Deir Yassin: No passing over history

Yousef Munayyer writes: On April 9, 1948, scores of Palestinian civilians were massacred at the village of Deir Yassin through co-operative efforts of Yishuv forces like the Irgun, Lehi and the Haganah.

The Zionist narrative on the events of 1948 and the Nakba – the Arabic word for the depopulation of Palestine – talks about the war as a defensive one where there was no intention on behalf of the Israeli forces to shift the demographics by force. Rather, that narrative tells us, the refugees were created during the hostilities which began when five Arab armies invaded Israel the day after it declared its independence on May 15, 1948.

Too often, people who talk about “making peace” advise that we pass over history and look forward without getting lost in the “dueling narratives” of this period. But peace cannot happen without a rectification of past injustices and we cannot approach this without talking about what these injustices are.

The Zionist narrative will counter, defensively, that any injustices are not the fault of Israel and this is where the issue of “dueling narratives” prevents further discussion.

“The goal of the Zionist movement was to establish a Jewish state in the land of Palestine which had a significant non-Jewish majority of Palestinian Arabs.”

But there are simple, undeniable facts that any two sane people, Zionist or otherwise, should be able to agree on. For example, I think we can all agree that April 9, 1948, occurred before May 15, 1948. This is not a matter perspective, this is chronology.

When you actually look at the history – even versions documented by Israeli historians using official Israeli archival material – what you learn is that a very significant portion of the total refugees were created long before May 15, 1948. Had it not been for the hundreds and thousands of refugees flowing into Arab states and massacres like Deir Yassin, the Arab armies would likely not have been compelled to intervene.

Clearly, indisputable and historically non-controversial chronological facts blow significant holes in the Zionist narrative about cause and effect. But sequence is not the only problem. The other point of contention Zionists hold is that Israeli actions during the war were defensive and not intended to depopulate.

The goal of the Zionist movement was to establish a Jewish state in the land of Palestine which had a significant non-Jewish majority of Palestinian Arabs. Through years of immigration, the Zionists managed to grow from 11 per cent of Palestine’s inhabitants in 1922 to about 30 per cent in 1946.

The Zionist goal, which was unachievable for decades, came to fruition after 18 months of hostilities when Jews suddenly became 85 per cent of the population of the state of Israel. So, the Zionist narrative will have you believe that the Zionist dream of establishing a state with a Jewish majority, which was unachievable without war then, finally achieved during the fog of one, happened completely by accident.

One does not have to be a supporter of Israel or Palestine to accept this explanation – just astoundingly naïve. [Continue reading…]

In The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine, Ilan Pappe writes: On 9 April 1948, Jewish forces occupied the village of Deir Yassin. It lay on a hill west of Jerusalem, eight hundred metres above sea level and close to the Jewish neighbourhood of Givat Shaul. The old village school serves today as a mental hospital for the western Jewish neighbourhood that expanded over the destroyed village.

As they burst into the village [of Deir Yassin] the Jewish soldiers sprayed the houses with machine-gun fire, killing many of the inhabitants. The remaining villagers were then gathered in one place and murdered in cold blood, their bodies abused while a number of the women were raped ad then killed.
Fahim Zaydan, who was twelve years old at the time, recalled how he saw his family murdered in front of his eyes:

They took us out one after the other; shot an old man and when one of his daughters cried, she was shot too. Then they called my brother Muhammad, and shot him in front us, and when my mother yelled, bending over him – carrying my little sister Hudra in her hands, still breastfeeding her – they shot her too.

Zaydan himself was shot, too, while standing in a row of children the Jewish soldiers had lined up against a wall, which they had then sprayed with bullets, ‘just for the fun of it’, before they left. He was lucky to survive his wounds.

Recent research has brought down the accepted number of people massacred at Deir Yassin from 170 to ninety-three. Of course, apart from the victims of the massacre itself, dozens of others were killed in the fighting, and hence were not included in the official list of victims. However, as the Jewish forces regarded any Palestinian village as an enemy military base, the distinction between massacring people and killing them ‘in battle’ was slight. One only has to be told that thirty babies were among the slaughtered in Deir Yassin to understand why the whole ‘quantitative’ exercise – which the Israelis repeated as recently as April 2002 in the massacre in Jenin – is insignificant. At the time, the Jewish leadership proudly announced a high number of victims so as to make Deir Yassin the epicentre of the catastrophe -a warning to all Palestinians that a similar fate awaited them if they refused to abandon their homes and take flight.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Facebooktwittermail

1 thought on “Deir Yassin: No passing over history

  1. delia ruhe

    “They took us out one after the other; shot an old man and when one of his daughters cried, she was shot too. Then they called my brother Muhammad, and shot him in front us, and when my mother yelled, bending over him – carrying my little sister Hudra in her hands, still breastfeeding her – they shot her too.”

    This reads like a passage out of Jonathan Littel’s *The Kindly Ones*.

Comments are closed.