A New Israeli Film Purports to Expose the Story of a Massacre That Never Happened

Beginning this evening, the Manhattan Jewish Community Center is hosting its Other Israel film festival. Featured movies include Boycott, described as an “inspiring tale of everyday Americans” engaged in “legal battles that expose an attack on freedom of speech across 33 states in America”—namely, legislation that prevents states from doing business with entities that discriminate against and boycott Israel. Another film featured at the festival is about smugglers who help Palestinians evade Israeli soldiers, while a third film focuses on Mizraḥim who were “denied their right to a better life in Israel” by the Israeli government.

At the festival’s opening night, there will be a screening of the documentary Tantura, directed by Alon Schwartz, which investigates allegations of a massacre perpetrated by the Haganah during the 1948 war. But like the “massacre” at Lydda, or the more famous one at Deir Yassin, it’s unlikely this atrocity ever took place. The distinguished historian Benny Morris sets forth the evidence:

In both [a recent article published in Haaretz] and the film, Schwarz maintains that Israeli forces, specifically the 33rd Battalion of the Alexandroni Brigade, perpetrated a large massacre against the inhabitants of Tantura immediately after they captured the seaside village on May 23, 1948. The film is based on the allegations made by Teddy Katz in his master’s thesis, submitted to the University of Haifa in 1998. . . . Katz is the film’s hero and chief narrator.

Schwarz maintains in the article that his film is based on Katz’s paper and on “documents, military aerial photographs, and other archival materials.” This is just another crude lie, which points precisely at the central historiographic problem with Katz’s thesis and Schwarz’s film: there is no written evidence from 1948—not in Israeli archives, not in United Nations’ archives, and not in the archives of the Red Cross or the Western powers—that describes or even mentions a big massacre at Tantura. Katz and Schwarz base the “big massacre” thesis entirely on interviews with Arabs and Jews who “remembered” or claimed that they remembered it 40 years after the event.

Particularly damning is the absence of reports on this supposed outrage from contemporaneous Palestinian sources. Radio Ramallah, for instance, reported on the Israeli victory at Tantura, but said nothing about a massacre.

It’s noteworthy that a memorandum of the Arab Higher Committee, titled “The Atrocities of the Jews,” which was sent to the UN in early July 1948, makes no mention of Tantura—another puzzling omission if a large-scale massacre had recently taken place there. It’s worth noting that Palestinian historiography in the decades after 1948 also did not mention a massacre at Tantura. The book deemed the Nakba bible, the six-volume al-Nakba published between1956 and 1960 by the chronicler Aref al-Aref, does not mention a massacre at Tantura.

Read more at Haaretz

More about: Film, Israeli history, Israeli War of Independence, JCC

Hizballah Is Learning Israel’s Weak Spots

On Tuesday, a Hizballah drone attack injured three people in northern Israel. The next day, another attack, targeting an IDF base, injured eighteen people, six of them seriously, in Arab al-Amshe, also in the north. This second attack involved the simultaneous use of drones carrying explosives and guided antitank missiles. In both cases, the defensive systems that performed so successfully last weekend failed to stop the drones and missiles. Ron Ben-Yishai has a straightforward explanation as to why: the Lebanon-backed terrorist group is getting better at evading Israel defenses. He explains the three basis systems used to pilot these unmanned aircraft, and their practical effects:

These systems allow drones to act similarly to fighter jets, using “dead zones”—areas not visible to radar or other optical detection—to approach targets. They fly low initially, then ascend just before crashing and detonating on the target. The terrain of southern Lebanon is particularly conducive to such attacks.

But this requires skills that the terror group has honed over months of fighting against Israel. The latest attacks involved a large drone capable of carrying over 50 kg (110 lbs.) of explosives. The terrorists have likely analyzed Israel’s alert and interception systems, recognizing that shooting down their drones requires early detection to allow sufficient time for launching interceptors.

The IDF tries to detect any incoming drones on its radar, as it had done prior to the war. Despite Hizballah’s learning curve, the IDF’s technological edge offers an advantage. However, the military must recognize that any measure it takes is quickly observed and analyzed, and even the most effective defenses can be incomplete. The terrain near the Lebanon-Israel border continues to pose a challenge, necessitating technological solutions and significant financial investment.

Read more at Ynet

More about: Hizballah, Iron Dome, Israeli Security