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a Massacre at Deir Yassin?
Historical and Investigative Research, 20
In any conflict, we can expect the interested parties to say that their opponents are bad, so finding the balance of justice requires that we go beyond the mutual accusations of the participants.
In the Arab-Israeli conflict, supporters of the PLO charge that the "Palestinian refugee problem" stems from supposed civilian massacres carried out by Jewish forces, which created a panic resulting in the flight of the Arab population. The argument rests almost exclusively on the repetition of the allegation that Jewish forces perpetrated a massacre of Arab civilians at Deir Yassin.
Since the entire argument rests heavily on Deir Yassin, what will be left of the accusation against the Jews if Arab civilians were not massacred at Deir Yassin?
Allegations by Arabs
What happened at Deir Yassin? One way to get a feel for why so many people around the world believe that Jewish forces massacred Arab civilians at Deir Yassin is to read a major newspaper. For example, according to The Guardian, Deir Yassin is
Several things are noteworthy about the way in which the Guardian writes. The first is that the Guardian takes it for granted that there was a massacre at Deir Yassin, even though this allegation has always been hotly disputed. But not a hint of that controversy in the Guardian's article. I shall come back to this.
Second, notice that the phrase “the conquest of Palestine” is designed to suggest that a place existed called ‘Palestine,’ and that it was conquered in a war of aggression. In fact, however, a foreign colonial power, Britain, had baptized a piece of land in the Middle East as ‘Palestine’ after the Ottoman Empire lost its Middle Eastern possessions in 1918. In 1921-22, the British radically re-drew the boundaries of ‘Palestine,’ making it less than half its previous size. That’s how much reality ‘Palestine’ had.[1a]
But even if one were to grant the reality of ‘Palestine’ the Guardian would still be wrong when it claims that this land was conquered in a Jewish war of aggression, because the Jews were defending themselves from an Arab attack. And by the way, the explicit and loudly stated Arab objective was to exterminate the Israeli Jews. Consider what Azzam Pasha, Secretary General of the Arab League, promised:
That the attacking Arabs could speak this way only three years after Adolf Hitler had finished exterminating the European Jewish population is astonishing. One wishes to avert the eyes but one must not -- this reveals how fiercely the antisemitic passion burned in the hearts of Israel’s Arab enemies in 1948.
Notice also that the Guardian’s phrase “the most spectacular single attack” appears to suggest that there were many such attacks, as if the Jews had conducted themselves on the battlefield worse than the Arabs. But...it was the Arabs who meant to exterminate the Jews. And the Arabs were not alone. The Nation, in 1948, publishing the official documents it had obtained, exposed that the US State Department supported, and the British Foreign Office sponsored, the Arab side in this war. This included the British sending captured Nazi officers to 'advise' the Arab armies.[2a]
So given that the Guardian braves historical absurdity in order to write with an anti-Jewish slant, we are now entitled to wonder if the Guardian might not be dishonest when it takes it for granted that there was a massacre of Arab civilians by Jewish forces at Deir Yassin. But if we are capable of skepticism on this point, it is because we have performed the historical analysis, which most people do not. Most people simply read the Guardian, trusting what they read, and what they understand is that the Arab allegations are supposedly fact.
They are not.
about Deir Yassin on the Arab side all seem to go back to a
certain Hussein Khalidi. As Palestine Facts explains,
This is what Dana Schmidt from the New York Times wrote in 1948:
[ NOTE: Although the New York Times calls the Irgun a "terrorist" group, this is a slander, for which consult the footnote.[4b] ]
Now, to understand whether Hussein Khalidi's charges should have been believed in the first place, it pays to recall who was Hajj Amin al Husseini, because Hajj Amin was Khalidi's boss.
Hajj Amin mentored Yasser Arafat and Al Fatah, the core of the PLO, but before that he was the Mufti of Jerusalem, from which position he organized terrorist riots against innocent Jews in the British Mandate territory in 1921, 1929, and 1936-37 (the British rewarded him with the post of Mufti after he organized the first terrorist riot in 1920). During World War II, Hajj Amin became a top Nazi and organized SS divisions in Yugoslavia composed of tens of thousands of Bosnian Muslim volunteers who were responsible for many of the hundreds of thousands of Serbian, Jewish, and Roma civilian deaths at the Croatian death-camp system of Jasenovac (others they killed in their homes). Hajj Amin also played a leading role in getting some 400,000 Hungarian Jews sent to die in Auschwitz. It was Hajj Amin al Husseini who created the "Palestine Arab Higher Committee," which, as the New York Times informs us (see above), had Hussein Khalidi for secretary. So, if the charge of a massacre at Deir Yassin came from the leader of Hajj Amin’s organization, doesn’t that suggest that the accusation might be a fabrication?
What would be the smoking gun that the Arab accusations about Deir Yassin were, in fact, fabrications?
How did the BBC document this? Nusseibeh confessed! See for yourself:
I point out two things. The first is that the BBC report came out three full years before the 2001 article in the Guardian that got us started, and which accuses the Israeli Jews -- with zero hint of a controversy, as if it were a standard historical fact -- of having supposedly committed a massacre at Deir Yassin.
The second is that there is no reason to doubt what the BBC reports, as it fits perfectly with everything else we know. For example, it fits nicely with the fact that, in 1948, the Mufti Hajj Amin al Husseini, through his Arab Higher Committee, of which Khalidi was the secretary, was trying to get the Palestinian Arabs to flee the area. Joseph Farah, a Christian Arab, has documented with Arab newspaper articles written close to the time of the events that there was no ambiguity on this point. It turns out that
The Arab newspapers lamented this as a tactical mistake:
Both of the above quotes come from the Arab newspapers that Farah cites (and there are others).
Finally, there was never anything to substantiate the charges of rape.
"Contrary to claims from Arab propagandists at the time and some since, no evidence has ever been produced that any women were raped. On the contrary, every villager ever interviewed has denied these allegations. Like many of the claims, this was a deliberate propaganda ploy, but one that backfired. Hazam Nusseibi, who worked for the Palestine Broadcasting Service in 1948, admitted being told by Hussein Khalidi, a Palestinian Arab leader, to fabricate the atrocity claims. Abu Mahmud, a Deir Yassin resident in 1948 told Khalidi 'there was no rape,' but Khalidi replied, 'We have to say this, so the Arab armies will come to liberate Palestine from the Jews.' Nusseibeh told the BBC 50 years later, 'This was our biggest mistake. We did not realize how our people would react. As soon as they heard that women had been raped at Deir Yassin, Palestinians fled in terror.'"
Let us review:
What, then, are those who would accuse the Jews of chasing out the Arabs left with?
Allegations by Jews
Supporters of the PLO are fond of citing Jewish sources, because some Jewish sources indeed have claimed that there was a massacre at Deir Yassin.
For example, the same 1948 New York Times article by Dana Adams Schmidt says this:
For many, this is will look like automatic proof that the massacre happened because, they ask themselves, why would Jews lie against self-interest?
Ah, but that assumes that all Jews have the same interest -- a touch of antisemitism (“they’re all the same. . .”). In fact, "the Jews" did not make an accusation about Deir Yassin -- the Jewish Agency did. So the question is: Did this organization, by name "Jewish Agency," have an interest in smearing the Jewish army led by Menachem Begin, the Irgun Tzvai Leumi (or Irgun, for short, or ETZEL, in acronym), with the label 'terrorist'?
The answer is yes.
Israeli Jews have been sharply divided politically from the time before the founding of the state of Israel. Before becoming a state, the Yishuv, the Jewish community in British Mandate Palestine, was a motley collection of unions, plus some other organizations. The left was dominant, so most political activity was conducted in the unions, which developed political parties, and eventually also militias. But the dominant feeling among leftists, who were the overwhelming majority, is that they didn't want to participate in any violence -- even in self-defense. This extreme pacifism of the Zionist Jews made their self-defense quite difficult, and historian Anita Shapira has written an entire volume trying to understand why it took so long for these Jews to begin to defend themselves from Arab terrorist attacks:
Now, the leftists were sharply divided among themselves on many questions, and certainly on all the important questions. But the sharpest divide in the Yishuv -- which reflected an equally deep divide in the Diaspora -- was between the leftists, the socialist/mainstream Labor Zionists and the ‘Revisionists.’ The latter received this name because they wanted a Zionist movement that was more open to different kinds of ways of life, rather than the frankly bolshevist strand of socialism that the Labor Zionists favored. In addition, these so-called Revisionists believed that, in the face of wave after wave of Arab terrorist riots against innocent Jewish civilians in the 1920s and 30s, the pacifist attitude of the dominant leftists, which forbade reprisals, was politically unwise and morally absurd. So they created the Irgun Tzvai Leumi (ETZEL).
For their use of force in self-defense (from which all Jews in British Mandate Palestine benefited), the Irgun was called ‘fascist’ by the Labor Zionists and their allies. This shows how passionate the leftist Jews had been before 1936-37 in their pathological renunciation of all violence, even in self-defense, and also the depth of the feelings aroused by the political split among the Jews. Once this political context is understood, it makes sense that some Jews joined the chorus of lies about Deir Yassin.
As we saw above, it was the Jewish Agency accusing the Irgun. The Jewish Agency was run by David Ben-Gurion and Moshe Sharett, who were not stout defenders of the Jews, exactly (read about that here).
The Irgun and Lehi (these were the names of the two main Revisionist militias) had been persecuted by Ben-Gurion's Haganah. Despite this, when the war of 1948 exploded, the Revisionists swallowed their pride and joined the Haganah to defend Israel like good patriots, but the political conflict continued to seethe. Historian Uri Milstein, author of the most meticulously researched multi-volume history of the 1948 war, explains as follows:
Keep in mind that the core of the Haganah was the Palmach -- essentially the private militia of the leftist MAPAM party, which is why MAPAM had so much influence over the Haganah.
Now, despite the wartime union between the leftists and the Revisionists, there was a desire among many in the left to discredit the Revisionists, even at the cost of Jewish security (for the war still raged), in such a way as to deny them any political role in the future state. Thus, the allegation by the leftists -- and especially by MAPAM -- became that soldiers of the Irgun and Lehi had supposedly committed a massacre at Deir Yassin.
Historian Uri Milstein writes:
“The Dir Yassin affair occurred on April 9 1948, following the capture, by Irgun, Lehi, and Palmach soldiers, of this Arab village, situated west of Jerusalem. The following day, Meir Pa’il, Internal Security Unit commander, responsible for organizing activities against the Irgun and Lehi in Jerusalem, reported to Chief of Haganah National HQ, Yisrael Galili (also a leader of the leftist Mapam Party), that 254 men women and children were massacred by Irgun and Lehi troops in Dir Yassin. This was a false report.”
All of the crucial political information appears in the quote above. The Jewish source making the Deir Yassin allegation against the Irgun and Lehi, Meir Pa’il, was an official in the Haganah (the leftist militia), and his job was “organizing activities against [the Revisionist forces of] the Irgun and Lehi.” He made his report to a leader of the leftist MAPAM party; MAPAM was interested in derailing the Revisionists, as Milstein explains:
“For much of MAPAM’s leadership at the time, the great disaster facing the Yishuv [the Jewish community in Israel] was not its defeat in the battle for the roads or losing America’s support for the founding of a Jewish state, but a possible agreement between the Hagana and ETZEL [Irgun Tzvai Leumi]. Anything that would thwart this development was legitimate in their eyes. The decisive struggle would occur when the Zionist Executive met.
And then, for MAPAM, opportunity knocked; Deir-Yassin happened.”
What Milstein is saying is that because there was a sharp political rivalry between leftist MAPAM and the Irgun, the accusation that the Irgun had committed a massacre at Deir Yassin was convenient for MAPAM.
The first thing that must be pointed out is what this implies about the culture and ethics of the Jewish forces and people. If some Jews could remove other Jews as political rivals by accusing them of having committed a massacre against Arab civilians, this means that the Jewish side considered the targeting of Arab civilians a tremendous crime. It is worth pausing to fully absorb this. And, once absorbed, it is worth returning to this: Azzam Pasha told us above how the Arabs felt about their Nazi-led forces killing Jewish civilians: this was the goal.
Perhaps the above paragraph should be read once again. It's the sort of thing that produces Enlightenment.
Now, given that MAPAM had a political motive to slander the Irgun, it should not come as a big surprise that Meir Pa’il, MAPAM’s weapon against the Irgun, could not back up his allegations. Uri Milstein writes, “On a massacre following the battle there is only the account of Me’ir Pa’il, who claims that he was in the village during and after the battle.” But, in fact, all the evidence gathered by historian Uri Milstein suggests that Me’ir Pa’il was never there, contrary to what Pa’il has claimed:
[Quote From Uri Milstein Starts Here]
Moshe Idelstein, the friend who supposedly had invited Pa’il to Deir-Yassin, asserts, “I didn’t invite Me’ir Pa’il and he wasn’t at Deir-Yassin.” Other ETZEL and LEHI men state that Pa’il was not at Deir-Yassin and could not have been there without their knowing it. Zetler, Ra’anan, Barzilai, Lapidot and Zelivansky state that they did not see Pa’il at Deir-Yassin. Pa’il’s claims also go unsubstantiated by Hagana personnel. Statements by She’alti’el, Mart, Eldad and Schiff mention neither his name nor his code names (“Avraham” and “Ram”). Pa’il spoke about exchanges between him and Palmach soldiers in Deir-Yassin. Eren and Gihon, who were acquainted with Pa’il at the time, did not see him at Deir-Yassin. Shlomo Havilyo, the Hagana’s western Jerusalem commander, was at Givat-Sha’ul on April 9th. “I didn’t see Me’ir Pa’il,” he says. “I knew him well. I’d remember it if he was there.” Ari’eli, who supervised the burials, says that he did not see Me’ir Pa’il at Deir-Yassin, much less talk with him about the number of bodies buried or any other matter.”
[Quote From Uri Milstein Ends Here]
To read Uri Milstein’s section
on the distortions and fabrications about Deir Yassin in full, with
his references, visit here:
The political divide in Israel has not abated, and some of those Jews who made the original fraudulent accusations about Deir Yassin -- for example, Meir Pa'il -- are still alive and repeating them. An entire edifice of historical fabrications has been built to glorify the leftist leaders during the War of Independence and simultaneously to besmirch the Revisionist camp and their political heirs.[13a]
What happened at Deir
So what happened at Deir Yassin? Certainly, quite a few Arab civilians died (the best estimate puts the toll at 110, not 254), but they died during the course of the battle, and they were not targeted for destruction. On the contrary, efforts were made to warn them before the battle started. Menachem Begin, leader of the Irgun, gives the following account:
The Moral Argument
Coming back to the arguments made by supporters of the Arabs, let us ask this question. How could the accusation of a massacre at Deir Yassin -- even had it been true -- make the argument that it is recruited for, namely, that the moral position of the Israeli Jews is inferior and therefore that they owe the Arabs?
Even if the Jews had massacred Arabs at Deir Yassin (which they did not), given the historical context of the 1948 war, it would not alter the global moral position of the Jews versus the Arabs.
First, the Jews did not start the 1948 war. After the UN voted to create the state of Israel alongside an Arab state in the Levant in 1947, the Arab states chose not to recognize Israel and immediately declared war, with the enthusiastic support of Arabs living in British Mandate Palestine, who participated.
It was a lopsided contest. Israel, at the time a sliver of land much smaller even than its current diminutive size, and without a real army, was attacked simultaneously by all the surrounding Arab states.
Moreover, Israel’s enemies stated very clearly that their objective was genocide. I quote again Azzam Pasha, Secretary General of the Arab League, who promised:
The war was brutal, and the Arabs took no prisoners. Any Jews who fell alive into Arab hands were routinely tortured to death (I shall spare you the details of the methods). This happened to such an extent that most Jewish soldiers left wounded on the battlefield, beyond the reach of their comrades, would commit suicide by exploding a grenade.
The Arabs also directed many attacks against civilians. For example, on April 12 Dana Schmidt, from the New York Times, insisted that
And yet, the day after,
The two events are not even remotely equivalent. Deir Yassin was being used as a base to attack Jewish convoys going to Jerusalem. It was a legitimate military target. Many civilians did die there, but they died as a result of combat operations, and efforts were made to warn them before the attack began. Nobody targeted the Arab civilians at Deir Yassin. By contrast, “78 Jews, mostly medical personnel riding to Hadassah Hospital” are not a military target, but the very opposite of one.
So we have the following:
1) The creation of the state of Israel was legal: it was approved by a vote in the General Assembly at the UN.
2) The war of aggression by the surrounding Arab states was illegal -- as all wars of aggression naturally are.
3) The stated objective of Israel’s enemies was to exterminate the Jews.
4) In the conduct of war, the Arabs routinely targeted Jewish civilians and murdered captured Jewish soldiers.
None of this is to deny that some crimes were committed by Jewish soldiers, and the best documentation on Deir Yassin (for example, the work of Uri Milstein) does argue for the claim that some individual soldiers committed individual crimes in the heat of combat. What the best documentation denies is the accusations that were loudly made: namely, 1) that a mass of civilians was rounded up after the battle and massacred, and 2) that women were raped. The best research on Deir Yassin also denies the claim that 254 civilians died in the attack (the best documented figure is 110).
Individual crimes of war are committed by every side in every war. They shouldn't be, but an army whose soldiers commit zero crimes in wartime has not yet been assembled. What matters when morally evaluating an army in a particular war, then, is not whether crimes of war occurred at all (since some always will), but whether such crimes of war were policy, whether they were common, and whether they were internally prosecuted and punished by the army itself. In the case of the Arabs (who, lest we forget, were the aggressors) murdering civilians was policy: in fact their policy was the extermination of the Jewish people. In the case of the Jews, crimes of war were so exceptional that the accusation of a massacre could be used by one Jewish faction against another to provoke horror in Jewish society and gain a political advantage. Moreover, lest we forget, the Jews did not even start this war -- they were merely fighting for their survival.
Thus, even if one could argue that Jewish forces massacred Arab civilians at Deir Yassin, this incident by itself would not affect the global moral balance. What is remarkable is that Deir Yassin is almost the only case that supporters of the PLO bring up in order to support the claim that the Israeli Jews supposedly chased the Arabs out in 1948. And the accusation is a fraud.
Footnotes and Further
 The Guardian (London), November 28, 2001, Guardian Features Pages, Pg. 6, 1697 words, Inside Story: The Sharon files: A Belgian court will today decide whether to try Ariel Sharon for war crimes. Julie Flint uncovers secret documents that detail Israel's involvement in the 1982 massacres at Sabra and Shatila, Julie Flint
[1a] Where does the name ‘Palestine’ come from? The ancient Romans gave the name ‘Syria-Palestina,’ in the second century, to land that previously included the Roman province of Judea (land of the Jews), and before that independent Judah (land of the Jews). Why the name change? Because the Roman Empire carried out a genocide of the Jews in the first and second centuries (this is often referred to as ‘The First Jewish War’ and ‘The Second Jewish War,’ with another bout of extermination in between called ‘The Diaspora Revolt’).
The point of the name change for the Roman exterminators was to make it seem as if this was not Jewish land, but the land of the Philistines (that’s what ‘Palestine’ means: land of the Philistines):
The Philistines disappeared from the historical record around the year 603 BCE, when the Babylonians took them captive to Babylon. So the name change from Judea to ‘Syria-Palestina’ by the Romans some 730 years later, in the second century CE, was simply part of a larger effort by the Romans to wipe out the Jews. They were cleansing the Jewish people from their own land.
The final genocidal onslaught of the Romans against the Jews was simply breathtaking.
It was the emperor Hadrian who came up with ‘Syria-Palestina.’ And that’s the ancient history of the name ‘Palestine.’
The recent history goes like this.
This freshly designated ‘Palestine,’ however, did not correspond to the present boundaries of the State of Israel, which the so-called ‘Palestinians’ claim for themselves; it was much larger, including all of what is present-day Jordan. In 1922, however, the British declared that much of that territory would not be called ‘Palestine,’ after all. So in just four years, quite a lot of people who, by British colonialist fiat, had just become ‘Palestinian,’ became non-Palestinian again, and once again by British colonialist fiat. Remarkable, isn’t it? Making and unmaking ‘Palestinians’ is the easiest thing in the world.
Notice that when the British designated an area with the name ‘Palestine,’ the Jews were understood to be ‘Palestinians,’ which is why “the Jews,” many of whom had never left this area, “were in Palestine by right.”
 Howard M Sachar, A History of Israel (New York: Knopf, 1979)p. 333
[2a] In 1948, the Left-wing Nation magazine exposed British support/instigation of Arab violence aimed at crushing Israel in cradle
 The Jerusalem Post, June 16, 2000, Friday, BOOKS; Pg. 13B, 806 words, An 'old historian' hits back, Yisrael Medad
[4a] ARABS SAY KASTEL HAS BEEN RETAKEN; JEWS DENY CLAIM; By DANA ADAMS SCHMIDT; Special to THE NEW YORK TIMES. New York Times (1857-Current file); Apr 12, 1948; ProQuest Historical Newspapers The New York Times (1851 -- 2001) pg. 1
[4b] Supporters of the PLO often claim that the Irgun, in its later years led by Menachem Begin, was a terrorist organization. This is an attempt to create a moral equivalence between the Israeli Jews on the one hand, and the Nazi-trained Palestinian fascists on the other. This has been helped along by slanders emanating from the leftist movements which dominated Jewish political life at the time of the founding of Israel, and which did everything they could to discredit their rivals, the Revisionists, of whom Begin was the most prominent leader after Jabotinsky's death.
It is true that Begin was an armed revolutionary, but this in itself does not make him a terrorist. A terrorist deliberately targets innocent civilians. Did the Irgun? No. Quite the contrary.
The Irgun was formed to retaliate against Arab terrorists because the Revisionists were disgusted with the policy of self-restraint advocated by the dominant leaders in the Yishuv (the Palestinian Jewish community), which policy called for no reprisals despite the serious loss of Jewish civilian life. Retaliation against one's attackers is self-defense, not terrorism.
When the Irgun later proclaimed a Revolt against the British they went to great lengths in order to protect civilian lives. Their strategy was designed to affect only property.
 The most complete documentation on this is here:
Some of this material was originally published here:
“The world's collective amnesia.” Posted: September 19,
2002; 1:00 a.m. Eastern; © 2002 WorldNetDaily.com; by Joseph Farah.
 The Cairo daily Akhbar el Yom, Oct. 12, 1963.
 The Jordanian daily newspaper Al Urdun, April 9, 1953.
Irgun Zeva'i Le'umi “The National Military Organization” (Etzel,
I.Z.L.); Jewish Virtual Library.
 To see the absurd extremes leftist Jews went to, and the spectacular amounts of terrorist Arab violence which they tolerated while refusing to fight back, read: Shapira, A. 1992. Land and power: The Zionist resort to force 1881-1948. New York & Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Milstein, Uri 1996 History of the War of Independence: Out of crisis
came decision. Vol. 4. A. Sacks, trans. New York: University Press
of America. (pp.376-396)
 Milstein, U. 1999. The Rabin file: An unauthorized exposé. New York. (p.357)
 Milstein, Uri 1996 History of the War of Independence: Out of crisis came decision. Vol. 4. A. Sacks, trans. New York: University Press of America. (p.384)
 Milstein, Uri 1996 History of the War of Independence: Out of crisis came decision. Vol. 4. A. Sacks, trans. New York: University Press of America. (p.378)
 Milstein, Uri 1996 History of the War of Independence: Out of crisis came decision. Vol. 4. A. Sacks, trans. New York: University Press of America. (p.378)
[13a] For an analysis and documentation of this, see: Milstein, U. 1999. The Rabin file: An unauthorized exposé. New York. (p.357)
"Deir Yassin," by Mitchell Bard
 Begin, Menachem 1964 The Revolt: Story of the Irgun. Tel-Aviv: Hadar Pub. Co.
 Howard M Sachar, A History of Israel (New York: Knopf, 1979), p. 333
Historian Uri Milstein,
who has produced the definitive history of the 1948 war, recounts
many battles with great detail in his work “The Rabin File.” It
becomes clear from these descriptions just how routine the suicide
of wounded Jewish soldiers on the battlefield was, who feared the
atrocities they knew only too well would follow at the hands of the
 Milstein, U. 1996. History of the War of Independence: Out of crisis came decision. Vol. 4. New York: University Press of America. (p.387)
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