The ghosts of Israel’s past are far from resolved. But who really wants to address this today? The Jewish Diaspora? Hardly:
More than one unwitting visitor to Jerusalem has fallen prey to the bizarre delusion that they are the Messiah. Usually, they are whisked off to the serene surroundings of Kfar Shaul psychiatric hospital on the outskirts of the city, where they are gently nursed back to health.
It is an interesting irony that the patients at Kfar Shaul recuperate from such variations on amnesia on the very spot that Israel has sought to erase from its collective memory.
The place is Deir Yassin. An Arab village cleared out in 1948 by Jewish forces in a brutal battle just weeks before Israel was formed, Deir Yassin has come to symbolise perhaps more than anywhere else the Palestinian sense of dispossession.
Sixty-two years on, what really happened at Deir Yassin on 9 April remains obscured by lies, exaggerations and contradictions. Now Ha’aretz, a liberal Israeli newspaper, is seeking to crack open the mystery by petitioning Israel’s High Court of Justice to release written and photographic evidence buried deep in military archives. Palestinian survivors of Deir Yassin, a village of around 400 inhabitants, claim the Jews committed a wholesale massacre there, spurring Palestinians to flee in the thousands, and undermining the long-held Israeli narrative that they left of their own accord.
Israel’s opposing version contends that Deir Yassin was the site of a pitched battle after Jewish forces faced unexpectedly strong resistance from the villagers. All of the casualties, it is argued, died in combat.
In 2006, an Israeli arts student, Neta Shoshani, applied for access to the Deir Yassin archives for a university project, believing a 50-year embargo on the secret documents had expired eight years previously. She was granted limited access to the material, but was informed that there was an extended ban on the more sensitive documents. When a lawyer demanded an explanation, it emerged that a ministerial committee only extended the ban more than a year after Ms Shoshani’s first request, exposing the state to a legal challenge. The current embargo runs until 2012.
Defending its right to keep the documents under wraps, the Israeli state has argued that their publication would tarnish the country’s image abroad and inflame Arab-Israeli tensions. Ha’aretz and Ms Shoshani have countered that the public have a right to know and confront their past.
Judges, who have viewed all the archived evidence held by the Israeli state on Deir Yassin, have yet to make a decision on what, if anything, to release. Among the documents believed to be in the state’s possession is a damning report written by Meir Pa’il, a Jewish officer who condemned his compatriots for bloodthirsty and shameful conduct on that day. Equally incriminating are the many photographs that survive.
And a direct line to the Zionist state’s behaviour today:
The Israeli authorities finally revealed yesterday that they had been holding a prominent Israeli-Arab human rights activist for several days and had accused him of spying for Lebanon’s Hizbollah guerrillas.
Israel appeared to buckle under intense domestic pressure to release details of the case against Amir Makhoul after a gagging order issued by the courts had prevented the media from reporting details of the case. The order, which covered details including his identity, riled democracy advocates in Israel after a similar case last month involving the secret house arrest of an Israeli journalist.
Mr Makhoul, the director of Palestinian non-governmental organisation (NGO) Ittijah, was arrested in a dawn raid on his home in the Israeli town of Haifa on Thursday last week.
Israeli police said yesterday that they suspected Mr Makhoul and Omar Sayid, a member of the Arab political party Balad who was arrested on April 24, of spying for Hizbollah. Israel views Lebanon as an enemy state and fought a devastating month-long war against Hizbollah in 2006. In recent weeks, Israel has accused Hizbollah of obtaining Scud missiles from Syria.
A lawyer acting for the two men said the charges had “no basis” and were merely a tool to clamp down on outspoken Israeli-Arabs, Palestinians who have taken Israeli citizenship. “Contacts with foreign agents has become a serious [tool] for criminalising Arabs in Israel,” said Hasan Jabareen, general director of the Adalah human rights organisation, and part of Mr Makhoul’s legal defence team.
“Any contact, whether it is with human rights organisations or just social contacts, can be perceived by Israel as contact with foreign agents,” Mr Jabareen said, adding that lawyers had not been allowed to meet with Mr Makhoul.
Mr Makhoul, whose brother Assam is a former member of Israel’s parliament, is a leading advocate on Palestinian rights issues, particularly within the Israeli-Arab community. Assam Makhoul told Ha’aretz newspaper that the family believed that Mr Makhoul had angered the Israeli authorities with his campaigns that fought the government’s “racist and discriminatory policies” towards Israeli-Arabs.