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Deir Yassin Revisited

An open letter to Mr. Kasrils

Deir Yassin - The true story
An open letter to Mr. Kasrils
A reply from Minister Kasrils and a response

Click here for Minister Kasrils' response

(Note. Mr. Kasril's article is copied below)

May 22, 2008

An open letter to South African Minister of Intelligence Services,
Ronald Kasrils

From Maurice Ostroff

May 20, 2008

Dear Minister Kasrils,

I refer to your April 8 article "Sixty years after Deir Yassin", published on the Pro-Palestinian web site Electronic Intifada and republished on dozens of other web sites. It is obvious that anyone who forms an impression of Israel from your articulate description must develop as deep an antagonism as you evince.

Your strong anti-Israel attitude, originating as you explained, from the well publicized horror stories about a massacre of Palestinian villagers at Deir Yassin in 1948, would be perfectly justified if the information on which your opinions are formed, were based on fact.

The influence of your publicly expressed views are reinforced by your status as South Africa's Minister of Intelligence Services and I assume that in view of the great responsibility resting on your shoulders, you take great care to assess the authenticity of every scrap of information that comes your way. I believe I am justified in assuming that as a man of integrity, you would reconsider your opinions if and when relevant additional information became available.

May I therefore hope that you will welcome evidence about Deir Yassin, even though it may conflict with earlier information on which you have relied? The incontrovertible fact is, that the story of a massacre at Deir Yassin, which is at the root of your animosity to Israel, was a complete fabrication by none other than the editor of Palestine Broadcasting Service's in 1948, Hazem Nusseibeh, on the direct instructions of the secretary of the Arab High Committee, Hussein Khalidi.

Why incontrovertible? Because during a 1997 BBC TV interview, no less than Nusseibeh himself, admitted that he was instructed by Khalidi to falsify claims of atrocities at Deir Yassin so as to encourage Arab regimes to attack Israel.

You can view a video clip of this interview at http://deir-yassin.tripod.com/

Remember this occurred in April 1948, before the state of Israel was declared. 50 years later, Nusseibeh, told the BBC that the fabricated atrocity stories about Deir Yassin were "our biggest mistake," because "Palestinians fled in terror and left the country in huge numbers after hearing the atrocity claims." This statement adds a new facet to research about the reasons so many Arabs fled in 1948.

According to Nusseibeh, Khalidi said to him: "We must make the most of this" and the story was created in collusion with survivors of Deir Yassin and Khalidi. The press release stated that the children of Deir Yassin were murdered and pregnant women were raped, though neither ever happened.

In the same program series, a former resident of Deir Yassin confirmed there were no rapes but Khalidi convinced them that they had to say there were. "We said, there was no rape." But Khalidi said, "We have to say this, so the Arab armies will come to liberate Palestine from the Jews".

The many articles about an alleged massacre at Deir Yassin that were soon circulated around the world were all based on this fiction.

You have been led to believe that that Deir Yassin was a quiet village just outside Jerusalem, whereas in fact it was a heavily armed Arab village harboring some foreign militants who together with the villagers were attacking nearby Jewish neighborhoods and traffic on the Jerusalem-Tel Aviv highway.

If Dir Yassin was in fact a quiet village, it would have enjoyed the same fortune as other quiet villages such as the nearby village of Abu Ghosh, which remained neutral in 1948. In an article in the Jerusalem Post in 1997, Sam Orbaum quoted Mohammed Abu Ghosh as saying, "What we did, we did for Abu Ghosh, for nobody else. Others who lost their land, hated us then, but now all over the Arab world, many people see we were right. If everyone did what we did, there'd be no refugee problem . . . And if we were traitors? Look where we are, look where they are."

Deir Yassin was probably one of the earliest examples of the effectiveness of the well- funded Arab propaganda machine and the ineptness of Israel's PR response. It was certainly an example of Israel's mea culpa (my mistake, signifying I am guilty) syndrome, which continues to this day. So convincing was Khalidi's fabricated story, that even the Zionist Leaders initially accepted it.

In your writings you frequently refer to the statement by then agriculture, minister Aharon Cizling, who said in a cabinet meeting "Jews too have behaved like Nazis and my entire being is shaken". Cizling's outburst should be seen as a manifestation of Israeli sensitivity to reports, albeit false, of Jewish atrocities. He was so deeply moved by the fabricated reports of behavior that is not tolerated in the IDF doctrine, that he used the exaggerated and offensive Nazi comparison.

Israel continues to repeat the mea culpa error, hastily admitting guilt before examining the facts, as for example in the notorious Al Dura affair in which the young boy and his father were caught in crossfire between Palestinians and Israelis. Israel immediately admitted that it was possible that Al Dura had been hit by an Israeli bullet, although no bullet was ever retrieved as no post mortem was held.

Now years later, the French courts ruled yesterday in favor of Philippe Karsenty who accused France2 and Charles Enderlin of staging the entire episode, but in the meantime Al Dura has become an international icon of Israel's supposed cruelty.

Your negative views about Israel are even more understandable when you quote Ilan Pappe as a source of your information. It is therefore relevant to point out that when Pappe was a professor at Haifa University, he vigorously defended Teddy Katz, a student whose Master's thesis was proved in a court of law to contain fabricated evidence of a fictitious massacre of unarmed civilians at a village called Tantura.

I would appreciate a considered response, which will be distributed in the same manner as this open letter.

Sincerely,
Maurice Ostroff
___________________________________________________________

Sixty years after Deir Yassin
Ronnie Kasrils, The Electronic Intifada, 8 April 2008

As a 10-year-old growing up in Johannesburg, I celebrated Israel's birth, 60 years ago. I unquestionably accepted the dramatic accounts of so-called self-defensive actions against Arab violence, to secure the Jewish state. The type of indoctrination South African cartoonist Zapiro so bitingly exposes in his work, raising the hackles of scribes such as David Saks of the South African Jewish Board of Deputies. When I became involved in our liberation struggle, I became aware of the similarities with the Palestinian cause in the dispossession of land and birthright by expansionist settler occupation. I came to see that the racial and colonial character of the two conflicts provided greater comparisons than with any other struggle. When Nelson Mandela stated that we know as South Africans "that our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians," [1] he was not simply talking to our Muslim community, who can be expected to directly empathize, but to all South Africans precisely because of our experience of racial and colonial subjugation, and because we well understand the value of international solidarity.

When I came to learn of the fate that befell the Palestinians, I was shaken to the core and most particularly when I read eye-witness accounts of a massacre of Palestinian villagers that occurred a month before Israel's unilateral declaration of independence. This was at Deir Yassin, a quiet village just outside Jerusalem, which had the misfortune to lie by the road from Tel Aviv. On 9 April 1948, 254 men, women and children were butchered there by Zionist forces to secure the road. Because this was one of the few such episodes that received media attention in the West, the Zionist leadership did not deny it, but sought to label it an aberration by extremists. In fact, however, the atrocity was part of a broader plan designed by the Zionist High Command, led by Ben Gurion himself, which was aimed at the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians from the British mandate territory and the seizure of as much land as possible for the intended Jewish state.

There are many accounts that corroborate the orgy of death at Deir Yassin, which went far beyond the Sharpville massacre of 1960 that motivated me to join the African National Congress. [2] My reaction was: if Sharpville had appalled me, could I be indifferent to the suffering at Deir Yassin?

Fahimi Zidan, a Palestinian child who survived by hiding under his parents' bodies, recalled: "The Jews ordered [us] ... to line up against the wall ... started shooting ... all ... were killed: my father ... mother ... grandfather and grandmother ... uncles and aunts and some of their children ... Halim Eid saw a man shoot a bullet into the neck of my sister ... who was ... pregnant. Then he cut her stomach open with a butcher's knife ... In another house, Naaneh Khalil ... saw a man take a ... sword and slash my neighbor ..." [3]

One of the attacking force, a shocked Jewish soldier named Meir Pa'el, reported to the head of his Haganah command:

"It was noon when the battle ended...Things had become quiet, but the village had not surrendered. The Etzel [Irgun] and Lehi [Stern] irregulars ... started ... cleaning up operations ... They fired with all the arms they had, and threw explosives into the houses. They also shot everyone they saw ... the commanders made no attempt to check the ... slaughter. I ... and a number of inhabitants begged the commanders to give orders ... to stop shooting, but our efforts were unsuccessful ... some 25 men had been brought out of the houses: they were loaded into a ... truck and led in a 'victory parade' ... through ... Jerusalem [then] ... taken to a ... quarry ... and shot ... The fighters ... put the women and children who were still alive on a truck and took them to the Mandelbaum Gate." [4]

A British officer, Richard Catling, reported:

"There is ... no doubt that many sexual atrocities were committed by the attacking Jews. Many young school girls were raped and later slaughtered ... Many infants were also butchered and killed. I also saw one old woman ... who had been severely beaten about the head with rifle butts ..." [5]

Jacques de Reynier of the International Committee of the Red Cross met the "cleaning up" team on his arrival at the village:

"The gang ... were young ... men and women, armed to the teeth ... and [had] also cutlasses in their hands, most of them still blood-stained. A beautiful young girl, with criminal eyes, showed me hers still dripping with blood; she displayed it like a trophy. This was the 'cleaning up' team, that was obviously performing its task very conscientiously."

He described the scene he encountered on entering the homes:

"... amid disemboweled furniture ... I found some bodies ... the 'cleaning up' had been done with machine-guns ... hand grenades ... finished off with knives ... I ... turned over ... the bodies, and ... found ... a little girl ... mutilated by a hand grenade ... everywhere it was the same horrible sight ... this gang was admirably disciplined and only acted under orders." [6]

The atrocity at Deir Yassin is reflective of what happened elsewhere. Israeli historian Ilan Pappe has meticulously recorded 31 massacres, from December 1947 to January 1949. They attest to a systematic reign of terror, conducted to induce the flight of Palestinians from the land of their birth. As a result, nearly all Palestinian towns were rapidly depopulated and 418 villages were systematically destroyed.

As Israel's first minister of agriculture, Aharon Cizling, stated in a 17 November 1948 Cabinet meeting: "I often disagree when the term Nazi was applied to the British ... even though the British committed Nazi crimes. But now Jews too have behaved like Nazis and my entire being is shaken." [7] Despite these sentiments, Cizling agreed that the crimes should be hidden, creating a lasting precedent. That such barbarism was conducted by Jewish people a mere three years after the Holocaust must have been too ghastly to contemplate, as it would constitute a major embarrassment for the state of Israel, held-up as a "light unto nations;" hence the attempts to bury the truth behind a veil of secrecy and disinformation. What better way to silence enquiry than the all-encompassing alibi of Israel's right of self-defense, condoning the use of disproportionate force and collective punishment against any act of resistance.

Precisely because Israel was allowed to get away with such crimes, it continued on its bloody path. According to Ilan Pappe, "Fifteen minutes by car from Tel-Aviv University lies the village of Kfar Qassim where, on 29 October 1956, Israeli troops massacred 49 villagers returning from their fields. Then there was Qibya in the 1950s, Samoa in the 1960s, the villages of the Galilee in 1976, Sabra and Shatila in 1982, Kfar Qana in 1999, Wadi Ara in 2000 and the Jenin Refugee Camp in 2002. And in addition there are the numerous killings B'Tselem, Israel's leading human rights organization, keeps track of. There has never been an end of Israel's killings of Palestinians." [8] The slaughter of 1,500 Lebanese civilians in Israel's indiscriminate bombardment of that country in 2006; the daily deaths in the Palestinian territories, the 120 in Gaza in a week -- including 63 on a single day -- in March 2008, one third of whom were children, form part of the same bloody thread that links Israel's shameful past with that of today.

Israel will soon mark the 60th anniversary of its establishment. In so doing, Israelis and the Zionist supporters would do well to acknowledge the reasons why, for Palestinians and freedom-loving people throughout the world, there will be no cause to celebrate. Indeed, it will be a period of mourning and protest action; a time to recall the countless victims that lie in Israel's wake, as epitomized by the suffering inflicted on the inhabitants of Deir Yassin, the original site of which is ironically located just a stone's throw away from where the present day Holocaust memorial, Yad Vashem, was built.

Unless Israel confronts the past, as so many have attempted to do in South Africa, it will continue to be viewed with revulsion and suspicion. Israelis will continue to regard Arab life as worthless and will continue to live by the sword and deceit, feigning surprise when Palestinians violently respond. Without dealing with the agony it has caused there can be no healing and no solution. To do so is to create the basis for all life to be cherished and for Palestinians and Israelis to live in peace, with justice. By being aware of the roots of the conflict, and pledging our solidarity, we South Africans can do our bit to help bring about a just solution and the freedom that Nelson Mandela referred to. I believe that South Africans like Zapiro are doing just that.

Ronnie Kasrils is South African Minister of Intelligence.


Endnotes
[1] Nelson Mandela, International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, Pretoria, 4 December 1997.
[2] See Simha Flapan, The Birth of Israel, Pantheon, 1988); David Hirst, The Gun and the Olive Branch, Faber and Faber, 2003; Benny Morris, Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem Revisited, Cambridge University Press, 2004); Ilan Pappe, The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine, Oneworld Publications, 2006.
[3] David Hirst, The Gun and the Olive Branch, Faber and Farber, 2003, p. 249-50.
[4] Yediot Aharonot, April 1972. This letter only came to light with Pa'el's consent in 1972. David Hirst ibid p. 251.
[5] David Hirst, ibid and Report of the Criminal Investigation Division, Palestine Government, No. 179/110/17/GS, 13, 15, 16 April 1948. Cited in David Hirst, p. 250.
[6] David Hirst ibid and Jacques de Reynier, A Jèrusalem un Drapeau flottait sur la Ligne de Feu, Editions de la Baconnière, Neuchâtel, 150, p. 71-6 and Hirst ibid p. 252.
[7] Tom Segev, The First Israelis, Owl Books, 1998, p. 26.
[8] Ilan Pappe, The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine, Oneworld Publications, 2006, p. 258.

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