Great article, Professor. Denial of the Nakba is worse than Holocaust denial. Holocaust deniers are rightfully marginalized and powerless.
None of the 535 members of Congress deny the Holocaust and if anyone did so, he or she would quickly be out of a job. By contrast, those who deny that Israel’s founding and its acquisition of territory through military force in 1967 had catastrophic consequences on the indigenous Palestinian population are welcomed in the mainstream. The prevailing narrative is of Israel as blameless victim of relentless attacks and Palestinians as suffering solely from self-inflicted (or other Arab-inflicted) wounds. Those who dare to challenge that narrative are often more vulnerable to consequences than those who mindlessly repeat it. As Levine notes here, the Holocaust ended more than 70 years ago, the good guys won, and the bad guys remembered accurately as the worst of the worst. The Nakba is ongoing with no end in sight.
The forcible expulsion in July, 1948 of tens of thousands of inhabitants of Lydda and Ramle was described by Yitzhak Rabin in his 1979 memoir. Rabin had already served a term as Israeli PM and years later would serve another and win the Nobel Peace Prize. He wrote that he, Ben‐Gurion, and Yigal Allon were discussing the situation:
“[Allon] repeated his question: ‘What is to be done with the population?’ B.G. waved his hand in a gesture which said, ‘Drive them out!’
“Allon and I held a consultation. I agreed that it was essential to drive the inhabitants out. . .
“Psychologically, this was one of the most difficult actions we undertook. The population of Lod [Lydda] did not leave willingly. There was no way of avoiding the use of force and warning shots in order to make the inhabitants march the 10 to 15 miles to the point where they met up with the legion.
“The inhabitants of Ramie watched and learned the lesson. Their leaders agreed to be evacuated voluntarily. . .
“Great suffering was inflicted upon the men taking part in the eviction action. Soldiers of the Yiftach Brigade included youth‐movement graduates, who had been inculcated with values such as international brotherhood and humaneness. The eviction action went beyond the concepts they were used to.
“There were some fellows who refused to take part in the expulsion action. Prolonged propaganda activities were required after the action, to remove the bitterness of these youth‐movement groups, and explain why we were obliged to undertake such a harsh and cruel action.”
While Rabin’s account focused on the psychological trauma to the noble IDF soldiers and only hinted at the suffering and death of the victims, it proved too nasty for the Israeli censors, who ordered its removal from the book. Israel had carefully cultivated the nonsense that “we begged them to stay but they followed the orders of their leaders and voluntarily fled,” and they weren’t going to allow Rabin to even mildly question the official story. However, his English translator leaked the excised passage to the Times.