Archive of May 31, 1948 on the subject:
In Jaffa and Haifa the Jews hope for the return of the Arabs
Source: © In Jaffa and Haifa the Jews hope for the return of the Arabs
Tel-Aviv and Jaffa are side by side like Mézières and Charleville; no natural demarcation separates the new capital of the State of Israel from the great Arab port. However, it is impossible to make a mistake when moving from one city to another. Not only are the Arabic characters succeeding the Hebrew characters on the shop signs, but all the constructions are different, the filth succeeds the comfort. In a word, passing the suburb of Abou-el-Kébir we leave the twentieth century to return to the Middle Ages.
One of the busiest streets in Tel Aviv runs along the beach and serves most of the city's major hotels: this street extends towards Jaffa and ends at the very foot of the minaret of the mosque from where the Arabs could take all the street in a row and thus pull easily to the center of the Jewish city. Leaving the hotels, everyone had to walk along the walls so as not to risk being hit by an Arab gunman; the traces of bullets still apparent on the walls of the houses and even on the residence of the consul of France, which stands on the seafront, testify that at the beginning of the shootings exchanged between Tel-Aviv and Jaffa the risks were great. To face the danger which awaited the inhabitants of Tel-Aviv, in full center of their city, the Jews then built a high wall of about twenty meters which limited the horizon of the Arab shooters. Today this wall is destroyed because the Jews no longer need protection.
Jaffa is a dead city where the control of the Haganah is now exercised.
"Before the British imposed the truce Jaffa was a real hell," a Czech refugee told me in Port Said who had preferred to flee with the Arabs rather than stay put. We were bombarded by the Jews, and the Irgun caused considerable destruction with explosives. “Visiting Jaffa a few days later I was to see that the destruction was indeed much more serious than I would have thought.
Jaffa, a deserted city
Jaffa, a city of 70.000 inhabitants, is today a ghost town, haunted by stray dogs and cats. "At the start of the negotiations," the local Haganah leader told me, "the Arabs assured us that five thousand of them remained, but probably for the duration of the surrender talks the exodus continued, for, although the census of the population is not yet finished, I do not think that there remain more than three thousand souls, women and children included. For the most part they are old people, the impotent or people too poor to have been able to obtain a place on one of the vehicles of all kinds that the Arabs of Jaffa, seized with panic, borrowed to flee to Gaza, to the Egypt or towards the Arab hinterland, in the vicinity of Hebron. “
The ground is strewn with debris of all kinds: roofs hang miserably, torn iron curtains testify that the shops were often looted by the last fugitives, and destroyed houses prove that the Jewish mortars were not ineffective. The only human beings to be found on the streets are the Haganah soldiers who organize the defense of the city against a possible but unlikely attack from the south: walls of sandbags block the main arteries, and sentries stand guard with great seriousness, submachine gun in hand; we wonder with curiosity what they can keep, unless they have been put in place for the greatest satisfaction of the photographers and filmmakers who accompanied us. The Zionist flag floats on the main buildings of the city and on the docks of the port where one would have - it seems - discovered stocks of poisoned flour.
The cargo sheds serve as barracks for Haganah troops, men and women. 200 meters from the entrance to the quays are flying two French flags: one on a church, the other on a hospital occupied by sisters. “From the beginning of the attack, the superior explained to me, the Arab doctors fled the city in the face of the violence of the action carried out by the Irgun, but when the English restored order, they placed at our disposal everything we needed, and the hospital is functioning quite normally. Mr. Charreyron, the French consul in Tel-Aviv, often comes to visit us, and ensures himself that our patients lack nothing. “
During an audience he granted to some journalists Mr. Chizik, “military governor for civil affairs”, appointed to Jaffa by the government of Israel, assured us of his concern for French and foreign interests in Jaffa. “We have no intention of keeping Jaffa the day an understanding is possible with the Arabs,” he declared; it is only a temporary occupation necessitated by reasons of “self-protection”. We only want one thing: that the Arab merchants and civil servants return as soon as possible. We are ready to accept them after ensuring that they are not disturbing elements. “
When one crosses Jaffa to arrive at the road which leads to Jerusalem, and for which one has been fighting practically since November 30, when one sees the strong network of defenses which prohibits access to the city one retains only a few hope to see the Arabs return soon. The problem of their return arises not only in Jaffa but also in Haifa, where it causes some concern to the local Jewish authorities.
The English do not relinquish control of Haifa
In Haifa the question is slightly different, because normally Arabs and Jews lived side by side. It was in a way a mixed city over which the English watched – and still watch – with great constancy, because we must not forget that this is the city of oil. "If only one day it was no longer oil but water that flowed in the pipelines, said a taxi driver to me, everyone would win, except perhaps the English, but you would see that more no one would benefit from the struggle continuing between Arabs and Jews. “
The military action that enabled the Haganah to drive the Arabs out of the city was carried out swiftly and forcefully. Here too, as in Jaffa, the destruction is only too visible, because we fought fiercely for the only bridge which gives access by land to Saint-Jean-d'Acre. The Zionist flag is now flying over the Arab quarter, from which the entire population has fled, with the exception of ten thousand Arabs, Christians for the most part, and who live in perfect harmony with the Jews.
The mayor, Mr. Chabotie Lévi, is Jewish; the deputy, Mr. Karaman, wears the tarbouch; to be convinced that Jewish-Arab collaboration is not a chimera, one only has to survey the quays of the port where Arab and Jewish dockers work together without having to deplore the slightest incident. After the fighting at the beginning of May, the Arabs moved in panic, and since calm has returned you can see the trucks piled up with all the heterogeneous furniture returning to Haifa. One sincerely wonders what the English can fear when they announce that they are regaining control of Haifa to prevent disturbances that would harm the security of their troops. We remain convinced in Haifa that despite their repeated assurances not to leave a single British soldier after August 1, the British will do their utmost to be “offered” a concession which will enable them to safeguard their interests.
“The English are on board,” said a senior Jewish port official to me; sometimes two thousand leave in the same day, but I'm afraid I won't live long enough to see the last of them leave. “
My interlocutor was however not more than forty years old…