Sunday, April 27, 2008

Deir Yassin: What Happened

 
Nadene Goldfoot
Deir Yassin was a village inhabited by Arabs near Jerusalem. Israel was born through the United Nations vote on May 14, 1948, but an Arab blockade of Jerusalem lasted five months and only surrendered on May 29, 1948. The UN had decided that Jerusalem would be an international city. 2,500 Jews were living in the Old City and were starving. Jewish convoys tried to reach them with food as the situation was critical by April. Arabs had been ambushing convoys since December.

The supply route was a highway from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Arabs tried to cut it off and controlled several important points; the villages of Kastel and Deir Yassin. These villages overlooked the highway and allowed the Arabs to fire on the convoys of food.

The Jewish leaders of Lehi and the Irgun planned on attacking Deir Yassin. Haganah commander David Shaltiel told them that was fine with him as long as they can hold the village. He told them not to blow up the village because then the population would leave and it would be occupied by foreign forces. The Irgun attacked it on April 9 when the Haganah was battling for Kastel, the first major Irgun attack against the Arabs. Before this time, Irgun and Lehi were fighting against the British.

Irgun leader was Menachem Begin, later to become Prime Minister of Israel. The assault was done by 100 members of Irgun, but others recall it amounted to 132 men from both Irgun and the Stern Group. They were told by Mordechai Raanan, Irgun commander, not to loot or kill unarmed civilians. He said, "If a dog bites you, you as a man shouldn’t act like a dog. I would not expect you to bite a dog."

Begin stated that they warned the village with a loudspeaker at the entrance from a small open truck. The civilians were told to evacuate, and many took heed. Many writers of this incident say the warning wasn’t given as the truck rolled into a ditch before it could broadcast. With the Irgun attacking from the east and the south, the Sternists came in from the north. The leaders all thought the village would fall without a shot being fired. This was their first attempt to attack the Arabs.

Residents opened fire on the attackers. The battle was "ferocious" and took several hours. The Irgun lost 4 men and had 41 injured. They then escorted a representative of the Red Cross through the town and held a press conference. The New York Times agreed with Begin’s description. More than 200 Arabs were killed, 40 captured and 70 women and children were released. The report mentioned No massacre.

Dan Kurzman wrote in "Genesis 1948" that the Jewish report was that 250 out of 400 village inhabitants were killed and Arabs say only 110 out of 1,000 were killed. Bir Zeit, a West Bank university, recently did a study based on discussions with each family from the village and came to the conclusion that 107 Arab casualies occurred.
The Jews opened an escape corridor from the village so that more than 200 residents left unharmed. The remaining Arabs pretended to surrender and then fired on the Jewish troops. Some Jews then killed Arab soldiers and civilians indiscriminately. They found Arab men disguised as women among the bodies.

When the Jewish Agency learned of the attack, they immediately expressed its "horror and disgust." It also sent a letter expressing the Agency’s shock and disapproval to Transjordan’s King Abdullah. However, Deir Yassin has been used by Arabs as a place where Jews massacred them. In fact, the Arab Higher Committee hoped that the exaggerated report about a massacre at Deir Yassin would cause the surrounding Arab countries to put pressure on their governments to intervene in Palestine. Instead, it caused an exodus of Palestinians from the region out of fear.

Four days after the reports, an Arab force ambushed a Jewish convoy on the way to Hadassah Hospital and killed 34 Jews which included doctors, nurses, patients, and the director of the hospital. 23 others were injured. This indeed was a massacre, but attracted little attention and is never mentioned by the Arabs that bring up Deir Yassin.  Just because it has lower number than what happened in Deir Yassin doesn't make it less of a massacre in that the medical personnel were not fighting the Arabs.  They were not attacking them.  They were civilians bringing medical aid.

500 Jews were killed in the first four months following Israel’s declared birth on May 14th, 1948. Jews did not run away from their reborn state.

Arabs knew that Jews were not trying to annihilate them. They were allowed to leave Tiberias, Haifa or any other towns captured by the Jews. They were able to go to nearby Arab states. Jews had no place to run to if they wanted. They stayed and fought to the death. They knew that the Arabs wanted to destroy them all. They knew because Secretary-General of the Arab League Azzam Pasha made it clear on the eve of the war; "The Arabs intend to conduct a war of extermination and momentous massacre which will be spoken of like the Mongolian massacres and the Crusades."

Reference: Myths and Facts: a concise record of the Arab-Israeli conflict by Mitchell G. Bard, Phd.
Genesis 1948 by Dan Kurzman
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