[News] Israel keeps evidence of ethnic cleansing locked away

Anti-Imperialist News 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 
sensitive documents.

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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