New Israeli Scholarship Shows That an Alleged 1948 Massacre Never Happened

Dec. 31 2019

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


Israel Is Courting Saudi Arabia by Confronting Iran

Most likely, it was the Israeli Air Force that attacked eastern Syria Monday night, apparently destroying a convoy carrying Iranian weapons. Yoav Limor comments:

Israel reportedly carried out 32 attacks in Syria in 2022, and since early 2023 it has already struck 25 times in the country—at the very least. . . . The Iranian-Israeli clash stands out in the wake of the dramatic events in the region, chiefly among them is the effort to strike a normalization deal between Israel and Saudi Arabia, and later on with various other Muslim-Sunni states. Iran is trying to torpedo this process and has even publicly warned Saudi Arabia not to “gamble on a losing horse” because Israel’s demise is near. Riyadh is unlikely to heed that demand, for its own reasons.

Despite the thaw in relations between the kingdom and the Islamic Republic—including the exchange of ambassadors—the Saudis remain very suspicious of the Iranians. A strategic manifestation of that is that Riyadh is trying to forge a defense pact with the U.S.; a tactical manifestation took place this week when Saudi soccer players refused to play a match in Iran because of a bust of the former Revolutionary Guard commander Qassem Suleimani, [a master terrorist whose militias have wreaked havoc throughout the Middle East, including within Saudi borders].

Of course, Israel is trying to bring Saudi Arabia into its orbit and to create a strong common front against Iran. The attack in Syria is ostensibly unrelated to the normalization process and is meant to prevent the terrorists on Israel’s northern border from laying their hands on sophisticated arms, but it nevertheless serves as a clear reminder for Riyadh that it must not scale back its fight against the constant danger posed by Iran.

Read more at Israel Hayom

More about: Iran, Israeli Security, Saudi Arabia, Syria