Next week, “Deir Yassin Day” will be marked.
As with many of the Arab claims, this incident, too, has been returned to its historical truth and correct proportions. Unlike the wild propaganda over the years, the so-called “massacre” on Friday, April 9, 1948 did not occur nor was as related by Arabs and their supporters and the context of the events is much different than suggested.
I have dealt with many of the issues over the years. I have noted the newspaper reports of initiated sniping from the village at the beginning of April which put the lie to the “quiet, tranquil village” portrayal. That an escape route to Ein Karem was left open for the Arabs, who were expected to flee. And that the history of the village was one of murderous Arab hostility to Jews. Following Bernard Wasserstein, that was traced back to 1920.
One point always bothered me, or, rather, was unclear. The sources all point to Yehoshua Goldschmidt (Gal) as the local Irgun commander who pushed for Deir Yassin to be attacked rather than other targets, and there were several. As Yehuda Lapidot writes
In mid-March, Gal (Yehoshua Goldschmidt) returned to Jerusalem and was appointed Operations Officer of the Irgun. Gal had served as Commanding Officer of the Fighting Force in Jerusalem till 1946 when, on the wanted list of the British, he was forced to leave for Tel Aviv. He was a daring fighter and had taken part in numerous actions against the British. With his arrival, Irgun activity in Jerusalem took on a new direction.
At that time, negotiations had begun between and Raanan (Mordechai Raanan-Kaufman), Irgun Commander in the city, and Lehi Commander in Jerusalem, Meir (Yehoshua Zetler), leading to close co-operation between the Irgun and Lehi. This was no mean achievement in light of the resentments and rivalry, which had developed between the two organizations since the 1940 split. It was decided to occupy the village of Deir Yassin with a joint force of the Irgun and Lehi.
Several sources mention that Gal had a score to settle with Deir Yassin. For example, as Jerusalem Irgun’s 1948 campaign first historian, Yehoshua Ophir, wrote in his Hebrew “Al Hachomot” (On the Walls) in 1951, at page 49 and. btw, he is the father of arch-anti-Zionist Adi Ophir who holds outlandish views):-
“Gal’s father, Reb Joseph Tzvi Goldshmidt, a Jewish ritual slaughterer (shochet) in Givat Shaul, was famous in his youth as a brave warrior against the Arab rioters from adjacent Deir Yassin…Goldshmidt learned from his father to be a soldier and also got his inspiration to fight the Arab village from him. This village had frequently endangered the lives of the inhabitants of the neighborhood in which he grew up. When he returned to Jerusalem in 1948, the old shochet reminded his son to ‘remember what Deir Yassin did to us.”
I always assumed it related to the attack by the villagers on his home neighborhood, Givat Shaul, which bordered the Arab village in 1929, or other attacks including during 1936-39.
I was wrong.
The great-grandson of Tzvi Yosef Goldschmidt, Avraham Binyamin, grand-nephew of Gal, grandson of Shmuel David, has now published (in Olam Katan, Number 422, Tazria 5774-March 27, 2014) the story that occurred 100 years ago, on the night of the 19th of Adar 5674 – 16/17(?) of March 1914. Due to a poor winter with little rain, the Arabs of Deir Yassin, as well as other neighboring villages, supplemented their meager income by stealing, from the Jews. But that evening, almost the entire village fell upon Givat Shaul with more than theft and brigandage. They came to kill.
His great-grandfather’s memoirs record that the Arabs came armed with pistols and swords and knives, screaming ‘itbah al-Yehud (slaughter the Jews). In other words, if there was a massacre at Deir Yassin, this was the intended butchering of civilians and the Jews were to be the victim. The Arabs proceeded from house to house, injuring Jews they encountered that hadn’t fled and stealing. When they came to the Goldschmidt home, they tried breaking down the door while stealing all the chickens from the pen in the yard. Goldschmidt prevented them from breaking in even thought they shot through the door. Nevertheless, his strength held and the Arabs left for other prey. Yosef Tzvi gathered up his wife and four young children and escaped to the Old People’s Home (then near the entrance of the city and now under the new Central Bus Station). He then continued to the Turkish Army/Police station just south of Machaneh Yehuda (the ‘Lions’), 83 Jaffa Road. A patrol was sent out and they all returned to Givat Shaul. Firing off shots in the air, the Arabs of Deir Yassin fled but one was caught in a quarry and identified by Yosef Tzvi as one of his attackers.
This Arab, Abdul Azziz, had even worked in the Goldschmidt house. The police commandant ascertained that indeed Azziz had recently fired a gun and found in his clothes a note from his brother-in-law, Akab Abed, who ordered him to organize the pogrom. A few slaps elicited the fact that Akab was still hiding near the village. A further search did not produce the wanted man but did uncover weapons including funs and much stolen goods. All the males were then rounded up, brought to the station and “persuaded” to reveal his whereabouts under the threat that the village would be destroyed. Akab was turned in.
The trial sentenced Akab to death and other to five years imprisonment. It was held in front of the Damascus gate and a German officer served as judge. Jamal Pasha the ‘Small’ (not to be confused with Jamal Pasha the ‘Great’), the Turkish Governor of Jerusalem decided to execute Akab right outside the Goldschmidt family home (located at the end of Kanfei Nehsarim Street on the left, just before the corner of Roberto Bacchi).
Goldschmidt managed to persuade him not to as that would surely lead to acts of reprisal and revenge. The governor then tied a long rope to the door of the house and tied Akab to the other end and led him across a large field where he was shot by a squad of Turkish soldiers.
During the First World War, the family separated and the mother, Frieda, died in Tiberias of cholera during forced expulsions ordered by the Turks. Another five children were born to Yosef Tzvi with his second wife, Esther, also a war widow. Two of these children were Yehoshua-Gal and Sarah (Yael) who was, at age 18, also in the Irgun and was one of the two girls who made the phone calls during the King David Hotel operation when the offices of the Mandate Secretariat and the British Army HQ, located in the building’s southern wing, were demolished. The kidnapped Major Collins, taken from Mamilla Street to prevent the hanging of Dov Gruner, was held in an empty cistern near the house.
Yehoshua was killed at the Police School by Jordanian fire in mid-May 1948. Yosef-Tzvi died in 1959.
To grasp the immorality and historical perversion of this act, first review my Deir Yassin posts:
P.S. A newspaper report now discovered from Herut on April 15, 1958: