This Week in Haaretz / 1948 / Radio Ramallah Addresses the Arabs’ Defeat

This week 63 years ago, Radio Ramallah reluctantly acknowledges Arab loss in Israel’s War of Independence: “Victory has now been postponed.”

“Palestinian Arabs were shocked and sorrowed,” Haaretz reported on their response to the month long ceasefire signed on June 11, 1948 at the height of the War of Independence.
A Radio Ramallah news announcer spoke bitterly about the agreement: “The interested parties paid no attention to the unfortunate situation of Palestinian Arabs, 300,000 of whom have been left homeless. The difficult situation in Palestine forced them to abandon their fields, stores and offices and wait in neighboring countries for victory, in order to return to their homeland. Victory has now been postponed,” Haaretz quoted the broadcaster as saying. “Arab armies did not advance sufficiently to strengthen their position in political negotiation.”

The remarks made on the radio, approved by Jordan’s King Abdullah, were interpreted by Haaretz as the king’s admission that neither he nor other Arab leaders who had participated in the war could come to the aid of the refugees.

“Those Arab rulers who incited Palestinian Arabs to attack the Jews, those who supplied money and arms to these attackers, promised them − when they were defeated and had to flee − that the army would [later] defeat the Zionists and they would be able to return to their homeland under the patronage of the Arab armies,” Haaretz reported. “The Arab countries did not keep their promises, because they too were defeated ... and despite the fact that Abdullah is at the top of the list of the purported saviors of the Arabs, he too is now asking, in the wake of his disappointment, that the United Nations, and not Arab society, which incited the Arabs to revolt, come to their aid.”

New fighting broke out after the month-long ceasefire, but after 10 days only deepened the Arab defeat. “These 10 days were packed with successes by our troops,” a Haaretz editorial stated. “Lod, Ramle, Rosh Ha’ayin, Tira, Nazareth, Ein Karem: the military map of our country has changed greatly in very little time. Our soldiers fought with unparalleled bravery and effectiveness, while the Arabs showed clear signs of mismanagement, and here and there even a lack of willingness to fight. ... Ten days of fighting proved, and the whole world accepts this, that we knew how to take full advantage of the lull.”

It went on to remark that “The Arab leaders are the ones who wanted this 10 days; not us. We were willing to extend the previous ceasefire. Now they’ll be sorry about the mistake they made.”

Radio Ramallah hurried to respond to the defeat, and in a broadcast on July 20, 1948, it listed the conditions which “did not allow the Arab armies to land in Tel Aviv’s Dizengoff Square.” The Arab countries, it was said, “did not participate with a large number of soldiers. Fifty million Arabs can recruit two million soldiers.”

The announcer said that 10,000 or 15,000 Jews defended Jerusalem, while “the number of Arab soldiers in Jerusalem was less than 5,000.” He explained that “while this is a military secret, we must disclose it, in order to prove what led to our armies’ lack of progress. We are telling this story also in order to prove the bravery of the Arab Legion, which held back the enemy in Jerusalem, Sha’ar Hagai and at Latrun, and caused it great losses.”

But Radio Ramallah held out hope. “Our military failure over the last months should not bring us to despair. We are shamed by having retreated before a handful of Zionists,” the announcer said, and then gave advice on how to correct the situation: the recruitment of 150,000 Palestinian Arabs, “most of whom are experienced, as they have served in the Arab Legion, the military academy and the police.”

This, however, required money, which was to be collected via progressive taxes and loans. “We see how the Jews raise money in the Jewish world,” the announcer said. “We must raise money in the Arab and Muslim world. It is the obligation of Arab society to organize the collection of money. We must engage all our resources, while Count Bernadotte prepares the new map of the partition of our country. The Arab countries must double and triple the Arab army, and then we can conquer all of Israel.”