Archive for the ‘Theology’ Category

I write this blog as a pastor, out of deep concern for the spiritual well-being of anyone who hears or reads God’s Word but who may not have much experience in understanding the great skill of people who take Scripture out of its context and thereby build false doctrines.

Those false doctrines always lead people astray from the truth of God’s Word — something God Himself is deeply concerned about (e.g. 1 Tim. 1:3; 4:6; Titus 1:9; 2:1; Jude 3; Rev. 2-3).

In yet another of Bell’s books, Love Wins, he makes this outrageous attack against God Himself and the clear teaching of His Word:

“Millions have been taught that if they don’t believe, if they don’t accept in the right way according to the person telling them the gospel, and they were hit by a car and died later that same day, God would have no choice but to punish them forever in conscious torment in hell. God would, in essence, become a fundamentally different being to them in that moment of death, a different being to them forever.

“A loving heavenly father who will go to extraordinary lengths to have a relationship with them would, in the blink of an eye, become a cruel, mean, vicious tormenter who would insure that they would have no escape from an endless future of agony.

“If there was an earthly father who was like that, we would call the authorities.  If there was an actual human dad who was that volatile, we would contact child protection services immediately.  If God can switch gears like that, switch entire modes of being that quickly, that raises a thousand questions about whether a being like this could ever be trusted.  Let alone be good.

 “Loving one moment, vicious the next. Kind and compassionate, only to become cruel and relentless in the blink of an eye.  Does God become somebody totally different the moment you die?  That kind of God is simply devastating. Psychologically crushing. We can’t bear it.  No one can. . . . That God is terrifying and traumatizing and unbearable” (173–75).

The above quote is a masterpiece of a straw man (the technique of attempting to win an argument by setting up a false or misleading premise – especially of an opponent’s position).

Here, the opponent is really God himself, for Bell argues vehemently against Him and His Word.  He knows what Scripture declares throughout: that God is “slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness” (e.g. Ps. 103:8).

Moreover, God pled with backslidden, rebellious Israel and Judah through His prophet Jeremiah to repent of their sins before judgment came against them (Jer. 36:3).  The Holy Spirit is at work to convict all people of sin before judgment comes (John 16:7-11).

No one just suddenly goes to hell; indeed, God is daily at work to bring that person to Himself through repentance and faith in Jesus. 

And yes, people must come to faith in Jesus, for He is their only atoning, substitutionary and all-sufficient sacrifice for their sins – according to His own words (John 3:16-21; 8:24).                                                    

However, every person has free will and God will not force someone to Himself if they’re not willing – despite all of His efforts through Jesus to save them from an eternity in hell. 

To accuse God of being cruel, vicious, abusive and volatile is blasphemous and heretical.  It is calumny of the basest kind and renders Bell no better than the garden variety atheist.  

He is a modern-day pied piper, a false teacher extraordinaire:

           He’s some Pied Piper, that Rob Bell

           Gaining a larger following, leading many to hell

           But if you criticize him, you’ll be labeled hateful & intolerant

           Even while his books and Nooma videos make his bank account exorbitant

           Those cool black glasses and smooth voice make him compelling

           To a generation lacking in real biblical discernment, now falling

           Jesus and John warned that false apostles and teachers would come,

           Deceived and deceiving, but who would really pay attention? 

           Bell plays on people’s emotions and tickles their ears,

           But the Apostle Paul already warned us about men like him, ere 2,000 years

           Why the rush to read Bell when there are already so many accurate teachers

            Unless one is simply content to ignore the clarity of Scripture?


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People want to know if Hell is a literal place, or if it’s figurative.  If Hell is a literal place, people are also eager to know if it’s eternal, or temporary for the person who is in Hell.

There are few topics in Scripture which illicit more emotion than the subject of Hell.  If an individual is seeking truth over emotion, and sound principles of biblical interpretation over bias, truth can be arrived at.

For example, a critical mistake would be to say, “I just refuse to believe a loving God would send a person to Hell!”

But that predetermined bias already undercuts the need for objective analysis and study. If I were to say, “I refuse to believe the government would construct any road where it might be possible to accidentally drive off a cliff on that road,” my belief would not change the reality.

So, I urge the reader to put aside emotion and take a careful, honest look at the text itself in Scripture.

My one goal in this study is biblical accuracy; I write on this subject to help people to understand what the Bible teaches about Hell.

In this examination, I intend to demonstrate through careful exegesis (a word which calls for careful examination of a particular text in its literary, historical and cultural context) that the idea that a person ceases to exist (called annihilation) after he or she dies, or that a person ceases to exist once the new heavens and the new earth are established is un-biblical and illogical.

Is Hell Real?

1) The verses and passages below (in parentheses) teach that there will be a Last Judgment for all people who have rejected Jesus’ sacrificial, atoning, substitutional death on the cross to acquit us from all sin.

2) The Bible teaches that Jesus’ death on the cross was to take the wrath due to each individual for our sin upon Himself.  Scripture teaches that He did this because His love for us — and the love of God the Father for all people — seeks our eternal redemption.

3) However, what people do know implicitly is that while God is love (1 John 4:8), He is also holy, just and righteous.  As the Lord over all that exists, He is also Judge over all.  He created us in righteousness, to do what is right in His sight.


4) Sin has corrupted us, and it causes us to miss God’s holy, righteous standards in life, and even to openly rebel against Him and defy Him.  His love has compelled Him to do something about this plight of ours.

5) Thus, God the Son — Jesus — came to earth to demonstrate what living a righteous life looks like.

6) By living a sinless life in our place (facing enormous temptation to sin), by suffering in our place the punishment that was due to us, and through His resurrection, Jesus has provided the way for us to live eternally, free from sin’s enslavement.

7) Through faith in Him and all He’s done for us, we declare our devotion to Him and need for Him to live His life through us — through God the Holy Spirit — who then comes to live His life in and through us, daily helping us to become more like Jesus.

8) But the reality is that people do not want to submit to Jesus’ authority; they want to continue in their own sin.  They don’t want to be identified with Jesus; they’re ashamed of Him.

9) But of course, most rational people do want to live forever.  If there is a heaven, they want to spend eternity there.  But they want to do this on their own terms — not on God’s terms — even though heaven is His creation.

10) This attitude, however, demonstrates our sinful, arrogant condition!  If you invite me to live in your mansion and give me my own, separate wing, you have certain expectations for me.

11) For example, you expect me to never deface the property; you will not allow me to write graffiti on the walls, or allow my dog to defecate in the home, or sell drugs from the home, etc.

12) But if I turn and complain against you for your unreasonable rules and call you harsh and unreasonable, do I deserve to live in your mansion?


13) To make matters worse, let’s say I was homeless and out of a job; you saw that, and graciously invited me to stay in the mansion you built; you chose to provide me with the food I need, and you pay for the gas and electricity.

14) Nevertheless, I spurn your grace and mercy; I say wicked things about you to others, without your knowledge.  And yet, I want to take advantage of your kindness by continuing to live in your home.  What hypocrisy!

15) No human being can save himself from the corruption of sin; no human being can give himself eternal life; no human being can create heaven.  We all stand in need of God, who alone can give eternal life to us, forgiveness of our sins, and eternal redemption.

16) If we recognize these things, we live in awe of Him and of His love, mercy and grace to us; we will devote ourselves to Him and live to please Him, to know Him, and to make Him known to others.

17) But if we spurn all that Jesus has done for us and think there is some other way for us to get into His heaven, we’re telling Him that He was an absolute fool for dying on the cross.

18) If we reject Jesus’ words that He alone is the way, the truth and the life, and that no one can enter heaven and know God apart from Him (John 14:6; 17:3), we’re telling Him that we want nothing to do with Him, and we’ll find our own way to heaven, thank you very much!

19) It’s then that we’ve forfeited God’s grace and mercy, found in Christ.  It’s then that we’ve told God that we do not believe that we’re sinners, and we do not believe He will then have to judge us for our sins.

20) And this is where the subject of Hell comes into the picture.  All punishment for sinners when they die (chronologically, this is before the end of the age, when all people outside of Christ will come before the great white throne judgment of God — Rev. 20:11-15) is immediate consignment in Hades (cf. Mt. 11:20-24; cf. Mt. 8:11-12).

21) Hades is the temporary dwelling place of the spirits of all dead who reject Jesus as Lord and Savior.

22) It is a literal place with unspeakable torment, so dire that it can only be described metaphorically in three ways in the above passage (although these may indeed not be metaphors but reality).


23) We should note from Mt. 8:11-12 the contrast with eternal feasting and enjoyment of the righteous with “outer darkness” (a metaphor for indescribable emptiness and loneliness).

24) Is Jesus speaking metaphorically in Mt. 8:11-12?  Here is where the historical and cultural context of His teaching is vital to understand: Jesus is simply using what is called Hebraism — a Jewish figure of speech — to portray the reality of something far too unpleasant to go into much detail in.

25) However, the original listener would be able to understand and appreciate exactly what He meant.

26) “Weeping and gnashing of teeth” describes not one who has ceased to exist (the doctrine of some concerning hell) but rather one who has eternal sorrow and despair over his or her eternal fixity.

27) In Mt. 11:20-24, we note Jesus’ warning that to go to Hades is “intolerable.”  Why is it intolerable?  Because there will be both emotional and physical torment (cf. Luke 16:14, 19-31).

28) Luke 16: 19-31 is a parable, and New Testament scholars rightly warn against building doctrines from parables.  However, the details of this particular parable are striking in the way they parallel Matthew’s passages on Hades.

29) Note from Luke 16 that there is sorrow from the rich man over his condition but not over his nature (v.24).  Note also the contrast between comfort and agony (v.25).

30) In Luke 16:26, we also see the permanence of the rich man’s condition.  And in vv.27-31, there is no concern for true righteousness — only selfish pragmatism.

31) The very fact that Jesus teaches on Hell — and giving dire warnings about its reality — tells us that God is intentional and serious about not wanting anyone to spend eternity in hell (e.g. John 3:16-17; 1 Tim. 2:4; 2 Pet. 3:9).  This is a declaration to us of His grace, love and mercy.

32) Moreover, the teaching of all four gospels tells us that Jesus did everything He could to prevent someone from spending an eternity in hell: God the Son was willingly sacrificed on a cross made by the very men He created – and experienced to the fullest the sin of every human being that ever lived, lives or will live (e.g. 2 Cor. 5:21).


33) What we’ve seen from Scripture thus far is that God sends no one to Hell; men send themselves to hell by rejecting our Lord’s sacrifice and offer of forgiveness and eternal life.

34) Some men argue that they will not serve a God who only gives two eternal choices – heaven or hell – and therefore believe that God is somehow an egomaniac.  However, our very first point above disproves this claim.

35) Moreover, some hold that it is unjust for God to allow someone to experience eternal punishment in hell.

36) But this is an emotional argument devoid of a biblical understanding of justice: All sin is heinous in God’s sight and a most grievous offense against Him.  His wrath is directed not against sinners, but sin itself (John 3:36; Rom. 1:18; 5:9; Col. 3:6).

37) Leon Morris writes of God’s wrath that

It is neither personal vindictiveness nor an impersonal process of retribution that works itself out in the course of history.  It is rather the response of [God’s] holiness to persistent and impenitent wickedness.[1]

38) And Thomas Oden points out that in pagan religions, people offer sacrifices to try and change a god’s attitude from wrath to friendship.

39) Not so with God, however: God takes the initiative “to change the broken relationship with humanity.  The picture of a human being placating an angry deity is not characteristic of New Testament teaching.”[2]

40) In fact, no human being could ever satisfy God’s holy and righteous demand for the punishment of all sin.  And that is the reason for the Incarnation of Jesus Christ; to become Man in our place, live a perfect, sinless life in our stead and substitute Himself to redeem us from eternal damnation (Mark 10:45; Rom. 3:23-25).

41) Wayne Grudem correctly asks what God would be like if He didn’t hate sin; if that were the case,

He would then be a God who either delighted in sin or at least was not troubled by it.  Such a God would not be worthy of our worship, for sin is hateful and it is worthy of being hated.  Sin ought not to be.  It is in fact a virtue to hate evil and sin (cf. Hab. 1:9; Zech. 8:17), and we rightly imitate this attribute of God when we feel hatred against great evil, injustice, and sin.[3]

42) Similarly, what if we, or a judge, shrugged our shoulders at someone who flagrantly violated the speed limit, drove in and out of traffic at speeds of more than 90 miles per hour and then struck and killed an innocent passenger?

43) Suppose we – or an entire government – shrugged our shoulders at human trafficking?  What would we really be if we were indifferent at human injustice?  By indifference, are we not somehow culpable of the sin – especially if we had the means to stop it?

44) A just God cannot and will not overlook sin; His justice demands a price be paid.  And He has determined that the only just punishment is an eternity spent apart from Him in hell – a place of agony because of His absence.

45) In fact, the most egregious injustice of all is for someone to reject His gracious substitutionary sacrifice!  Should Jesus have died for nothing?  Would the Father ever allow that?  Forbid this very thought!

46) Again, in his commentary on Revelation (16:5-6), Mounce also writes:

All caricatures of God which ignore his intense hatred of sin reveal more about man than about God.   In a moral universe God must of necessity oppose evil.  Far from undermining his righteousness, the love of God has made possible through the cross the redemption of unrighteous man.[4]

47) But could it be that God will allow unbelievers who reject His grace to suffer temporarily and then they cease to exist?  Scripture nowhere teaches this; as we’ve already seen and will discover from many passages, there is only heaven and hell.

48) But couldn’t God simply punish people for a time and then cause them to cease to exist (annihilationism)?  But how much suffering is enough?  Such a view completely undermines the cross, where Jesus paid mankind’s sin-debt in full.


49) If someone can merely suffer for a period of time known only to God, why did Jesus die?  And if they have paid for their suffering, why not allow them into heaven, apart from the crucifixion of Jesus?

50) In fact, according to Rom. 9:17, 22-24, when God punishes evil the glory of His justice is revealed and even unbelievers will stand in awe of His mercy and salvation.

51) For further study: Doesn’t “perish” in John 3:16 imply a cessation of existence?

52) The Greek word is apaluo and does not mean cessation but ruination of all that is of value; to come to one’s end; to be wasted (cf. Phil. 3:19; 2 Pet. 3:7, where it is translated “destruction” with Mt. 26:8, where the same word is used each time).

53) We see another Greek word used for “destruction” (olethros) in 1 Thess. 5:3; 2 Thess. 1:9, but once again, it does not mean that something ceases to exist.  Rather, it comes to ruin (cf. 1 Cor. 5:5 for the same word).

54) This substantiates Jesus’ long teaching from Mt. 23 of the scribes and Pharisees, who paraded themselves among the people as righteous, but severely misled them from a right relationship with God.

55) Frightening judgment will come upon them unless they repent: “hell” in v.33 is Gehenna, which Rev. 20:11-15 describes as the “lake of fire.”  In His grace, Jesus warns them that they will not “escape the sentence” of this place.

56) There is no indication whatsoever – however much one may wish it to be so out of human sentiment or our fallen sense of what is just – that these people will eventually cease to exist.

[1] Robert H. Mounce, The Book of Revelation (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1977), 163.

[2] Thomas C. Oden, Systematic Theology, Volume Two: The Word of Life (Peabody, Mass: Hendrickson Publishers, 2008), 395.

[3] Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994), 206.

[4] Mounce, op. cit., 295.

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Through his book Velvet Elvis and through his Nooma teaching videos, Rob Bell has become quite popular among young evangelicals. Bell has a “hip” approach in his teaching and in his writing, which certainly makes his ministry appealing as well.

But I want to examine those teachings here: do they line up with biblical truth or do they undermine biblical truth? I’ve been reading through 2 Timothy and am impressed with how often Paul refers to “the truth” in this epistle.

For example, he calls Timothy to be diligent to handle “accurately” the “word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15).

He cites Hymenaeus and Philetus as having “gone astray from the truth” and that as a result of their teaching that the resurrection had already taken place, “they upset the faith of some” (2 Tim. 2:17-18).

He tells Timothy to correct those who are in opposition to the truth with gentleness, “if perhaps God may grant them repentance, leading to the knowledge of the truth” (2 Tim. 2:25).

Then Paul boldly calls out two more false teachers in 2 Tim. 3:8, saying that “Just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so these men also oppose the truth, men of depraved mind, rejected in regards to the faith.”

Does Bell’s teaching hold to the apostle Paul’s standard? Is he firm in “the truth” (the biblical writers and Jesus saw the entire Word of God as inspired directly by Him and therefore inerrant and infallible)?

First, Bell’s understanding on how we even got the Canon of the New Testament is entirely faulty and I will demonstrate in this article the utterly damaging effects that his premise leads to. In Velvet Elvis, he writes,

This [that the canon was not settled until the 4th century] is part of the problem with continually insisting that one of the absolutes of the Christian faith must be a belief that “Scripture alone” is our guide. It sounds nice, but it is not true. In reaction to abuses by the church, a group of believers during a time called the Reformation claimed that we only need the authority of the Bible. But the problem is that we got the Bible from the church voting on what the Bible even is” (pp. 67-68).

In fact, it was far more than a mere “group of believers” during the Reformation who decided on the principle of Sola Scriptura – that the Bible is the objective standard of faith that regulates the teaching of the Church – not the other way around, as Bell argues wrongly.

Secondly, the Canon of Scripture was never “voted” on by any Church council; the councils merely recognized and affirmed what all the churches agreed upon: those NT writings that were from the apostles or from close associates of the apostles (e.g. Mark and Luke), in order to weed out many “gospels” and “epistles” that allegedly came from the apostles but which clearly contradicted canonical writings.

Thirdly, being inspired by God, Scripture alone can inform the Church of its doctrines and morals – the Church being always led by fallible men and women.

As far as interpreting Scripture, it will be shown here that Bell’s thinking is steeped in Post-modernism – that idea that there can be no objective truth – only “your” interpretation.

Rather than relying on the universally accepted grammatical/historical approach to interpret Scripture, Bell trusts that in some manner the Holy Spirit is “enlightening us” (p. 68).

In order to disrupt thousands of years of sound Systematic Theology, Bell uses his book to undermine it through the clever but simplistic use of the metaphors of bricks and trampolines to advance his own theology.

First, he refers to “brickianity” from theologians. Somehow, their painstaking study and exposition of Scripture (which he calls “brickianity”) is not good news but bad news that erect “walls” and keep people out of the faith (28).

Instead, Bell prefers to see the entire body of Scripture as “mysterious,” but he misleads the reader with this term: in the NT, the Greek word translated “mystery” refers to something that was hidden but is now revealed by God.

But Bell’s use of the term comes from our modern-day meaning – that a concept is too ethereal to be understood and therefore is left to the subjectivity of the individual. He holds that “The Christian faith is mysterious to the core” (32).

Contrary to what Paul wrote to Timothy (recall the passages cited above), Bell contends that “the truth” is not objective at all: “The mystery is the truth” (33).

It gets worse: as he moves into describing God’s Word through the metaphor of a trampoline, Bell avers that “It’s not so much that the Christian faith has a lot of paradoxes. It’s that it is a lot of paradoxes. And we cannot resolve a paradox” (34).

As we’ll see momentarily, the trampoline metaphor means that the Christian faith is like jumping in the air – it turns out to be a leap into the dark—the unknown and unknowable. Paradoxes are like square circles: you can talk about them but such talk reveals precisely nothing.

Having established that we cannot validly know enough to build a wall or foundation with theological bricks, Bell invites us on a journey. But how do we know that a Christian journey is a better one than a Muslim one?

For Bell, we don’t. We know that Christian ethics and social action are very good things, and if we engage in these practices our Muslim neighbors will be better off—even if they stay Muslim.

One writer puts it this way: Since Christianity is mystery and paradox (according to Bell’s thinking) we cannot build a foundation with any theological bricks because they are too inflexible. That is where he brings in his trampoline analogy:

“A trampoline only works if you take your feet off the firm, stable ground and jump into the air and let the trampoline propel you upward. Talking about trampolines isn’t jumping; it’s talking. Two vastly different things. [sic] And so we jump and we invite others to jump with us, to live the way of Jesus and see what happens. You don’t have to know anything about the springs to pursue living ‘the way’” (34).

Of this quote, author Bob DeWaay writes, “How do we know that a Christian jump (in the absence of any a priori knowledge of truth) is better than jumping on a trampoline and living the way of Ghandi or the Dali Lama? The answer is we do not, other than possibly by pragmatic means which always fail as tests for truth.”

Bell further undermines Scripture as settled truth – as defined by Jesus and His apostles themselves – with this quote:
“When you embrace the text as living and active,” he writes, “when you enter its story, when you keep turning the gem, you never come to the end” (60). Bell uses the typical postmodern argument that because documents (like the Bible) must be interpreted, that they therefore can have no fixed meaning.

Instead of seeking to use the accepted means of interpretation of all literature – the historical-grammatical principle (what did the text mean to its original recipients, what was the historical and cultural condition in which it was written) — Bell’s method is once again entirely subjective and ignores the biblical writers’ original intent: “The Bible has to be interpreted. Decisions have to be made about what it means now, today” (55).

This leads, naturally, to dramatic mistakes by Bell in interpreting Scripture and setting up a new, false paradigm:

The most hideous of all is his false teaching on hell: Bell makes it clear that he is more concerned with “hell on earth” than with what happens after this life: “What’s disturbing then is when people talk more about hell after this life than they do about hell here and now” (148).

Bell’s teaching that heaven and hell come to earth depending on how we live now simply is not biblical. He says, “As a Christian, I want to do what I can to resist hell coming to earth. Poverty, injustice, suffering – they are all hells on earth, and as Christians we oppose them with all our energies” (Ibid.).

If there is no eternal hell — with eternal suffering — and no objective truth, then why go through the trouble of evangelism (with its inevitable rejection)?

Ideas have consequences and false teaching changes behavior.

DeWaay, in his critique of Velvet Elvis, points out that the term for hell, Gehenna, is used 12 times in the New Testament, 11 of them by Jesus.

Not once did He use the term to describe something that is now on earth or now coming to earth. He used it in this manner: “And if your right hand makes you stumble, cut it off, and throw it from you; for it is better for you that one of the parts of your body perish, than for your whole body to go into hell” (Matthew 5:30).

In Bell’s usage, losing body parts would be hell on earth. But Jesus’ point was that it would be better to go through this life (which is temporary) maimed than to have a perfect body that is cast into hell (which is permanent).

But Bell says, “For Jesus, this new kind of life in him is not about escaping this world but about making it a better place, here and now. The goal for Jesus isn’t to get into heaven. The goal is to get heaven here” (Ibid.).

But this is decidedly not what Jesus said, “And do not fear those who kill the body, but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28).

DeWaay again notes: The gospels simply do not teach Bell’s ideas about heaven and hell coming to earth now depending on certain actions. They teach the importance of eternity and the relative unimportance of our status now other than in how it affects us in eternity. But Bell continues to explain his “repainting” of “Elvis”:

True spirituality then is not about escaping this world to some other place where we will be forever. A Christian is not someone who expects to spend forever in heaven there. A Christian is someone who anticipates spending forever here, in a new heaven that comes to earth. The goal isn’t escaping this world but making the world the kind of place God can come to. 34

To do this, according to Velvet Elvis, we need to become our “true selves”: “And Jesus calls us to return to our true selves. The pure, whole people God originally intended us to be, before we veered off course. Somewhere in you is the you whom you were made to be” (150).

This embracing of our identity and trusting we are loved supposedly brings heaven to earth: “That is what brings heaven to earth.” (151).

These types of statements, issued universally to all people, are not the universal call of the gospel.

Bell’s message, unlike the gospel found in the New Testament, is not how God has chosen to make dead sinners alive.

A dead sinner is not going to bring heaven to earth by believing such things about himself or by returning to his “true self.” The fact is that our “true selves” are wicked rebels who deserve hell.

In a section where Bell describes Jewish education and educational techniques, Bell misquotes a Scripture (128): “Jesus later says to his disciples, ‘Remember, everything I learned I passed on to you’” (emphasis his; he footnotes John 15:15).

He then asks, “Did Jesus go to school and learn like the other Jewish kids his age?”

But that is not the point of John 15:15! Here is what the passage says: “No longer do I call you slaves, for the slave does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you” (John 15:15).

The Greek said “heard,” not “learned.” Furthermore, his learning was from the Father, whom John claimed Jesus pre-existed with (John 1:1). Jesus was no typical Rabbi.

In Velvet Elvis, discussing the incident of Jesus walking on the water and Peter starting to do the same, Bell offers this incredibly errant interpretation: “And Jesus says, ‘You of little faith, why did you doubt?’ Who does Peter lose faith in? Not Jesus; Jesus is doing fine. Peter loses faith in himself” (133).

That is astonishing terrible exegesis! Furthermore, Peter did have faith in himself later on and it was a bad thing: “Peter said to Him, ‘Even if I have to die with You, I will not deny You’” (Matthew 26:35a).

Shortly after that self-sufficient statement of faith in himself, Peter vehemently denied three times – once by pronouncing an anathema upon himself – that He ever knew Jesus!

Throughout the gospels, “great faith” or “little faith” had to do with people’s belief about Christ. For example, the centurion who did not consider himself “worthy” for Christ to come to him had a very high estimation of Jesus’ authority (Luke 7:2-10). He had “great faith” according to Jesus. His faith was in Christ, not himself.

Author DeWaay notes that according to Bell, what frustrates Jesus is “When his disciples lose faith in themselves” (134).

Bell makes a serious error in assuming that when an ordinary rabbi chooses disciples based upon his perception of their own abilities and potential to be like the rabbi himself that, therefore, Jesus must have had faith in the abilities and capabilities of His disciples.

But this is not the case. No one will ever be conformed to the image of Christ because of his own innate human abilities. Bell’s humanistic teachings disregard the biblical doctrine of human sinfulness and inability.
Bell makes it clear that we are not misunderstanding his point:

God has an incredibly high view of people. God believes that people are capable of amazing things. I have been told that I need to believe in Jesus. Which is a good thing. [sic] But what I am learning is that Jesus believes in me. I have been told that I need to have faith in God. Which is a good thing. [sic] But what I am learning is that God has faith in me (134).

Is man the object of God’s faith? Here is God’s testimony about man:
“What then? Are we better than they? Not at all; for we have already charged that both Jews and Greeks are all under sin; as it is written, “There is none righteous, not even one; There is none who understands, There is none who seeks for God; All have turned aside, together they have become useless; There is none who does good, There is not even one.” (Romans 3:9 – 12)

The Bible tells us in John 2:24-25: “But Jesus, on His part, was not entrusting Himself to them, for He knew all men, and because He did not need anyone to bear witness concerning man for He Himself knew what was in man.”

Thus, it should be clear that our Lord most certainly did not have faith in man.

It is apparent that Bell is leading people away from the faith once for all delivered to the saints (Jude 3) and instead is advocating a man-centered faith that believes in self as the appropriate object of faith and not to God Himself as the only object of faith.

I’ve seen the fruit of Bell’s teaching among some college students I pastored – two of whom have opted to focus on social justice instead of fulfilling the Great Commission (Mt. 28:18-20) and they led the way in getting many more to follow them.

Social justice certainly ought to be part of fulfilling our Lord’s command, insofar as we help people in tangible ways toward seeing the God who wants to give them eternal life.

But one of those two students brazenly told me that she had heard the call to fulfill the Great Commission all of her life, but had instead opted to focus on social justice.

This prideful point of view is now popular among this generation of young evangelicals and is a clear return to the Social Gospel of the liberal mainline denominations of the 20th century – and those denominations are quickly dying out!

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In this day of continued conflicting and contradictory opinions from the scientific community about how all that exists came into being, it needs to be declared unequivocally: all that exists was intentionally and carefully designed by God with purposes that we currently know and purposes yet to be discovered.

There are two points Jeremiah is making in the Old Testament book he wrote (31:35-37), but I want to focus on his declaration that God not only created the world, but that He oversees all of its activities:

35 This is what the LORD says,
he who appoints the sun
to shine by day,
who decrees the moon and stars
to shine by night,
who stirs up the sea
so that its waves roar—
the LORD Almighty is his name:

36 “Only if these decrees vanish from my sight,”
declares the LORD,
“will the descendants of Israel ever cease
to be a nation before me.”

37 This is what the LORD says:
“Only if the heavens above can be measured
and the foundations of the earth below be searched out
will I reject all the descendants of Israel
because of all they have done,”
declares the LORD.

The extraordinary beauty and variety of His Creation is a clear reflection also of who He is (in part), as David tells us in Psalm 19.

Based upon this fact, I only want to know Him more and make Him known to those open to hear.

I’ll close with an insightful comment from John Calvin, in his Institutes of the Christian Religion (translated by Henry Beveridge): 1.2.173:

“Again, when we read, that at the prayer of Joshua the sun stayed in its course (Josh. x. 13); that as a favour to Hezekiah, its shadow receded ten degrees (2 Kings xx. 11); by these miracles God declared that the sun does not daily rise and set by a blind instinct of nature, but is governed by Him in its course, that he may renew the remebrance of his paternal favour toward us.

“Nothing is more natural than for spring, in its turn, to succeed winter, summer spring, and autumn summer; but in this series the variations are so great and so unequal as to make it very apparent that every single year, month, and day, is regulated by a new and special providence of God.”

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Moses, desperate to be with God and crying out for His presence (Ex. 33:13-18) received this self-description of God when He visited Moses (Ex. 34:6; cf. Ps. 103:8): “The LORD is compassionate and gracious; slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness and truth.”


Here is the overwhelming significance of this verse: “LORD” is the personal, active, covenant-keeping God; this word appears in the OT more than 6,800 times. “Compassionate” (racham) is the Hebrew word that refers to a deep love, usually from a superior to an inferior.


“Gracious” (from hen) depicts a heartfelt response by someone with something to give to someone in need, who also has no real claim to gracious treatment. And “lovingkindness” (hesed) can also be translated “steadfast love,” “covenant loyalty,” “devotion,” “mercy,” and “faithfulness.”


I’ve meditated on these words for many, many years now and they’ve changed the way I view God. I thank Him for these qualities almost on a daily basis and have done so now for at least 10 years. Doing this in prayer absolutely revolutionized my prayer life


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In my judgment, the most important word in the entire Bible is the Hebrew word hesed. That is the word that is translated, for example, in Ps. 23:6 as “lovingkindness” (NASB), “love” (NIV) or “mercy” (NKJV): “surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life.”

Whatever translation you use, find that word and whenever you see that word in the Old Testament remember its five-fold definition, because it will change the way you relate to your heavenly Father: it means “covenant loyalty,” “faithfulness,” “devotion,” “steadfast love,” “mercy.”

Here’s how I apply it in prayer (usually on my prayer walks): “Father, hallowed be Your name: thank You that You are loyal in Your covenant with me; thank You that You are devoted to me; thank You that You are faithful to me; thank You that Your love is steadfast to me and thank You for Your mercy to me!”

Beloved, that word is all over the OT, especially in the Psalms. Whoever said that the God of the OT is mean and vengeful has missed it, big time! So, whenever you see that word translated “lovingkindness,” “love,” or “mercy,” never forget the rich meaning of that word.
I would suggest you write down the definition every time you find that word, thank our Father for its meaning and allow the Holy Spirit to deepen it in your spirit! :-)

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Israel is constantly accused by secularists as being racist and “Zionists” has long been a pejorative used by them in anti-Israel protests and in attempts to brainwash students in universities against the State of Israel.
The article I’m reprinting below rests not on ad hominem attacks or emotional arguments, but facts. Let us support Israel’s right to exist peacefully.

1948, Israel, and the Palestinians: Annotated Text
Efraim Karsh

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1948, Israel, and the Palestinians: Annotated Text

Sixty years after its establishment by an internationally recognized act of self-determination, Israel remains the only state in the world that is subjected to a constant outpouring of the most outlandish conspiracy theories and blood libels; whose policies and actions are obsessively condemned by the international community; and whose right to exist is constantly debated and challenged not only by its Arab enemies but by segments of advanced opinion in the West.

During the past decade or so, the actual elimination of the Jewish state has become a cause célèbre among many of these educated Westerners. The “one-state solution,” as it is called, is a euphemistic formula proposing the replacement of Israel by a state, theoretically comprising the whole of historic Palestine, in which Jews will be reduced to the status of a permanent minority. Only this, it is said, can expiate the “original sin” of Israel’s founding, an act built (in the words of one critic) “on the ruins of Arab Palestine” and achieved through the deliberate and aggressive dispossession of its native population.

This claim of premeditated dispossession and the consequent creation of the longstanding Palestinian “refugee problem” forms, indeed, the central plank in the bill of particulars pressed by Israel’s alleged victims and their Western supporters. It is a charge that has hardly gone undisputed. As early as the mid-1950’s, the eminent American historian J.C. Hurewitz undertook a systematic refutation,[1] and his findings were abundantly confirmed by later generations of scholars and writers. Even Benny Morris, the most influential of Israel’s revisionist “new historians,” and one who went out of his way to establish the case for Israel’s “original sin,” grudgingly stipulated that there was no “design” to displace the Palestinian Arabs.[2]

The recent declassification of millions of documents from the period of the British Mandate (1920-1948) and Israel’s early days, documents untapped by earlier generations of writers and ignored or distorted by the “new historians,” paint a much more definitive picture of the historical record. They reveal that the claim of dispossession is not only completely unfounded but the inverse of the truth. What follows is based on fresh research into these documents, which contain many facts and data hitherto unreported.


Far from being the hapless objects of a predatory Zionist assault, it was Palestinian Arab leaders who from the early 1920’s onward, and very much against the wishes of their own constituents, launched a relentless campaign to obliterate the Jewish national revival. This campaign culminated in the violent attempt to abort the UN resolution of November 29, 1947, which called for the establishment of two states in Palestine. Had these leaders, and their counterparts in the neighboring Arab states, accepted the UN resolution, there would have been no war and no dislocation in the first place.

The simple fact is that the Zionist movement had always been amenable to the existence in the future Jewish state of a substantial Arab minority that would participate on an equal footing “throughout all sectors of the country’s public life.”[3] The words are those of Ze’ev Jabotinsky, the founding father of the branch of Zionism that was the forebear of today’s Likud party. In a famous 1923 article, Jabotinsky voiced his readiness “to take an oath binding ourselves and our descendants that we shall never do anything contrary to the principle of equal rights, and that we shall never try to eject anyone.”[4]

Eleven years later, Jabotinsky presided over the drafting of a constitution for Jewish Palestine. According to its provisions, Arabs and Jews were to share both the prerogatives and the duties of statehood, including most notably military and civil service. Hebrew and Arabic were to enjoy the same legal standing, and “in every cabinet where the prime minister is a Jew, the vice-premiership shall be offered to an Arab and vice-versa.”[5]

If this was the position of the more “militant” faction of the Jewish national movement, mainstream Zionism not only took for granted the full equality of the Arab minority in the future Jewish state but went out of its way to foster Arab-Jewish coexistence. In January 1919, Chaim Weizmann, then the upcoming leader of the Zionist movement, reached a peace-and-cooperation agreement with the Hashemite emir Faisal ibn Hussein, the effective leader of the nascent pan-Arab movement. From then until the proclamation of the state of Israel on May 14, 1948, Zionist spokesmen held hundreds of meetings with Arab leaders at all levels. These included Abdullah ibn Hussein, Faisal’s elder brother and founder of the emirate of Transjordan (later the kingdom of Jordan), incumbent and former prime ministers in Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, and Iraq, senior advisers of King Abdul Aziz ibn Saud (founder of Saudi Arabia), and Palestinian Arab elites of all hues.

As late as September 15, 1947, two months before the passing of the UN partition resolution, two senior Zionist envoys were still seeking to convince Abdel Rahman Azzam, the Arab League’s secretary-general, that the Palestine conflict “was uselessly absorbing the best energies of the Arab League,” and that both Arabs and Jews would greatly benefit “from active policies of cooperation and development.”6 Behind this proposition lay an age-old Zionist hope: that the material progress resulting from Jewish settlement of Palestine would ease the path for the local Arab populace to become permanently reconciled, if not positively well disposed, to the project of Jewish national self-determination. As David Ben-Gurion, soon to become Israel’s first prime minister, argued in December 1947:

If the Arab citizen will feel at home in our state, . . . if the state will help him in a truthful and dedicated way to reach the economic, social, and cultural level of the Jewish community, then Arab distrust will accordingly subside and a bridge will be built to a Semitic, Jewish-Arab alliance.[7]

On the face of it, Ben-Gurion’s hope rested on reasonable grounds. An inflow of Jewish immigrants and capital after World War I had revived Palestine’s hitherto static condition and raised the standard of living of its Arab inhabitants well above that in the neighboring Arab states. The expansion of Arab industry and agriculture, especially in the field of citrus growing, was largely financed by the capital thus obtained, and Jewish know-how did much to improve Arab cultivation. In the two decades between the world wars, Arab-owned citrus plantations grew sixfold, as did vegetable-growing lands, while the number of olive groves quadrupled.[8]

No less remarkable were the advances in social welfare. Perhaps most significantly, mortality rates in the Muslim population dropped sharply and life expectancy rose from 37.5 years in 1926-27 to 50 in 1942-44 (compared with 33 in Egypt). The rate of natural increase leapt upward by a third.[9]

That nothing remotely akin to this was taking place in the neighboring British-ruled Arab countries, not to mention India, can be explained only by the decisive Jewish contribution to Mandate Palestine’s socioeconomic well-being. The British authorities acknowledged as much in a 1937 report by a commission of inquiry headed by Lord Peel:

The general beneficent effect of Jewish immigration on Arab welfare is illustrated by the fact that the increase in the Arab population is most marked in urban areas affected by Jewish development. A comparison of the census returns in 1922 and 1931 shows that, six years ago, the increase percent in Haifa was 86, in Jaffa 62, in Jerusalem 37, while in purely Arab towns such as Nablus and Hebron it was only 7, and at Gaza there was a decrease of 2 percent.[10]
Had the vast majority of Palestinian Arabs been left to their own devices, they would most probably have been content to take advantage of the opportunities afforded them. This is evidenced by the fact that, throughout the Mandate era, periods of peaceful coexistence far exceeded those of violent eruptions, and the latter were the work of only a small fraction of Palestinian Arabs.[11] Unfortunately for both Arabs and Jews, however, the hopes and wishes of ordinary people were not taken into account, as they rarely are in authoritarian communities hostile to the notions of civil society or liberal democracy. In the modern world, moreover, it has not been the poor and the oppressed who have led the great revolutions or carried out the worst deeds of violence, but rather militant vanguards from among the better educated and more moneyed classes of society.

So it was with the Palestinians. In the words of the Peel report:

We have found that, though the Arabs have benefited by the development of the country owing to Jewish immigration, this has had no conciliatory effect. On the contrary . . . with almost mathematical precision the betterment of the economic situation in Palestine [has] meant the deterioration of the political situation.[12]
In Palestine, ordinary Arabs were persecuted and murdered by their alleged betters for the crime of “selling Palestine” to the Jews. Meanwhile, these same betters were enriching themselves with impunity. The staunch pan-Arabist Awni Abdel Hadi, who vowed to fight “until Palestine is either placed under a free Arab government or becomes a graveyard for all the Jews in the country,”[13] facilitated the transfer of 7,500 acres to the Zionist movement, and some of his relatives, all respected political and religious figures, went a step further by selling actual plots of land. So did numerous members of the Husseini family, the foremost Palestinian Arab clan during the Mandate period, including Muhammad Tahir, father of Hajj Amin Husseini, the notorious mufti of Jerusalem.[14]

It was the mufti’s concern with solidifying his political position that largely underlay the 1929 carnage in which 133 Jews were massacred and hundreds more were wounded—just as it was the struggle for political preeminence that triggered the most protracted outbreak of Palestinian Arab violence in 1936-39. This was widely portrayed as a nationalist revolt against both the ruling British and the Jewish refugees then streaming into Palestine to escape Nazi persecution. In fact, it was a massive exercise in violence that saw far more Arabs than Jews or Englishmen murdered by Arab gangs, that repressed and abused the general Arab population, and that impelled thousands of Arabs to flee the country in a foretaste of the 1947-48 exodus.[15]

Some Palestinian Arabs, in fact, preferred to fight back against their inciters, often in collaboration with the British authorities and the Hagana, the largest Jewish underground defense organization. Still others sought shelter in Jewish neighborhoods. For despite the paralytic atmosphere of terror and a ruthlessly enforced economic boycott, Arab-Jewish coexistence continued on many practical levels even during such periods of turmoil, and was largely restored after their subsidence. [16]


Against this backdrop, it is hardly to be wondered at that most Palestinians wanted nothing to do with the violent attempt ten years later by the mufti-led Arab Higher Committee (AHC), the effective “government” of the Palestinian Arabs, to subvert the 1947 UN partition resolution. With the memories of 1936-39 still fresh in their minds, many opted to stay out of the fight. In no time, numerous Arab villages (and some urban areas) were negotiating peace agreements with their Jewish neighbors; other localities throughout the country acted similarly without the benefit of a formal agreement.[17]

Nor did ordinary Palestinians shrink from quietly defying their supreme leadership. In his numerous tours around the region, Abdel Qader Husseini, district commander of Jerusalem and the mufti’s close relative, found the populace indifferent, if not hostile, to his repeated call to arms. In Hebron, he failed to recruit a single volunteer for the salaried force he sought to form in that city; his efforts in the cities of Nablus, Tulkarm, and Qalqiliya were hardly more successful. Arab villagers, for their part, proved even less receptive to his demands. In one locale, Beit Safafa, Abdel Qader suffered the ultimate indignity, being driven out by angry residents protesting their village’s transformation into a hub of anti-Jewish attacks. Even the few who answered his call did so, by and large, in order to obtain free weapons for their personal protection and then return home.[18]

There was an economic aspect to this peaceableness. The outbreak of hostilities orchestrated by the AHC led to a sharp drop in trade and an accompanying spike in the cost of basic commodities. Many villages, dependent for their livelihood on the Jewish or mixed-population cities, saw no point in supporting the AHC’s explicit goal of starving the Jews into submission.[19] Such was the general lack of appetite for war that in early February 1948, more than two months after the AHC initiated its campaign of violence, Ben-Gurion maintained that “the villages, in most part, have remained on the sidelines.”[20]

Ben-Gurion’s analysis was echoed by the Iraqi general Ismail Safwat, commander-in-chief of the Arab Liberation Army (ALA), the volunteer Arab force that did much of the fighting in Palestine in the months preceding Israel’s proclamation of independence. Safwat lamented that only 800 of the 5,000 volunteers trained by the ALA had come from Palestine itself, and that most of these had deserted either before completing their training or immediately afterward. Fawzi Qawuqji, the local commander of ALA forces, was no less scathing, having found the Palestinians “unreliable, excitable, and difficult to control, and in organized warfare virtually unemployable.”[21]

This view summed up most contemporary perceptions during the fateful six months of fighting after the passing of the partition resolution. Even as these months saw the all but complete disintegration of Palestinian Arab society, nowhere was this described as a systematic dispossession of Arabs by Jews. To the contrary: with the partition resolution widely viewed by Arab leaders as “Zionist in inspiration, Zionist in principle, Zionist in substance, and Zionist in most details” (in the words of the Palestinian academic Walid Khalidi),[22] and with those leaders being brutally candid about their determination to subvert it by force of arms, there was no doubt whatsoever as to which side had instigated the bloodletting.

Nor did the Arabs attempt to hide their culpability. As the Jews set out to lay the groundwork for their nascent state while simultaneously striving to convince their Arab compatriots that they would be (as Ben-Gurion put it) “equal citizens, equal in everything without any exception,” Palestinian Arab leaders pledged that “should partition be implemented, it will be achieved only over the bodies of the Arabs of Palestine, their sons, and their women.” Qawuqji vowed “to drive all Jews into the sea.” Abdel Qader Husseini stated that “the Palestine problem will only be solved by the sword; all Jews must leave Palestine.”[23]


They and their fellow Arab abetters did their utmost to make these threats come true, with every means at their disposal. In addition to regular forces like the ALA, guerrilla and terror groups wreaked havoc, as much among noncombatants as among Jewish fighting units. Shooting, sniping, ambushes, bombings, which in today’s world would be condemned as war crimes, were daily events in the lives of civilians. “[I]nnocent and harmless people, going about their daily business,” wrote the U.S. consul-general in Jerusalem, Robert Macatee, in December 1947,

are picked off while riding in buses, walking along the streets, and stray shots even find them while asleep in their beds. A Jewish woman, mother of five children, was shot in Jerusalem while hanging out clothes on the roof. The ambulance rushing her to the hospital was machine-gunned, and finally the mourners following her to the funeral were attacked and one of them stabbed to death.[24]
As the fighting escalated, Arab civilians suffered as well, and the occasional atrocity sparked cycles of large-scale violence. Thus, the December 1947 murder of six Arab workers near the Haifa oil refinery by the small Jewish underground group IZL was followed by the immediate slaughter of 39 Jews by their Arab co-workers,[25] just as the killing of some 100 Arabs during the battle for the village of Deir Yasin in April 1948[26] was “avenged” within days by the killing of 77 Jewish nurses and doctors en route to the Hadassah hospital on Mount Scopus.[27]

Yet while the Jewish leadership and media described these gruesome events for what they were, at times withholding details so as to avoid panic and keep the door open for Arab-Jewish reconciliation, their Arab counterparts not only inflated the toll to gigantic proportions but invented numerous nonexistent atrocities. The fall of Haifa (April 21-22), for example, gave rise to totally false claims of a large-scale slaughter, which circulated throughout the Middle East and reached Western capitals. Similarly false rumors were spread after the fall of Tiberias (April 18), during the battle for Safed (in early May), and in Jaffa, where in late April the mayor fabricated a massacre of “hundreds of Arab men and women.” Accounts of Deir Yasin in the Arab media were especially lurid, featuring supposed hammer-and-sickle tattoos on the arms of IZL fighters and accusations of havoc and rape.[28]

This scare-mongering was undoubtedly aimed at garnering the widest possible sympathy for the Palestinian plight and casting the Jews as brutal predators. But it backfired disastrously by spreading panic within the disoriented Palestinian society. That, in turn, helps explain why, by April 1948, after four months of seeming progress, this phase of the Arab war effort collapsed. (Still in the offing was the second, wider, and more prolonged phase involving the forces of the five Arab nations that invaded Palestine in mid-May.) For not only had most Palestinians declined to join the active hostilities, but vast numbers had taken to the road, leaving their homes either for places elsewhere in the country or fleeing to neighboring Arab lands.


Indeed, many had vacated even before the outbreak of hostilities, and still larger numbers decamped before the war reached their own doorstep. “Arabs are leaving the country with their families in considerable numbers, and there is an exodus from the mixed towns to the rural Arab centers,” reported Alan Cunningham, the British high commissioner, in December 1947, adding a month later that the “panic of [the] middle class persists and there is a steady exodus of those who can afford to leave the country.”[29]

Echoing these reports, Hagana intelligence sources recounted in mid-December an “evacuation frenzy that has taken hold of entire Arab villages.” Before the month was over, many Palestinian Arab cities were bemoaning the severe problems created by the huge influx of villagers and pleading with the AHC to help find a solution to the predicament. Even the Syrian and Lebanese governments were alarmed by this early exodus, demanding that the AHC encourage Palestinian Arabs to stay put and fight.[30]

But no such encouragement was forthcoming, either from the AHC or from anywhere else. In fact, there was a total lack of national cohesion, let alone any sense of shared destiny. Cities and towns acted as if they were self-contained units, attending to their own needs and eschewing the smallest sacrifice on behalf of other localities. Many “national committees” (i.e., local leaderships) forbade the export of food and drink from well-stocked cities to needy outlying towns and villages. Haifa’s Arab merchants refused to alleviate a severe shortage of flour in Jenin, while Gaza refused to export eggs and poultry to Jerusalem; in Hebron, armed guards checked all departing cars. At the same time there was extensive smuggling, especially in the mixed-population cities, with Arab foodstuffs going to Jewish neighborhoods and vice-versa.[31]

The lack of communal solidarity was similarly evidenced by the abysmal treatment meted out to the hundreds of thousands of refugees scattered throughout the country. Not only was there no collective effort to relieve their plight, or even a wider empathy beyond one’s immediate neighborhood, but many refugees were ill-treated by their temporary hosts and subjected to ridicule and abuse for their supposed cowardice. In the words of one Jewish intelligence report: “The refugees are hated wherever they have arrived.”[32]

Even the ultimate war victims—the survivors of Deir Yasin—did not escape their share of indignities. Finding refuge in the neighboring village of Silwan, many were soon at loggerheads with the locals, to the point where on April 14, a mere five days after the tragedy, a Silwan delegation approached the AHC’s Jerusalem office demanding that the survivors be transferred elsewhere. No help for their relocation was forthcoming.[33]

Some localities flatly refused to accept refugees at all, for fear of overstraining existing resources. In Acre (Akko), the authorities prevented Arabs fleeing Haifa from disembarking; in Ramallah, the predominantly Christian population organized its own militia—not so much to fight the Jews as to fend off the new Muslim arrivals. Many exploited the plight of the refugees unabashedly, especially by fleecing them for such basic necessities as transportation and accommodation.[34]

Yet still the Palestinians fled their homes, and at an ever growing pace. By early April some 100,000 had gone, though the Jews were still on the defensive and in no position to evict them. (On March 23, fully four months after the outbreak of hostilities, ALA commander-in-chief Safwat noted with some astonishment that the Jews “have so far not attacked a single Arab village unless provoked by it.”) By the time of Israel’s declaration of independence on May 14, the numbers of Arab refugees had more than trebled. Even then, none of the 170,000-180,000 Arabs fleeing urban centers, and only a handful of the 130,000-160,000 villagers who left their homes, had been forced out by the Jews.

The exceptions occurred in the heat of battle and were uniformly dictated by ad-hoc military considerations—reducing civilian casualties, denying sites to Arab fighters when there were no available Jewish forces to repel them—rather than political design.[35] They were, moreover, matched by efforts to prevent flight and/or to encourage the return of those who fled. To cite only one example, in early April a Jewish delegation comprising top Arab-affairs advisers, local notables, and municipal heads with close contacts with neighboring Arab localities traversed Arab villages in the coastal plain, then emptying at a staggering pace, in an attempt to convince their inhabitants to stay put.[36]


What makes these Jewish efforts all the more impressive is that they took place at a time when huge numbers of Palestinian Arabs were being actively driven from their homes by their own leaders and/or by Arab military forces, whether out of military considerations or in order to prevent them from becoming citizens of the prospective Jewish state. In the largest and best-known example, tens of thousands of Arabs were ordered or bullied into leaving the city of Haifa on the AHC’s instructions, despite strenuous Jewish efforts to persuade them to stay.[37] Only days earlier, Tiberias’ 6,000-strong Arab community had been similarly forced out by its own leaders, against local Jewish wishes.[38] In Jaffa, Palestine’s largest Arab city, the municipality organized the transfer of thousands of residents by land and sea;[39] in Jerusalem, the AHC ordered the transfer of women and children, and local gang leaders pushed out residents of several neighborhoods.[40]

Tens of thousands of rural villagers were likewise forced out by order of the AHC, local Arab militias, or the ALA. Within weeks of the latter’s arrival in Palestine in January 1948, rumors were circulating of secret instructions to Arabs in predominantly Jewish areas to vacate their villages so as to allow their use for military purposes and to reduce the risk of becoming hostage to the Jews.

By February, this phenomenon had expanded to most parts of the country. It gained considerable momentum in April and May as ALA and AHC forces throughout Palestine were being comprehensively routed. On April 18, the Hagana’s intelligence branch in Jerusalem reported a fresh general order to remove the women and children from all villages bordering Jewish localities. Twelve days later, its Haifa counterpart reported an ALA command to evacuate all Arab villages between Tel Aviv and Haifa in anticipation of a new general offensive. In early May, as fighting intensified in the eastern Galilee, local Arabs were ordered to transfer all women and children from the Rosh Pina area, while in the Jerusalem sub-district, Transjordan’s Arab Legion likewise ordered the emptying of scores of villages.[41]

As for the Palestinian Arab leaders themselves, who had placed their reluctant constituents on a collision course with Zionism in the 1920’s and 1930’s and had now dragged them helpless into a mortal conflict, they hastened to get themselves out of Palestine and to stay out at the most critical moment. Taking a cue from these higher-ups, local leaders similarly rushed en masse through the door. High Commissioner Cunningham summarized what was happening with quintessential British understatement:

You should know that the collapsing Arab morale in Palestine is in some measure due to the increasing tendency of those who should be leading them to leave the country. . . . For instance, in Jaffa the mayor went on four-day leave 12 days ago and has not returned, and half the national committee has left. In Haifa the Arab members of the municipality left some time ago; the two leaders of the Arab Liberation Army left actually during the recent battle. Now the chief Arab magistrate has left. In all parts of the country the effendi class has been evacuating in large numbers over a considerable period and the tempo is increasing.[42]
Arif al-Arif, a prominent Arab politician during the Mandate era and the doyen of Palestinian historians, described the prevailing atmosphere at the time: “Wherever one went throughout the country one heard the same refrain: ‘Where are the leaders who should show us the way? Where is the AHC? Why are its members in Egypt at a time when Palestine, their own country, needs them?’”[43]


Muhammad Nimr al-Khatib, a Palestinian Arab leader during the 1948 war, would sum up the situation in these words: “The Palestinians had neighboring Arab states which opened their borders and doors to the refugees, while the Jews had no alternative but to triumph or to die.”[44]

This is true enough of the Jews, but it elides the reason for the refugees’ flight and radically distorts the quality of their reception elsewhere. If they met with no sympathy from their brethren at home, the reaction throughout the Arab world was, if anything, harsher still. There were repeated calls for the forcible return of the refugees, or at the very least of young men of military age, many of whom had arrived under the (false) pretense of volunteering for the ALA. As the end of the Mandate loomed nearer, the Lebanese government refused entry visas to Palestinian males between eighteen and fifty and ordered all “healthy and fit men” who had already entered the country to register officially or be considered illegal aliens and face the full weight of the law.

The Syrian government took an even more stringent approach, banning from its territory all Palestinian males between sixteen and fifty. In Egypt, a large number of demonstrators marched to the Arab League’s Cairo headquarters and lodged a petition demanding that “every able-bodied Palestinian capable of carrying arms should be forbidden to stay abroad.” Such was the extent of Arab resentment toward the Palestinian refugees that the rector of Cairo’s al-Azhar institution of religious learning, probably the foremost Islamic authority, felt obliged to issue a ruling that made the sheltering of Palestinian Arab refugees a religious duty.[45]

Contempt for the Palestinians only intensified with time. “Fright has struck the Palestinian Arabs and they fled their country,” commented Radio Baghdad on the eve of the pan-Arab invasion of the new-born state of Israel in mid-May. “These are hard words indeed, yet they are true.” Lebanon’s minister of the interior (and future president) Camille Chamoun was more delicate, intoning that “The people of Palestine, in their previous resistance to imperialists and Zionists, proved they were worthy of independence,” but “at this decisive stage of the fighting they have not remained so dignified.”[46]

No wonder, then, that so few among the Palestinian refugees themselves blamed their collapse and dispersal on the Jews. During a fact-finding mission to Gaza in June 1949, Sir John Troutbeck, head of the British Middle East office in Cairo and no friend to Israel or the Jews, was surprised to discover that while the refugees

express no bitterness against the Jews (or for that matter against the Americans or ourselves) they speak with the utmost bitterness of the Egyptians and other Arab states. “We know who our enemies are,” they will say, and they are referring to their Arab brothers who, they declare, persuaded them unnecessarily to leave their homes. . . . I even heard it said that many of the refugees would give a welcome to the Israelis if they were to come in and take the district over.[47]

Sixty years after their dispersion, the refugees of 1948 and their descendants remain in the squalid camps where they have been kept by their fellow Arabs for decades, nourished on hate and false hope. Meanwhile, their erstwhile leaders have squandered successive opportunities for statehood.

It is indeed the tragedy of the Palestinians that the two leaders who determined their national development during the 20th century—Hajj Amin Husseini and Yasir Arafat, the latter of whom dominated Palestinian politics since the mid-1960’s to his death in November 2004—were megalomaniacal extremists blinded by anti-Jewish hatred and profoundly obsessed with violence. Had the mufti chosen to lead his people to peace and reconciliation with their Jewish neighbors, as he had promised the British officials who appointed him to his high rank in the early 1920’s, the Palestinians would have had their independent state over a substantial part of Mandate Palestine by 1948, and would have been spared the traumatic experience of dispersion and exile. Had Arafat set the PLO from the start on the path to peace and reconciliation, instead of turning it into one of the most murderous terrorist organizations in modern times, a Palestinian state could have been established in the late 1960’s or the early 1970’s; in 1979 as a corollary to the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty; by May 1999 as part of the Oslo process; or at the very latest with the Camp David summit of July 2000.

Instead, Arafat transformed the territories placed under his control in the 1990’s into an effective terror state from where he launched an all-out war (the “al-Aqsa intifada”) shortly after being offered an independent Palestinian state in the Gaza Strip and 92 percent of the West Bank, with East Jerusalem as its capital. In the process, he subjected the Palestinian population in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip to a repressive and corrupt regime in the worst tradition of Arab dictatorships and plunged their standard of living to unprecedented depths.
What makes this state of affairs all the more galling is that, far from being unfortunate aberrations, Hajj Amin and Arafat were quintessential representatives of the cynical and self-seeking leaders produced by the Arab political system. Just as the Palestinian leadership during the Mandate had no qualms about inciting its constituents against Zionism and the Jews, while lining its own pockets from the fruits of Jewish entrepreneurship, so PLO officials used the billions of dollars donated by the Arab oil states and, during the Oslo era, by the international community to finance their luxurious style of life while ordinary Palestinians scrambled for a livelihood.

And so it goes. Six decades after the mufti and his henchmen condemned their people to statelessness by rejecting the UN partition resolution, their reckless decisions are being reenacted by the latest generation of Palestinian leaders. This applies not only to Hamas, which in January 2006 replaced the PLO at the helm of the Palestinian Authority (PA), but also to the supposedly moderate Palestinian leadership—from President Mahmoud Abbas to Ahmad Qureia (negotiator of the 1993 Oslo Accords) to Saeb Erekat to prime minister Salam Fayad—which refuses to recognize Israel’s very existence as a Jewish state and insists on the full implementation of the “right of return.”

And so it goes as well with Western anti-Zionists who in the name of justice (no less) call today not for a new and fundamentally different Arab leadership but for the dismantlement of the Jewish state. Only when these dispositions change can Palestinian Arabs realistically look forward to putting their self-inflicted “catastrophe” behind them.


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1 J.C. Hurewitz, The Struggle for Palestine (New York: Norton, 1950).

2 Benny Morris, The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem 1947-1949 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987), p. 286; Morris, The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem Revisited (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004), p. 588.

3 Vladimir Jabotinsky, The Jewish War Front (London: George Allen & Unwin, 1940), p. 216.

4 Originally published in Russian under the title “O Zheleznoi Stene,” in Rassvyet, Nov. 4, 1923, the “Iron Wall” was reprinted several times, including in The Jewish Herald (South Africa), Nov. 26, 1937 (internet ed. http://www.mideastweb.org/ironwall.htm).

5 Jabotinsky, The Jewish War Front, pp. 216-20.

6 A.S. Eban, “Note of Conversation with Abdel Rahman Azzam Pasha, London, Sept. 15, 1947,” in Neil Caplan, Futile Diplomacy (London: Frank Cass, 1986), Vol. 2, pp. 274-76.

7 David Ben-Gurion, Bama’araha (Tel Aviv: Mapai Publishing House, 1949), Vol. 4, Part 2, p. 265.

8 Palestine Royal Commission, Report. Presented to the Secretary of State for the Colonies in Parliament by Command of his Majesty, July 1937 (London: HMSO; rep. 1946; hereafter Peel Commission Report), pp. 94, 157-58; Z. Abramowitz and Y. Guelfat, Hameshek Ha’arvi Be’eretz Israel Uve’artzot Hamizrah Hatichon (Tel Aviv: Hakibbutz Hameuhad, 1944), pp. 48-50.

9 A Survey of Palestine. Prepared in December 1945 and January 1946 for the Information of the Anglo-American Committee of Enquiry (reprinted 1991 in full with permission from Her Majesty’s Stationary Office by the Institute for Palestine Studies, Washington D.C.), Vol. 2, pp. 708-15.

10 Peel Commission Report, p. 93 (vii).

11 For early manifestations of Arab-Jewish coexistence see, for example, Colonial Office, Palestine. Report on Palestine Administration, 1923 (London: HMSO, 1924), p. 26; Colonial Office, Palestine. Report on Palestine Administration, 1924 (London: HMSO, 1925), pp. 28, 32, 50; Colonial Office, Palestine. Report on Palestine Administration, 1926 (London: HMSO, 1927), p. 33; Colonial Office, Palestine: Report of the High Commissioner on the Administration of Palestine 1920-1925 (London: HMSO, 1925), pp. 40-41; Chaim Weizmann, “Progress and Problems,” Confidential Report to Colonial Office, Feb. 15, 1922, The Letters and Papers of Chaim Weizmann. Vol. I, Series B, August 1898-July 1931 (New Brunswick & Jerusalem: Transaction Books & Israel Universities Press, 1983), p. 366; Frederick H. Kisch, Palestine Diary (London: Victor Gollancz, 1938), pp. 48-49, 54, 73.

12 Peel Commission Report, pp. 63, 271.

13 “Conversation with Awni Abdel Hadi,” June 3, 1920, Hagana Archive (hereinafter HA), 80/145/11.

14 Kenneth W. Stein, The Land Question in Palestine, 1917-1939 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1984), pp. 182, 228-39.

15 While in 1936, according to official British statistics, 195 Arabs were killed by their Arab brothers, compared with 37 Britishmen and 80 Jews, two years later these figures rose to 503 Arab fatalities, compared with 255 and 77 Jewish and British deaths respectively. Fatalities in 1939 remained on a similar level: 414 Palestinian Arabs murdered by Arab gangs, as opposed to 94 Jews and 37 Brits. Some Palestinian Arab sources put the number of murdered Arabs at a staggering 3,000-4,500.
In a letter to Abdel Qader Husseini on November 18, 1938, Hassan Saleme, styling himself “Leader of Jaffa, Ramallah, and Lydda Area,” informed his fellow gang leader that “complaints are being received from the villagers of the Jerusalem District as a result of pillaging, looting, killing, and torturing committed by some of the vile people who are wearing the clothing of the holy warriors [i.e., members of “the Holy Jihad,” as Abdel Qader’s force was called]. . . . I admit that there are among the murdered people some who have been sentenced to death, but what are the faults of the innocent whose money is stolen, whose cattle are looted, whose women are violated, whose jewels are pillaged, and who suffer in many other ways of which you have undoubtedly heard? Our rebellion has become a rebellion against the villages and not one against the Government or the Jews.”
See: A Survey of Palestine, Vol. 1, pp. 38, 46, 49; General Staff H.Q., Jerusalem, “History of the Disturbances in Palestine 1936-1939,” Dec. 1939, Public Record Office (hereinafter PRO), WO 191/88; Kenneth Waring, “Arab Against Arab: Evidence of Rebel Documents,” Times, Jan. 18, 1939. For an annotated Hebrew translation of a comprehensive collection of original documents of the Arab gangs see Ezra Danin (ed.), Te’udot Udmuyot Meginzei Haknufiot Ha’arviot Bemoraot 1936-1939 (Jerusalem: Magnes Press, 1981; first published in 1944).

16 Thus, for example, Arab purchases of Jewish wheat dropped dramatically in 1937 but rose sharply the following year owing to particularly poor crops, with some 70 percent of the Jewish wheat sold to the Arab sector. Conversely, prior to the 1936-39 violence, about a third of the Palestinian Arab agricultural output was sold to the Jewish sector. Even land sales to Jews continued apace, with the lion’s share of the 1,300-plus transactions in 1936-39 involving ordinary people. Likewise, when in December 1938 the Jewish workers of the port of Haifa refused service to a German ship after a German naval officer insulted a Jewish porter, their Arab colleagues swiftly followed suit.
See Abramowitz and Guelfat Hameshek Ha’arvi, pp. 99-105; Stein, The Land Question, p. 182; “Minutes of the Meeting of the Jewish Agency’s Executive,” Jan. 1, 1939, David Ben-Gurion Archive, Sde Boker (hereinafter BGA).

17 See, for example, Hashmona’i to Ben Yehuda, “Relations with Neighboring Villages, Dec. 24, 1947, Israel Defense Forces Archives (hereinafter IDFA) 1948/500/28; Hashmona’i to Shadmi, “The Suba Village,” Dec. 22, 1947, IDFA, 1948/500/32; 01104 to Tene, “Relations between Qatanna and Ma’ale Hahamisha,” Dec. 23, 1947, ibid.; Yavne, “Beit Hanina,” Jan. 2, 1947 & “The Qiryat Anavim-Abu Gosh Area” Jan. 7, 1948, HA 105/72, pp. 27-28; 01123 to Tene, “An Arab Peace Overture,” Jan. 14, 1948, ibid., p. 46; Segal to Ben Yehuda, “Peace with Maliha, Jan. 10, 1948, IDFA 1949/2644/402; Zafrira Din, “Interview with Josh Palmon on June 28, 1989,” HA 80/721/3; Noam, “Aqir’s Peace Overture,” Dec. 12, 1947, HA 105/72, p. 6; Tzefa, “Peace Offer by Ghuweir Abu Shusha,” Dec. 16, 1948, ibid.; Tiroshi, “Requests by Neighborhood Arabs for Peace with the Jews,” Dec. 18, 1947, ibid., p. 8; “01112 to Tene, “Kafr Qara and Kfar Glikson,” Jan. 25, 1948, ibid., p. 68; 01101 to Tene, “Meeting between the Ard Saris Mukhtar and Dr. Bihem, Head of the Kfar Atta Municipality,” Jan. 22, 1948, ibid., p. 71; “Tene News—Daily Summary,” Dec. 16, 1947, HA 105/61, p. 59; “For Our Members, Daily News Bulletin No. 19,” Dec. 31, 1947, ibid., p. 127; “Fortnightly Intelligence Newsletter No. 58,” issued by HQ British Troops in Palestine (for the period 2359 hrs 18 Dec. 47-2359 hrs 1 Jan. 48), PRO, WO 275/64, p. 2.

18 See, for example, Naim, “In the Villages,” Dec. 25, 1947, HA 105/22, p. 123; 00004 to Tene, “Qalandiya Opposes Gang Concentrations,” Dec. 30, 1947, IDFA 1948/500/28; Yavne, “Occurrences in Romema,” Jan. 2, 1948, HA 105/72, p. 27; Yavne, “Silwan-Ramat Rahel,” Jan. 1, 1948, ibid., p. 30; Yavne, “Dissatisfaction with Abdel Qader Husseini,” ibid., p. 32; Qiryat Anavim people to Yavne, “Qatanna Residents Expelled an Arab Gang from the Village,” Jan. 5, 1948, ibid., p. 32; 02104 to Tene, “Workers from Maliha and Qaluniya who Refuse to Attack Jews,” Jan. 7, 1948, ibid., p. 33; 00004 to Tene, “Meeting of Bani Hassan in Maliha to Discuss Attitude to Armed Gangs,” Jan. 14, 1948, ibid., p. 46; 02204 to Tene, “Maliha,” Jan. 14, 1948, ibid., p. 47; 02204 to Tene, “Qattana,” Jan. 17, 1948, ibid., p. 50; 02104 to Tene, “Anti-Gang Resistance,” Jan. 28, 1948, ibid., p. 72; 02104 to Tene, “Refusal to Provide Volunteers,” Feb. 1, 1948, ibid., p. 76; 02104 to Tene, “Villages’ Fear of Retaliation,” Feb. 1, 1948, ibid., p. 80; Yavne, “Battir and other Villages,” Feb. 4, 1948, ibid., p. 84; 02204 to Tene, “Opposition to Abdel Qader’s Operation by Qastel,” Feb. 6, 1948, ibid., p. 91; Yavne to Tene, “Shu’afat,” Feb. 24, 1948, ibid., p. 114; Hiram to Tene, “Shafa’amr,” Feb. 26, 1948, ibid., p. 116; “Tene News,” Dec. 31, 1947 & Jan. 2-4, 1948, HA 105/61, pp. 121-22, 158-59; “Annex to News Concentration No. 100,” Feb. 20 & 24, 1948, IDFA 1949/2605/2; “Maliha,” Jan. 1, 1948, IDFA 1949/2504/4; log of events in Suba, Mar. 2-Apr. 13, 1948, IDFA 1949/5545/114, p. 141.

19 “For Our Members. Daily Information Circular No. 12,” Dec. 21, 1947, HA 105/61, p. 70; “Tene New,” Dec. 31, 1947, ibid., p. 125; Avram, “Jammasin: News Items,” Jan. 9, 1948, HA 105/23, p. 114; Tiroshi, “Dispatch of Arab Merchandise,” Dec. 15, 1947, HA 105/72, p. 7; Naim to Tene, “Position of the Gaza Felaheen,” Feb. 15, 1948, ibid., p. 103; Naim to Tene, “Evacuation of the Wahidat Territory,” Feb. 22, 1948, ibid., p. 111; 00004 to Tene, “Moods in Sur Bahir,” Dec. 22, 1947, IDFA 1948/500/60; Avram, “The Miska Arabs,” Jan. 8, 1948, HA 105/54a, p. 19; Hiram to Tene, “Meeting between the Yehiam Mukhtar and Tarshiha’s Mayor,” Feb. 22, 1948, ibid., p. 31; Tiroshi to Tene, “Appeal for a Ceasefire and Good Neighborly Relations,” Apr. 7, 1948, ibid., p. 53; Tiroshi to Tene, “Peace Overtures by Baqa Gharbiya,” Apr. 20, 1948, ibid., p. 79; Grar to Tene, “Yasur,” Apr. 21, 1948, ibid., p. 84.

20 David Ben-Gurion, Behilahem Israel (Tel Aviv: Mapai Publishing House, 1951; third ed.), pp. 28, 43, 54; Ben-Gurion, Bama’araha, Vol. 4, Part 2, p. 284.

21 Meahorei Hapargod (Hebrew edition of an official report by an Iraqi parliamentary committee on the 1948 war, published in September 1949; Tel Aviv: Ma’arachot, 1954), pp. 9, 98-99; “Fortnightly Intelligence Newsletter No. 64,” issued by HQ British Troops in Palestine (for the period 2359 hrs 10 Mar.-2359 hrs 23 Mar. 48), PRO, WO 275/64, p. 4. Arif al-Arif, al-Nakba: Nakbat Bait al-Maqdis wa-l-Firdaws al-Mafqud (Beirut: al-Maktaba al-Asriya, 1956), Vol. 1, pp. 138-39.

22 Walid Khalidi, From Haven to Conquest: Readings in Zionism and the Palestine Problem Until 1948 (Washington, D.C.: Institute for Palestine Studies, 1987), p. lxix.

23 Ben-Gurion, Bama’araha, Vol. 4, Part 2, p. 260; Hebrew translation of Hajj Amin Husseini’s interview with Le Journal d’Egypt on Nov. 10, 1947, HA, 105/105a, p. 47; Radio Beirut, Nov. 12, 1947, in Foreign Broadcasts Information Service (FBIS), European Section: Near & Middle East and North African Transmitters, 13 Nov. 1947, II2, 5; “Fortnightly Intelligence Newsletter No. 64,” issued by HQ British Troops in Palestine (for the period 2359 hrs 10 Mar.-2359 hrs 23 Jan. 48), PRO, WO 275/64, p. 4; Arab Press Service (Cairo), FBIS, European Section: Near & Middle East and North African Transmitters, Dec. 16, 1947, II1; “Weekly Summary for the Alexandroni Brigade, Mar. 2, 1948,” HA 105/143, p. 105; “In the Arab Public,” Mar. 30, 1948, HA 105/100, p. 14.

24 Macatee to Secretary of State, Dec. 31, 1947, National Archives, Washington, D.C. (hereinafter NA), RG 84/800, pp. 1-2.

25 According to a report by the Palestine Post’s Haifa correspondent, the Arab workers in the refinery set upon their Jewish colleagues already before the IZL’s bombing (from Sakran to Tene, Dec. 31, 1947, IDFA 1949/481/62). This claim was amplified by an IZL radio broadcast on January 4, 1948, which pointed out that prior to the bombing Armenian workers at the plant had warned their Jewish friends of an imminent attack, and some Jewish workers took notice and left before the massacre. The broadcast also noted the pre-positioning of cold arms throughout the plant and the fact that the massacres ensued in the farthest corner of the refinery, some two miles from the bombing, where the explosion could not be heard. See, David Niv, Ma’arahot Ha’irgun Hatzva’i Hale’umi (Tel Aviv: Hadar, 1980), Vol. 6, pp. 19-20. For contemporary reports on the massacre, see: “Report of the Communal Commission of Inquiry on the Haifa Refinery’s Disaster (Dec. 30, 1947), Jan. 25, 1948, HA 80/460/11; “The Refinery Massacre,” HA 80/460/11; “Information Bulletin,” No. 30, Dec. 30, 1947, HA 105/61, p. 117; “To Our Members—Daily information Bulletin,” Dec. 31, 1947, HA 105/61, p. 126.

26 The IZL categorically denied any massacres, claiming that the casualties had been caused in the course of heavy fighting. The eminent Palestinian historian Arif al-Arif concedes the occurrence of heavy fighting. He claims that the villagers killed more than 100 Jewish fighters (the actual figure was four dead and 32 wounded), but alleges that only seven of the 110 Arab fatalities were killed in action and that the rest were peaceful civilians murdered in their homes (al-Nakba, p. 173). By contrast, a Hagana intelligence report issued three days after the event underscores the operational incompetence and disarray of the attacking forces, as well as their lack of discipline (manifested inter alia in acts of plunder), but makes no mention of a massacre. al-Nakba, p. 173; Yavne to Tene, “The Etzel and Lehi Operation in Deir Yasin,” Apr. 12, 1948, IDFA 1948/500/35; Irgun Command, “Statement on the Deir Yasin Affair” & “Statement” & “Condemn the Hypocrisy,” April 1948, Irgun Archive (hereinafter IA), K4-4/10. For mid-1950’s affidavits of battle participants denying any massacre see: IA, K4-1/10, 9/10. An extensive collection of press and scholarly writings can be found in IDFA 2004/26/70. See also: “Deir Yasin Occupied by the Irgun and Lehi” & “The Jewish Agency Condemns the Irgun and Lehi Operation in Deir Yasin” & “The Chief Rabbinate Strongly Condemns the Deir Yasin Incident,” Ha’aretz, Apr. 11, 12, 1948; “Battle Participant Evidence: 60 Hours in Deir Yasin,” Mivrak, Apr. 19, 1948, IA K4; High Commissioner for Palestine to Secretary of State for the Colonies, “Deir Yasin,” Apr. 13, 1948, Cunningham Papers, Middle East Center, St. Antony’s College, Oxford University; High Commissioner for Palestine to Secretary of State for the Colonies, “Weekly Intelligence Appreciation,” Apr. 17, 1948, Cunningham Papers; “An Arab from Deir Yasin Reveals on the Deir Yasin Anniversary: The Jews Didn’t Plan a Massacre but Conducted a Battle,” Herut, Jun. 3, 1953; “Prime Minister Menachem Begin in Interview with Lord Bethel: Deir Yasin–a tragedy in the Irgun’s history, but casualties were caused in the course of fighting; there was no massacre,” Yediot Aharonot, Jun. 22, 1979.

27 Dov Joseph, The Faithful City: the Siege of Jerusalem, 1948 (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1960), pp. 74-75; Harry Levin, Jerusalem Embattled. A Diary of the City under Siege, March 25, 1948 to July 18, 1948 (London: Victor Gollancz, 1950), p. 70; Jerusalem Headquarters, “Haddassah University, Feb. 17-Jun. 22, 1948,” IDFA 1948/500/44; “Conclusions of the Commission of Inquiry about the Sheik Jarah Disaster of Apr. 13, 1948,” Apr. 18, 1948 HA 57/95; “Report by Shalom Hurwitz on the Mount Scopus Convoy Disaster in Sheik Jarah on Apr. 13, 1948,” Jun. 6, 1948, BGA.

28 Cunningham to Creech-Jones, Apr. 25 & 28, 1948, Cunningham Papers, III/4/52 & III/4/117; Tzuri to Tene, “News Items about the Tiberias Exodus,” Apr. 21, 1948, HA 105/257, p. 347; “Tene News—Daily Summary,” Apr. 18, 1948, HA 105/62, p. 93; Kenneth W. Bilby, New Star in the Near East (New York: Doubleday, 1950), p. 30; Filastin, Apr. 13, 14, 16, 1948; al-Difa, Apr. 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 1948; Radio Jerusalem in Arabic to the Middle East, Apr. 13, 1948 & Radio Damascus, Apr. 14, 1948, in FBIS, Apr. 15, 1948, p. II4; Radio al-Sharq al-Adna (Jerusalem), Apr. 15, 1948, ibid., Apr. 16, 1948, p. II5; BBC Television Channel 2, “The Fifty Years War: Israel and the Arabs,” Program 1, broadcast on Mar. 15, 1998.

29 From Palestine (General Sir A. Cunningham) to the Secretary of State for the Colonies, “Weekly intelligence Appreciation,” Dec. 22, 1947, Cunningham Papers; from Palestine (General Sir A. Cunningham) to the Secretary of State for the Colonies, “Weekly intelligence Appreciation,” Jan. 24, 1948, PRO, CO 537/3869.

30 “Tene News—Daily summary,” Dec. 16, 1947, HA 105/61, p. 59; “For Our Members, Daily News Bulletin No. 19,” Dec. 31, 1947, ibid., p. 127; al-Ayam (Damascus), Dec. 21, 1947, as brought in “News on Arab Military Preparations,” Jan. 1, 1948, Central Zionist Archives (CZA), S25/3999.

31 Hashmona’i, “News Items: Economy,” Feb. 2, 1948, IDFA 1948/500/60; “In the Arab Camp: News Summary,” Feb. 29 & Mar. 28, 1948, IDFA 2004/535/479, pp. 3-4; “Yishuv Circular No. 16,” Jan. 31, 1948, K4-31/1/12, IA; Committee for Economic Defense, “News from the Arab Economy, Bulletin No. 6,” Apr. 17-19, 1948, HA 105/143, p. 240.

32 Hayogev, Jan. 5, 1948, HA 105/215a, p. 48; “Among the Arabs,” Feb. 22, 1948, IDFA 1948/500/60; 02204 to Tene, “The Lifta People’s Position,” Feb. 9, 1948, HA 105/32a, p. 61; Tiroshi to Tene, “Situation of the Refugees,” Apr. 12, 1948, HA 105/257; Tiroshi, “Summary of News for the Alexandroni Brigade,” Apr. 16, 1948, HA 105/143, p. 231; Director of Operations/Intelligence Directorate, “News Summary on the Eastern and Northern Fronts,” Jun. 3, 1948, IDFA 1975/922/1044; “Arab News Items,” Apr. 25, 1948, IDFA 1948/500/55; “Annexes to News Bulletin No. 205,” Apr. 29, 1948, IDFA 1949/2605/2.

33 “Annexes to News Bulletin No. 185,” Apr. 20, 1948, IDFA 1949/2605/2; “Deir Yasin,” Apr. 17, 1948, IDFA 1949/2605/6, p. 7.

34 Hiram to Tene, “Acre Inhabitants and Defenders Refuse to Receive More Refugees,” Apr. 27, 1948, HA 105/257.

35 Thus, for example, after an attack on Ramat Hakovesh (on April 19) by the neighboring village of Miska, the kibbutz mukhtar told the villagers to leave or bear the consequences of their aggression, which they did. Likewise, in the midst of a Jewish operation in the eastern Galilee, the secretary of kibbutz Genossar, together with the mukhtar of the Arab village of Majdal, convinced the Majdal inhabitants to vacate the village and surrender their weapons. In Khirbat Beit Lid and Khirbat Azzun, the villagers were advised to leave since the Jewish forces would not be able to ensure their safety. See: Tiroshi, “Summary of News for the Alexandroni Brigade, Apr. 27, 1948,” HA 105/143, p. 235; Tiroshi to Tene, “Vacation of Miska,” Apr. 27, 1948, HA 105/257, p. 79; Tzuri to Tene, “Arab Majdal,” Apr. 23, 1948, ibid., p. 4; Tiroshi to Tene, “Departure of Arabs from the Neighborhood,” Apr. 16, 1948, ibid., p. 89; Tiroshi to Tene, “Vacation of Khirbat Azzun,” Apr. 20, 1948, ibid., p. 3.

36 Ezra Danin, Zioni Bekhol Tnai (Jerusalem: Kidum, 1987), Vol. 1, pp. 216-17; Zafrira Din, “Interview with Josh Palmon on June 28, 1989,” HA 80/721/3.

37 I have documented the Haifa episode at some length in “Nakbat Haifa: the Collapse and Dispersion of a Major Palestinian Community,” Middle Eastern Studies, Vol. 37, No. 4 (October 2001), pp. 25-70.

38 A fortnight after the exodus, British High Commissioner Cunningham reported to London that the Tiberias Jews “would welcome [the] Arabs back” (High Commissioner for Palestine to Secretary of State, May 5, 1948, Cunningham Papers). See also: Tzuri to Golani, “News Summary: Tiberias,” Apr. 21, 1948, HA 105/143, p. 275; Hagana Operational Directorate, “Logbook of the War of Independence, p. 260; MacMillan, “Palestine: Narrative of Events,” Apr. 17/18, 18, 1948, p. 37.

39 See, for example, Qiryati-Dafna to all fronts, “Occurrences in Jaffa, [Apr.] 11, 1948-[Apr.] 20, 0740,” May 2, 1948, IDFA 1949/8275/162; Palestine (Cunningham) to the Secretary of State for the Colonies, May 1, 1948, FO 371/68547/E5665/4/71.

40 Tene to Dan & Hillel, Nov. 30, 1947, HA 105/61, p. 5; 00004 to Tene, “Report Summary, Dec. 7, 1947,” HA 105/61, p. 9; Yavne to Tene, “For Our Members in the Bases,” Dec. 9, 1947, ibid., p. 18; “For Our Members in the Bases,” Bulletin Nos. 15 & 16, Dec. 10 & 11, 1947, ibid., pp. 24, 37; Yavne, “Evacuation of Women and Children from Lifta,” Dec. 28, 1947, HA 105/215, p. 23; 00004 to Tene, “Arabs Erecting Military Posts in Lifta,” Dec. 14, 1947, IDFA 1949/5253/104; “The Old City,” Dec. 26, 1947, ibid.; “Families Leaving Lifta,” Jan. 1, 1948, ibid.; Hashmona’i, “Demographic Changes in Jerusalem,” Jan. 25, 1948, IDFA 1948/500/60; “In the Arab Camp,” Jan. 25, 1948, ibid.; “Anger in Beit Safafa over the use of the Village by Armed Gangs for Attacks on Mekor Haim,” Jan. 28, 1948, ibid.; “Beit Safafa” & “The Evacuation of Beit Safafa,” Feb. 15 & 18, 1948, ibid.; Yavne to Tene, “Deir Abu Tur,” Feb. 21, 1948, HA 105/215, p. 81; Hashmona’i, “Annexes to News Concentration No. 114,” Mar. 16, 1948, IDFA 1949/2605/2; 01204 (Hatzil) to Tene, Jan. 21, 1948, HA 105/72, p. 52; Yavne to Tene, “Complain by the Beit Safafa Mukhtar to the NC,” Feb. 16, 1948, ibid., p. 105; “In the Arab Camp: News Summary,” Mar. 14, 1948, p. 2, IDFA 2004/535/479; “In the Arab Camp: News Summary,” Mar. 29, 1948, p. 2, ibid.; Yavne to Tene, Feb. 15, 1948, HA 105/215, p. 41.

41 “Tene News,” Jan. 19, 1948, HA 105/61a, p. 85; 02117 to Tene, “In Wadi Hunein,” Jan. 5, 1948, HA 105/148, p. 195; Tiroshi to Tene, “Dannaba,” Feb. 17, 1948, ibid., p. 219; 01132 to Tene, “Vacation of Mir,” Feb. 8, 1948 & “The Evacuation of Jamala,” Feb. 8, 1948, HA 105/215, p. 44; Tiroshi to Tene, “Arab Hawarith,” Feb. 18, 1948, ibid., p. 14; Avram to Tene, “Reinforcement from Syria,” Feb. 11, 1948, HA 105/215a, p. 83; “Arab News Items,” Apr. 17, 1948, IDFA 1948/500/55; 02112 to Tene, “Arab al-Fuqara,” Feb. 9, 1948, IDFA 1949/6400/66; 02122 to Tene, “From Salim Abdel Rahman,” Dec. 12, 1947, ibid.; 01122 to Tene, “Assorted News Items,” Dec. 2, 1947, ibid.; “Annexes to News Bulletin No. 114,” Mar. 16, 1948, IDFA 1949/2605/2; “Annexes to News Bulletin No. 122,” Mar. 23, 1948, ibid.; “Annexes to News Bulletin No. 126,” Mar. 30, 1948, ibid.; “Urgent Arab News Items,” Mar. 29, 1948, IDFA 1948/550/55; Tzefa to Tene, “Vacation of Khisas,” Mar. 26, 1948, HA 105/257, p. 106; Tzefa to Tene, “Ulmaniya and Waddi Luz,” Mar. 5, 1948, ibid., p. 33; Tiroshi to Tene, “Bureika,” Mar. 6, 1948, ibid., p. 33; Yavne to Tene, “Isawiya,” Mar. 30, 1948, ibid.; Tzefa to Tene, “Vacation of Women and Children from Arab Villages in the Upper Galilee,” Feb. 25, 1948, HA 105/215, p. 20; Tiroshi to Tene, “Sarkas,” Feb. 19, 1948, ibid.; p. 14; Tiroshi to Tene, “Arab al-Nufeiat,” Mar. 30, 1948 & “Sarkas,” Apr. 20 & “Evacuation of Sarkas,” Apr. 22, IDFA 1949/6400/66; Alexandroni “Sarkas,” Mar. 11, 1948, ibid.; Yosef Weitz, Yomanai Ve’igroti Labanim (Tel Aviv: Masada, 1965), Vol. 3, pp. 257, 277; Yavne to Tene, “Deprature of Inhabitants and Entry of Foreigners,” Apr. 18, 1948, HA 105/257; Hiram to Tene, “Arab Propaganda Regarding Evacuations,” Apr. 30, 1948, ibid.; Tene, “Migration of the Palestinian Arabs in the Period 1.12.47-1.6.48. Annex 1: Vacated Arab Villages,” June 30, 1948, IDFA, 1957/100001/781, p. 4; Naim to Tene, “Evacuation of Arabs,” Apr. 8, 1948, HA 105/143, pp. 171, 185; Yavne, “Arab News Items,” Apr. 27, 30, 1948, ibid., pp. 309, 319; Tzuri to Tene, “Assorted News,” May 6, 1948, ibid., p. 343; Naim to Tene, “Vacation of Sarafand Kharab,” Apr. 8, 1948, HA 105/257, p. 290; Tzefa to Tene, “Vacation of Arab Villages,” Apr. 6, 1948, ibid., pp. 24, 53; Tiroshi to Tene, “Fajja Vacated of its Residents,” Apr. 14, 1948, ibid., p. 8; Tiroshi to Tene, “Partial Vacation of Qannir,” Apr. 29, 1948 & “The Qannir Residents Moved to Arara,” Apr. 29 & “Qanir,” May 3, 1948, IDFA 1949/7249/129; Yosef Weitz diary, May 4, 1948, CZA, A246/13, pp. 2373-74; Hiram to Tene, “Vacation of the Arab Zubeidat Tribe,” Apr. 16, 1948, HA 105/54a, p. 67; report by an Arab source on the Arab Legion’s order to vacate villages, May 12, 1948, IDFA 1949/5545/114, p. 11.

42 Cunningham to Secretary of State for the Colonies, Apr. 26, 1948, Cunningham Papers; “Fortnightly Intelligence Newsletter No. 67,” issued by HQ British Troops in Palestine (for the period 2359 hrs 19 Apr.-2359 hrs 3 May 48), PRO, WO 275/64, p. 1. See also: General Sir A. Cunningham to the Secretary of State for the Colonies, “Weekly Intelligence Appreciation,” May 1, 1948, PRO, CO 537/3869.

43 Arif, al-Nakba, p. 179.

44 Muhammad Nimr Khatib, Min Athar al-Nakba (Damascus: al-Matba’a al-Amumiya, 1951), p. 287.

45 Beirut Radio, May 4, 1948, FBIS, European Section: Near & Middle East and North African Transmitters, May 5, 1948, II2; “Summary of News for the Alexandroni Brigade,” Apr. 9, 1948, HA 105/143, p. 174; Philip Ernst (American Consul in Port Said) to Department of State, “Arrival of Palestine Arab Refugees,” Apr. 29, 1948 (dispatched May 11), RG 84, 800–Refugees; Beirut Radio, Apr. 25, 1948, SWB, No. 48, Apr. 29, 1948, p. 60; Campbell (Cairo) to High Commissioner for Palestine, May 1, 1948, Cunningham Papers.

46 Beirut Radio, May 7, 1948, in BBC Summary of World Broadcasts: Western Europe, Middle East, Far East, and Americas (SWB), No. 50, May 13, 1948, Part III, p. 57.

47 Sir J. Troutbeck, “Summary of general impressions gathered during week-end visit to the Gaza district,” June 16, 1949, PRO, FO 371/75342/E7816, p. 123.


About the Author

Efraim Karsh is head of Mediterranean Studies at King’s College, University of London, and the author most recently of Islamic Imperialism: A History (Yale). Mr. Karsh gratefully acknowledges the generosity of Roger and Susan Hertog in supporting the research on which the present article is based.

© 2009 Commentary Inc.
1948, Israel, and the Palestinians—
The True Story
May 2008

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