Declassified: Israel Made Sure Arabs Couldn't Return to Their Villages

Haaretz
https://www.haaretz.com/.premium-israel-lifted-military-rule-over-arabs-in-1966-only-after-ensuring-they-couldn-t-ret-1.7297983

Yotam Berger
May 27, 2019

Trove of archival documents reveals how Israel prevented Arabs from returning to villages they had left in 1948 – chiefly, by razing structures and planting dense forests

Israel lifted its military rule over the state’s Arab community in 1966 only after ascertaining that its members could not return to the villages they had fled or been expelled from, according to newly declassified archival documents.

The documents both reveal the considerations behind the creation of the military government 18 years earlier, and the reasons for dismantling it and revoking the severe restrictions it imposed on Arab citizens in the north, the Negev and the so-called Triangle of Locales in central Israel.

These records were made public as a result of a campaign launched against the state archives by the Akevot Institute, which researches the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

After the War of Independence in 1948, the state imposed military rule over Arabs living around the country, which applied to an estimated 85 percent of that community at the time, say researchers at the NGO. The Arabs in question were subject to the authority of a military commander who could limit their freedom of movement, declare areas to be closed zones, or demand that the inhabitants leave and enter certain locales only with his written permission.

The newly revealed documents describe the ways Israel prevented Arabs from returning to villages they had left in 1948, even after the restrictions on them had been lifted. The main method: dense planting of trees within and surrounding these towns.

At a meeting held in November 1965 at the office of Shmuel Toledano, the prime minister’s adviser on Arab affairs, there was a discussion about villages that had been left behind and that Israel did not want to be repopulated, according to one document. To ensure that, the state had the Jewish National Fund plant trees around and in them.

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