Ben Gurion, not unaware of this, recorded in his War Diary, (10 February 1948, robbing the Arabs; 1 May, complete looting of Wadi Nisnas, Haifa; 17 June, looting in Jerusalem; 15 July, the terrible question of looting and rape ...etc.). In the words of the Jewish writer, Moshe Simlansky: "The (Jewish) people were gripped by a frenzy of looting; individuals, groups, men, women and children. They descended like vultures on the spoils: doors, windows, clothes, tiles .." (Segev p.88). But the biggest prize was Lydda and Ramla whose 60,000 inhabitants were expelled at gunpoint. "The IDF loaded 1,800 trucks
from Lydda alone." (Segev p. 85). "An officer took his 5th Battalion to
looting" (Ben Gurion War Diary, 15 July). Ben Gurion
visited the two conquered towns and was shown the spoils. He noted in his Diary on 20 July,
"I saw fabulous wealth, we must save it before
it is too late." The competition among government bodies, and individual looters for the possessions of the
ethnically cleansed Palestinians was
great. High-ranking Mapai leaders, it was claimed, received: "90% of abandoned
property", (Segev, p.98).
At one point, the Custodian of Enemy Property reported he could not cope with keeping track of the plunder. He recorded in his Register at one point: "45,000 houses, 7,000 shops, 500 workshops, more than 1,000 stores." In addition, he had to attend to picking the harvest, and feeding the chicken and sheep. He also complained that: "thieves and crooks" were among his staff (Segev p.87, Ben Gurion, p.628).
Later, the crops were harvested to compensate for Israel's shortage of food. Economic war, in addition to the military war, was waged against the Palestinians, by cutting off food and water (Pappe, p.95). The first step which the Israelis took after the expulsion of the Palestinians is to prevent their return. A policy was created to demolish the houses to remove the traces of the villages, poison the wells, burn the crops to prevent harvesting and shoot at sight any villager seen returning to recover some of his belongings.
Yosef Weitz, the originator of the "Transfer" policy to remove the Palestinians out of their land, began to distribute their land and property among the Jews. Under his policy, there was no place for the Palestinians in the new state. That was also Ben Gurion's basic policy. He is quoted to have said, as late as October 1948: "The Arab of Eretz Israel (i.e. the Palestinians) -they have but one function left, to run away", (Morris, 1990, p.89).
The destruction of the villages started first along the Tel-Aviv-Jerusalem Corridor and the Tel-Aviv-Haifa highway, then spread to Jewish concentration areas around them. Many of the Palestinian dwellings, in towns and less so in villages, were used to accommodate Jewish immigrants. Judging by the gap between the number of new immigrants and the capacity of the new housing being feverishly built for them, it is estimated that about 350,000 Jews have been so conveniently housed in the early fifties. In 1949 alone, Ben Gurion reported that 160,000 newcomers have been housed in Palestinian homes (Segev p.91).
Through a careful field survey, Falah (1996) examined the present status of Khalidi's 418 villages (excluding towns). His results are as follows:
|No. of villages||Percentage||Current status|
|52||12.5%||Partial demolition, some houses occupied by Jews.|
Total 418 (100%)