Webmaster’s note: These pages were compiled by the late Ami Isseroff in 1999. They were originally posted in Ariga’s PEACEWATCH section (www.ariga.com/peacewatch). After that website went offline in 2006 due to the death of its webmaster Robert Rosenberg, Ami moved the Peacewatch pages to a site of his own called Yu-Hu.com (middle-east.yu-hu.com/peacewatch/dy/). Yu-Hu.com itself has gone offline in the summer of 2012. As caretaker for Ami’s web work, I have decided to save this important work by republishing it here on IPI. ~ Wouter Brassé
Coming to Terms with Deir Yassin
Ami Isseroff 1999-2002
Presented by the PEACE Middle East Dialog Group
Each side in the Mid-East has its own history of horrors, and is all too eager to point the finger of blame at the other side. If we are ever to make peace then each side must first point the finger of blame at itself, come to terms with its own conscience, and apologize for the lost lives, the lost loved ones, the dread and the sorrow we have inflicted on each other.
The bloody Palestinian-Israeli struggle over Jerusalem began in December 1947. The Arabs did not accept U.N. Resolution 181, of November 29, 1947. The resolution called for internationalization of Jerusalem and partition of Palestine into two states. Riots, and soon after that, fighting, broke out in Jerusalem and neighboring villages, and along the road to Jerusalem, where Arab irregulars tried to impose a blockade of Jewish Jerusalem.
As the months went by, the danger to Jewish Jerusalem, and the shortage of supplies, became increasingly acute. The Jewish population was under siege and demoralized. The Haganah defenders attempted repeatedly to open the road to Jerusalem, and succeeded in getting a bare minimum of supplies to the beleaguered populace at great sacrifice. The revisionist Irgun and Lehi armed groups remained separate from the Haganah and Jewish Agency control for quite a long period, because the revisionists claimed that Ben-Gurion and the mainstream Zionist leadership were prepared to accept internationalization of Jerusalem. Until April 9, 1948, the Irgun and Lehi had engaged in no actual combat in Jerusalem, other than terror attacks. Their popularity waned as the Haganah and Palmach became increasingly active in defense of the city.
On April 9, 1948, the Irgun and Lehi attacked the village of Deir Yassin near Jerusalem, which had had a peace pact with its Jewish neighbors, and massacred over a hundred noncombatants. This act had no significance in the defense of Jerusalem, and may have brought great harm by forming the motivation for subsequent Arab massacres. It has become a rallying point for hatred of Israel and Zionism.
There are several Deir Yassin memorial Web sites by Palestinian organizations and Arabs. This is only such site assembled by an Israeli and a Zionist, and to my knowledge it is the most comprehensive and most thoroughly researched one. This site includes following materials, some of which are original articles, others are translations appearing for the first time:
Letter from Yisrael Galili, Haganah Commander in Chief, Authenticating the testimony of Meir Pail
Account of the Battle of Deir Yassin – from Uri Milstein’s The War of Independence
Account of the Battle of Deir Yassin – from Yitzhak Levi’s Nine Measures
It is long past time for Israeli Zionists, like myself, to apologize. The Israeli government has never apologized for the massacre of Deir Yassin, though the Jewish Agency apologized to King Abdullah in April 1948. The perpetrators of the massacre at Deir Yassin were never punished, though there was a great hue and cry at the time. Victims were never offered compensation. Therefore, and as long as this is true, the massacre at Deir Yassin has become the dubious moral property of all Zionists. We cannot sit back and say ’this was the fault of the revisionists.’ The massacre at Deir Yassin may have set the pattern for much similar behavior throughout the War of Independence. A similar massacre, by dissident troops incorporated in the IDF, occurred later at Al-Dawayima, near Hebron. Other massacres by the IDF are well documented as well. If we Israelis believe that we are a moral society, then we owe it to ourselves to face the past.
Deir Yassin: The History of the Conflict as Mass Psychosis
Equally, it is wicked to trade on the misery of past history in order to create new misery. The events at Deir Yassin were the doings of individuals in time of battle. Some Zionists perpetrated bad deeds, but that does not delegitimize the Zionist cause and those deeds should not be used to delegitimize Zionism and Israel. The massacre at Deir Yassin was not planned. It was not part of a Zionist “plot” to expel the Arabs of Palestine. Nobody ordered the massacre, and the mainstream Zionist leadership in Tel Aviv did not know about the attack in advance or order it as far as we can judge. Further commentary about Deir Yassin and the abuse of history in the conflict is here – Deir Yassin: The History of the Conflict as Mass Psychosis.
The Deir Yassin Massacre was not the beginning of massacres in Palestine, nor did the Jews begin the massacres. In 1920, 1921, 1929 and from 1936 to 1939 Arabs rioted and massacred Jewish civilians in pogroms and terrorist raids. In January of 1948, Arab villagers ambushed a convoy sent to the besieged Etzion Bloc. They murdered every one of its 35 members, and mutilated their bodies. All these massacres took place long before the attack on Deir Yassin. Time and again, Arab “civilians” had proven that there were no noncombatants in the fight. They proved it both by participation of their own villagers in blockading roads and attacking vehicles and settlements, and by their own disregard for Jewish civilians. It was this history, rather than any sinister Zionist plot, which formed the background and motivation for the Deir Yassin massacre. ( see – A history of Zionism and the creation of Israel ). At the very least, we need to acknowledge that some guilt lies on both sides, and that the “tradition” of massacres did not start with the Jews.
The material at this site is not ‘Arab propaganda’ or “anti-Zionist propaganda.” It was researched and written by Zionists who are concerned about the moral image of our state. We cannot bring back the dead. We can tell the truth, offer our sincere apologies, and learn the lesson of Deir Yassin and teach it to our children.
The cooperation and encouragement of Matthew Hogan, Dan McGowan, Maha Mansour, Sherry Al-Mufti, Anita Abu-Daya and, above all, of Dr. Meir Pail, are gratefully acknowledged.
Additional background about the history of the Israel-Palestinian Conflict is given at these pages in :
Deir Yassin and the Zionist Organization of America
A study released March 9, 1998 by Morton Klein, President of the ZOA, claims that there was no massacre at Deir Yassin. Examination of the known history, including testimony by Irgun and Lehi combatants, indicates that this claim is absurd. For an official Zionist organization to claim otherwise puts the Zionist movement in a ridiculous and shameful position, not morally different from holocaust denial. It would be best if the ZOA retracted this study. If they do not do so, they will expose Zionism to an embarrassing attack, the results of which are a foregone conclusion. If, after examining the evidence, you agree, please write to the ZOA and ask them to retract their study before it causes further embarrassment to the Zionist movement:
Zionist Organization of America
4 East 34th St. New York, N.Y 10016 USA
Collection, evaluation and and examination of evidence regarding the massacre at Deir Yassin site took a great deal of time and effort. The time and effort are a labor of peace done out of love of my country and respect for the feelings of our Palestinian neighbors, with who we must learn to live in peace. I have been reviled by Zionists who either do not know the facts or do not want to know them. Since this material was gathered in 1999, a new government took office in Israel, and the story of Deir Yassin became, at least for a time, a part of the Israeli educational curriculum.
I find people who live in Canada, in the U.S. and elsewhere insist that I am an anti-Zionist, or try to “educate” me regarding the background of Deir Yassin – the Arab siege of Jerusalem, the ambush of the convoy at Nebi Daniel, the murder of every member of a previous convoy (the “Lamed Heh”). All of these are part of the folklore of Palestine and Israel on which I was raised. The Jewish community of Palestine had a right to defend itself in the most effective way possible. But that is no excuse for what happened at Deir Yassin or, sadly, in some other instances in the War of Independence. These acts hindered the defense rather than helping it. Even if we can understand the emotions of some of the attackers – we cannot excuse terror and murder of civilians or justify it in any way, just as I believe it is wrong to justify Palestinian terror on the basis of wrongs done by the Israeli government.
I have equally been reviled by anti-Zionists for not concluding that all of Israeli Jews are war criminals or worse, and that Deir Yassin is representative of all of the glorious history of the return of the Jews to Israel. To those who think that the only way to achieve peace is by destroying us, I must respectfully submit that that approach has been tried and found wanting.
Many of my fellow Zionists do not seem to realize the genuine hurt and anger caused by the massacre in Deir Yassin, nor do they understand how this awful incident, and others that should never have happened, stand like a wall between us and our neighbors. The Deir Yassin massacre is also used by anti-Zionists as a tool in a propaganda war. I think that is detestable – as detestable certainly, as the use of terror victims and the grief of their families by the Zionist right. If we are to make peace, then there is much that both sides will need to admit, much to forgive, and perhaps much to forget.
Ami Isseroff May, 1999. (updated, February 2000)
Deir Yassin Revisited
Since the above was written, the sides in the Middle East have been busy creating new Deir Yassins. Since September 2000, over 300 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces, and about 40 Israelis have been killed by Palestinians. Some were Palestinian terrorists, some were Israeli settlers and soldiers. Some, like 12 year old boy killed apparently by Israelis, or like the tiny Arab-Israeli girl wounded in a bus explosion in Hadera, or several reporters wounded or killed by Israelis, were innocent bystanders. This new violence will not bring us closer to a solution. It will only engender more Deir Yassins. We have not learned the lessons of Deir Yassin. Those who do not study history are condemned to relive it.
Ami Isseroff, February 2001
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