‘I Remember the Blood in the Barrel’: Israeli Veterans Finally Admit to Mass Killing in Tantura

The Palestinian village of Tantura before the 1948 massacre. (Photo: Matson collection, via Wikimedia Commons)

By Romana Rubeo

Israeli veterans who took part in the 1948 battle at the Palestinian village of Tantura finally admitted to the mass killings of Palestinian civilians, Israeli newspaper Haaretz revealed on Thursday.

A group of former Israeli soldiers from the ‘Israel Defense Forces’ Brigade have confessed that a massacre took place in Tantura on May 22-23, 1948. Their testimonies were collected in a documentation project by Israeli director Alon Schwarz, in his documentary film ‘Tantura’, Haaretz reports.

Moshe Diamant, one of the Israeli veterans who finally came out clean about the massacre, was reported by Haaretz as saying: “It mustn’t be told, it could cause a whole scandal. I don’t want to talk about it, but it happened. What can you do? It happened.”

“According to Diamant, speaking now, villagers were shot to death by a ‘savage’ using a submachine gun, at the conclusion of the battle,” the Isreali newspaper reported.

Another former Israeli soldier said: “It’s not nice to say this. They put them into a barrel and shot them in the barrel. I remember the blood in the barrel.”

“The testimonies and documents that Schwarz collected for his film indicate that after the massacre the victims were buried in a mass grave, which is now under the Dor Beach parking lot,” according to Haaretz.

Although Israel never officially recognized what Haaretz described as “an episode (that) took the form of a professional debate between historians”, the Tantura massacre had already been described in detail by Palestinian historians.

“On the night of 22-23 May 1948, a week after the declaration of the State of Israel, the Palestinian coastal village of Tantura (population 1,500) was attacked and occupied by units of the Israeli army’s Alexandroni Brigade,” Mustafa al-Wali wrote in his essay ‘The Tantura Massacre, 22-23 May 1948’, published in the Journal of Palestine Studies in 2001. 

“The fate of Tantura was sealed long before the night of its fall. It was one of the tens of Palestinian villages and towns inside and outside the boundaries of the UN-envisaged Jewish state specifically targeted for capture under the notorious Plan Dalet, the Haganah master plan for the military establishment of Israel on the largest area possible of Palestine.” 

Moreover, in 1998, Israeli researcher Teddy Katz described the Tantura massacre in his master’s thesis at Haifa University. According to his findings, over 200 villagers had been shot after the surrender. On that occasion, Israeli veterans of the brigade filed a suit against Katz, which “induced him to retract his account of (the) massacre”, according to Haaretz.

(The Palestine Chronicle)

- Romana Rubeo is an Italian writer and the managing editor of The Palestine Chronicle. Her articles appeared in many online newspapers and academic journals. She holds a Master’s Degree in Foreign Languages and Literature and specializes in audio-visual and journalism translation.
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