al-Tantura (الطنطورة, lit. The Peak) was a Palestinian Arab fishing village located 8 kilometers northwest of Zikhron Ya'akov and 28 kilometers south of Haifa and 17 kilometers North of Caesarea on the Mediterranean coast of Israel.
In 1922, al-Tantura had a population of 722 inhabitants, rising to 953 according to the British Mandate census in 1931. In Sami Hadawi's land and population survey in 1945, the town had a population 1,490 and a total land area of 14,250 dunams.
There are two Islamic holy sites in the village's ruins, including a maqam or shrine dedicated to an Abd ar-Rahman Sa'd ad-Din.
Josephus Flavius in his Antiquities (14:333) describes Dor as an unsatisfactory port where goods had to be transported by lighters from ships at sea. Dora was the city where Antiochus, ruler of the Hellenistic Seleucid Empire with the aid of Simon Maccabaeus, laid siege to the usurper Trypho. During Pompey's invasion of Judea Dora was razed, along with all the coastal towns, only to be rebuilt under Gabinius's direction.
Off the coast of Dor, shipwrecks have been found from various periods. Underwater exploration of a Byzantine wreck discovered the remains of a medium-size boat constructed with iron nails. Based on coins recovered from the site, the boat dates to 665 CE, a decade after the Muslim conquest. Artifacts include several objects testifying to the practice of light-fishing. The site contains remnants of a Byzantine basilica that was the seat of a Bishopric. Later, the Knights Templar built a Crusader fort named after the fief-holders de Merle (Khirbet el-Burj).
In 1859 William McClure Thomson described Tantura/Dor in his travelogue:-
'Tantura merits very little attention. It is a sad and sickly hamlet of wretched huts on a naked sea-beach, with a marshy flat between it and the base of the eastern hills. The sheikh’s residence and the public menzûl for travellers are the only respectable houses, Dor never could have been a large city, for there are no remains. The artificial tell, with a fragment of the Kùsr standing like a column upon it, was probably the most ancient site. In front of the present village and five small islets, by the aid of which an artificial harbour could easily be constructed. The entrance to which would be by the inlet at the foot of the Kùsr; and should “Dor and her towns” ever rise again into wealth and importance such a harbour will assuredly be made'.
Sometime around 1880, Jewish pioneers from Zikhron Ya'akov bought 30 hectares of land in a marsh-ridden part of Tantura (the site of Kibbutz Nahsholim after the establishment of the State of Israel). The land was transferred to Baron Edmond de Rothschild. After unsuccessful farming attempts by a group of young Romanian Jews, the land was leased to local Arabs.In 1891, Baron Rothschild financed the establishment of a bottle factory there, hoping to use the fine sand on the shore to manufacture glass bottles for the fledging wine industry in Zikhron Ya'akov.A building was constructed, a French glass specialist was brought in, dozens of workers were hired and three ships were purchased to transport raw material and bottles. However, the factory was abandoned in 1895 after a string of failures.
In the late nineteenth century al-Tantura was described as a village on the coast, with a harbour located to the north, and a square, stone building used as a guest house for travellers (probably the khan referred to by Buckingham). The village had an estimated 1,200 residents who cultivated 25 faddans, and conducted a small trade with Jaffa.
‘the cleansing of Palestine remained the prime objective of Plan Dalet'
According to 'Tiroshi' (Eitan), the residents of Tantura were ready to surrender in early May but not to relinquish their arms. One Jewish Intelligence specialist on Arab affairs asked if the Haganah were really interested in Tantura's surrender. The Alexandroni Brigade launched its attack on Tantura under cover of darkness with no prior expression of readiness to suspend the operation in exchange for a surrender.
The night attack started with heavy machine gun fire and was followed by the infantry attack from all landwards sides with an Israeli naval vessel blocking off any chance of escape to the sea and by 0800hrs on the 23 May the battle was over. The village had offered little resistance.
An unsigned Haganah report in the name of the deputy OC 'A' company spoke of dozens of villagers killed and 500 taken prisoner (300 adult males and 200 women and children).
A Ministry official, Ya’akov Epstein of Zikhron Ya'akov, who submitted a report after visiting Tantura shortly after the operation, reported seeing bodies 'in the (village) outskirts, in the streets, in the alleys, in village houses', but said nothing of a massacre. In 1998, Yihiya Yihiya published a book on Tantura recording the names of 52 dead.
The occupation of the village was followed by looting. Some of the items recovered by the Haganah included 'one carpet, one gramophone ... one basket with cucumbers .... one goat'. The area also became a health hazard, given the number of human and animal corpses.
The male prisoners of war were held on the beach before being transferred to Zichron Ya’akov police station and put into labour battalions.
In 1964 the IDF released an official history of "The Alexandroni Brigade in the War of Independence" in which 11 pages were devoted to al-Tantura; it has no mention of any expulsion. However by 2004 Alexandroni veterans acknowledge the forced expulsion.
As the village was situated on the ancient tel of Dora, Jewish National Fund names committee restored the Hebraic name Dor. The moshav settlers initially moved into the abandoned Arab houses but the housing was found to be unsuitable. The moshav moved out of al-Tantura and the old Arab village was bulldozed. Moshav Dor built more suitable housing close to al-Tantura. Former residents of al-Tantura claim that when bulldozers tried to knock down the local saint's tomb of Sheikh al-Majrami, the blades on the bulldozers broke.
Nahsholim and Dor residents are opposed to an exhumation of a possible mass grave site.
Katz had originally received a grade of 97%. According to Meyrav Wurmser, Katz's claims were wholly based on oral testimony, some of which was falsified (Benny Morris uses the term "inaccurate") in 14 different places. Katz's presentation of the facts was disputed by Israeli historians such as Benny Morris and Yoav Gelber as well as veterans of the Alexandroni Brigade. Katz was sued for libel. After two days’ cross-examination in court, Katz signed a statement, retracted 12 hours later, saying:
"After checking and re-checking the evidence," it read, "it is clear to me now, beyond any doubt, that there is no basis whatsoever for the allegation that the Alexandroni Brigade, or any other fighting unit of the Jewish forces, committed killing of people in Tantura after the village surrendered."
In the wake of these findings, Haifa University suspended Katz's degree and Katz was invited to revise the thesis. Katz revised and reiterated the massacre claims. The paper was sent out to five external examiners, a majority (3:2) of whom failed it. Katz was subsequently awarded a "non-research" MA. Katz’s mentor Ilan Pappé continues to stand by Katz and his thesis. Tom Segev, Me'ir Pa'il, Ilan Pappe, Benny Morris have also argued that there may be some truth in what Katz described. Specifically, Zalman Amit, founding member of the Alliance of Concerned Jews of Canada and Professor Emeritus in Psychology at Concordia Univeersity, writes that, in interview in the Jerusalem Report, Morris contended that while he is not sure whether what happened in Tantura was actually a massacre, he was now convinced that atrocities, rapes and killings were committed by the troops in Tantura.
Morris says that eyewitness statements made long after the event are no substitute for contemporaneous documentary evidence. However, Katz's interviews of 20 Israelis and 20 Palestinians (some of whom were 5-7 years old in 1948) have led some scholars to speculate that the Israeli narrative is problematic. However Benny Morris does record that there was an instance of a rape of a woman in the village and that there is evidence that the Alexandroni troops executed POWs; also some looting based on a report in which the commander uses the word "khabala" (vandalism/sabotage). Morris wonders if this might be a euphemism for a massacre.
During the trial in December 2000, it emerged that Katz's claim that Abu Fahmi, one of the witnesses, had told him the "army rounded up the villagers, lined them up against a wall and shot them", was incorrect. The court ordered Katz to hand over the tapes of his interviews; no such statement was found. On the contrary, Abu Fahmi stated repeatedly that "we did not see them killing after we raised our hands". According to Morris, although Morris supports the contention that there was over-enthusiastic killing. Morris considers it a telling fact that "no residents went on record in 1948 or any time before the 1990s to claim there had been a massacre." It is not mentioned by Walid Khalidi. Yet Morris passes up that Walid Khalidi did mention a massacre earlier. A former resident of the village Mahmoud al Yihiya Yihiya in August 1998 published a book entitled Al Tantura in which the battle is described and named 52 dead of the village and yet did not describe it as a massacre.
Proposals in 2004 to exhume bodies from a site believed to be a mass grave never materialized. As Nahsholim and Dor residents are opposed to an exhumation, an exhumation that is supported by Katz, the Tantura refugees and the Alexandroni veterans. The Alexandroni veterans contend that the grave holds only 70-75 bodies while Katz contends that 200-260 bodies lay under the car park.
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