A new report published in the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz describes the information found in a newly-uncovered document in the government archives, which reveals that the first Israeli government, including the first Prime Minister David Ben Gurion, worked to re-write the history of Israel’s founding in 1948 to deny the fact that over 750,000 Palestinians were forcibly expelled.
The file, number GL-18/17028, was apparently missed by the Israeli military censor, who has sealed all other historical documents related to Israel’s creation in 1948. With the advent of historians like Benny Morris, who went through previously de-classified documents in detail and found strong evidence of massacres of Palestinians by Israeli armed militias as well as the forced expulsion of most of the indigenous population of Palestine in 1948, documents that had been de-classified were sealed again and remain so until today.
There are currently no guidelines or timeline as to when the documents will be unsealed. However, the one file that the government censor missed has a great deal within it on the Palestinian Nakba (catastrophe), the 65th anniversary of which was marked by Palestinians and their supporters just this past Wednesday.
According to the Ha’aretz expose, “what has been uncovered provides enough information to establish that in many cases senior commanders of the Israel Defense Forces ordered Palestinians to be expelled and their homes blown up. The Israeli military not only updated Ben-Gurion about these events but also apparently received his prior authorization, in written or oral form, notably in Lod and Ramle, and in several villages in the north.”
The file also contains information on the Israeli hasbara (propaganda) campaign that was launched after the expulsion of the Palestinians, to try to re-write what happened and deny that the Palestinian people were forcibly expelled. The Ha’aretz expose says that in the early 1960s, under pressure from the Kennedy administration in the U.S. to address the crisis of the Palestinian refugees, Ben Gurion held a special meeting at the U.N.
According to the authors, “Ben-Gurion was convinced that the refugee problem was primarily one of public image (hasbara). Israel, he believed, would be able to persuade the international community that the refugees had not been expelled, but had fled.”
One of the lies promoted in the propaganda campaign of the early 1960s was a claim that Arab and Palestinian leaders encouraged the Palestinian people to flee during the 1948 Nakba. But the evidence contained in the one unclassified file does not support that claim. Instead, it was the massacres by Israeli militias in places like Deir Yassin, in which over one hundred men, women and children were lined up and shot, that made so many Palestinians fear for their lives and flee.
The rest of the documents on the subject, including government reports and military narratives, remain classified. Many of the original documents have also been destroyed by the Israeli government, some of which (according to researchers who read them) contained accounts of massacres, rapes, brutality and excessive violence that would have been embarrassing to the Israeli state, as well as calling into question the narrative that the Israeli government promotes and the history it teaches its children.