It is often mistakenly assumed that Israel destroyed Palestinian villages in the heat of battle in 1948, as it was expelling the inhabitants. Nothing could be further from the truth. After the army and settlers had looted the 400-plus villages, Israel’s new government contemplated what to do with these embarrassing reminders of its ethnic cleansing project…
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A few villages were used to rehouse new Jewish immigrants, while the rest were slowly and methodically razed. It was a lengthy task. Aharon Shai, a history professor at Tel Aviv university, discovered that many of the villages were not destroyed until the 1960s, in a project organised jointly by the army, the Jewish National Fund, the Israel Lands Authority and the Association of Archeological Survey.
Among the official justifications for destroying the villages were concerns that they “detracted” from the beauty of the landscape and that tourists might ask “unnecessary questions”.
Another common misunderstanding about the destroyed villages is that the former inhabitants are all living in exile, unable to see where they once lived. In fact, a small number of refugees managed to remain inside Israel, hiding in other towns and villages, and eventually received citizenship. Today they and their descendants, who number some 350,000, lead the fight to gain access to their former villages and try to challenge the injustice done to the refugees through Israel’s courts. So far they have had minimal success.
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