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

Bedouins Al-Naqab (AP)

Ramzy Baroud

Middle East Monitor  /  February 8, 2022

February 8, 2022

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.

“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 “unutilized”. 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.

Ramzy Baroud is a journalist and the Editor of the Palestine Chronicle; his latest book is These Chains Will Be Broken: Palestinian Stories of Struggle and Defiance in Israeli Prisons (Clarity Press)