Preface to a study based on the diary of Moshe Sharett
by Naseer H. Aruri
IN PURSUIT of its objectives of disseminating accurate information about the Middle East, the Association of Arab-American University Graduates, Inc. thought it in the public interest to publish this study, which analyzes Israeli-Arab relations in the late 1940s and 1950s in the light of the personal diary of Moshe Sharett. 1 Head of the Jewish Agency’s Political Department from 1933 to 1948, Sharett became Israel’s first foreign minister ( 1948 1956), under David Ben Gurion), and was prime minister in 1954 and 1955.
Since this book was first published five years ago, a number of occurrences have taken place that point up its enduring significance. Although this work deals primarily with events of the 1950s, it is of more than historical interest. Indeed, the information it provides makes it clear that the record of the past quarter century could easily have been predicted; the only novel quality is the ferocity with which the Zionist strategy of the fifties has been carried out in the decades that followed.No longer does the Zionist movement feel compelled to hide its true intentions. Its regional alliances with the Phalanges party and other right-wing elements in South Lebanon, and its special relationship with the United States, propel it like a juggernaut in pursuit of imperial goals.
The first edition of this book appeared when the Middle East and the United States were preoccupied with the Egyptian-Israeli negotiations that led to the 1978 Camp David Accords and the Egyptian-Israeli treaty of March 1 979, and with the Israeli Invasion of South Lebanon of March 1978. Subsequently,the Camp David formula not only has failed to produce the comprehensive settlement promised by President Jimmy Carter, it in fact contributed to a second Israeli invasion of Lebanon in, June 1982. By neutralizing Egypt, the Egyptian-Israeli treaty allowed Israel to proceed confidently with its plans to crush Palestinian resistance and obliterate the Palestinian national identity, with a view to perpetuating its occupation of the West Bank, Gaza Strip and Golan Heights. Today, the Palestine question is further from a peaceful and just resolution thin at any time in the past, while Lebanon continues to hemorrhage and to divide along sectarian lines.
The Camp David Accords, and the subsequent Reagan Plan introduced in September 1982, were grounded in flawed assumptions about lsrael’s”security” and Arab threats to that security. Recent developments in the region have exposed the Reagan administration’s complicity in the 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon,2 which was calculated to produce results deemed beneficial both to American strategic interests and to Israeli expansionist goals. The interests of the Reagan administration and lsrael’s Likud government coalesced around three objectives: the destruction of the Palestinian infrastructure in Lebanon, the redrawing of the political map in Lebanon, and the reduction of Syria to manageable proportions. Pax Americana and pax Israelica were to be realized through the campaign cynically dubbed “Peace for Galilee.”
The 1982 “operation,” as well as its predecessor, the “Litani Operation” of 1978, were part of the long-standing Zionist strategy for Lebanon and Palestine, which this transition of the Sharett diary illuminates. In fact,that strategy, formulated and applied during the 1950s, had been envisaged at least four decades earlier, and attempts to implement it are still being carried out three decades later. On November 6, 1918, a committee of British mandate officials and Zionist leaders put forth a suggested northern boundary for a Jewish Palestine “from the North Litani River up to Banias.” In the following year, at the Paris peace conference, the Zionist movement proposed boundaries that would have included the Lebanese district of Bint Jubayl and all the territories up to the Litani River. The proposal emphasized the “vital importance of controlling all water resources up to their sources.”
During the Paris conference, Chaim Weizmann and David Ben Gurion (who later became, respectively, lsrael’s first president and first prime minister) attempted to persuade Patriarch Hayik, who headed the Lebanese delegation, to abandon South Lebanon in return for a promise of technical and financial assistance to develop the area to the north, which they hoped, would become a Christian state.
The Zionist military forces that invaded Palestine in 1948 also occupied part of the district of Marjayun and Bint Jubayl, and reached the vicinity of the Litani River, but were forced to withdraw under international pressure. Then, in 1954, the leaders of the newly established state of Israel renewed Zionist claims on Lebanese water when President Eisenhower’s envoy Eric Johnston proposed a formula of sharing the Litani waters among Lebanon, Syria and Israel. Israel, in fact, threatened to use force against Lebanon to prevent the utilization of the Litani waters to develop South Lebanon.
While these threats were made during the period covered in the Sharett diary, consider what actually happened later, during the 1960s, ’70s, ’80s: In 1967, lsrael’s war against three Arab states not only gave Israel possession of eastern Palestine (the West Bank), Gaza, the Sinai and the Syrian Golan Heights, but also enabled Israel to capture the headwaters of the Jordan and Manias rivers. In addition, Israel destroyed Jordan’s East Ghor Canal and its Khaled Dam on the Yarmuk River, which flows into lsrael’s Nahariva Pool. In the 1978 “Litani Operation,” Israel established firm control over the Wazzani River, which flows into the Jordan, as well as almost the entire length of the Hasbani River. And in the 1982 “Operation Peace for Galilee,” the entire length of the Litani River came under Israeli control.”
The goal of profoundly altering water distribution in the region could be achieved only within the context of a vassal state in Lebanon with a puppet government, an endeavor about which the Sharett diary has much to say (p.22 ff.). In fact, Ben Gurion’s plan, in 1954, to establish such a puppet governments plan enthusiastically endorsed by Moshe Dayan was finally put in motion nearly a quarter of a century later. Dayan’s “officer” did indeed emerge, even bearing the same rank of “just a major” Major Sa’d Haddad,whom Israel encouraged to proclaim secession from Lebanon in April 1979.lsrael’s defense minister, Ezer Weizmann, announced his government’s support of Haddad’s canton of “Free Lebanon”: “I consider Haddad a Lebanese nationalist and as far as I know he wants Beirut to become the capital of a free independent Lebanon once more without interference from the Syrians or the Palestinians.”4 Support for Haddad, and by implication for a Zionist-Phalangist alliance, was also voiced by right-wing Lebanese politicians. Stated Camille Chamoun, “We need such a Lebanese force to struggle in the South for the liberation of Lebanon, and not just a part of Lebanon, and Sa’d Haddad is not a traitor.”
But the Zionist proxy “mini-state,” which was set up in a border strip six miles wide and sixty miles long, was repudiated by the world community. A United Nations force, the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), was mandated to help reestablish the authority of the central Lebanese government in the South. Israel, however, defied the relevant United Nations resolution (which was supported even by the Carter administration) and persisted in its support of Haddad. After a March 1981 agreement by the Syrian and Lebanese presidents to reassert – in cooperation with UNIFIL – the authority of the Beirut government in the South, Israel and Haddad’s militia bombarded a UNIFIL position, killing three Nigerian soldiers (March 16, 1981).
Israel‘s destabilization of Lebanon, in pursuit of a Maronite-dominated client state, has taken several forms, ranging from extending the Camp David formula to Lebanon, to its full-scale invasion of 1982. With regard to imposing a Camp David solution on Lebanon, Menachem Begin made a statement to the Israeli parliament on May 7, 1979, inviting Lebanon to enter into negotiations with Israel on the basis of Syrian withdrawal and expulsion of the Palestinians from Lebanon. This proposal evoked an enthusiastic response from Bashir Gemayel, commander of the Phalangist Lebanese Forces, who told Beirut’s Monday Morning on May 28, 1979:
“These principles are sound and should be accepted is the basis for any Lebanese endeavor to find a solution. . . . President Sadat accepted a similar proposal and he is now leading Egypt to an era of welfare and prosperity. When shall Lebanon be allowed the right to seek its own welfare?”
The elder Gemayel, Pierre, added:
“You shall say that I am defending Sadat as I defended Sa’d Haddad; my dear, I would be a coward and without honor if I did not defend my point of view” (Al-Safir, August 2, 1979)
Israel‘s aggression against Lebanon in 1982 was clearly designed to cement these alliances between Israel and the “Major” in the South and with the Gemayels and Chamouns to the North – all in an effort to secure the balkanization and vassalization of Lebanon, the eradication of Palestinian nationalism, and the intimidation of Syria. To attain these goals, Israeli leaders were willing to risk a wider regional war, and indeed to push the world to what is in every respect a “pre-nuclear” situation. This alone should give the American people cause for concern and action. In addition,the United States has provided Israel with the economic and military means to invade Lebanon, to bomb Baghdad, and to perpetuate the occupation of Palestine and of Syrian territory in clear violation of U.S. law, including the Arms Export Control Act of 1976 and the Israel-U.S. Mutual Defense Agreement of 1952.
The 1982 Israeli invasion so tipped the domestic balance in favor of Israel’s Lebanese allies that the majority of Muslims, nationalists and other anti-Israel groups were left in a clearly submissive condition. The terms of the victor were dictated to the vanquished. lsrael’s new ally,Bashir Gemayel, was to be president/viceroy of Lebanon, although according to noted American journalist Jonathan Randal, Bashir himself, who owed his presidency to Begin and Sharon, complained that these two treated him like a “vassal.”‘. The Shultz agreement of May 17, 1983 was to be Lebanon’s Versailles, which would realize the long-standing Zionist dream described in the Sharett diaries a “Christian” state that would ally itself with Israel.
Despite the assassination of President-elect Bashir Gemayel before he could take office, initially matters developed in accordance with Israel’s strategy for Lebanon. The negotiations, handled by civilians from the two countries’ foreign ministries, appeared to be headed towards normalization along Camp David lines; Israel secured a liaison office in Beirut, the next thing to an embassy; the Phalanges party and its leader’s son, Amin Gemayel, now the president of Lebanon, began to reshape the country in their own image. But it soon became clear that sectarian hegemony, sponsored by Israel and supported by the United States, was a poor substitute for even the antiquated confessional system of 1943. By fall 1983, Israeli troops were forced to withdraw to the Allah River. By February 1984, President Reagan ordered U.S. troops to withdraw, while Druze and Shiite fighters made a triumphant entry into Beirut (February 10,1984). President Amin Gemayel, who owed his presidency to the Israeli invasion, was forced under new political and military conditions to repudiate the Shultz agreement (March 1984) and to close Israel’s “embassy” in Beirut (July of the same year).
Not only did the Israeli invasion of 1982 fail to achieve most of its objectives: It pushed the right-wing Lebanese Forces to a position that borders on fascism and renders reunification and reintegration a remote possibility. It has exacerbated the Lebanese civil war at an unbearable cost in human lives and property.
This human tragedy compels us to examine the Israeli rationale of “security,” a rubric that has covered a curiously large number of Israeli violations of international law and human rights, recently and in the past. Why, we must ask, does Israel in the West Bank and Gaza Strip close universities, shoot students in classrooms and on the street, deport leaders, dismiss mayors, create colonial settlements and encourage terrorist acts by settlers all in the name of’ “security?”. Why, when confronted with massive popular resistance to its occupation of South Lebanon, did Israel react with the same “Iron Fist,” initiating raids on villages, mass arrests of civilians, wide-scale destruction of homes and property, and assassinations even though this policy could only further alienate the population.”
The personal diary of Moshe Sharett sheds light on this question by amply documenting the rationale and mechanics of lsrael’s “Arab policy” in the late 1940s and the 1950s. The policy portrayed, in its most intimate particulars, is one of deliberate Israeli acts of provocation, intended to generate Arab hostility and thus to create pretexts for armed action and territorial expansion. Sharett’s records document this policy of “sacred terrorism” and expose the myths of Israel’s “security needs” and the “Arab threat” that have been treated like self-evident truths from the creation of Israel to the present, when Israeli terrorism against Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and against Palestinians and Lebanese in South Lebanon, has reached an intolerable level. It is becoming increasingly evident that the exceptional demographic and geographic alterations in Israeli society within the present generation have been brought about, not as the accidental results of the endeavor to guard “Israel’s security” against an “Arab threat,” but by a drive for lebensraum.
Referring to the terrorist bombings that crippled two prominent West Bank mayors and injured other civilians on June 2, 1980, William Browser, in an article for the New York Times (June 5, 1980), explained the apprehension of West Bank Palestinians: although military occupation is not new to them, Israeli terrorism-if that is what it was- is virtually without precedent in the last thirty years.” It behooves Mr. Browser and the attentive public who reads the “news that’s fit to print,” to examine the many precedents amply documented and occasionally decried by a bewildered Israeli prime minister who worried about the moral deterioration in Israeli society in the 1950s that first prompted revenge as a “sacred” principle. In a passage quoted in Rokach’s study, Sharett wrote:
“In the thirties we restrained the emotions of revenge. . . . Now, on the contrary, we justify the system of reprisal … we have eliminated the mental and moral brake on this instinct and made it possible … to uphold revenge as a moral value…. a sacred principle” (p. 33).
The undisguised satisfaction that the maiming of the two Palestinian mayors evoked among many Jewish settlers in the West Bank is reminiscent of the feeling in Israel in the 1950s that caused Sharett so much anguish, and challenged his conscience. In fact, the private armies now being organized by Jewish vigilante groups determined to keep the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip under permanent Israeli control, have openly advocated the removal of all Arabs from occupied Palestine. Although these ultra-nationalists consider former Prime Minister Menachem Begin and Foreign Minister Yitzhak Shamir (former members of the terrorist Irgun and Stern gangs) to have become patsies, fools and traitors, and although Begin condemned the attacks on the Palestinian mayors as “crimes of the worst kind,” the fact remains that the settlers of Gush Emunim and Kach are carrying out the settlement policies of the Israeli government. This government provides them with the protection and economic benefits and equips them with legitimacy. By the same token, it ensures that their victims will be defenseless and powerless. The 1948 Deir Yassin massacre, committed by Begin’s Irgun Zvei Leumi, and the June 2, 1980 bombing, committed by another vigilante group, are products of the same type of “sacred terrorism.”
The thirty-two years that have lapsed in the interim have witnessed innumerable acts of Israeli terror: it hardly seems necessary to recall the aerial bombardment of vital civilian infrastructures in Egypt and Syria in the late 1960s,7 or the destruction of southern Lebanon in the 1970S and’80s, nor to mention the brutality with which the occupation regime treats the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza, or the many assassinations of Palestinian intellectuals in various European capitals in the early 1970s.
A most disturbing phenomenon, which will continue to inhibit the prospects for Palestinian-Israeli coexistence, is the ascendancy of the radical right in Israel. Its orientation towards brute force, its attitude towards Arabs, and its contempt for debate and dissent, leave little room for coexistence. Justifications of acts of terrorism against Palestinian civilians are rampant among members of the political establishment and Jewish settlers. Israel’s former Minister of Science and Energy, Yuval Neeman, Knesset member Haim Druckman, former chief of staff Raphael Eytan, and Sephardic chief Rabbi Mordechai Eliahu are on record justifying that kind of terrorism.8 In July 1985, Foreign Minister Yitzhak Shamir vowed to work for the early release of convicted Jewish terrorists, whom he described as “excellent people who made a mistake” (Jerusalem Post, July 12, 1985). The propensity for violence against Arabs has been clearly established in interviews of settlers, young and old, by Israeli and Western journalists.9
The radical right nowadays speaks outright of dispossession and deportation of Palestinians. Israeli sociologist Yoram Peri wrote in Daivar (May 11,1984) that while Defense Minister Arens and Foreign Minister Shamir speak of annexing the West Bank and Gaza and forging a “pluralistic” society, the extreme right advocates deportation, a term which, four years ago, no one would dare utter. “Hence,” he wrote, “the proximity of the right to the Fascist conception of the State.”
Another factor that inhibits coexistence is the cavalier manner in which members of the establishment claim sovereignty over the West Bank and Gaza. So contemptuous of the need to argue and convince was Foreign Minister Shamir, that his reply to a question of why Israel lay claims to those territories consisted of one word: “Because!” Israel’s Chief Rabbi, Shlomo Goren, has remarked that in religious law retaining the occupied territories takes precedence over the duty to save life. Terms such as”Western Eretz Israel” and “Judea and Samaria,” which are being used with more frequency and emphasis, represent a revival of the revisionist Zionist notion that the “land of Israel” also includes modern-day Jordan, and underline Israeli leaders’ determination never to relinquish the illegally occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip.
The more the world tries to understand the situation in the Middle East,the more the Zionist organizations in the United States, acting in concert with Israel, try to fog it up. lsrael’s wars against the Arabs in 1967 and 1982 obliterated its David image and confirmed it as the Goliath of the Middle East. No longer was it possible for the Israeli government to escape public scrutiny, despite all the immunity which it enjoys in the American public arena, as its forces, in the name of “security” for Israeli civilians, carried out the most ruthless aerial bombardment since Vietnam.The U.S. ambassador in Lebanon, whose government used its Security Council veto to protest lsrael’s war gains in 1982, described their saturation bombing: “There is no pinpoint accuracy against targets in open spaces.” The Canadian ambassador said lsrael’s bombing “would make Berlin of 1944 look like a tea party. . it is truly a scene from Dante’s Inferno.” NBC’s John Chancellor said: “I kept thinking of the bombing of Madrid during the Spanish Civil War. ..we are now dealing with an imperial Israel.” Indeed, in their pure murderousness, given the frequent use of phosphorus and cluster bombs, the Israeli bombings of Beirut, an advanced form of state terrorism, far outstripped the attacks on Guernica, Coventry and Dresden.
Since this book was first published in 1980, the Zionist movement has responded to the growing criticism of Israeli violence in a hysterical manner. Surveillance, monitoring the activities of lsrael’s critics in the media, churches and on the campus, intelligence gathering and blacklisting reminiscent of the McCarthy period in the United States, are among the tactics employed recently by Zionist organizations to stifle criticism of Israel. 10 Pinning the anti-Semitic label on critics his become the standard and easiest tactic to preempt rational discussion of public policy regarding Israel and to intimidate would-be critics. The list of victims includes such distinguished individuals as former Senator Charles Percy, the Reverend Jesse Jackson, former Under Secretary of State George Ball, former Congressman Paul Findley,” and many other lesser known individuals who struggle against overwhelming odds to retain a job and secure their livelihood. Menachem Begin’s famous remark after the Sabra and Shatila massacres, which defined criticism of Israel as “blood libel against the Jewish people,” is a stark example of the trend to equate open criticism with anti-Semitism, even as Israel continues to have trade relations and military cooperation with the most notoriously anti-Semitic regimes in Central and South America.” Israel’s war against journalists was revealed in the legal suit against NBC’s reporting of the 1982 invasion of Lebanon, 13 its repeated allegations that journalists who report news detrimental to Israel do so only in response to Arab “threats,”14 and in the killing of CBS crewmen in South Lebanon, who were covering the implementation of Israel’s “Iron Fist” policy (March 21, 1985).
Other hysterical responses to increasing knowledge of the facts of the Middle Fast conflict have emerged in the writings of propagandists masquerading as scholars. Joan Peters’s From Time Immemorial 13 turns history on its head by claiming that Jews did not replace native Palestinians, who were allegedly no more than illegal Arab immigrant workers who moved to “where they found work.” The absurd and indefensible allegation that there were virtually no Arabs in Palestine prior to the Zionist influx, seems intended to provide a veneer of legitimacy for lsrael’s increasingly violent efforts to make the myth that there is “no such thing as a Palestinian” a chilling reality.
The Zionist effort to stifle public debate of Israeli actions extended to the present study. After unsuccessful attempts by the Israeli establishment to suppress publication, in Hebrew, of the Sharett diary in Israel,attempts were made by threats of litigation and otherwise to suppress our publication of this study of the diary here in the United States. On April 11, 1980 the AAUG received communication from a well-known law firm in New York requesting in the “firmest manner possible” that we refrain from printing, publishing or otherwise reproducing portions of the diary. The law firm, acting on behalf of the family of the late Moshe Sharett and the Israeli publisher of the diary, threatened to “initiate prompt litigation in a Federal District Court” on the grounds of alleged violation of United States copyright laws.
Subsequently, the AAUG received a telegram from the Sharett family emphasizing that all rights would be vigorously protected if the association published “parts or all of Moshe Sharett’s diaries.” Anxious transoceanic calls were received by our office from the Israeli media. Our right to publish was questioned, but not on the legal grounds cited by the Sharett family and its legal counsel. Instead, we were hysterically accused of attempting to expose Israel via Sharett in a sensationalist manner. The Israeli newspaper Ma’ariv headlined a front-page story, “Israel’s Haters in the U.S.A. translated with No Permission the Diaries of Moshe Sharett” (April 4, 1980). According to former Knesset member Uri Avneri, writing in Haolam Hazeh (September 23, 1980), the Israeli Foreign Ministry initially supported Moshe Sharett’s son, Yaqov, who edited the Hebrew publication of the diary, in his attempt to suppress publication of Livia Rokach’s study based on the diary. “But to his disappointment, the Foreign Office did not uphold its support for him. The Jerusalem politicians decided that pursuing a legal course in stopping the dissemination of the book would be a mistake of the first order, since this would give it much more publicity.”
Needless to say, our accusers not only prejudged our book before its publication and cast aspersion on the organization and the individuals involved in its production; they also assumed that our publication was an unauthorized translation. In fact, the material quoted as verbatim translations from the Sharett diary or substantially paraphrased from that diary comprises only about one percent of the diary. Rokach’s study utilizes excerpts from the Sharett diary to reinforce and illustrate her own thesis.
We are under no illusion that the challenge before us was predominantly legal. After all, what Sharett said in his diary, limited as it is to the Hebrew-speaking public, is very revealing; it constitutes an indictment of Zionism by the former prime minister of Israel, and dismantles many erroneous assumptions about the Arab-Israeli conflict. It refutes a three-decade-old dogma and emphasizes the need to reexamine the uncritical support Israel has enjoyed in the West for its policies toward the Arabs. Hence, the Israelis’ need to suppress and censor, to withhold relevant and vital information from the public discourse on the Middle Fast. We are painfully reminded of similar attempts to conceal the fraudulent methods which the United States politico-military establishment employed in its pursuit of the war against the Vietnamese. The ability of the establishment to withhold the truth from the American public prolonged the Vietnam War and aggravated the social, economic, and human problems which resulted from that war. It will be hoped that the deceptive strategy of David Ben Gurion,which Moshe Sharett documented in his day-today record, will not be withheld forever from the American public, whose lives are materially affected by events in the Middle East. Thus, in our opinion, Israel’s Sacred Terrorism has an indisputable significance in the formulation of a healthy and objective policy towards the Middle East.
It is our considered opinion that Sharett’s Personal Diary, is a very important historical resource that sheds much light on Israel’s policy towards the Arab world, particularly for all of us in the United States who have such a large stake in Middle Eastern developments and the eventual outcome of the conflict. Therefore, the use of Sharett’s historical resource for scholarly study does not infringe the copyright laws.
We have taken particular precautions, however, to ensure that our selections have been translated accurately, have not been taken out of context and are not mitigated or contradicted by anything that Sharett wrote elsewhere in the diary. We are also certain that these selections satisfy the “fair use” criteria of United States copyright law:
1. The AALUG is a non-profit, educational organization, which is not publishing this study for commercial exploitation.
2. The nature of Moshe Sharett’s diary relates materially to the “right of the public to know.”
3. The amount of the copyrighted material reproduced in this publication amounts to no m ore than one percent of the whole.
4.The economic value of the original work would not suffer from the limited quotations included in our study.
We take comfort in the protection afforded by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution involving freedom of speech and the press and the companion “right of the public to know.” The Pentagon Papers were revealed to the public after they had long lain unnoticed in the archives of the American military bureaucracy. The critical nature of their content warranted that they should have been unearthed much earlier than their dramatic appearance. Sharett’s startling revelations must not be subjected to the same bureaucratic strangulation, or kept away from the English-reading public so that their usefulness as a factor in Middle East policy is nullified.
1. Moshe Sharett and His Personal Diary
2. Ben Gurion Goes to Sdeh Boker: Spiritual Retreat as a Tactic
3. Retaliation for War
4. “A Historical Opportunity” to Occupy Southern Syria
5. Let Us Create a Maronite State in Lebanon
6. Sacred Terrorism
7. The Lavon Affair: Terrorism to Coerce the West
8. Nasser: Coexistence with Israel is Possible. Ben Gurion’s Reply: Operation Gaza
9. Disperse the Palestinian Refugees
10. … and Topple Nasser’s Regime
1. Operation Kibya
2. And Then There was Kafr Qasim
3. “Soon the Singing Will Turn Into a Death Moan”
4. The Lavon Affair
5. Israeli Newspaper Reveals Government’s Attempt to Stop Publication of Israel’s Sacred Terrorism