The 50s: Unit 101, Qibya, the Lavon Affair, the 1956 Suez War

By Ron David
Excerpted from Arabs & Israel for Beginners

Unit 101 & Qibya
The Lavon Affair
The Sinai Campaign

Unit 101 & Qibya

Moshe Dayan, head of the Operations Dept. of Israel’s Army, decided that his army was getting sloppy, “lowering its fighting standards.” Dayan, who recognized talent when he saw it, knew that Ariel Sharon was exactly what the IDF (Israeli Defense Forces) needed. Ariel Sharon formed a special commando force. Unit 101.

Unit 101 specialized in night raids and phony “reprisal raids.” General Dayan had said that Israel must “invent dangers” and “adopt the method of provocation and revenge.” So, Sharon, who was a quick learner, had his men provoke neighboring Arabs into doing something petty, then used that as an excuse to sneak across the border at night and kill a few Arabs.

In Sharon, an Israeli Caesar, by Uzi Benziman, we get a pretty clear picture of Ariel Sharon: Sharon, personally, slit the throats of sleeping Egyptian soldiers. Sharon’s men killed so many Syrians that Ben Gurion [Israel’s first Prime Minister], that master of doublespeak, called the action “too successful”. Sharon bitched out one of his officers for not killing two old Arabs when they had the opportunity. Sharon laughed as a junior officer tormented an old Arab and then shot him at close range. Sharon ordered his men to ambush and kill two Jordanian women on their way to a well.

Sounds like quite a guy!

On October 14-15, 1953 Ariel Sharon and his Unit 101 sneaked across the border into the West Bank Jordanian village of Qibya and slaughtered 53 Lebanese and Palestinian civilians. Moshe Dayan thought that Sharon’s Unit 101 “operated with such brilliance that its achievements set an example to all the other formations in the army.”

Still, slaughtering 53 innocent civilians attracted a little too much attention so, Ben Gurion covered it up with a nice lie.

The next part takes place in Egypt.



386,900 sq. miles.


38 million: Arab, 99%; Muslim, 92.9%; Christian, 6.7%

Who Rules:

The President, chosen by the National Assembly and confirmed by plebiscite. The legislature has 350 elected members.

How Created:

Egypt goes back 6,000 years—the longest history of any Middle Eastern civilization [along with Mesopotamia]. Napoleon conquered Egypt in 1798. The British and Turks drove out the French in 1805 and Muhammad Ali, an Albanian, ruled. After the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869, the British took a profound interest in Egypt. When nationalist politics interfered with British interests, they sent it the army [1914]. After Egypt’s independence [1936], Britain, considerate as always, stayed on to look after the canal. In 1952 the military overthrew the King and Gamal Abdul Nasser became Egypt’s leader. Nasser nationalized the Suez Canal and forced Britain to withdraw troops from Egypt. He was considered the first real Arab nationalist leader.

The Lavon Affair

Around the time that Gamal Abdul Nasser became Egypt’s leader, David Ben Gurion had decided (partly out of spite) to step down as Prime Minister of Israel and let Moshe Sharett see if he could do a better job. Sharett was less of a ‘Hawk’ than Ben Gurion and, by 1954, had reached the point where he was on the verge of signing a peace treaty with Nasser of Egypt.

Nasser is usually depicted as one of the bad guys. Recently declassified State Department documents indicate the exact opposite. Documentary evidence [1948-54] shows Nasser expressing tolerance and respect for Israel to CIA officials, members of British Parliament, and two American Ambassadors. In October 1954 Nasser became one of the only heads of state to refuse military aid from the U.S. He preferred economic aid.

Then, in 1954, Israeli terrorists attacked American installations in Egypt!

Then the Israelis rigged it so the attacks would be blamed on Egyptians!

Then the Israelis got caught and put in Egyptian prisons.

...all of which convinced Egypt’s Nasser that the Israelis couldn’t be trusted, so he broke off the peace talks and took weapons from whomever offered them—including the Soviets.

Ben Gurion blamed the blundering terrorists on his Defense Minister, Pinchas Lavon—but several years later, Lavon found documents that proved Ben Gurion was behind it!

Ben Gurion’s motive was simple: he and Moshe Dayan wanted a war with Egypt and Sharett’s peace talks might deprive them of it.

In June 1955, Moshe Sharett [in his Diaries] wrote: ‘Dayan said, “above all, let us hope for a new war with the Arab countries, so that we may finally get rid of our troubles and acquire space.”’

Another of Sharett’s Diary entries for June 1955: ‘Ben Gurion himself said it would be worthwhile to pay an Arab a million pounds to start a war. What a slip of the tongue!’

The Sinai Campaign

In 1956 Israel attacked Egypt, then hoodwinked much of the world into thinking that Egypt was the aggressor. For the last year, every intelligence source available had confirmed the fact that there was no way the Israelis could lose the war. Even if all the other Arab armies joined to help Egypt, Israel’s Army was bigger and badder and more technologically advanced than all of them combined. The reason Israel was so antsy to attack Egypt is that Nasser, with Soviet help, was beginning to build a fair sized army. So Israel went in and demolished it in a couple days.

In addition, thousands of Arabs—citizens of Israel—were expelled from Israel’s Galilee region during the 1956 attack on Egypt. This previously unknown fact was revealed by Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, who at the time was commander of Israel’s northern region. He said that 3,000 to 5,000 Arabs—Israeli citizens—were expelled by the Israeli Army to Syria at that time.

After the war, the occupying Israeli Army slaughtered hundreds of Palestinians and robbed homes in the Gaza Strip.

Israel-Palestine Timeline

Israel-Palestine Timeline: The human cost of the conflict records photos and information for each person who has been killed in the ongoing violence.

History of the Israel Lobby

Alison Weir's book Against Our Better Judgement: How the U.S. was used to create Israel brings together meticulously sourced evidence to outline the largely unknown history of U.S.-Israel relations.

Buy it on Amazon, and visit the book website for reviews, more ordering options, and upcoming author events.

Information largely missing from U.S. news reports. Read the Blog


Video – People and the Land

Massacres, Violence, and Wars

Statehood and Expulsion: 1948 War

The 50s: Unit 101, Qibya, the Lavon Affair, the 1956 Suez War

Israel Honors Egyptian Spies 50 Years After Fiasco

The 1967 War and the Israeli Occupation of the West Bank and Gaza

1973 War
(Known in Israel as the Yom Kippur War)

Sabra & Shatilla Massacres

The First Intifada

Current Uprising


Ethnic Cleansing and Refugees

USS Liberty

Attacks on American Marines

Resources on History

Documentary – “Jerusalem 1948: Yoom Ilak, Yoom Aleik”

Book – Arabs and Israel for Beginners

Booklet – The Origin of the Israel-Palestine Conflict


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