By Ramzy Baroud
A succession of events in recent weeks all point to the inescapable fact that nearly 75 years of painstaking Israeli 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 it can gain new supporters or whitewash its past and ongoing crimes.
First, there was Tantura, a peaceful Palestinian village where more than 200 inhabitants were exterminated by the Israel Defense Forces’ Alexandroni Brigade on May 23, 1948. Like many other massacres of unarmed Palestinians throughout the years, Tantura was mostly only remembered by the village’s survivors, ordinary Palestinians and Palestinian historians. A 1998 attempt by an Israeli graduate student, Theodore Katz, to shed light on that bloody event ignited a legal, media and academic war and he was forced to retract his findings.
However, in a social media post last month, Israeli Professor Ilan Pappe revealed why, in 2007, he had to resign his position at Haifa University. He wrote: “One of my ‘crimes’ was insisting that there was a massacre in the village of Tantura in 1948 as was exposed by MA student, Teddy Katz.”
And 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, along with other veterans, revealed the gory details and horrific crimes that transpired in the Palestinian village in the documentary “Tantura” by Alon Schwarz.
An officer “killed one Arab after another” with his pistol, Micha Vitkon, another 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 cold blood. They were buried in mass graves, the largest of which is believed to be under a parking lot at Dor Beach, where Israeli families now flock 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. It is a representation of something much bigger: Of large-scale ethnic cleansing, forced evictions and mass killings. Thankfully, the truth is finally being unearthed.
In 1951, the Israeli army launched a full-scale military operation that ethnically cleansed Palestinian Bedouins from the Naqab (Negev). The tragic scenes of entire communities being uprooted from their ancestral homes were justified by Israel with the usual cliche that the terrible deed was carried out for “security reasons.”
In 1953, Israel passed the Land Acquisition Law, which allowed the state to seize the land of 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 at the center of an ongoing saga involving Palestinian Bedouin communities and the Tel Aviv government, with the latter falsely claiming that the land is “essential” for Israel’s “development needs.”
Recently revealed documents, uncovered by extensive research conducted by Gadi Algazi of Tel Aviv University, point toward Israel’s version of events in the Naqab being a complete fabrication. According to the documents, Moshe Dayan, the former head of the IDF’s Southern Command, was central to an Israeli government and military ploy to evict the Bedouin population and to “revoke their rights as landowners,” as per the conveniently created Israeli law, which allowed the government to “lease” the land as though it was its own.
“There was an organized transfer of Bedouin citizens from the northwestern 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 book by French historian Vincent Lemire has entirely dismissed Israel’s official version of how the Moroccan Quarter of Jerusalem was demolished in June 1967. Though Palestinian and Arab historians have long argued that the destruction of the neighborhood — including 135 homes and two mosques — was carried out on the orders of the Israeli government through Jerusalem Mayor Teddy Kollek, Israel has always denied it.
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, Lemire stated that his book offers “definitive, written proof on the premeditation, planning and coordination of this operation,” including official meetings between Kollek, the commander of the Israeli army and top government officials.
The days of Israel getting away with these crimes seem to be behind us. An example is last week’s Amnesty International report, “Israel’s Apartheid against Palestinians: A Look into Decades of Oppression and Domination.” The 280 pages of damning evidence of Israel’s racism and apartheid did not shy away from connecting the country’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 International, as was the case with Human Rights Watch’s April 2021 report, Israeli injustices against the Palestinians must be recognized and 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 Amnesty International report stated. This could only happen through mass killings, ethnic cleansing and genocide, from Tantura to the Naqab and from the Moroccan Quarter to Gaza and Sheikh Jarrah.