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FOCUS ARAB UNITY, Al Jazeera

Why the Arabs were defeated
By Dina Abdel-Mageed in Cairo


The Palestine Post, later renamed the Jerusalem Post, announcing the birth of Israel on May 14, 1948. One of the main stories is of an Egyptian air attack on Tel Aviv [GETTY]

Jewish immigration to Palestine between 1933 and 1939 resulted in widespread domestic unrest that culminated in a number of violent incidents involving Jews and Arabs.

The situation was further exacerbated when despite Arab rejection, the United Nations approved a plan to partition Palestine into Arab and Jewish states on November 29, 1947.

While preparing for their withdrawal, the British paid little attention to the turmoil to which Palestine had fallen prey.

On May 14, 1948, General Alan Cunningham, the last British high commissioner, left what was known then as the mandate of Palestine.

John Marlowe wrote of the last few minutes of British rule in the book, The Seat of Pilate: "The Union Jack was lowered and with the speed of an execution and the silence of a ship that passes in the night British rule in Palestine came to an end."

On the same day, David Ben-Gurion, Israel's first prime minister, announced the independence of the state of Israel, established on the land granted to the Jews by the Partition Plan.

Mobilised for defeat

A Question of Arab Unity Web special coverage



Arabs Seek Common Cause
Spanning 22 countries with 320 million people, they share three general commonalities.

Revolution Calling
With promises of a unified state broken, uprisings and revolt swept the Middle East.

Rising Nationalism
Secularism and Islamism emerged as political movements during the 1920s and 30s.

Within a day, forces from the armies of several Arab countries, including Egypt and Transjordan, attacked the new state of Israel.

Underestimating the power of the fledgling state, Arab rulers thought they were heading towards an easy victory that would quiet post-World War II domestic unrest and - perhaps - gain them more territory.

"The advisors to President Quwatli and King Farouq, for example, were telling them that this will be a piece of cake for the Syrians and Egyptians [respectively]," Sami Moubayed, a Syrian political analyst and author of Shukri al-Qawatli's biography, The George Washington of Syria, said.

The scenario of defeating defenceless Israel turned out to be a far-fetched one.

The forces of Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Iraq and Transjordan suffered a humiliating defeat at the hands of the Israeli military which was a combination of Jewish militias, such as the right-wing Irgun Tzvei Le'umi and the more extreme Stern Gang.

The reasons behind the crushing defeat are still the subjects of many heated debates.

Radwan al-Sayyid, a Lebanese political thinker, told Al Jazeera that there was not enough awareness among Arabs that an ill-timed and poorly-executed military campaign could end up totally losing Palestine.

"The Jews, who constituted only around 20-25 per cent of the population, were not perceived as a serious threat by most of the Arabs," he said.

Disunited, Arabs fall

Another factor that contributed to the 1948 defeat was inter-Arab political rivalries.


Jewish settlers and members of the
pre-state Haganah in 1938 [GETTY]

While Arab leaders claimed to be fighting for Palestine, they were also engaged in a war of interests in which the warring parties had different agendas and often conflicting goals.

Arthur Goldschmidt Jr, a professor emeritus of Middle East history at Pennsylvania State University, says these rivalries altered the course of the war.

"Notably the rivalry between the Jordanians, with their British-officered Arab Legion and King Abdullah's ambitions for a Greater Syria, and the Egyptians, with King Farouk's ambition to lead the Arab World, backed to some degree by the League of Arab States and by the former mufti of Jerusalem," he said.

Goldschmidt, who is co-author of A Concise History of the Middle East, said Iraq tended to support Transjordan while Saudi Arabia sided with Egypt, pointing out that "[it] is not clear who really looked out for the Palestinian Arabs".

Some historical reports even mention a secret deal between Transjordan's King Abdullah and the Jews in which he was offered the West Bank and Eastern Jerusalem.

Al-Sayyid said: "During the course of the war, the Arab Legion did not advance beyond the regions the Israelis had given Abdullah under the deal."

Not collective defeat

Moubayed, however, argues that the war should not be seen as a single collective defeat.

"Speaking from a Syrian perspective, the Syrian Army was not defeated. They performed with flying colours during the early stages of the war," he told Al Jazeera.

"Also in the initial stages, the Egyptians took Gaza and raised their flag over Khan Yunis."

But soon enough, instead of fighting against the Jewish state, Arab leaders fought against each other for land and glory.

"The rivalries were a major problem because they resulted in poor command, lack of transparency, and ultimately, failure," Moubayed said.

He considers the first armistice, which gave the Israelis time to re-organise themselves, and the secret deal between King Abdullah and Golda Meir, the iconic Israeli prime minister, as major setbacks that turned the course of events in favour of Israel.

Negligence, corruption, scandal

But the Arabs also exhibited negligent underestimation of the abilities of the Jewish militias in in Palestine.


Members of Hashomer, a Jewish militia,
in1907 in the Upper Galilee [GETTY]
Perhaps, the military campaigns were never taken seriously enough by Arab leaders and as a result, a small number of poorly-equipped Arab forces were sent to the battlefield.

"The Jews were superior in numbers and equipment," Al-Sayyid said.

The Egyptian military also alleged that they were supplied with deficient weapons by their own government.

But, Moubayed argues that "it was actually the souls that were corrupted, more so than the weapons".

Unlike the Arabs, the Israelis were well-prepared and well-organised and had many experienced fighters who had served in units of the British Army during World War II.

"Some [Israelis], like Moshe Dayan, had seen service on behalf of Britain in World War II. There were also volunteers, mostly Jewish, but some Gentiles also, who came to Israel's aid and had gained training and experience in the Allied forces during World War II," Goldschmidt said.

Balfour

The Israeli victory in 1948 can also be attributed to the international support Israel received, notably the Balfour Declaration of 1917, in which the British promised to support the Zionist cause of establishing a national home for the Jewish people in Palestine.

The UN Partition Plan, which passed in the General Assembly, was approved by both the US and the USSR.

"The 1948 war occurred before the start of the Cold War, and world powers together with other small countries were for the establishment of a Jewish state," Al-Sayyid said, mentioning the example of the USSR pressuring Czechoslovakia to send weapons to the Israelis during the war.

Moubayed also expressed a similar viewpoint, citing Harry Truman's alleged response when he was asked about the reason behind his support for Israel: "Because there is no Arab constituency in Washington."

The Nakba

But some historians say the importance of international support has been overstated.

Khalid Al-Dekhil, a Saudi analyst and political science professor, said: "This factor [international intervention] is always there. Israelis were smart enough to make use of it. Why did not Arabs do the same?"

In his book Ma'na al-Nakba (The Meaning of the Catastrophe), Constantine Zurayq, a prominent thinker, considered the Arab battlefield losses and their political impotence to be signs of a "civilisational defeat".

Al-Dekhil believes that the 1948 defeat was truly a civilisational defeat because military weakness was only a reflection of an overall state of decay.

Al Sayyid, however, argues against Zurayq's analysis, attributing the defeat only to the lack of preparation, organisation and coordination between the handful of independent Arab states.

Regardless of the accuracy of Zurayq's analysis, the name he gave to the 1948 defeat - al-Nakba - is still used today to refer to the humiliating defeat that shaped the Middle East forever.

Source: Al Jazeera
 

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Goldschmidt, ... pointing out that "[it] is not clear who really looked out for the Palestinian Arabs".

Some things haven't changed.
 

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Moubayed also expressed a similar viewpoint, citing Harry Truman's alleged response when he was asked about the reason behind his support for Israel: "Because there is no Arab constituency in Washington."
A'yup, some things never change...
 

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Let's not also forget that Arabs can't fight worth shit. They are usually very good at oppressing their own but worthless when it comes to fighting for a "real" cause (Exception: Algeria... but then again, it's composed of Berbers who are a warrior breed)
 

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^^^^We Muslims are Lovers not fighters...........
 

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not true!
Afghanis are Muslims but not Arabs and they can fight; ask the Russians:rolleyes:

Sorry, I should have specified I was talking about the 50 yr old Muslims married to horny Land of Milk & Honey babes........
 

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You have a harem?:D

I think even you may know about Bataks and their attitude, moe than 1, not possible with my Batak. I think the extra "s" was a freudian slip.........

Batak (Indonesia - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)

What wiki does not say is that their attitude is to be straight up and confront to your face (rare in Indonesian society). In Indonesia if you want a good asshole lawyer that is going to win, you get a Batak, they make great lawyers........
 

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CH4S Admin , Outstanding Contributor
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Discussion Starter #11
I think even you may know about Bataks and their attitude, moe than 1, not possible with my Batak. I think the extra "s" was a freudian slip.........

Batak (Indonesia - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)

What wiki does not say is that their attitude is to be straight up and confront to your face (rare in Indonesian society). In Indonesia if you want a good asshole lawyer that is going to win, you get a Batak, they make great lawyers........
Hi Robert, this (wrong?) wiki link doesn't say anything.

BTW, this was only one article of an Al Jazeera series on Arab unity.
 

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Discussion Starter #12
Opinion: Arabism's greatest loss

Opinion: Arabism's greatest loss
By Hassan Ibrahim


David Ben Gurion, Israel's first prime minister, reads the Declaration of Independence on
May14, 1948 during the ceremony founding the State of Israel [GPO/GETTY]


What immediately stands out when reflecting on the plight of the Palestinians over the past 60 years is not only that they have been occupied and displaced, but that they are also being replaced by a totally different people brought to Palestine from the four corners of the globe.

Their land, their belongings and even their culture and history, are being usurped by a different population.

It is a painful repetition of the plight of native Americans we ignorantly refer to as 'red Indians'.

The Israelis, who have become the new masters of the land, are Jewish immigrants that began populating Palestine in the early years of the last century.

The Jews born in Palestine are called Sabra, while the rest migrated in successive waves under the British mandate which lasted from 1918 to 1948.


Resounding victory?

The State of Israel came into existence after a resounding victory over seven Arab armies in 1948.

The IDF have become the most feared and
"respected" military in the Middle East [AFP]
With their victory intact, the Zionist brigades - the haganah – later united with the Irgun terrorist organisation to create the tzva haganah le Yisrael - the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF).

The IDF have become the most feared and "respected" military in the Middle East. Western countries, especially the US, continue to make sure that Israel is equipped with the latest weapons.

Over the years, no country has had more access to US military technology and intelligence than Israel.


And no country has had greater influence with the US electorate than Israel.

The Jewish lobby in the US has influenced Americans with political aspirations to formulate the solid belief that their political successes are directly linked to winning the "fidelity to Israel" seal-of-approval from the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, or AIPAC.

In return, Israel - as a western geopolitical construct - has time and again proven its credentials as a true representative of the western world's long arm in the region.

Even with Arab countries producing more than 40 per cent of the global supply of petroleum, the US has never treated the Arab countries en par with the way it treats Israel.

This policy of clear favouritism has alienated many an Arab country and created a realisation in the Arab psyche, that Israel and the US are one and the same.


Existential rejection

Despite many attempts by so-called moderate Arab governments with ties to Tel Aviv to gently introduce Israel to their masses, Arabs overwhelmingly hate the Jewish state.


Palestinians burn the Israeli flag during the
funeral of two Hamas fighters in Hebron [EPA]
It is not just a matter of political disagreement, or a temporary feeling associated with the progression of one political solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict to another.

It is simply an existential rejection of the Zionist entity as a whole.

The Arabs have always found the idea of a colonialist entity, empowered by the west and enforced on the Arab world, as a particularly bitter pill to swallow.

But Israel is ironically the object of secret envy even among its Arab enemies. It is a well-to-do and vibrant society.

In addition to prosperity brought about by an outpouring of aid from Western countries, the founding fathers of Israel emphasised the role of scientific and technological advancement.

It has also turned its land into a real democracy - for the Jews - and built an egalitarian society that for its Jewish population is considered a paradise.


Bewildered Arabs

It was bewildering for the Arabs to watch the status of Palestinians living in pre-1967 Israel.

Most of those Palestinians had citizenship rights and reaped some of the benefits enjoyed by their Jewish counterparts, such as free medical care, education and political rights.

They were living better than many of their brethren in most sovereign Arab countries. Pro-Israeli Arabs would in later years try to make the argument that it is better for the Palestinians to be ruled by the "benevolent" state of Israel than "waste their lives fighting a Herculean army that is impossible to defeat".

Pro-Israeli Arabs also use phrases like "resistance is futile" and that peace has achieved more than all the Arab-Israeli wars combined.

Timeline: Palestine since 1915

They deliberately ignore the fact that between 1978 and 2000 the Lebanese resistance effectively managed a war of attrition that eventually defeated Israel and forced it to withdraw its forces unconditionally.

The pro-Israeli Arabs would retort by saying that it was not a victory for the resistance; rather it was Israel's political choice to pave the way for further deliberations between Yasser Arafat, the late Palestinian president, and Ehud Barak, the Israeli prime minister at the time.

The same argument came about after Hezbollah's resounding victory against the Israeli army in the summer of 2006.

A militia fighting alone with weapons so less advanced managed to put to shame the Israeli army with its state-of-the-art arsenal. But pro-Israeli Arabs instead called the confrontation between Israel - that still occupies a part of Lebanon in the Shibaa farms – and Hezbollah an "uncalculated and irresponsible adventure".

But the critics had to swallow their pride when Hezbollah's missiles started decking targets deep inside Israel.

They eventually reneged not in support of Hezbollah but to save face with the Arab masses.


Fidelity to Palestine


A Question of Arab Unity Special coverage

Arabs Seek Common Cause
Spanning 22 countries with 320 million people, they share three general commonalities.

Revolution Calling
With promises of a unified state broken, uprisings and revolt swept the Middle East.

Rising Nationalism
Secularism and Islamism emerged as political movements during the 1920s and 30s.

It has become tradition to consider rejection of Israel as an integral part of what it means to be an Arab.

That rejection of Israel is equalled by a "fidelity to Palestine" - not a part of Palestine or a fraction of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip interspersed by the wall built by Ariel Sharon, the former Israeli prime minister, but the whole of Palestine.

No Arab nationalist can forget the list of tragedies caused by the loss of Palestine and the creation of Israel: massacre upon massacre, wars and defeats and blood that is still being shed openly under the guise of fighting the so-called "Palestinian terrorists".

However, what is equally painful for many Arabs is that the cause of Palestinian liberation has been used as an excuse by many an Arab dictator to justify the oppression and lack of accountability to their own people.

Every Arab government communiqué during the 1960's and 70's could not be considered credible unless Palestine was mentioned in the same context as the word 'liberation'.

Even in this day and age, when catching up with the globalisation train has become the motto of most Arab governments you will find it very hard to convince their public that forsaking Palestine is an acceptable concept.

But without Palestine the notion of Arab nationalism becomes vacuous.

Hassan Ibrahim is an Al Jazeera political analyst who has covered the 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon and the 1980-1988 Iraq-Iran war.

Source: Al Jazeera
 
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