Newly uncovered documents have revealed that Israeli authorities began looking for ways to encourage Palestinian emigration immediately after occupying the West Bank in 1967.
According to +972 Magazine, the discovery was made by Omri Shafer Raviv, a PhD student in the Department of Jewish History at Hebrew University. The study uses official government documents from the 1967 war and its aftermath that have only recently been declassified.
The documents uncovered by Shafer Raviv show that “mere weeks” after the Six-Day War, “Israel enlisted teams of academics in the country to find ways to encourage Palestinians to emigrate from the newly occupied territories”.
In July 1967, then-Prime Minister Levi Eshkol assembled a committee of academics “and sent them into the territories to study the newly-occupied population”.
The objective of the committee was two-fold: “to create a body responsible for ‘long-term planning’ in the occupied territories”, and, says Shafer Raviv, to find ways to ensure Palestinians did not resist the military regime while looking for ways to encourage them to leave altogether.
“Those early years set the tone for how Israeli policy looks today,” he told +972 Magazine.
According to the academic, a key goal of the Israeli government was to reduce the number of Palestinians living in the newly-occupied territories.
“We saw this most prominently in Gaza, where the authorities believed they could halve the population from 400,000 to 200,000 in order to contend with the new demographic problem.”
Another goal assigned to the so-called “Professors Committee” was to understand “how to limit popular resistance to Israeli rule, as well the extent to which revolutionary ideas such as communism or Palestinian nationalism could flourish in the occupied territories.”
The professors and their researchers visited Palestinian communities across the occupied territories to conduct interviews about the population’s daily lives and needs.
Among the questions Israeli researchers asked Palestinian questions were what they had for dinner, designed to classify whether they were “modern” or “traditional”.
“Large family dinners, for instance, were seen as traditional, whereas smaller dinners were a sign of modernity,” +972 Magazine described.
“There is no proof that recommendations were adopted solely on the basis of what the Committee proposed,” Shafer Raviv said.
“But one can see a connection between the recommendations and the policies. A prime example of this can be seen in the government’s decision to encourage Palestinian emigration.”