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Deir Yassin Remembered


The Deir Yassin massacre took place on April 9, 1948, when around 120 fighters from the Zionist paramilitary groups Irgun and Lehi attacked Deir Yassin, a Palestinian Arab village of roughly 600 people near Jerusalem. The assault occurred as Jewish militia sought to relieve the blockade of Jerusalem during the civil war that preceded the end of British rule in Palestine.


According to Irgun sources, the village guards felt surprised by "the Jews" entering their village at night and opened fire on the Irgun force. The village fell after fierce house-to-house fighting. During and after the battle for the village, at least 107 Palestinians were killed, including women and children—some were shot, while others died when hand grenades were thrown into their homes. Despite an original boast by the victors that 254 had been killed, Aref al-Aref counted 117 victims, 7 in combat and the rest in their homes. According to a count conducted by International Red Cross representative Jacques de Reynier, apart from bodies left lying in the streets, 150 corpses were found in one cistern alone, among them people who had been either decapitated or disemboweled. Israeli historian Benny Morris wrote that there were also cases of mutilation and rape. Several villagers were taken prisoner and may have been killed after being paraded through the streets of West Jerusalem. Four of the attackers were killed, with around 35 injured.


The killings were condemned by the leadership of the Haganah—the Jewish community's main paramilitary force—and by the area's two chief rabbis. The Jewish Agency for Israel sent Jordan's King Abdullah a letter of apology, which he rebuffed. Abdullah held the Jewish Agency responsible for the massacre because they were the head of Jewish affairs in Palestine, and warned about "terrible consequences" if more incidents like that occurred.


The deaths became a pivotal event in the Arab–Israeli conflict for their demographic and military consequences. The narrative was embellished and used by various parties to attack each other—by the Palestinians against Israel; by the Haganah to play down their own role in the affair; and by the Israeli left to accuse the Irgun and Lehi of blackening Israel's name by violating the Jewish principle of purity of arms. News of the killings sparked terror among Palestinians, encouraging them to flee from their towns and villages in the face of Jewish troop advances, and it strengthened the resolve of Arab governments to intervene, which they did five weeks later.

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Posted by George Freund on July 1, 2018 at 9:37 PM 95 Views