April 1, 1998
Bob Laird, Editor
The New York Daily News via fax 212-643-7828
In commenting on the British Foreign Secretary, Robin Cook, and his recent tribute to the victims of the Deir Yassin massacre which occurred on the west side of Jerusalem almost fifty years ago (3/23/98, p. 27), your reporter, Sidney Zion is guilty of practicing the kind of historical revisionism equivalent to that of so-called "scholars" who would contend that there is another side to the millions killed in the Holocaust. That is blasphemy and (in the voice of Elie Wiesel) "unworthy" of your paper.
On April 9, 1948 The New York Times interviewed the Jewish "terrorist groups" (direct quote) who perpetrated the massacre that very same day. On April 10th The Times reported that more than 200 Arabs, half of them women and children, were killed along with 4 of the terrorists from the Irgun and the Stern Gang (p.6). On April 13, 1948 (p.7) they reported, " . . . Deir Yassin, a village on the edge of Jerusalem, where 254 Arab men, women, and children killed by a combined force of Irgun and the Stern Group, terrorist organizations, were buried yesterday."
For Mr. Zion to claim that 120 Arabs and 4 Jews were killed and at the same time to call this a "battle" is not only absurd, it is malicious. It is analogous to speaking of the "battle" of My Lai or the "battle" of Kielce (7/4/46) when 42 Jews were massacred in Poland after World War II.
On December 4, 1948 The New York Times published a letter to the editor that said, in part, "The terrorists, far from being ashamed of their act, were proud of this massacre, publicized it widely, and invited all the foreign correspondents present in the country to view the heaped corpses and the general havoc at Deir Yassin." The letter was signed by Albert Einstein, Hannah Arendt, and other prominent Jewish leaders of the time.
For Mr. Zion to now claim that the massacre of Deir Yassin was "one of the great hoaxes of the 20th century" is revisionism at its worst. What is Mr. Zion trying to hide?
Is he trying to resurrect the myth that Israel was "a land without people for a people without land? By his own admission Arabs were asked to leave and those who did not were killed or driven out. This occurred with over 400 Arab villages and the exodus of over 700,000 Palestinians. This was clearly ethnic cleansing and it continues today in the Occupied Territories.
Is Mr. Zion trying to resurrect the myth of "the purity of arms" whereby Jewish soldiers never draw blood unnecessarily? Surely the war in Lebanon and the breaking of bones on television during the intifada laid that nonsense to rest.
Is he trying to hide the fact that if those massacred at Deir Yassin could arise from where they were buried they would be looking straight at Yad Vashem only 1,400 meters to the south? This is a chilling thought, especially when the message at that most famous Holocaust memorial is "to never forget."
Is he trying to hide the fact that the center of Deir Yassin is now surrounded by an Orthodox Jewish settlement and that, in spite of promises to the contrary, not one building has been returned to its rightful Arab owner after 50 years? If property confiscated in World War II should be returned to its rightful Jewish owners, and I believe it should, why is it a "blood libel" to ask for restitution of the homes and lands of Deir Yassin to their rightful Palestinian owners?
Deir Yassin raises a lot of painful issues. But to hide or deny them, as Mr. Zion does, is not only blasphemous, it is also damaging to peace and understanding of the histories of both Jews and Palestinians.
Daniel A. McGowan
Deir Yassin Remembered