If you do not know as yet, this Saturday, people will be observing what is called the “Deir Yassin Massacre (1948) Commemoration Day.” As one site notes
,The event will be taking place on April 9, the same day of a massacre in 1948 in an Arab-populated village just on the edge of Jerusalem, near the Jewish neighborhood of Givat Shaul.
According to these promoters, “The Deir Yassin massacre took place on April 9, 1948, when around 120 fighters from the Irgun and Lehi Zionist paramilitary groups attacked Deir Yassin near Jerusalem, a Palestinian-Arab village of roughly 600 people. The invasion occurred as Jewish militia sought to relieve the blockade of Jerusalem during the civil war that preceded the end of British rule in Palestine. Around 107 Palestinian villagers and four Israeli soldiers were killed during the battle.”
That number of casualties is one of the lowest I have ever seen. Many sources take at face value the number of 254 which the commander at the scene, Mordechai Raanan, just picked out of the air at the moment when conducting an on-the-scene press conference
: A final body count of 254 was reported by The New York Times on April 13, a day after they were finally buried…A 1987 study undertaken by Birzeit University''s Center for Research and Documentation of Palestinian Society found "the numbers of those killed does not exceed 120."
Not many people are aware that in the new film “Miral
,” several characters represent Deir Yassin orphans and that the orphanage the sister of the Mufti, Hind Husseini, established
was for the first children who were transported, alive and well, by the Irgun from the village to Jerusalem’s Old City.
The attack on the Arab village of Deir Yassin near Jerusalem (today, the Har Nof neighborhood) was not, as claimed, a "massacre" nor was it a premeditated killing. As we now know from Arab sources and other independent research, (see Bregman, Ahron & El-Tahri, Jihan, "The Fifty Years War, Israel and the Arabs
," Penguin Books, BBC Books, London, 1998. pp. 27-34 and Klein, Morton A., “Deir Yassin History of a Lie, ZOA,
NY 2005) the number of dead at the village was between 93 and 110, at the most. All of them were killed during the course of the battle, in house-to-house fighting. There were no mutilations or atrocities caused to the corpses as per testimony from the villagers themselves. The attacking combined force of Irgun and Lehi units brought with them a loudspeaker to the village entrance to warn the inhabitants. They also left an escape route open, which led to Ein Karem, so as not to have to harm the inhabitants unnecessarily and hundreds took advantage of this Jewish act of kindness in battle. All these preparations and actions belie any intent of a massacre.
We should recall that, for example, when Hulda was attacked in 1929
, Efraim Chisik, brother of Devora Chisik who was killed nine years earlier at Tel Chai, after being shot dead by Arabs was then set alight and his body burned. The British soldiers who saved the survivors did not permit them to take with them his body which was recovered several days later, horribly mutilated as were the bodies of the famous 35 of Gush Etzion
who were killed in January 1948.
The fighters were instructed before the attack specifically not to harm unarmed civilians. The survivors were provided transportation to the Old City of Jerusalem and no physical injury was done to them after the surrender. True, the battle itself was not conducted with the utmost professionalism. The underground combatants were not fully trained in urban warfare of this type. The house-to-house character of the fighting, the shooting from within the homes and the lack of knowledge of who was in the houses, all led to the use of dynamite rather indiscriminately causing thus many of the deaths. The portrayal in another recent docudrama, “The Promised Land
” shown on Britain''s’ Channel Four, is so ludicrous as to be a stain on film professionalism
. The battle at the village, part of the “Nahshon” campaign to relieve Jerusalem of the siege the Arabs were applying to the city by blocking the main highway, was approved by the Hagana commander. Deir Yassin provided a base for the Arab attacks on the Castel and the Histadrut Davar
newspaper issue of April 4, 1948, contained a report that the previous Friday night, shots from snipers had been fired from Deir Yassin towards Bet Hakerem and Bayit VeGan Jewish neighborhoods (see here
). A local Palmach unit provided mortar support fire at one point. Claims of rape, butchering of bodies and other atrocities is simply not true.
The village, portrayed as a quiet and uninvolved village in the fighting, is also misleading. In the first instance, Iraqi soldiers and other Arabs state irregulars had been in the village for weeks. Secondly, the villagers had been involved in the 1920 and 1929 Arab communal riots on nearby Jews and in 1938, the Hagana attacked the village in a reprisal raid after sniper fire was directed at the main Jerusalem high way. The attacking force suffered 35% casualties of 5 killed and 40 injured.
Even Benny Morris included this in his 1999 book Righteous Victims
:"The attack, on the morning of April 9, was carried out with the prior approval of, and in cooperation with, the Jerusalem command of the Haganah. Some 130 IZL [Irgun Zvai Leumi - The National Military Organization] and LHI [Lohamei ''Herut Yisrael - Freedom Fighters of Israel a.k.a. the Stern Gang] fighters took part. During the battle, Haganah machine-gunners stationed nearby supplied covering fire, and two Palmah squads [Strike force within the Haganah] in armored cars joined in the actual battle. Palmah squads also helped evacuate the wounded, and the Haganah helped the combatants with ammunition...
But what is missing from all these commemoration events and film treatments is quite a simple fact: the village’s fate was sealed when sniping from the village was directed at two Jewish neighborhoods, Beit HaKerem and Bayit V’Gan, the Friday night before its conquest. For a rigorous treatment of the events see Uri Milstein’s account
, among others
A video clip of Hazem Nusseibeh, editor of the Palestine Broadcasting Service''s in 1948, describing how the original press report was compiled as basically propaganda, can be seen here
Every year, on April 9, untruths are repeated, not-complete truths are retold and anti-Zionists recapitulate that which they do not know and even know it mendacity, making up horror stories, with “artistic license,” some that even Arabs actually committed all to the detriment of Israel.
Would that we could utilize April 9th as a day of truth about the Arab-Israel conflict.
Deir Yassin Day can be turned around.
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