Saturday, January 13, 2007

The Truth About Deir Yassin

The day after the UN resolution of November 29, 1947, seven Jews were killed, including four passengers on a bus attacked by Arabs on the road to Jerusalem. The acts of hostility grew more frequent, and in December 1947, 184 Jews were killed throughout the country. In January 1948, the situation was particularly difficult. On February 1, a car bomb exploded in Hasolel Street (present-day Hahavatzelet Street) near the Palestine Post building. Three weeks later there was another catastrophe in Jerusalem. Three booby-trapped trucks positioned in Ben-Yehuda Street exploded, destroying four large buildings, killing 50 and injuring more than 100. On March 11, a car bomb exploded in the courtyard of the Jewish Agency building, killing 12 people, injuring 44, and causing great damage.
Arab acts of hostility had reached their peak by March, moreover, Arabs now controlled all the inter-urban routes. The road to Jerusalem was blocked, settlements in the Galilee and the Negev were also cut off and daily attacks were perpetrated on convoys. In the four months since the UN resolution, some 850 Jews had been killed throughout the country, most of them in Jerusalem or on the road to the city.
Operation Nachshon was launched on April 6, 1948, with the aim of opening up the road to Jerusalem. The village of Deir Yassin was included on the list of Arab villages to be occupied as part of that operation. Indeed, while fierce fighting was going on at Kastel, Arab reinforcements flooded onto the battlefield through Deir Yassin, which helped to drive back the Jewish occupying force.
When the Haganah command learned of the plan of the Irgun and Lehi to conquer Deir Yassin, David Shaltiel, Haganah Commander in Jerusalem, asked them to coordinate the timing of the operation with the scheduled renewed assault on Kastel. He despatched identical letters to Mordechai Raanan (Irgun Commander in Jerusalem) and Yehoshua Zetler (Lehi Commander in Jerusalem), in which he gave their operation his approval:

To: Shapira (code-name of Zetler) From: District Commander
I have learned that you intend to carry out an operation against Deir Yassin. I would like to call your attention to the fact that the conquest and continued occupation of Deir Yassin is one of the stages in our overall plan. I have no objection to your carrying out the operation on condition that you are capable of holding on to it. If you are incapable of doing so, I caution you against blowing up the village, since this will lead to the flight of the inhabitants and subsequent occupation of the ruins and the abandoned homes by enemy forces. This will make things difficult rather than contributing to the general campaign, and reoccupation of the site will entail heavy casualties for our men. An additional argument I would like to cite is that if enemy forces are drawn to the place, this will disrupt the plan to establish an aerodrome there.

On April 2, 1948, the inhabitants of Deir Yassin began sniping at the Jewish Quarters of Bet Hakerem and Yefe Nof. According to reports by the Shai (Haganah Intelligence), fortifications were being constructed in the village and a large quantity of arms being stockpiled. Several days before the attack on Deir Yassin, the presence of foreign fighters was reported, including Iraqi soldiers and irregular forces. An Arab research study conducted at Bir Zeit University (near Ramallah) relates that the men of Deir Yassin took an active part in violent acts against Jewish targets and that many of the men of the village fought in the battle for Kastel, together with Abd-el-Kadr el-Husseini. The report also stated that trenches had been dug at the entry to the village, and that more than 100 men had been trained and equipped with rifles and Bren guns. A local guard force had been set up and 40 inhabitants guarded the village every night. (Knaana Sherif, The Palestinian villages destroyed in 1948 - Deir Yassin. Bir Zeit University, Documentation and Research Department 1987).
GOING INTO BATTLE On Thursday, April 8, about 70 Irgun fighters assembled at the Etz Hayim base (at the entrance to Jerusalem). This was the first time that so large a number of underground fighters had gathered openly, without fear of British policemen or soldiers. The atmosphere was optimistic - after four months of attack, retaliation was finally in sight. The fact that two underground movements were acting together enhanced the sense of security and solidarity, and the password chosen was 'Fighting Solidarity' (Ahdut Lohemet).
Raanan, Commander of the Irgun in Jerusalem, opened the meeting and explained that the conquest of Deir Yassin had both military and political objectives. From the military viewpoint, the aim was not only to liberate the western quarters of Jerusalem from the threat of Deir Yassin, but finally to seize the initiative. It was essential to move from defence to attack and to transfer the fighting to enemy territory. The conquest would also raise the morale of the Jewish population of Jerusalem and restore their self-confidence.
Politically speaking, it would represent a change of approach and constitute a turning point in the war: no further retaliation operations, but from that point on conquest with the aim of holding on to an area. The Jewish people and the entire world would realize that the Jews were not going to give up Jerusalem and, if necessary, would take it by force. (It will be recalled that, according to the UN resolution, Jerusalem was to come under international rule). Raanan added that since the operation was an act of conquest and not of reprisal, the fighters had to avoid inflicting needless injury on Arabs. In particular, he cautioned against harming old people, women and children. Moreover, any Arab who surrendered, including combatants, was to be taken prisoner and not harmed in any way.
In order to prevent unnecessary casualties, it had been decided that the strike force would be preceded by an armored car equipped with a loudspeaker, which would enter the village ahead of the troops. The villagers would be informed that the village was surrounded by Irgun and Lehi fighters, and would be exhorted to leave for Ein Karem or to surrender. They would also be informed that the road to Ein Karem was open and safe.
At 2 a.m. the Irgun fighters, commanded by Ben-Zion Cohen (Giora), were driven from the Etz Hayim base to Bet Hakerem. The force moved into the wadi (riverbed), where the squads split up, each squad climbing up the terraced slope to its allotted field of action.
The Lehi unit assembled at Givat Shaul and proceeded from there towards the target. Some of the force advanced behind the armored car which was proceeding along the path towards the center of the village.
Close to 4:45 am, the village guards spotted suspicious movements. One of them called out in Arabic: 'Mahmoud'; an Irgun fighter, mishearing the cry, thought that someone had shouted the password 'Ahdut' (Solidarity) and responded with the second half of the password in Hebrew: 'Lohemet'. The Arabs opened fire and shooting commenced from all sides.
The armored car advanced along the path and, on reaching the outskirts of the village, encountered a trench and was forced to come to a halt. The loudspeaker was switched on and the message was read out. Heavy fire was directed at the armored car from the adjacent houses and the fighters trapped inside had to be rescued. Injuries were reported, and a first-aid unit set out from Givat Shaul towards the armored car.
The other units began their attack, but Arab resistance was strong, and every house became an armed fortress. Fierce fighting was conducted from house to house. Many of the attackers were injured in the first onslaught, including a number of commanders who had been advancing ahead of their units.
After the center of the village had been occupied, all the wounded were concentrated in one of the courtyards and ways were sought to evacuate them. It turned out that the road to Givat Shaul was impassable because of gunfire from the mukhtar's (local leader) house, which stood on a hilltop overlooking the area.
Since the fighting was taking place in a built-up area, the pace was slow, and both sides suffered heavy losses. In order to silence the source of gunfire, the fighters were forced to use hand-grenades, and in some cases even to blow up houses. There was firing from all sides and half the attackers were put out of action. On top of this, the remaining fighters suffered a shortage of ammunition.
A report on the course of the battle was transmitted by courier to headquarters at Givat Shaul. When word started coming in about the number of casualties and ammunition shortage, several Lehi people went to the Schneller camp and asked a Palmach unit to come to the attackers aid. After receiving the consent of the brigade HQ, the Palmach troops set out in an armored car, equipped with a machine-gun and a two-inch mortar. On arrival in the village, they fired several shells and machine-gun rounds at the mukhtar's house. At that very moment, without prior co-ordination with the Palmach, Yosef Avni charged and captured the mukhtar's house. With the mukhtar's house occupied, firing ceased and the occupation of the village was completed.
When the fighting was over, it was discovered that hundreds of villagers had retreated to Ein Karem, taking advantage of the fact that the road was open. Those who remained in the village surrendered and were taken prisoner. The prisoners, mostly women and children, were loaded onto trucks and taken to East Jerusalem, where they were handed over to their Arab brethren.

Word of the occupation of Deir Yassin spread through the city, and was viewed positively by the Jews of Jerusalem. Not only could the Jewish residents of the western quarters now breath freely, but they felt proud to have finally taken the initiative. The capture of the village marked the completion of the breakthrough of Operation Nachshon, and instilled new hope in the hearts of Jerusalemites. The slogan 'Ahdut Lohemet', which had grabbed the attention of the Jewish community in Jerusalem, reflected the turning point in the response to Arab aggression. In the days that followed, crowds flocked to the Etz Hayim base to express their solidarity with the Irgun fighters.
FACTS AND COMMENTARIES So much has been written and said about what happened at Deir Yassin that the battle waged on the morning of April 9 has become known as the 'Deir Yassin Massacre'. It is important to analyze the events and to distinguish between fact and fiction.
Massacre means the killing of defenceless people. The 1929 slaughter of the Jews of Hebron by Arabs in the middle of the night was a massacre. When Arab workers at the Haifa refinieries assailed their Jewish co-workers in February 1948, murdering more than 40 of them, a massacre can be said to have taken place. In both cases, the killings were premeditated. The brutal murder of settlers at Kfar Etzion by Arab Legion soldiers in May 1948, after the defenders had surrendered and were defenceless, was also a massacre.
But Deir Yassin? Firstly, strict orders were given in advance to the fighters not to harm the elderly, women and children. It was also stated explicitly that any Arab who surrendered was to be taken prisoner.
Secondly, an unprecedented action took place at Deir Yassin - a loudspeaker was installed on an armored car to inform the population that the road to Ein Karem was open and safe, and that whoever left the village would not be harmed. The strike force was actually prepared to forfeit the surprise element of battle in order to issue these instructions and thus to prevent Arab civilian casualty.
The Arabs do not deny the use of a loudspeaker; indeed, an Arab League publication entitled "Israeli Aggression" states, inter alia:
"On the night of April 9, 1948, the peaceful Arab village of Deir Yassin was surprised by a loudspeaker, which called on the population to evacuate it immediately."

Thirdly, it is universally agreed that there was bitter fighting at Deir Yassin. More than 100 Arab fighters were well equipped and had large amounts of ammunition. The Arabs occupied fortified positions in stone buildings, while the attackers were exposed to enemy fire. The fierce gunfire directed from the houses forced the attackers to charge, throw grenades and, in several cases, to blow up houses. As a consequence, women and children were among the dead.
According to all the documents and testimonies, it is clear today that fewer than one hundred Arabs were killed at Deir Yassin, and not the 240 as published. Moreover, this was the first instance in the War of Independence where battle had taken place in a built-up area, and such fighting typically claims numerous victims. For the same reason, the number of Irgun and Lehi members injured by Arab fire was 35% of the force (5 dead and 35 wounded).
All the Arab casualties were killed in the course of the fighting. Villagers - men, women and children - who surrendered, were taken prisoner and came to no harm. When the firing ceased, they were transported by truck to East Jerusalem and handed over to their Arab brethren.
The Deir Yassin affair had a strong impact on the course of the War of Independence; the battle was summed up as follows in the "History of the War of Independence", prepared by the History Division of the IDF General Staff:
The Deir Yassin affair was publicized throughout the world as the 'Deir Yassin Massacre', causing great harm to the reputation of the Yishuv. All the Arab propaganda channels disseminated the story at the time, and continue to do so to the present day. But the battle indubitably served to expedite the collapse of the Arab hinterland in the period which followed. More than the deed itself, this was achieved by the publicity it received from Arab spokesmen. They wanted to demonstrate to their people the savagery of the Jews and to instill in them a spirit of religious fervor. In fact, however, they intimidated and alarmed them. They themselves now admit their mistake.
Hazen Nusseibeh, an editor of the Palestine Broadcasting Service's Arabic news in 1948, was interviewed for the BBC television series "Israel and the Arabs: the 50-year conflict." He describes an encounter with Deir Yassin survivors and Palestinian leaders, including Hussein Khalidi, the secretary of the Arab Higher Committee, at the Jaffa Gate of Jerusalem's Old City.
"I asked Dr. Khalidi how we should cover the story," recalled Nusseibeh, now living in Amman. He said, "We must make the most of this". So we wrote a press release stating that at Deir Yassin children were murdered, pregnant women were raped. All sorts of atrocities."
A Deir Yassin survivor, identified as Abu Mahmud, said the villagers protested at the time.
"We said, 'there was no rape.' Khalidi said, 'We have to say this, so the Arab armies will come to liberate Palestine from the Jews'."
In an arlicle "Deir Yassin a casualty of guns and propaganda", by Paul Holmes (Reuters) ( he interviewing Mohammed Radwan, who was a resident of Deir Yassi in 1948, and fought for several hours before ruing out of bullets.
"I know when I speak that God is up there and God knows the truth and God will not forgive the liars", said Radwan, who puts the number of villagers killed at 93, listed in his own handwriting. "There were no rapes. It's all lies. There were no pregnant women who were slit open. It was propaganda that... Arabs put out so Arab the armies would invade" he said. "They ended up expelling people from all of Palestine on the rumor of Deir Yassin."
In the book "War Without End", by Anton La Guardia (Thomas Dunne Books, N.Y. 2000) we find the following: "Just before Israel's 50th anniversary celebration, I went to Deir Yassin with Ayish Zeidan, known as Haj Ayish, who had lived in the village as a teenager.
'We heard shooting. My mother did not want us to look out of the window. I fled with my sister, but my mother and my other sisters could not make it. They hid in the cellar for four days and then ran away.'
He said he never believed that more than 110 people had died at Deir Yassin, and accused Arab leaders of exaggerating the atrocities.
'There had been no rape', he said. 'The Arab radio at the time talked of women being killed and raped, but this is not true. I believe that most of those who were killed were among the fighters and the women and children who helped the fighters.' "
Mary Rizzo Hails Racist Leader of "Deir Yassin Remembered"

Let us see why a defender of Palestinian Statehood resigned from this racist organization:
(Thanks to Sue Blackwell)

Jeff Halper resigns from Board of Deir Yassin RememberedDate: Friday 8th April 2005 (or earlier)
To the directors and board members of Deir Yassin Remembered.
Dear Paul, Dan and the rest of DYR, on "both sides" of the Board,
It is with a heavy heart that I write this, because I have been dedicated to DYR for several years now, and fully support its mission. My leaving the Board ha something to do with Israel Shamir, I suppose. I opposed his coming onto the Board in the first place (apparently that was an executive decision and Board members were not consulted), but only marginally because of Shamir himself. Since Shamir came onto the Board, there has been a radical change in tone in DYR that, to my mind, is destructive -- and tragically side-tracking -- of what we had all set out to accomplish.
The founding core of DYR simply cannot grasp why Shamir is intolerable -- to the Jews of the organization, certainly, but to others I would hope as well. The entire point of DYR is to honor the memory of the Palestinians massacred by pre-Israel Jewish militias and to draw critical conclusions from that shameful event. The conclusions, I would think, are two-fold: (1) To identify those elements of Zionism and Israeli policy that could lead to such acts and, to the degree that they still inform both Israeli society and the Occupation (as I believe they do), to denounce, resist and ultimately expunge them; and (2) To universalize the Deir Yassin massacre, to identify those elements that exist globally (racism, militarism, fanaticism, perhaps nationalism and more) in order to denounce, resist and ultimately expunge them wherever they appear in the world.

Given that, Shamir is a "problem" in two senses. First, he deflects the discussion from the essentials of Deir Yassin onto the supposed characteristics of the perpetrators. To cast all "Jews" as perpretrators of such heinous crimes, which is exactly how the discussion has been going for the past number of months, is racist, absolutely unacceptable -- and deflects entirely from the issue of Deir Yassin itself. Just look at his response to Uri Davis: "a Jew is called upon by his religious law to do utmost damage to one who accepted Christ..." Anyone who knows Uri Davis would know that such a statement is beyond absurd, but the bigger question is: Who in the hell is "a Jew"? Paul's comment about "Jewish Power" is also outrageous. "THE Jews" is a construct just as false, simplistic, racist (biologically so, it seems) and unacceptable as any other ethnic label used to tar all members of that group with -- inevitably negative -- characteristics. (I know our "fully human" psychotherapist from Australia will read into this primordial "Jewish loyalty.")
The innane discussion that has come to characterize the DYR discourse is not even sophisticated racism; its just plain old-fashioned stupid racism. That's enough to get me to leave.
But like I said, Shamir is not the problem, he's more of a sympton. A much more troubling dimension of this is what is happening to Deir Yassin. Here an element of "ownership" enters in. I do not accept that groups "own" events. The Jews do not "own" the Holocaust, for example. But I DO accept that they have a special relationship to events that have affected them so deeply, that there voices and concerns cannot be dismissed, minimized or excluded. To turn the Deir Yassin tragedy into a discussion of Jewish racial characteristics, to dirty it with racist discourse, to create a situation where the people who were the most committed to honoring its memory in the senses I described above feel the need to leave, raises serious, fundamental questions. When I hear diabtribes of non-Palestinians against the Palestinian Ali Abunima because he raises concerns over Shamir's racism and the entire tone of the DYR discussion, a red light goes off. Has Deir Yassin been hijacked by a cult more intent on pursuing hate campaigns against the fictive "Jews" than in searching for the humanistic, universal, critical and truly relevant elements of the Deir Yassin story? Is Deir Yassin's memory being sullied by those who claim to honor it?

Shamir is only the symptom. I am more concerned about the few who have taken over Deir Yassin and, in defiance of anyone else, indeed, in arrogant dismissal of any dissenting voice, presume to be the "true" voices of DYR. The resignation of any one of the people who left DYR, Jewish or not, should be a cause of soul-searching, especially among the non-Palestinian "gatekeepers" of Deir Yassin who may be finishing off the job -- massacring the memory of Deir Yassin by making it synonymous with racism and anti-Semitism.

These are issues that go beyond any particular person. None of us has a right to represent Deir Yassin, but we all have the responsibility to ensure that its memory be respected and that the lessons it has to teach us to bring about a more just, inclusive, non-violent (including in language), critical world be nurtured. I call on Paul, Dan and the others of DYR to open a full discussion on what is happening in the organization, where it is going, what its messages are, how the discourse should be held, rather than support the anti-Deir Yassin messages and defend the undefensible.

In the meantime, I will find other ways to pursue the lessons of Deir Yassin.

Jeff Halper

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Pentagon Looks at the Koran
The real story behind Islamic Fascist Palestinian Suicide Bombers

A recent Pentagon briefing paper titled, "Motivations of Muslim Suicide Bombers," points to the Koran as the source of the motivation of Islamist bombers, according to an article today in This runs quite contrary to the usual U.S. government approach, which insists on seeing suicide terrorists as heretics who follow a perverted form of Islam. A White House report released just this month, for example, the National Strategy for Combating Terrorism," asserts that "The terrorists distort the idea of jihad into a call for violence and murder against those they regard as apostates or unbelievers."

The Pentagon study suggests that intelligence analysts think otherwise, concluding not just that Muslim suicide bombers are usually students of the Koran motivated by its commands, but that they acting, by their lights, rationally. Here is a key passage from the account:

In Islam, it is not how one lives one's life that guarantees spiritual salvation, but how one dies, according to the briefings. There are great advantages to becoming a martyr. Dying while fighting the infidels in the cause of Allah reserves a special place and honor in Paradise. And it earns special favor with Allah. "Suicide in defense of Islam is permitted, and the Islamic suicide bomber is, in the main, a rational actor," concludes a recent Pentagon briefing paper titled, "Motivations of Muslim Suicide Bombers."

"His actions provide a win-win scenario for himself, his family, his faith and his God," the document explains. "The bomber secures salvation and the pleasures of Paradise. He earns a degree of financial security and a place for his family in Paradise. He defends his faith and takes his place in a long line of martyrs to be memorialized as a valorous fighter. And finally, because of the manner of his death, he is assured that he will find favor with Allah," the briefing adds. "Against these considerations, the selfless sacrifice by the individual Muslim to destroy Islam's enemies becomes a suitable, feasible and acceptable course of action."

The briefing – produced by a little-known Pentagon intelligence unit called the Counterintelligence Field Activity, or CIFA – cites a number of passages from the Quran dealing with jihad, or "holy" warfare, martyrdom and Paradise, where "beautiful mansions" and "maidens" await martyr heroes. In preparation for attacks, suicide terrorists typically recite passages from six surahs, or chapters, of the Quran: Baqura (Surah 2), Al Imran (3), Anfal (8), Tawba (9), Rahman (55) and Asr (103).

CIFA staffs hundreds of investigators and analysts to help coordinate Pentagon security efforts at U.S. military installations at home and abroad.

Comment: There is nothing new here (see David Bukay, The Religious Foundations of Suicide Bombings, Middle East Quarterly, Fall 2006 for a good, in-depth analysis) but that a government agency articulates this understanding amounts to a breakthrough. (September 27, 2006)