Newly-uncovered documents reveal how Israel established the ‘Professors Committee’ in the days following the occupation to devise policies to pacify the Palestinians and make them leave the West Bank and Gaza permanently.
Mere weeks after nearly tripling the size of Israeli controlled territory in the 1967 Six-Day War, Israel enlisted teams of academics in the country to find ways to encourage Palestinians to emigrate from the newly occupied territories.
According to documents recently uncovered by by Omri Shafer Raviv, a PhD student in the Department of Jewish History at Hebrew University, in July 1967, then Israeli Prime Minister Levi Eshkol assembled a committee of academics including prominent Israeli sociologist Shemuel Noah Eisenstadt, economist Michael Bruno, demographer Roberto Baki, and mathematician Aryeh Dvoretzky — all of them with connections to the corridors of power — and sent them into the territories to study the newly-occupied population.
The objective of the “Committee for the Development of the Administered Territories,” referred to as the “Professors Committee” was, on paper, to create a body responsible for “long-term planning” in the occupied territories. The professors, along with their teams of researchers, were sent to villages, cities, and refugee camps to interview Palestinians about their lives, needs, and desires.
The second goal, says Shafer Raviv, was to better understand the Palestinians of the occupied territories in order to find ways to ensure they did not resist the military regime Israel placed them under — and under which still rules them today — while looking for ways to encourage them to leave. “Those early years set the tone for how Israeli policy looks today,” he says.
The threat of modernity
When the war came to an end, says Shafer Raviv, the Israeli government had all kinds of goals vis-à-vis the Palestinian population, chief among them was to reduce the number of them living in the occupied territories. “We saw this most prominently in Gaza, where the authorities believed they could halve the population from 400,000 to 200,000 in order to contend with the new demographic problem.”
Most of the Palestinians in Gaza were refugees, and the government wanted to dismantle their refugee camps and encourage them to leave the country and be absorbed or integrate themselves elsewhere, Raviv explains. “That’s the context for Eshkol’s decision to establish the Professors Committee.”
The first few years after the start of the occupation saw a wave of popular, mostly nonviolent resistance to the occupation, including several mass strikes. There...Read More