Arab-Israeli War of 1948: Hidden Documents Revealed
1948 Nakba

According to the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, the Israeli cabinet received testimonies of massacres perpetrated by Israel Defense Force (IDF) soldiers against Arabs during the Arab-Israeli War of 1948. These attacks targeted unarmed men as well as elderly people and women and children. For years these discussions were concealed from the public by military censors.

Many released documents describe some of the Israel’s violence against Palestinian communities during the 1948 War of Independence, also known as the 1948 Nakba. An investigative report by Haaretz and the Akevot Institute for Israeli-Palestinian Conflict Research revealed testimonies about three previously unknown massacres, as well as new details about the killing in Hula, Lebanon, one of the most flagrant crimes of the war.

What do these documents reveal?


Arab-Israeli War of 1948: Studies Reveal Israel’s Mass Killing

The War of 1948 resulted in mass expulsion and forced migrations of more than 800,000 Palestinian people from their homeland. In the process of displacing nearly 85% of the Palestinian population at the time, more than 15,000 Palestinian men, women, and children were killed.

The Tantura Massacre

A recent investigation carried out by the United Kingdom revealed the site of one such massacre. The U.K. study discovered mass graves at this site, which is the location of a destroyed Palestinian village.

Past testimonies report that the residents of the fishing village of Tantura had surrendered to Israeli troops. Confessions from Israeli soldiers confirm that despite this surrender, hundreds of villagers were killed.

With new evidence revealed, both the historical record and the testimonies of soldiers now align to confirm this massacre occurred. The organization Forensic Architecture has conducted an extensive study mapping out the mass graves in Tantura.

The Massacre in Deir Yassin

According to the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, the Israeli government received documents verifying the massacre of that unarmed Palestinian civilians in Deir Yassin in 1948.

The report states that men, as well as women, children, and the elderly, were targeted in the village massacre. The once-classified documents also reveal that massacres occurred in two other Palestinian villages as well as the town of Hula, in Lebanon.

The documents, which include the minutes recorded from Israeli government official meetings, reveal that Israeli leaders knew these massacres were occurring in real time. Some even urged their colleagues to investigate the crimes.


Hiding Evidence During the Arab-Israeli War of 1948

Haaretz also reported on “How Israel Systematically Hides Evidence of 1948 Expulsion of Arabs.” The writer describes several massacres, looting, and abuse perpetrated by Israeli forces in Israel’s War of Independence.

Jewish Journalist Hagar Shezaf reports that for more than a decade the Israeli Defense Ministry has systematically hidden evidence regarding the violence of 1948. She states that government teams have removed “troves of historic documents” from Israel’s archives to “conceal proof” of the Nakba.

Yossi Gurvitz cites one of these “purged” documents which describes a massacre in the Palestinian village of in 1948. Gurvitz points to the Director of Security of the Defense Establishment (DSDE) as the main culprit for expunging the archive of these documents.

Alan Schwarz, writing for Jewish newspaper Haaretz, reports that Israel has threatened lawsuits as another method to silence and erase testimonies of massacres. Other reports suggest that several committees and offices collaborate with the Israeli government to censor testimonies as well as archival material.

Jewish Morals and Values

In 1948, while the Nakba unfolded, some Israeli politicians questioned the need for violence. Other politicians asked for an investigation about the claims. Some politicians worried about what such violence meant for the moral consciousness of the newly forming country.

Haaretz reports that the uncovered documents reference some Israeli politicians. These leaders worried the violence of the War of 1948 signaled a deterioration of Israel’s moral foundations.

Gideon Levy, an award-winning Israeli journalist, writes that “opening the archives” showed the  “complete truth” about what happened there in 1948. According to Levy, this truth includes the mounting evidence of many massacres and the war crimes committed by Israel Defense Forces soldiers.

Arab-Israeli War of 1948

Did The Nakba Ever End?

Over the course of one-year, the new state of Israel held more than 77% of historic Palestine. By the time the war ended, Jewish settlers alongside the newly formed Israeli Defense Forces displaced more than 800,000 Palestinian people from their villages.

Now popular tourist destinations, these historical sites of displacement represent a painful history of both violence and oppression for Palestinian communities.

History Repeats the Arab-Israeli War of 1948?

On the 75th anniversary of the Nakba, the U.N. released a report stating that more than 5.9 million Palestinian people are currently registered as refugees. The families and descendants of those displaced in 1948 — Palestinian men, women, and children living abroad — have no access to their homelands, nor the ability to visit family within Gaza and the West Bank.

Israel launched its latest ground and air attacks on the Gaza strip after the Hamas attacks on October 7, 2023. Since then, nearly two million Palestinian residents of north Gaza have been displaced to the south. As widespread bombing occurs even in southern safe zones, many Gazan citizens have also fled to neighboring countries.

Are we seeing a repeat of the events of 1948?

Alarming Death Tolls

Some journalists report that many of the same crimes Israel enacted in the Arab-Israeli War of 1948 are happening now. The human rights monitor Anadolu Agency confirms that the “collective displacement committed by Zionist gangs” in 1948 is reoccurring. Geneva-based group, Euro-Med Human Rights Monitor describes other crimes including “field executions, torture and rape threats” aimed at Palestinian people as parallels between 1948 and present wars.


Jewish Safety: At What Cost?

International courts are calling for Israel to reduce civilian causalities in Gaza and Palestine. While some might ask: What of Jewish safety? What about the Jewish hostages? What about the Jewish deaths? Others wonder: How can peace and safety be achieved amidst ongoing war?

The U.N. partition promised safety for Jewish people after the traumas of the Holocaust. However, establishing a Jewish homeland has been a process riddled with violence on both sides.

If we can agree on that, can we agree on a ceasefire?

Find out what you can do to protect peace at the Promised Land Museum website.

Consider hosting an exhibit!

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