• Sandro Galea, MD, DrPH

    Dean and Robert A. Knox Professor

    Sandro Galea, MD, DrPH physician, epidemiologist, and author, is dean and Robert A. Knox Professor at Boston University School of Public Health. Profile

Comments & Discussion

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There are 4 comments on Staying Mindful of Less Visible Conflicts

  1. Dean Galea is always out front in saying what needs to be said in the moment, and focusing on the important stuff. I so appreciate his leadership, vision and wisdom. Thank you for this work.

  2. As a fellow academic, I see your note very biased. How is it that you use ‘horrific’ for Oct 7 (rightly so) but describe the massacre of 32,000 people as ‘retaliation’. This is a consistent pattern in previous notes. Very disappointing. I suggest those who’re clearly biased should consider joining one of the mainstream rightwing media organizations.

  3. Thank you Prof. Galea bringing the issue as topic of discussion. You exercised your responsibility. It might not your fault missing Ethiopia’s conflict/ war in your narrative which costed the most human life in this 21st century. I understood that we as an Ethiopian not only land-locked country, but IT too.

  4. Sandro,
    You rightfully point out all these other conflicts in a seemingly never conflict free world, and I point out that I have also noted most of them to you. However, where is what I call the moral equivalency? Why is it that there are only marches in the streets, pasting labels of genocide, petitions and call for immediate cease fires, calls for humanitarian relief and wails of anguish about the killing of children only when it involves the Israel/Gaza conflict with vitriol only for the Israelis? Again, where is the moral equivalency? Am I wrong in noting a high degree of hypocrisy?

    The 1948 “Expulsion,” another opinion

    When the vote establishing the states of Israel and Palestine was accepted by the Jews and was notably not by the Arabs, Israel knew they had to look for allies, both foreign and in Israel.

    They first had to be able to defend themselves, and that effort goes back to the Arab pogroms of the 1920s. The Israelis formed two paramilitary groups, the Haganah and the Pelmach

    The historical record showed me, as I read and lived through all this, that in 1948, a first action of the Haganah was to send emissaries to every Arab village. They met with the leaders to find out if they would accept being included in the nascent Israeli state. There were some that did, one being Deir Yassin. But before telling what I read in the historical record about Deir Yassin, I will review what was concomitantly happening in actions by the surrounding Arab countries.

    The narrative presented by mostly Arab commenters and historians, is that “Israel caused the crisis of Palestinian refugees, including preventing their return”. This is categorically wrong, as I hope to show.

    I now refer to radio broadcasts being made from the surrounding Arab countries urging the Arabs living in their communities to flee so as not to be caught in conflict, telling them that the combined armies from these Arab states were going to invade Israel and kill and defeat the Jewish forces. The broadcasts also promised that after the Arab armies defeated the Jews, those people who vacated would then be able to return to their homes and would be able to seize all the land and property of the defeated Jews. I read then that recordings of these broadcasts were available in the historical record.

    So, to me, there were three types of Arab villages confronting Haganah once hostilities commenced. First, were villages such as Deir Yassin that said they would accept Israel and would not partake in hostilities. Second, were villages that chose to respond to the broadcasts and made the decision to flee. These, as per the numbers involved, were in the hundreds of thousands. Lastly, were villages that would take armed resistance and battle the Haganah. It appears that as these villages were defeated, the people either fled or were forcefully expelled. And yes, those that fled and/or vacated were not allowed to return after, as Israel had no way of determining friend from foe.

    Now, the real story of Deir Yassin. What I am about to relate here appeared in an Israeli newspaper the day after the actual event. I was able to locate, see, and read about what happened. What I saw was a photocopy of a one column story of about 6 inches in length. The written record said that when a contingent of soldiers approached Deir Yassin, a supposedly peaceful village, the people in the village double-crossed the Israelis and opened fire on the Israeli soldiers, causing casualties. The soldiers entered the village and did indeed kill–massacre–many of the villagers. The massacre was widely condemned, even by David Ben-Gurion.

    Returning to the issue of the “expulsion”, the total number of Palestinians who left is generally agreed by figures from more than one source to total 750,000 with another 150,000 staying. The Palestinians who stayed were granted Israeli citizenship, albeit with some restrictions, much as during the rule of the Ottoman Empire when Jews were welcomed with restrictions and taxed at higher rates.

    What is lost in this cacophonous mélange is that, along with 750,000 Palestinians, and again according to most figures, an approximate total of 750,000 Jews were also expelled—not only from Arab states at war with Israel but also from other states in the Maghreb. These Jews were deported, had homes, properties and fortunes confiscated from them. However, they were all welcomed as citizens of Israel. These Jews–Mizrahi Jews, not European or Sephardic Jews–had lived for many generations under Muslim rule, even during the Middle Ages. Most of them were forced to leave these Muslim-majority countries during the Arab Israeli conflict. These Mizrahi are neither of Sephardic nor Ashkenazi origin-–nor are they Zionist newcomers.

    As for the war of 1948, I am not presenting myself as an informed expert on this battle. I only wish to present some aspects that I read about as many as 60 years ago.

    War preparations began, at least in Israel, long before the actual conflict began. At the beginning of fighting, both sides were somewhat equal, at least in number, with about 35,000 combatants on each side.

    I understood the Arab forces to consist of the combined armies of Trans-Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, and Egypt with a contingent of Saudi Arabian soldiers placed under the command of Egypt. At first, the battle went well for the Arabs but as it progressed, with many casualties on both sides, the battle shifted to the Israelis.

    Israel won the war on the ground, but the war to win the peace is a continuing battle. Since 1949, there have been battles and wars, and continue to be, between people in places all over the world, involving the death and/or displacement of millions of people.

    I find it baffling that so much of the world’s time, attention and energy is consumed by the one involving Israel.

    Leonard Bernstein DMD, MPH

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