Teams from Israel's Defence Ministry started a decade ago to remove and hide documents from the Israeli archives related to crimes against Palestinians during the Nakba of 1948, Israeli newspaper Haaretz revealed yesterday.
In a long report, Haaretz said that in addition to removing documents related to Israel's nuclear plant and external relations, the Defence Ministry team has been systematically hiding hundreds of documents in an attempt to remove evidence of the Nakba.
Haaretz noted that the removal of the historic documents was first noticed by the Akevot Institute for Israeli-Palestinian Conflict Research.
"According to a report drawn up by the institute, the operation is being spearheaded by Malmab, the Defense Ministry's secretive security department, whose activities and budget are classified".
"The report asserts that Malmab removed historical documentation illegally and with no authority, and at least in some cases has sealed documents that had previously been cleared for publication by the military censor. Some of the documents that were placed in vaults had already been published."
Malmab, according to Haaretz, is the Hebrew acronym for "director of security of the defense establishment".
In 1948, some 750,000 Palestinians were forced to leave their homes and properties, fleeing Zionist militant groups which committed massacres against Palestinians in numerous Palestinian villages, towns and cities.
Since then, Israel has refused to let Palestinian refugees return to their homes, despite several UN resolutions which specified they should do so.
Haaretz said that it conducted an investigative report which "found that Malmab has concealed testimony from IDF generals about the killing of civilians and the demolition of villages, as well as documentation of the expulsion of Bedouin during the first decade of statehood".
It also said that conversations "with directors of public and private archives alike revealed that staff of the security department had treated the archives as their property, in some cases threatening the directors themselves".
The Israeli newspaper revealed that Yehiel Horev, who headed Malmab for two decades until 2007, acknowledged "that he launched the project, which is still ongoing".
Haaretz also reported that "he maintains that it makes sense to conceal the events of 1948, because uncovering them could generate unrest among the country's Arab population".
Replying to questions by Haaretz about the wisdom behind removing documents which are already in the hands of the public, Horev "explained that the objective is to undermine the credibility of studies about the history of the refugee problem".
According to Haaretz, Horev believes that "an allegation made by a researcher that's backed up by an original document is not the same as an allegation that cannot be proved or refuted".
The Israeli daily mentioned the content of one of the documents at the beginning of its report which reads: "Safsaf [former Palestinian village near Safed] – 52 men were caught, tied them to one another, dug a pit and shot them. 10 were still twitching. Women came, begged for mercy. Found bodies of 6 elderly men. There were 61 bodies. 3 cases of rape, one from Safed, girl of 14, 4 men shot and killed. From one they cut off his fingers with a knife to take the ring."