Historians delve into Israeli responsibility for poisoning of Palestinian fields, a murder previously blamed on Palestinians and – more dubiously – the bombing of Iraq’s Jewish community in the 1950s.
Newly released documents show the Israel Defence Forces poisoned fields and damaged tools to remove Palestinians from land wanted for a West Bank settlement in 1972.
Soldiers were ordered to use vehicles to destroy the crops and, when this did not stop Palestinian farmers, used a crop duster to spread a toxic chemical, lethal for animals and dangerous for humans.
The story briefly made headlines in 1972 when it was reported in international media. It didn’t prevent the establishment of the settlement of Gitit on land confiscated from residents of the village of Aqraba, which the military had poisoned.
Now, 51 years later, the full details of the affair have been revealed thanks to a new project by the Taub Center for Israel Studies at New York University.
A separate research project has found Palestinian terrorists were blamed for a 1950 murder that was probably committed by Jewish smugglers.
Menachem Shimon, a 25-year-old new immigrant from Yemen, was shot during guard duty at the site of a moshav being built near Jerusalem.
The murder was blamed on members of the Samwili squad, a terrorist group known to be responsible for many other murders.
But researcher Dan Golan has found evidence the murder related to smuggling by immigrants from Tunisia, who were engaged in secret commerce with local Arabs.
Golan’s research is used in a novel, Derelicts (published only in Hebrew), by Maayan Ben Hagai.
Another “secret history” claim is more controversial. British-Israeli historian Avi Shlaim this week claimed to have uncovered “undeniable proof” of Israeli involvement in bombings of the Baghdad Jewish communities in 1950-51, which killed 180 Iraqi Jews.
The bombings were a key catalyst for the migration of about 110,000 Iraqi Jews, more than 80% of Iraq’s Jewish community, to Israel in that period.
In his newly released memoir Three Worlds: Memoirs of an Arab-Jew, Shlaim claims to have proof that Israeli agents conducted the attacks to prompt Iraqi Jews to leave.
Shlaim, who was born in Baghdad, is a controversial figure who has been described by historian Benny Morris as distorting records to give a one-sided anti-Israel portrayal of history.
Don’t be taken in by Avi Shlaim’s view of Zionism (Jewish Chronicle)
Photo: Construction in Gitit (Ofer Vaknin, Haaretz)