The HyperTexts

Why Israel is Wrong: Evidence for and the Case against Israel’s Racism, Apartheid and Ethnic Cleansing

by Michael R. Burch, an editor and publisher of Holocaust and Nakba poetry

The vanishing Palestinian state: In the maps above, we can see how much land Palestinians (the dark regions) have lost to Israel (the white regions). The first map shows Palestine demographically before Israeli Jews began acquiring Palestinian land by force, hook and crook. The second map shows how the West Bank is quickly dissolving and turning into "Swiss cheese" due to the expansion of segregated Jewish-only settlements. (The term "settlement expansion" is a euphemism for ethnic cleansing.) The third map predicts a Palestinian "state" that consists only of the walled ghetto of Gaza. The fourth map predicts no Palestinian state at all, which could be the result of ethnic cleansing carried out to its conclusion.

Is there any conclusive evidence that Israel is guilty of planned and carefully managed ethnic cleansing? Yes, there is irrefutable evidence: hundreds of Palestinian villages and tens of thousands of individual homes that have been destroyed by Israel over the last 60-plus years, beginning with the Nakba ("Catastrophe") of 1948. Hundreds of villages do not vanish from the earth by accident: it takes lots of money, manpower, machinery and management to wreak such massive destruction. And Israel's ethnic cleansing of Palestinians continues to this day, with more than 20,000 home demolitions tracked and reported by ICAHD since 1967.

Israel claims that its military and covert operations against Palestinians are "defensive" in nature. But what, exactly, is Israel defending? Increasingly to the rest of the world it seems that what Israel is defending racism, apartheid and ethnic cleaning. And the majority of Israeli Jews now agree that apartheid is a reality. In a recent Haaretz poll, 58% of Israelis said that there is apartheid in Israel in some ways, or in most ways. Only 31% said that there was no apartheid in Israel. And when the poll touched on one of the major facets of Israeli apartheid, separate roads for Jews and Palestinians in the West Bank, 74% were in favor of racially segregated roads, while only 17% opposed them. When asked whether Palestinians should be allowed to vote if the West Bank were annexed, only 19% voted in favor. To anyone who believes in equality, justice and representative government for everyone, those are astonishingly bad numbers.

Gideon Levy interpreted the poll results as: "Nice to make your acquaintance, we're racist and pro-apartheid. The poll … proved what we always knew."

Are Israel's actions defensive, or is ethnic cleansing highly offensive in both senses of the word? And which came first, Zionist aggression, or Palestinian resistance to that aggression? The desire to purge Palestine of Palestinians has a long history in the annals of Zionism:

"[We will] spirit the penniless population across the border [of the Jewish state] by denying it employment ... Both the process of expropriation [theft of land] and the removal [ethnic cleansing] of the poor must be carried out discreetly and circumspectly."—Theodore Herzl, founder of the World Zionist Organization, speaking of the Arabs of Palestine, in his diary, June 12, 1895

Herzl, the founder of modern Zionism, had written a recipe for ethnic cleansing in 1895, long before the Holocaust or any major act of Palestinian resistance.

In 1901, in an article published in the New Liberal Review, Israel Zangwill wrote that "Palestine is a country without a people; the Jews are a people without a country." The first part was, of course, patently false. Zangwill later recanted, admitting that Palestine was, indeed, inhabited by another people. But unfortunately the die had already been cast.

In 1929, Berl Katznelson admitted that "the Zionist enterprise is an enterprise of conquest."

When in 1937 the British Peel Commission recommended the forced transfer of 225,000 Arabs from the proposed Jewish state, David ben-Gurion enthusiastically hailed ethnic cleansing as an "unparalleled achievement." Ethnic cleansing was "the best of all solutions" according to Katznelson.

In 1938, ben-Gurion admitted that the Zionists were the aggressors and the Palestinians the defenders; by this time he had essentially endorsed the "Iron Wall" dogma of Ze'ev Jabotinsky. Like Jabotinsky, ben-Gurion despised Arabs and their culture. By this time the Zionist leaders had the same attitude toward Arabs that Hitler had had toward Jews. Even Chaim Weizmann, in so many ways the founder of the modern state of Israel and its first president, grew disenchanted with the Zionists' fascination with militarism and their "flirtation with terror." When Weizmann retired the presidency of Israel was offered to Albert Einstein, who turned it down, writing sadly to his stepdaughter that Israeli Jews did not want to hear what he would have to tell them. Einstein, a great humanitarian, believed in equality and justice for all human beings and knew that was the last thing the Zionists had planned for Palestinians, since they had long intended to get rid of as many Arabs as possible.

As Jewish historian Shlomo ben-Ami explained, transfer (ethnic cleansing) was a "magic formula" that "had a long pedigree in Zionist thought." A self-avowed "ardent" Zionist, ben-Ami described the movement as follows: "Zionism was a movement of conquest, colonisation and settlement ... An enterprise of national liberation and human emancipation that was forced to use the tools of colonial penetration, it was a schizophrenic movement, which suffered from an irreconcilable incongruity between its liberating message and the offensive practices it used to advance it. The cultivation of a righteous self-image and the ethos of the few against the many, the heroic David facing the brutal, bestial Arab Goliath, was one way Zionism pretended to reconcile its contradictions."

Long before there was any major military action by Arabs, the future leaders of Israel created three Transfer Committees (i.e., ethnic cleansing committees) to study and oversee the transfer (ethnically cleansing) of Palestinian Arabs from the proposed Jewish state that came to be known as Israel. The first Transfer Committee was created in 1937, more than ten years before the war of 1948. If you click the hyperlink, you can find a detailed history of the three Transfer Committees, including quotations from the diaries of leading Zionists such as David Ben-Gurion (Israel's George Washington and the first Prime Minister of Israel), Chaim Weizmann (Israel's first president), Moshe Sharett (Israel's second Prime Minister) and Yosef (Joseph) Weitz, who was a member of all three Transfer Committees and headed the third, hugely destructive one. All the major Zionist leaders became enthusiastic supporters of compulsory population transfer (ethnic cleansing), even though they rightfully opposed the ethnic cleansing of Jews by the Nazis, and even though some of them had said that compulsory population transfer was wrong in their younger days. What happened with the founding of Israel was very similar to George Washington and Thomas Jefferson founding the United States on the principle of the equality of all human beings, then forcing Native Americans to walk a Trail of Tears while denying African Americans the most basic of human rights.

Robbers armed with machine guns may "defend" themselves from being arrested, but that doesn’t change the fact that they are criminals. Nazi Germany ostensibly "defended" itself by attacking Poland, but its real goal was offensive—to obtain more "living space" from "inferior" people. I intend to demonstrate that, like Nazi Germany, Israel has engaged in acts of naked aggression that are highly offensive, in both senses of the word.

Like the Confederacy, Nazi Germany and apartheidist South Africa, the nation of Israel is using superior firepower to defend and extend a system of apartheid and ethnic cleansing. The evidence is not only obvious, but overwhelming:

The creation of three Transfer Committees to determine the best way to ethnically cleanse Palestinians
Hundreds of Palestinian villages that were destroyed, beginning with the Nakba ("Catastrophe") of 1948
More than 27,000 Palestinian homes that have been demolished since 1967, as reported by ICAHD, in blatant acts of ethnic cleansing that still continue today
The written findings of Israeli historians like Ilan Pappé and Benny Morris, using declassified Israeli military archives
The diaries and public statements of the Zionist leaders themselves
Millions of Palestinian exiles now living in Gaza and other refugee centers

As with the Confederacy, Nazi Germany and apartheidist South Africa, when the rulers are racist and unjust, they cannot claim to be acting in "defense." In the American Declaration of Independence, the founding fathers of the United States pointed out that when human beings are denied equality, justice and representative government, they have the right to resist their oppressors with all due force. The American founding fathers declared that they had the right to go on the offensive, in order to secure their rights.

Some defenders of the Palestinians try to prove that in certain incidents Israel fired the first shots, but I think such defenses are not necessary. Some of the best-known American founding fathers were wealthy men who lived in mansions and had freedom to travel as they pleased. But they said it was their right to use all due force to secure their inalienable rights to equality and representative government. When Patrick Henry said, "Give me liberty or give me death," he meant that he had the right to go to war with Englishmen and kill or be killed, in order to have the chance to live as a free, equal citizen of a just nation. If rich American colonists had such a right, then surely much poorer Palestinians, who don’t live in mansions and don’t have freedom to travel as they please, do also.

And so, as long as Israel denies Palestinians freedom, equality and justice, according to the American Declaration of Independence, Israel is an unjust tyrant like the British monarchy, and the Palestinians are freedom fighters with the right to use force to secure their god-given, inalienable rights. However, I am not advocating acts of violence and war. I am simply pointing out that if Israel wants peace rather than war, Israel must either grant the Palestinians independence as a separate nation, or make them fully equal citizens of a single state, or create some sort of just and equitable bi-national state or federation. But Israel make peace impossible when it insists on defining itself as a Jewish state, in which Jews have vastly superior rights, including the "right" to rob Palestinians of their land, water and most basic human rights. Again, the evidence is utterly clear and overwhelming:

Apartheid walls twice as high as the Berlin Wall
Racially segregated roads and settlements in the West Bank
A brutal military occupation of the West Bank, with IDF soldiers protecting the robber barons rather than their victims
A land, sea and air blockade of Gaza
The continual theft of Palestinian land via home demolitions and other war crimes

Although there are many other charges that can be brought against Israel, no other charges than apartheid and ethnic cleansing are necessary. No other nation in the free world targets millions of people for home demolitions and theft of the underlying land, based on their race or ethnicity. These are crimes that create incomprehensible suffering for millions of people — most of them completely innocent women and children.

And it is beyond hypocritical for Americans, in particular, to deny Palestinians the right to use force to secure their rights. If Israel denied millions of American women and children any hope of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, American men would be firing missiles at Tel Aviv, until the leaders of Israel came to their senses.

The rest of this document will provide further evidence of the extent of Israel’s crimes against peace and humanity.

The Testimony of the Architect of TRANSFER, Yosef (Joseph) Weitz

The following is an illuminating article written by Joseph Weitz, the man in charge of acquiring land for the Jewish National Fund and the head of Israel’s third Transfer Committee, which in 1948 was tasked with the issue of population transfer [i.e., ethnic cleansing] of Palestinians. Weitz was writing for a Davar newspaper on September 29, 1967, just three months into Israel’s now 44-year occupation of the West Bank and Gaza:

The first problem is understood by all and needs no explanations ... the need to sustain the character of a state which will henceforth be Jewish, and obviously in the near future, by the majority of its inhabitants, with a non-Jewish minority limited to fifteen percent. I reached this fundamental conclusion already as early as 1940, concerning which it is entered in my diary as follows:

Among ourselves it must be clear that there is no place in the country for both people’s together ... With the Arabs we shall not achieve our aim of being an independent people in this country. The only solution is Eretz Israel, at least the west part of Eretz Israel without Arabs ... and there is no other way but to transfer the Arabs from here to the neighboring countries, transfer all of them, not one village or tribe should remain, and the transfer must aim at Iraq, Syria, and even Transjordan ... There is no other alternative.

From this perspective a solution of transfer was then suggested which was advocated by B. Katznelson, Y. Vulkani, and M. Ussishkin, all of them now deceased; initial investigations were undertaken to help neutralise this concept concretely. After (some) years, consequent to the UN decision to partition the country, the War of Independence broke out to our great happiness, and in its course a double miracle took place: a regional victory and the escape [i.e., expulsion] of the Arabs [who fled the fighting but were not allowed to return]. In the Six Day War only one great miracle took place: a tremendous territorial victory but the majority of the population of the liberated territories remained ‘fixed’ to their places, which can cause the destruction of the foundations of our state.

In other words, for Israel to acquire land and not ethnically cleanse it of non-Jews is a disaster, but to acquire land and purify it of non-Jews is a "miracle." Weitz kept detailed diaries, which are now part of the public record; they reveal a man with a compulsion for compulsory population transfer (ethnic cleansing).

Motivation: the confessions of the leading Zionists themselves

The leading Zionists have clearly revealed the motivation for Israel's crimes of apartheid and ethnic cleaning. When people who commit crimes against humanity speak so clearly, and the evidence confirms that they did what they said they intended to do, how can there be any doubt that the crimes were deliberate and premeditated? In the quotes below, the terms "eviction" and "transfer" mean "ethnic cleansing" and the term "expropriation" means "theft."

"[We will] spirit the penniless population across the border [of the Jewish state] by denying it employment ... Both the process of expropriation [theft of land] and the removal [ethnic cleansing] of the poor must be carried out discreetly and circumspectly."—Theodore Herzl, founder of the World Zionist Organization, speaking of the Arabs of Palestine, in his diary, June 12, 1895

Please note the date on the quotation above. Herzl hatched his plan for the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians and the theft of their land long before the Holocaust. Adolph Hitler was only six years old when Herzl decided to ethnically cleanse Palestinians and steal their land. Here are other pertinent confessions of the racist ringleaders of Zionism:

"There is no Zionism, colonization, or Jewish state without the EVICTION of the Arabs and the expropriation of their lands."—Prime Minister Ariel Sharon
"Zionism is a TRANSFER of the Jews."—David Ben-Gurion, Israel's first Prime Minister
Regarding the TRANSFER of the Arabs, this is much easier than any other TRANSFER."—Ben-Gurion
"The compulsory TRANSFER of the Arabs ... could give us something which we never had [even in Biblical times]."—Ben-Gurion
"Jewish power, which grows steadily, will also increase our possibilities to carry out the TRANSFER on a large scale."—Ben-Gurion
"With compulsory TRANSFER we have a vast area ... I support compulsory transfer. I don't see anything immoral in it."—Ben-Gurion
"It is impossible to imagine general EVACUATION without compulsion, and brutal compulsion."—Ben-Gurion
"There are two issues here: sovereignty and the REMOVAL of a certain number of Arabs, and we must insist on both of them."Ben-Gurion
"Let us not ignore the truth ... politically we are the aggressors and they defend themselves ... The country is theirs, because they inhabit it ..."Ben-Gurion
"Before the founding of the state ... our main interest was self-defense ... But now the issue at hand is conquest, not self-defense."Ben-Gurion
"We should prepare to go over to the offensive. Our aim is to smash Lebanon, Trans-Jordan, and Syria."Ben-Gurion
"We must do everything to ensure they [ethnically cleansed Palestinian refugees] never return."—Ben-Gurion
"Ben-Gurion ... was prepared to accept the [partition] ... on two conditions: [Jewish] sovereignty and compulsory TRANSFER."Yosef Bankover
"I believed and to this day still believe, in our people's eternal and historic right to this entire land."—Prime Minister Ehud Olmert
"All of the land of Israel is ours."—Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir

UN investigator: Israel engaged in ethnic cleansing with settlement expansion
by Reuters on March 21, 2011

Israel's expansion of settlements in East Jerusalem and eviction of Palestinians from their homes there is a form of ethnic cleansing, a United Nations investigator said on Monday.

United States academic Richard Falk was speaking to the UN Human Rights Council as it prepared to pass resolutions condemning settlement building in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

The "continued pattern of settlement expansion in East Jerusalem combined with the forcible eviction of long-residing Palestinians are creating an intolerable situation" in the part of the city previously controlled by Jordan, he said.

This situation "can only be described in its cumulative impact as a form of ethnic cleansing," Falk declared.

Israel declines to deal with Falk or even allow him into the country, accusing him of being biased.

In his speech, Falk said he would like the Human Rights Council to ask the International Court of Justice to look at Israeli behavior in the occupied territories.

This should focus on whether the prolonged occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem had elements of "colonialism, apartheid and ethnic cleansing inconsistent with international humanitarian law," the investigator declared.

Israel Guilty of Apartheid, Ethnic Cleansing of Palestinians: UN Rapporteur
by César Chelala
Mar. 27, 2014

Richard Falk, United Nations rapporteur on human rights in the Palestinian territories accused Israel last week of “ethnic cleansing” of Palestinians. Speaking at a press conference, he said that Israeli policies bore “unacceptable characteristics of colonialism, apartheid and ethnic cleansing.”

“Every increment of enlarging the settlements or every incident of house demolition is a way of worsening the situation confronting the Palestinian people and reducing what prospects they might have as the outcome of supposed peace negotiations,” he added. Falk is an American who is Jewish, is an international law expert and Professor Emeritus at Princeton University in the US.

According to Falk, more than 11,000 Palestinians had lost their right to live in Jerusalem since 1966 due to Israel imposing residence laws favoring Jews. At the same time, the Israeli government was revoking Palestinian residence permits. “The 11,000 is just the tip of the iceberg,” he said, “because many more are faced with possible challenges to their residence rights.”

Falk’s comments lend support to similar statements done in the past regarding Israeli actions towards the Palestinians. In 2006, Ilan Pappé, an Israeli historian and social activist who is a professor with the College of Social Sciences and International Studies at the University of Exeter in the United Kingdom, wrote a book called “The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine.”

In that book, Pappé states that the 1948 Palestinian exodus was a planned cleansing of Palestine that was carried out by the Zionist movement leaders, mainly David Ben-Gurion and his associates. The process was carried out through the systematic expulsion of Arabs from about 500 villages, complemented by terrorist attacks executed mainly by members of the Irgun and the Haganah troops acting against the civilian population.
Pappé based his assumptions on the Plan Dalet and on village files as a proof of the planned expulsions. Although the purpose of the plan has been amply debated, it seems that the plan was a set of guidelines whose purpose was to take control of the territory of the Jewish state and to defend its borders and its people, including the Jewish population outside its borders as a precaution against an expected invasion by Arab armies.
Predictably, the book caused an uproar. Benny Morris, an Israeli professor of History in the Middle East Studies department of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, wrote, “At best, Ilan Pappé must be one of the world’s sloppiest historians: at worst, one of the most dishonest. In truth, he probably merits a place somewhere between the two.”

Morris himself stated, however, “In retrospect, it is clear that what occurred in 1948 in Palestine was a variety of ethnic cleansing of Arab areas by Jews. It is impossible to say how many of the 700,000 or so Palestinians who became refugees in 1948 were physically expelled, as distinct from simply fleeing a combat zone.”

Not everybody was equally critical of Pappé, though. Stephen Howe, professor of the history of colonialism at Bristol University, said that Pappé’s book was an often compelling mixture of historical argument and politico-moral tract. According to Howe, although Pappé’s book might not be the last word on the events of 1948, it still is “a major intervention in an argument that will, and must, continue.”
And it does continue. In November 2013, more than 50 public figures in Britain wrote a letter opposing an Israeli plan to forcibly remove up to 70,000 Palestinian Bedouins from their historic desert land –an act that critics considered ethnic cleansing. The eviction and destruction of approximately 35 villages in the Negev desert, claims the letter, “will mean the forced displacement of Palestinians from their homes and land, and systematic discrimination and separation.”

Writing in Save Canada Post in 2010, Suzanne Weiss, a Holocaust survivor stated, “I am a survivor of the Jewish Holocaust, the Nazis' mass murder of Europe's Jews. The tragic experience of my family and community under Hitler makes me alert to the suffering of other peoples denied their human rights today — including the Palestinians. True, Hitler's Holocaust was unique. The Palestinians are victims of ethnic cleansing and apartheid. Hitler started with that, but went on to extermination. In my family's city in Poland, Piotrkow, 99 per cent of the Jews perished. Yet for me, the Israeli government's actions toward the Palestinians awaken horrific memories of my family's experiences under Hitlerism: the inhuman walls, the checkpoints, the daily humiliations, killings, diseases, the systematic deprivation. There's no escaping the fact that Israel has occupied the entire country of Palestine, and taken most of the land, while the Palestinians have been expelled, walled off, and deprived of human rights and human dignity.” . . .

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License.
Mirrored from

Hybrid States: Between Dome of the Rock and a Hard Place
The ethnic cleansing of Palestine and the burden of proof among "liberal Zionists"
by Yaniv Reich on December 2, 2011

The following is an excerpt from Hybrid States, in which the author shows how even the more "liberal" Zionists can be in complete or near-complete denial of basic historical facts. One of the first things Israel did as a nation was establish a Transfer Committee (i.e., Ethnic Cleansing Committee) to oversee the process of transferring (ethnically cleansing) Palestinian Arabs out of the Jewish state. This was accomplished by destroying hundreds of villages and thousands of individual homes, a task that took many months and required lots of money, manpower, machinery and management.

Although many of the most sensitive records remain classified, we do know that the Haganah had conducted detailed cartographic work on Palestinian villages and had precise estimates of the Palestinian population across regions, as well as where there were real or imagined pockets of "resistance" to Zionist plans. We also know of the infamous Plan Dalet, which instructed military commanders to preemptively destroy (via "setting fire to, blowing up, and planting mines in the debris") population centers "difficult to control continuously". Plan Dalet specifically targets not only sites that might field "regular and semi-regular forces", but even those that might be used by irregular, "small forces", which can mean just about anything, as the liberal interpretation [i.e., actual destruction] by military commanders demonstrates.

The most shocking omission from [Gershom] Gorenberg’s account of 1948, given that his entire argument rests on the existence of the Situation Committee, is his non-discussion of the Transfer Committee. I asked Gorenberg via Twitter whether his book discusses the Transfer Committee, but he failed to respond. This group, established days after Israel was founded, was comprised of leading Zionists such as Yosef Weitz (of the JNF), and was tasked with overseeing the permanent removal of Palestinians from their former villages. And as we know, they were extraordinarily successful in eliminating more than 400 Palestinian villages from the Zionist map, either through outright destruction or by renaming them and passing them and their material possessions on to Jews. What on earth could be considered ethnic cleansing if not this?

If Gorenberg hadn’t relied on such a puny measure of "strong evidence", he could have found ample evidence that Zionists perpetrated an ethnic cleansing that was imagined and fantasized about for 50 years, implemented under remarkably clear military orders (even based on the limited evidence we currently know), institutionalized through an ethnic cleansing committee by another (euphemistic) name, and which created the foundational legal framework for excluding one ethnic group from civic and political life (i.e. established Israeli apartheid).

That he failed to do so says much about the ability of Gorenberg, and so-called "liberal Zionists" more generally, to confront the essential crimes of Zionism.

The testimony of the architect of transfer himself, Yosef (Joseph) Weitz
September 29, 1967

The following is an illuminating article written by Joseph Weitz, the man in charge of acquiring land for the Jewish National Fund and the head of Israel’s third Transfer Committee, which in 1948 was tasked with the issue of population transfer [i.e., ethnic cleansing] of Palestinians. Weitz was writing for a Davar newspaper on September 29, 1967, just three months into Israel’s now 44-year occupation of the West Bank and Gaza:

The first problem is understood by all and needs no explanations ... the need to sustain the character of a state which will henceforth be Jewish, and obviously in the near future, by the majority of its inhabitants, with a non-Jewish minority limited to fifteen percent. I reached this fundamental conclusion already as early as 1940, concerning which it is entered in my diary as follows:

Among ourselves it must be clear that there is no place in the country for both people’s together ... With the Arabs we shall not achieve our aim of being an independent people in this country. The only solution is Eretz Israel, at least the west part of Eretz Israel without Arabs ... and there is no other way but to transfer the Arabs from here to the neighboring countries, transfer all of them, not one village or tribe should remain, and the transfer must aim at Iraq, Syria, and even Transjordan ... There is no other alternative.

From this perspective a solution of transfer was then suggested which was advocated by B. Katznelson, Y. Vulkani, and M. Ussishkin, all of them now deceased; initial investigations were undertaken to help neutralise this concept concretely. After (some) years, consequent to the UN decision to partition the country, the War of Independence broke out to our great happiness, and in its course a double miracle took place: a regional victory and the escape [i.e., expulsion] of the Arabs [who fled the fighting but were not allowed to return]. In the Six Day War only one great miracle took place: a tremendous territorial victory but the majority of the population of the liberated territories remained ‘fixed’ to their places, which can cause the destruction of the foundations of our state. [In other words, for Israel to acquire land and not ethnically cleanse it of non-Jews is a disaster, but to acquire land and purify it of non-Jews is a "miracle."]


Here is an analysis of the article above by Yaniv Reich in "Obsessive demography, racism, and a history of apartheid thought":

This passage is filled with remarkable content that reflects an all-encompassing vision of establishing an ethnic-based rather than race-based apartheid regime in British Mandate Palestine. But I want to focus on just a few points:

Extremely influential Zionists from Ben-Gurion to Weitz to Allon to Livni to Lieberman have always seen the Palestinians as a group that needed to be minimized vis-a-vis the Jewish population. This has been true from the earliest years of Zionism.

Transfer (ethnic cleansing) featured prominently in Zionist thought, as above, and action, as Benny Morris, Nur Masalha, Ilan Pappé, and others have documented. Moreover, the Zionist leadership was well aware of the rights-oriented sensitivity of this matter and sought since before Israel was established to "neutralise the concept concretely."

Among important segments of the Jewish leadership, the War of Independence "broke out to our great happiness" and accomplished both a "regional victory" over additional, non-UN-sanctioned territory but also the "double miracle" of Arab flight, much of which was at the hands of Jewish paramilitary groups.

Unfortunately, for these thinkers, "only one great miracle took place" in 1967 and the Palestinians refused to leave their land after Israel’s "tremendous territorial victory" [Another editor’s question: hasn’t this war always been sold as one of necessary self-defense? How quickly does existential self-defense morph into "tremendous territorial victory"? About three months in Weitz’s case—at most.].

This passage shows very clearly how the Zionist relationship to Palestinians has been conceived, through various wars and periods, as one of maintaining Jewish privilege and life over and against a Palestinian underclass. This conception of Palestinian personhood and rights does not vary across Palestinian subgroups, even if the specific rights they have differ, and it links the Jewish treatment of Palestinians during 1948 through to 1967 and today into one apartheid structure with more complexity (and militarized brutality) than we saw in South Africa.

On this last point, I want to buttress the argument with a powerful image I saw today, which captures better than anything I’ve seen how rights are distributed on the basis of ethnicity and it’s intersection with a history of ethnic conflict. These maps were produced by Arena of Speculation, an interesting new initiative by a group of spatial thinkers:

The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine
by Ilan Pappé

The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine is a book about the 1948 Palestinian exodus authored by Ilan Pappé and published in 2006 by Oneworld Publications. Here are some of the book’s highlights (or, more properly, lowlights, from a standpoint of equality and justice):

According to Pappé, the 1948 Palestinian exodus consisted of the forced relocation of close to 800,000 Palestinians. This was more than half the Palestinian population at that time. It also involved the destruction of 531 Palestinian villages, and the emptying of 11 entire Palestinian urban neighborhoods. Palestinians call this event the Nakba (Catastrophe). Pappé says the Nakba was a calculated and intentionally executed ethnic cleansing perpetrated by Zionist Israelis. He states, with emphasis, that there is no room for ambivalence in this matter. His references include Zionist quotations and writings, military and political archives, and the diaries of David Ben-Gurion. His intent is also to explore how the denial of the Nakba has been so successful for so long. His views are in direct opposition to mainstream Israeli versions of the relocation, which claim it was "voluntary".

Pappé states that the ethnic cleansing idea was first expressed in early Zionist writings. For example, in 1917, Leo Motzkin stated "the colonization of Palestine has to go in two directions, Jewish settlement … and the resettlement of the Arabs." In 1938 David Ben-Gurion stated, "I am for compulsory transfer; I do not see anything immoral in it." Ben-Gurion also said, "The Arabs will have to go."

Then in 1948, according to Pappé, the long-planned ethnic cleansing was implemented by David Ben-Gurion, Yigael Yadin, Moshe Dayan, Yigal Allon, Yitzhak Sadeh, Moshe Kalman, Moshe Camel, Yitzhak Rabin, Shimon Avidan, Rehavam Zeevi, Yitzhak Pundak, and others. The ideological drivers of the campaign were Ben-Gurion's close advisers, whom Pappé calls the "Consultancy group". The implementers were officers who led attacks executed by the Haganah (an Israeli militia) and the Irgun (another Israeli militia), the Stern Gang (another Israeli militia), and the Israeli Defense Force. The details of the "ethnic cleansing strategy" are fully described in an Israeli military/government document entitled Plan Dalet, which spells out, in writing, the clear directives of the operation. It included "bombarding villages … setting fire to homes, properties and goods, expulsion, demolition and planting mines among the rubble to prevent any of the expelled inhabitants from returning." Pappé also catalogues other terrorist actions such as poisoning of the water supply of Acre with typhoid, numerous cases of rape, various other atrocities, and dozens of massacres.

Palestinians made up 80 to 90 percent of the population of Palestine in the 1920s. As a result of the Balfour Declaration, Yosef Weitz began a remarkably thorough demographic study of the Palestinian villages. His study is called the Village Files. According to Pappé , it was later used for key strategic information needed to implement the ethnic cleansing of Palestine.

Ben-Gurion's strategy for the creation of the Israeli State included very specific offensive military steps. They are described in Plans A, B, C, and D. "The purpose of such actions would be to deter the Palestinian population from attacking Jewish settlements, and to retaliate for assaults on Jewish houses, roads, and traffic." Plan C spelled out clearly what punitive actions would entail, such as:

Killing the Palestinian leadership
Killing Palestinian inciters and their financial supporters
Killing Palestinians who acted against Jews
Killing senior Palestinian officers and officials
Damaging Palestinian transportation
Damaging the sources of Palestinian livelihoods: water wells, mills etc.
Attacking nearby Palestinian villages likely to assist in future attacks
Attacking Palestinian clubs, coffeehouses, meeting places, etc.

Plan Dalet (Plan D) called for the systematic and total expulsion of Palestinians from their homeland. Plan Dalet was adopted on March 10, 1948. It called for, among other things, the initial uprooting of 250,000 Palestinians. Key negotiations between Israel and Jordan had led to the Jordanian promise to not join any all-Arab military operations against the Jewish state. The agreement "neutralized the strongest army in the Arab world." The British departed Palestine on 15 May 1948 and the implementation of Plan Dalet continued in earnest. The Deir Yassin massacre occurred, with 93 Palestinians killed. Soon after, four more villages were taken: Qalunya, Saris, Beit Surik, and Biddu. The United States offered a plan to stop the bloodshed by first establishing a three-month cease-fire and then developing a trusteeship plan in five years. Both ideas were rejected by the Israelis. Ben-Gurion had said that "Only a state with at least 80% Jews is a viable and stable state" and that Palestinians "can either be mass arrested or expelled; it is better to expel them." Weitz had declared that 'The only solution is to transfer the Arabs from here to neighboring countries. Not a single village or a single tribe must be left off." The only major disagreement between Ben-Gurion and Weitz was the Ben-Gurion would allow a population that was 20% Arab, while Weitz wanted no more than 15% Arabs.

Operation Naschon was the first operation of Plan Dalet. It specifically called for the destruction of Palestinian villages in April 1948. This was the first time that the various Israeli militias would operate together as a unit and become the Israeli Defense Force. Pappé says "the Arab governments did little beyond airing their inflammatory war rhetoric in all directions so as to hide their inaction and unwillingness to intervene on behalf of the Palestinians." The United Nations plan had allocated Haifa, the only port of the country, to be granted Jewish control. The De-Arabization of Haifa involved the expulsion of 75,000 Palestinians from Haifa. The 2000 members of the Israeli Carmeli Brigade quickly defeated the 500 members of a poorly equipped Lebanese force. Mordechai Maklef as the operation officer of the Carmeli Brigade, issued orders to "Kill any Arab you encounter; torch all inflammable objects and force doors open with explosives". Crowds of defenseless Palestinians ran down the streets of Haifa to the port to escape on any boat they could find. "Many [boats] turned over and sank with all their passengers". The next cities to fall were Acre, Nazareth and Safad. Pappé states that the Arab Liberation Army was never a match against the well-organized Israeli forces. According to Pappé, there was never serious Arab Liberation Army strength, so "the falsity of the myth of a Jewish David facing an Arab Goliath" was very clear. As Jerusalem was cleansed, "British inaction was the rule." In April 1948 the cleansing of Jerusalem began."All in all, eight Palestinian and 39 villages were ethnically cleansed in the Greater Jerusalem area."On 13 May, Jaffa was the last city to be taken, after a two-week battle between 5000 members of the Haganah militia and 1500 members of the Arab Liberation Army. This was the largest effort of the Arab Liberation Army. After the battle was won by the Israeli Haganah, 50,000 Palestinians were forced to leave Jaffa. Pappé states that ethnic cleansing occurred before any Arab Liberation Army soldiers arrived in Palestine. By 15 May 1948, 200 Palestinian villages were occupied and their people expelled. Another 90 villages were destroyed by 11 June 1948. At the time, Egypt and Iraq were embroiled in the final stages of the own wars of liberation, while Syria and Lebanon were young countries that had just won independence.

In a letter that David Ben-Gurion sent to the commanders of the Haganah brigades he stated, "the cleansing of Palestine remained the prime objective of Plan Dalet." Pappé states that the Arab war efforts were "ineffective" and "pathetic". This was true for Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, and Iraq. And Jordan had agreed to not attack Israel. The Arab weapons were scarce and their supply lines were ineffective. The most intensive Arab efforts occurred in the first three weeks of the war. Ethnic cleansing was conducted in at least 64 villages by the Israeli Alexandria brigade according to Pappé. They were also part of the massacre at Tantura, per Ilan Pappé, on May 2, 1948. He quotes from various witnesses that as many as 230 were massacred there. Various other brigades such as the Golani Brigade, Carmeli Brigade, Kiryati Brigade, Harel Brigade, Bulgarian Brigade, Yiftach Brigade, and Givati Brigade also conducted cleansing operations.

The ethnic cleansing continued despite the passage of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights through the United Nations General Assembly Resolution 217A(III). David Ben-Gurion's diary entry of June 5, 1948 states, "the cleansing operation continues." Eliezer Kaplan, the minister of finance authorized the confiscation of all Palestinian properties already taken. The First Truce was declared on June 8, 1948. But according to Pappé the Israelis continued the destruction of villages that had already been taken. The truce ended on July 8, 1948. Fighting continued with the Israelis showing the upper hand against the various Arab forces. The Israelis took Itarun, Amqa, Tel-Qisan, Saffuriyya, Kfar Yassif, Abu Sinan, Judeida, and Tabash. On July 18, 1948 another truce was organized by the U.N. mediator Count Folke Bernadotte. Pappé states, "In less than two weeks, hundreds of thousands of Palestinians had been expelled from their villages, towns, and cities." Count Folke Bernadotte was murdered in September, "for having dared to put forward a proposal to re-divide the country in half, and to demand the unconditional return of all the refugees." Pappé mentions various Israeli operations such as Operation Palm Tree, Operation Kippa, Operation Broom, Operation Scissors, Operation Cyprus, Operation Policeman, Operation Autumn and Operation Dani. Pappé quotes from Keith Wheeler of the Chicago Sun Times that in one operation "Practically everything in their (Israeli Forces) path died." He also quotes from the London Economist that, village "inhabitants were forced to start marching after their houses had been looted, their family members murdered and their city wrecked."

According to Pappé, "Over 700,000 olive and orange trees have been destroyed by the Israelis. This is an act of sheer vandalism from a state that claims to practice conservation of the environment." Pappé says that "the Israeli Land Authority, the army, the government and the Jewish National Fund" have all been "involved in establishing new Jewish settlements on the lands of the destroyed Palestinian villages." He also says that "The dispossession was accompanied by the renaming of the places it had seized, destroyed and now recreated." Furthermore, "This mission was accomplished with the help of archaeologists and biblical experts who volunteered to serve on an official Naming Committee whose job it was to Hebraize Palestine's geography."He goes on to state, "The true mission of the J.N.F., in other words, has been to conceal these visible remnants of Palestine not only by the trees it has planted over them, but also by the narratives it has created to deny their existence." As an example, Pappé refers to the Forest of Birya, which is the largest man made forest in Israel. It conceals the land of six Palestinian villages; Dishon, Alma, Israel, Qaddita, Amqa, Ayn al-Zaytun, and Biryya. Also the Ramat Menashe Park covers the ruins of Lajjun, Mansi, Kafrayan, Al-Butaymat, Hubeza, Daliyat al-Rawha, Sabbarin, Burayka, Al-Sindiyana, and Umm al-Zinat. The Jerusalem forest is another example.

Pappé says the creation of the United Nations Relief and Work Agency was not committed to the return of the refugees as resolution 194 was. There were one million Palestinian refugees and U.N.R.W.A. was created to meet their daily needs as refugees. He says that international peace brokers consistently sidelined the Palestinian cause and there "was the categorical refusal of the Israelis to acknowledge the Nakba and their absolute unwillingness to be held accountable, legally, and morally, for the ethnic cleansing they committed in 1948." In the first attempts at peace, the U.N. held a peace conference in Switzerland. There, the U.S., the U.N., the Arab world, the Palestinians, and the Israeli foreign minister, Moshe Sharett, accepted a plan for a two-state solution in which a right of return was guaranteed. But, according to Pappé, David Ben-Gurion along with King Abdullah of Jordan, defeated those efforts. For the following two decades there was a lull in international interest. Then, "The June War (1967) ended with total Israeli control over all of ex-Mandatory Palestine." Israel then established three important axioms/guidelines for defining the debate over the Palestinian issue. One, the conflict had its origin in 1967 and the solution would be defined by an agreement on what to do with the West Bank and Gaza. (Pappé points out that the West Bank and Gaza make up only 22% of Palestine.) Two, the West Bank and Gaza could be further divided. Three, nothing that occurred prior to 1967 could ever be negotiated. As a response, for four decades, Yassar Arafat conducted a campaign to get the world to recognize that an ethnic cleansing had occurred in 1948. And according to Pappé, this task for the Palestinians continues to today. Pappé mentions that the Knesset had even gone to the extent of passing a law that prohibited Israeli negotiators from discussing the right of return. He also speculates that if Israelis were to acknowledge the Nakba that it would be akin to recognizing "that they have become the mirror image of their own worst nightmare [i.e., the Nazis]."

Pappé describes a law the Knesset passed on 31 July 2003. This law states that any Palestinian who marries an Israeli will not be granted Israeli citizenship, permanent residency, or temporary residency. He also discusses the advent of the Israeli West Bank barrier. He states, "None of this is new" because Theodore Herzl wrote in 1895, "We shall endeavor to expel the poor population across the border unnoticed, procuring employment for it in the transit countries, but denying it any employment in our own country." In 2003 Benyamin Netanyahu said, "If the Arabs in Israel form 40% of the population, this is the end of the Jewish State. But 20% is also a problem. If the relationship with these 20% becomes problematic, the state is entitled to employ extreme measures." The "demographic problem" remains serious today in the minds of many Israelis: "There are 2.5 million Palestinians sharing the state with six million Jews. There are also another 2.5 million Palestinians in the Gaza strip and in the areas Israel does not want in the West Bank."

In his Epilogue, Pappé points out that the Faculty Club of Tel Aviv University is called the Green House. It is built upon the remains of the Palestinian village, Shaykh Muwannis. It is the epitome of the denial of ethnic cleansing according to Pappé because there is no mention of its true history. Pappé goes on to say that the university does not have a record of looking into the Zionist history of ethnic cleansing whatsoever in any of its disciplines. He concludes by saying "We end this book as we began: with the bewilderment that this crime [ethnic cleansing, the Nakba] was so utterly forgotten and erased from our minds and memories. But we now know the price: the ideology that enabled the depopulation of half of Palestine's native people in 1948 is still alive and continues to drive inexorable, sometimes indiscernible, cleansing of those Palestinians who live there today."

Ethnic cleansing of Palestinians, or, democratic Israel at work
by Gideon Levy
May 12, 2011
It happened on the day after Independence Day, when Israel was immersed in praise of itself and its democracy almost ad nauseam, and on the eve of (virtually outlawed ) Nakba Day, when the Palestinian people mark the "catastrophe" - the anniversary of the creation of Israel. My colleague Akiva Eldar published what we have always known but for which we lacked the shocking figures he revealed: By the time of the Oslo Accords, Israel had revoked the residency of 140,000 Palestinians from the West Bank. In other words, 14 percent of West Bank residents who dared to go abroad had their right to return to Israel and live here denied forever. In other words, they were expelled from their land and their homes. In other words: ethnic cleansing.

While we are still desperately concealing, denying and repressing our major ethnic cleansing of 1948 - over 600,000 refugees, some who fled for fear of the Israel Defense Forces and its predecessors, some who were expelled by force - it turns out that 1948 never ended, that its spirit is still with us. Also with us is the goal of trying to cleanse this land of its Arab inhabitants as much as possible, and even a bit more. After all, that's the most covert and desired solution: the Land of Israel for the Jews, for them alone. A few people dared to say it outright - Rabbi Meir Kahane, Minister Rehavam Ze'evi and their disciples, who deserve a certain amount of praise for their integrity. Many aspire to do the same thing without admitting it.

The revelation of the policy of denying residency has proved that this secret dream is in effect the establishment's secret dream. There one doesn't talk about transfer, heaven forfend; nobody would think of calling it cleansing. They don't load Arabs onto trucks as they once did, including after the Six-Day War, and they don't shoot at them to chase them away - all politically incorrect methods in the new world. But in effect that's the goal.
Some people think it's enough if we make the lives of the Palestinians in the territories miserable to get them to leave, and many have in fact left. An Israeli success: According to the Civil Administration, about a quarter of a million Palestinians voluntarily left the West Bank in the bloody years 2000-2007. But that's not enough, so various and sundry administrative means were added to make the dream come true.

Anyone who says "it's not apartheid" is invited to reply: Why is an Israeli allowed to leave his country for the rest of his life, and nobody suggests that his citizenship be revoked, while a Palestinian, a native son, is not allowed to do so? Why is an Israeli allowed to marry a foreigner and receive a residency permit for her, while a Palestinian is not allowed to marry his former neighbor who lives in Jordan? Isn't that apartheid? Over the years I have documented endless pitiful tragedies of families that were torn apart, whose sons and daughters were not permitted to live in the West Bank or Gaza due to draconian rules - for Palestinians only.

Take Dalal Rasras, for example, a toddler with cerebral palsy from Beit Omar, who was recently separated from her mother for months only because her mother was born in Rafah. Only after her case was publicized did Israel let the mother return to her daughter "beyond the letter of the law" - the cruel letter of the law that does not permit residents of Gaza to live in the West Bank, even if they have made their homes there.

The cry of the dispossessed has now been translated into numbers: 140,000, only until the Oslo Accords. Students who went to study at foreign universities, businessmen who tried their luck abroad, scientists who went abroad for professional training, native Jerusalemites who dared to move to the West Bank temporarily - they all met the same fate. All of them were taken by the wind and expelled by Israel. They couldn't return.

Most amazing of all is the reaction of those responsible for the policy of ethnic cleansing. They didn't know. Maj. Gen. (res. ) Danny Rothschild, formerly the chief military governor with the euphemistic title "coordinator of government activities in the territories," said he heard about the procedure for the first time from Haaretz. It turns out that not only is the cleansing continuing, so is the denial. Every Palestinian child knows, and only the general doesn't. Even today there are still 130,000 Palestinians registered as "NLR," a heartwarming IDF acronym for "no longer a resident," as though voluntarily, another euphemism for "expelled." And the general who is considered relatively enlightened was unaware.

This is an absolute refusal to allow the return of the refugees - something that would "destroy the State of Israel." It's also an absolute refusal to allow the return of the people recently expelled. By next Independence Day we'll probably invent more expulsion regulations, and on the next holiday we'll talk about "the only democracy."

My Lunch with Yonatan Shapira
by Rabbi Brant Rosen
May 5, 2010

Yonatan Shapira, 38, is an Israel Air Force pilot and captain who authored the "pilots' letter" of 2003, signed by 27 IAF pilots who said they would refuse to fly over the occupied territories. When he was asked by the BBC for his assessment of the situation in Gaza, and who was responsible, he blamed Israel, saying that his assessment was that Israel is responsible for war crimes. He continued: "It is not just a war crime against the Palestinians; it is a crime against the Israeli people ... We are locking 1.5 million people in a ghetto, we treat them as animals and this is the result ... As Jewish people, we know you can not kill the desire for people to be free ... I want to ask all the Jewish community, please join our force and stop this massive killing, for the sake of Israel, for the sake of Palestine, and for the sake of the world ... I want to cry and shout ..."

I had the pleasure of meeting Yonatan Shapira for lunch in Evanston yesterday. If you’ve never heard of him, Yonatan was an officer in the Israeli Air Force and flew hundreds of missions over the territories in a Blackhawk helicopter squadron during the course of his eleven year career. Following a targeted bomb assassination of a Hamas leader that killed fourteen civilians in Gaza, he became a prominent Israeli "refusenik," authoring the Pilot’s Letter – a 2003 statement signed by 27 Israeli pilots who publicly refused to fly missions over the Occupied Territories.

Since that time, Yonatan has gone on to co-found "Combatants for Peace " a prominent organization in the growing Israeli Refusenik movement . A few years ago he gained some more notoriety for writing and performing "Numu, Numu," a powerful protest song written in the form of an ironic "Lullaby to Pilots." (More recently, he’s become the object of a pop love song that’s currently making the rounds on Israeli radio – Richard Silverstein has the story on that in Tikun Olam ).

I had known of Yonatan’s refusenik activism, but during our lunch conversation I was surprised to learn that he is also very active in supporting non-violent Palestinian actions in Sheikh Jarrah, Bi’ilin and throughout the Occupied Territories. (He was, in fact, arrested last January at a demonstration in Sheikh Jarrah.) He told me that this work has been transformative for him, explaining that as an IDF officer and even as a leader in the Israeli peace movement he has always been socialized to step forward and lead the way. He said he’s come to realize that the most important way he can serve now is to "stand behind" Palestinians in their non-violent campaign for liberation.

He told me numerous stories about his experiences at demonstrations. He mentioned that the IDF is increasing their crackdown on protesters, that they hire infiltrators to throw stones at the army to given soldiers the a pretext to open fire. None of it succeeds, of course: quite the opposite. The Palestinian non-violence movement is growing steadily – a "White Intifada " that Yonatan believes has already begun. As a IDF officer himself, he explained the Israeli military mentality – that army commanders truly believe they have the power to "outlaw" these protests through the sheer force of their military might.

Yonatan also mentioned that as part of his support of non-violent Palestinian activism, he has also signed on to the internal Israeli movement for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) known as "Boycott from Within ." Now that is the new definition of bravery: a high ranking Israeli Air Force veteran who comes from a military family (his father was a fighter pilot during the Six Day War) has now firmly put himself on the front lines of a global non-violence campaign initiated by the very people he himself had once been trained to attack.

I assumed that Yonatan would be made a virtual pariah for his public stands. He replied that as a military man he understands how soldiers think and generally knows how to engage them in dialogue even when they strongly disagree with him. He also mentioned that his family is supportive of his work – his father "is not quite there yet" but respects his activism and his mother is "the most active of them all."

Related pages: Christians may want to consider the ethical question What would Jesus do? If you are unfamiliar with the real history of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, or have been told that Israel is "only defending itself," please read Albert Einstein's 1948 letter to the New York Times and Einstein on Palestine: the Prophet of Peace. If you want to understand how the maps below relate to Israel's new offensive against Gaza, known as Operation "Pillar of Defense" or the biblical "Pillar of Clouds," please click here Amud Annan "Pillar of Fire." If you want to hear the opinion of the former U.S. president and Nobel Peace Prize laureate who negotiated peace talks between Israel and Palestinians, please click here Jimmy Carter: "Israeli policy is to confiscate Palestinian territory." You may also want to read and consider Israeli Prime Ministers who were Terrorists; they include Menachem Begin, Yitzhak Shamir, Yitzhak Rabin, Ariel Sharon and David Ben-Gurion.

Map 1 of 1946 Palestine shows more than 90% of the land belonging to Palestinians; at this point Jewish settlers had paid for most of the land they occupied
Map 2 of 1947 U.N. partition plan of Israel and Palestine; the land in the white areas was not "given" to Israel; Israeli Jews took the additional land
Map 3 of 1967 borders of Israel and Palestine; these are the "1967 lines" aka as the "1949 armistice lines"; once again Israeli Jews took the additional land
Map 4 of 2000 borders shows how Israel keeps taking land outside its legal borders, creating discontiguous Palestinian

Israel keeps evidence of ethnic cleansing locked away
by Jonathan Cook  
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 Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East(Pluto Press) and Disappearing Palestine: Israel’s Experiments in Human Despair (Zed Books). His website is A version of this article originally appeared in The National, published in Abu Dhabi.

The HyperTexts