person:benny morris

  • Burying the Nakba: How Israel systematically hides evidence of 1948 expulsion of Arabs
    By Hagar Shezaf Jul 05, 2019 - Israel News -

    International forces overseeing the evacuation of Iraq al-Manshiyya, near today’s Kiryat Gat, in March, 1949. Collection of Benno Rothenberg/Israel State Archives

    Four years ago, historian Tamar Novick was jolted by a document she found in the file of Yosef Vashitz, from the Arab Department of the left-wing Mapam Party, in the Yad Yaari archive at Givat Haviva. The document, which seemed to describe events that took place during the 1948 war, began:

    “Safsaf [former Palestinian village near Safed] – 52 men were caught, tied them to one another, dug a pit and shot them. 10 were still twitching. Women came, begged for mercy. Found bodies of 6 elderly men. There were 61 bodies. 3 cases of rape, one east of from Safed, girl of 14, 4 men shot and killed. From one they cut off his fingers with a knife to take the ring.”

    The writer goes on to describe additional massacres, looting and abuse perpetrated by Israeli forces in Israel’s War of Independence. “There’s no name on the document and it’s not clear who’s behind it,” Dr. Novick tells Haaretz. “It also breaks off in the middle. I found it very disturbing. I knew that finding a document like this made me responsible for clarifying what happened.”

    The Upper Galilee village of Safsaf was captured by the Israel Defense Forces in Operation Hiram toward the end of 1948. Moshav Safsufa was established on its ruins. Allegations were made over the years that the Seventh Brigade committed war crimes in the village. Those charges are supported by the document Novick found, which was not previously known to scholars. It could also constitute additional evidence that the Israeli top brass knew about what was going on in real time.

    Novick decided to consult with other historians about the document. Benny Morris, whose books are basic texts in the study of the Nakba – the “calamity,” as the Palestinians refer to the mass emigration of Arabs from the country during the 1948 war – told her that he, too, had come across similar documentation in the past. He was referring to notes made by Mapam Central Committee member Aharon Cohen on the basis of a briefing given in November 1948 by Israel Galili, the former chief of staff of the Haganah militia, which became the IDF. Cohen’s notes in this instance, which Morris published, stated: “Safsaf 52 men tied with a rope. Dropped into a pit and shot. 10 were killed. Women pleaded for mercy. [There were] 3 cases of rape. Caught and released. A girl of 14 was raped. Another 4 were killed. Rings of knives.”

    Morris’ footnote (in his seminal “The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem, 1947-1949”) states that this document was also found in the Yad Yaari Archive. But when Novick returned to examine the document, she was surprised to discover that it was no longer there.

    Palestine refugees initially displaced to Gaza board boats to Lebanon or Egypt, in 1949. Hrant Nakashian/1949 UN Archives

    “At first I thought that maybe Morris hadn’t been accurate in his footnote, that perhaps he had made a mistake,” Novick recalls. “It took me time to consider the possibility that the document had simply disappeared.” When she asked those in charge where the document was, she was told that it had been placed behind lock and key at Yad Yaari – by order of the Ministry of Defense.

    Since the start of the last decade, Defense Ministry teams have been scouring Israel’s archives and removing historic documents. But it’s not just papers relating to Israel’s nuclear project or to the country’s foreign relations that are being transferred to vaults: Hundreds of documents have been concealed as part of a systematic effort to hide evidence of the Nakba.

    The phenomenon was first detected by the Akevot Institute for Israeli-Palestinian Conflict Research. According to a report drawn up by the institute, the operation is being spearheaded by Malmab, the Defense Ministry’s secretive security department (the name is a Hebrew acronym for “director of security of the defense establishment”), whose activities and budget are classified. The report asserts that Malmab removed historical documentation illegally and with no authority, and at least in some cases has sealed documents that had previously been cleared for publication by the military censor. Some of the documents that were placed in vaults had already been published.
    An investigative report by Haaretz found that Malmab has concealed testimony from IDF generals about the killing of civilians and the demolition of villages, as well as documentation of the expulsion of Bedouin during the first decade of statehood. Conversations conducted by Haaretz with directors of public and private archives alike revealed that staff of the security department had treated the archives as their property, in some cases threatening the directors themselves.

    Yehiel Horev, who headed Malmab for two decades, until 2007, acknowledged to Haaretz that he launched the project, which is still ongoing. He maintains that it makes sense to conceal the events of 1948, because uncovering them could generate unrest among the country’s Arab population. Asked what the point is of removing documents that have already been published, he explained that the objective is to undermine the credibility of studies about the history of the refugee problem. In Horev’s view, an allegation made by a researcher that’s backed up by an original document is not the same as an allegation that cannot be proved or refuted.

    The document Novick was looking for might have reinforced Morris’ work. During the investigation, Haaretz was in fact able to find the Aharon Cohen memo, which sums up a meeting of Mapam’s Political Committee on the subject of massacres and expulsions in 1948. Participants in the meeting called for cooperation with a commission of inquiry that would investigate the events. One case the committee discussed concerned “grave actions” carried out in the village of Al-Dawayima, east of Kiryat Gat. One participant mentioned the then-disbanded Lehi underground militia in this connection. Acts of looting were also reported: “Lod and Ramle, Be’er Sheva, there isn’t [an Arab] store that hasn’t been broken into. 9th Brigade says 7, 7th Brigade says 8.”
    “The party,” the document states near the end, “is against expulsion if there is no military necessity for it. There are different approaches concerning the evaluation of necessity. And further clarification is best. What happened in Galilee – those are Nazi acts! Every one of our members must report what he knows.”

    The Israeli version
    One of the most fascinating documents about the origin of the Palestinian refugee problem was written by an officer in Shai, the precursor to the Shin Bet security service. It discusses why the country was emptied of so many of its Arab inhabitants, dwelling on the circumstances of each village. Compiled in late June 1948, it was titled “The Emigration of the Arabs of Palestine.”

    Read a translation of the document here (1)

    This document was the basis for an article that Benny Morris published in 1986. After the article appeared, the document was removed from the archive and rendered inaccessible to researchers. Years later, the Malmab team reexamined the document, and ordered that it remain classified. They could not have known that a few years later researchers from Akevot would find a copy of the text and run it past the military censors – who authorized its publication unconditionally. Now, after years of concealment, the gist of the document is being revealed here.

    The 25-page document begins with an introduction that unabashedly approves of the evacuation of the Arab villages. According to the author, the month of April “excelled in an increase of emigration,” while May “was blessed with the evacuation of maximum places.” The report then addresses “the causes of the Arab emigration.” According to the Israeli narrative that was disseminated over the years, responsibility for the exodus from Israel rests with Arab politicians who encouraged the population to leave. However, according to the document, 70 percent of the Arabs left as a result of Jewish military operations.

    Palestinian children awaiting distribution of milk by UNICEF at the Nazareth Franciscan Sisters’ convent, on January 1, 1950. AW / UN Photo

    The unnamed author of the text ranks the reasons for the Arabs’ departure in order of importance. The first reason: “Direct Jewish acts of hostility against Arab places of settlement.” The second reason was the impact of those actions on neighboring villages. Third in importance came “operations by the breakaways,” namely the Irgun and Lehi undergrounds. The fourth reason for the Arab exodus was orders issued by Arab institutions and “gangs” (as the document refers to all Arab fighting groups); fifth was “Jewish ’whispering operations’ to induce the Arab inhabitants to flee”; and the sixth factor was “evacuation ultimatums.”

    The author asserts that, “without a doubt, the hostile operations were the main cause of the movement of the population.” In addition, “Loudspeakers in the Arabic language proved their effectiveness on the occasions when they were utilized properly.” As for Irgun and Lehi operations, the report observes that “many in the villages of central Galilee started to flee following the abduction of the notables of Sheikh Muwannis [a village north of Tel Aviv]. The Arab learned that it is not enough to forge an agreement with the Haganah and that there are other Jews [i.e., the breakaway militias] to beware of.”

    The author notes that ultimatums to leave were especially employed in central Galilee, less so in the Mount Gilboa region. “Naturally, the act of this ultimatum, like the effect of the ’friendly advice,’ came after a certain preparing of the ground by means of hostile actions in the area.”
    An appendix to the document describes the specific causes of the exodus from each of scores of Arab locales: Ein Zeitun – “our destruction of the village”; Qeitiya – “harassment, threat of action”; Almaniya – “our action, many killed”; Tira – “friendly Jewish advice”; Al’Amarir – “after robbery and murder carried out by the breakaways”; Sumsum – “our ultimatum”; Bir Salim – “attack on the orphanage”; and Zarnuga – “conquest and expulsion.”

    Short fuse
    In the early 2000s, the Yitzhak Rabin Center conducted a series of interviews with former public and military figures as part of a project to document their activity in the service of the state. The long arm of Malmab seized on these interviews, too. Haaretz, which obtained the original texts of several of the interviews, compared them to the versions that are now available to the public, after large swaths of them were declared classified.

    These included, for example, sections of the testimony of Brig. Gen. (res.) Aryeh Shalev about the expulsion across the border of the residents of a village he called “Sabra.” Later in the interview, the following sentences were deleted: “There was a very serious problem in the valley. There were refugees who wanted to return to the valley, to the Triangle [a concentration of Arab towns and villages in eastern Israel]. We expelled them. I met with them to persuade them not to want that. I have papers about it.”

    In another case, Malmab decided to conceal the following segment from an interview that historian Boaz Lev Tov conducted with Maj. Gen. (res.) Elad Peled:
    Lev Tov: “We’re talking about a population – women and children?”
    Peled: “All, all. Yes.”
    Lev Tov: “Don’t you distinguish between them?”
    Peled: “The problem is very simple. The war is between two populations. They come out of their home.”
    Lev Tov: “If the home exists, they have somewhere to return to?”
    Peled: “It’s not armies yet, it’s gangs. We’re also actually gangs. We come out of the house and return to the house. They come out of the house and return to the house. It’s either their house or our house.”
    Lev Tov: “Qualms belong to the more recent generation?”
    Peled: “Yes, today. When I sit in an armchair here and think about what happened, all kinds of thoughts come to mind.”
    Lev Tov: “Wasn’t that the case then?”
    Peled: “Look, let me tell you something even less nice and cruel, about the big raid in Sasa [Palestinian village in Upper Galilee]. The goal was actually to deter them, to tell them, ‘Dear friends, the Palmach [the Haganah “shock troops”] can reach every place, you are not immune.’ That was the heart of the Arab settlement. But what did we do? My platoon blew up 20 homes with everything that was there.”
    Lev Tov: “While people were sleeping there?”
    Peled: “I suppose so. What happened there, we came, we entered the village, planted a bomb next to every house, and afterward Homesh blew on a trumpet, because we didn’t have radios, and that was the signal [for our forces] to leave. We’re running in reverse, the sappers stay, they pull, it’s all primitive. They light the fuse or pull the detonator and all those houses are gone.”

    IDF soldiers guarding Palestinians in Ramle, in 1948. Collection of Benno Rothenberg/The IDF and Defense Establishment Archives

    Another passage that the Defense Ministry wanted to keep from the public came from Dr. Lev Tov’s conversation with Maj. Gen. Avraham Tamir:
    Tamir: “I was under Chera [Maj. Gen. Tzvi Tzur, later IDF chief of staff], and I had excellent working relations with him. He gave me freedom of action – don’t ask – and I happened to be in charge of staff and operations work during two developments deriving from [Prime Minister David] Ben-Gurion’s policy. One development was when reports arrived about marches of refugees from Jordan toward the abandoned villages [in Israel]. And then Ben-Gurion lays down as policy that we have to demolish [the villages] so they won’t have anywhere to return to. That is, all the Arab villages, most of which were in [the area covered by] Central Command, most of them.”
    Lev Tov: “The ones that were still standing?”
    Tamir: “The ones that weren’t yet inhabited by Israelis. There were places where we had already settled Israelis, like Zakariyya and others. But most of them were still abandoned villages.”
    Lev Tov: “That were standing?”
    Tamir: “Standing. It was necessary for there to be no place for them to return to, so I mobilized all the engineering battalions of Central Command, and within 48 hours I knocked all those villages to the ground. Period. There’s no place to return to.”
    Lev Tov: “Without hesitation, I imagine.”
    Tamir: “Without hesitation. That was the policy. I mobilized, I carried it out and I did it.”

    Crates in vaults
    The vault of the Yad Yaari Research and Documentation Center is one floor below ground level. In the vault, which is actually a small, well-secured room, are stacks of crates containing classified documents. The archive houses the materials of the Hashomer Hatzair movement, the Kibbutz Ha’artzi kibbutz movement, Mapam, Meretz and other bodies, such as Peace Now.
    The archive’s director is Dudu Amitai, who is also chairman of the Association of Israel Archivists. According to Amitai, Malmab personnel visited the archive regularly between 2009 and 2011. Staff of the archive relate that security department teams – two Defense Ministry retirees with no archival training – would show up two or three times a week. They searched for documents according to such keywords as “nuclear,” “security” and “censorship,” and also devoted considerable time to the War of Independence and the fate of the pre-1948 Arab villages.
    “In the end, they submitted a summary to us, saying that they had located a few dozen sensitive documents,” Amitai says. “We don’t usually take apart files, so dozens of files, in their entirety, found their way into our vault and were removed from the public catalog.” A file might contain more than 100 documents.
    One of the files that was sealed deals with the military government that controlled the lives of Israel’s Arab citizens from 1948 until 1966. For years, the documents were stored in the same vault, inaccessible to scholars. Recently, in the wake of a request by Prof. Gadi Algazi, a historian from Tel Aviv University, Amitai examined the file himself and ruled that there was no reason not to unseal it, Malmab’s opinion notwithstanding.

    According to Algazi, there could be several reasons for Malmab’s decision to keep the file classified. One of them has to do with a secret annex it contains to a report by a committee that examined the operation of the military government. The report deals almost entirely with land-ownership battles between the state and Arab citizens, and barely touches on security matters.

    Another possibility is a 1958 report by the ministerial committee that oversaw the military government. In one of the report’s secret appendixes, Col. Mishael Shaham, a senior officer in the military government, explains that one reason for not dismantling the martial law apparatus is the need to restrict Arab citizens’ access to the labor market and to prevent the reestablishment of destroyed villages.
    A third possible explanation for hiding the file concerns previously unpublished historical testimony about the expulsion of Bedouin. On the eve of Israel’s establishment, nearly 100,000 Bedouin lived in the Negev. Three years later, their number was down to 13,000. In the years during and after the independence war, a number of expulsion operations were carried out in the country’s south. In one case, United Nations observers reported that Israel had expelled 400 Bedouin from the Azazma tribe and cited testimonies of tents being burned. The letter that appears in the classified file describes a similar expulsion carried out as late as 1956, as related by geologist Avraham Parnes:

    The evacuation of Iraq al-Manshiyya, near today’s Kiryat Gat, in March, 1949. Collection of Benno Rothenberg/The IDF and Defense Establishment Archives

    “A month ago we toured Ramon [crater]. The Bedouin in the Mohila area came to us with their flocks and their families and asked us to break bread with them. I replied that we had a great deal of work to do and didn’t have time. In our visit this week, we headed toward Mohila again. Instead of the Bedouin and their flocks, there was deathly silence. Scores of camel carcasses were scattered in the area. We learned that three days earlier the IDF had ‘screwed’ the Bedouin, and their flocks were destroyed – the camels by shooting, the sheep with grenades. One of the Bedouin, who started to complain, was killed, the rest fled.”

    The testimony continued, “Two weeks earlier, they’d been ordered to stay where they were for the time being, afterward they were ordered to leave, and to speed things up 500 head were slaughtered.... The expulsion was executed ‘efficiently.’” The letter goes on to quote what one of the soldiers said to Parnes, according to his testimony: “They won’t go unless we’ve screwed their flocks. A young girl of about 16 approached us. She had a beaded necklace of brass snakes. We tore the necklace and each of us took a bead for a souvenir.”

    The letter was originally sent to MK Yaakov Uri, from Mapai (forerunner of Labor), who passed it on to Development Minister Mordechai Bentov (Mapam). “His letter shocked me,” Uri wrote Bentov. The latter circulated the letter among all the cabinet ministers, writing, “It is my opinion that the government cannot simply ignore the facts related in the letter.” Bentov added that, in light of the appalling contents of the letter, he asked security experts to check its credibility. They had confirmed that the contents “do in fact generally conform to the truth.”

    Nuclear excuse
    It was during the tenure of historian Tuvia Friling as Israel’s chief archivist, from 2001 to 2004, that Malmab carried out its first archival incursions. What began as an operation to prevent the leakage of nuclear secrets, he says, became, in time, a large-scale censorship project.
    “I resigned after three years, and that was one of the reasons,” Prof. Friling says. “The classification placed on the document about the Arabs’ emigration in 1948 is precisely an example of what I was apprehensive about. The storage and archival system is not an arm of the state’s public relations. If there’s something you don’t like – well, that’s life. A healthy society also learns from its mistakes.”

    Why did Friling allow the Defense Ministry to have access the archives? The reason, he says, was the intention to give the public access to archival material via the internet. In discussions about the implications of digitizing the material, concern was expressed that references in the documents to a “certain topic” would be made public by mistake. The topic, of course, is Israel’s nuclear project. Friling insists that the only authorization Malmab received was to search for documents on that subject.

    But Malmab’s activity is only one example of a broader problem, Friling notes: “In 1998, the confidentiality of the [oldest documents in the] Shin Bet and Mossad archives expired. For years those two institutions disdained the chief archivist. When I took over, they requested that the confidentiality of all the material be extended [from 50] to 70 years, which is ridiculous – most of the material can be opened.”

    In 2010, the confidentiality period was extended to 70 years; last February it was extended again, to 90 years, despite the opposition of the Supreme Council of Archives. “The state may impose confidentiality on some of its documentation,” Friling says. “The question is whether the issue of security doesn’t act as a kind of cover. In many cases, it’s already become a joke.”
    In the view of Yad Yaari’s Dudu Amitai, the confidentiality imposed by the Defense Ministry must be challenged. In his period at the helm, he says, one of the documents placed in the vault was an order issued by an IDF general, during a truce in the War of Independence, for his troops to refrain from rape and looting. Amitai now intends to go over the documents that were deposited in the vault, especially 1948 documents, and open whatever is possible. “We’ll do it cautiously and responsibly, but recognizing that the State of Israel has to learn how to cope with the less pleasant aspects of its history.”
    In contrast to Yad Yaari, where ministry personnel no longer visit, they are continuing to peruse documents at Yad Tabenkin, the research and documentation center of the United Kibbutz Movement. The director, Aharon Azati, reached an agreement with the Malmab teams under which documents will be transferred to the vault only if he is convinced that this is justified. But in Yad Tabenkin, too, Malmab has broadened its searches beyond the realm of nuclear project to encompass interviews conducted by archival staff with former members of the Palmach, and has even perused material about the history of the settlements in the occupied territories.

    Malmab has, for example, shown interest in the Hebrew-language book “A Decade of Discretion: Settlement Policy in the Territories 1967-1977,” published by Yad Tabenkin in 1992, and written by Yehiel Admoni, director of the Jewish Agency’s Settlement Department during the decade he writes about. The book mentions a plan to settle Palestinian refugees in the Jordan Valley and to the uprooting of 1,540 Bedouin families from the Rafah area of the Gaza Strip in 1972, including an operation that included the sealing of wells by the IDF. Ironically, in the case of the Bedouin, Admoni quotes former Justice Minister Yaakov Shimshon Shapira as saying, “It is not necessary to stretch the security rationale too far. The whole Bedouin episode is not a glorious chapter of the State of Israel.”

    Palestinian refugees leaving their village, unknown location, 1948. UNRWA

    According to Azati, “We are moving increasingly to a tightening of the ranks. Although this is an era of openness and transparency, there are apparently forces that are pulling in the opposite direction.”
    Unauthorized secrecy
    About a year ago, the legal adviser to the State Archives, attorney Naomi Aldouby, wrote an opinion titled “Files Closed Without Authorization in Public Archives.” According to her, the accessibility policy of public archives is the exclusive purview of the director of each institution.
    Despite Aldouby’s opinion, however, in the vast majority of cases, archivists who encountered unreasonable decisions by Malmab did not raise objections – that is, until 2014, when Defense Ministry personnel arrived at the archive of the Harry S. Truman Research Institute at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. To the visitors’ surprise, their request to examine the archive – which contains collections of former minister and diplomat Abba Eban and Maj. Gen. (res.) Shlomo Gazit – was turned down by its then director, Menahem Blondheim.

    According to Blondheim, “I told them that the documents in question were decades old, and that I could not imagine that there was any security problem that would warrant restricting their access to researchers. In response, they said, ‘And let’s say there is testimony here that wells were poisoned in the War of Independence?’ I replied, ‘Fine, those people should be brought to trial.’”
    Blondheim’s refusal led to a meeting with a more senior ministry official, only this time the attitude he encountered was different and explicit threats were made. Finally the two sides reached an accommodation.
    Benny Morris is not surprised at Malmab’s activity. “I knew about it,” he says “Not officially, no one informed me, but I encountered it when I discovered that documents I had seen in the past are now sealed. There were documents from the IDF Archive that I used for an article about Deir Yassin, and which are now sealed. When I came to the archive, I was no longer allowed to see the original, so I pointed out in a footnote [in the article] that the State Archive had denied access to documents that I had published 15 years earlier.”
    The Malmab case is only one example of the battle being waged for access to archives in Israel. According to the executive director of the Akevot Institute, Lior Yavne, “The IDF Archive, which is the largest archive in Israel, is sealed almost hermetically. About 1 percent of the material is open. The Shin Bet archive, which contains materials of immense importance [to scholars], is totally closed apart from a handful of documents.”

    A report written by Yaacov Lozowick, the previous chief archivist at the State Archives, upon his retirement, refers to the defense establishment’s grip on the country’s archival materials. In it, he writes, “A democracy must not conceal information because it is liable to embarrass the state. In practice, the security establishment in Israel, and to a certain extent that of foreign relations as well, are interfering with the [public] discussion.”

    Advocates of concealment put forward several arguments, Lozowick notes: “The uncovering of the facts could provide our enemies with a battering ram against us and weaken the determination of our friends; it’s liable to stir up the Arab population; it could enfeeble the state’s arguments in courts of law; and what is revealed could be interpreted as Israeli war crimes.” However, he says, “All these arguments must be rejected. This is an attempt to hide part of the historical truth in order to construct a more convenient version.”

    What Malmab says
    Yehiel Horev was the keeper of the security establishment’s secrets for more than two decades. He headed the Defense Ministry’s security department from 1986 until 2007 and naturally kept out of the limelight. To his credit, he now agreed to talk forthrightly to Haaretz about the archives project.
    “I don’t remember when it began,” Horev says, “but I do know that I started it. If I’m not mistaken, it started when people wanted to publish documents from the archives. We had to set up teams to examine all outgoing material.”
    From conversations with archive directors, it’s clear that a good deal of the documents on which confidentiality was imposed relate to the War of Independence. Is concealing the events of 1948 part of the purpose of Malmab?

    Palestinian refugees in the Ramle area, 1948. Boris Carmi / The IDF and Defense Establishment Archives

    “What does ‘part of the purpose’ mean? The subject is examined based on an approach of whether it could harm Israel’s foreign relations and the defense establishment. Those are the criteria. I think it’s still relevant. There has not been peace since 1948. I may be wrong, but to the best of my knowledge the Arab-Israeli conflict has not been resolved. So yes, it could be that problematic subjects remain.”

    Asked in what way such documents might be problematic, Horev speaks of the possibility of agitation among the country’s Arab citizens. From his point of view, every document must be perused and every case decided on its merits.

    If the events of 1948 weren’t known, we could argue about whether this approach is the right one. That is not the case. Many testimonies and studies have appeared about the history of the refugee problem. What’s the point of hiding things?
    “The question is whether it can do harm or not. It’s a very sensitive matter. Not everything has been published about the refugee issue, and there are all kinds of narratives. Some say there was no flight at all, only expulsion. Others say there was flight. It’s not black-and-white. There’s a difference between flight and those who say they were forcibly expelled. It’s a different picture. I can’t say now if it merits total confidentiality, but it’s a subject that definitely has to be discussed before a decision is made about what to publish.”

    For years, the Defense Ministry has imposed confidentiality on a detailed document that describes the reasons for the departure of those who became refugees. Benny Morris has already written about the document, so what’s the logic of keeping it hidden?
    “I don’t remember the document you’re referring to, but if he quoted from it and the document itself is not there [i.e., where Morris says it is], then his facts aren’t strong. If he says, ‘Yes, I have the document,’ I can’t argue with that. But if he says that it’s written there, that could be right and it could be wrong. If the document were already outside and were sealed in the archive, I would say that that’s folly. But if someone quoted from it – there’s a difference of day and night in terms of the validity of the evidence he cited.”

    In this case, we’re talking about the most quoted scholar when it comes to the Palestinian refugees.
    “The fact that you say ‘scholar’ makes no impression on me. I know people in academia who spout nonsense about subjects that I know from A to Z. When the state imposes confidentiality, the published work is weakened, because he doesn’t have the document.”

    But isn’t concealing documents based on footnotes in books an attempt to lock the barn door after the horses have bolted?
    “I gave you an example that this needn’t be the case. If someone writes that the horse is black, if the horse isn’t outside the barn, you can’t prove that it’s really black.”

    There are legal opinions stating that Malmab’s activity in the archives is illegal and unauthorized.
    “If I know that an archive contains classified material, I am empowered to tell the police to go there and confiscate the material. I can also utilize the courts. I don’t need the archivist’s authorization. If there is classified material, I have the authority to act. Look, there’s policy. Documents aren’t sealed for no reason. And despite it all, I won’t say to you that everything that’s sealed is 100 percent justified [in being sealed].”

    The Defense Ministry refused to respond to specific questions regarding the findings of this investigative report and made do with the following response: “The director of security of the defense establishment operates by virtue of his responsibility to protect the state’s secrets and its security assets. The Malmab does not provide details about its mode of activity or its missions.”

    Lee Rotbart assisted in providing visual research for this article.


  • Israël hanté par la Nakba
    Thomas Vescovi, Monde diplomatique, mai 2018

    « La marche du grand retour » : c’est ainsi que les organisations politiques palestiniennes nomment les actions menées chaque année depuis 2009 entre le 30 mars et le 15 mai. Pour l’État d’Israël, le 14 mai marque le souvenir de ce jour de 1948 où David Ben Gourion déclara l’indépendance. La société palestinienne, elle, commémore le lendemain la Nakba (« catastrophe », en arabe) : l’expulsion des 805 000 Palestiniens dont les descendants attendent encore l’application de la résolution 194, votée le 11 décembre 1948 par l’Assemblée générale de l’Organisation des Nations unies (ONU). Ce texte fonde leur « droit au retour » : c’est-à-dire de pouvoir rentrer dans leurs foyers ou de recevoir une compensation. Enfin, c’est à cette date que l’administration de M. Donald Trump entend inaugurer la nouvelle ambassade des États-Unis à Jérusalem.

    Au terme de la première guerre israélo-arabe, des centaines de milliers de Palestiniens se retrouvent éparpillés aux quatre coins de la région. Des historiens enregistrent les événements, conscients que la version du vainqueur risque de s’imposer. Les écrits de Walid Khalidi ou Sami Hadawi sont sans ambiguïté : qu’il ait préféré fuir de lui-même pour se protéger ou qu’il y ait été forcé, le peuple palestinien a été chassé de sa terre (1). Mais, pour que cette version des événements de 1948 se diffuse au-delà du monde arabe, il a fallu attendre 1987 et la publication des premiers ouvrages des « nouveaux historiens » israéliens, parmi lesquels Benny Morris, Tom Segev, Ilan Pappé et Avi Shlaïm (2). En s’appuyant sur les archives de leur État, ces chercheurs ébranlèrent un à un les piliers de l’historiographie officielle.

    La temporalité de ces publications n’est pas anodine. Le premier ouvrage paraît lorsque se déclenche la première Intifada, près d’une décennie après l’arrivée au pouvoir de la droite et le début du mouvement refuznik, qui voit des objecteurs de conscience refuser de servir dans les territoires occupés tandis que des militaires israéliens s’interrogent à propos des pratiques de leur armée. Les pacifistes entrent dans une phase d’ouverture et d’interrogation sur leur société, leur État et leur rapport à l’autre. L’accession d’Itzhak Rabin au poste de premier ministre en 1992 et le début des négociations avec l’Organisation de libération de la Palestine (OLP), qui conduisent à la signature des accords d’Oslo en septembre 1993, s’inscrivent dans ce cadre. C’est l’époque où la guerre froide se termine et où le soutien de nombreux pays arabes à la coalition anti-irakienne durant la guerre du Golfe de 1991 sonne le glas d’un panarabisme longtemps opposé à toute négociation avec Israël.

    Au cours de la première moitié des années 1990, les travaux des « nouveaux historiens » suscitent un réel intérêt au sein d’une partie de la société israélienne. Conférences, séminaires, débats dans les médias : sans être acceptées par tous, les thèses avancées dans ces ouvrages sont du moins discutées. Des projets d’écriture d’une histoire israélo-palestinienne surgissent, de même que des commissions visant à revoir les programmes d’histoire dans les écoles. Cependant, les discussions restent cantonnées aux milieux intellectuels. L’assassinat de Rabin par un extrémiste juif en 1995, puis l’arrivée au pouvoir de M. Benyamin Netanyahou en 1996 et le début des attentats-suicides sur le sol israélien mettent à mal ce processus d’ouverture, mais ne l’interrompent pas.

    Le déclenchement de la seconde Intifada, fin septembre 2000, referme néanmoins les derniers espaces d’échange et de dialogue entre Israéliens et Palestiniens au sujet de leurs récits historiques. Principaux promoteurs de ces relations, les mouvements pacifistes s’effondrent à la suite de l’échec, en juillet 2000, du sommet de Camp David ; un échec dont le premier ministre travailliste Ehoud Barak, par un tour de passe-passe masquant sa propre intransigeance (il reconnaîtra plus tard n’avoir rien proposé au dirigeant palestinien), impute la responsabilité au seul Yasser Arafat. Sans représenter l’avant-garde du mouvement, les militants de la gauche sioniste parvenaient à rassembler de larges secteurs de la société israélienne. Avec les déclarations de M. Barak et le déclenchement d’un second soulèvement palestinien bien plus meurtrier et militarisé que le premier, la majeure partie d’entre eux cessent toute activité pacifiste ; leurs organisations s’essoufflent.

    Pour la société juive, il n’y aurait alors « plus de partenaire » avec qui faire la paix. Les Israéliens perçoivent la seconde Intifada comme une attaque sans sommation des Palestiniens, qui plus est marquée par la mobilisation du Hamas, nouvelle force politique à tendance islamiste, ce qui fait écho à une actualité mondiale anxiogène. En 2001, Ariel Sharon, chef de file de la droite, remporte les élections en proposant une autre issue : puisque la cohabitation est impossible, la séparation amènera la paix. Conformément à cette logique unilatérale, un mur est construit en Cisjordanie entre Palestiniens et colons israéliens et l’armée se retire de la bande de Gaza.

    La mémoire de la Nakba est à nouveau profondément enfouie au profit de la vieille propagande : les Palestiniens auraient quitté leur terre pour ne pas vivre avec des Juifs ; Israël a droit à cette terre que Dieu aurait donnée à Abraham. Dès sa prise de fonctions, Sharon fait retirer des écoles le manuel d’histoire d’Eyal Naveh, qui introduisait une vision hétérodoxe de 1948. À l’université, les travaux des « nouveaux historiens » sont combattus avec virulence. Aujourd’hui, cette bataille est au cœur des actions d’Im Tirtzu, une organisation estudiantine proche du dirigeant d’extrême droite et actuel ministre de l’éducation Naftali Bennett, dont les militants ont mené ces dernières années une campagne baptisée « La Nakba est un mensonge » (3). Les Israéliens refusent de se considérer comme partie prenante de l’histoire palestinienne, et les institutions leur martèlent qu’ils sont les héritiers d’idées émancipatrices et progressistes.

    La création d’Israël a lieu au lendemain de la guerre la plus meurtrière de l’histoire, à l’issue de laquelle les idéaux de liberté ont triomphé du fascisme. Les Juifs incarnent les principales victimes de la terreur nazie, et la fondation d’un État-refuge au Proche-Orient doit venir réparer cette tragédie pourtant européenne. Dès lors, la défense d’Israël devient un enjeu à la fois politique et civilisationnel. La mémoire de la Nakba risque de ternir la totale innocence qu’affiche l’appareil d’État israélien. Accepter qu’à la création du pays ses combattants n’aient pas été des victimes, mais des bourreaux, ruinerait la « pureté des armes » dont se targue l’armée dite « de défense » d’Israël.

    La logique de séparation a entraîné dans la société juive israélienne un profond désintérêt pour la question palestinienne. Lors des élections législatives de mars 2015, seuls 9 % considéraient l’obtention d’un accord de paix avec les Palestiniens comme une priorité pour le prochain gouvernement (4). Ce sujet devenant invisible à leurs yeux, une forte proportion d’Israéliens se rallient aux idées les plus nationalistes. En 2001, lorsque la violence de la seconde Intifada était à son paroxysme, 35 % d’entre eux se disaient favorables à un « transfert » de la population arabe hors d’Israël vers la Cisjordanie ou la Jordanie (5). En 2015, 58 % soutiennent cette proposition, et 59 % la mise en place d’un régime d’apartheid privilégiant les Juifs en cas d’annexion de la Cisjordanie.

    Sur les ruines du grand mouvement pour la paix ont toutefois émergé de petites organisations agissant sur des questions plus ciblées. Ainsi Zochrot, fondée en 2001, se donne pour objectif d’enseigner la Nakba à la société israélienne. Elle a pris l’initiative de la première conférence sur le droit au retour des réfugiés palestiniens en Israël et organise depuis 2013 un festival annuel de films intitulé « De la Nakba au retour ». Elle propose également des visites de sites palestiniens « abandonnés » en 1948. La résidence d’un cheikh devenue cafétéria de l’université de Tel-Aviv, des maisons palestiniennes transformées en centre psychiatrique à Kfar Shaul : autant d’éléments du paysage israélien qui rappellent l’arabité de la terre. Pour les fondateurs du centre de recherche alternatif De-Colonizer (décoloniser), Éléonore Merza et Eitan Bronstein, la Nakba reste un tabou en Israël. En pratique, « la discussion se limite généralement à la question de savoir s’il est souhaitable ou même permis d’en discuter ». Cependant, ils notent que la situation a évolué, puisque le mot bénéficie d’un écho suffisant pour inquiéter les responsables politiques.

    Le 23 mars 2011, la Knesset, le Parlement israélien, adopte un amendement au budget prévoyant qu’aucune organisation commémorant le jour de la fête nationale comme un deuil ne reçoive plus de subventions. Naturellement, ces associations n’en bénéficiaient pas auparavant, mais il s’agit de les stigmatiser et de diffuser le sentiment que prendre part à ce type de manifestations vous place en dehors de la société. Par ailleurs, l’amendement dénie à la population arabe d’Israël, soit un habitant sur cinq, le droit d’honorer son histoire. D’ailleurs, depuis 2009, les écoles arabes n’ont officiellement plus le droit d’utiliser le terme « Nakba » dans leurs programmes.

    Pour la sociologue Ronit Lentin, il existe en Israël trois manières de considérer la Nakba (6). Une minorité ressasse la vision fantasmée de la Palestine comme « terre sans peuple pour un peuple sans terre ». D’autres reconnaissent partiellement la tragédie vécue par les Palestiniens, mais refusent d’admettre une quelconque responsabilité juive, voire répètent les arguments éculés sur les liens entre les Arabes et les nazis (7). Enfin, certains reconnaissent explicitement l’expulsion, mais refusent l’idée de présenter des excuses, ou regrettent même que le transfert n’ait pas été total — comme le « nouvel historien » repenti Benny Morris, qui a fini par affirmer : « Un État juif n’aurait pas pu être créé sans déraciner les Palestiniens (8). »

    Le Likoud, quant à lui, s’en tient à la version officielle niant toute expulsion, et par conséquent tout droit des Palestiniens sur la terre. La gauche sioniste reconnaît des massacres et des expulsions, mais en attribue la responsabilité aux milices nationalistes du Parti révisionniste, l’Irgoun et le Lehi.

    Pour certains militants anti-occupation, la découverte de la réalité de 1948 a marqué le début d’une remise en question plus générale de l’État d’Israël. D’où la réticence de beaucoup de leurs concitoyens à s’interroger sur cette période. Accepter de voir s’effondrer le récit inculqué depuis l’école les condamnerait à une marginalisation, voire à une stigmatisation ; on les accuserait d’accepter le discours de l’adversaire. Ainsi, certains parviennent à enfouir ces vérités au plus profond d’eux-mêmes afin de poursuivre normalement leur vie.

    Conformément à la théorie freudienne (9), Israël agit avec la Nakba comme un esprit traumatisé qui tente de refouler ce qui le hante. Une sorte d’« inquiétante étrangeté », à la source d’un sentiment de honte ressenti à l’égard d’actes passés, provoque un malaise qui pousse à vouloir les faire disparaître. Ce passé dérangeant revient, selon Freud, lorsque s’effacent les limites entre l’imagination et la réalité. La mémoire de la Nakba remonte à la surface par l’intermédiaire de divers acteurs qui détruisent les créations imaginaires pour montrer la réalité, et de Palestiniens qui saisissent toutes les occasions de resurgir dans l’espace public.

    La marche du 30 mars et celles qui ont suivi, avec leur lourd bilan humain, sont un cauchemar pour l’État d’Israël ; un rappel du fait que cinq millions de Palestiniens, les réfugiés et leurs descendants qui vivent à Gaza, en Cisjordanie ou dans d’autres pays de la région continuent de s’accrocher à leur droit au retour, ou à une indemnité à titre de compensation pour avoir été chassés de leur terre et de leurs demeures. Ils incarnent une injustice dont les Israéliens restent comptables.

    Thomas Vescovi Chercheur indépendant en histoire contemporaine, auteur de La Mémoire de la Nakba en Israël, L’Harmattan, coll. « Comprendre le Moyen-Orient », Paris, 2015.

    (1) Walid Khalidi, Nakba, 1947-1948, Sindbad - Actes sud - Institut des études palestiniennes, Arles, 2012.
    (2) Lire Dominique Vidal, « L’expulsion des Palestiniens revisitée par des historiens israéliens », Le Monde diplomatique, décembre 1997.
    (3) Lire Charles Enderlin, « Israël à l’heure de l’Inquisition », Le Monde diplomatique, mars 2016.
    (4) The Times of Israel, Jérusalem, 25 janvier 2015.
    (5) Gideon Levy, « Survey : Most Israeli Jews wouldn’t give Palestinians vote if West Bank was annexed », Haaretz, Tel-Aviv, 23 octobre 2012.
    (6) Ronit Lentin, Co-memory and Melancholia. Israelis memorialising the Palestinian Nakba, Manchester University Press, 2010.
    (7) Lire Gilbert Achcar, « Inusable grand mufti de Jérusalem », Le Monde diplomatique, mai 2010.
    (8) Haaretz, 9 janvier 2004.
    (9) Sigmund Freud, L’Inquiétante Étrangeté et autres essais, Gallimard, coll. « Folio essais », Paris, 1985 (1re éd. : 1919).

    #Palestine #Nakba #Histoire

  • The Palestinians who didn’t flee during the #Nakba
    Historian #Adel_Manna tells the story of the 120,000 Palestinians who remained in Israel in 1948 while 750,000 were driven out

    Did Prime Minister David #Ben-Gurion pursue a policy or issue an order aimed at getting rid of the Muslims?

    “I am not looking for a directive or a document bearing Ben-Gurion’s signature. He addressed the subject often, and I quote his statements in the book. For example, on September 26, 1948, he declared, ‘Only one task remains for the Arabs in the Land of Israel: to flee.’ The Israeli leadership understood and also concurred that, for the Jewish state, the fewer Arabs the better. The subject was mooted already in the late 1930s. Yosef Weitz, a senior official of the Jewish National Fund, supported extensive expulsion of Arabs and advocated a population transfer. The IDF commanders at different levels knew what the leadership wanted and acted accordingly. Massacres were not perpetrated everywhere. When you shell a village or a city neighborhood, the residents flee. In the first half of 1948, at least, they believed they would be able to return. When the fighting in Haifa ended, many residents tried to return from Acre in boats, but the Haganah blocked them.”

    Does your study confirm, or prove, that ethnic cleansing took place?

    “The book’s goal is not to prove whether ethnic cleansing occurred. My disagreement with [the review of my book in Haaretz by] #Benny_Morris did not revolve around the question of ‘whether ethnic cleansing took place or not,’ but deals with the question of whether the leadership did or did not make a decision in a particular meeting to implement a policy of ethnic cleansing.” In this connection, Manna quotes Daniel Blatman’s response (Haaretz, Aug. 4) to a review of his book by Morris (Haaretz, July 29). One might think from Morris’ book, Blatman noted, that “when Ratko Mladic decided to slaughter over 7,000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys in Srebrenica in 1995, he made his orders public.”

    Indeed, Manna points out, “The first historian who uncovered the fact that ethnic cleansing occurred and that there were also cases of massacre, rape and expulsion was Benny Morris. He reached the conclusion that there was no [official] policy, in light of the fact that no authoritative archival documentation exists. In one village, they decided a certain way and in another, differently. Still, there is a pattern: The soldiers perpetrated another massacre and carried out another expulsion, and another #massacre and another expulsion, and no one was brought to trial. If there was no policy, why weren’t these war criminals tried?”

  • Guerre de 6 jours, occupation de 50 ans… – Le Saker Francophone

    Aaron Mate : – Vous avez abordé un peu ce sujet, mais peut-être pouvez-vous entrer dans les détails : pourquoi Israël a-t-il pris des mesures si extraordinaires pour lancer cette guerre et s’emparer de tant de territoires ? Quelle était leur motivation ?

    Norman Finkelstein : – Eh bien, ce sont plusieurs motivations qui convergent. L’image d’ensemble est qu’Israël, depuis sa fondation en 1948, en particulier son Premier ministre et sa figure dominante, David Ben Gourion, s’est toujours inquiété de ce qu’il appelait un « Atatürk arabe » arrivant au pouvoir dans le monde arabe. À savoir, quelqu’un comme la figure turque Kemal Ataturk qui a modernisé la Turquie, a amené la Turquie dans le monde moderne, et il y avait toujours la peur de Ben Gurion selon lequel une figure comme Ataturk pourrait émerger dans le monde arabe, et le monde arabe se retirerait alors de l’état d’arriération et de dépendance vis-à-vis de l’Occident, et deviendrait une puissance avec laquelle il faudrait compter dans le monde et dans la région. En 1952, quand il y a eu la révolution égyptienne, et que finalement Nasser a émergé comme la figure dominante, Nasser était une sorte de figure emblématique de cette époque. C’est évidemment complètement oublié par tout le monde, sauf les historiens, mais c’était une époque très enivrante, c’était l’ère d’après-guerre du non-alignement, le Tiers-mondisme…

    Aaron Mate : – La solidarité au sein du Tiers-Monde, oui.

    Norman Finkelstein : – … l’anti-impérialisme, la décolonisation et les figures emblématiques étaient Nehru en Inde, Tito en Yougoslavie et Nasser. Ils n’étaient pas officiellement dans le bloc soviétique. Ils étaient une troisième force.

    Aaron Mate : – Non-alignée.

    Norman Finkelstein : Non alignée, exactement. Les non-alignés ont tendance à pencher vers le bloc soviétique parce que le bloc soviétique était officiellement anti-impérialiste, mais ils n’étaient pas alignés. Nasser était l’un des personnages dominants de cette période, donc il était anti-impérialiste, il était un modernisateur. Israël était vu, non sans raison, comme un implant occidental dans le monde arabe, et était également considéré comme essayant de maintenir le monde arabe [dans l’arriération].

    Il y avait donc une sorte de conflit et de collision entre Nasser et Israël. Et cela a commencé, encore une fois [ce que je dis est] très scrupuleusement documenté, pas par Finkelstein, mais par un historien dominant très réputé, à savoir Benny Morris. Si vous regardez son livre, Les guerres des frontières d’Israël, qui parle de la période de 1949 à 1956, il montre qu’autour de 1952-1953, Ben Gourion et Moshe Dayan étaient vraiment déterminés, et je le cite littéralement, à provoquer Nasser. À continuer à le frapper et à le frapper jusqu’à ce qu’ils aient un prétexte pour détruire Nasser. Ils voulaient se débarrasser de lui, et continuer à le provoquer, et dans une certaine mesure, Nasser ne pouvait pas s’empêcher [de riposter] après un certain point, il a été pris dans le piège, essentiellement. Cela n’a pas fonctionné exactement comme l’espéraient les Israéliens et donc en 1956, ils ont comploté, en collusion avec les Britanniques et les Français, pour renverser Nasser. Cela a fonctionné, jusqu’à un certain point. Ils ont envahi le Sinaï, les Britanniques et les Français ont joué leur rôle dans cette collusion…

    Aaron Mate : – Mais les Américains leur ont dit d’arrêter.

    #israël #palestine #juin67

  • Yes, Benny Morris, Israel did perpetrate ethnic cleansing in 1948 - Opinion - Israel News |
    The Israeli historian is right about one thing: The understandings that the Arabs should be expelled in 1948 were not carried out in full.

    Daniel Blatman Oct 14, 2016
    read more:

    A good historian always examines his conclusions. If he comes to the conclusion that things he wrote previously require a reassessment, he is obligated to face that. But a historian who, at the start of his career, determined that Israel is responsible for the mass flight of the Palestinians in 1948 and later changed his views until he became the darling of the settler right, is a pathetic phenomenon. Benny Morris has followed that path.
    He has betrayed two key duties of the historian: to be open-minded and recognize the extensive research literature that directly relates to his own areas of research; and not to distort his own previous conclusions due to current political insights. [Morris’ “Israel conducted no ethnic cleansing in 1948,” Haaretz, October 10, was in response to Daniel Blatman’s “Netanyahu, this Is what ethnic cleansing really looks like,” Haaretz, October 3.]
    On March 10, 1948, the national Haganah headquarters approved Plan Dalet, which discussed the intention of expelling as many Arabs as possible from the territory of the future Jewish state. Morris wrote about it in his book “1948: A History of the First Arab-Israeli War” (2010). He stated that the plan aroused a historiographical dispute, with pro-Palestinian historians claiming it was a master plan for expelling the Arabs living in Israel. He claimed that a careful examination of the plan’s wording leads to a different conclusion.
    Whose different conclusion? That of scholars who are experts on ethnic cleansing? Or legal experts who grappled with the problem? No, that of Morris, of course. He does not accept the definition of ethnic cleansing that was carried out by the Jews in 1948. Perhaps there was a “mini” ethnic cleansing in Lod and Ramle. Perhaps some marginal massacre (Deir Yassin), which caused the panicked flight of Palestinians.
    The problem is that these are precisely the circumstances that lead to ethnic cleansing. Had Morris bothered to properly study the documents of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, he would understand why his statements would be considered absurd at any serious scientific conference.
    The following was stated by the prosecutor in the trial of Radovan Karadzic, the Bosnian-Serb leader who was convicted of responsibility for the ethnic cleansing of Muslims in Bosnia: “In ethnic cleansing ... you act in such a way that in a given territory, the members of a given ethnic group are eliminated. ... You have massacres. Everybody is not massacred, but you have massacres in order to scare those populations. ... Naturally, the other people are driven away. They are afraid ... and, of course, in the end these people simply want to leave. ... They are driven away either on their own initiative or they are deported. ... Some women are raped and, furthermore, often times what you have is the destruction of the monuments which marked the presence of a given population ... for instance, Catholic churches or mosques are destroyed.”

  • The Poem That Exposed Israeli War Crimes in 1948 - Israel News - Haaretz

    On November 19, 1948, Natan Alterman, whose influential “Seventh Column” – an op-ed in poetry form – appeared every Friday in the daily Davar, the mouthpiece of Israel’s ruling Mapai party (forerunner of Labor), published a poem titled “About This.” Excerpts:
    Across the vanquished city in a jeep he did speed –
    A lad bold and armed, a young lion of a lad!
    And an old man and a woman on that very street
    Cowered against a wall, in fear of him clad.
    Said the lad smiling, milk teeth shining:
    “I’ll try the machine gun”… and put it into play!
    To hide his face in his hands the old man barely had time
    When his blood on the wall was sprayed.

    We shall sing, then, about “delicate incidents”
    Whose name, don’t you know, is murder.
    Sing of conversations with sympathetic listeners,
    Of snickers of forgiveness that are slurred.

    For those in combat gear, and we who impinge,
    Whether by action or agreement subliminal,
    Are thrust, muttering “necessity” and “revenge,”
    Into the realm of the war criminal.
    (translation by Ralph Mandel)
    Extremely moved by the verses, David Ben-Gurion, then chairman of the Provisional State Council in the nascent Jewish state, wrote Alterman: “Congratulations on the moral validity and the powerful expressiveness of your latest column in Davar… You are a pure and faithful mouthpiece of the human conscience, which, if it does not act and beat in our hearts in times like these, will render us unworthy of the great wonders vouchsafed to us until now.
    “I ask your permission to have 100,000 copies of the article – which no armored column in our army exceeds in combat strength – printed by the Defense Ministry for distribution to every army person in Israel.”
    What were the war crimes referred to in the poem?

    Natan Alterman.Moshe Milner / GPO
    The massacres perpetrated by Israeli forces in Lydda (Lod) and in the village of Al-Dawayima, west of Hebron, were among the worst mass killings of the entire War of Independence. In an interview in Haaretz in 2004, historian Benny Morris (author of “The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem, 1947-1949”) declared that the most egregious massacres “occurred at Saliha, in Upper Galilee (70-80 victims), Deir Yassin on the outskirts of Jerusalem (100-110), Lod (50), Dawamiya (hundreds) and perhaps Abu Shusha (70).”
    Lod was conquered in Operation Dani (July 9-19, 1948), which also targeted nearby Ramle. The political and military leadership viewed the capture of those two towns as crucial, because the concentration of Arab forces there threatened Tel Aviv and its surroundings. Specifically, the aim was for the fledgling Israel Defense Forces to clear the roads and allow access to the Jewish communities on the Tel Aviv-Jerusalem road – which remained under Arab control – and to take control of the hilly areas stretching from Latrun to the outskirts of Ramallah. This would mean a clash with units of Jordan’s Arab Legion, which were deployed – or supposedly deployed – in the area.
    Another goal of Operation Dani, which was led by Yigal Allon with Yitzhak Rabin as his deputy, was to expand the territories of the young Jewish state beyond the boundaries delineated by the UN partition plan.
    On July 10, Lod was bombed by the Israeli air force, the first such attack in the War of Independence. A large ground force had also been assembled, including three brigades and 30 artillery batteries, based on the army’s assessment that large Jordanian forces were in the area.
    To their surprise, the IDF units encountered little or no resistance. Even so, there are Palestinian and other Arab sources that allege that 250 people were massacred after Lod was taken. Claims about the scale of the massacre gain credence from Israeli historian Ilan Pappe, who maintains that the army killed 426 men, women and children in a local mosque and the surrounding streets. According to him, 176 bodies were found in the mosque, and the rest outside. Testimony of a Palestinian from Lod lends support to these estimates: “The [Israeli troops], violating all the conventions, shelled the mosque, killing everyone who was inside. I heard from friends who helped remove the dead from the mosque that they carried out 93 bodies; others said there were many more than a hundred.” Clearly, though, there are no agreed-upon, precise figures, and the estimates from both sides are tendentious.
    Israeli troops went from house to house, expelling the remaining inhabitants to the West Bank. In some cases, soldiers looted abandoned houses and stole from the refugees.
    Ben-Gurion’s intentions with respect to Lod remain a subject of debate. Years later, Rabin related how in a meeting with him and Allon, Ben-Gurion, when asked what to do with the residents of Ramle and Lod, gestured with his hand and said, “Expel them.” This version of events was to have been included in Rabin’s memoirs but was banned for publication in Israel, in 1979. His account did appear in The New York Times at the time, and caused a furor. Allon, who also took part in the meeting with Ben-Gurion, vehemently denied Rabin’s account.On July 12, an order was issued by the Yiftah Brigade “to remove the residents from Lod speedily … They are to be directed to Beit Naballah [near Ramle].” .

  • ’Barbarism by an educated and cultured people’ — #Dawayima #massacre was worse than #Deir_Yassin

    “There was no battle and no resistance (and no Egyptians). The first conquerors killed from eighty to a hundred Arabs [including] women and children. The children were killed by smashing of their skulls with sticks. Is it possible to shout about Deir Yassin and be silent about something much worse?” For the first time ever, a letter quoting one of the Israeli soldiers who were part of the Al-Dawayima massacre in October 1948 is published in full.

    On Friday, February 5th 2016, Haaretz published an article in Hebrew by Israeli historian Yair Auron, which covers one of the biggest massacres of 1948. The massacre is of Al Dawayima, west of Al-Khalil (which is often referred to as Hebron). In a 2004 interview with Haaretz, Israeli historian Benny Morris refers to this as a massacre of “hundreds”.

    After the massacre, a letter was sent to the editor of the leftist affiliated newspaper Al-Hamishmar, but never published. As Auron notes, there are still many archives of the time which are classified. Auron also states that there was an investigation that was never concluded and “died out” as a massive amnesty was provided to military personnel in February 1949.

    This is a very exhaustive article, but I found it useful enough to translate this letter in full on its own. The letter, which first “disappeared,’ was provided to Auron by historian Benny Morris. Although these matters have been referred to in passing in historical summaries, the letter has never been published before in full.

  • New play puts spotlight on Israel’s 1948 war of independence
    Marat Parkhomovosky’s ’1948’ is inspired by Benny Morris’ historical book about the formation of the state, and has triggered much discussion among audiences.
    By Tamar Rotem | Feb. 3, 2015 |Haaretz

    It’s not every play where the audience stays seated after the applause has died down. Usually, the lights come up and the audience members leave the auditorium in a hurry, speaking with one another about trivial matters. But after the show “1948” at the Tmoona Theater in Tel Aviv last month, most of the audience stayed in their seats, silent.

    No discussion about the Israeli War of Independence – the topic of the show – had been scheduled. But when the writer and director Marat Parkhomovosky, and Prof. Gad Kiner, the scholar and actor, suggested to the audience that they speak spontaneously, it seemed as if they had broken through a closed door.

    “There was a feeling we had allowed people to talk about a subject they are usually afraid to touch,” Parkhomovosky recalls. No one made any insulting remarks, although that was only the beginning of the show’s run.

    “1948” was born out of a moment of enlightenment Parkhomovosky experienced when he read Benny Morris’ book, also called “1948.” Morris’ insights about the War of Independence, particularly the reasons that led to the war and the Arabs’ flight in 1948 – still known as “the refugee problem” – were an eye-opener for him, since, as he says, they showed the distortion in the structuring of the history of the state’s establishment as it is taught in schools. Since Parkhomovosky, 35, writes for the stage, his immediate thought was that he had to adapt the book for the theater and show the truths that Morris had uncovered to the public at large.

    In his research, Morris retells the Zionist narrative of the establishment of the State of Israel and investigates the roots of the conflict. He documented the history of the War of Independence stage by stage, analyzed the birth of the refugee problem and uncovered dark episodes – particularly the cruelties perpetrated by Jewish combat soldiers during the war. According to Parkhomovosky, the Israelis’ bleeding wound is concealed in the history of that war, even more than the start of the occupation in 1967.

    “People talk about the War of Independence using the myth of the few against the many,” Parkhomovosky says. “We know about the war from the invasion of the Arab countries after independence was declared. But events took place before then that nobody talks about. My personal feeling is that the entire current Israeli experience is based on repression, and this repression makes it difficult – for me as well – to breathe and create.

    “Zionism actually wiped out the Arab culture here,” he adds. “But we don’t want to, or we cannot, deal with that original sin, which dictates our behavior and defines our existence and the management of the conflict to this day.”

    Despite his immediate urge to adapt Morris’ book, which was published in 2008, it took a few years for the show to take shape. Parkhomovosky, who writes cultural reviews on websites, faced a dilemma that was neither intellectual nor moral. It was an aesthetic, artistic and almost trivial question: How can one adapt a laconic, dry, scientific and impartial history book, such as Morris’ excellent work, for the theater?

    The show “1948,” whose next performances are tonight and tomorrow night, is not realistic. Rather, it is a combination of a realistic framework and a largely detached journalistic interview between a reporter – Parkhomovosky himself – and Morris (played by Kiner), and performance art that exposes the behind-the-scenes mechanism of the show. It moves between a play based on text and the movement art at its center. At first, Parkhomovosky is on the stage, playing himself, but also playing the interviewer. It is misleading for a few moments. Where exactly is the line between reality and fiction?