How the Deir Yassin Libel Helped to Create the Palestinian Refugee Problem

Jan. 11 2022

In March 1948, units of the Leḥi and Irgun—Zionist militias in competition with the Haganah—seized the Arab village of Deir Yassin in an effort to relieve the siege of Jerusalem. Tales of the conquerors’ brutal behavior spread rapidly, encouraging other Arabs to flee their homes. While some of the more lurid tales were soon disproved, conventional wisdom—embraced by serious historians—states that, after fierce and chaotic fighting, poorly trained and panicked Jewish soldiers opened fire at private residences, leaving about 100 dead, including many civilians. But a recent book, now available in English, tells a very different tale. Daniel Gordis writes:

Eliezer Tauber, a former dean at Bar-Ilan University and an expert on the formation of Arab nationalism, has taken on the Deir Yassin story with painstaking attention to detail unmatched by any other study. Tauber’s conclusion is [that there] was no massacre, . . . but a hard-fought battle in which Palestinian combatants stationed themselves in residences and among families. Using both Arab and Jewish testimony from combatants on both sides and survivors of the “massacre” (testimony which often offered almost identical accounts), he was able to account for the circumstances of almost every Palestinian death in the village. With a handful of exceptions which he does not seek to paper over, virtually all those killed were killed as part of fighting—either because they were combatants, or because they were situated near combatants.

For the most part, he says, “people in Deir Yassin were killed, not massacred.” That distinction, of course, is critically important, particularly given the high-profile role Deir Yassin continues to play in oft-made claims about Israel’s having been “born in sin.”

As Gordis explains, this is not a mere case of random historical error, but of something more sinister. Immediately after the battle, rumors spread, first among Arabs and then among Jews, that the Irgun and Leḥi fighters had sexually assaulted villager en masse. These reports have long since been discredited, but shine light on a different truth:

If the accusations of rape were false, and those who were present knew that they were concocted, how did the false claims come to be so widely believed? The Palestine Broadcast Service, Tauber shows, was instructed to say that there had been rapes, mutilation of bodies, murders, and more. The [radio station] complied, and given the source, many people believed the claims without question. . . . That was what led the Arab population to flee.

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Read more at Israel from the Inside

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

How European Fecklessness Encourages the Islamic Republic’s Assassination Campaign

In September, Cypriot police narrowly foiled a plot by an Iranian agent to murder five Jewish businessman. This was but one of roughly a dozen similar operations that Tehran has conducted in Europe since 2015—on both Israeli or Jewish and American targets—which have left three dead. Matthew Karnitschnig traces the use of assassination as a strategic tool to the very beginning of the Islamic Republic, and explains its appeal:

In the West, assassination remains a last resort (think Osama bin Laden); in authoritarian states, it’s the first (who can forget the 2017 assassination by nerve agent of Kim Jong-nam, the playboy half-brother of North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un, upon his arrival in Kuala Lumpur?). For rogue states, even if the murder plots are thwarted, the regimes still win by instilling fear in their enemies’ hearts and minds. That helps explain the recent frequency. Over the course of a few months last year, Iran undertook a flurry of attacks from Latin America to Africa.

Whether such operations succeed or not, the countries behind them can be sure of one thing: they won’t be made to pay for trying. Over the years, the Russian and Iranian regimes have eliminated countless dissidents, traitors, and assorted other enemies (real and perceived) on the streets of Paris, Berlin, and even Washington, often in broad daylight. Others have been quietly abducted and sent home, where they faced sham trials and were then hanged for treason.

While there’s no shortage of criticism in the West in the wake of these crimes, there are rarely real consequences. That’s especially true in Europe, where leaders have looked the other way in the face of a variety of abuses in the hopes of reviving a deal to rein in Tehran’s nuclear-weapons program and renewing business ties.

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Read more at Politico

More about: Europe, Iran, Israeli Security, Terrorism