Deir Yassin: Meir Pail’s Eyewitness Account

Deir Yassin

Meir Pail’s Eyewitness Account

Meir Pail and Ami Isseroff

Presented by the PEACE Middle East Dialog Group

Copyright 1998 by Dr. Meir Pail and Dr. Ami Isseroff. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced in any form without the express permission of the authors.

Based on an interview conducted October 1, 1998 by Ami Isseroff at the Yad Tabenkin Institute of the United Kibbutz Movement Seminar in Ramat Efal Israel.

I was born in Jerusalem. My family moved to Holon in 1936 when I was ten years old. I joined the Palmach in 1943 after graduating from high school. In the Palmach, I participated in numerous operations including the bombing of the B’not Ya’akov Bridge (on the ‘night of the bridges’) and in illegal immigration. I was an instructor in various non-commissioned officer training courses of the Palmach. Then I was sent to be instructor in the Haganah officers’ course from December 1946 to April 1947. After that I was deputy commander of a course for reconnaissance officers of the Hagana. I was Haim Bar Lev’s deputy in the big course for Mem-Kafim (squad leaders). In the summer of 1947 I was sent to Jerusalem in the capacity of company commander, to be head of the special operations unit in Jerusalem, consisting of about twenty first class fellows from the Haganah and Palmach and had a rank equivalent to captain. I was under the direct command of Joshua Globerman, representing the Haganah Supreme command. He ran several such units in different parts of the country. This unit was separate from the Jerusalem intelligence service of the Haganah (Shai) headed by Yitzhak Levi (“Levitza”) but we cooperated with them. I did not know any of the people in the Jerusalem Shai and it was best that way. I was not under the command of the, Haganah district commanders in Jerusalem (Israel Amir and later David Shaltiel) either. We operated against the British, the Arabs and the dissidents. Our operations against the dissidents consisted of finding out about their planned operations and preventing them. We did not stop them by force, but rather by kidnapping and arresting the commanders designated to carry out the plan for a few days, and releasing them after the date of the planned operation. On November 29, 1947 Globerman called and said that in view of the changed situation, operations against the dissidents were to cease. From then on, we acted against the British and Arabs only. I performed only one minor operation against the dissidents after that. They wanted to take over the campus of the Palestine Works Department. It was just as the British were going to leave. David Shaltiel didn’t know what to do, so I said I would take care of it. We surrounded the place and called out to them with megaphones, and they left. There was no violence. After Globerman was killed, David Cohen was appointed as liaison officer to the Special Operations unit.

Some days before the attack on Deir Yassin it was decided to disband my unit and I was awaiting reassignment. In his book Milstein (Uri Milstein, The War of Independence, Vol. IV) wrote that I was supposed to be in charge of the military police, but that wasn’t true. However, I know that Shaltiel might have entertained the idea. He was a very strange sort of fellow; a German Jew of Sephardi origin, he had been in the French Foreign Legion and had been well educated. Few people in the Palmach got along with him, but I did. We had many chats. One time he said that we should have a state like Plato’s Republic, in which guardsmen played an important part. He said that a fellow like me, a good Palmachnik, would be suitable to be commander of the military police they were setting up in Jerusalem. I said, in Yiddish, “Go on, forget it.”

Deir Yassin was a quiet village, that had a pact with us that had been approved by Yitzhak Navon, then Head of the Arab section of the Haganah Jerusalem Intelligence Service and later President of Israel. The people of Deir Yassin had kept to the pact. The Mukhtar’s son had even been killed fighting off an attempt to bring in foreign Arab troops. The Haganah had planned, when the British left, to take over Deir Yassin peacefully as we did in Abu Ghosh, and to build an airstrip between Deir Yassin and Givat Shaul. The place was of no strategic value. There was one field track that led into it from Givat Shaul and that was a dead end. I never heard about any shooting at our side coming from Deir Yassin or from foreign Arab soldiers in Deir Yassin in 1948, and there was none that I know of on the night before the attack. I know that Raanan, commander of the Irgun, later said it had strategic value and controlled roads and logistic axes and so on, but that is all nonsense. Deir Yassin did not maintain any observation or fire control over the main road to Jerusalem, or any other route to Motza or Qastel. They didn’t shoot at anything, certainly not at the road, because it was impossible to shoot at the road from Deir Yassin. Deir Yassin is high above sea level, but it, and Givat Shaul, are separated from the main road to Jerusalem by a big ridge where the Givat Shaul cemetery is located now, and you cannot see anything of strategic value from Deir Yassin. Everyone knows where the cemetery is, so it is ridiculous to claim they could fire on the road from Deir Yassin.

I learned about the planned attack on Deir Yassin about April 6, from Moshe Idelstein, an acquaintance who had formerly been in the Palmach and was now in the Lehi. He had been kicked out of the Palmach in disgrace, a very rare occurrence, but that is another story. Idelstein came bragging that they had been given the go-ahead to attack Deir Yassin. We sat down and had a cup of coffee. When he left, I went to Shaltiel’s office in the Jewish Agency building. I was much younger than he was, and I was just a company commander. I said “Is it true that you gave the dissidents permission to attack Deir Yassin?”

He said, “Yes.”

I said “How can you do this? We have a pact with this village, and they have kept it faithfully. No shooting, no foreign soldiers, no aggression of any kind.”

He said he had tried to talk the dissidents out of it. He had offered them  alternatives. He suggested that they raid Ein Kerem, but they refused, saying it was too difficult. He said he told them that if they want to help us, he would give them a base in Lower Motza, and they could attack Qolonia and kick out the inhabitants and even destroy the village, which had been shooting at Motza and the convoys, but they said it was too difficult.

“I will even give you more weapons if you want,” he said to the dissidents.

“No, it is too difficult. Only Deir Yassin.”

Shaltiel continued, “What am I to do? If they start out from Beit Hakerem and Givat Shaul without my permission, should I give an order to our guys to shoot them in the back? I have no choice. They are giving me a fait accompli. If I concentrate my men and try to detain them by force in the city, it will mean civil war, and I have no time for that. We are in the midst of a war against the Arab enemy. So I told them, “You know what, OK. But you aren’t just going to attack and leave. Since we are, with this attack of yours, violating a pact that we made with them, you must stay in the village and hold it. Because if you leave, the Arab gangs will enter, and then we will have trouble.”

Looking back, I think that he was right. I was young and zealous then and thought differently, but there really wasn’t anything the Haganah could do. I did not know that Levitza (Yitzhak Levi, head of the Jerusalem branch of Haganah intelligence) had gone to him also. Perhaps they could have been stopped, but nobody imagined that there would be a massacre there!

Shaltiel did not consult any superiors. He was commander in this sector and had supreme authority for matters such as this. For example, the pact with Deir Yassin was also concluded with local approval only. I had no doubt that he had the right to make this decision on his own. When he finished explaining all this to me, I asked him when they were doing the raid. He said “Friday morning, before dawn.”

I told Shaltiel I wanted to go in with the raid.

Shaaltiel said, in German, “What business is it of yours?”

I said, “Sooner or later the Hebrew state will come into being, and then the Hagana organization will become the Hebrew army, and these ‘dreckes’ (shits) from Etzel and Lehi, will have to decide what to do. Either they join the Hebrew army, or they continue in their secession. In either case, we have to know ‘what is their real military performance,’ do they know how to fight? etc. This is an excellent opportunity. All of Lehi and Etzel, 120 people they say, are going to attack one village. I will join them, I will find out what their plan is in the Shai (Hagana intelligence) and join accordingly, and we shall see how they fight. If they are good fighters, they can join the Hebrew army as a unit; if they prove to be mediocre fighters, they can join as individuals. If they will not join us, we will need to know if it will be easy to disband them or not. It is important to know.”

Sha’altiel said, “You know what, I’m not your commander. Go ahead. Just coordinate it with the Intelligence Service (Shai).”

I went to the Shai. They gave me the plan of attack. They knew, because there were Shai people planted in the Etzel and Lehi. They had a good plan. Nobody even dreamed there would be a massacre there. Only long after, it turned out that Lehi had initiated the idea of the raid. They wanted to do it on Sheikh Jerakh, but Etzel diverted them to Deir Yassin. In the course of the planning discussions, the Lehi people suggested a massacre, but the Etzel people objected.

I took one of my special operations unit people with me. First I sent him to bring a camera from the Shai, with the most sensitive film he could find. So he requisitioned a Leica camera from the Jerusalem Shai, and two rolls of high-speed film. Since they knew him, and knew he was in my group, they gave it to him. I wasn’t in the Shai, but I had good connections with them. We came to Kiriath Moshe by car; I remember it was a Skoda. We started out when it was still dark. The Lehi people went along the field path into Deir Yassin, following the tender {covered pickup truck} with the loudspeaker, and we went along a bit behind them. We were all dressed in khaki civilian clothes. I think I was wearing a ‘Kova Tembel’ hat. When the truck got near the village it got stuck in a rut, and the loudspeaker was never used. Anyhow, when there is shooting all around, nobody is going to hear a loudspeaker. There were no vehicles other than that truck and no searchlights. I know that the Arab refugees insisted that there were tanks, but there were no tanks and no armored cars.

Dawn was breaking as we got to the village. I didn’t hear or see any signal given, and I didn’t know the password. It seemed to me that they just ran in and attacked. We hid in some houses. The Irgun and Lehi had some Lee Enfield British rifles, Bren guns, Tommy guns and Sten guns, though some of the Stens didn’t work. They may have had knives too, but I didn’t see any. The villagers had no automatic weapons. We found a hiding place in a small empty house. The Irgun and Lehi people fought in no sort of order. They didn’t know how to cover each other and so on. The fighting went pretty well on the Lehi side, but the Irgun got stuck. They came from the south. They were supposed to set up a Bren gun at a high position where there is now a swimming pool, but for some reason they didn’t.

{On the map, this is marked as blocking unit – A.I.} Anyhow they got stuck. The Arabs had no automatic weapons, just rifles, but for some reason the Irgun failed to advance, which shows what kind of soldiers they were. The western part of the village was not conquered, and we were stuck in the eastern part. It got later and later in the day. I remember it was a beautiful Spring day. I suppose it was around ten o’clock in the morning judging from the Sun, when I heard some light mortar shells fly across the village and hit the house of the Mukhtar in the western part of Deir Yassin. They seemed to be two inch mortar shells. Soon after that I saw Yaki Weg, a young Palmach company commander, driving up the steep northern slope to the western village with about 15-17 guys. He occupied that part of the village in about 15 minutes. After I joined him, he told me that he had been sent with some people from Camp Schneller to deploy his men on the main ridge, where the cemetery is today, commanding the main road to Jerusalem, because there was supposed to be a convoy that day. He said that Moshe Idelstein came to him and said they were attacking Deir Yassin two kilometers south of that ridge, and had run into trouble. He said he had to help Jews in trouble, so he had set up the mortar and assaulted the village with a group of his company.

Not one of Yaki’s men was even scratched. That shows how strong the resistance was in the village. I ran to him and, as I outranked him, I said “Yaki look here, you have your own mission to accomplish, I think you deserve a big thank you, as you helped conquer the village. Now get out of here.” He took the guys, they went to their truck. I asked one thing of him: “Report to Sha’altiel somehow by telephone about what you have done.” And I know that is what he did, though I don’t know where he found a telephone. I happened to know from somewhere that Shaltiel’s people knew he was going to go in to the village, and had told him to limit himself to evacuating wounded. So it could be that he had reported earlier and I didn’t know, but he didn’t evacuate any wounded. Yaki was killed later in his company’s assault on the Latrun police station. Moshe Wachmann was there too; he’s still alive.

Until then there had been just fighting as far as I know. I did not see any houses demolished with explosives. To this very day I am haunted by the mistake I made. I shouldn’t have let Yaki and his men leave, but I didn’t imagine there was going to be a massacre there. If those Palmach guys had stayed, the dissidents wouldn’t have dared to commit a massacre. If we saw that, we would have cocked our guns and told them to stop.

A few minutes after Yaki left, it must have been around 11:00 o’clock, I wasn’t paying attention to the time. Anyhow, after the Palmach guys left, I started hearing shooting in the village. The fighting was over, yet there was the sound of firing of all kinds from different houses. Sporadic firing, not like you would hear when they clear a house. I took my chap with me and went to see what was happening. We went into houses. They were typical Arab houses. Most of the houses there are one-story, though there are a few two story houses like the Mukhtar’s house and a few others. In the corners we saw dead bodies. Almost all the dead were old people, children or women, with a few men here and there. They stood them up in the corners and shot them. In another corner there were some more bodies, in the next house more bodies and so on. They also shot people running from houses, and prisoners. Mostly women and children. Most of the Arab males had run away. It is an odd thing, but when there is danger such as this, the agile ones run away first.

The looting started later. There weren’t any rapes, or any use of knives, daggers pitchforks or other such weapons, and I didn’t see any forcible looting of people or bodies. I did see people walking around with spoils, chickens and household goods and things like that, but that was later.

I couldn’t tell if it was Lehi people or Etzel people doing the killing. They went about with glazed eyes as though entranced with killing. We went from house to house, and took pictures. In all the confusion nobody noticed us or challenged us.

I saw this horror, and I was shocked and angry, because I had never seen such a thing, murdering people after a place had been conquered. Afterwards in the War of Independence it happened in a few other places, but it was the first time in my life I had ever seen such a thing. So I started going around investigating. I didn’t say anything. I did not know their commanders, and I didn’t want to expose myself, because people were going around there, as I wrote in my report, with their eyes rolled about in their sockets. Today I would write that their eyes were glazed over, full of lust for murder. It seemed to be going on everywhere. Eventually it turned out that in the Lehi sector there were more murders, but I didn’t know that then. I didn’t know what to do.

Around noon, I saw that they had gotten together around twenty or twenty five males near the entrance to the village on the field track. A truck came in, and they put them on a truck, and drove off to the city. Meanwhile the massacre continued About three quarters of an hour or an hour later the truck came back. The prisoners were led to a place in the quarries between Deir Yassin and Givat Shaul. We could see this from the village, and I suppose some survivors might have seen it too. We saw them going to the quarry, so my companion and I perched on a vantage point above the quarry and took some pictures down into it. There was a natural wall there, formed by digging out the quarry, along one side. There were a group of dissidents there, Irgun or Lehi, and they stood the prisoners against that wall and shot the lot of them. I didn’t recognize who did the shooting. All the while the massacres were going on in the houses in the village as well.

Meanwhile a crowd of people from Givat Shaul, with peyot {earlocks} , most of them religious, came into the village and started yelling ‘gazlanim’ ‘rozchim’ – (thieves, murderers) “we had an agreement with this village. It was quiet. Why are you murdering them?” They were Chareidi (ultra-orthodox) Jews. This is one of the nicest things I can say about Hareidi Jews. These people from Givat Shaul gradually approached and entered the village, and the Lehi and Irgun people had no choice, they had to stop. It was about 2:00 or 3:00 PM. Then the Lehi and Irgun gathered about 250 people, most of them women, children and elderly people in a school house. Later the building became a “Beit Habad” – “Habad House.’ They were debating what to do with them. There was a great deal of yelling. The dissidents were yelling ‘Let’s blow up the schoolhouse with everyone in it’ and the Givat Shaul people were yelling “thieves and murderers – don’t do it” and so on. Finally they put the prisoners from the schoolhouse on four trucks and drove them to the Arab quarter of Jerusalem near the Damascus gate. I left after the fourth truck went out.

It was Friday afternoon. It must have been about 4:00 -5:00 P.M because the religious people had begun leaving to prepare for the Sabbath. It was still light. I didn’t see any other Haganah people. I knew Gihon. I know he was supposed to be there, but I didn’t see him. We walked back to Kiriat Moshe. When I got back to my Skoda, my men from the special operations unit were waiting for me. They were worried, even though both of us were armed with Tommy guns. They went to Kiryat Moshe, looked for my Skoda, which they recognized and waited for me.

We drove to the city. I told may companion, “I am going to write up the report tonight, you go to the Shai and develop negatives only, don’t make any prints, and bring them to me tomorrow because I don’t want the pictures being shown around Jerusalem.”

He said “I finished one roll, and am in the middle of the second one.” So we made up to meet near Shaltiel’s office in the Jewish agency around 8:00 A.M. on Shabath, April 10, 1948.

I went home and spent the night writing up the report. At that time I was rooming with a family in Meonot Ovdim Bet in Rehavia. I wrote all night, in one copy. I began the report with a passage from Bialik’s ‘Beir Hahareiga’ – ‘In the City of Carnage.’ I didn’t remember it word by word, but the family I was staying with had the works of Bialik in four volumes, so I took the volume with the poetry, and I copied ten or twelve lines about what one sees in the City of Carnage, and then I wrote the report. I wrote about the massacre, and described their poor military performance. I wrote that it was not murder in cold blood, but murder in ‘hot blood.’ It was not preplanned according to my knowledge. They didn’t go into the village to commit the massacre, as the Nazis did in Lidice.

There was just the one copy of the report. In the morning I got the films from the fellow who had accompanied me, and I went to Shaltiel and asked him to send the report and films to Yisrael Galilee, who was chief of the Supreme Haganah Headquarters in Tel-Aviv.

I was in Jerusalem until April 13. By Saturday it was all quiet. There was no fighting on Saturday. On Saturday afternoon I found out from the Shai that the dissidents had told David Shaltiel that they were leaving Deir Yassin on Sunday.

I went to David Shaltiel’s office protesting, “Are you going to let them leave? Let me go in with my guys and some troops of yours. I will deploy in the area of Givat Shaul. Nobody of the Etzel and Lehi people will leave alive, unless they decide to remain.”

So he said “Meirkeh, don’t get excited,” and he was right, not I. He got together groups of Gadna youth troops, they were issued Czech rifles, and they went into the village replacing the dissidents. Prof. Yehoshuah Arieli was their commander, and I know two people who were among the Gadna there, Yair Tzaban, later a member of the Knesset and Minister of Absorption, and Eliezer Shmueli, later General Manager of the Education Ministry. Both can testify to what happened. Levitza {Yitzhak Levi, head of the Shai} and I found a rock overlooking the village and watched from a ridge as the dissidents came out of the village. They looked very unimpressive. They were wearing those odd tin helmets that they had gotten from somewhere, though I don’t remember them wearing them going in.

It is hard to estimate how many Arabs were killed. I don’t think I gave a number in my report. Yehoshuah Arieli’s report runs like this: “We saw three groups of bodies, in one there were 70, the second had 20, the third had 20. But when we entered the village the whole village smelled of burned bodies, many bodies were thrown into cisterns.” Not wells, there were no wells I know of in Deir Yassin. I know that the Bir Zeit study estimated about 120 dead by interviewing refugee survivors, and Aref El-Aref wrote that there were 116 I think, but I think there may have been many more. Etzel and Lehi had a press conference on Saturday evening and claimed that there were 254 dead. Now they say that they exaggerated on purpose, but I don’t know when they started prevaricating, in April 1948, or later, when they realized the damage done by their deed.

I know that the next day, or the day after, on Sunday the Red Cross sent De Reynier and the Histadrut doctors came, but I never met those people and I wasn’t there. De Reynier reported about 200 dead. I assume that the true count is in between 200 and 250. Most of the bodies were women and children. There were no Palestinian irregular ‘gangs’ there or people of the ‘Tsva Hatzala’ (Salvation Army of the Arab League). The inhabitants of Deir Yassin had kept their word up to the last minute.

Two weeks later, on my way from Jerusalem to the Negev, I was requested to report verbally to Galili in Tel-Aviv and I gave him a report of the events in Deir Yassin in person. I was transferred to the Negev and sent down there by plane. I was appointed deputy battalion commander of the Palmach 7th battalion and later the operations officer of the Negev brigade. I kept quiet about the Deir-Yassin incident until about 1970. Of the people who knew I was there, Weg had been killed in the attack on Latrun, and David Shaltiel had passed away.

After the war I stayed in the army, mostly in command, combat, training and education duties. I was commander of the central officer’s training school. I was commander of the 51st Golani battalion in the Sinai Campaign and in the 1967 war I was deputy commander of General Tal’s armored group. I was head of the Battle and Strategy department of the IDF and wrote the IDF combat handbook. I finished my army service as a full Colonel in 1971. In the army, and the Palmach too, everyone knew my political opinions; I was known as “The Red Zionist.” I never let my opinions influence my duty, but I was always a leftist. But my opinions were not popular and maybe that is why I was not promoted beyond Colonel. That was why Moshe Dayan and Shimon Peres considered me persona non grata. I decided on a political career because it seemed to me that we had to declare openly that the territories conquered in 1967 should be kept as a ‘dowry’ for peace. We must keep them even for a thousand years if necessary, by army occupation only, until our neighbors would make peace, but we mustn’t settle them. Anyone wanting to sign a peace treaty with us would know that they were getting the territories conquered in 1967 in return, so that the Palestinians could establish a state in the West Bank and Gaza strip. This was not a popular view. Yigal Alon, Galili, Peres and others didn’t agree. In 1974 I became a member of the Knesset.

Sometime about 1970, before I was an MK. Begin was a Minister Without Portfolio in Golda’s government. One day there was an article in Ma’ariv. It reported that Begin had returned from abroad, and a reporter had asked him at Lod Airport, how he had dealt with the problem of Deir Yassin while abroad.

Begin said, “What? There is no problem. Why are you raising this question? The Foreign Office has issued a nice pamphlet. It explains it in English and in Hebrew. It was a hard fight from house to house.”

It was all “blah-blah.” I got sore, but I still held my peace. A day or two later, I got a telephone from Shaul Avigur, who had been one of the highest authorities in the Haganah. He told me that he had read what Begin said, and called Prime Minister Golda Meir immediately and asked if they had published a pamphlet on Deir Yassin. She said she didn’t know anything about it. Avigur investigated. It turned out that Begin, as a minister, had gone to the Foreign Office and said they had to write a pamphlet about Deir Yassin. The person he talked to was some minor official, who said, “I don’t know anything about Deir Yassin, you write it.” So Begin wrote it, based on the Etzel archives, and they had it printed up in the name of the Foreign Office. Abba Eban had it stopped, but Herut printed up their own copies. On the outside they had printed “Order of Jabotinsky ” (“Misdar Jabotinsky” in Hebrew), but inside, when you opened it up, it read “State of Israel, Foreign Office.” Shaul sent me a copy of the pamphlet, it was terrible. These guys know how to produce propaganda, it is the only thing they know how to do well.

Later, I got a telephone from the Foreign Office. Collins and Lapierre had written a book called ‘Oh Jerusalem.’ It was pro-Israel, but the chapter on Deir Yassin was very critical. They wanted me to write a rebuttal. They sent me the chapter I had someone translate it for me from the French. I called them and said, “I am sorry to say that most of it is correct, except for two items. It is not true that David Shaltiel gave them arms. Secondly, there were no rapes, or cold-blooded murders with knives or scythes or pitchforks. It was a massacre in ‘warm blood.’”

In 1972, while teaching in Tel-Aviv University, I was giving a course in military history and I related what happened in Deir Yassin as part of it. One of my students who worked as a reporter for Yedioth Achronoth decided that this story should be published, and he went ahead and did it. I told him he should also get testimony from Lehi Commander Yehoshua Zettler and from Irgun Commander Raanan. He did not dare write everything I said, so I wrote another article for Yedioth two weeks later to complete the picture. This provoked several more articles. One of them was by a fellow we called ‘Eliahu the Czech,’ who was operations officer of the Etzioni brigade, who wrote that he got to Deir Yassin on April 10, and filed a report. He wrote an article saying everything I said was correct, and he added details.

During the election campaign for the ninth Knesset, I came to kibbutz Hulda to give a political talk. When I finished, the head of the culture committee of Hulda said they had invited Raanan, ex-commander of the Irgun in Jerusalem, to give a talk on Deir Yassin in a few weeks, and was asked if I would give my evidence in advance. So we got a blackboard, and sketched it out, and I told them what happened. A couple of months later I got a call from Yisrael Galili in Kibbutz Na’an. He said that the person who organized the talks in Hulda had written and said, “We had Meir Pail here, and we had Raanan, and they gave two completely different versions. Raanan said Pail was never there and it was all a lie. Who is right?” I was very embarrassed, because Galili was a very important personality in April 1948. He was the most important figure in the Israeli military hierarchy except Ben-Gurion and had a million things on his mind. How could he remember the report of some semi-junior officer named Meir Pail (in those days Pilevsky)? But Galili said he was answering them, and that he wanted to read me the letter before sending it. He wrote that everything I said was true. That he had gotten the report and the pictures, and that all other sources had verified and supported the report. Moreover, he said that I had been in his office and told the whole story again. I have a copy of this letter from Hulda. They didn’t send it to me, but I asked them about it, and they said they had gotten the letter and put it on the bulletin board, so I asked for a copy and they sent it.

Deir Yassin was an immoral example of a massacre that we must admit to ourselves and atone for and not cover up. The massacre has done, and is still doing, tremendous damage to the Israeli and Zionist cause. Even to this day there are memorial ceremonies for Deir Yassin each year in the Arab world. I was invited once to England, but I never went. I want the whole thing to be forgotten, though the lessons should be learned.

Militarily it was worthless. The Irgun claimed falsely that after Deir Yassin it became easier to conquer villages because the Arabs left out of fear rather than fighting. Begin said that the “turning point of the War of Independence came at Deir Yassin.” I took a ruler and counted all the Arab villages and neighborhoods in a 10 km radius around Deir Yassin. I wanted to determine how those that we had attacked after Deir Yassin had reacted. Some were conquered fairly easily in battle, but none ran away. These were Beit Ixsa, Colonia, and Ein Kerem for example. In other places, such as Beit Mazmil, which is now Kiryath Yovel, Malcha, Zuva and Katamon there was very tenacious fighting. In Nebi Samuel and Beit Tzurik we failed completely. What it means, is that Deir Yassin did not make a big impression, as the Revisionists would have us believe. Begin made this claim because he wanted to show that the Etzel and Lehi had some strategic value in the War of Independence, whereas in fact they had no positive military or political value at all. The only effect of Deir Yassin was negative, because it helped attach a stigma to Jewish behavior. The only way to clear ourselves of this stigma is by permanently pointing the finger of blame at the Deir Yassin massacre.


This entry was posted in Deir Yassin ~ Ami Isseroff, PeaceWatch ~ Ami Isseroff. Bookmark the permalink.

Comments are closed.