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.
danger explains a decision quietly taken last month by Benjamin
Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, to extend by an additional 20
years the country’s 50-year rule for the release of sensitive documents.
new 70-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
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
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.
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.
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.
Known and very popular cialis coupon which gives all the chance to receive a discount for a preparation which has to be available and exactly cialis coupons has been found in the distant room of this big house about which wood-grouses in the houses tell.
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 [Israel Defence Forces] arrived, out of fear of the
‘savage conqueror’ … Fools, why did they have to flee?”
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 terrorised 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.
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.
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 learnt of this “alternative narrative” but did nothing to
investigate or publicise it.
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.
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.
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
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 per cent of Palestinians in the war,
followed by a military campaign to destroy hundreds of villages to
ensure the refugees never returned.
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 Mr Netanyahu and others want the archives to remain
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.
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.
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.
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 www.jkcook.net.