uncover the truth of the Nakba and what happened in 1947-8, the massacres of
the 1967 War have barely been covered.
|Still from the film Censored Voices shows a former Israeli solider listening back to an interview, censored by the military after the 1967 war.|
|Palestinian refugees from the 1948 War|
A new Israeli film from Mor Loushi delves into
some of the detail. The execution and
mass graves of Egyptian soldiers in the Sinai have been known about for some
time and the deliberate sinking by Israel of the USS Liberty, an American
spy-ship has also been well documented, as has the joint US/Israeli cover-up.
|The iconic photo that the Zionists used to whitewash the invasion – 3 soldiers at Jerusalem’s Wailing Wall|
|Israeli Generals Yitzhak Rabin, Moshe Dayan and Uzi Narkis in Jerusalem|
Nasser allowed Israel a golden opportunity.
Having blocked Israeli ships from the Gulf of Aquaba Nasser foolishly
ordered the UN troops in the Sinai to withdraw.
Israel of course took full advantage of this in order to conquer the
Sinai, Golan and West Bank.
|The Zionist soldier’s eternal dilemma|
“In the operation we had to cleanse the inhabitants. This uprooting of a
villager, rooted in his village and turning him into a refugee, by simply
expelling him, and not one, two or three of them but a real eviction. And when
you see a whole village is led like lambs to the slaughter without any
resistance you understand what is the Holocaust.” — An Israeli
soldier’s testimony in the documentary Censored Voices,
directed by Mor Loushi (2015)
|The USS Liberty, a spy ship, was attacked and nearly sunk by Israel because they didn’t want the US knowing what their plans were. US President Johnson covered it up. It was only when the US sent planes to defend it that Israel called off the attack|
In the wake of the June
1967 war, the Israeli author Amos Oz,
then a reserve soldier in the Israeli army, together with a friend collated
interviews with Israeli soldiers who participated in the war and asked them
about the emotions the fighting triggered in them. The interviews were published
as a book titled Conversations with Soldiers, more popularly referred
at the time by my generation as the ”shooting and crying” book.
|General Ariel Sharon at the battle of Abu-Ageila|
The military censor (a function that still exists today, held recently by
the present minister of culture, Miri Regev),
erased 70 percent of the evidence since he claimed it would have harmed
Israel’s international image.
|An over confident Nasser laughing with Airforce pilots|
This month an industrious Israeli filmmaker, Mor Loushi, is showing her new
documentary based on most of this erased material. The atrocities reported by
the soldiers include forced expulsions, like the one quoted above, graphic
descriptions of summary executions of prisoners of war and hints of massacres
of innocent villagers.
This 48th commemoration of the 1967 war coincided with the 67th
commemoration of the Nakba,
the ethnic cleansing of Palestine before and after Israel’s founding in 1948.
There is more than a symbolic connection here. The evil repertoire confessed by
the soldiers in the new film reminds us of the atrocities perpetrated 67 years
ago on a much larger, though similarly horrific, scale.
a long time the entire Nakba was denied while the Holocaust memory seemed to
provide carte blanche to Israel to continue the ethnic cleansing of
No wonder then, when in 1967 Israel’s territorial appetite was satisfied
with the occupation of the whole of historic Palestine, as well as large
territories from Egypt and Syria, it was achieved with the help of similar
inhumane ethnic cleansing operations of expulsions and massacres.
There was one difference between the two chapters of atrocity committed in
the two wars. In 1967, Israel was less secure about possible global, and even
American, complacency in the face of its cruel methodologies on the ground
and therefore attempted to hide them from prying eyes. The wall of secrecy
Israel built, however, nearly cracked, when the US navy ship USS
Liberty eavesdropped on the communications between the troops in the
Gaza Strip on 8 June 1967, revealing probably both the summary execution of
Egyptian prisoners of war and Palestinian civilians. The ship was destroyed on
the same day from the air by the Israeli air force.
Later on, the atrocities were substantiated by eyewitnesses and came to the
fore when mass graves were exposed in 1995 in the al-Arish area in Sinai,
straining Egypt’s relations with Israel, as CNN reported at the
The network interviewed, for the first time, relatives and survivors of
these war crimes who recalled the massacre of hundreds. The link between the
unprovoked assault on the USS Liberty and the wish to hide the
massacres and executions was thoroughly
investigated by James Bamford in his 2001 book Body of Secrets.
Thus, the newly released tapes corroborate atrocities already known and told
by those who were their victims (in this case, including 34 American navy
personnel). This was very much in the same way as Israeli documents
declassified in the 1980s corroborated the Palestinian oral history and
testimonies of the Nakba.
Purifying the perpetrators
In both cases, it took a while for the victims’ version to be heard after
years of being brushed aside by Western academia and the media as a figment of
an oriental imagination.
The Israeli eyewitnesses in the new film do not mention names of places or
dates — neither do we know who the Palestinian or Egyptian victims were.
De-naming and dehumanization are two sides of the same coin and thus the new
harrowing testimonies are cautiously presented as an act purifying the
perpetrators rather than honoring the victims.
It is another case of “shooting and crying”: namely the problem is not that
a girl lost her eye, a man’s house was demolished or an unarmed prisoner of war
was executed. The aim is to cleanse the tormented soul of the victimizer and
there is nothing like a good confession to make it all go away.
Names and dates, and even more so real human beings, require not only
acknowledgement but also accountability. Saying sorry is not always enough,
especially when the lesson is not learned. And, thus, year after year since
1967, including in recent weeks, Palestinians, with faces and names, are still
expelled, imprisoned without trial and killed.
This new film gives the impression that these crimes were the inevitable
outcome of the June 1967 war. But in fact the crimes committed after the war
were much worse in every aspect. The atrocities were not the outcome of the
war, they were part of the means used by Israel to solve the predicament the
new territorial achievement produced for the Jewish State: it incorporated in
1967 almost the same number of Palestinians it had expelled in 1948.
After the war, other means were added in the search for reconciling this
predicament. The aim was still the same: to have as much of Palestine as
possible with as few Palestinians in it as possible. The new strategy, after
the war, was based on the logic that if you cannot uproot people you root them
deeply in their areas of living without any outlet or easy access to the world
The Palestinians all over Palestine were, since 1967, incarcerated in small
enclaves surrounded by Jewish colonies, military bases and no-go areas that
bisect their geography. In the occupied territories, Israel created a
matrix of control many African National Congress leaders
regard as far worse than the worst of apartheid South Africa. The Israelis
marketed this method to the world as a temporary and necessary means for
maintaining their rule in the “disputed” territories. The “temporary” means
became a way of life and transformed into a permanent reality on the ground,
for which Israel sought international legitimacy through the 1993 Oslo accords – and
nearly got it.
This month as we commemorate the 48th year of the 1967, war we should
remind ourselves once more that this was a chapter in a history of
dispossession, ethnic cleansing and occasionally genocide of the Palestinians.
The “peace process” that began more than two decades ago was based on the
assumption that the “conflict” began in 1967 and will end with Israeli
withdrawal from the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
The “conflict” had actually begun in 1948, if not before, and the worst
part of it was not the 1967 military occupation of those parts of
Palestine that Israel had failed to take over in 1948, but rather that the
international immunity for these crimes still continues today.
One can only hope that those with the power to effect change in the
world will understand, as did the soldier quoted in the opening of this piece,
that there is more than one holocaust and that everyone, regardless of their
religion or nationality, can be either its victim or its perpetrator.
The author of numerous books, Ilan Pappe is professor of history and
director of the European Centre for Palestine Studies at the University of
Six Day War atrocities: Veteran’s
account of captives in Egyptian uniforms being shot in the desert adds fuel to
scandal; ‘A prisoner was given a shovel and started to dig. Then he was fired
Gabriel Brun, a Jerusalem journalist who served as a signals sergeant- major
in the 1967 Six-Day War, described yesterday how he saw fellow Israeli soldiers
shoot dead five prisoners of war in Egyptian uniforms.
His story added fuel to an escalating scandal sparked by a retired
brigadier-general, who confessed to executing 49 Egyptian prisoners during the
1956 Suez war. Egypt, with whom Israel signed a peace treaty in 1979, has
demanded a full account. The Israeli Prime Minister, Yitzhak Rabin, who was
chief of staff during the 1967 war, has ordered an investigation.
“What I saw happened on the morning of 7 June, the third day of the war,”
Mr Brun, who was then 24, told the Independent.
“I was at El Arish
airfield in the Sinai desert, attached to the headquarters of an armoured
division. I saw 120 to 150 Egyptian soldiers sitting with their hands tied
behind their backs in a makeshift hangar made of sandbags. About 20 yards away
I saw a trestle table with two men sitting behind it, their faces masked with
khaki handkerchiefs. Individual prisoners were pushed out of the group, brought
before this table and apparently interrogated. Some were sent back.
“I was about 30 or 40 yards away, so I couldn’t hear what was said. I
saw one man questioned, then marched about 200 yards into the desert by two
“He was given a shovel and started to dig. After about 15 minutes, I saw
the shovel thrown out. Then each of the two soldiers fired a round into the
hole. Another guy was brought and shot, falling into the same hole. A third
prisoner was brought to cover up the grave, then was marched back.
“I saw five prisoners killed in this way. Earlier I had heard 10
similar shots. I interpreted those to mean that another five were
Mr Brun said an officer explained to him afterwards that the victims were
Palestinian “terrorists”, who were wanted for murdering Israelis and
had tried to get away by merging with the fleeing Egyptians. The interrogators
were officers in army intelligence.
Arye Biro, 69, the retired brigadier who admitted killing 49 Egyptian PoWs
in the 1956 war, said on Wednesday he was not proud of what he had done, but
did not feel like a war criminal. “I have ached over what I did,” he
said, “but under the same circumstances I think I would do it again.”
Mr Biro commanded a paratroop company which dropped in the Mitla Pass, one
of the two main routes from central Sinai to the Suez Canal.
“We were hundreds of kilometres behind enemy lines,” he said.
“Egyptian planes were flying over us unhindered. Egyptian troops were
pouring into the area, and the prisoners were shouting, ‘Just you wait, the
Egyptian army will slaughter you’.”
The paratroops were ordered to head south. According to Mr Biro, they had no
transport for the prisoners and feared they would reveal the Israelis’
position. So he and a lieutenant ordered the prisoners to lie face down, then
“They didn’t cry out,” he said dispassionately. “It was all
over in a couple of minutes.”
The paratroops’ brigade commander was General Ariel Sharon, now an
opposition Likud MP. He was not in the Mitla Pass at the time of the
executions. But the battalion commander, Rafael Eitan, was. Mr Eitan, who rose
to chief of staff, is now a hard-right candidate for prime minister. Asked if
Mr Eitan ordered the killings, Mr Biro replied: “Ask him.”
According to Meir Pa’il, a military historian and retired colonel, Moshe Dayan,
who was chief of staff in 1956 and defence minister in 1967, reprimanded Mr
Eitan for the killings during a meeting with battalion commanders.
Michael Bar-Zohar, an author and former Labour MP who handled Dayan’s public
relations after the 1967 war, said: “In every one of our wars, Israeli
soldiers have killed PoWs. The high command did not want it, but it was
tolerated up to a point. I know of only one case – in the 1982 Lebanon War –
where an officer was court-martialled for killing a prisoner.