The following was an interview I used for a paper, and after it passed, I decided to publish it on my own blogspot. Due to the heated discussions, I witnessed earlier, I decided that this interview should be published (with the kind permission of Comrade Renegade) over here. I hope it stimulates not only debates, but incourages people to dwell on the history of Palestine... MFL
In his book, Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem, the Israeli scholar Benny Morris divided the famous brutal Palestinian Exodus into 4 major waves. Even though the exodus started as early as 1923, the 1948 was divided into four stages. The Ramli town was supposed to suffer the most horrific exodus of all the four waves. By the time of the third wave in 1948, the Hagganah became known as the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) and launched an offensive on the Lydda (currently known as Lyd) since it contained an airport. Afterwards, the IDF halted and allowed the terrorist militia Irgun to run an offensive on Ramli, which is not far away from Lydda. The Palestinians there were villagers with minimum military infrastructure. The militants were poor peasants with barely any weaponry and any military experience, but successfully blocked two Irgun offensives till the IDF itself decided to invade the Ramli town and crush all resistance. After Ramli fell to Israeli occupation, the IDF forced 50,000 of its people to go walking from Ramli to Ramallah. Plenty died on the road from Ramli to Ramallah. The map can be found here.
Interview with a Survivor of the Ramli Exodus(Benny Morris’s Third Wave)The following interview is with a daughter of a pharmacist and a municipality in Ramleh. His wife, who was in 1953 Vice President of the Women’s Arab Palestinian League, which was active on varieties of activities. These people are survivors of the Exodus. The daughter will answer some questions concerning the exodus, and sheds light as a case study from the eyes of a survivor.
What do you remember of the Exodus, since you lived it in 1948?
“It was in March 1948, when we left the Lydda Airport, and we arrived to Beirut. My father left us in Beirut, after renting a house, and returned to Ramli because he did not want to leave his homeland. He kept visiting us from time to time. When Ramli fell in 1948, and its people were forced to walk from Ramli to Ramallah, my father was in Beirut visiting us. He knew that Ramli fell to Israeli hands, and I remember it very well, because it was like a funeral to us. My father and mother kept crying, and one of my older sisters: “Are we poor? How can we survive?”.
Did you hear of the enforced exodus on Ramli?
“We knew directly when we saw our parents crying, and during this time, two of my uncles, who were refugees, came from there, and lived with us. We were about 30 people in an average house. We furnished bed sheets everywhere, in the kitchen, and in the living room. I was seven years old, but we were too young to think about our fate, but I knew that my father left his degree from the Syrian Protestant Collage (Currently American University of Beirut), and everything there. I remember very well the shock of them talking that there is no longer a home to return to. Afterwards, so many of our relatives arrived, from those who survived the terrible march to Ramallah. They told us that the Israeli Army placed a large sheet on the ground, and forced the women to throw their jewelry and accessories in it before leaving, which left them with nothing that may have a value to sell in the future. They robbed everyone before starting the great march.”
What did you hear from the survivors of the great march from Ramli to Ramallah?
“Many children and sick people died with no proper burial. The Israeli soldiers never allowed them to perform a proper funeral, the marching refugees used to cover the deceased’s face with a handkerchief or a small sheet. The ones who underwent the Exodus were actually the women, children, and the elders in a most brutal manner. The young were detained in Ramli, and one of them was my second cousin. They took away there weapons, and then imprisoned them. They were tortured later, and then afterwards they were used as exchange prisoners."
Your Second Cousin (a Palestinian Christian) was detained, and why is that for?
"My cousin "hidden name" was his name. He was in the military informal command for the defense of Ramli against the Jews. He was wounded in the battle for Ramli, and I remember they operated on him (the Red Cross), without pain relievers. Being blond with blue eyes, one of his Jewish friends, after six months smuggled him to Ramallah, by hiding him in the Red Cross vans.
Do you remember anything on the encounters of your cousin against the Israelis?
“We avoided talking to him about the topic because it brought bitter memories of a lost home, fortunes, relatives, and friends. All he mentioned was that the King Abdullah of Jordan said that they should resist and the next day they will receive re-enforcements. In the same evening, Ramli fell.”It is funny because history mentions that Ramli, twice blocked an Irgun invasion, and the King never arrived, didn’t your cousin suspect Arab treason?“All we remember that our surviving relatives kept saying that Palestinian tragedy was an Arab treason within plenty of other Arab treasons.”
What about those who arrived to Lebanon, how did they manage to live?
“The ones who were educated, they started working with the same rights the Lebanese, while the poor ones lived in camps relying on Arab aid, and they kept hoping that they will return back. Actually till now, a lot still have the keys to their houses over there in the hope that they will return back home.”
What about the camps and your mother working with them, anything happened over there?
“Many groups and delegates used to visit people from Europe in the camps. One day, members of the British Parliament were visiting the Sabra camp, and my mother was one of the escorts/guide through out the camp. She was explaining to them the bad situation in the camps, when she told them: ‘if you do not find a solution to these poor people, in few years to come, you will find the Red Flag rising over all the refugee camps.’ The British MP looked her with a smile, and replied: “They will never become Communists, they are all Muslims. Their religion will not allow them”. He was rather confident about it, and I think currently it is their imperial view during the mandate over our homes before 1948. I remember in a funny way my mother coming back to the house in Beirut and swearing at him, and bad mouthing his entire family. I was proud of her that she tried to help the refugees who had fathers being sick, children with tuberculosis, and so on to assist them, and he with his sarcastic smile as if answering her: ‘Those? Communists? That is a joke.’”
Any last words you want to say concerning the topic of Palestine or the Exodus?
“Currently, it is a lost case, we had some hopes when Abdul Nasser came, but now, it is a lost case.”