Allon Brands As Totally False Account of Expulsion of Arabs in 1948 War

Yigal Allon, Israel’s former Foreign Minister who was the commander of Palm action the central front during Israel’s War for Independence in 1948, today branded as a total fabrication an alleged “first person account” of the forced expulsion of 50,000 Arab civilians from the towns of Lad and Ramle by Israeli forces at the direct orders of then Premier David Ben Gurion.

The account, the subject of a story published in The New York Times yesterday by its correspondent David K. Shipler in Jerusalem, was purportedly contained in the original manuscript of the memoirs of former Premier Yitzhak Rabin but deleted from the published Hebrew edition and the English translation by Israeli censors.

Rabin was commander of the Harel Brigade which was assigned to eliminate the Jordanian Arab Legion from the Jerusalem-Tel Aviv Road. According to Shipler, “A copy of his manuscript was provided to The New York Times by Peretz Kidron, who translated the book from Hebrew to English.”

OFFERS VERSION OF EVENTS

Allon, who was at the time Rabin’s superior officer held a broadcast pressusen{SPAN}###{/SPAN} here to refute The Times story. He gave a detailed version of the events discussed. “As the supreme commander of the ‘Danny Operation’ in July (1948) during which the towns of Lad and Ramle were captured by the Israelis, I did not request permission to evacuate or drive out the Arabs of these towns. Ben Gurion gave no such order. I gave no such order and there was no such order,” he said.

“The evacuation of Lad and Ramle by its population was a result of a coincidence of two factors. One was an order from the Arab Legion to clear the town so its unit could embark on a counter-attack and recapture the towns and the panic that engulfed the population. There was no problem of driving (people) out. Any allegation that Ben Gurion or anybody else gave such an order is totally without foundation,” Allan said.

According to The Times story, Rabin wrote that he, Allan and Ben Gurion were discussing the battle then in progress for the Jerusalem-Tel Aviv Road and the problem of the 50,000 inhabitants of Ramle and Lad (then known as Lydda) arose.

“Not even Ben Gurion could offer any solution and during the discussions at operational headquarters he remained silent …. Clearly we could not leave Lad’s hostile and armed populace in our rear…. We walked outside, Ben Gurion accompanying us. Allon repeated his question: ‘What is to be done with the population?’ B. G. waved his hand in a gesture which said, ‘Drive them out.’ Allon and I held a consultation. I agreed that it was essential to drive the inhabitants out ….”, Rabin allegedly wrote.

The Times story quoted Rabin as saying the inhabitants of Lad did not leave willingly and were forced to march 10-15 miles to a point where they were met by the Arab Legion. “The inhabitants of Ramle watched and learned the lesson,” Rabin allegedly wrote, and they agreed to be evacuated on condition that buses were provided for them which was done.

The Times reported that the deleted portion of the Rabin memoirs also described how some Israeli soldiers who participated in the expulsion were sickened by it and propaganda sessions were required afterwards to soothe their troubled consciences.

The Times said that all references to these events were ordered expunged by a censorship board composed of five Cabinet members, headed by Justice Minister Shmuel Tamir. It noted that Israeli law also forbids Rabin to discuss the matter publicly. Shipler quoted Rabin as saying “I was puzzled (by the deletion) but they decided and I had to obey because I can’t violate the law of the country.” He did not say when Rabin made that remark.

FULL ACCOUNT OFFERED

Allon recalled at his press conference today that the Arab Legion did counter-attack at Lod and Ramle and used soldiers disguised as civilians in addition to infantry supported by armor. But the attacks were repulsed. According to Allon, the events were as follows:

“An Israeli mechanized column (commanded by Moshe Dayan) entered the town of Lod on the 12th day of July but had to withdraw under heavy fire and suffered significant losses after some 4 minutes. But this raid helped soften the resistance of the defenders and by evening units of the 1ftah Brigade of the Palmoch approached Lod and took over positions on the outskirts of the town. It was a disturbing situation. We did not know whether we were occupied by the population or whether we had occupied the town.

“Next morning, the units started combing the town and it was then that the Jordanian Arab Legion started its counter-attack while the soldiers in mufti who penetrated during the night fired at the Israeli soldiers. The fire was retuned and the attack was repulsed and the Israelis completed the occupation of the town.

“At that time, the flight of the population started. The Israeli command helped the population by giving them both transportation and wafer. The reason was simple: the battle went on and fearing the civilians may come between the lines, enter mine fields and interfere with operations, the decision was to help an orderly escape.

“Ramle was taken over without a single shot. At that time, Ramle notables asked the Israelis to enable the population to leave for the Ramallah area (near Jerusalem) via Latrun. I agreed with one provision — that the Arab Legion agrees to accept them. When the Legion’s agreement was given, I decided to provide them with vehicles and water so that they would not interfere with the battle that was going on in the fields and the orchards. These are the facts,” Allon said.

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