Immediately upon ethnic cleansing and destruction or repopulation of 531 Arab villages and 11 urban areas by Jewish terrorist militias before May 15, 1948 and the IDF following that date, Israel set about to cover up the evidence. This was usually done by bulldozing the structures and covering the rubble with conifers and cactus (see www.cactus48.com) or by replacing the Arab names of roads, streets and villages with Hebrew names. Israeli historian Ilan Pappe calls this "memoricide," intended to deny the prior existence and obliterate the cultural remains of the people they violently displaced.
This process has continued to the present. Most Israeli land was placed under the control of the Jewish National Fund or the Israeli Land Authority and given to Jews or turned into public lands such as parks. Non-Jews are prohibited from owning or leasing this land. Many historical markers have been installed by the JNF commemorating biblical references and sites of Jewish significance, while the many centuries of Arab history in Palestine have been wholly excluded from recognition.
An outstanding Israeli NGO, "Zochrot" which in Hebrew means "remembering" (in feminine, emotional voice) currently conducts awareness-raising tours to the sites of destroyed villages and renamed communities, leading combined groups of Israeli Jews and Palestinian Arabs. At these sites they place signs and markers with the original Arab names, often against significant local resistance, and are pressuring the JNF to also do so, sometimes successfully. (see www.zochrot.org). Zochrot has also done an extensive analysis of the feasibility of implementing the full right of return for Palestinian refugees, with hopeful conclusions.
Another outstanding American NGO, "Birthright Unplugged," conducts similar tours for American Jews to learn the truth about Israel's beginnings. They conduct similar tours for Palestinian children to visit and learn about the birthplaces of their elders, calling this program "birthright re-plugged." (see www.birthrightunplugged.org)
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