[News] Israel keeps evidence of ethnic cleansing locked away
news at freedomarchives.org
Thu Aug 19 12:03:45 EDT 2010
Israel keeps evidence of ethnic cleansing locked away
Jonathan Cook, The Electronic Intifada, 18 August 2010
History may be written by the victors, as Winston Churchill is said
to have observed, but the opening up of archives can threaten a
nation every bit as much as the unearthing of mass graves.
That danger explains a decision quietly taken last month by Benjamin
Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, to extend by an additional
twenty years the country's fifty-year rule for the release of
The new seventy-year disclosure rule is the government's response to
Israeli journalists who have been seeking through Israel's courts to
gain access to documents that should already be declassified,
especially those concerning the 1948 war, which established Israel,
and the 1956 Suez crisis.
The state's chief archivist says many of the documents "are not fit
for public viewing" and raise doubts about Israel's "adherence to
international law," while the government warns that greater
transparency will "damage foreign relations."
Quite what such phrases mean was illustrated by the findings of a
recent investigation by an Israeli newspaper. Haaretz revisited the
"Six Day War" of 1967, in which Israel seized not only the
Palestinian territories of the West Bank and Gaza, but also a
significant corner of Syria known as the Golan Heights, which Israel
still refuses to relinquish.
The consensus in Israel is that the country's right to hold on to the
Golan is even stronger than its right to the West Bank. According to
polls, an overwhelming majority of Israelis refuse to concede their
little bit of annexed Syria, even if doing so would secure peace with Damascus.
This intransigence is not surprising. For decades, Israelis have been
taught a grand narrative in which, having repelled an attack by
Syrian forces, Israel then magnanimously allowed the civilian
population of the Golan to live under its rule. That, say Israelis,
is why the inhabitants of four Druze villages are still present
there. The rest chose to leave on the instructions of Damascus.
One influential journalist writing at the time even insinuated
anti-Semitism on the part of the civilians who departed: "Everyone
fled, to the last man, before the IDF [Israeli army] arrived, out of
fear of the 'savage conqueror' ... Fools, why did they have to flee?"
However, a very different picture emerges from Haaretz's interviews
with the participants. These insiders say that all but 6,000 of the
Golan's 130,000 civilians were either terrorized or physically forced
out, some of them long after the fighting finished. An army document
reveals a plan to clear the area of the Syrian population, with only
the exception of the Golan Druze, so as not to upset relations with
the loyal Druze community inside Israel.
The army's post-war tasks included flushing out thousands of farmers
hiding in caves and woods to send them over the new border. Homes
were looted before the army set about destroying all traces of 200
villages so that there would be nowhere left for the former
inhabitants to return to. The first Jewish settlers sent to till the
fields recalled seeing the dispossessed owners watching from afar.
The Haaretz investigation offers an account of methodical and
wholesale ethnic cleansing that sits uncomfortably not only with the
traditional Israeli story of 1967 but with the Israeli public's idea
that their army is the "most moral in the world." That may explain
why several prominent, though unnamed, Israeli historians admitted to
Haaretz that they had learned of this "alternative narrative" but did
nothing to investigate or publicize it.
What is so intriguing about the newspaper's version of the Golan's
capture is the degree to which it echoes the revised accounts of the
1948 war that have been written by later generations of Israeli
historians. Three decades ago -- in a more complacent era -- Israel
made available less sensitive documents from that period.
The new material was explosive enough. It undermined Israel's
traditional narrative of 1948, in which the Palestinians were said to
have left voluntarily on the orders of the Arab leaders and in the
expectation that the combined Arab armies would snuff out the
fledging Jewish state in a bloodbath.
Instead, the documents suggested that heavily armed Jewish forces had
expelled and dispossessed hundreds of thousands of Palestinians
before the Jewish state had even been declared and a single Arab
soldier had entered Palestine.
One document in particular, Plan Dalet, demonstrated the army's
intention to expel the Palestinians from their homeland. Its
existence explains the ethnic cleansing of more than 80 percent of
Palestinians in the war, followed by a military campaign to destroy
hundreds of villages to ensure the refugees never returned.
Ethnic cleansing is the common theme of both these Israeli conquests.
A deeper probe of the archives will almost certainly reveal in
greater detail how and why these "cleansing" campaigns were carried
out -- which is precisely why Netanyahu and others want the archives
to remain locked.
But full disclosure of these myth-shattering documents may be the
precondition for peace. Certainly, more of these revelations offer
the best hope of shocking Israeli public opinion out of its
self-righteous opposition to meaningful concessions, either to Syria
or the Palestinians.
It is also a necessary first step in challenging Israel's continuing
attempts to ethnically cleanse Palestinians, as has occurred in the
last few weeks against the Bedouin in both the Jordan Valley and the
Negev, where villages are being razed and families forced to leave again.
Genuine peacemakers should be demanding that the doors to the
archives be thrown open immediately. The motives of those who wish to
keep them locked should be clear to all.
Jonathan Cook is a writer and journalist based in Nazareth, Israel.
His latest books are
and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the
Middle East (Pluto Press) and
Palestine: Israel's Experiments in Human Despair (Zed Books). His
website is <http://www.jkcook.net/>www.jkcook.net.
A version of this article originally appeared in
<http://www.thenational.ae/>The National, published in Abu Dhabi.
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San Francisco, CA 94110
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