Let us recall Salman Abu Sitta's words to Uri Avnery about the Palestinian Nakba of 1948:
"Some would say of them [Holocaust survivors] that, if they were brave and not cowards, they would have fought the Nazis who pulled them out of their homes and killed them, not attack, at battalion-strength, a small village in faraway Palestine... and then butcher and expel its people. If they were brave and had a conscience, they would not call ethnic cleansing a 'war' of anything, let alone 'independence'." (See my 16/5/17 post You Can Run, But You Can't Hide 3)
Of course, nothing about this genocidal war against the Palestinian people ever makes its way into the Australian msm, even though Palestinians, both in exile and under occupation, mark it annually. It goes without saying that Nakba rallies in Melbourne and Sydney this year were scrupulously ignored by the msm.
Most curiously, however, the Sydney Morning Herald just happened to feature the year 1948 on its Timelines/Obituary page - and, lo and behold, one of the three selections turned out to be, you guessed it, as follows:
"The Birth of Israel: The birth of the Jewish State of Israel had been proclaimed in a 'solemn assembly' of the Jewish National Council in Tel Aviv. 'The State would be open to all Jewish immigrants. It would develop the country for all inhabitants and would operate on the basis of precepts of liberty, justice and peace. it would uphold full social and political equality without distinction... and safeguard religious places of all religions." (1948: In the Herald, Brian Yatman, 16/5/17, p 31)
Perhaps Mr Yatman could explain the who, the what and the reason why.
Quite coincidentally, The Weekend Australian of 13-14 May referenced one of the Holocaust survivors alluded to by Abu Sitta above, although the context had nothing whatever to do with the Nakba. It appeared in an opinion piece on the anti-Semitism of the 19th century German composer Richard Wagner, written by the CEO of the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies, Vic Alhadaff, and read as follows:
"About to perform an encore in 1981, Zubin Mehta invited those who wish to do so to leave the hall and conducted an extract from Wagner's Tristan and Isolde. Holocaust survivor Ben-Zion Leitner, who had fought in Israel's wars, strode to the front, exposed his battle scars and shouted 'Play Wagner over my body!" (Wagner's chorus of racial hatred)
And thereby hangs our tale, because, in the person of Mr Leitner, we have an example of the kind of individual (apart, of course, from Uri Avnery himself) that Abu Sitta had in mind when he penned his words.
To begin with, was Leitner a survivor of a Nazi concentration camp? Apparently not. His obituary at the Israeli Arutz Sheva website tells us that he was "a native of Odessa [who] fought with the partisans against Germany in World War II." (25/3/12)
As to to his military exploits in 1948 Palestine, Wikipedia informs us that he received Israel's "highest military decoration, the Hero of Israel citation for heroism during the War of Independence," specifically for leading "an assault that resulted in the blowing up of a bunker at a police position in [the Palestinian village of] Iraq Suweidan which resulted in half of his face becoming paralyzed."
At last, with the mention of the now obliterated Palestinian village of Iraq Suweidan (located in the Gaza district of southern Palestine), we draw closer to Leitner (and Avnery's) dark side, the substance of Abu Sitta's paragraph above, and a matter Alhadeff, as we have seen, nimbly glosses over.
The strategically important, British-built bunker/police station referred to had been heroically held by Egyptian troops against increasingly fierce Zionist attacks until their eventual surrender following the most sustained Zionist artillery barrage of the 1948 war. As for the village of Iraq Suweidan, which is estimated to have had a population of 766 at the time, we know almost nothing about the fate of its inhabitants. Obviously Ben-Zion Leitner's "battle scars" are more photogenic.
In his list of 6 causes for the "abandonment" of Palestinian villages in 1948, Israeli historian Benny Morris, in his 2004 book The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem Revisited, places Iraq Suweidan in category M - 'Military assault on settlement'.
To appreciate what this meant for the ethnically-cleansed villagers of Iraq Suweidan (and other Palestinian villagers in the area and throughout Palestine in 1948), and to ascertain more precisely what our "Hero of Israel" and his comrades got up to at the time, consider this passage from Morris' book:
"Giv'ati [Brigade] OC Shimon Avidan clearly intended to precipitate the flight of the Arab population of the area, bounded by Qazaza, Jilya, Idnibba and Mughallis in the east, Masmiya al Kabira and Qastina in the west, and Hatta and Beit 'Affa in the south. A preparatory order for the conquest of Masmiya al Kabira, Masmiya al Saghira, al-Tina, Qastina and Tal al Turmus was produced by Giv'ati's 51st Battalion during the First Truce, on 29 June. It spoke of the 'liquidation' (hisul) of the two Masmiya villages and conquering and 'cleansing' (bi'ur) the rest. On 5 July the brigade HQ discussed and outlined its plans for the 'Ten Days' [9-18 July] and two days later Avidan issued operational instructions. The order was to expedite 'the liquidation (hisul) of Arab villages in this area'. The 51st Battalion was ordered to take the large village of Tel as Safi and 'to destroy the enemy's fighting force and... to destroy, to kill and to expel (lehashmid, laharog u'legaresh) refugees encamped in the area, in order to prevent enemy infiltration from the east to this important position'. The nature of the written order and, presumably, the accompanying oral explanations, probably left little doubt in the battalion OC's minds that Avidan wanted the area cleared of inhabitants.
"Operation An-Far was unleashed on the night of 8-9 July, hours after the Egyptians broke the First Truce. The area covered by Avidan's order was overrun during 8-11 July, with most of the population fleeing before the IDF columns reached each village. Tel as Safi was captured in the early morning hours of 9 July. Laying down a barrage of mortar and machine-gun fire, the 51st Battalion approached from the north and west. After taking the tel itself, the IDF fired on the houses down the slope 'increasing the mass flight, which was accompanied by screams of fear... ' According to the official IDF historian, the fall of this key village caused the mass flight of more than 10,000 Arabs from the area who saw themselves cut off... 'from Egyptian and irregular Arab forces to the east and south.' Beit 'Affa, 'Ibdis, Tall al Turmus and the village of Iraq Suwaydan all fell on 8-9 July, the villagers fleeing as IDF troops approached or attacked; local rumour had it that the Israeli troops had dealt with the inhabitants of Beit 'Affa 'as they had dealt with Deir Yassin'. The village of Karatiya was harassed by machine-gun fire and abandoned by its inhabitants. During 12-15 July, Giv'ati units raided and harassed a number of other villages, including 'Ajjur, Deir al Dubban, and Summeil, and conquered Bi'lin and Barqusya, which were both found empty. The last two were put to the torch, 'to the extent possible'. Reporting on these operations, the brigade's 'Combat Page', penned by the vengeful poet Abba Kovner, a former anti-Nazi partisan and Hashomer Hatza'ir stalwart, declared: 'Suddenly the ground was soft [under the wheels of the jeeps of Samson's Foxes', Giv'ati's commando unit] - bodies! Tens of bodies under their wheels. The driver was put off: human beings under his wheels! [But] wait a minute. He remembered [Kibbutz] Negba [and] Beit Daras [in both Arab troops had killed Jews] - and he ran them over! Do not be deterred, sons: murderous dogs - their punishment is blood! And the more you run over bloody dogs, the more you will love the beautiful, the good, and liberty'." (pp 436-37)
Avnery, I should point out, was a squadron commander in the Giv'ati Brigade, and later, in the Samson's Foxes commando unit.