IDF General Admits One Million Palestinians Expelled
War is an area of uncertainty; three quarters of the things on which all action in War is based are lying in a fog of uncertainty—Carl von Clausewitz
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1948 Arab–Israeli War
I dislike spoiling the irrational feasts of violent leaders, but just let me point a tiny, secondary, yet relevant fact: also the State of Israel never existed. The State of Israel is not the Kingdom of Israel. Sorry Golda, you need additional lessons from Goebbels.
Years later, I attended a high-school in a Jordan Valley kibbutz. Following groundbreaking advances in the historical research conducted by the Zionists, I was told that Palestinians existed, though only a few thousands of them escaped in 1948. How many thousands? Less than one hundred, our "coach" said authoritatively.
"Every soul is worth an entire world," I quoted my Jewish teachers.
"No, you fool," the coach countered, "that is only for Jews, why do you turn around everything?"
In the late eighties, things changed. More than once, Israel's demographic data proved inaccurate. Until the mid 1980s, Israel systematically reported very wrong statistics regarding the Palestinian population in the West Bank and Gaza. Roughly at the time of the First Intifada, official numbers were doubled overnight. Following this sudden apparition of the Palestinian people, Israel couldn't deny anymore the Palestinian exodus. The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem Revisited, written by Benny Morris in 1988 was one of the first formal sources acknowledging that around 750,000 Palestinians had escaped the Holy Land in 1948, a number slightly higher than the 711,000 quoted by the UN Conciliation Commission for Palestine in 1951.
Yet, until today many non-Israeli sources claim that the number was much higher. From today, there is also an Israeli source claiming that.
Palestine: "Thank you, Pundak!"
Jokingly, I made fun of Mr. Pundak's military rank. Yet, the IDF hierarchy is different from the one used by most armies. "Tat-Aluf" is translated as a mere Brigadier General, but it is one of the IDF highest ranks. Above it, are only Aluf (major-general) and Rav-Aluf (lieutenant-general). There is only one rav-aluf in active service at any moment, and he leads the army. Major generals are almost as scarce. Ranks open a bit for brigadier generals, but there are only a bit over one hundred of them in active service. Thus, Brig. Gen. Pundak was a very high-ranked officer. Moreover, he was a prominent one.
He is best known for his role in the 1948 War, when he commanded the Givati Brigade's 53rd Battalion. The most prominent operation he led was the defense of Nitzanim. The Battle of Nitzanim was the first major Egyptian victory during this war. In August 1948, he was appointed the Oded Brigade Commander and participated in Operation Yoav and Operation Hiram. In 1951, he founded the Nahal unit, closely related to Jewish settlement efforts. In 1952, he took a course in France on armored warfare. Back in Israel he became Head of the Armored Corps. In 1954, he was promoted to brigadier general, a new rank at the time, and two years later, he left the army.
He was so well-respected that Minister of Defense Moshe Dayan called him back to the army in 1971, appointing him Governor of the Sinai Peninsula and Gaza Strip. This was to create a counterweight against his boss, Major General Ariel Sharon, Commander of the Southern Command. At the time, Pundak said that Sharon "did one swinish thing after another." Dayan defined Pundak as "an excellent watchdog." He finally left the IDF before the 1973 War and filled various secondary administrative positions, including Ambassador to Tanzania, the creation of the Arad Municipality, and Head of the Jewish Agency in Argentina.
In the interview honoring his birthday, he commented on his experiences, remembered the accursed Battle of Nitzanim, claiming that its horrors never left him. Its Hill 69 event became a synonym of heroism when the last defensor of the stronghold, an artillery observer, ordered his guns to bring down fire on his own position, and was killed.
During the recent interview, Pundak achieved the same.
One of the causes of the Palestinian Exodus was the occupation and destruction of their villages by the IDF. Pundak acknowledged: "If we didn't destroy the villages, there wouldn't be State [of Israel]," he said. "I destroyed villages and I am in peace with that," he added.
"Haven't we done that, there would have been an additional one million Arabs in the State," he said, bringing the actual number of refugees into accordance to Palestinian sources.
"Thank you, Pundak!" Palestine summarized.
* Sunday Times (June 15, 1969), The Washington Post (June 16, 1969)
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