The Village Files
In pursuit of their aims to take over the land of Palestine, the Zionist leadership founded the Jewish National Fund (JNF) in 1901 whose sole aim was to provide funds for the pupose of purchasing Palestinian land to settle Jewish immigrants. Its first donation came from Johann (also known as Yona) Kremenezky, who was later appointed as its head at the age of 51. Herzl, the founder of Zionism, made Kremenezky his personal advisor. He possessed grand dreams of planting a million trees throughout Palestine (as referenced in Herzl's diaries).
But it was due to one colourful character in the Zionist movement that land purchases in Palestine reached their climax. Yehoshua Hankin (1864-1945) arrived in Ottoman Palestine from Russia in 1882 at the age of 18 and based himself in Yafa. He possessed a keen sense of real-estate shrewdness, and was known to have 'acquired a fluency and familiarity with Palestinian Arabs and their business practices'. He has been credited with helping the JNF acquire over 1 million dunams (100,000 hectares) of Palestinian land prior to 1948.
The activities of the JNF were closely associated with those in the Zionist Settlement Department whose main aim was to facilitate the eviction of Palestinian tenants from Palestinian land bought by the JNF from absentee Palestinian and other Arab landlords. The tenants came with the land, but, in Zionist eyes, they did not have the right to stay on it.
The brain behind the JNF was a Ukraine-born Zionist called Yosef Weitz (1890-1972) who, like Yehoshua Hankin, was 18 when he entered Palestine in 1908. Under his tutelage, the 'Village Files' were compiled. These files comprised aerial photographs of Palestinian villages, topographical maps and detailed records of their inhabitants. They contained information on the quality of the land in the village, the water sources, the names of the village inhabitants, their political and religious affiliations, their ages and their marital status, etc. The files took years to collate and were nearly complete by the late 1930's. (Refer to Ilan Pappe's The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine).
The leaders of the Zionist movement were nothing if not meticulous record keepers, and their records of the Village Files were and still are kept in official government archives to this day.
Names associated with the Village Files project included the following people who were the core of The Consultancy Council: Ezra Danin (1903-1985), a Syrian-born Zionist who played a key role in the ethnic cleansing of Palestine; Moshe Pasternak (1920-1976) from Poland; Yaacov Shimoni; Yehoshua Palmon; Tuvia Lishanski; Eliyahu Sassoon; Yohanan Ratner; Fritz Eisenshtater; Yaacov Tahon and an Anglo-Jewish professor of chemistry, Sasha Goldberg who conducted experiments in biological weapons in what became later The Weizmann Institute. Later, this project was developed further under the directorship of a physical chemist called Ephraim Katzir (born Ephraim Katchalsky 1916-2009) who became the 4th president of Israel (in office from 24 May 1973 to 19 April 1978). Special units in the service of the Village Files project were trained and recruited in the Zionist youth village of Shefeya in Upper Galilee. It is from here that they went out on reconnaissance missions of Palestinian villages gathering detailed information from village elders whose traditional hospitality they abused.
The Village Files included 'Most Wanted' lists which included names of young Palestinians who, after a village had been occupied by Zionist forces, would be lined up, identified, taken away and shot on the spot. Many names belonged to Palestinian National Movement fighters who were fingered out by masked collaborators. As the villages were invaded and later occupied, the pattern of ethnically cleansing them became efficient, direct and swift.
Yigael Yadin (1917-1984) who later became Israel's second Chief of Staff, admitted once that it was the detailed information gathered on these villages (i.e., the Village Files) which enabled the Zionist undeground forces in November 1947 to sweep through the Palestinian landscape with such speed and efficiency and with little resistance from the 'Arab side'. In fact, it was not 'Arab resistance' that they feared. It was the British forces. Had it not been for the British presence, Yadin declared, the Palestinian resistance to the Partition Plan would have been quelled in one month.