The Deir Yassin Massacre Never Happened

On April 9, 1948, when the first Arab-Israeli war was just beginning, the Irgun and Leḥi—two right-wing Jewish military groups fighting in coordination with the Haganah—attacked the Arab village of Deir Yassin, then held by Arab League forces. Shortly after the battle, rumors circulated among Arabs that Jewish fighters had slaughtered civilians, raped women, and committed other acts of sexual violence. Westerners and mainstream Zionist leaders soon accepted the story of the Deir Yassin massacre, which remains in history books to this day. But Eliezer Tauber, who has made an exhaustive study of the evidence, argues that it never happened:

Contrary to what one could expect, I found that the testimonies of the Jewish attackers on the one hand, and the Arab survivors on the other hand, were surprisingly similar, at times almost identical. My methodology, therefore, was to integrate the testimonies of both parties involved, Jews and Arabs, into one story. I relied on a vast number of testimonies and records from 21 archives (including Israeli, Palestinian, British, American, UN, and Red Cross), many of them yet unreleased to the public, and hundreds of other sources. My [main] findings were two: no massacre took place in Deir Yassin, but . . . the false rumors spread by the Palestinian leadership about a massacre, rapes, and other atrocities, drove the Palestinian population to leave their homes and run away, becoming a major [factor in] the creation of the Palestinian refugee problem. . . .

A fierce ten-hour battle, in the presence of a civilian population, ended in the victory of the Irgun and Leḥi. No massacre took place. When the battle ended, the killing stopped. “I believe that most of those who were killed were among the fighters and the women and children who helped the fighters,” one of the Arab survivors was later to testify. . . . The attackers took . . . 200 villagers prisoner and safely released them in Arab Jerusalem. Only 101 Arabs were killed, [as opposed to the established figure of 254], a quarter of them active combatants and most of the rest in combat conditions. The Jewish assailants also suffered casualties. . . .

[To undermine Palestinian morale], the Irgun reported 200 Arabs killed, twice the actual number, enthusiastically adopted by the Palestinian leadership in Jerusalem, which increased it to 254 and added rapes and other . . . atrocities. . . .

Israelis and Palestinians believe in two myths about the creation of the Palestinian refugee problem. The Israelis claim that the Palestinians followed their leaders’ exhortations to evacuate their homes temporarily and then return with the victorious Arab armies, but that is not what spurred Palestinians to leave. The Palestinians claim that the Israelis expelled them in 1948, but this was not what drove the departure. The true story of the 1948 Palestinian exodus was a flight mainly motivated by panic over a massacre that never happened.

Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Deir Yassin, History & Ideas, Irgun, Israel & Zionism, Israeli history, Israeli War of Independence

The IDF’s First Investigation of Its Conduct on October 7 Is Out

For several months, the Israel Defense Forces has been investigating its own actions on and preparedness for October 7, with an eye to understanding its failures. The first of what are expected to be many reports stemming from this investigation was released yesterday, and it showed a series of colossal strategic and tactical errors surrounding the battle at Kibbutz Be’eri, writes Emanuel Fabian. The probe, he reports, was led by Maj. Gen. (res.) Mickey Edelstein.

Edelstein and his team—none of whom had any involvement in the events themselves, according to the IDF—spent hundreds of hours investigating the onslaught and battle at Be’eri, reviewing every possible source of information, from residents’ WhatsApp messages to both Israeli and Hamas radio communications, as well as surveillance videos, aerial footage, interviews of survivors and those who fought, plus visits to the scene.

There will be a series of further reports issued this summer.

IDF chief Halevi in a statement issued alongside the probe said that while this was just the first investigation into the onslaught, which does not reflect the entire picture of October 7, it “clearly illustrates the magnitude of the failure and the dimensions of the disaster that befell the residents of the south who protected their families with their bodies for many hours, and the IDF was not there to protect them.” . . .

The IDF hopes to present all battle investigations by the end of August.

The IDF’s probes are strictly limited to its own conduct. For a broader look at what went wrong, Israel will have to wait for a formal state commission of inquiry to be appointed—which happens to be the subject of this month’s featured essay in Mosaic.

Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Gaza War 2023, IDF, Israel & Zionism, October 7