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Presumably the Arab goal in the 1948 Arab-Israeli war was to defeat Israel. Total victory would probably mean the total control of the whole Mandatory Palestine, which at this point already contained significant Jewish population, and the abolition of the State of Israel.

Did the policymakers (i.e. not the soldiers or the common population) in the Arab state have any plan or official policy about they would do with the Jewish population? A common rhetoric was to "drive the Jews into the sea", was this an official policy? I know that several Arab states were fighting the war, and they probably had differing views, it would be useful as well to compare the difference.

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there is a lack of available history research and documentation on the Arab side of the conflict, maybe there is more available in Arabic, but in english the lack of historians writing in detail about the Arab side quite pronounced. – pugsville May 13 '14 at 5:42
Normally, I do not like to commit anachronism but this recent video from Hamas is too apposite to the question to be passed over: youtube.com/… – Felix Goldberg Jun 6 '14 at 14:04
@FelixGoldberg I would like to think that trusting MEMRI translations of Arabic media is beyond the intellectual level of this forum: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/… – Juicy Jul 17 '14 at 0:15
@FelixGoldberg My apologies Felix it seems palwatch is not linked to MEMRI (at least not officialy). This link is directly relevant to Palwatch: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Palestinian_Media_Watch#Reception My point still remains, "research" by right-wing israelis into palestinian media... you can understand why I'm not inclined to trust their interpretations. – Juicy Jul 17 '14 at 0:54
@Juicy Actually in this case no translation from Arabic is required. Hamas have obligingly recorded the song in... Hebrew! Therefore I can personally assure you that the Hebrew-to-English translation is correct. – Felix Goldberg Jul 17 '14 at 9:40
up vote 12 down vote accepted

Decided to do some research to try to provide an answer to this question. I found three documented cases where an Arab leader used the term "Drive Jews into the sea" or talked about large scale massacre. I also mention a court case that seems to indicate that Nasser never used that term himself, nor did any other Arab leader make genocidal statements prior to 1976.

Case 1

First, Hassan al-Banna, founder of the Muslim Brotherhood, quoted in the New York Times in 1948:

"If the Jewish state becomes a fact, and this is realized by the Arab peoples, they will drive the Jews who live in their midst into the sea."

According to the Jewish and Israeli news website Algemeiner.com he was not referring to Israelis but to the Jews living in other Arab countries, and was apparently not advocating this as an organized policy, but implied that it would be the unorganized reaction of Muslims to the establishment of the State of Israel. Judging from the quote and the context, appears his usage of the term was rhetoric.

Case 2

Thanks to @FelixGoldberg for pointing this one out, I had missed it and it seems to be the most famous one. Azzam Pasha, Secretary-General of the Arab League 1945-1952, said that if war broke out between the (future) Jewish state and the Arab world it would be:

"a war of extermination and momentous massacre which will be spoken of like the Mongolian massacre and the Crusades."

Wiki here. I recommend reading the whole Wikipedia article on this one to make your opinion. This seems to be more an acknowledgment that any war between Arabs and Jews will be very bloody than a call for the extermination of the Jews. It is however often used to claim the Arabs intended a genocide.

Azzam Pasha claimed that his quote is taken out of context and was manipulated for propaganda. He claims that he never called for the extermination of the Jews. He is also quoted before the war:

"Whatever the outcome, the Arabs will stick to their offer of equal citizenship for Jews in Arab Palestine and let them be as Jewish as they like."

And perhaps another citation that leads credibility to the fact he didn't call for extermination of the Jews:

One of Azzam's first acts as secretary-general was to condemn anti-Jewish rioting in Egypt of November 2–3, 1945 during which Jewish and other non-Muslim owned shops were destroyed

Case 3

The other is a statement by Dr. Fadhil Jamali, Iraqi Representative to the United Nations in 1955, who gives a second hand report of an Arab League meeting:

The highest official in the League said that with 3000 soldiers or North African Volunteers we could throw the Jews into the sea.

Christopher Mayhew Case - Nasser

Another interesting point, in 1973 British MP Christopher Mayhew offered £5,000 to anyone who could produce evidence that Nasser had stated that he sought to “drive the Jews into the sea”. Several people claimed to have proof, including a fellow named Warren Bergson who ended up taking Mayhew to court for not paying the sum. The case went to the high court:

The case came before the High Court in February 1976. Bergson was unable to offer evidence of Nasser’s alleged statement and acknowledged that, after thorough research, he had been unable to find any statement by a responsible Arab leader that could be described as genocidal.

See Wikipedia for more info on this.

What we know about the plans for the Jews had the Arabs won the war

We don't know. There likely would have been massacres committed by low ranking soldiers, as by that time there were already dozens of documented cases of massacres, conducted both by Arabs against Jews and Jews against Arabs. However, an attempt at extermination is unlikely, and there is no evidence to support this was the intention of the Arab leaders. Forced emigration, or integration as second class citizens, are more likely scenarios in my opinion.

The official policy of the Arab League seems to have been that Jews should have equal rights and freedom of religion. Of course this usually doesn't work in practice in the Arab world (with some exceptions away from the conflict zones, like Morocco, and special cases like Lebanon, although it's shaky)

The Bottom Line

There is not conclusive proof any relatively important Arab leader said that Jews should be literally driven into the sea or exterminated and there is no evidence to indicate this was ever a policy.

It is to be noted there are political and military incentives to claim that the Arabs intended to exterminate the Jews.

Also, in this region, on all sides, there are plenty unverified rumors circulating claiming all kinds of stuff.

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While diligently looking up quainties, you've missed the most famous quote: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Azzam_Pasha_quotation – Felix Goldberg May 21 '14 at 23:38
A similar text could have been written about Germany had the Nazi regime collapsed in, say, 1940. – sds May 22 '14 at 3:18
We have a good idea what would have happened based on what happened in Arab countries outside of Israel after Israeli independence. In all, some 867,000 Jews were expelled (by force or threats of violence) from Arab and Islamic countries and tens of billions in Jewish assets were seized by the governments. Source The Middle East Quarterly, Sept. 1995. Also, the 1929 massacre of Hebron's Jewish community, resulted in the expulsion by the British of all other Jews in Hebron and the subsequent Arab claim that Jews never lived there. – Bruce James Jul 2 '14 at 16:59
@Juicy Palestinian Arabs who did not follow the Arab League's urging to leave their homes temporarily (so the Arab League could defeat the fledgling Israeli forces) were granted citizenship by Israel. The Jews who lived in Jerusalem's old city, for example, were forced to leave and 21 of 22 synagogues were torn down. That is not similar treatment. – Bruce James Jul 16 '14 at 14:45
The reliance on Segev's opinion here is unwarranted, when other sources acknowledge that Azzam Pasha spoke out of both sides of his mouth, depending on his audience. – Bruce James Jul 17 '14 at 18:19


Nothing is known beyond the official drive the Jews into the Sea rhetoric, and nothing definitive will probably be known.

Nothing is Known

Most countries do not publish their unfulfilled plans, and, even when they do, there is no good way to ascertain their authenticity. This is especially true for the Arab states in question, which were at the time, and remain now, despotisms - nothing like FOIA exists there.

Nothing will ever be Known

The only way to find out is for a conquering army to enter, say, Cairo, and publish the state archives. Chances are those 60+ year old archives - even if they ever existed - have been long destroyed.

The Bottom Line

The main lesson of the Holocaust (according to a Holocaust survivor interviewed by my wife) is:

When someone tells you that they want to kill you, you should believe them.

I see no reason whatsoever not to take the promise to "drive the Jews into the Sea" at face value.

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Everything except the The Bottom Line is fit as an answer. That's the personal opinion of someone interviewed by your wife and doesn't hold as a historical answer. The answer is just "There is nothing known beyond the rhetoric "Drive Jews into the Sea"". – Juicy May 13 '14 at 21:31
@Juicy: The question was "what were the plans". I am saying that, absent any evidence to the contrary, we should take "drive the Jews into the Sea" at face value. – sds May 13 '14 at 21:35
As you pointed out, there is a lack of documentation, which makes it difficult to refute the rhetoric. There are also I believe thousands of documented cases where rhetoric is rhetoric and then there is what actually happens. There are also thousands of cases where rhetoric is followed through including the tragedy of the Holocaust. I find The Bottom Line to be out of place for SE:History as, absent any documentation, you make the assumption the Arabs would have behaved similarly to the Nazis (while comparing Nazis and Arabs, with the documentation available, I find this to not hold). – Juicy May 13 '14 at 21:40
Do you have sources regarding your assertions about, say, Egyptian government archival practices and happenstance documentary survival, or is this pure speculation. – Samuel Russell May 13 '14 at 22:27
@Juicy the bottom line is the logical conclusion, and the only correct answer. Without evidence to the contrary we have to assume that the stated intent (to destroy Israel and kill all its population) is the actual intent. And I've never seen anything to make the Arab motivation seem to be anything else. – jwenting May 14 '14 at 7:47
up vote 11 down vote

What Arab plans can be inferred from three classes of sources: (1) Pre-war statements to the Arab population with promises that all would share in the booty of Jewish property won by the Arab Legion armies, (2) changes in Ottoman land ownership laws following Jordan's annexation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem Here are some statements from Arab books and journals of statements made before the war or shortly thereafter by Arab leaders:

Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Said: "We will smash the country with our guns and obliterate every place the Jews seek shelter in. The Arabs should conduct their wives and children to safe areas until the fighting has died down." From Sir Am Nakbah (The Secret Behind the Disaster), Nimr el-Hawari, Nazareth, 1952.

Habib Issa, Secretary-General of the Arab League, successor to Azzam Pasha: "Azzam Pasha assured the Arab peoples that the occupation of Palestine and of Tel Aviv would be as simple as a military promenade...and that all the millions the Jews had spent on land and economic development would be easy booty, for it would be a simple matter to throw Jews into the Mediterranean...." From Al Hoda, June 8, 1951.

Independent observers note that most Arab refugees left either on the orders of the Arab League or panic:

"As early as the first months of 1948, the Arab League issued orders exhorting the people to seek a temporary refuge in neighboring countries, later to return to their abodes ... and obtain their share of abandoned Jewish property." Bulletin of The Research Group for European Migration Problems, 1957.

"The Arab states succeeded in scattering the Palestinian people and in destroying their unity. They did not recognize them as a unified people until the states of the world did so, and this is regrettable." Abu Mazen from the official journal of the PLO, Falastin el Thawra (What We Have Learned and What We Should Do), Beirut, March 1976.

"The mass evacuation, prompted partly by fear, partly by order of Arab leaders, left the Arab quarter of Haifa a ghost city....By withdrawing Arab workers their leaders hoped to paralyze Haifa." Time Magazine, May 3, 1948.

"The [Arabs of Haifa] fled in spite of the fact that the Jewish authorities guaranteed their safety and rights as citizens of Israel." Monsignor George Hakim, Greek Catholic Bishop of Galilee, New York Herald Tribune, June 30, 1949.

What happened to Jews and Jewish property in the Jordanian-occupied West Bank and sections of Jerusalem is also revealing.

Under ancient Islamic law, peasant farmers could perpetually live on land that they held no title provided they worked that land. The real owners, however, were free to sell their property to others subject to the peasants tenancy rights. See Tilson, J.J., "Ottoman Land Registration Law as a Contributing Factor in the Israeli-Arab Conflict." The Ottomon Empire, which controlled Palestine during the 19th century and until the end of World War I, passed the Ottoman Land Code of 1858 required that land owners register their land. This changed the facts on the ground as tenant farmers discovered that not only did they not own the land they and their ancestors had farmed, they could be evicted from the land. "The Origin of the Palestine-Israel Conflict," Jews for Justice in the Middle East (Berkeley, Calif. 2001) (available on-line here). So when the Zionist push began in the early 20th century, absentee owners of Palestinian land sold it, perfectly legally, to Jewish investors seeking to establish the Yishuv. Ibid. After World War I, the United Kingdom recognized this issue as a sore point in Arab-Jewish relations and sought to limit Jewish land purchases to west of the Jordan River only. Ibid.

After the 1948 war, Jordan annexed the West Bank and established its own land laws, giving Arab tenant farmers title to land their families had farmed plus vast acres of adjacent lands which would would have been state property under Ottoman law. Dann, M. "Legal Confusion: Why Does Israel Accept Jordanian Law?", Jerusalem Post, Mar. 26, 2014. Moreover, Jordan made it a capital crime for any landowner, Christian or Moslem, to sell his land to a Jew. Ibid.

Also following the 1948 war, Jordan occupied East Jerusalem, including the Old City, which had been the home for Jews since the Crusades or before. The Jewish residents were evicted from their homes, their homes confiscated, and their synagogues destroyed. The Jordanian commander is reported to have told his superiors: "For the first time in 1,000 years not a single Jew remains in the Jewish Quarter. Not a single building remains intact. This makes the Jews' return here impossible." Fernea, Elizabeth W., "The Struggle for Peace: Israelis and Palestinians," Univ. of Texas Press 1992, p. 53. The Hurva Synagogue, originally built in 1701, was blown up by the Jordanian Arab Legion. During the nineteen years of Jordanian rule, a third of the Jewish Quarter's buildings were demolished. Fisk, Robert (September 30, 2000). "Bloodbath at the Dome of the Rock," The Independent. (A total of 31 of the Old City's 32 synagogues were destroyed.) A replica of the Hurva synagogue was only rebuilt by Israel in the last two years.

From these statements and facts we can see that the Arab League's boast that they intended to evict Jews from Palestine and to prevent their return was sincere.

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To the two people who down-voted this: what reasons do you have for the down votes? – Bruce James Jul 17 '14 at 15:09
I down voted for a few reasons: I was unable to find any mention of the book "Sir Am Nakbah" on another website than 'zionism-israel.com', which by the looks of it is clearly an nationalist Israeli website. I was unable to find any mention the "Al Hoda" quote, again outside of websites that clearly have a pro-Israeli agenda. I then gave up on your other sources but did visit the links you provided, which both link again to websites that clearly have a pro-Israel agenda. I would recommend re-writing the post with sources that could at least pass a flare test of bias. – Juicy Jul 17 '14 at 17:04
@Juicy The sources used regarding property rights all came from sources considered generally critical of Israel. The first quotes of Arab politicians came from a Jerusalem Post special supplement dated 11/29/2002. I have a hard copy if you want. As for not finding the arabic sources, it may be because library transliterations of the Arabic to English letters may vary -- a common problem whether you're searching for something in Hebrew, Chinese, Arabic, Russian or Japanese. Also, I took quotes from the NY Herald Tribune and Time to show that the Arab aims were well known at the time. – Bruce James Jul 17 '14 at 17:20
@juicy I don't need the money to spread propaganda, I'm an attorney. But the word for propaganda does not mean the spreading of non-truths, although some infer that. To use my legal background as an example, in litigation each side presents its facts and a jury or judge decides what is true and consistent. It is not novel that the PLO's charter calls (still) for the destruction of Israel. But, to you, if I asserted that, it would be propaganda and (to you) not believable. – Bruce James Jul 17 '14 at 17:25
@Juicy I am teaching facts you are not aware of. Call it what you want, but truth is truth. Your suggestion that I am not speaking the truth is inappropriate. – Bruce James Jul 17 '14 at 18:14

To Kill off most or all of the Jewish population and rob them was the main plan, and even planned extermination has been suggested by haj amin al husseini who was during the war an SS general, and a leading arabic religious leader.

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You don't provide any sources. You also fail to take into account that by no means was Haj Amin Al Husseini anything more than a "ceremonial" SS. You also fail to take into account that Al Husseini was largely seen as a joke by most contemporary political and religious Arab leaders, and had very little support both at home and in the larger Arab world. He was eventually dismissed and sent into exile by King Abdullah of Jordan, for the reasons cited above. – Juicy May 19 '14 at 1:12
sources? Anyway I think it's a fundamental mistake to view "the Arabs" as some monumental bloc in 1948. Jordan definitely sought an agreement with the Zionist leadership and main goal was annexation of the west bank and the stopping of any independent Palestinian state, and quite willing to live with the Jewish state. – pugsville May 21 '14 at 7:52
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/… – Bak1139 May 22 '14 at 6:18
On this issue however I will agree with Peter Novick (on the page you linked): The Mufti was in many ways a disreputable character, but post-war claims that he played any significant part in the Holocaust have never been sustained. Luckily the influence of this particularly despicable person in the following Israeli-Palestinian conflict was relatively low, but accusing him of being an architect of Jewish extermination is revionism. – Juicy May 22 '14 at 6:34
@juicy Al-Husseini had quite a lot of influence over current events. He guilded the Dome of the Rock in order to inflate its importance to the Moslem world. His nephew, who moved from his birthplace in Egypt to live with him in Palestine, was Yassir Arafat. Arafat's calls for the destruction of Israel, contained in the PLO charter, are well known. – Bruce James Jul 17 '14 at 17:34

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