« We Created Terror Among the Arabs »: The Deir Yassin Massacre
William James Martin
13 May 2008
On April 9, 1948, members of the underground Jewish terrorist group, the Irgun, or IZL, led by Menachem Begin, who was to become the Israeli prime minister in 1977, entered the peaceful Arab village of Deir Yassin, massacred 250 men, women, children and the elderly, and stuffed many of the bodies down wells. There were also reports of rapes and mutilations. The Irgun was joined by the Jewish terrorist group, the Stern Gang, led by Yitzhak Shamir, who subsequently succeeded Begin as prime minister of Israel in the early ’80s, and also by the Haganah, the militia under the control of David Ben Gurian. The Irgun, the Stern Gang and the Haganah later joined to form the Israeli Defense Force. Their tactics have not changed.
The massacre at Deir Yassin was widely publicized by the terrorists and the numerous heaped corpses displayed to the media. In Jaffe, which was at the time 98 percent Arab, as well as in other Arab communities, speaker trucks drove through the streets warning the population to flee and threatening another Deir Yassin. Begin said at the time, « We created terror among the Arabs and all the villages around. In one blow, we changed the strategic situation. »
From about 1938 on to the founding of Israel, Begin was the leader of the Irgun. That group regularly assassinated English soldiers in Palestine and frequently hung their booby-trapped bodies in public places. Under Begin, the Irgun blew up the King David Hotel in Jerusalem in 1946, killing 97 British civil servants. The Stern Gang, under Shamir, also assassinated the U.N. representative to Palestine, Count Bernadotte, in 1948.
But Deir Yassin was not the only massacre by the Israeli Defense Force. That army, under Moshe Dayan, took the unarmed and undefended village of al-Dawazyma, located in the Hebron hills, massacred 80 to 100 of its residents, and threw their bodies into pits. « The children were killed by breaking their heads with sticks … The remaining Arabs were then sealed in houses, as the village was systematically razed … » (Nur Masalha, The Historical Roots of the Palestinian Refugee Question).
We read further. According to Yitzhak Rabin’s biography:
We walked outside, Ben-Gurion accompanying us. Alon repeated his question: « What is to be done with the population? » BG waved his hand in a gesture, which said: Drive them out! … I agreed that it was essential to drive the inhabitants out.
Continuing the narrative, Ben-Gurion University historian Benny Morris writes in « Operation Dani and the Palestinian Exodus from Lydda and Ramle in 1948 », Middle East Journal, 40
At 13.30 hours on 12 July … Lieutenant-Colonel Yitzhak Rabin, operation Dani head Operation, issued the following order: ‘1. The inhabitants of Lydda must be expelled quickly without attention to age. They should be directed to Beit Nabala,… Implement Immediately.’ A similar order was issued at the same time to the Kiryati Brigade concerning the inhabitants of the neighboring town of Ramle, occupied by Kiryati troops that morning… On 12 and 13 July, the Yaftah brigades carried out their orders, expelling the 50-60,000 remaining inhabitants of and refugees camped in and around the two towns….
About noon on 13 July, Operation Dani HQ informed IDF General Staff/Operations: ‘Lydda police fort has been captured. [The troops] are busy expelling the inhabitants…. Lydda’s inhabitants were forced to walk eastward to the Arab legion lines; many of Ramle’s inhabitants were ferried in trucks or buses. Clogging the roads… the tens of thousands of refugees marched, gradually shedding their worldly goods along the way. It was a hot summer day. The Arab chroniclers, such as Sheikh Muhammed Nimr al Khatib, claimed that hundreds of children died in the march, from dehydration and disease. One Israeli witness described the spoor: the refugee column ‘to begin with [jettisoned] utensils and furniture and, in the end, bodies of men, women, and children.
There were many other such villages with Arabic names that have almost been expunged from memory–but not quite. These facts have always been known to some historians, however they have been consistently denied by the official Israeli histories, as, indeed, Israel has never taken any responsibility for the exodus of Palestinians from the land of the present state of Israel.
Within the last 10 to 20 years, however, there has been an exponential increase in historical studies of the origins of the state of Israel which have coincided with the release by Israel of many, but not all, of the historical and military archives. Ben-Gurion University historian Benny Morris, as well as others, have systematically mined these documents and found numerous instances of massacres, and, by the way, not one shred of evidence for the frequently repeated official Israeli lie that the Palestinians fled Palestine because the surrounding Arab states told them to.
In fact, according to UN estimates, which some say are conservative, 750,000 Palestinians fled the site of the present Jewish state in 1948. Those refugees and their descendents now number about 4.5 million and constitute the largest and longest standing refugee population in the world. Many live in squalid refugee camps distributed in the surrounding Arab states or in the West Bank or Gaza, many retain the titles to their land, recognized by the British before 1948 or the Ottomans before that , and many retain the keys to their front doors of their former homes in what is now Israel, whether or not those doors still exists.
The ’67 War generated a second wave of about 300,000 refugees from the West Bank and Gaza who were either expelled through direct or psychological methods or fled the Israel aerial attacks on the territories which included the extensive use of napalm.
The reader is invited to read the Hagana’s Plan D , which has been available in English since the 1960s and was a military strategy of 1948 that entailed the evacuation of the Palestinian population from the areas of a future Jewish state.
Those who invoke the suicide bombings against mostly Israeli civilians to infer the righteousness of the Israeli cause live in a twilight of psychic denial of an otherwise unambiguous historical record: the state of Israel was founded on terrorism and ethnic cleansing.
The suicide bombings inside Israel, the first of which only occurred in 1994, after 25 years of occupation, is only a side show. That is a symptom and long way from the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
There will never be a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict until Israel takes responsibility, under U.N. Resolution 194, calling for reparation of the Palestinian refugees, and recognizes the immense suffering it caused at that time. We need also to recognize the US is giving unqualified moral support to a state that is based on racial purity and one that is intrinsically expansionist.
William James Martin is a visiting Instructor of Mathematics at the University of Central Florida, Orlando. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Comment: It is interesting to notice that Israeli historian Benny Morris – quoted in the article above as one of the sources revealing crimes against Palestinians – will not condemn Zionism in spite of his findings. The following fragment of an interview speaks volumes:
When ethnic cleansing is justified
Benny Morris, for decades you have been researching the dark side of Zionism. You are an expert on the atrocities of 1948. In the end, do you in effect justify all this? Are you an advocate of the transfer of 1948?
There is no justification for acts of rape. There is no justification for acts of massacre. Those are war crimes. But in certain conditions, expulsion is not a war crime. I don’t think that the expulsions of 1948 were war crimes. You can’t make an omelet without breaking eggs. You have to dirty your hands.
We are talking about the killing of thousands of people, the destruction of an entire society.
A society that aims to kill you forces you to destroy it. When the choice is between destroying or being destroyed, it’s better to destroy.
There is something chilling about the quiet way in which you say that.
If you expected me to burst into tears, I’m sorry to disappoint you. I will not do that.
So when the commanders of Operation Dani are standing there and observing the long and terrible column of the 50,000 people expelled from Lod walking eastward, you stand there with them? You justify them?
I definitely understand them. I understand their motives. I don’t think they felt any pangs of conscience, and in their place I wouldn’t have felt pangs of conscience. Without that act, they would not have won the war and the state would not have come into being.
You do not condemn them morally?
They perpetrated ethnic cleansing.
There are circumstances in history that justify ethnic cleansing. I know that this term is completely negative in the discourse of the 21st century, but when the choice is between ethnic cleansing and genocide – the annihilation of your people – I prefer ethnic cleansing.
And that was the situation in 1948?
That was the situation. That is what Zionism faced. A Jewish state would not have come into being without the uprooting of 700,000 Palestinians. Therefore it was necessary to uproot them. There was no choice but to expel that population. It was necessary to cleanse the hinterland and cleanse the border areas and cleanse the main roads. It was necessary to cleanse the villages from which our convoys and our settlements were fired on.
The term « to cleanse » is terrible.
I know it doesn’t sound nice but that’s the term they used at the time. I adopted it from all the 1948 documents in which I am immersed.
What you are saying is hard to listen to and hard to digest. You sound hard-hearted.
I feel sympathy for the Palestinian people, which truly underwent a hard tragedy. I feel sympathy for the refugees themselves. But if the desire to establish a Jewish state here is legitimate, there was no other choice. It was impossible to leave a large fifth column in the country. From the moment the Yishuv [pre-1948 Jewish community in Palestine] was attacked by the Palestinians and afterward by the Arab states, there was no choice but to expel the Palestinian population. To uproot it in the course of war.
Remember another thing: the Arab people gained a large slice of the planet. Not thanks to its skills or its great virtues, but because it conquered and murdered and forced those it conquered to convert during many generations. But in the end the Arabs have 22 states. The Jewish people did not have even one state. There was no reason in the world why it should not have one state. Therefore, from my point of view, the need to establish this state in this place overcame the injustice that was done to the Palestinians by uprooting them.
And morally speaking, you have no problem with that deed?
That is correct. Even the great American democracy could not have been created without the annihilation of the Indians. There are cases in which the overall, final good justifies harsh and cruel acts that are committed in the course of history.
And in our case it effectively justifies a population transfer.
That’s what emerges.
And you take that in stride? War crimes? Massacres? The burning fields and the devastated villages of the Nakba?
You have to put things in proportion. These are small war crimes. All told, if we take all the massacres and all the executions of 1948, we come to about 800 who were killed. In comparison to the massacres that were perpetrated in Bosnia, that’s peanuts. In comparison to the massacres the Russians perpetrated against the Germans at Stalingrad, that’s chicken feed. When you take into account that there was a bloody civil war here and that we lost an entire 1 percent of the population, you find that we behaved very well.
That is Benny Morris. For him, the goal of establishing a « Jewish state » justified any atrocities against the Palestinians.
It seems that for some people learning the facts is not enough to develop real empathy and conscience.