The plan was approved in the same year as the Mossad stopped hunting Nazis, including in Paraguay, where notorious doctor Josef Mengele and many other Nazis were living at the time.
Alfredo Stroessner Matiauda
(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
The government of Israel secretly planned to encourage Palestinians to move from Gaza to Paraguay, which agreed to accept up to 60,000 of them, according to the minutes from a 1969 cabinet meeting uncovered by Kan journalist Eran Cicurel this week.
The plan was approved in the same year as the Mossad stopped hunting Nazis, including in Paraguay, where notorious doctor Josef Mengele and many other Nazis were living at the time, raising suspicions that the two policies are related.
The protocol from 1969 states that Israel would bear the travel costs of the Palestinians moving to Paraguay and give each person $100, plus $33 per person would go to the government of Paraguay. At the time of signing the agreement with Paraguay, Israel would pay $350,000 meant to cover the costs for 10,000 emigres. The full amount Israel was meant to pay was $33 million.
Paraguay agreed to grant up to 60,000 Palestinians – about 10% of the population of Gaza at the time – residence status immediately upon arrival and citizenship within five years. Israel would not have any responsibility to allow the emigres back, though the government agreed to take some of them.
The Mossad drew up the deal with Paraguayan dictator Alfredo Stroessner, who was responsible for the murder of thousands of Paraguayans, including indigenous people.
Then-prime minister Golda Meir said in the meeting: “We have to make a decision and it is very important that everyone agree on it.”
Then-Mossad chief Zvi Zamir said Paraguay would be willing to accept “60,000 Muslim Arabs who are not communists according to their definition.”
Zamir referred to a secret document in which Paraguay requested that Israel cover the costs.
“I recommend, based on the arrangements with the Paraguayan government, who I see as pretty trustworthy, to do this,” Zamir said. “We are using the connections we have and they have proven useful…Our representative in the field met with the president.”
Zamir recommended that if some of the Palestinians are not successfully absorbed in Paraguay or if there is a scandal over the deal, the Israel should take them back.
“If things are so good for them and they can afford the travel costs to come back, they’ll surely stay there,” Meir said.
The plan was a failure and only 30 Palestinians moved to Paraguay. In 1970, two of them shot and killed Edna Pe’er, who worked in the Israeli Embassy in Paraguay, bringing about the end to the policy.
The agreement with Paraguay came into place just as Israel stopped hunting Nazis. In 1968, with permission from then-prime minister Levi Eshkol, Zamir reduced efforts to find Nazis around the world, due to lack of budget. From 1969, Israel effectively no longer tried to find Nazis in South America.
Paraguay was known to have provided refuge for Nazi officers. Kan reported that in 1971, Nazi hunter Tuvia Friedman demanded that Israel capture Mengele, who was known to be in Paraguay, but the authorities did not do so.
In the 1980s, Beno Varon, who was ambassador to Paraguay at the time of the deal, said he knew of a plan to catch Mengele that was then canceled, Kan reported. Varon said that when he reported to Israel on the whereabouts of Nazi war criminals, he was told: “You’re a diplomat, not a Nazi hunter.”
However, Kan did not provide any documentation proving that the Nazi-hunting slowdown and the Palestinian emigration plan were connected.