Israel’s secret team that empties state archives

The ghost of Nakba. The Malmab, a department in the Israeli Defense Ministry, has been hiding evidence of Palestinian expulsion for years. The aim: to undermine the credibility of historical research through the disappearance of declassified documents
Palestinian families fleeing Jaffa © Unrwa

TEL AVIV – “The law in Israel is clear, it states that every individual can have free access to the archives and can consult the documents that have become available after being declassified, as happens in other countries. In fact, only a negligible percentage of the documents are accessible”.

This is explained to us by Lior Yavne, director of Akevot, a small and combative research institute that identifies, digitizes and catalogs various forms of documentation on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

THE PURPOSE IS TO HELP human rights defenders, researchers and educators through free access to files in Israeli, government and private archives. And it’s not easy. “In the archive of the armed forces, the largest in Israel – Yavne tells us – only 50 thousand of the 12 million documents it contains are available. In the state archives just 1% of the files. And the archives of the Shin Bet, the internal security service, are still inaccessible”.

For this reason, he continues, the researchers consult private archives: “It is the arena in which the defense ministry illegally acts to make documents relating to the nuclear activities of Israel or other states, relations with a series of nations inaccessible. , Palestinian citizens of Israel, the Nakba and Palestinian communities during and after 1948. The defense ministry asks or orders those in charge of the archives to conceal certain files. Often these are documents that do not represent any risk to national security but which have political and historical significance”.

Akevot, thanks to the relationships he maintains with researchers, teachers and the employees of the archives, has discovered that there are “individuals” who move from one office to another ordering certain documents to disappear.

“We know these people present themselves as state archives officials but in reality they are not. We believe they are part of the security apparatus, more precisely the Malmab, a special a department in the Israeli Defense Ministry,” says Yavne, revealing that his institute was able to obtain copies of some missing files. These include a 29-page document, dated June 30, 1948, drawn up by the intelligence services on the reasons for the “emigration” of Palestinians from the territory controlled by the newborn State of Israel.

IT IS A DOCUMENT of exceptional importance that totally contradicts the official narrative with which Israelis grew up about the Nakba (‘catastrophe’) and the causes of the exodus of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians during the war of 1948.” It was not – as the official Israeli and Western historiography has always led to believe – the appeals launched by the Arab leaders to leave Palestine and to wait for the end of “the Jewish state” to return that prompted the Palestinians to abandon 219 villages, four cities and to seek shelter in Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, the West Bank and Gaza.

In most cases, the intimations and armed attacks on civilians launched by Jewish forces, both regular and irregular, were decisive. It could be said, the intelligence at one point summarizes, “that the impact of Jewish military actions on migration was decisive, as about 70% of the inhabitants left their communities and emigrated as a result of these actions”.

THE FILE SPECIFIES the number of inhabitants in each village and city and then lists the reason for the depopulation. For example: “Ein Zaytoun, destruction of the village by us; Qabbaa, our attack on them”. It also specifies the direction of the exodus.

The result is a picture that amply accredits the thesis of ethnic cleansing of Palestine presented by Ilan Pappè and confirms the studies and research carried out over the last 30-40 years by other Israeli “new historians”: Benny Morris, Hillel Cohen and Avi Shlaim.

The report released by Akevot kicked off the investigation carried out by journalist Hagar Shezaf published on July 5 by the English-language edition of the newspaper Haaretz with the title Burying the Nakba: How Israel Systematically Hides Evidence of 1948 Expulsion of Arabs . Investigation that includes an interview with Yehiel Horev, the former head of Malmab charged with clearing away documents that damage Israel’s image and that could weaken the international green light, from 1948 to today, to its actions and the denial of political rights (and not only) of the Palestinians.

HOREV, ANSWERING the journalist’s questions, explains that Malmab’s job is to make sure that the credibility of certain research is compromised through the disappearance of official documents on the Nakba that historians have consulted in the past.

A clear reference to who thanks to the declassification of a certain number of files was able to refute the official version of events before, during and after the birth of Israel and to illustrate the real reasons for the “miraculous departure” of the Palestinians from their land .

Some of those files, made available in the past, have been made to disappear in order, Hover explains, to make what is read in a good number of books unreliable. Hagar Shezaf explains this well by referring to an episode four years ago. The historian Tamar Novick was struck by a document found in the Yad Yaari Archive of the Mapam party relating to the massacre of 52 Palestinians and serious abuses in Safsaf, in the upper Galilee, captured by the forces of the Israeli Seventh Brigade during the Hiram operation towards the end. of 1948.

NOVICK DECIDED to consult some colleagues, including Morris who in a note from his book The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem, 1947-1949, claims to have found the same document in the Yad Yaari Archive. But when Novick returned to examine the document, it was gone. The historian was then explained that he had been made to disappear by order of the defense ministry.

“Since the beginning of the last decade – Hagar Shezaf tells us – the Malmab teams have removed from the archives numerous documents that had been declassified, as part of a systematic effort to hide the Nakba evidence”. Malmab concealed the testimony of generals on the killing of civilians and the demolition of villages, as well as documentation of the expulsion of the Bedouins during the first decade of the state.

HUNDREDS, perhaps thousands of files that write the story of the Nakba, the true story of 1948, are gone . A story that the Palestinians for 71 years have tried in vain to bring out in an increasingly indifferent world that no longer wants to hear them.

Source: Michele Giorgio, Il Manifesto, August 18, 2019


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