Historical and Investigative Research: "Was There a Massacre at Deir Yassin?"

The Pro-PLO Camp Says Yes; The Historical Documentation Says Otherwise

Historical and Investigative Research, 20 Nov 2005
 by Francisco Gil-White


In any conflict, we can expect the interested parties to say that their opponents are bad, so finding the balance of justice requires that we go beyond the mutual accusations of the participants.

In the Arab-Israeli conflict, supporters of the PLO charge that the "Palestinian refugee problem" stems from supposed civilian massacres carried out by Jewish forces, which created a panic resulting in the flight of the Arab population. The argument rests almost exclusively on the repetition of the allegation that Jewish forces perpetrated a massacre of Arab civilians at Deir Yassin.

Since the entire argument rests heavily on Deir Yassin, what will be left of the accusation against the Jews if Arab civilians were not massacred at Deir Yassin?


Allegations by Arabs


What happened at Deir Yassin? One way to get a feel for why so many people around the world believe that Jewish forces massacred Arab civilians at Deir Yassin is to read a major newspaper. For example, according to The Guardian, Deir Yassin is

“. . .the Palestinian village where 254 [Arab] villagers were massacred in April 1948, in the most spectacular single attack in the conquest of Palestine.”[1]

Several things are noteworthy about the way in which the Guardian writes. The first is that the Guardian takes it for granted that there was a massacre at Deir Yassin, even though this allegation has always been hotly disputed. But not a hint of that controversy in the Guardian's article. I shall come back to this.

Second, notice that the phrase “the conquest of Palestine” is designed to suggest that a place existed called ‘Palestine,’ and that it was conquered in a war of aggression. In fact, however, a foreign colonial power, Britain, had baptized a piece of land in the Middle East as ‘Palestine’ after the Ottoman Empire lost its Middle Eastern possessions in 1918. In 1921-22, the British radically re-drew the boundaries of ‘Palestine,’ making it less than half its previous size. That’s how much reality ‘Palestine’ had.[1a]

But even if one were to grant the reality of ‘Palestine’ the Guardian would still be wrong when it claims that this land was conquered in a Jewish war of aggression, because the Jews were defending themselves from an Arab attack. And by the way, the explicit and loudly stated Arab objective was to exterminate the Israeli Jews. Consider what Azzam Pasha, Secretary General of the Arab League, promised:

"This will be a war of extermination and a momentous massacre which will be spoken of like the Mongolian massacres and the Crusades."[2]

That the attacking Arabs could speak this way only three years after Adolf Hitler had finished exterminating the European Jewish population is astonishing. One wishes to avert the eyes but one must not -- this reveals how fiercely the antisemitic passion burned in the hearts of Israel’s Arab enemies in 1948.

Notice also that the Guardian’s phrase “the most spectacular single attack” appears to suggest that there were many such attacks, as if the Jews had conducted themselves on the battlefield worse than the Arabs. But...it was the Arabs who meant to exterminate the Jews. And the Arabs were not alone. The Nation, in 1948, publishing the official documents it had obtained, exposed that the US State Department supported, and the British Foreign Office sponsored, the Arab side in this war. This included the British sending captured Nazi officers to 'advise' the Arab armies.[2a]

So given that the Guardian braves historical absurdity in order to write with an anti-Jewish slant, we are now entitled to wonder if the Guardian might not be dishonest when it takes it for granted that there was a massacre of Arab civilians by Jewish forces at Deir Yassin. But if we are capable of skepticism on this point, it is because we have performed the historical analysis, which most people do not. Most people simply read the Guardian, trusting what they read, and what they understand is that the Arab allegations are supposedly fact.

They are not.

The allegations about Deir Yassin on the Arab side all seem to go back to a certain Hussein Khalidi. As Palestine Facts explains,

“Khalidi was one of the originators of the ‘massacre’ allegation in 1948. It was Khalidi’s claims about Jewish atrocities in Dir Yassin that were the basis for an article in the New York Times by its correspondent, Dana Schmidt (on April 12, 1948), claiming a massacre took place. The Times article has been widely reprinted and cited as ‘proof’ of the massacre throughout the past 50 years.”[4]

This is what Dana Schmidt from the New York Times wrote in 1948:

"Dr. Hussein Khalidi, secretary of the Palestine Arab Higher Committee, denounced the 'massacre' of 250 Arab men, women, and children by Irgun Zvai Leumi and the Stern Gang, Zionist terrorist groups, at Deir Yassin on Friday."[4a]

[NOTE: Although the New York Times calls the Irgun a "terrorist" group, this is a slander, for which consult the footnote.[4b] ]

Now, to understand whether Hussein Khalidi's charges should have been believed in the first place, it pays to recall who was Hajj Amin al Husseini, because Hajj Amin was Khalidi's boss.

Hajj Amin mentored Yasser Arafat and Al Fatah, the core of the PLO, but before that he was the Mufti of Jerusalem, from which position he organized terrorist riots against innocent Jews in the British Mandate territory in 1921, 1929, and 1936-37 (the British rewarded him with the post of Mufti after he organized the first terrorist riot in 1920). During World War II, Hajj Amin became a top Nazi and organized SS divisions in Yugoslavia composed of tens of thousands of Bosnian Muslim volunteers who were responsible for many of the hundreds of thousands of Serbian, Jewish, and Roma civilian deaths at the Croatian death-camp system of Jasenovac (others they killed in their homes). Hajj Amin also played a leading role in getting some 400,000 Hungarian Jews sent to die in Auschwitz.[5] It was Hajj Amin al Husseini who created the "Palestine Arab Higher Committee," which, as the New York Times informs us (see above), had Hussein Khalidi for secretary. So, if the charge of a massacre at Deir Yassin came from the leader of Hajj Amin’s organization, doesn’t that suggest that the accusation might be a fabrication?

What would be the smoking gun that the Arab accusations about Deir Yassin were, in fact, fabrications?

“The 1998 BBC TV series, Israel and the Arabs: the 50 year Conflict, documented that Arab Higher Committee officials Hazem Nusseibeh and Hussein Khalidi falsified facts [about Deir Yassin] and originated, for propaganda purposes, charges of rape.”[3]

How did the BBC document this? Nusseibeh confessed!

I point out two things. The first is that the BBC report came out three full years before the 2001 article in the Guardian that got us started, and which accuses the Israeli Jews -- with zero hint of a controversy, as if it were a standard historical fact -- of having supposedly committed a massacre at Deir Yassin.

The second is that there is no reason to doubt what the BBC reports, as it fits perfectly with everything else we know. For example, it fits nicely with the fact that, in 1948, the Mufti Hajj Amin al Husseini, through his Arab Higher Committee, of which Khalidi was the secretary, was trying to get the Palestinian Arabs to flee the area. Joseph Farah, a Christian Arab, has documented with Arab newspaper articles written close to the time of the events that there was no ambiguity on this point.[6] It turns out that

“The 15th May, 1948, arrived... On that day the mufti of Jerusalem [Hajj Amin al Husseini] appealed to the Arabs of Palestine to leave the country, because the Arab armies were about to enter and fight in their stead.”[7]

The Arab newspapers lamented this as a tactical mistake:

“By spreading rumors of Jewish atrocities, killings of women and children etc., [Arab leaders] instilled fear and terror in the hearts of the Arabs in Palestine, until they fled leaving their homes and properties to the enemy.”[8]

Both of the above quotes come from the Arab newspapers that Farah cites (and there are others).

Finally, there was never anything to substantiate the charges of rape.

"Contrary to claims from Arab propagandists at the time and some since, no evidence has ever been produced that any women were raped. On the contrary, every villager ever interviewed has denied these al