the Cruelest Month
On a beautiful spring day, when the skies of the Holy
Land are tender blue and the grass is a verdant green,
air-conditioned buses ferry tourists from the City of the Plain to
the City in the Mountains. A small distance past the halfway point,
just beyond the reconstructed Ottoman inn of Bab al-Wad, the Gate of
the Valley, the bus drives by the red-painted skeletons of armoured
vehicles. This is where the tour guides make their routine pitch.
“These vehicles are in memory of the heroic break-through of Jews
relieving the blockade of Jerusalem imposed by the aggression of
nine Arab states”. The number of Arab states varies with the mood of
the guide and how they size up their audience.
for the road to Jerusalem was a high point of the 1948 Civil war in
Palestine, and it ended with the Zionist Jews of the Plain capturing
the prosperous West End of Jerusalem with its white stone mansions
of Arab nobles and German, Greek and Armenian merchants. In the
course of these battles they also subdued the neutral, non-Zionist
Jewish neighbourhoods. Zionists expelled the Gentiles in a massive
sweep of ethnic cleansing and contained the local Jews in the
ghetto. In order to achieve this feat, they razed to the ground the
Palestinian villages on their path to the city.
junk is barely an adequate backdrop for the standard Israeli
narration, and they would not qualify for a realistic film
production. It is a staged scene that lacks the authentic look
needed by movie directors. The story of the blockade and aggression
is a theatre play, not a cinema script. It is an encore performance
for the tourist receiving indoctrination on the non-stop trip to the
Wailing Wall and the Holocaust Museum.
The war for
this road was over in April 1948, weeks before Israel declared
independence on 15th of May, before the hapless rag-tag units of
Arab neighbours entered Palestine and saved what remained of the
native population. As T.S. Elliot observed, April is the cruellest
month. And so it was on that fateful April when the Palestinians
were doomed to start a journey to five decades of exile. Its
apotheosis was reached near the entrance to Jerusalem, where the
Sacharov gardens lead to a cemetery, to a lunatic asylum and to Deir
many names. The Czechs call it Lidice, the French word is Oradur, in
Vietnamese they use My Lai, for every Palestinian, it is Deir
Yassin. On the night of the ninth of April 1948, the Jewish
terrorist groups Etzel and Lehi attacked the peaceful village and
massacred its men, women and children. I do not want to repeat the
gory tale of sliced off ears, gutted bellies, raped women, torched
men, bodies dumped in stone quarries or the triumphal parade of the
murderers. Existentially, all massacres are similar, from Babi Yar
to Chain Gang to Deir Yassin.
Deir Yassin massacre is special for three reasons. One, it is well
documented and witnessed. Other Jewish fighters from the Hagana and
Palmach, Jewish scouts, Red Cross representatives and the British
police of Jerusalem left complete records of the event. It was just
one of many massacres of Palestinians by the Jews during the war of
1948, but none received as much attention. This is probably due to
the fact that Jerusalem, the seat of the British Mandate in
Palestine, was just around the corner.
Yassin had dire consequences, beyond its own tragic fate. The horror
of the massacre facilitated the mass flight from nearby Palestinian
villages and gave the Jews full control over the western approaches
to Jerusalem. The flight was a prudent and rational choice for the
civilian population. As I write this, my TV glares with the image of
Macedonian peasants fleeing a war zone. My mother’s family escaped
from a burning Minsk on June 22, 1941, and survived. My father’s
family remained and perished. After the war my parents could return
like other war refugees. The Palestinians, however, have not been
allowed to come back, until this very day.
careers of the murderers. The commanders of the Etzel and Lehi
gangs, Menahem Begin and Yitzhak Shamir eventually became Israeli
prime ministers. None of them expressed any remorse, and Menahem
Begin lived the last days of his life with a panoramic view of Deir
Yassin from his house. No Nuremberg judges, no vengeance, no
penitence, just a path of roses all the way to a Nobel Peace prize.
Menahem Begin was proud of the operation, and in his letter to
killers he congratulated them for fulfilling their national duty.
“You are creators of Israel’s history”, he wrote. Yitzhak Shamir was
also pleased that is helped to achieve his dream: to expel the
nochrim (non-Jews) from the Jewish state.
commander of the operation, Judah Lapidot, also had quite a career.
His superior, Menahem Begin, appointed him to run the campaign for
the right of Russian Jews to immigrate to Israel. He called for
compassion and family reunion; he orchestrated the demonstrations in
New York and London, with that memorable slogan ‘Let My People Go’.
If you supported the right of Russian Jews to immigrate to Israel,
maybe you came across this man. By then the blood stains of Deir
Yassin had presumably washed off. For the political indoctrination
of Russian immigrants, he even published a Russian-language
‘version’ of ‘Oh Jerusalem’, a best seller by Lapierre and Collins,
expurgating the story of Deir Yassin.
But there is
yet another reason why this event was historically significant. Deir
Yassin demonstrated the full scope of Zionist tactics. After the
mass murder became known, the Jewish leadership blamed … the Arabs.
David Ben Gurion, the first Prime Minister of Israel, announced that
the Arab rogue gangs perpetrated it. When this version collapsed,
the Jewish leaders began the damage control procedures. They sent an
apology to Emir Abdallah. Ben Gurion publicly distanced himself and
his government from the bloody massacre, saying it stained the name
of every honest Jew and that it was the work of dissident
terrorists. His public relations techniques remain a source of pride
for the good-hearted pro-Zionist ‘liberals’ abroad.
horrible, dreadful story”, a humanist Jew told me when I drove him
by the remaining houses of Deir Yassin, then he added “But Ben
Gurion condemned the terrorists, and they were duly punished”.
responded, “they were duly punished and promoted to the highest
days after the murder, the gangs were incorporated into the emerging
Israeli army, the commanders received high positions, and a general
amnesty forgave their crimes. The same pattern, an initial denial,
followed by apologies, and a final act of clemency and promotion,
was applied after the first historically verifiable atrocity
committed by Prime Minister Sharon. It was at the Palestinian
village of Qibya, where Sharon’s unit dynamited houses with their
inhabitants and massacred some 60 men, women and children. After the
murders became public, Prime Minister Ben Gurion, at first, blamed
rogue Arab gangs. When that did not wash, he blamed Arab Jews, who,
he said, being Arabs by their mentality, committed the unauthorized
wild raid of vengeance and killed the peasants. For Sharon, it was
the usual path of roses all the way to the post of Prime Minister.
It sometimes appears that to become the Prime Minister of Israel, it
helps to have a massacre to your name.
pattern was repeated after the massacre of Kafr Kasem, where the
Israeli troops lined up the local peasants and machine-gunned them
down. When the denial failed, and a Communist MPs disclosed the gory
details, the perpetrators were court-martialed and sentenced to long
prison terms. They were out before the end of the year, while the
commander of the murderers became the head of Israel Bonds. If you
ever purchased Israeli Bonds, maybe you met him. I am certain he
washed the blood off his hands by the time he shook yours.
the passing of 50 years, the Jewish establishment had decided to,
once again, take a stab at “Deir Yassin” revisionism. The Zionist
Organization of America pioneered the art of denying history and
published, at the expense of American taxpayer, a booklet called
‘Deir Yassin: History of a Lie’. The ZOA revisionists have utilized
all the methods of their adversaries, the ‘Holocaust deniers’: they
discount the eye-witness accounts of the survivors, the Red Cross,
the British police, Jewish scouts and other Jewish observers, who
were present at the scene of massacre. They discount even Ben
Gurion’s apology, since after all, the commanders of these gangs
became in turn prime ministers of the Jewish state. For ZOA, only
the testimony of the murderers has any validity. That is, if the
murderers are Jews.
Still, there are just people, and probably
because of them the Almighty does not wipe us off the face of the
earth. There is an organization called Deir Yassin Remembered, which
fights all attempts to erase the memory. They publish books,
organize meetings, and they are working on a project to build a
memorial at the scene of the massacre, so the innocent victims will
have this last comfort, their name and the memory saved forever (Isa
56:5). It will have to do, until the surviving sons of Deir Yassin
and neighbouring villages return from their refugee camps to the
land of their fathers.