Deir Yassin Remembered

Although this opinion was published in the New York Daily News, it is not available on their website. However, the Sydney Zion opinion, which appeared eight days later, attacking Dan McGowan's opinion is available at this address.

Storms Fog Lifts on Deir Yassin

By Daniel A. McGowan
Wednesday, April 8, 1998, page 17

McGowan is director of Deir Yassin Remembered, a Middle East cultural and charitable society based in Geneva, NY.

DEIR YASSIN is back in the spotlight, thanks to a recent column by the Daily News' Sidney Zion. The timing is certainly appropriate, since tomorrow marks the 50th anniversary of the events that made the village on the outskirts of Jerusalem a symbol of man's inhumanity to man.

But in condemning British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook's visit to the site and Cook's tribute to the victims of the Deir Yassin massacre, Zion is guilty of the kind of historical revisionism practiced by those who contend there is another side to the Holocaust.

Why do I speak of a "massacre" at Deir Yassin? The word is not mine. It is the description chosen by historians for what happened there on April 9 1948. Look at the record:

On that date, according to The New York Times, Jewish "terrorist groups" (The Times' words) attacked and captured the village. More than 200 Arabs, half of them women and children, were killed along with four of the terrorists.

Three days later, The Times offered this description of 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."

On Dec. 4, 1948, The Times published a letter 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 Zion to claim that 120 Arabs and four Jews were killed and at the same time call this a "battle" is not only absurd, but malicious. It is analogous to speaking of the "battle" of My Lai or the" battle" of Kielce, the Polish Site where 42 Jews were massacred after World War II.

And for Zion to claim the massacre of Deir Yassin was "one of the great hoaxes of the 20th century" is revisionism at its worst. What is 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 Deir Yassin before the attack began, and those who did not were killed or driven out The same thing happened in more than 400 Arab villages, forcing the exodus of more than 700,000 Palestinians. It was ethnic cleansing�and it continues today in the occupied territories by Israel.

Is Zion trying to resurrect the "purity of arms" myth that says Jewish soldiers never draw blood unnecessarily? Surely the war in Lebanon and the breaking of bones�on television�during the Intifadah laid that nonsense to rest.

Is he trying to hide the fact that the center of Deir Yassin is now surrounded by an Orthodox Jewish settlement and that after 50 years, in spite of promises to the contrary, not one building has been returned to the rightful Arab owner? If property confiscated in World War II should be returned to 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 the rightful Palestinian owners?

If those massacred at Deir Yassin could rise from where they were buried, they would be looking straight at Yad Vashem, Israel's famous Holocaust memorial, only 1400 meters to the south. This is a chilling thought, since the message of Yad Vashem is "never forget."

Deir Yassin raises many painful issues. But to hide or deny them is not only blasphemous, it is damaging to peace and understanding of the histories of both Jews and Palestinians.


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