New Israeli Scholarship Shows That an Alleged 1948 Massacre Never Happened

Reviewing three Hebrew-language works about Israel’s War of Independence, Yoav Gelber begins with Eliezer Tauber’s study of the battle of Deir Yassin, long assumed to have culminated in a massacre of Arabs by the Jewish Irgun and Leḥi militias. Tauber demonstrates that (like the “massacre” in Lydda) it was nothing of the sort. Both sides, however, greatly exaggerated the number of Arab casualties for propaganda purposes, with consequences that also bear examining:

[Before the battle of Deir Yassin], the bulk of the Arab population had looked on the fighting from the sidelines. The local Arab leadership in Jerusalem strove to excite the Palestinians, and bolster their motivation to fight. This was the main purpose of the propaganda campaign that Hussein Khalidi, the only member of the Higher Arab Executive who remained in the country, and his associates launched in the days following the battle. They achieved the opposite outcome: instead of inspiring the Arabs’ stamina and will to fight, the inflated numbers of casualties and faked atrocity rumors shocked and intimidated the non-combatant population and considerably encouraged the mass flight.

Nonetheless, I think that Tauber overstates the part of Deir Yassin in causing the Arab mass flight. Before Deir Yassin, about 100,000 Arabs left their homes, huts, or tents and went to the neighboring countries or to purely Arab regions within Mandatory Palestine. The Palestinians have tried to minimize the scope of this early wave of refugees and claim that only members of the elite fled, but the refugee population was much larger and more varied.

Gelber concludes his review by offering some general conclusions about the 1948 war:

The Palestinians’ refusal and inability to build institutional and administrative infrastructure that would take over the Arab areas from the receding mandatory authorities caused anarchy and created a vacuum that was only partly filled by the Arab armies later, after the invasion. The few vain attempts to create quasi-governmental institutions were an exception testifying to the rule and took place mainly in Jerusalem. [As a result], invading Arab armies increasingly had to devote attention and logistical resources to fill the vacuum at the expense of their military mission.

Read more at Tel Aviv Review of Books

More about: Deir Yassin, Israeli history, Israeli War of Independence, Palestinian refugees

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