The Searing Deir Yassin Story
On Tuesday, April 9, as in past years, the Zochrot group will be commemorating 65 years since the Dayr Yassin massacre. Carrying signs bearing the names of the victims of the massacre, they will be walking along Kanfei Nesharim Street, what they mistakenly claim was the main street of the village, to the Kfar Shaul mental hospital, whose buildings were once the core of the village. They will stop at the remains of the Palestinian cemetery and end the tour in the grove behind the hospital. The tour starts at Kanfei Nesharim 24 (near the branch of the Mercantile Bank), Jerusalem, at 16:00, and will end at 18:00.
The recipient of many hundreds of thousands of shekels from such groups as the Mennonite Central Committee, the Belgian Broederlijk Delen, the French CCFD, the British Oxfam, the IrishTrócaire, the German MISEREOR, the Swiss HEKS-EPER and the Dutch ICCO, Zochrot is one of the more blatant examples of multi-national-supported democracy subversion operations.
The events surrounding Deir Yassin have seared the memories and the historical consciousness of millions. Did Jews rip open the bellies of pregnant Arab women? Did they rape Arab girls? Did they invade a pacific, pastoral village? Or was something quite wrong in the narrative foisted upon a public unfamiliar with the history of the Mandate of Palestine since 1920 – and earlier – and the specific period that began already in the summer of 1947 when the Arabs in and without the Mandate territory realized a Jewish state was to be declared.
In a recent book produced by Gefen Publishing, The Birth of the Palestinian Nation: The Myth of the Deir Yassin Massacre, disinformation is corrected and proper perspective is provided by the author, Uri Milstein, who has been researching the subject for many years, as regards what is probably the most outrageous Arab propaganda device manipulated by those, Arabs and their supporters, seeking to defame not only the underground armed liberation groups that attacked the village on April 9, 1948 in the very early morning hours, the Irgun and the Lechi, but the state of Israel.
According to the prevalent version, reflected in web sites, history books or articles, a peaceful village, on the outskirts of Jerusalem, near the Givat Shaul neighborhood north-east of the city’s center, Deir Yassin, was attacked in an unprovoked manner and the number of civilians massacred was, for many decades, 245 civilians including many women and children. In recent years, however, they have been forced to alter the figure to “over 100 men, women, and children were systematically murdered”, noting that the body count of 254 was reported by The New York Times on April 13 and that a study undertaken by Birzeit University''s Center for Research and Documentation of Palestinian Society and published in 1987 concluded that "the numbers of those killed does not exceed 120".
As the virulent anti-Zionist blog site, Mondoweiss, observes, Deir Yassin is the “symbol of the Nakba” and for many on the activist Zionist Left, who wholeheartedly support the moral character of the Hagana and the Palmah, “purity of arms”, as opposed to the “terror” of the “dissident” Irgun and Lechi, Deir Yassin was a stain and unpardonable sin. Oddly, just as anti-Zionists ignore or downplay Arab massacres, the Zionist Left avoids what could also be termed “massacres” perpetrated by the Hagana (the revenge operation for the Gan Hawaii Café killings and the Lod action) and the Palmah (at Ein-Zeitun or Sassa).
Dr. Milstein, who has been researching the incident at Deir Yassin for years, is quite outspoken in his critique of both how the Arab side and the anti-Irgun/Lechi camp have “retold” the tale of that April 9 action. In his book, translated from the original 2007 Hebrew edition, a translation that suffers too much from unfortunate sloppiness, he asserts that there was no planned purposeful massacre that day, that, in fact, a Palmah unit participated in the fighting for a short time, that the Zionist Left promoted, for decades, a ‘smear’ campaign against its rivals, the nationalist right camp, and most pointedly, the Irgun commander, Menachem Begin, by contributing, from the start, to the event’s inflation.
More intriguingly, he adds an additional element:
It [the Deir Yassin battle] became a basic founding myth in the Palestinian consciousness, and therefore in Palestinian culture. It serves as a fundamental example for the claim that the Jews committed genocide against the Palestinians in 1948, and expelled, knowingly and intentionally, hundreds of thousands of Palestinians…
And that “founding myth” claim is a bit controversial. I was in attendance at the book’s launch at the Begin Center on October 23, 2012 when Dr. Yehoshua Porat attacked that thesis. He suggested that Milstein was cutting too thin a portrayal of a moment of a nation’s creation, even if in a sense of consciousness. The Arabs of the Mandate territory were for years attempting to define themselves as a separate national group was Porat’s historical contribution whereas Milstein retorted that his frame of reference was difference. The fact that the Arabs needed a story of a “massacre” in order to cover their unwillingness to fight was proof that they were not a nation because a nation fights.
As discussed in an interview, Milstein’s claim becomes clearer:
The story about the massacre in Dir Yassin broke the spirits of the Palestinian Arabs…in Haifa, which was a strategic city, 40,000 people fled screaming "Dir Yassin". That happened also in Yafo: out of 70,000 Arabs, 5,000 remained"…Milstein claims that..until then there was no Palestinian nation. They were simply called Arabs. Palestinian consciousness formulated itself following Dir Yassin. This is their basic founding myth.
I would not subscribe to such a sweeping charge. In my opinion, the idea of the Arabs in the country as Southern Syrians held until the mid-1920s. Admittedly, it still is held by small groups of ideologists and intelligentsia but the masses, and for sure since the “Great Revolt” of 1936-1939, despite the almost total societal destruction the Arabs caused themselves (and which was a major contribution to their inability to match Zionist willpower in 1947-1948), were convinced they were almost a nation.
If anything, Deir Yassin showed just how weak the local Arabs were in that they could not withstand the moving in of outside irregular forces or make the correct judgment calls how to manage their future. But it should be clear, as I have traced, that the village was an evil nest of anti-Jewish violence from 1920, when the British recorded illegal trade in arms, from 1929 when they attacked Givat Shaul and Bet Hakerem, during the1936-39 period when they participated in the sniping of the main Jerusalem highway and when, on April 4, 1948, there was sniping on Bayit VeGan and Net Hakerem from the village.
(To grasp the immorality and historical perversion of this act, review these Deir Yassin posts of mine Visuals. 2008. 2010. 2011. 2012. And this article.)
The Zochrot people will be marching in vain.