Infobox Former Arab villages in Palestine

caption=1870 map of al-Ghabisiyya, northeast of Acre.
date=May 1948, 1949 [Benny Morris (2004): "The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem Revisited", p. XVII. Also gives cause(s) of depopulation.]
curlocl=Netiv HaShayyara

Al-Ghabisiyya' was an Arab village in northern Palestine, 16 km north-east of Acre in present-day Israel. It was depopulated by Israel during the 1948-1950 period and remains deserted.

Early history

In the late nineteenth century, al-Ghabisiyya was a small village built of stone on the ridge of a hill. It had about 150 Muslim inhabitants and was surrounded by olive trees, fig trees, pomegranate trees, and gardens.Khalidi, p13-14, quoting Survey of Western Palestine.]

During the British Mandate of Palestine, the population grew to 470 in 1931 and 690 in 1945, all Muslim. [British figures, cited by Khalidi; 1931 census of Palestine and Village Statistics of 1945.] Together with the nearby villages of Shaykh Dannun and Shaykh Dawud, it consisted of 11,771 dunums of land in 1945. The local economy was based on livestock and agriculture.

Al-Ghabisiyya in the 1948 war

The village was in the territory allotted to the Arab state under the 1947 UN Partition Plan. Like many Arab villages, it had a non-aggression pact with nearby Jewish communities. [Benvenisti, p140.] In the early months of the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, the villagers provided the Jewish militia Haganah with intelligence and ammunition in return for an agreement to not enter the village or harm the inhabitants. [Benvenisti, p140; Morris, pp515-516.] On the other hand, some of the villagers joined in the March 1948 attack on the Jewish convoy to Kibbutz Yehiam in which 47 Haganah soldiers were killed. [Morris, pp515-516; Nazzal, p71.]

On May 21, 1948, the Haganah's Carmeli Brigade captured al-Ghabisiyya during Operation Ben-Ami. [Morris, pp515-516; Nazzal, pp71-72.] The village formally surrendered, but the Carmeli troops "entered the village with guns blazing", killing several inhabitants. Six villagers who were thought to have taken part in the attack on the Yehiam convoy were apparently then executed. [Morris, p254.]

The villagers fled or were expelled to nearby villages, where they remained until the complete Jewish conquest of the Galilee in October. At that time, many of the residents went to Lebanon while others fled to nearby Arab towns and became Israeli citizens due to their registration in the October-November census. [Nazzal, p72; Morris, p516.] The latter tried repeatedly to settle back in their village. Some apparently obtained permission but others went back illegally. [Morris, p516.] On January 20, 1950, the Military Governor of the Galilee ordered all the residents of al-Ghabisiyya to leave within 24 hours and then declared the village a closed military area.Morris, p516; Jiryis, p93] No alternative accommodation had been arranged, and the villagers took up temporary residence in abandoned houses of nearby Shaykh Dawud and Sheikh Danun. [Morris, p516; Benvenisti, p140]

The expulsion caused a public controversy. The leaders of the leftist Mapam party condemned it, but they were undermined by the Mapam-dominated regional Jewish settlements bloc (one Mapam kibbutz of which was already cultivating al-Ghabisiyya's land) which declared that the "Arabs of Ghabisiyya should on no account be allowed to return to their village".Morris, p516.] In September 1950, some of the villagers again resettled the village but were sentenced to several months in prison and given fines.

Al-Ghabisiyya after 1950

In 1951, the villagers instituted proceedings against the Military Government in the High Court of Israel. The court ruled that the declaration of the village as a closed area had been improperly instituted, and in consequence "the military governor had no authority to evict the petitioners [from the village] and he has no authority to prevent them from entering or leaving it or from residing there." [Jiryis, pp93-94; Benvenisti, p140; HC reference 220/51 of November 30, 1951.] The military government responded by sealing the village, and two days later again declared it to be a closed military area.Jiryis, p94; HC references 288/51 and 33/52.] The villagers appealed to the High Court again, but the court ruled that the new declaration was legal and in consequence villagers who had not managed to return to the village before that declaration (which in practice was all of them) were forbidden to go there without permission.

The village thus remained deserted. Its lands were officially expropriated and in 1955 its houses were demolished leaving only the large mosque. [Benvenisti, p140] Later attempts of the villagers to return to the village were not successful. [Davar, June 7, 1970, cited in "Journal of Palestine Studies", Vol. 2, No. 1, 1972, p147.]

The villagers set up a committee whose principal activity was to renovate the village cemetery and mosque, and in July 1972 the committee wrote to the prime minister:

In the village a mosque and the cemetery remain.... The mosque is in a run-down state and the cemetery, where our relatives are buried, is neglected and overgrown with weeds to such an extent that it is impossible to identify the graves any more. Knowing that our state authorities have always taken care of the places of worship and cemeteries of all the ethnic communities,... [we ask] to be enabled to carry out repairs on the mosque and also to repair and fence the cemetery and put it in order. [Benvenisti, p294; Appendix to civil case file, Acre Magistrate's Court, file 2085/97.]
The authorities did not permit this work to be done.The land of the village, including the mosque, had been acquired by the Israel Land Administration (ILA) under one of the laws regarding land expropriation, and not the Ministry of Religion, which is responsible for holy places.In 1994 members of the village committee began renovating the mosque and praying there. In January 1996 the ILA sealed the entrance of the mosque, but the villagers broke through the fence and again used the mosque for prayers. The villagers appealed to Prime Minister Shimon Peres in April 1996, they received a reply on his behalf from one of his aides:
"The government of Israel regards itself as obligated to maintain the holy places of all religions, including, of course, cemeteries and mosques sacred to Islam. The prime minister has stated to the heads of the Arab community, with whom he recently met, that the government would see to the renovation and the restoration of the dignety of mosques in abandoned villages, including the mosque in Ghabisiyya." [Benvenisti, p294; Letter dated 26 May 1996, signed by Benny Shiloh, head of the Minorities Section. ]
However, Shimon Peres was defeated in the next prime ministerial elections, and in March 1997 police surrounded the mosque and representatives from ILA removed copies of the Quran and prayer rugs and once again sealed the entrance of the mosque. The conflict was carried to the court in Acre, where the uprooted villagers contended that the government action was contrary to Israel's "Law of Preservation of Holy Places". The ILA challenged the villagers right to pray there, and used the illegal eviction of 1951 and the demolition of the village in 1955 as arguments to bolster its claim:
"The village of Ghabisiyya was abandoned by its inhabitants and destroyed during the War for Independence".... [the mosque..had stood] .."lonely and neglected"..."and since it was in a run-down and unstable state that constituted a threat to the safety of those inside it, it was decided by the Ministry of Religions to seal it and fence it off." [Benvenisti, p295; Appendix to civil case file, Acre Magistrate's Court, file 2085/97.]

The court declined to issue an injunction permitting worshippers back into the mosque. The Ghabisiyya villagers still pray in the field outside the sealed mosque. [Benvenisti, p295]

See also

* List of villages depopulated during the 1948 Arab-Israeli war
* Internally Displaced Palestinians



Benvenisti, Meron (2000): Sacred Landscape: Buried History of the Holy Land Since 1948. University of California Press. ISBN 0-520-21154-5, p 140, 293-96, 337

Jiryis, Sabri (1973): The Legal Structure for the Expropriation and Absorption of Arab Lands in Israel, "Journal of Palestine Studies", Vol. 2, No. 4, 82-104.

Khalidi, Walid (ed.) (1992): All that Remains. Institute for Palestine Studies. ISBN 0-88728-224-5.

Morris, Benny (2004): The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem Revisited. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-81120-1.

Nazzal, Nafez (1974): The Zionist occupation of western Galilee, 1948, "Journal of Palestine Studies", Vol. 3, No. 3, 58-76.

External links

* [ al Gabisiyya] from [ Khalil Sakakini Cultural Centre]
* [ A visit to Al-Ghabisiyya village] 12.04.02. Writing and photos by Norma Mossi, Translated by Gali Reich, from Zochrot (alternative link to the article here: [] )
* [ The Nakba day in Al-Ghabisiyya village] Writing and photos by David Sagi, Translated by Gali Reich, from Zochrot, 2003
* [ Not Next Year, Not in Jerusalem Israeli Palestinians – and My Family’s – Desire to Return Home] by Rebecca Yael Bak, New Voices, March/April 2006 (Vol. 14, Issue 4)
* [ Overview: Palestinian Internally Displaced Persons inside Israel] from BADIL Resource Center 6 November 2002

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