A few days prior to Israel’s Memorial Day (April 27th), Haaretz journalist Gideon Levy (seen here last November meeting with a Canadian delegation in Tel Aviv) asks “Why Didn’t You Tell Us About the Palestinian Village of Tantura?” Read more…
In Canada, as in Israel, everyone wants “peace”. Everyone wants “reconciliation”. That’s the easy part. But true reconciliation must start with recognizing truth and taking responsibility. It cannot develop on a foundation of hidden realities. In Canada, we have started a process of “Truth and Reconciliation” with our indigenous population. We now officially recognize that the conquest of North America was unjust, unfair and had tragic consequences for our indigenous population. We still have a long way to go. In Israel, that process has yet to begin.
In preparation for Israel’s Memorial Day 2020, journalist Gidon Levy recounts a personal story and asks “Why weren’t we told the truth?” Here some excerpts from a column in the Israeli daily Ha’aretz article of April 25, 2020.
“Every year, on the eve of Memorial Day, we’d go visit the Bachrachs in their ground floor apartment on Spinoza Street. Albina (Bianca) and Arthur Bachrach lost their only son Gideon during the conquest of the village of Tantura, in the 1948 War of Independence. They were childhood friends of my grandparents.”
(CTIP editorial note: Tantura was one of over 500 Palestinian villages that were ethnically cleansed in 1947/48 in order to make way for new European Jewish immigrants.)
“On the ruins of Tantura there now stands a vacation village. When they read out the names of the fallen on Memorial Day, I wait until they reach Gideon Bachrach, then feel a shiver go through me. My parents decided to name me after (him), and since then I’ve felt a need to visit (him) every Memorial Day.
“Nobody told us anything about what happened, except that we were fighting for a just cause. Perhaps we were told the truth, but it was partial and embarrassingly tendentious. That’s how it is when you have to consolidate a nation, establish a state and put together a narrative that is absolutely just.
“My personal hero, Gideon Bachrach, fell in a battle which led to the expulsion of 1,500 people who were never allowed to return to their lands and homes.
“According to historian Benny Morris in his book on the birth of the Palestinian refugee problem in 1947-1949, the [pre-state paramilitary organization] Haganah decided in advance to expel the inhabitants of Tantura.
“According to one contentious version there was a massacre there. That’s how one coastal village among many others was wiped out. Its residents’ world collapsed, with some of their descendants now living in the Tulkarm refugee camp. They are not allowed to visit the ruins of their village.
“My childhood hero had a part in that. Perhaps there was no other choice, perhaps not. In any case, we weren’t told a thing about it. We only learned about the Nakba in our late adulthood, after decades of denial and concealment, indoctrination and lies. Who knew there was a nation here, not just “gangs”? Who even asked themselves who those ruins and few remaining houses on the roadside had belonged to, and where on earth were their inhabitants? Who had planted the prickly pear and palm trees, often the only remaining sign of a village destroyed?
We (…) consoled Gideon’s grieving mother. That was the right thing to do then. But someone should have told us about Gideon’s victims. Someone should have told us about their just cause, alongside our own, about the bitter fate we had in store for them and imposed on them.”
In Canada as in Israel – recognizing the “truth” is the starting point
Levy’s conclusion is directed to his fellow Israelis, but it applies equally well to many Canadians.
“It’s not just about historical truth or about the root of our existence in a land upon which another people lived. We were never told what happened on the beach of Tantura the way it really happened, since there was something to conceal there.
“What happened there should have led Israel to an acknowledgement, to compensation and atonement, and that was the greatest threat of all. That’s why we never chose to do that. We never changed our attitudes to the inhabitants of this land, who were here long before the Bachrach family arrived, and we never, to this day, pondered our heavy guilt. Which is why, for most Israelis, it doesn’t exist.”
Canada Talks Israel Palestine (CTIP) is the weekly newsletter of Peter Larson, Chair of the Ottawa Forum on Israel/Palestine (OFIP). It aims to promote a serious discussion in Canada about the complicated and emotional Israel/Palestine issue. There is no need to use strong words. A focus on the truth, clear analysis and human rights is enough. Readers who have a different point of view are invited to make comment.
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