Waiting to the right opportunity to comment on certain things can be painful. If unlinked to what most people define as “news,” the comment would be ignored. Waiting for the right moment can take years; yet, it invariably arrives. Following an odd chain of events, Israel State Archives have released full versions of documents that until recently had been censored.
Why now? In early 2012, the headquarters of the archive were closed, including for research, due to building licensing issues. In March 2013, the facility is already open. Since this institution belongs to the Prime Minister Bureau, Netanyahu took a simple step to make the move look innocent. In July 2012, the Archives Law was updated, shortening the period after which non-security-related material is censored, from 30 to 15 years while lengthening the censorship period of defense-related documents up to 70 years; moreover, the Archives opened its “Documentation on the Web” project. The result was that several juicy items from the State’s first days were released.
By definition not a proper state, two institutions manage records related to Israel. The Central Zionist Archives stores documents issued by the World Zionist Organization, the Jewish Agency, the Jewish National Fund, Keren Hayesod, and the archives of the World Jewish Congress. It includes over 12 million documents. Israel State Archives stores records of the Ottoman Empire, the British Mandate and the State of Israel. It owns over 400 million documents. Israeli government institutions deposit their records at the archives 15 years after the closure of a file. Both institutions operate in Jerusalem.
One of the disclosed documents is the protocol of a government meeting from September 26, 1948. During the war, Prime Minister David Ben Gurion proposed the conquest of the Southern West Bank, Judea. His proposal was rejected by the government. Most of the file was not classified, but a few lines were kept classified for over sixty years. They included words by Yitzhak Meir Levin, leader of the Haredi Agudat Israel party. Now declassified, they offer an astonishing view of the odd Israeli reality.
The Minister had said, “Truth, all Gentiles purposely hate us. There is a verse ‘Send thy wrath upon the heathen,’ a verse that we repeat every Passover…” This Ultra-Orthodox rabbi mixed-up a extremely well known verse. The correct text, which appears in Psalms 79:6, is “Pour out thy wrath upon the heathen.” He confused between two popular verses, the other one is Eclessiastes 11:1 “Cast thy bread upon the waters” (Hebrew reads “send”).
Another point of interest is that in the original Hebrew text the word translated as “heathen” is “goyim” (meaning “peoples”), thus the verse he attempted to quote can also be understood as “Pour out thy wrath upon the Gentiles.” A spectacular mix of ignorance and racism that was hidden by the State of Israel for over a generation.
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Ben Gurion’s Secret Plan
The censored document hid not only the rabbi’s ignorance; it also censored Ben Gurion’s plan to break the ceasefire. I will translate the now declassified lines keeping Ben Gurion’s awkward phrasing, but I won’t reproduce his worst grammar errors. Like Netanyahu, he was famous for his poor Hebrew; he refused to use structures that didn’t have linguistic parallels in his native Polish. “Let’s say a war would break. Then we could clean up the Central Galilee. That means, also the refugees…this can’t be done without war. This is a full Galilee, not an empty Galilee. Thus, if a war will break in the entire land, it would mean a great advantage for the Galilee, because then, without great effort, just with the force planned for that, which will not hurt our strength elsewhere, we will have a clean Galilee.”
In contrast to what was thought until now, the government didn’t reject only the conquest of the Southern Western Bank, but also the break of the ceasefire and the expulsion of another 100,000 Palestinians from their homes in the Galilee. In the days when Israel is openly speaking of annexing the West Bank, and the Jewish settlers control the new Israeli Government, Ben Gurion’s clumsy phrasing looks oddly timely. See, this is new? it hath been already of old time, which was before us. Ecclesiastes 1:10.