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

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.

Read more at Israel from the Inside

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

What Is the Biden Administration Thinking?

In the aftermath of the rescue of four Israeli hostages on Friday, John Podhoretz observes some “clarifying moments.” The third strikes me as the most important:

Clarifying Moment #3 came with the news that the Biden administration is still calling for negotiations leading to a ceasefire after, by my count, the seventh rejection of the same by Hamas since Bibi Netanyahu’s secret offer a couple of weeks ago. Secretary of State Blinken, a man who cannot say no, including when someone suggests it would be smart for him to play high-school guitar while Ukraine burns, will be back in the region for the eighth time to urge Hamas to accept the deal. Why is this clarifying? Because it now suggests, here and for all time, that the Biden team is stupid.

Supposedly the carrot the [White House] is dangling in the region is a tripartite security deal with Saudi Arabia and Israel. Which would, of course, be a good thing. But like the stupid people they are now proving to be, they seem not to understand the very thing that led the Saudis to view Israel as a potential ally more than a decade ago: the idea that Israel means business and does what it must to survive and built itself a tech sector the Saudis want to learn from. Allowing Hamas to survive, which is implicitly part of the big American deal, will not lead to normalization. The Saudis do not want an Iranian vassal state in Palestine. Their entire foreign-policy purpose is to counter Iran. I know that. You know that. Everybody in the world knows that. Even Tony Blinken’s guitar is gently weeping at his dangling a carrot to Israel and Saudi Arabia that neither wants, needs, nor will accept.

Read more at Commentary

More about: Antony Blinken, Gaza War 2023, Joseph Biden, Saudi Arabia, U.S.-Israel relationship