Did Moshe Dayan Really Say “Jewish Villages Were Built in the Place of the Arab Villages”

The following supposed quote (or similar variants) by former Chief of Staff of the IDF Moshe Dayan has been doing the rounds for decades:

If accurate, it sounds like he was admitting that we displaced Arabs from their homes or even worse. Certainly, the Israel-hater who posted the above has used hashtags suggesting massacres.

The question is: did he actually say this?

The answer is yes and no. He said it, but he also said more, which has been omitted here and in other places, and it is this “more” that provides much needed context.

According to CAMERA, which addressed the quote over 20 years ago:

The quote is taken from an address Dayan gave to Technion University students on March 19, 1969. A transcript of the speech appeared in Ha’aretz on April 4, 1969.

In answer to a student’s question suggesting that Israel adopt a policy of punishing Arabs who commit crimes in the West Bank by deportation to Jordan, Dayan answers that he is vehemently opposed to this idea, insisting that the answer to the longstanding Arab-Israeli problem is to learn to live together with Arab neighbors. He goes on to say:

We came to a region of land that was inhabited by Arabs, and we set up a Jewish state. In a considerable number of places, we purchased the land from Arabs and set up Jewish villages where there had once been Arab villages. You don’t even know the names [of the previous Arab villages] and I don’t blame you, because those geography books aren’t around anymore. Not only the books, the villages aren’t around. Nahalal was established in the place of Mahalul, and Gvat was established in the place of Jibta, Sarid in the place of Huneifis and Kfar Yehoshua in the place of Tel Shaman. There isn’t any place that was established in an area where there had not at one time been an Arab settlement.

Dayan’s conclusion was that the solution to the Arab-Israeli problem is to learn to coexist with them.

In the misquote, the key phrase “we purchased the land from Arabs” is omitted, and thus Dayan’s meaning is reversed. Dayan was not saying that Arabs were dispossessed. On the contrary, he was indicating that though Arabs sold the land of their own free will, given their presence in the region, the Israeli goal is to live peacefully together with them.

While I could not find the original quote, even the anti-Israel Edward Said quoted Dayan in full to included the pivotal sentence missed by so many.

One needn’t ask why this crucial sentence has been missing from the quote while it has been passed around by Israel-haters for decades. The answer is obvious.

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