In Their Own Words: Israeli Leaders on the Expulsion of Palestinians During Israel’s Establishment

May 09, 2007 IMEU

David Ben-Gurion, Israel's first Prime Minister (1948-1953, 1955-1963):

  • "We must expel Arabs and take their places...and, if we have to use force... then we have force at our disposal." (from Nur Masalha, Expulsion of the Palestinians, p. 66)
  • "The compulsory transfer of the [Palestinians] from the valleys of the proposed Jewish state could give us something which we never had, even when we stood on our own during the days of the first and second Temples. We are given an opportunity which we never dared to dream of in our wildest imaginings." (from Benny Morris, Righteous Victims, p. 142)
  • "In many parts of the country new settlement will not be possible without transferring the [Palestinian peasants]... Jewish power, which grows steadily, will also increase our possibilities to carry out the transfer on a large scale." (from Righteous Victims, p. 143)
  • "With compulsory transfer we [would] have a vast area [for settlement]. I support compulsory transfer. I don't see anything immoral in it." (from Righteous Victims, p. 144)
  • "After the formation of a large army in the wake of the establishment of the [Jewish] state, we shall abolish partition and expand to the whole of the Palestine" (from The Birth of Israel: Myths and Realities, p. 22)

Chaim Weizmann, Israel's first President (1949-1952):

  • "[the indigenous Palestinian population was akin to] the rocks of Judea, as obstacles that had to be cleared on a difficult path." (from Expulsion of the Palestinians, p. 17)

Moshe Sharett, Israel's second Prime Minister (1953-1955): 

  • "We have forgotten that we have not come to an empty land to inherit it, but we have come to conquer a country from people inhabiting it" (from Righteous Victims, p. 91) 
  • On the partition of Palestine into two states: "The [Palestinian] Arab reaction would be negative because they would lose everything and gain almost nothing ...They would lose the richest part of Palestine; they would lose major Arab assets, the orange plantations, the commercial and industrial centers and the most important sources of revenue for their government which would become impoverished; they would lose most of the coastal area, which would also be a loss to the hinterland Arab states...It would mean that they would be driven back to the desert." (from Expulsion of the Palestinians, p.59)
  • "With regard to the refugees, we are determined to be adamant while the war lasts. Once the return tide starts, it will be impossible to stem it, and it will prove our undoing. As for the future, we are equally determined to explore all possibilities of getting rid, once and for all, of the huge [Palestinian] Arab minority [Palestinian Israeli citizens of Israel] which originally threatened us. What can be achieved in this period of storm and stress [the 1948 war] will be quite unattainable once conditions get stabilized. (from The Birth of Israel: Myths and Realities, p. 105) 

Yosef Weitz, director, Jewish National Fund Land Settlement Committee (1932-1948):

  • "...the transfer of [Palestinian] Arab population from the area of the Jewish state does not serve only one aim--to diminish the Arab population. It also serves a second, no less important, aim which is to advocate land presently held and cultivated by the [Palestinian] Arabs and thus to release it for Jewish inhabitants." (from Expulsion Of The Palestinians, p. 94-95)
  • "It must be clear that there is no room in the country for both peoples...If the Arabs leave it, the country will become wide and spacious for us...The only solution is a Land of Israel...without Arabs...There is no way but to transfer the Arabs from here to the neighboring countries, to transfer all of them, save perhaps for [the Palestinian Arabs of] Bethlehem, Nazareth, and the old Jerusalem. Not one village must be left, not one tribe." (from Benny Morris, The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem, p. 27)
  • "Once again I come face to face with the land settlement difficulties that emanate from the existence of two people in close proximity...only population transfer and evacuating this country so it would become exclusively for us is the solution. " (from Expulsion Of The Palestinians, p. 132)

Arthur Ruppin, head of the Jewish Agency from 1933 to 1935 and one of the founders of Tel Aviv:

Moshe Dayan, chief of staff of the Israeli military and Minister of Defense during the 1967 war:

  • "Jewish villages were built in the place of Arab villages. You do not even know the names of these Arab villages, and I do not blame you because geography books no longer exist, not only do the books not exist, the Arab villages are not there either...There is not one single place built in this country that did not have a former Arab Population." (from Ha'aretz, April 4, 1969)
  • "We shoot at those from among the 200,000 hungry Arabs who cross the line [to graze their flocks]...Arabs cross to collect the grain that they left in the abandoned villages and we set mines for them and they go back without an arm or a leg. [It may be that this] cannot pass review, but I know no other method of guarding the borders." (from Righteous Victims, p. 275)
  • "What cause have we to complain about [the Palestinians'] fierce hatred to us. For eight years now, they sit in their refugee camps in Gaza, and before their eyes we turn into our homestead the land and villages in which they and their forefathers have lived... .Let us make our reckoning today. We are a generation of settlers, and without the steel helmet and gun barrel, we shall not be able to plant a tree or build a house." (from Avi Shlaim, The Iron Wall, p. 101)

Yigal Allon, commander, Palmach (elite force of Zionist militia Haganah) (1945-1948), Lieutenant General, Israeli army (1948-1949): 

  • "The confidence of thousands of Arabs of the Hula [Valley] was shaken...We had only five days left...until 15 May [1948]. We regarded it as imperative to cleanse the interior of the Galilee and create Jewish territorial continuity in the whole of the Upper Galilee...I gathered the Jewish mukhtars [Kibbutz chiefs], who had ties with the different Arab villages, and I asked them to whisper in the ears of several Arabs that a giant Jewish reinforcement had reached the Galilee and were about to clean out the villages of Hula, [and] to advise them as friends, to flee while they could. And rumour spread throughout Hula that the time had come to flee. The flight encompassed tens of thousands. The stratagem fully achieved its objective." (from The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem, p. 122)

Yitzhak Rabin, Prime Minister of Israel (1974-1977, 1992-1995)

  • "We walked outside, Ben-Gurion accompanying us. Allon repeated his question, What is to be done with the Palestinian population. ' Ben-Gurion waved his hand in a gesture which said 'Drive them out!" (from New York Times, October 23, 1979)

Ariel Sharon, Prime Minister of Israel (2001-2006)

  • "It is the duty of Israeli leaders to explain to public opinion, clearly and courageously, a certain number of facts that are forgotten with time. The first of these is that there is no Zionism, colonialization, or Jewish State without the eviction of the Arabs and the expropriation of their lands." (from Agence France Presse, November 15, 1998)

Go deeper