Deir Yassin Massacre Myth Resurfaced

Monday, August 31, 2015 |  Tsvi Sadan

A stone thrown into a puddle will cause all sorts of light debris buried in the mud to surface. Jeremy Corbyn's quest to become the next Labour Party leader has created a similar effect in the puddle of British politics, allowing rotten debris like Holocaust denier Paul Eisen to surface. 

It turns out that in 2013, Corbyn attended Eisner's annual anti-Israel event titled "Deir Yassin Remembered." Having surfaced from the sludge, it now needs to be addressed.

But before directly addressing this, I want to draw attention to an article by STV (Scottish Television) journalist Stephen Daisley, who did an outstanding job exposing the danger inherent in the popularity of Corbyn. 

Corbyn, Daisly correctly reasoned, is "just a symptom and a symbol" of the anti-Zionist phenomenon that "has removed much of the need for classical anti-Semitism by recycling the old superstitions as a political critique of the State of Israel."

It is in the midst of such a phenomenon that people like Eisen can appear as compassionate humanists rather than what they really are. Otherwise, as Daisley had rightly asked, "why is Deir Yassin remembered, but not Safed or Hebron or the Hadassah convoy?" 

Yet, even this comparison is misleading because Daisley, like most people, is still under the impression that there was a massacre of Palestinians by Israelis at Deir Yassin.

In the Palestinian annals, Deir Yassin - a small village west of Jerusalem that was destroyed by the Jewish militias Etzel and Lehi on April 9, 1948 - has become the symbol for the "Nakba," the "catastrophic" military defeat that in its wake spawned the Palestinian refugee problem. The fate of Deir Yassin has become their remembrance day, held on May 15, and it is of paramount importance to them.

At the risk of being liked to "Holocaust deniers," I find it necessary to highlight the work of military historian Uri Milstein, who spent 30 years investigating this affair that took place during Israel's War of Independence. 

In his book The Birth of a Palestinian Nation (2012), Milstein's scathing criticism is directed not toward Palestinians, but rather toward Jews who, out of narrow political interests and internal rivalry, have perpetuated the massacre myth. 

The battle of Deir Yassin itself came as a result of intelligence that Arab soldiers had infiltrated this otherwise peaceful village in order to block the road to Jerusalem. This led the two right-wing militias, Etzel and Lehi, to propose to the more left-wing Haganah (which later became the IDF) a joint operation against the village as part of a larger operation aimed at clearing the only road from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. 

As everybody well understood, the fate of Jerusalem depended who controlled that road. 

The plan was accepted by all factions, which is why several Haganah men armed with machine guns were placed on Mount Herzl facing the village to provide cover for the Etzel and Lehi assault troops.

During the battle, some 40 Jewish soldiers were wounded and six were killed. There were also 110 dead Palestinians, including women and children. Dreadful as the outcome was, civilians were killed during the heat of battle, and not after it. 

In his book, Milstein willingly accepts Palestinian anthropologist Sharif Kanaana's definition of massacre, which is "intentional killing of captives – civilians, military men and soldiers – after they have surrendered…" 

Kanaana, who also studied the Deir Yassin affair, seemed to concur with Milstein in that that the label "massacre" in regards to the battle of Deir Yassin was a "lie that originated in disputes between the Haganah on one hand and Etzel and Lehi on the other." The Palestinians for their part exploited the myth to their own advantage.

This is not to say that Israel's conduct in times of war is flawless. The War of Independence was ruthless, and both sides did whatever they could to gain the upper hand. 

From this perspective, however, "Deir Yassin Remembered" as enthusiastically endorsed by Corbyn seems like a myth dredged up from the mud for the benefit of malevolent forces interested not in peace and justice, but in the vilification and destruction of the Jewish nation.

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