David Ben-Gurion
A false quote has routinely been attributed to David Ben-Gurion, Israel's first prime minister. Image by AP PHOTO

Assassination quote falsely attributed to ex-Israeli PM

David Williams March 25, 2024

A biography of former Israeli prime minister David Ben-Gurion reveals that he said terror must be used on the country’s Arab population.


False. The quote does not appear in the book and experts say it is inconsistent with Ben-Gurion's thought and actions.

It is being claimed that Israel’s first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, said terror and assassination must be used to steal the land of the Arab population in the country.

The claim is false. The quote is not recorded in a biography of Ben-Gurion as claimed, and experts on Jewish history say it is not consistent with his ideas and actions.

With the war in Gaza continuing, the quote appears in an Instagram post that says “Israeli leaders have never been shy about their intent to eradicate and annihilate the indigenous Palestinian population to make way for a ‘Jews only’ state”.

The post (archived here) displays a photo of Ben-Gurion overlaid with the quote: “We must use terror, assassination and intimidation. We must steal their land and eliminate every social service to free Israel from its Arab population”.

It sources the quote to a biography written by Michael Ben Zohar, saying it was part of a speech Ben-Gurion gave to Israeli officers in 1948.

AAP FactCheck obtained a digital copy of the book, Ben-Gurion: A Biography by Michael Bar-Zohar (originally published in Hebrew in 1975) and searched for the quote. It does not appear in the text.

Instagram post
 An image shared on social media falsely attributes a quote to Israel’s first PM, David Ben-Gurion 

Ben-Gurion was Israel’s first prime minister and delivered Israel’s declaration of independence on May 14, 1948.

Dr Ran Porat, affiliate research associate at Monash University‘s Australian Centre for Jewish Civilisation, described Ben-Gurion as the founding father of the state of Israel.

“He is the first prime minister, he is the person who was leading the Zionist movement, since the ’20s, he was a visionary, an ideologist,” Dr Porat told AAP FactCheck

“He created the idea of the Israeli identity, which is based on the Jewish identity but is more secular, connected closely to the Jewish roots.”

This isn’t the first time the quote has been attached to Ben-Gurion’s name and debunked.

In 2012, the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting and Analysis (CAMERA) reported on its successful campaign to have the quote removed from a pastor’s DVD that falsely attributed the quote to Ben-Gurion.

CAMERA’s report notes that the DVD attributed the quote to the Bar-Zohar biography but the quote does not appear in the text.

It also notes that the quote has been sourced to a different person, Israel Koenig, a former Northern District (Galilee) Commissioner of the Ministry of the Interior, in a document known as the Koenig Memorandum, such as here.

The Koenig Memorandum was a policy document containing strategic goals relating to Arab citizens in Israel, written in 1976. The quote does not appear in this document either.

The quote is also falsely attributed to Ben-Gurion in a March 2023 article published in Australia-based public affairs journal Pearls and Irritations.

Experts in Jewish history say the quote does not reflect Ben-Gurion’s views or his actions.

 Ben-Gurion (right) handing a present to then-U.S. President Harry Truman in 1951. 

Professor Colin Shindler at SOAS University of London told AAP FactCheck the quote sounded “more like a throwaway comment from Ben-Gurion’s rivals in the Irgun Zvai Leumi or Lehi which were further to the Right — figures such as Menachem Begin and Yitzhak Shamir“.

“Ben-Gurion tended to actually condemn such utterances publicly. But without knowing the source of such a comment or its context, it is difficult to categorically say a yes or a no,” Prof Shindler said.

Professor Zohar Segev of the University of Haifa‘s Department of Jewish History said the quote did not reflect Ben-Gurion’s views and political actions.

“I am very familiar with Ben-Gurion’s documents and have never encountered this quote or another quote with similar ideas,” he said.

Professor Anita Shapira of Tel Aviv University‘s Department of Jewish History, and the author of Ben-Gurion: Father of Modern Israel, said the quote was not by Ben-Gurion.

“The quote alluded to Ben-Gurion is far from his opinions and I don’t believe he ever said it,” Prof Shapira told AAP FactCheck.

“He did not wish to expel all the Arabs and he certainly did not recommend using terrorist methods against them. It sounds to me a complete fabrication.”

The Verdict

The claim that a biography of former Israeli prime minister David Ben-Gurion reveals he said that terror must be used on Israel’s Arab population is false.

The quote does not appear in the biography. Other claims attribute the quote to a different document and speaker, also falsely. 

Researchers of Jewish history and Ben-Gurion state that the quote is not consistent with his thoughts or actions.

False — The claim is inaccurate.

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