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‘Tantura’ documentary on Israeli killings of Palestinians in 1948 opens in US, Palestinian theaters

Teddy Katz, author of the thesis on Tantura was forced to sign a letter of retraction and his degree was revoked. (File photo)

Israeli documentary “Tantura” which sheds fresh light on the Israeli troops’ killings of Palestinians in 1948 has opened in US and Palestinian theaters this week, decades after a master’s student was ensnared in controversy for exposing it.

The movie focuses on the fate of Palestinian residents of the title village in the summer of 1948. A mass murder by Israeli soldiers was part of a grim event that included beatings, rapes, and looting.

“Tantura” plays oral testimony from former members of the Israeli military who recall slaughtering hundreds of Palestinian residents of the village of Tantura and dumping their bodies into mass graves to pave the way for a kibbutz.

Shocking testimonies show an Israeli occupation veteran describing how Israeli soldiers raped a 16-year-old girl, rounded up Palestinians into barbed wire enclosures, and gunned them down with machine guns and flame throwers.

The thesis written more than two decades ago by the student, Teddy Katz, who received avalanches of criticism, documented through interviews with soldiers and Palestinians the Israeli army’s massacre in the village of Tantura, south of Haifa in May 1948.

The thesis, which received a high mark, went unnoticed until the Israeli newspaper Maariv published its findings in 2000. The Alexandroni Brigade veterans sued Katz for defamation. Katz was pressured to sign a letter of retraction stating that the massacre did not happen, and the university revoked his degree.

140 hours of audio interviews with 135 people, both Palestinians and Israeli witnesses to (and participants in) the events at Tantura were conducted during the study and were obtained later on by Alon Schwartz, director of the documentary.

The interviews showed that at least 200 villagers were either shot in cold blood or killed by angry soldiers who rampaged through the village.

“I made the film Tantura, the untold part of our founding myth,” Schwartz told Middle East Monitor in a recent interview, adding “the Israeli army went and took village after village, and drove the people out, sometimes committing war crimes, like the massacre in Tantura and others.”

“Twenty-three years after Katz wrote his thesis, I got his tapes, I got access to his audio recordings and these tapes had in them all kinds of testimonies,” he said, adding, “It is not only the story of Tantura, it is not only the story of the Nakba (the Catastrophe), but it’s a story about how people choose to forget or not remember things that are inconvenient.”

In an earlier interview in November, Schwarz said that “For Israelis, the founding myth is that the Palestinians just ran away by themselves.”

He reiterated that “Israel is lying to itself.”

On 15 May 1948, some 750,000 Palestinians were forcibly evicted out of their lands by Israeli forces and took refuge mostly in the occupied Wes Bank, the Gaza Strip and Palestine’s neighboring states. Today, around 5 million Palestinians are still displaced and are denied the right to return to their homeland.

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