The truth of the Nakba has been hidden for many decades. Not many people except the Palestinians are aware of the scale of 1948 ethnic expulsions and even fewer are aware of the atrocities occasionally performed by the nascent Israel Defense Forces (IDF). As a young Israeli pupil I was taught to believe that the “Arabs” (this is what we called them) just run for their lives. We were told that no one forced “them” to do so – they were just a bunch of cowards. We were taught that they are not as attached to the land as we, the Israelis, are. While they fled for their lives without fighting back, we, the “chosens,” schlepped all the way back to Zion after 2,000 years to reclaim “our” historic land.
The truth about the hundreds of massacres of Palestinian villagers committed by a young and well-trained enthusiastic IDF was absolutely hidden. There wasn’t even a hint that such a thing took place. We knew of only one massacre, the one in Deir Yassin. We were aware of it because the so-called “left” Israeli leadership used it to vilify their right wing political rivals – namely Menahem Begin who was directly responsible for this very massacre.
In the last decade, the horrifying exposure of Israeli brutality in the Nakba has started to filter through. Nowadays we know that the ethnic cleansing of Palestine was an orchestrated operation that was planned well in advance. As we learn in the early Zionist texts, the intention to wipe out the Palestinian existence in the Holy Land was apparent from the very beginning of the movement. The national Jewish aspiration was all about the erection of a Jews-only state in Palestine. The indigenous habitants on the land had to be expelled for the Zionist project to prevail.
It is rather obvious that the scale of Israeli atrocities in the Nakba is far from being fully explored. This alone may also explain why many of us tend to believe that Israelis are becoming more and more vicious as time goes by. We tend to believe that Israelis have ethically deteriorated. The truth of the matter is pretty devastating. Israel was born into a colossal sin. The birth of the Jewish state was a tragedy involved with an endless chain of barbarian massacres and other war crimes. As we learn from Hisham Zreiq’s film Sons Of Eilaboun, the first Israelis –the 1948 IDF soldiers – were at least as sinister as their grandsons in Gaza 2009.
Sons of Eilaboun is a story of one small village in the Galilee, one village among many. It is a story of one massacre, one massacre among many. It is a story of a small community that is tormented and traumatized for generations. Sons of Eilaboun is, in fact, the story of Palestine.
With very minimal means, Zreiq manages to deliver a very deep and authentic reading of Palestinian history. He also manages to portray the intense emotional impact of the Nakba on those who survived the horror. It is a documentation of villagers that were dispossessed and have run for their lives. But it is also an unusual story of a small Palestinian community that managed to return (thanks to UN intervention) only to find out that their houses were looted and they were left with nothing. As if this is not enough they soon found out that Israeli invaders had poked out their beloved brothers’ and sons’ eyes. One may expect that just three years after the liberation of Auschwitz Israelis soldiers would be slightly more compassionate.
You better see it to believe it.
Gilad Atzmon is a London-based jazz musician, writer and activist. His books have been translated into 22 languages. www.sonsofeilaboun.com, www.palestinethinktank.com