A succession of events in recent weeks all point to the inescapable fact that nearly 75 years of Israel’s painstaking efforts aimed at hiding the truth about its origins and its current racially-driven apartheid regime are failing miserably. The world is finally waking up, and Israel is losing ground quicker than its ability to gain new supporters, or to whitewash its past or ongoing crimes.
First, there was Tantura, a peaceful Palestinian village whose inhabitants were mostly exterminated by Israel’s Alexandroni Brigade on May 23, 1948. Like many other massacres committed against unarmed Palestinians throughout the years, the massacre of Tantura was mostly remembered by the village’s survivors, by ordinary Palestinians and by Palestinian historians. The mere attempt in 1998 by an Israeli graduate student, Theodore Katz, to shed light on that bloody event ignited a legal, media and academic war, forcing him to retract his findings.
In a recent social media post, Israeli Professor Ilan Pappé revealed why, in 2007, he had to resign his position at Haifa University. “One of my ‘crimes’,” Pappé wrote, “was insisting that there was a massacre in the village of Tantura in 1948 as was exposed by MA student, Teddy Katz.”
Now, some Alexandroni Brigade veterans have finally decided to confess to the crimes in Tantura.
“They silenced it. It mustn’t be told, it could cause a whole scandal. I don’t want to talk about it, but it happened.” These were the words of Moshe Diamant, a former member of the Alexandroni Brigade who, with other veterans, revealed in the documentary ‘Tantura’ by Alon Schwarz the gory details and the horrific crimes that transpired in the Palestinian village.
An officer “killed one Arab after another” with his pistol, Micha Vitkon, a former soldier, said.
“They put them into a barrel and shot them in the barrel. I remember the blood in the barrel,” another explained.
“I was a murderer. I didn’t take prisoners,” Amitzur Cohen admitted.
Hundreds of Palestinians were killed in Tantura in cold blood. They were buried in mass graves, the largest of which is believed to be under a parking lot at the Dor beach, flocked by Israeli families daily.
The Tantura massacre and its aftermath is arguably the most glaring representation of Israeli criminality. However, this is not the story of Tantura alone. The latter is a representation of something much bigger, of mass-scale ethnic cleansing, forceful evictions and mass killing. Thankfully, much truth is being unearthed.
In 1951, the Israeli army launched a full-scale military operation that ethnically cleansed Palestinian Bedouins from the Naqab. The tragic scenes of entire communities being uprooted from their ancestral homes were justified by Israel with the usual cliché that the terrible deed was carried out for “security reasons”.
In 1953, Israel passed the so-called Land Acquisition Law, which allowed the Israeli state to seize the land of the Palestinians who were forced out of their homes. By then, Israel had unlawfully expropriated 247,000 dunums in the Naqab, with 66,000 remaining ‘unutilized’. The remaining land is currently the epicenter of an ongoing saga involving Palestinian Bedouin communities in Israel and the Isreali government, which falsely claims that the land is “essential” for Israel’s “development needs”.
Recently revealed documents, uncovered by extensive research conducted by Professor Gadi Algazi, point towards Israel’s version of the truth in Naqab being a complete fabrication. According to numerous uncovered documents, Moshe Dayan, then the head of the Israeli army Southern Command, was central to an Israeli government and military ploy to evict the Bedouin population and to “revoke their rights as landowners”, per the conveniently created Israeli law, which allowed the government to ‘lease’ the land as if its own. “There was an organized transfer of Bedouin citizens from the north-western Negev eastward to barren areas, with the goal of taking over their lands. They carried out this operation using a mix of threats, violence, bribery and fraud,” Algazi told the Israeli newspaper Haaretz.
The entire scheme was organized in such a way as to facilitate the claim that the Palestinians had moved ‘voluntarily’, despite their legendary resistance and “the stubbornness with which they tried to hold onto their land, even at the cost of hunger and thirst, not to mention the army’s threats and violence”.
Furthermore, a newly-released volume by French historian, Vincent Lemire, has entirely dismissed Israel’s official version of how the Moroccan Quarters of Jerusalem were demolished in June 1967. Though Palestinian and Arab historians have long argued that the destruction of the neighborhood – 135 homes, two mosques and more – was done per the order of the Israeli government through the then-Jewish mayor of Jerusalem, Teddy Kollek, Israel has long denied that version. According to the official Israeli account, the demolition of the neighborhood was carried out by “15 private Jewish contractors (who) destroyed the neighborhood to make space for the Western Wall plaza”.
In an interview with Agence France-Presse (AFP), Lemire stated that his book offers “definitive, written proof on the pre-meditation, planning and coordination of this operation,” and that includes official meetings between Kollek, the commander of the Israeli army, and other top government officials.
The story continues; more heartbreaking revelations and a well-integrated version of the truth are exposing long-hidden or denied facts. The days of Israel getting away with these crimes seem to be behind us. An example is Amnesty International’s recent report, “Israel’s Apartheid against Palestinians: A Look into Decades of Oppression and Domination”.
Amnesty’s 280 pages of damning evidence of Israel’s racism and apartheid did not shy away from connecting Israel’s violent present with its equally bloody past. It did not borrow from Israel’s deceptive language and self-serving division of Palestinians into disconnected communities, each with a different claim and a different status. For Amnesty, as was the case with Human Rights Watch’s report in April 2021, Israeli injustices against the Palestinians must be recognized and duly condemned in their entirety.
“Since its establishment in 1948, Israel has pursued an explicit policy of establishing and maintaining a Jewish demographic hegemony .. while minimizing the number of Palestinians and restricting their rights,” the report stated. This could only happen through mass killing, ethnic cleansing and genocide, from Tantura to the Naqab, to the Moroccan Quarters, to Gaza and Sheikh Jarrah.
—The writer is a journalist and the Editor of The Palestine Chronicle. He is the author of six books.