‘The blood in the barrel’: decades of Israeli propaganda are faltering

The Palestinian village of Tantura before the 1948 massacre (Matson collection - via Wikimedia Commons)

Ramzy Baroud

The Palestine Chronicle  /  February 9, 2022 

A succession of events in recent weeks all points to the inescapable fact that nearly 75 years of Israel’s painstaking efforts aimed at hiding the truth about its origins and its current racially-driven apartheid regime are miserably failing. The world is finally waking up, and Israel is losing ground much faster than its ability to gain new supporters or to whitewash its past or ongoing crimes.

First, there was Tantura, a peaceful Palestinian village whose inhabitants were exterminated by Israel’s Alexandroni Brigade on May 23, 1948. Like many other massacres committed against unarmed Palestinians throughout the years, the massacre of Tantura was mostly remembered by the village’s survivors, by ordinary Palestinians and by Palestinian historians. The mere attempt in 1998 by an 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 altogether.

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

Now, some Alexandroni Brigade veterans have finally decided to confess 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. What can you do? It happened.” These were the words of one Moshe Diamant, a former member of the Alexandroni Brigade, who, with other veterans, revealed in the documentary ‘Tantura’ by Alon Schwarz the gory details and the horrific crimes that transpired in the Palestinian village.

An officer “killed one Arab after another” with his pistol, Micha Vitkon, a former soldier, said.

“They put them into a barrel and shot them in the barrel. I remember the blood in the barrel,” another explained.

“I was a murderer. I didn’t take prisoners,” Amitzur Cohen admitted.

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 parking lot at the Dor beach, which is flocked by Israeli families on a daily basis.

The Tantura massacre and its aftermath is arguably the most glaring representation of Israeli criminality: the mass murder, the cover-up, and the dancing on the graves of the victims.

But this is not the story of Tantura alone. The latter is a representation of something much bigger, of mass-scale ethnic cleansing, of forceful evictions, and of mass killing. Thankfully, much truth is being unearthed.

In 1951, the Israeli army launched a full-scale military operation that ethnically cleansed Palestinian Bedouins from the Naqab. The tragic scenes of entire communities being uprooted from their ancestral homes were justified with the typical Israeli explanation that the terrible deed had to be done for “security reasons”. In 1953, Israel passed the so-called Land Acquisition Law, which turned what was supposedly a temporary situation into a permanent one. By then, Israel had unlawfully expropriated 247,000 dunums in the Naqab, with 66,000 remaining ‘unutilized’. The remaining land is currently the epicenter of an ongoing fight between Palestinian Bedouin communities and Israel, which argues that the land is “essential” for Israel’s “development needs”.

But according to recently-revealed documents, uncovered by extensive research conducted by Professor Gadi Algazi, Israel’s version of the truth in Naqab was a complete fabrication. According to numerous uncovered documents, Moshe Dayan, then the head of the Israeli army Southern Command, was at the center of an Israeli government and military ploy to evict the Bedouin population and to “revoke their rights as landowners”, per the conveniently created Israeli law, which allowed the government to ‘lease’ the land as of its own.

“There was an organized transfer of Bedouin citizens from the northwestern Negev eastward to barren areas, with the goal of taking over their lands. They carried out this operation using a mix of threats, violence, bribery and fraud,” Algazi told the Israeli newspaper Haaretz.

The entire scheme was organized in such a way as to provide 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”.

More still. A newly-released volume by French historian Vincent Lemire has entirely dismissed Israel’s official version of how the Moroccan Quarters of Jerusalem were demolished in June 1967. Though Palestinian and Arab historians have long argued that the destruction of the neighborhood – 135 homes, two mosques and more – was done per the order of the Israeli government through the then-Jewish mayor of Jerusalem Teddy Kollek, Israel has long denied that version. According to the official Israeli account, the demolition of the neighborhood was carried out by “15 private Jewish contractors (who) destroyed the neighborhood to make space for the Western Wall plaza”.

In an interview with Agence France Press (AFP), Lemire stated that his book offers “definitive, written proof on the premeditation, planning and coordination of this operation,” and that includes official meetings between Kollek, the commander of the Israeli army, and other top government officials.

The story goes on; more heartbreaking revelations and a well-integrated version of the truth are exposing long-hidden or denied facts. And the days of Israel getting away with these crimes seem to be behind us. A case in point is Amnesty International’s recent report, “Israel’s Apartheid against Palestinians: A Look into Decades of Oppression and Domination”.

Amnesty’s 280 pages of damning evidence of Israel’s racism and apartheid did not shy away from connecting Israel’s violent present with its equally bloody past. It did not 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 2021, Israeli injustices against the Palestinians must be recognized 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 and maximizing its control over land to benefit Jewish Israelis while minimizing the number of Palestinians and restricting their rights and obstructing their ability to challenge this dispossession,” the report stated.

And that could only happen through mass killing, ethnic cleansing, and genocide, from Tantura, to the Naqab, to the Moroccan Quarters, to Gaza and Sheikh Jarrah.

Ramzy Baroud is a journalist and the Editor of The Palestine Chronicle; his latest book, co-edited with Ilan Pappé, is Our Vision for Liberation: Engaged Palestinian Leaders and Intellectuals Speak out (forthcoming)