Israel has a secret Defense Ministry department which is assigned the task of making Nakba archives disappear. Today the Israeli daily Haaretz has published an extensive investigative report by Hagar Shezaf titled “Burying the Nakba: How Israel Systematically Hides Evidence of 1948 Expulsion of Arabs”.
The department is called “Director of security of the Defense establishment”, acronym MALMAB in Hebrew. In Hebrew it sounds even more obsessive, because the word describing “Defense” and “Security” is the same (‘Bitahon’), thus the “Director of Security of the Security Establishment”. So, what is the security establishment securing itself from?
Ostensibly, it was about searching archives for sensitive information concerning Israel’s secret nuclear program. But it becomes clear that the department has treated information about the 1948 ethnic cleansing of Palestine (and also later expulsions) as a strategic threat. Thus, archives that had already been approved for declassification by the censor, already open and already cited, have been put into vaults again by order of these officials.
Logo for Israeli Director of Security of the Defense Establishment, or MALMAB, as posted by the Akevot site.
For several decades, the secret department has been disappearing archives. In the late 1980’s, documentation of the Nakba events by Israeli historians such as Benny Morris, Ilan Pappe and Avi Shlaim, also known as the “New Historians” became a problem for the state, in that they challenged the Israeli propaganda version and largely confirmed what was derisively deemed the “Palestinian narrative”. Yehiel Horev, the official who founded the department and headed it for two decades until 2007, was hardly secretive about its insidious motive. Asked about a critical document which Benny Morris had already cited in 1986, Horev said:
I don’t remember the document you’re referring to, but if he quoted from it and the document itself is not there [i.e., where Morris says it is], then his facts aren’t strong. If he says, ‘Yes, I have the document,’ I can’t argue with that. But if he says that it’s written there, that could be right and it could be wrong. If the document were already outside and were sealed in the archive, I would say that that’s folly. But if someone quoted from it – there’s a difference of day and night in terms of the validity of the evidence he cited.
In other words, the goal of the work is to undermine the credibility of those who have already cited these documents.