Deir Yassin Remembered

To be released after March 25, 1998
Peter Wirth
E-mail: [email protected]
Daniel McGowan
E-mail: [email protected]

"The recent publication and media campaign by Morton Klein and his Zionist Organization of America to deny the massacre of Palestinians at Deir Yassin is equivalent to the "scholarship" and propaganda of the Institute for Historical Review and other academic skinheads who deny the Holocaust," said Professor Daniel McGowan of Hobart and William Smith Colleges and current Director of Deir Yassin Remembered, an organization of Jews and non-Jews working to build a memorial at Deir Yassin on the west side of Jerusalem.

McGowan expressed his pain and astonishment, along with sadly bemused contempt, as a result of a recent brochure produced by the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA). Casually misrepresenting historical sources, impertinently denying the real memories of horror of many dozens of eyewitnesses and victims, the ZOA has perpetrated an Orwellian distortion of history which differs only in degree from so-called Holocaust denial "scholarship." In a brochure and related "report" attributed to its President, Morton Klein, the ZOA has brazenly denied the Deir Yassin incident of 1948, bizarrely labeling as "Arab revisionism" the decades of conventional history regarding what is generally accepted as the massacre of a village of Palestinian Arabs in the Jerusalem area by two extremist, pre-state Israeli militias (one headed by late Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin). The conventional view of an unjustified massacre of civilians has been embraced both publicly and privately by such stalwart Israelis as David Ben-Gurion, such Jewish luminaries as Albert Einstein and Martin Buber, such on-site witnesses as the head of the Swiss Red Cross and the Israeli military historian, Meir Pa'il, and the reports of professional British criminal investigators. The massacre is one of the most significant events in the cause of the Palestinian refugee exodus and is a reminder of the recent and prior Arab habitation of all areas of Jerusalem, including the west.

Deir Yassin Remembered does find one bright note. McGowan says, "The ZOA document is significant in a positive way as an historic admission of the actual policies and behavior which caused the Palestinians to become refugees."

Falsehoods a Disservice to Peace; Zionists Must Condemn

Historical falsehoods of this type do not promote peace or understanding. A member of the Board of Advisers of Deir Yassin Remembered, Issam Nashashibi, feels strongly that this publication must be rejected and condemned by those who consider themselves Zionists, or sympathize with the label, so as to dissociate from the falsehoods made in the name of that movement by the ZOA. "Whether you view Deir Yassin as an ugly excess in a good cause, or as the climax of a bad one, its factual truth should not be in debate and those who bring it into debate are doing a disservice to justice and humanity. In fact, so demonstrably false is the ZOA material that we note that it is possible that in countries like France or Canada, a criminal prosecution against its disseminators may be conceivable, as there exist laws relating to denials of crimes against humanity in those countries which have been used in other situations, such as against accused Holocaust deniers or "revisionists."

Background Information The massacre at Deir Yassin occurred on April 9-10, 1948 in the British Mandate of Palestine during the fighting between Jews and Arabs as the State of Israel was being formed. An estimated 100-250 Arab villagers were slaughtered by members of the underground Irgun and Lehi Zionist Jewish militias, considered extremists, who had attacked and captured the Palestinian Arab village. The victims include old men, women and children. Most of the slaughter occurred after the village was captured. Attached is a "FAQ or Frequently Asked Questions" based upon numerous non-Arab first hand sources, including prominent members of the Israeli military of the time and other eyewitnesses and contemporary observers which provides the history of the massacre. The interested reader is referred to pages 266 to 281, and pages 584-585 of the Simon and Schuster bestseller, O Jerusalem! (1972), authored by eminent journalists Larry Collins and Dominique Lapierre who performed their own independent investigation. They noted that two officers of the main Jewish forces who were present at the scene "confirmed the wantonness, savagery, and amplitude of the slaughter." (584)

Call for Release of Further Information Reports indicate that photos were taken of the massacre but that the film has been hidden by the government of Israel. There may be further unreleased documentation. In light of the anniversary of the massacre and these continued attempts to deny it, Deir Yassin Remembered calls on the government of Israel to release all uncensored film and documentation so as to increase knowledge of the incident. We would expect that the ZOA would do the same and would invite them to join our request.

Brief Note of ZOA Errors: Orwellian Rewrite Even a casual glance at the ZOA material reveals a methodology that reflects George Orwell's observation about propagandist rewriting of history. In his "Notes on Nationalism" (1945) Orwell wrote,

"Much of the propagandist writing of our time amounts to plain forgery. Material facts are suppressed, dates altered, quotations removed from their context and doctored so as to change their meaning. Events which it is felt ought not to have happened are left unmentioned and ultimately denied."

Some examples from Morton Klein's ZOA publication follow:

1) "Quotes are Removed From Their Context"-�"The full story of the 'great coaxing' of Arab women witnesses"

ZOA: "The "massacre" charge began to gain credence when a British official later announced that some Arab women from the village had claimed there were atrocities; but the official later admitted he engaged in "great coaxing" of the women to get them to say the Jews had carried out atrocities."

Reality: Many witnesses gave testimony to the massacre story because it actually happened. Nonetheless, the ZOA statement relates to Richard Catling, Palestine's Assistant Inspector General to the Criminal Investigation Division, a foreign non-Muslim male who had been interviewing traditional Muslim women from Deir Yassin about atrocities and traumatic humiliations they had suffered or witnessed. The "great coaxing" comment in full context is quite revealing and quite different from what the ZOA contends. In a contemporary secret criminal investigation report (therefore one that was not "a later admission" or for public propaganda), the phrase "great coaxing" occurs in a context perfectly understandable to those who have dealt with rape victims and with cross-cultural communication. Here's the statement in full context:

"I interviewed many of the women folk in order to glean some information on any atrocities committed in Deir Yassin [note Catling is not trying to "get them" to make accusations; he is merely trying to find out if there were "any" atrocities by anybody] but the majority of those women are very shy and reluctant to relate their experiences ***especially in matters concerning sexual assault *** and they need great coaxing before they will divulge **any** information. The recording of statements is hampered also by the hysterical state of the women who often break down many times whilst the statement is being recorded. There is however no doubt that many sexual atrocities were committed by the attacking Jews." [Emphases added] (Reprinted at p. 276, Collins, Lapierre, O Jerusalem).

2) "Material Facts Are Ignored"�The Case of the Red Cross Ingrate

ZOA: "The 'massacre' allegation was also propagated by a Red Cross official who visited Deir Yassin two days after the battle � escorted by Irgun and Stern Group [sic�it is commonly called "Stern Gang"] leaders, which shows they had nothing to hide. But the Red Cross official, arriving after the battle had no basis on which to claim there was a massacre."

Reality: The Red Cross official, Jacques de Reynier reported in his memoirs based on his diary recollection, that the Irgun sentries refused to let him see the village and he got in only because a German Irgun member who was grateful to the Red Cross for saving his life from the Nazis in Europe walked de Reynier past the sentries. The Red Cross official reported having to force his way around Deir Yassin as the Stern Gang and Irgun members tried to block him. They finally ordered him out after he found wounded old people and children and bodies killed by knives. De Reynier did have a further discussion of Deir Yassin with Irgun and Stern Gang representatives when they came to visit him later and at gunpoint tried to force him to sign a statement denying a massacre had taken place. He called their bluff and survived. (De Reynier, A Jerusalem un Drapeau Flottait Sur La Ligne De Feu (Geneva: 1950, Histoire et Societe d'Aujourd'hui)). And contrary to what the ZOA claims, de Reynier, who had done humanitarian work in World War II, did have a basis for concluding how the victims died. He described the Irgun and Stern members on the scene:

"The first thing I saw were people running everywhere, rushing in and out of houses, carrying Sten guns, rifles, pistols and long ornate Arab knives [he is not referring to Arabs, just the design of the knives used by the Irgun and Stern Gang] . . . They seemed half mad. I saw a beautiful girl carrying a dagger covered with blood. I heard screams. All I could think of were the S.S. troops I'd seen in Athens . . ." He then saw "a young woman [from among the Irgun/Stern Gang] stab an elderly man and woman cowering on the doorstep of their hut . . . There were bodies strewn about. They had done their 'cleaning up' with guns and grenades and finished their work with knives, anyone could see that." (P. 278-79, Collins/Lapierre, O Jerusalem)

3) "Plain Forgery"-�The alleged military threat from Deir Yassin

ZOA: "Deir Yassin was a strategically located Arab village, overlooking the Jerusalem-Tel Aviv highway. Large numbers of Arab soldiers � Iraqis and others � were stationed amidst the civilians in the village. . . The Arab soldiers in Deir Yassin repeatedly shot at neighboring Jewish villages and attacked Jewish traffic on the Jerusalem-Tel Aviv highway . . . In order to put an end to such attacks, the Haganah � the Labor Zionist militia � agreed that soldiers from the Irgun Zvai Leumi, and Stern Group should conquer Deir Yassin in April 1948."

Reality: David Shaltiel, commander of the Haganah officially reported:

"There was no military advantage in their plan and it did not fall into the general defense of the Yishuv [Jewish community in Palestine]." (Collins/Lapierre p. 584) On another occasion, Shaltiel testified to an Israel board of military historians: "I met with the commander of Lehi [Stern Gang] and informed him of my opposition [to attacking the village]; I emphasized that the village was friendly to us . . . During the battle, I was forced to order a unit of Palmach [another Labor Zionist group] to assist them with cover fire in order to extricate them." (Collins/Lapierre p. 584].

On another occasion Shaltiel described Deir Yassin as "quiet since the beginning of disturbances . . . not mentioned in reports of attacks on Jews, and one of few places which has not given a foothold to foreign bands." (Collins/Lapierre p. 272.). Common sense also argues that if Deir Yassin were such a threat, the larger, more regular Haganah would not have entrusted its capture to smaller, less battle trained, and uncontrolled forces.

4) Specious Arguments�Using the Methodology of Holocaust Revisionists

ZOA: "We at the ZOA spent several months analyzing over 160 history books which claim there was a massacre at Deir Yassin. We found that almost none of them cited original sources for the massacre claim; and the few that did, relied upon original sources that were biased such as the Red Cross and the British."

A simple rewrite illustrates specious reasoning, like that of Holocaust Revisionists:

"We at the Institute for Historical Review spent several months analyzing over 160 history books which claim there was a Holocaust. We found that almost none of them cited original sources for the Holocaust claim; and the few that did, relied upon original sources that were biased such as the Red Cross and the British."

Most books claiming there was a Nazi Holocaust, a St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre, an assassination of Julius Caesar, a signing of the Declaration of Independence do so without citation, or lazily cite another secondary source, because it is what historians call a "notorious fact" for which citation is usually not demanded. And as to bias, any source which disagrees with one's viewpoints could be called biased. Moreover, when one is denying reality, most people will disagree with one, especially the primary eyewitnesses and investigators, all of whom, ipso facto, are called biased. Even more curious, the ZOA brands the claim of a massacre "Arab revisionism" yet it attributes the claim to primary sources and sources which are not Arab! The ZOA document is not merely deceptive or even malicious; it is, in fact, rather lame.

5) An Interesting Admission from the ZOA-�The case of the non-evacuating Arabs.

Although most of the ZOA material is deceptive, it does nonetheless constitute an historically significant factual admission. It has been a conventional Zionist argument that throughout the fighting in 1948, Zionist Jews implored Palestinian Arabs to stay in their homes while the Arab leadership inside and outside Palestine had a policy of evacuating them. But ZOA now admits it was different:

ZOA: "[T]he Jewish fighters first sent in a truck with a loudspeaker, warning the villagers to leave, since Jewish forces were approaching."

Although in actual history it appears that the loudspeaker truck overturned and never broadcast (see Collins/LaPierre p. 273), here we have an admission by the Zionist Organization of America that Arab villages under attack were ordered to flee by Jewish forces. In the event that this warning to leave should be seen as simply to avoid temporary battle danger, while the long term policy was to preserve them in their homes, the ZOA advises us differently:

ZOA: "The Jewish fighters. . .took several dozen Arab prisoners [from Deir Yassin] and released them, unharmed, in an Arab part of Jerusalem."

This can only refer to the case of some civilian survivors of Deir Yassin who were released to Arab East Jerusalem. But if the policy was to have them stay and the village was now secure, why not return them to their village homes? Why remove them beyond your area of control? Why in fact are not the survivors living there today? Why blame people for being refugees when they are following your ethnic cleansing orders?

ZOA: "Large numbers of Arab soldiers were stationed amidst the civilians in the village (the same tactic that Arab terrorists in Lebanon have used in our own time)."

As noted earlier, this is false; there were no Arab soldiers. But notice that the Zionist Organization of America is now saying that the policy of Arab soldiers was to keep the civilians in their homes and even interact closely with them, right or wrong how does this comport with the alleged Arab policy of mass evacuation to clear operations for Arab soldiers? The ZOA even implies that it was Arab policy to keep Arab civilians present for battle operations.

We therefore can take this document as an historic admission by the Zionist Organization of America that Arab military forces in 1948 had no policy of evacuation, in fact they had the opposite, and it was pre-state Israeli forces that had the policy of warning Arabs to leave their villages, attacking them, and then removing anyone who remained from their homes ("prisoners"). In this sense, the ZOA brochure is an important, if unintentional, admission that the policy towards Arab civilians in 1948 is exactly the opposite of what they have been propagating for decades.

The Bottom Line

Even by the ZOA's own incredibly biased account, the village of Deir Yassin with about 750 residents living in homes with thick stone walls on high ground lost over 100 men, women, and children on April 9th and 10th, 1948 to about 130 Jewish dissidents of the Irgun and the Stern Gang, who suffered only 4 deaths of their own. In his spurious research there is not one shred of proof that the young male prisoners were captured and released. To the contrary, an Israeli eyewitness (now a retired IDF Colonel and a military historian) reported the massacre and that the young Palestinian males were first paraded through Jerusalem and then were brought back to a quarry at Deir Yassin and shot to death. In light of these facts, for ZOA to falsely claim that the village was well armed and that Arab soldiers were stationed there makes the comparative death statistics even more ludicrous.

Morton Klein's slick denial of the massacre of Deir Yassin is malicious and pathetic propaganda in keeping with other "big lies" in Zionist mythology. One such lie is the Zionist claim of "a land without people for a people without land" which implied that there were no Palestinians in the land that was to become Israel. Another is the claim of "purity of arms" professing principles of Zionist forces to act with utmost care for the rights of civilians. The falseness of both of these claims is illustrated by the reality of what occurred at Deir Yassin.

The ZOA denial points out a further and broader deception, namely, that after the Deir Yassin massacre mainstream Zionists piously proclaimed, "We will maintain the graves and the remaining property *** and return it to the owners when the time comes." (New York Times, April 13, 1948, p. 7) This has never happened, just as it has not happened for the other villages and towns depopulated of Arabs both in 1948 and in subsequent years.

Yet even as the "mopping up operations" were taking place at Deir Yassin, the General Council of the World Zionist Organization meeting in Tel Aviv April 10-12, 1948 was announcing to the world, "In this hour we turn to the Arab citizens of the Jewish state and our Arab neighbors. We offer peace and friendship. We desire to build our state in common with the Arabs as equal citizens. Our freedom is their freedom. Their future and ours rest on common endeavor."

Morton Klein and the inhumane and un-Jewish propaganda he spreads about the massacre of Deir Yassin are simply a rehash of the former deceptions which disparage and deny the sorrowful history of Palestinians in the twentieth century and which perpetuate the conflict that people of good will are trying to heal.


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