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From Tantura to the Naqab, Israel's roll call of shame is being exposed

Palestinians gather during a protest against the Israel's implementations towards Arabs in the Negev Desert, in East Jerusalem on 30 January 2022. [Issam Rimawi - Anadolu Agency]
Palestinians gather during a protest against the Israel's implementations towards Arabs in the Negev Desert, in East Jerusalem on 30 January 2022. [Issam Rimawi - Anadolu Agency]

A succession of events in recent weeks all point to the inescapable fact that nearly 75 years of Israel's painstaking efforts to hide the truth about its origins and its racist apartheid regime are failing miserably. The world is finally waking up, and Israel is losing ground quicker than it is able to gain new supporters or whitewash its past and ongoing crimes.

First, there were the revelations about Tantura, a peaceful Palestinian village whose inhabitants were mostly exterminated by Israel's Alexandroni Brigade on 23 May, 1948. Like many other massacres committed against unarmed Palestinians over the years, the Tantura massacre was mostly remembered by the village's few survivors, ordinary Palestinians and Palestinian historians. The mere attempt in 1998 by Israeli graduate student Theodore Katz to shed light on that bloody event ignited a legal, media and academic war, forcing him to retract his findings.

In a recent social media post, Professor Ilan Pappé revealed why, in 2007, he had to resign his position at Haifa University. "One of my 'crimes'," wrote Pappé, "was insisting that there was a massacre in the village of Tantura in 1948 as was exposed by MA student, Teddy Katz."

Now, some Alexandroni Brigade veterans have finally confessed to the crimes in Tantura.

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"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, with other veterans, revealed in the documentary "Tantura" by Alon Schwarz, the gory details of the horrific crimes that were committed in the Palestinian village.

An officer "killed one Arab after another" with his pistol, said former soldier Micha Vitkon. "They put them into a barrel and shot them in the barrel. I remember the blood in the barrel," explained another. "I was a murderer. I didn't take prisoners," admitted Amitzur Cohen.

Hundreds of Palestinians were killed in Tantura in cold blood. They were buried in mass graves, the largest of which is believed to be under a car park at the Dor Beach, to which Israeli families flock daily.

The Tantura massacre is arguably the most glaring representation of "hidden" Israeli criminality on the occupation state's roll call of shame. However, this is not the story of Tantura alone. The massacre in the village is representative of something much bigger, of ethnic cleansing on a huge scale, forceful evictions and mass killings. Thankfully, the truth is now being unearthed and exposed.

In another example, the Israeli army launched a full-scale military operation in 1951 to ethnically cleanse Palestinian Bedouins from the Naqab Desert. The tragic scenes of entire communities being uprooted from their ancestral homes were justified by Israel with the usual cliché that the terrible deed was carried out for "security reasons".

In 1953, Israel passed the so-called Land Acquisition Law, which allowed the occupation state to seize the land of the Palestinians who had been forced out of their homes. By then, Israel had unlawfully expropriated 247,000 dunams of land in the Naqab, with 66,000 remaining "unutilised". The remaining land is currently the epicentre of an ongoing saga involving Palestinian Bedouin communities in Israel and the Israeli government, which makes ludicrous claims that the land is "essential" for Israel's "development needs".

Extensive research conducted by Professor Gadi Algazi points to Israel's narrative in the Naqab being a complete fabrication. According to numerous newly-revealed documents, Moshe Dayan, then the head of the Israeli army's Southern Command, was central to an Israeli government and military ploy to evict the Bedouin population and to "revoke their rights as landowners", under the conveniently created Israeli law, which allowed the government to "lease" the land as if it was its own.

Israel is trying to steal more Palestinian land in the Negev - Cartoon [Sabaaneh/Middle East Monitor]

Israel is trying to steal more Palestinian land in the Negev – Cartoon [Sabaaneh/Middle East Monitor]

"There was an organised transfer of Bedouin citizens from the north-western Negev eastward to barren areas, with the goal of taking over their lands," Algazi told Haaretz. "They carried out this operation using a mix of threats, violence, bribery and fraud."

The entire scheme was organised 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 volume by French historian Vincent Lemire has entirely dismissed the official Israeli version of how the Moroccan Quarter in Jerusalem was demolished in June 1967. Although Palestinian and Arab historians have long argued that the destruction of the neighbourhood — 135 homes, two mosques and more — was done as per the order of the Israeli government through the then Jewish Mayor of Jerusalem, Teddy Kollek, Israel has just as long denied that version. According to the official Israeli account, the demolition of the neighbourhood was carried out by "15 private Jewish contractors [who] destroyed the neighbourhood to make space for the Western Wall plaza."

In an interview with Agence France-Presse (AFP), Lemire said that his book offers "definitive, written proof on the pre-meditation, planning and coordination of this operation," and that includes official meetings between Kollek, the commander of the Israeli army and other top government officials.

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The story continues with more heartbreaking revelations as a well-integrated version of the truth exposing long-hidden or denied facts. The days of Israel getting away with these crimes seem to be behind us. For the third time in a little over twelve months, a major human rights organisation, on this occasion Amnesty International, has condemned Israeli apartheid.

Amnesty's report, "Israel's Apartheid against Palestinians: A Look into Decades of Oppression and Domination", is 280 pages of damning evidence of Israel's racism and apartheid. It does not shy away from connecting Israel's violent present with its equally bloody past, nor does it 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, as was the case with Human Rights Watch's report in April last year, Israeli injustices against the Palestinians must be recognised and duly condemned in their entirety.

"Since its establishment in 1948, Israel has pursued an explicit policy of establishing and maintaining a Jewish demographic hegemony," wrote Amnesty, "while minimising the number of Palestinians and restricting their rights." This could only happen through mass killing, ethnic cleansing and genocide, from Tantura to the Naqab, to the Moroccan Quarter, the Gaza Strip and Sheikh Jarrah. The Israeli roll call of shame is long.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.

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