Aux sources du négationnisme israélien : comment David Ben Gourion a sciemment mis en place la propagande niant la Nakba pour résister aux pressions américaines de Kennedy, qui voulait faire appliquer le droit au retour des Palestiniens expulsés.
In 1961, after John F. Kennedy assumed office as president of the United States, calls for the return of some of the Palestinian refugees increased. Under the guidance of the new president, the U.S. State Department tried to force Israel to allow several hundred thousand refugees to return. In 1949, Israel had agreed to consider allowing about 100,000 refugees to return, in exchange for a comprehensive peace agreement with the Arab states, but by the early 1960s that was no longer on the agenda as far as Israel was concerned. Israel was willing to discuss the return of some 20,000-30,000 refugees at most.
Under increasing pressure from Kennedy and amid preparations at the United Nations General Assembly to address the Palestinian refugee issue, Ben-Gurion convened a special meeting on the subject. Held in his office in the Kirya, the defense establishment compound in Tel Aviv, the meeting was attended by the top ranks of Mapai, including Foreign Minister Golda Meir, Agriculture Minister Moshe Dayan and Jewish Agency Chairman Moshe Sharett. Ben-Gurion was convinced that the refugee problem was primarily one of public image (hasbara). Israel, he believed, would be able to persuade the international community that the refugees had not been expelled, but had fled. “First of all, we need to tell facts, how they escaped,” he said in the meeting. “As far as I know, most of them fled before the state’s establishment, of their own free will, and contrary to what the Haganah [the pre-independence army of Palestine’s Jews] told them when it defeated them, that they could stay. After the state’s establishment [on May 15, 1948], as far as I know, only the Arabs of Ramle and Lod left their places, or were pressured to leave.”
Ben-Gurion thereby set the frame of reference for the discussion, even though some of the participants knew that his presentation was inaccurate, to say the least. Dayan, who as GOC Southern Command after 1949 ordered the expulsion of the Negev Bedouin, was not in a position to take issue with the prime minister’s statement that the Arabs had left “of their own free will,” despite being well aware of the facts. Ben-Gurion went on to explain what Israel must tell the world: “All of these facts are not known. There is also material which the Foreign Ministry prepared from the documents of the Arab institutions, of the Mufti, Jamal al-Husseini [He probably meant Haj Amin al-Husseini; Jamal al-Husseini was the Palestinians’ unofficial representative at the United Nations − S.H.], concerning the flight, [showing] that this was of their own free will, because they were told the country would soon be conquered and you will return to be its lord and masters and not just return to your homes.”
In 1961, against the backdrop of what Ben-Gurion described as the need for “a serious operation, both in written form and in oral hasbara,” the Shiloah Institute was asked to collect material for the government about “the flight of the Arabs from the Land of Israel in 1948.”