Sunday, August 3, 2014

Deir Yassin

One of the most argued about and contested incidents in the 1948 Israeli War of Independence; or as the Arabs of the Mandated areas refer to it as the Nackba-The Catastrophe, is the incident at the village of Deir Yassin on April 9th, 1948.

The location of the village of Deir Yassin was strategically situated on a hill top astride the western approach to Jerusalem from the coastal region. The highly strategic importance of the heights on the Western approach to Jerusalem from the coastal plain had been noted by the leader of the German forces in World War I German General Erich von Falkenhayn. He had noted that whoever could control the ridge would be able to block access to Jerusalem from the direction of the coastal plain. So he had ordered the area to be heavily fortified with trenches and bunkers by the Ottoman Turkish Army. It was these very same positions prepared by the Turks in WWI that were refurbished by elements of the (Jaysh al-Jihad al-Muqaddas) or Holy War Army in early 1948.

Abd-el-Khader al-Husayni
The Jaysh al-Jihad al-Muqaddas  or Holy War Army was an Irregular Arab force that was led by Abd-el-Khader al-Husayni who was a nephew of the Mufti of Jerusalem Haj Amin al-Hussein. The Headquarters of the Holy War Army was stationed nearby in the strategically located Arab village of Al-Qastal, named for a Crusader castle Belveer or Beauverium, built by the Crusaders around 1168 CE, located on the hilltop. Al-Qastal was a key position on the Jaffa-Jerusalem road that was used by Arab forces to besiege the Jews of Jerusalem. 

The Mufti at Deir Yassin
The“Casus belli” to justify the attack on Deir Yassin was the blockading of roads to isolated Jewish settlements which was part of the Arab plan for genocide and ethnic cleansing in Palestine, announced by the Arab League.

Here is a listing of attacks committed against Jews, after the Partition Vote, while the British were still in control of the occupation of the Mandate. Once again these were incidents prior to their departure and the declaration of Israel’s independence.

On Mar 18, 1948 al-Husayni's Arab Irregulars together with Arab civilians from surrounding villages attacked a Jewish convoy on the Shaar Hagay Hartuv road near Jerusalem. The convoy remained stranded on the road, unable to move. The Arabs, positioned on both sides of the road on the high strategic ridges opened fire and 10 Jews were murdered and their bodies butchered and burned.

Than on March 20,1948 al-Husayni's Arab Irregulars force attack the Tsuba quarry (near Motza on road to Jerusalem) 3 Jewish unarmed civilian workers were murdered.

Four days later al-Husayni's Arab Irregulars attack two Jewish convoys to Jerusalem one near Shaar Hagai (Bab El Wad) were the battle lasts six hours and 3 Jews are murdered and 7 wounded. Some of the convoy returns to Hulda, some manages to run the boulder strewn roadway to get through to Jerusalem. The Attack on the second convoy that day was moving civilian food supplies to Atarot north of Jerusalem 14 Jews were murdered and 9 wounded.

On March 26,1948 a Jewish supply convoy attempts to reach the beseiged city of Jerusalem but is repulsed and the road blocked. Part of the "war of the roads" during the period was an attack on the Nebi Daniel Convoy which occured on March 27,1948. Nebi Daniel is located on the road between Jerusalem and the Etzion bloc (Gush Etzion), near Bethlehem. The Haganah had no resources to extricate the convoy. Reluctantly, Shaltiel, CO Jerusalem district, contacted the Jerusalem unarmed, as part of the deal they made with the Arabs. 15 Jews are murdered and 73 wounded.
British and ask for their help. The British did nothing until the following day. The British stipulated that the Jewish troops had to surrender their arms and return to Tel Aviv.

On March 31,1948 another convoy attempts to breach the seige but 21 Jews are murdered and 16 wounded. The convoy is cancelled.

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) elements of the (Jaysh al-Jihad al-Muqaddas) or Holy War Army were constructing fortifications in the village and a large quantity of arms were being stockpiled there by al-Husayni's Arab Irregulars which included foreign fighters and Iraqi soldiers.

An Arab research study conducted at Bir Zeit University (near Ramallah) also relate 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).

Palestinian irregulars moving to counterattack Haganah
 positions in Al-Qastal, 7–8 April 1948
On April 3 the Palmach's Harel Brigade during Operation Nachshon, launches an assault on the village of Al-Qastal succeeds causing almost all the inhabitants of to flee. Palmach troops occupied the village, but its commander was refused permission to blow up the houses.

On April 8, 1948 Al-Husayni himself was killed by a Jewish sentry on April 8, when he wanders into the Jewish held Qastel thinking it is in Arab hands. Forces under Abd-el-Khader al-Husayni recaptured the village Al-Qastal from the Palmach searching for Abd-el-Khader, then abandon it when his body is found. 39 Jews and 31 Arabs are killed in the intense fighting. 
Al-Husayni's death is said to have been a factor in the loss of morale among his forces. Many left their positions to attend al-Husayni's funeral at the Al-Aqsa Mosque on Friday, April 9. Palmach troops retook the village on the night of April 8-9th and they blew up what was left standing of the abandoned houses and made the hill a command post.

The Incident at Deir Yassin April 9, 1948

The Hagannah Intelligence (Shai) report from the 2nd of April 1948 noted the presence of heavily armed fighters, from the (Jaysh al-Jihad al-Muqaddas) or Holy War Army led by Abd al-Qadir al-Husayni in the village."
On the thirtieth of March Mordehai Gihon reported “One hundred and fify men, mostly Iraqis, entered Deir Yassin.

The inhabitants were leaving, for fear of the foreign troops and reprisal operations by the Jews."

When the ETZEL and LECHI (Stern gang) forces were assembled for the attack to capture the village, they were given strict orders 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.

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. 

An Iraqi-born Jew, who spoke fluent Arabic, called out to the residents that the village was surrounded by Irgun and Lehi fighters, and to leave via the western exit from Deir Yassin for Ein Karem which the attackers had left clear for that purpose or to surrender. Soon after entering the town, however, the truck was hit by Arab gunfire and careened into a ditch.
It is very important to note that the Arabs themselves did not deny the use of a loudspeaker; indeed, an Arab League publication entitled "Israeli Aggression" stated: "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."

The attackers left open an escape corridor from the village and more than 200 residents left unharmed.
For example, at 9:30 A.M., about five hours after the fighting started, the Lehi evacuated 40 old men, women and children on trucks and took them to a base in Sheikh Bader. Later, the Arabs were taken to East Jerusalem.
Starting at 2:00 P.M., residents were taken out of the village. The trucks passed through the Orthodox neighborhood of Mea Shearim after the Sabbath had begun, so the neighborhood people cursed and spit at them, not because they were Arabs, but because the vehicles were desecrating the Sabbath. Seeing the Arabs in the hands of Jews also helped raise the morale of the people of Jerusalem who were despondent from the setbacks in the fighting to that point.
Another source says 70 women and children were taken away and turned over to the British. If the intent was to massacre the inhabitants, no one would have been evacuated.

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 or Village leader’s 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. Michael Harif: “My unit stormed and passed the first row of houses. I was among the first to enter the village. There were a few other guys with me, each encouraging the other to advance. At the top of the street I saw a man in khaki clothing running ahead. I thought he was one of ours. I ran after him and told him, “advance to that house.” Suddenly he turned around, aimed his rifle and shot. He was an Iraqi soldier. I was hit in the foot"

A report on the course of the battle was transmitted by courier to Hagannah 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 now 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.

One of the major points to consider in the assault by Irgun forces was the unprecedented step at taken at Deir Yassin by the Etzel leadership by installing a loudspeaker system 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. This unprecedented act is forgotten in the libelous lies of the Arabs of a “massacre”

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. This is confirmed in the eye witness testimonies.

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 assault on the strategic heights near Deir Yassin was publicized throughout the world as a "Massacre" means of causing great harm to the reputation of the new born State of Israel and the Jewish Zionist movement and the"Yishuv". 
The world press that disseminated the story at the time, based the story solely on the Arab point of view and due to the conflict being waged Jewish sources either could not or did not wish to relate to the lies and false accusations until later. It is intentionally overlooked and forgotten that at the time the seriousness of the perilous predicament of the Yishuv. The Jews of Eretz Yisrael were engaged in a "fight for their life" it was a matter of life and death survival.

The meager forces of the Hagannah had yet received "State" status and could not bring in "heavy weapons" such as, artillery, mortars. machine guns. Much of the arsenal of Jewish resistance was home made. Quantities of ammunition was scarce.
Jewish forces were under attack by well armed forces from seven Arab League armies who as Military forces of countries did possess and use "heavy weapons" such as, tanks, armored cars, artillery, mortars. machine guns. Ben Gurion shuffled his lightly armed Jewish forces between locations. They were spread out and embattled.

There were countless incidents were Jews were being caught under-fire in the joint cities and butchered by Arab Irregulars on the roads. Not one Jewish settlement was not under attack many cut-off.

The Deir Yassin affair indubitably served to expedite the collapse of the Arab hinterland in the period which followed much more than the incident in itself. This was achieved primarily by the publicity it received from Arab news sources. They manipulated the story to make it seem that the Jews were barbaric savages bent on their destruction and to instill in them a desire for vengeance, as witnessed four days later on April 13,1948 in the massacre of a medical convoy to Hadassah hospital.  Evidently, it had the tacit approval of the British authorities. About 80 Jewish, mostly medical personnel and injured patients were killed in an ambush. A month later on May 12,1948 129 survivors of Gush Etzion who had surrendered were also massacred. Arabs have seized upon the Deir Yassin attack as an excuse for "reprisals."”

                                                   Eye witnesses testimony 

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 Dr. 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 and there were 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'."

Mohammed Radwan, who was a resident of Deir Yassi in 1948, said; "I know when I speak that God is up there and God knows the truth and God will not forgive the liars." He listed in his own handwriting the number of villagers killed at 93. "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." "Deir Yassin a casualty of guns and propaganda", by Paul Holmes (Reuters)

Ayish Zeidan, known as Haj Ayish was a teenager from Deir Yassin. "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.' "I never believed that more than 110 people had died at Deir Yassin, and I accuse Arab leaders of exaggerating the atrocities." and "'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.'

In this recounting of the incident of Deir Yassin from the book; "War Without End", by Anton La Guardia written fifty years after the conflict we can see the effect of the negative Jewish point of view:
“Early in the morning of Friday, April 9, 1948, members of the Irgun, headed by Menachem Begin, and the Stern Gang attacked Deir Yassin, a village of about 750 Arab residents. It was less than a month before the end of the British Mandate on May 14th,1948. The village lay astride a major route to Jerusalem adjacent to some strategic hill top positions outside of the area that the United Nations recommended to be included in a future Jewish State. It was "reported"that the village of Deir Yassin had a peaceful reputation and was even said by a Jewish newspaper to have driven out some Arab "militants". But it was located on high ground in the corridor between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem and one plan, kept secret until years afterwards, called for it to be destroyed and the residents evacuated to make way for a small airfield that would supply the beleaguered Jewish residents of Jerusalem. By noon over 100 people, half of them women and children, had been systematically murdered. Four commandos died at the hands of resisting Palestinians using old Mausers and muskets. Twenty-five male villagers were loaded into trucks, paraded through the Zikhron Yosef quarter in Jerusalem, and then taken to a stone quarry along the road between Givat Shaul and Deir Yassin and shot to death. The remaining residents were driven to Arab East Jerusalem."
La Guardia  does begin the section accurately with his description of the extreme importance that Deir Yassin had to the beseigured Jewish residents of Jerusalem in that "it was located on high ground in the corridor between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem". And now comes the "Twist" that Arab apologists have asserted for years that,"one plan, kept secret until years afterwards.....called for it to be destroyed and the residents evacuated to make way for a small airfield ." Now if the reader were not pro-Israeli to begin with, or had NO knowledge of geography and topography they would buy into this "excuse"
 However that is not the case since as he previously stated,"... it was located on high ground." Correct me if I am wrong but doesn't an airfield need wide open flat spaces?
By the way the closet airport, Atarot Airport is located to the north here is a view of the area from above. Judge for yourself.

Now as to La Guardia's statement; "Four commandos died at the hands of resisting Palestinians using old Mausers and muskets." This is the apologists excuse that those who did the fighting in Deir Yassin were simple residents from the village. Yet, we are told by British CID and Hagannah SHAI sources that the ridge area was controlled by, "a large heavily armed force of elements of the (Jaysh al-Jihad al-Muqaddas) or Holy War Army.

After the attack the Irgunists and the Sternists escorted a group foreign correspondents to a house in the Jewish neighborhood of Givat Shaul, that had been founded in 1906. At the meeting they laid out the details of the operation and the reasoning behind it. One of the reasons was the housing of elements of the Grand Mufti’s (Jaysh al-Jihad al-Muqaddas) or Holy War Army led by Abd-el-Khader al-Husayni in homes in the village of  Deir Yassin. It had become a concentration point for Arabs, including Syrians and Iraqis, planning to attack the Jewish Convoys to Jerusalem and the western suburbs of Jerusalem.
They said that 25 members of the Haganah militia had reinforced the attack and claimed that an Arabic-speaking Jew had warned the villagers over a loudspeaker from an armored car. This was duly reported in The New York Times on April 10.
A final body count of 254 was reported by The New York Times on April 13, a day after they were finally buried.
By then the leaders of the Haganah had distanced themselves from having participated in the attack and issued a statement denouncing the dissidents of Irgun and the Stern Gang, just as they had after the attack on the King David Hotel in July 1946.

Okay so let’s review what was just said.
  • The village of Deir Yassin lay astride a major route to Jerusalem adjacent to some strategic hill top positions.
  • There were reports that Deir Yassin had become a concentration point for Arabs, including Syrians and Iraqis, planning to attack the western suburbs of Jerusalem.
  • There were attacks almost daily on Jewish convoys attempting to reach besieged Jerusalem from the heights near the village.
  • A 1987 study undertaken by Birzeit University's Center for Research and Documentation of Palestinian Society found "the numbers of those killed does not exceed 120".
Earlier in the story I presented the eyewitness testimony of Mohammed Radwan, who was a resident of Deir Yassi in 1948, who said; "I know when I speak that God is up there and God knows the truth and God will not forgive the liars." He listed in his own handwriting the number of villagers killed at 93." Radwan's number "chives" with that of Birzeit University. So what is the real truth?

The Aftermath

The Haganah leaders, who were eager to embarrass the Revisionists forces of the Irgun and Lechi and down play their importance prior to the foundation of the State, admitted that the massacre; "disgraced the cause of Jewish fighters and dishonored Jewish arms and the Jewish flag." The Haganah played down the fact that they had participated and had acted as reinforcements in the assault. Leader of the Irgun Menachem Begin's acknowledged this by stating for the record that, "Deir Yassin was captured with the knowledge of the Haganah and with the approval of its commander" even though they did not participate in the actual attack. 

As to the notoriety that Palestinian apologists have attached to Deir Yassin it should be noted that they were quick to cry out that there was barbarism and looting during the subsequent "mopping up" operations. Yet they failed to note their own barbarity in their assaults on the settlements of Gush Etzion and the Old City.

There are many who accuse the two groups the ETZEL and the Stern Gang of a “horrific act” and “atrocity” and as the one impetus for the mass fleeing of Arabs, but was it? 

According to recordings of Arab League radio broadcasts from the time, heard by the local Arab population throughout the country. They were induced to believe wild tales of "Irgun butchery" and they were seized with limitless panic and started to flee for their lives. Remember my quote from Mohammed Radwan, "There were no Rapes,it's all lies."  and  Hazen Nusseibeh"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 and there were all sorts of atrocities." 

The mass flight of the Arab population soon developed into a maddened, uncontrollable stampede. The political and economic significance of this development was understood by the Jewish leadership and its’ effect was not overestimated. That is why Jewish Leadership and the Hagannah forces went out of their way to plead with the Arabs to stay and not to fall for the lies of the Arab radio broadcasts. On the other hand no one remembers the strident calls by the Mufti of Jerusalem and the Arab League leaders to “make way” for the “victorious” Arab armies? The Arabs frightened into fleeing  and by the false lies of their brethren in the invading armies began their journey into the "Catastrophe" or "Nachba".

In the end after the attack, of about 144 houses, only 10 were dynamited. With the declaration of the State of Israel and while the conflict was raging thousands of homeless Jewish refugees poured into the new state. The doors that had been slammed shut at the urging of the Arabs to the British were now flung open. The acute need for housing for the thousands of homeless Jewish refugees was a priority. By September, Orthodox Jewish immigrants from Poland, Rumania, and Slovakia were settled there as the neighborhood of Givat Shaul Bet. Over the years as Jerusalem expanded, the land became part of the city and it is now known simply as the area between Givat Shaul and the settlement of Har Nof on the western slopes of the mountain.

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