This post should be read in tandem with the previous post, Frank Lowy: Arab Fighter. It concerns events which took place during the campaign of ethnic cleansing, known to Palestinians as the Nakba (Catastrophe), undertaken by Zionist forces in Palestine in 1948. What follows are extracts from the testimony of Palmach veteran, Amnon Neumann, recorded at a public hearing organised by Zochrot* on 17/6/10. Neumann's unit operated in southern Palestine and the Negev:
The villagers' flight... happened gradually. I only know about what happened from the 'Iraq Suwaydan road, [through] Majdal, to 'Iraq al-Manshiyya... The villagers' flight started when we began cleaning these convoy escort routes. It was then that we started to expel the villagers... and in the end they fled by themselves. There were no special events worth mentioning. No atrocities and no nothing. No civilians can live while there's a war going on. They didn't think they were running away for a long period of time, they didn't think they wouldn't return. Nor did anyone imagine that a whole people wouldn't return. [The Zionist leadership under David Ben-Gurion certainly did. MERC]... The first time I entered Kawkaba and Burayr I was amazed by their poverty. There was nothing there. No furniture and no thing. There were shelves made of straw and mud, the houses were made of straw and mud. They lived there for thousands of years without any change, and the only thing that happened to them was the disaster of the Nakba in 'Tashah' . Because we didn't come to collect taxes, we came to inherit the land from foreigners. That was the foundation of our thinking. We drove them out because of the Zionist ideology. We came to inherit the land. Who do you inherit it from? If the land is empty, you don't inherit it from anyone. The land wasn't empty so we inherited it, and whoever inherits the land disinherits others. And that's why we didn't bring them back. It was everywhere, in the north and the south, everywhere. That's the most important point. The land wasn't empty as I was told when I was a child. I know it, because I lived with Arabs...
I was wounded and I went home, after April 1948, after they expelled the Arabs in Haifa... Our [Arab] villages, Yajur [2k north of Kibbutz Yagur] and Balad al-Sheikh [today part of Nesher], didn't exist anymore either. They were empty... And then I went back to the Negev and we did the same thing. At that time I didn't see anything wrong with it. I was educated to it just like everybody else. And I followed through with it faithfully, and if I was told things I don't want to mention - I did them without the least of a doubt. Without thinking twice. For 50 or 60 years I've been torturing myself about this. But what's done is done. It was done by order. And I won't go into that, these are not things that... (long silence)
Eitan Bronstein [of Zochrot]: You're saying it was a battle with armed people who were not the inhabitants of Burayr. but at the same time there were still residents of Burayr in the village? Amnon Neumann: Yes! EB: Yes, there are testimonies about a massacre having taken place in Burayr. AN: You've heard about it? EB: Yes... AN: I don't want to deal with it... There was also a second platoon with us in Burayr. One guy, an Egyptian Jew, came here and said - excuse me - 'I fucked her and shot her'. EB: Did you hear him say it? AN: No, I was told about this later. I didn't see him. And then they ran, the people who were there, and saw her, a 17-year-old girl. He had put a bullet through her head... Dan Yahav [Zochrot]: But they had washed her there, she was clean. AN: I didn't see and didn't ask. How do you know? DY: I'm telling you, I know. AN: This particular case? DY: Yes. AN: With this Egyptian? DY: Yes, yes. AN: I see you've done some reach. DY: They washed her, prepared her and then did what they did. (Silence) AN: I didn't know these details and I never wanted to go into the thick of things. DY: By the way, the IDF archive is unwilling to this day to open documents related to cases of rape. It's still [a matter of] 'Israel's security'. (Long silence)
Eitan Bronstein: But you can describe exactly this thing, how you as a soldier, you're shooting people who you see aren't shooting at you, how... how did you understand it back then?... That you had the full right to do it? AN: I didn't understand. I was 19. EB: So you just did it? AN: I was a fool and I didn't know. Yes. That's why I'm in such despair, because soldiers are always 19-20 years old, and they never sober up until they've been through four battles. That's the main point. And there will always be new 19-year-olds.