"To all those for whom these villages were home and to their descendants."
All That Remains: The Villages Occupied and Depopulated by Israel in 1948
Places features the digitized version of the entire contents of All That Remains, the landmark study of the villages destroyed by Israel during the Nakba. This authoritative text, published by the Institute for Palestine Studies in 1992, was developed over nearly six years by about thirty field researchers and specialists and edited by historian Walid Khalidi.
The process of digitization stretched over almost three years, and was conducted and implemented entirely in-house. Two principles guided this endeavor: remaining as faithful as possible to the content and structure of the original work and fully using the possibilities offered by information technology to seamlessly integrate All That Remains into the Interactive Encyclopedia of the Palestine Question.
Practically, the undertaking involved the rearrangement of the printed content in such a way to adapt it to—and exploit the full potential of—the digital medium. It was possible to include relevant information and data that had not been included in the original book for space considerations. Hundreds of thousands of English and Arabic words had to be retyped. Hundreds of original photographs were scanned in high resolution. A Geographic Information System was created to allow users to smoothly explore and access information about the destroyed villages. Several maps dating from the 1940s, scanned in high resolution, were added to the system and can be overlayed on the base maps; they provide a glimpse of the political and social geography of Palestine during the fateful period of the Nakba. Finally, an innovative front-end interface was built, providing fluid and immersive navigation into the rich contents of All That Remains.
The outcome of that effort is now presented for the first time on this newly inaugurated platform. This first phase of the development of Places will soon be further enriched by content on the Palestinian refugee camps erected in the wake of the Nakba.
"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. Nahlal arose in the place of Mahlul; Kibbutz Gvat in the place of Jibta; Kibbutz Sarid in the place of Huneifis; and Kefar Yehushu'a in the place of Tal aI-Shuman. There is not one single place built in this country that did not have a former Arab population."
Moshe Dayan, Address to the Technion (Israel Institute of Technology), Haifa (as quoted in Ha'aretz, 4 April 1969)
There is no denying that the Zionist colonization of Palestine, which began in the early 1880s and continues to this day, represents one of the most remarkable colonizing ventures of all time, and certainly the most successful such venture in the twentieth century.
Within one life-span, a nearly total revolution was effected in the demographic, socio-economic, cultural, and political status quo as it stood in Palestine at the turn of this century.
In the process, two momentous developments evolved in opposite directions. On the one hand there was the steady concentration of and encroachment by an immigrant Jewish presence accompanied by the relentless consolidation of its control over the natural resources of the country. On the other hand, there was the corresponding marginalization, dispersal, thinning out, and beleaguerment of the indigenous Palestinians who until 1948 constituted the vast majority of the population.
For historical parallels of these twin phenomena, the closest analogies that come to mind are the impingement of European settlers in North America on the native American and that of settlers of British stock on the aboriginal populations of Australia and New Zealand.
But there are also striking differences. (1) In Palestine, the displacement/ replacement process occurred within decades as opposed to two or three centuries in the other cases. (2) The process occurred in a tiny and already relatively densely settled country where there could have been no perception of a vast untapped wilderness crying for Western exploration and exploitation. (3) The Palestinian phenomenon evolved in the post-heyday of the classical European colonization of Asian and African countries and in the wake of the (at least verbal) espousal by the Western democracies of the principle of national self-determination. It anachronistically accompanied the demise of the old imperial regimes in the former colonies and straddled two World Wars ostensibly fought for the core values of Western civilization. And (4) the colonization of the homeland of the Palestinians took place in the modern age of communication and continues in full vigor under the glare, however fitful, of the electronic mass media.
This book is about the fate of the 418 Palestinian villages destroyed and depopulated in the 1948 war, the ineluctable climax of the preceding Zionist colonization and the great watershed in the history of the Palestinian people, marking the beginning of their Exodus and Diaspora. The loss of these villages was only part of the debris left on Palestinian soil by the advance of Zionism. The other part was the fall of more than a dozen of the major urban centers of the Palestinian people — towns exclusively populated by them (Acre, Bir al-Sabi‘, Baysan, Lydda, Majdal, Nazareth, Ramla), others where they were either the vast majority (Safad) or had substantial pluralities (Tiberias, Haifa, and West Jerusalem), and their ancient seaport Jaffa, where they also made up the vast majority and in whose hinterland they had pioneered the cultivation of the orange that bears the city's name. With few exceptions, notably Nazareth, these urban centers were also emptied of their Palestinian residents. Their immovable assets — commercial centers, residential quarters, schools, banks, hospitals, clinics, mosques, churches, and other public buildings, parks and utilities, all passed en bloc into the possession of the citizens of the nascent State of Israel. Also appropriated intact by Israelis were the personal movable assets: furniture, silver, pictures, carpets, libraries, and heirlooms — all the accoutrements of middle-class life of the erstwhile Palestinian residents.
Grievous and irreplaceable as was the loss of these urban centers, their fate is not the subject of this volume, in which only passing reference will be made to them. Instead, this work concentrates on the fate of the Palestinian countryside. The decision to focus on the 418 Palestinian villages destroyed and depopulated in the war of 1948 was deliberate. The fate of the urban centers, at least that of the more major ones, has been noted by the outside world, however perfunctorily. The Palestinian pre-Diaspora structures in many of these centers still stand — the once elegant mansions of the residential quarters of Haifa, Jaffa, and West Jerusalem — while the cities' names, albeit in Hebraicized versions, still grace the modem maps of Israel.
The same cannot be said of the villages. They have remained altogether anonymous to the outside world and might as well never have existed. A dozen or so, though depopulated, were spared or suffered only minor damage. The rest were either totally destroyed or virtually so. They have literally been wiped off the face of the earth. The sites of their destroyed homesteads and graveyards, as well as their orchards, threshing floors, wells, livestock, and grazing grounds were all parceled out among Jewish colonies that had been their neighbors or among new ones established afterwards on the erstwhile village lands. The Hebrew names of these latter have replaced their Arabic predecessors, sometimes faintly and mockingly echoing them. The inheritors of these villages and their patrimony come from all the major Zionist/Israeli collective, cooperative, or small holder agricultural movements (kibbutzim and moshavim). These movements are affiliated to Israeli political parties that span the entire spectrum from the most liberal to the most hardline, with the lion's share going to those closer to the former.
Some hundred or so Palestinian villages in the areas conquered by Israel in the 1948 war were neither destroyed nor depopulated, and continue to exist to this day within Israel's 1967 borders. One might note, however, that over 80 percent of the lands of these Palestinian/Israeli citizens who never left their homes have been confiscated since 1948 and put at the exclusive disposal of the Jewish citizens of the state. Still, the 418 villages that are the subject of this book constituted almost half of the total number of Palestinian villages that existed within the borders of Mandatory Palestine on the eve of the UN General Assembly partition resolution in November 1947. From these, some 390,000 rural refugees radiated into the West Bank and the Gaza Strip or streamed overland across the borders or by sea to neighboring Arab countries. These village refugees of 1948 made up over half the total number of refugees uprooted by the war — the balance being the urban refugees from the cities and towns just mentioned (about 254,000) as well as some 70,000-100,000 semi-sedentary Bedouin. The total number of refugees of the war, both rural and urban, constituted 54 percent of the total Palestinian population in Mandatory Palestine. The area of Palestinian village lands summarily divided among the old and new Jewish colonies was about 6 million dunums, about four times the total area of Palestine purchased by the Zionist movement in the previous seven decades of colonization.
These figures indicate the scale of the catastrophe that befell the Palestinian rural population within the borders established by Israel in 1948. Other peoples have suffered worse fates in history; to be dispossessed of one's patrimony, dispersed and pauperized, even on such a scale, is still more merciful than wholesale physical annihilation, though no less than 13,000 Palestinians were killed in the process. But what is probably uniquely distinctive of the Palestinian fate is that they were dispossessed of their country as a people, and to this day they continue to be maligned for having suffered such dispossession. At the same time, the triumph of the internationally organized and financed dispossessors over the local Palestinian share cropper, peasant, small holder, and townsman, while causing occasional twitches of conscience in the West, is by and large hailed by Western political elites (if not always by their public opinions) as the vindication of the very principles of democracy the violation of which made the Zionist revolution possible in the first place.
Be that as it may, the majority of the survivors of the rural refugees of the 1948 war and their descendants continue to live in refugee camps in the occupied territories and the neighboring Arab countries. It is from their ranks that to a considerable measure the PLO has drawn its strength since the mid 1960s; it is from their despair that the seeds of the intifada grew.
As the reader will find in the following pages, most of these 418 villages resembled one another in their limited resources, their primary dependence on agriculture, and the mixed type of land ownership made up of small holdings and communal lands traditionally cultivated in alternate plots annually reassigned among the villagers themselves. But there were also considerable variations in population and wealth, in the crops and other agricultural products, depending on the village's soil, terrain, water resources, and distance from the district capital. Most of the villages showed an urge for self-improvement and a pattern of expansion and social evolution, particularly in the field of education. In many, there were the beginnings of economic diversification (e.g., in the services sector) and of affiliation to rudimentary cooperative marketing enterprises. Each village had its mosque or church, though the vast majority of the inhabitants were Muslims. Perhaps most distinctive of each village were its shrines, named after local saints or benefactors whose reputations were embedded in the collective memories and traditions of the villagers themselves.
Many of the villages had been bypassed by history, but many others had over the centuries borne witness to major battles, the passage of great armies, or the visits and largesse of Caliph or Sultan. Others yet had produced Islamic scholars, Sufi mystics, or administrators. A remarkable number throughout medieval and later times were visited by travelers from near or distant Arab or Muslim lands en route to Jerusalem, Damascus, or Cairo. Some of these recorded in Arabic, Turkish, or Persian the impressions of their visits. An Ottoman Tax Register compiled towards the end of the sixteenth century mentions in detail the taxable products of 145 of the 418 villages. It is clear from this and other written evidence that most of these villages had been in existence under their Arabic or Arabized names for many centuries before 1948. Archeological remains further attest to the continued existence of human settlement at these sites since time immemorial.
Thus the dispossession of the Palestinian village population of 1948 did not involve a transient or migratory population, but an ancient indigenous farmer community as settled as any in the Mediterranean basin or indeed anywhere else. While pre-industrial, the villagers belonged to a civilization that had enriched the human heritage with its contributions in the fields of religion, literature, philosophy, architecture, and the sciences. They were no less rooted in their patrimony and communal associations than any other people anywhere. It should not therefore be difficult to imagine the depth and longevity of the trauma that afflicted the generations that were uprooted in 1948 or to understand why their state of mind has been transmitted to their descendants in their Diaspora.
All That Remains, by rescuing (if only on paper) these 418 villages from the oblivion to which they had been consigned, is an acknowledgment of the suffering of hundreds of thousands of men, women, and children. It is a gesture of homage to their collective memories and their sense of ancestral affiliation. It is a tribute to their credentials as three-dimensional beings, and to their entitlement to the self-esteem that is anchored in the roots of one's identity and heritage.
Retrospective as this book is, it is not a call for the reversal of the tide of history, nor for the delegitimization of Zionism. But it is a call, on the threshold of the second century of the Zionist-Arab conflict, for a pause, for a moment of introspection by the contemporary engineers of Zionism and their sympathizers. It is a call for, as it were, a break into the chain of causation which has, since the beginning of the Zionist colonization of Palestine, created the dimensions of the tragedy of the Palestinian people as we know it today.
Such a call is all the more compelling because of the gathering on both sides of the Zionist-Arab divide of the forces of atavistic fundamentalism. In the absence of a modicum of justice for the Palestinian people, this encounter could blight well into the coming century the lives of generations yet unborn both within and outside the confines of the State of Israel. It is in this spirit that this volume has been compiled, as a reminder that in much of human endeavor, building for one's self is often accompanied by destruction for the other. If only on prudential grounds, the exultant builder could well take into his appraisal both the monument of his achievement and the debris left in its wake.
If All That Remains further helps to draw the attention of the outside world, and of Zionists and their supporters, to the price paid by Palestinians so that Israel could be established and the conscience of Western Christendom salved for its own anti-Semitic crimes, then it might also be of some relevance today in the search for an honorable and peaceful resolution of this century-old conflict.
In the wake of the 1948 war that created the State of Israel, some three-quarters of a million Palestinian refugees, over half of them villagers, took up the road for exile.1 While the plight of these refugees has been the subject of repeated United Nations resolutions and numerous books, far less attention has been paid to the physical destruction of the world they inhabited.
By the end of the war, hundreds of entire villages had not only been depopulated but obliterated, their houses blown up or bulldozed. While many of the sites are difficult of access, to this day the observant traveler of Israeli roads and highways can see traces of their presence that would escape the notice of the casual passerby: a fenced-in area — often surmounting a gentle hill — of olive and other fruit trees left untended, of cactus hedges and domesticated plants run wild. Now and then a few crumbled houses are left standing, a neglected mosque or church, collapsing walls along the ghost of a village lane, but in the vast majority of cases all that remains is a scattering of stones and rubble across a forgotten landscape. The present book is an attempt to record this lost world.
* * *
Although there has been no work to date exclusively devoted to the vanished villages, a number of scholars and authors have focused on them in the context of larger studies. Not long after the 1948 war, the Palestinian historian 'Arif al-'Arif, basing himself on interviews with villagers, police, and other officials, compiled a list of all the villages occupied and depopulated in the course of the hostilities as an appendix to his massive 6-volume history of 1948, Al-Nakba (The Catastrophe) (1956-60). Meanwhile, the historian Mustafa al-Dabbagh was at work on his eleven-volume historical geography Biladuna Filastin (Our Homeland, Palestine) (1972-86), a compendium of geographical, historical, biographical, and cultural data for each region, including profiles of the villages both destroyed and extant. Al-Mawsu'a al-Filastiniyya (The Palestine Encyclopedia) (1984) relies heavily on Dabbagh for its entries on the villages of Palestine.2
More recently, in a meticulous work published in 1984 on the de-Arabization of Palestine, the late Palestinian geographer Basheer Nijim, together with the architect Bishara Muammar, put out extensive tables of land and population statistics (1945 and 1976) along with detailed maps showing land boundaries for all the Arab villages and Jewish settlements within pre-1967 Israel; the demolished Arab villages were designated as such. A 1987 booklet on the collective destruction of Palestinian villages by Abdul Jawad Saleh, director of the Jerusalem Center for Development Studies in Amman, and Walid Mustafa, head of the geography department of an-Najjah University in Nablus, includes listings by district of the destroyed villages. Finally, the Israeli historian Benny Morris (1989) provides a list of occupied towns and villages as part of his important book on the origins of the Palestinian refugee problem.
In addition to these larger works, a number of researchers have compiled lists of the destroyed villages: Israel Shahak (1973), head of the Israeli League for Human and Civil Rights, has published a slightly amended version of Aref al-Aref's list.3 Palestinian geographer Kamal Abdulfattah compiled another in 1986 in preparation for Birzeit University's ambitious monograph series on the destroyed villages. Christoph Uehlinger (1987) of the Association for the Reconstruction of Emmaus in Switzerland drew up a list based on the 'Arif/Shahak list and a preliminary list by Kamal Abdulfattah (1983) and checked it against Israeli topographical maps. While the Israeli government has never produced a list of destroyed villages per se, it did re-issue in the 1950s topographical maps, originally produced by the British Mandate government and overprinted in Hebrew, on which destroyed villages are stamped with the word "harus" (Hebrew for "demolished"). In none of these studies except for al-Dabbagh (and Al-Mawsu'a), however, do the villages emerge as anything beyond a name, a few statistics, one element in a larger pattern of destruction. Moreover, efforts to quantify the destroyed villages range from 290 to 472.4
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All That Remains was undertaken with two aims in mind. The first was to arrive at the most authoritative list possible of the depopulated and destroyed villages on the basis of clearly defined methodology and criteria. The second was to present the villages swept away in the catastrophe that was 1948 individually, as ends in themselves.
The book is a collaborative venture between three institutions: the Institute for Palestine Studies (IPS) in Washington, D.C., Birzeit University in the West Bank, and the Galilee Center for Social Research in Nazareth, Israel. After embarking upon the project in 1986, the IPS discovered that Birzeit University, through its Research and Documentation Center, was also involved in a project on the destroyed villages. The Birzeit project, far more ambitious, was to prepare monographs for each of the villages based on oral history and archival sources and including material on folklore, customs, architecture, and kinship structures.5
While proceeding with its own work — expected to last well over a decade in a race against time to collect testimonies before the villagers die — the university fortunately agreed to cooperate with the IPS on the present project and to take charge of the field research and photography. The IPS is particularly grateful to Hanna Nasir, Birzeit's exiled president, and to Gabi Baramki, its vice president, for agreeing to assist us. Later, the Galilee Center for Social Research also became involved, providing much of the statistical data, all the district and village maps, and compiling in consultation with Birzeit and IPS the final list of destroyed villages. The Galilee Center also carried out field research for almost one-third of the villages surveyed. The Institute for Palestine Studies, in addition to conceiving, planning, and financing the project, coordinated it in all aspects, brought together the material from the various sources, and was responsible for the research and writing of the texts. Mention should also be made of the Jaffa Center of Nazareth, which in the early stages of the project did a preliminary survey of the Jerusalem district, for which it provided excellent photographs.
It should be noted that the work is not intended as an original or comprehensive history of the depopulated villages; it relies for its historical component on already published materials, however disparate and sometimes difficult to obtain. Nor does it purport to be a military history of the fall of these villages, much less a history of the 1948 war, concentrating as it does on the depopulation of the countryside at the most micro level to the exclusion of the towns, with no attempt at integrating the material into a narrative whole. Nor, finally, is it a survey of the geographical, archaeological, or cultural landscapes in which these villages existed; time and resources did not permit the kind of in-depth research that alone would have done them justice.
Rather, All That Remains brings together in readily accessible form what amounts to a snapshot of each of the destroyed villages prior to 1948, including statistical, topographical, historical, architectural, archeological, and economic material; the circumstances of the village's occupation and depopulation; and a description of what remains. What sets this book apart from other studies, besides this format, is its heavy reliance on field research. Indeed, field research is at the very heart of the book, both in developing the most authoritative list possible of the depopulated villages and in carefully recording the current status of each village, including the Israeli settlements and installations on village lands.
In essence, then, All That Remains is a manual, a dictionary of destroyed villages presented individually, yet in the context of their region and the events that swept them away. It is an attempt to breathe life into a name, to give body to a statistic, to render to these vanished villages a sense of their distinctiveness. It is, in sum, meant to be a kind of "in memoriam."
- 1. See the Appendix "The Total Number of Refugees, Urban and Rural".
- 2. The official Israeli histories of the 1948 war, Sefer Toldot ha-Haganah (History of the Haganah) and Toldot Milchemet ha-Qomemiyyut (History of the War of Independence) also mention a number of depopulated and occupied villages (152), but only in passing in the context of the military operations described; no attempt was made at comprehensiveness.
- 3. Shahak took al-Arif's list of 399 occupied villages and eliminated those that had not been physically destroyed, bringing the total down to 383.
- 4. The figure of 290 is from the Israeli topographical maps, as indicated by Christoph Uehlinger. Uehlinger himself lists 372 destroyed villages. Benny Morris lists 369, Shahak 383, Abdulfattah 390, Al-Mawsu'a 391, Nijim and Muarnrnar 443, and Saleh and Mustafa 472. For a detailed comparison of the various sources, see the Appendix "Palestinian Villages Depopulated in 1948: A Comparison of Sources".
- 5. Thirteen of Birzeit's monographs have appeared to date. Four of them — 'Ayn Hawd (Haifa), 'Innaba (al-Ramla), al-Lajjun (Jinin), and Salama (Jaffa) — are cited in the present text. The other nine are: Abu Kishk (Jaffa), Dayr Yasin (Jerusalem), al-Faluja (Gaza) , Kafr Bir'im (Safad), Kafr Saba (Tulkarm), Kawfakha (Gaza), Lifta (Jerusalem), the town of al-Majdal (Gaza), and Miska (Tulkarm).
Associate Editors, Institute for Palestine Studies, Washington, D.C.
William C. Young
Project Consultant, Galilee Center for Social Research
Associate Editors, Birzeit University, West Bank
Research and Text
Sharif S. Elmusa
Muhammad Ali Khalidi
As'ad Abu Khalil
William C. Young
Sharif S. Elmusa
Charles U. Zenzie
Sharif S. Elmusa
Field Research Team
Abd aI-Rahim B. al-Mudawar
Muhammad Ali Khalidi
Muhammad Ali Khalidi