It’s the document that Israel doesn’t want you to read.
An intelligence report—once public, then hidden, now freshly uncovered again—reveals the truth about the ethnic cleansing of Palestine, straight from the source.
Written in 1948 by Shai, precursor to intelligence service Shin Bet, it lists in order of importance the reasons why Palestinians were fleeing their homes.
The most important reason, it says, was “hostile actions against Arab communities” by the armed groups that went on to form Israel’s army.
“Some 70 percent of the residents left their communities and migrated as a result of these actions.”
What this reveals is so embarrassing to the Israeli state that its defence ministry had it removed from public archives for years.
A copy of it was only recently rediscovered by researchers from Israeli NGO Akevot, which translated it into English and published it online.
It describes quite openly how, “without a doubt, hostilities were the main factor” behind the flight of Palestinians.
“Each and every district underwent a wave of migration as our actions in that area intensified and expanded.”
Many of the other reasons for the flight of Palestinians flow from this.
For instance, the report’s author realises that an attack on one village would cause residents of neighbouring villages to flee too.
“Actions had no lesser effect on neighbouring communities as they did on the community that was the direct target of the action. The evacuation of a certain village as a result of us attacking it swept with it many neighbouring villages.”
It also finds that “it was not always the intensity of the attack that was decisive, as other factors became particularly prominent—mostly psychological factors.”
“Long stints of shelling with extremely loud blasts, and loudspeakers in Arabic proved very effective when properly used,” it says.
And “ultimatums” to Arab villages—threats to get out—played a role too, along with “whispering operations [psychological warfare] intended to drive Arabs to flee.”
“Of course, these ultimatums,” it says, “came after the stage had been set to some extent by hostilities in the area.
“Therefore, these ultimatums were more of a final push than the decisive factor.”
Perhaps most revealing of all is the long annex at the end of the document. It’s a table listing hundreds of Palestinian villages along with how many people lived in each and whether the village was fully or only partially cleared.
These could be through “threats and our whispering operations,” such as at the village of Qaitiyya. More often they speak of violence, such as “our attack on them,” at Fir’im, “Destruction of village by us” at Ein Zaitun, or “conquest and expulsion” at Zarnuga.
Chillingly, terse annotations alongside each village record what happened to the population.
Some of them say, simply, “Many killed.”
‘Why we hid the truth’
The document is one of many quietly censored or removed from archives by Malmab, the Israeli defence ministry’s security department.
Israeli newspaper Haaretz says it spoke to former Malmab head Yehiel Horev, who began the project.
“He maintains that it makes sense to conceal the events of 1948, because uncovering them could generate unrest among the country’s Arab population,” Haaretz reports.
“Asked what the point is of removing documents that have already been published, he explained that the objective is to undermine the credibility of studies about the history of the refugee problem.”
The militias behind massacres
The document talks about the effectiveness of actions by “dissidents”—the Irgun and Lehi militias not part of the official army the Haganah.
These were responsible for the most notorious massacre of a Palestinian village, Deir Yassin, in April 1948, killing over 100 Palestinians.
Stories of what happened there—spread by the militias themselves—and of how many were killed, were designed to strike fear into Palestinians.
The report says, “The Deir Yassin action had a particular impact on the Arab psyche.
“Much of the immediate fleeing seen when we launched our attacks was panic flight resulting from that factor, which can be defined as a decisive catalyst.”
It also points to tacit approval of action by the “dissidents”.
Some villages, such as Deir Yassin, had signed “non—aggression pacts” with the Haganah and nearby Jewish settlements.
People were forced out...
One lie told by Israel and its supporters is that Palestinians weren’t forced to leave, they just chose to or were ordered to by Arab authorities.
This document puts an end to that lie.
It says that Arab authorities did evacuate some villages “for strategic reasons,” and that a wealthy strata of Palestinians chose to emigrate before the war. But, “Compared to other factors, this element did not have decisive weight.”
Instead, the impact of “Jewish military action (Haganah and Dissidents) on the migration was decisive, as some 70 percent of the residents left their communities and migrated as a result of these actions”.
...and stopped from returning
From the very beginning, Israel fought to stop Palestinian refugees returning to their homes.
The report describes how the Haganah attacked some villages twice, first to clear it and then to force out anyone who came back.
“There was also a movement of return to villages that had been evacuated, which forced us to engage, on more than one occasion, in expelling residents of a certain village,” it says.
Complicity of the British
Before Israel was founded, Palestine was occupied by the British Empire. Yet the attacks on the Palestinians began even before Britain left—and the British army did next to nothing to stop them.
Britain agreed to the plan that split Palestine in two, then left the Palestinians to their fate.
The report says that Britain’s departure “did, of course, help evacuation.
“But it appears that more than affecting migration directly, the British evacuation freed our hands to take action.”