Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Deir Yassin and David Shaltiel

A comment was just left at a six-year old post of mine here relating to Deir Yassin and it noted that the Hagana City Commander gave his approval to the Deir Yassin conquest as the road leading to the village, today's Kanfei Nesharim Street, for an alternative runway to alieve the blockade by Arabs of the Jerusalem Highway (see p. 86 and as noted:

Eric Silver writes that Irgun and Lehi commanders approached David Shaltiel, the Haganah commander in Jerusalem, for approval. He was initially reluctant, because the villagers had signed a non-aggression pact, and suggested attacking Ein Karem instead. The Lehi and Irgun commanders complained that this would be too hard for them. Shaltiel ultimately yielded, on condition that the attackers remain in the village rather than leaving it empty, to prevent it becoming an Arab military base. His approval met with resistance. Meir Pa'il, an intelligence officer with the Palmach, the Haganah's strike force, objected to violating the peace pact with the village, but Shaltiel maintained that he had no power to stop them. Pa'il said in 1998 that Yitzchak Levi, head of Haganah intelligence in Jerusalem, had proposed the inhabitants be notified, but Shaltiel had refused to endanger the operation by warning them.

So, here is the Lechi announcement right after the operation:

which contained the text of Shaltiel's letter:

And in English:

To: Raanan
From: Shaltiel
I have learned that you intend to carry out an operation against Deir Yassin. I would like to call your attention to the fact that the occupation and holding of Deir Yassin are one of the stages in our overall plan. I have no objection to your carrying out the operation on condition that you are capable of holding on to it. If you are incapable of doing so, I caution you against blowing up the village, since this will lead to the flight of the inhabitants and subsequent occupation of the ruins and the abandoned homes by enemy forces. This will make things difficult rather than contributing to the general campaign and   the occupation of the site will entail heavy casualties for our men. 
An additional argument I would like to cite is that if enemy forces are drawn to the place, this will disrupt the plan to establish an aerodrome there.

Oh, and by the way, there's this in connection to Shaltiel:

...On Sunday, April 4, commander Shaltiel received an urgent message from the intelligence officer of the Haganah's Etzioni division: "There's a gathering in Deir Yassin. Armed men left [from Deir Yassin] in the direction of [the nearby town of] lower Motza, northwest of Givat Shaul. They are shooting at passing cars."22 That same day , the deputy commander of the Haganah's Beit Horon brigade, Michael Hapt reported to Shaltiel: "A [Jewish] passenger car from Motza was attacked near the flour mill, below Deir Yassin, and is stopped there. There is rifle fire upon it. You too send an armoured vehicle with weapons. There is concern that the road is cut off."23 An armoured vehicle carrying Lehi fighters was also attacked at the same spot that day. A Haganah intelligence officer who described the incident to his superiors reported that according to Lehi officer David Gottlieb, those of his men who disembarked from their vehicle to return fire said that the attackers appeared to be Arab soldiers rather than local villagers.24 A telegram from Michael Hapt, of the Haganah's Beit Horon brigade, to the Haganah command, at 5:00 p.m. that day, urged: "In order to prevent [an attack] on lower Motza, cutting off of road to Jerusalem, and capture of position south of Tzova, Deir Yassin must be captured."25

Shortly before the battle of Deir Yassin, there was additional troubling news: Mordechai Gihon's lookouts reported that numerous armed men were moving between Ein Kerem and Deir Yassin. Some of the soldiers were wearing Iraqi uniforms, and while many of them had entered Deir Yassin, only a few had returned to Ein Kerem.26 And just hours before the IZL-Lehi action against Deir Yassin began, Shaltiel cabled his colleague Shimon Avidan: "The Arabs in Deir Yassin have trained a mortar on the highway in order to shell the convoy [bringing supplies to besieged Jewish portions of Jerusalem]."27
22 Milstein, p. 257, citing the Israel Defense Forces Archives, War of Independence Collection 88/17, "From Hashmonai," 4 April 1948, 10:00 A.M.23 Milstein, p. 257, citing the Israel Defense Forces Archives, War of Independence Collection 88/17, "From Sa'ar," 4 April 1948, 10:00 A.M.24 Testimony of David Gottlieb, MZ; Milstein, pp.257-258, citing the Israel Defense Forces Archives, War of Independence Collection 21/17, "From Hashmonai," 4 April 1948.25 Milstein, p. 258, citing "Operations Log - Arza," 4 April 1948, 17:00 hours, Broadcast #562, Israel Defense Forces Archive, War of Independence Collection, 88/17.26 Milstein, p.258 (interview with Mordechai Gihon).27 Milstein, p.258, citing Israel Defense Forces Archive, War of Independence Collection, 228/3, Operation Log, 9 April 1948, 2:40 a.m.

Zionist history can be surprising.

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