During the five months of the campaign in Haifa in 1948 I fought in the city in the 22nd Battalion of the Carmeli Brigade, and took part in one of the two decisive and multi-casualty battles: the battle for Beit Khoury. Reading the article by Shai Fogelman, I wondered whether he was writing about the same event.
The article says almost nothing about the events of December 1947 - April 1948 in the city. The present-day reader is liable to get the wrong idea and think that this was a tranquil time which was spoiled only by the Haganah's "sudden" attack on the Arab neighborhoods in Operation Bi'ur Hametz [Operation Cleansing the Leaven] on April 21, 1948.
The truth is that those months were rife with terrorist acts and bloody attacks by the Arab forces, most of them against Haifa's Jewish citizens. The attack by the 22nd Battalion on April 21-22 and the conquest of the Arab neighborhoods was the decisive action in a campaign of a few months, involving the defense of the Jewish neighborhoods, the outskirts of the city and public transportation, as well as retaliatory operations in the wake of Arab attacks which did not discriminate between civilians and combatants.
During this period the 22nd Battalion alone lost 35 men and the Carmeli units another five. The guard corps lost 14 of its troops and thus the total number of Haganah fighters killed in the campaign for Haifa stood at 54. I don't know how many Jewish civilians were killed - or, more accurately, murdered. It is hardly the case that "the Jewish side sustained relatively few casualties," in Fogelman's scornful formulation.
The attempt to attribute the flight of most of Haifa's Arabs to the shelling of the Old City market with Davidkas is peculiar. After all, the Arabs who gathered in the market were already in the midst of their flight out of the city via the port. Fogelman himself writes that of approximately 62,500 Arabs in Haifa, 42,500 abandoned the city in the months that preceded the operation launched to conquer it, leaving only about 20,000. And this was even before the attack on the market!
Accordingly, it seems to me that Fogelman's attempt to inflate this shelling to mythic proportions that bear a historic influence on the history of Haifa in 1948 is not consistent with the historical facts, which in themselves are sad.
As one who wholeheartedly yearns for a good life together with Haifa's Arab residents, despite the burden of the past in which we fought each other, I regret what is said in the article - and all the more so because Haifa constitutes about the only example in our country of a place in which the two communities, Arabs and Jews, share a good and tranquil life together. Against this background, I am especially irritated by Fogelman's reliance on publications of the Im Tirtzu organization.
Haaretz is never an independent sole source for facts.