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PHOTOS: Publicly remembering the Deir Yassin massacre

Activists walk through a West Jerusalem neighborhood carrying the names of some 100 men, women and children massacred 66 years ago by Zionist militias in the Palestinian village of Deir Yassin. They are met with curiosity, indifference and open hostility.

Text and photos by: Ryan Rodrick Beiler/Activestills.org

Israeli Jewish youth watch  a procession of Israeli, Palestinian, and international activists carrying names of those who died in the Deir Yassin massacre, Givat Shaul, West Jerusalem, April 10, 2014. On April 9, 1948, some 100-200 Palestinians, including women and children, were killed by the extremist Zionist militias the Irgun and Stern Gang (Lehi) in the village of Deir Yassin. The Israeli activist group Zochrot ("remembering") organizes an annual procession to commemorate those killed and to recount the history of the village. (photo: Activestills.org)

Israeli Jewish youth watch a procession of Israeli, Palestinian, and international activists carrying names of those who died in the Deir Yassin massacre, Givat Shaul, West Jerusalem, April 10, 2014. On April 9, 1948, some 100-200 Palestinians, including women and children, were killed by the extremist Zionist militias the Irgun and Stern Gang (Lehi) in the village of Deir Yassin. The Israeli activist group Zochrot (“remembering”) organizes an annual procession to commemorate those killed and to recount the history of the village. (photo: Activestills.org)

Jewish Israeli, Palestinian, and international activists carried three black panels bearing some 100 names through the streets of what is now the Givat Shaul neighborhood of West Jerusalem on Thursday. They marched to commemorate the massacre and displacement of the Palestinian village of Deir Yassin by Zionist militias 66 years ago on April 9, 1948. Organized by the Israeli organization Zochrot, whose name means “remembering,” the event memorialized those killed and recounted the village’s history to Israeli passers-by, who were at times curious, indifferent and hostile.

A woman passing the procession as it assembled on Kanfey Nesharim Street complained to her companion, “Oh, it must be that Deir Yassin crap.” A young worker in a sandwich shop asked, “What is this?” and snapped a photo with his iPhone. Just three days prior, vandals had spray-painted “Death to Arabs” on grave markers in Deir Yassin’s cemetery.

As the participants carried the names along what was once the main street of a thriving Palestinian village, it was most often children who stopped to listen to Zochrot’s Umar Al-Ghubari recount the significance of a particular location along the way, or to read the names of the dead.

The Deir Yassin massacre was a pivotal moment of the Nakba and in the lead-up to the 1948 War. Some 100-200 Palestinians, including women and children, were killed by the extremist Zionist militias the Irgun (Etzel) and Stern Gang (Lehi). Some were shot in battle, others executed. Others were killed when grenades were thrown into their houses. In some cases, whole families were gunned down.

Exact numbers of the dead were disputed from the start, as even the perpetrators of the massacre inflated the death toll in order to sow terror throughout other Palestinian communities so that they would flee their homes. Other villages did indeed flee in fear, but the massacre also cemented the motivation of neighboring Arab countries to fight rather than accept partition.

A member of the Hagana Zionist militia present for Thursday’s procession recounted his role in the massacre: removing the bodies after the Irgun and Stern Gang had done most of the dirty work. He described it as the worst thing he ever experienced.

Dina Elmuti, the granddaughter of a Deir Yassin survivor, writes of further horrors:

My grandmother’s cousin, Naziha Radwan, was six at the time of the massacre. She survived by covering herself in her grandmother’s blood, hiding beneath stiffened bodies and pretending to be dead.

Walking along the dirt path, my grandmother pointed to the home of her paternal aunt, Basma Zahran, and recounted another tragedy. “She and her four children were shot and their bodies were burned in there,” my grandmother said. “Three little girls and a newborn baby boy, only a few hours old.”

It was hard to imagine these horrific events taking place on what now is a busy city street lined with shops and restaurants, eventually terminating in a park with playgrounds, basketball courts, and the Kfar Shaul mental hospital, whose buildings include a few of the original homes that were once the center of the village. Across the valley lies the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial. In the aftermath of the massacre, prominent Jewish scholars, including Martin Buber, urged Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion to leave Deir Yassin uninhabited, or at least that its settlement be postponed, writing that it had become “infamous throughout the Jewish world, the Arab world and the whole world.” Their repeated messages were ignored.

Recounting more of her grandmother’s testimony, Elmuti writes of a history prior to Deir Yassin’s violent destruction that speaks of the potential for peace and belies the myth of endless hatred between Jews and Palestinians:

Prior to the massacre, we were on good terms with the Jews in Givat Shaul. We shared food, celebrated together, paid condolences to one another, babysat for each other. There was peace here before the Zionists came and destroyed everything.

Zochrot’s mission is “to challenge the Israeli Jewish public’s preconceptions and promote awareness, political and cultural change within it to create the conditions for the Return of Palestinian Refugees and a shared life in this country.” While getting the Israeli Jewish public to acknowledge the injustices of the Nakba in general and the massacre of Deir Yassin in particular may be an unpopular uphill battle, a shared life based on a just and lasting peace will not be possible without such truth-telling.

An Israeli policeman escorts  a procession of Israeli, Palestinian, and international activists carrying names of those who died in the Deir Yassin massacre, Givat Shaul, West Jerusalem, April 10, 2014. On April 9, 1948, some 100-200 Palestinians, including women and children, were killed by the extremist Zionist militias the Irgun and Stern Gang (Lehi) in the village of Deir Yassin. The Israeli activist group Zochrot ("remembering") organizes an annual procession to commemorate those killed and to recount the history of the village. (photo: Activestills.org)

Due to incidents of harassment by right-wing activists in previous years, Israeli police escort the procession of Israeli, Palestinian, and international activists carrying names of those who died in the Deir Yassin massacre. (photo: Activestills.org)

 

A procession of Israeli, Palestinian, and international activists carrying names of those who died in the Deir Yassin massacre stop in front of one of the villages's remaining buildings, now used by an ultra-orthodox Jewish group, Givat Shaul, West Jerusalem, April 10, 2014. On April 9, 1948, some 100-200 Palestinians, including women and children, were killed by the extremist Zionist militias the Irgun and Stern Gang (Lehi) in the village of Deir Yassin. The Israeli activist group Zochrot ("remembering") organizes an annual procession to commemorate those killed and to recount the history of the village. (photo: Activestills.org)

The procession stops in front of one of the village’s remaining buildings, now used by an ultra-orthodox Jewish group. (photo: Activestills.org)

 

An Israeli child stops to watch  a procession of Israeli, Palestinian, and international activists carrying names of those who died in the Deir Yassin massacre, Givat Shaul, West Jerusalem, April 10, 2014. On April 9, 1948, some 100-200 Palestinians, including women and children, were killed by the extremist Zionist militias the Irgun and Stern Gang (Lehi) in the village of Deir Yassin. The Israeli activist group Zochrot ("remembering") organizes an annual procession to commemorate those killed and to recount the history of the village. (photo: Activestills.org)

An Israeli Jewish child stops to watch the procession. (photo: Activestills.org)

 

Israelis shout from a passing car at a procession of Israeli, Palestinian, and international activists commemorating the Deir Yassin massacre, Givat Shaul, West Jerusalem, April 10, 2014. On April 9, 1948, some 100-200 Palestinians, including women and children, were killed by the extremist Zionist militias the Irgun and Stern Gang (Lehi) in the village of Deir Yassin. The Israeli activist group Zochrot ("remembering") organizes an annual procession to commemorate those killed and to recount the history of the village. (photo: Activestills.org)

Israelis shout at the procession from a passing car. (photo: Activestills.org)

 

A procession of Israeli, Palestinian, and international activists carrying names of those who died in the Deir Yassin massacre stop near the village's cemetery, Givat Shaul, West Jerusalem, April 10, 2014. On April 9, 1948, some 100-200 Palestinians, including women and children, were killed by the extremist Zionist militias the Irgun and Stern Gang (Lehi) in the village of Deir Yassin. The Israeli activist group Zochrot ("remembering") organizes an annual procession to commemorate those killed and to recount the history of the village. (photo: Activestills.org)

The march stops near the village’s cemetery, now obscured by pine trees. (photo: Activestills.org)

 

Umar Al-Ghubari of Zochrot is confronted by a Jewish passer-by as he leads a procession of Israeli, Palestinian, and international activists carrying names of those who died in the Deir Yassin massacre, Givat Shaul, West Jerusalem, April 10, 2014. On April 9, 1948, some 100-200 Palestinians, including women and children, were killed by the extremist Zionist militias the Irgun and Stern Gang (Lehi) in the village of Deir Yassin. The Israeli activist group Zochrot ("remembering") organizes an annual procession to commemorate those killed and to recount the history of the village. (photo: Activestills.org)

Umar Al-Ghubari of Zochrot is confronted by a Jewish passer-by as he leads the procession and reads the names of those killed in the massacre. (photo: Activestills.org)

 

A procession of Israeli, Palestinian, and international activists carrying names of those who died in the Deir Yassin massacre passes a playground built on what was once Palestinian village land, Givat Shaul, West Jerusalem, April 10, 2014. On April 9, 1948, some 100-200 Palestinians, including women and children, were killed by the extremist Zionist militias the Irgun and Stern Gang (Lehi) in the village of Deir Yassin. The Israeli activist group Zochrot ("remembering") organizes an annual procession to commemorate those killed and to recount the history of the village. (photo: Activestills.org)

The marchers pass a playground built on what was once Deir Yassin village land.  (photo: Activestills.org)

 

A procession of Israeli, Palestinian, and international activists carrying names of those who died in the Deir Yassin massacre conclude their march near the grounds of the Kfar Shaul mental hospital that was built on village land, West Jerusalem, April 10, 2014. On April 9, 1948, some 100-200 Palestinians, including women and children, were killed by the extremist Zionist militias the Irgun and Stern Gang (Lehi) in the village of Deir Yassin. The Israeli activist group Zochrot ("remembering") organizes an annual procession to commemorate those killed and to recount the history of the village. (photo: Activestills.org)

The activists conclude their march near the grounds of the Kfar Shaul mental hospital which was built on Deir Yassin land and includes some of the village’s remaining buildings. (photo: Activestills.org)

 

An Israeli policeman urinates within sight of a procession of Israeli, Palestinian, and international activists carrying names of those who died in the Deir Yassin massacre as they conclude their march near the grounds of the Kfar Shaul mental hospital that was built on village land, West Jerusalem, April 10, 2014. On April 9, 1948, some 100-200 Palestinians, including women and children, were killed by the extremist Zionist militias the Irgun and Stern Gang (Lehi) in the village of Deir Yassin. The Israeli activist group Zochrot ("remembering") organizes an annual procession to commemorate those killed and to recount the history of the village. (photo: Activestills.org)

An Israeli policeman who had been escorting the march urinates within sight of the panels bearing the names of those killed in the Deir Yassin massacre as the commemoration concludes near the grounds of the Kfar Shaul mental hospital. (photo: Activestills.org)

 

A Palestinian woman stands in front of panels bearing the names of those who died in the Deir Yassin massacre, Givat Shaul, West Jerusalem, April 10, 2014. On April 9, 1948, some 100-200 Palestinians, including women and children, were killed by the extremist Zionist militias the Irgun and Stern Gang (Lehi) in the village of Deir Yassin. The Israeli activist group Zochrot ("remembering") organizes an annual procession to commemorate those killed and to recount the history of the village. (photo: Activestills.org)

A Palestinian woman stands in front of panels bearing the names of those who died in the Deir Yassin massacre. (photo: Activestills.org)

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    1. Rehmat

      The British National Archives released in April last year, contained a report written by Sir Alan Cunningham, the last High Commissionar of the British Mandate authority in Palestine, dated April 30, 1948.

      In the report Cunningham mentioned the massacre at Deir Yassin by calling the Jewish militia which carried the massacre, “terrorists, Nazis and savages”.

      Sir Cunningham wrote that 250 people were killed, with the attack “accompanied by every circumstance of savagery. Women and children were stripped, lined up, photographed and then slaughtered.”

      http://rehmat1.com/2013/05/03/british-archives-zionists-were-terrorists-nazis-and-savages/

      Reply to Comment
      • Tzutzik

        Our one eyed Rehmat strikes again.

        Obviously Arabs did die in Deir Yassin. That is beyond dispute. But was it an atrocity? And if it was, then was it exaggerated out of all proportion? According to some Arab notables and eye witnesses, it certainly WAS exaggerated. Here watch this BBC viseo (click on the link in the article).

        http://www.2nd-thoughts.org/deir_yassin.html

        I don’t think too many would accuse the BBC of being pro Zionist would they? Yet this is what came out of that video of theirs:

        “The video focuses on an interview with Hazem Nusseibeh, a member of one of Jerusalem’s most prominent Arab families. In 1948 he was an editor of the Palestine Broadcasting Service’s Arabic news.

        In this interview with the BBC he admits that in 1948 he was instructed by Hussein Khalidi, a prominent Palestinian Arab leader, to fabricate claims of atrocities at Deir Yassin in order to encourage Arab regimes to invade the expected Jewish state. He made this damming admission in explaining why the Arabs failed in the 1948 war. He said “this was our biggest mistake”, because Palestinians fled in terror and left the country in huge numbers after hearing the atrocity claims.”

        Reply to Comment
      • Tzutzik

        Rehmat

        OK then, watch the following video.

        First click on the link below, then click on the video link within the link.

        http://www.2nd-thoughts.org/deir_yassin.html

        What do you think about what it says? Here is a quote from it:

        “The video focuses on an interview with Hazem Nusseibeh, a member of one of most prominent Arab families. In 1948 he was an editor of the Palestine Broadcasting Service’s Arabic news.

        In this interview with the BBC he admits that in 1948 he was instructed by Hussein Khalidi, a prominent Palestinian Arab leader, to fabricate claims of atrocities at Deir Yassin in order to encourage Arab regimes to invade the expected Jewish state. He made this damming admission in explaining why the Arabs failed in the 1948 war. He said “this was our biggest mistake”, because Palestinians fled in terror and left the country in huge numbers after hearing the atrocity claims.”

        Reply to Comment
    2. Vadim

      It’s hard facing one’s past this way, not many can do it. I think that if Zochrot and other such organizations were not so vehemently anti-Israel, it would have made viewing such events much easier for many Israelis. If they would have said – we are proud Israelis but there are bad things that Israel has done and we wish to face it – many Israelis would agree with the message. Instead, their message is seen as – look how evil we are, can’t you see we were born in such a sinful manner?

      Where are the Palestinian Zochrot? Where is the Palestinian Yesh Din or Betsellem or Peace Now?

      “Brother” by Orphaned Land (disclaimer: I’m a fan) – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qsPb1-uPIic – was a hit on Israel’s most listened radio station for weeks. Listen to the song, or at least read the lyrics – where is something even remotely similar on the other side?

      Reply to Comment
    3. Tzutzik

      Why was my post censored? The link that I put in is genuine.

      There is no need to cover up what the BBC said about Deir Yassin. The BBC is not Zionist …

      Reply to Comment
      • Tzutzik

        Now it has been posted as well as my second attempt to post it. Ohhh well … pity it was delayed. There would not have been a near duplicate post. Sorry about the duplicate though …

        Reply to Comment
    4. Bar

      “The Deir Yassin massacre was a pivotal moment of the Nakba and in the lead-up to the 1948 War. Some 100-200 Palestinians, including women and children, were killed by the extremist Zionist militias the Irgun (Etzel) and Stern Gang (Lehi). Some were shot in battle, others executed. Others were killed when grenades were thrown into their houses. In some cases, whole families were gunned down.

      Exact numbers of the dead were disputed from the start, as even the perpetrators of the massacre inflated the death toll in order to sow terror throughout other Palestinian communities so that they would flee their homes. Other villages did indeed flee in fear, but the massacre also cemented the motivation of neighboring Arab countries to fight rather than accept partition.”

      Lies, lies and more lies.

      Reply to Comment
    5. Arcisz

      Should not be forgotten.

      Remembered, for ever.

      Reply to Comment
    6. Peter

      Eliahu Arbel, Operations Officer B of the Haganah’s Etzioni Brigade, arrived at the scene on April 10. “I have seen a great deal of war,” he said years later, “but I never saw a sight like Deir Yassin.”

      Morris writes that the most detailed report comes from Meir Pa’il, a Palmach intelligence officer who said he visited the village on April 9 to observe the operation on behalf of the Haganah: “The dissidents [Irgun and Lehi] were going about the village robbing and stealing everything: Chickens, radio sets, sugar, money, gold and more … Each dissident walked about the village dirty with blood and proud of the number of persons he had killed. Their lack of education and intelligence as compared to our soldiers [i.e., the Haganah] was apparent… In one of the houses at the centre of the village were assembled some 200 women and small children. The women sat quietly and didn’t utter a word. When I arrived, the “commander” explained that they intended to kill all of them.” “[A] crowd of people from Givat Shaul, with peyot (earlocks), most of them religious, came into the village and started yelling “gazlanim” “rotzchim”—(thieves, murderers) “we had an agreement with this village. It was quiet. Why are you murdering them?” They were Chareidi (ultra-orthodox) Jews. This is one of the nicest things I can say about Hareidi [sic] Jews. These people from Givat Shaul gradually approached and entered the village, and the Lehi and Irgun people had no choice, they had to stop. It was about 2:00 or 3:00 PM. Then the Lehi and Irgun gathered about 250 people, most of them women, children and elderly people in a school house. Later the building became a “Beit Habad”—”Habad House”. They were debating what to do with them. There was a great deal of yelling. The dissidents were yelling “Let’s blow up the schoolhouse with everyone in it” and the Givat Shaul people were yelling “thieves and murderers—don’t do it” and so on. Finally they put the prisoners from the schoolhouse on four trucks and drove them to the Arab quarter of Jerusalem near the Damascus gate. I left after the fourth truck went out.”

      Benny Morris writes that the Irgun and Lehi troops loaded some survivors, including women and children, onto trucks, and drove them through the streets of West Jerusalem, where they were jeered, spat at, and stoned.

      The head of the Haganah Intelligence Service in Jerusalem, Yitzhak Levy, wrote in reports dated April 12 and 13: “The conquest of the village was carried out with great brutality, whole families [including] women, old people and children were killed and there are piles and piles of dead.” He wrote that a mother and child who had been moved from Deir Yassin to Sheikh Badr were killed there by Lehi fighters. Seven old men and women, who had been taken to Jerusalem, were taken back to Deir Yassin and killed in the quarry there, he wrote, and an Arab man, believed to be a sniper, was killed and his corpse burned in front of foreign journalists.

      Jacques de Reynier, head of the International Committee of the Red Cross delegation in Palestine, and his assistant Dr. Alfred Engel, visited Deir Yassin on April 11. In his personal memoirs, published in 1950, Reynier wrote: “a total of more than 200 dead, men, women, and children. About 150 cadavers have not been preserved inside the village in view of the danger represented by the bodies’ decomposition. They have been gathered, transported some distance, and placed in a large trough (I have not been able to establish if this is a pit, a grain silo, or a large natural excavation). … [One body was] a woman who must have been eight months pregnant, hit in the stomach, with powder burns on her dress indicating she’d been shot point-blank.” He wrote that he had encountered a “cleaning-up team” when he arrived the village.

      The gang [the Irgun detachment] was wearing country uniforms with helmets. All of them were young, some even adolescents, men and women, armed to the teeth: revolvers, machine-guns, hand grenades, and also cutlasses in their hands, most of them still blood-stained. A beautiful young girl, with criminal eyes, showed me hers still dripping with blood; she displayed it like a trophy. This was the “cleaning up” team, that was obviously performing its task very conscientiously.

      I tried to go into a house. A dozen soldiers surrounded me, their machine-guns aimed at my body, and their officer forbade me to move … I then flew into one of the most towering rages of my life, telling these criminals what I thought of their conduct, threatening them with everything I could think of, and then pushed them aside and went into the house

      …I found some bodies, cold. Here the “cleaning up” had been done with machine-guns, then hand grenades. It had been finished off with knives, anyone could see that … as I was about to leave, I heard something like a sigh. I looked everywhere, turned over all the bodies, and eventually found a little foot, still warm. It was a little girl of ten, mutilated by a hand grenade, but still alive …”

      To say this and the Nakba didnt happen is as bad as saying that there was no holocaust

      Reply to Comment
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