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Battle of Mishmar Haemek, 1948

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Mishmar Ha'emek (Mishmar Ha'emeq - Hebrew "Guardian of the Valley") is a Kibbutz of the Kibbutz Artzi Hashomer Hatzair federation  founded in 1922 and populated in 1926 on land purchased from the Sursuq family in the Valley of Yizrael (Jezreel).  The kibbutz established the first regional kibbutz high school, Shomria, in 1931. During the first part of the Israel War of Independence (First Arab-Israel War) a critical  battle was fought there in April of 1948.

Mishmar Ha'emek was located in the area of the Galilee allocated to the Jewish state by UN General Assembly Resolution 181 - the Palestine Partition plan. The Arab Liberation Army*led by Fawzi El Qaukji had been allowed into the country in  connivance with the British and was attempting to reach Haifa and remove the Galilee from Jewish control. Throughout the first period of the war, Jewish forces had been outgunned and outmanned, and had steadily lost ground to the Arabs. The ALA had been outfitted in Syria by the the Arab League, who appointed an official commander, replaced eventually by another commander who was more politically reliable. In practice, the real commander was Qaukji. Qaukji (Or Kawkji, Qawqji etc) who had been involved in the Arab Revolt of the 1930s, and later had helped to instigate the pro-Nazi coup in Iraq along with the Grand Mufti Hajj Amin El Husseini. When that failed, he fled to Nazi Germany, where he collaborated with the Nazis along with the  Grand Mufti Hajj Amin Al Husseini. He was, however, a rival of the Mufti among Palestinians. The Arab Liberation Army numbered about 6,000 troops, and had, at least initially, Druze allies in the Galilee The first forces crossed over into Mandatory Palestine in January 1948. The British may have let them in as part of an intentional plan to foil the creation of a Jewish state and to implement instead a greater Syrian state that would be ruled from Iraq, as revealed in recently declassified documents.1 

Mishmar Ha'emek was located on the main road from Jenin to Haifa and controlled other crossroads as well. It was therefore a prime strategic objective. In a meeting at the beginning of April, Qaukji had told Yehoshua Palmon of the Palmach that he would be launching a big attack in the valley of Jezreel, following a failed attack at Tirat Tzvi. Palmon passed the warning on to Jewish settlements who were put on alert. 2 

Qaukji concentrated over a thousand men including the Kadisia battalion and parts of the 1st Yarmuk Battalion under Muhamad Safa and the Hittin Battalion under Madlul Abas. The Syrians supplied artillery - the first in the war, consisting of seven 75 mm cannon and three 105s.

Qaukji concentrated over a thousand men including the Kadisia battalion and parts of the 1st Yarmuk Battalion under Muhamad Safa and the Hittin Batallion under Madlul Abas. The Syrians supplied artillery - the first in the war, consisting of seven 75 mm cannon and three 105s. The photo shows Qaukji planning the battle from the village of Mansi.

First Arab-Israel War, Battle of Mishmar Haemeq - Fawzi al Qaukji at the village of Mansi, planning the attack

Qaukji's artillery pounded Kibbutz Mishmar Ha'emek for many hours beginning on the eve of April 4. The photo at right shows some of the damage. His infantry attempted to advance. They got to the perimeter fence, but were repelled by small arms fire from the Kibbutz. At night, a company of the Golani brigade infiltrated from Kfar Baruch, across the fields.

At the end of the following day (April 5), British Colonel Gordon Macmillan intervened however, and was able to impose a truce to evacuate wounded. The defenders had managed to stand with little reinforcement against a vastly superior enemy.

The truce was exploited to prepare a counter-attack under the command of Yitzhak Sadeh. Qaukji wanted to extend the truce but the Jewish side refused. The Palmach was reinforced by units of the Carmeli and Golani Brigades. On April 8, the Jewish forces tried to attack from the rear and capture the artillery batteries. They did not succeed, but they did panic some of the ALA which began retreating. 

First Arab-Israel War, Map Battle of Mishmar Haemeq

Subsequently, the battle continued for several days, with strongpoints and villages changing hands repeatedly. On the 12th and 13, Qaukji renewed the attack. By the 13th it was evident that Qauqji's ALA had been defeated. The Jewish forces had captured villages in his rear and were threatening to cut off his retreat.  Qaukji headed back to his headquarters in the village of Jabba. Northwest of Mishmar Haemek, Druze allies of the ALA were defeated in Ramat Yohanan. The Druze soon changed sides and joined the Jews.3 As a result of the battles, all the Arab villages in the area that had supported and housed the ALA soldiers were emptied of their inhabitants. They had either fled or been expelled.

The defeat of Qaukji at Mishmar Haemek and the temporary opening of the road to Jerusalem in Operation Nachshon marked the turning points in the pre-independence civil war. They  convinced the White House that the Jews would be able to hold their own against the Arabs, despite the views of the CIA and the State Department. 

Notes

* Arab Liberation Army -  Jayish al Inqadh Al Arabiyeh in Arabic, literally meaning the rescue or salvation army; In Hebrew it is "Tsva Hatsalah" - the Arab Salvation army - but apparently not the same as a different group, called the "Salvation Army" in English. 

1. See Zamir, Meir, "Britain's treachery, France's revenge," Haaretz Magazine, February 2, 2008.

2. Collins & LaPierre, 1973,  p. 238.

3. Herzog and Gazit, 2005, pp 27-28; Collins & LaPierre, 1973 p 277; Morris, 1999, p 210; Haganah: Battle of Mishmar Haemek (Hebrew)

 

References:

Collins, Larry, and Lapierre, Dominique, O Jerusalem!, Pan Books, N.Y. 1973.

Haganah: Battle of Mishmar Haemek (Hebrew)

Herzog, Chaim and Gazit Shomo, The Arab Israeli Wars, Vintage Books, N.Y. 2005.

Morris, Benny, Righteous Victims, Alfred Knopf, 1999.

Synonyms and alternate spellings: Mishmar HaEmek, Mishmar HaEmeq

Further Information: 


Hebrew/Arabic pronunciation and transliteration conventions:

'H - ('het) a guttural sound made deep in the throat. To Western ears it may sound like the "ch" in loch. In Arabic there are several letters that have similar sounds. Examples: 'hanukah, 'hamas, 'haredi. Formerly, this sound was often represented by ch, especially in German transliterations of Hebrew. Thus, 'hanukah is often rendered as Chanuka for example.

ch - (chaf) a sound like "ch" in loch or the Russian Kh as in Khruschev or German Ach, made by putting the tongue against the roof of the mouth. In Hebrew, a chaf can never occur at the beginning of a word. At the beginning of a word, it has a dot in it and is pronounced "Kaf."

u - usually between oo as in spoon and u as in put.

a- sounded like a in arm

ah- used to represent an a sound made by the letter hey at the end of a word. It is the same sound as a. Haganah and Hagana are alternative acceptable transliterations.

'a-notation used for Hebrew and Arabic ayin, a guttural ah sound.

o - close to the French o as in homme.

th - (taf without a dot) - Th was formerly used to transliterate the Hebrew taf sound for taf without a dot. However in modern Hebrew there is no detectable difference in standard pronunciation of taf with or without a dot, and therefore Histadruth and Histadrut, Rehovoth and Rehovot are all acceptable.

q- (quf) - In transliteration of Hebrew and Arabic, it is best to consistently use the letter q for the quf, to avoid confusion with similar sounding words that might be spelled with a kaf, which should be transliterated as K. Thus, Hatiqva is preferable to Hatikva for example.


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This work is copyright 2005 by Ami Isseroff and Zionism and Israel Information Center and may not reproduced in any form without permission unless explicitly noted otherwise. This entry is copyright 2008. Quoted materials may be copyright by their authors and must not be used in commercial publications without permission.  Individual entries may be cited with credit to The Encyclopedia and Dictionary of Zionism and Israel

 

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