Eyewitness: Tantura - the village with no future

October 5, 2001

Teddy Katz, an MA student at the University of Haifa, could not have imagined the controversy his dissertation on "The Exodus of the Arabs from Villages at the Southern Foothills of the Carmel in 1948" would cause, especially after it was approved by Haifa's department of Middle Eastern history.

Reports in the Israeli press fanned the controversy, and former members of the Israeli army's Alexandroni Brigade sued Mr Katz for "fabricating" quotes from their reports of the events that took place in Tantura in 1948.

After re-reading the work, members of an internal committee set up by the university agreed that he had fabricated quotes. He subsequently recanted some of his statements.

"I feel as if I killed 230 people in Tantura. I feel helpless since the people from 1948 - both Jews and Arabs - are all dead," Mr Katz said after responding point by point to the internal committee's report.

The final decision over his dissertation will be made by a university council in October, and the case will be heard in the supreme court in November.

Mr Katz claims that established professors at the university are pro-government and that research work that shows massacres is not well received.

"Of the 144 quotes in the section on Tantura, (only) three were inexact. The committee didn't say: 'The work is not exact - fix it.' The aim of the committee was to prove that justice was with the Alexandroni Brigade."

Avner Giladi, chair of the department of Middle Eastern history will give his opinion at the October meeting. He said: "The whole affair is connected with political views of many involved in academia. The (internal) committee does not deny the fact that something wrong went on in Tantura.

"There are methodological problems where summaries are presented as quotations, but there is no real dispute between the content of the interviews and the paraphrases brought by Mr Katz. The thesis reflects accurately the spirit of the interviews.

"If the committee cannot categorically say that there was intended falsification, all the rest is open to academic debate," Professor Giladi said.


On the night of 22-23 May 1948, a week after the declaration of the state of Israel, the Palestinian coastal village of Tantura was attacked and occupied by units from the Third Battalion of the Israeli army's Alexandroni Brigade.

The village lay within the area assigned to the Jewish state by the UN's partition resolution. Teddy Katz's research, based on eyewitness accounts from both sides, suggested that as many as 150 Tantura villagers, mostly unarmed young men, had been shot after the village surrendered. The village itself was later depopulated and destroyed.

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