the Haganah, found an alternative route. We dubbed it the “Burma Road,” after the road the British took from India to China during World War II.

By then it was already obvious that the armies of the surrounding Arab states were poised to join the war. That awareness changed the nature of the warfare completely. In preparation for the anticipated battles, the Jewish army “cleansed” large areas of its Arab population, in order not to leave concentrations of Arab civilians behind our lines. It could be justified on tactical grounds.

Israeli soldiers guarding Egyptian prisoners of war during the 1948 War of Independence. Government Press Office

The last of the British left on May 14. The following day, the armies of five Arab nations – Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and Iraq – joined the war, with some assistance from Saudi Arabia. These were standing armies trained by their previous colonial masters, Britain and France, who also supplied them with planes and cannons. We had none of those.

On paper, the Arab side had a tremendous advantage in arms, training and numbers, but we had three big advantages. First of all, we knew we were fighting for our lives and the lives of our families, exactly that, with our backs to the wall. Second, we had a unified command, while the Arab forces competed with each other. Third, the Arabs were contemptuous of us. Who ever heard of fighting Jews? And we had a certain tactical advantage by being inside the lines – we could move forces from one front to another quickly.

The weeks to come, the war’s third phase, brought its most desperate battles. Some of them recalled those of World War I. In the battle for Ibadis, near Kibbutz Negba in the Negev, I saw almost all our fighters die or get shot and only one heavy gun still fired. There were hours in which all seemed lost. But then, slowly, our luck began to change. As this phase drew to a close, we were still on our feet.

The fourth phase also saw hard battles, even one with bayonets. But we smelled victory. This was the stage of mass expulsions of Arabs from the cities and villages. It was clear that this was an intentional policy by the Jewish leadership. At this point I was badly wounded and quit the front lines.

When both sides were completely exhausted, the war ended with a series of cease-fire agreements and the Green Line – the 1949 Armistice Line marking Israel’s de facto borders – was created.

A small number of Arabs remained within these borders, but the forgotten fact is that not one single Jew remained in the territories conquered by the Arab side. Luckily for us, these territories were small relative to the territories conquered by our side. Both sides engaged in ethnic cleansing before the term had been coined.

Those are the facts. Anybody can build on them interpretations and ideologies as he sees fit. But, without Trumpian “alternative facts,” please.


Jewish History

The Davidka, a tremendously noisy mortar – that was extremely inaccurate and of little tactical value. Nevertheless, it helped the Israelis capture Safed during the War of Independence in 1948 when the Arabs mistook it for the atom bomb…

Even as Israel declared its statehood on May 14, 1948, five mechanized Arab armies invaded. The Jews had only 35,000 fighting men, no air force (except for a small training plane out of which the pilot dropped a grenade) and only six tanks. The Egyptian army alone had 40,000 soldiers, 135 tanks, heavy guns and an air force of over 60 planes, including Spitfires and bombers. The Jordanians had the Arab Legion, which trained by the British and led by an Englishman, Sir John Bagot Glubb, along with 48 British officers.

Yet, against all odds, the Jewish fighters won. Many of the pitched battles became epic and smacked of the miraculous.

For example, the Egyptian army launched an attack along the Mediterranean coast against the kibbutz Yad Mordechai on May 19, 1948, as part of an offensive to take Tel Aviv. Two infantry battalions, one armored battalion and one artillery battalion expected to take the kibbutz of 130 residents in three hours. The battle raged for days. The Jewish defenders held off the entire Egyptian army much longer than anyone expected, using homemade weapons that many times did nothing more than make noise. They even used mock soldiers made out of wood, which they moved from trench to trench, in order to give the appearance of greater numbers. Although the Egyptians eventually broke through they were now days behind schedule and their morale was badly shaken.

The Jordanians meanwhile had a very strong grip on the Old City of Jerusalem. Three times the Israelis tried attacking at a point called Latrun, but were unsuccessful. The road between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv remained cut. Jerusalem would have succumbed to siege if not for the discovery of an ancient Roman road that turned south of the city and then turned west until it turned north. A great deal of this road was constructed by religious Jews from Meah Shearim in the dead of night to avoid Arab snipers. The final road was bumpy and laden with holes, but it was a road. It enabled trucks to come into Jerusalem and effectively break the siege. The result was a stalemate around Jerusalem.

In the north, the Arabs were encamped at the top of Har Canaan, which overlooks Safed. It was a virtually impregnable position. The Jews could not gain control of the road to Safed or this city itself as long as they were there. Then the Israelis then brought up the Davidka, a tremendously noisy mortar – that was extremely inaccurate and of little tactical value.

One Friday afternoon, the Israelis fired a Davidka several times — and then a miracle happened: it rained. It never rained in May and June there. The Arabs were now sure that the Jews had the atomic bomb. What else could make it rain?

Consequently, they fled their impregnable positions on top of Har Canaan. The Israelis captured Safed and drove the Arabs out of the entire northern area of the Galilee.

These are only a few examples. For the believing Jew, there were nothing short of miracles, direct signs of the Divine Hand in Jewish history.

With the War of Independence still raging, the war for Israel’s survival was just beginning. And, unfortunately, it continues to this day. Nevertheless, the pendulum of history has arguably never swung more widely than from the end of the Holocaust in 1945 to the birth of the Jewish state in 1948. To many people, God’s promise to return the Jews to their homeland was emerging before their eyes in miraculous fashion.


The War Escalates

Jewish Quarter residents evacuating Jerusalem&rsquos Old City through the Zion Gate during May 1948. (Wikimedia Commons)

The immediate challenge faced by the newly formed Israel Defense Forces was to rebuff the Arab attack, defending Jewish settlements until the arrival of reinforcements. The first month of the war was marked by heavy fighting against Jordan&rsquos Arab Legion in Jerusalem by the end of May the Jordanians had conquered the Old City and expelled its Jewish inhabitants. Syria&rsquos advance into the Galilee was repulsed by the inhabitants of Kibbutz Degania, and the Egyptian invasion was blocked just north of Gaza at Kibbutz Yad Mordechai.

Palestinian Arabs fleeing their Galilee villages as Israeli troops approach, Oct. 30, 1948. (Eldan David/Israel Government Press Office)

Following a month-long truce brokered by the United Nations, hostilities resumed in July 1948. In Operation Dani, the IDF broke the siege of Jerusalem by capturing Lod and Ramle, two Arab towns in the Jerusalem corridor 50,000 Palestinian refugees fled their homes. In October, following a second UN-sponsored truce, the IDF captured the upper Galilee in Operation Hiram and, in operations Yoav and Horev, drove the Egyptian army out of the Negev by December. In March 1949, Operation Uvda saw Israeli forces complete their conquest of the southern part of the country by capturing Eilat.

The War of Independence was concluded by the signing of armistice agreements between Israel and the surrounding Arab states. Israel was left in control of 78 percent of mandatory Palestine &mdash around 50 percent more than it had been allocated in the partition plan. The remaining 22 percent was split between Jordan (West Bank and East Jerusalem) and Egypt (Gaza Strip). An independent Palestine was never established, and no Arab state recognized Israel&rsquos existence.


History of the State

From May 1948 until July 1949, the newly declared Jewish State waged what seemed to be a war for survival against impossible odds. Out-manned, out-gunned and nearly friendless, the survival of the fledgling state was unlikely. The trained armies of Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, and contingents from both Saudi Arabia and Iraq, together with an untold number of reinforcements, battled against a make-shift army composed of sabras (native-born Israelis) and refugees, many just arriving from European DP camps.

While the odds were vastly against them, the Jewish fighters had two major advantages: the desire to survive and unity. With victims of the Holocaust streaming in with tales of horror and despair, the Jews understood that independence was their only option. If they were defeated by the Arab nations, they would be massacred, and those who survived would have no place to go. And while the Arab nations were unified in their hatred of Israel, they fought amongst themselves, each seeking to expand its own territory.

Battling for every dunam of land, the Israelis slowly drove back the Arab armies, overcoming the impossible odds and breaking the siege on the roads.
In July 1949, armistice agreements were signed with Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria. At the end of the war, the borders of the State of Israel encompassed a slightly larger territory than originally mapped out by the UN partition plan, but the city of Jerusalem was divided between Israel and Jordan.
While the fighting was over, there was no real peace. The Arab nations refused to recognize the State of Israel. In the divided capital of Jerusalem, gun shots often rang out. The captured Jewish quarter of the Old City was laid to ruin as the Jordanians destroyed synagogues, schools, homes and even cemeteries. The holy Western Wall was rendered inaccessible to all Jews.

POPULATION SHIFTS

Certain of their victory in the war, the attacking Arab nations encouraged the Arabs living within Israel to flee, telling them that the Jews would surely massacre them, and assuring them that after the Zionists were defeated they would have priority in acquiring the Jewish lands. Many hundreds of thousands of Arabs believed their comrade’s propaganda and fled. When the Arabs lost the war, these Arabs were now without a home. Lebanon, Syria, Jordan…all refused to take them in and declare them citizens. Instead, they created refugee camps, vowing that they would soon disgorge the Zionist enemies and “drive them into the sea.”

But the Arabs who fled Israel during the War of Independence were not the only ones who suddenly found themselves displaced. An almost equal number of Jews who had been living in Arab countries now found themselves regarded as enemies in their own countries. Driven from their homes, these Jews were resettled in Israel.

For the next decade, Israel continued to grow. The population constantly increased by a flow of Jews from around the world. Life in Israel was not easy. Basic amenities were looked upon as luxuries, and constant infiltrations by Palestinian Arab terrorist groups called “Fedayeen” took the lives of over 1,000 Israeli citizens.

1956- THE SINAI CAMPAIGN

During the early 1950s, on top of the continued Fedayeen attacks, Egypt disrupted Israeli trade by blocking shipping routes in the Red Sea and through the Suez Canal. At the same time, Egypt nationalized the Suez canal, angering the French and English.

At the end of October 1956, Israel launched the Sinai Campaign, capturing the entire Gaza Strip and Sinai Peninsula. Two days later, France and England joined the battle. By early November, the campaign was over, Egypt was humbled and an uneasy truce prevailed. At the insistence of the United States and the UN, Israel withdrew from Gaza and Sinai. UN troops were stationed on the Egypt-Israel border, but the Egyptians continued to hinder Israeli shipping.

1967 – THE SIX DAY WAR

In 1967, military movements throughout the Arab nations surrounding Israel made it apparent that a major Arab military attack was imminent. Egypt ejected the UN peace-keeping forces that had served as a buffer at the Israel-Egypt border, and blocked Israeli shipping in the Straits of Tiran, an action Israel had warned would lead to war. At the same time, infiltration attacks increased on the Syrian border at the Golan Heights and large troop movements in Syria alarmed the Israeli Defense Force. Throughout the Middle East there was an increase in troop movements and anti-Israel rhetoric. Soldiers arrived in Jordan from Iraq, Algeria and Kuwait.

Using diplomatic channels, Israel tried to re-open the international shipping routes to their vessels. The previously pledged support by allies, France and Britain, evaporated, and the United States was unable to create an international force to pressure Egypt to back down. Faced with a major international challenge and surrounded by increased troop movements in enemy countries, Israel launched a pre-emptive attack on June 5, 1967, swiftly capturing the Gaza Strip and Sinai Peninsula. Ignoring Israeli pleas not to join the war, Jordan launched heavy artillery attacks on western Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. Israel responded with a hard defensive push and gained control of all of Judea and Samaria (also known as the West Bank). When the Syrians attacked from the north, Israel fought back and succeeded in capturing the Golan Heights from which the Syrians had been launching terror attacks since the creation of the State.

The war ended on June 10th, again without any official peace. The State of Israel had added to its territory the Sinai Peninsula, the Gaza Strip, the Golan Heights and the West Bank, all areas from which there had been constant attacks against Israel’s civilian population.
Perhaps the greatest moment in the 1967 war was the unification of Jerusalem. On June 7, 1967, for the first time since 1948, Jews stood before the holy Western Wall and were free to pray. Since the unification of the city, Jews, Christians and Muslims have all had open access to the holy sites of the ancient city.

1973 – THE YOM KIPPUR WAR

Despite the noted increase in movements of Egyptian and Syrian troops, the Israeli Defense Forces deemed the situation secure enough to allow the majority of Israeli soldiers to return home and spend Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, with their families.

When the Syrians and Egyptians attacked on the holiest day of the Jewish year (October 6, 1973), the Israelis were taken by surprise, which nearly cost them the war. The Egyptians and Syrians were supported by troops from other Arab nations as well as extensive training and arms from the Soviet Union. What was originally a regional Mid-East conflict, became a battle ground for Cold War issues as the Soviet Union backed Egypt and Syria, supplying them with airlifts of weapons and advisors. At the very last moment, in response, the United States, sent Israel the military replacement parts it needed to recover from its initial losses. Israel eventually struck back and recovered, but only after suffering extraordinarily heavy losses.

Technically, the war ended on October 22, 1973, but fighting continued on the Egyptian-Israeli front. When the cease-fire went into effect, Israel had captured an additional 165 square miles of territory from Syria, and had encircled the Egyptian Third Army on the west bank of the Suez Canal. Egyptian forces held two areas of Israeli territory along the east bank of the canal. Israel, Egypt and Syria all held prisoners of war. After months of diplomacy, Israel withdrew from the area it seized from Syria during the 1973 war, in addition to some area gained in 1967, as well as from parts of the Sinai. Prisoners of war were exchanged.

THE BEGINNINGS OF PEACE

The visit of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat in November 1977 was a monumental moment in Mid-East history. Sadat’s two-day visit, at the invitation of Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin, began a process that ended two years later at Camp David, Maryland, when, through the good offices of American President Jimmy Carter, a peace treaty was brokered. It was the first time in history that an Arab nation recognized the State of Israel. As a result of the treaty, Israel returned the Sinai Peninsula to Egypt.

In the late 1970s, southern Lebanon became a formidable launching zone for terrorist attacks against Israel. The continued attacks became untenable and all diplomatic resources failed to secure peaceful living conditions for the residents of Northern Israel. In 1982, Israel could endure no more, and entered Southern Lebanon to do battle with the Palestinian Liberation Organization. While numerous cease-fires were arranged in the 1980s and 1990s, each time fighting broke out again, and the security of Israeli citizens was continually at risk. In June 1985, the majority of Israeli troops were withdrawn from Southern Lebanon. A small residual Israeli force and an Israeli-supported militia remained in Southern Lebanon in a “security zone,” which Israel established to serve as a necessary buffer against attacks on its northern territory.

In the summer of 2000, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak unilaterally withdrew Israeli troops from Southern Lebanon. Hundred of members of the Southern Lebanese army, that had allied itself with Israel, fled to Israel for protection from retribution from anti-Israel forces. Since the unilateral withdrawal, there has been an increase in attacks by Hizbullah, the major terrorist organization.

THE GULF WAR

During the Gulf War, despite its non-involvement, Israel once again came under attack as Scud Missiles were launched at Israeli territory from Iraq. In total, 39 scuds landed in Israel, many of them on homes and other occupied buildings. Pressured by the United States and other international influences, Israel did not respond to the attacks. Miraculously, Israel suffered only one death.

THE INTIFADA and OSLO ACCORDS

In 1987, the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO), recognized internationally as a terrorist organization headed by Yassir Arafat, led an internal uprising known as the Intifada. A non-conventional war, the Intifada continued until the mid-1990s. The methods of the Intifada included guerilla warfare, terrorist attacks, stabbings and highjackings.

As the situation became unbearable for both sides, Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin agreed to meet with PLO chief Yassir Arafat. Thus began the Oslo Peace Process in 1994. Under the Oslo agreement, Israel agreed to trade land for peace. Included in the terms of the Oslo agreement were: the removal of troops and the creation of self-governed Palestinian areas, the creation (and arming) of a Palestinian police force, as well as the removal from the PLO charter of the declaration of violence against Israel. Critical to the furtherance of the peace process was an educational system based on peace. The agreement was designed to slowly move towards a separate Palestinian entity governed by the Palestinian Authority, but only after accepted steps and signs of change on both sides. Important “final status” issues were left unresolved until the initial agreement had been fulfilled.

Over the five years during which the “land for peace” transfers were expected to build mutual trust and confidence, the two sides would proceed with negotiations on the “final status” issues left unresolved at Oslo. These included some of the thorniest issues dividing the two sides: Palestinian statehood, Jerusalem, and the right of Arab refugee return.

The Oslo period lasted from 1994 until 2000. Peace talks and negotiations gave Israelis hope that peace would soon be achieved. Yet the agreements being made by the leaders of both sides were not necessarily acceptable to their constituents. Hamas, Islamic Jihad and other terrorist organizations continued to disrupt any hopes for peace, staging numerous bus bombings and other attacks. Right-wing Israelis fought for their voices to be heard as they countered that “land for peace” would not bring peace. Still, the talks continued, and in the summer of 2000, Prime Minister Ehud Barak, at the behest of President Bill Clinton, offered chairman Arafat control of over 90% of the West Bank, Gaza and a shared capital in Jerusalem. The offer was rejected. Arafat wanted all or nothing.

THE AL AKSA INTIFADA

Just before Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year, in September 2000, violence again erupted in what is now called the Al Aksa Intifada. The Israeli people wearied by concessions that did not bring peace, elected Ariel Sharon as Prime Minister in the elections in February 2001.

The Al Aksa Intifada took the lives of hundreds of Israelis and Palestinians. Every time it appeared that peace-talks would resume, and that the Palestinian Authority might make a serious attempt to deter the terrorism, there was another attack: suicide bombers attacked pizza shops, night clubs, cafes and Passover Seders, killing young and old indiscriminately. Gunmen infiltrated Bar Mitzvah parties, bombers blew up commuter buses — the one common thread was that the Palestinian terrorists made no distinctions. Even Arabs were murdered. Entire families were wiped out and many children were left without parents.

In 2002, Israel began constructing a Security Fence. While this move was controversial internationally, statistics have shown that there was a significant (90%) decrease in terrorist attacks from the areas where the wall was completed. The protection of human life, however, has come at a cost, as those Palestinians wishing to cross into Israel proper for legitimate reasons of work or recreation, are impeded by long backups at check points.

The Al Aksa Intifada definitively came to an end when Yasser Arafat died in November 2004. In January 2006, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon suffered a debilitating stroke, effectively ushering in a new generation of political leadership to this seemingly never ending struggle. Mahmoud Abbas became the President of the Palestinian Authority, while Ehud Olmert assumed the Prime Ministry of Israel.

DISENGAGEMENT

Perhaps the most significant action of Ariel Sharon’s government was the unilateral withdrawal of Israel from Gaza and the removal of its settlers from Gush Katif and other Gaza settlements. Over 8,000 Jews were evacuated from their homes so that the Palestinians could govern themselves in Gaza.

In preparing for the Palestinian takeover, the Israeli army bulldozed every settlement structure except for several synagogues, Israeli soldiers formally left Gaza on September 11, 2005, and closed the border fence at Kissufim. The synagogues were later looted and burned to the ground.

The absorption of the former residents of Gush Katif into Israel proper was not smooth. Housing and employment still remain a problem for many who were relocated.

Gaza itself degenerated into chaos. In 2006-2007, it became the focal point of a power struggle between Hamas and Fatah. In June 2007, Hamas, a group recognized worldwide as a terrorist organization, seized control of Gaza from Abbas’ Fatah military entity. The smuggling of arms from Egypt and constant rocket firing into Western Israel – most notably the city of Sderot – have become the norm.

THE SECOND LEBANON WAR – Summer 2006

While Israel had withdrawn its troops from southern Lebanon in 2000, the northern border was still a hotspot for violence. Hezbollah regularly sent katusha rockets into northern towns – thankfully, they often missed. In July 2006, Hezbollah terrorists attacked two Israeli border patrol Humvees, killing 3 Israeli soldiers and kidnaping 2 more, Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev . This incident followed only a few weeks after Gilad Shalit, an Israeli soldier, had been kidnaped in Gaza by Hamas. The Hezbollah kidnaping and Israel’s desperate attempts to have the soldiers returned was the starting point of the Second Lebanon War

The Second Lebanon War lasted 33 days and was ended by a United Nations Cease-fire. All told, over one thousand people were killed, including many civilians. Over one million people on both sides were displaced from their homes during the fighting, though most were able to return when the hostilities ended.

* In August of 2008, the bodies of Goldwasser and Regev were returned to Israel in a prisoner/body exchange. The two Israelis were believed to have been dead even at the time of the Lebanese action.

OPERATION CAST LEAD

While the U.N. cease fire was upheld on the Lebanese border, the violence throughout the rest of the country did not cease. On March 6, 2008, a gunman entered Yeshivat Mercaz Harav in Jerusalem and killed 8 students and wounded 11 others. Rocket attacks out of the Gaza Strip increased, and over 12,000 rockets were launched into Israel between 2000 and 2008. As the vast majority of these rockets did not, miraculously, take any lives, the ongoing bombardment was not widely noted and condemned.

In December 2008, Israel launched Operation Cast Lead, a three week military air and infantry operation in Gaza meant to end the ongoing rocket attacks and to weaken Hamas and other terrorist organizations in the region. The operation concluded with a unilateral cease-fire.

MORE RECENT HISTORY

Over the course of the last decade, Israel has faced the challenge of negative public relations and has lost important support from the North American Jewish community. Incidents such as the 2010 Gaza Flotilla raid in which Israel forcibly stopped a group of Turkish ships trying to illegally enter Gaza created much negative publicity, even if they were within their rights. One anti-Israel campaign that has gained particular popularity is the accusation that Israel is an apartheid state. Jewish university students have had to fight for Israel’s legitimacy in light of numerous calls for boycotts on Israeli products.

On a more positive note, after a 5 year multi-national pressure campaign, Gilad Shalit, who had been abducted on the Gaza border in 2006, was returned to Israel in 2011 in exchange for 1,027 Palestinian and Israeli Arab prisoners.

Our Sages have taught us that the actions of every Jew have a direct impact on the entire nation. What Jews do in America, in Canada, in Russia, in any part of the world, can help our brothers and sisters in Israel find peace.


1948 War

Upon Britain’s 1947 announcement to quit governing Palestine, communal violence between Jews and Arabs flared again. Following the UN majority vote to partition Palestine into Arab and Jewish states, hostilities dramatically escalated. When the British left in May 1948 and Israel declared independence, the armies of Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Iraq and Lebanon failed to prevent Israel’s creation. Earlier Arab states’ rejection of two states and the war’s outcome had gripping consequences: the dream of creating a Jewish state was realized no Arab or Palestinian state came into being Israel increased its size by nearly 37% above what had been allocated to it Jordan held the West Bank and parts of Jerusalem including the Old City and Egypt held the Gaza Strip. Some 700,000 Palestinian Arabs were displaced as a result of the war, and more than 800,000 Jews from Arab lands left and most came to Israel over the next five years as anti-Jewish sentiment soared. No treaties were signed ending the war.

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Contents

Prior to 1815, the area now known as "Jammu and Kashmir" comprised 22 small independent states (16 Hindu and six Muslim) carved out of territories controlled by the Amir (King) of Afghanistan, combined with those of local small rulers. These were collectively referred to as the "Punjab Hill States". These small states, ruled by Rajput kings, were variously independent, vassals of the Mughal Empire since the time of Emperor Akbar or sometimes controlled from Kangra state in the Himachal area. Following the decline of the Mughals, turbulence in Kangra and invasions of Gorkhas, the hill states fell successively under the control of the Sikhs under Ranjit Singh. [39] : 536

The First Anglo-Sikh War (1845–46) was fought between the Sikh Empire, which asserted sovereignty over Kashmir, and the East India Company. In the Treaty of Lahore of 1846, the Sikhs were made to surrender the valuable region (the Jullundur Doab) between the Beas River and the Sutlej River and required to pay an indemnity of 1.2 million rupees. Because they could not readily raise this sum, the East India Company allowed the Dogra ruler Gulab Singh to acquire Kashmir from the Sikh kingdom in exchange for making a payment of 750,000 rupees to the Company. Gulab Singh became the first Maharaja of the newly formed princely state of Jammu and Kashmir, [40] founding a dynasty, that was to rule the state, the second-largest principality during the British Raj, until India gained its independence in 1947.

The years 1946–1947 saw the rise of All-India Muslim League and Muslim nationalism, demanding a separate state for India's Muslims. The demand took a violent turn on the Direct Action Day (16 August 1946) and inter-communal violence between Hindus and Muslims became endemic. Consequently, a decision was taken on 3 June 1947 to divide British India into two separate states, the Dominion of Pakistan comprising the Muslim majority areas and the Dominion of India comprising the rest. The two provinces Punjab and Bengal with large Muslim-majority areas were to be divided between the two dominions. An estimated 11 million people eventually migrated between the two parts of Punjab, and possibly 1 million perished in the inter-communal violence. Jammu and Kashmir, being adjacent to the Punjab province, was directly affected by the happenings in Punjab.

The original target date for the transfer of power to the new dominions was June 1948. However, fearing the rise of inter-communal violence, the British Viceroy Lord Mountbatten advanced the date to 15 August 1947. This gave only 6 weeks to complete all the arrangements for partition. [41] Mountbatten's original plan was to stay on the joint Governor General for both the dominions till June 1948. However, this was not accepted by the Pakistani leader Mohammad Ali Jinnah. In the event, Mountbatten stayed on as the Governor General of India, whereas Pakistan chose Jinnah as its Governor General. [42] It was envisaged that the nationalisation of the armed forces could not be completed by 15 August. [a] Hence British officers stayed on after the transfer of power. The service chiefs were appointed by the Dominion governments and were responsible to them. The overall administrative control, but not operational control, was vested with Field Marshal Claude Auchinleck, who was titled the 'Supreme Commander', answerable to a newly formed Joint Defence Council of the two dominions. India appointed General Rob Lockhart as its Army chief and Pakistan appointed General Frank Messervy. [47]

The presence of the British commanding officers on both sides made the Indo-Pakistani War of 1947 a strange war. The two commanding officers were in daily telephone contact and adopted mutually defensive positions. The attitude was that "you can hit them so hard but not too hard, otherwise there will be all kinds of repercussions." [48] Both Lockhart and Messervy were replaced in the course of war, and their successors Roy Bucher and Douglas Gracey tried to exercise restraint on their respective governments. Roy Bucher was apparently successful in doing so in India, but Gracey yielded and let British officers be used in operational roles on the side of Pakistan. One British officer even died in action. [49]

With the independence of the Dominions, the British Paramountcy over the princely states came to an end. The rulers of the states were advised to join one of the two dominions by executing an Instrument of Accession. Maharaja Hari Singh of Jammu and Kashmir, along with his prime minister Ram Chandra Kak, decided not to accede to either dominion. The reasons cited were that the Muslim majority population of the State would not be comfortable with joining India, and that the Hindu and Sikh minorities would become vulnerable if the state joined Pakistan. [50]

In 1947, the princely state of Jammu and Kashmir had a wide range of ethnic and religious communities. The Kashmir province consisting of the Kashmir Valley and the Muzaffarabad district had a majority Muslim population (over 90%). The Jammu province, consisting of five districts, had a roughly equal division of Hindus and Muslims in the eastern districts (Udhampur, Jammu and Reasi) and Muslim majority in the western districts (Mirpur and Poonch). The mountainous Ladakh district (wazarat) in the east had a significant Buddhist presence with a Muslim majority in Baltistan. The Gilgit Agency in the north was overwhelmingly Muslim and was directly governed by the British under an agreement with the Maharaja. Shortly before the transfer of power, the British returned the Gilgit Agency to the Maharaja, who appointed a Dogra governor for the district and a British commander for the local forces.

The predominant political movement in the Kashmir Valley, the National Conference led by Sheikh Abdullah, believed in secular politics. It was allied with the Indian National Congress and was believed to favour joining India. On the other hand, the Muslims of the Jammu province supported the Muslim Conference, which was allied to the All-India Muslim League and favoured joining Pakistan. The Hindus of the Jammu province favoured an outright merger with India. [51] In the midst of all the diverging views, the Maharaja's decision to remain independent was apparently a judicious one. [52]

Operation Gulmarg plan Edit

According to Indian military sources, the Pakistani Army prepared a plan called Operation Gulmarg and put it into action as early as 20 August, a few days after Pakistan's independence. The plan was accidentally revealed to an Indian officer, Major O. S. Kalkat serving with the Bannu Brigade. [b] According to the plan, 20 lashkars (tribal militias), each consisting of 1000 Pashtun tribesmen, were to be recruited from among various Pashtun tribes, and armed at the brigade headquarters at Bannu, Wanna, Peshawar, Kohat, Thall and Nowshera by the first week of September. They were expected to reach the launching point of Abbottabad on 18 October, and cross into Jammu and Kashmir on 22 October. Ten lashkars were expected to attack the Kashmir Valley through Muzaffarabad and another ten lashkars were expected to join the rebels in Poonch, Bhimber and Rawalakot with a view to advance to Jammu. Detailed arrangements for the military leadership and armaments were described in the plan. [54] [55]

The regimental records show that, by the last week of August, the Prince Albert Victor's Own Cavalry (PAVO Cavalry) regiment was briefed about the invasion plan. Colonel Sher Khan, the Director of Military Intelligence, was in charge of the briefing, along with Colonels Akbar Khan and Khanzadah. The Cavalry regiment was tasked with procuring arms and ammunition for the 'freedom fighters' and establishing three wings of the insurgent forces: the South Wing commanded by General Kiani, a Central Wing based at Rawalpindi and a North Wing based at Abbottabad. By 1 October, the Cavalry regiment completed the task of arming the insurgent forces. "Throughout the war there was no shortage of small arms, ammunitions, or explosives at any time." The regiment was also told to be on stand by for induction into fighting at an appropriate time. [56] [57] [58]

Scholars have noted considerable movement of Pashtun tribes during September–October. By 13 September, armed Pashtuns drifted into Lahore and Rawalpindi. The Deputy Commissioner of Dera Ismail Khan noted a scheme to send tribesmen from Malakand to Sialkot, in lorries provided by the Pakistan Government. Preparations for attacking Kashmir were also noted in the princely states of Swat, Dir, and Chitral. Scholar Robin James Moore states there is "little doubt" that Pashtuns were involved in border raids all along the Punjab border from the Indus to the Ravi. [59]

Pakistani sources deny the existence of any plan called Operation Gulmarg. However, Shuja Nawaz does list 22 Pashtun tribes involved in the invasion of Kashmir on 22 October. [60]

Rebellion in Poonch Edit

Sometime in August 1947, the first signs of trouble broke out in Poonch, about which diverging views have been received. Poonch was originally an internal jagir (autonomous principality), governed by an alternative family line of Maharaja Hari Singh. The taxation is said to have been heavy. The Muslims of Poonch had long campaigned for the principality to be absorbed into the Punjab province of British India. In 1938, a notable disturbance occurred for religious reasons, but a settlement was reached. [61] During the Second World War, over 60,000 men from Poonch and Mirpur districts enrolled in the British Indian Army. After the war, they were discharged with arms, which is said to have alarmed the Maharaja. [62] In June, Poonchis launched a 'No Tax' campaign. [63] In July, the Maharaja ordered that all the soldiers in the region be disarmed. [c] The absence of employment prospects coupled with high taxation drove the Poonchis to rebellion. [62] The "gathering head of steam", states scholar Srinath Raghavan, was utilised by the local Muslim Conference led by Sardar Muhammad Ibrahim Khan (Sardar Ibrahim) to further their campaign for accession to Pakistan. [65]

According to state government sources, the rebellious militias gathered in the Naoshera-Islamabad area, attacking the state troops and their supply trucks. A battalion of state troops was dispatched, which cleared the roads and dispersed the militias. By September, order was reestablished. [66] The Muslim Conference sources, on the other hand, narrate that hundreds of people were killed in Bagh during flag hoisting around 15 August and that the Maharaja unleased a 'reign of terror' on 24 August. Local Muslims also told Richard Symonds, a British Quaker social worker, that the army fired on crowds, and burnt houses and villages indiscriminately. [67] According to the Assistant British High Commissioner in Pakistan, H. S. Stephenson, "the Poonch affair. was greatly exaggerated". [66]

Pakistan's preparations, Maharaja's manoeuvring Edit

Scholar Prem Shankar Jha states that the Maharaja had decided, as early as April 1947, that he would accede to India if it was not possible to stay independent. [68] : 115 The rebellion in Poonch possibly unnerved the Maharaja. Accordingly, on 11 August, he dismissed his pro-Pakistan Prime Minister, Ram Chandra Kak, and appointed retired Major Janak Singh in his place. [69] On 25 August, he sent an invitation to Justice Mehr Chand Mahajan of the Punjab High Court to come as the Prime Minister. [70] On the same day, the Muslim Conference wrote to the Pakistani Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan warning him that "if, God forbid, the Pakistan Government or the Muslim League do not act, Kashmir might be lost to them". [71] This set the ball rolling in Pakistan.

Liaquat Ali Khan sent a Punjab politician Mian Iftikharuddin to explore the possibility of organising a revolt in Kashmir. [72] Meanwhile, Pakistan cut off essential supplies to the state, such as petrol, sugar and salt. It also stopped trade in timber and other products, and suspended train services to Jammu. [73] [74] Iftikharuddin returned in mid-September to report that the National Conference held strong in the Kashmir Valley and ruled out the possibility of a revolt.

Meanwhile, Sardar Ibrahim had escaped to West Punjab, along with dozens of rebels, and established a base in Murree. From there, the rebels attempted to acquire arms and ammunition for the rebellion and smuggle them into Kashmir. Colonel Akbar Khan, one of a handful of high-ranking officers in the Pakistani Army, [d] with a keen interest in Kashmir, arrived in Murree, and got enmeshed in these efforts. He arranged 4,000 rifles for the rebellion by diverting them from the Army stores. He also wrote out a draft plan titled Armed Revolt inside Kashmir and gave it to Mian Iftikharuddin to be passed on to the Pakistan's Prime Minister. [76] [77] [17]

On 12 September, the Prime Minister held a meeting with Mian Iftikharuddin, Colonel Akbar Khan and another Punjab politician Sardar Shaukat Hayat Khan. Hayat Khan had a separate plan, involving the Muslim League National Guard and the militant Pashtun tribes from the Frontier regions. The Prime Minister approved both the plans, and despatched Khurshid Anwar, the head of the Muslim League National Guard, to mobilise the Frontier tribes. [77] [17]

The Maharaja was increasingly driven to the wall with the rebellion in the western districts and the Pakistani blockade. He managed to persuade Justice Mahajan to accept the post of Prime Minister (but not to arrive for another month, for procedural reasons). He sent word to the Indian leaders through Mahajan that he was willing to accede to India but needed more time to implement political reforms. However, it was India's position that it would not accept accession from the Maharaja unless it had the people's support. The Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru demanded that Sheikh Abdullah should be released from prison and involved in the state's government. Accession could only be contemplated afterwards. Following further negotiations, Sheikh Abdullah was released on 29 September. [78] [79]

Nehru, foreseeing a number of disputes over princely states, formulated a policy that states

"wherever there is a dispute in regard to any territory, the matter should be decided by a referendum or plebiscite of the people concerned. We shall accept the result of this referendum whatever it may be." [80] [81]

The policy was communicated to Liaquat Ali Khan on 1 October at a meeting of the Joint Defence Council. Khan's eyes are said to have "sparkled" at the proposal. However, he made no response. [80] [81]

Operations in Poonch and Mirpur Edit

Armed rebellion started in the Poonch district at the beginning of October 1947. [82] [83] The fighting elements consisted of "bands of deserters from the State Army, serving soldiers of the Pakistan Army on leave, ex-servicemen, and other volunteers who had risen spontaneously." [19] The first clash is said to have occurred at Thorar (near Rawalakot) on 3–4 October 1947. [84] The rebels quickly gained control of almost the entire Poonch district. The State Forces garrison at the Poonch city came under heavy siege. [85] [86]

In the Mirpur district, the border posts at Saligram and Owen Pattan on the Jhelum river were captured by rebels around 8 October. Sehnsa and Throchi were abandoned by State Forces after attack. [87] [88]

Radio communications between the fighting units were operated by the Pakistan Army. [89] Even though the Indian Navy intercepted the communications, lacking intelligence in Jammu and Kashmir, it was unable to determine immediately where the fighting was taking place. [90]

Following the Muslim revolution in the Poonch and Mirpur area [91] and Pakistani backed [92] : 18 Pashtun tribal intervention from the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa aimed at the supporting the revolution, [93] [94] the Maharaja asked for Indian military assistance. Mountbatten urged him to accede to India to complete the legal formalities, although Mountbatten's insistence on accession before assistance has been questioned. [95] The Maharaja complied, and the Government of India recognised the accession of the princely state to India. However, Nehru, according to his biographer Sarvepalli Gopal, did not give any importance to Mountbatten's insistence that there be a temporary accession. Neither did Sardar Patel. [96] Indian troops were sent to the state to defend it. The Jammu & Kashmir National Conference volunteers aided the Indian Army in its campaign to drive out the Pathan invaders. [97]

Pakistan refused to recognise the accession of Kashmir to India, claiming that it was obtained by "fraud and violence." [98] Governor General Mohammad Ali Jinnah ordered its Army Chief General Douglas Gracey to move Pakistani troops to Kashmir at once. However, the Indian and Pakistani forces were still under a joint command, and Field Marshal Auchinleck prevailed upon him to withdraw the order. With its accession to India, Kashmir became legally Indian territory, and the British officers could not a play any role in an inter-Dominion war. [99] [100] The Pakistan army made available arms, ammunition and supplies to the rebel forces who were dubbed the 'Azad Army'. Pakistani army officers 'conveniently' on leave and the former officers of the Indian National Army were recruited to command the forces. In May 1948, the Pakistani army officially entered the conflict, in theory to defend the Pakistan borders, but it made plans to push towards Jammu and cut the lines of communications of the Indian forces in the Mehndar Valley. [101] In Gilgit, the force of Gilgit Scouts under the command of a British officer Major William Brown mutinied and overthrew the governor Ghansara Singh. Brown prevailed on the forces to declare accession to Pakistan. [102] [103] They are also believed to have received assistance from the Chitral Scouts and the Chitral State Bodyguard's of the state of Chitral, one of the princely states of Pakistan, which had acceded to Pakistan on 6 October 1947. [104] [105]

India claimed that the accession had the people's support through the support of the National Conference, the most popular organisation in the state. [106] Historians have questioned the representativeness of the National Conference and the clarity of its leaderships' goals. They observe that while many Kashmiris supported Sheikh Abdullah and the National Conference at the state level, they also supported Jinnah and the Muslim League at the all-India level. [107]

Initial invasion Edit

On 22 October the Pashtun tribal attack was launched in the Muzaffarabad sector. The state forces stationed in the border regions around Muzaffarabad and Domel were quickly defeated by tribal forces (Muslim state forces mutinied and joined them) and the way to the capital was open. Among the raiders, there were many active Pakistani Army soldiers disguised as tribals. They were also provided logistical help by the Pakistan Army. Rather than advancing toward Srinagar before state forces could regroup or be reinforced, the invading forces remained in the captured cities in the border region engaging in looting and other crimes against their inhabitants. [108] In the Poonch valley, the state forces retreated into towns where they were besieged. [109]

Records indicate that the Pakistani tribals beheaded many Hindu and Sikh civilians in Jammu and Kashmir. [110]

Indian operation in the Kashmir Valley Edit

After the accession, India airlifted troops and equipment to Srinagar under the command of Lt. Col. Dewan Ranjit Rai, where they reinforced the princely state forces, established a defence perimeter and defeated the tribal forces on the outskirts of the city. Initial defense operations included the notable defense of Badgam holding both the capital and airfield overnight against extreme odds. The successful defence included an outflanking manoeuvre by Indian armoured cars [111] during the Battle of Shalateng. The defeated tribal forces were pursued as far as Baramulla and Uri and these towns, too, were recaptured.

In the Poonch valley, tribal forces continued to besiege state forces.

In Gilgit, the state paramilitary forces, called the Gilgit Scouts, joined the invading tribal forces, who thereby obtained control of this northern region of the state. The tribal forces were also joined by troops from Chitral, whose ruler, Muzaffar ul-Mulk the Mehtar of Chitral, had acceded to Pakistan. [112] [113] [114]

Attempted link-up at Poonch and fall of Mirpur Edit

Indian forces ceased pursuit of tribal forces after recapturing Uri and Baramula, and sent a relief column southwards, in an attempt to relieve Poonch. Although the relief column eventually reached Poonch, the siege could not be lifted. A second relief column reached Kotli, and evacuated the garrisons of that town and others but were forced to abandon it being too weak to defend it. Meanwhile, Mirpur was captured by the tribal forces on 25 November 1947 with the help of Pakistan's PAVO Cavalry. [115] this led to the 1947 Mirpur massacre where Hindu women were reportedly abducted by tribal forces and taken into Pakistan. They were sold in the brothels of Rawalpindi. Around 400 women jumped into wells in Mirpur committing suicide to escape from being abducted. [116]

Fall of Jhanger and attacks on Naoshera and Uri Edit

The tribal forces attacked and captured Jhanger. They then attacked Naoshera unsuccessfully, and made a series of unsuccessful attacks on Uri. In the south a minor Indian attack secured Chamb. By this stage of the war the front line began to stabilise as more Indian troops became available. [ citation needed ]

Operation Vijay: counterattack to Jhanger Edit

The Indian forces launched a counterattack in the south recapturing Jhanger and Rajauri. In the Kashmir Valley the tribal forces continued attacking the Uri garrison. In the north Skardu was brought under siege by the Gilgit Scouts. [117]

Indian spring offensive Edit

The Indians held onto Jhanger against numerous counterattacks, who were increasingly supported by regular Pakistani Forces. In the Kashmir Valley the Indians attacked, recapturing Tithwail. The Gilgit scouts made good progress in the High Himalayas sector, infiltrating troops to bring Leh under siege, capturing Kargil and defeating a relief column heading for Skardu. [ citation needed ]

Operations Gulab and Eraze Edit

The Indians continued to attack in the Kashmir Valley sector driving north to capture Keran and Gurais (Operation Eraze). [92] : 308–324 They also repelled a counterattack aimed at Tithwal. In the Jammu region, the forces besieged in Poonch broke out and temporarily linked up with the outside world again. The Kashmir State army was able to defend Skardu from the Gilgit Scouts impeding their advance down the Indus valley towards Leh. In August the Chitral Scouts and Chitral Bodyguard under Mata ul-Mulk besieged Skardu and with the help of artillery were able to take Skardu. This freed the Gilgit Scouts to push further into Ladakh. [118] [119]

Operation Bison Edit

During this time the front began to settle down. The siege of Poonch continued. An unsuccessful attack was launched by 77 Parachute Brigade (Brig Atal) to capture Zoji La pass. Operation Duck, the earlier epithet for this assault, was renamed as Operation Bison by Cariappa. M5 Stuart light tanks of 7 Cavalry were moved in dismantled conditions through Srinagar and winched across bridges while two field companies of the Madras Sappers converted the mule track across Zoji La into a jeep track. The surprise attack on 1 November by the brigade with armour supported by two regiments of 25 pounders and a regiment of 3.7-inch guns, forced the pass and pushed the tribal and Pakistani forces back to Matayan and later Dras. The brigade linked up on 24 November at Kargil with Indian troops advancing from Leh while their opponents eventually withdrew northwards toward Skardu. [120] : 103–127 The Pakistani attacked the Skardu on 10 February 1948 which was repulsed by the Indian soldiers. [121] Thereafter, the Skardu Garrison was subjected to continuous attacks by the Pakistan Army for the next three months and each time, their attack was repulsed by the Colonel Sher Jung Thapa and his men. [121] Thapa held the Skardu with hardly 250 men for whole six long months without any reinforcement and replenishment. [122] On 14 August Indian General Sher Jung Thapa had to surrender Skardu to the Pakistani Army, [123] and raiders after a year long siege. [124]

Operation Easy Poonch link-up Edit

The Indians now started to get the upper hand in all sectors. Poonch was finally relieved after a siege of over a year. The Gilgit forces in the High Himalayas, who had previously made good progress, were finally defeated. The Indians pursued as far as Kargil before being forced to halt due to supply problems. The Zoji La pass was forced by using tanks (which had not been thought possible at that altitude) and Dras was recaptured. [ citation needed ]

Moves up to cease-fire Edit

After protracted negotiations, both countries agreed to a cease-fire. The terms of the cease-fire, laid out in a UN Commission resolution on 13 August 1948, [125] were adopted by the Commission on 5 January 1949. This required Pakistan to withdraw its forces, both regular and irregular, while allowing India to maintain minimal forces within the state to preserve law and order. Upon compliance with these conditions, a plebiscite was to be held to determine the future of the territory.

Indian losses in the war totaled 1,104 killed and 3,154 wounded [20] Pakistani, about 6,000 killed and 14,000 wounded. [24] India gained control of about two-thirds of Kashmir Pakistan, the remaining one-third. [36] [126] [127] [128] Most neutral assessments agree that India emerged victorious from the war, as it successfully defended most of the contested territory, including the Kashmir valley, Jammu, and Ladakh. [34] [35] [36] [37] [38]

Battle honours Edit

After the war, a total of number of 11 battle honours and one theatre honour were awarded to units of the Indian Army, the notable amongst which are: [129]

Gallantry awards Edit

For bravery, a number of soldiers and officers were awarded the highest gallantry award of their respective countries. Following is a list of the recipients of the Indian award Param Vir Chakra, and the Pakistani award Nishan-E-Haider:


Israel’s War of Independence, 1948: You Take Command

On November 29, 1947, the United Nations passed Resolution 181, authorizing the termination of the quarter-century-old League of Nations-approved mandate through which Britain had governed Palestine after the Ottoman Empire’s collapse at the end of World War I. Significantly, U.N.Resolution 181 also authorized the partition of Palestine into two independent states, one Jewish and one Arab. Therefore, in accordance with the resolution, on May 14, 1948,Israel was declared an independent nation under the leadership of David Ben-Gurion,its first prime minister. However, one day later, Israel’s neighboring Arab states launched powerful invasions aimed at overrunning and destroying the new country.

On May 15, 1948, about 30,000 trained and well-equipped Arab troops from the armies of Egypt, Jordan, Iraq, Lebanon and Syria attacked across Israel’s northern, eastern and southern borders. The invaders not only outnumbered the Israeli defenders,they also were substantially better armed,had tanks, armored cars, heavy weapons and artillery, and were supported by several hundred combat aircraft. The Israelis, on the other hand, possessed no tanks or heavy weapons, virtually no artillery, and only a few light aircraft of limited value in combat.

At the time, Israel had only about 15,000 trained soldiers, members of the country’s organized defense force, the Haganah. Inside the Haganah was a small but elite “strike force” called the Palmach. Theoretically, Israel could mobilize another 30,000 citizens to help defend against the invasions, but that would take several days and those men and women were poorly trained and inadequately armed militia. Essentially, they were farmers living and working in the numerous collective agricultural settlements (kibbutzim) located throughout the countryside. Yet given the state of emergency, Israel had to call upon them as quickly as possible to fill the ranks of its defenders.

Despite being outnumbered and outgunned, the Israelis realized they had no choice but to take on all the invading armies simultaneously while creating the best possible defense using their limited military resources. In fact, the only reason the Arab armies did not destroy Israel in the first few days was that the enemy forces failed to properly coordinate their multiple attacks to achieve the maximum possible impact. This gave the Israelis some hope – albeit a slim one – of surviving the onslaught by opposing each attack as it developed. If they failed to defeat the invasions, their country was doomed.

Armchair General® takes you back to May 19, 1948, on the southern shore of the Sea of Galilee, where you will play the role of Israeli Major Moshe Dayan, commander of a mixed unit of local militia and Haganah fighters. Your mission is to defeat an imminent attack by a much larger Syrian force of tanks, armored cars, artillery and infantry that has already destroyed an Israeli force defending the nearby village of Tzemach, located only about a mile to the east. Having captured Tzemach, the Syrians are now well positioned to continue their advance westward and attack Degania Alef and Degania Bet, which your force now defends. If you fail to defeat the enemy attack, the Syrians will gain control of the strategic Jordan River valley and move one step closer to destroying the new state of Israel.

THE COMMANDER WITH THE BLACK EYE PATCH

Your military experience began when you were still a teenager. You joined the Haganah at age 14 and over the next decade participated in combat actions against Arab guerrilla forces that frequently attacked Jewish settlements. In 1941, during World War II, you became a member of a Palmach reconnaissance unit supporting one of Britain’s Commonwealth military units in the Middle East, Australian 7th Infantry Division. While conducting a forward reconnaissance mission on June 8 of that year in preparation for the Australian division’s attack into Lebanon to defeat the forces of Nazi-allied Vichy France, you were injured when an enemy bullet struck the binoculars you were looking through. Glass and metal fragments destroyed your left eye, and you have worn a black eye patch ever since.

Last year, in 1947, you were appointed to the Haganah general staff and worked in the Arab Affairs department in Haifa. In that position, you created a network of agents who gathered intelligence on Arab irregular forces and operations in Palestine. Yesterday, on May 18 – three days after the commencement of the Arab invasions – the Haganah sent you to Degania to take command of the defense of the key position in the Jordan River valley. Although each point where the Arabs are invading is critical, nowhere is that more true than at Degania.

Established on the south shore of the Sea of Galilee in 1909 when Palestine was ruled by the Ottoman Empire, Degania Alef is the oldest kibbutz in Israel. It is also the place of your birth in 1915. In 1920, Degania Bet was established immediately south of the first settlement. Each kibbutz consists of small clusters of stone and wooden buildings (living quarters, farm machinery sheds, crop storage structures, etc.) and is surrounded by generally flat terrain of pastures and cultivated land (grain fields and fruit orchards). A few hundred meters south of Degania Bet is a small group of buildings on a 20-meter-high hill called Beit Yerah.

Since flat terrain provides no natural defensive obstacles, the militia platoons have begun digging trenches and foxholes at the eastern approaches to each kibbutz. Fortunately, some of the fields and pastures are surrounded by stone walls that offer at least some level of protection from enemy small arms fire. The only impediment to vehicle movement in the area is the 10- to 20-meter-wide and 5- to 10-meter-deep Jordan River, which makes the bridge on the west side of Degania Alef an obvious and important tactical objective for the invaders.

The force you command at Degania is not a powerful one by any measure. Primarily, it is an infantry force composed of four platoons: 50 militiamen from Degania Alef 50 militiamen from Degania Bet 30 soldiers detached from the Haganah “Golan” Brigade and 20 fighters from the Palmach “Yiftach” Brigade. Reflecting the eclectic nature of Israel’s weapons, your soldiers’ small arms are a mixture of British .303-caliber bolt-action Enfield rifles, World War II German 7.92 mm bolt-action K98 rifles, and a handful of British 9 mm Sten submachine guns. Your fighters also have a limited number of hand grenades, and the Degania settlers have filled glass bottles with gasoline to make Molotov cocktails to use against enemy armored vehicles.

Your supporting weapons amount to four 81 mm mortars, three 20 mm anti-tank guns, and two PIAT anti-tank guns with two-man teams. The 20 mm guns are only effective against light armor, such as armored cars. The shaped-charge explosive devices launched by the PIAT guns can destroy enemy tanks, but their range is limited to about 100 meters. And while the Haganah general staff has promised to send you Israel’s only artillery guns, this amounts to just four obsolete 65 mm French Model 1906mountain guns that lack aiming sights and are manned by inexperienced crews. Nonetheless, if and when these guns arrive, you will put them to the best possible use despite their serious drawbacks.

In contrast, the Syrian force opposing you is a formidable one. Its infantry component consists of two battalions totaling about 1,000 soldiers armed with bolt-action French rifles. Each battalion also has several machine guns as well as 60 mm and81 mm mortars. Furthermore, the Syrian force has two 10-vehicle squadrons of armored cars of two types: one with a 40 mm gun and a light machine gun mounted in the turret, and the other with a 37 mm gun and a light machine gun mounted in the open rear cargo compartment.

Supporting the Syrians is a battalion of self-propelled 75 mm artillery guns. Yet the enemy’s two 12-vehicle companies of French Renault R-35 tanks pose the most serious threat. Each 10-ton tank boasts a turret-mounted 37 mm main gun and a light machine gun, and the 43 mm armor plate is vulnerable only to a PIAT hit. Although the tanks’ pre-World War II design is obsolete by 1948 standards, the fact that the Israelis have no tanks at all means that the R-35s are dominant combat weapons in this war.

The challenge you now face is to decide how to employ your limited resources to defeat this much more powerful Syrian force and thereby prevent the invaders from seizing control of the strategically important Jordan River valley.

DEFENSE OPTIONS

Since the Syrian attack could come at any moment, you gather your platoon commanders to brief them on three possible courses of action you have developed and to get their feedback on each. Although you don’t personally know the commanders, you waste no time on introductions. You will become familiar with them – and they with you – as you fight together to defeat the common enemy.

“You all know the situation we face,” you begin, “as well as the terrain we will defend and the size and composition of the Syrian force that’s preparing to attack us. The enemy has tanks and armored cars. We have none. The enemy has artillery. We have none – although the Haganah headquarters has said it will send us four 65 mm cannon at some point. The enemy infantry numbers about 1,000. We have no more than 150 fighters. Plus, the morale of the enemy troops has been buoyed by their victory yesterday when they captured Tzemach and destroyed our comrades who were defending it. Yet despite being outnumbered and outgunned, we will find a way to win.

“Now, listen closely as I detail the three courses of action I am considering for our defense. After each one, I will give you the opportunity to share your candid opinion of it.”

COURSE OF ACTION ONE: WEIGHTED DEFENSE

“The first plan,” you explain, “is to deploy all units in the north to defend Degania Alef, the most likely enemy target since it sits on the Syrians’ direct route to the important Jordan River bridge. The PIAT teams, backed up by the anti-tank guns, will take forward positions on the kibbutz’s outskirts on each side of the main road from Tzemach, while the mortars will emplace in firing positions on the west bank of the Jordan River. All infantry platoons will establish fighting positions in and around Degania Alef’s buildings, ensuring that their fields of fire cover the main road where it passes through the village. One squad of 10 militia fighters will establish an outpost at Degania Bet to provide early warning in case any part of the enemy force approaches from that direction.”

Meier, the Degania Bet militia platoon commander, appears concerned. “Moshe,” he replies, “this plan leaves my kibbutz and our southern flank virtually defenseless. What if the Syrians attack Degania Bet instead of Degania Alef? Or what if we turn back a strike against Degania Alef only to have the Syrians shift their axis of attack south and roll through Degania Bet?”

Aron, the Palmach platoon commander, shakes his head and says, “I disagree with Meier. We must meet strength with strength, and this plan allows us to do just that.”

COURSE OF ACTION TWO: BALANCED DEFENSE

“The next option,” you continue, “is to create a balanced defense by dividing our command into two equal-sized forces to defend both villages. The Degania Alef militia, the Palmach platoon and one of the PIAT teams will establish positions in Degania Alef. The Degania Bet militia, the Golan platoon and the other PIAT team will occupy positions in Degania Bet. The anti-tank guns will take up positions on the hilltop at Beit Yerah, giving them clear fields of fire to cover the approach to each village. Again, the mortars will emplace on the west bank of the Jordan River to fire in support of both defense forces.”

David, a Haganah officer and commander of the Golan platoon, supports this plan, saying, “Since we don’t know exactly how the Syrians intend to attack, a balanced defense seems to make the most sense. It gives us the maximum amount of flexibility to respond to however the Syrians deploy for their attack and whatever axis of advance they choose.”

Aron, however, does not concur. “Dividing our already outnumbered force,” he complains, “does not ‘balance’ our defense it only weakens it. I still believe we must build the strongest possible defense at the most likely target, Degania Alef.”

COURSE OF ACTION THREE: AMBUSH

“The final course of action,” you conclude, “is to strike first by ambushing the enemy column as it advances along the main avenue of approach, the Degania AlefTzemach road. Our best-trained fighters, the Golan and Palmach platoons, along with both PIAT teams, will create hidden ambush positions along the road about 200 meters east of the outskirts of Degania Alef. The militia platoons, meanwhile, will occupy defensive positions at Degania Alef and Degania Bet, while the anti-tank guns will establish firing positions on the hilltop at Beit Yerah. As with the other plans, the mortars will emplace on the west bank of the Jordan River. Once the enemy tanks and armored cars enter the kill zone, our ambush force will destroy as many of them as possible along with their accompanying infantrymen. The Palmach platoon will then withdraw and join the defenders at Degania Alef, while the Golan platoon heads to Degania Bet.”

David states, “I am of two minds on this course of action, Moshe. On the one hand, I think that striking first gives us a good chance of knocking out many of the armored vehicles while they are still unprepared for combat and in a vulnerable column formation. But on the other hand, this plan puts my Golan platoon and Aron’s Palmach platoon in dangerously exposed forward positions. If our ambush fails, or if our soldiers come under heavy fire while withdrawing afterward,we risk losing our best fighters at the very outset of the battle.”

Cutting off all further comments, you announce that you have heard enough to make your final decision. “Thank you, gentlemen, for your candid feedback. Now,” you add, “go and prepare your platoons for battle. In 30 minutes I will tell you which course of action we will implement. But regardless of which one I choose, keep foremost in your minds that we must succeed – the fate of our country depends on it.”

What is your decision, Major Dayan?

Andrew H. Hersheyholds a doctorate in medieval history from the University of London. He contributes to the “USMC Gazette” and is a four-time winner of its Tactical Decision Game design contests. He also designs World War II tactical-level wargames for Heat of Battle and Le Franc Tireur.


Who did what for Israel in 1948? America Did Nothing

Having just taught a course on the Cultural Geography of the Middle East at a community college in Florida for "seniors" (over 55 years of age), I again encountered a unanimous belief among my students in what I would call the Most Widely Believed Myth of the political and military conflict between Israel and the Arabs.

This universal belief, never challenged by the media, is that the United States was wholly or largely responsible for fully supporting Israel on the ground from the very beginning of its independence in May, 1948.

The world has been inundated with a tsunami of Arab propaganda and crocodile tears shed for the "Palestinians" who have reveled in what they refer to as their Catastrophe or Holocaust (Nabka in Arabic). Their plight has been accompanied by unremitting criticism that the United States was the principal architect that stood behind Israel from the very beginning with money, manpower and arms. The fact is that President Truman eventually decided against the pro-Arab "professional opinion" of his Secretary of State, General George Marshall and the Arabists of the State Department.

He accorded diplomatic recognition to the new Jewish state but never considered active military aid. His own memoirs recall how he felt betrayed by State Department officials and the American U.N. Ambassador, Warren Austin who pulled the rug out from under him one day after he promised Zionist leader Chaim Weitzman support for partition.

American Jewish voting in the 1948 Presidential election leaned heavily for President Truman but also cast a substantial number of votes for third party "Progressive" leader Henry Wallace who had spoken out even more strongly on behalf of American support for the Zionist position and aid to Israel. It was actually not until the administration of President John Kennedy in the early 1960s that American arms shipments were made to Israel.

Soviet Diplomatic Support

The struggle of the Jewish community in Palestine was endorsed completely by what was then called "enlightened public opinion," above all by the political Left. Andrei Gromyko, at the UN, asserted the right of "the Jews of the whole world to the creation of a state of their own", something no official of the U.S. State Department has ever acknowledged. Soviet support in the U.N. for partition brought along an additional two votes (the Ukrainian and Bielorussian Republics within the USSR and the entire Soviet dominated block of East European states.

Taking (as always) their lead from Moscow, the (hitherto anti-Zionist) Palestinian communist organizations merged their separate Arab and Jewish divisions in October, 1948, giving unconditional support to the Israeli war effort and urging the Israel Defense Forces to "drive on toward the Suez Canal and hand British Imperialism a stinging defeat"!

World Wide Support from the Left

The most famous and colorful personality of the Spanish Republic in exile, the Basque delegate to the Cortes (Spanish Parliament), Dolores Ibarruri, who had gone to the Soviet Union, issued a proclamation in 1948 saluting the new State of Israel and comparing the invading Arab armies to the Fascist uprising that had destroyed the Republic. Just a few months earlier, the hero of the American Left, the great Afro-American folk singer, Paul Robeson had sung in a gala concert in Moscow and electrified the crowd with his rendition of the Yiddish Partisan Fighters Song.

Jewish Attempts to Buy Arms and Czech Approval

The major Arab armies who invaded the newly born Jewish state were British led, equipped, trained and supplied. The Syrian army was French-equipped and had taken orders from the Vichy government in resisting the British led invasion of the country assisted by Australian troops, Free French units and Palestinian-Jewish volunteer forces in 1941. In their War of Independence, the Israelis depended on smuggled weapons from the West and Soviet and Czech weapons.

The leaders of the Yishuv (Jewish community in Palestine), already in the summer of 1947, intended to purchase arms and sent Dr. Moshe Sneh (the Chief of the European Branch of the Jewish Agency, a leading member of the centrist General Zionist Party who later moved far leftward and became head of the Israeli Communist Party) to Prague in order to improve Jewish defenses. He was surprised by the sympathy towards Zionism and by the interest in arms export on the side of the Czech Government. Sneh met with the Deputy Foreign Minister Vladimir Clementis, who succeeded the non-Communist and definitely pro-Zionist Jan Masaryk. Sneh and Clementis discussed the possibility of Czech arms provisions for the Jewish state and the Czechs gave their approval,

In January, 1948 Jewish representatives were sent by Ben-Gurion to meet with General Ludvik Svoboda, the Minister of National Defense, and sign the first contract for Czech military aid. Four transport routes were used to Palestine all via Communist countries a) the Northern route: via Poland and the Baltic Sea, b) the Southern route: via Hungary, Yugoslavia and the Adriatic Sea, c) via Hungary, Romania and the Black Sea, d) by air, via Yugoslavia to Palestine.

At first, a "Skymaster" plane chartered from the U.S. to help in ferrying weapons to Palestine from Europe was forced by the FBI to return to the USA. By the end of May the Israeli Army (IDF) had absorbed about 20,000 Czech rifles, 2,800 machine-guns and over 27 million rounds of ammunition. Two weeks later an additional 10,000 rifles, 1,800 machine-guns and 20 million rounds of ammunition arrived. One Czech-Israeli project that alarmed the Western intelligence was the, so called, Czech Brigade, a unit composed of Jewish veterans of "Free Czechoslovakia", which fought with the British Army during WWII. The Brigade began training in August 1948 at four bases in Czechoslovakia.

Czech assistance to Israel's military strength comprised a) small arms, b) 84 airplanes –– the outdated Czech built Avia S.199s, Spitfires and Messerschmidts that played a major role in the demoralization of enemy troops c) military training and technical maintenance. On January 7, 1949, the Israeli air-force, consisting of several Spitfires and Czech built Messerschmidt Bf-109 fighters (transferred secretly from Czech bases to Israel), shot down five British-piloted Spitfires flying for the Egyptian air-force over the Sinai desert causing a major diplomatic embarrassment for the British government.

According to British reports, based on informants within the Czech Government, the total Czech dollar income from export of arms and military services to the Middle East in 1948 was over $28 million, and Israel received 85% of this amount. As late as 1951, Czech Spitfires continued to arrive in Israel by ship from the Polish port of Gydiniya-Gdansk (Danzig). Since May, 2005 the Military Museum in Prague has displayed a special exhibition on the Czech aid to Israel in 1948.

In contrast, the American State Department declared an embargo on all weapons and war material to both Jews and Arabs in Palestine, a move that only had one effect in practice. There was no Arab community in North America to speak of and given the fact that a substantial and overwhelmingly sympathetic Jewish community in the United States was anxious to aid the Jewish side, the embargo simply prevented a large part of this intended aid from reaching its destination.

The small trickle of supplies and arms reaching Israel from North America was accomplished by smuggling. The U.S. vote in favor of partition was only de facto reflecting the State Department's care not to unnecessarily offend the Arab states whereas the Soviet vote recognized Israel de jure.

Even with Czech weapons and Soviet aid, Israel would undoubtedly have been unable to halt the Arab invasion without a massive inflow of manpower. The United States, Canada and Europe provided no more than 3000 volunteers, many of them combat hardened veterans from both the European and Pacific theaters of war plus a few score idealistic youngsters from the Zionist movements with no combat experience or training.

But their numbers were a drop in the bucket compared to more than 200,000 Jewish immigrants from the Soviet dominated countries in Eastern Europe, notably, Poland, Bulgaria (almost 95% of the entire Jewish community) Romania, Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia, the former Baltic States and even the Soviet Union who emigrated to Israel arriving in time to reach the front lines or replenish the depleted ranks of civilian manpower. Without both the arms and manpower sent from the "Socialist Camp", to aid the nascent Israeli state, it would have been crushed.

The About-Face of The Party Line on Zionism

Jewish Marxist theoreticians the world over including several high ranking Party activists, all dedicated anti-religious and anti-Zionist communists had followed the Party Line and even praised a vicious pogrom by Muslim fanatics carried out against ultra-Orthodox Jews in the town of Hebron in Palestine in 1929. The Party Line then was that the Arabs masses were demonstrating their anti-imperialist sentiment against British rule and its sponsorship of Zionism.

In 1947, when Stalin was convinced that the Zionists would evict the British from Palestine, the Party Line turned about face. Following Soviet recognition and aid to Israel in 1948-49, both the Daily Worker and the Yiddish language communist daily in the U.S. Freiheit (Freedom) outdid one another to explain the new party line in that.

"Palestine had become an important settlement of 600,000 souls, having developed a common national economy, a growing national culture and the first elements of Palestinian Jewish statehood and self-government."

A 1947 CP-USA resolution entitled "Work Among the Jewish Masses" berated the Party's previous stand and proclaimed that "Jewish Marxists have not always displayed a positive attitude to the rights and interests of the Jewish People, to the special needs and problems of our own American Jewish national group and to the interests and rights of the Jewish Community in Palestine".

The new reality that had been created in Palestine was a "Hebrew nation" that deserved the right to self-determination. Remarkably, the Soviet propaganda machine even praised the far Right underground groups of the Irgun and "Stern Gang" for their campaign of violence against the British authorities.

Church Support in the U.S.

The Jewish cause in Palestine enjoyed the support of a large section of mainstream and liberal Protestant churches and not primarily the "lobby" of Protestant Fundamentalists as is often portrayed today by critics of Zionism.

As early as February 1941 and in spite of the wholehearted desire of the American Protestant establishment not to risk involvement in World War II, Reinhold Niebhur spoke out convincingly through the journal he founded "Christianity and Crisis" and sounded a clarion call of warning about Nazism.

Its final goals were not simply the eradication of the Jews but the extirpation of Christianity and the abolition of the entire heritage of Christian and humanistic culture. This is the only kind of "World Without Zionism" that the Iranian and Arab leaders long for. Niebhur based his views not on any literal "Evangelical" interpretation of Biblical promises but the essentials of justice for the nations and also called for some form of compensation to those Arabs in Palestine who might be displaced if their own leaders refused to make any compromise possible.

Nazi and Reactionary Support for the Arabs

There was nothing "progressive" about those who supported the Arab side. The acknowledged leader of the Palestinian Arab cause was the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin al-Husseini, who had fled from Palestine to Iraq to exile in Berlin where he led the "Arab office," met with Hitler whom he called "the Protector of Islam," served the Germans in Bosnia where he was instrumental in raising Muslim volunteers among the Bosnians to work with the SS.

At the end of the war, the Yugoslav government declared him a war criminal and sentenced him to death. Palestinian Arabs still regard him as their original supreme leader. Lending active support to the Arab war effort were Falangist volunteers from Franco's Spain, Bosnian Muslims and Nazi renegades who had escaped the Allies in Europe.

The close relationship between the Nazi movement and the German government under Hitler in courting the Arab Palestinian and Pan-Arab attempt to act as Fifth column in the Middle East has been thoroughly researched by Klaus-Michael Mallmann and Martin Cüppers' in their new book Halbmond und Hakenkreuz. Das "Dritte Reich", die Araber und Palästina, (Crescent Moon and Swastika: The Third Reich, the Arabs, and Palestine)

It was published in September, 2006 and has yet to appear in English translation. It documents the Arab sympathies for Nazism, particularly in Palestine and German attempts to mobilize and encourage the Arabs with their ideology, especially the Muslim Brotherhood, and the forces around the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin al-Husseini, in Palestine.

Nazi radio broadcasts to the Arabs between 1939 and 1945 constantly proclaimed the natural German sympathy for the Arab cause against Zionism and the Jews. German Middle East experts stressed "the natural alliance" between National Socialism and Islam. And such experts as the former German Ambassador in Cairo, Eberhard von Stohrer, reported to Hitler in 1941 that "the Fuhrer already held an outstanding position among the Arabs because of his fight against the Jews."

Cüppers and Mallmann quote many original documents from the Nazi archives on this close relationship. From the late 1930s, the planning staffs dealing with the external affairs of the Reich in the Head Office of Reich Security (RSHA, Reichssecuritathauptamt, originally under the monstrous Gestapo-chief Reinhard Heydrich), sought to engulf the Arabian Peninsula and win control of the region's oil reserves.

They dreamt of a pincer movement from the north via a defeated Soviet Union, and from the south via the Near East and Persia, in order to separate Great Britain from India.

Thanks to the counteroffensive of the Red Army before Moscow in 1941/1942 and at Stalingrad in 1942/1943, and the defeat of the German Africa Corps with El Alamein, the Germans never managed to actively intervene in the Middle East militarily although they helped spark a pro-Axis coup in Baghdad in 1941.

Britain and the Abstentions

In the vote on partition in the UN, apart from the states with large Muslim minorities (like Yugoslavia and Ethiopia), the Arabs managed only to wheedle a few abstentions and one lone negative vote out of the most corrupt non-Muslim states. These included Cuba (voted against partition) and Mexico (abstained) eager to demonstrate their independence of U.S. influence and Latin American countries whose regimes had been pro-Axis until the final days of World War II such as Argentina and Chile (both abstained).

All the West European nations (except Great Britain) voted for partition as well. No other issue to come before the U.N. has had such unanimous support from the European continent or cut across the ideological divide of communist and western sectors. The Jewish state was even supported by Richard Crossman, a member of the Anglo-American Committee of Inquiry on Palestine who had been handpicked by Britain's anti-Zionist Foreign Secretary, Ernest Bevin. Crossman, taking a principled stand, refused to endorse the Labor Party Line.

He had visited the Displaced Persons camps in Germany where Jews who had sought entry into Palestine were being detained. He realized that their sense of desperation derived from a world with no place which they as Jews could truly call home. He wrote that when he started out he was ready to believe that Palestine was the "problem," but his experiences made him realize that it was the "solution."

What Today's So Called "Progressive" Jews Have Forgotten or Ignore

Even many Jews in the Diaspora whose parents and grandparents rejoiced at the rebirth of Israel in 1948 and regarded it mystically as partial compensation for the Holocaust have been psychologically intimidated by the constant anti-Israel line of the media and of the torrent of bloody confrontations picturing enraged Muslim mobs ready for constant mayhem to avenge what they regard as the worst injustice in human history (i.e. the creation of the Jewish State rather than the failure to establish an Arab Palestinian state).

Some prominent Diaspora Jews, particularly among those who cannot escape the narcotic-like trance they have inherited as "progressives" and are essentially secular and ultra-critical of capitalism and American society with its underlying Christian values, have developed a new kind of psychological self-hatred to exhibit a disassociation from the State of Israel and their religious heritage. They are upset over the close Israeli-American friendship and outdo themselves in slanderous attacks on President Bush.

They easily see Israel's many flaws (both real and imagined) among which, the worst is that Israel, like America is a "privileged" society enjoying wealth amidst a world of misery. They flatter themselves that they are the modern day prophets who see "the writing on the subway walls" (as Paul Simon sung). They have earned for themselves the justifiable contempt of most Israeli Jews (both religious and secular) for their moral duplicity.

As long ago as 1958 this trend was clearly seen in the interviews given by Leon Uris, the author of the best selling novel "Exodus" in explaining why he wrote the book. He had in mind successful Jewish authors such as Philip Roth, Saul Bellow and Bernard Melamud whom he called "professional apologists" (for being Jews). Uris set out to tell the story of Israel's rebirth as the story of Jewish heroes rather than the psychological analyses of individuals who grew up damning their fathers and hating their mothers and wondering why they were born.

Uris unapologetically made a pro-Israel film only a decade after every Jewish movie producer had turned down making the film Gentleman's Agreement (1947 starring Gregory Peck) about polite anti-Semitism.

It was made into a film by the great Greek-American producer, Elia Kazan who was later turned on with vengeance for cooperating with the House un-American Activities Committee revealing communist influence in Hollywood.

Uris himself has been in the front lines in Guadalcanal and Tarawa island and felt an immense respect for the Israelis who had defeated the invading Arab armies and defied the legion of pro-Arab diplomats in the British Foreign Office and the leadership of the Labor Party (a sin the British Left has never forgiven).

Today's crowd of "progressive" Jewish actors and entertainers outdo even the writers Uris attacked fifty years ago. Woody Allen, Barbra Streisand, Dustin Hoffman and Richard Dreyfus are among the most visible and acidic critics of American policy in Iraq and have called for the impeachment of President Bush. They naturally proclaim themselves to be supporters of Israel without realizing how convoluted their antics appear to others.

They are sarcastically referred to by many in Israel as "beautiful souls" i.e., by those who reject their elitism of supposed high moral values so out of place in the Arab Middle East and as remote from the real world as were the great majority of the victims of the Holocaust whose Jewish values prevented them from attributing such evil to the Germans.

Most of the victims of the Holocaust were as deaf and blind to the fate that awaited them as surely as today's Hollywood "stars" are with regard to their calls for a selective "hands-off policy" or the future consequences of a return to Ba'athist rule in Iraq, the likely outcome of their incessant calls for immediate and total withdrawal of Allied involvement.

Two of these "stars", Streisand and Hoffman recently played the lead roles in self-mocking doubly ironic roles of a liberated Jewish couple in the comedy "Meet the Fockers". This is a grotesque example of art imitating reality (or is it the other way round?). The couple in the film have nothing but disdain for traditional American manly heroic virtues of military valor or achievement in sports nor do they demonstrate any respect whatsoever for what were classical Jewish virtues of learning and piety. They exhibit the most crass, offensive loud and vulgar behavior constantly embarrassing their son. For them and much of the Left, the very concept of civility is regarded with contempt.

Whatever the differences between secular and religious Israelis, they pale before the monumental differences that separate life in the State of Israel with all its inherent promises, risks and dangers from the Diaspora's ultra idealized concerns and sensibilities. This is as true today was it was in 1948.

The Political Left today refuses to admit that it stood wholeheartedly behind Israel much like the exercise performed by Stalin's staff of photographers who could surgically extract and obliterate old time Bolsheviks who had fallen out of his favor.

Convenient Amnesia

Today's media never attempt (not even the History Channel) to explain how it was Soviet and East Block aid and not American support that was the crucial factor which brought both essential weapons and manpower to the beleaguered newborn Israeli state in 1948-49 and enabled it to turn the tide of battle and justifiably hand the Palestinian Arabs and their allies their "Nabka." Soviet hopes that they might eventually pressure the new and profoundly democratic Israeli state to side with them in the Cold War were hopelessly naïve[*].

The Arabs cannot admit the truth of Soviet aid to Israel as it would rob them of their psychological advantage that they are victims who have the right to continually browbeat Western and especially American public opinion as responsible for their catastrophe.

Amnesia is a common malady among politicians. Democrats and others who have soured on American intervention in Iraq now have great difficulty remembering Iraqi aggression against Iran, Kuwait and the atrocities committed against the Kurds, Assyrians, Marsh Arabs and all opponents of the regime. Even President Bush and his supporters seem to suffer from amnesia and are reluctant or incapable of setting the record straight about 1948.

[*] see Uri Waller, Israel Between East and West Israel's Foreign Policy Orientation, 1948-56. Cambridge University. 1990, 302 pages, ISBN 0521362490.

This article appeared in the December 2007 New English Review

Posted August 4, 2010. Visit Mr. Berdichevsky's website at www.nberdichevsky.com.

Norman Berdichevsky is a native New Yorker who lives in Orlando, Florida. He holds a Ph.D. in Human Geography from the University of Wisconsin-Madison (1974) and is the author of The Danish-German Border Dispute (Academica Press, 2002), Nations, Language and Citizenship (McFarland & Co., Inc., 2004) and Spanish Vignettes: An Offbeat Look into Spain's Culture, Society & History (Santana Books, Malaga, Spain. 2004). He is the author of more than 175 articles and book reviews that have appeared in a variety of American, British, Danish, Israeli and Spanish periodicals. Dr. Berdichevsky teaches Hebrew at the University of Central Florida and he writes a regular monthly column for the online publication New English Review.

  • On Israel: The Palestinian refugee issue has festered for sixty years and remains a major stumbling block in reaching an Israeli-Palestinian accord. At the same time, there has been little discussion of the larger number of Jews that were forced out of Middle Eastern and North African countries where they had lived for thousand of years. The universal belief, never challenged by the media, is that the United States was wholly or largely responsible for fully supporting Israel on the ground from the very beginning of its independence in May, 1948. It's a lie, in fact we and the British supported the Arabs.

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