Israeli “Atrocities” and the 1948 War

Nov. 29 2017

Reviewing two recent Hebrew books on the fate of Arab civilians during Israel’s War of Independence, Arnon Groiss dissects some of the myths about what Palestinians call the nakba, or catastrophe. One book, by Eliezer Tauber, examines the April 1948 battle of Deir Yassin, widely remembered as the site of an atrocity committed by the Irgun and another right-wing Zionist militia known as Leḥi. While there is little doubt that Jewish fighters killed civilians, including women and children, Tauber contends that the accepted story about this battle is radically incorrect:

Deir Yassin was the first case of house-to-house fighting in the 1948 war, as the [Arab] defenders did not run away but fought from their houses until the end. The attackers broke into the houses by blowing up their doors, hurling hand grenades inside, and storming in while shooting. This resulted in many casualties, including noncombatants. Yet except for a single case in which an attacker shot dead noncombatants who had surrendered and stepped out of their house, all the rest were killed during house-to-house fighting.

[Tauber’s] conclusion is based on testimonies gathered from both surviving villagers and attackers. The (false) accusations of civilian massacres appeared after the battle had ended, when forces of the Jewish mainstream Haganah underground organization entered the village, saw the many corpses, including women and children, and concluded that they had been murdered by Irgun and Leḥi fighters. Due to the bitter enmity between the Haganah and the two groups, the atrocity charges became widespread and hugely inflated.

Another group interested in inflating these charges was the Palestinian Arab leadership, seeking as it did to stir up public opinion in the neighboring Arab states so as to pressure their governments to join the war against the Jews after the end of the British Mandate in mid-May.

By contrast, the other book, by Adel Mann, perpetuates myths. Groiss continues:

The name Deir Yassin and the term nakba (“catastrophe” in Arabic) are basic elements of the Palestinian narrative, which have in turn made their way into the Israeli narrative with an increasing degree of undisputed acceptance. In this context, the two books represent opposite positions. Tauber’s study seeks to debunk the well-entrenched myth of the Deir Yassin massacre, while Manna strives to entrench the nakba in the Hebrew narrative. Yet a reading of the two books side by side promotes deeper insights into the 1948 events.

The Deir Yassin episode was unique throughout the entire war, not because of the alleged massacre but because its pattern of house-to-house fighting did not recur on a similar scale. According to Arab claims, verified by most scholars, the mere mention of Deir Yassin brought about mass flight or hasty surrender of villagers elsewhere, which made house-to-house fighting largely unnecessary. Consequently, in no other place were women and children killed in similar numbers as in Deir Yassin. . . .

There was [also] a major difference between the two parties as far as expulsions were concerned. The Jews let tens of thousands of Arabs stay in their homes under Israeli rule. The Arabs, by contrast, did no such thing, destroying entire localities and expelling their populations to the last person.

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More about: Haganah, Irgun, Israel & Zionism, Israeli history, Israeli War of Independence, War crimes

No, Israel Hasn’t Used Disproportionate Force against Hamas

Aug. 15 2018

Last week, Hamas and other terrorist organizations in Gaza launched nearly 200 rockets and mortars into Israel, in addition to the ongoing makeshift incendiary devices and sporadic sniper fire. Israel responded with an intensive round of airstrikes, which stopped the rockets. Typically, condemnations of the Jewish state’s use of “disproportionate force” followed; and typically, as Peter Lerner, a former IDF spokesman, explains, these were wholly inaccurate:

The IDF conducted, by its own admission, approximately 180 precision strikes. In the aftermath of those strikes the Hamas Ministry of Health announced that three people had been killed. One of the dead was [identified] as a Hamas terrorist. The two others were reported as civilians: Inas Abu Khmash, a twenty-three-year-old pregnant woman, and her eighteen-month daughter, Bayan. While their deaths are tragic, they are not an indication of a disproportionate response to Hamas’s bombardment of Israel’s southern communities. With . . . 28 Israelis who required medical assistance [and] 30 Iron Dome interceptions, I would argue the heart-rending Palestinian deaths indicate the exact opposite.

The precision strikes on Hamas’s assets with so few deaths show how deep and thorough is the planning process the IDF has put in place. . . . Proportionality in warfare, [however], is not a numbers game, as so many of the journalists I’ve worked with maintain. . . . Proportionality weighs the necessity of a military action against the anguish that the action might cause to civilians in the vicinity. . . . In the case of the last few days, it appears that even intended combatant deaths were [deemed] undesirable, due to their potential to increase the chances of war. . . .

The question that should be repeated is why indiscriminate rocket fire against Israeli civilians from behind Gazan civilians is accepted, underreported, and not condemned.

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More about: Gaza Strip, Hamas, IDF, Israel & Zionism, Israeli-Palestinian Conflict