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Remembering the Martyrs of Deir Yassin 1948-2020

May 2, 2020

In 1948, Zionist terrorists in Palestine attacked and destroyed the village of Deir Yassin, located on the western outskirts of Jerusalem. The Toronto chapter of Independent Jewish Voices asked me to commemorate this event through the following brief report to its meeting of April 30. Here is my report, posted with permission of IJV. — JR

Survivors fleeing Deir Yassin

By John Riddell: On April 9, 72 years ago, the Palestinian village of Deir Yassin was attacked without warning by Zionist commandos and destroyed with great loss of life. This atrocity greatly accelerated the Nakba, the ethnic cleansing of more than 700,000 Palestinians.

Palestine was then still under British rule, but the British command refused to defend the Palestinians. Meanwhile, Zionist colonizers, mobilizing to establish an ethnically exclusive Jewish state, were systematically attacking Arab settlements.

Residents of Deir Yassin had acted boldly to assure peace and co-existence by signing agreements with the neighbouring Jewish community and with Haganah, the main Zionist military force at that time. In the process, Deir Yassin residents had pledged to keep military forces out of their village. But this did not save them.

A surviving fragment of Deir Hassin, incorporated into an Israeli hospital.

A month earlier, the Zionist leaders in Palestine had secretly adopted a blueprint for ethnic cleansing, called Plan Dalet. It was based, in turn, on a detailed survey of Arab villages the Zionists had carried out a decade earlier. Deir Yassin was marked down in Plan Dalet for cleansing, so its fate was sealed.

The attack was led by a terrorist Zionist militia, called Irgun, aided by another, called Lehi. The idea was to give residents a warning a few minutes in advance, but that miscarried. When local guards challenged the invaders, they responded with a full-scale military assault.

Residents resisted courageously, and the battle raged for many hours, but the defenders were hopelessly out-gunned. Attackers blew up many buildings with residents still inside and, after the fighting ended, executed 93 survivors. One young boy witnessed the murder of all the other members of his family. He was then placed in a lineup of children, who were mowed down by assault rifles; he alone survived.

The massacre gave the signal for a wave of violent expulsions in surrounding Palestinian villages and in neighbouring Jerusalem, driving out 140,000 residents in all. To this day, they and their descendants have not been permitted to return.

Almost all structures in Deir Yassin were demolished. The site was built over. Today, at the site, there is no indication of the thriving community that once lived there or of the atrocity that marked its destruction.

Dedication of a monument to Deir Yassin in Geneva, New York, 2003. The sculpture represents an uprooted olive tree.

Proud of the massacre, Zionist publicists exaggerated the death toll.

Irgun evolved into Israel’s dominant political party, Likud, and Irgun’s chieftain Menachem Begin later became Israel’s prime minister. Irgun’s partner in crime, the Lehi militia, also known as the Stern Gang, went on five months later to murder the official United Nations mediator in Palestine, Folke Bernadotte, who had played a prominent role in rescuing Jews from a Nazi concentration camp. Lehi took credit for Bernadotte’s murder, but no charges were laid.

Deir Yassin is only one of many, many atrocities during the ethnic cleansing of Palestine. Still, the massacre stands as a symbol of the inhumanity and disrespect for international law and human rights that characterized Zionist ethnic cleansing. In remembering Deir Yassin, we renew our pledge to help bring justice to Palestine.

Background on the Palestinian Nakba:
* Ilan Pappe: The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine, Oxford: One World, 2006.
* Amos Goldberg and Bashir Bashir, The Holocaust and the Nakba: A New Grammar of Trauma and History, New York: Columbia University Press, 2019.

On April 10, 2014, Zochrot, an Israeli NGO that works to support the full right of return of Palestinian refugees, led a small memorial tour to commemorate the 66th anniversary of the massacre, displaying the names of the victims. — Al Jazeera

  1. Linda J Loew permalink

    A history that must be shared, fully understood, and form the basis of widespread education as we win more people to the absolute necessity of a Free Palestine!

  2. Gene Tishauer permalink

    Thank you John. Thus is a heart-wrenching essay on the tragedy of Dier Yassin and the atrocities committed in the region prior to the rstablishment of Israel. You have masterfully distilled the terrible events that happened there into a moving indictmant of the unjust forces that continue to this day. It is to our collective shame that the massacre of Dier Yassin and thousands of other acts against the Palestinian peoples have gone unpunished and forgotten by the world.

  3. lottejacobi permalink

    Thanks John, for this commemoration and history. Happy Mayday as well!

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