Ethnic Cleansing Was Always the Zionist Plan

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Thin” the Palestinian population “to a minimum.”1

“I am for compulsory transfer; I do not see anything immoral in it. “2

Can you guess who said which one? Which is Ben-Gurion, Israel’s first Prime Minister, in 1938, and which is Netanyahu this week referring to Gaza? Well, the first one is the more recent, but you can see that the plan has not changed. And Netanyahu’s appointees say much the same. His finance Minister, Bezalel Smotrich, said last March that “Palestinians don’t exist” and called for more “sterile” – Palestinian free – zones in the West Bank (WB). Others have said it is now Gaza Nakba 2023, referring to the mass expulsions of five out of seven Palestinians from Israel as it became a state in 1948.2a On October 13, +972 Magazine published an Israeli intelligence document which concludes:

The evacuation of the civilian population from Gaza to Sinai…will yield positive, long-term strategic outcomes for Israel, and is an executable option. It requires determination from the political echelon in the face of international pressure, with an emphasis on harnessing the support of the United States.

And the idea goes even farther back than these examples. Theodor Herzl, the founder of the Zionist movement, said in 1895: “We shall try to spirit the penniless population across the border…while denying it any employment in our country….Both the process of expropriation and the removal of the poor must be carried out discreetly and circumspectly.”3

Many other Israeli politicians have also asserted the necessity of removing all Palestinians. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s Housing Minister Eitam said in 1950: “We’ll have to expel the overwhelming majority of West Bank Arabs from here.” In 1980 Israel published the Drobles Plan, which stated that the goal was to “remove any trace of doubt about our intention to control to control Judea and Samaria (what Israel calls the WB) forever.” Netanyahu’s opponent, Avigdor Lieberman, said in 2009 that Israel’s Palestinian citizens should be stripped of their citizenship unless they pledged loyalty to a Jewish state. In polls from 2015-7 that asked Israelis if Israeli Arabs and West Bank Palestinians should be expelled from Israel, 32-58% said yes.4

By winning the Jews of Israel to focus all their anger and frustration on Palestinians, discontent is deflected from the ruling elite of Israel. Israel itself is a highly ineqalitarian capitalist society with a small ruling elite. The nationalist antipathy towards Israel serves the same function in the West Bank and Gaza, which are also capitalist societies, all of which is discussed in several articles on the blog. (see appendix)

Ethnic Cleansing and Genocide

Ethnic cleansing is defined as forcefully homogenizing an ethnically mixed population of a region by any means at the expeller’s disposal. In the case of the Israeli war on Palestinians, the term genocide is also applicable, defined as the deliberate killing of a large number of people from a particular nation or ethnic group with the aim of destroying that nation or group. Israeli Jews, who had recently been the victims of the mass Nazi extermination campaign, carried out such a plan against Palestinians in 1947-8 and are doing so again today. In his landmark 2006 book The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine, Israeli historian Ilan Pappe said, when talking about the Nakba: “Ethnic cleansing is a crime against humanity, and the people who perpetrate it today are considered criminals to be brought before special tribunals.”5 But there are no legal proceedings. The US is funding Israel’s war with an extra $14.3 billion in aid, while other nations just look on in silence, even as millions around the world protest.

Before the recent seven day “humanitarian pause” in the war on Gaza, at least 15,000 Palestinians had been killed, many more wounded, and the northern half of the Gaza strip completely destroyed. Now Israel has declared that the South, to which survivors had fled, will be treated the same way. The death toll has risen by over 1000 as of today as central Gaza is destroyed. There is no place to go to escape the bombing, no hospital beds or medicines to treat the sick and wounded, and an almost complete lack of food, water and fuel. Those who are not blown up will suffer the slower death of thirst, starvation or disease.

The justification for this slaughter is the Hamas incursion into Israel on October 7, in which 1200 Israelis were killed. And there is no justification for this murder of civilians. However, there is a caveat to this story. It has recently been revealed that Israeli intelligence knew about Hamas’ plan a year in advance, but claims that the leading politicians were never told.6 This seems highly unlikely, less likely than that they welcomed an excuse to enact their genocidal plan.

The Oppressed Become the Oppressors

There is no doubt that anti-Semitism had a long and virulent history in Europe, and for centuries Jews lived in ghetto communities and suffered severe persecution. With the growth of European nationalism in the 19th century, many Jews also conceived of a national home. Episodes like the false accusation of treason against a Jewish French military officer, Alfred Dreyfus, and anti-Semitic pogroms in Russia in the 1880s stimulated the movement. Herzl, a secular middle-class Hungarian-born Austrian, concluded that assimilation was impossible and founded the World Zionist Organization in 1897, which aimed to create a Jewish homeland in Palestine.

Although some Jews believed the lie that Palestine was unoccupied and some that only very primitive peoples lived there, many understood that the 400,000 Arab inhabitants would have to be displaced. Zionist leader Leo Motzkin spelled this out in 1917: “Our thought is that the colonization of Palestine has to go in two directions: Jewish settlement in Eretz Israel [Jewish religious name for Palestine] and the resettlement of the Arabs of Eretz Israel in areas outside the country.”4 By emphasizing the biblical role of Palestine, the Zionists convinced many Jews that Palestinians were strangers or intruders who needed to be removed so they could reclaim their homeland. Others saw it as a European missionary project to bring advancement to a primitive people. Some, especially those from socialist backgrounds, wished to live in harmony with Arab neighbors, but this minority view did not prevail.

Jews had been immigrating to Palestine in small numbers before World War I, but the real possibility of a Jewish state only emerged when Britain promised as much in 1917 with the Balfour declaration. A relationship of antagonism between Arabs and Jews was born out of what had been peaceful coexistence with a Jewish minority of about 5%. The Jewish newcomers primarily set out to buy Arab land through the Jewish national Fund (JNF). By 1928, the Jews made up 10-20% of the population, but the British attempted to establish a system giving so-called equal representation to Jews and Arabs. Although Palestinians were disadvantaged by the arrangement, their offer to negotiate was refused, which led to an uprising in 1929 and a larger one in 1936. Their defeated leaders were exiled, armed units disbanded and many arrested. In 1937, the British Peel Commission recommended partitioning the land into two states, but by 1942 the Zionists were demanding the whole of Palestine for themselves.

In case the whole territory was not awarded to them, the Zionists began preparations for taking it by force. The paramilitary Hagana was transformed into a potent force with training by the British during the 1936 Arab revolt and by fighting alongside Britain in World War II. Once the Nazis were defeated, the British hoped for a settlement in Palestine that acknowledged all parties. The Zionists fought back with terrorist attacks, the most famous being bombing the British headquarters at the King David hotel in Jerusalem. By 1946 The Zionist leader Ben-Gurion was ready to settle for 80% of the land.

In preparation for seizing what land they wanted, the Zionists in the 1940s had the JNF begin mapping every Palestinian village and all its sociological data. This data paved the way for the later efficient attacks on villages and their leaders. The first Zionist plan was Plan C devised in 1946, which included:

“Killing the Palestinian political leadership, killing Palestinian inciters and their financial supporters, killing Palestinians who acted against Jews,killing senior Palestinian officers and officials, damaging Palestinian transportation, damaging the sources of Palestinian livelihoods: water wells,mills, etc., attacking nearby Palestinian villages likely to assist in future attacks, and attacking Palestinian clubs, coffee houses, meeting places, etc.”

However, within a few months, this plan was superseded by Plan D, which called for the systematic and complete expulsion of all Palestinians.7

By the late 1940’s, The British had decided to solve their Palestinian problem by turning it over to the UN, which came up with a partition plan awarding 56% of the land to the Jews, including the most fertile areas, even though they then comprised 30% of the population and owned only 6% of the land. The Palestinians boycotted the proceedings, but the resolution was adopted in November, 1947, and a month later the methodical ethnic cleansing began. Despite some Palestinian resistance, Plan D was completed in about 6 months. 530 villages were destroyed, nearly 800,000 Palestinians were expelled, and untold numbers were massacred. Others were killed by tactics like poisoning the water of Acra with typhus. Israeli history to this day portrays this catastrophe as a voluntary exodus to make way for invading Arab armies or as the result of anti-Semitism.

The Evolution of Apartheid

The Palestinian refugees of 1948 settled in what is now the West Bank and Gaza in camps that persist to this day or in neighboring countries. The 3-5000 who tried to return to their homes were killed. About 160,000 Palestinians remained within the Israeli state, and they were driven from their homes into three concentrated areas. In 1967, Israel launched a war to claim control of the West Bank and Gaza, which had been run by Jordan, Egypt and Syria. The Six Day War was won by Israel, which resulted in the expulsion of 3-400,000 more Palestinians into Jordan, and the illegal military occupation of these areas began.

Since 1967, Israel has seized about a quarter of what remained of the West Bank by calling it State Land even though much of it was privately owned by Palestinians. On this they have built settlements and infrastructure for now over 600,000 Israeli settlers. Within Israel 19% of the population is Palestinian, but they are confined to 3% of the land. In the Negev desert, Israel refuses to recognize 35 Bedouin villages and demolished more than 10,000 Bedouin homes in the Negev between 2013 and 2019.8 From 1967-94, Israeli policies that prevented Palestinians who left the West Bank and Gaza Strip from returning forced roughly 9,000 Palestinians per year into permanent exile.

In the last couple of years Israel has accelerated its policy of killing and displacing Palestinians in the West Bank. Many WB residents have deeds from the Ottoman or pre-1967 eras that Israel does not recognize are threatened with dispossession. Attacks by the illegal settlers have been accelerating for the last two years. Eleven Palestinian communities were abandoned this year, hundreds of olive trees destroyed and 1100 residents fled. Over 400 Palestinians have been killed in 2023 by settlers, often protected by Israeli soldiers.9 Since October 7, 130 have been killed, including 43 children, 1700 arrested, and 1000 forced from their homes.10

Palestinian resistance movements, both civil and militaristic, developed early on, mostly on a nationalistic basis. The Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) lost whatever militancy it once had by forging relations with corrupt rulers of Arab nations and collaborating with US and Israeli leaders, culminating in the Oslo accords of 1993, that ceded direct control of 60% of the West Bank to Israel. Hamas was formed in 1987 with the aid of Israel, who thought a fundamentalist religious group would reduce support for the secular PLittle anger or energy remains to face the internal problems of Israeli society. Racism and nationalism have turned Jews into Nazis, much against their own interests.

Racism and Nationalism Have Captured Israel

Thus we can see that Israeli leaders have had a plan from the beginning to drive as many Arabs as possible from all of historic Palestine, from the Jordan River to the sea. They have won the majority of Jewish Israelis to support them by inculcating every Jew with the idea that Arabs are inferior and have an inborn hatred of Jews. With every child raised on the idea that another Holocaust is waiting to happen, most are anxious to reign violence down on Palestinians. Only a few object. By allowing the recent Hamas raid to go forward and by exaggerating its horrors with stories of beheaded babies and the like, the Israeli population has been won to applauding a brutal genocide. Little anger or energy remains to face the internal problems of Israeli society. Racism and nationalism have turned too many Israeli Jews into Nazis, much against their own interests.

Ellen Isaacs is a physician, anti-racist and anti-capitalist activist and co-editor of She can be reached at



2. Pappe, Ilan, The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine, Oneworld Publications,2006, p.xi

2a.     palestinian-fears-hamas-war-rcna123909

3. Morris, Benny, Righteous Victims, Vintage books, 1999, p, 21-2


5. Pappe, pxiii


7. Pappe, p.28




Appendix, ,

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