The Tantura massacre of 1948 and the academic character assassination of Teddy Katz

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“All of the men of Tantura [in Israel] were taken to the cemetery of the village, and they put them in lines, and they ordered them to begin digging, and every line that finished digging just was shot and fell down to the holes. Which I guess reminds at least a few of you, something that had to do with Germans, three years after the end of 2nd World War.”  —Teddy Katz, lecture, Olean, NY, April 14th 2005.

The Tantura massacre in May 1948, committed by Haganah forces just days after the declaration of the State of Israel, is not only one of the worst massacres of 1948, but its cover-up is also, in itself, a story, showing us just how effective silence can be in obscuring crimes against humanity.

My article is based on several hours of interview with Teddy Katz, the man whose Masters thesis on the Tantura Massacre (submitted 1998, Haifa University) caused a major furore in Israel following its wide exposure to the Israeli public in a Maariv article in early 2000. I have likewise interviewed other members of his family to get a perspective of the effect that the ideological, political, legal and societal storm has had on Katz. Historian Ilan Pappe, who was a professor at the Haifa University at the time and was very close to Katz and the case, has referred to the story in detail in his 2001 article “The Tantura Case in Israel: The Katz Research and Trial” (in Journal of Palestininian Studies) , which was written whilst a libel case against Katz by Haganah veterans was taking place. I refer to Pappe’s article quite a lot and summarize from it, as well as from other articles, and mirror these facts and references with those things said by Teddy Katz as well as his family. I continue in my coverage beyond the trial until late 2003, when the university, which first awarded Katz with an A+, later failed him on his revised thesis which was even more comprehensive – in an act which was clearly motivated by political concerns, as I will show.

One may ask, why this story would still hold currency for us today?

The answer lies in the fact while there has been an ATTEMPT to silence and close the case, that effort has not succeeded. This is why Katz and Pappe are still working away this very day, to further expose the Tantura massacre and the story of its collective Israeli silencing. They do this because of the greater cause – which is the general collective “memoricide” that Israel, from political top to media, academia and public inflict upon this chapter in Israel’s history – known as the Nakba, the Catastrophe. By denying the truth of the Nakba, Israel is avoiding the most causative chapter in its history, and inflicting a blindness to the violent essence of its subjugation of Palestinians since. Recognition of these causative events is essential to approaching any understanding of the power paradigm and its resolution towards peace.

Whilst there are those who seek to keep the truth of the events buried in the sand, it becomes the mission of those who see its importance, to keep uncovering it. This is my motivation in writing this article.

‘Problematic history’

The issue of what actually happened there in 1948 continues to promote heated debate. Was it essentially a “war of self-defence” forced upon Israel, or an act of deliberate ethnic cleansing? Whilst there may be some possible options in between (as the view of Benny Morris, that there was a ”transfer” but that it was born of war, not design), Israel has been very careful about keeping cases that challenge the “self-defence” narrative hidden.” It goes to the extent of not only prolonging half-century classifications (as here) but even re-classifications of already declassified material which the state had “regretted” the exposure of.

Tantura was a Palestinian village on the Mediterranean coast south of Haifa and inside the area the United Nations had ruled would become a Jewish state. The massacre there was one of the biggest massacres perpetrated in the 1948 war, second to Dawaymeh. The reason these massacres are less known than the Deir Yassin massacre is likely because the leadership was in a very different paradigm than at the time of Deir Yassin in April 1948. Then it was the Irgun and Stern Gang, the terrorist underground organisations, which were informed by the ultra-nationalist Revisionist ideology of Jabotinsky. They were to the right of Ben-Gurion, so he and the more mainstream Labor leadership could thus both profit from the terror and the Palestinian flight that it caused, whilst distancing themselves from it and portraying it as a rogue act. After the declaration of the state in May 1948, Ben-Gurion outlawed these organizations and had their members incorporated into the Israeli Defense Forces. Thus massacres committed after the declaration could no longer be attributed to “others”, and the Israeli leadership had to be more cautious about the portrayal of such events – so as not to resemble a rogue state.

One needs to bear in mind that we are not speaking of a mere handful of massacres. According to historian Ilan Pappe, there were nearly 40 of them.

The massacre of Tantura was first mentioned very scarcely: In about 1950 Nimr al-Khatib published in Damascus under the title Min Athar al-Nakba (Consequences of the Catastrophe) a compendium of writings, including his own memoirs on Haifa and several eyewitness accounts by Palestinian refugees from various parts of the country. Khatib’s work, along with those of two other Arab authors, was translated into Hebrew in 1954 by the Israel Defense Forces, General Staff/History Branch, and published under the title Be’einei Oyev (In Enemy Eyes). Khatib’s references to the Tantura massacre comprise a short account by Iqab al-Yahya, a notable of the village, and a longer and more detailed account by his son Marwan. Khatib also reports cases of Tantura female rape victims being treated in a Nablus hospital. Nonetheless Tantura was not even mentioned as a massacre in Walid Khalidi’s seminal All That Remains.

This relative quiet about the massacre means that these accounts did not manage to make any considerable impression upon the Israeli public or its international sphere of media influence because of the “suspicion and, indeed, delegitimization that is usually applied in Israel to Palestinian oral history (and, indeed, to Palestinian history in general),” as Pappe writes in his essay. One can also glean the nature of this attitude in the very title of that Israeli 1954 article – “In enemy eyes”. The attitude to such oral history is completely different when it comes to Holocaust accounts. As the Israeli historian Omer Bartov wrote about the use of oral history in the reconstruction of the Holocaust :

“The memory of trauma is often murky, unstable, contradictory, untrustworthy. . . What we learn [from memoirs of camp survivors] are not the fine details of camp administration, train schedules, ideological purpose and genocidal organization. These are matters far better left for historians. What we learn is the infinity of pain and suffering that makes the memory of those years into a burden whose weight stretches far beyond the ephemeral human existence, a presence that clings to the mind and inhabits the deep recesses of consciousness long after it should have been cleansed and washed away.”  [“An Infinity of Suffering,” Times Literary Supplement, 15 December 2000, as quoted in Pappe’s essay]

The problem in addition was that Haganah and IDF archives from the time were generally very few, scant, and classified (the headline quote actually only came to light after Katz had submitted his thesis). So one was left with a “narrative” that was solely “Palestinian”, and an Israeli “narrative” that is devoid of any mentioning of problematic issues – the typical “conflict of narratives”.

Yet there were Israeli combatants who had seen what had happened. They were simply not talking. And no-one was asking.

But then came Teddy Katz, and started asking – a lot. And he got these Israeli veterans, as well as Palestinian survivors, to speak, and they spoke for many hours. One should not be mistaken to think, that the Palestinian survivors were easy about talking these matters out with a Jewish Israeli researcher. For example, in one of the testimonies, Mustafa Masri (Abu Jamil) who speaks of “Shimshon […] from Givat Ada”, after also noting that “he had such a whip, and lashed them just for fun”, says at the end:

“But believe me, one should not mention these things. I do not want them to take revenge on us, you are going to cause us trouble. I made a mistake in giving you the name of the person who handed my family over”.

Theodore Katz
Theodore “Teddy” Katz

The reason I will use a big portion of this writing to speak also about Teddy Katz and his academic fate in the wake of his uncovering of the massacre, is because his story shows us just how live and current this “history” is, and just how much it means for Zionist advocates from the state, academia and public, to have this history buried back in the sands of oblivion.

Teddy Katz

Let me tell you about Teddy Katz.  We’re actually from neighbor kibbutzim in the central coastal plain. I studied elementary and middle school with one of his three daughters, he accompanied school trips.

I have spent many hours speaking with Teddy in preparation for this article (as well as speaking with his family). His story is quite exotic, and not what you might expect of a normal “academic”.

Teddy comes from a typical agricultural background. He worked with the goats, he worked in the fields. Already in his 40’s, he decided it was time to do something academic. So he signed up for the University of Haifa. As he was no longer a young student, he took it slowly in the beginning. He wanted to find out whether he could actually manage to “sit in the classroom” once again. The death of his 20-year old daughter Amira in an accident in the late 80’s delayed his study, but he finally managed to submit his master’s thesis in 1998, entitled “The Exodus of the Arabs from Villages at the Foot of Southern Mount Carmel”. The thesis was awarded an outstanding score – A+, about 97%. Pappe regards it “the highest possible grade for a master’s thesis” and Zalman Amit, who translated the final thesis, regards it “the highest rating for a thesis that I have ever heard of”.

Katz interviewed 135 people in all. Forty of those interviewed were directly related to the Tantura massacre – 20 Palestinians and 20 Jews, all taped.

But Katz was not prepared for what he was to discover in the case of Tantura. He told me that he had imagined that it couldn’t be that bad, because these were after all not the Irgun or Stern Gang, but rather the Haganah (the more mainstream militias). But what he discovered was in his own words “living hell”.

At first, these people confided in Katz quite a lot – apparently because they believed that Katz was “one of theirs”, that he would be “loyal to the tribe” and either cover the case up, at least not expose it widely. But when the work of Katz became openly addressed in the Israeli media (in an article in Maariv on 21st January 2000 by Amir Gilat), Katz experienced a storm of outrage and a court case for libel by veterans of the Alexandroni brigade.

One of those who had provided Katz with a four-hour testimony, wherein he repeatedly compared the horrors to the acts of Nazis and suggested the Alexandroni Brigade acted worse inasmuch as they killed prisoners of war, was a veteran IDF General, Shlomo Ambar. In conjunction with the court case, Ambar signed an affidavit stating that he did not recall anything he said to Katz.

I will return to Katz, the court case and what became of his thesis and research career later. It is first important to get an overview of what actually happened in Tantura.

What happened in Tantura

“We have tended to the mass grave, and everything is in order” (IDF file .IDF Files 57/4663/1949, Alexandroni to HQ, 9 June 1948)

“After eight days, I came back to the place where we buried them, near the railway. There was a big mound for the bodies had inflated”; “I am telling you these [Alexandroni] people, they massacred”. (Mordechai Sokoler, Yosef Graf – both guides from Zichron Yaakov accompanying the Haganah Alexandroni units – Teddy Katz, Master’s Thesis).

 “[Shimshon Mashvitz] agreed [to stop] after he had killed eighty-five people [alone]…He killed them [with a Sten gun]. They stood next to the wall, facing the wall, he came from the back and killed them all, shooting them in the head…Every group twenty or thirty people. Twice or three times he changed magazines.” (Salih ‘Abd al-Rahman (Abu Mashayiff), from Tantura – Teddy Katz, Master’s Thesis).

 “The person who was with me knew Hebrew. He overheard them saying that after they [the diggers] finish the first mass grave, let them dig another one and kill them and put them in it…their military announcement said they had killed two hundred and fifty. It is a war military announcement, it was broadcast.”  (Ali ‘Abd al-Rahman Dekansh (Abu Fihmi), from Tantura– Teddy Katz, Master’s Thesis).

Tantura was a Palestinian town located on the Mediterranean coast about 35 kilometers south of Haifa. It is one of the 64 Palestinian coastal villages on the road between Tel Aviv and Haifa, of which only two remain today: Furaydis and Jisr Al-Zarka. The rest were ethnically cleansed (together with hundreds of other villages, towns and cities elsewhere). Pappe writes that Furaydis and Jisr Al-Zarka were spared because men from these villages had traditionally worked in the nearby Jewish settlements, which pressed to have them spared so they could continue to benefit from the cheap labor. At the time of the attack, there were roughly 1,500 people in Tantura. The town was overtaken by the Jewish kibbutz Nachsholim, which used many of the original houses of Tantura, several of which still exist today.

The sum of the testimonies from the attack, although they inevitably present different views from different angles, forms a rather clear picture of what occurred on the night of the 22nd-23rd May 1948, when the 33rd Battalion of the Alexandroni Brigade of the Haganah, the militia under Ben Gurion’s auspices, attacked Tantura.

The regular form of attack, or “cleansing” of a village (and this is actually terminology applied in Haganah documents) was to close off a village from three directions, and cause most of the population to flee in the desired direction. If it was a northern town, it would be towards Lebanon or Syria; if eastern, towards Jordan etc. In Tantura, for some reason, the town was closed off from land in all directions, and at sea was a blockade of a Haganah navy force, so the town was closed off from all directions and no-one could escape. After a short skirmish where several village guards were killed, the town surrendered. Apparently there was some rogue sniper fire from the village after the surrender. The number of Haganah casualties at this stage of the attack varies in different accounts – from 1 to 8 killed. But at that point the Haganah soldiers went on a rampage, killing close to 100 Palestinians. This was the first wave of killings.

The town’s population was then rounded up on the beach. Women and children were separated from male children and young men aged roughly 13-30. Here there seemed to have ensued several forms of killing. There was a systematic killing by the deputy company commander Shimshon Mashvitz, who had soldiers take groups of young men, line them up against a wall and shoot them in the head. About 85 were killed in this manner. There was the participation of members of intelligence and logistical units, who took with them people who were suspected of hiding weapons in the houses. As Katz puts it, the weapons came back, the people did not. This was in addition to other killings. The town was thus filled with bodies of hundreds of massacred Palestinians, and the burial process required considerable manpower and took several days (Sokoler was personally responsible for burial, together with helpers from nearby Furaydis).

It can be summarized, that about 200 unarmed villagers, mostly young men, were massacred following Tantura’s surrender. Let it be noted here, Katz did not mention once the word “massacre” in his thesis. He told me that he sought to avoid this word deliberately, as it was a contentious issue, and he would rather have the research followed up by further research which could define the proper title for what had happened.

The term “massacre” was actually first brought up in the media coverage by Maariv, where Katz’s findings were supported by none other than the highest military-ethical authority in Israel: professor of philosophy Asa Kasher of Tel Aviv University, author of the IDF ethical code, who called what had happened in Tantura a “war crime”. The work was further supported by authoritative Israeli historian Meir Pail, as well as historian Ilan Pappe, who at the time was a professor at Haifa University, who defended Katz throughout the storms that would come later.

The court case

As the issue became widely public due to the Maariv article in 2000, the Haganah Alexandroni veterans were facing a possible tarnishing of their heroic status, and they decided to sue Katz for libel. As Katz puts it, at this point they were rolling back to the “official” Haganah version: “It was a rather small battle, some 20 Arabs killed, and the Israeli soldiers wrapped it up and even had time to bathe on the beach.” The degree of denial amongst the Alexandroni veterans went as far as a main witness, IDF veteran General Shlomo Ambar (more on him below) signing an affidavit stating that he and his mates recall nothing of what they told Katz. The name of the game was to find faults in the thesis which could thus discredit the whole work and Katz’s credibility.

The Alexandroni veterans were assiduous in obtaining the tapes covering many hours of testimony, employing professional translators for the Arabic, writing out transcripts of the recordings. Eventually, they found some small discrepancies: six issues, in 230 transcripts. A typical example was that Katz wrote down the word “Nazis” instead of “Germans” in the testimony of Shlomo Ambar, who fought in the British army’s Jewish Legion in World War 2 and is now a veteran General and was then a young officer in the IDF. So that one may fully understand the context of this discrepancy, here’s the section of Ambar’s testimony:

“I associate [what had happened in Tantura] only with this: I went to fight against the Germans who were our worst enemy. But when we fought we obeyed the laws of the war dictated to us by international norms. They [the Germans] did not kill prisoners of war. They killed Slavs, but not British POWs, not even Jewish POWs— all those from the British army who were in German captivity survived.”

Now, it is probably very clear to most, that the usage of “Nazis” instead of “Germans” is a semantic discrepancy, whilst the general tenor of the statement is one of quite profound meaning, in that Ambar is making a moral comparison, in fact, to the Nazis.

Among the other five discrepancies: Katz interpreted a word too freely, for example “saw” instead of “heard”; paraphrased too casually (Pappe notes that Katz “summarized the testimony of a Tantura survivor, Abu Fihmi, as describing a killing, where the witness did not say this directly (though in fact, this is clearly what he meant)”; or inserted a note from his written side notes, which was not audible in the taped testimony. Katz also notes to me that many of the recordings were done in Arabic in noisy surroundings, and he had to get helpers in Umm El Fahm to work out what was said, which was sometimes hardly audible.

These are surely mistakes, but seen in the light of the magnitude of the collection of testimonies and the fact that the remaining 224 references were uncontested, this seemed to be a mere triviality, which in no way contested the overall picture that appeared concerning the event. It is important to add here what Pappe writes following the trial:

As a faculty member of Haifa University, I posted on the university’s internal Website some of the more important transcripts of the more than sixty hours of Katz’s tapes, most of which had not been referred to in court. They include horrific descriptions of execution, of the killing of fathers in front of children, of rape and torture. They come from both the Jewish and the Palestinian witnesses.   As a result of these transcripts, a number of people, even if they had reservations about the quality of Katz’s research, no longer had any doubts about what happened in Tantura.

Professor Asa Kasher and Meir Pail had reiterated their support for Katz’s research as well. Following the trial, on Feb. 2, 2001, at a meeting of respected academics from Tel Aviv University and Hebrew University during an organized day of study on the relationship between the legal system and academia, Kasher and Pail specifically stated the inaccuracies uncovered by the prosecution did not significantly undermine the quality of Katz’s  thesis. 

But all this was not important for the Alexandroni veterans. What was important was to discredit Katz.

Pressure from the court case in 2000 came from all directions and had a very bad effect on Katz. Already nearly 60, Katz’s health was not good; and he suffered a stroke in the weeks before the first meeting in court. Both Katz and his family attribute the stroke to pressure from the case. Economic issues were also a big problem. As a kibbutznik Katz had little wealth, and the case was gobbling up his funds. Ideologically, he was facing off a wide majority of the Israeli public and there were very few who supported his fight.

As the trial formally began on the 13th of December 2000, Katz sought to persuade the court to dismiss the case, arguing that the matter was essentially a scholarly debate which should be taken up under university, not legal, auspices. As Pappe notes, the University did not support Katz in this contention, and the case ensued. After two days of trial (13th-14th December 2000), where the prosecution had laid down its case consisting of the six mentioned discrepancies. The next step was to be the defense, making its case and calling in the veterans to testify, which they refused to do, but could potentially be forced to do by law. At this point Katz suffered a serious breakdown.

The two sides in the case held a meeting at the office of Katz’s cousin, a lawyer named Amazia Atzmon, who had assisted his case, but without Katz’s chief attorney Avigdor Feldman. Katz was under strong family pressure to drop the case (out if concern for his health – they were literally concerned for his life), and the Haifa university lawyer also pressed him to stop. “Tell him to sign [a recantation document prepared by the plaintiff] and just continue his studies for his doctorate”, the university lawyer told Katz’s wife Shushu. Katz notes today that Amazia Atzmon was also an IDF General, and that Atzmon had a strong interest in ending the case. If “refugees from Tantura would be testifying in a Tel Aviv court,” Katz says, that would effectively put the State of Israel on trial for the Nakba on a wide public stage.

After a six-hour meeting, nearing midnight that night, Katz succumbed to the pressure and agreed to sign the recantation, which was prepared in advance for him by the plaintiff. This was a big and complicated document, titled “An Apology.” Pappe says that it was “so sweeping as to bear an uncomfortable resemblance to a police ‘confession’ extracted under dubious conditions.” The crux of it was the following statement:

“I wish to clarify that, after checking and re-checking the evidence, it is clear to me now, beyond any doubt, that there is no basis whatsoever for the allegation that the Alexandroni Brigade, or any other fighting unit of the Jewish forces, committed killings of people in Tantura after the village surrendered. Furthermore, I wish to say that the things I have written must have been misunderstood [by the press] as I had never intended to tell a tale of a massacre in Tantura… I accept as truth [only] the testimonies of those among the Alexandroni people who denied categorically the massacre, and I disassociate myself from any conclusion which can be derived from my thesis that could point to the occurrence of a massacre or the killing of defenseless or unarmed people.”

This was not only a categorical denial of the thrust of the work but of the very words of the veterans were actually telling. And the recantation repeatedly repudiated the term “massacre” when the word “massacre” was not even mentioned once in the thesis. This reveals the aim of the plaintiff: to cleanse the official Israeli name from any association with war crimes, and protect the ethos of “self-defence”.

Katz says he was beside himself when he signed. Many were relieved, including his closest family. But it did not take many minutes for Katz to awaken to the realization, which would be proven true later, that he had just fallen into a big trap – and signed the warrant of his own academic execution and character assassination.


After signing the ‘apology’

It was not many minutes after the meeting, whilst driving home in a taxi at midnight, that Katz called his cousin-lawyer Atzmon, saying he regretted having signed the document. Atzmon suggested he sleep on it. Katz tells me he didn’t sleep that night.

The following day at court, the judge, Drora Pilpel, announced that the case was closed due to an out-of-court settlement signed and examined by the court. Katz’s attorney Feldman asked to allow Katz to make a statement, and Katz explained that he had signed the settlement in a moment of weakness that he already deeply regretted, that the decision did not represent what he really felt about his work.

This was to no avail. After some hours of deliberations, the judge upheld the decision to close the case, and stated that her decision was based on her conviction that a contract between parties must be respected. She emphasized that her decision did not relate in any way to the content, accuracy or veracity of the libel suit.  

Katz appealed to the Supreme Court, which in turn upheld the decision of the lower court for the same reasons mentioned.

Immediately after the signing, the prosecution demanded that the “apology” be made public and posted as a letter on mainstream media, and demanded Katz do so and pay. He refused, the plaintiff put out the letter itself, and made Katz pay for it.

Now the party was really beginning. The Israeli mainstream media could celebrate another victory against anyone who threatened to undermine Israel’s legitimacy– even if they are a Zionist Meretz voter, as Katz was. Katz got mentioned on the front pages of the biggest papers, where the story was his retraction. Naturally, his request to rescind the retraction was barely mentioned. He was widely tarnished in newspapers, television and radio, as well as in opinion pieces, as a fabricator inventing a non-event for ideological-political purposes. Pappe notes that no-one in the mainstream media defended Katz, and that his own letters in defense of Katz’s work, sent to Haaretz, were never published.

Now the University could really kick in.

Haifa University joins the political battle

Katz tells me that then Minister of Education Limor Livnat (Likud) personally told him that she had ordered the university to strip his research from all shelves, and that failure to do so would result in a complete cancellation of state funding.

Furthermore, there seems to have been an ideological battle, according to both Pappe and Katz, between the school leadership with its inherently Zionist and state-affiliated ideology, including supporting staff from the “Eretz Israel Studies” circle, against the department which Katz was part of, the Department of Middle Eastern History. The university was urged by the plaintiff to strip Katz of his Master’s degree. Rather than waiting to see how the Supreme Court would rule in a few months’ time, the university leadership acted immediately, as if Katz’s retraction was a fait accompli. It revealed its political bias, and in fact shameless acting on behalf of the litigants, taking an unfinished court case as a qualified academic demand for scrutiny.

The actual stripping of Katz’s title was halted at the last moment due to protest from the Middle East History department. Yet the university proceeded with the work of two committees it had set up: one to check the quotations in the thesis against the tapes, and another to check if there had been fault in the supervision process. As Zalman Amit notes, “the university has never explained by what procedural rules it was able to re-open consideration of the status of a thesis that had already been approved and awarded a rating of 97%”. The committee eventually found some faults, and mentioned that the work “failed at the stage of presenting the raw material for the reader’s judgment, both in terms of its organization according to strict criteria of classification and criticism, and in terms of the apparent instances of disregard for the interviewees’ testimony.” (Zalman Amit at Counterpunch, 2005) 

Thus Katz’s degree was suspended on the basis of these “findings”. The school made him an offer to submit a revised thesis. His thesis was ordered by the University to be removed from all libraries.

Katz took the challenge up, and in order to bolster the credibility of the thesis, interviewed more people and added in more verbatim interview sections, as well as restructuring the work. Over 1-1/2 years later, Katz submitted the revised thesis, which was now considerably larger than the original (now filling 600 pages in Hebrew and 800 in the English translation). The work included a more substantial bulk of testimony material, which made the case of massacre even more bulletproof– so much so, that Katz now used the word “massacre” in the thesis.

The university then proceeded to appoint a five-examiner committee to judge Katz’s revised work.

Here something very interesting occurred:

Two of the examiners gave Katz passing scores, 85 and 83. Another gave a 74, which in this context was a failing mark. But the most interesting thing was the highly irregular scores from two of the examiners: 40 and 50. The identities of the examiners were supposed to be secret, but they leaked. As Benny Morris notes in The Jerusalem Report (9th February 2004), the last two graders were Dr. Avraham Sela (Hebrew University) and Dr. Arnon Golan (Haifa University). Morris wrote:

Three years ago, together with Hebrew U. professor Alon Kadish, those two scholars [Sela and Golan] authored “The Conquest of Lydda, July 1948”, published by the Israeli Defense Military Press. The slim volume, apologetic in focus and intent, argued that the Israeli army had carried out only a “partial expulsion” of the populations of the Arab towns of Lydda and Ramlah and dismissed the charge that the troops had massacre Lydda townspeople, some of them inside a mosque, on July 12 1948. In fact, according to IDF records from 1948, in the IDF archive, what was ordered and carried out was a full-scale expulsion; and Yiftah brigade troops killed some 250 townspeople. Oral testimony of Yiftah veterans, deposited in the Yigal Allon archive in kibbutz Ginossar, posits that the troops fired one or more Bazooka rounds into the mosque compound, where dozens of Arab POWs were being held. The authors even failed to mention the expulsion order signed by Lt. Col. “Yitzhak R.” (Rabin), the operations officer, which ordered the Yiftah Brigade to expel “the inhabitants of Lydda”.

In other words, the Haifa University got at least two examiners who themselves were involved in the distortion of Israeli history.

The trick worked. The university now summed up the scores and made an average: 66.4.

Katz was thus stripped of the Master’s degree which could allow him to continue on to PhD. In an act of “magnanimity” the university nonetheless offered him a “2nd class” Masters, a “non-research Masters”.

Israel could once again breathe with ease. The academic future and credibility of Teddy Katz was ruined, and a major challenge to the classical Zionist narrative was once again foiled.


This case appears to end in 2003, after Katz had submitted his revised thesis in late 2002, which got a failing score from the examiner committee.
But for Katz, as well as for many others, this case was in no way closed. Teddy Katz is today a very active man in regards to Tantura. He is constantly speaking with journalists, researchers, doing guided trips to Tantura etc. He is doing this despite the fact, that following his first stroke, he had 4 subsequent strokes. The fifth stroke, some 8 years ago, which occurred on the 20th annual memorial day of his daughter Amira’s death, left him partially paralyzed in one side of the body, and caused him considerable limitations in relation to managing other languages than Hebrew.
Neither was this case closed in any way for Ilan Pappe, who mentions the Tantura case in some detail in his seminal book The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine (2006). Pappe continues to be in contact with Katz and they continue to work on the uncovering of the issue of the Tantura massacre.
Neither is this in any way a closed matter for those many Palestinians who have either had their family members massacred, raped, tortured or dispossessed. Their fate as refugees of the Nakba has been an ongoing catastrophe since.
When I researched and wrote about the Dawaymeh massacre, I was once again awakened to the astonishing disparity between these grave crimes against humanity, and the general Israeli neglect, belittling or outright denial of this history. This is not the inevitable result of time: the presence of the Holocaust in Israeli minds is as strong as ever, and the Holocaust was an earlier event. The wish to “forget”, or even deny the 1948 Nakba, is a decision, which is encapsulated in the term “memoricide”. It is a deliberate burying of crucial history, facilitating denial of accountability, thereby making it morally easier to avoid its repair, which entails the return of 1948 refugees, as well as a review of the moral justice of Israeli practices since.
The machinery that works to silence those who refer to this history, as we have seen here, is strong and involves all levels of Israeli society. Thus Tantura continues to be a struggle against the forces that seek to close the cases and close the discussion, in hope that one day the whole thing will just die out.
But history buried in sand has a way of getting regurgitated. The bones have a way of reappearing from the mass graves. If historical Palestine is to experience peace once again, I believe that the truth must finally be laid bare. Until that happens, I will continue to dig into it, to the great dismay of those who want it buried. And all this is happening today.


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re: “The Tantura massacre in May 1948, committed by Haganah forces just days after the declaration of the State of Israel, is not only one of the worst massacres of 1948, but its cover-up is also, in itself, a story, showing us just how effective silence can be in obscuring… Read more »

On Tantura see also my interview with Hala Gabriel, whose family were survivors of the massacre: The interview is accompanied by a video of Hala’s interviews with survivors, part of her project for a documentary on the massacre, “Road to Tantura.” Marwan Yahya, whose memoir Jonathan Ofir mentions, is… Read more »

Blessings on those who restore memories. Seven levels of Hell for those who bury them.

Jesus Christ. That is a harrowing tale. Teddy Katz is a real mensch to stand by his guns. Calling rugal_b: did you read this? You really ought to. I thought of The Goldstone Report, while I read this, and all the hideous pressure on him to recant, which he succumbed… Read more »

This reveals the long kept secret policy: Massacres as a weapon of ethnic cleansing. Tantura massacre was first revealed in 1951 by Mohamed Nimr al Khatib in his book “ Nakbet Filastine” in Arabic in which he interviewed Marwan Yahya, Hala’s father. Zionist propaganda silenced this story and may others… Read more »