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Cleaning out the black hole

Dec 20,2022 - Last updated at Dec 20,2022

Amman has courageously entered the Jordanian film “Farha” for 2023 Oscars.  This is a courageous action because “Farha” is the story told by a teenage girl who, locked in a cupboard by her father, witnessed the massacre of her family by Israel’s underground army during the 1948 conquest of 78 per cent of Palestine.  Her story reveals as fiction the Zionist/Israeli contention that Israel’s creation came about because Palestinians simply fled their homes and homeland without enduring violent contact with Israel’s forces.  

 “Farha” is based on the early life of a Palestinian girl named Radieh who fled to Syria. Her story was told to the film’s Palestinian-Jordanian director Darin J. Sallam by her father. She decided to retell on film Radieh’s story in the hope it will “live on in people’s hearts”. “Farha” could also change global conceptions of Al Nakba, the catastrophe, which rendered homeless 750,000 Palestinians, half their country’s native population.  

 As usual, Israel and its acolytes have criticised the film as an inaccurate portrayal of Israel’s “war of independence”. They tried and failed to pressure Netflix to drop “Farha”. Before its release on December 1st, Israeli Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman complained on Twitter: “It’s crazy that Netflix has chosen to stream a film whose whole purpose is to incite against Israeli soldiers by showing false things.”

The Israeli narrative holds that the few acts of violence against Palestinian civilians were committed by Zionist extremists Lehi, dubbed “the Stern gang”, and Etzel, the Igun Zvai Leumi. They were found guilty of a massacre, documented by the Red Cross, of mainly elderly Palestinian men, women and children on April 9th, 1948, at Deir Yassin village near Jerusalem. The number of deaths ranged between 254 and 117. Bodies were thrown down a well and survivors, including orphaned children, were paraded in open lorries through the streets of Jerusalem with the aim of creating panic among Palestinians.

Thereafter, the main Zionist paramilitary force, the Haganah, and its successor, the Israeli army, contended the Deir Yassin massacre drove Palestinians to flee their homes before encountering mainstream Zionist/Israeli forces. Deir Yassin and the false claim that Arab governments urged Palestinians to flee ahead of Arab military intervention were used to exculpate Israel over the mass Palestinian exodus and explain why Palestinians “fled” without being victims of Israeli attacks and massacres. The latter claim was exposed in The Spectator in 1961 by Ireland’s Erskine Childers, a BBC broadcaster and writer whose discovery was largely buried in an avalanche of Israeli propaganda.

 “Farha” is unlikely to suffer such a fate. Time and Israel’s transgressions have caught up with it and there are many Israelis and outsiders who bravely tell the truth about its past and present actions in the hope that one day Palestinians will secure a modicum of recognition and justice. 

 Middle East Eye reported on December 6th that another film, a documentary called “Tantura”, features Israeli researcher Teddy Katz who 25 years ago gathered testimony from 20 Israeli soldiers and 20 Palestinian witnesses of the May 1948 massacre of 200-250 Palestinian males by the Alexandroni Brigade of the Israel army at a village near Haifa that, before becoming a killing ground, was home to 1,700 Palestinian.

Bodies were dumped into mass graves which have been covered over and turned into a parking lot for a popular coastal resort north of Tel Aviv.

Katz used 140 hours of taped interviews to describe the Tantura massacre in his master’s thesis for Haifa University which was published in 1998 and received positive reviews.  However, after the Israeli newspaper Maariv published material from Katz’s thesis in 2000, angry interviewees denied what they told him and sued Katz.  The judge threw out the case.

 Katz retained his tapes and he has become a central character in the documentary made by Israeli filmmaker Alon Schwarz and previewed in January this year at the US Sundance Festival.  Some surviving fighters interviewed in the film denied reports of a massacre as myth or rumour while others confirmed the killings. One said, “I didn’t count. I can’t really know [how many I killed]. I had a machine gun with 250 bullets.”

Middle East Eye wrote: “At a certain point, it becomes clear that Schwarz is no longer presenting the massacre as a possibility. It becomes a fact that stands alongside the direct orders from David Ben-Gurion, who headed the Haganah paramilitary forces, to drive Palestinians out of their villages.”

 Schwarz told Middle East Eye, “Most Israelis don’t know what happened in 1948. Most Israelis believe the naive story that the Palestinians ran away in 1948 by themselves... because they were told by their leaders to do so...They don’t know that the Israeli army [and Zionist militias] went into village after village and drove the people out, sometimes committing war crimes, like the massacre in Tantura. It’s not taught in school.” 

“A lot of people in the left-wing Zionist camp, like myself and my family, have voted for Meretz and Labour over the years. But when it comes to the Nakba, the majority either don’t know, or don’t want to talk about it. They don’t want to deal with it,” Schwarz said in an interview with The Times of Israel.

He added: “We have to realise the truth. The truth is important in this post-truth world. The truth will clean out the black hole that’s been with us for the last 73 years that we have not confronted.” 


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