Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Deir Yassin Day Today

We read this:

Over 80 New Yorkers from diverse communities gathered last Saturday, April 5th in the Salam Lutheran Church in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the Deir Yassin massacre, which occurred on April 9, 1948...The commemoration began with poetry about Deir Yassin and a slide show on the massacre...the Zionist militias Irgun, the Stern Gang and the Haganah (which were later to form the Israeli army) attacked the village of Deir Yassin, near Jerusalem. In the battle and massacre that followed, between 107 and 120 Palestinians, including women and children, were killed.

Muhammad Jaradat and Eitan Bronstein, on a US tour organized by the American Friends Service Committee, spoke about Deir Yassin and of their work surrounding the Nakbah and Palestinian refugee rights...Eitan Bronstein, an Israeli educator, activist and Director of Zochrot (Hebrew for “remembering”), gave a presentation about his organization’s work to raise awareness among Israeli Jews on the Nakbah. Bronstein noted that “there is almost total ignorance in Israel about the Nakbah. . . . And Deir Yassin is a good example of that. Until today, there is no monument for the Deir Yassin massacre; there are no signs there; someone who passed by on the street in the neighborhood would not know that this is Deir Yassin.” Bronstein showed photos of events Zochrot has organized at Deir Yassin to commemorate the massacre.

Explaining the motivation for Zochrot’s work, Bronstein said, “It’s about time to change this [ignorance] and to know about the Nakbah. This knowledge is the first and essential step to acknowledge what happened to the Palestinians. This acknowledgement is not just a statement of how we are responsible; it is much more than that.” Bronstein expressed his desire that Israeli Jews would rewrite their textbooks, erect monuments to the Nakbah, and acknowledge the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their villages.

And this:-

Deir Yassin Remembered and the Israeli organization Zochrot will commemorate the massacre in a procession with signs and in a ceremony where we shall read the names of those who were massacred.

The event will take place on Thursday, April 10th, 4:00 – 6:00PM.

The procession will leave from the gathering point at 22 Kanfei Nesharim Street (corner Azulay, in the Givat Shaul neighborhood of Jerusalem). From there we shall walk towards the hospital, known as Kfar Shaul. At the end of Kanfei Nesharim we shall turn left to Katsenelenbogen Street and from there we shall walk through Hafla’a Street behind the hospital. At the end of the street we will hold the ceremony.

A bus will leave Tel-Aviv from Arlozorov train station from the former El-Al terminal at 3 PM.

For the truth, try this.


Peter Drubetskoy said...

Interesting that you should assert that Milstein account (OCR reproduced by Gil-White without even verifying the output, by the way: witness the typos) is “the truth” on the matter, while he's probably the only source of controversy surrounding the issue. Definitely we’re having two competing narratives here, one trying to prove that there was a terrible atrocity in Deir Yassin, while the other claiming that, in Milstein’s words ”most of the Arabs killed at Deir-Yassin were slain during the battle” (note this “most”, indicating that even Milstein is not convinced all the Arabs died in the battle) Interestingly, it turns out that the first narrative was not only propagated by the Arabs, but also of the Jews either opposing Etzel and Lehi (such as Meir Pail) or trying to scare the Arabs (” I exaggerated on purpose to frighten the Arabs” in Yisrael Netah’s account). Both narratives should be eyed with suspicion and I don’t see why we should blindly trust elderly Etzel or Lehi fighters talking to Milstein about what happened: clearly, if atrocities did take place they would be the first to try to deny that, wouldn’t they? Sometimes attempts to “beautify” what happened look pretty awkward, such as in this account by Raanan:

“There were nine people, a woman and a child among them. They guy with the Bren gun suddenly squeezed the trigger. A burst hit the Arabs. “That’s for Yiftah!” he yelled. “What have you done?” we shouted at him. “One of them had a rifle and was trying to shoot,” he replied. Other men confirmed later that one of the Arabs had stood up.”

So, first he shoots to avenge Yiftah, a moment later he, apparently realizing he just killed innocent people, invents a story of an Arab trying to shoot (first, I find it implausible that he would shout “That’s for Yiftah” if the reason for him shooting was in self-defense; and, second, why shoot at all of them and not just the one with the rifle?) Interesting phrase ”other men confirmed later that one of the Arabs had stood up” : is it there to confirm the “guy with the Bren” account of the Arab with the rifle – in which case it is rather weird, as no rifle is mentioned and what do words “stood up” mean here: were the Arabs lying on the ground? – or did these “other men” see one of the shot Arabs trying to stand up, still being alive? Just from this short evidence the most probable account is that of a fighter loosing his nerve and gunning down 9 innocent people, including a woman and a child.

I understand the obsession with Deir Yassin, as it is indeed a notorious case and, as you yourself said somewhere, it is not so much important what really happened but what people believe happened; true of the Palestinians, true of Israelis, true of anybody. Even if we justify every single killing in Deir Yassin, there happened enough atrocities during the War of Independence – such as Ein Zaytun, mentioned by Milstein - that are never taught in Israeli schools. If there is ever hope of achieving peace between the two nations, both must own to the crimes committed by them and try to understand the way the conflict is perceived by the other side.

And, of course, forego the revenge instinct. Read, if you can, a nice piece by Jared Diamond in the last New Yorker called “Vengence Is Ours”. Very sobering…

YMedad said...

Peter, the question is not whether several Arabs, maybe as high as 10-15 were purposely shot dead with their hands in the air. The Palmach accomplished that in Ein Zeitun much more efficiently and more numerous than the Irgun. The question is was their a massacre, premedidated and intentional, to kill as many Arabs "innocent" or otherwise as possible. That's the Arab version of Deir Yassin and not mine not that of the historical truth.

Peter Drubetskoy said...

Intentions-shmententions, Yisrael, I am tired of this excuse: "we kill but we don't mean to". As I said before, it does not matter to the victims and very rarely to the sympathizers of the victims, Arab or Jewish or Polynesian. If, as you seem to admit, there were massacres of Arabs in the War of Independence (and we know of later ones as well) why aren't Israeli students taught so at schools? Don't you think owning to the problem is much more moral, noble and conductive to the process of eventual reconciliation between the two peoples?
I have no way of determining the intentions of the fighters who killed people in these circumstances. I know that it is easy to manipulate people - even the most intelligent people - into blind hate and dehumanization of the enemy which will justify almost any atrocity imaginable.
You say The question is was their a massacre, premedidated and intentional, to kill as many Arabs "innocent" or otherwise as possible. Well, here is a quote from your "favorite" Gideon Levy's article that repeats your words almost literally:

It was sufficient to hear last week the commander of an IDF company, which lost three of its men, who called on his troops to kill as many terrorists as possible and to destroy the area from which the attacks came, to understand that the differences between the two opposing sides are increasingly becoming distorted.

So, the company commander tells them to kill the terrorists (note he calls them "terrorists", while the incident in which the three soldiers were killed should not, by any reasonable standard, qualify as "terror" - an intentional killing of civilians) and to destroy the area. Innocent enough, no? Well, I served in the military and I can imagine that the soldiers who lost their friends were all too ready with blood in their eyes, just like I can imagine the blood in the eyes of Irgun fighters when their commander was killed in Deir Yassin. If there isn't a leader who, instead of abetting his men to slash and burn, restrains them, any such operation is liable to turn into a killing spree. I am not naïve and I also know how hard it is to resist such feelings and try to restraint others. I wish I could vouch for the IDF that it will always adhere to Purity of Arms in such circumstances, and I was fortunate enough to serve in places and times that I indeed could almost surely. But from reading the news lately I realize that things must have changed, that the beast is out and we're whacking the Pals to the left and to the right with almost no restraint.

Lastly, I can imagine that Haganah could actually be much more murderous with Arabs than Irgun or Lehi. I still need to educate myself more on the history of those years, but these were Ben Gurion and Moshe Dayan, for ones, whose anti-Arab statements are recorded going back several decades to the War of Independence, who actually tried to formulate a coherent policy of expulsions and dispossessions and later boasted about "no place in Eretz Yisrael where there wasn't an Arab village before it was replaced with a Jewish settlement".

YMedad said...

Not only intention. You can't compare the Gaza incident last week with Deir Yassin. Deir Yassin, indeed, was technically a civilian target but had allowed itself to be turned into a fortress and yet still, there were limitations and the Irgun/Lechi recognized them and tried their best.

Killing Hamasniks is done in the field, in their cars, etc. Very rarely (yes, there was the Shehadeh incident but that's what was the exception to the rule) are civilians are actually worked into the operation as a dispensable factor.

YMedad said...
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Peter Drubetskoy said...

Oh, Yisrael, how I wish this could be true!
Shehaden was an exception? No, we factor in the civilian deaths all the time! Do you remember a paraplegic sheik killed on the steps of a mosque in Gaza? With 9(!) other people standing by (besides the bodyguards)? (Did we have to kill him like that? What kind of honor is there in such an operation? It demands no courage, it looks terrible, it makes me feel ashamed for the IDF and Israel to resort to such worse than mafia-style assassinations. And how slippery is the slope from claiming that we're justified in targeting ticking bombs to killing a crippled man, however detestable.)
What about all the artillery shelling, which we know in advance will do next to nothing to deter or harm the militants while killing civilians all the time? Did I not mention the fact that Israel stopped (for a while) using artillery only after Beit Hanun - a veritable chronicle of a murder known in advance! Nothing was done to avoid those deaths, on the contrary, what could have been done was dismissed (keeping the artillery safety radii).
Did you forget that just a couple of weeks ago IDF killed some 150 Gazans, whom the rights groups claimed to be mostly civilians? (IDF did not deny there were civilians, but it never supplied its own estimate or even bothered to disprove the rights groups' claims in any particular case. Of course, why bother? "B'Tselem" are all either Arabs or self-hating Jews anyway!) God, one(!) IDF shell kills more people than all the Qassams in their history and we will still shout to the top how it is only us who are being slaughtered.
Did you forget that IDF covered entire villages with MLRS in Lebanon (while I served there, no one dared to shoot those even at empty hills!), that to this day Lebanese farmers and UNIFIL mine-removers are being killed and maimed by these unexploded bombs? Can you imagine the gevolt we would have raised had these bombs been Hizballa's and left in Israeli territory and we had a single person wounded by them? Why did Halutz admit to using them only after there was no longer any possibility of denying the fact, when Israeli soldiers themselves admitted it with shame in their eyes? Why, even after he admitted their use and claimed that this was done contrary to his orders, no one was ever as much as reprimanded?
Have you ever looked at these statistics? Have you ever wondered how come such a huge number of these 12 to 15 year old Palestinian children are killed by wounds to their abdomens or heads?
Why does an Israeli soldier need to shoot to kill a boy, even if the latter is with a stone or a Molotov cocktail in his hand (frankly, I cannot even remember a single case of a Molotov bottle as much as wounding anyone, but regardless...)?
I could go on (I don't really have a lot of time; I'm just slacking at work and writing these comments between doing other things). Do I need to? If you could convince me, contrary to all the evidence that I see, that Israel and the IDF haven't lost all morality and behave only in the most respectable manner in the conflict I would be only too happy, because thinking otherwise is a great burden for me. Somehow I doubt you could, though...

YMedad said...

You're right. Israel should act with more circumspection or, should it act like Great Britain and the United States in places like Dresden or Hiroshima and not give a damn? Sometimes, the reaction and response are dictated by the enemy and Israel doesn't always control everything. Like the paraplegic, the Evil One. If he had 25 bodyguards there, it would have been better, I presume.

Peter Drubetskoy said...
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Peter Drubetskoy said...

Yisrael, I was trying to show how the perception of Israel being the main victim, while always taking the utmost care in avoiding civilian casualties is a skewed one; how this perception helps make Israeli public intolerant to any prospect of making peace with the Palestinian and allows to dehumanize them so that the Israeli public does not feel too bad about killing them. You, after either not wanting or not being able to contradict my point make do with “Israel should act with more circumspection”? And I am not even sure if you mean it or if you want to hedge it with the tongue in cheek remark that follows…

Next, you mention Dresden* and Hiroshima. First, what do these have to do with our topic, beats me. Second, you mention two of the most infamous war crimes of the 20th century and ask whether Israel should behave like that. As if you don’t know yourself, the answer is NO. Nobody should behave like that and nowhere near that. But I am not talking about Allies and the US in WWII here, I am talking about the Jewish state in the 21st century. Hiding behind somebody else’s crimes to justify yours – no different from being caught stealing and saying: “but other people do so too!” And, paraphrasing Ben-Gurion it’s not important what the goyim did or do, but what the Jews will.

“Sometimes, the reaction and response are dictated by the enemy and Israel doesn't always control everything” - this is the sort of intellectual acrobatics I love so much and that are the last resort with which to justify unjustifiable things. What is one to understand from this phrase? How about I said this: “Sometimes, the reaction and response are dictated by the enemy and Hamas doesn't always control everything”? In fact, I brought you examples where Israel was totally in control of everything and chose not to do the right thing.

My point is, I repeat, stop seeing the enemy as this inhuman incorrigible beast that can only be eliminated by force. Stop dehumanizing it, because before long you’ll justify anything done to it. As I said before, if our first reaction after such events as today (entire family wiped out in Gaza) is not to hide somewhere from shame but to manufacture excuses or blame the victims, we’re in dire straits indeed…

* Found this very apropos comment in a Talkback in Haaretz: “The recurrence of Dresden from the Israeli apologists is a recurring theme since the almost 2 years now. It’s hard to know what spin doctor spun this one.”

YMedad said...

a) I've lost your train of thought.

b) I've been using Dresden for decades.

c) Take the incident the other day. If Israel is correct and they targeted Hamas persons loaded down with rocktes and stuff and that explosion was what killed the family, I agree that maybe the helocopter should have measured the distance from them to the house that was destroyed. Maybe they did and didn't realize that the amount of Hamas explosives was greater and it wouldn't make a difference. But these things are really not avoidable if Hamas insists on plying their trade among civilians.

c) if Israelis are intolerant its because no matter what has been done since 1920, the Arabs will continue to kill us and so it's not a question of our morality anymore.

Peter Drubetskoy said...

"a) I've lost your train of thought."

Well, Yisrael, what is there to lose? I brought you examples of “bad” things we unjustifiably do to our neighbors. If you don’t understand how they could be upset about it, maybe you should imagine yourself in their place and try to think how you would feel. I do not believe that majority of Arabs are bloodthirsty animals and want to exterminate us. I know that it is easy to think this way but we learned anything from the Holocaust is that such racist generalizations in the end may lead to terrible things being done to a certain group of people.

Let me tell you a story. This was during the Second Lebanon Debacle but the moral will extend to our conflict with the Palestinians too. I am talking to an elderly couple that I am friendly with, people who actually had suffered from anti-Semitism in their lives. The war is raging, the Katyushas fall on Haifa and the woman tells me that we just need to drop an atomic bomb on all of Lebanon and finish it. Now, the question is: what can make a person (and a Jew to boot) say such things? Belief that the other side is so wicked that if you don’t totally exterminate it will exterminate you? Now, let’s image that a Lebanese person hears that kind of talk. Don’t you think this person too will think that Jews are just a bunch of bloodthirsty animals who unless you exterminate them will exterminate you? And Israel is the only country in the region that actually has the ability to deploy weapons of mass destruction and to annihilate another country. So, I know that this elderly lady is not a bad person at all, just confused and brainwashed and I am not going to call her a Nazi, as some might. But by the same token I am going to judge our adversaries by the same standard. When they say bad things about us I will take this with a grain of salt especially since their ability to hurt us is much more limited than ours to hurt them. If an Arab crowd shouts “yitbakh al-yahud” in a funeral of little children killed by IDF I can understand it just as I understand then some people shout “mavet le-aravim” after terrorist acts. I don’t approve, but I understand.

Also, I don’t forget for a second that so far we killed much more of them than they us.

advis3r said...

And The Americans killed more Japanese than then the Japanese killed Americans in WWII what a pointless comment like most of the rest.